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News Around the Net!

WOW — Vince Gilligan is reportedly working on a Breaking Bad movie?!  And it will apparently be set after the events of the series, telling the story of Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul)’s life after escaping from the Neo-Nazis in the series finale?!  That is huge news.  Will this ever actually happen?  Will this be a theatrical release or a TV-movie?  Stay tuned…

In other big news, Disney has announced that in addition to Jon Favreau’s upcoming Star Wars live-action TV show, The Mandalorian, they’re also working on a show featuring Cassian Andor, with Diego Luna reprising his role from Rogue One!  I have mixed feelings about this.  On the one hand, I’m super-excited for these upcoming Star Wars shows and their potential to further expand the Star Wars universe.  Diego Luna was phenomenal in Rogue One, and I’m excited to see more of him.  And I love the idea of a show set in the time period between Episode III and Episode IV.  The reign of the Empire is a ripe period for lots of great stories.  On the other hand — AARGH, yet ANOTHER Star Wars prequel??  Look, as I just wrote, I am all for new stories set between Episode III and IV, and I’d love to see Diego Luna pop up as Cassian in those stories.  But I think it’s a big mistake to make Cassian the main character of a new long-running TV show, considering we already saw him make the most important decisions of his life, and meet his end, in Rogue One.  This feels like yet another example of Star Wars eating its own tail and retreading old ground rather than moving forward and telling new stories with new characters.  I hope I am wrong about this!!  I am rooting for this to be great.

Speaking of TV show spin-offs from beloved movie franchises, Disney has just confirmed the rumored Loki TV show, with Tom Hiddleston reprising his role.  Here too, I am rooting for this to be great, but I’m a bit doubtful.  Mr. Hiddleston is amazing as Loki, but can the character really carry his own show?  Also, I’ve been burned before.  The Marvel CBS shows, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and then Agent Carter, were billed as in-continuity expansions of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  But the quality was low (the two short seasons of Agent Carter were OK, but Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was terrible and quickly lost my interest), and the Marvel movie and TV folks quickly split due to internal disagreements, and the series’ didn’t wind up being connected to the movies in the ways fans had originally hoped.  The Netflix Marvel shows also began in continuity … [continued]

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Josh Reviews True Detective Season 2

I watched both the first and the second seasons of True Detective several months after they aired.  For season one, after months of reading rapturous praise for the new show, I just had to see what all the fuss was about.  (Click here for my review.)  For season two, after reading critic after critic trash the show, I was deeply curious to see if the sophomore season was truly the train-wreck that everyone was claiming.

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It is not.  True Detective season two is a far cry from the masterpiece that was season one, but it’s not the catastrophe you might have heard it was.  Season two has some deep flaws, but I nevertheless found it to be a wonderfully complex, delightfully grim and nihilistic piece if work. It’s a great noir for television.

This season has two main weaknesses.  First, it’s nearly impossible to follow.  I had praised season one for being unapologetically adult and complicated in its storytelling.  This was a show with a tremendously complex plot, and it didn’t slow down to hold the audience’s hands and explain things.  I loved that about season one, even as I was certain there were details I was missing on a first viewing.  I like a show that will reward multiple viewing.  But I feel that here in season two that has been taken too far to an extreme.  There are so many different characters and agendas in season two, and such a complicated web of plot and circumstance, that I had an enormous amount of difficulty in following it all.

The season’s second, and connected, weakness is its failure to properly identify all of the supporting characters.  There are a lot of background characters who I feel the show, to have worked this season, needed to more clearly define and identify for viewers.  Here’s an example: Frank is upset by Stan’s death in the third episode, “Maybe Tomorrow,” but we never really knew who Stan was or what he meant to Frank.  This is exacerbated in the sixth episode, “Church in Ruins,” when Frank and Jordan visit Stan’s widow and son.  It took me a long while to figure out just who the heck they were visiting.  Vince Vaughn was wonderful in the scene with Stan’s son, but that whole scene would have meant so much more had we had time to care at all about Stan and his death.  This failure to clarify the identities of all of the supporting players really cripples the show when the reveals start to come in the later episodes of the season.  Characters refer to names of characters as if they were supposed to mean something, but I had little to … [continued]

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UPDATED WITH THE FORCE AWAKENS TRAILER! News Around the Net

Late-breaking update to my last post — take a gander at this new trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens!!

WOW that is a hell of a trailer.  I love hearing Mark Hamill’s voice-over, echoing his words to Leia in Return of the Jedi.  Love the shot of the crashed Star Destroyer… and I love even more seeing the Millenium Falcon fly into what looks like the guts of that ruined Star Destroyer!  And that last shot and that last line… wow.  It’s very weird seeing a very old Han Solo, but I sort of love it.  I still don’t know if this movie is going to be any good, but I have huge love for this trailer.  Pure bliss.

This is amazing.  Just trust me.

This is a great article on Dune from The New Yorker from a little while back.  It is indeed curious that Dune has not penetrated the pop culture the way The Lord of the Rings or Star Wars has.  But for those of us who know and love Dune, it is a treasure.  (And I do love all of Frank Herbert’s five sequels, even though they are imperfect.  Sadly the Dune novels written after Frank Herbert’s death by his son Brian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson have, for the most part, disappointed.)

Please lord let this be true.  Seventeen additional episodes of Arrested Development??  Let’s do this.

Hey, season two of True Detective is coming!  Can’t wait:

I’m also fairly eager for the third season of Orange is the New Black:

I was surprised by the glum tone of the first trailer for Marvel’s Ant Man.  This new trailer is far stronger, though I’m still a little surprised at how serious they’re making the film look.  Is that really the tone?  I do love that train gag at the end of the trailer, though.

In other Marvel news, this raised my eyebrows: Marvel can’t make a Hulk stand-alone film because Universal retains the rights to any Hulk solo film?  Wow, that is a crazy tangle of legal red-tape.  This doesn’t bug me too much because as awesome and perfect as Mark Ruffalo is as Bruce Banner, I think the Hulk functions best in a supporting role rather than carrying his own movie.  I do hope, though, to someday see a Guardians of the Galaxy/Planet Hulk crossover story-line movie.   I’ve tried to avoid too heavy spoilers for Age of Ultron and the upcoming slate of Marvel films, but various bits and pieces that I have heard and read lead me to suspect that might be coming a few years down the road, and that is awesome.

This new trailer for Terminator: Genisys[continued]

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The Top 15 Episodes of TV in 2014 — Part Two!

I have expanded my usual end-of-the-year list of the Top Ten Episodes of TV to a Top Fifteen list for 2014!  Yesterday I wrote about numbers fifteen through eleven, discussing stellar episodes of Game of Thrones, Orange is the New Black, Fargo, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and Black Mirror.

And now, let’s continue!

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10. Family Guy: “The Simpsons Guy” (season 13, episode 1, aired on 9/28/14) — In this hour-long special, the Griffins leave Quahog and travel to Springfield, where cartoon universes collide.  I never ever thought that a) I would actually see a Simpsons/Family Guy crossover, or that b) it would be made with such obvious love for both shows.  This crossover was made by the Family Guy team, and the first few minutes (in which Peter gets into trouble for his controversial political cartoons) are pure Family Guy.  But once the show heads to Springfield, I was delighted by the clear love and respect on display for The Simpsons, and also by the depth of attention which the Family Guy creators brought to their exploration of the Simpsons universe.  There are obvious pairings that are mined for a lot of fun (seeing Homer and Peter drinking together, and comparing Duff Beer to Pawtucket Patriot Ale, is of course a hoot), but we also get to dig deeper into both cartoon universes as, for example, Carl meets Cleveland and Mayor Quimby meets Mayor Adam West, and the Simpsons version of James Woods meets the Family Guy version of James Woods.  Is the epic Homer/Peter Chicken Fight way longer and more violent than it needs to be?  I suppose it is, but that’s part of the joke, isn’t it?  It certainly worked for me.  Throw in Kang and Kodos in a rare non-Halloween episode appearance and a callback to Homer’s skateboarding over the Springfield Gorge (a classic early Simpsons gag) and you have a terrific love-letter to both of these animated shows.  (Click here for my original review of “The Simpsons Guy.”)

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9. Mad Men: “Waterloo” (season 7, episode 7, aired on 5/25/14) — What a powerhouse of an episode.  The political machinations in the office run thick as Don receives a letter stating he is being fired for breach of contract, only for Don to call a meeting that turns the tables on Jim Cutler and Lou Avery.  Roger then negotiates with another agency, McCann Erickson, to buy SC&P as an independent subsidiary of McCann, but has to get Don and an increasingly depressed Ted Chaough to agree.  The show finally arrives at the dramatic events of July 20th, 1969, when Neil Armstrong walks on the moon.  At the last minute, Don decides that Peggy should give the … [continued]

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Late to the Party: True Detective Season One

October 24th, 2014
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It took me a while to find the time to watch True Detective — I’d been interested in the show ever since I first read about it but was so busy last Winter/Spring that it took me a few months to get to it — but holy cow was it worth the wait.  I was absolutely dazzled by this dense, dark noir, brought to life with gorgeous cinematography, brilliant actors, and a rich, complex script.

For anyone who doesn’t know, the first season of True Detective follows the difficult partnership of Louisiana detectives Marty Hart (Woody Harrison) and “Rust” Cohle (Matthew McConaughey).  The show’s story unfolds simultaneously in two timelines.  In 1995, we see Hart and Cohle investigate the murder of Dora Kelly Lange, who is found displayed in a ritualistic fashion, bound and posed with a “crown” of antlers on her head.  In 2012, long after their partnership dissolved in acrimony, Hart and Cohle are questioned, separately, about the events of their investigation.

I was blown away right from minute one by this incredible production.  The story is incredibly complex, as we follow Hart & Coehle’s labyrinthine murder investigation while also trying to puzzle out many other questions about what happened to these characters and the others in their orbit in the years between 1995 and 2012.  While the central murder mystery is a compelling hook for the series, what really engages the viewer are the characters. I am hard-pressed to recall such an in-depth character study that I have ever before seen on TV.  Over the course of these eight episodes, we dig deeply into these two incredibly complicated, rich characters of Hart and Coehle.

The casting of friends Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaighey was inspired.  I’m sure it helped the show get made that these two big stars were attached.  But the show works because both men turn in incredible performances, among the very best of their two careers.

It’s amazing how Woody Harrelson once used to be so indelibly defined as the goofily simple, naive Woody Boyd from Cheers.  It’s impressive that he has managed to avoid being type-cast by that iconic role.  Martin Hart is about as far from Woody Boyd as you can get.  Mr. Harrelson is incredible in bringing this arrogant, dick-swinging tough-guy to life.  Marty Hart is a train wreck of a man, and he does some pretty despicable things, but Mr. Harrelson never loses sight of the character’s humanity, and his force of personality is magnetic.

Speaking of magnetic, there is Matthew McConaughey’s home-run of a performance as the withdrawn, mysterious Rusty Cohle.  Rust is just as damaged an individual as Marty is, perhaps even more so.  Whereas the audience thinks … [continued]

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

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

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