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Josh Reviews The X-Files: Season 11 — Part Two!

March 26th, 2018
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Click here for my comments on the first three episodes of The X-Files: Season 11.  And now, onward!

“The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat” — Darren Morgan only wrote four episodes from The X-Files’ original run, but they were among the series’ very best installments.  (Mr. Morgan’s “Jose Chung’s From Outer Space” is probably my single favorite X-Files episode.)  He wrote and directed one episode in the 2016 re-launch, “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Man,” and it was by far the best episode of the bunch.  And so it was with great excitement that I began to watch his contribution to this new season.  I am pleased to say that it is once again spectacular.  After two great monster of the week episodes and now this one, I am delighted that this new season is on quite a roll!

As with the best of Mr. Morgan’s other work, this episode manages to be extremely silly and weird, while also being a little bit melancholy.  There’s pathos in this story, despite how ridiculous it gets, and that is the magic of why it works so well.  The episode is jammed-full with craziness.  There are so many wonderful little jokes and references that I know I’ll need to rewatch the episode several more times before I catch them all.  The episode opens in a way I never would have expected: with a gloriously perfect version of a Twilight Zone episode that never was.  It’s something that will make the hearts of all true sci-fi fans sing.  But the highlight of the show for me was the insane and hilarious montage of old X-Files episodes with “Reggie Something” inserted into the old adventures alongside Mulder and Scully.  (We even got a version of the show’s opening credits, with Reggie replacing Skinner!)  I was on the floor with laughter.  So brilliant.

I also appreciated the episode for it’s meta commentary on the way that our memory plays tricks on us, and how we all misremember things that we believe to remember with perfect clarity.  Just as the show itself is attempting to recreate something that existed twenty years ago with this new season on episodes — and fans have to wrestle with comparing these new episodes to our blurred-with-time memories of the show’s original run — this episode seems to acknowledge, sadly, that you can’t go home again.  “I want to remember how it was,” Scully says at the end of the episode. “I want to remember how it all was.”  It’s a touching, and somewhat sad, moment.

This episode is also notable for its fairly brutal critique of modern American society and the way that, somehow, “truth” no longer seems to matter.  While … [continued]

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Josh Reviews The X-Files: Season 11 — Part One!

March 20th, 2018
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Back in 2016, The X-Files returned from the dead for a short sixth episode tenth season (what Fox called at the time an “event series”).  Since 2002, I had been lamenting that it was a tragedy that The X-Files had been left without a proper ending.  (The show ended in 2002 with a lot still up in the air, and the series of X-Files movies that everyone involved with the show used to talk about never materialized.)  I had long dreamed for a third X-Files movie to wrap up the series, but I thought a six-episode return to TV was even better.  Six hours would, I thought, give Chris Carter & co. plenty of time to wrap everything up.

But that six-episode run wound up being something entirely different than what I’d expected.  Whereas I’d thought we’d get a concluding six-hour mini-series, Mr. Carter and his team treated those six episodes like a relaunch of the show.  They put Mulder and Scully back in the places they used to be during the series, as FBI agents investigating the paranormal; they returned to the series’ usual format of “mythology” episodes interspersed with stand-alone “monster of the week” episodes; heck, they even went back to the series’ original opening credits!  On the one hand, I was disappointed these six episodes didn’t provide the closure I’d been hoping for.  (The mythology was left even more muddled than it had been before, and the sixth episode ended with an enormous cliffhanger.)  On the other hand, since Mr. Carter’s two mythology episodes (that opened and closed the season) were such a mess, it was a relief that the four stand-alone episodes weren’t burdened with all that baggage and allowed the show to give us four solid classic-style X-Files episodes.  Also, the idea of the show returning as a series of shorter-run seasons was appealing to me!  If we got six new X-Files episodes a year for the next few years, I’d be happy!

But then we had to wait two long years before getting another season… and as this new ten-episode season 11 was finally arriving, Gillian Anderson announced that it was not her intention to play Scully ever again after these episodes.  So whatever dreams Chris Carter and Fox (and audience members like me) might have had of a new multi-year run of The X-Files seemed to die aborning.

So, where did that leave this show, and its fans?  Though I braced myself to expect that season 11 would be structured exactly like season 10, I dared to hope that 1) the quality of this new run of episodes would be higher than that of the very mediocre six-episodes from 2016, and 2) … [continued]

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

We’re at the end of my look back at the best TV of 2016!  Click here for numbers twenty through sixteen, and click here for numbers fifteen through eleven, and click here for numbers ten through six.

And now, here are my Top Five Episodes of TV in 2016:

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5. Sherlock: “The Abominable Bride” (aired on 1/5/16) – I was tickled by the idea of taking Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman’s modern-day interpretations of Sherlock Holmes and setting them in the Victorian era from which the Holmes stories originated.  Had this been an entirely out-of-continuity caper — as I thought it would be, going into the episode — I’d have been happy.  But I was delighted to discover that, instead, this story connected directly to the cliffhanger ending of season three, and allowed us to explore the idea of Sherlock’s “mind palace” that was first raised back in the season two finale.  This episode was filled with many fun little moments, from Mrs. Hudson’s complaining that John never gives her any lines in his stories to the 19th century version of Holmes and Watson’s first meeting (as originally depicted in “A Study in Pink”).  And things got suitably mind-bending as the episode progressed and the story began jumping more frequently between the Victorian setting (happening inside Sherlock’s brain) and the modern-day events on board the plane, with Moriarty’s apparent return from the dead presenting a frightening new threat.  I adore this series and, if we couldn’t get a full three-episode new season of Sherlock in 2016, this one-off was a fine substitute.  (By the way, I’ll be sharing my thoughts on the recently-aired season four of Sherlock soon!!)

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4. The X-Files: “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster” (season ten, episode three, aired on 2/1/16) – I had hoped and dreamed for years that The X-Files, one of the great, unfinished stories of the modern pop-culture landscape, would one day be given the conclusion that once-great show so dearly deserved.  I rejoiced at the announcement of a new six-episode run (a superior format to a movie, in my mind, for the show’s return), though the relaunched show wound up mostly disappointing me.  With this one notable exception.  Darin Morgan wrote four episodes during the original X-Files run, and they were among the very best episodes the show ever did.  “Jose Chung’s From Outer Space” is without question my favorite episode of the entire series.  And so I was ecstatic when I learned that Mr. Morgan would be writing one of these six new X-Files episodes.  He directed this episode, too, and boy did he not let me down.  This episode is so joyous, so funny and so … [continued]

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Tales From the Blu-Ray Shelf

Not long after checking out the extended cut of Batman v. Superman (click here for my review on this “Ultimate Edition”), I decided to watch the recently-released-to-disc extended cut of Ridley Scott’s The Martian.  I adored that film when it was released (and it was my second favorite film of 2015), and Ridley Scott has released some wonderful extended directors’ cuts of his films (most notably, as I mentioned in that Batman v. Superman review, Mr. Scott’s magnificent extended version of Kingdom of Heaven, which transformed a disastrous failure into a near-masterpiece), so I was curious to see this extended version of a film I already loved.

Whereas some extended editions transform a film, the extended version of The Martian is only very marginally different than the theatrical version.  It’s about ten minutes longer, but the vast majority of the additions are subtle extensions to previously-existing scenes; an extra line of dialogue here, an extra beat there.  The only completely-new sequence that I noticed was a brief bit (taken from the book) in which we see Mark Watney working to finish the science experiments that his crew-mates left behind when they aborted the mission.  These additions are nice and allow the story to breathe a bit, but they don’t substantially change the film.  I am not sure what my preferred version of The Martian will be going forward; I suspect it might be the slightly-more-concise theatrical cut.

The blu-ray of the extended cut also has a more substantial set of special features than the original blu-ray/DVD release.  Charles de Lauzirika has, for years, been creating extraordinarily in-depth “making-of” features for the DVD/blu-ray releases of Ridley Scott’s films.  This new blu-ray features the expected complete “making-of” documentary that I was surprised was missing from the original release; albeit one that is shorter than usual for Mr. Lauzirika’s usual work for Mr. Scott (running about an hour and ten minutes).  It’s a wonderful documentary, though one that doesn’t ever get quite as in-depth as those Mr. Lauzirika has created for some of Mr. Scott’s other films.

Speaking of which, a few weeks ago I watched Ridley Scott’s Exodus: Gods and Kings for the first time (click here for my review).  While that film was a failure, the blu-ray release contained an extraordinary, two-and-a-half-hour “making-of” documentary by Mr. Lauzirika.  I am surprised that Exodus, which was a dud, has such an elaborate “making-of” documentary while The Martian, which was a far more successful film, has a less-substantial one.  It’s weird.  Regardless, watching the “making-of” documentary for Exodus is arguably more fun than watching the film itself.  It’s fascinating (and a little sad) to see the incredible effort that so many … [continued]

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Digging Deeper into The X-Files 6-Episode Event Series!

March 4th, 2016
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Earlier this week I posted my overall thoughts on The X-Files six-episode event series (or “season 10” as it is being referred to in many places).  Here now is a more detailed episode-by-episode analysis:

X-Files.season10.01.MyStruggle.sm

Episode 1 — “My Struggle” — This was a very rocky beginning to the relaunch.  One of the biggest surprises/disappointments of this six-episode event season was the low quality of the three episodes that X-Files creator/show-runner Chris Carter wrote and directed.  His two “My Struggle” episodes (that bookended the season) were just terrible.  This felt like the “Cliff’s Notes” version of an X-Files episode, with way too much plot jammed into the hour.  Nothing had time to breathe and none of the characters behaved in a way that made sense to me.

In the timeline of the show, Mulder and Scully have now been away from the X-Files for well over a decade.  The event that brings them back to the FBI needs to be MOMENTOUS.  But in this episode, it’s a nothing.  The Bureau contacts Mulder and Scully just because a right-wing talk-show host (Joel McHale) wants to speak to them?  Why is this the inciting event for these new episodes?  Why, at the end of the events of this hour, do Mulder and Scully decide to return to the FBI?  Why does the FBI take them back?  None of that is clearly established.  The episode also fumbles on explaining what Mulder and Scully have been up to since the events of 2008’s second movie, I Want to Believe.  That film was all about the two of them getting their faith back, each of them in what they want to believe.  But what have they been up to since then?  I am OK with breaking the two of them up, even though it smacks of a desire to reset everything to the old status quo of the original series.  (One of the huge mis-steps of the later years of the show, and that second movie, was having Mulder and Scully get together OFF CAMERA.  We still never learned exactly how and why they got together after years of sexual tension.  Nor was it ever made 100% clear that Mulder fathered baby William.  But more on that in a moment.)  But since it was established in the second movie that these two had been a couple for years, I would have liked this episode to have more clearly established what went wrong.

A lot of things happen in this episode but not much of it makes any sense.  Why does one conversation with this young woman Sveta (The Americans’ Annet Mahendru, a wonderful actress totally wasted here) convince Mulder that everything he has believed in … [continued]

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Josh Reviews The X-Files 6-Episode Event Series

March 2nd, 2016
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My father convinced me to start watching The X-Files about half-way through its first season, back in late ’93 or early ’94, and I was quickly hooked.  I became a huge fan of the show, and I have been ever since.  Seasons two through five of The X-Files are pretty spectacular, and what other TV series in recent memory has transitioned into a feature film in the middle of its run?  It’s unprecedented, and only serves to illustrate what a behemoth The X-Files was back then.

The_X-Files_Pilot.sm

That 1998 movie (which fans like to call Fight the Future but which, back then was just known as The X-Files movie) was the first time the series stumbled.  In the years since, I have grown to love that first X-Files film.  I recently re-watched it, and now it looks like a time capsule of The X-Files at the height of its power.  I’d hold it up as one of the best examples a classic X-Files story, twisty and thrilling, gorgeous to look at and with some terrific humor and character beats.  At the time it disappointed, though, mostly because it didn’t provide the definitive answers that fans of the series had expected.  Seasons six and seven of the series, after the movie, were still solid, though the bloom was somewhat off the rose.  The biggest problem was that, by that point, the show’s mythology — what had been one of its greatest strengths — was starting to become a weakness, too convoluted to make much sense.

The finale of season seven was designed to possibly serve as a series finale, since when the episode was filmed it was uncertain if the show would return.  (This is a terrible way to treat a long-running successful show.  Today, huge hit shows tend to be more able to end at a time of their own choosing, and thus able to craft a more satisfying ending.)  Looking back now, in many ways I wish the show had ended after season seven, because when the show returned it was without David Duchovny, who appeared only sporadically in those final two seasons.  I don’t want to overly bash seasons eight and nine, as I actually think that most of the individual episodes were still pretty great.  But the show had to twist itself around narratively to explain Mulder’s absence in a way that I felt damaged the show and the characters.  (I just don’t buy Mulder going on the run and leaving Scully, it doesn’t feel like something that character would do.)

I have often lamented on this site how seldom it is that a pop-culture juggernaut is able to have a definitive, satisfying ending.  As I noted … [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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News Around the Net!

I’ll have a lot to say about the long-anticipated return of The X-Files very soon.  In the meanwhile, here is a fantastic 45 minute interview with X-Files creator Chris Carter and writers Glen and Darin Morgan, who were key writers on the show who returned to write episodes of the revived series.  Great stuff.

I love that J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot team stunned everyone last week with the release of a trailer for a movie no one knew anything about, 10 Cloverfield Lane, to be released in just two months, in March!  Check it out:

I well remember the fun when the original Cloverfield was announced and we all struggled to figure out what the heck the deal was with this movie no one seemed to know anything about.  I feel like the film is not well thought of these days, but I absolutely loved the experience of seeing Cloverfield in the theatre — I thought it was very intense and a lot of fun.  I’m excited that the Bad Robot team has once again produced a Cloverfield film under everyone’s noses.  It’s so hard to do anything in secret these days!  I think that J.J. Abrams’ well-known “mystery box” philosophy has often been misused (flat-out lying to everyone for months by saying that Khan would not be the villain of Star Trek Into Darkness comes to mind), but I do love the idea of being totally surprised by a film.  Will 10 Cloverfield Lane have any actual story connection to the first Cloverfield?  Or are they just using Cloverfield as a nickname for a film made in secret and designed to surprise audiences?  Frankly I’d be happy either way.  That first trailer looks great and I am jazzed to see this film.

Why do I love Judd Apatow?  Sit back and watch his hilarious and profane introduction of Amy Schumer at the Critics Choice Awards, in which he veers off-script to slam the Golden Globes for putting The Martian in the comedy category:

How funny is that??  Love that dude.

Here are some interesting teases at the planned fifth season of Arrested Development.

I’m digging Star Wars Rebels and this preview for the second half of season two is terrific.  I’m especially jazzed by the glimpses, in the final seconds of the trailer, of the much-looked-forward-to confrontation between Ahsoka and Darth Vader (her former master).  This has been a moment fans have anticipated ever since Ahsoka was first introduced as a young padawan of Anakin Skywalker in the very first episode of the Clone Wars cartoon, back in 2008.  I hope this does not disappoint!

This is cool: HBO On-Demand is now offering what they’re calling The Godfather Epic[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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“The date is set!” — The X-Files returns to TV on January 24, 2016!  Please don’t disappoint me, Chris Carter!!

This is a great article listing 10 Making-Of Documentaries That Are Better Than The Actual Movie.  In many of these cases I don’t actually agree with the “Better Than The Actual Movie” part, but these are certainly ten of the very greatest documentaries about the making of specific movies.  These are all essential viewing for movie fans.  (The only one of the ten listed that I haven’t seen is Cleopatra: The Epic That Changed Hollywood.)  Hearts of Darkness is endlessly fascinating, one of the best movies about movies ever made, period.  I wrote about The Sweat Box, the documentary that Disney doesn’t want you to see about the making of what became The Emperor’s New Groove, here.  It’s fascinating and heartbreaking.  The documentaries on the Alien Quadrilogy are magnificent, particularly the staggeringly no-punches-pulled version on the Alien 3 blu-ray.  (The doc on the original DVD release was edited by the studio who felt that some of the behind-the-scenes material was too honest and raw.)  I have written endlessly about the amazing Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit Appendices (elaborate, hours-long making-of documentaries) on the Extended Edition DVD/blu-ray sets.  (Click here for my thoughts on the behind-the-scenes material from An Unexpected Journey and here for my thoughts on The Desolation of Smaug.)  And I am glad this list also included two of the many magnificent making-of documentaries on the DVDs and blu-rays of Ridley Scott’s films, all of which was masterminded by Charles de Lauzirika.  Dangerous Days is an exhaustive look at the making of Blade Runner, and though Prometheus was a bomb, the four-hour long look at the making of that train wreck, titled Furious Gods, from the Prometheus blu-ray set, is amazing.  (By the way, Charles de Lauzirika also masterminded all of the Alien documentaries on the Quadrilogy set, making him the king of this list of making-of documentaries.)  I highly recommend all interested film fans track down these documentaries, they are wonderful.

I recently read Jerry Weintraub’s terrific memoir: When I Stop Talking, You’ll Know I’m Dead.  Mr. Weintraub was a music producer who worked with Elvis and Sinatra, and in his later years he became a movie producer as well, most notably working with Steven Soderbergh on Ocean’s Eleven, Twelve, and Thirteen.  The book is terrific — Mr. Weintraub is a wonderful raconteur and, man, does he have some great stories to tell. I highly recommend it.  Here’s a link.  In a related story, birthmoviesdeath.com recently posted this loving look back at Soderbergh’s Ocean’s trilogy.  I never thought too highly … [continued]

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Don’t tease me, universe!  I desperately want this news of a possible resurrection of The X-Files to be true!!

The X-Files

I am thrilled to have three cartoons from Motion Pictures included in JOMIX — Jewish Comics; Art & Derivation, an exhibition currently open in New York City.  Click here for more details!  I was also delighted to get such a nice mention in this review of The Jewish Comix Anthology The Anthology is still available for purchase at amazon!

This is an older article, but Rolling Stone’s The Last Days of 30 Rock is a magnificently in-depth look at the life and end of Tina Fey’s wonderful sitcom.

Keeping us on a similar topic, I loved this A.V. Club look back at Newsradio, listing their ten favorite episodes of that late great series.

I love listening to comic book author Brian Michael Bendis talk, usually on the wonderful wordballoon podcast.  His recent appearance on the Nerdist podcast is hugely entertaining.

After losing Leonard Nimoy last month, we also lost the great, woefully under-appreciated Harve Bennett.  Mr. Bennett was critically involved in the “trilogy” of Trek films: Star Trek II, III, and IV.  Most importantly, without Mr. Bennett’s involvement, Star Trek II might never have happened after Star Trek: The Motion Picture underwhelmed.  Mr. Bennett and writer/director Nicholas Meyer are the men who saved Star Trek.  Harve Bennett is responsible for what, to me, is the greatest iteration of Trek, those three films.  Star Trek would not be the franchise that it is today without Harve Bennett.  Rest in peace.  (You can learn a lot more about Harve Bennett by reading this wonderful eulogy on badassdigest.com.)

We also recently lost Sam Simon, who was one of the key creative voices in the early (and best) seasons of The Simpsons.

On a more upbeat note, watch this:

I am super-duper excited for Captain America: Civil War.  The idea of adapting that great comic book story-line for the Marvel cinematic universe is genius.  They should probably be calling it The Avengers 3 rather than Cap 3, but whatever.  Looking further down the road, I am thrilled that it looks like The Russo Brothers, after directing The Winter Soldier and then Civil War, will be directing the two-part Avengers: Infinity War films.  It’s been clear for a long while that Joss Whedon would be stepping aside after Avengers: Age of Ultron, and if it wasn’t going to be Mr. Whedon, I am delighted that the Russo Brothers are taking the lead in guiding Marvel’s Avengers franchise.  These next few years of Marvel movies are going to be amazing.

Kevin Smith is making Mallrats 2…?  Okay…  … [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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This “Modern Seinfeld” twitter feed is pretty amusing.  I guess the premise is these guys are coming up with Seinfeld ideas, if the show was being made today.  This one really made me laugh: George gets dumped for being a “toilet texter.” GEORGE: “What else are you supposed to do in there?!” JERRY: “I can think of a couple things.”

This is awesome: A New Yorker’s Tour of Ghostbusters.

Did you catch the second Robot Chicken DC Special earlier this month?  So funny.  This DC All Access video contains some of the great bits, and a peek behind-the-scenes:

This article about Police Academy sort of makes me want to re-watch it!  I haven’t seen any of those films in YEARS, but Police Academy #1-4 were HUGE parts of my childhood!!

How Gravity should have ended:

A new animated Batman short by Bruce Timm (mastermind behind Batman: The Animated Series) in honor of Batman’s 75th anniversary?  And it’s a retro pulp adventure?  And Kevin Conroy voices Batman?  YES PLEASE!

The funniest thing about this new trailer for 24: Live Another Day is the “red-band” text that opens it:

I have absolutely zero interest in the film Sabotage, but this article’s description of star Josh Holloway as “America’s Sean Bean” made me laugh and laugh.  HAS Mr. Holloway actually lived to the end of a movie he’s been in…??

I learned about Operation: Paperclip as a kid from The X-Files.  It was real, and represents a fascinating (and morally ambiguous) era of American history.  I was pleased to see it referenced as part of the fictional S.H.I.E.L.D./Hydra back-story in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.  More on Operation: Paperclip and the Marvel universe can be found here.… [continued]

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This is an old clip (it’s from 2012), but I just saw it for the first time and loved it: a revival of “Who’s on First” with Jimmy Fallon, Billy Crystal, and Jerry Seinfeld!

This made me laugh a LOT.  Ladies and gentlemen:  Good Will Batman.

This is an interesting article on the production of season two of Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom, a show I find enjoyable though frustrating.  (I was fascinated to learn the reason that season two only ran nine episodes, rather than ten.)

Bill Hunt runs one of my very favorite web-sites out there, The Digital Bits.  He recently wrote a phenomenal editorial calling Paramount to task for their terrible treatment of the Star Trek films on DVD/blu-ray, specifically the disappointing blu-ray release of Into Darkness (in which Paramount created all sorts of special features for the movie but, instead of putting them all on the blu-ray, released individual featurettes to different vendors to be exclusive material just for them… making it impossible for Trek fans to get all of this material unless they wanted to go out and buy eight different copies of the blu-ray, each from a different vendor).  I agree 100% with everything Mr. Hunt wrote.  Well done.

Speaking of Star Trek Into Darkness, Devin Faraci at Badassdigest has written a brilliant evisceration of the film and a disturbing analysis of how co-screenwriter Bob Orci’s conspiracy “Truther” theories about 9/11 made it into the film’s story-line.  The idea that those sorts of nonsensical ideas about 9/11 made it into any big-budget blockbuster would be concerning, and the thought that these notions are a part of a Star Trek film — a series justly known for its progressive, liberal tackling of modern-day issues — is hugely upsetting to me.

This is a terrific interview with the show-runners of the new Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. show, Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen.  This husband and wife pairing can be overshadowed by Jed’s more-famous brother Joss (who is executive-producing the show), but I have loved their work on Dollhouse, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog (Maurissa KILLS on the musical commentary track!), and even some terrific Terminator comic books they wrote for Dark Horse comics a year or two ago.  I have a lot of faith in their talents.  I hope all the ingredients come together for this to be a great TV show.

Can this be true?  The blu-ray release of Paul Feig’s The Heat (click here for my review) features a commentary track by the original MST3K guys??  Well, I am definitely buying that blu-ray now!!

So… the new Robocop is a Cylon??

So…R.I.P. Futurama… again.  In honor of the show’s recent cancellation … [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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The Date is Set — Yet the Truth is Still Out There…

December 22nd, 2012

“The date is set,” the Cigarette Smoking Man told us, back in 2002.

December 22, 2012.

Fans of The X-Files know what I’m talking about, of course.  In the closing minutes of the series finale, we learned the date set for the coming alien invasion of the Earth: December 22, 2012.

That’s today, folks.

I was really hoping (as, I’d wager, were quite a lot of the men & women involved with making The X-Files) that this date would be marked by the release of an epic X-Files feature film, which would conclude the series’ long-running mythology in big-budget style.  Sadly, that is not the case, and I can only agree with key X-Files creative voice Frank Spotnitz that it is a cultural crime that the X-Files story remains unfinished.

Maybe someday.  (I want to believe!)  For now, let’s remember and celebrate a once-great TV show.  The truth is out there.… [continued]

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News Around the Net!

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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Josh’s Least Favorite TV Series Finales!

Last week I waxed poetic about my favorite TV series finales.  Today let’s examine the other side of the coin — what I feel are the three WORST series finales that I’ve ever seen!

One quick note, before we begin: St. Elsewhere is renowned for having one of the most ludicrous series finales ever, in which it was revealed that the entire show was just the dream of an autistic child.  However, since that wasn’t a show that I ever watched, it’s finale isn’t on my list.

So what is?

The West Wing — “Tomorrow” — I thought the show would be lost after the departure of Aaron Sorkin at the end of season 4, and the limp season 5 didn’t do much to discourage me of that notion.  Season 6 started off just as badly, but about halfway through that season the show completely reinvented itself.  Suddenly the story focused on the race for the White House, following a variety of characters, new and old, through their involvement in the primaries and, ultimately, in the Presidential election.  Not only did this change bring a lot of new energy and intensity to the show, but by moving the show outside the confines of the White House and into new territory, it made it easier for viewers to stop comparing the new episodes to the Sorkin classics.  I got really into the show again, and was very excited for the finale to wrap things up in grand style.  Sadly, what we got was a tepid, boring hour in which nothing really happened.  The much-heralded return of Sam Seaborn (Rob Lowe) turned out to be barely more than a cameo.  Many long-running characters and storylines were ignored entirely (Toby doesn’t appear at all??  No resolution to the long-simmering Charlie-Zoey romance?) or handled in an entirely trivial, superficial manner (Gee, President Bartlett sees Charlie as his son?  That was obvious ever since the first season!).  Most disappointingly, the first episode of season seven had opened with an intriguing “three years later” flash-forward.  It had seemed clear to me that the questions raised in that scene would be addressed in a book-end scene at the end of the finale.  And yet, nothing!  Why include that scene at all in the season premiere if they weren’t going to go anywhere with it?  What a let-down.

The X-Files — “The Truth” — Although the show definitely should have ended after the seventh season, when David Duchovny (who played series lead Fox Mulder) left, I’m not one of those fans who thought the final two seasons to be entirely without merit.  There were still a lot of great spooky adventures to be had, and I … [continued]