Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The MovieFilm Podcast: The Nice Guys + Kate Beckinsale on Love & Friendship

For this week's show we dive in with a brief conversation about writer-director Shane Black's delightful action-comedy The Nice Guys, followed by my interview with actress Kate Beckinsale about her work on the new Jane Austen adaptation Love & Friendship, directed by Whit Stillman. After that, hear our takes on the new trailers for Star Trek Beyond and Ghostbusters, and the upcoming TV remakes/reboots of Lethal Weapon, 24, MacGyver, and Frequency. In addition, we discuss the big shakes up with Warner Bros.' DC Comics movies, why the cast for Thor: Ragnarok has us excited, and why the possible title for Star Wars: Episode VIII might not be so great. As always, you can catch it via the embed below or at iTunes or Stitcher or TuneIn Radio (and make sure to write us a review or leave a star rating!). Like always, you can drop us a line at MovieFilmPodcast@gmail.com, or at our our Facebook page to tell us how we're doing!

Looking Back at Ghostbusters

We're inching ever closer to the release of Ghostbusters, this summer's reboot of the 1984 comedy classic. Unfortunately the reboot has already been the subject of mild controversy, with some questioning the decision to recast several male roles with female actors and others calling out the sexism behind that criticism. Furthermore, the trailer set an unwanted record as the "most disliked" film trailer in YouTube history.

If you're like me, however, you probably can't help but be a little bit intrigued by the reboot. That's simply because the original Ghostbusters left such a lasting and generally pleasant impression 32 years ago. If the new film captures any of the same comedic flavor, it'll be worth a watch.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Out Now with Aaron and Abe Podcast: The Nice Guys

Been a busy week of podcasting for me! Click "play" on the embed below to hear my guest shot on the latest episode of Out Now With Aaron and Abe, featuring a lot of fun banter, plus an in-depth discussion on The Nice Guys (which you already know I loved). Click here to download at iTunes.

Monday, May 23, 2016

The Batman-on-Film.com Podcast: Talkin' BvS, the DCEU, & More

Click "play" on the embed below to hear my guest shot on the Batman-on-Film.com Podcast, as I joined hosts Rick Shew and Bill "Jett" Ramey for a spirited and fun conversation about Batman, Superman, Batman v. Superman, and all things DC Comics. Click here to download at iTunes.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Trump and the Authoritarianism Urge

Interesting vid from Vox on how the rise of Donald Trump can't simply be written off as an isolated phenomenon, but rather the inevitable result of the ideological "sorting" that's been happening in this country for the past several decades:

Star Trek Beyond Trailer Brings the Noise

Our first look at the impending three-quel Star Trek Beyond dropped last December to a mostly muted response. I thought it looked fine, but maybe I'm just an easy mark. I was happy to see stars Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, and Karl Urban back as Kirk, Spock, and McCoy, respectively. But a lot of the Internet chatter seemed to center on the foregrounding of motorcycle antics and Beastie Boys music (as if that's a bad thing!), and there sure didn't seem to be a lot of buzz around the Justin Lin-directed flick after that first look.

Well, clearly Paramount is hoping (desperately?) to change the tenor of the conversation in the ramp up to the film's late July release. After all, this is Star Trek's fiftieth anniversary year, and the last thing they need is a movie (thirteenth in the series!) that the fans aren't feeling jazzed about. To that end, the first volley in that effort is the reveal of the full trailer, which hit the web Friday night following a special "fan event" featuring the film's cast and crew orchestrated by the studio to win over hardcore Trek devotees.

Nostalgia Theater: Back to School With X-Men: Evolution

With this week's upcoming release of X-Men: Apocalypse (read my mixed review of that one here), I thought I'd look back at another time the Marvel mutants made their mark in animation. Now, I already discussed the groundbreaking X-Men animated series from the '90s, which I argued is remembered more fondly than it probably deserves, a couple of years ago. But in fall of 2000, mere months after the first X-Men feature film lit the fuse on that still-going movie series, the second X-Men series, X-Men: Evolution made its debut on the now-defunct Kids' WB. Here's the intro:

Friday, May 20, 2016

Zaki's Review: The Nice Guys

Summer movie season is only a few weeks old, but somehow it already feels interminable. As such, the arrival of writer-director Shane Black's The Nice Guys couldn't be a more perfectly-timed tonic to the usual onslaught of CGI mayhem we've come to expect between now and August. In 1987, Black's script for the original Lethal Weapon pretty much cemented the template for the modern "buddy" movie, and it's a testament to its long shadow that so many subsequent films have either emulated or repudiated the Lethal formula of unlikely partners initially bickering and eventually bonding.

It's a formula Black himself put a twist on in his under-seen '05 caper Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, and it's a front-and-center once again for this latest offering, a 1970s-set piece that bounces between dark comedy and darker comedy. The Nice Guys stars Russell Crowe as muscle-for-hire Jackson Healy, and Ryan Gosling as a mediocre private investigator named Holland March. When their individual investigations of a case involving a dead porn star, a missing girl, and the Detroit auto industry puts them on the same path, the two are forced to pair up (in great Shane Black tradition).

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Here's the Second Ghostbusters Trailer

As the release date for director Paul Feig's all-female Ghostbusters remake gets closer each day and the existence of said film becomes harder to ignore, we've seen an explosion in the last week or so of the man-baby portion of the Internet that can't abide the thing they loved being different from the way they loved it. I don't really have time for folks like this guy, but I will say that while I didn't think the first trailer was bad, it also didn't really knock my socks off.

It felt like a functional bit of franchise management (which is pretty much what this movie is, anyway). This second trailer gives us some funny bits in addition to the usual bustin' business, and really my only concern is that they not give away all the best jokes in the trailer. I like Kristen Wiig, and while I know she's not everyone's favorite, Leslie Jones is cracking me up in everything I've seen from this. Watch the trailer below, and look for Ghostbusters (starring all women! Aaaargh!) in theaters this July:

Nostalgia Theater Podcast: Ten Years Without The West Wing

This past Saturday marked ten years since Aaron Sorkin's seminal series The West Wing left the airwaves on NBC. Starring Martin Sheen, Rob Lowe, Allison Janney, Bradley Whitford, and many more, the sparkling drama is one of the most honored shows in television history, remains one of my all-time favorites, and I still miss it this many years later. And so, to mark a decade without The West Wing, I turned to my good friend and fellow Wing-nut Zainab F. Chaudary to share our fond memories of the Josiah Bartlet Administration, how we were first introduced to the show, and whether the fantasy world of The West Wing offers some insights into the current political moment we find ourselves in. Check out the show via the embed below, or subscribe via iTunesStitcher Radio, or TuneIn Radio. As always, send all questions or comments our way via MovieFilmPodcast@gmail.com, and don't forget to hit "like" on our Facebook page.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Recommended Reading

With the battle lines for the presidential campaign becoming more firmly drawn, Jonathan Chait lays out what he thinks the primary attack needs to be against the Donald Trump campaign:
His entire appeal rests on the bedrock of his identity as a successful entrepreneur. The vast wealth Trump claims to have amassed allows him to supposedly fund his own campaign, escaping the influence of fundraisers who control his opponents. His alleged deal-making skill explains why he will be able to improve every trade deal, solve every legislative impasse, and finesse every diplomatic conflict. Trump’s endlessly repeated proposition is that he will take the skills that made him so rich and generously use them to make the country rich. Without that, he’s just a dumber version of Pat Buchanan.
Read more here.

Diffused Congruence: Joe Bradford

For our latest episode we're delighted to be joined by Joe Bradford, Muslim scholar, author, blogger, and entrepreneur. Joe discusses his journey to Islam and experiences studying Islamic law and legal theory in Saudi Arabia. We spent a good amount of time discussing issues related to finance and the current projects he is involved with in that field. We also discuss a recent and very interesting encounter he had with the Ted Cruz campaign! Check it out through the embed below, or via iTunes or Stitcher. As always, please hit "like" on our Facebook page, and send any comments or questions to DiffusedCongruence@gmail.com.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Nostalgia Theater: Ten Years Without The West Wing

Yesterday marked ten years since one of my favorite TV shows of all time, Aaron Sorkin's The West Wing, aired its final episode on NBC. You already know what a big impact the show and its creator have played in shaping my persona, and my ardor for it is unabated even after this many years. I'm currently in the midst of another re-watch of the series now that it's available for streaming on Netflix, and the memories just come flooding back no matter how much time goes by.

More than just presenting likable, intelligent characters we want to know, it gives us a world we really wish we could live in, especially given the horrific, orange-hued turn that real world politicking has taken of late. Anyway, given that this is Nostalgia Theater, you can watch the show's title sequence below (that theme music by Snuffy Walden still gives me chills after all these years), and if you click past the jump, I've re-posted my 2006 reflection The West Wing's final episode:

Friday, May 13, 2016

The MovieFilm Podcast: Choosing Sides on Captain America: Civil War!

With Captain America: Civil War currently battling atop the box office and breaking records in the process, the MovieFilm gang reconvenes to dissect the latest -- greatest? -- superhero epic from Marvel Studios. But that's not the only topic on the agenda: First Brian talks about his adventures signing comics on Free Comic Book Day, then I offer quick takes on the new financial thriller Money Monster, starring George Clooney and Julia Roberts (read his review here), and Fox's upcoming X-Men: Apocalypse, the ninth film in the studio's long-running series (read his review here), as well as a fascinating interview with the filmmakers behind the scathing upcoming documentary Weiner, which chronicles the fall, rise, and fall of disgraced congressman Anthony Weiner. In addition, we discuss the latest headlines out of Hollywood and the newest round of Star Wars news. As always, you can catch it via the embed below or at iTunes or Stitcher or TuneIn Radio (and make sure to write us a review or leave a star rating!). Like always, you can drop us a line at MovieFilmPodcast@gmail.com, or at our our Facebook page to tell us how we're doing!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Zaki's Review: Money Monster

As an "I'm mad as hell" screed against the oversight-free excesses of Wall Street bankers, director Jodie Foster's Money Monster certainly arrives at the right historical moment to tap into the same "throw the bums out" exasperation that's helped turn Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign from a longshot into a contender. Director Adam McKay made a similar deep-dive last year in the riveting, angry-making The Big Short, one of my favorites of the year, and there was the potential to do something in a similar vein here.

Unfortunately, Money Monster goes for the low-hanging fruit offered up by being a by-the-numbers potboiler. The kind that will get the audience wound up enough to stay engaged for the hundred minute runtime, but not think about it much past the time they leave the theater. As a result, despite Foster's best efforts to squeeze tension out of the central conflict, it's a tonal mishmash that can't settle on what it's trying to say, and it squanders a lot of the goodwill generated by the tremendous cast headed up by George Clooney and Julia Roberts.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Zaki's Review: X-Men: Apocalypse

Ten years ago I took a shank to X-Men: The Last Stand, a sequel I found so disagreeable that I likened it to "studio-mandated seppuku" (which might have been a bit hyperbolic in hindsight). On the other hand, two years ago I was quite effusive in my praise of X-Men: Days of Future Past, which I called the very best of the Fox series. So, if we're using those two entries as the benchmarks, the goalposts of what to expect from these things, then X-Men: Apocalypse, the ninth film based on Marvel Comics' line of comic books, falls somewhere in the middle: neither as bad as the worst, nor as good as the best. It's just...fine.

Lacking the "All Mutants Unite!" marketing hook that Days of Future past employed to bring together two generations of X-casts (scaling new box office heights in the process), Apocalypse settles back into the "rebooted" timeline begun in 2011's terrific X-Men: First Class, content to fill the gap between one entry and the next without really leaving a mark of its own. Like the just-okay The Wolverine three years ago, it's entirely adequate at keeping the franchise fires lit for Fox (lest the rights revert to Disney/Marvel), while coasting on whatever goodwill audiences have built up over the series' long life.

Sunday, May 08, 2016

From The Onion...

Report: Well, Here We Go
WASHINGTON—With Donald Trump’s two remaining GOP rivals suspending their candidacies and clearing a path for the billionaire businessman to assume the Republican presidential nomination, reports indicated Wednesday that, well, hoo boy, here we go. “So I guess that’s that—we’re off and running here,” said Oregon resident Carl Jacobs, raising his eyebrows and drawing in a deep breath as he echoed the sentiments of millions of Americans across the country who confirmed there’s no turning back now following the real estate mogul’s decisive victory in Indiana and that, boy, this is really just the beginning when you think about it. “The train has left the station, and we are on our way. I guess we just go with it and hold on tight.” Additional reports confirmed that, yeah, better strap in, because—wow—this is actually happening.

Nostalgia Theater: When Captain America Throws His Mighty Shield...

After last week's Nostalgia Theater looking back at the old Iron Man cartoon show from the 1960s, I got a few requests asking when the '60s Captain America 'toon would get the same treatment. And with Captain America: Civil War currently demolishing the box office, and because I'm all about customer service here at the Corner, let's take a look at that one. The truth is, as far as the background of the show goes, everything I said last week is still applicable here.

Like with Iron Man and the other heroes included in the Marvel Super-Heroes syndicated package, Cap got thirteen episodes for his show, with stories all culled from the Stan Lee/Jack Kirby comics from earlier in the decade. They employed limited animation and sound effects, but as far as fidelity to the source, well, it didn't get much closer than this, considering it was the source material.

Check out the intro below, with the super-catchy theme song that lets us know what happens when Captain America throws his mighty shield...

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Zaki's Review: Captain America: Civil War

A little over a month ago, Warner Bros.' execrable, excessive Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice arrived in theaters. As you know if you read my review, that film, with its storyline about the aftermath of a destructive superhero battle leading to a battle of wills between heroes, landed with a resounding thud for me. Perhaps my biggest complaint was how it was doing an end-run around its audience by forcing an emotional investment in its characters and their world that hadn't yet been earned. Well, here we are mere weeks later with Marvel's Captain America: Civil War, covering extremely similar thematic and narrative terrain while doing right exactly what the earlier film did so wrong.

Believe it or not, it was eight years ago this week that the first Iron Man's huge critical and commercial success kicked off the massive multi-franchise edifice that we've come to know as the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Since then, Marvel Studios has gone from success to success, launching several concurrent series (last summer's delightful Ant-Man was one of my favorites of the year). And with Civil War and the beginning of  their "Phase Three," we see the ultimate expression of the studio's fabled long game. Not only does it pay off plot and character threads we've watched intertwine for the better part of the last decade, it plies our history with those entanglements for maximum impact.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

"Trump Has Won"

Well, it's all over but the counting. As of tonight, the eventuality that seemed nigh inconceivable a year ago has come to pass: Donald Trump has locked up the necessary delegates to make it a mathematical certainty that he'll be the Republican party's presidential nominee this year. Jonathan Chait has a pretty good breakdown of how we got to this point, and what precisely Trump's ascendancy means vis-a-vis the GOP, but I think this particular bit was worth highlighting separately:
The paranoid mendacity of Joe McCarthy, the racial pandering of Barry Goldwater, Richard Nixon, and George Bush, the jingoism and anti-intellectualism of Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, and Sarah Palin — all these forces have embodied the essence of American conservative politics as it is actually practiced (rather than as conservative intellectuals like to imagine it). Trump has finally turned that which was always there against itself.
We're through the looking glass now, people. Buckle up. Read all of Chait's commentary here.

Nostalgia Theater Podcast: IDW Publishing’s Chris Ryall on Transformers, G.I. Joe, Star Trek and More!

For this episode of the show, I'm joined by Chris Ryall, editor-in-chief of IDW Publishing. As the current purveyor of comic book adventures of high profile licenses like Transformers, Star Trek, G.I. Joe, My Little Pony, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and so much more, IDW has become the go-to place to find Nostalgia Theater favorites on the comic shelf. Chris discusses the process by which IDW has been able to amass such an amazing roster of top drawer titles from topflight talent, and he also talks up one of IDW's latest projects: the impending relaunch of '70s-'80s fave Rom: Spaceknight. You can listen to the show via the embed below, or subscribe via iTunesStitcher Radio, or TuneIn Radio. As always, send all questions or comments our way via MovieFilmPodcast@gmail.com, and don't forget to hit "like" on our Facebook page

Sunday, May 01, 2016

See? Me.

I was honored to be included in a pretty sterling lineup of Muslim professionals in the Rad Talks - Bay Area event yesterday in Oakland, wherein I was asked to deliver a brief talk about film criticism, and more specifically, the importance of Muslim involvement in that field. Hopefully there'll be a better quality version that shows up down the line, but in the meantime here's the video of the live stream. Big thanks to the Muslim Writers' Collective for hosting the event and the vid.

Nostalgia Theater: Iron Man & Captain America's First Civil War

We're mere days away from the theatrical release of Marvel's big budget blockbuster Captain America: Civil War. Like me, I'm sure you can feel the anticipation building. And with the ideological divide between Captain America & Iron Man serving as the foundation for the film's central smash-up, I figured this was a perfect time to take a look back at the first time the iconic superheroes had a throwdown onscreen. For this, we need to take a deep dive all the way back to 1966, and the syndicated Marvel Super Heroes cartoon show.

By way of background, this was a weekday skein produced by Grantray-Lawrence Animation that aired on local stations, with each half-hour consisting of three seven-minute segments starring various heroes in rotating slots. Over the course of 65 installments total, The Incredible Hulk, Sub-Mariner, Thor, Captain America, and Iron Man all got the Marvel Super Heroes treatment for thirteen episodes each, which essentially meant near-verbatim translations of the then-recent comic stories using the original art from the books and severely limited animation where lips and random appendages were often the only things moving.

Friday, April 29, 2016

INTERVIEW: Key & Peele on Keanu

Having just wrapped up five hilarious seasons on the forefront of the zeitgeist with their groundbreaking sketch comedy series Key & Peele, it's only natural that the team of Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele have cast their gaze to the big screen for their next challenge. And if the new film Keanu, opening today in theaters everywhere, proves anything, it's that the pair, who've been working together since their time on MADtv in the 2000s, haven't missed a step in their transition to the big screen.

The film, a wacky road picture about two friends trying to retrieve the adorable kitten (the titular "Keanu") that's been kidnapped by drug dealers, is in many ways a perfect distillation of the gonzo, anything-goes humor that one associates with the Key & Peele brand. While they were promoting the movie at (appropriately enough) the Cat Town Cafe in Oakland, CA, I had the chance to ask them why this was the perfect project with which to transition to the big screen, and whether they ever thought their show would be as popular as it is. Read on for some highlights of our conversation:

Diffused Congruence Bonus Episode: On Grief, Death, and Dying

Well this is a first. We started out recording this bit as a brief, five minute addendum to tag onto the live show, but as tends to happen when we get together, five minutes stretched into twenty-five, and so we decided to turn it into its own little mini-episode. For this special show, Parvez and Zaki have a conversation about the recent deaths of public figures, some Muslim, some non-Muslim, and how they've resulted in a particular conversation in regards to seemliness of expressing grief or sadness in a public sphere. Give it a listen to hear our thoughts, and then hit us up at DiffusedCongruence@gmail.com, or at our Facebook page to offer your take on our takes!

Diffused Congruence LIVE: Poet & Storyteller Mark Gonzales

We were honored to present our very first live recording of the show a few weeks ago, and now here it is for your enjoyment. Our guest this time was poet and storyteller Mark Gonzales, who talked about his own journey to Islam, and what he's learned along the way. It was a fun and invigorating conversation that also included a Q&A with the audience at the Islamic Cultural Center of Northern California, in Oakland, CA. Many thanks to the Muslim Writers' Collective for arranging this special event. We had a blast participating, and we're confident you'll feel the same after listening. Check it out through the embed below, or via iTunes or Stitcher. As always, please hit "like" on our Facebook page, and send any comments or questions to DiffusedCongruence@gmail.com.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

INTERVIEW: Jeremy Saulnier & Anton Yelchin on Green Room

After making a splash with the crowdfunded 2013 thriller Blue Ruin, writer-director Jeremy Saulnier's next project is an even darker dive, the survival horror film Green Room. Following a punk band's harrowing encounter with neo-Nazis in the green room of a hole-in-the-wall bar, the film stars Anton Yelchin as one of the unfortunate band members, and features a chilling performance by Patrick Stewart as the enigmatic white supremacist leader.

I had a chance to discuss the film (which also features a supporting turn by Imogen Poots) with Saulnier and Yelchin during their recent swing through San Francisco, and you can read on for some highlights of our chat, including Saulnier's shying away from studio pictures, their mutual fondness for the punk scene, and whether Yelchin swapped Star Trek stories with Patrick Stewart:

Monday, April 25, 2016

Clawed Cameo in Final X-Men: Apocalypse Trailer

The hype right now is all about Captain America: Civil War's release next week, but lest we forget, there's another Marvel Comics-inspired movie hitting screens shortly after, Fox's X-Men: Apocalypse. Coming on the heels of Deadpool's out-of-nowhere success earlier this year (with a sequel already in the works, naturally), Apocalypse can't help but suddenly feel like the big brother that suddenly got overshadowed.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Nostalgia Theater Rewind: The Crappy Captain America Movies

With the release of Captain America: Civil War mere weeks away (I'm hoping to catch a screening a week from tomorrow, in fact) and expected to bring in the big bucks for home studio Disney, it's easy to forget that Marvel Comics' star-spangled man of action wasn't always the sure thing that he's perceived as today. In fact, over the decades there had actually been several attempts at bringing the iconic hero to the screen -- both big and small -- with less-than-stellar results. I took a look at those pre-Chris Evans tries at Cap in a Nostalgia Theater post from a few years ago, so I figured this was as good a time as any to link back to that. Click below to feel the embarrassment!

Continue reading...

Zaki's Retro Review: The Last Starfighter

Yesterday I decided to pop in 1984's The Last Starfighter for my kids. I was about five or six when I was first exposed to this flick, which was probably the perfect age to have it take up permanent residence in my psyche. The sci-fi adventure, about teenager Alex Rogan (Lance Guest) who inadvertently drafts himself into an intergalactic corps of space pilots after beating a video game, is completely of its time -- the quintessential '80s artifact -- though in this case I mean that in the best way possible. It arrived at a time when earnestness hadn't yet been overwhelmed by cynicism, and it's the earnestness that's the key element in this mix.

Directed by Nick Castle from a script by Jonathan Betuel, The Last Starfighter was one of the first films to use computer-generated effects as a stand-in for models, in the "real" world (as opposed to the entirely otherworldly Tron), and if there's a creaky element to the movie, it's probably that. However, the central storyline, Alex's journey, his relationship with his family and girlfriend (Catherine Mary Stewart), is something that resonates no matter when we happen to watch it, and it's the human elements allow us to look past any deficits in the effects area. Here, watch the trailer:

Friday, April 22, 2016

Am I Actually Excited For Independence Day 2?

When I first heard they were doing a sequel to 1996's mega-hit Independence Day, I chuckled at the hubris of digging up an IP that came and went three presidential administrations ago (no matter how much I loved the thing when it first came out). But still, either because of the comfortable gauze of nostalgia, or the damn good marketing campaign from Twentieth Century Fox, I've just been consistently impressed and ever more anticipatory with each new bit of footage we're seeing from the Roland Emmerich-directed sequel.

Guy Hamilton, RIP

Was saddened to hear yesterday that director Guy Hamilton passed away. Having lived to the age of 93 there's no denying that he enjoyed a full life, and while he has an impressive roster of credits that span the 1950s through the late '80s, he's probably best known for his key role in the early days of the James Bond franchise. While Terence Young ably directed the first two pictures, 1962's Dr. No and 1963's From Russia With Love, it's arguably with Hamilton's 007 debut, 1964's Goldfinger that the quintessence of what we consider "essential" to Bond was established.

Zaki's Review: The Huntsman: Winter's War

In the age of the insta-franchise, where studios force sequels on audiences whether they're warranted or not, it shouldn't come as a great shock that The Huntsman: Winter's War exists. After all, despite mostly mixed notices from critics, 2012's Snow White and the Huntsman still managed to rake in nearly $400 million worldwide against a $170 mil budget. Thus, with the tedious inevitability of an unloved season, here comes Winter's War off the Universal Studios assembly line to serve as prequel, sequel, spin-off and, most importantly, brand extender.

Now, while I wasn't a particularly big fan of the previous film, my general indifference to it came down more to execution than concept. While I left the theater feeling that the revisionist fairy tale, directed by Rupert Sanders and starring Kristen Stewart as the most butt-kicking Snow White in cinematic history, didn't live up to its own potential, I did think that a potential follow-up (if one was absolutely necessary, which is certainly open to debate) might have been made worthy of our time with a few minor course corrections.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

The MovieFilm Podcast: The Jungle Book, and Key & Peele on Keanu!

This week Brian and I discuss a whole host of new and upcoming release, including Disney's box office behemoth The Jungle Book, the Kevin Costner action thriller Criminal, and Universal's sequel/spin-off The Huntsman: Winter's War. From there, listen to an interview with the hilarious comedy duo Key & Peele about their feature film Keanu. After that, it's on to a discussion of the trailers for The Magnificent Seven and Jason Bourne, and some headlines, including James Cameron's further Avatar plans and the first look at actress Elizabeth Banks as the baddie in the upcoming Mighty Morphin Power Rangers feature, plus more! Listen to it all via the embed below or at iTunes or Stitcher or TuneIn Radio, and make sure to write us a review or leave a star rating! As always, send a line at MovieFilmPodcast@gmail.com, or at our Facebook page to tell us how we're doing!

Jason Bourne is Back

The last time Matt Damon was kicking butt and taking names as Robert Ludlum's literary superspy Jason Bourne was in 2007's The Bourne Ultimatum, and while that film bolstered Universal's bottom line, it put enough of a bow around Bourne's amnesiac storyline that Damon felt it was a good place to walk away with his boots on. Of course, in the interim the studio tried 2012's Damon-less The Bourne Legacy, to mixed results, and Damon himself had mixed success parlaying his Bourne visibility over to other roles.

Thus, after many years of back-and-forth negotiations between parties, we end up with this July's Jason Bourne, which brings back Damon as well as director Paul Greengrass, and which just had its first trailer released last night. Coming nine years after the trilogy-capper, this installment is being called more of an epilogue than a bold new beginning, and while it kind of looks like more of the same with this franchise, that's not necessarily a bad thing given how much goodwill the Bourne brand -- with Damon -- still carries. Check it out below:

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Watch the First Trailer for The Magnificent Seven!

When I first heard MGM had a redo of seminal western The Magnificent Seven in the works, I was reflexively reticent, partly because MGM doesn't have a great track record digging up their library titles, and partly because the original is still such a damn good movie that it doesn't need a remake. Nonetheless, when Training Day director Antoine Fuqua signed on my interest was piqued, and even more when I saw the cast he lined up (Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D'onofrio).

Fuqua, of course, bolted the terrible London Has Fallen to make this, and if the new teaser trailer, released this morning, for the September release is anything to go by, he made the right choice. This may be one remake that actually beats the odds. The 1960 version, directed by John Sturgess, starred Yul Brynner, and made movie stars of Steve McQueen and James Coburn, and also spawned a film franchise of its own in the '60s (not to mention a short-lived TV show in the '90s), so I'm sure the Lion has visions of sequels flitting in front of their eyes with the 2016 Magnificent as well. Watch the vid below, and look for the movie this fall.

Zaki's Review: The Jungle Book (2016)

Following in the very successful wake of Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland in 2010 and Kenneth Branagh's Cinderalla last year, it's no surprise that Disney is continuing the process of turning titles from its voluminous roster of animated classics into big budget live action spectacles. The latest such effort is The Jungle Book, and as directed by Jon Favreau, it's a feast for the mind and the eyes, with stunning special effects, dazzling use of 3D (seriously, go see it in 3D!), and a revelatory performance from a talented young newcomer to hold it all together.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

From The Onion...

I laughed way too hard at this.
Elderly Man Who’s Outlived Wife By 8 Years Must Not Have Loved Her Very Much
LAUREL, MD—Noting that the 81-year-old is still in relatively good health to this day, sources reported Monday that elderly man Jonathan Eckman, who has outlived his wife by eight years now, must not have loved her very much. “If he didn’t die the day after his wife, or later that year on their wedding anniversary, then he probably didn’t really care about her at all,” said local acquaintance Dana Ridgely, who added that the least Eckman could have done if he, in fact, cherished and adored the woman he spent 50 years of his life alongside, was die within a few weeks of her. “He vows to be with her forever, he raises three kids with her, and he spends nearly every moment with her for decades, but he doesn’t even pass away moments after she does, still holding her hand? He must have been cheating on her or something.” Sources added that unless Eckman dies 10 years to the day after his wife’s passing, it was almost guaranteed that he never even loved her to begin with and their marriage was one big lie.

Nostalgia Theater: Disney's TaleSpin Takes Flight!

Just over two years ago I covered Disney's Chip 'n' Dale Rescue Rangers in this column, with the promise that I'd eventually get to TaleSpin, another offering from the famed Disney Afternoon syndicated block. Well, with Disney's live action Jungle Book adaptation now in theaters, I figured this was a perfect opportunity to look back at the time Baloo, King Louie, and Shere Khan took a break from hanging out with Mowgli to engage in high-flying derring-do in and around the fictional South Pacific town of Cape Suzette. Here's the intro, with another catchy Disney theme song:

Friday, April 15, 2016

Diffused Congruence: Dr. Meraj Mohiuddin

For our latest episode we're pleased to be joined by Dr. Meraj Mohiuddin, author of the upcoming book Revelation: The Story of Muhammad. Listen in as Dr. Mohiuddin shares how he came up with the idea for the book fifteen years ago, and his long journey bringing it to fruition. You can catch the show via the embed below, or via iTunes or Stitcher Radio. As always, please hit "like" on our Facebook page, and send any comments or questions to DiffusedCongruence@gmail.com

Zaki's Review: Criminal

A couple of years back, in 3 Days to Kill, Kevin Costner tried his hand at playing a hardbitten action hero in the latter day Liam Neeson mould. While that film was largely forgettable, Costner ended up making it a lot more engaging than would otherwise have been warranted, and one can say the same thing about his latest actioner, the mind-bending, body-swapping thriller Criminal. Oddly enough, for the last few years we've seen a pattern emerge where two Costner pics open within weeks of each other, one bad, one good.

You might recall that (minor spoiler) Batman v. Superman a few weeks ago featured a spectral appearance by the actor as Superman's deceased papa. And given how spectacularly god-awful that picture was, it has the sideways benefit of making Criminal, by default, the "good" Costner flick for this year. Well, "good" might be overselling things a bit. As boilerplate thrillers go, it's mostly diverting, and moderately engrossing, but not quite worthy of the top-drawer cast that's been assembled in front of the camera (including Tommy Lee Jones, Gary Oldman, Gal Gadot, and more).

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Interview With Yours Truly

About a month ago Jordan Peffley, a college student from Middle Tennessee State University, interviewed me about my time as a film critic. It was my honor to chat with her, and I think I come off as occasionally lucid, so I'll file it as a win. Check it out here.

The MovieFilm Podcast: Episode 92

This week we start things out with Brian offering some of his post-season thoughts on FX's The People vs. O.J. Simpson and Hulu's 11/22/63. From there, listen to my interview with director Jeremy Saulnier and actor Anton Yelchin about their shocking new thriller Green Room (featuring Patrick Stewart in his creepiest role to date). After that, we discuss the box office collapse of Batman v. Superman, and what effect -- if any -- it will have on Warner Bros.' plans for their big superhero cinematic universe, and then we dive into a whole host of brand new trailers of highly-anticipated upcoming releases, including Suicide Squad and Fantastic Beasts, Marvel's brand new franchise Doctor Strange, and the upcoming Star Wars spin-off, Rogue One. You can catch it via the embed below or at iTunes or Stitcher or TuneIn Radio (and make sure to write us a review or leave a star rating!). Like always, you can drop us a line at MovieFilmPodcast@gmail.com, or at our our Facebook page to tell us how we're doing!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Watch the First Trailer For Marvel's Doctor Strange!

We're now in the final approach to Captain America: Civil War, that doesn't mean Marvel Studios is taking a breather. Case in point, the trailer for what Disney no doubt hopes will be the superhero factory's next big launch: Doctor Strange. Based on a Stan Lee-Steve Ditko character introduced in 1963, the Scott Derrickson-directed film stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Stephen Strange, an arrogant physician who loses the use of his hands and in traveling the world searching for a cure, ends up becoming Earth's mystic guardian (a.k.a the Sorcerer Supreme).

In addition to Cumberbatch, we've also got Tilda Swinton in the cast as his mystical mentor, the Ancient One, Chiwetel Ejiofor as the villainous Baron Mordo, as well as Rachel McAdams as (I presume) Strange's love interest. This is a chance for Marvel to explore some new terrain -- that of the mystic other-realms that have only been hinted at thus far -- and if history is our guide, it'll be just as much of a success as its Marvel Studios forerunners. Watch the vid below, and look for Doctor Strange to hit theaters this November:

Recommended Reading

If you're like me, you're getting pretty sick and tired of how long the Democratic primary is dragging on. Not because there aren't important issues to be discussed and worked out between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, but because of how annoying it's getting to deal with their respective supporters on social media, which is making it seem like this is the most bitter, hard-fought election since, well, Clinton and Obama, I guess. Regardless, maybe it's just me being eight years older, but I'm pretty worn down by it all. Here's New York Magazine's Jesse Singal, echoing what I'm feeling:
What makes me desperate for the sporks is the extent to which many people engaging in online arguments on both sides of the Democratic primary turn into nasty, bullying blowhards incapable of seeing their ideological opponents’ basic humanity. To Bernie fans, Hillary supporters’ only policy goal is to have Wall Street bankers run thousands of drone missions geared at wiping out distant orphans. To Hillary supporters, Bernie fans are motivated only by misogyny and the sort of revolutionary politics that would get you laughed out of even a stoned-freshmen dorm-room debate about politics.
Read on for more from Singal, specifically on why, despite what it might seem like online, there aren't as many differences between Clinton and Sanders supporters as we might think.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Nostalgia Theater: Centennial -- The Story of the American West

This past week I've been re-watching the 1978 miniseries Centennial, and it's one of those shows that I've been meaning to write about here in Nostalgia Theater for awhile, so I figured this was as good a time as any. Based on the novel of the same name by James Michener, the mammoth production (which cost nearly $100 million in today's dollars) tracks the history of a particular piece of land in Colorado from Native American days through the first settlers arriving to the then-present day of the late '70s. (The title refers to the name of the town that's founded on that land.)

I first saw Centennial when it aired on Saudi TV in the early '90s (albeit in a heavily bowdlerized form). I was all of ten years old but I was absolutely captivated by the richness of the the story. I fell in love with characters -- such as Robert Conrad as French trapper Pasquinel, and Richard Chamberlain as his partner Alexander McKeag --  and my heart broke as they aged and eventually exited. While not itself a true story, Centennial is certainly based around true events, and like Roots before it, it exposes uncomfortable truths about our history (a fictionalized depiction of the infamous Sand Creek massacre of 1864 remains shocking even today).

Thursday, April 07, 2016

First Trailer for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Star Wars: The Force Awakens came out and made $2+ bil at the global box office, proving Disney made a wise decision when they bought Lucasfilm back in 2012, but you didn't think things would go quiet after that, did you? Nope, the next step in the Mouse House's plan to strap booster rockets on the biggest franchise in the galaxy is here with our first look at this coming December's Rogue One. Subtitled as "A Star Wars Story", the film is the first of what they no doubt hope will be many more branded spin-offs set in and around the larger Star Wars universe separate from the "episodes" that will continue to advance the central saga. Check it out:

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Nostalgia Theater Podcast: Celebrating Batman on Screen!

With the release of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice two weeks ago (read my thoughts here), Batman has made his triumphant return to movie screens after an interminable interregnum of...just a few years, actually. As it turns out, audiences can't go too long without DC Comics' Dark Knight Detective showing up to beat up baddies and right wrongs on big screen and small. But what is it about Batman that keeps folks coming back again and again? To unpack that question, I'm joined by pop culture historian John Kenneth Muir, author of The Encyclopedia of Superheroes on Film and Television, to discuss his own history with Batman, his thoughts on the many incarnations of the Caped Crusader, from the movie serials in the 1940s to the 1960s television series to the various feature films over the years, and answer whether Batman truly is forever. It's a long-ranging conversation that goes deep and wide, and you can listen to it via the embed below, or via iTunesStitcher Radio, or TuneIn Radio. As always, send all questions or comments our way via MovieFilmPodcast@gmail.com, and don't forget to hit "like" on our Facebook page

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Recommended Reading

Gabriel Sherman at New York Magazine has a look into the bundle of dysfunction that is the Donald Trump campaign. If you thought that was a whole lotta "yikes" before, just wait until after you read this. Hoo-boy.