Monday, May 31, 2010

Recommended Reading

George Lakoff on President Obama's response to the month-old (and counting) Gulf Coast oil spill, and how he's losing (or perhaps has already lost) control of his own narrative.

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Cordoba Controversy

In early April, when I first heard about the plans by New York's Muslim community to build an Islamic cultural center called Cordoba House a few blocks from the World Trade Center site, I had two immediate reactions.  Sunny Optimistic Zaki thought it was a great idea -- a terrific way to increase interfaith and intercultural understanding, while Jaded Cynical Zaki wondered how long before the usual suspects started their requisite freak-out.  Well, the freak-out has officially begun, and TPM is there with a compilation of some of the nuttier comments that have emerged.

Thursday, May 27, 2010


Things have been pretty quiet on the Spider-Man reboot front since January when Marc Webb signed on to direct Sony's big franchise reboot.  While we still don't know anything about the story or even the stylistic approach, The Hollywood Reporter now has a list of what they claim are Webb's five finalists for the de-aged Peter Parker.  And in yet another sign of how completely out of touch I'm getting, it's populated almost exclusively with names I've never heard of, except for that dancing kid from Billy Elliot, and Brendan Fraser's nephew from Journey to the Center of the Earth.  Other than that, don't know anyone else, so...yeah.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

End of the LAW

And now for the finale I did see.

When "Rubber Room," the final episode of Law & Order's 20th season was filmed last month, I doubt it occurred to anyone in the cast or crew after they broke for the year that the veteran show wouldn't be back in the fall just like it has been every year since 1990.  And so last night, as they've done 455 times before, the detectives of New York's 27th Precinct investigated a crime and, as they have 455 times before, the NYC District Attorney's office picked up the threads to prosecute it.


Back when it was only two seasons old, I was so enamored with Lost that I was telling everyone to watch it -- even random strangers on the street.  Heck, I liked it so much I even made it the subject of my Masters' thesis in grad school.  Given that I was armpit-deep in the show for close to three years, you'd think I'd have been all over the series-ender two days ago.  But cut to three years and two kids later, and I've fallen so far behind that I'm in a Lost-free bubble until I can get caught up (which realistically won't be for awhile).  Still, that doesn't mean other folks don't have opinions about the finale, like my buddy Sean Coyle, who's posted his spoiler-filled thoughts here.  Haven't read it, haven't even looked at it, but I'm sure it's good stuff.

Monday, May 24, 2010


Last Friday we learned that James Franco had signed on as the human face of Fox's Rise of the Apes, but it turns out the studio also had his Spider-Man co-star Tobey Maguire in their sights for the part.  HitFix's Drew McWeeney tells the the tale of how the Green Goblin triumphed over Spider-Man, in the process providing us with a rare peek into the mechanics of the Hollywood star system.

The LAW Review

Dick Wolf is still doggedly clinging to his hope that the Law & Order Mothership will get that record-breaking 21st year, but as far as the media is concerned, tonight's episode is the retirement party for the veteran warhorse.  When you think about it, this has been quite the year for long-running, beloved shows ending their runs.  Lost concluded last night after six seasons, 24's eight-year run ends tonight, and Smallville finishes next season after a decade of "no tights and no flights."

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Recommended Reading

Tea Party icon Rand Paul's win in the KY Republican senate primary Tuesday, followed immediately by his political self-immolation on Wednesday, was one of the more amusing bits of electoral theater that played out this week.  Aside from the Palin-esque trainwreck factor to the story though, Paul's victory has serious implications for the establishment, whether that establishment be Democratic or Republican.  Frank Rich explains.

Back in Tune(s)

Probably one of the weirder things I've written about during this site's existence has been Loonatics Unleashed.  The short-lived "extreme" revamp of Bugs Bunny and his Looney Tunes cohorts aired on Kids' WB back when there was a Kids' WB, and before it even premiered Jimmy Kimmel called it "the worst thing I've ever seen," and it inspired this web short and then this web short (both of which are best not watched at work).  In this case though, controversy didn't equal ratings, and Loonatics was mercifully put down after twenty-six episodes.

Friday, May 21, 2010

ORDER of the Day

Continuing what has now become a daily countdown to the finale of Law & Order, we find that the series, at last word in a "medically-induced coma," probably needs its condition revised downward.  At this point, I think we can count out a last-minute reprieve from NBC, especially with the news that writer/producer Rene Balcer, who was showrunner on the Mothership for the last few seasons, has pulled up stakes and gone west to head up the Law & Order: Los Angeles ship.  Further, cabler TNT, which was the likeliest destination for a hypothetical 21st season, is honoring the show's passing on Monday with a ten-hour marathon of favorite eps.  Now, that doesn't necessarily rule out a TNT deal, but when you read between the lines it doesn't exactly look promising either.  Lastly, here's The Wall Street Journal's Nancy DeWolf with a preview of the final episode, plus some reflections on the show itself.

Hairy Osborn

Deadline broke the story early today, and the usual suspects soon followed suit that James Franco, best known as Spider-Man's frenemy Harry Osborn in the just-concluded Sam Raimi Spider-series, has signed on to play the lead human in Fox's Planet of the Apes revival Rise of the Apes.  The prequel project is still being directed by Rupert Wyatt, and still on track for release next summer.  I like Franco.  I think he's a fine actor, seems like a nice guy, and I have to give it up for anyone who mortgages his cred on a larky series of General Hospital appearances just for the fun of it.  That said, I'm still pretty neutral on this casting until I know more about the movie itself.

Nostalgia Theater: The Empire Strikes Back Edition

It was thirty years ago today that the first continuation of George Lucas's moneymaking...(wait for it)...empire (titter-snort) hit theaters.  That's right, The Empire Strikes Back is now old enough to settle down and finally get some focus in its life.  Now, I could launch into a whole shpiel about how Empire is the best of the whole dang Star Wars series (it is), or how it wasn't nearly as beloved back then as it is now (it wasn't), but that's all stuff we've heard before, and it's not really the point of Nostalgia Theater, anyway.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Legacies of LAW

There's no word on whether Dick Wolf has managed a last-minute continuance for Law & Order as of yet, meaning that we're still marching inexorably toward an unplanned series finale next Monday. Indeed, in what has to be a worrying sign, the legacy pieces and memorials are starting to pop up. First up, Chuck Barney fom The Mercury News calls it perhaps "the single greatest programming concept we've ever seen." Next, Scott Stinson from Canada's National Post enumerates the many innovations the show standardized. I assume we'll start seeing a ton more of these come Monday, especially if there's nothing new to announce renewal-wise.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Zaki's Review: Robin Hood (2010)

One of my newest pet peeves is Hollywood's recent predilection with revisionist "realistic" takes on stories from classic mythology. We saw it with Wolfang Petersen's Troy in 2004, which retold the ancient Greek story of gods, magic, and men...but left out the gods and the magic. Then King Arthur, directed by Antoine Fuqua, explained to us how Thomas Mallory had gotten it all wrong. Now here's Robin Hood, Ridley Scott's joyless (though not bloodless) new epic that purports to tell the true story of how the famed outlaw donned his emerald tights.

Monday, May 17, 2010


The travails of everyday life kept me away from my keyboard for most of the day, meaning my Robin Hood piece will have to wait 'till tomorrow.  In the meantime though, we have some new word today on the Law & Order front.  Pronounced DOA by most of us last Friday, the show is now, according to head Law dog Dick Wolf (via Deadline), "in a medically induced coma, waiting for a live-saving medicine."  That life-saving medicine might potentially come in the form of a 21st season pickup by TNT, which has practically built its current "We Know Drama" reputation on Law & Order reruns.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Indy Cred

This weekend my Mr. Boy chums made their way up north for an impromptu confab/weekend o' fun (caught the new Ridley Scott/Russell Crowe Robin Hood, for which I will hopefully have a review up tomorrow), and we got to talking about some of the biggest cinematic disappointments of our lives. The Phantom Menace is the obvious one, and Planet of the Apes '01 remains a sore spot for me (as anyone who reads this site already knows quite well), but I think Brian Hall said it best when he described Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull as his "There is no Santa Claus" moment.

Friday, May 14, 2010


Putting the pin on yesterday's disappointing word that Law & Order will chunk-CHUNK its last in a few short weeks, NBC has made official what was just being postulated.  Vanilla Law & Order is gonzo, SVU will be back, and new addition Los Angeles (I absolutely refuse to call it LOLA) will replace the Mothership come fall (Criminal Intent, now with 50% more Jeff Goldblum, continues in its hermetic bubble over on USA).  The Peacock's full press release after the jump courtesy of Deadline:

This Boy's life

Just over two years ago, my fellow travelers at Mr. Boy Productions began shopping a TV project called Suckerpunch and Leroy to various TV nets, garnering much acclaim but little else.  Now here's my friend, colleague, and Mr. Boy co-conspirator Sean Coyle with his own take on the backbreaking, soul-crushing world of the Hollywood pitching process.

Recommended Reading

Sam Stein at The Huffington Post with a terrific, highly-detailed account of Team Obama's behind-the-scenes maneuverings in getting the health care reform bill over the finish line.  Fascinating, revealing, and a little bit depressing.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


Earlier this year I made note with some relief that NBC, still smarting from its Jay Leno Show debacle from the fall and desperate to get its development ducks back in a row, had already given a commitment to its stalwart Law & Order for next season.  However, in a pretty shocking and out-of-the-blue reversal, the Peacock has instead decided that this season will be the show's last.

Black on Beck

While Godwin's Law posits that the longer a discussion stretches, the odds of Hitler/Nazi comparisons being tossed around increases, Glenn Beck has taken that truism and inverted it, using Hitler as the starting point and launching from there.  On last night's Daily Show, TV's Best Angry Man, Lewis Black, tackled Beck's "Nazi Tourette's" in another of his trademark rants:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Back in Black - Glenn Beck's Nazi Tourette's
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

Wot's all this, then?

Anyone who tried to follow the goings-on over the pond with the British election could be forgiven for being a mite confused by the whole thing.  An inconclusive election day last week culminated on Monday with PM Gordon Brown abdicating his position and giving way to a coalition government -- all after Queen Elizabeth first offered her blessing.  For some reason the whole thing reminded me of this scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail ("Help! Help! I'm bein' repressed!").  I wasn't the only one struck by the Python-ness of the whole thing, as former Python Terry Jones has chimed in with how to avoid similar parliamentary foul-ups in the future.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

King of the Night

With the exception of five years from 1980 to 1985, Lorne Michaels has been the man in charge of Saturday Night Live week in and week out since the very first episode aired in 1975. That's a pretty remarkable run in any profession, but in the executive musical chairs that are played in network TV, it's darn near unprecedented. One doesn't rack up that kind of longevity without knowing when to take a stand for creative decisions and when to stroke egos and play the role of company man.

In addition to his ongoing SNL duties, in 1993 Michaels elevated Conan O'Brien from obscurity by anointing him to host Late Night post-Letterman, and subsequently chose Jimmy Fallon to succeed O'Brien. In fact, one of the theories I saw tossed around as to why Conan had such a rough go in this year's late night dustup was because, in taking his show out west, the host had moved out from under Michaels' protective wing. Whether or not that's actually the case is anyone's guess, but in this in-depth interview with The Daily Beast, Michaels offers his thoughts on O'Brien and other topics with the perspective that can only come from decades of experience in the industry.


As is his wont, Christopher Nolan has kept things pretty close to the chest with his upcoming thriller Inception, due in theaters mid-July.  While most of the details had been left vague, we did know that it stars Leonardo DiCaprio as some kind of corporate saboteur, and (as usual) Michael Caine is in there too.  Now that the release is a few months away, some more cats have jumped out of the bag, and from the second trailer just released last week, we definitely get a clearer sense of the mindjob Nolan has been hatching in his downtime from the Batcave.  The cast is top-notch, as per usual, and the aesthetic looks like Nolan's usual polish.  I get a very Dark City vibe from this, which, if you've seen that underrated gem from '98, you know is a good thing.


Apropos of this week's Robin Hood release... 
Ridley Scott Trades Russell Crowe To Tim Burton For Johnny Depp

HOLLYWOOD, CA—Directors Ridley Scott and Tim Burton traded their favorite actors Wednesday, closing a deal in which Scott received Johnny Depp and Burton received Russell Crowe plus two guys from Black Hawk Down and a three-pack of watermelon Bubble Yum. "I'm going to cover his face in white powder and make him wear a purple fright wig and a Victorian frock coat with swirls all over it," said Burton, who unsuccessfully attempted to trade away an old Michael Keaton with whom he hardly ever plays anymore. "Russell Crowe's going to be the best misfit undertaker ever!" Scott, meanwhile, told reporters that he was just glad he got rid of a crappy action figure like Crowe and that he and Burton had definitely called no tradebacks.
Kinda feel bad for poor Michael Keaton, though.  No love for Beetlejuice?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Dredd Reckoning

As if anyone doubted it, Iron Man 2 had a blast-off opening this past weekend on its way to a very healthy global box office, and that just means studios will continue looking to comic books for R&D.  You know things have really come full circle for the comic movie gravy train when a big budget redux of one of my longtime faves, the legendary Brit anti-hero Judge Dredd, has distribs excited after the character's unfortunate previous movie experience fifteen years ago.  

Recommended Reading

These days when anyone talks about TARP, the government program infusing gobs of taxpayer cash into the financial sector to prop up the economy (and which garnered bipartisan support under both Presidents Bush and Obama), it's as one of those political albatrosses so toxic that any politico who supported it appears headed for a fall come November.  As with most things political, however, it appears that the reality and the spin don't really line up.  TPM has a look at the program, and as it turns out, it may well have succeeded beyond anyone's expectations.

Dead Tired

The wife and kids are out of town for a few weeks, so naturally I decided to pop in the 1970s Dawn of the Dead before I went to bed.  Because what better movie to watch in middle of the night in an empty house, right?  Anyway, after a restless night and waking up in a puddle of what I hope was sweat, I had the sudden urge to stock up for that zombie apocalypse we all know is right around the corner.  Lucky for me, someone at Topless Robot had the same epiphany and cranked out this helpful grocery list.  Thanks, guys!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Pardon My Dust

If you take a look around, you can probably tell that I'm in the midst of a pretty major overhaul here at Zaki's Corner.  In addition to the Twitter and Facebook buttons that now make every post easier for you to share, I've also made some aesthetic changes that will make this place easier to navigate and hopefully more fun to read.  I'll continue tweaking the layout on-and-off for a little while, so I'll ask that you bear with me, but in the meantime, if you enjoy reading this site, I sure wouldn't complain if you let me know it by making a donation through the Paypal button on the right.  Also, if you're making any Amazon purchases, you can find a button for that to the side as well.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Zaki's Review: Iron Man 2

Two summers ago, director Jon Favreau's Iron Man arrived in theaters under the bat-winged shadow of an impending superhero sequel armed with more anticipation and more buzz.  That was The Dark Knight, of course, and from what I hear it did alright when it came out a few months later.  But it was Iron Man's early May success that opened an unexpected new front in the comic movie sweepstakes.  Marking the debut offering from Marvel Comics' production shingle, the unlikely pairing of a mostly-unknown property with a resurgent star managed to strike just the right chords to resonate with audiences, instantly christening the new studio a Hollywood player.

Friday, May 07, 2010


Just got back from Iron Man 2 and I'm a few grafs into my review, but realistically it'll be sometime tomorrow before it goes up. Meanwhile, on the verge of what's sure to be yet another Iron-clad box office bonanza this weekend, jump on over to Salon and read why Matt Zoller Seitz hates the superhero genre. I agree with some of his points and disagree with others, but nonetheless it's a thoughtful treatise that's worth a look.

(And no, it shouldn't be taken as any kind of harbinger of where my review lands....)

Nostalgia Theater: Iron Man Edition

I'm checking out Iron Man 2 later this afternoon, so hopefully I'll have a review up by tomorrow.

In the meantime though, let's hop in the WABAC to the mid-'90s, when Marvel, still flush from the Saturday morning success of its X-Men animated show on Fox, farmed out various other of its properties to shore up its animation domination. This led to a bumper crop of Marvel heroes on the small screen in the latter part of the decade, among which was a syndicated Iron Man/Fantastic Four combo platter served up to affiliates in fall of '94 as the "Marvel Action Hour."

Given this week's theme, can you guess which one we're focusing on?

Pre-PLANET Planning

Speaking of summer tentpoles from Fox, the studio has also slotted in their Planet of the Apes revival -- last discussed here -- into a June berth for next year (making 2011 quite the feast for genre fans).  Deadline has the full press release on the film, now titled Rise of the Apes, but the broad strokes are that it's a prequel to the original Chuck Heston classic, is set in the present day, and will, for the first time, utilize CGI effects rather than man-in-makeup appliances to raise the titular apes.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Kicking Mutant Ass

We already know that the rights arrangement between 20th Century Fox and Marvel virtually ensures Fox cranking out new entries in their decade-old (wow, really?) X-Men movie franchise, or risk the property reverting back to the comic giant (and, by extension, Disney).  Having bemoaned the series' qualitative collapse here and here, when I first heard about X-Men: First Class, the latest attempt to extend the big screen brand, I was all ready to go with my "X-tinct" and "X-crement" puns.

Zaki's DVD Collection...

...will soon include this.  Why?  Because I'm weak.

Like prior sets devoted the '60s and '70s, this collection represents Warner Brothers' picks of the litter from '80s Saturday morning cereal-ana (that they hold the rights to, anyway).  Of course, selections like The Monchichis and The Biskitts (not to mention past "Nostalgia Theater" honorees Chuck Norris and Mr. T) sure make it seem like the decade had more "litter" than "picks."

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

More With Coco

Feedback on Conan's 60 Minutes sitdown has continued to trickle in from various media outlets, and not all of it has been good.  Personally, I think that, considering the circumstances being discussed, he was a consummate gentleman, and was as clear as could be without coming across as needy or whiny.  Defamer felt otherwise, however, and here's their take.

Miranda Wrongs

Last Christmas, when the "underwear bomber" story played out to a (thankfully) quiet conclusion, it seemed liked politics as usual when certain voices desperate for any albatross to hang around this administration's neck began to rail against reading the suspect his Miranda rights (you know, right to remain silent, right to an attorney, etc.).  Despite the fact that the suspect cooperated with authorities both before and after he was Mirandized, the alarmist cry went up on the right that foreigners shouldn't be taking advantage of those legal protections afforded to Americans.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Conan the Contemplative

One of the terms stipulated in Conan O'Brien's multimillion dollar settlement with NBC was that he couldn't appear on TV until May 1st.  Thus on May 2nd a newly-shaggy Conan sat down with Steve Kroft on CBS' 60 Minutes to discuss for the first time the January events that led to his vacating the Tonight Show desk.  Here's the embed of the segment:

Recommended Reading

Frank Rich on the wink-wink-nudge-nudge that's underlying Arizona's ridiculous new immigration law:
Arizonans, like all Americans, have every right to be furious about Washington’s protracted and bipartisan failure to address the immigration stalemate. To be angry about illegal immigration is hardly tantamount to being a bigot. But the Arizona law expressing that anger is bigoted, and in a very particular way. The law dovetails seamlessly with the national “Take Back America” crusade that has attended the rise of Barack Obama and the accelerating demographic shift our first African-American president represents.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Same Bat-Time...

Welp, a few days ago I said we didn't know anything about the next big Chris Nolan Batman opus, and while we still don't know much, we can at least add a release date to the "known unknowns" column: July 20th, 2012.

"It's over, John."

After 2008's throat-clenching, gut-busting, head-chopping Rambo revival, anyone who was hoping for Sly Stallone to take one more go at the venerable brand will have to content themselves with their DVD box sets and their memories. A fifth entry in the Rambo canon -- begun in 1982's First Blood and extended through three sequels spanning three decades -- was being touted pretty much as soon as Rambo '08 hit theaters, with Stallone mulling all kinds of fresh scenarios into which to drop the Vietnam vet (including, but not limited to, a sci-fi riff with Rambo squaring off against some kind of Predator-like creature). Things (thankfully) went quiet after that, and now it looks like the franchise's writer/director/star has decided to honorably discharge John Rambo -- this time for good.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Kick to the Head

Some thoughts from Cracked editor David Wong on how The Karate Kid screwed up our collective sense of reality.  I think he may just be on to something.


In a pretty positive sign of things to come, here (courtesy of Yahoo! Movies) is our first official look at Chris Hemsworth, like he's stepped right off the comic page, as the titular titan in director Kenneth Branagh's Thor.