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


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, 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.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

On Boy Scouts, "American-ness", and the Muslim Ban...

Yesterday afternoon I was watching my kids racing pinewood cars with their Boy Scout troop at the local mosque. It was a quintessential example of cultural assimilation and cultural preservation intertwining to produce something uniquely and entirely American.

Knowing this was playing out against the backdrop of our country adopting immigration measures that certainly feel like a rejection of the cultural intertwining noted above somehow made the whole experience feel more precious. Like trying to hold onto water flowing through your fingers.

Nazi Fast

Meanwhile, in the Mirror Universe...

While our current president is instituting some of the most horrifying and draconian measures regarding immigration in the country's history, destroying hopes, dreams, and lives with the wild abandon that can only come from never having to grapple with the consequences of his decisions, we turn to a fiction president for some real talk on refugees:

Nostalgia Theater: Galtar and the Golden Lance

During the mid-'80s, animation powerhouse Hanna-Barbera, which had always thrived by peddling original properties, found its influence waning in the wake of toy-based cartoons like Transformers, G.I. Joe, and He-Man. Those shows, which were essentially half-hour toy commercials subsidized by their respective owners, guaranteed a much greater return-on-investment, and also signaled a marked shift in TV-viewing tastes for the kidvid set that left old hands like HB outgunned.

To that end, Hanna-Barbera tried to come up with an answer to the He-Man phenomenon with their own fantasy series, Galtar and the Golden Lance, which aired for 21 episodes in the 1985-'86 season as part of the syndicated Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera weekday morning package, which included reruns of hoary HB classics like The Jetsons alongside original programming like this. Here's the intro for Galtar, part of the very first batch of Funtastic  shows:

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Diffused Congruence: Zaki Barzinji

For this month's show, we're joined by Zaki Barzinji, the White House's Muslim American Community Liaison during the Barack Obama era. With last week's inauguration of President Donald J. Trump marking the end of Zaki's tenure in that position, he takes a look back at the beginnings of his interest in politics, how the Obama Administration tried to increase engagement with the American Muslim community, and what it felt like to be working in the White House on Election Night last year as the realization slowly dawned that we were looking at a Trump presidency. Check out the show at the embed below or at this link. As always, send any questions or comments to, or at our Facebook page.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The MovieFilm Podcast: The Founder, xXx, and Split

The boys are back with lots of new releases to unpack! Hear our quick takes on The Founder, Live by Night, xXx: Return of Xander Cage, and Split, and then listen as we discuss the Oscar and Razzie nominations, news that the long-anticipated Neil Blomkamp's Aliens sequel may be dead while the Terminator franchise may be roaring back to life with creator James Cameron involved. Also: Our thoughts on the new trailers for Power Rangers and CHiPs, and the title for this year's Star Wars: Episode VIII! 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

Monday, January 23, 2017

Episode VIII is The Last Jedi

With all the hype about Rogue One, it's easy to forget that, oh yeah, there's another Star Wars flick headed down the pike in December. But even though we've known Episode VIII is on the way for awhile, the folks at Disney have been tight-lipped about the title for this installment of the saga -- until now. As revealed this morning via the graphic below, the next movie is Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

I love this title just for the imagery it conveys and the questions it raises. Is it Luke? Rey? Maybe Luke and then Rey? Does Luke die? Obviously with last year's sad passing of Carrie Fisher throwing into doubt what role Princess/General Leia Organa will play in future films, there's a lot of uncertainty about what to expect next, but at the very least we have a title to keep the speculative fires lit until the first trailer drops in (I assume) a few months.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Nostalgia Theater: Conan's Tonight Show Farewell

Hard to believe, but today marks seven years to the day that Conan O'Brien's abortive, nine-month tenure as host of NBC's Tonight Show came to a close following a heated back-and-forth involving himself, the network, and his predecessor/successor Jay Leno. The events of that imbroglio were dissected in the media, on this blog, and in Bill Carter's terrific 2010 tome The War For Late Night, so I won't bother going into that stuff all over again here. But I did want to share this vid of Conan's closing statement before taking his leave of NBC after twenty-plus years. It's a powerful sentiment that I not only internalized, but that I've done my best to pass on to all the students I've been lucky enough to teach in the years since. Here's the full text of his remarks:

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Zaki's Review: xXx: Return of Xander Cage

In today's age of studios looking to turn any dormant IP into a chance for synergized, sequelized glory, I suppose it was inevitable that we'd circle back around to xXx. For those of you too young to remember back to fifteen years, this franchise had its first go from Sony during the summer of '02 as star Vin Diesel's follow-up to his first (and at the time only) Fast & Furious installment. Starring Diesel as extreme sports enthusiast/secret agent Xander Cage, xXx was such a clumsy assemblage of boardroom-concocted "cool" and "edgy" cliches that I referred to it at the time as "Poochie: The Movie."

Though it did well enough at the global till to warrant a follow-up, Diesel bolted in favor of 2004's The Chronicles of Riddick. And while Sony tried to keep the fires lit via 2005's xXx: State of the Union (with Ice Cube in the lead), it didn't land with audiences, which would presumably have been the end, were it not for the sustained success of Universal's Furious franchise (which has its eighth installment dropping in a few weeks) convincing studios that audiences will turn out to watch Diesel play anyone other than his street racer alter ego Dominick Toretto.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

End of the Obama Era

Eight years ago on this exact day I took to my blog to mark the final full day of the George W. Bush presidency, putting it in context with my own growth as a political animal (and a blogger, given that I started posting on this site in frustration the day after President Bush's re-election). But now here we are, two terms later, and I'm once again taking stock of a closing administration -- this time that of Barack Hussein Obama at the end of his last full day as POTUS. For context, this is what I said way back then:

Time Warp

Monday, January 16, 2017


Zoned In

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Nostalgia Theater: Popeye and Son -- The Sailor Man Becomes a Family Man

During the '80s, in addition to the trend of de-aging iconic animated characters, another thing we saw a fair amount of was pairing up familiar cartoon heroes with their offspring. There was Pink Panther and Sons in the early part of the decade, and another such example is this gone-in-a-minute show that aired on CBS during the fall of '87. While they'd been kicking around since their introduction in the '30s, the notion of Popeye and Olive Oyl as a romantic pairing was always sort of baffling, and Popeye and Son took things a step further and posited that not only did they get married, but had offspring as well, as the show's intro explains:

Friday, January 13, 2017

Zaki's Review: Live by Night

One of the great Hollywood turnarounds of the last decade-and-change has been Ben Affleck's transformation from frequent punchline in the wake of such seismic duds as Gigli and Jersey Girl into one of the most gifted triple-threats the industry has to offer, with his considerable skills as writer/director/star readily visible in films such as The Town and 2012 Best Picture winner Argo. As such, it was with a certain amount of anticipation that I greeted Affleck's latest, the period crime drama Live by Night, and while it's his least satisfying directorial effort to date, it still bears enough hallmarks of a talented filmmaker not to be dismissed entirely.

Thursday, January 12, 2017


Wednesday, January 11, 2017


Even without the fist bump it would feel like this is about fifteen years past its sell-by date. Is there any audience for a CHiPs movie?

Random Thought

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Nostalgia Theater: Before The X-Files, There Was Kolchak: The Night Stalker!

Kolchak: The Night Stalker is a here-and-gone TV series that aired for twenty episodes in the 1974-'75 season, yet it managed to leave a pretty sizable cultural footprint in its wake, paving the way for several eerie TV offerings including (but not limited to) The X-Files and Supernatural. Before it was even a show, it began its life as a TV movie called The Night Stalker, itself an adaptation of the then-unpublished novel The Kolchak Papers, by Jeff Rice, which aired on January 11, 1971 on ABC.

The premise was simple enough: Rumpled Las Vegas reporter Carl Kolchak is investigating grisly serial killings that turn out to be the work of a vampire. I guess the "vampire" angle was enough to lure in Dark Shadows creator Dan Curtis, a veteran of creepy TV, to produce the film, which had The Twilight Zone's Richard Matheson adapting the script. That script garnered the interest of veteran character actor Darren McGavin, who quickly signed on to play Kolchak. All three together led to some televisual alchemy. Watch it below:

Thursday, January 05, 2017

The MovieFilm Podcast: Our Fave Flicks of 2016!

Happy new year! It's a super-sized episode of the show as we take a look back at our top ten favorite flicks from the year just passed. With varied lists that include everything from big budget epics like Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Captain America: Civil War to smaller releases like Hunt for the Wilderpeople and Hell or High Water, we go through the reasons why these were the movies that rose to the top for us. Where did we end up ranking them? You'll have to listen to find out!

But that's not all: We also take some time to pay homage to the late, great Carrie Fisher, and postulate on what the passing of Princess Leia Organa might mean for the still-unfolding saga in a galaxy far, far away. 2017 is here, and we couldn't be happier to saddle up for a new year of the show! You can catch it through the embed below or via 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, or at our our Facebook page to tell us how we're doing!

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Left Shew Politics Podcast, Vol. 1 / Ep. 6

Click below to check out the latest episode of the Left Shew Politics Podcast, hosted by Rick Shew and featuring a panel including yours truly as we take stock of the year that just ended and attempt to make sense of everything that happened, plus make some predictions for what to expect in 2017 as we enter the era of...*sigh*...President Donald Trump. If you dig it, jump over to iTunes and subscribe!

Monday, January 02, 2017

Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Cinema Year That Was: Zaki's Flick Picks 2016

Read on to see my personal picks for my favorite cinematic experiences for the calendar year that's now closing. There were some very strong offerings this year, and there are plenty of flicks that just missed the cut, but here's what I ended up putting in my top ten:

2016: The Year in Interviews

As in previous years, 2016 offered me some pretty terrific opportunity to chat with some very interesting folks about their latest projects. For your ease, I've compiled them into a list below. Check them out after the jump!

Russia Grouse

While it's sure looking like Russia was behind the data hack that at least played some part in throwing the election to Donald Trump, Matt Taibbi says, "Not so fast..."

Pretty Much.

Stuck in the Zone

Friday, December 30, 2016

2016: The Year in Reviews

I have my "top ten" for the year on track for tomorrow, but in the meantime here's an overview of all the movies I did full reviews during calendar year 2016, with a little blurb from each. This was a big year for me, as I reviewed more flicks than ever before. (This doesn't include retro or archival reviews, of which there were also a few.) Catch them all after the jump!

Nostalgia Theater Podcast: Thirty Years of Stand By Me!

For the final Nostalgia Theater show of 2016, I'm joined by standup comedian (and avowed Corey Feldman fan) Zahra Noorbakhsh, host of the hilarious #GoodMuslimBadMuslim Podcast for a fun and freewheeling conversation celebrating the thirty year anniversary of the classic coming-of-age tale Stand By Me, directed by Rob Reiner and based on a novella by Stephen King. The film stars Wil Wheaton, Feldman, Jerry O'Connell, and the late River Phoenix, and in addition to being a formative experience for us both many years ago, it also ended up sparking a fascinating discussion right now about friendship, parenting, and the passage of time. There's lots of insights and lots of laughs to be had as we close out the year, and 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, and don't forget to hit "like" on our Facebook page.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Why So Serious?

A tweetstorm from me:


Sunday, December 25, 2016

Nostalgia Theater Extra: Year in Review 2016

With the year winding down, it's time once again to look back at this year's crop of Nostalgia Theater posts to see which ones rose to the top and were the most popular:

Nostalgia Theater: Christmas With Atari!

It's the most wonderful time of the year! And my vain attempts to procure a Nintendo Classic this year have drawn my mind back to the days of being a kid in the '80s, and feeling my mouth water with all the Christmastime commercials for all the latest video game products...meaning Atari. It's easy to forget now in the age of XBox and whatever new console Nintendo is promoting, but there was a time when having an Atari 2600 was it. The promised land. You'd be the envy of everyone on your block, even when the system had a roster of games that was pretty embarrassing even back then. Ah, simpler times. Anyway, in honor of the day, here's a collection of just some of those TV spots...

Friday, December 23, 2016

The Podcast: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

One of the things I'm loving about this new age of semi-permanent Star Wars releases coming out is all the great podcast conversations I get to be a part of as a result! Obviously there was my own MovieFilm episode with Brian last Sunday, plus Diffused Congruence with Parvez and Omer, but that's not all! Following our deep dive into all things Star Wars a few weeks ago, I was honored to once again join my friend Rick Shew and his panel of fellow panelists at the Batman-on-Film Podcast earlier this week for a fun and spoiler-filled conversation about Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Click the embed below to play it, or download at iTunes!