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Josh Reviews Shazam!

I missed Shazam! when it was released to theatres last year.  I’d been burned out on one bad DC/Warner Brothers live-action movie after another, and while this one looked interesting, I didn’t rush out to see it.  I recently watched the film on blu-ray, and I enjoyed it!

Shazam! tells the story of young Billy Batson, an orphan who has gotten himself booted from one foster family after another.  As a sort of last chance, he is adopted into a group home run by Victor and Rosa Vasquez, with five other orphans.  Billy doesn’t expect to find this new home any more satisfactory than any of his previous ones, but his life takes an unexpected path when he finds himself gifted with incredible powers — and an adult, super-powered new body — by the wizard Shazam.

The idea of a super-hero version of Big is a delicious concept, and this film mines a lot of joy and comedy out of that premise.  My favorite scenes of the film are the ones in which Billy, now in the role of the grown-up super-hero Shazam, and his new step-brother Freddy goof around exploring all the crazy new things this new body can do.  Zachary Levi plays the adult/super-hero version of Billy, and he is spectacular in the way he channels the excitement and enthusiasm of a 14-year-old boy in these incredible circumstances.  I’ve always enjoyed Mr. Levy’s work.  (He was great in season two of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.)  But he has perhaps never been more perfectly suited for a role than this one.  Mr. Levi (ably assisted by an awesome-looking super-suit) certainly has the physicality for the role… and his comedic timing is impeccable.  He is so funny and joyous in this role!  His enthusiasm carries the film.

There are two main weaknesses of the film for me.  The main one is that I don’t understand why this movie, telling the story of a kid-turned-superhero, is rated PG-13.  My 10-year-old children were excited to see this movie, and I was excited to watch it with them.  But I found myself wincing at the film’s language and adult-oriented content.  Shazam/Captain Marvel has had a reputation, over the years, as being silly/cheesy/kiddie, so I suppose the filmmakers were concerned about their movie coming off of as being just for kids.  They clearly wanted to make certain people knew this was a “cool” movie aimed at adults.  I can understand that, but I think they overshot the mark somewhat.  I am all for not dumbing-down one’s super-hero movie.  But I think it’s a shame that there’s a lot that’s inappropriate (in my opinion) for younger viewers in the film.  I wish they’d made … [continued]

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Josh Reviews The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Season Three!

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

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

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

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

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

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Josh Reviews The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Season Two!

I rather enjoyed the first season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, but I had a smidge of hesitation entering into season two.  That first season was a wonderful concoction, fun and original, and it felt like a complete story.  Was this a story that had legs, to continue successfully into multiple further seasons?  Did I really want to continue following these characters?  I’m pleased to report that I found season two to be very enjoyable over-all, displaying an impressive amount of craft in front of and behind the camera.  The season does have some flaws, which I will discuss below, but there’s enough about this show that’s good-to-great that I enjoyed making my way through this sophomore season.

As season two begins, we see that Midge Maisel is now working as a stand-up comedian.  She seems to have skill in the craft, and she and Susie have started to scrape together a career for her.  But the two women face several challenges.  The first is Midge’s resistance to fully embracing this new path (she never considers canceling her usual summer vacation trip to the Catskills) and to being honest with her friends and family about what she’s doing.  The second is Susie’s inexperience as a manager and her persistent money problems.  The third is the walls that both women repeatedly encounter as they attempt to succeed in a man’s world in the late nineteen-fifties.

I was surprised and pleased by the degree to which this season, particularly the first few episodes, focused on Midge’s parents, Rose and Abe.  Rose in particular was mostly in the background in season one, but I was delighted by the way the season premiere allowed us into this character, exploring how trapped she felt in New York and the pull of a life on her own in Paris (where she’d enjoyed herself as a younger woman).  This was a surprising and compelling way to begin the season.  Marin Hinkle really shined as Rose in this moment in the spotlight.  I was a little bummed that, once Rose and Abe returned to New York, Rose faded back into the background somewhat.  Now that we’ve proven that Rose is a fully-realized character, I hope the show continues to explore her, and to allow her to have greater agency in the stories to come!

Tony Shaloub’s Abe was a stand-out character in season one, and season two continued to give this great character a lot to do.  Abe was still lovable and Mr. Shaloub’s comic timing and note-perfect line-delivery makes him one of the show’s comedic powerhouses.  But this season didn’t shy away from challenging Abe, as he was forced to confront martial issues and Rose’s unhappiness, … [continued]