Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Representation

The Batman-on-Film Podcast: Justice League Trailer Reaction

This past weekend I once again joined my friends at the Batman-on-Film Podcast to discuss the release of the first official trailer for next fall's Justice League flick. If you haven't seen the video, you can watch it here, and after you do that, click on this link or hit "play" on the embed below for my hot take, as well as those of hosts Bill Ramey, Rick Shew, and Justin Kowalski. It was a good chat, and I think you'll enjoy giving it a listen.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Nostalgia Theater: After These Messages...

My wife just went into labor, so no time for a full Nostalgia Theater this week as we pack up and head to the hospital to welcome our little girl into the world. But rather than leave you completely in the cold, I figured I'd gift you with some vintage TV commercials from CBS Saturday morning circa 1988 that someone was gracious enough to not only preserve, but upload, and man, these should really get the ol' nostalgic juices flowing if you're anything like me (seriously, remember Bubbl-Eez?). Enjoy, and I'll see you next week!

Friday, March 24, 2017

Zaki's Review: Beauty and the Beast (2017)

If there's one thing the Disney company hasn't had any trouble with over its many decades, it's finding new ways to jostle its multitudinous catalogue of IPs around and getting brand new franchises to fall out. Between Pixar, LucasFilm, Marvel, not to mention Mickey, Donald, and all the rest, it's been an extraordinary run. And in recent years they've tapped yet another, an entirely new vein of Disney Dollars by taking the library of animated classics in the ol' vault, sprinkling some fairy dust on them, and turning them into live action spectacles.

This trend started with 2010's Alice in Wonderland and really kicked into gear with 2015's Cinderalla, but last year's The Jungle Book is the arguable peak for these productions thus far. You may recall that I was absolutely gobsmacked when I saw that one, and so it set the bar for my own expectations going into the Mouse House's latest animation/live action transmutation: Bill Condon's Beauty and the Beast, based on the beloved 1991 feature. Now, maybe it's unfair to expect one movie to measure up to the high bar set by another, but let's be honest, high expectations come with this particular territory regardless of which way you look at it.

Monday, March 20, 2017

"Impatient, Vain, and Horny for Malice"

John Oliver went after the Trump Administration's budget on last night's episode of Last Week Tonight, and he didn't waste any time calling it out for the atrocity that it is, taking a hatchet to social programs (which disproportionately serve the very folks who helped hoist Trump into the highest office in the land) while serving as a godsend to the military-industrial complex. Watch the video his segment below:

Sunday, March 19, 2017

A Lifetime of Movies

Nostalgia Theater: Come On Lets Go, It's The Archie Show!

The CW's Riverdale is currently on the air and reinventing the classic Archie cast of characters for a new audience. And while I've yet to catch an episode of the primetime soap, it's definitely been dominating buzz on social media, which in turn got me thinking about the first time America's favorite teenager and his colorful cast of hangers-on first hit the tube, way back in 1968 via a Filmation animated show that aired on CBS. Here's the intro for The Archie Show:

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Diffused Congruence: Baraka Blue

For our latest episode we're pleased to be joined by renowned singer and poet Baraka Blue for a fun and engaging discussion about his journey to Islam, his work in the thriving Muslims arts scene, and a special reading from his latest book, Empty & The Ocean. As always, you can check out the show at the embed below or at this link. As always, send any questions or comments to diffusedcongruence@gmail.com, or at our Facebook page.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Foiled Again

Film & Water Podcast #85: King Kong (1976)

I had the pleasure of joining Rob Kelly, host of the Film & Water Podcast, a few weeks ago for a fun and far-reaching discussion about the 1976 remake of King Kong, which is a nostalgic favorite of mine ever since I first saw it in the mid-80s as a wee one. This one has always come under a bit of fire as being an unworthy heir to the legacy of the 1933 original, but I think there's a lot to admire here and I had a blast singing its praises for forty-some minutes with Rob. Give the show a listen at this link, and if you dig it, please head over to iTunes and hit "subscribe"!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The MovieFilm Podcast: Kong: Skull Island + Mikaela Hoover on The Belko Experiment and 2 Broke Girls

For our latest episode, the MovieFilm boys go ape for Kong: Skull Island. Listen in as we go deep into a spoiler-filled conversation about the latest attempt to bring the massive monkey to the big screen, this time as part of a "Monster-verse" where he'll eventually cross paths with fellow movie monster Godzilla. Also, hear Zaki's interview with actress Mikaela Hoover about her roles in The Belko Experiment, 2 Broke Girls on CBS, and the upcoming TV series The Guest Book.

In addition, we also unpack the latest headlines out of Hollywood, including a low-key Girl With the Dragon Tattoo sequel on the way minus Rooney Mara, Daniel Craig, and David Fincher, and a surpising new director being eyed for Man of Steel 2, plus some more thoughts on last week's blockbuster Logan, and news on the first dialogue we'll hear in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Lots to listen for, and you can hear it all all via the embed below, or at iTunes or Stitcher or Google Play. As always, please hit "like" on our Facebook page, and send any questions or comments to MovieFilmPodcast@gmail.com.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Left Shew Politics Podcast, Vol. 1 / Ep. 8

Click below to check out the latest episode of the Left Shew Politics Podcast, hosted by my friends Rick Shew and Michael Malloy, and featuring a conversation with myself and Pastor Phillip Larsen on the role of religion in politics. Had a really good time with this one despite the fact that I was sick as a dog while doing it. Hope you enjoy it, and if you do, please jump over to iTunes and subscribe!

Nostalgia Theater: Future Cop Edition

We've talked before about what a barren wasteland '70s TV was when it came to sci-fi and fantasy programming, and here's another case in point: Future Cop.

Starring Oscar winner Ernest Borgnine as everyman beat cop Joe Cleaver, the show paired him with with Haven, a human-looking robot played by Michael Shannon (no, not that Michael Shannon), as they went about the workaday business of crime-solving. Not a complicated premise. Future Cop first aired as a TV movie on ABC in May of 1976 before coming back a year later as a weekly (which quickly went away after only six episodes had aired). Here's the series intro:

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Zaki's Review: Kong: Skull Island

King Kong has been a screen icon from the moment he first bestrode the big screen eighty-four years ago, a marvel of high concept imagination and revolutionary stop motion effects technology. So vividly realized a creation was Kong that, from his eponymous 1933 debut to now, there have been six additional offerings starring the giant ape. Some of these have simply re-told the same tale as the original, some have tried to sequelize it, and others have done...something else entirely.

But though the majority of these ended (or, in the case of 1933’s Son of Kong, began) with the big guy stone dead, even that wasn't enough to stop him from being periodically resurrected for another go-round. The most recent such effort was Peter Jackson’s epic-length, megabudget 2005 remake. Coming twenty-nine years after the Dino De Laurentiis produced 1976 King Kong redo (which I will go to my grave defending as an underrated gem), Jackson’s opus clocked in at three-plus hours, and while it may have been a pure labor of love for him, it was just plain laborious for many in the audience.

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Come Back, Dave!

An insightful, engaging, hilarious interview by David Marchese over at Vulture really highlights the reality that America needs David Letterman right now far more than he needs us. Read it here.

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Nostalgia Theater: King Kong's Cartoon Chronicles!

With this coming week's impending release of Warner Bros.' monster pic Kong: Skull Island, which brings the iconic ape back to the big screen after eleven years, I thought I'd dive into this forgotten artifact from the Kong chronicles. From the moment the original feature film debuted in 1933, King Kong took up permanent residence in the public consciousness, and over the course of several decades of re-releases and TV broadcasts, he grew to hold a special appeal for children.

When you stop to think about it, the idea of a giant furry friend who's also a fearsome protector is pretty irresistible no matter what age you are, but especially when you're used to being puny and misunderstood. As such, it's easy to see why Rankin/Bass Productions (they of the evergreen Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer Christmas special) brought the big gorilla to animation via a Saturday morning TV series that debuted on ABC in September of 1966. Here's the intro of The King Kong Show:

Friday, March 03, 2017

The MovieFilm Podcast: Logan, Beauty and the Beast, and More!

Hugh Jackman bids farewell to his beloved big screen alter ego in this weekend's Logan, and the MovieFilm boys are joined by Justin Shanlian of the Shanlian on Batman podcast to discuss our reactions to the much-anticipated X-Men finale. In addition, you can also hear Zaki's thoughts on the upcoming Beauty and the Beast remake from Disney and his interview with director Mark Pellington about his new film The Last Word, in theaters now. Also, we offer our reflections on the sad passing of Bill Paxton, the craziness of last weekend's Oscar show, and our initial reactions to the trailers for Alien: Covenant and Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2. There's much more, of course, and you can hear it all all via the embed below, or at iTunes or Stitcher or Google Play. As always, please hit "like" on our Facebook page, and send any questions or comments to MovieFilmPodcast@gmail.com.

Zaki's Review: Logan

While the quality of the various X-Men entries over the past decade-and-change have varied wildly—tonally, creatively, and qualitatively, what remains undeniable the indelible mark Hugh Jackman made with his entrée onto the superhero scene. This was so instant a starmaking turn that it not only birthed an entire franchise but also shot some adrenaline into the somnambulant genre in the process. From then to now, there have been two Batmans, three Hulks, three Supermans, three Spider-Mans, two Daredevils, and even two Professor Xs and Magnetos.

But only one Wolverine.

Continue reading at Fandor...

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

A Few Surprises From The Academy Awards

Once the Oscars wrapped up on Sunday night, all anyone could talk about was the shock ending in which the wrong Best Picture winner was announced. Due to some sort of mix-up with the envelope, Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway accidentally announced that La La Land had won the night’s top award. It wasn’t until the La La Land folks reached the stage that they realized it was in fact Moonlight that had won Best Picture.

This sort of drama had never occurred before at the Oscars, and it’s only natural that the mistake and ensuing chaos has dominated coverage. It’s also somewhat unfortunate, because the final moments have come to overshadow a tremendous show that recognized a lot of very deserving winners. In order to recognize some of these achievements, here’s a quick recap of some of the interesting results you might not have expected.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Diffused Congruence: Azhar Usman Returns!

For this month's show, we're joined once more by world renowned comedian and true force of nature Azhar Usman. With his previous appearance on our show remaining an audience favorite even two years later, we've been hoping for a return engagement, and Azhar didn't disappoint, having built up quite a backlog of things to discuss and comment on, including some thoughts on our current politics and how language is the key to the future. He also offers a window into some of the exciting projects he has coming up in the near future (including the all-new Amazon Prime series Patriot), and much more. Check out the show at the embed below or at this link. As always, send any questions or comments to diffusedcongruence@gmail.com, or at our Facebook page.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

From The Onion...

America's Finest News Source runs down the first 100 days of the Trump Administration and...at this point I don't even know if it's satire, to be honest.

Bill Paxton, RIP

Decisions, Decisions...

Nostalgia Theater: A Lack of Visionaries

By 1987, Hasbro had pretty thoroughly conquered the toy aisle thanks to the double-barrel impact of Transformers and G.I. Joe. Both of those mega-hits prompted the toymaker to plot new worlds to conquer, which led to the creation of Visionaries: Knights of the Magical Light. I remember first seeing the commercials for this during a visit to Edmonton in the summer of 1987, and the catchy theme song and flashy animation in the commercials sure did the trick to get me stoked.

However, since we were headed back to Saudi Arabia in a few weeks I wouldn't find out until the following year that Visionaries had already come -- and gone. Like both of its Hasbro contemporaries (which were still continuing along), the marketing for Visionaries was built around the three-pronged approach of a Hasbro action figure line, a Marvel comic book, and an animated series from Marvel and Hasbro's own Sunbow Productions. The show premiered in syndication in September '87, and here's what the intro looked like:

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Enemy Within

Rumana Ahmed, who joined the National Security Council under President Obama, discusses her eight days as a Muslim working in Donald Trump's White House before finally resigning. An incredibly poignant -- and deeply disturbing -- piece about the people currently manning the levers of our country's soft and hard power. Here's a snippet:
The evening before I left, bidding farewell to some of my colleagues, many of whom have also since left, I notified Trump’s senior NSC communications advisor, Michael Anton, of my departure, since we shared an office. His initial surprise, asking whether I was leaving government entirely, was followed by silence––almost in caution, not asking why. I told him anyway.  
I told him I had to leave because it was an insult walking into this country’s most historic building every day under an administration that is working against and vilifying everything I stand for as an American and as a Muslim. I told him that the administration was attacking the basic tenets of democracy. I told him that I hoped that they and those in Congress were prepared to take responsibility for all the consequences that would attend their decisions.  
He looked at me and said nothing.  
It was only later that I learned he authored an essay under a pseudonym, extolling the virtues of authoritarianism and attacking diversity as a “weakness,” and Islam as “incompatible with the modern West.”
Much more at the link, and all of it is worth a read.

One to Commit the Crime, One to Cover it Up

Back before the election, someone I consider a dear personal friend shocked me when they said they were voting for Donald Trump. When asked why, they said he was clearly nuts, but if he did anything too nuts, obviously Congress would just impeach him. Obviously, because that's exactly how Congress -- this Congress, no less -- works. Anyway, the corruption had already begun before President Trump was even sworn in, and it hasn't abated in the month (gasp) since he took office. And why is that, you may ask? Because Congress -- you know, the they-can-just-impeach-him guys, have made sure to cover his tracks and salt the trail behind him. Here's Jonathan Chait with more, and if you're not irked by this, boy, you should be.

The MovieFilm Podcast: LEGO Batman, The Great Wall, and an Interview with Bill Nighy

After an extended break, the MovieFilm Podcast is back to talk up the latest batch of new releases out of Hollywood, including smash hit The LEGO Batman Movie and Matt Damon's period fantasy epic The Great Wall (which Zaki enjoyed more than most). In addition, listen to Zaki discuss the new romantic comedy Their Finest with its co-star, the delightfully droll Bill Nighy. After that, it's on to headlines, including the tumult behind DC/WB's The Batman, with star Ben Affleck dropping out of the director's chair, and our thoughts on the new trailer for King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. But that's not all, there's also the usual Listener Letters and Star Wars news you've come to expect! Lots to listen for, and you can hear it all all via the embed below, or at iTunes or Stitcher or Google Play. As always, please hit "like" on our Facebook page, and send any questions or comments to MovieFilmPodcast@gmail.com.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Islamophobe-in-Chief

For several years now there's been a virulent and thriving anti-Muslim industry that has worked hard to propagate their Islamophobic views in policy circles. Once upon a time, these people -- including former Breitbart editor-in-chief Stephen Bannon -- were largely consigned to the fringiest parts of the fringe by even their ideological fellow travelers. That is, until this past November, when the election of Donald Trump improbably ushered them right into the White House thanks to the president's political advisor: the aforementioned Stephen Bannon. Here's a piece by Abigail Hauslohner at The Washington Post that lays out how hardcore twisted these folks are, and how their vision of a "pure" America is one without Muslims. Any Muslims.

Holy Moley

Wow, so this is what it's like to have a tweet go viral! I feel like I'm breathing rarified air right now.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Nostalgia Theater: Ark II -- After the Apocalypse on Saturday Mornings

During the 1970s, dominion of Saturday morning kidvid was divided between production houses Hanna-Barbara and Lou Scheimer & Norm Prescott's Filmation. Both companies had a variety of offerings proliferating on the three broadcast nets, but while Hanna-Barbara tended to stay in the safe "funny animals, wacky teenagers" territory (with some exceptions), it was Filmation that tended to really swing for the fences in terms of experimenting with content, format, and putting a variety of different stuff out there, including live action kids' shows. One such effort was Ark II, which premiered on CBS in September of 1976. Here's the intro:

Friday, February 17, 2017

Zaki's Review: The Great Wall

When the promo campaign for Universal/Legendary's big budget opus The Great Wall first kicked into gear last year, it seems like almost all of the commentary focused on the fact that we had a Chinese-set film about China's past made by a Chinese director -- that centered on an American actor: Matt Damon. Here we go, Hollywood whitewashing history yet again, right?

Oh, the Lies You'll Tell...

Here's some facts (real, not alternative) about the many, many whoppers that President Trump tossed out in yesterday's bravura display of crazy.

From The Onion...

I think this describes a lot of people I know.
Open-Minded Man Tries To Get News From Variety Of Facebook Friends
PHILADELPHIA—Stressing the importance of hearing all sides of a story, open-minded man Brendan Kelly told reporters Friday that he always tries to get his news from a variety of Facebook friends. “For a long time, I’d just get news from my buddy Mark, but then I realized how much I was closing myself off to other perspectives,” said Kelly, adding that it is all too easy to get caught up in narrow ways of thinking, and that he now seeks out at least three or four of his friends’ posts on any given topic to ensure he’s getting the full picture. “I’ll check out high school friends, college friends, work friends—it’s important to get a good mix. I’d be doing myself a real disservice if I blindly believed claims my friend Kevin made without at least trying to verify them with comments from Heather or Dan. You can’t just accept whatever’s fed to you, you know?” Kelly went on to say that while it was essential to get his news from a variety of Facebook friends, it was equally important to avoid obviously fringe sources such as Doug.

About That Press Conference Yesterday...

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Wow.

This political cartoon on the right is by artist Glenn McCoy in response to the furor over Betsy DeVos being confirmed as Secretary of Education. I guess it's what passes for biting social commentary over in right wing world. I'll take "False Equivalences" for 500, Alex.


Sunday, February 12, 2017

More Recommended Reading

John Oliver returns to his HBO talker tonight, for his first show since Donald Trump took office, and man alive, if ever there was a need for the kind of cogent, fact-based comedy that Oliver has made his forte, this is it. Check out this extended interview with Rolling Stone as the Brit comedian ponders his program's role under the new order, and whether he'll even get to stay in the country given that he's here on a Green Card.

Recommended Reading

If you're not legit worried about Steve Bannon, President Trump's de facto top aide, and his outsized ambitions for this country now that he's been suddenly -- inexplicably! -- thrust into a policy role, you're not paying nearly enough attention. Read this overview by Michael Sifry at The Nation of Bannon's long record of public statements and pronouncements, and feel a chill travel down your spine.

Technical Issues

Nostalgia Theater: Star Trek's First Duty

I've been going through the entirety of Star Trek: The Next Generation with my kids, and we just watched the episode "The First Duty," which first aired in March of 1992, just over twenty-five years ago. The Next Generation always excelled when it staked the high ground in a moral argument and allowed Patrick Stewart the chance to speechify in his typical stentorian fashion as Captain Picard, and this episode's script by Ron Moore & Naren Shankar certainly gave him an opportunity for that.

The plot is devoid of the usual spacial anomalies and time-space distortions the Enterprise would typically encounter, and instead presents a moral quandary for guest star Wil Wheaton as Starfleet Cadet Wesley Crusher. This particular portion, coming in the third act, really shows off the show at its best. It's a vid that I show regularly in my Public Speaking classes not only for its exemplifying the uses of Ethos, Logos, and Pathos in persuasion, but also the underlying lesson about the importance of truth-telling in any context:

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Whither Obamacare?

From almost the instant last fall that Republicans knew they'd be taking total control of government, the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, the Holy Grail they'd been questing for since the law's passage seven years ago, was finally within their grasp. And yet, from the moment they took power, the realities of governing ran headlong into the necessities of campaigning as they grappled with the negative polling associated with forcibly ripping healthcare away from millions of people. That's generally an unpopular position. This in turn might explain why we're not really hearing about Obamacare repeal much these days, and when we do, it's as a, "Yeah, we'll get there eventually" can being kicked down the curb. Why the switch? Jonathan Chait has some thoughts.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Nightmare Sauce

If anyone's looking for me, I'll be over there in the corner never sleeping ever again.
Doctors discover live cockroach in skull of woman who says she felt ‘crawling sensation’

Legion of Dumb

Nostalgia Theater: Super Force Edition

During the early '90s heyday of syndication, we saw a whole host of original programming emerge on local stations from content providers hoping to take advantage of the flexibility of bypassing networks. Sometimes this paid off quite handsomely, such as with Paramount's Star Trek: The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, which managed to be both creatively compelling and financially rewarding. And while it wasn't exactly Proust, Baywatch was still a huge syndicated success. Other times though, you ended with stuff like Super Force. Here, watch this:

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Left Shew Politics Podcast, Vol. 1 / Ep. 7

Click below to check out the latest episode of the Left Shew Politics Podcast, hosted by my buddy Rick Shew and featuring an interview with yours truly as we take a look at President Trump's first week in office, and try to make sense of the horrible, draconian immigration ban he's put in place via executive action. If you dig it, jump over to iTunes and subscribe!

New Interview!

The good folks at Al-Madina Institute and IMANWire talked to my partner Parvez Ahmed and myself a few months ago about all things Diffused Congruence: The American Muslim Experience, and the text and audio of the interview have just one up. Give it a listen below, or read some highlights here, as we talk the origins of the show, the aftermath of the election, and more!

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Nostalgia Theater Podcast: The Garbage Pail Kids Phenomenon!

For the first Nostalgia Theater show of 2017, I'm joined by illustrator Joe Simko, who discusses the Garbage Pail Kids phenomenon from the 1980s, including his own work as producer and director of the documentary 30 Years of Garbage. There's lots of insights as we dive into the icky-eww-kitschy-cool fad that first captivated kids of all ages three decades ago, and continues to do so to this very day! You can listen to it at the embed below, or subscribe at iTunesStitcher RadioTuneIn Radio, or Google Play (and remember to leave a review!). 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, January 30, 2017

Out Now with Aaron and Abe Podcast: The Founder

I had the chance to join my buddy Aaron Neuwirth, along with special guest Mark Hobin, on the Out Now with Aaron and Abe Podcast last week to discuss the under-seen Michael Keaton vehicle The Founder. As you know if you listened to the new MovieFilm show, I really enjoyed this one, and I also enjoyed the chance to go further in-depth with it. I always have a great time hangin' with these guys, and I think you'll enjoy giving it a listen as well via the embed below or here at iTunes.