Wednesday, October 22, 2014

What I Did Today

From December of 2004 to now, I've linked to clips from or discussed The Daily Show 150 times on this blog. 150. That should give some sense of what a huge influence on my work, personality and overall worldview Jon Stewart has been over the years. That's also why the pic below, taken during today's press junket for Stewart's new film Rosewater, means so much to me. Look our for the text and audio from our conversation very soon. Man, what a world.

The Avengers 2 Trailer is Here!

Is it already time for Marvel Studios to start promoting their next big box office behemoth? (checks calendar) Hmm, guess so. Avengers: Age of Ultron, the sequel to the third biggest box office hit of all time is queued up to rock the box office next May, and based on the assemblage below, we're in for more of what we dug about movie one, albeit with a much darker tinge. We get good looks at all the returning favorites (including Iron Man wearing one of my fave armor configurations), plus newbies Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor Johnson) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), not to mention Ultron, the CGI baddie with the James Spader voice. Joss Whedon directed again, and it'll be in theaters next May. Not too much else I really need to say here. Looks sweet. Watch it after the jump:

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Nostalgia Theater: Double Dragon -- Good Game, Terrible Cartoon, Worse Movie

Anyone who grew up in the '80s and had some degree of interest in the video game scene is familiar with Double Dragon. The quintessential beat 'em up game, it first hit arcades in 1987, and is well known for its side-scrolling street-fighting antics, with our heroes, martial artist brothers Jimmy & Billy Lee, making their way through various gangland environs and dispatching various street toughs while attempting to rescue their ladyfriend. See some of the gameplay below:

Thursday, October 16, 2014

From The Onion...

Entire Conversation With Parents Spent Changing The Subject 
SEATTLE—Deftly switching from topic to topic from the moment he answered his phone until ending the call 20 minutes later, local man Andrew Heltman reportedly spent the entirety of a recent conversation with his parents changing the subject. “Yeah, things are fine at work, the usual—but hey, aren’t you guys leaving for vacation soon?” said Heltman, 26, who while speaking to his father did nothing but redirect discussions of his career, personal finances, and political views to more innocuous areas such as the Kansas City Royals’ postseason run and Ken Burns’ recent documentary series The Roosevelts. “No, I’m still not sure what my plans are for Thanksgiving yet. You going to invite Aunt Jean? How’s she doing?” Once the phone was handed over to his mother, sources confirmed Heltman spent the remainder of the call steering the conversation away from his romantic life with repeated inquiries about the family dog.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Ebola Facts

There's been a lot of hysteria over the past few days regarding the perceived threat of Ebola and the supposed complicity of our government in its supposed spread. A lot of that noise has been emanating from the Fox News crowd, so you wonder if Fox anchor Shep Smith was to speaking to his colleagues or his viewers earlier today when he stated firmly, "We do not have an outbreak of Ebola in the United States." Watch:

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

INTERVIEW: Co-Creator Mike Shoemaker on Hulu's The Awesomes

Hulu's The Awesomes just wrapped its second season (directed by my best bud Sean Coyle!), but as co-creator Mike Shoemaker explains, there's still plenty of super-comedic action on the way for the animated offering, which features voice work by comedy greats such as Seth Myers (also co-creator of the show), Bill Hader, Kenan Thompson, and many more. Shoemaker, a lifelong comic book buff, first conceived of the idea along with Meyers in the early 2000s when the pair was working on Saturday Night Live. But as he explains, the show's journey from concept to cult favorite was long and circuitous before finally becoming a Hulu original. Keep reading for some highlights of our conversation:

Monday, October 13, 2014

Oliver: How is Columbus Day Still a Thing?

With schools mostly open on Columbus Day, I just experienced the single way the "holiday" has any remaining relevance in my life when I swung by the post office only to realize too late that it was closed. As such, I found more than a little to relate to in this vid from John Oliver's HBO show asking why Christopher Columbus is still being feted annually given the...questionable state of his so-called accomplishments.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Urkel Effect

My video of the week. Key & Peele on how '90s sitcom Family Matters transmogrified from a low-key family comedy into "Goddamn Quantum Leap!" (Some salty language, so be aware of where and with whom you're watching.)

Nostalgia Theater: ExoSquad -- Warfare, Bigotry, and Genocide on Weekday Mornings

ExoSquad was an animated series that lasted for 52 episodes from 1993 to 1994, which no one seems to remember today. Produced by Universal Cartoon Studies, it was a sci-fi strip at least partially inspired by Japanese anime, and despite the fact that it came wrapped in the bright colors and limited production values that typified stateside animation of the era (not to mention being primarily intended to sell toys), it managed to serve up some pretty compelling serialized storylines trafficking in themes like genetic engineering, slavery, bigotry, open warfare, and even genocide. High falutin' stuff for kidvid! Here's the intro, which lays out the premise pretty well:

Saturday, October 11, 2014

INTERVIEW: Director David Dobkin on The Judge

Thanks to such films as Wedding Crashers and Fred Claus, David Dobkin has earned a reputation as being primarily a comedy director, but as he revealed in our chat discussing his new project The Judge, in theaters now, starring Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall, his interests as a filmmaker are fare more eclectic.

The intergenerational family drama, written by Nick Schenk and Bill Dubuque from a story by Dobkin himself, features Downey as hotshot defense attorney Hank Palmer, who is forced back to his Indiana hometown following his mother's death, and must work through lingering issues with his father, no-nonsense Judge Joseph Palmer (Duvall).

The Judge also has such respected performers as Vincent D'Onofrio and Vera Farmiga in the cast, and my first question for the director was regarding the top-tier talent he had lined up in front of the camera, including two of the greatest actors of all time headlining. Read on for his answer, as well as other highlights of our conversation:

Friday, October 10, 2014

Diffused Congruence: Parvez & Zaki Celebrate One Year!

After last week's debate about Islam and Muslims between Bill Maher and Ben Affleck (which conspicuously had no Muslims actually involved in the conversation), we celebrate one year of the Diffused Congruence Podcast by chatting about the rise of anti-Muslim and Islamophobic invective from mainstream media figures, and why this podcast is meant at least partially as a response to that. In addition, we also delve into the secret origins of the show, and and what we hope to achieve going forward. Download or stream the show below, or listen at iTunes (don't forget to leave us a review!) and Stitcher Radio. Feel free to send any comments or questions our way at or via our Facebook page!

Thursday, October 09, 2014

The MovieFilm Podcast: Episode 56

In this week's show, the guys make plans to leave Gotham, discuss whether Robert Downey Jr. will/should make another Iron Man movie, and the news that Paul Feig has signed on to direct an all-female Ghostbusters cast. We also unpack the all-new animated series Star Wars Rebels, and Brian explains to me why I should watch David Fincher's latest, Gone Girl. But that's not all! We also have an exclusive conversation with director David Dobkin about his new film The Judge, opening Friday. As always, hit up iTunes and Stitcher to write us a review, and hit "like" on our Facebook page to tell us how we're doing!

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Recommended Reading

Max Fisher at Vox runs us through the gauntlet of recent cringe-worthy cable news segments to make the point that these orgs are instrumental in fostering a pretty toxic (and uncritically tolerated) air of Islamophobia which could, per Fisher, "further normalize bigotry against Muslims in America, making it the default."

Monday, October 06, 2014

Recommended Reading

H.A. Goodman says Ben Affleck was right and Bill Maher was wrong in that Real Time kerfuffle last Friday. Click over to read why.

Once Upon a Time in the West

As you know, The West Wing is up there as one of my favorite TV series of all-time, and the only show I've watched the whole way through multiple times. (Here's what I said when it wrapped up back in 2006.) Well, hard as it is to believe, this fall marks fifteen years since the Aaron Sorkin-created political drama first aired on NBC. To celebrate this auspicious moment, James Dyer of Empire has compiled the definitive oral history of the series, getting on-the-record remembrances from just about everyone who was ever associated with the skein for lengthy deep-dive of a read that any fan needs to set aside time for.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Nostalgia Theater: The Flash's First TV Series

One of my prize possessions, natch
This Tuesday sees the premiere of the CW's The Flash, a spin-off of their successful Arrow, but of course, this isn't the first time the DC Comics' hero has raced to the small screen. After Tim Burton's Batman broke box office (and merchandising!) records in 1989, we saw a miniature version of the same superhero fever we're experiencing right now, with various related and competing properties being fast-tracked at various venues to try and capture some of those sweet, sweet Bat-bucks. The Flash ended up being the first beneficiary of this fervor, hitting screens in fall of 1990 on CBS after being developed by Danny Bilson and Paul De Meo (who wrote the excellent, underrated feature The Rocketeer and would go on to produce another DC Comics-based show, 1992's The Human Target).

Here's the intro of the resultant series:

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Batman v. Bill Maher

On last night's Real Time, Bill Maher got some back-up in his vocal anti-Muslim views from author Sam Harris (who once said "We should profile Muslims, or anyone who looks like he or she could conceivably be Muslim"), but the pair faced some welcome pushback from the rest of the panel, which included journalist Nicholas Kristof, former RNC chair Michael Steele, and Batman himself, Ben Affleck. Watch highlights (lowlights?) of the exchange below, which one friend of mine rightly referred to as "maddening."

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Reza Aslan Bangs Head Against Wall

You may recall that time two summers ago when author Reza Aslan was promoting his book Zealot, and ended up dealing with a particularly dunderheaded Fox News anchor. Well, if Aslan's appearance on CNN yesterday is any indication, Stupid Anchor Syndrome isn't confined exclusively to Fox. For some context, Bill Maher engaged in his usual brand of anti-Muslim invective on last week's Real Time, wherein he called out liberals for not broad-brushing all Muslims for the actions of their most extreme elements. Aslan, who's been a frequent guest for Maher, was brought on to CNN to respond, and well, this is what happened next:

Monday, September 29, 2014

Oliver: How is Ayn Rand Still a Thing?

As I'm sure anyone who reads this site already knows, I'm no fan of the Objectivist philosophies espoused by Ayn Rand, which essentially equate to a moral justification for selfishness. Nonetheless, the late Atlas Shrugged author has a substantial cohort of boosters on the American conservative scene, with former Republican veep nominee Paul Ryan and future presidential contender Rand Paul among them. But as this segment from last night's Last Week Tonight makes clear, Rand's presence at the forefront of conservative thought is a bit of a head-scratcher.

From The Onion...

Woman Worried Student Loans Could Prevent Her From One Day Owning Entirely Different Kind Of Crippling Debt 
PHILADELPHIA—Lamenting that she will spend the foreseeable future paying off her college expenses, local 23-year-old digital marketing assistant Ashley Orlinsky expressed concern Wednesday that her student loans will prevent her from ever owning an entirely different type of utterly crippling debt. “Realistically, it’ll take years or even decades to fully repay $50,000 of loans, which makes me worried that I’ll never qualify for a backbreaking mortgage on a house that I can in no way afford,” said Orlinsky, adding that with $350 in monthly student loan payments, she will likely struggle to even borrow money to purchase a new car that will destroy her credit rating and may one day be repossessed by the bank. “I have dreams of starting my own company at some point in the future, but I just don’t see how I’ll have the opportunity to be saddled for my entire adult life with a suffocating high-interest small business loan if my student debt is following me wherever I go. It’s awful.” Orlinsky was reportedly encouraged, however, after coming to the mistaken conclusion that she could just default on her student loans and have them discharged in a bankruptcy filing.

Stupid But True: First in a Series

From 1989's Batman #429, that time the Joker became Iran's ambassador to the UN. Yeah. That happened.

Recommended Reading

For anyone who's followed congressional goings-on (or lack thereof) over the past few years, you know that Iowa congressman Steve King has become the de facto face of the rampant, unhinged nativism that's helped kill things like immigration reform in the lower house. But as Sahil Kapur's in-depth interview with King demonstrates, King knows exactly which way his crazy crumbles, and he's speaking directly to the voting Republican base.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

False Patriotism

From Thursday's Daily Show, Jon Stewart tears apart the latest cause of controversy on the right:

Nostalgia Theater: The Cosby Mysteries Comes and Goes

Last week, I reminisced about The Cosby Show on the occasion of that show's thirtieth anniversary, so I figured I'd keep the Cosby conversation going this week by briefly remembering Bill Cosby's follow-up to his groundbreaking family sitcom. Unfortunately for the Cos, this one didn't enjoy quite the same pop culture shelf life, and the only real mystery today is that The Cosby Mysteries once existed. Don't believe me? For proof, watch the intro below, and keep reading after the jump!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The MovieFilm Podcast: Episode 55

For this week's show, we pick apart the premiere episode of Fox's new Batman-minus-Batman TV series Gotham. We look at what worked, what didn't, and where we hope things go in the weeks ahead. In addition, I discuss how Liam Neeson and Denzel Washington have cornered the market on "Old Guys Beating People Up" movies via A Walk Among the Tombstones and The Equzalizer. Oh, we also have an exclusive interview with Mike Shoemaker, co-creator of the hilarious Hulu original series The Awesomes. All that, plus listener letters, and the latest headlines out of Hollywood, including word that Matt Damon is set to return as Jason Bourne, and rumors that William Shatner may again don his space suit to play Captain James T. Kirk. As always, please hit up 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, September 23, 2014

Diffused Congruence: Ayesha Mattu and Ali Eteraz

For this episode of the show, Parvez and I shine a spotlight on Muslim authors who've successfully broken through into the mainstream. First, we chat with Ayesha Mattu, co-editor of Love, Inshallah and its new sequel Salaam, Love about how the two books came about, what the reactions have been, and what she's learned from her audience. After that, we have a conversation with Ali Eteraz, author of Children of Dust and the upcoming Falsipedies and Fibsiennes. You can download or stream below, and also listen at iTunes (don't forget to leave us a review!) and Stitcher Radio. Feel free to send any comments or questions our way at or via our Facebook page!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Nostalgia Theater: The Cosby Show Turns 30!

"Hey, don't give me your sob story. I'm the guy who passed on The Cosby Show."

Per author Bill Carter in his book The War For Late Night, that quote was uttered by former ABC exec Lew Erlicht after being approached by a homeless person seeking help. And while Carter couches that anecdote as likely apocryphal, the truth behind the probable fiction is that Erlicht did indeed (much to his regret) reject a pitch by producers Marcy Carsey and Tom Werner for a family comedy centered on comedian Bill Cosby. He passed, the show was picked up by NBC prexy Brandon Tartikoff, and the rest is TV history.

One Year Ago in Nostalgia Theater: XX Years of The X-Files

Three decades of history, in fact. In news that's sure to make a lot of folks of my vintage feel positively decrepit, last night marked thirty years to the day that The Cosby Show premiered on the Peacock, introducing America to the upper-middle class Huxtable family, headed by doctor dad Cliff (Cosby) and lawyer mom Claire (Phylicia Rashad), with four (later five) children. On its journey the '80s, it  revived the sitcom format, changed the playing field for African-Americans on TV and, depending on the telling, rescued NBC, which had spent the better part of the last decade on-the-ropes, from insolvency.

Here's one of my fave bits from the very first episode:

Friday, September 19, 2014

Key & Peele on Aliens & Racism

Key & Peele have figured out how to identify the alien invaders in our midst. Here's a clip from next week's season premiere:

From The Onion...

I think this was me last month, when I visited Chicago.
Man Visiting Hometown Amazed To Find All His Childhood Insecurities Still There 
MANSFIELD, OH—While walking through his old neighborhood, Mansfield, OH, native Peter Grogan, 37, was reportedly surprised Thursday to find that each and every one of his childhood insecurities remains in his hometown. “I was heading down Marion Avenue, where Jeff Bilderman used to pick on me every day, and noticed that my old anxieties, fears, and constant sense of shame are all still here,” Grogan told reporters, marveling that the dozens of uncertainties that plagued him throughout his adolescent and teenage years were still thriving exactly where he left them. “I haven’t been back for long, but it doesn’t seem like my timidity and self-doubt have changed even a bit. And it looks like my feelings of inadequacy are still going strong, judging by the fears of rejection that came flooding back when I walked past my old high school. It’s all exactly the same as it was almost 20 years ago.” Grogan added that the one difference he could identify was that walking through his hometown now fills him with newly established insecurities regarding his financial situation, relationship with his parents, and own impending mortality.

Recommended Reading

Jonathan Chait looks at the peculiarities of polling coming out of Kansas, and how changing political winds could be blowing against the state's deeply-entrenched Republican establishment.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Nostalgia Theater: Getting to the Core of Filmation's Journey to the Center of the Earth

This is another show that I shouldn't really have any memory of, given that it was cancelled more than ten years before I was born. Nonetheless, thanks once again to Saudi TV being more than a decade out-of-date, I got to see Filmation's Journey to the Center of the Earth during the early '80s, when I was exactly the right age for both the show and the concept to become permanently imprinted in my frontal lobe. The series took its name and inspiration from Jules Verne's classic adventure novel, but it clearly owed more to the 1959 feature adaptation starring James Mason and released by 20th Century Fox (which also produced the 'toon). For an overview of the premise, look no further than the intro below, with narration by the late, great Ted Knight:

Friday, September 12, 2014

Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, and Craig Johnson Talk The Skeleton Twins

From the moment they joined the cast of Saturday Night Live in 2005, Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader set about creating an impressive roster of memorable characters and unforgettable impressions that made both performers an indispensable part of the sketch-com's ensemble right up until their departures, in 2012 and 2013 respectively. And though both have found ample opportunities to continue cracking up audiences in their post-SNL careers, we get to see their dramatic chops with this weekend's release of writer-director Craig Johnson's The Skeleton Twins.

The family drama stars Wiig and Hader as titular twins Maggie and Milo, reunited in adulthood due to extenuating circumstances and forced to deal with the repercussions of two lifetimes of questionable choices. I had opportunity to chat with Wiig, Hader, and director Johnson last May for the film's San Francisco premiere, and what follows are some of the highlights from the hilarious roundtable discussion, which often dissolved into spontaneous comedy routines from the two stars:

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The MovieFilm Podcast: Episode 54

For our first episode of the fall season, the MovieFilm Podcast is proud to present a roundtable interview with actors Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig, and director Craig Johnson, about their new film The Skeleton Twins. After that, we dive into the latest headlines out of Hollywood, including our thoughts on the newly-revealed Batmobile from Batman v. Superman, word that Sylvester Stallone may be getting ready to strap on the machete and play Rambo one last time, and some new rumors about what to expect from Star Wars: Episode VII. After that, it's onto the main event, as we continue our annual tradition of looking back at the just-concluded summer season's spate of releases, from The Amazing Spider-Man 2 to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, offering a post-mortem on what worked, what didn't, and why. It's loose, it's fun, it's under two hours, and you can stream it below or download at the link! As always, please hit up 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, September 09, 2014

From The Onion...

Man, ain't it the truth.
Puzzled Nation Can Remember Name Ferguson, But Not Sure From Where 
WASHINGTON—Reportedly racking their brains in an attempt to figure out how they knew that name, a puzzled American populace admitted Monday that while they definitely remembered hearing the word Ferguson, they could not quite put their finger on where. “Ferguson, Ferguson—God, I know that word from somewhere. It’s right on the tip of my tongue,” said Virginia Beach resident Mark Brown, one of millions of citizens nationwide who reportedly paused during the day and furrowed their brows in bafflement, before venturing guesses that the familiar-sounding term might have been a thing from TV or someone they heard a friend talking about. “Yeah, that definitely rings a bell. Hmm. Boy, I’m drawing a big blank on this one. Oh, well.” At press time, each citizen agreed that wherever they had heard the name Ferguson, it probably wasn’t worth any more of their time trying to remember.

Recommended Reading

The New Yorker's Lawrence Wright on twenty-eight missing pages in the the congressional inquiry into 9/11. Those pages were excised at the behest of the Bush Administration, but it's the "why" that's at issue.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Nostalgia Theater: Run, Joe, Run -- It's The Fugitive With a Dog

Run, Joe, Run was a live action Saturday morning series that aired on NBC and premiered exactly forty years ago today, September 7, 1974. Seeing as how it preceded me into the world by a few (five) years, there's really no reason I should have any memory of it all, except for the fact that they showed it in Saudi Arabia, where pop culture was ten years behind at any given time. Even so, those memories are so fleeting and jumbled that I had to do some Googling to figure out what the heck the thing was even about, as most of my recollections center on the theme music, which you can hear in the intro (and outro) below:

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Recommended Reading

Tom Englehardt lays out the long and winding trail of foreign policy tears -- stemming from our own ill-advised foreign policy decisions -- that led to the creation of ISIS.

"Wealthy Choice"

From Tuesday's Daily Show, it looks like Eric Cantor has managed to find some gainful (and then some) employment following his Tea Party-led ouster from the House last June:

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Recommended Reading

Former Yale professor William Deresiewicz explains why our nation's current concept of higher education and what it's pursuit has come to represent has created several generations of "excellent sheep."

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Nostalgia Theater: Boomtown -- The Best Cop Show You've Never Seen

L-R: Mykelti Williamson, Donnie Wahlberg, Neal McDonough, Lana Parilla, Jason Gedrick, Nina Garbiras, Gary Basaraba
The weird thing about doing these Nostalgia Theaters is that the further ahead in time we move, the more stuff I think of as fairly recent can actually be included under its label. To wit, Boomtown, a here-and-gone 2002-2002 series that aired briefly on NBC to considerable acclaim, but little in the way of actual viewers. The pitch, as created by Band of Brothers' Graham Yost, was to take all the procedural-style shows that were/are in vogue with TV audiences, and encompass them all in one skein. Check out the terrific intro, with Emmy-winning theme music by Philip Giffin:

Friday, August 29, 2014

Diffused Congruence: Shadi Hamid

For this month's show we're joined by Shadi Hamid of the Brookings Institute and author of Temptations of Power: Islamists and Illiberal Democracy in a New Middle East for a far-ranging chat on the foreign policy events that have been playing out in the Middle East over the last few years, including the Arab Spring, the rise of ISIS, and the escalation of conflict between Gaza and Israel this past month. Whether you're a policy wonk or just have a mind to learn more about what's been going on lately, this is a conversation you're certain to enjoy. As always, download or stream below, and listen at iTunes and Stitcher Radio. Send any comments or questions to or via our Facebook page!