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So, how about this gorgeous new Star Wars: The Last Jedi trailer??

Wowsers!  I’ve been waiting for months for another peek at this new film after the terrific first trailer, and this sure delivered.  There’s a lot to take in.  I cannot wait for this to come out in two short months.  My tickets are purchased!  (For a great analysis of the trailer, click here.)

So it seems that 2016’s six-episode X-Files mini-series was not the end, and an additional ten episodes are coming our way later this year.  Here’s the new trailer:

I have been a huge X-Files fan since the very beginning, so I have to admit that trailer gets me excited for new episodes.  (That “Mind is I smoke?” line is great.)  We’re getting ten episodes this time, which feels like a real season, so that feels like a good thing.  However, I thought the 2016 six-episode re-launch was mostly a disappointment (click here for my over-all review, and click here for my episode-by-episode analysis) and with basically the same creative team behind the scenes I am not that optimistic the quality will improve.  I’d love to be wrong.  This once-great series deserves to go out on a high note.

Speaking of things about which I am not hugely optimistic, here comes a new trailer for Justice League:

With all the behind-the-schenes meshugoss at DC/Warner Brothers, I am certainly curious to see what kind of movie this winds up being.  Just how much influence will Joss Whedon wind up exerting over the finished product?  We’ll see very soon…

Last month was the twenty-fifth anniversary of Batman: The Animated Series, and I posted links to some wonderful articles looking back on that phenomenal show.  Here’s one more, a great oral history of the show.

So James Cameron is going to be involved with the next Terminator sequel, and it will star both Arnold Schwarzenegger AND, for the first time since 1991’s T2: Judgment Day, Linda Hamilton??  Is it still possible to make a good Terminator film after so many failed attempts??  I am dubious, but with James Cameron’s involvement I can dare to dream.

Here is a link to two video clips of Jerry Seinfeld on Jimmy Kimmel’s show, in which Mr. Kimmel asks Mr. Seinfeld whether he can still enjoy Bill Cosby’s comedy now, knowing all that we know now.  Mr. Seinfeld has long spoken of Cosby as one of his main comedic heroes (this came up a lot in the movie Comedian).  It’s interesting in these clips to see Mr. Seinfeld wrestle with this question, at first giving an automatic answer and then changing his mind as … [continued]

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Let’s begin with this awesome new trailer for season 4 of Black Mirror:

I cannot wait!!  The original British episodes of this series are works of near-genius, and I thought the recent Netflix-produced season was pretty great.  I am so glad that this show lives on via Netflix!  I can’t wait for these next six episodes.

So, wow, Colin Trevorrow is out as the director of Star Wars: Episode IX I loved Mr. Trevorrow’s first film, Safety Not Guaranteed, but his next film, and his first foray into the world of big-budget filmmaking, was the terrible Jurassic World.  So I am sort of breathing a sigh of relief at this news, though I feel bad for Mr. Trevorrow.  What is up with Lucasfilm firing all of their directors??  Josh Trank was fired from one of the stand-alone films.  Gareth Edwards apparently had the final cut of Rogue One taken away from him, and was replaced for the film’s reshoots by Tony Gilroy.  And just recently, directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller were fired from the solo Han Solo film in the middle of production, and replaced by Ron Howard.  I give Kathleen Kennedy and Lucasfilm some credit, because whatever behind-the-scenes machinations went on in the making of Rogue One, the final film was a masterpiece.  We’ll see how these other films turn out.  But for now, I am hoping this news will turn out to be good news for Episode IX.  We’ll see…

This new trailer for Star Wars: Rebels season 4 looks great:

X-wings!  Thrawn!  The first animated appearance of Thrawn’s manservant/assassin Rukh (from Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire)!  Mon Mothma!  Forest Whittaker returns as Saw Gerrera (from Rogue One)!  Yavin IV!  Tarkin!  Project Stardust!  I’ve grown to quite like this show, and I am excited for the fourth and final season.

I am super-excited that The Wire’s David Simon and George Pelecanos have a new show on HBO, The Deuce!  I can’t wait to see it.  Any new work from this team deserves immediate attention.  In the meanwhile, here is a fascinating interview that TV critic Alan Sepinwall conducted recently with Mr. Simon.  It’s a great read.

This is a great interview with Lake Bell, discussing her new film I do… Until I Don’t.  I loved her debut film, In a World…, which she wrote, directed, and starred in, and so I am very excited to see her second film.

In honor of the release of the film adaptation of It, which I am dying to see, here is a list of all forty Stephen King movie adaptations, ranked from worst to best.  I haven’t seen most of … [continued]

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Josh Reviews an Extraordinary Fan-Edit/Reconstruction of The Empire Strikes Back!

August 28th, 2017

Back in 2009, I watched and fell in love with the fan-edit of the original Star Wars created by a Star Wars fan known on-line as Adywan.  This fan-made version, called Star Wars: Revisited, blew me away.  It is at once a restoration, stripping away some of the dumber changes made by George Lucas’ frequent tinkering with the film (such as Greedo shooting first at Han) as well as correcting errors that have crept into subsequent home video releases of the film (mistakes with the audio, color-timing, etc.) while also adding in lots of fun new changes that represent what the “Special Editions” should have been (incredible enhancements to the Battle of Yavin, adding a junked battle droid into the Jawa’s crawler, showing Ponda Baba’s arm as cauterized rather than bloody after Obi-Wan slices it off with his lightsaber, giving Chewie a medal at the end, and lots more).  Adywan’s Star Wars: Revisited immediately became my preferred version of the film.  In all the years since, whenever I’ve felt like watching Star Wars, this has been the version I have watched.  It’s that amazing.  (Click here for my full review.)  That one fan, working on his own, could outdo George Lucas and all of Lucasfilm and ILM is extraordinary.  Absolutely extraordinary.  In the years since, Adywan has teased fans with glimpses into his work on a similar reworking of The Empire Strikes Back, but at times I feared he would never complete the project.  The long wait is over, though, and a few weeks ago Adywan finally released The Empire Strikes Back: Revisited. 

It is incredible.  Time will tell whether this becomes the only version of Empire that I watch from here on out the way Adywan’s Star Wars: Revisited has become the only way I watch Star Wars, but after this first viewing I am definitely leaning in that direction…!

The Empire Strikes Back was the Star Wars film least damaged by the Special Editions and all the subsequent tinkering with the film.  Actually, I love pretty much all of the changes/updates made to the film during the 1997 “Special Editions” (with the exception of the girly-man scream given to Luke when he falls down the shaft in Cloud City).  Rather, it’s the subsequent changes made for the 2004 DVD and 2011 blu-ray releases that burn me.  I have a friend who is a HUGE Star Wars fan who told me he’d never seen Empire with Boba Fett’s original voice, and that broke my heart!  (For the 2004 DVD release, Boba Fett’s dialogue was all redone by Temuera Morrison, who played Jango Fett in Attack of the Clones.  This makes continuity sense, since that film revealed that … [continued]

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“There’s always money in the banana-stand!”  I am thrilled that, four long years after the release of season 4, Arrested Development season 5 is officially happening!!  Yes, season 4 was a bit of a disappointment, but I’m hoping Mitch Hurwitz and this amazing cast can turn things around with another time at the plate.  I can’t wait.

A brief follow-up to my recent analysis of the teaser trailer for the new Star Trek show, Discovery: I’d noted in my review that it looked like they had adjusted the look of the actual starship Discovery since the initial teaser a year ago, though it was hard to get a good look at the ship in that new trailer.  However, eagle-eyed on-line fans noticed what I didn’t, which is that Jason Isaacs had previously been announced as the captain of the Discovery.  This means that much of what we see in the trailer between the first-officer played by Sonequa Martin-Green and the captain played by Michelle Yeoh all probably happens in the first episode as a prologue to the events of the series itself.  Therefore, the starship seen in this trailer is not the Discovery at all.  So we don’t know yet whether the Discovery is really going to look like that blocky, angular design seen in that first trailer.  (As I commented a year ago, I like the idea of basing the starship’s design off of an unused-by-famous-to-Trek-fans Ralph McQuarrie design for the refit Enterprise in Star Trek: The Motion Picture more than I like the execution as seen in that teaser, which looked chunky and without any of the art of Matt Jefferies’ original Enterprise design.)  Also, this likely means that Michelle Yeoh, who I liked so much in the trailer, is probably going to have a very small role on the show itself, assuming that something bad is going to happen to get first-officer Burnham (played by Ms. Green) assigned as the first officer to another captain on another starship, rather than getting her own command.  That is a bummer, since I really liked the dynamic between Ms. Yeoh and Ms. Green in that trailer.

Ordinarily we’d be well into the new season of Game of Thrones at this point in the year, but we all need to wait two more months.  This substantive new trailer will ease the pain (or make it worse!!):

Let’s also join in lamenting that the shortened seven-episode seventh season will be followed by an even-shorter final season, which will reportedly only be six episodes long.

Jon Williams recently received an honorary doctorate from Harvard University, and one of the school’s a cappella groups, the Din and Tonics, … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Star Wars Rebels Season 3

April 24th, 2017
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I was dubious about Star Wars Rebels when it first launched.  I was still sore over the premature cancellation of The Clone Wars and not that interested in what looked like a very kid-centric new show.  But I gave it a try with an open mind, and the early episodes were enough to keep my interestThe final episodes of season one were terrific, and I was thrilled by the involvement of Darth Vader and Ahsoka (a popular character with an unfinished story from The Clone Wars) in season two.  There were moments in season two that were as good as Star Wars had been in twenty years, in my opinion.  With The Force Awakens and then Rogue One bringing back Star Wars in a big way, I was eager to see where Rebels would go in season three.

While season three does not have the incredible high-points of season two (am I exaggerating to say that Ahsoka’s discovery that her master Anakin Skywalker is Darth Vader is one of the greatest moments in the entire Star Wars saga?  It’s a shocking and heartbreaking scene), it is nevertheless a very solid, very entertaining season filled with some wonderful episodes and exciting connections to and expansions upon the wider Star Wars universe.

It’s tough to beat using Darth Vader as the main villain of season two, but showrunner Dave Filoni and his team made the perfect choice to use Grand Admiral Thrawn as the villain here in season three.  Thrawn was introduced as the villain of Timothy Zahn’s novel Heir to the Empire, way back in 1991.  Back then, Star Wars was only the original three movies.  Mr. Zahn’s trilogy of novels was the first attempt at continuing the Star Wars story beyond the events of Return of the Jedi.  The success of those novels led to the explosion of Star Wars novels (the “expanded universe”) and comics and, I am convinced, had a hand in the eventual return of Star Wars to the big screen with the Special Editions and eventually the prequel films.  (But don’t blame Timothy Zahn for that!!)  Mr. Zahn’s novels are terrific, and Thrawn was a spectacular villain.  So the idea that Thrawn would finally be brought into “official” on-screen Star Wars canon was a delicious prospect for fans when this was first announced last year.

Rebels season three did not disappoint.  Thrawn looked perfect, and he was wonderfully brought to life by Lars Mikkelsen, who perfectly voices the silky-smooth manipulator.  I loved seeing Thrawn popping up throughout the season.  While of course his appearances aren’t as exciting as those of Vader, the show admirably took the time to develop Thrawn as a patient … [continued]

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“We Are the Balance” — Two Tantalizing Glimpses at the Future of Star Wars!

April 17th, 2017
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I’m not sure which just-released Star Wars trailer I am more excited about.  This:

Or this:

It’s a jump ball!

Together, these two trailers give us a fascinating peek at the future of Star Wars, and suggests confirmation of a theory about which many Star Wars fans like myself have been speculating.

One of the many aspects of the Prequels that bothered me was the whole business about the prophecy of Anakin Skywalker as the “chosen one” who would bring “balance to the Force.”  The Original Trilogy had framed Obi-Wan’s hubris as responsible for Anakin’s fall to darkness.  (“I thought I could instruct him just as well as Yoda.  I was wrong.”)  That prophecy mumbo-jumbo muddled what had been, to me, a fairly clear story.  Plus, the Jedi’s faith in the prophecy made them look extremely dumb.  If there are hundreds of Jedi and only two Sith in the universe during the time of the Prequels, then why would the Jedi think the “chosen one” who would bring “balance to the Force” would be something GOOD for the Jedi?  In fact, Anakin’s actions bring balance to the Force by slaughtering the Jedi, resulting in there being only two surviving Jedi (Yoda and Obi-Wan) and two surviving Sith (The Emperor and Darth Vader).

This whole “balance” business has been an aspect of the Prequels that, for a long while, I wanted to forget.  But lately the idea has been coming back in a big way.  Two key things have happened in the third season of Star Wars Rebels (watch for my full review of season three coming soon).  First, they introduced a mysterious character called the Bendu, an ancient Force-wielding creature who was neither Jedi nor Sith, but who claimed to represent a middle path, balancing light and dark and incorporating both into himself.  Second, in the season’s brilliant penultimate episode, “Twin Suns,” we caught up with Obi-Wan Kenobi on Tatooine, a few years before the events of the original Star Wars.  In that episode, Kenobi refers to Luke, rather than Anakin, as the “chosen one.”  Hang onto this idea for a second.

Following The Force Awakens, fans like me have speculated as to why Luke ran away from the universe, and what he’s been up to.  In this trailer for The Last Jedi, we see Luke state emphatically that “it’s time for the Jedi to end.”  Is it possible that, following the failure of Luke’s attempt to restart the Jedi Order (with Kylo Ren’s turn to the Dark Side and the Knights of Ren’s apparent massacre of Luke’s new Jedi school — I assume that’s what’s happening in the trailer when we see Luke fall to his knees in … [continued]

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The Top Twenty Episodes of TV in 2016 — Part Two!

Let’s continue my look back at The Top Twenty Episodes of TV in 2016!  Last week I presented part one of my list, with numbers twenty through sixteen.  Onward!

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15. Brooklyn 99: “9 Days” (season three, episode twelve, aired on 1/19/16) – Jake Peralta (Andy Samberg) and Captain Holt (Andre Braugher) get the mumps and are quarantined together for nine days.  “9 Days” has one of the most ridiculous premises of any episode of Brooklyn 99, and yet, somehow, it also manages to be one of the funniest.  The Peralta-Holt pairing has always been comedy gold for the show, and this episode really lets Mr. Samberg and Mr. Braugher go at it, assisted by some comically over-the-top make-up effects to depict their mumps-swollen faces.  Gems in this episode include watching the two men discuss their testicular pain, hearing Holt yell “CASE” as Jake tumbles to the ground, and this exchange: Amy: “I’m immune to stuff you haven’t even heard of.”  Holt: “But not immune to braggadocio.”  I enjoyed seeing The Office’s Oscar Nuñez pop up as the doctor who gives Jake & Holt their diagnosis, and I loved Boyle’s description of Rosa as having a “motorcycle helmet for a heart,” as well as his advice on grief: “Real men don’t cry for more than three days.”  And let’s not forget Gina’s comment that: “C-minus is the perfect grade. You pass, but you’re still hot.”  Also: the name of Amy’s trivia team is “Trivia Newton-John”?!  Genius!

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14. Luke Cage: “DWYCK” (season one, episode nine, released on 9/30/16) – This episode, late in the run of the first season of Luke Cage, came at a time in which the Netflix show seemed to be spinning its wheels, stretching time to fill out the 13 episode run by having Luke (Mike Colter) and Claire (Rosario Dawson) inexplicably leave town while the bad guys wreak havoc in order to track down the doc who had a hand in Luke’s super-hero origin.  While I didn’t have much patience for that story development, it allowed room for this episode’s welcome and wonderful spotlight on Misty Knight (Simone Missick), the NYPD officer who has been Luke’s friend and also his most dogged enemy.  I have always loved the character of Misty from the comic books, and I never thought we’d ever get to see this wonderful character appear on-screen, let alone as perfectly realized as she was on this show.  Ms. Missick was a revelation, phenomenal at bringing this strong, honest African-American woman to life.  This episode begins with Misty on suspension, having lost her cool when Claire was in police custody.  Over the course of the episode, we follow Misty’s grilling by a … [continued]

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We’ve reached the end of my list of my Top Twenty Movies of 2016Click here for numbers twenty through sixteen, click here for numbers fifteen through eleven, and click here for numbers ten through six.

And now, my top five favorite movies of 2016!

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5. Hail, Caesar! I can’t believe how ignored this terrific Coen Brothers movie has been!  Set in Hollywood in the 1950′s, the film stars Josh Brolin as Eddie Mannix, a studio exec and “fixer” who is trying to locate his kidnapped star, Baird Whitlock (George Clooney), before news of the star’s disappearance can make it into the papers.  Baird’s kidnapping, by a group of disgruntled Communist screenwriters, is only one of the many fires that Mannix has to try to put out as he tries to keep his studio afloat and all of his in-production pictures running smoothly.  Hail, Caesar! is a very silly film, which is a difficult tone to hit, but the Coen Brothers make it look effortless.   The film mines a lot of humor gently skewering the art of making movies and the pomposity of Hollywood egos.  The fall-on-the-floor hysterical scene in which director Laurence Laurentz (Ralph Fiennes) — whose very name is a subtle gag running throughout the film — tries and fails to give a line reading to the dim-bulb cowboy actor Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich) could be the funniest single scene in any movie this year.  Josh Brolin is terrific as the serious man (see what I did there?) trying his best to wrangle all the Hollywood crazies surrounding him.  Tilda Swinton, Scarlett Johansson, Channing Tatum, Alison Pill, Wayne Knight, Jonah Hill, David Krumholtz, Fisher Stevens, Fred Melamed, Patrick Fischler, Robert Picardo, and even Christopher Lambert (the original Highlander himself!) are all so great in their appearances in the film.  While Hail, Caesar! might not be one of the greatest Coen Brothers films ever (of a caliber with The Big Lebowski, Miller’s Crossing, Fargo, or A Serious Man), it is still easily one of the best movies of 2016.  (Click here for my full review.)

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4. Arrival —  When twelve extraterrestrial spaceships appear in different locations around the globe, linguist Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is tasked with finding a way to communicate with the alien life-forms (huge creatures that the human scientists refer to as “heptapods”).  Arrival is a magnificent film, a gorgeous, original, cerebral sci-fi story.  The film has the visual splendor of a big-budget movie, but this is not an action-adventure film, rather this is an intelligent drama that is a fascinating exploration of language and communication.  I was enormously impressed by the way the film … [continued]

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Coming out of the spectacular Rogue One, my excitement for all things Star Wars is riding high.  Coming to fan the flames is this awesome new teaser for the remaining episodes of Season Three of Star Wars: Rebels:

Obviously the huge bombshell is the first animated appearance of Alec Guinness-era Obi-Wan Kenobi, and the tease of a long-awaited rematch with Darth Maul.  But there’s a lot more than just that to get excited by.  There’s Saw Gerrera from Rogue One, with Forest Whitaker returning to voice the character, a super-cool crossover.  We see hints of what looks like an enormous space battle between the Rebel Alliance and a group of Imperial Star Destroyers.  There’s Mon Mothma and Bail Organa and General Dodonna, and I think we get a glimpse of Wedge Antilles, too!  I’m excited by the idea that these upcoming episodes will start to show us the assembly of the Rebel Alliance that we know from the Original Trilogy, and now also from Rogue One.  It’s also cool to see more of Admiral Thrawn.  (Is the show going to allow Thrawn to be defeated to easily?  That’d be a letdown. But, on the other hand, I wonder… the opening crawl of the original Star Wars describes what we just saw in Rogue One as the Battle of Scariff as the Rebels’ “first victory” against the Empire.  Is it possible that Rebels is going to show the Rebels LOSING this fight, and Thrawn coming out on top?  That would be very interesting, and very cool…)

I am super-excited by this first full trailer for Spider-Man: Homecoming:

Holy cow that is a spectacular trailer.  The reinvention of Spider-Man seen in Captain America: Civil War was phenomenal, and this strong trailer only makes me even more excited for Tom Holland to star in the role in his own film.  I love how gently this trailer reminds you that Spidey is now firmly in the Marvel cinematic universe — doesn’t it just feel so perfect?  I love the Avengers bank-robbers and WOW that show of Spidey and Iron Man together at the end was incredible.  I loved the way the Civil War writers crafted the relationship between Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark and Tom Holland’s young peter Parker, and I am so excited that this upcoming Spidey film will explore that dynamic further.  It is super-cool that they got Mr. Downey Jr. to appear in this film.  Also — is that Ganke as Peter’s best friend??  Ganke is a character created by Brian Michael Bendis as the best-friend of Mr. Bendis’ “ultimate” Spider-Man, Miles Morales.  Have they co-opted the Ganke character to be Peter Parker’s best friend for this movie?  I’m beyond excited … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Rogue One!

December 16th, 2016
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Let me get this out right at the top: Rogue One is better than The Force Awakens.

For those looking for a spoiler-free review, there you go.

For everyone else, buckle in, let’s go!

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I have for years been dreaming of seeing a brand new Star Wars film on the big screen that I could say was great without reservation, and I think that film has finally, finally arrived.

I suspect Rogue One will not be nearly as universally beloved as The Force Awakens.  It is far more adult and sophisticated, and the film goes to some dark, dark places.  This is not a kiddie-focused Star Wars movie, and I love it for that, but I suspect that will hurt the film with general audiences.  I also think that despite the film’s pleasingly simple premise — this is the story of how the rebels captured the Death Star plans that Princess Leia hid in R2D2 in the original Star Wars — I have been shocked by how many friends have asked me, in the past week, “so when is this film set?”  To me, the film’s marketing has been very clear, but I suspect many out there don’t see it as the must-watch continuation of the saga that The Force Awakens was so successfully marketed as.

But I am here to tell you, Rogue One is glorious, a rousing adventure story that packs a devastating emotional punch.  Rogue One grapples with the realities of war and sacrifice in a way that none of the previous Star Wars films have.  The original adventures of Luke, Han, and Leia were something of a fairy tale, but Rogue One shows us the reality behind the fairy tale, the lives and losses of the men and women who struggled in the dirt to set the stage for Luke to save the day in A New Hope.  The film was written by Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy, from a story by John Knoll and Gary Whitta, and directed by Gareth Edwards.  These are all Star Wars newbies (with the exception of John Knoll — though he hasn’t previously been involved on a story level, Mr. Knoll has been a key creative force in ILM for decades), but together they have crafted a magnificent Star Wars film.

This story is set immediately prior to the opening scene of the original Star Wars movie.  As that move begins, Darth Vader is in hot pursuit of Princess Leia’s small ship, aboard which Vader knows are the stolen Death Star plans.  Rogue One winds the story back a bit, to tell us how the Rebels first discovered the existence of the Death Star, and then how they … [continued]

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We’ve been getting some fun teases lately for Guardians of the Galaxy volume 2.  (Great title, by the way.)  This is a solid poster and the tag-line, “obviously”, is genius.  And then there is this tantalizing new trailer:

That hits all the right notes for me.  Love it.

After the release of a series of photos, we also got our first real look at the upcoming Wolverine solo film, titled Logan, with this trailer:

While this trailer squashes any hope I might have had for a more faithful adaptation of Mark Millar and Steve McNiven’s brilliant comic book story Old Man Logan (something I really never should have even dared hope for, since this X-Men series, even when it is great, has never shown any interest in faithful adaptations of classic X-Men stories), I am very happy by what I see here.  It looks like they’ve taken some of the general ideas of Old Man Logan to craft an entirely new story, and I am impressed that they’ve chosen to jump into the future and leave the rest of the X-Men franchise behind.  Hugh Jackman (sporting a crazy Mel Gibson-like beard) and Patrick Stewart both seem as awesome as usual.  I am excited for this.  (My one quibble — one of the coolest ideas of Old Man Logan was that Logan had vowed never to unsheathe his claws again, and so they make you wait a long, long, long time before you finally get a “snikt.”  From this trailer, in which we see plenty of Logan’s claws, I guess the film is taking a different approach…)

Holy cow, is there really a new Martin Scorsese movie coming out next month??  Here’s a look at Silence:

Whoo, that looks harrowing.  I am very intrigued by that trailer.

This new look at Kong: Skull Island is… well… take a look:

This trailer really shows us a lot of the shape of the movie.  Most significantly, we see the real monsters/villains of the film other than Kong.  I was surprisingly taken by the goofy tone of the trailer.  Is this movie going to balance a war-movie aesthetic with a lot of humor as well as this trailer does?  We’ll see…

Cars is my least favorite of all the Pixar movies.  As a result, Cars 2 is the only Pixar movie I’ve never seen!  So I’m not really interested in a Cars 3, though I admit that my eyebrows were raised by this weird, grim teaser:

I’m not sure I understand Disney studio’s desire to seemingly create a live-action remake of every single one of their animated films, but this trailer for Beauty and the Beast is impressive:

That’s a spectacular cast and the … [continued]

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So, I assume by now you’ve all seen this:

Who knows whether the final film will be good, but that trailer is spectacular.  There is some truly gorgeous imagery (like everyone else, I went crazy for that overhead shot of the enormous toppled statue of a Jedi Knight), which “feels” like Star Wars while also being new and different than what has come before.  That is the balance this film needs to strike.  As with The Force Awakens, this film’s whole conception is steeped in nostalgia (it’s a prequel, thus allowing us to get more of what we all loved from the original Star Wars: Darth Vader, the Death Star, classic Storm troopers, Tie Fighters and X-Wings, etc.), but for the movie to work it can’t just feel like a retread of movies we’ve already seen and loved (this was the major weakness of the third act of The Force Awakens) but like a new story worth telling.  This trailer certainly strikes that balance, hopefully the actual film will as well.

By the way, this trailer’s suggestion that Mads Mikkelson’s character helps create the Death Star in order to protect his daughter (who will grown up to be the film’s main character, played by Felicity Jones), it got me thinking: was the fatal flaw of the original Death Star — that exhaust port that allowed the rebels to blow the whole thing up with just two proton torpedoes — not an accident?  Could that weakness have been built into the Death Star on purpose??  I wonder if that is going to be what Rogue One winds up suggesting!  That would be a wild recontextualization of the original Star Wars…!!

I’m enjoying Netflix’s latest Marvel show Luke Cage (full review coming soon… I still have five more episodes to go…) and while I wish Netflix would hurry up and get Jessica Jones season two in production (click here for my review of the terrific first season), I’m decently excited for their next Marvel show, Iron Fist.  Here is the latest teaser, which is the most substantial look we’ve yet gotten at this show which is coming in March:

We’re only a few days away from Netflix’s resurrection of Black Mirror (click here for my review of the first two short but mind-blowing British seasons), and this trailer suggests that the new episodes will be just as amazing and nightmare-inducing as I had hoped.  I cannot frigging wait for this:

Oh!  And!  Looks like there will also be a FOURTH season of Black Mirror from Netflix!  Praise Jebus!

Here is a very, very brief tease for the next Planet of the Apes film:

I absolutely loved … [continued]

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News Around the Net!

Let’s begin today with this: the single best joke told by every president, from Obama to Washington.

Fox has greenlit 12 episodes of a 24 spin-off series, 24: Legacy.  It’s hard to imagine my watching that since I didn’t make it past the first two episodes of 2014’s 24 revival mini-series Live Another Day.  I watched 24 from episode 1 of season 1, and at first I was evangelical about this amazing, intense serialized show.  But truth be told the only seasons I really loved were those first two years (and even those seasons had plenty of problems).  I stuck around for years afterwards and while there were some high points, I tended to find myself continually disappointed.  I finally bailed before the final season.  I had high hopes that Live Another Day would be a return to the show’s original greatness, but those first two hours just felt like more of the same.  Oh well.

Far more exciting: Netflix has announced a Wet Hot American Summer sequel!  The so-obvious it’s genius Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later will be eight episodes and, you can be assured, high on my must-watch list.

Was this seriously going to originally be the opening shot of Star Wars: The Force Awakens???  Love it!

So this is awesome: the Language Creation Society has just submitted a friend-of-the-court brief in Paramount’s suit attempting to halt production of the Star Trek fan-film Axanar.  Seems this Language Creation Society objects to Paramount’s contention that they can copyright the Klingon language.  You’ve got to read this article, it is nerdy and hilarious and wonderful.  To restate my position, I strongly object to Paramount’s heavy-handed effort to squash this fan-made film.  (After creating the amazing fifteen-minute Prelude to Axanar, this group of Trek fans fund-raised on Kickstarter — full disclosure: I have donated — to create a full feature-length film telling the story of the Five Years’ War between the Federation and the Klingons.  This is an event that is part of the backstory of Star Trek: The Original Series.  The planned film would focus on telling the story of Starfleet Captain Garth of Izar in the years before he became a crazy villain, as seen in the Original Series episode “Whom Gods Destroy.”)  To be clear, it is probably true that the Axanar folks are in violation of Paramount’s copyright, but who really cares?  These fan films are not a competition with Paramount’s official Star Trek efforts.  These fan-made projects are done by Trek fans who love Trek.  I absolutely guarantee you that every single Trek fan who donated to Axanar is going to buy a ticket (perhaps many!) to see Star [continued]

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The Best Not Quite “To Be Continued” Endings of Franchise Films

One of my complaints about Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was how much of the film was filled with shameless plugs for future DC Universe films.  I am all for connectivity between superhero films, thus establishing a shared universe of story-telling.  That is, in fact, one of the greatest triumphs of the Marvel cinematic universe!  The problem with Batman v Superman was how obvious and awkward and often confusing those connections-to-not-yet-made-future-films were.  The ending was a particular problem.  The film’s ending (which I won’t spoil) was clearly designed to be a cliffhanger that would make an audience excited for the next DCU adventure.  But I felt it landed with a thud.  Rather than being excited for the next film, I’m already dreading the time that will need to be wasted in Justice League to undo the events of the end of Batman v Superman.

This got me thinking about great endings to films in a series.  There’s something magical about a great ending to a film, particularly a film that is designed to be, not a stand-alone one-and-done entity, but rather an installment in a series.  There is a delicate art to being able to satisfactorily bring a film’s story to a close, while also teasing future adventures.  I adore that buzzy feeling of walking out of a movie absolutely desperate for the next installment, even if that next installment might be years away.

So what WERE some great endings to franchise films, endings that gave me that thrilled, excited feeling?  Well, I’m glad you asked, as I’ve decided to list some of my very favorites.

Now, before we begin, let me clarify that I’m not talking about a movie that ends on a out-and-out “to be continued” cliffhanger.  The best example of that would, of course, be:

Back to the Future Part II This film, gloriously, actually does end with the words “to be continued.”  (Well, actually the film ends with the words “to be concluded” which makes sense only when you know that the words “to be continued” were added on to the ending of the original Back to the Future for its home video release, so this ending of Part II now echoes/completes that ending of Part I.  Without that “to be continued” ending of Part I, you might expect the ending of Part II to read “to be continued” rather than “to be concluded.”  At least, I would!  Sadly, all DVD and blu-ray releases of the original Back to the Future restore the original ending and remove that “to be continued.”  But I dearly miss that “to be continued” ending, as that’s the ending I grew up with.  Why no branching option, Warner brothers, … [continued]

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Rogue One and News Around the Net! UPDATED with Doctor Strange Trailer!

I suspect by now you’ve all watched the first teaser trailer for Rogue One, perhaps (like me!) several times:

That’s a pretty terrific trailer.  Not as instantly iconic as any of the magnificent trailers for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but still pretty great.  It’s a far more substantial look at the movie than I had expected for a first teaser trailer.

My main question is: why the heck isn’t this film called Star Wars: Rogue One?  Because Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is a heck of a mouthful.  I guess we’re going to be saddled with this “A Star Wars Story” business for all of the non-official-“Episode” spin-off Star Wars films to come.  I think that’s a big mistake.  Just call all of these films Star Wars: Whatever You Want Your Title To Be.  Isn’t that much more simple and direct?

As for the peek at the content of the film itself: well, I am on-record as hating prequels, but while I am absolutely DREADING the in-the-works “young Han Solo” movie, I am sort of taken with the idea of telling the story of the secret mission to steal the Death Star plans that must have happened right before the events of the first Star Wars.  That’s a pretty big piece of Star Wars back-story about which we know nothing at all, and it seems like a cool idea for a movie.

And while we all know that you can’t judge a film by its trailer, this first trailer is pretty terrific.  I love that, like The Force Awakens, this Star Wars film seems to be anchored by a strong female character in the lead.  I really enjoyed Felicity Jones’ work in Like Crazy, and she looks terrific here in the lead as Jyn Erso (I had to look that up on-line).  I like the Seven Samurai type feel to the film, of a motley crew of criminals and scum gathered together for a mission.  (It’s interesting that Warner Brothers’ next big DC Universe movie, Suicide Squad, is also based on a similar premise.  I am curious to see how similar those two films wind up being.)

It’s pretty cool to see those shots of Star Destroyers and the Death Star being assembled.  I’ve heard rumors that Darth Vader will be appearing in this film (which would be awesome if done right), but so far they have kept him hidden in this trailer.  (There is a shot of a figure in black kneeling before a pillar of light which resembles how Vader would communicate with the Emperor but that figure doesn’t look like Vader to me.)

I’m eager to learn more about the many new characters … [continued]

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Star Wars Rebels: Twilight of the Apprentice

April 4th, 2016
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The first season of the animated Star Wars Rebels was enjoyable, although more aimed at kids than adults.  Things kicked into a high gear with the terrific season one finale, in which both Darth Vader (once again voiced by James Earl Jones) and Ahsoka Tano (Anakin’s apprentice from the Clone Wars animated series, whose fate had been left uncertain following that show’s cancellation) were brought into the story.  The season two premiere took the show to the next level (it was one of my favorite episodes of TV of 2015), as we got to see the best version of the truly evil, unstoppable Vader since The Empire Strikes Back, and we also got to see the incredibly emotional moment in which Ahsoka realized that this monster was in fact her former master Anakin.

Nothing that followed in Rebels season two lived up to that high-point, but it was still a thoroughly enjoyable season of TV that was one-hundred-percent Star Wars.  Between this and The Force Awakens, this has been the best year for new official Star Wars stories in two decades.

I’d expected the Vader-Ahsoka stuff to be stretched out for the next few seasons of the show, but in the very interesting season two finale, “Twilight of the Apprentice,” we seem to have perhaps gotten an end to this story-line far sooner than I’d expected.

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After having spent two seasons being hounded by Vader’s force-wielding inquisitors, Kanan and budding Jedi Ezra leave their friends in the rebellion and go off with Ahsoka to confront their pursuers.  They visit the planet Malachor, the site of an ancient Sith temple, to attempt to access forbidden knowledge about the Sith that they hope to use to defeat their enemies.  But there, they encounter not only three vicious inquisitors, but also Darth Maul — still alive after all these years! — and, eventually, Vader himself.

Even before we get to the Vader-Ahsoka stuff, there is a lot of fun to be had in this episode.  I love the idea of visiting this Sith Temple, it’s a fascinating exploration of the rich Star Wars universe and back-story.  (We really know very little about the Sith, where they came from or how they operate.)  We get some great development of the Kanan and Ezra relationship, as we see both the ways in which these two don’t mesh and also the ways in which they powerfully do.  Poor Kanan suffers an injury whose repercussions I expect we’ll be seeing for a long while to come in the show.  That was something I wasn’t at all expecting.  We get to see a ton of awesome lightsaber battles, brought to life with gorgeous … [continued]

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Dear Paramount/CBS and Disney/Lucasfilm, Why Won’t You Let Me Give You My Money?

March 25th, 2016
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Dear Paramount/CBS and Disney/Lucasfilm:

Hi!  My name is Josh, and I’m a pretty big fan of two franchises that you each own, Star Trek and Star Wars.  Now, I’m not a dress-up-in-costume-as-one-of-your-characters at a convention or movie theatre level of fan, but I am the type of fellow who owns three copies of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.  (For those keeping score at home, I have the original bare-bones DVD as well as the Special Edition DVD that contains the Director’s Cut of the film and lots of special features.  I kept the original bare-bones DVD because I vastly prefer the original theatrical cut of the film.  I also have a third version of the film in high-def, on blu-ray.)  I have two copies of every single Star Trek film (DVD and blu-ray) and also two copies of the three original Star Wars films (the Special Editions on VHS and all the films on DVD).  And I do also have to admit that I own the three prequel films on DVD.  (All three prequel films have great special features that I have enjoyed watching, though I believe that Episode III is the only prequel I have watched more than once on DVD.)

So, I love Star Wars and Star Trek, and I’m a collector.  That means I’m someone who your companies — companies whose main reason for existence is to make money — could probably get to buy all these movies again.  Actually, it’d be pretty easy.  Actually, I am DESPERATE to buy all these movies again, if only you’d let me.

Let’s begin with Disney/Lucasfilm, the owners of Star Wars.  As I have written about at length several times on this site (including this piece when the films were released on blu-ray), I consider it a crime against cinema that the original theatrical versions of Star Wars are not available for purchase.  In any format.  It’s really quite unbelievable.  The original Star Wars trilogy are three of the most popular and influential films of the last fifty years.  This isn’t some now-forgotten cult favorite.  The Star Wars franchise is a huge ongoing business for you guys, Disney!  You might recall that you released a little film a few months ago called The Force Awakens that earned you a bazillion dollars.  But, you might say to me, Josh, you can buy Star Wars on nice shiny blu-rays!  So what’s the problem?  Well yes, I can buy the Star Wars original trilogy on blu-ray, but these are not the original theatrical versions.

Brief history lesson: The Star Wars films have been messed with over and over again by George Lucas and Lucasfilm.  The theatrical versions are different … [continued]

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The Top Fifteen Comic Book Series of 2015 — Part One!

I’m excited to wrap up by Best of 2015 lists with my look back at my Fifteen Favorite Comic Book Series of 2015!

There were a TON of amazing comic books that I read in 2015 that didn’t make this list.  Powers by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming.  Trees by Warren Ellis and Jason Howard, and Injection by Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey.  Nameless by Grant Morrison and Chris Burnham.  Chrononauts by Mark Millar and Sean Gordon Murphy, Huck by Mark Millar and Rafael Albuquerque, MPH by Mark Millar and Duncan Fegredo, and Starlight by Mark Millar and Goran Parlov.  Guardians of the Galaxy by Brian Michael Bendis and Valerio Schiti.  Justice League by Geoff Johns and Jason Fabok.  Batman by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo.  Paper Girls by Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang, and We Stand on Guard by Brian K. Vaughan and Steve Skroce.  Black Magic by Greg Rucka and Nicola Scott.  And so many more.

Also, there are several series that I have fallen way behind on, and so I am waiting to find the time to go back and do a major re-read to catch up on these titles.  These series include Stray Bullets by David Lapham, Astro City by Kurt Busiek and Brent Eric Anderson and Jesus Merino and others.  The Manhattan Projects by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Pitarra and Ryan Browne, and East of West by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta.  Had I been up-to-date on these titles, I have no doubt that they would all be on this list, and probably very high on it.

OK, onward!

15.  Groo and Friends (by Mark Evanier & Sergio Aragones) — I’ve been reading Groo since I was a kid, when the series was published for a long run under Marvel’s Epic imprint.  Somehow, Mark Evanier and Sergio Aragones are able to keep making the continuing adventures of the witless barbarian and his faithful dog companion thoroughly entertaining, even after all these years.  There aren’t too many truly great humor comics out there, but Groo is always dependable, and the dazzlingly intricate illustrations by Sergio Aragones are always a feast for my eyes.  This twelve-issue miniseries (a very long run for a Groo tale these days) was great fun.

14. The X-Files Season 10/Season 11 (by Joe Harris and Matthew Dow Smith and others) — I have always considered The X-Files to be one of the great unfinished stories in the modern entertainment landscape, and so I was excited for this series which was designed to be a tenth season for the show.  About mid-way through this year that tenth season concluded and an eleventh season began.  The series has been fun, though … [continued]

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The Top Fifteen Episodes of TV in 2015 — Part One!

Last week I listed by Top Twenty Movies of 2015.  (Click here for part one of my list, numbers twenty through sixteen.  Click here for part two of my list, numbers fifteen through elevenClick here for part three of my list, numbers ten through six.  Click here for part four of my list, numbers five through one.)

Now I am excited to look back all of the great TV we were blessed with in 2015.  This was a tremendous year for TV.  I watched a LOT of great TV.  And yet, as always, there was a lot of great TV that I didn’t get to.  More than ever, it felt like!  Our current age of “Peak TV” (click here if you don’t know what I’m talking about) is a blessing and a curse.  2015 TV series that I didn’t have time to watch include: Fargo season two, Better Caul Saul season one, The Americans season three (I’m still catching up with season two, only a few episodes to go), Transparent, Justified, The Man in the High Castle, Review, Documentary Now!, Halt and Catch Fire, The Leftovers, Red Oaks, Silicon Valley, The Knick, The Last Man on Earth, Inside Amy Schumer, Broad City, and more.  That’s a lot of amazing TV that I didn’t get to see!  All of those are shows that I hope to catch up with, one of these days.

But enough lamenting the TV I didn’t get to watch.  Let’s bask in the glow of my Fifteen Favorite Episodes of TV in 2015!

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Honorable Mention: Robot Chicken DC Comics Special 3: Magical Friendship (aired on 10/8/15) — I’ve loved Robot Chicken’s two previous DC Comics specials and his third one did not disappoint.  While there are several of the expected random skits, this special has a more distinct than usual for Robot Chicken story that carries through the episode, a focus on the very funny friendship/rivalry between Batman and Superman that was introduced in the previous two specials.  Robot Chicken co-creators and show-runners Breckin Meyer and Seth Green voice Superman and Batman, respectively, and they are magnificent.  In this installment, Superman and Batman’s escalating rivalry builds to a spot-on spoof of DC’s regular “Crisis” events, one that allows the Robot Chicken gang to jam in all sorts of wonderfully obscure jokes and references, including great appearances by the Batman and Robin of the 1960’s TV show, with both Adam West and Burt Ward reprising their roles.  Great fun.

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15. Show Me a Hero: “Parts 1 & 2” (aired on 8/16/15) –The Wire’s David Simon returned to TV with this gripping miniseries, telling the story of the … [continued]

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The Top Twenty Movies of 2015 — Part Three!

What fun this has been, revisiting a great year of movies,  Click here for the numbers twenty to sixteen, and click here for numbers fifteen to eleven.  And now, on to my top ten!

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10. Star Wars: The Force Awakens This was the hardest film to find the right place for on my list. I briefly had it in my top five, and then for a while had it all the way down at number twenty.  This is a film that has me very much of two minds.  There is so much about it that works spectacularly well.  The tone is perfect — this is a Star Wars film that is actually FUN (and funny!) again, a welcome relief after the stiff and dour prequels.  The film is wonderfully paced, carrying the audience along from one great action bit to the next.  The new cast is magnificent, with each actor perfectly chosen, creating a group of new young characters who I can’t wait to follow through additional adventures.  The film looks gorgeous, with beautiful special effects and top-notch work from every production department.  Harrison Ford returns as Han Solo and gives the best performance he’s delivered in two decades.  And yet… there are so many little things about the film that bug me, that don’t work as well as they should.  All of the coincidences and plot-holes.  The muddiness regarding what exactly the situation is with Resistance, the Republic, and the First Order.  The way Han Solo’s final scene works but not nearly as well as it should have worked (something I touched on in both of my articles about the film, and that I’ve been struggling to express to friends when talking about the film.  Thankfully, BirthMoviesDeath’s Devin Faraci absolutely nailed what was frustrating me in this terrific analysis.)  The fact that for the third time the Rebels have to blow up a Death Star-like thing.  This is a film with a lot of imperfections, and yet I do still sort of love it despite how rough around the edges it is.  J.J. Abrams and co-writers Lawrence Kasdan and Michael Arndt have brought Star Wars back to life in a big, big way, and for that they have my thanks and appreciation.  (Click here for my original review, and here for my follow-up post.)

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9. Bridge of Spies When Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks work together, you know you’re in for a treat, and Bridge of Spies does not disappoint.  This quiet, intelligent film tells the story of Jim Donovan, a lawyer tasked with defending a Russian spy caught in Brooklyn in 1957 (an act that then  leads to Mr. Donovan’s … [continued]

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More Thoughts on Star Wars: The Force Awakens!

December 23rd, 2015
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Well, my review of Star Wars: The Force Awakens has generated a lot of interesting feedback, and as friends have been seeing the film over the last several days I’ve had a number of fascinating conversations, digging deeply into the film.

Sometimes I find that if I write a review immediately after seeing a film, after a few days thinking about it my opinions can shift or change.  But in this case that hasn’t happened.  I still find myself feeling very much the same way about the The Force Awakens as I did when I walked out of the theatre.  I had a great time seeing the film, and there’s a lot that I loved about it.  At the same time, I’m bugged by some of the story-telling choices, some of which feel are conscious choices by the filmmakers that I happen to disagree with, and others of which feel like mistakes that the filmmakers did not intend.  Bottom line: the film is far better than I had suspected it would be, though not the triumph that I had secretly (and perhaps not-so-secretly) hoped for.

I stand by everything I wrote in my review.  Though, after continuing to think about and talk about the film, I find that despite my lengthy initial review I still have more to say.  And so, some additional thoughts on Star Wars: The Force Awakens!

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The thing that most bugs me about the film is some of those story-telling blunders that start to accumulate in the second half.  There are too many coincidences in the film.  (Han just happens to bring Rey and Fin to the place where Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber has been kept?  A super-Force-strong girl, an old man with the location of Luke Skywalker, AND the Millennium Falcon are ALL on the same planet??)  Too many things in the film are hinted at and not explained.  (Who is the old man at the beginning of the film?  Why did Luke Skywalker create a map if he didn’t want to be found?  Why did that old man have a piece of it?  Why did the Empire have the rest?  Why was Artoo asleep for so many years and how/why did he re-awaken (should this film have been called The Droid Awakens?) at the end?)

I’m particularly mystified as to why the filmmakers did not more clearly establish the political situation in the galaxy.  Has a New Republic been re-established, as we’d all suspected it would have been following the events of Return of the Jedi?  Does this Republic control most of the galaxy?  Why would the destruction of five or six planets cripple the New Republic?  We’re not meant to think those five … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Star Wars: The Force Awakens!

December 18th, 2015
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I don’t remember a time in my life in which I didn’t know about and love Star Wars.  I was a little kid when the original films came out, and by the time I really remember it, Star Wars was already a complete thing.  Three films: Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi.  I read lots of articles about Star Wars as a kid and I of course knew the story that George Lucas had at one time pictured a Star Wars saga consisting of nine films… and obviously I was aware that those three Star Wars films that had been made were numbered Episode IV, V, and VI, but it didn’t seem like there was any prospect of additional Star Wars on the horizon.  I just accepted that, and I was all right with that.  Those three films painted a complete story, and I was satisfied.

I still remember the excitement when word trickled out that George Lucas was actually going to go ahead and make his fabled prequel films.  Like, I think, almost every Star Wars fan on the planet, I was hugely excited to see the backstory fleshed out.  A chance to see the Jedi in their prime?  To learn about what the heck the Clone Wars were?  And to finally discover just how the Emperor and Darth Vader were able to destroy the Jedi?  It was tantalizing.  Well, we all know how that turned out.  Watching Episode I in theatres that opening night was the most crushingly disappointing cinematic experience of my life.  I’d never really considered the possibility that the movie wouldn’t be great.  Episode II felt like a step forward at the time but that film has aged terribly.  There’s a lot that I like about Episode III — it’s the only prequel film that I can say I enjoyed — but it was too little, too late.  To me, the prequels are best forgotten.

And so, again, in my mind that was it.  George Lucas didn’t seem interested in making any additional Star Wars films, and after the disappointment of the prequels I was totally fine with that.  The Star Wars story was finished.

And then Mr. Lucas sold Lucasfilm to Disney and immediately the announcement was made that Episode VII was in development.  I of course followed those developments with great interest.  While I can’t say I was surprised that the decision was made to make more Star Wars films, I truly never expected to see Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fisher ever again reprise their roles on-screen.  I was stunned when that was announced, and even now after seeing The Force Awakens I am still … [continued]

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News Around the Net!

#BringBackMST3k!!  Joel Hodgman has launched a kickstarter to bring back Mystery Science Theatre 3000!!  I’ve backed the project, I hope you all will too!

Prepare to lose your afternoon, comic-book fans.  Alan Moore (author of Watchmen, V For Vendetta, From Hell, and so many other great works) answers a TON of questions in this great Q & A thread.

As the release of The Force Awakens draws ever closer, this in-depth interview with J.J.Abrams will help tide you over.  (Nice to hear him admit to script problems on Super 8 and Star Trek Into Darkness.)

In other Star Wars news, you’ve gotta love this super-detailed fan theory laying out the case for Jar Jar being a trained force-user who was secretly behind all of the events of the prequels.

Sacha Baron Cohen & the great Mark Strong have fun with spy movie tropes in The Brothers Grimsby?  Sign me up:

I wish Pixar would stick with creating original films rather than sequels, but it’s hard to feel too unhappy about this new teaser trailer for Finding Dory:

I’m also quite happy with the latest, most substantial look at Netflix’s upcoming Jessica Jones show, the adaptation of Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Gaydos’ phenomenal comic book series Alias.  I am really hoping this doesn’t disappoint.  We’ll know very soon!!  This trailer is great:

I don’t think I’ve written anything yet here about the news that a new Star Trek TV series is in the works!  (Albeit one that won’t actually air on TV — it’ll only be available on CBS’ All Access digital subscription service.)  I love the idea of a new Trek series, it is too-long in coming.  Star Trek belongs on TV.  But obviously my degree of excitement in this new venture will be determined by who is involved, and the subject matter of the show.  (The most pressing question is not just the era of the show — Kirk’s era?  Pre-Kirk?  Next Generation era?  Beyond Next Gen? — but rather the timeline.  Will this new show be set in the timeline of the original Trek shows and movies, or the rebooted J.J. Abrams universe?)  For the moment, the involvement of Alex Kurtzman (who co-wrote the terrible scripts for the two rebooted Trek films, as well as several of the abominable Transformers films) does not give me joy.  But hope springs eternal.  And as for the show’s only being available digitally, I am OK with that.  I’ve long felt that CBS/Paramount should play to Trek’s built-in fanbase by using digital platforms to deliver new Trek shows to the fans.  (Why not use a Netflix or Amazon model to help pay for the creation of … [continued]

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This substantive look at the upcoming X-Files revival has me giddy with anticipation.  Please don’t let me down, Chris Carter.

I’ve learned over the years not to trust trailers, but holy cow this trailer for the new Coen Brothers film looks AMAZING.  Check it out:

I’m loving this new trailer for Season Two of Star Wars: Rebels.  Season One was OK, but the episode with Darth Vader that aired over the summer made me a true believer.  Can’t wait for what’s next.

This is fun: seven things that you (probably) didn’t know about Who Framed Roger Rabbit.  (I love that movie!!)

This is an amazing, in-depth interview with the great Richard Kind, digging deeply into many of the best roles he has played throughout his career, up-to and including Bing Bong in Inside Out.  Once you’re done reading that, then may I suggest you clear your schedule and enjoy this two-hour conversation with Mr. Kind from Kevin Pollak’s Chat Show:

You’re welcome.

Marvel just added another film to Phase III (am I correct that this means that Phase III will consist of TEN films?  That is incredible.) — Ant Man and the Wasp!  Love that Ant Man (click here for my review) is getting a sequel, and I love that title.  (Marvel also has announced three un-named films for release in 2020.  Presumably those three films will be the start of Phase Four?  I love that Marvel is planning so far ahead.)  (And what is to be made of the rumors that Marvel is going to drop The Inhumans from their Phase III slate, as a middle-finger towards the Marvel TV folks, now separated from the film division of Marvel Studios?  That is being denied by Marvel, but I wonder.  I wrote recently about my concerns that all the recent behind-the-scenes changes at Marvel Studios have not all been for the better.  It will probably be several years before we see how this all plays out and we’re able to get a true sense of the repercussions of these moves.  I still have faith in Marvel Studios.  I don’t want that to change!!)

Brad Bird’s The Incredibles 2 also now has an official release date!!  Fifteen years is a long time to wait for a sequel, but I have faith in Brad Bird (despite the stumble that was Tomorrowland) and can’t wait to see what he is cooking up.

This is an interesting short piece on the monologue that Jonathan Nolan wrote for Christian Bale to deliver for use in the first trailer for Batman Begins.

So the 70mm version of Quentin Tarantino’s new movie The Hateful Eight will [continued]

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News Around the Net

Prepare to lose the rest of your day.  Mad Men screencaps with Parks and Rec quotes.  You’re welcome.

Who said it: Donald Trump or Lucille Bluth?

I am intrigued by this trailer for Jon Favreau’s live-action The Jungle Book.  This trailer is gorgeous.  Will the film be good?  My curiosity is certainly piqued.

Here’s another very brief peek at Netflix’s upcoming Jessica Jones series.  I’m really itching for a more substantial look at this show, but this new very short spot is sweet.

I’ve spent some time lately catching up with Jerry Seinfeld’s amazing Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.  It’s pretty much perfect entertainment for anyone who loves Seinfeld, and anyone who loves comedy.

I’ve also been hugely enjoying catching up with some fantastic podcasts.  First up is the always great Kevin Pollak’s Chat Show.  These in-depth two-hour interviews with actors and comedians are extraordinary.  So funny and so fascinating.  I’ve been listening to years and I’ve still barely scratched the surface of the almost 250 shows that Mr. Pollak has done.

I’ve also been digging Kumail Nanjiani’s The X-Files Files Each show features Mr. Nanjiani and a rotating series of guests discussing two episodes of The X-Files.  They’re watching and reviewing the entire series in order, from start to finish.  This is a great reminder of when The X-Files was great and when nothing was more fun than deeply analyzing its mysteries.  This is a great way to build excitement for The X-Files’ much-anticipated return to television in January.

I was introduced to The X-Files Files when I read about it on Devin Faraci’s Birth.Movies.Death., and I’m also digging Mr. Faraci’s podcast The Canon, in which he and Amy Nicholson discuss one movie a week, debating its merits and legacy and deciding whether they think that film merits inclusion in “the canon,” their made-up repository of only the very best films.  Often they pit two films against one another (such as their great episode debating Alien versus Aliens, or Annie Hall versus Manhattan).  This is a great listen.

I enjoyed this article about Essential Star Trek novels.  I have read every one of these books and they’re all great, though titling the article “That Even Non-Trekkers Should Read” is a mistake, as other than Peter David’s Imzadi, I can’t see non-Trek fans being interested in any of these books.  But re-title this post “That Every Trek Fan Should Read” and then we’d be on to something.  Lots of love in this article to several old-school novels from several decades ago.  I still remember reading Vonda M. McIntyre’s The Entropy Effect (one of the very first Pocket Book Star Trek novels … [continued]

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News Around the Net

This video is amazing.  It’s a nine minute mash-up of clips from lots of great movies to create the notion that there is one bar in which a lot of famous movie characters meet up. Check it out, it is great (despite the mis-spelling in the opening title):

How about that love for Carlito’s Way?? Fantastic.  (Click here for my recent review of Carlito’s Way.)

So, what the heck is going on over at Marvel Studios?  There’s a lot happening behind the scenes that is starting to get reported.  Some of it is exciting, some of it very worrying.  The major event is the move of Marvel Studios, run by Kevin Feige, out from under the control of CEO Ike Perlmutter and over to the direct control of Disney (who bought all of Marvel a while back).  There have been many reports over the years of Ike Perlmutter’s tight purse-strings — limiting budgets for the Marvel films and leading to tough negotiations over salaries with the films’ stars — and his vindictiveness — directing Marvel’s publishing and merchandising arms to de-emphasize the Fantastic Four and the X-Men, because the rights to those film series are owned by Fox.  Although that has been continually denied by Marvel, the last year has seen the FF comic book –which has been published since 1962 — cancelled, and the removal of FF and X-Men characters from t-shirts and other merchandise (posters, toys, etc.).  Kevin Feige has been praised by many as the key driving creative force behind the success of Marvel Studios’ films, and so the idea of his having more creative control on his own, away from the supervision of Mr. Perlmutter, and perhaps larger budgets for his films, is very exciting.  On the other hand, I think the characterization of Perlmutter as a crazy billionaire is overly simplistic and denies his large role in Marvel’s reinvigoration as a publisher this past decade, and the creation and successes of Marvel Studios in the first place.  I’m also mystified by the way the Marvel Creative Committee seems to be being blamed for various Marvel Studios problems, as described in this weird piece by Devin Faraci at Birth.Movies.Death.com.  I love Mr. Faraci’s work (and later in this post I will link to some wonderful articles on his site, one of my very favorite web-sites), but his article about the Creative Committee doesn’t make much sense to me.  The Creative Committee is a small group of people from Marvel’s publishing arm: Joe Quesada (an artist who rose to the position of Marvel Editor-in-Chief in the aughts and who is one of the major reasons why Marvel was … [continued]

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Welcome Back, Darth Vader!

I just recently watched “The Siege of Lothal,” the one-hour second-season premiere of Star Wars Rebels.  It’s a terrific episode, the best Rebels has done so far.  The main reason why it’s so good?  The welcome return of Darth Vader.  And when I say the return of Vader, I mean the evil, unbeatable, kicking-ass-and-taking-names version of Vader from Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back.  This is the top-of-his-game, evil and terrifying Vader we haven’t truly seen since 1980.  It’s joyous to behold.

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As I have written before, I was dubious about the animated Rebels series when it debuted last year, but the last several episodes of the season were spectacular.  The season one finale teased fans by bringing Vader into the story, and the season two premiere wasted no time before making good on that promise.  Vader is all over this episode, tasked with hunting down the small band of rebels who have been making trouble for the Empire on the planet Lothal.

Somehow they got James Earl Jones to reprise the voice of Vader, and it is an incredible delight to hear new Vader dialogue spoken by Mr. Jones.  Even better, the characterization of Vader is absolutely spot on, a triumphant return of Vader at the height of his villainous powers.  This is a Vader who is enormously powerful with his mastery of the Force.  When Vader confronts the show’s two Jedi characters, Kanan and his young Padawan Ezra, Vader easily overpowers them, as well he should.  The rebels try to stop Vader by blowing up two huge Imperial Walkers and toppling them on top of him.  But in one of the show’s best moments, Vader uses the force to lift the wreckage and strides confidently out of the flaming debris, Terminator-style.  (Compare that sequence of badass Force mastery with the great effort all the Jedi seemed to need in the Prequels just to lift small objects, all despite our learning from Yoda in Empire that “size matters not.”  That really bugged me in the Prequels.  It’s great fun here to see Vader as a hugely powerful Force-user.)  The show also nails the casual cruelty of classic Vader.  In this episode, Vader has an imperial governor killed in front of the characters trying to rescue her, he burns a refugee town to the ground in an effort to flush out the rebels, and when he defeats Kanan and Ezra he uses the force to have Ezra almost decapitate himself with his own lightsaber.  (The kid is rescued in the nick of time, but I love that Vader wouldn’t even trouble himself to walk over there and kill Ezra himself.)

But the best Vader sequence comes later, when … [continued]

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News Around the Net!

Some momentum on two exciting Stephen King fronts!  There’s been a little bit of movement on the planned adaptation of The Dark Tower.  I’m not holding out too much hope, but I’d love to see it.  Meanwhile, looks like another Stephen King adaptation might take the idea that has been floated about The Dark Tower adaptation combining a TV show with a movie and beat it to the starting line: the latest announcement about The Stand is that it will be an eight-episode miniseries for Showtime, followed by a movie.  OK, that is an interesting and sort-of bizarre idea.  Curious to see where that goes.  In less-great Stephen King news, True Detective director Cary Fukunaga has left his planned two-film adaptation of It just weeks before the start of production.  That’s a huge disappointment.  I was excited to see what Mr. Fukunaga’s distinct voice would do with It.  Oh well.

Love this new trailer for Stephen Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies.  Spielberg and Hanks making another film together?  I am in!

I am very excited to see Inside Out, but that doesn’t mean it’s not too early to start anticipating Pixar’s NEXT original film!

Oh man, this new trailer for Macbeth, with Michael Fassbender & Marion Cotillard, is amazing!!

Macbeth has always been one of my very favorite Shakespeare plays.  I cannot wait to see that.

To my enormous surprise, Marvel Comics’ new Star Wars comic books have all been kind of awesome.  (I’ve been particularly interested in their depiction of just how Darth Vader discovered that the rebel who blew up the first Death Star was his son, and of Vader’s reaction to that important piece of information, thus proving that the Emperor lied to him about Padme’s death.  That’s a great story and something I’m frankly shocked hasn’t been tackled before now.)  Their latest issue of Star Wars had a pretty major twist that is, apparently, now completely part of Star Wars canon.  I’ll be interested in seeing where that story goes…!

It is really starting to look like a fifth season of Arrested Development is actually going to happen!  Huzzah!  Yes, Netflix’s fourth season was a far cry from the greatness of the show’s original three seasons on FOX, but still, further stories of the Bluth family is cause for rejoicing.

They’re making a Layer Cake sequel (click here for my review of the original film), starring Jason Statham???  That is such a weird idea, I’m not quite sure what to make of that!

I would love to someday see a really good Tron film, so for that reason I am bummed that Disney has pulled the plug on Tron 3.  But … [continued]

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Catching Up! Josh Reviews Powers Season One, Star Wars The Clone Wars “Bad Batch”, and Batman vs Robin

On my desk I keep a list of the various movies and TV shows that I’ve watched that I intend to write about here on the site.  Lately that list has been growing very long!  I have fallen somewhat behind on my blogging.  So I’m going to try a new format here and post some “Catching Up” blogs in the coming weeks, with short reviews of some of the stuff I’ve seen.  Let’s dive in!

Powers Season One — For fifteen years Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Avon Oeming’s Powers has been one of my favorite indie comic books.  For about that long, Powers has been “in development” in Hollywood for a movie or TV adaptation.  It looked like it would never happen, but then miraculously the series became the initial TV show produced by Sony’s Playstation network.  It seemed to me like a perfect fit.  The show would have the freedom to faithfully adapt Mr. Bendis & Mr. Oeming’s profane, sexy, violent, weird, wonderful series.  I was very excited.  But I’m sorry to say that this first season of ten episodes disappointed me.  I wrote about my initial lukewarm reaction here, and unfortunately the series never improved much for me.

Powers should be edgy, it should be cool, and above all else it should have the wonderfully witty & gritty dialogue that Mr. Bendis is justifiably famous for.  But I found the show to have none of those things.  It was stiff.  It was cheap looking.  Shockingly cheap-looking.  The sets looked like sets and what few super-heroic moments we saw were painfully primitive.  (I mean, the wire-work was just horrendously awkward.)  But I could forgive that if the series told a cool story.  Sadly it did not.  The show has a great ensemble of actors but there was never a moment when I felt that the show ever truly came alive and took flight.  There was little momentum from episode to episode.  With the involvement of the talented Mr. Bendis and crime-writer Charlie Huston, I was excited to see a ten-episode super-hero murder mystery.  But that never really came together.  The murder of big-time super-hero Olympia that kicked off the series, was quickly forgotten about in place of a lot of boring soap opera between former friends Walker, Johnny Royale, and Wolfe.  There was never any momentum to the show, just a lot of dithering about and back-and-forth between these flat characters.  Hardly any character actually DID anything.  Worst of all was that the comic’s central relationship, that between partners Walker and Deena Pilgrim, felt ignored by the show.  Deena herself was marginalized in the second half of the season, and that was a big disappointment.  Who’d … [continued]

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Trailers!

Wow, looks like the studios have all started selling their 2015 movies pretty hard lately!  This past week has seen a flood of new trailers for some big upcoming films.

It all started, of course, with that look at Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  What a great trailer.  As I wrote last week, I remain dubious that this film is going to be any good (though I am beginning to dare to hope), but wow, this is a pretty perfectly cut trailer.  It’s been very interesting to see how universally loved this trailer seems to have been, across the internet.  Let’s watch it again, shall we?

Oh man.

Moving on, soon after the Star Wars trailer dropped we also got our first peek at Batman v Superman:

Unlike the Star Wars trailer, this trailer has been pretty roundly criticized across the interwebs.  I think the hate is a little much, personally.  This is a not a home-run trailer, but I don’t mind that DC is giving us a more serious, grim version of their super-heroes, in contrast to the Marvel approach.  I am glad a main story-point for this film seems to be the public’s questioning perhaps rejection of Superman as a hero.  That’s certainly understandable after the carnage that Supes was involved with at the end of Man of Steel.  And while I think Batman’s line about making Superman bleed is pretty dumb (and I’m definitely not yet liking the highly-modulated new Bat-voice), I do have a lot of love for the Frank Miller The Dark Knight Returns inspired look of Batman’s anti-Superman armor.  I am very intrigued by this film.  I can see a lot of ways in which it can stumble, most primarily under the weight of all the announced cameos as Warners seems increasingly desperate to ape Marvel’s success with The Avengers.  But boy, wouldn’t it be cool if this Batman/Superman crossover film — something we’ve never seen before — was actually good??  We’ll see…

We also good our first good look at Fox’s upcoming Fantastic Four film:

I’m very uncertain what to make of this film.  I love the FF dearly.  This might prove to be a great film, and I am certainly hoping it will be.  But it feels like it’s a decade too late.  After the last few years of Marvel films, in which we’ve seen superhero films that were able to be both compelling and also incredibly faithful to the essence of the characters from the comics, what I want to see on screen is the FF I know from the comics, not this weird un-superhero version.  I am not very excited right now for this film.  Prove me wrong, … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Star Wars Rebels Season One

The first twelve episodes of the first season of Star Wars Rebels were entertaining, good-not-great pieces of all-ages fun.  The thirteenth and final episode of the first season was terrific and really made me sit up and take notice, and I started to get excited for the potential of this animated series.

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Set five years before the events of the original Star Wars film, A New Hope, Star Wars Rebels is an animated series which tells the story of the exploits of the crew of the Ghost, a young, rag-tag group of privateers out to make a buck and, hopefully, thumb their noses at the Empire.   Over the course of the first season, the group transition from being mostly concerned with staying out of the Empire’s way to becoming more involved with active efforts to undermine the Empire.  In the finale (which I will discuss more in a moment), we see that the crew of the Ghost are but one group of players in the burgeoning Rebellion against the Empire.

Setting the show in the “dark times” between the prequels and the arrival on the scene of Luke Skywalker is a great idea, as this time period is ripe for some great untold stories.  The early episodes of this first season were a bit contradictory in that, on the one hand, the writers seemed to want to avoid telling grand, galaxy-in-peril stories (of the type that its animated predecessor, The Clone Wars, had gotten so good at doing), instead just focusing on the relatively small-scale adventures of this one little ship and crew.  On the other hand, they seemed to enjoy playing the prequel game and dropping in a surprisingly large number of familiar Star Wars faces.  I didn’t enjoy seeing C-3pO and R2-D2 so early in the show’s run, but damn if hearing Billy Dee Williams on again playing Lando (in this case, a young, even-more-roguish version of the smuggler and scoundrel) wasn’t a heck of a lot of fun.

At first I was dubious of the idea of Rebels.  I was still smarting from the abrupt cancellation of the Clone Wars animated series, a show that had blossomed into a wonderfully epic, complex, dark series.  I felt that the show was snatched away from us just as it was really getting good, and just as it was approaching the show’s whole reason-for-being, the moment in which the show’s characters and story-lines would catch up with Episode III.  I am still bummed that we’re never going to get to see that.  And so, at first, Rebels seemed like a poor substitute.  Even the title, Rebels, was annoying to me, as it seemed like a tease and that the show … [continued]

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This is a great article revisiting Stephen King’s final three Dark Tower novels.  I absolutely adore these books, and I am not at all in the camp of Dark Tower fans unsatisfied with the ending of Mr. King’s magnum opus.  I spent quite a while reading and writing about the Dark Tower series a few years ago.  Feel free to follow these links to revisit the journey with me: Entering The Dark Tower — The Dark Tower Book I: The Gunslinger – The Dark Tower Book II: The Drawing of the Three – The Dark Tower Book III: The Waste Lands — The Dark Tower Book IV: Wizard and Glass — The Dark Tower Book V: Wolves of the Calla — The Dark Tower Book VI: Song of Susannah — The Dark Tower Book VII: The Dark Tower — Return to the Dark Tower — The Little Sisters of EluriaMarvel Comics’ Adaptation of The GunslingerThe Wind Through The Keyhole.

If you, like me, are starting to get very sad about the impending end of Parks and Recreation, then it’s time to fall down the rabbit hole of this epic Twitter exchange of great Parks & Recs clips between Alan Sepinwall & Linda Holmes.  Here’s just a tiny taste:

Oh my god I am going to miss that show.

Holy cow: a Wet Hot American Summer sequel is happening — with all of the original cast — as an eight-episode Netflix series???  That is bonkers!!

This is a terrific article about the central “text” of Star Trek, and the challenges that must be conquered in terms of making future good Star Trek stories, on the big-screen or (hope hope hope) back on TV.  I don’t agree with all of his points, but this piece was written by someone who gets and loves Trek, and I think he has the right idea.

Speaking of Trek, I sure wasted a lot of time watching these old trailers!

We just recently passed the tenth anniversary of the airing of the pilot episode of the reimagined Battlestar Galactica, “33.”  Wow.  I remember watching that when it aired.  (I also watched the mini-series when that aired, about a year-and-a-half before the series kicked off in the States.)  I can’t believe it was that long ago!!  Here is a great, in-depth look back at the greatness of that pilot, and here is a nice Q & A from show-runner Ronald D. Moore.

This is a great list of twelve Simpsons characters who actually evolved.

This concept art for an Alien sequel, developed by Neill Blomkamp, is ludicrously tantalizing.  Ripley and Hicks together again??  … [continued]

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Return of the Jedi

December 1st, 2014
,

So let’s talk about this:

I am still extremely dubious as to whether this movie is actually going to be any good (it will be a long time before I forgive J.J. Abrams for Star Trek Into Darkness) but boy, that is a pretty phenomenal teaser trailer right there.

When I was a kid there were three Star Wars movies and I really never imagined that there would ever be any more.  Then the prequel films were announced, and I remember like it was yesterday that huge thrill of seeing, in the first teaser trailer for Episode I, that first glimpse of new Star Wars footage:

I’m not someone who went to see Meet Joe Black just because the trailer was attached before that film, but I boy do I remember painfully waiting the minutes it took for my dial-up modem internet connection to download the Episode I trailer to watch.  I also stayed up late one night to watch one of those cable shows that showed movie trailers because I’d heard they were showing the Episode I trailer.  I recorded it on my VCR and I re-watched that tape of the two-minute trailer over and over again.

It’s fun to be back in that place, and this new 88-second spot certainly got me excited for Star Wars again.  That’s a great feeling.

I was impressed with the amount of new footage we saw in this trailer.  I was expecting to see hardly any new footage.  This far out from the release of the film (over a year away), I figured we’d just get an elaborate title treatment and a handful of quick shots.

Yes, I was a little surprised not to see a single glimpse of any of our recognizable heroes from the original films (I thought for sure we’d see a shot of a bearded, cloaked Luke Skywalker), but I have to say I love that this trailer focuses on the NEW.  New faces, new characters, new droids.  I love that the first person in the trailer is a very sweaty John Boyega.  (Go watch Attack the Block, everyone!!)  It’s cool to see a black face in a Star Wars film, and I love that right from the start of this trailer the focus is on introducing us to the young new characters who will, I assume, be the focus of The Force Awakens.

I like the mysterious voice-over.  Like everyone I spent a lot of time wondering just whose voice it is.  Turns out it’s the great Andy Serkis (I love that Andy Serkis is in a Star Wars film!!).  But wow does he make his voice sound like Benedict Cumberbatch, though, am I … [continued]

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News Around the Net

Bill Watterson drew the poster for an international cartoonists’ festival, and it is awesome.

I’ve been really enjoying Kumail Nanjiani’s podcast The X-Files Files.  In each episode, Mr. Nanjiani and a guest host analyze two episodes of The X-Files, working their way through the series in order, starting from the very beginning of the show.  I’ve only listened to a few episodes, but they’ve all been great.  I started with this one, in which Mr. Nanjiani and Devin Faraci from badassdigest.com discuss the two-parter that began season 3, “The Blessing Way” and “Paper Clip.”  One of my favorite episodes is the very first podcast, also co-starring Mr. Faraci, in which the two discuss the first two episodes but also share their feelings on the whole series over-all.  My favorite part is their hilarious discussion of the dreadful second X-Files movie.  (Here are my thoughts after seeing that flick, if you’re interested.)  This is a great podcast, I am hooked!

I need to carve out some time to watch this: A recreation of The Empire Strikes Back made by over 500 individual fan-made versions of every shot from the film.  Sounds crazy!

This is awesome: what if famous album covers were just a small part of a much larger picture?  So funny and so clever.

So last month Marvel Comics killed off Wolverine.  Yeah, that’s gonna last.  But in the meanwhile, in honor of his “death,” enjoy this hilarious illustrated summary of Wolvie’s convoluted back-story.

Here’s a trailer for Jurassic World:

That’s a pretty solid trailer.  I love the use of the classic John Williams theme on piano at the end of the trailer.  The visuals are certainly gorgeous, and Chris Pratt is a great choice to anchor the adventure.  I don’t love what we glimpse here of the “hybrid dinosaur” angle.  One flaw of the original Jurassic Park sequels was the need to keep coming up with new and different dinosaurs.  The third film tried to use the Spinosaurus as their bad bad dinosaur and it didn’t work at all.  I hope this hybrid idea doesn’t come off as silly.

I like this nostalgia-based trailer for The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies:

This is a nice attempt to place this final film within the context of the epic story woven by the previous five.  It remains to see if the film delivers on that promise, but there are worse ways to market the new film than showing some of the best moments from the previous ones.

I’m not sure I believe that Blade Runner 2 will ever happen, nor do I think it’s a great idea.  Of course I’m … [continued]

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The Force Awakens and News Around the Net!

So the new Star Wars film is going to be called The Force Awakens?  Sigh.  Someday I would love to be really EXCITED by the announcement of a new Star Wars title.  While The Force Awakens is certainly a better title than The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones, it seems very nondescript and bland.  It also seems to imply that somehow the Force has been asleep or not present during the events of the previous six films, which puzzles me.  What’s most interesting is that this new film is no longer being referred to as Episode VII.  I am all for dropping the numbers — I prefer subtitles over numbered sequels, and at a certain point the high sequel numbers just get silly.  But it means the new “main” trilogy won’t be distinguished from the spin-off films that are also being worked on.  That is likely Disney’s intent, as they wouldn’t want those spin-off films to be seen as any less important than the “main” films.  (Though I suppose it’s also very possible that the film will still be identified as Episode VII in its opening crawl.  We should remember that, for the Original Trilogy, the episode numbers weren’t really used in the advertising of the films, including their logo designs and posters.  They were only identified as Episode IV, Episode V, and Episode VI in their opening crawls.  It was only with the prequels that the episode number became so prominently incorporated into the titles and logo designs of the films.  Hmmm.  It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out with Episode VII.  I do very much like the idea that J.J. Abrams and his team are returning to the approach used by the Original Trilogy when it comes to the episode numbers.)

Speaking of Star Wars, this is fun: five minor actors from the original Star Wars trilogy who you didn’t realize were in everything you liked.

Who doesn’t love spending a little time reading about The Shawshank Redemption?

I wasn’t at all interested in NBC’s live telecasts of Peter Pan or The Sound of Music.  But A Few Good Men?  I’m in!!  Boy I hope this happens, and with a great cast.  You want me on that wall.  You NEED me on that wall!!

This is cool: as an alternative to the hideously ugly U.S.S. Enterprise re-design from J.J. Abrams’ films, here is a very cool looking, fan-designed, souped-up version of the Big-E that hews very closely to the ship’s original design from the Original Series.  Matt Jefferies’ design from the sixties ain’t broken, friends.

This is a great, fun interview clip with Benedict Cumberbatch.  Behold his perfect Jar Jar … [continued]

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Catching Up on My Cartoons: Star Wars Rebels and a Return to The Simpsons

Well, the jury is still out on the over-all success or failure of Disney XD’s new Star Wars animated show, Rebels, but boy, including the droid Captain Rex from Star Tours in the second episode sure makes it hard for me to dislike the show!!  More on that in a moment.

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Star Wars: The Clone Wars ran for five seasons on Cartoon Network, but was cancelled when Lucasfilm was sold to Disney.  That show started out with a truly dreadful animated movie, but somewhat miraculously turned into a pretty great show.  The animated that started out clunky became gorgeous (this season 5 trailer is a great example) and the story-telling, while still designed for an all-ages feel, became much more sophisticated.  The series shifted into a multi-part format, with most stories running for three or four episodes by the show’s end.  Over the seasons, we got to really dig into the scope and breadth of the Star Wars universe and the galaxy-wide Clone Wars in a way that was far more satisfying than the taste of the Clone Wars that the prequel movies gave us.  Eight seasons were planned, which would have taken the show right up to the start of Episode III; it’s a huge disappointment to me that we’ll never get to see this story’s proper conclusion.

But many of the show’s key creative personnel moved right into a new Star Wars animated show for Disney.  This is Star Wars Rebels, which takes place about five years before A New Hope.  The show focuses on a motley band of friends on the run from the Empire.  So far I’ve seen two episodes, the double-length premiere, “Spark of Rebellion,” and a second episode, “Droids in Distress”.  I’ve read some rave reviews of the new show on-line, but I’m not there yet.  I enjoyed these first two episodes enough to keep watching, but I’m not in love with the show yet.  It’s fun, but whereas The Clone Wars felt like it was telling the important stories that the prequel movies skipped, Rebels feels fairly irrelevant, since we know the main story of the fall of the Empire was told in the Original Trilogy.  But I’m hoping that, like The Clone Wars, this series will richen as it ages, deepening the characters and telling more compelling stories.  I’m also hoping that this series will eventually pick up story and character threads left dangling by the never completed Clone Wars.  Obi-Wan Kenobi popped up in the premiere, and I was particularly delighted that Bail Organa appeared in “Droids in Distress.”  If this series eventually builds to tell the story of the formation of the Rebel Alliance, I’d be thrilled for … [continued]

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Ok, ready to lose the rest of your day?  You might recall that this past summer, FXX ran a marathon of every single Simpsons episode ever.  Well, apparently a bunch of the best writers for Hitfix.com decided to list their favorite episodes of each day of the marathon.  Five writers each picked their two favorite Simpsons episodes from that day, and wrote about them.  Click here and thank me later.  This is a staggeringly wonderful walk down Simpsons memory lane.  It’s been way too long since I have revisited some of these classic episodes.  Reading those articles makes me want to blow off work for the next week or two of work and just watch old Simpsons DVDs…

Click here for a terrific interview with Nicholas Meyer.  Mr. Meyer is pretty much single-handedly responsible for all of the very best Star Trek ever made.  He wrote and directed Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and wrote and directed Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, and he wrote the vast majority of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.  (He wrote everything that took place on present-day Earth, starting with the immortal Spock line: “Judging from the pollution content of the atmosphere, we have arrived in the latter part of the twentieth century,” all the way through to the escape with the whales.)  Nicholas Meyer is the reason for the odd numbered Star Trek curse (in which fans noticed that the even-numbered original Trek movies are far superior to the odd-numbered ones).  I had no idea he was involved in this Harry Houdini project for the History Channel, but now I am very interested in seeing it!  Mr. Meyer doesn’t work nearly enough to suit me.  It’s fascinating that the History Channel film is based on a biography of Houdini that Mr. Meyer’s father wrote.  The whole interview with Mr. Meyer is terrific, but I particularly loved his answer, at the very end, when asked his opinion of the J.J. Abrams Star Trek films.  “That’s changing the shape of the bottle.”  (Read Mr. Meyer’s comments to understand the context.)  That is very well-put, and I 100% agree.

StarWars.com has released animatics for four unmade episodes of Star Wars: The Clone Wars.  These are four full-length episodes, with complete voice performances and sound effects, it’s just that the rough blocky animatics were never taken to full animation.  These are great episodes, well-worth the time of any fans of the show.  Anakin and Obi-Wan investigate the death of a Jedi on Utapau (a key location in Episode III) and discover that General Grievous is about to acquire a terrible weapon with ties to the secret of the construction of Jedi … [continued]

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Did you know that genius Calvin & Hobbes cartoonist Bill Watterson recently drew a few new comic strips?  I sure didn’t!!  Here’s the whole crazy story of how master artist Bill Watterson wound up collaborating with Stephan Pastis on his comic strip Pearls Before Swine.  And here are the cartoons.  Wow.  Holy cow am I jealous of Mr. Pastis!!  Well done, sir!

In last month’s News Around the Net post, I noted the 30th anniversary of both Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.  This summer also marks the 30th anniversary of Ghostbusters (holy hell, the summer of 1984 was AWESOME), and, to celebrate, the film is getting re-released to theaters on August 29th!!  Mark your calendars!  I’ll certainly be there.  (I love these sorts of revival screenings and wish the studios would do this far more often with their great films of yore.  As it happens, I’ve been able to see Ghostbusters a few times on the big screen in the last decade-or-so — click here for my thoughts on a screening of the film from 2011.)

And, sticking with Ghostbusters for just a moment longer, this is an awesome 30th anniversary infographic.

Gillian Flynn (author of Gone Girl) and Dave Gibbons (the artist of Watchmen) have collaborated on a short comic-book story.  Here it is, and it’s great.

This collection of Lucas Lee’s fake movie posters from Scott Pilgrim vs. the World really made me laugh.  I love that movie!!

This is a great, great list of the five best episodes of Mystery Science Theatre 3000.

I love this fantastic look back at two classic Newsradio episodes.  My lord that show was great.

Here’s another great stroll back down TV memory lane (as well as another reason to dearly miss the great, late Phil Hartman): a look at one of the very best episodes of The Simpsons, and one of the very best half-hours of television ever: “A Fish Called Selma.”

The Wachowskis are working on a ten-episode sci-fi show for Netflix, and the co-showrunner will be Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski?  OK, I am interested.

Speaking of Netflix, is Rosario Dawson going to be playing Karen Page on Netflix’s upcoming Daredevil show?  That would be awesome.

This is a fun article: Kramer, Meet Feldman: 19 TV Bizarros.

Joss Whedon has some fascinating thoughts on the state of super-hero movies today.  I cannot wait to see what he has in store for us with The Avengers: Age of Ultron.  Meanwhile, is Nathan Fillion going to be in Guardians of the Galaxy???  Holy cow that’s … [continued]

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Ok, I thought the first Guardians of the Galaxy trailer was awesome, but this new one is even better.  I cannot wait for this!!

The only good human…!!”  I can’t wait for July 11th!!

I’m also really loving this peek at Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar:

Oy vey, this is what they’ve decided to call the Batman vs. Superman movie?  Devin over at badassdigest has it exactly right.  (Devin also has some very smart things to say about the state of the Spider-Man film series here.)

For the longest time it seemed like Marvel Studios was doing everything right with their film series, while the Marvel properties at the other studios (like Spider-Man), not to mention Warner Brothers with all their DC Comics properties, were floundering.  But the last week has seen quite a lot of alarming news coming out of Marvel.  First was word that Drew Goddard was out as show-runner of the Netflix Daredevil show, which was a huge disappointment to me.  (I really loved Mr. Goddard’s collaboration with Joss Whedon: The Cabin in the Woods.)  Then came the collapse of Edgar Wright’s Ant-Man film.  There’s a behind-the-scenes story that none of us know yet, but whatever went down, Edgar Wright has left the film that he’s been planning for literally YEARS.  The only reason Marvel is making an Ant-Man movie is because of Mr. Wright’s passion for the character.  (Ant-Man isn’t exactly a big name character!)  With Edgar Wright (the talented director behind Shaun of the Dead and Scott Pilgrim Versus The World, a film that I absolutely adore) directing and Paul Rudd cast in the lead, Ant-Man was a film I was super-excited about.  But with Edgar Wright out and word that they have also thrown out the script he co-wrote with Joe Cornish, I don’t know why Marvel is continuing with the film.  With the movie’s announced release date just a year away, this looks like a huge train-wreck in the making.  Is the golden age of Marvel Studios already over?  I hope not, but I am definitely worried.

A new Elmore Leonard adaptation?  With an awesome cast?  Yes, please:

OK, one more trailer for you, an adaptation of Mark Millar & Dave Gibbons’ comic book series The Secret Service:

I’m not quite sure why the film has been re-titled Kingsman, but whatever.  The comic book was awesome and that trailer is promising.  I’m loving Colin Firth as the James Bond-esque character.  This could be a lot of fun.

This past June 1st marked the 30th anniversary of the release of Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.  Wow.  Here’s a wonderful retrospective piece on the film[continued]

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It’s interesting that the only two network half-hour comedies that I watch these days… happen to be run by the same individual, Mike Schur.  He made his bones on The Office (where he also played Mose), and he’s one of the show-runners of both Parks and Recreation and Brooklyn Nine-Nine.  Here’s are two wonderfully detailed interviews with Mr. Schur, the first of which looks back at the first season of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and the second of which looks back at season seven of Parks and Rec, with a focus on the season finale.  These are great interviews and well-worth your time if you’re a fan of either show.

This is a terrific, in-depth interview with Mel Brooks, discussing Blazing Saddles.  Get comfy and enjoy.

R.I.P. H.R. Giger.

I was sad to read of the passing of Efrem Zimbalist Jr.  He had many great roles but for me he will always be the iconic voice of Alfred from Batman the Animated Series and many subsequent DC animated projects.  He was absolutely perfect as Alfred, and when I read the character’s dialogue in any comic book I always hear Mr. Zimbalist’s voice.  I am really heartbroken that we’ll never again get to hear him voice Alfred in any future DC animated film or show.

Speaking of Batman, I’ve gotta say, this first official glimpse of Ben Affleck as Batman (in Zack Snyder’s upcoming untitled Superman Vs. Batman film) is pretty great.  Love the costume.  Love the small bad ears.  Love Ben’s Batman chin.  Love that classic look of the Batmobile.

So, I bashed The Amazing Spider-Man 2 in my review.  I’ve been glad to see that I’m not alone in my disappointment with the film.  Click here to read Film Critic Hulk take the film apart.  Click here for io9’s very funny list of Amazing Spider-Man 2 FAQs.  (Their one-sentence answer to the question “What is The Amazing Spider-Man 2 about?” is hysterical and 100% spot-on.)  Finally, this article No One Cares About Peter Parker’s Parents is also 100% spot-on and echoes a point I made in my review.

This is cool: apparently back in the day, Criterion released the first three James Bond films on laserdisc, with commentary tracks featuring candid comments from many of the people involved in the making of the films.  When Bond producer Albert Broccoli objected, the discs were recalled from stores.  Here’s the full story.  Now the commentaries have re-surfaced and are available to download for free here!  I have downloaded them all and look forward to giving them a listen soon.  Should be fun!

This is a cute article, tracking the many appearances of … [continued]

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So… has there been some Star Wars news this week…?

Well, let me just say this, which I’m sure I’ll be repeating over and over again ad nauseam between now and Dec 18, 2015.  I would love nothing more than to see a great new Star Wars movie in a theatre at some point during the rest of my life.  I would be delighted and thrilled for Episode VII to be that movie.  I am rooting for it.

Although there are a billion ways for it to go wrong and turn our embarrassing, I like the idea of the original trio of Luke, Han, and Leia (Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fisher) being involved in the movie.

I am cautiously optimistic that J.J. Abrams is the right director for the film.  I think J.J. understand how to balance nostalgia with telling a fresh story; I think he has a good cinematic eye; and I think he has the muscle in Hollywood to make the movie he wants to make.  On the other hand, his last film was the execrable Star Trek Into Darkness.  So that’s a problem.

There are some really exciting names in the new cast just announced.  John Boyega was phenomenal in Attack the Block.  Oscar Isaac was phenomenal in Inside Llewyn Davis.  Domhnall Gleeson was phenomenal in About Time.  Andy Serkis is the new god of 21st century big-budget fantasy film-making.  (I assume he’ll be playing a mo-cap creature, but I’d be equally happy if he’s performing as himself in the film.)  Max Von Sydow was absolutely BORN to be in a Star Wars movie.  Adam Driver is a surprising choice — I think he’s a terrific actor, but he has a very “modern” feel that I have a hard time imagining translating into a Star Wars movie, but I can hold my judgment for now.  (Interestingly enough, he shared a scene — a GREAT scene — with Oscar Isaac in Inside Llewyn Davis!)  Like the rest of America, I have no idea who Daisy Ridley is (just that she has a cool name), but I look forward to finding out.

So, so far, I am cautiously optimistic about Star Wars: Episode VII.  This is not a film I think needs to be made.  But since they’re making it, I hope to hell it’ll be great.  Right now, I have plenty of reasons to worry (none of us have to imagine what a terrible Star Wars movie looks like — we’ve all already seen it), but also plenty of reasons to hope.  We’ll all know for sure in just a year and a half.

In other news…

This is a fantastic [continued]

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Josh Reviews the Final Episodes of Star Wars: The Clone Wars

Shockingly, the animated TV show Star Wars: The Clone Wars has, over the years, grown into a pretty terrific show and a fascinating expansion of the Star Wars saga.  When the animated film was released to theatres back in 2008, I skipped it.  I was totally soured on the prequels, and the animated project didn’t interest me at all.  The CG animation looked stiff and fake, and the project seemed too kid-focused to interest me.  When the series began airing on cartoon network, I avoided it at first, but eventually watched a few episodes.  It wasn’t great, but it was good enough to keep me periodically checking back in with the show.  There were a lot of episodes I missed, but I’d catch one here and there.  By the third or fourth season, I felt the quality had increased dramatically, and I started watching the show more regularly.  When it was announced at the end of the fifth season that the show was being cancelled, I actually found myself rather upset!

I was disappointed at the end of a show I’d been enjoying, and more to the point I was disappointed that the story was being left incomplete.  Half the fun of the show wasn’t just my enjoyment of the episodes themselves, but my growing interest in how all of the character-arcs and story-lines would be wrapped up, as the show inched closer and closer to the events of Episode III — which would, of course, mean the brutal, tragic deaths of all the show’s characters!  Just like the whole point of the prequels was to eventually get to the end of Episode III and the events of Anakin’s fall and the destruction of the Jedi, it feels like half the point of this show was to arrive at that same end, and to see the story cut down in the middle was extremely frustrating.  (I’ve read the show was planned to last eight seasons.)

It’s all the more painful that the show was cut down at its creative height, and for something as stupid as the corporate bottom line.  (From what I understand, once Lucasfilm was sold to Disney, Disney didn’t want to be locked into Cartoon Network’s ownership of the show.)  And the show really was at a creative height.  The animation had improved dramatically, to the point where I found the episodes to be quite gorgeous.  This show gave us some phenomenal fight sequences: massive space battles; complex planet-based fights on land, in the air, and in the sea; and some extraordinary lightsaber fights.  We really got to explore the universe of the Star Wars, and the epic conflict of the Clone Wars, far more than the … [continued]

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Want to loose an hour of your life?  Spend some time reading through the comments section of this article that poses the question: what is the single best episode of any genre TV show ever?  I don’t agree with all the responses, of course, but I agree with a LOT of ’em… and they all make me want to devote the next year of my life to go-ing back and re-watching all of my favorite sci-fi shows…!!

Can you believe The Simpsons is entering its 25th season???  That is just insane!  Here is a great interview with current Simpsons show-runner Al Jean.  I have about two years’ worth of Simpsons episodes sitting unwatched in my Tivo queue.  I still love The Simpsons but somewhere along the line I just lost my eagerness to see the new episodes as they aired each week… and now it’s been many, many months since I have watched one of the latest episodes.  It’s hard for me to believe this has happened!  Maybe this will get me excited for the show again: the news that Guillermo del Toro directed the opening couch gag segment of this year’s Treehouse of Horror episode, that aired last night.  Cool.  I haven’t watched the episode yet, but it just might be time to dip into my queue and check it out!  Click here to watch the entire opening segment, and to hear more from Guillermo del Toro about creating that elaborate sequence.

This is interesting: Pixar’s in-development film The Good Dinosaur has had its release date pushed back by A YEAR AND A HALF.  Wow.   That means that 2014 will be the first year without a new Pixar film since 2005.  On the one hand, I am pleased to see a major studio taking the time to get a movie done right, rather than rushing to meet a release date.  On the other hand, while I don’t know the full story, I feel badly for the original director, Bob Peterson, who was removed off the film he had helped to create and develop.

From J.W. Rinzler’s upcoming book The Making of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, io9 has collected a fascinating (oops, wrong Star franchise) list of 10 things you probably didn’t know about Return of the Jedi.  This is a must-read for all Star Wars fans.  Speaking of Star Wars and i09, I also love their list of the 9 least-competent Jedi.  I don’t know anything about the expanded universe characters, but they’re certainly right on the money about Qui-Gon Jin.  (And Ben Kenobi.  And Yoda.  And Luke.)

I’ve been very critical of Star Trek Into Darkness on this site.  … [continued]

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Ben Affleck is Batman? And Other News Around the Net

So Ben Affleck will be playing Bruce Wayne/Batman in the upcoming Man of Steel sequel (currently titled Superman vs Batman).  How about that?  I have very mixed feelings about this announcement, but this isn’t coming from a place of being an Affleck hater.  Quite the contrary, I have been a fan of Mr. Affleck since the beginning of his career (I’m talking School Ties days!).  I’ve always enjoyed his work.  I think he’s a terrific actor, equally adept at playing comedy or drama.  I’ve always thought so, but what really made me a fan of Mr. Affleck was listening to his candid and hysterical participation in the commentary tracks for Kevin Smith’s early films, specifically Mallrats and Chasing Amy.  Mr. Affleck is OK in Mallrats and superb in Chasing Amy, but he is so funny, so genuine and so likable on the commentary tracks that I was solidified as a huge fan of his.  When considering Mr. Affleck as a superhero, one must of course consider Daredevil.  I am in the minority here but I am a big fan of that film.  I think it’s great, a nice serious take on the Daredevil character, and I thought Mr. Affleck was terrific in the title role.  I have always been bummed we never got a sequel (particularly since the narrative was positioned, at the end of the film, for a sequel to take on the classic Frank Miller Daredevil story-line “Born Again,” which I would KILL to someday see on a movie screen).

So why am I having a hard time imagining Mr. Affleck playing Batman?  To be honest, I’m not sure.  It might be that he is just too big a name for the role.  He’s a great actor, but not necessarily the type who vanishes into his different roles.  I am wondering if he as Ben Affleck is too well known to portray this character — will be be able to see Batman when watching him, rather than Ben Affleck?  Or is the issue that I have always found him to be a very likable performer — might he be TOO likable to portray Batman, a very grim character?

I am dubious, but on the other hand I am pleased that Warner Brothers are shooting high and looking to assemble a high-profile cast for the Superman sequel.  We’ll all see how it turns out on July 17, 2015…

In other news:

This could be one of my favorite articles I’ve ever read on-line: Devin Faraci at badassdigest.com on How Lost and The X-Files Are Exactly Like All His Failed Relationships.  So funny, and his analysis of those two shows that both collapsed in the ninth inning is … [continued]

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Let’s begin the day with this phenomenal article from badassdigest.com about how Optimus Prime’s death defined a generation of kids.  Do you want to understand the depths of my geeky heart?  Then read that article.  My parents wouldn’t let me see Transformers: The Movie in theatres, but I was allowed to rent it on video.  I didn’t cry, but I was shocked by the brutal deaths of all my beloved characters in the film’s opening minutes.  When Optimus Prime bought the farm I was changed forever.  I had loved the Transformers before, but one viewing of Transformers: The Movie sealed that flick’s place in my heart forever.  “Megatron… must be stopped.  No matter the cost.”

Boy, those crazy guys and gals at badassdigest.com have a direct line into my psyche these days, because while the experience of seeing Transformers: The Movie was seminal, so too was my discovery of Voltron.  This magnificent article examines the mysterious origins of Voltron, a show that combined and repurposed several different Japanese cartoons.  Oh my lord I loved Voltron.  The continuity of that show — the way story-lines flowed from one episode to the next — was a staggering discovery to me as a kid, and I fell in love hard.  To this day, I have a love for long-running continuing stories in any media (Movies, TV, books, comic books, etc.), and I think that began as a kid when I discovered Voltron and Robotech…

I just discovered Jerry Seinfeld’s web-series Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, and it is magnificent.  I love stand-up comedy and I loved Seinfeld, so no surprise I think this series of shorts of Jerry hanging out with his very funny pals is phenomenal.  With this project, Seinfeld has inched even closer to truly having made a show about nothing.  Genius.  I have already watched them all.  If you haven’t seen this, click on the above link immediately.

Want to watch Ewan McGregor tell a hilarious story about filming the Star Wars prequels?  Jump to 7:50 below:

So far I am very, very excited for next year’s X-Men: Days of Future Past.  My only cause for worry?  The film’s very unimpressive redesign of the Sentinels.  I wish they had stuck a lot closer to the classic, iconic original design by John Byrne.  The Sentinels aren’t just any robots, they have a very specific look, and this isn’t it.

As for this summer’s X-Men movie, I have already written my review of the good-but-not-great new Wolverine solo film, The Wolverine.  Click here for a fascinating interview with Chris Claremont, who shares his thoughts on the film.  Chris Claremont didn’t create the X-Men or Wolverine, but in … [continued]

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First of all: Arrested Development.  Sadly for me, life has intervened and, despite my years-long anticipation, I have not yet seen a single second of the new Netflix season.  But rest assured, friends, that very shortly I will be devouring these new episodes and I will be back here, of course, with my detailed thoughts.  Hopefully very soon!!

This will take some time to read, but boy is it worth it: the Onion A.V. Club’s in-depth, career-spanning interview with comedian Patton Oswalt.

I wasn’t nearly as in love with Skyfall as the rest of the world seemed to be (click here for my original review), but I am excited by the news that, contrary to reports from late last year, Sam Mendes just might return to direct the next Bond film.  I hope that happens.  No let’s bring back QUANTUM and make them a real, SPECTRE-like threat to Bond!

This is hilarious and I have never loved George Takei more.  Click here to see Mr. Takei’s written responses to various bigoted anti-gay marriage protesters.

Speaking of Star Trek, I love this piece about a non-Star Trek fan who discovered Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.  I still feel strongly that the under-loved Deep Space Nine is the strongest of the Star Trek series.  Sigh.  I miss the days of great new Star Trek on TV every week…!

Still speaking of Star Trek, this is a fantastic piece that dissects crazy, ill-advised efforts that J.J. Abrams went to in order to mislead folks (OK, flat-out lie) about the identity of the character Benedict Cumberbatch was playing in Star Trek Into Darkness.  I was tremendously disappointed by the Trek sequel (click here for my review) and this article supports and further fleshes out many of the points I made in my review.

I posted the first teaser for Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV show, but I don’t think I ever posted the longer, three-minute version.  Check it out.

Same goes for this deliriously huge trailer for Guillermo del Toro’s new film Pacific Rim.  This was released a few weeks ago already, but if you haven’t seen it yet, you should take a look:

I lamented the cancellation of Star Wars: The Clone Wars a few weeks ago, so I am happy to see that many of that show’s key creative players are involved in a new, in-the-works Star Wars animated project, set between Episodes III and IV.  I still feel terribly disappointed that the Clone Wars story was cut off unfinished.  Dare I hope that this new series will resurrect some unfinished story-threads and characters from the Clone Wars series…?

I’ll leave … [continued]

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News Around the Net (and a rant about Prometheus!)

So, OK, bloody disgusting ran an article that Fox doesn’t know what to do with a proposed sequel to Ridley Scott’s Prometheus, and that the source of the problem is that when Lost’s Damon Lindelof re-wrote Jon Spaihts’ original Alien prequel script into what became Prometheus, he turned a one-shot film into the start of a trilogy, except now he isn’t returning for film two and so Ridley Scott and Fox are left holding the bag with no idea where to take the story next.  The article is pretty fierce in attacking Mr. Lindelof, and no surprise he has responded to defend himself, saying that Ridley Scott and everyone at Fox all wanted Prometheus to be the start of a trilogy and explaining why he isn’t returning for the sequel.  I have no reason not to take Mr. Lindelof at his word, but the real story to me, here, is how clear Mr. Lindelof’s comments illustrate the brain-dead decision-making that went into the making of Prometheus.  Mr. Lindelof comments that the whole idea was that, if/when they made a sequel to Prometheus, they didn’t want that sequel to be the already-made original Alien.  They wanted room to explore the story further, to tell what he describes as a “parallel” story to the events of Alien and its sequels.  That’s why instead of making the planet that they find in Prometheus LV-427, the planet where Ripley finds the crashed ship and the alien eggs in Alien, they decided to set Prometheus on a different planet (despite the fact that they kept in the film the Engineer’s ship that looks exactly like the one Ripley found, crashing at the end so it looks exactly like what we saw in Alien.  Guess those Engineers just crashed their ships on LOTS of barren planets, huh?  So stupid!!).  Am I the only one who sees how easily the filmmakers could have had their cake and eaten it too?  Had they stuck with Jon Spaihts’ original plan, the events of Prometheus would have beautifully lined up with what we saw in Alien, explaining who the Engineers were and how their ship carrying Alien eggs wound up crashed on that planet… and meanwhile, had the movie ended exactly the way it did, with Dr. Shaw and David’s head surviving the Engineer’s rampage and setting off in search of the Engineer’s home-world, they could have  had their “parallel” story-line right there, continuing to explore Shaw’s adventures in future films without connecting any further to Ripley.  Am I right or am I crazy??  Once again I am struck by what an enormous, jaw-dropping missed opportunity Prometheus was.  (Click here for my original review [continued]

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Awesome new Iron Man 3 Trailer & News Around the Net!

I am absolutely loving this new Iron Man 3 trailer:

This movie looks fantastic from what we have seen so far.  I love seeing Tony really challenged.  I love the idea of connecting this film to the Avengers not by featuring other super-heroic characters, but by exploring the psychological ramifications of what Tony went through in that film.  I love what we have seen of Ben Kinglsey’s interpretation of the Mandarin as a media-savvy terrorist.  I love the teases of what looks to be some great action set-pieces.  It’s Shane Black working again with Robert Downey Jr.  I am in.

I am intrigued by this announcement of The X-Files Season 10 in comic-book form.  And I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Faraci’s statement that the time is ripe for an X-Files revival.  I posted a lament when the date for the alien invasion came and went a few months ago, with no sign of the massive X-Files third movie I had been hoping for.  I would love to see that remedied someday, before all the actors get too old.  A man can hope…

I am always too busy over the summer to watch The Daily Show, a fact which eased my initial dismay when reading this announcement that Jon Stewart is taking 12 weeks off from the show to direct a film.  What’s particularly fascinating is that Mr. Stewart isn’t planning on directing a comedy, but rather an adaptation (that he has written) of the book Then They Came For Me: A Family’s Story of Love, Captivity, and Survival.  The book was written by Maziar Bahari and Aimee Molloy, and tells the true story of the detention and torture of Mr. Bahari, a BBC journalist, for 118 days in Iran.  Viewers of The Daily Show might recall Mr. Bahari, as he appeared on the show both before and after his ordeal.  One of the pieces of evidence used against him by the Iranians, who accused him of being a spy, was a previous comic appearance he had made on The Daily Show.

The fact that Warner Brothers seems to have no idea what to do with all of the DC Universe super-hero franchises they own, exhibited by their inability to get a Justice League movie off the ground, would be hilarious if it wasn’t so disappointing to folks like me who would love to see a whole slew of kick-ass DC movies.  Here’s hoping Zack Snyder’s Superman film doesn’t disappoint.  Going back to Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale seems like a desperation move to me.  Though I would rather see Christian Bale back in the bat-suit than Joseph Gordon-Levitt, as had been rumored. Look, I think Joseph Gordon-Levitt … [continued]

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Did you enjoy the new Hobbit trailer I posted last week?  If you haven’t seen them, here are all of the other alternate endings to that trailer.

Uh oh.  Looks like Rise of the Planet of the Apes director Rupert Wyatt has dropped out of work on the sequel, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, apparently because Fox is rushing the film to meet the release date the studio had chosen.  This is not a good sign.

This past weekend, on the eve of Treme’s season 3 premiere came the good news/bad news that HBO had renewed the show for a fourth and final season (four seasons was apparently David Simon’s ideal length for the run of the show), albeit a shortened season.  The exact length of this shortened fourth season, what Mr. Simon refers to as “season 3.5,” is TBD.  I’m bummed the show couldn’t swing a full final season, but I’m thrilled that HBO is at least giving Mr. Simon and his team some episodes to bring their television masterpiece to a conclusion of their choosing.

Well,  now I know why Robot Chicken did a DC Comics special this year, rather than a fourth Star Wars one.  It’s because Seth Green and many of the rest of the Robot Chicken gang are working on a whole new Star Wars parody show, Star Wars Detours. This first trailer is funny, though I’m not sure why this is a whole new show and not just more Robot Chicken…

Speaking of Star Wars, it looks like Episode II and Episode III will be getting a 3-D theatrical re-release in 2013.  I sat out the Episode I re-release (I must admit I was a little tempted, but that film is just so bad I couldn’t see spending the money, even though I was curious about the look of the 3-D), and I’m not that much more interested in seeing Episode II. But seeing Episode III back on the big screen, and in 3-D?  That just might have my ticket.  But I am really waiting to see if they re-release the Original Trilogy.  Any excuse to see those films on the big screen again is exciting for me, no matter how much new digital fiddling Mr. Lucas and his minions have done…

This is an interesting list of the Top 5 Best-Acted Moments in a Steven Spielberg Film.  I definitely agree with numbers 5, 4, and 1, not so sure about 3 and 2…

I was already interested in Judd Apatow’s new film, This is 40, and this interview with Robert Smigel and Albert Brooks, both of whom are appearing in the film, has … [continued]

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This is a fantastic article from the New York Times about how baseball dugout payphones are the last bastion of the landline.

The web-site io9 always has some great lists, and I particularly enjoyed their recent list of 10 stand-alone episodes that totally represent their respective shows.  Choosing “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” for The X-Files was a great choice.

Quint from AICN has begun posting reports from the set of The Hobbit. Check out Part 1 of his Unexpected Journey here.  Meanwhile, Peter Jackson has recently posted the fourth video diary from the set of The Hobbit, this one focusing on the film’s 3-D effects:

Did you catch that glimpse at The Hobbit’s official logo, there at the end?  Cool!!

This review of the Star Wars saga on blu-ray from Chud.com is interesting — especially the “fuck you” opening (early in “the lowdown” section)!  The reviewer has some interesting comments on all the films, particularly Empire. (Though his rating both The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones as better films than Return of the Jedi is lunacy.  Jedi is flawed, absolutely, but still way better than those two prequels.)  (By the way, so far I have held firm in my vow not to purchase the saga on blu-ray.  I’m itching to watch the series again, and I will admit to a morbid curiosity as to what has been changed in this latest version of the films, but I’m still avoiding paying almost a hundred bucks for something that I know will, in the end, just sadden and/or anger me.  Still, if anyone wants to give it to me as a GIFT…!)

But the articles that have really reminded me of my love for Star Wars, and that have got me thinking about re-watching the series, is Drew McWeeny from HitFix’s series of FilmNerd articles about showing the Star Wars films, one at a time, to his young kids for the very first time.  These articles represent some of the finest writing Mr. McWeeny has ever done, and if you’ve ever enjoyed a Star Wars film, these are well-worth your time.  It’s fascinating to re-experience these films through the eyes of someone who has never seen them before.  Consider, if you will, two boys who have seen the Clone Wars cartoons but not the films.  They think Anakin Skywalker is the hero of Star Wars.  Reading how they react to what the film series is REALLY about is poignant and mind-blowing.  Start with Drew’s article about showing his boys the original Star Wars (A New Hope) and go from there.  Here’s his piece on Empire, and then his pieces on Episode I, Episode [continued]

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In What Order Should One Watch the Star Wars Films?

September 19th, 2011

With the recent release of all six Star Wars films on blu-ray, Star Wars is on my mind (and I’m sure I’m not alone).  I am standing by my vow not to purchase this new set, since I am confident that the additional changes to the films (most heinously represented by Darth Vader’s new ridiculous “NOOO!!” yell that has been added into the climactic moment of Return of the Jedi, I guess to parallel the most aggravating moment in Revenge of the Sith) will only piss me off. 

(Addendum no. 1: I have no problem with George Lucas making as many changes as he wants to the Star Wars films.  AS LONG AS HE WOULD RELEASE THE ORIGINAL THEATRICAL VERSIONS TOO, along with his ever-more-Special Editions.  That he refuses to do that, when so many fans like me would GLADLY GIVE HIM LOTS OF OUR MONEY to purchase those original versions, boggles my mind and makes me angry and sad.)

(Addendum no. 2: While the newly mucked-with versions of the films don’t have a lot of appeal to me, the special features on the new blu-ray set, particularly the deleted scenes from the Original Trilogy (click here for a tantalizing preview), look awesome.  So I just want to clarify that I wouldn’t oppose being given this new blu-ray set as a GIFT!)

Where was I?  Oh!  Right.  Star Wars.  So even though I haven’t bought the new blu-ray set, I was thinking about the best order in which one should watch the six Star Wars films.  George Lucas obviously, feels that they should be watched in the order he has numbered them, I-VI, with the prequel trilogy first, followed by the Original Trilogy. 

I, on the other hand, have always felt that they should be watched in the order they were MADE.  So that would be the Original Trilogy first, episodes VI-VI, followed by the prequel trilogy, episodes I-III.  That was the order in which audiences originally experienced the films, and so it makes sense to me that that should be the order which is preserved.  A side-bonus of this order, to me, is that it would also help minimize the jarring change in the look and style of the special effects from the Original Trilogy to the prequels.

(Caveat no. 1: Anyone who would prefer to skip Episode I: The Phantom Menace entirely, when re-watching the saga, is OK in my book.)

(Caveat no. 2: The one thing I will say about George Lucas’ preferred order is that I must admit there is something cool about watching the original Star Wars (now called Episode IV), immediately after watching Episode III.  After first seeing … [continued]

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I have had to reevaluate my opinion of Adam Carolla after listening to his marvelous interview (well-over an hour long) with the great Albert Brooks.  This is a MUST-LISTEN, friends.

Attorney General Eric Holder has challenged David Simon to produce a sixth season of The Wire??  That is awesome.

This expose on the dramatically underlit images found at many big-chain Boston-area movie theaters is very frustrating to read.  Every time I read about an amazing theatre chain like the Alamo Drafthouse, I wish there were better movie theatres in my area.

I need to own this poster.

This is a great article about when to show Star Wars to one’s kids.  I’m going to face this dilemma in a few years!  The follow-up piece is great, too: when to show the Indiana Jones films to one’s kids!

Io9 has weighed in on the 10 Best Star Trek Episodes.  It’s an interesting list.  I’m thrilled by how well-represented Deep Space Nine is, but having an episode of Voyager on the list really nullifies any credence the writer might have.  And “The Void” of all episodes?  Decent, but I could name about a hundred Trek episodes from the other series that are superior.  For my own list of my favorite Star Trek episodes of all time, click here.

I am very excited by the report that the phenomenal comic book series 100 Bullets just might become a TV show on Showtime100 Bullets is one of the finest comic book series of recent memory.  Click here for my thoughts on the series.  Now, I’m not holding my breath for this proposed TV show to actually happen, but damn would it be cool…

In my review of Super 8 last week, I mentioned that I felt the monster in the film (directed by J.J. Abrams) was quite similar to the monster from Cloverfield (produced by J.J. Abrams).  Don’t agree with me?  Then check this out.  Case closed, I think!… [continued]

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Following up on my review of Source Code, which I posted yesterday, click here for a wonderfully spot-on assessment of all of the myriad problems with the film’s ending.  It’s a sweet ending that felt right when I walked out of the theatre, but like the rest of the film, if you think about it for more than five minutes, it totally falls apart.

Here’s a very funny trailer for 30 Minutes of Less.  I love the idea of Jesse Eisenberg and Aziz Ansari as buddies.  I’m looking forward to this one.

Here’s another trailer — this is for the very low-budget indie sci-fi movie Another Earth.  I don’t know anything about this film, but my curiosity is piqued.  It’s always interesting to see sci-fi elements mixed with drama (rather than action).

This is awesome.  Lucasfilm Animation’s new building is shaped like a Jawa Sandcrawler.

It’s really happening!  The Avengers has begun filming!!  Here’s what Joss Whedon had to say on the matter.  Funny as always.  Boy, The Avengers is happening, The Hobbit is happening… this is all very exciting!  Now if we could just get the next James Bond film into production, then I’d be over the moon.

I’ve written before about how I think the way some people defend bad movies by saying “oh, it’s not a movie you’re supposed to think about” is incredibly stupid.  Here’s a well-reasoned support of my opinion.

This is a beautiful article but it also made me kind of sad.  No matter how much we might try to read all the books we want to read, or watch all the films we want to see, or listen to all the music we want to listen to, the simple mathematical truth is that we’re all going to miss almost everything.

I’ve always thought that the next Star Trek TV show needs to move the story forward (the same way Next Gen did after the original Star Trek), not backwards.  Apparently I’m not alone in that thinking.  Trekmovie.com has put together a fascinating piece on the pitch for a new Star Trek TV show that Bryan Singer, Chris McQuarrie, and Robert Meyer Burnett put together in 2005-06 put never actually presented to Paramount.  I would have watched that show!

This is a great defense by Nordling of AICN on the experience of seeing movies theatrically.  I agree with him wholeheartedly, but I wish there were theatres like the Alamo Drafthouse here in Boston.  It kills me to go to a movie and have people talking on their cell phones or texting or doing other annoying things that distract from actually watching the movie.

Finally, … [continued]

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It’s a Trap! Family Guy and Robot Chicken take on Return of the Jedi!

January 12th, 2011
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It’s difficult to express just how much fun I’ve had watching the dueling Star Wars specials that both Family Guy and Robot Chicken have been releasing over the past few years!  I was blown away by both shows’ initial Star Wars episodes (Robot Chicken’s Star Wars Special and Family Guy‘s episode Blue Harvest, an hour-long parody of the original Star Wars), and I have been thrilled that the continuing installments have become something of an annual tradition.  The end of December saw both the broadcast of Robot Chicken’s Star Wars: Episode III as well as the release of the DVD/blu-ray of Family Guy’s Return of the Jedi episode, It’s a Trap!

Of the two, I prefer the Robot Chicken special, but it’s pretty close!  As usual, the Robot Chicken episode is a collection of skits — some just a few seconds long, others lasting several minutes — having fun with the whole breadth and scope of the Star Wars saga.  As with their Robot Chicken Star Wars: Episode II special (which focused on The Empire Strikes Backclick here for my review), Episode III focuses on one of the films — in this case, no surprise, Return of the Jedi — though as always there are still skits throughout the show referencing all five of the other films.

The episode begins at the end of Return of the Jedi, with Darth Vader having thrown the Emperor down the deep trench of the Death Star.  The video freeze-frames mid-fall, and we hear the Emperor — once again voiced with an extraordinary amount of sardonic bitterness by Family Guy‘s Seth McFarlane (just one of many crossovers of talent between the two shows) — asking, in voice-over, just how the heck he got into that position!  McFarlane’s hilarious depiction of the Emperor as a grouchy fellow constantly beset by life’s circumstances was one of the stand-out characters of the first Robot Chicken Star Wars special, and the shows creators have wisely chosen to again spotlight him here.  The other character who gets a spotlight — surprising to me, but pleasantly so! — is the unnamed Stormtrooper voiced by Scrubs’ Donald Faison.  He gets some choice moments in the show (we see his mishaps driving the Death Star and at Lars and Beru’s home), and Faison is an absolute riot.

Other great skits include a spot-on evisceration of the ridiculous Padme/Anakin scenes from Episode II (“This is my room for talking about non-sexual matters”); a musical version of Emperor Palpatine’s first 66 orders; a dark take on the cave scene from Empire (“Think you would cut his head off, I did not!!”); and … [continued]

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News Around the Net!

One of my favorite web-sites these days is Badassdigest.com — you should definitely check it out if you’ve never seen it.  They’ve had some great pieces up recently, such as Devin Faraci’s simple, rational piece about why you should avoid purchasing the just-announced Star Wars saga on blu-ray, and this article decrying the ridiculous people who are putting together a version of Huckleberry Finn with then “offensive” language removed, and this scary story of a Lost fan who won the lotto using the cursed numbers (“the numbers are bad!!”).  They also linked to this illustrated history of the Batmobile, which is really fantastic (and extraordinarily thorough!!)  Seriously, the site is great.  Check it out.

Drew over at Hitfix has also had some killer articles up recently that are well worth your time, such as this epic interview with Edgar Wright (seriously, anyone out there reading this who hasn’t seen Scott Pilgrim vs. the World needs to remedy that RIGHT NOW) and this in-depth conversation with The Social Network director David Fincher.

Speaking of in-depth conversations, those fine folks at the Onion AV Club have posted a wonderful career-retrospective interview with the great Jon Lovitz.  This is a great read.  (Thanks to my buddy Ethan for sending this my way!)

Sir Ian McKellan starts filming next month on The Hobbit, reprising his role as Gandalf the Grey.  Say Hallaluyah!!

So, they’re actually making a fifth Jack Ryan movie, with Chris Pine cast as the lead?  I’m not sure how I feel about that.  I guess I hope that they can pull it off.  I have a lot of faith in director Jack Bender (a prominent director from Lost) and I do think the series still has legs.  I absolutely adore The Hunt for Red October, and while I like all three follow-ups I don’t think any of them quite succeeded on all cylinders.  I’d love to see another great Jack Ryan film.  Will this be it?  One can hope…

I’ve got LOTS more reviews of 2010 movies (and some TV shows) coming up in the coming days, and I’m hard at work on my Best of 2010 lists (which I expect to post at the end of the month), so keep checking back to MotionPicturesComics.com!… [continued]

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The Empire Strikes Back: Revisited

January 4th, 2011

It didn’t arrive in 2010, but I’m very much hoping that 2011 will bring us Adywan’s version of The Empire Strikes Back.  (Click here to read me waxing poetic about his magnificent Star Wars: Revisited.)  Here’s a peek:

Did you notice the new approach to Cloud City?  The way he has replaced the Emperor’s hologram with the way his face appears in Return of the Jedi (far more elegantly than the hatchet job done on this scene in the 2004 DVD)?  The far more action-packed escape from Hoth?  The inclusion of additional snow-speeders?  The laser burns when Stormtroopers get shot?  How robotic bounty-hunter IG-88 finally moves?  The way we no longer see the rebel’s laser cannon on Hoth blown up in the scene where the rebels all line up with their weapons, several minutes before the cannon is actually blown up?  How we now see other ships fleeing Cloud City, along with the Millennium Falcon, after Lando gives the order to evacuate?

(For the curious, here’s a lengthy list of the enhancements/changes/corrections that Adywan is planning for his version of Empire.)

CAN.  NOT.  WAIT.… [continued]

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December 28th, 2010
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I’m a big, big fan of Adywan’s fan-edit of the original Star Wars, so much-so that I consider it to be the definitive version of that film.  I am chomping at the bit for the release of his upcoming edit of The Empire Strikes Back! Here’s a fascinating interview with this dedicated fan.

Cars is my least-favorite Pixar film, so I don’t have an enormous amount of excitement for the upcoming Cars 2 (despite Pixar’s being on an incredible winning streak).  However, this recent announcement has raised my anticipation level significantly!

Speaking of Pixar, these posters promoting Toy Story 3 for consideration for a Best Picture Oscar are pretty freakin’ phenomenal.

This is a fascinating read: A Holiday Message from Ricky Gervais: Why I’m an Atheist.

It’s nice to see that Ira Steven Behr, one of the key creative masterminds between Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (my favorite of the Trek series) is still getting work as a show-runner (even if this new show Alphas doesn’t interest me that much).

New trailers!  Here’s a glimpse at Terrence Malick’s long-in-the-making new film, The Tree of Life. I don’t know quite WHAT to make of the film based on that trailer, but I am definitely intrigued.  Here’s a trailer for a new film called Hanna starring Eric Bana, Cate Blanchett, and Saoirse Ronan.  I’d never hear of it before seeing this trailer posted on Hitfix, but it looks interesting.  Lastly, here’s a trailer for Kevin Smith’s new Horror film Red State.  That’s right, I said Kevin Smith’s new HORROR film.  I have NO IDEA whether this is going to be any good, but I’m certainly interested, and happy that Mr. Smith is moving beyond his familiar brand of talky raunchy comedies.  Not that I have any problem with his talky, raunchy comedies, mind you!!

I am really loving the new web-site Badassdigest, and articles like this piece by Devin Faraci called Can We Ever Love Jack Black Again? are one reason why.

Speaking of bad-ass, here’s a funny piece from JoBlo called 10 Bad Ass Villains Who really Weren’t.

OK, one last trailer for you: Simon Pegg & Nick Frost’s new film Paul.  Can’t wait.… [continued]

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The casting announcements have been coming fast and furious for the new Spider-Man film, but I just can’t muster up much excitement.  I simply think it’s a terrible idea to re-boot the Spider-Man franchise, which felt to me like it still had a ton of gas in the tank (despite my dislike of Spider-Man 3).  Take the recent news that Rhys Ifans will be playing The Lizard in the new film.  That should be exciting news — I think the Lizard is a great Spidey villain.  But I’m just bummed that they’re finally using The Lizard in a Spidey film and the great Dylan Baker — who appeared as Dr. Curt Connors in ALL THREE previous Spider-Man films — isn’t going to get to play the character.

Speaking of big announcements about which I just can’t muster up too much excitement is the news that George Lucas will be releasing the Star Wars movies back to theatres in 3D, as well as the follow-up announcement that they’re also working on 3-D conversions of the Indiana Jones films.  On the one hand, any excuse to see the Star Wars and Indy films back on the big screen is exciting.  (After having so much fun seeing Back to the Future back on the big screen, I’ve been hoping that other studios would follow suit and bring some of their best films back to theatres so we can enjoy them as they were meant to be seen.)  But I’m not so excited about the 3-D conversions.  That has the potential to be cool, but a big part of me would really just rather see a beautifully restored 2-D print of those films.  Also, Lucas has unfortunately decided to release the Star Wars films one per year, in order of episode number — which means he’s starting with Episode I, and we won’t get to see The Empire Strikes Back until something like 2016!!  That stinks!

I’ve been interested in the upcoming sci-fi film Skyline ever since seeing the trailer.  But I’m even more interested now, after reading Mr. Beaks’ great piece at AICN about how Colin & Greg Strause basically made the film independently, free from studio oversight or interference.  I can’t wait to see what they’ve put together.

Check out this amazing web-site that contains a treasure trove of footage of Andy Kaufman performing throughout his career, arranged chronologically.  Astounding.

I’d never heard of this movie before seeing the trailer, but now I’m intrigued:

The combination of Andy Serkis (who played Gollum in the Lord of the Rings films) and Simon Pegg is genius, and it’s exciting to see John Landis directing again!

Like most viewers, … [continued]

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Quint over at AICN has posted an amazing, career-spanning interview with the extraordinarily talented Drew Struzan.  Mr. Struzan has illustrated many of the most iconic movie posters of the last several decades — posters I’m sure you’d recognize for all of the Indiana Jones films, the Star Wars films, the Back to the Future films, and so many more.  The man is an incredible talent.  I have already ordered my copy of The Art of Drew Struzan, and I can’t wait for it to arrive!

The AICN seaman has also been posting a really fun series called The Behind the Scenes Pic of the Day that is definitely worth checking out if you haven’t already been following it.  Maybe you’ll want to start with this one that has done far worse than kill you, he’s hurt you, and he wishes to go on hurting you.  Heh — fits right in with my current run of cartoons!!

A fun animation test for the abandoned Roger Rabbit 2 project, from 1998, has recently surfaced on-line.  Worth checking out.

This recent brief interview with Joss Whedon, discussing his work on the upcoming Avengers film, has been making the rounds of the net but it’s worth reading if you haven’t seen it yet.  I love Mr. Whedon’s comment that “I would like to put these actors in a room and just make Glengarry Glen Ross.”  Boy would I happily pay to see that!!

This is an interesting list of the 33 Greatest Movie Trilogies of all time, as voted for by readers of Empire magazine.  There are some weird choices (I think the terrible fourth entries in the Die Hard and Indiana Jones series would disqualify those as trilogies — and what the hell is the Star Wars prequel trilogy doing on that list???) but it’s a fun read.

So actor Robert Wuhl, who once played a sports agent on the TV show Arliss, is now hosting an actual sports radio show?  That’s pretty funny.

I love this:

[continued]

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If you’re a member of facebook, check out this list (compiled by a key contributor to The Digital Bits, my favorite DVD/blu-ray-related web-site) of films that he’s still waiting to be released on DVD.  It’s a hoot.  While I’m discussing the Digital Bits, here’s something cool: In anticipation of the upcoming release of all four Alien films on blu-ray, they have posted an extensive look at the making of Fox’s amazing Alien Quadrilogy DVD box set from a few years back.  This was originally published in the book The Digital Bits: Insider’s Guide to DVD.  Since all of this material will appear on the blu-ray set, this is well-worth a read, if you’re a fan of these films.

The deleted scene from Return of the Jedi that was shown at Star Wars Celebration V has been taken down from youtube, but as of this writing it can still be seen here, so check it out.  It’s a cool moment showing Luke’s constructing his new lightsaber, and Vader trying to speak to his son through the force.

Speaking of Star Wars, I have waxed poetical many times on this site about the magnificence of Adywan’s e-edit/restoration of Star Wars: A New Hope.  (I am sick of referring to it as Episode IV.)  Here is a phenomenal visual guide to over 500 of the changes/fixes that Adywan has made.  If you have any way of getting your hands on this film (and fanedit.org is a good place to start), then do so immediately.

This is an interesting article about a new book about the Bond films: The Man With the Golden Touch: How the Bond Films Conquered the World. This is a book I need to read!  By the way, I don’t agree with the author of the article’s closing thought that the recent films have been entirely without artistic merit.  I was disappointed by Quantum of Solace, but didn’t think it was a complete catastrophe.  I also am not nearly so down as that writer on Pierce Brosnan.  I love Brosnan as Bond.  He was just in some bad Bond films.  (His first two were strong, but his last two — The World is Not Enough and Die Another Day — were TERRIBLE.)  But I don’t blame Brosnan for what went wrong in those films.  It’s a shame that MGM’s financial woes have put a halt to the series for now.  But James Bond Will Return.  Someday, I guess.

There’s a nice defense of Tom Cruise by Nick Nunziata over on CHUD, and I must say I agree wholeheartedly.  Speaking of CHUD, I was very sorry to read of Devin Faraci’s [continued]

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Star Wars is Coming to Blu-Ray and I Don’t Really Care…

August 18th, 2010

A few days ago, at the Star Wars Celebration V convention in Orlando, FL, it was announced that the Star Wars films will be released on Blu-Ray in the fall of 2011.  Click here for more details.

I should be overcome with excitement at the propsect of seeing the Star Wars films presented in the crystal-clear quality of Blu-Ray, but I really can’t muster up much enthusiasm for this announcement.

Back in 2004 I spent a lot of money to purchase the Original Trilogy on DVD, and I felt that the presentation of those films was so catastrophically bad that, after watching the trilogy in the week after I bought the set, I have not once gone back to re-watch those DVDs, and I can’t imagine that I ever will.  George Lucas has a long history of fiddling with the Star Wars films, and in theory I don’t object to that concept.  It’s just that so many of the changes that he has made to the Original Trilogy in recent years have, in my opinion, really been to the detriment of the films.

There were all sorts of problems with the 2004 DVD of A New Hope.  For some reason the Star Wars main title had been changed so that it receeded into the distance at a super-fast speed.  The color-timing was off in countless scenes, so that often Luke’s blue light-saber seemed green, and Vader’s red saber seemed pink.  In the climactic Battle of Yavin at the end of the film, the audio was poorly balanced so that, in one instance, John Williams’ score was totally buried under the sound effects.  The Han-Greedo scene was further altered and, even more annoyingly to me, the timing of Greedo’s subtitles were messed up.  Now the subtitles for Greedo’s first line of dialogue appear on screen a beat before he startles Han, ruining the surprise of his entrance.  I could go on and on.  Perhaps none of these changes seem particularly egregious to you, and taken on their own I admit that none of them are that huge a deal.  But all together, when scene after scene in the movie was altered — and not for the better — I was incredibly frustrated and disappointed by what had been done to the film.

Empire and Jedi were similarly mangled.  In Empire, all of Boba Fett’s dialogue had been re-recorded by Temuera Morrison, who played Jango Fett in the prequel trilogy.  I understand the idea behind that change — Boba is a clone of Jango so would surely sound just like him when he grew up.  But the few lines of dialogue spoken by Boba Fett in Empire have all attained … [continued]

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So is Peter Jackson going to direct The Hobbit? Or will it be his protege Neill Bolmkamp, who directed District 9? Who knows — I just hope this mess with MGM gets sorted out soon.  I’m still getting over my enormous disappointment that MGM’s financial situation resulted in Guillermo del Toro’s departure from The Hobbit films.  But boy would it be great to see PJ take the helm once again…

Great new trailer is up for The Social Network, the new film about facebook directed by David Fincher and scripted by Aaron Sorkin.

So, we finally got out first glimpse at The Green Hornet and… I’m still not quite sure what to think.  This film is either going to be awesome or a total catastrophe…

This is a cool poster.

CHUD’s list of the Worst CGI in Film History continues, and it’s well worth your time.

Will we ever get another decent X-Men film?  I loved X-Men and X2, but X3 was a crushing disappointment and the less spoken of the abominable X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the better.  I hate prequels, as a rule, so when word came out last year that the next X-film would be a prequel entitled X-Men: First Class, I thought that was a big mis-step.  So what now gives me hope?  Director Matthew Vaughn (Layer Cake, Stardust, Kick Ass) and stars James McAvoy (Children of Dune, Atonement, Wanter) as Professor X and Michael Fassbender (Inglourious Basterds) as Magneto.  An ember of hope is fanned…

Are we about to finally get another decent Predator film?  The first Predator is awesome — one on my favorite movies ever.  But the second one (set in the future with Danny Glover as the lead) is weak, and the less spoken of the two Alien Vs. Predator films the better.  But Robert Rodriguez and Nimrod Antal’s Predators is set for release in just a few short weeks, and damn if this new trailer isn’t pretty awesome.  An ember of hope is fanned…

It’s hard for me to believe that a new Planet of the Apes film is really happening.  And now I read that John Lithgow and Freida Pinto (Slumdog Millionaire) have joined the cast?  Um, okay… An ember of hope is… well… we’ll see…… [continued]

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News Around the Net!

Has the pain of the end of Lost faded yet?  (Click here for my thoughts on the finale.)  Wanna rub some salt in the wound?  Then be sure to check out this video compilation of all the questions Lost left unanswered.

Here’s another great video from collegehumor.com: a Star Wars google ad parody.  SO FUNNY!!  This is well worth two minutes of your time.

Movie adaptations of Philip K. Dick stories have a pretty terrible track record.  But I’m pretty excited about this one.  Click here for a trailer for The Adjustment Bureau, starring Matt Damon and Emily Blunt (who really should have been the Black Widow in Iron Man 2).

Has Rob Reiner finally made another good movie?  Check out this trailer:

I’m intrigued by that sweet trailer.  Rob Reiner had one of the great winning streaks of all time when he directed This is Spinal Tap, The Sure Thing, Stand By Me, The Princess Bride, When Harry Met Sally, Misery, and A Few Good Men.  But with the exception of The American President, it’s been a long, loooong dry spell since then.  Here’s hoping that Flipped represents the master’s return to form!

Whee, still more great trailers to see!  Here’s the second peek at Scott Pilgrim vs The World (about which I must admit I know very little, but these trailers have hooked me), as well as our first glimpse at Part One of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

CHUD is running a fantastic list of the Worst CGI in History that is sad, funny, and well-worth your time.

See you all back here tomorrow!… [continued]

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The Empire Strikes Back in Sixty Seconds

May 12th, 2010

This made me laugh:

Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (In 60 Seconds)

Atom.com: Funny Videos | Spoofs | Star Wars Fan Movie Champions[continued]

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Let the Best of 2009 lists continue!  I hope you all enjoyed my list of the Top 10 TV Episodes of 2009.

Now let’s dive into my list of the Top 10 DVDs (or Blu-Rays) released in 2009!

First, I’d like to give Honorable Mentions to the complete series sets of three amazing TV shows that I had just about given up all hope of ever seeing on DVD: It’s Garry Shandling’s Show, Andy Richter Controls the Universe, and Andy Barker, P.I. So why aren’t these shows on my list?  Because I can’t put anything on this list that I haven’t actually watched, and I’ve been way, way too busy to get through any of these sets.  Of the three, the only one I own is Andy Richter Controls the Universe.  (That one came out first, and I’m not going to purchase the other two sets until I actually have time to watch them.)  But I take great delight in knowing that these three DVD sets exist here on planet Earth, and I know that I’ll get to them all in good time.

10. Watchmen: The Ultimate Cut (Blu-ray) — I’ve seen Watchmen quite a few times since it was released early in 2009, and while the film certainly has some weaknesses, I remain overwhelmed by the enormity of its successes.  It’s hard to believe that Zach Snyder brought this seminal graphic novel by Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons, which long had been considered unadaptable, to life.  It thrills me to see such a faithful take on the material and that the filmmakers had the confidence to craft a super-hero film that was aimed squarely at adults.  The Ultimate Cut of the film is Zach Snyder’s longest version, stitching together his Director’s Cut with the animated Tales of the Black Freighter sequences.  It’s pretty astounding.  This Blu-Ray set would be much higher on this list were it not for the paltry special features.  Not only are the special features lame (this is a movie that cries out for a full-fledged making-of documentary), but this set just reproduces the special features that were already released on the Director’s Cut set.  (I guess I’ve been spoiled by the amazing extended editions of the Lord of the Rings films, which came not just with phenomenal extended versions of the films but with extraordinarily elaborate making-of documentaries that didn’t duplicate the special features on the theatrical version DVDs.)  (Read my review of the theatrical version of Watchmen here, and of the Director’s Cut here.)

9. Contact (Blu-Ray) — A beautiful film that manages to combine a serious, cerebral sci-fi tale with an effecting story of the personal journey … [continued]

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Taking a Look back at Star Wars: Episode I — “It’s almost mind-boggling how complex the awfulness is.”

January 10th, 2010

Did my run of Star Wars: Episode I cartoons last month (click here to see ’em all) not fill your craving for  Episode I bashing?  Then take a look at this phenomenal fan look-back at The Phantom Menace that was posted over on CHUD.  Apparently they came across this seven-part video series from a tweet by Simon Pegg (Spaced, Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz).  I guess I’m not the only die-hard Star Wars fan still scarred by the debacle that is Episode I.

I wrote about my experience seeing Episode I for the first time in a theatre here, and gave my thoughts on the film looking back a decade later here.  But this guy dives into the film quite a bit deeper than I did.  (That’s putting it mildly.)  I’m not sure I quite understand the almost psychotic mumbling fan-boy persona this guy puts on for these reviews, but it’s pretty damn funny (though also more than a little bizarre).

Take a gander at part one:

Pretty funny stuff.  Head back over to CHUD to see the rest.  Part two examines the story of the film, and kicks off with the comment: “it’s almost mind-boggling how complex the awfulness is.”  Couldn’t have said it any better myself!… [continued]

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News Around the Net!

I followed a link the other day to the 10 Most Insane, Child-Warping Moments of ’80s Cartoons.  Pretty funny stuff there.  I’d also like to direct your attention to this list of the 10 Star Wars Toys that Unintentionally Look Like Other Celebrities.  (It’s worth your while if only so that you, too, can be stunned by the resemblance of General Riekaan — from The Empire Strikes Back — to Senator John Kerry!!)

I’ve just discovered a phenomenal web-comic called Let’s Be Friends Again.  It’s mostly about comic books.  I love it to death, and it’s well worth your precious time, so check it out.

Have you seen this ten-minute fan-made live-action G.I. Joe film, Battle For the Serpent Stone?  I’m a big proponent of fan-films, and this one is of pretty high quality.  It’s quite an achievement — take a look.

Here’s a link to an terrific interview with IDW Comics editor Scott Dunbier, discussing his work in putting out the gorgeous new hardcover Bloom County: The Complete Library, Volume One (1980-1982), the first of five books that will collect every single strip (many of which have never before been collected) of Berkeley Breathed’s masterpiece comic strip.  I lust after this collection, and very much hope that Mr. Dunbier is able to move forward with collections of Outland and Opus as well.

This is a great story about an annoying movie theatre patron.  I wish there was a theatre like The Alamo Drafthouse here in Boston, because I would be more than happy to spend an enormous amount of money watching movies there and nowhere else.  I am sick to death of having my enjoyment of a movie interrupted by some jackass talking, texting, or some other such nonsense.

Harvard University is offering a class on The Wire??? Sign me up!!

I never believed it would happen, but filming on the two-film adaptation of The Hobbit is coming closer and closer to getting underway.  Click here for an interesting interview with director Guillermo del Toro with some updates on how things are progressing.

Despite my renewed appreciation for the final run of episodes of Battlestar Galactica, this hilarious evisceration of the plot points in the last 45 minutes of the finale is impossible to argue with.

Here’s a terrific list of one fellow’s Top 15 Episodes of Batman: The Animated Series.  It’s an interesting list.  I absolutely adore episodes such as “Over The Edge,” “Mad Love,” “Robin’s Reckoning,” and “Heart of Ice,” and I was also pleased to see some lesser-known gems like “The Ultimate Thrill” and “Growing Pains” make the cut.  (However, while “If You’re So Smart, Why … [continued]

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News Around the Net

OK, so this is about the craziest thing I’ve ever heard of — Star Wars fans worldwide are uniting on a project to re-make the original film (A New Hope), 15 seconds at a time.  Fans can claim individual 15 second moments of the film, recreate them in whatever for they desire (re-enactments, animation, etc.), and then the whole thing will ultimately be strung together.  Wild.  Click here for all the details on Star Wars Uncut, or just watch this bizarre trailer below!

Star Wars: Uncut Trailer from Casey Pugh on Vimeo.

After watching Julie & Julia with my wife Steph recently (you can read my review of the film here)  I was interested in learning more about Julie Powell, so I tracked down her Julie/Julia Project blog and her current blog (since she ended the Julie/Julia Project blog in 2003, with only one additional post in 2004 after Julia Childs’ death).  Both blogs were  fun to read through after having seen the film.

Not a week goes by, it seems, that I don’t read about Ridley Scott being attached to yet another movie-in-development.  I’m not the only one who’s noticed, it seems.  Check out this helpful guide: Know Your Ridley Scott Projects That Will Probably Never Happen.

I am an enormous Beatles fanatic.  Thus it is really painful for me that I have not yet had an opportunity to sample the newly remastered versions of all of the Beatles albums that were released last month.  Scorekeeper from AICN’s detailed run-down of each Beatles album, and how the new versions match up against the original CD releases from 1987, has only further whetted my appetite.

CHUD (Cinematic Happenings Under Development) has been running a ridiculously entertaining series of posts entitled “Bad For Us, Worse For Them.”  What is it about?  Let me quote from their intro: This is a list of forty deaths in cinema, twenty of which that have a profound affect on the viewer whether by the sheer tragedy of it, how emotionally impactful it is, or how it is a catalyst for a real descent in the progression of the story. The other twenty are deaths that go beyond the call of duty, not because they’re cool or really well executed FX, but because they are just knee-capping in their immediacy, brutality, or simple visceral impact. Kills that will probably leave a mark.  The whole list is fantastic, but I was particularly pleased to see that Spock’s death in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan merited inclusion.

Here’s a great piece from DVDActive.com (one of my favorite DVD/Blu-Ray web-sites) that calmly and methodically dissects everything wrong with … [continued]

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News Around the Net (Comic-Con Edition!)

So, wow!  After the recent Comic-Con the web has been flooded with all sorts of teases about upcoming movies, TV shows, and other geeky goodness.  Here’s some of the best stuff that I’ve found:

After so many years of speculation and false starts, the sequel to Tron is finally, actually happening!!  Check out the STUNNING trailer here.  It’s going to be in IMAX 3-D??  I’m THERE.

I cannot believe they’re actually making a Jonah Hex movie.  (And with Josh Brolin, no less!)  Check out the poster.

The ending of Lost revealed?  Um, not quite.  Check out this video from the Lost panel!  Quite a lot of additional footage from that panel can be found here.  For some reason, Michael Emmerson’s fake audition for the role of Hurley isn’t included, but you can find that here.  Funny stuff.

Here’s a pretty bad-ass trailer for Season 2 of The Clone Wars.  I actually found the first season to be fairly watchable, and this glimpse at the next season looks pretty promising.

You know what it takes to sell real estate?  The same thing it takes to re-make one of the most brilliant TV shows of all time.  Well, AMC’s version of The Prisoner, starring Ian McKellan and Jim Caviezel, is nearly upon us.  Check out this lengthy trailer.  I must say, that looks pretty damn intriguing!

Amongst all of this glorious fun is the extraordinarily troubling continuing story about the newly-resurrected Futurama‘s uncertain future.  This report from the Futurama panel at the con is grim indeed.  Can’t everybody just make nice already?!!

That’s all for now — have a great weekend everybody!!… [continued]

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Attack of the Phantom! Josh has seen a brilliant fan edit of Star Wars: Episode II!

Earlier this year I wrote about The Phantom Edit of Star Wars: Episode I.  Michael Nichols was a fan of Star Wars who, like sane people world-wide, was tremendously disappointed with Episode I when it was released in 1999.  While the rest of us just whined to our friends, Mr. Nichols set out to see if some thoughtful re-editing of the material could shape a more successful film out of Episode I’s lengthy, bloated run-time.  As I discussed at length in my review, in my opinion Mr. Nichols succeeded wildly.  On the one hand, the film is still Episode I, and there’s only so much one can do with that story that, really didn’t need to be told.  On the other hand, by skillfully tightening up scenes, removing large swaths of dull and useless exposition, and cutting down much of the juvenile humor, Nichols was able to craft a much more dynamic narrative from the film.

When I read that he had also taken a pass at Episode II, I was ecstatic.  I was able to get my hands on his fan-edit last month, and as with his Phantom Edit of Episode I, I enjoyed it thoroughly!

Once again, Mr. Nichols demonstrates how a small trim (by removing just one line of dialogue) can really change the feeling of a scene for the better.  Let me give two examples.  In the opening sequence, after Amidala lands her ship on Coruscant, her bodyguard Captain Typho jogs up to her and says “We made it.  I guess I was wrong, there was no danger after all.”  Then, of course, Amidala’s ship explodes.  Typho’s dumb line takes all the air out of the scene — instead of it being a SHOCK when Amidala’s ship is destroyed, the audience is primed for something bad to happen by Typho’s ridiculous declaration.  So Nichols just snips out Typho’s line.  The queen lands her ship, steps onto the platform, and then BOOM.  Much more exciting moment.  Example number two takes place soon after, when Amidala enters Chancellor Palpatine’s office.  Yoda gives her a creepy greeting: “Seeing you alive brings warm feelings to my heart.”  OK, ew.  That bizarre line slams that scene to a halt, in my mind, as the audience tries to not think about what else of Yoda’s is warmed by seeing Natalie Portman.  So Nichols eliminates the line.  Amidala enters, and gets right down to business.  Much better.

As in his cut of Episode I, Nichols also removes most of the more juvenile and dumbed-down elements of the story.  Do you remember, with pain, all of the ridiculousness of C-3PO getting his head placed on the body of … [continued]

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News Around the Net

Good news, everybody!  Futurama lives!!

So Katee Sackhoff (Starbuck) is joining the cast of 24 next season?  Time for the Battlestar Galactica actors to learn what the members of the ensemble from The Wire have discovered: they’ll never again be in a TV show as good.

Did you see The Daily Show’s John Hodgman’s uproariously funny speech at the 2009 Radio and TV Correspondents’ Dinner?  Not to be missed.

A nice farewell to Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles can be found on Composer Bear McCreary’s excellent blog, as he lists his 15 favorite moments from the show.  (They are all excellent choices.)  This show had its flaws, to be sure, but I am really disappointed that we won’t be getting a third season.  (By the way, Bear was also the composer for the reinvented Battlestar Galactica throughout its run.)

Speaking of The Terminator, the fine folks over at filmschoolrejects.com have posted an interesting list of 20 Things We Didn’t Like and 10 Things We Did about Terminator: Salvation.

I don’t play videogames, but I must admit that this trailer for Lucasarts’ new Star Wars: The Old Republic trailer is ridiculously cool.  I wish we’d seen half that much bad-assery in the prequels…

Triumph the Insult Comic Dog has made his first appearance on The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien!  Watch him make fun of some hippies here.

Have a great weekend, everybody!  See you back here on Monday!… [continued]

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News Around the Net!

Big dumb summer movie trailer alert!  It’s the new trailer for Transformers 2, filled with lots of robot smashing action, and the new trailer for G.I. Joe, filled with Ninjas and, um, Eiffel Tower smashing action!  Sigh.  Hard to believe these two iconic and beloved cartoons of my youth are both now big-budget blockbuster movies coming out this summer.  Wouldn’t it be amazing if there were both really awesome?  Isn’t it sort of sad to know that they definitely won’t be?

For a peek at a movie that might actually be good, click here to check out District 9, the new sci-fi flick directed by Neill Blomkamp and executive produced by Peter Jackson (The Lord of The Rings).  Color me intrigued.

Keeping up with the trailers, here‘s a glimpse at the new film from Francis Ford Coppola, Tetro.  I never saw his last film, the critically-demolished Youth Without Youth, but this looks really interesting.  It’s a new film from Francis Ford Coppola!  Of course it looks interesting!

Did you know that Robert Rodriguez is working on a new Predator film??  If it happens, it’ll be called Predators (in a clever nod to James Cameron’s sequel to Alien, entitled Aliens).  Check out the tantalizing details here.  I need to see this movie RIGHT NOW.

So it’s been ten years since The Phantom Menace, huh?  Here’s an interesting look back.  I agree with this fellow’s thoughts about the two Phantom Menace trailers (among the finest trailers ever crafted), but I certainly don’t think anywhere nearly as highly of that dreadful turd of a movie as he does.  (You can read my memories of first seeing Episode I in theatres here, and my thoughts on the movie looking back almost a decade later here.)

Did you not have enough Star Trek content here on the site for the past two weeks?  Then check out this great piece from the Onion A.V. Club: “Space Racism is Bad and 17 Other Not-So-Subtle Lessons Learned From Star Trek.”  If you’ve never seen it before, you MUST scroll down to the clip of William Shatner’s Kirk reading the Preamble to U.S. Constitution in selection #12, from the absurd Trek episode The Omega Glory.  “WE… the… PEOPLE… not written for thekingsorthechiefsortherichorthepowerful but for ALLTHEPEOPLE!”  Classic Shatnerian magnificence. 

Since seeing J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek film, I’ve been enjoying reading all the different reactions on-line and in the press.  I always enjoy Alexandra DuPont’s film reviews when they appear (not often enough to suit me) on aintitcoolnews.com, and her take on the new film is well worth your time.  (I remember well … [continued]

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Han Shoots First! Josh is astounded by Adywan’s Fan-Edit of Star Wars: A New Hope!

February 9th, 2009
,

I have just seen the definitive version of Star Wars.

And it wasn’t created by George Lucas or anyone at ILM.  It was made by one fan.

For years I have been reading about the variety of “fan-edits” of the six Star Wars movies that have been floating around the internet.  Last month I finally got ahold of the famous Phantom Edit of Star Wars: Episode I, which I wrote about last week.

I was so blown away by the high quality of that edit that I decided to check out some of the other fan-edits that are out there.  I am eager to watch the Phantom Editor’s take on Episode II (and I’ll certainly write about that here once I see it), but after perusing various sites such as fanedit.org and originaltrilogy.com, it became clear that people were very excited about a fellow called Adywan’s special edition re-edit of Star Wars: Episode IV, titled Star Wars: Revisited.  I decided to track it down and take a look.

Wow.

Let me say again: Wow.

This one fan has produced an astounding re-edit of Star Wars that is, in my mind, by far the best presentation this film has ever received on any home video format.

Before I go into detail about what Adywan has done, let me give you a brief history of the many versions of Star Wars.  Even in the earliest years of its existence, George Lucas had a habit of fiddling around with it (adding in the Episode IV: A New Hope subtitle, for instance, or the brief scene on the Death Star where Chewie growls at the little black droid).  In 1995, Lucas returned the original three Star Wars films to the big-screen with the Special Editions.  In addition to giving a whole new generation of folks (like me) a chance to enjoy the Star Wars films on the big screen, these versions contained a number of CGI enhancements.  Some of these changes were very cool (particularly many of the snazzy new space-ship shots, like the Millennium Falcon blasting out of Mos Eisley and some action-packed additions to the Death Star battle).  Some were controversial (the re-insertion of a scene between Han Solo and Jabba the Hut; the many new creatures added into the background of Mos Eisley).  Some were down-right stupid (Greedo shooting at Han and somehow missing at point-blank range, before Han shoots and kills him).  In 2004, the Star Wars Original Trilogy was finally released to DVD.  Sadly, it was a mess.  There were additional changes to the film that were not for the better (the Han-Greedo scene was further mucked with, with Han and Greedo … [continued]

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A Vergence in the Force — The Phantom Edit of Star Wars: Episode I

February 2nd, 2009

I have been reading, for years now, about the mysterious Phantom Edit of Star Wars: Episode I.  Apparently, some time after Episode I was released, a fan who was as dissatisfied as all the rest of us were decided to take matters into his own hands and re-edit Episode I in an attempt to address some of its many flaws.  Word of this Phantom Edit spread, and it wasn’t long before I was reading about in on-line and even in some mainstream magazines.  (For example, here is an interesting piece on the Phantom Edit from Salon.com from back in November, 2001.)  Kevin Smith had to publicly deny being responsible for this re-edit.  (Eventually the Phantom Editor was revealed to be Mike J. Nichols from California.)

Finally, after many years and a little help from one of my friends (you know who you are — THANK YOU!) I have finally had a chance to watch the Phantom Edit of Star Wars: Episode I myself.

It is a revelation.

By lifting out lines of dialogue, re-arranging moments, and even deleting entire sequences, Mr. Nichols has worked to excavate the core of a decent story buried under the bloated two hour and twenty minute run-time of George Lucas’ original film.  (The Phantom Edit runs just a hair under an hour and fifty minutes.)  

So what has changed?

Nichols has removed many of the more juvenile (and, let’s say it, stupid) elements of the film.  The main focus of his deletions is, surprise surprise, on Jar Jar.  Now, Jar Jar is still in the movie, don’t get me wrong.  There is no way to have the story be coherent without his presence.  But Nichols has trimmed Jar Jar’s presence in the film WAY back.  No longer does he step in poodoo, or get his face numbed and start talking like Bill Cosby doing his dentist routine, etc.  Nichols has even, in many places, reduced the volume of Jar Jar’s dialogue, subtly shifting the viewers’ focus away from his antics in the background to the things we SHOULD be paying attention to that are going on in the foreground.

Nichols actually gives Jar Jar something of an “arc” in the film, mainly by cutting the scene during the end-battle on Naboo where Jar Jar surrenders to the battle droids.  On the commentary (yes, there is even a commentary, and I was very pleasantly surprised by how well-spoken Nichols was, and the straight-forward way in which he laid out his rationale for all the changes he made), Nichols argues quite persuasively about how ridiculous it was to have Jar Jar on the podium celebrating with everyone at the end of the movie.  Wouldn’t the … [continued]

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Spend a Threevening with Kevin Smith & Robot Chicken!

I’ve seen some very funny movies in the theatres lately, but let me tell you about the two best pieces of entertainment that I’ve seen this week:

Sold Out: A Threevening With Kevin Smith — Back in 2002, film-maker Kevin Smith (Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy, etc…) released a two-DVD compilation of the best moments of five lengthy Q & A sessions he had held at various college campuses.  This little slice of comic genius was called An Evening With Kevin Smith.  It is a raucous, profane, and relentlessly entertaining four hours spent learning FAR more than you probably ever wanted to know about Kevin Smith’s life, career, show-biz interactions, and sexual habits.  The kids ask Smith questions on all sorts of topics, and he answers with surprising honesty and brilliant humor.  The man is a spectacular story-teller.  There are so many gems to be found on this DVD set (one of the most-watched in my large DVD collection), but my two favorites concern Smith’s experiences filming documentary footage for Prince (“Chaka mad?  Chaka real mad!”), and his lengthy tale of the year he spent, in the late 90’s, working on a Superman movie script for Warner Brothers.  In addition to being one of the funniest stories I have ever heard (as Smith goes into painful, hilarious detail of the ins and outs of trying to get the relaunch made in crazy Hollywoodland), that tale also serves to explain (to me, at least) why so many big-budget Hollywood movies wind up being so awful.  Oh, and the epilogue to the story, about Smith’s public fight with Tim Burton, is a classic as well.  Oh, OK, and I must also mention the tale of Smith’s first hook-up with the woman who would become his wife.  This story might sound innocuous, but it has to be heard to be believed.  (Remember what I wrote before about Smith’s honesty?  Let’s just say that it is on full display here.)

In 2006, Smith released An Evening With Kevin Smith 2: Evening Harder.  While bearing a phenomenal title, this set contained footage from just two Q & A shows, and as a result it was a bit weaker.  (There was less material to draw from.)  However, that’s not to say that there’s not a lot of fun to be had.  The discussion of Jason Mewes’ “half-half-whole” technique (which I will not explain any further here) in particular is a winner, and left me anticipating the hopeful future release of a third DVD set.

Which brings us to Threevening.  This double-DVD contains footage from just one show, but it’s a doozy: Kevin Smith’s celebration of his 37th birthday with an almost … [continued]

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“I fought with your father in the Clone Wars”

October 7th, 2008
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After much debate, I decided to skip the animated Star Wars Clone Wars movie that was released to theaters in late August.  It is almost unimaginable to me that I wouldn’t rush out to see a new Star Wars ANYTHING on the big screen.  But as I read bad review after bad review, claiming that the Clone Wars movie was chock-full of all the worst aspects of the prequels — stupid, juvenile jokes, wooden characters, etc. — that, in short, it was a movie clearly made for KIDS and not adults, I decided to pass.  Why go see something that it was certain I’d hate?  

When the Clone Wars TV series began this past week, I again had a decision to make.  Should I tune in?  (You see, the Clone Wars movie was the first three episodes of this new show edited together.  It was really just a splashy launch for the new, half-hour weekly animated show.)  But this time, the decision was much easier.  These shows were on TV — it was free, after all, and if they stunk I could always turn them off.  

So I checked out the first two episodes, which Cartoon Network aired back-to-back.  Things started off strong with the first episode, “Ambush.”  Yoda and a group of clone troopers head to the planet Toyndaria (the species to which Watto of Episode I belongs) to negotiate for permission to construct a Republic military base.  Of course, Count Dooku and the separatists are interested in the planet as well, and Yoda and three clone troopers quickly find themselves on the run from a horde of Battle Droids.  This was a solid episode — very fast-paced, with a ton of great Yoda-vs-droid action, and surprisingly good characterization for Yoda, Dooku, and the clones and Toyndarians.  With almost no human characters to be found, this episode also showcased what the computer animation does best — droids, ships, and actions.  (As became apparent in the second episode, the animation of humans is rather weaker, displaying a lot of the same problems seen back in the first Toy Story movie — the humans wind up looking rubbery and weird.)

The second episode, “Rising Malevolence,” reintroduces us to many of our familiar characters — Anakin Skywalker is the focus, but we also see R2D2, Obi-Wan, Mace Windu, and others.  Anakin and his padawan apprentice Ahsoka (a young girl apparently introduced in the Clone War movie — and how young Anakin has a padawan of his own is a mystery to me) investigate a new ultimate weapon that Dooku and General Grievous are testing.  We also spend time with Jedi Knight Plo Koon (a character seen but not given much to do … [continued]

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Unlearn What You have Learned: Looking back on Star Wars: Episode I

There’s a weird phenomenon that affects me sometimes (and I know I’m not alone in this) where I so fall in love with a story, or a group of characters, that I will watch those characters even in something really really bad.

I know Star Trek V is a terrible movie.  Terrible.  The story is weak (A search for God?  Spock suddenly has a half-brother?), the special effects are terrible (the ending really suffers…and compare the Bird of Prey shots with the much superior effects in Star Trek III made several years earlier), and the beloved characters are treated very poorly (Uhura’s “fan dance,” Scotty knocking himself out in an Enterprise corridor, navigators Checkov and Sulu getting lost in the woods, and, oh yeah, Kirk, Spock, and Bones singing “row, row, row your boat”).  And yet I so love those characters, that every now and then I’ll watch Star Trek V, somehow hoping that this time I’ll find something I sort of like about it.

This is also what happens with me and Episode I.  I’ve probably seen the movie 6 or 7 times now.  (About every 2 or 3 years I’ll make my way through all the Star Wars movies, usually in the order they were made:  Episodes IV-VI, and then I-III.)  And always I sort of hope that maybe this time I’ll be able to focus on the positives about Star Wars: Episode I.  The visuals are, mostly, pretty sweet.  I like Watto.  Darth Maul is cool.  The climactic three-way lightsaber battle is pretty dynamite.

But its hard to get over just how boring the movie is.  For a movie called Star WARS, there’s not a heck of a lot of action to be had.  Just a lot of talking.  There’s a terrific assemblage of actors – a far stronger ensemble, I would argue, than in the OT.  Ewan McGreggor.  Qui-Gon Jin.  Natalie Portman.  Terrence Stamp.  Ian McDiarmid.  These are fine actors, and they are WASTED.  And that’s what’s most frustrating to me about Episode I (and, frankly, the entire prequel trilogy). It just seems like such a wasted opportunity.  I wanted to see more of the Jedi in their prime – kicking ass and taking names.  I wanted to learn more about the Sith.  (In one of Darth Maul’s few lines of dialogue, he speaks of having his revenge against the Jedi.  Revenge for what?  What happened between the Jedi and the Sith thousands of years ago?  How did the Sith now return?)  Most of all, I just wanted another fun, exciting chapter in the space adventure series that I grew up loving.

And it still sort of bums me out that that’s … [continued]

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Scum & Villainy: Star Wars Episode I

So.  Sigh.  The Star Wars Prequels.

Its interesting to me to look back now, some years distant, on Episodes I-III.

For someone like myself who grew up with the Original Trilogy but who has no memory of seeing those films released, it was an incredible thing to be able to experience the release of three new Star Wars films.  At the time, of course, the tremendous excitement of the build-up was also accompanied by the crushing disappointment of actually seeing the films.  Especially Episode I.  I don’t think I’ve ever been more disappointed sitting in a movie theatre.  Going in, it really never occurred to me that the film would be bad.  That notion just never crossed my mind.  And yet, only 5 minutes in, when suddenly those Japanese-sounding Trade Federation aliens in very fake-looking rubber masks came on screen, I have a distinct memory of starting to shift uncomfortably in my seat.  Then Qui-Gon and Ob-wan find themselves on Naboo, and they meet Jar-Jar…and then they go to the city of Jar-Jars…and then they travel through the planet’s core which is filled not with molten lava but with water…and then they’re attacked by a fish but a bigger fish eats that fish and Qui-Gon says “there’s always a bigger fish” and then two minutes later the exact same thing happens and oh my god we’re only 25 minutes into this movie and it is BRUTAL.

But, watching that film for the first time, I was still filled with hope that, OK, the introduction is slow, but maybe Lucas was thinking about the saga as a 12-hour, 6-movie saga, and so the opening of a 12-hour saga would be a little longer than the opening of a 2-hour movie, so I should relax and be patient.  No, I didn’t give up all hope until about an hour and a half into the movie, when our motley band of heroes visited Coruscant.  Finally, FINALLY we were getting to see Jedi in their prime – and not just ANY Jedi, but the Jedi Council.  And what happens?  They sit and talk.  And they are not just boring, but they are stupid.  I don’t mean stupid as in, “its silly to take grown men wearing lightsabers who talk about vergences in the Force seriously” kind of stupid.  No, I mean stupid as in I have been totally emotionally involved in the world of Star Wars and Jedi since I was a kid and here we finally meet the greatest of the great of the Jedi and they are so colossally stupid and inept that, after Qui-Gon reveals to them that he’s discovered the existence of the first known evil Sith Lord in … [continued]

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“When first you start down that dark path… forever will it dominate your destiny…”

May 19th, 2008

So…are you aware that there’s a new Star Wars movie being released in theatres this summer?

http://www.starwars.com/video/view/000639.html

It’s a computer animated film that takes place between Episodes II and III, during the Clone Wars. (Apparently there’s a Clone Wars TV series coming our way from Lucasfilm sometime next year.) I’d really really love it if this were super-cool, although its hard to muster too much hope.

Anyone one remember when the prospect of new Star Wars on the big screen was something to drive people crazy with anticipation?… [continued]