Friday, April 17, 2015

Yawn of Justice: The First Batman v. Superman Trailer

Warner Bros. began this week with a lot of big plans for 2016's big superhero jam Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. They dropped a twenty second teaser-for-the-teaser on Wednesday, and then announced an IMAX exclusive screening of the trailer itself for next Monday. Unfortunately, WB got waylaid by two unfortunate instances yesterday. First, the Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer dropped early in the day to near unanimous fan approval. Second, just as geeks the world over were joining hands and singing "Kumbayah," a crappy bootleg of the Batman v. Superman trailer hit the web.

As such, to try and minimize the PR damage from the leak, they've now dropped a hi-def version of the assemblage online, which you can watch below. As you can see, the storyline picks up right after the destructive finale of Man of Steel, with the world still trying to figure out what to make of the alien √úbermensch in its midst. Watching the clip, I can't help but find the general moroseness of the thing off-putting. If DC is looking at the success Marvel has had building its superhero universe, I'm wondering how exactly their takeaway is to go darker and grimmer.

Regardless, here's our first look at Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne, and here's our first listen to his heavily-modulated Bat-voice (which is still an improvement over whatever the heck Christian Bale was doing in his last two flicks). I'm not ready to write this movie off just yet, especially given that, yes, I really dug Man of Steel, but nothing I see here really blows me away either, which is itself a disappointment. Watch after the jump:

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Star Wars Trailer: "We're Home."

When I posted the first teaser trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens last November, I mentioned that while it looked pretty spiffy, it wouldn't really feel "real" to me until we got to see some of the beloved characters from old school Star Wars making their return engagements. Well, the second teaser just dropped today at the big Star Wars Celebration in Anaheim, and as you can see from the shot above, things just got real. Really real. Click through the jump to watch, enjoy, and then batten down for the long, long wait until December.

The Legacy of Mad Max!

We're just under a month away from the release of Mad Max: Fury Road, and I'm trying very hard to keep my excitement in check. Although it's been thirty (!!) years since ex-cop Max Rockatansky wandered the post-nuclear wasteland, what we've seen of Fury Road shows that director George Miller hasn't missed a beat in the "gonzo action sequences" department, and new star Tom Hardy looks to be a seamless transition from Mel Gibson's Max.

My new policy with these big movies is to tune out all trailers, clips, TV spots, etc. the closer we get to release, but I made an exception for the "legacy" spot Warner Bros. dropped yesterday, and I'm glad I did. Giving us a glimpse of where the series has been before showing us where it's going, I found it especially, gratifying as a fan of the Max films, to know that the entirety of the history is being honored. Look for Fury Road in theaters on May 15!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Recommended Reading

I'm ambivalent about Hillary Clinton as a candidate, but there's no doubting that the political winds (and the general clown car feeling on the other side of the aisle) sure seem to favor her ascension to the White House come January of 2017. Jonathan Chait has more.

Monday, April 13, 2015

From The Onion...

Hillary Clinton To Nation: ‘Do Not F*** This Up For Me’ 

New Ant-Man Trailer Goes Small

Another big trailer dropping this morning is the second assemblage for Marvel's Ant-Man. We got our first look at the tiny hero this past January, and while I was fine with it, it didn't really blow people away with its somewhat played-out "scoundrel with a heart of gold seeks redemption" storyline straight out of the superhero origin playbook. This new, longer look at the Peyton Reed-directed film takes us deeper into the mechanics of how "super" a hero can be when his power is to become tiny.

I like what we're seeing of Paul Rudd as petty thief Scott Lang, our titular hero, as well as his interactions with Evangeline Lilly and Michael Douglas (as Hope Van Dyne and Hank Pym, respectively). What I find less engaging is the too-obvious CGI, special effects stuff as he battles baddie Corey Stoll (though the Thomas gag at the end is terrific). Ant-Man will be our second visit to the Marvel Cinematic Universe this summer, following Avengers 2 in a few weeks. Let's see if it can keep that momentum going. Watch the clip below:

I Wish I Hadn't Seen the New Terminator Trailer

If you listened to the MovieFilm gang's Terminator 2 commentary track a few weeks ago, you know that Brian Hall and I are massive fans of the franchise's past, even as we're cautious about its future. And while I'm not ready to write off the fifth installment, this summer's Terminator Genisys, just yet, I didn't see anything in the first trailer last December that made it must-see (as opposed to "gonna see it anyway, so whatever").

Well, the new full trailer dropped this morning, and while the must-see factor hasn't really risen, they do drop a pretty massive spoiler about the plot that I desperately wish I could un-see. I've been feeling generally frustrated with trailers giving away the farm lately, and seriously, this feels like Exhibit A. I won't reveal it here, but if you feel like crossing the rubicon, watch the second Genisys trailer below. Or, if you're smart, just wait 'till the thing hits theaters in a few months.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Nostalgia Theater 200! Daredevil's First Try at TV

There's a lot of buzz online this weekend after Netflix dropped the first season of Marvel's Daredevil online last Friday. With its moody, violent look at the seedy underside of superhero-ing, the thirteen-episode skein (first in a multi-part pact with Marvel Studios) has definitely upped the ante for what to expect from superhero TV. Of course, it wasn't always thus for Marvel's Man Without Fear. Yes, there was the execrable '03 feature film that everyone (especially Ben Affleck) pretends never happened, but Daredevil actually made his live action debut a few years earlier in a project few people even realize happened.

The year was 1989, and Marvel was owned by New World Pictures, a dime-store multimedia company that had designs on competing with the big kids. Their 1986 acquisition of the comic publisher was one of many steps toward that promised land (which they never actually reached). At the time, the most well-known Marvel hero was the Hulk, thanks to his 1977-1982 CBS TV series. The show had been off the air for awhile, but it retained enough cache for New World to sell NBC on a pack of TV movies reuniting stars Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno, and serving as backdoor pilots for whichever other characters they could squeeze in. Think of it as the Marvel Cinematic Universe before the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Friday, April 10, 2015

INTERVIEW: Director Alex Garland on Ex Machina

Alex Garland's haunting and thought-provoking science-fiction film Ex Machina hits theaters today, and it excels at the kind of "small scale, big ideas" cinema that we get far too little of these days. Starring Oscar Isaac as an eccentric billionaire genius who invents a human-like artificial intelligence called Ava (Alicia Vikander), and Domhnall Gleeson as the worker who's recruited to test the limits of this creation, the film is clearly a passion project for Garland.

Making his directing debut after crafting some of the most memorable screenplays of the last few years, including 28 Days Later, Sunshine, and one of my favorite underrated flicks, 2012's Dredd, I had the opportunity to chat with the soft-spoken and introspective Garland during his recent swing through the Bay Area. In addition to the philosophical underpinnings of Ex Machina and why we shouldn't fear AI, we also discussed his love of science-fiction, where 28 Days Later came from, and why Dredd will likely never have a sequel. Read on for highlights from our chat:

Thursday, April 09, 2015

From The Onion...

A question for the ages: "Can Anyone Truly Be Said To ‘Own’ The Complete James Bond Collection?"

Step-by-Step

By now I'm sure you're aware of the video that emerged a few days ago showing South Carolina police officer Michael Slager unloading several bullets into an unarmed man running away from him. While Slager is currently in jail on a murder rap, it's safe to say that if not for the video he'd be in the clear, and his victim, fifty-five year old Walter Scott, would be pegged as the instigator. Beyond the horrifying nature of this whole thing, what's so disconcerting is the clinical precision with which the whole thing appeared to go down, from shooting to attempted cover-up. To that end, Aurin Squire over at Talking Points Memo goes down the various steps in what appears to be a practiced process for dirty cops to obscure their bad behavior.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

The MovieFilm Podcast: Episode 67

For this week's show we unpack the number one movie in the country, Furious 7! In addition listen to Zaki's interview with writer-director Alex Garland about his cerebral sci-fi thriller Ex Machina. But that's not all, we also talk the trailers for this year's big spy thrillers, Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation and the James Bond epic Spectre. Plus: Word that Hugh Jackman is ready to hand in his Wolverine walking papers and news that the Star Wars saga is coming soon to digital platforms everywhere. Listen through the embed below, or via iTunes and Stitcher (remember to write us a review!). Also, hit us up at our Facebook page to tell us how we're doing!

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Nostalgia Theater: John Candy's Camp Candy!

This weekend marked my very first attempt at camping out with the boy, and while the relative success or failure of that endeavor is fodder for a separate conversation, it did get my mind flashing back to Camp Candy, a cartoon show that brought the comic stylings of the late, great John Candy to Saturday morning animation. Premiering in September of 1989 at the peak of his big screen stardom, Camp Candy was produced by our favorite crap factory DiC and aired as part of the same NBC lineup that included the short-lived Karate Kid cartoon. Here's the intro:

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Diffused Congruence: Marvel Comics Editor Sana Amanat

For this month's show we're joined by Marvel Comics' Sana Amanat. In addition to overseeing multiple fan favorite titles, Sana is also director of content and character development for the comic book giant, helping to spearhead the 2014 creation of Kamala Khan, a.k.a Ms. Marvel, the first female Muslim superhero to headline her own monthly title. This conversation offered us a chance to let our fanboy flags fly, and whether a fan of Marvel's comics, movies, or merchandise, we're sure you'll find a lot to glom onto on this breezy chat. Listen to it via the embed below, or download/stream at iTunes and Stitcher Radio. As always, send any comments or questions to diffusedcongruence@gmail.com, and make sure you hit "like" on our Facebook page!

Friday, April 03, 2015

Zaki's Review: Furious 7

L-R: Ludacris, Paul Walker, Tyrese, and Vin Diesel
Read my 2013 review of Fast & Furious 6 here

With the tragic and unexpected death of star Paul Walker in late 2013, the Fast & Furious franchise was hit with a nearly insurmountable challenge heading into its seventh lap. Production on the latest installment was only partially completed at the time of his passing, and the filmmakers had to scrap preexisting plans, honor the actor, acknowledge his passing, and write out his character, all the while delivering the hard driving intensity the series has become synonymous with after fourteen years. No mean feat, that, and the franchise's minders deserve all the props in the world for pulling it off with Furious 7.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

The MovieFilm Commentary Track: Terminator 2: Judgment Day

It’s time once again for a MovieFilm Commentary Track! For this go-round, Brian and I chat up our thoughts and drop copious amounts of useless trivia as we watch one of our favorite films of all time: Terminator 2: Judgement Day. Whether you queue up the film and listen along, or just enjoy the track on your commute to work and back home again -- let's face it, you have the whole movie memorized anyway -- get reacquainted with one of the greatest action movies ever made. Listen by way of the embed below, or download or stream the show at iTunes or Stitcher. And as always, please do write up a review to let us know how we’re doing!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Nostalgia Theater: The Bradys -- A Bunch of Crap

Earlier this week NBC announced plans to bring the beloved (?) '80s-'90s sitcom Coach, starring Craig T. Nelson, back to TV for a new sequel series picking up with the same characters several decades removed. Naturally that got me thinking about previous attempts to sequelize beloved shows years after their initial success (*ahem* Hunter). This in turn landed me on The Bradys, a bizarre attempt at corporate synergy that saw network programmers attempting to wed the wacky family hijinks of The Brady Bunch with the pressing family drama of the then-popular Thirtysomething. A match made in heaven, am I right?

Not so much.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

007 is Back! First Spectre Trailer Drops

With Paramount releasing a teaser for their next Mission: Impossible spy caper this past Monday, it seems somewhat appropriate that we closed the week with MGM offering up our first look at Spectre, the latest James Bond feature (number 24, if you're keeping count). We don't know much about the plot for the film, and the studio is understandably keeping things close to the chest this far out, but from the assemblage below it's clear that they're using the events of 2012's Skyfall as a pretty direct jump-off point as they re-introduce the evil SPECTRE organization back into the Bond canon. This is Daniel Craig's fourth go round as Our Man (is it already nine years since Casino Royale??), and the second time behind the camera for director Sam Mendes. Watch the trailer below, and look for the movie in theaters this November.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Late Night's Newest James

While Stephen Colbert isn't due to take over David Letterman's Late Show chair until later this year, his eventual lead-out on CBS, The Late Late Show, debuted its newest host earlier this week, with Brit James Corden taking over for Scot Craig Ferguson (who abdicated late last year after a ten year run). From what I've seen (I don't have cable anymore, so I've yet to see the whole show), the thirty-six year old Corden (the third James in late night after Fallon and Kimmel) is pretty darn likable, and this comedy bit from his opening night is pretty darn fun:

Recommended Reading

Vox's Andrew Prokop has a single sentence that perfectly summarizes just how toxic the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling of 2010 continues to be on the performance of politics -- and how there just may be no un-ringing of that bell.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Lexed

It's just over a year ago that we first got word that actor Jesse Eisenberg had been drafted by Warner Bros. to play Superman's bald-pated baddie Lex Luthor in next year's Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. At the time I was skeptical of the casting, and to be honest, I remain so, but nonetheless, I do have to give it up to Warners' discipline in keeping their powder dry for the much-anticipated superhero team-up pic, keeping spoilers in their pocket and letting each new announcement be its own big deal.

For example, here's our first look at a chrome-domed Eisenberg, courtesy of Entertainment Weekly. Says director Zack Snyder: "“He’s not any of the Lexes that you’ve seen, that’s for sure, other than him being a captain of industry and one person to the world and another person to himself. And bald, of course.” And for those of you keeping track, Eisenberg is the eighth actor to play Lex in live action since the character's introduction seventy-five years ago. Click over to EW for more, and look for Batman v. Superman in theaters next March.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Honest Hobbit

The final Hobbit flick (which I enjoyed immensely) hit home vid today, and the fine folks at Screen Junkies have put out another of their "Honest Trailers" to mark the occasion. Check it out below:

See? Me Too.

Here's the rest of that min-doc from PBS's Independent Lens on race, identity, etc. A lot of interesting folks telling some compelling stories in here. And me.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Cruz Controlled

Yesterday, in a surprise to exactly no one, word dropped that freshman senator, government shutdown architect, and noted Dr. Seuss aficionado Ted Cruz has thrown his hat into the quadrennial three ring circus that is the Republican presidential primary. Naturally, Cruz being Cruz, and the Internet being the Internet, hilarity swiftly ensued. Observe.

New Mission: Impossible Trailer Goes Rogue

Ever since its inception nineteen (!!) years ago, one feature that's distinguished Paramount's Mission: Impossible film franchise is how every entry of the Tom Cruise spy series bears the unique hallmarks of whichever director happens to be handling that particular installment. This can be good or bad, but it certainly paid off both creatively and at the box office with the fourth Mission, the Brad Bird-helmed Ghost Protocol in 2011.

Now here we are four years later, and Christopher McQuarrie has taken the reins for globetrotting superspy Ethan Hunt's latest go-round. McQuarrie last worked with the superstar on his underrated 2012 actioner Jack Reacher, and from the trailer below, it looks like he's maintaining the same gritty, grounded feel, albeit on a much more expansive stage. I'm also glad to see Simon Pegg and Jeremy Renner back, alongside the ever-reliable Ving Rhames, to keep at least a little bit of continuity from flick to flick. Look for Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation in theaters this July.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Nostalgia Theater: Sledge Hammer! -- Dirty Harry Ad Absurdum

David Rasche (center) flanked by Harrison Page and Anne-Marie Martin
Last week I talked about the inexplicably long-lived '80s-'90s series Hunter, which attempted to translate the sensibilities of the popular Dirty Harry movies to the small screen. That in turn got my neurons firing about Sledge Hammer!, an ABC skein that took the Harry/Hunter formula and spun it into a left field, comedic direction. While I'd argue this formula proved far more successful creatively, I think its brief lifespan proves that when it comes to trigger happy rogue cops, audiences prefer them without the satire, please. Here's the intro:

Saturday, March 21, 2015

See? Me.

Here's a portion of a conversation I recently had with PBS's Independent Lens about race, identity, etc. Look for more on Monday.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Recommended Reading

Paul Krugman weighs in on the House GOP's proposed budget plan, which promises all the usual greatest hits: tax cuts for the rich, repeal Obamacare, yadda yadda. But as Krugman explains, the implications of this plan (which, to be fair, will never actually become law under the current status quo) are far starker in terms of what they illuminate about the mindset behind it:
Think about what these budgets would do if you ignore the mysterious trillions in unspecified spending cuts and revenue enhancements. What you’re left with is huge transfers of income from the poor and the working class, who would see severe benefit cuts, to the rich, who would see big tax cuts. And the simplest way to understand these budgets is surely to suppose that they are intended to do what they would, in fact, actually do: make the rich richer and ordinary families poorer.
One the one hand it's a head-scratcher, but on the other it's totally not. Read the rest here.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The MovieFilm Podcast: Episode 66

It's a catch-all episode of the MovieFilm Podcast as Brian and Zaki await the arrival of the much-anticipated Furious 7, which kicks off the summer movie season in a few short weeks. We've still got lots to discuss in the meantime, however, including our thoughts on Neill Blomkamp's high concept misfire Chappie, as well as Liam Neeson's latest actioner Run All Night. After that, we fondly remember the late Sam Simon, the comedy genius who shaped an entire generation's sense of humor thanks to his work on The Simpsons, Taxi, Cheers, and so much more. We also discuss the latest headlines out of Hollywood, including word of a Secret of NIMH remake, Tim Burton tackling a live action Dumbo, and the Expendables franchise coming to TV. All that, plus the usual listener letters and Star Wars news you've come to expect. Listen via the embed below! Also, be sure to go to iTunes and Stitcher to write us a review, and drop us a line at our Facebook page to tell us how we're doing!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Recommended Reading

With the Affordable Care Act now in full swing, with millions of people benefitting from the law without the end of the world happening vis-a-vis jobs, the economy, etc., you'd think the folks who've been so vehemently opposed to anything remotely connected to the law would finally slow their roll. But nope, even with a SCOTUS ruling in the works that could potentially cripple the law (and do real harm to its beneficiaries), they're still sticking to their "Obamacare is the devil!" marching orders. Where does this absolute obstinacy even in the face of overwhelming data come from? HuffPo's Michael McAuliff explains.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Nostalgia Theater: TV's Hunter -- The Poor Man's Dirty Harry

In proof positive of the truism that mediocrity tends to flourish on television, Hunter is a run-of-the-mill cop show that enjoyed an inexplicable seven season run on NBC. Created by Frank Lupo and produced by Stephen J. Cannell, it was pretty clearly meant to trade on the "cop who plays by his own rules" model popularized by Clint Eastwood vis-a-vis the then-ongoing Dirty Harry series (the third Harry flick, Sudden Impact, had just hit theaters in December of '83, mere months before Hunter debuted). Here's the intro for the first season (with theme by Mike Post):

Friday, March 13, 2015

Recommended Reading

Jonathan Chait assesses out the aftermath of this week's congressional shenanigans, with Senate Republicans shooting themselves in the foot yet again -- this time in front of a global audience.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

What a Journey

From last weekend's SNL, Chris Hemsworth teams with American Express to share his inspirational story:

Monday, March 09, 2015

Diffused Congruence: Imam Zaid Shakir

 
We're very excited to be joined by renowned scholar Imam Zaid Shakir for this month's episode. As a founding member of Zaytuna College, the first accredited Islamic college in the United States, Imam Zaid discuss the school's history and its mission, and then shares the amazing story of his own journey to Islam, in the process helping to add yet more layers to the ongoing tapestry of the American Muslim experience that we've been weaving together ever since our very first show. It's a fascinating conversation with one of the most prominent and preeminent Muslim minds in the world, and you can listen via the embed below, or download via iTunes and Stitcher Radio. Feel free to send any comments or questions our way at diffusedcongruence@gmail.com, and make sure you hit "like" on our Facebook page!

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Nostalgia Theater: The Early Extinction of Dino Riders

Dino Riders was a multimedia franchise from toymaker Tyco that briefly appeared and disappeared in the latter part of the '80s. Featuring the tagline "Harness the Power of Dinosaurs," they obviously realized, as I've mentioned before, that kids love dinosaurs. Given that, this should've been a slam dunk. In 1988, G.I. Joe and Transformers had lost some cache, and Masters of the Universe was discontinued the previous year. But unfortunately for Tyco, Dino Riders appeared just as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles juggernaut was getting underway, and never stood a chance.

The premise of the line was simple: crash landing on prehistoric Earth from the planet Valoria, good guy Dino Riders and bad guy Rulons outfit dinosaurs with high-tech gear and shoot stuff at each other. Like I said, not a complicated hook, but pretty much right in line with the stuff that passed for boys' toys back in the day (G.I. Joe vs. Cobra, Autobots vs. Decepticons, etc.). And also right in line with boys' toys for the era were the commercials, which you can see a cross-section of below:

Friday, March 06, 2015

Zaki's Review: Chappie

Director Neill Blomkamp's Elysium was one of my favorite films of 2013. "This is the good stuff," I said of the director's follow-up to his Oscar-nominated District 9, and I meant it. Well, while the year is young, it's looking like his follow-up film, Chappie, may earn itself the opposite honor and end up on my "worst of 2015" list. Yep, it's that bad. The sci-fi fable, about a robot that gains sentience, has an intriguing premise at its core, but it's rare to see a talented filmmaker with so many tools and so much talent at his disposal squander a compelling idea so thoroughly.

It's South Africa, 2020, and to combat the rampant crime, the Johannesburg PD has enlisted a high-end weapons manufacturer (think OCP from RoboCop, with Sigourney Weaver as "the Old Man") to provide them an army of robotic police drones to augment the extant human police force. When the drones' designer Deon Wilson (Dev Patel), who's experimenting with artifical intelligence, is kidnapped by gang members (Ninja & Yolandi Visser) who want to repurpose a 'bot for their own ends, the result is Chappie, a drone that acts human and sounds like Sharlto Copley.