Sunday, August 30, 2015

Nostalgia Theater: TV's Cobra Gets Snakebit

Michael Dudikoff and his Cobra
A few weeks ago I posted about the hilariously dated Renegade and Pointman, syndicated action shows from the '90s that feel like these weird fragments of a forgotten era, unstuck in time. Continuing in that vein I figured I'd dig up another artifact that I'd say has fallen down the memory hole, but that assumes it was ever in your memory to begin with, which I'm fairly certain isn't the case. I'm talking about Cobra. No, not the God awful Sylvester Stallone movie. I mean a strange little thing that aired in syndication from 1993 to '94.

Created by TV legend Stephen J. Cannell, and Craig Van Sickle & Steven Long Mitchell, Cobra was like something off the "syndicated '90s action" assembly line. It starred American Ninja leading man Michael Dudikoff as Robert "Scandal" Jackson, a tough-as-nails ex-Navy SEAL enlisted into Cobra, a ruthless terrorist organization determined to -- wait, that's not right. Let me check that again. Whoops, what I meant was, per Wikipedia, it's "an undercover anti-crime agency that provides justice for victims who haven't benefited from the system."

Here's the intro:

Saturday, August 29, 2015

INTERVIEW: Andrew Garfield Reflects on His Spider-Man Tenure

Earlier this week I chatted with actor Andrew Garfield as part of a roundtable interview for his terrific new flick 99 Homes, directed by Ramin Bahrani and co-starring Michael Shannon. I'll present that conversation when the film's release gets closer, but in the meantime I wanted to share a brief portion concerning his recently-concluded tenure as Marvel Comics' famous web-slinger.

Garfield headlined two Amazing Spider-Man films, in 2012 and 2014, but as he revealed to me, he never quite felt comfortable in Spidey's skin. Part of that may simply have been because of how important the character had been to him throughout his life. In 2011, the actor famously spoke at San Diego Comic Con about his love of Spider-Man, and my question spun off of that iconic moment:

Zaki's Original Review: Without Limits

First published November 13, 1998
Billy Crudup leads the pack as legendary runner Steve Prefontaine
Steve Prefontaine didn't care about the rules. No one could stop him from doing what he was meant to do. No one could stop him from running. In the early '80s, Prefontaine exploded on to the American athletic scene like some human torch. He blazed a trail on the track that left his competitors, not to mention a pile of distance records, in his wake.

It seems that the mystique still surrounding Prefontaine can largely be attributed to the fact that he died in a random road accident in 1974 at age 24. Like Marilyn Monroe or James Dean, he never had a chance to descend into mediocrity. It is this mystique that has prompted two movies chronicling the runner's life in as many years. The first was Prefontaine, starring Jared Leto and R. Lee Ermey.

Friday, August 28, 2015

INTERVIEW: Patricia Clarkson on Learning to Drive

The first time I saw Patricia Clarkson onscreen was in her feature film debut in Brian De Palma's 1987 crime epic The Untouchables. The subsequent decades have seen the hugely talented Clarkson rack up a truly impressive list of credits working alongside some of the most popular and well-respected actors and filmmakers of all time, in the process garnering considerable acclaim for her work on both big screen and small (she took home two well-deserved Emmy Awards for guest appearances on the HBO skein Six Feet Under).

For her latest project, the luminous Clarkson stars in Isabell Coixet's Learning to Drive, a charming slice-of-life fable co-starring Sir Ben Kingsley. The film, inspired by a 2002 New Yorker article by Katha Politt, casts the actress as Wendy, a recent divorcee who forms a unique and unlikely bond with Darwan (Kingsley), a Sikh driving instructor. What follows are some highlights from my conversation with Clarkson about the film, her relationship with Kingsley, and the continuing difficulties for women in Hollywood:

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Recommended Reading

While Donald Trump is currently riding high in the polls, I remain skeptical that he'll actually walk away with the Republican nomination when all is said and done (though I don't rule anything out, of course). Regardless, whether he's the nominee or not, there's a trail of unrest he's fomenting that he's going to be saddling the GOP with -- and by extension national political discourse right with it. Evan Osnos at The New Yorker dives deep into the Trump phenom and arrives at some very conclusion. From his piece:
When Trump leaped to the head of the Republican field, he delivered the appearance of legitimacy to a moral vision once confined to the fevered fringe, elevating fantasies from the message boards and campgrounds to the center stage of American life. In doing so, he pulled America into a current that is coursing through other Western democracies—Britain, France, Spain, Greece, Scandinavia—where xenophobic, nationalist parties have emerged since the 2008 economic crisis to besiege middle-ground politicians. In country after country, voters beset by inequality and scarcity have reached past the sober promises of the center-left and the center-right to the spectre of a transcendent solution, no matter how cruel.
There's a lot more from Osnos at this link, and all of it is worth a read.

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Blackboard Jungle: Ten Years Later

Note: I posted this remembrance on my Facebook page yesterday, but decided to cross-post it here as well so that it could be preserved in a slightly less transient location.

As I sit here prepping my lecture notes, ready to begin my fall semester bright and early in the AM, the sudden realization hit that tomorrow marks exactly ten years TO THE DAY that I first stepped in front of a college classroom as the teacher of record. I still remember the feeling of creeping dread that gripped me as I walked into that class -- *my* class -- at San Jose State for the very first time, hoping desperately that my abject terror wasn't in any way perceptible.

One decade later I've frankly lost count of the number of courses, sections, and students I've taught since that first section of Public Speaking at SJSU lo those many semesters ago. But the one thing I *can't* forget -- because it's never once gone away, is the fresh thrill of getting to know a new group, getting to teach them, learn with them, and learn from them. The joy that comes from seeing them set off to claim the many successes their lives have in store for them.

I've been privileged to stay connected with many of my students over the years. I've rejoiced in their personal and professional triumphs, and I take the tiniest bit of pride in being able to share credit for a few threads in the magnificent tapestries they've woven. Ten years. It's a heck of a run. Sometimes I look at everything I still want to achieve in life and get discouraged. But that feeling can never last very long when I think about everything these ten years have given me.

Here's what I wrote in 2005 as I reflected on my very first day as a teacher.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Taibbi on Trump

Matt Taibbi was blowing off the Donald Trump candidacy as a joke in his piece that I linked to last week. He's not doing that anymore. Says he:
Trump had the whole country rubbernecking as this preposterous Spaulding Smails caricature of a spoiled rich kid drove the family Rolls (our illustrious electoral process in this metaphor) off the road into a ditch. It was brilliant theater for a while, but the ugliness factor has gotten out of control.  
Trump is probably too dumb to realize it, or maybe he isn't, but he doesn't need to win anything to become the most dangerous person in America. He can do plenty of damage just by encouraging people to be as uninhibited in their stupidity as he is.
Read the rest here.

Nostalgia Theater: The Epic Badness of Baywatch Nights

L-R: Eddie Cibrian, Angie Harmon, David Hasselhoff, Donna D'Errico, Dorian Gregory
During the '90s, the number one TV show in the world for the majority of the decade was Baywatch. The skein, which spent one season on NBC before going into first-run syndication, starred David Hasselhoff as heroic lifeguard Mitch Buchannon, alongside a rotating cast of toned beach bods patrolling the California coast. Launching the careers of Erika Eleniak, Pamela Anderson, Carmen Electra, and countless others, anyone who was aware of its existence knew the *ahem* real reason for its success. Everyone, that is, except for the Hoff, who saw the global Baywatch phenomenon as confirmation of what he'd known in his mind all along: "The world loves David Hasselhoff."

And so, not wanting to deprive us of his gifts, Hasselhoff got to work putting a spin-off into motion to premiere in syndication in fall of '95, one that would feature less of everything else and more...him. The star reprised Buchannon for the show, Baywatch Nights, with the conceit -- like something out of "The Simpsons' Spin-off Showcase" -- that when he's not running along the water in slow motion, Mitch also puts in time as a private detective alongside fellow Baywatch cast member GregAlan Williams. If that sounds pretty dopey, guess what, it gets dopier. Here's the intro, featuring a hard-sell by Hasselhoff, and the song "After The Sun Goes Down" performed by the star and Lou Rawls:

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Zaki's Original Review: The Thin Red Line

First published January 22, 1999

Jim Caviezel heads up an ensemble of all-stars in Terrence Malick's The Thin Red Line
The most obvious question that sprang to mind before viewing director Terrence Malick's The Thin Red Line was how it would stack up in comparison with Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan. Both films cull their subject matter from World War II, with a fiery level of violent realism that proves to be, as per the adage, Hell. The comparison ends there, however.

Any attempt to point up further similarities between the two works does a disservice to both. In stark contrast with the clearly linear narrative of Private Ryan, The Thin Red Line emerges almost as an art movie disguised as a mainstream film. Set during the battle Guadalcanal, the film's narrative is spread out amongst the members of Charlie Company, a tightly-knit unit of soldiers fighting the good fight.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Zaki's Review: American Ultra

American Ultra posits a mildly amusing premise -- what if a stoned-out slacker found out he was Jason Bourne? -- and turns it into ninety or so minutes of filmmaking that are probably a lot more engaging than they have any right to be. Directed by Project X's Nima Nourizadeh and starring Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart (in a post-Adventureland reunion), it's a little too slapdash narratively and stylistically to be truly revolutionary, but it does offer its share of chuckles, and benefits both from the talented cast and a sprightly script by Max Landis (Chronicle).

Eisenberg plays the "Ultra" of the title, a grungy loser named Mike Howell who lives with his girlfriend Phoebe (Kristen Stewart) in a shack in the woods. When the two aren't toking up, Mike is manning the register at a convenience store in the middle of nowhere, dreaming up new adventures for the cartoon ape he created. This life of drug-addled contentment comes to an abrupt halt when government agent Victoria Lasseter (Connie Britton) shows up at his store, utters a mysterious phrase, and disappears.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Zaki's Review: Straight Outta Compton

The first time I heard of N.W.A. was in summer of 1989. I was watching a news story with folks breathlessly bemoaning a new kind of music that used salty language and exhorted listeners to commit violence against police. I didn't think much of that moment at the time, partly because I didn't listen to rap, and partly because I was ten. But as I watched Straight Outta Compton, director F. Gray Gray's engrossing biopic depicting N.W.A.'s rapid rise, sudden fall, and eventual redemption, I couldn't help but imagine ten-year old Zaki sitting in front of that broadcast somewhere in the world of the movie, little knowing the history he was watching unfold.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The MovieFilm Podcast: Episode 77

It's a packed show this week, as we're honored to be joined by the esteemed Sean Gerber of Modern Myth Media to guide us through all the big Disney, Star Wars, and Marvel announcements unveiled at last weekend's D23 convention. But that's not all: I offer quick reviews of this week's American Ultra, as well as The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and the number one movie in the nation, Straight Outta Compton. From there, it's on to the main event as we put our heads together and attempt to unpack the "how" and "why" behind the catastrophic failure of Fox's would-be franchise-starter Fantastic Four (you can read my review here for more thoughts on that). Listen to the show below, or catch it at iTunes or Stitcher (and make sure to write us a review!). As always, you can drop us a line at MovieFilmPodcast@gmail.com, or at our our Facebook page to tell us how we're doing!

Matt Damon Fights to Survive in New The Martian Trailer

We got our first look at Ridley Scott's The Martian last June, and I found it suitably promising enough that I decided that was it for me, I'd avoid watching anything else until the movie hit in a few months. Then the new trailer dropped this morning and I couldn't help but check it out. This one follows the same broad strokes as the first one, albeit with a few more details to flesh it out. We also get to see a whole lot more of the cast, including Jessica Chastain, Kate Mara, Donald Glover, and more, as well as a lot more of Matt Damon deploying his glib witticisms as castaway astronaut Mark Watney. Watch the vid below:

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Nostalgia Theater: Declassifying The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

With the big budget movie adaptation currently in theaters (and a mostly entertaining film, at that), I thought what better time to look back at the original TV show of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Airing from 1964 to 1968, the stylish spy skein was put into development in 1962, just as the staggering global success of the James Bond movie series was beginning. But rather than seem like a mercenary clone, U.N.C.L.E. had the imprimatur of credibility after 007 creator Ian Fleming was asked by producer Norman Felton to help develop a show in the vein of Hitchcock's North By Northwest.

Fleming's key contribution was the main character, Napoleon Solo, which led to the show's original title, Ian Fleming's Solo. However, a lawsuit from the Bond movie producers over a similar name in Goldfinger led to the settlement that the TV folks could keep Napoleon, but had to change the title. With Fleming unable to continue on past that, writer Sam Rolfe took over, coming up with U.N.C.L.E. (United Network Command for Law and Enforcement), as well as Russian agent Ilya Kuryakin, who would become just as integral as Solo.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Zaki's Original Review: Ronin

First published October 2, 1998
John Frankenheimer's Ronin hearkens back to the spy thrillers of a simpler time. Bereft of the high-tech gadgetry and '90s flavored espionage that has been so evident of recent spy movies, it instead weaves a complex (and convoluted) tapestry of danger, betrayal, and a seemingly unending stream of car chases.

Director Frankenheimer, pedigreed with politcial thrillers like The Manchurian Candidate, teaming with star Robert De Niro should have produced sensational results, but Ronin fails to overcome an incomprehensible plot, making it, much like spy-sibling Mission: Impossible, a flashy exercise in incoherence.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Zaki's Review: The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

With the arrival of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. after twenty-plus years in development, we've completed the series-to-feature process for all four major espionage-themed TV shows of the 1960s. The Mission: Impossible movies began their run in 1996, The Avengers (no, not those Avengers) arrived in 1998, and I Spy hit cineplexes in 2002. While the latter two rightly died quick deaths both critically and at the turnstile, Mission: Impossible is still going strong (as we just discussed a few weeks ago), which left the big screen U.N.C.L.E. (That's the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement, if you're wondering) as the lone question mark.

Could this most quintessentially '60s of spy skeins (developed by Sam Rolfe, with an able assist from none other than 007 creator Ian Fleming himself) follow in the long-lasting franchise footsteps of Tom Cruise's Mission agent Ethan Hunt? (Ironically enough, Cruise was actually in negotiations at one point to topline an earlier iteration of U.N.C.L.E.) Well, the jury is obviously still out as far as the "franchise" part goes, but as for this initial installment, the Guy Ritchie-directed pic manages to clear a space for itself that not only distinguishes it from its fellow travelers in this genre, but also makes a case for its own relevance.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Taibbi on GOP Clown Car

While there is a certain car-wreck fascination in watching Donald Trump continue to rise in the GOP standings no matter how offensive or egregious he manages to be, the worrisome thing to consider if you're not part of the red meat Republican base is that there isn't really a "sensible" alternative to Trump if/when he self-destructs (which, by the way, doesn't look to be happening anytime soon). With more than fifteen candidates in the clown car actively vying for the nomination, that's a pretty sad commentary on the state of the modern day GOP. Matt Taibbi came to this same realization after observing several of the campaigns up close. There's so much good stuff in his lengthy write-up that it would be a disservice to quote a capsule, so just jump over to Rolling Stone and read the whole thing.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Recommended Reading

Last week I linked to New York Times Magazine's lengthy look at the decades-long fight to unravel the Voting Rights Act. I found the story incredibly moving, and clearly I wasn't the only one, as President Obama himself was compelled to pen this letter of comment in response to the article.

Diffused Congruence: Dr. Ebrahim Moosa

For our big twenty-fifth episode, Parvez and I are honored to be joined by Dr. Ebrahim Moosa, renowned scholar and professor of Islamic Studies at University of Notre Dame, Indiana. Dr. Moosa shares his life journey with us, and also examines many of the pressing issues facing the American Muslim community today. Listen to our interesting and enriching conversation via the embed below, or download at the link. Also, be sure to hit us up at our Facebook page to let us know how we're doing!

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Nostalgia Theater: The Fantastic Four's Second Cartoon!

Fox's ballyhooed Fantastic Four reboot (which is terrible, by the way) is currently in theaters and flopping rather spectacularly, which certainly demonstrates the inevitably disastrous results of taking the classic superhero book team so far off-model. Another example of the FF going off-model, albeit to a lesser degree, was when they returned to animation in 1978 (having previously starred in a series produced by Hanna-Barbera eleven years prior).

This show, labeled The New Fantastic Four, boasted scripts by comic and animation vets like Roy Tomas and Christy Marx. It also featured storyboards by none other than legendary FF co-creator Jack Kirby himself, making this the very last time that Kirby contributed to the Fantastic Four following his lengthy drawing the team's comic title (though his storyboards would later be repurposed for a comic story much to his chagrin). Premiering in fall of '78 on NBC, here's what it looked like:

Saturday, August 08, 2015

INTERVIEW: Joel Edgerton Gives The Gift

For more than a decade, Joel Edgerton has been one of the most magnetic personalities onscreen with appearances in Zero Dark Thirty, Warrior, The Great Gatbsy, and more. Now the busy actor has added "director" and "writer" to his considerable resume with this weekend's release of  The Gift.

The suspense thriller, which stars Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall, has Edgerton in the role of "Gordo," a socially awkward loner who had knew Bateman's character in high school. What follows their reintroduction after twenty-plus years is the stuff great thrillers are made of.

I had a chance to pick Edgerton's brain about how he decided to make the leap to directing, where the film came from, and whether he might have anymore Star Wars appearances in his future. Read on for the highlights (be aware there are some minor spoilers for the film):

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Zaki's Review: Fantastic Four (2015)

 Click here to read my retro reviews of the previous Fantastic Four films

Honestly, people. It really shouldn't be this hard.

With this week's release of Fox's Fantastic Four, we now have three separate origin movies for Marvel Comics' First Family in just over twenty years. (Though, granted, one of those wasn't even released.) Less a bold new vision of a well-known brand than a mercenary attempt to retain a prized Marvel IP by hook or by crook lest it pass back into the comic giant's warm embrace, this take on the team is long on mood and somberness, and short on the optimism and joie de vivre that have been a hallmark of Stan Lee & Jack Kirby's legendary creation since their introduction in 1962.

As I noted in my retro reviews this week, while 2005's Fantastic Four and its 2007 sequel, Rise of the Silver Surfer, aren't necessarily good, each has aspects that work, and neither was an outright flop. While it used to be that movie studios worked with what they had and made adjustments on the fly when it came to continuing franchises, in this age of the insta-reboot, studios have become the friend I played video games with as a kid who'd hit "reset" if he "died" even once. And so, just ten years after the previous FF franchise began, like Sony and Spider-Man before them, Fox has burned down the crop and replanted the field.

Zaki's Retro Review: Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer

L-R: Jessica Alba, Ioan Gruffudd, Michael Chiklis, Chris Evans
Click here to read my review of 2005's Fantastic Four

When their first Fantastic Four flick grossed more than three times its production budget in 2005, the hoped-for sequel quickly left the realm of the hypothetical for home studio Twentieth Century Fox. And with the cast locked into the kind of multi-picture deals that are standard for these kinds of pictures, they moved to lock in director Tim Story as well as screenwriter Mark Frost for a follow-up that (they hoped) would up the ante in both scope and box office returns in the same way that the X-Men sequels had for the same studio.

When attempting to find a story to hang the sequel on, it makes sense that the filmmakers turned to the iconic "Galactus Trilogy" from the 1960s. Not only is this three-part story by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby considered one of the definitive FF opuses of all time, it also introduced one of the definitive FF villains in the form of the planet-eating giant Galactus. Perhaps even more importantly than that, it featured the first appearance of the Silver Surfer, an iconic Marvel hero in his own right.

Continue reading at Sequart...

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Zaki's Retro Review: Fantastic Four (2005)

L-R: Jessica Alba, Ioan Gruffudd, Chris Evans, Michael Chiklis
Click here to read my review of 1994's The Fantastic Four

The moment that principal photography on Roger Corman's million-dollar production of The Fantastic Four commenced on December 28, 1992, the ultimate goal of license holder Bernd Eichinger was instantly fulfilled. His hold on the Fantastic Four rights were immediately extended for another ten years, meaning he could forget all about the cheapie picture Corman and Co. were toiling away on in favor of something (theoretically) more worthy of the four-color foursome's legendary reputation.

And so, with the low-budget version preemptively pulled from release in '94, Eichinger's Constantin Films and Marvel Productions quickly began development with Twentieth Century Fox on a big budget adaption. As the '90s turned into the aughts, the age of Marvel movies began. There was Blade in '98, X-Men in 2000, and, perhaps most importantly, Spider-Man in 2002, the first release to ever break the $100 opening weekend barrier. If it wasn't clear before, it was now: superheroes were very big business, and the Marvel heroes were the biggest business.

Continue reading at Sequart...

The MovieFilm Podcast: Episode 76

The dog days of August may be here, but that doesn't mean the MovieFilm crew has missed a step as we celebrate three years of the show! To start things off, we have my interview with writer/director/star Joel Edgerton about his creepy new thriller The Gift, in theaters this Friday. After that, Brian and I are joined once again by comedian Zahra Noorbakhsh for a fun and free-flowing conversation as we share our collective love for the nation's number one movie, Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation, also offering quick takes on the entire two-decade old Mission: Impossible catalog. In addition, we also offer our first reactions to the just-released trailer for the Ryan Reynolds superhero pic Deadpool, and thoughts on all the latest news out of Hollywood. Listen below, or at iTunes or Stitcher (and makes sure to write us a review!). As always, you can drop us a line at our Facebook page to tell us how we're doing!

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Zaki's Retro Review: The Fantastic Four (1994)

L-R: Carl Ciarfalio, Rebecca Staab, Alex Hyde-White, Jay Underwood
As the leading edge of what came to be called the Marvel Age of Comics, the Fantastic Four have a place of special significance in comic book history. With their unheralded arrival on the scene in 1962, entire paradigms of what superhero comics were capable of and which audiences they could reach were turned on their ear. It's not at all an exaggeration to say that if not for co-creators Stan Lee & Jack Kirby stepping onto the precipice and taking a leap of faith on what the medium could allow for, we wouldn't be living in the age of perpetual superhero cinema that we're currently enjoying (or not enjoying, depending on how you feel about the whole thing).

Given that, it's a bit perplexing how the team has gotten kicked around when it comes to finding a place in the sun for their movie moment. Part of that is understandable given that special effects technology has only relatively recently reached a place where the adventures of Reed Richards, Sue Storm, Johnny Storm, and Ben Grimm could be visualized to a degree that does justice to their four-color escapades. Nonetheless, while Marvel Comics stablemate Spider-Man took a rather circuitous route to the big screen (as I chronicled at some length here), that journey almost pales in comparison to what happened to the FF on the way to a film franchise they could call their own.

Continue reading at Sequart...

Monday, August 03, 2015

Recommended Reading

Over the last few years, at the urging of conservative activists and with the acquiescence of legislatures and the high court, we've seen the chip-chip-chipping away of many of the achievements that were codified by the Voting Rights Act of 1965. While the law had been reauthorized numerous times since its initial passage, its existence has always been something of a bugaboo for folks who oppose it on ideological grounds, and the rapid fire successes these opponents have accumulated in recent years is not only eye-opening, it's also deeply disheartening. Jim Rutenberg at New York Times Magazine has a lengthy piece looking at the five-decade fight to overturn the Voting Rights Act.

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Nostalgia Theater: The Fantastic Four's First Cartoon!

With Fox's rebooted Fantastic Four flick hitting theaters this coming week, I thought I'd start a week of Fantastic-themed content by looking back at the very first animated incarnation for Marvel Comics' first family. Following their comic book debut in 1962, the Fantastic Four very quickly reset the superhero paradigm thanks to the combination of writer Stan Lee's quirky characterizations and artist Jack Kirby's imaginative designs. The super-team quickly became one of the industry's top-sellers, with the Marvel Universe as we know it following in their wake, and it wasn't long before Saturday morning came a-calling.

While other Marvel heroes had showed up in animation the previous year via a syndicated weekday skein using the actual panels from the comics for some extremely limited animation, the FF, owing to their position of preeminence in the publisher's pecking order, had something better reserved for them. Back then animation house Hanna-Barbera was the undisputed king of the kidvid castle (and who can blame them?), so their licensing of the cosmic quartet was pretty much the biggest indicator yet that Marvel had "made it." Here's what it looked like when The Fantastic Four premiered on ABC in September of '67:

INTERVIEW: Dr. Philip Zimbardo and Director Kyle Patrick Alvarez on The Stanford Prison Experiment

When it comes to research into human behavior in groups, one of the most notable, foundational studies is the 1971 Stanford Prison Experiment. Conducted by Dr. Philip Zimbardo, a psychology professor at Stanford University, the experiment enlisted fifty volunteers -- half designated "prisoners" and half "guards " -- with the goal being to study how each group adapted to their designated roles in a mock prison. As it turns out, they all adapted a little too well. While it was scheduled to last longer, the experiment was cut short after six days when the guards began to abuse the prisoners.

The study says a lot about human nature, and it's now the subject of a gripping new docudrama entitled, appropriately enough, The Stanford Prison Experiment, starring Billy Crudup (as Zimbardo) and directed by Kyle Patrick Alvarez. As a Communication Studies instructor, the Stanford Experiment is something I refer to early and often when teaching Small Group Communication and Interpersonal Communication, so when the opportunity arose to speak with director Alvarez and Dr. Zimbardo, I leaped at it. What follows are some highlights from our chat:

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Recommended Reading

William Saletan has been paying very close attention to the congressional hearings currently underway regarding the Iran nuclear deal. And per his observations, the agreement itself is less a cause for concern than the opposition-at-all-costs evinced by the GOP inquisitors. Says Saletan:
This used to be a party that saw America’s leadership of the free world as its highest responsibility. What happened? And why should any of us entrust it with the presidency again?
He goes into some detail about the shenanigans currently on display, and it's all depressing. The rest is here.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Trumped Up

We're about to enter Jon Stewart's last week hosting The Daily Show, and I don't know about you, but I'm already starting to feel the withdrawals, especially with all the shenanigans going on as the various Republicans running for prez jockey for a spot on the Fox News debate stage. Of course, with Donald Trump leading the field, the only way to get any airtime is to go even crazier, so you can imagine the hilarity that's currently ensuing. Watch the clip below, laugh heartily, then sob openly at all the commentary we'll be missing out on after next week.

From The Onion...

This made me laugh.
Matt Damon Loses $500 To Guy Who Promised Professional-Looking Headshots

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Zaki's Review: Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation

Click here to read my 2011 review of Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol

After nineteen years and five films, you have to give it up to the Mission: Impossible movies. Sure, I may have gotten off to a bit of a rocky start with the first two big screen go-rounds, but even I have to stand back and appreciate their sheer consistency. No reboots, retcons, or remakes here. Instead, every five years or so since 1996, through changing styles and tastes, we've been able to count on Tom Cruise stepping back into the role of super spy Ethan Hunt and engaging in another round of globetrotting espionage and death-defying derring-do.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Buy Me!

Late last year I mentioned that I'd be contributing to an upcoming anthology from Sequart entitled The Sacred Scrolls: Comics on the Planet of the Apes. Edited by my friends Rich Handley and Joe Berenato, it covers the many different iterations of Apes in comic book form, with essays by some heavy hitting luminaries from the genre...and me.

As I'm sure longtime readers are already more than aware, I'm something of a fan of the Apes franchise, so this was a fun one for me. Well, the book is due for release shortly and now available for pre-order, and I'd be much obliged if you'd click over to Amazon via this link and snag a copy. Thanks! (And there's more to come before the year is out!)

Nostalgia Theater: Pac-Man Hits Saturday Morning

The Adam Sandler starrer Pixels is currently flopping in theaters, and while the movie itself is almost entirely terrible, its video game-centric plot has ended up giving '80s icon Pac-Man his highest profile in decades. (Just to put in perspective how ubiquitous he was for a little while there, I carried a Pac-Man lunchbox with me when I started pre-school in fall of 1983.) Anyway, what better time to look at the Pac-Man animated show from the character's 1980s prime.

Produced by animation giants Hanna-Barbara and airing on ABC, Pac-Man premiered on September 25, 1982, two years after the arcade game debuted and had become a smash. I'm pretty sure we all know the mechanics of the gameplay, so I won't bother rehashing that, but trying to translate those mechanics into a weekly cartoon was no easy task, as demonstrated by the generic piece of pablum they emerged with. Observe:

Friday, July 24, 2015

INTERVIEW: Screenwriter Jeffrey Hatcher on Mr. Holmes

Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes has been played by more actors than any fictional character in history. And director Bill Condon's Mr. Holmes, currently in theaters, adds a new chapter to that storied legacy by casting Sir Ian McKellen (re-teaming with his Gods and Monsters director) as the legendary sleuth during his sunset years, as the nonagenarian Sherlock battles the onset of dementia as he attempts to unravel the secrets of his final case.

It's a moving performance from a master, helped along by Condon's meditative direction and a thoughtful, poignant script by screenwriter Jeffrey Hatcher (adapting Mitch Cullen's 2005 novel A Slight Trick of Mind). I absolutely adored this movie, and was very lucky to be able to pick the writer's mind about the movie, the character, and Sherlock Holmes' literary and cinematic lineage. Read on for my chat with Mr. Hatcher about Mr. Holmes!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Zaki's Review: Pixels

I realized as I set down to write this review that Pixels is one of those flicks that's pretty much impervious to any kind of critical analysis. Director Chris Columbus's ode to the bygone arcade culture of 1980s -- when Donkey Kong was king -- isn't egregiously offensive, but it's also not even remotely memorable. It's just aggressively mediocre, and pretty much vanishes from your brainpan as soon as the credits start rolling and you've hit your mental "reset" button on your way out the door. In that sense, I guess it fits right in with the extensive oeuvre of star Adam Sandler.

The film, about unfriendly aliens siccing beloved video game icons of the '80s on the Earth in a bid to conquer the planet, has a central conceit that's mildly diverting, but to watch Pixels is to watch a movie at war with itself. One the one hand you have Columbus (who himself occupies a hallowed place in the annals of '80s adoration thanks to such classics as The Goonies, Gremlins, and Adventures in Babysitting) trying like heck to give the outlandish core concept some sense of gravity that'll let it hang together logically and dramatically.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Watch! Bond in Action in New Spectre Trailer

As we work our way through summer movie season, we start to set our sights on the big releases for fall, and one of the biggest for me is Spectre, the 24th James Bond opus. This is the fourth go-round for current 007 Daniel Craig, and it marks a return engagement for Skyfall director Sam Mendes. I thought the teaser trailer last March was fine, but this latest assemblage really ups the intensity and gives a sense of the story's texture. We also see new Bond women Monica Bellucci and Léa Seydoux, as well as our first teased glimpse of Christoph Waltz as the head of the evil SPECTRE organization. Is he playing iconic Bond baddie Ernst Stavro Blofeld? I guess we'll all find out when Spectre hits theaters this November, but in the meantime watch the trailer below:

The MovieFilm Podcast: Episode 75

It's the big 75th episode of the MovieFilm Podcast! We start off this week's show by discussing new release Pixels, directed by Chris Columbus and starring Adam Sandler, Kevin James, and Michelle Monaghan. Before you watch the retro video game comedy in theaters Friday, listen in to get my take. After that, listen to our interview with screenwriter and playwright Jeffrey Hatcher as he discusses the sublime Mr. Holmes, starring Ian McKellen as the nonagenarian Sherlock. 

From there, it's onto the main event as we breach the Spoiler Wall and have an in-depth discussion about the latest pic from Marvel Studios, Ant-Man. We talk story, acting, effects, and why the Paul Rudd starrer may well be the best superhero movie of the year. Of course, that's not all! There's still all the Listener Letters, Hollywood Headlines, and Star Wars news you've come to expect. 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!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Nostalgia Theater: What Was the Point of Pointman?

Last week's post on the long-lived and entirely terrible Renegade got me thinking about another syndicated series from that same era that felt just as arbitrary, and seemingly had even less of a reason to exist than the Lorenzo Lamas actioner. I'm talking about Pointman, which starred Jack Scalia as, uh, a pointman, I guess.

Part of the "Primetime Entertainment Network" package that previously birthed Time Trax and Kung Fu: The Legend Continues, Pointman started with a pilot movie in January of '94, with the series-proper beginning the following January. Here's the intro, which includes some of that handy-dandy voiceover exposition (with music by Mike Post):