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I hope you enjoyed my look back at my Favorite Episodes of TV of 2017!  And now, let’s turn to my Favorite Movies of 2017

As always, there were far more great movies released this year than I had time to see.  Movies that looked great but that I missed include: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri, Get Out, Phantom Thread, Darkest Hour, I Tonya, Wind River, Logan Lucky, Professor Marsten and the Wonder Women, The Lost City of Z, Downsizing, Atomic Blonde, and many more.  So if you’re wondering why any of those movies aren’t on my list, now you know.

Before we begin, I should start by mentioning two incredible 2016 movies that I saw in January 2017, after I had already written my Best Movies of 2016 list:  Lion and Moonlight.  Moonlight, in particular, is a masterpiece that surely would have been in my TOP FIVE of 2016 had I seen it in time.

And now, without any further delay, let’s dive into my list of my Favorite Movies of 2017:

Honorable Mention: Logan Hugh Jackman’s swan song as Wolverine brought a satsifying close to his nearly two decades playing the character.  Throwing aside the usual look and feel of a superhero movie, director James Mangold chose instead to make a dark, grim R-rated drama that shocked me with its intensity and its violence.  I loved their choices in making a very different kind of X-Men film, one with no colorful costumes or grandiose musical themes.  This is a drama focused tightly on its characters, and both Hugh Jackman as Logan and Patrick Stewart as Professor X (in which will also likely be his final appearance in the role) give what is probably their very best performances as these characters.  Long-running series rarely get a definitive ending; when one comes, as it did here, it is very special.  (Click here for my full review.)

20. Battle of the Sexes This story of Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs’ 1973 tennis match is an enjoyable, beautifully-made recreation of the dramatic events surrounding this televised battle of the genders.  It is also a riveting, very much of this specific time and place film that has a lot to say about equality today.  I was pleasantly surprised that Battle of the Sexes was as much about the struggles of gays and lesbians to live open, free lives as it was about female liberation and the struggle for equality between the sexes.  Both Emma Stone and Steve Carrell are terrific, wonderfully portraying these famous people while also bringing true life to their performances, rather than just giving a robotic act of recreation.  I wasn’t expecting … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Angie Tribeca Season One

Considering that TBS decided to air all ten episodes of the first season of Angie Tribeca on one single day back in January, I suspect the network doesn’t have great confidence in this show.  That’s a huge mistake, because Angie Tribeca is a delight, a relentlessly silly show that is the best heir to Police Squad that I have ever seen.


Rashida Jones stars as the titular Angie, a no-nonsense detective in the Los Angeles RHCU (Really Heinous Crimes Unit).  Angie Tribeca could be described as a parody of detective TV shows.  In some ways it is, but the show takes the very interesting and rewarding approach of aiming its comedy less towards being an incisive parody of the particular tropes of detective shows and more at just being very silly and random.  The show is stuffed with bizarre sight-gags and word-play, with jokes ranging from the very juvenile to the very clever.  The best comparison to the show’s humor truly is the classic Police Squad and the Naked Gun movies that show spawned.

One of my favorite jokes from the whole first season, and one that gives a great sense of the tone of the show, is a gag from the pilot episode in which Angie warns a suspect, played by Gary Cole, not to do anything stupid.  The camera then cuts to Mr. Cole’s character sticking a metal fork into a toaster.  You’ll know right away if this show is for you by whether that moment in the first episode makes you laugh.  It certainly cracked me up something fierce.

I quickly found myself quite taken with this show’s particular brand of humor.  I think it’s rather unusual for TV comedy today.  Created by Steve Carell and Nancy Walls Carell, Angie Tribeca embraces the silly in a way that really tickled me, and that I found quite endearing.

The show is a lovely showcase for Rashida Jones, who mostly plays the straight-person in the midst of chaos, a role she is able to handle with gusto.  My favorite of her supporting characters is her intense police captain, Atkins, played by Jere Burns.  (I recognized Mr. Burns’ face but when I looked at his imdb page, though he’s been in a lot of stuff I didn’t think I’d ever seen any of it.  Then I realized he played Jesse’s Narcotics Anonymous group leader on Breaking Bad, and I was floored because that was such a completely different role.)  I don’t quite know why but pretty much every single one of Mr. Burns’ slightly-yelled line-deliveries here on Angie Tribeca got me giggling.  I also really enjoyed the great Alfred Molina as medical examiner Dr. Edelweiss, a character who every time … [continued]

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Josh Reviews The Way Way Back

After a summer of moderately disappointing blockbusters, my favorite film of the season so far is a delightful little gem of a flick, The Way Way Back!

I love a good coming of age movie, and in particular I am a sucker for films that focus on the specific sub-culture of kids taking summer-season jobs.  I have worked all my life at a wonderful summer camp, and I think there’s a special romance to the live-your-whole-life-in-the-span-of-eight-weeks experience that everyone who, while a teenager, held one of those summer jobs can understand.  I loved the film Adventureland (click here for my review) for the way it captured that magical way in which kids can grow up over the course of a summer, and The Way Way Back captures that same sort of magic.

Duncan (Liam James) is a quiet boy whose mother, Pam (Toni Collette) is divorced.  When we first glimpse Duncan, we see him relegated to the “way way back,” the backwards-facing seat of Pam’s boyfriend Trent (Steve Carell)’s station wagon.  Duncan and Pam will be spending the summer at Trent’s beach house, along with Trent’s daughter Steph (Zoe Levin).  Since Steph wants nothing to do with him, Duncan is trapped with his mom and Trent and all of Trent’s friends, including the talky, boozy Betty (Allison Janney); Kip (Rob Corddry) and his flirtatious wife Joan (Amanda Peet).  Eventually Duncan finds solace in a part-time job at a local, small-time water park, and a friend and almost-father-figure in the park’s amiable manager, Owen (Sam Rockwell).

One might misconstrue the title to mean that The Way Way Back is a period piece (like Adventureland, set in the 1980’s, was), but it’s not.  We occasionally see ipods and modern-looking cell phones.  But in the very best possible way, The Way Way Back is dressed in nostalgia and memory, as if we are Duncan looking back, years later, on this summer that profoundly affected him.  The film doesn’t pull any punches in the way that adults can, whether meaning to or not, be terribly cruel to kids.  But the film also doesn’t wallow in that misery (in the way that, say, the great but dour and hard for me to watch The Ice Storm does).  There’s a warmth to the film that I connected to in a powerful way.

Liam James is incredibly effective as Duncan.  This is a young actor I have never seen before, but I will take notice of him now.  He brings a great naturalism to his performance.  He doesn’t over-play the role.  He’s quiet and inward in the way that many 14-year-old boys are.  He sells a few big moments, and all of the many little … [continued]

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Have you seen the fake Arrested Development shows that have been popping up around Netflix?  (Mock Trial with J. Reinhold, anyone?)  Brilliant!!

I have long ago lost all faith in M. Night Shyamalan, but my goodness this trailer for his new sci-fi film, After Earth, looks terrific:

“Fear is the mind-killer.”  Heh heh.

Here’s a trailer for the new end-of-the-world comedy, This is the End, featuring Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Jay Baruchel, Craig Robinson, Danny McBride, and a heck of a lot of other very funny people (Paul Rudd, Michael Cera, Jason Segel, Martin Starr, Mindy Kaling, and more), apparently all playing themselves:

In a similar end-of-the-world vein, here’s the first photo from Simon Pegg’s The World’s End, re-teaming him with Nick Frost and Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz).

Steve Carrell and Jim Carrey are dueling Las Vegas magicians?  And the film also stars Steve Buscemi and Alan Arkin?  OK, I’m in!  Here’s the trailer for The Incredible Burt Wonderstone:

Well, I wrote about the first one-minute “announcement” teaser for the new Star Trek film, Star Trek into Dark Knight (ahem, I mean, Into Darkness), and I wrote about the nine-minute IMAX preview that was shown before The Hobbit. But I didn’t write about the first full official teaser trailer that was released a week or so ago:

That’s because there’s not that much more to say.  There’s not much in here that’s too terribly different than what we saw in the announcement teaser.  It’ll be interesting to see the full context of Pike’s ominous declaration that “there’s not an ounce of humility” in Kirk.  Pike was Kirk’s biggest champion in the first film, and while I agree that the Kirk we saw in that film DIDN’T have an ounce of humility in him — he thought he was the smartest/toughest guy in the room at the beginning of the film and all the way through — it’ll be interesting to see how/why Pike changes his view.  I hope this results in some growth and mellowing for this version of Kirk.  The Captain Kirk I remember was definitely an alpha male, but that didn’t often tip over into outright arrogance.

Boy, for five seasons of Lost I thought Damon Lindeloff was the MAN.  Then came that last season of Lost. And Prometheus. And so I think it’s good news that he will not be returning to script the Prometheus sequel (if that ever actually gets made).

I’ve got lots and lots of new movie reviews coming soon, my friends!  See you back here soon!… [continued]

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Farewell, Michael Scott

For seasons 2-4, I thought the American version of The Office was one of the funniest shows on television — hitting near genius-level comedy with extreme regularity week-to-week.  Things started to slide a bit during season 5, and I thought the last several years have been pretty hit-or-miss.  One of the big problems with the show, I think, is how they’ve lost the thread of the Jim character (played by John Krasinski).  For the first several years, he was the real hero of the show.  Oh, sure, he shared screen time with all the other major members of the ensemble (all of whom are very talented and funny in their own right), but I always thought that Jim was the major audience surrogate character.  We saw the office, and all the characters who populated it, through Jim’s eyes, and we invested in the emotional ups and downs of his love for Pam.

But for the past few years, with Jim and Pam a happy couple, it’s seemed to me that the writers haven’t known what to do with him.  He’s faded to the background in many episodes, and when he does have a central part to play, it’s often been to appear incompetent.  (His hapless efforts co-managing the office come to mind.)  That can sometimes be good for a short-term laugh, but I’ve felt for a while that it seemed like a betrayal of the Jim we knew and loved for the first several years of the show.  I always though that if that Jim Halpert ever actually tried to work hard and apply himself, he’d quickly be running the office — or, more likely, he’d leave Dunder Mifflin and find himself a more rewarding gig.  That neither has happened has puzzled me, and the inconsistent and often uninteresting characterization of Jim lately has been disappointing and, I think, a large reason as to why my interest in the show has started to wane.

In Jim’s place, Michael has stepped to the forefront as the hero of the show.  Don’t get me wrong, Steve Carell was always the biggest name in the cast and the star of the proceedings.  But in terms of the actual narrative of the show, he seemed to me to be mostly there as an impediment/frustration for Jim.  But with Jim sliding into the background, the last three seasons have seen Michael in the more heroic role — achieving victories (most notably the triumphant ending of his “Michael Scott’s Paper Company” story-line in season five) and winning the girl (the delightful Amy Ryan as Holly Flax).

And so I am very curious as to what sort of show The Office will become now that Steve Carell … [continued]