Tuesday, July 22, 2014

No-Win Scenario

Last week Jon Stewart engaged in a bit of commentary on The Daily Show that was critical of the number of civilian casualties that have mounted as a result of Israel's offensive against the people of Gaza. The result was this and this, and from last night, this:

Sunday, July 20, 2014

James Garner, RIP

With last night's word of the passing of actor James Garner at age 86, another legend has left us. By all accounts as genial and good natured in person as he was on-screen, Garner enjoyed an acting career that spanned over fifty years, including a second-billed turn in one of my all-time favorite films, 1963's The Great Escape. But I'm willing to wager he's most fondly remembered by global auds for his time playing the title characters of two classic television series: Maverick and The Rockford Files. Whether you're talking about gamblin' cowboy Bret Maverick or disheveled PI Jim Rockford, both summed up the ineffable appeal of the laconic Garner, who managed to couple the burly physique and chiseled looks of a matinee idol with the laid-back approachability of an everyman.

Garner would reprise both of his most iconic characters several times, the former via TV revivals and a supporting turn in the 1994 feature film, starring Mel Gibson, and the latter via eight Rockford telefilms that aired on NBC throughout the '90s. In the 2000s, Garner, by then one of Hollywood's most respected elder statesmen, notched a stint on the early-aughts sitcom 8 Simple Rules after star John Ritter unexpectedly suffered a heart attack, and, in perhaps his most memorable late career role, played the older version of Ryan Gosling's character in 2004's The Notebook. After suffering a stroke in 2008, the actor's output understandably slowed, with his final credit a voice performance as the wizard "Shazam" in a DC Universe animated short in 2010, but by then he'd long since cemented his legacy as one of the greatest stars of a bygone era.

Nostalgia Theater: Captain N: The Game Master Explores the Nintendo Universe!

I've periodically looked at the pervasive influence the Nintendo Entertainment System had over kids in the late-'80s and early-'90s, having previously discussed the Super Mario Bros. cartoon show and the Nintendo Cereal System, and this week's entry is another part of that very specific subgenre of turn-of-the-decade kidvid: Captain N: The Game Master. Beginning life as a comic feature in Nintendo Power magazine (remember Nintendo Power magazine??) entitled "Captain Nintendo," created by editor Randy Studdard, the concept was licensed to and tweaked by the folks at our favorite crap factory, DiC, who shortened the name to "Captain N," tacked on "The Game Master," and premiered the result on September 9, 1989 on NBC:

Friday, July 18, 2014

Diffused Congruence: Mustafa Davis

For this episode, we're joined by famed photographer and filmmaker Mustafa Davis, co-founder of Ta'leef Collective, about his road to Islam, and what he views as the role of Muslim-Americans artists. As usual, download or stream the show below, and also listen at iTunes (don't forget to leave us a review!) and Stitcher Radio. Feel free to send any comments or questions our way at diffusedcongruence@gmail.com or via our Facebook page!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Honest Lantern

By chance I happened to watch some of the 2011 misfire Green Lantern a few days ago, and the bad vibes just came flooding back. And now, wouldn't you know, the team over at Screen Junkies has answered the call with their very own "Honest Trailers" take on how Warner Bros. managed to turn "one of the most original comic books into one of the least original comic book movies." Enjoy:

Time Warping With Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Director Matt Reeves!

I went through a bit of a personal time warp when I met with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes director Matt Reeves shortly after the global premiere of the Fox release. When I sat down with the gregarious and chatty Reeves, who previously made his mark by creating TV's Felicity and directing Cloverfield before helming the current number one movie in the country, I started our conversation by showing him some issues of the Planet of the Apes fanzine that I self-published twenty years ago when I was in high school (way before that kind of thing could remotely have been considered "cool" or "retro"). With that, the lifelong Apes fan began fondly reminiscing about his own boyhood love of the franchise, and away we went. What follows is the transcript of our conversation, which includes details on his particular approach to illuminating the apes' dawn, where he sees the series going next, and how he's tried to tie in with the larger Apes legacy:

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Ramadan Reading

Beyond merely abstaining from food and drink, another important aspect of Ramadan is for Muslims to engage in spiritual contemplation, and becoming mindful of how they engage with the rest of the world. My friend Hind Makki reflects on this:
Millions of Muslims are spending the better parts of their nights reciting God’s Words throughout Ramadan, which is often referred to as the Month of Quran. We remind ourselves of these prophetic stories, of the critical importance of speech, of the sacred responsibility we have to seek the truth with gentleness and humility. 
So what does that mean for us today, when anyone with access to the internet has a platform to tell the world his or her thoughts. What is the responsibility we bear as Muslims to offer the world “good” speech? When we do we speak up and speak the truth, and when do we stay silent and keep the peace? How can we use the power of speech to teach or admonish without hurting others or closing their hearts?
For the answers to these questions, read on here.

Recommended Reading

The Huffington Post's Hunter Stuart looks at how the combination of overeager legislators and overzealous lobbyists have inadvertently conspired to keep safer guns off the market. Prepare to feel your blood pressure racing.

The MovieFilm Podcast: Episode 51

This week on the MovieFilm Podcast we have not one, but TWO interviews with the filmmakers of the number one movie in the country, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (read my review here!). First up, director Matt Reeves discusses his own history with the franchise and what drew him to this latest installment, then producer and co-writer Mark Bomback explains why he joined the production and where he'd like to see the franchise go next. Amidst all the Apes talk, Brian and Zaki still manage to discuss their thoughts on the close of Fox TV's special truncated return of 24, the fluctuating future of The Amazing Spider-Man series, as well as the trailer for Disney and Marvel's upcoming animated feature Big Hero 6. Then it's onto an in-depth discussion of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes! Give it a listen via the embed below, or download or stream at iTunes or Stitcher. Like always, make sure you write us a review to let us know how we’re doing, and enjoy!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Recommended Reading

Ten years ago filmmaker Robert Greenwald released the documentary Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism, which strove to peel back the layers of subterfuge and propaganda utilized by Fox News to spin news in a rightward fashion. That Fox was doing this was already part of the cultural ether, but to see it crystallized in such a concise manner by Greenwald was definitely a formative moment for many (remember, this was even before Jon Stewart fully embraced his "Bull$#% Mountain" anti-Fox News line of attack). Now, with ten years of distance, Greenwald reflects on what his film accomplished, and what still needs to be done. Says he:
A lot has happened since releasing Outfoxed in 2004. But history has a way of moving in circles, if not exactly repeating itself. This June, as Iraq imploded into sectarian divisions, Fox was beating the old war drums again. As Hillary Clinton began her newest book tour, it has been pouncing on the presumed 2016 presidential candidate. As the Supreme Court just held that corporations have religious rights and employers do not have to include contraception in women's health plans, Fox taunts, "You got a problem with that?"  
But there's more to this than Fox's rants about Benghazi as the worst foreign policy crisis or their unending attacks on President Obama or the Clintons. They continue to weave a deeper narrative that's divisive and insidious. Their messaging that government is bad, that human nature is intrinsically more evil than good, that people should be afraid and paranoid, isn't journalism covering the news. It's a world view and narrative that is embedded in the identity and agenda of America's political right wing.
Read the rest from Greenwald here.

Nostalgia Theater: The Short Shelf Life of Planet of the Apes: The Series

L-R: Roddy McDowall, James Naughton, Ron Harper
With Dawn of the Planet of the Apes currently storming multiplexes, I continue my run of Apes-related posts here at the Corner with a look back at the franchise's brief expansion onto the small screen. When Planet of the Apes movie producer Arthur P. Jacobs passed away suddenly in June of '73 (ironically enough, less than two weeks after the theatrical premiere of the final flick, Battle for the Planet of the Apes), Fox swooped in and purchased his interest in the very-successful property. After airings of the first three flicks on CBS garnered boffo ratings (remember when TV airings of theatricals used to get ratings?), the Eye and Fox hurriedly set about transitioning Apes from feature series to TV series, which premiered on September 13, 1974. Here's the intro and closing:

Friday, July 11, 2014

Zaki's Review: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

I referred to Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Fox's 2011 reboot of their venerable Apes franchise, as "an end of the world movie that makes you forget that it's an end of the world movie." Well, the end of the world is very much front-and-center when it comes to its ambitious sequel, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. As directed by Cloverfield's Matt Reeves (stepping in for Rise's Rupert Wyatt), the latest Apes stands head-and-shoulders above this summer's blockbuster crop by providing a rollicking entertainment wrapped in a rich character study. It does what the very best sci-fi should do by leaving the audience wondering, "What would I do?" and (perhaps more importantly for the studio's bottom line), "What happens next?"

With a pre-title sequence that depicts the rapid, ravaging effects of the "Simian Flu" plague we were introduced to in the last movie's closing minutes, film picks up ten years later, with human civilization effectively wiped off the planet save for a very hardy few. Meanwhile, still in the San Francisco redwoods where we left them, chimpanzee leader Caesar (Andy Serkis) has seen his burgeoning civilization of intelligent apes grow even as he's watched the fires of humanity gradually dwindle.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Ramadan Reading

My cousin Hamzah Moin (a.k.a. Maniac Muslim) takes a humorous (and thorough) look at how things are different for Muslims before Ramadan and during Ramadan.

Monday, July 07, 2014

The MovieFilm Commentary Track: Planet of the Apes (1968)

It's an off-week for the MovieFilm Podcast, but Brian Hall and I are here to inaugurate a brand-new feature for the show: the MovieFilm Commentary Track! Yes, due to popular demand, at periodic intervals, we'll be selecting a Movie That Matters from years past and offering up comments and conversation in real time as we watch right alongside you.

For our very first yak track, just in time for Friday's highly-anticipated release of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, we've selected the 1968 original that got the whole franchise started: Planet of the Apes, starring Charlton Heston and directed by Franklin Schaffner. So cue up the film, grab some popcorn, and get ready to join in on the chat! We're back next week with our regular MovieFilm installment to talk up Dawn with spoilers galore. Listen to the embed below, or download/stream at iTunes or Stitcher.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Recommended Reading

Andrew Leonard contrasts the freedom fighting delusions of libertarian crazies like Ted Cruz and Rand Paul with the actual words and actions of the Founding Fathers they pretend to revere.

Nostalgia Theater: Mego's Planet of the Apes Action Figures

This Friday marks the long-awaited premiere of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, and I can't wait to talk to you about that, but I thought I'd ring in a very busy week of Apes-related features this week with a look back at long-defunct toymaker Mego's Planet of the Apes action figures and accessories. Begun in 1974, after the final feature film had already finished its run, the Mego Apes line included several iconic movie apes such as Cornelius, Zira, and Dr. Zaius, as well as a generic human astronaut (presumably because it was cheaper than getting likeness approval from Chuck Heston). Eventually, it also expanded to include characters from the there-and-gone TV series (more on that next week!) before eventually closing up (click here for the full skinny).

Related: Nostalgia Theater: Animated Apes Edition

I'm a post-Star Wars kid, so I wasn't even born when these all came out, but as a lifelong ape-ologist, it wasn't long before I was trying to track them down. And while I never found the originals at a reasonable price, I do own some wonderful replicas put out a few years ago by a company called EMCE. There have been several high-end Planet of the Apes figures from a variety of manufacturers since, but none have matched the sheer quirkiness of these things. To wit, check out this collection of vintage mid-'70s commercials for Mego's Apes, and observe how they're like little mini-movies, many of which seem to revolve around the horrible tortures the apes can inflict on the poor humans. Also observe that, for whatever reason, the commercials use a re-scored version "Also Sprach Zarathustra!" (from 2001: A Space Odyssey) for musical accompaniment. Weird.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Ramadan Reading

Beyond merely abstaining from eating and drinking, a major aspect of truly living Ramadan is to find a place of spiritual tranquility. A key part of that is limiting our anger, and being aware of its corrosive effects on ourselves and those around us. As part of a series of reflections at Time, Sohaib Sultan explains:
There are so many wisdoms from the Prophet specifically advising against anger — all reflecting the Qur’anic description of the righteous as those who “hold in check their anger” (3:134). The advice is much needed. Indeed, some of the worst actions committed by human beings — from killing to domestic abuse — are, at least partly, a result of unbridled anger. For most of us our anger and its potent manifestations tend to be so much more subtle — from showing someone a cold shoulder to de-friending them on Facebook.
For more, including three tips to help control your anger, jump here.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Ramadan Reading

Sabina Khan-Ibarra weaves a beautiful story about what Ramadan meant to her as a child, and what it means to her now.

Honest Apes

I've got my glowing review of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes coming soon, along with a whole bunch of other Apes features, but just to prime the pump, here's an "Honest Trailers" take on Tim Burton's execrable 2001 Planet of the Apes "re-imagining," which I spoke my mind about a few years ago:

Recommended Reading

Theda Skocpol over at TPM explains how the Tea Party is still very much in the driver's seat when it comes to Republican policymaking (or, to be more accurate, the total lack thereof). Says she:
To see that the Tea Party remains supremely effective, just look at what Congressional Republicans are doing, or not doing. Eric Cantor's sudden defeat sealed the GOP House's determination to block immigration reform, but that reform was already effectively dead even before that one primary election happened. Republicans have pulled away from decades-old compromises to fund transportation systems, to support agricultural subsidies along with Food Stamps, to renew the Export-Import Bank that most U.S. business interests want continued. House and Senate Republicans are spending their time mainly on obstruction and media-focused investigations, anything to challenge and humiliate President Obama. In state houses, Tea Party-pushed Republicans are mainly passing anti-abortion restrictions and blocking the expansion of Medicaid favored by hospitals and businesses.
Read the rest here.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

The MovieFilm Podcast: Episode 50

It's time for Transformers talk! For the big 50th episode of the MovieFilm show, Brian and I reminisce about the long strange journey the show has taken since its inception, before diving into some brand new Listener Letters. After that, we're joined by author Andrew Farago, who talks up his new book, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Visual History as well as the new trailer for the upcoming Turtles reboot film. From there, it's onto a spirited discussion of the latest headlines, including a new life for Community, a new direction for Fox's Predator, and a new(-ish) title for The Terminator, as well as the latest worries out of Star Wars land, including the possibility that it gets pushed from its Christmas 2015 slot to a more manageable summer 2015 perch. And then it's the main event, as we launch into a full-steam ahead, spoilers galore conversation about Michael Bay's latest (greatest?) Transformers opus, Age of Extinction. You can listen via the embed below, or download or stream the show at iTunes or Stitcher. As always, write us a review to let us know how we're doing!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Ramadan Reading

This past weekend marked the onset of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, and as I do every year, I try to link to pieces from around the web that embody the many diverse ways that Muslims from all over the world and all over the cultural spectrum try make the most of this blessed month. To wit, here's my friend Amanda Quraishi on first learning to fast after embracing Islam:
If you look at it objectively, it seems almost insane that a person would get up out of bed on a Saturday morning and attempt to run 26 miles; continuing to run even when she is exhausted, near dehydration and in pain. Not-Muslim friends and family often look at our Ramadan fast the same way. Why would you subject yourself to that kind of torture? But any runner will tell you that there is no feeling like crossing the finish line, and any faster will tell you there’s nothing more satisfying than that first sip of water and a date after a long day of abstinence. 
These disciplines –physical, mental and spiritual — that we humans engage in cause us to transcend our comfort and, sometimes, even logic. We do these things precisely because they force us out of our comfort zones and challenge us in ways that we inherently understand are important; especially in a culture like that of the U.S., where we are constantly seeking new ways to be comfortable. Every new product or service promises to make our lives easier, more fun and help us feel better. 
When we intentionally make our lives harder and allow ourselves to experience discomfort, we gain valuable perspectives and allow our mettle to be tested. The reward is the confirmation that we have the ability to overcome our own weaknesses, which is even more satisfying in the case of Ramadan when we’re doing it for the glory of the One God.
Read the rest from Amanda here, and look for more Ramadan readings throughout July. Hopefully you'll find them as insightful as I do.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Nostalgia Theater: The Transformers Toy Commercials!

With Transformers: Age of Extinction currently on track for the biggest opening weekend of the year, it's clear that the Transformers brand is in no danger of fading away. Given that, I thought I'd use this week's Nostalgia Theater to look back on the 1984-1991 run of toys from Hasbro that got the whole shebang started. Watch the vids for every single TV spot for the line. I remember seeing a lot of these when they first aired -- (though I unfortunately owned virtually none of these) -- and man, did the memories just come rushing back.

With many of these featuring the first Transformers animation from Marvel Studios, as well as the trademark narration by voiceover artist Victor Caroli, they make for a fascination timeline of not only Transformers' evolution over the years -- from the original batch to Headmasters to to Power Masters to Pretenders, etc. -- but also how advertising techniques have changed over the years. Check 'em out after the jump!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Optimus Prime Died So The Transformers Could Live

In 1986, Optimus Prime died. And I cried.

Not big, wracking sobs or anything, mind you. But it’s entirely possible a single tear rolled down my cheek. I feel comfortable admitting that in a public forum like this because I’m reasonably certain I wasn’t the only one who had the exact same reaction when they watched 1986′s The Transformers: The Movie, the first feature film based on Hasbro’s Robots in Disguise. This year marks the thirtieth anniversary for the venerable brand, which, in defiance of most kids’ limited attention spans, has become a multi-generational favorite that’s found lasting success not only in toy aisles, but also on television and the silver screen (as borne out by this week’s release of Transformers: Age of Extinction).

However, anyone seeking a Philosopher’s Stone for the secret of that longevity need look no further than the animated film, when the Transformers became epic, impactful, and important.

Continue reading at Sequart....

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Zaki's Review: Transformers: Age of Extinction

The last time we visited with Paramount/Hasbro's blockbuster Transformers feature franchise (based on the immortal action figure line, natch), Chicago was burning, Shia LeBouf was screaming, and Zaki Hasan was (briefly) sleeping. Thus, when it came time to take in the series' fourth installment, Transformers: Age of Extinction, yet again directed by Michael Bay despite his protestations that he was done after the last one, the (very) low bar I'd set for myself was that it not put me to sleep. Well, it didn't. In fact, I actually found myself mostly engaged throughout.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Watch the First Full Ninja Turtles Trailer!

The latest Transformers opus directed by Michael Bay hits theaters this week, and you can look for my review soon, but the Bay-produced Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot, directed by Jonathan Liebesman, is also on its way in a few short weeks (August 8 -- just one week after Marvel/Disney's Guardians of the Galaxy), and home studio Paramount is hard at work getting the ol' marketing machine pumping. We've gotten character posters showcasing the new CGI incarnations of the hoary heroes in a half shell, and now here's the first full trailer (after the teaser from a few months ago). In addition to Megan Fox starring as reporter April O'Neill, this one also features William Fichtner as main baddie Shredder, and the voices of Johnny Knoxville (as leader Leonardo) and Tony Shalhoub (rat mentor Splinter). Can't say I'm particularly blown away by what I see here, but I don't have a lot invested in it either. Thoughts?

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Nostalgia Theater: 25 Years of Batman and Bat-merch!

In news that's sure to make folks of my vintage feel positively decrepit, tomorrow marks exactly twenty-five years since the theatrical release of Tim Burton's Batman in 1989, a truly seminal experience for anyone lucky enough to be the exact right age for that film at that time (I was just under ten). Now, we can get into its worth as a cinema artifact, how it launched the modern superhero movie genre, discuss the cast and crew, and how the series died a slow death during the '90s, but instead I want to talk about what was probably just as much a part of that ineffable magic as the movie itself: the merchandise.

To be a kid in summer of '89 was to live and breathe Batman during every waking hour (and most of their sleeping hours as well, probably). I was actually visiting the States with my family on our annual trip from Saudi Arabia, and we went back before the flick actually came out, so all I really had was the merch. And boy did I have the merch. Action figures. Buttons. The magazine. The novelization. The cereal, even! Yep, Batman cereal. Sure, it tasted like soggy cardboard, but it was Batman, dammit!

Friday, June 20, 2014

INTERVIEW: John Lloyd Young, Erich Bergen, and Michael Lomenda on Jersey Boys

L-R: Erich Bergen, John Lloyd Young, Vincent Piazza, Michael Lomenda
For his new film Jersey Boys, legendary director Clint Eastwood translates the blockbuster jukebox musical about the rise and fall (and rise) of singer Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons from the stage (where it's been a global phenomenon since its debut in 2006) to the big screen. When it came time to fill out the cast of his celluloid songsters, Eastwood didn't wander too far from the project's stage roots, selecting veteran players from the many lives of Jersey Boys for three of the leads: Tony-winning John Lloyd Young, who originated the role on Broadway, as Valli, and actors Erich Bergen and Michael Lomenda as singer/writer Bob Gaudio and bassist Nick Massi, respectively. (Boardwalk Empire's Vincent Piazza plays group founder Tommy DeVito).

I had the chance to talk with Young, Bergen, and Lomenda during their swing through the San Francisco Bay Area promoting the film, and one thing that became amply clear with all of them was how surreal it was to be in the middle of a whirlwind that's seen them rocket from relative obscurity to headlining a movie directed by Clint Eastwood. In addition to reminiscing about previous visits to the city, I talked to them about the play's long journey from conception to completion, what it was like to perform a play when you know Clint Eastwood is in the audience watching, and the experience of making the movie after doing it for so long on stage. Read past the jump for the transcript of our conversation:

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Final Apes Trailer: War is Here!

We're three weeks away from the launch of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, and Fox is amping up anticipation via yesterday's release of the final trailer. Not much I really need to say about this, just check it out below, and plan to watch the movie when it hits theaters on July 11!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Recommended Reading

CJ Werleman over at AlterNet examines new polling data that lays bare just how staggeringly uninformed the American electorate is about the political issues that they're voting on.  Prepare to laugh. Then cry.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The MovieFilm Podcast: Episode 49

We start the show this week with my sit-down chat with John Lloyd Young, Erich Bergen, and Michael Lomenda, the cast of Clint Eastwood's new film Jersey Boys. Then, it's a rip roaring ride as Brian finally gets around to seeing A Million Ways to Die in the West -- and wonders where all the jokes went. There's also plenty of movie news to discuss, what with the leaked list of DCs cinematic universe, the rumors that The Amazing Spider-Man sequel is being delayed, and major set-backs related to production on Star Wars Episode VII. After that it's time for Trailer Talk, featuring Seth Rogen and James Franco's latest, The Interview, as well as the Denzel Washington actioner The Equalizer. And finally, it's the main event, as we engage in spoiler-filled discussions of three, count 'em, three big summer movies: 22 Jump Street, How To Train Your Dragon 2 and Edge of Tomorrow.

Give it a listen via the embed below, or download or stream at iTunes or Stitcher. Like always, make sure you write us a review to let us know how we're doing, and enjoy!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Nostalgia Theater: Kung Fu: The Legend Continues Raises Caine

David Carradine (L) and Chris Potter (R) team-up to dish out wisdom and beatings
From 1972 to 1975, ABC aired the TV series Kung Fu. Created by Ed Spielman and starring David Carradine as Chinese-American hero Kwai Chang Caine, it's probably best known today for being the show that didn't cast Bruce Lee in the lead and/or stole his concept (both of these accounts are in dispute) and for using herky-jerky slo-mo for its martial arts "action" sequences (not in dispute at all). With Carradine's quirky Caine, a serene Shaolin monk preaching peace while kicking ass, coupled with the "quest" angle of our hero searching the Old West for his lost brother, the series either kicked off a stateside martial arts craze all its own or, at the very least, arrived just in time to capitalize on one. Here's the intro:

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Recommended Reading

While much of the pundit class settled on immigration reform, and Eric Cantor's support of same, as the thing that tipped his House seat to a Tea Party challenger, Jonathan Chait says it needn't be as narrow a cause as that. In his estimation, what did in Cantor was compromise. Any compromise. Says he:
The conservative revolt against compromise expresses itself constantly. It comes through in the ever-present trope of citing the length of legislation as a primary reason to oppose it. It likewise comes through in the way conservative intellectuals routinely attack bills as a "stew of deals, payoffs, waivers, and special-interest breaks" — which is to say, they hate the fact that passing bills in Congress requires cutting deals with disparate constituencies, which is how legislation works.
Well, it's how legislation used to work, anyway. Read the rest here.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Prepare For Dawn

We're now just over a month out from the release of my most anticipated movie for this summer, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. And while marketing for the monkey sequel has been in play for awhile now, the next few weeks will only see the viral campaign (pun unintentional) begin to escalate for the highly-anticipated Fox production. To wit, this vid that helps stitch together the lost time between where we left things with 2011's Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and the post-apocalyptic status quo at the start of Dawn:

From The Onion...

I think this puts the perfect pin on Eric Cantor's unforeseen (though hardly unwelcome) ouster from his congressional perch (and his role as the #3 Republican in congress along with it) earlier this week:
Resigning House Leader Cantor Reflects On All The Accomplishments He Thwarted 
WASHINGTON—Looking back on his 13-year tenure in the House of Representatives with reverence, resigning House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) reflected on the long list of accomplishments he had thwarted during his time in office, sources confirmed Thursday. “From obstructing a jobs bill to put Americans back to work in 2011, to derailing gun control measures any time they reached my desk, I feel blessed to have had such an incredible run of preventing productive policies, and even a few pieces of landmark legislation, from ever passing,” said Cantor, explaining that as a young man, he “never would have dreamed” that some day he would be in a position to hinder the entire American lawmaking process and completely neuter dozens of bills. “Of course, I’m disappointed because I thought I had many more years of impeding accomplishments ahead of me, and I’ll be the first to admit that I never quite managed to stall environmental policies as much as I would have liked. But at the end of the day, I’m very proud of how I helped Congress accomplish so little during my time in office.” Cantor added that he took solace that his legacy of hampering federal policy was secure, and trusted that “many, many more” in his party would be inspired to follow in his footsteps.

Zaki's Review: 22 Jump Street

Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) trying to blend in 
As a general rule, I'm not a fan of comedy sequels. Far too often, they content themselves with banging out the same jokes as prior entries, lazily relying on simple familiarity being enough to elicit a chuckle from audiences rather than actually doing the work of earning those laughs. That's where the Austin Powers trilogy tripped itself up, as did the Meet the Parents saga. Thus, when the box office success enjoyed by 2012's 21 Jump Street immediately assured a follow-up, I was understandably hesitant.

Related: Nostalgia Theater: Jumping Back to 21 Jump Street

Then again, I can't say I was exactly doing cartwheels when I first heard that a Jump Street movie was in the development pipeline, either. And not because I had any great passion for the 1987-1991 TV series, mind you. I just didn't see a lot of upside in turning a forgettable-if-not-forgotten artifact of the parachute pants era, more notable as the launchpad for Johnny Depp's career (and the thing he couldn't get away from fast enough) than anything else, into a feature film, much less one starring Superbad and G.I. Joe. But wouldn't you know, when I finally ended up watching, I laughed. A lot.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Recommended Reading

Conor Friedersdorf on the curious propensity in the media to call Muslim perpetrators of violence "terrorists," but to avoid appending that tag to killers of the non-Muslim variety:
Applying the "terrorism" label to violence perpetrated by Muslims, and almost exclusively to violence perpetrated by Muslims, distorts the relative danger posed by Islamist radicals versus other extremists. The lack of rigor in labels also contributes to the fact that innocent Muslims are subject to greater scrutiny and afforded fewer rights than non-Muslims because the latter group falls outside "counterterrorism," a rubric under which government claims extraconstitutional powers.
More here.

"Some Kind of Muslim Harry Potter Curse"

The way the whole Bowe Bergdahl story has been playing out over the past few weeks has really been a sight to see. Now, just to be clear, there's obviously a story there as far as whether he did in fact abandon his post before his capture by Taliban forces, but those are all questions that can and no doubt will be answered in due time.

But the more interesting spectacle has been how the various appendages of Right Wing World have hustled to find some -- any -- way to turn the release of an American POW into an albatross to dangle around President Obama's neck. That would be impressive in general, but especially so on Fox News, where the air has been so thick with ignorant Islamophobia-by-implication that they've somehow managed to outdo their usual run-of-the-mill nastiness. Check out Jon Stewart's take from last night's Daily Show. Part one below, two and three after the jump.


Sunday, June 08, 2014

Recommended Reading

Thomas Frank lays out how, "over the last 30-odd years we have essentially privatized higher ed," and how the resultant skyrocketing of tuition costs has put not only future generations, but the future of this country at risk. This is sobering stuff for anyone who'd like to see their kids go to college one of these days.

Nostalgia Theater: Sinbad is Sin Bad

Zen Gesner as Sinbad the Sailor
Here's another refugee from the mid-'90s schlock parade of syndicated fantasy dreck. Like Tarzan: The Epic Adventures (which I discussed a few months ago), The Adventures of Sinbad launched in fall of '96 in hopes of capturing some of that Hercules & Xena mojo that worked so well for Universal during the past few years. As developed by Ed Naha (a former editor of the now-defunct Starlog sci-fi mag), Sinbad wasn't especially concerned with fealty to the legendary hero of the Arabian Nights stories that ostensibly inspired it. Here's the intro from the first season:

Friday, June 06, 2014

Recommended Reading

Timothy Egan on the legacy of the great Tea Party experiment five years in:
So, no legislation. A shutdown that cost billions. A near-default that almost threw the United States back into recession. What else? Oh, science denial. Evolution, climate change, medicine — all a hoax, in one form or another.
More here.

Stewart: "Everyone’s Scared of Gun Nuts...Even Other Gun Nuts!"

For some context on the latest shenanigans in gun nut country, read this, then this, and then this. Now watch Jon Stewart below (part 2 and 3 after the jump):

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

The MovieFilm Podcast: Episode 48

For this week's episode, Brian and I start things off with my exclusive interview with director Gillian Robespierre about her endearing new romantic-comedy Obvious Child, starring Jenny Slate. We then transition to the latest round of headlines, including the recent movement on Marvel Studios' upcoming Ant-Man adaptation, with writer/director Edgar Wright begging off the diminutive hero. We then transition to the latest news on Star Wars: Episode VII, as well as director Colin Trevorrow's approach to bringing Jurassic World to the screen.

After that, we dive in to a whole batch of new releases, with spoiler-filled conversations on X-Men: Days of Future Past, Seth MacFarlane's A Million Ways to Die in the West, the Angelina Jolie starrer Maleficent, and Tom Cruise's new sci-fi epic Edge of Tomorrow. That's a whole lot to listen to, so get started via the embed below, or by downloading or stream at iTunes or Stitcher. As always, be sure to write us a review to let us know how we're doing, or send questions & comments to MovieFilmPodcast@gmail.com.

Watch This: John Oliver Breaks Down Net Neutrality

For an issue that's as pressing as it is, the conspicuous lack of conversation in the media about the FCC's slow, steady rollback of net neutrality has been a continual source of frustration. John Oliver made the same observation on his HBO show last Sunday, and I think his solution is a pretty good one: