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Josh Reviews The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Season Three!

In the third season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Midge is on tour, opening up for the popular singer Shy Baldwin.  Susie remains at her side, while also working to keep her second major client happy: famous female comedian Sophie Lennon.  Sophie wants Susie to turn her dream of starring on broadway into a reality.  Midge’s parents, meanwhile, are starting to feel the financial crunch with Abe’s having lost both of his jobs, while Joel Maisel pursues his new dream of opening a nightclub.

I was pleasantly surprised by how thoroughly I enjoyed this third season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel!  I felt the first season was a very satisfying complete story.  While of course I understand the realities of television, I wasn’t sure any further seasons were necessary.  I enjoyed season two, while also feeling at times that the main story of Midge’s leap into independence and the world of stand-up comedy had already been told.  But season three demonstrated to me that there are still many more stories to be told with these characters.

The show looks amazing.  The production values are top-notch, and I love how the show so effectively recreates a bygone era.  I was delighted by season two’s recreation of the Catskills resorts that were so central to the lives of Jewish families of a certain financial class for so many years.  Here in season three, it was a pleasure to see nineteen sixties Las Vegas brought to such vivid life.  The show’s sparkly clean, peppy vision of the sixties is, in many ways, a fairy tale version of history… but wha a fairy tale!  I am continually impressed by the scale of the series, from the full-blown USO show from the premiere through to the Vegas hotels in which we see Shy & co. perform.

Rachel Brosnahan continues to impress as Midge Maisel.  Ms. Brosnahan has great comedic timing, and she effortlessly sells the series’ distinct (fast) pacing and rat-a-tat-tat rhythm.  There were times in the first two seasons in which I found Midge’s self-absorption to be tiresome, but for the most part here in season three I quite enjoyed watching her journey.  It’s fun to see her able to perform comedy successfully at a high level.  I was annoyed, though, to see the season-ending climax hing upon Midge’s putting her foot in her mouth in a disappointingly foolish way.  I didn’t buy that Midge, at this stage in her career, would be so clueless.

Alex Borstein has long been the series’ comedic secret weapon as manager Susie Myerson, and she got lots more gold material to play here in season three.  I loved seeing how good she was at her job, … [continued]

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Josh Reviews The Predator

I’m an optimist, and someday I hope to see a new, truly great Star Trek movie in the theatres.  Someday, I hope to see a new, truly great Alien movie in the theatres.  And someday, I hope to see a new, truly great Predator movie in the theatres.

This sure as heck ain’t it.

The original Predator, from 1987, is a bad-ass, violent action movie with a sci-fi twist.  It was directed by John McTiernan, in the era in which Mr. McTiernan could do no wrong.  (He also directed Die Hard and The Hunt for Red October, two nearly perfect films that I adore.)  I love Predator — it’s got great characters, great action, and a great villain.  It holds up pretty well.  And it has spawned a heck of a lot of sequels, though sadly none of them have succeeded in being more then a relatively pale imitation of that first film.  1990’s Predator 2 is a truly bizarre sequel, transporting the series into the future (an at-the-time futuristic 1997 Los Angeles) and replacing the action-star Arnold Schwarzenegger with a very hyper Danny Glover as the lead.  At the time, it was a disappointment, and it’s hard to argue that the film is all that good, but relative to the films that followed, I now consider Predator 2 to be somewhat underrated!  In a film-fan in-joke, a sequence inside a Predator ship in Predator 2 showed an Alien skull, from the Alien franchise, on the Predator’s trophy wall.  That inspired a wonderful series of Aliens vs. Predator comic-books by Dark Horse Comics, which owned the comic-book rights to both franchises, and that in turn inspired two Alien vs. Predator films in 2004 and 2007, neither of which really lived up to the potential of the premise.  Then, in 2010, Robert Rodriguez produced another straight-up Predator sequel, called Predators (a fun nod to the Alien sequel, Aliens), that was directed by Nimród Antal.  I enjoyed the film’s efforts to do something new with the Predator franchise (such as setting the film on an alien planet as opposed to here on Earth), but in the end I didn’t find it particularly memorable.

And so now here we are with yet another attempt to relaunch the franchise with The Predator.  When I read that Shane Black was writing and directing this film, I was ecstatic.  Mr. Black is an incredible talent.  He wrote and directed Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and The Nice Guys, two films that I absolutely love.  (He also wrote and directed Iron Man Three, which was pretty great too!)  And he has a connection to Predator in that he appeared as an actor in the first … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Season Five of Brooklyn Nine-Nine!

In a tumultuous week right before its season five finale aired, Brooklyn Nine-Nine was unceremoniously cancelled by Fox… and then, a few days later, miraculously resurrected by NBC who announced that they’d be picking up the show for a thirteen-episode sixth season.  Huzzah!!

I was devastated when I thought the show was dead and gone.  Over the last five years, Brooklyn Nine-Nine has grown into one of my very favorite TV comedies.  It’s not edgy and it might not be groundbreaking “genius” comedy — but it has grown into the very best sort of TV comfort food: consistently hilarious and filled with characters with whom I absolutely adore spending time.

I realized, in those days in which I thought the show was cancelled, that I had been taking Brooklyn Nine-Nine for granted!  Though the show has popped up on my end-of-the-year lists of my favorite episodes of TV, I haven’t ever given it one of my regular season-ending reviews that I write about almost every other show I watch.  It’s time to stop ignoring this show!

Brooklyn Nine-Nine was created by Dan Goor and Michael Schur.  Mr. Goor worked on The Daily Show, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, and Parks and Recreation.  Mr. Schur was a key creative player on the American version of The Office, he co-created Parks and Recreation with Greg Daniels (and served as the primary show-runner), and he also created The Good Place.  Looking back, I can see why Brooklyn Nine-Nine has slipped through the cracks for me, despite the fact that I’ve been enjoying it for so many years now.  The show doesn’t have the attention-grabbing hooks of The Good Place’s twists, or the way Parks and Rec’s gloriously large and unhinged ensemble served as a sort-of live-action version of The Simpsons.  Those two shows, along with The Office, all seemed like cutting-edge “cool” comedies that drew a lot more attention.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine never quite had that.  From the beginning, it felt a little squarer, a little more family-friendly, a little less boundary-pushing.  But the show has blossomed into a true comedic gem, with an ensemble as skilled as any on TV today and one that can go head-to-head with any of the other shows I just listed above (and many beyond those).

Andy Samberg is terrific in the lead role of Detective Jake Peralta.  Mr. Samberg demonstrated back in 2012 with Celeste and Jesse Forever that he had acting chops, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine perfectly utilizes his comedic talents and his man-child persona.  Mr. Sandberg effortlessly anchors the show, and remains one of the funniest elements of it.  The key casting coup of the show is Andre Braugher as … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Black Panther

I know, intellectually, that Marvel Studios’ incredible streak of great movies is going to end sometime.  It has to.  No win streak can continue indefinitely.  But it didn’t end this past weekend, as Marvel Studios released Black Panther, a fantastic addition to their ever-expanding Cinematic Universe.  Black Panther is, incredibly, the eighteenth film in this interconnected movie universe.  It still boggles my mind that there exists an eighteen-movies-and-growing Marvel Cinematic Universe.  And what’s even more impressive is just how terrific all of these films have been.  There isn’t a true stinker in the bunch.  (The Incredible Hulk and Iron Man 2 are, I think, the two least successful films, and even both of those have a lot to enjoy in them.)  The last several films in particular have been fantastic, and Black Panther continues that streak of excellence.

Picking up after the death of his father King T’Chaka in Captain America: Civil War, Black Panther opens with T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) returning home to Wakanda to claim his position as king.  Wakanda is a technological paradise, though they use their technology to hide that fact from the rest of the world.  When the vicious thief and weapons merchant Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis), who killed the parents of T’Challa’s close friend W’Kabi (Daniel Kaluuya), resurfaces, T’Challa leads a team consisting of Okoye (Danai Gurira), the leader of the fierce female Wakandan fighting force the Dora Milaje, and Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), T’Challa’s former flame who believes that Wakanda must engage with the outside world, to capture Klaue.  That mission goes awry when they discover that Klaue is in league with a young man named Eric (Michael B. Jordan), a black-ops soldier who calls himself Killmonger, and who has a secret connection to the Wakandan royal family.  Killmonger challenges T’Challa for the throne of Wakanda, and the once-peaceful nation threatens to split into civil war.

Black Panther is fantastic.  It fits squarely into the Marvel Cinematic Universe while also standing completely on its own and having its own unique style.  The film references Captain America: Civil War, but you absolutely don’t have to have seen that film to enjoy this one.  And while many fans thought that the one not-yet-seen Infinity Stone (which will surely come into play in this summer’s Avengers: Infinity War) would appear in this film, I was happy that didn’t happen.  Black Panther didn’t need that additional baggage — it’s better for this film to be able to tell its own, complete story.  (If that final Infinity Stone is indeed hidden in Wakanda, as many fans guess, I am glad they held that reveal for Infinity War.)

Director Ryan Coogler (Creed) has crafted a magnificent film, … [continued]

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Josh Reviews The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story

I’m late to the party on this one.  I vividly remember all the hoopla surrounding the OJ Simpson trial twenty years ago, and frankly I wasn’t in a rush to revisit that tragic circus.  And while I respect what Ryan Murphy has accomplished in television over the past decade, none of his shows have particularly interested me.  But for months now I’d been hearing about how spectacular The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story was, and so I finally decided to see what all the fuss was about.  Holy cow, why did I wait so long??

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This ten-episode mini-series is a masterpiece.  It was created by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, who are executive producers along with Brad Falchuk, Nina Jacobson, Ryan Murphy, and Brad Simpson.  The American Crime Story show is intended as an anthology series.  This first season, titled The People v. O.J. Simpson, is based on Jeffrey Toobin’s 1997 book The Run of His Life: The People v. O.J. Simpson.

It’s staggering to me that the O.J. trial was twenty years ago.  I am confident I am not alone in feeling like those events happened only recently.  I remember so many different aspects of this saga, and the incredible media circus that surrounded it for so many months, so clearly, from watching the Bronco chase to Johnnie Cochran’s famous: “if the glove doesn’t fit, you must acquit.”  Even more than specific events, I have distinct memories of so many of the cast of characters involved in the trial: Mr. Cochran and Robert Shapiro, Marcia Clarke and Chris Darden, Judge Lance Ito (particularly immortalized in my mind by Jay Leno’s “Dancing Itos”), Mark Fuhrman, Kato Kaelin, and so many others.

The People v. O.J. Simpson succeeds both at perfectly dramatizing the moments that are indelibly seared in my (and so many others’) memories (such as the Bronco chase and O.J. trying on the glove), while also shedding light on so many other aspects of the trial that I was never aware of, despite the near-constant media coverage at the time.

What’s even more remarkable is the way that The People v. O.J. Simpson manages to humanize almost all of the individuals involved in the trial, so many of whom were reduced to caricatures by the media coverage and the late-night mockery.  The show demonstrates an extraordinary tenderness in its approach to presenting these famous people as human beings trying to do their best.  This approach is used for both sides of the case.  Much has been written, and rightly so, of the show’s incredible job at resuscitating the reputation of Marcia Clark, so brilliantly played here by Sarah Paulson.  And, indeed, this is amazing work.  But I … [continued]