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):

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Recommended Reading

Tayyib M. Rashid, a former Marine who also happens to be Muslim, responds to last Thursday's tragic shooting in Chattanooga, TN:
As I reflect on the Chattanooga attack, I can only wonder how anyone who is Muslim, especially one living in the United States, can even think about such despicable acts? Islam leaves no room for terrorism, and only permits fighting in self-defense to protect freedom of religion for all people. What this terrorist committed represents his own personal barbarity — nothing else.
Read the rest here.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Diffused Congruence: Comedian Maysoon Zayid

For this week's show we're joined by actress, comedian, and commentator Maysoon Zayid, who's made a name for herself thanks to her raw political comedy and her many appearances with Keith Olbermann on his former MSNBC show. Maysoon discusses her approach to comedy, the challenges of being a practicing Muslim in this field, and how she learned to incorporate her cerebral palsy into her act. It's a breezy hour of big laughs and deep thoughts, and you can listen via the embed below, or download via iTunes and Stitcher Radio. As always, we look forward to getting your comments and questions at diffusedcongruence@gmail.com, and make sure you hit "like" on our Facebook page!

INTERVIEW: The Trainwreck Comedy Tour

Every since her hit comedy Inside Amy Schumer premiered on Comedy Central two years ago, Amy Schumer has quickly ascended to the top of the cultural conversation thanks to boundary-pushing, always-hilarious meditations on modern life. Now the comedian is making her leading lady debut in the feature film Trainwreck (in theaters today), directed by Judd Apatow and featuring a semi-autobiographical script by Schumer herself.

As part of the film's promotional tour, Apatow and Schumer, along with co-stars Colin Quinn, Dave Attell, Mike Birbiglia, and Vanessa Bayer embarked on the "Trainwreck Comedy Tour," traveling across the country with the film while also performing stand-up to packed houses. I had the opportunity to talk to this amazing cross-section of modern comedy on their swing through San Francisco, and what follows are edited highlights from several roundtable discussions:

Thursday, July 16, 2015

INTERVIEW: Director Carlos Marques-Marcet on 10.000 km

In his fascinating and unique character study 10.000 km (a.k.a. Long Distance), director Carlos Marques-Marcet examines the dichotomous role of physical distance and social media nearness as we watch a relationship begin to unravel. The film, starring Natalia Tena and David Verdaguer is a unique and dynamic entree onto the global filmmaking stage for its 33-year-old helmer (who co-wrote the film with Clara Roquet).

I had the opportunity to chat with Marques-Marcet during his recent visit to the Bay Area, and he had plenty to say not only about how the film (comprised primarily of our characters interacting via computer chat windows) came together, the role of social media in our daily discourse, and some of his own filmic influences. What follows are some highlights of our conversation:

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Zaki's Review: Ant-Man

At the start of May, Marvel Studios' much-anticipated sequel Avengers: Age of Ultron hit theaters, and for the first time I started feeling what can be called "superhero fatigue." I liked the movie well enough, mind you. But somewhere in the middle of that interminable third act, right around the point where the titular heroes were laying waste to seemingly endless hordes of robotic drones, with laser beams and rubble and wreckage flying hither and thither, I realized I was having a real hard time staying interested in any of what was happening.

This is increasingly becoming a problem in our age of anything-goes effects. We've seen it with four Transformers movies, we saw it with Man of Steel two summers ago, and we saw it with Age of Ultron. There's just no ceiling to the kind of spectacles our gifted effects technicians can bid their magic computers to pump out, and so the only alternative is for these films to go bigger and wider until the scope is so panoramic that we've lost sight of the little people populating the CGI landscape. And so, as if to address this issue, here comes Peyton Reed's Ant-Man, a film that's pointedly all about the little people.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Suffragette Dramatizes Struggle for Women's Rights

Interesting upcoming release that I thought was worth highlighting here, especially given that this is Emmeline Pankhurst Day in the U.K. (named for the activist who led that country's struggle to give women the right to vote). The film is Suffragette, directed by Sarah Gavron (who made a wonderful little movie called Brick Lane in 2007), and it stars Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter, and Meryl Streep as Pankhurst. All three actresses are powerhouses on their own, so I fully expect this will be one to watch. Watch the trailer below, and look for Suffragette to hit theaters Stateside this October.

Recommended Reading

Last night saw the announcement of a long-in-coming deal between the United States and its allies and Iran, aimed at curbing the latter's nuclear programs. This accord received its share of brickbats even while it was being negotiated, including a much-publicized hissy fit by freshman senator Tom Cotton a few months ago. Now that an agreement has been reached, it's not like the volume has subsided, but as Peter Beinart explains, opposition to it is more about what isn't rather than what is. More specifically...
When critics focus incessantly on the gap between the present deal and a perfect one, what they’re really doing is blaming Obama for the fact that the United States is not omnipotent. This isn’t surprising given that American omnipotence is the guiding assumption behind contemporary Republican foreign policy. Ask any GOP presidential candidate except Rand Paul what they propose doing about any global hotspot and their answer is the same: be tougher. America must take a harder line against Iran’s nuclear program, against ISIS, against Bashar al-Assad, against Russian intervention in Ukraine and against Chinese ambitions in the South China Sea.
Read the rest of Beinart's lengthy, excellent analysis here.

Latest Fantastic Four Trailer is Just Adequate

We're now less than a month out from the Josh Trank-directed reboot of Marvel's Fantastic Four from Fox hitting theaters, which means the promo campaign is kicking into gear. You may recall I was intrigued by the teaser in January, and though the full trailer last April was decent. Well, this latest assemblage (after the jump) feels like a step backward. Not to say I was over the moon about this to begin with, but the bottom line is that it's hard to see who Fox thinks is the target audience for this, given how far removed it feels from what the Fantastic Four is "supposed" to be. I'm keeping an open mind, but if I'm honest there isn't a whole lot here that feels particularly compelling:

The MovieFilm Podcast: Episode 74

The MovieFilm gang starts out this week's show by welcoming celebrated author and pop culture historian Caseen Gaines to help celebrate thirty years of Back to the Future, and talk up his new must-read tome We Don't Need Roads: The Making of the Back to the Future Trilogy. After that, listen to some hilarious highlights from Zaki's roundtable interviews with director Judd Apatow and stars Amy Schumer, Colin Quinn, Dave Attell, Mike Birbiglia, and Vanessa Bayer about the new film Trainwreck, hitting theaters this Friday.

From there, it's on to the latest headlines out of Hollywood, plus our takes on the new trailers for Batman v. Superman and Suicide Squad, fresh from Comic-Con. But that's not all! We also have a fresh batch of Star Wars news to unpack, as well as pondering the ignominious fates of Terminator Genisys and Ted 2. You can listen via the embed below, or find us at iTunesStitcher, and more. As always, please write us a review and/or leave a comment at our Facebook page to let us know how we're doing!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Animated Back to the Future Finally Hits DVD

Only posting this to follow up on my Nostalgia Theater from last week where I lamented the long, long silence when it came to the Back to the Future cartoon show coming to home video. Given the movie series' continued popularity this many years out, the omission of the cartoon show felt particularly egregious. However, it looks like that's finally going to be addressed, per TV Shows on DVD. Not a whole lot of info to go on, but the gist, from co-creator Bob Gale, is this: "...the Back to the Future animated series, that's finally going to come out on DVD this year, so people get to see all those great episodes."

So there.

First Trailer: Will Smith Leads Suicide Squad

In addition to the Batman v. Superman trailer, another upcoming DC Comics adaptation that had some footage screened over the weekend was the David Ayers-directed jam pic Suicide Squad, which has Will Smith, Jai Courtney, Joel Kinnaman, and a host of others giving life to DC's darker side. The titular squad is a group of ne'er-do-wells recruited to either earn their pardons or die trying, and the mere existence of this flick is a clear indication of how far Warner Bros. is willing to go to shine the spotlight on the entirety of the DC lineup. After all, it's easy to get folks to show up to a movie that promises the two biggest superheroes of all squaring off. But this? Tougher sell, even with Smith leading the cast.

Anyway, a pirated version of the trailer hit the web over the weekend, but I figured I'd wait for an official release. And Warners, having failed to squelch the leak, cried uncle and dropped the HD version this afternoon, which you can check out below. The concept has been kicking around the comics since forever, but the version this one is based on is a terrific '80s-'90s series written by John Ostrander. Most notable as far as this movie version goes is the first ever live action appearance of fan favorite Batman baddie Harley Quinn, played by Margot Robbie, as well as the DC movie universe's debut of the Joker, embodied by Jared Leto, who takes over from the late Heath Ledger's Oscar-winning turn.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Nostalgia Theater: Renegade's Long, Dull Ride

As we've talked about quite a few times in this space, the 1990s was pretty much a dumping ground for terrible, terrible shows that managed to gain oxygen thanks to a particularly fertile environment for first-run syndicated fare. Shows that would otherwise have died quick deaths on network television.

In that sense, though the network model may be antiquated and out-of-step with today's viewing habits, especially given the quality of shows currently airing on cable, etc., there's something to be said for how our network overlords sometimes performed a valuable service by acting as gatekeepers for questionable content back in the day.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Watch the Full Trailer for Batman v. Superman!

With Disney-owned Marvel Studios taking a pass on Comic-Con this year (presumably so that the Mouse House can save any big reveals from next May's Captain America: Civil War for their own big D23 convention next month), it gives Warner Bros. the chance to suck up a lot of the oxygen for their impending superhero smash-up Batman v. Superman, hitting theaters next March, which I'm sure they'll attempt to do with the full trailer below. As you may recall, I wasn't exactly blown away by the teaser trailer a few months ago, and I will say this one does a better job of getting me interested.

I really like what we see of Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne/Batman, and while we also get our first glimpses of Gal Gadot, Jeremy Irons and Jesse Eisenberg in this universe, I'm glad to see the supporting players from 2013's Man of Steel (Diane Lane, Lawrence Fishburne, Amy Adams) so that this actually feels like a continuation of that flick (for awhile it was starting to feel like THE JUSTICE LEAGUE featuring Superman). But while we got word that Affleck is on tap to write and direct a solo Bat-flick, for now we still have to contend with Zack Snyder and his particular affectations, which means a little bit too much of a 300-lite vibe from some of this:

The Practical Appeal of Star Wars

We're still nearly half a year away from the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, so it's understandable that the ballyhooed (and absolutely packed!) Star Wars panel at Comic-Con yesterday didn't drop a new trailer or much in the way of new footage. However, here's a little behind-the-scenes tease that director JJ Abrams presented that sure did the trick as far as priming the pump while highlighting the long-in-coming sequel's pronounced focus on practical effects (as opposed to the CGI-centric prequels), showcasing snippets of some very familiar looking-characters in some very familiar-looking sets. Check it out:

Friday, July 10, 2015

Hair-raising

To look at some of the breathless headlines out there, you'd think we're mere days away from Donald Trump being crowned Emperor of the United States. Sure, the current polls show Trump as the leader among the prospective GOP presidential contenders, but there's a whole lot of room between briefly leading in the polls and actually winning the nomination, much less the presidency.

If you doubt me, just ask Herman Cain, Michele Bachman, and Newt Gingrich how their first term as president went. That said, Trump is clearly finding some kind of receptivity with his nutbar anti-immigrant nonsense, and the fact that he's been able to take on so much oxygen from the GOP base is certainly an indication of where that party currently finds itself. Says Heather Digby Parton:

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Creating Ramadan Traditions

Note: What follows is part of a series appearing over at Altmuslim entitled #30Days30Writers, an initiative that's meant to showcase perspectives from across the American Muslim spectrum, reflecting on the holy month of Ramadan (which we're currently in the midst of) and its role in their lives. My contribution is below, but please do be sure to check out the rest of the essays, all of which are terrific, and many of which are written by friends.

It was the evening of June 17. The new moon was upon us, bringing in Ramadan right along with it. It was here. Go time. And no, I don’t mean Taraweeh prayer (although that happened too). Rather, I mean what happened later that night, after everyone else in the house had fallen fast asleep. Unbeknownst to me or our kids, my wife swung into action like the superhero that she is. She’d been planning this for weeks. Decorating. Decorating.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Nostalgia Theater: Back to the Future Happy Meals!

Five years ago in this space I marked the twenty-fifth anniversary of movie classic Back to the Future by looking back at the animated series based on the beloved movie trilogy. Back then it sure looked like an official home video release for the cartoon show was in the offing, but sadly no such release has materialized in the intervening half-decade.

Regardless, with this past Friday being thirty years to the day that the Robert Zemeckis film made its theatrical debut, I was looking for a way to celebrate the momentous occasion here in Nostalgia Theater, and stumbled on the TV spot below for the McDonald's 1992 Happy Meals tying in with the aforementioned animated incarnation (with voiceover by TV's Doc Brown, Dan Castellaneta).

Saturday, July 04, 2015

INTERVIEW: Dana Nachman, Patricia Wilson, and Mike Jutan on Batkid Begins

L-R: Mike Jutan, Dana Nachman, Patricia Wilson

In 2013, the family of a little boy named Miles, suffering from cancer, made a request to the Make-a-Wish Foundation. He wanted to be Batman. From that simple hope of a sick child, an entire social movement was born: Batkid had begun. With the entire city of San Francisco heeding young Miles's call, an army of volunteers, well-wishers, and Batman fans mobilized to turn his wish into a reality, in the process making for a social media moment unlike any other.

This amazing experience has now been documented in director Dana Nachman's Batkid Begins, which presents a heartwarming portrait of one city's efforts to make one very special day for one very special little hero. I recently had the chance to talk to Nachman, as well as Make-a-Wish Foundation's Patricia Wilson, who orchestrated the entire event, and Mike Jutan, who portrayed Batman baddie the Penguin during the event. Here are some highlights from our conversation.

Friday, July 03, 2015

Zaki's Original Review: Independence Day

First published: August 27, 1996
Note: With Independence Day weekend upon us, I figured there was no time like the present to bust out this oldie from the archives. I haven't revisited ID4 in more than a decade, but I'm fairly certain that if/when I do, I'd have a very different response to it than that of teenage Zaki below. As it is, I pretty much disavow the entirety of this write-up. The comparisons to Star Wars and Jurassic Park betray my total lack of perspective, and the crack about the "current denizen of the Oval Office" in the next-to-last paragraph shows that this was during my brief, unfortunate Rush Limbaugh fanboy phase. Ugh.

Not since 1989's Batman has a movie's impending release been greeted with as much pomp and circumstance as Independence Day. Unless you've been living under a rock for the past nine months or so, you've probably become acquainted with this alien invasion epic, already well on the way to toppling Jurassic Park from its perch as the most successful movie ever. Going all the way back to the teasers played during the Super Bowl and stretching to the cover stories on Time, Newsweek, and Entertainment Weekly (all on the same week, no less!), this onslaught of hoopla helped make Independence Day what is arguably the most highly anticipated movie of the past decade.

Diffused Congruence: The Team From Islamica!

Diffused Congruence welcomes in July with a fun and funny conversation with the jokesters at satire site Islamica News! Founded in 1999, Islamica revels in combating Islamophobia through a humorous lens, while also poking fun at some of the humorous eccentricities that those of us within the Muslim community are all too familiar with. We're happy to be joined by co-founders Azher Ahmed and Mirza Baig as we discuss their earliest collaborations (including a video that Zaki had a cameo in), the company's founding, their general approach to figuring out what's funny, and sharing some of their most popular "news" stories. Download or stream the show below, or listen at iTunes (don't forget to leave us a review!). Send e-mail to DiffusedCongruence@gmail.com, and be sure to hit "like" on our Facebook page!

Thursday, July 02, 2015

The MovieFilm Podcast: Episode 73

Prepare to be terminated! For this week's super-sized show, the MovieFilm gang is joined by Taz Ahmed and Zahra Noorbakhsh, hosts of the #GoodMuslimBadMuslim Podcast for a fun and free-flowing conversation that covers Full House, Magic Mike, and Fifty Shades of Grey. In addition, we discuss the tragic passing of film composer James Horner, news about the latest actor to play Spider-Man, word on Hugh Jackman's final X-Men appearances, and the all-new trailer for the Rocky spin-off Creed, starring Michael B. Jordan. From there, it's a wide-ranging conversation about the pluses and (mostly) minuses of Terminator Genisys, the fifth film in the futuristic franchise. (Read my review here.) Listen to it all via the embed below, at iTunes, or at Stitcher. As always, please let us know how we're doing at our Facebook page!

Rocky Returns in First Trailer For Creed

Meant to post this one a few days ago, but hey, better late than never! With July already upon us, the movie marketing machine has moved from summer flicks to hyping the big productions for fall, and the one I'm probably more hyped about than any other is director Ryan Coogler's Creed. (I first discussed the picture here.) The Warner Bros. release is a spin-off of the Rocky series that celebrates that legacy while carrying the story forward. Michael B. Jordan stars as Adonis Johnson Creed, son the boxing champ who met his end in the ring in 1987's Rocky IV.

When he wants to learn to fight, he turns to his late father's best friend, two-time heavyweight champion Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone, back for his seventh bout). When I reviewed Rocky Balboa, the ostensible final Rocky flick, back in 2006, I said that Rocky had become a guest-star in his own story. While I meant that as an observation on the stage of life he's in during that film, little did I know it literally become the case nearly ten years later! Creed hits theaters in November, and as you can tell from the trailer, it has the potential to be a great one.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Zaki's Review: Terminator Genisys

In 1984's The Terminator, director James Cameron's masterpiece of high tension and big ideas, there's a moment when Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn), soldier from 2029 come back to present day Los Angeles, is trying to explain the threat presented by the title character, a cyborg assassin from his own time, to his charge, Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton): "That Terminator is out there. It can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead."

After seeing Paramount's laborious Terminator Genisys, a movie that's as big, dumb and loud as that first one was tight, smart, and efficient, I feel like Reese's words are just as applicable to this franchise as a whole. It's been thirty-one years since the The Terminator first wowed audiences, and my fear as I stare down the abyss into the dark future is that they'll just keep cranking these things out forever and always until the end of time. They. Will. Not. Stop.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Zaki's Retro Review: Terminator Salvation (2009)

Click here to read my retro review of Terminator 3


Terminator 3 was released in 2003, and while its global haul of $430 million didn't top that of T2 from twelve years earlier, it was enough to convince all involved that the brand still retained a great deal of potency with audiences. And though critics weren't exactly over the moon for Rise of the Machines, it did manage to hold its own. Still, in the aftermath of its successful launch, there were more questions than ever as to where things should go next.

Zaki's Retro Review: Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)

Click here to read my retro review of Terminator 2

In 1991, as production on Terminator 2: Judgment Day wore interminably on, its frustrated mastermind James Cameron began to proclaim, "T3 without me!" as a way of expressing how taxing an experience it had become to guide this mammoth enterprise with the biggest budget in history. Of course, as the saying goes, pain is temporary, but film is forever, and once the movie came out and garnered a rapturous response by both critics and audiences, suddenly the thoughts of all concerned turned to how best to capitalize on Judgment Day's runaway success. As a matter of fact, Cameron did do a sequel...of sorts.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Zaki's Retro Review: Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

Click here to read my retro review of The Terminator

Before The Terminator had even finished production, director James Cameron and star Arnold Schwarzenegger expressed interest in continuing the story. Once it hit theaters in fall of 1984 and turned a profit several times over its $6.5 million budget, the idea of sequelizing the sci-fi opus became as inevitable as the dark future it posited. But any efforts in this arena were hobbled by rights holders Hemdale, which had financed the first film but had seen its fortunes wounded by a series of costly bombs in the years afterwards, and was hardly in a position to mount another Terminator that could match Cameron's imagination.

And so, the waiting game began. In the interim, Schwarzenegger marched from success to success like a conquering king, with Commando, Predator, The Running Man and more bolstering his action hero bona fides. Cameron, meanwhile, wrote and directed the Twentieth Century Fox sequel Aliens in 1986 to critical and audience acclaim, and three years later helmed the undersea alien opus The Abyss, which only cemented his growing reputation as one of the most important voices in fantasy filmmaking. Finally, in 1990, after Schwarzenegger helped turn Total Recall into a $260 million smash for Carolco Pictures, the time seemed right to revisit his most iconic role.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Zaki's Retro Review: The Terminator (1984)

For James Cameron, it all started with a dream.

When describing the origins of The Terminator, his violent, paradox-inducing parable of future wars and cyborgs and time travel, the Oscar-winning director of Titanic has said the idea was birthed out of a slumbering vision he had of being attacked by the partial torso of a metal skeleton, clutching kitchen knives in its hands. That was in the late '70s, while Cameron was deep in production on his directorial debut, the low-budget horror flick Piranha II for noted schlock maven Roger Corman.

Today, with a fifth Terminator film just days from release, it's easy to take the franchise's ubiquity for granted. The iconography. The Brad Fiedel music. Arnold Schwarzenegger's black shades. "I'll be back." They've all become cultural touchstones that are known even by those who've never actually seen it. But back then, when Cameron was still toiling in the Corman salt mines, when the market for high-minded sci-fi was still fairly thin, it's doubtful the director had any inclination how that dream -- nightmare, really -- would launch not only a billion dollar franchise, but also set the direction for the rest of his career.

Nostalgia Theater Rewind: Kenner's Terminator 2 Action Figures!

This Wednesday sees the release of the much-anticipated (?) Terminator Genisys, the fifth entry in the Arnold action franchise. And while I'll have plenty to say about that one in a short few days, I thought I'd get my week of Terminator content kicked off by borrowing a trick from the very franchise I'm discussing and going back in time to fall of 2013, when I covered the Terminator 2 action figure assortment produced by Kenner in 1992.

This was during that magical era before what we now think of as the collector market had materialized, when there was nothing at all unusual about mass-marketing toys based on heavily "R" rated movies to the pre-teen set. By spring of 1992 I was all of twelve, but I'd probably seen T2 at least a dozen times already, so naturally I really wanted these. And after watching the video after the jump, hey, can you blame me?

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Thursday, June 25, 2015

Recommended Reading

As you probably know by now, this morning the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that the argument being made by the plaintiffs in King v. Burwell didn't stand up to scrutiny, meaning the Affordable Care Act lives to get sued another day. What came as somewhat of a surprise is that, in addition to swing vote Anthony Kennedy, Chief Justice Roberts sided with the majority in upholding the law, making this time second time in three years he's helped protect it. Here are five reasons he may have done so.

Hateful Ladies

Mark Potok and Janet Smith have compiled a list for the Southern Poverty Law Center of some of the most virulent haters on the Islamophobia scene, who just happen to be women. As they say in the intro to their piece, "the universe of American anti-Muslim activists is peculiarly dominated by women." Here are the "bloggers, politicos, authors, TV personalities, radio talk show hosts, and leaders of anti-Muslim organizations" they've profiled, some of whom you may have heard, many of whom you probably haven't.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Recommended Reading

With a decision in the King v. Burwell case expected any day now, the future of the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. "Obamacare") is once again subject to the whims of a simple majority of the Supreme Court. And with the very real possibility that millions of those benefitting from the law could lose their coverage, Gus Garcia-Roberts over at TPM looks at the many dyed-in-the-wood right wingers who are grappling with the cognitive dissonance that comes from hating the "Obama" but loving the "care."

Here Comes the (Next) Spider-Man

Well, here we go again.

Just over five years ago, I posted about the casting of actor Andrew Garfield as the new Spider-Man/Peter Parker in director Marc Webb's then-upcoming reboot. Honestly, I feel like I can basically repost what I said then with a few minor tweaks, but lest we bury the lede: After months of speculation (not to mention a ticking clock), nineteen-year-old Brit Tom Holland is Sony and Marvel's pick for the upcoming (second!) Spider-Man reboot, this time as part of the shared Marvel Cinematic Universe. After making his Spidey debut in next summer's Captain America: Civil War, Holland will segue into a 2017 solo vehicle in 2017, to be directed by Clown's Jon Watts.

Now, here's what I said in 2010, when the word first broke that Garfield had been cast:

James Horner, RIP

In what I can only call a remarkable, unfortunate coincidence, as I was driving into class yesterday afternoon, I was listening to an old episode of the MovieFilm Podcast wherein Brian and I discussed the then-recent passing of Robin Williams. During the course of that conversation, I mentioned my affinity for the 1999 Williams vehicle Bicentennial Man. This in turn got me in the mood to listen to some of that movie's terrific, evocative score by James Horner:

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Zaki's Retro Review: Jaws (1975)

Forty years ago this weekend, the age of the modern blockbuster was born when Steven Spielberg's Jaws was unleashed into a few hundred theaters across the country. That theater count may seem positively piddly in today's age of ultra-wide, thousand-screen releases, but at the time it was one of the widest in history. And while that might have seemed like a tremendous gamble for any other film, Universal Studios had the goods to back it up.

Obviously history tends to put these sorts of things in perspective, and the fact that we're here four decades later celebrating its remarkable lasting accomplishment is proof enough that Jaws worked. Boy, did it work. Based on the bestselling tome by author Peter Benchley, Universal bet heavily that the untried director (who at the time had only one credit to his name) could bring to life the book's harrowing story about a coastal town bedeviled by attacks from a great white shark.

Nostalgia Theater: What the Heck Was Shazzan?

After my piece from a few weeks ago about the bizarre 'toon Young Samson, I got an e-mail asking when I'd cover Shazzan. Well, never let it be said we don't give service with a smile here at Nostalgia Theater, so let's take a look back at another one of Hanna-Barbera's bizarre creations from the '60s.

Proving my earlier point about how HB had such dominance of the dial during that era, Shazzan premiered on CBS the same day Young Samson debuted on NBC. And like Samson, this one too boasted character designs by legendary comic artist Alex Toth (who also created it). The show, about an ancient Middle Eastern genie who assists a couple of hapless teens, was pretty standard issue stuff from the studio, as you can see from the intro: