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Sad news that actor Robert F. Chew, who played Proposition Joe on The Wire, has passed away.  Close your eyes, Joe.

In another piece of sad news, writer Peter David recently suffered a stroke.  Mr. David is a prolific author of novels and comic books, and I have been loving his work for well over twenty years.  His run on DC Comics’ Star Trek series in the eighties is one of the things that got me into comics, and I still think those comics rank among the very best Star Trek stories ever told, in any format.  He’s written a number of Trek novels, as well, with Q-in-Law (with the inspired pairing of Q and Lwaxana Troi) and Vendetta (the best Borg story ever told, and what I so wanted First Contact to be) being my favorites.  For any fellow fans of Mr. David out there, here is how you can help.

In my review of Django Unchained, I compared Quentin Tarantino’s film to Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles.  A recent “behind the scenes pic of the day” at aintitcoolnews featured a wonderful shot from Blazing Saddles, and if you’re looking to waste some time, I encourage you to scroll down and read that article’s really fun talkback section, which is filled with quote after quote from that spectacular film.  (Puts me in the mood to pop Blazing Saddles into my DVD player right now…!)

Speaking of Django, apparently there is a teensy tiny connection between Django Unchained and Pulp Fiction.  OK then.

Trekcore has posted an extraordinarily in-depth seven-part interview with Roger Meyer Burnett, one-half of the duo responsible for the wonderful special features on the new Star Trek: The Next Generation blu-ray sets.  Here is part one.  Mr. Meyer is absolutely correct in that, until now, the Star Trek films and TV shows on DVD/blu-ray have NEVER had the type of quality special features that they deserve.  The feature-length documentaries on the TNG season 1 and 2 blu-ray sets are a big part of why they scored so high on my list of the Top 10 DVDs/Blu-Rays of 2012.  They are amazing, and interesting and informative even for a long-term, hard-core Trek fan like myself.  This interview with Mr. Burnett is phenomenal, and will be of interest to all Trek fans out there.  GREAT WORK, Trekcore guys!

With the return of Arrested Development inching ever closer, some great new info has been coming out about the new season.  I CAN’T WAIT!!!  ”One giant 700-minute Arrested Debelopment”???   Bring it!

Speaking of the return of beloved TV shows… a Bored to Death movie???  PLEASE LET THIS HAPPEN!!!

Here are some nice [continued]

 

News Around the Net!

Click here for a wonderful look at the films of the Coen Brothers.  This fellow re-watched all of the Coen Brothers’ films (which sounds like a wonderfully fun project, by the way), and writes about his impressions of their body of work.  It’s an impressive article, and I love his assessment of the Coens’ wonderful characters, who “verge on caricature yet have a vivid particularity that makes them hard to forget and easy to return to.”  That’s a good a description as I have ever seen!

I love this look at Six Comedians We Wish Would Return to Stand-Up!  I wholeheartedly agree.  (There are some wonderful video clips embedded in that article.)

Motivational posters inspired by The Wire?  Awesome.  (This piece on badassdigest.com selects some of the best.)

This fascinating oral history of the very short-lived Dana Carvey Show makes me want to track down those episodes and watch them immediately.

I am a big, big fan of Dave Sim’s sprawling comic book epic Cerebus, the unprecedented “300 issue limited series.”  It gets pretty crazy (and, at times, pretty unreadable) near the end (I am a subscriber to the theory that Dave Sim went insane while working on his magnum opus), but the vast swaths of the story that are good are REALLY REALLY GOOD, some of the finest comic books ever created.  It’s fun to see some writers giving Cerebus some much-deserved attention these days.  Click here for a lengthy excerpt from the Comics Journal’s recent look back at the series, and I also am really enjoying the series of pieces running at comicbookresources.com, written by a writer who is reading through the complete epic for the first time.  Click here for part one, and here for the even stronger part two.  Although I personally choose to believe that the Cerebus story ends on the final page of Rick’s Story, I appreciate this author’s debunking the commonly-held notion that the last hundred issues of Cerebus are entirely without merit.  He writes, and I agree, that it’s only in the series’ final stretch of issues — Dave Sim’s bizarre exegesis of the Torah — when the comic really becomes unreadable.

This is a great piece by A. O. Scott of the New York Times about three summer 2011 movies worth debating.  I’m sad to say I haven’t seem any of them yet, but this wonderful article reinforces the desire I already felt to try to track all three films down as soon as possible.  (The fact that I haven’t seen Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life but I have seen Cowboys and Aliens makes me feel a little sad inside.)

Can [continued]

 

Josh Reviews the Premiere Episode of Treme

April 13th, 2010
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Can we all just agree that The Wire is the greatest television show ever made?

Anyone who has seen The Wire surely must agree with that (admittedly bold) statement.  As for the rest of you — what are you waiting for??  (Until you’ve seen this masterpiece, I’m really not interested in your opinion.)

I would imagine that anyone in the cult of The Wire couldn’t help but be interested, as I was, in creator David Simon’s new HBO series Treme (pronounced Tre-MAY) set in New Orleans three months after Katrina.  I took in the premiere episode, “Do You Know What it Means” earlier this week, and I am happy to report that I am totally and unabashedly hooked.

The Wire was a devastating critique of the modern American city.  Over the course of five seasons, Mr. Simon and his extraordinary team of writers explored the inadequacies and failures of society on every level of the city of Baltimore: from the kids on the corners to the cops on the street to the politicians in their offices, not to mention the detectives, the judges, the newspapermen (and women), the D.A.s, the crime lords, and on and on.  So when I read last year that Mr. Simon was developing a show about New Orleans, that seemed to me to be a logical follow-up.  In New Orleans after Katrina, Mr. Simon had found a city in which the seemingly intractable problems of Baltimore paled in comparison.

And yet, I was pleasantly surprised by just how upbeat the pilot of Treme was.  Oh, don’t misunderstand me, there is plenty of horrible tragedy on display, and I have no doubt that, as the season progresses, further Job-like troubles await many of the characters to whom we were introduced in this first installment.  But along with the horror, Treme contained a lot of hope as well.

An enormous factor in that tone is the way that so much astoundingly wonderful music is interwoven into the story being told.  Many of the main characters in Treme (such as the trombone-player Antoine, played by Wendell Piece, who so memorably played Bunk on The Wire) are musicians, and the pilot frequently pauses to allow us to immerse ourselves in the wonderful music of New Orleans.  The music is almost the primary character in the show.  And so much of the music is so phenomenal that it’s hard not to feel good listening to it.  This provides a powerful counterpoint to the tough drama found in the story of a city on the brink.

The pilot episode introduces us to a large ensemble of characters.  As in The Wire, these characters are from a wide variety of … [continued]

 

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]

 

“And the two grand ladies made their escape together” — Josh’s Favorite TV Series Finales, Part II!

The great Battlestar Galactica saga comes to an end, tomorrow.  I am trying to be brave!  In preparation, I have been thinking about some of my favorite series finales.  Click here to see numbers 10-6.

5.  Arrested Development — “Development, Arrested” — Cut down before its time, creator Mitch Hurwitz and co. at least had enough notice to be able to craft a fantastic finale.  Structured to echo the events of the pilot (I love it when series finales bring things full circle like that), it’s another momentous party-boat ride for the Bluth Clan.  Young George Michael confronts his feelings about his cousin Maeby (Michael: “How long has this been going on?”  George Michael: “I don’t know… about 53 weeks?”).  Lindsay stresses about getting older (“I’m going to be 40 in three years!”  Michael:  ”You know, being twins, our birthdays are pretty close to one another…”).  Tobias… well, remains Tobias (“Perhaps I should call the hot cops and tell them to come up with something more nautically themed.  Hot Sailors.  Better yet, hot se–” Michael, interrupting: “I like hot sailors!”  Tobias: “Me too.”).  And many, many long-running jokes are revisited (“Ann.” — “Her?”  – “That was a freebie” — “I think I’ve made a terrible mistake” — “Annyong!”)  You might have noticed yesterday in part 1 of this list that I focused a lot on the final scene as the true measure of a series finale’s worth.  No surprise, the geniuses behind this show bring it all home in a note-perfect epilogue, in which Maeby attempts to sell the Bluth family story to Ron Howard (who was, of course, the narrator of the show for its entire run).  Says Howard: “I don’t see this as a series.  Maybe… a movie?”  We can only hope!!

4.  The Wire — “-30-” – As the fifth and final season of The Wire unfolded, I was petrified as to what would happen, in the end, to all of the beloved, damaged characters on this take-no-prisoners show.  Would ANYONE get a happy ending?? Somehow this finale managed to bring proper closure to almost every member of this amazing, one-of-a-kind sprawling ensemble cast.  Without breaking from the tough, down-beat tone of the series, I still felt throughly satisfied with where everyone wound up — quite a feat.  This episode is filled with all of the intensity and emotion that made this series such a powerhouse.  In particular, the Irish wake for one of our good friends was a profoundly effecting scene.  And the final montage of life in Baltimore?  Phenomenal.  Makes one want to watch the entire series through again.

3.  Quantum Leap — “Mirror Image” – To be honest, while I really enjoy Quantum Leap[continued]

 

See what I mean?

Just a quick note today.   In yesterday’s blog I referred to what I called “The Wire Effect.”   And what do I read this morning?   Amy Adams – so terrific in The Wire as well as in Gone Baby Gone – is set to appear in the season finale of The Office.

I can’t wait!   Here’s hoping all of the other amazing actors from The Wire continue to get work…… [continued]

 

“A Man’s Gotta Have a Code…”

So my wife Steph and I were watching Gone Baby Gone last week, and I must confess that we both let out a bit of a squeal at a certain moment during the flick.   No, it wasn’t during the nail-biting quarry shoot-out in the middle of the film.   No, it wasn’t during scene with the Jamaican.   And no, it wasn’t during the devastating moment of choice that forms the crux of the end of the film.   All of those moments are terrific, don’t get me wrong – Gone Baby Gone is one of my favorite movies from last year.

But the moment where Steph and I really sat up and took notice was during the funeral scene, when Patrick Kenzie (Casey Affleck) catches the eye of a police offer who he knows.   Steph and I looked at each other.   “Is that…OMAR???”

And indeed it was.   Michael K. Williams, who has basically one scene in Gone Baby Gone (but it’s a doozy — the steakhouse meal with Patrick), is the same actor who portrayed the shotgun-carrying, drug-dealer-murdering, criminal-with-a-code Omar Little for five amazing seasons on HBO’s The Wire.

And this is what I refer to as The Wire Effect – the phenomenon on which one is so in love with the characters in a beloved TV show that you sit up and take notice whenever they appear elsewhere.   Part of the reason we were watching Gone Baby Gone in the first place was because, after watching Amy Ryan on The Wire, Steph and I wanted to see her performance in GBG again (since the first time we saw the flick was before we’d ever seen The Wire).   I love Lost – but I lost it even more this season when Lance Reddick (Lt. Cedric Daniels on The Wire) appeared briefly as the mysterious “assembler of freighter folk.”   Heck, I even got excited by The Sarah Connor Chronicles when I saw Andre Royo (“Bubbles”) appear on that show as a resistance fighter (in a tiny role that was a sad waste of his enormous talents).

This has happened to me with other shows.   I got very excited when Alexander Siddig, who played Dr. Bashir on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (by far my favorite of the Star Trek series) appeared last season on 24.   (And I was very very annoyed when he was unceremoniously killed off-screen after only a few episodes.)   And a grin always appears on my face whenever I see an alumna of the late, great Arrested Development like Jason Bateman or Michael Cera or Will Arnett.   (He’ll always be GOB Bluth to me!)… [continued]

 

How I survived the TV strike (Part II)

Here are five more DVDs (continuing my list from yesterday) that I loved loved loved this winter, when the pleasant caress of new TV shows had been denied me:

VI.   Eastern Promises — I have seen this movie 3 times now since it came out last year, and I enjoy it more every time.  (And I liked it quite a lot the FIRST time I saw it!)  Viggo Mortensen gives an amazing you-just-can’t-look-away performance as the deadly Russian Nikolai, whose path crosses with a midwife named Anna (Naomi Watts).  And let’s not forget the amazing Armin Mueller-Stahl, who is as amazing as he always is.  (I must admit, though, that I’m such a geek that whenever he’s on screen, in this or any other movie, I always hear him in the back of my head saying: “not even zey…can stop ze future.”  X-Philes know what I’m talking about…)

VII.  House of Games: The Criterion Collection – A terrific new DVD of the first film that David Mamet directed (from his own script).  I’m a big Mamet fan.  There are some flaws in the story, sure…and I’ve never been, as a viewer, quite fooled by the central con of this flick.  But the simple joys of watching the great performers (Joe Mantegna, Rickey Jay, the late great J.T. Walsh, among others) mouth Mamet’s rat-tat-tat tough-guy dialogue is more than enough for me.

VIII.  Volver – Pretty surprising for a sci-fi nut like myself, but I found myself completely swept up by Pedro Almodovar’s story about the intersecting lives of various women in Madrid.  Penelope Cruz is spectacular.

IX.  The Best of the Dick Cavett Show: Stand-Up Comedians – This DVD set contains several notable episodes from the great Dick Cavett’s 1970’s talk-show, in which he engages guests in fascinating hour or hour-and-a-half long (really!!) conversations about their lives and work.  This set focuses on his interviews with stand-up comedians such as Woody Allen, Groucho Marx, Bill Cosby, Bob Hope, Carol Burnett, and many others.  I love the Daily Show and all of today’s late-night talk shows, but after watching these incredibly in-depth interviews its hard to take any of today’s five-minutes-then-you’re out “interviews” seriously.  This is the way it should be done.  If you have any interest whatsoever in stand up comedy, you need to track down these DVDs.

X.  The Wire – My sister got me the 1st season set for my birthday earlier in the year – and my wife and I promptly devoured the entire 5 seasons of the show.  Truly one of the greatest TV shows ever made.  I’ll discuss this in greater depth at a later date, but for now, let me just say that I … [continued]