Friday, December 30, 2011

Nostalgia Theater: T.J. Hooker Edition

We close out this year's bumper crop of Nostalgia Theater entries with a look back at this 1982-1986 series that proved the enduring star power of Captain Kirk even several hundred light years away from the cozy confines of the U.S.S. Enterprise.

T.J. Hooker was a show about William Shatner as a cop. And that's it. 

Oh, there was some backstory shoved in there about T.J. (Thomas Jefferson) being a detective who returns to the beat and trains recruits, solving crimes and tossing off witty one-liners with his young, hip partner Adrian Zmed and his young, blond partner Heather Locklear, but let's be honest. That was all just window dressing for the show's central conceit: Shatner, Shatner, and more Shatner. I mentioned last week that hourlongs during this era weren't exactly challenging, and this is a good example of how a show could coast through four seasons just by dressing a charismatic star up as a policeman (a similar feat would occur in the '90s with Walker: Texas Ranger -- minus the charisma).

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Broken Break

With last week marking all grades and grading completed and submitted from fall semester, I was hoping the additional time in my daily sched would allow for a quick rush of new posts to close out the year strong. Instead, the opposite has turned out to be true. I've found that a) my time isn't quite as plentiful as I'd anticipated, and b) I want to use those few moments I do have to do anything but sit in front of a monitor. I guess that's all a long way of saying that the content here may not be quite as free-flowing in the next few days as we've come to expect. I caught a couple of movies in the last few days I'd still like to get reviews out for before the end of the year, and there's still a few odds-and-ends I need to get to, so let's see how things go.

In the meantime, here's an interesting HuffPo piece by Paul Stoller that echoes the mix of feelings I think many educators like myself experience in this interregnum between our teaching cycles.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Plinkett Cracks Crystal Skull

Pretty much the minute I finished watching Mike Stoklasa's incisive and hilarious feature-length takedown of the last Star Wars prequel at the beginning of the year, my thoughts immediately turned -- as did those of many others -- to wondering whether/when he'd get around to tackling Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, a film that engendered at least as much disappointment among many as the prequels. Stoklasa duly obliged me and the rest of the online commentariat late last week, deploying his "Mr. Plinkett" persona once again for an hour-long video commentary on the much-loathed Indy IV.

Unfortunately, in a weird meta commentary on the film itself, the review seems to coast on goodwill from the previous vids, offering some very cogent points and some genuine laughs, but also a little too indulgent with a hint of obviousness. Some of the rationales offered don't really hold up (do we really like Indiana Jones because he murders people?), and I dunno, the stuff about Karen Allen just seems kind of mean. Also unfortunate, the serial killer bits that bugged me before are dialed up to an uncomfortable degree (there's an Olsen Twins riff I could have lived a long, comfortable life without ever needing to see). Still worth checking out, but be ready to skip through the extraneous stuff.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Nostalgia Theater: The Equalizer Edition

My post last Sunday singing the praises of CBS' urban vigilante series Person of Interest got me thinking of another very-similar skein that aired on CBS and enjoyed a decent amount of popularity during its mid-to-late '80s run, but has been mostly forgotten today. The Equalizer starred late British thesp Edward Woodward in the role of Robert McCall, a former intelligence operative (at some nameless agency) who grows disgruntled with the life of a spy and, seeking to make amends for his shadowed past, heads to New York, where he offers his particular skill set (think: Liam Neeson in Taken) to anyone in trouble who needs balance restored to their lives (i.e. "equalized").

Running 1985-'89 and lasting for 88 episodes, The Equalizer arrived at a point in TV history when we really started to see the transition away from more wholesome programs the entire family could conceivably watch (Starsky & Hutch, CHiPs) into series that pushed the boundaries, both in terms of style and content, of what the medium could get away with. In a sense, this is a show, like Miami Vice and Wise Guy and other trailblazers of the era, that forged the path utilized by many of today's dramas, but which has itself been left by the wayside by all but the most pugnacious of '80s devotees (further marking it as an artifact of its time, McCall's son was played by none other than the the decade's go-to bully: William Zabka).

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Zaki's Review: Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol

As I alluded to last week, I got off to bit of a rocky start with the Mission: Impossible movie series, with my initial outrage at how the first film in 1996 blowtorched the legacy of the TV show whose name it appropriated turning to apathy at how little of its name the 2000 sequel managed to embody. Thus, it really wasn't until 2006 and director JJ Abrams' Mission: Impossible III that I was willing to board the Tom Cruise-starring spy franchise, appreciating how it modernized key facets of its brand while preserving those things that made it unique (a maneuver Abrams repeated three years later with his canny Star Trek restart).

Sadly, despite marking a considerable qualitative step up, that third Mission underperformed in relation to its two predecessors, and so, when it came time to embark on the fourth installment (which dispenses with Roman numerals in favor of a sub-head -- the cinematic equivalent of fudging your birthdate to seem younger), the mission placed in front of studio and star was to convince audiences that this fifteen-year old series still had something fresh to offer, and that Cruise could still put butts in seats even after a stream of bad publicity over the years accumulated like barnacles on his once-spotless superstar bona fides.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Zaki's Review:
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

The business of franchise-building is never easy.

When all the hard work and sweat of crafting a solid enough first installment to warrant a sequel finally pays off -- as it did both critically and commercially for Warner Bros.' Sherlock Holmes reboot in '09 -- the filmmakers inevitably find themselves at a crossroads, having to determine whether the next entry should go deeper, plying the audience's investment in the characters and setting to mine more potent thematic and emotional ground, or broader, with surface characteristics they responded to previously accentuated and amplified. For this series' second try, A Game of Shadows, some modest attempt is made for the former, but it's mostly content to remain the latter. I suspect one's enjoyment of the proceedings will depend greatly on how comfortable they are with that apportioning.

Monday, December 19, 2011

New Details, New Trailer For New Dark Knight

While dissecting the very cool teaser poster for The Dark Knight Rises last week, I noted that its image bore some resemblance to a similarly iconic comic book moment that ended with the Batman's back broken, and wondered whether that's where this movie was headed. Well, today we have what amounts to tacit confirmation of my conjecture via Bleeding Cool, conveying the word of one "well tried and certainly trusted individual" purporting to have the inside scoop:
...we’ve been told – amongst a few other things that we hope to make sense of and share in the near future – that The Dark Knight Rises gives Bane the opportunity to break Batman’s back...Our source cracked wise about the various “rumours” surrounding Bane in the film, expressing some amount of disbelief that people thought the back-breaking might, somehow, not be featured.
Time will only tell if this is smoke and fire, or smoke and mirrors. In the meantime though, check out the first full trailer for The Dark Knight Rises, which gives us our first sense of the ideological conflict that pulls the Batman back into the center of the action after several years in exile (Hi, Anne Hathaway!), as well offering a sense of the size and scope of what's planned for this trilogy's last at-Bat. This was a pleasant surprise in front of Mission: Impossible last week, and I'm sure you'll agree that it does its job well:

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Interesting Person

If you follow me on Twitter, you already know that one of the new TV shows I've wholeheartedly embraced this past fall season has been CBS' Person of Interest. The twisty premise of the skein, produced by JJ Abrams and created by Dark Knight co-writer Jonathan Nolan (brother of Christopher), hinges on a mysterious computer outputting a single social security number every week that's connected to some unknown crime that is likely to occur in the near future. The number represents either a perpetrator or a victim, and it's up to the vigilante duo of The Passion's Jim Caviezel (the brawn) and Lost's Micheal Emerson (the brains), to follow the clues and prevent said crime from happening.

If that description sounds either perplexing or simply uninteresting, I can't say I blame you. In truth, it's one of those premises that risks falling all over itself by being too-clever by half. The brilliance of the show, however, lies in how it takes that conceit and repurposes it into the latticework upon which to hang what is one of the more involving, cerebral techno thrillers to emerge in quite awhile. More than that, it's essentially a superhero series in disguise, with Caviezel, as mysterious, ass-kicking former Special Ops agent John Reese, the "Batman" of this diad, and Emerson, enigmatic genius Harold Finch, the "Alfred" directing traffic from behind an array of digital display screens. 

Friday, December 16, 2011

Nostalgia Theater:
Mission: Impossible Edition

Peter Graves, flanked by (L-R) Greg Morris, Leonard Nimoy, and Peter Lupus
I caught a screening of the new Mission: Impossible movie earlier today, and hope to have a review up shortly, but in the meantime, I wanted to use this Nostalgia Theater entry to take a fond look back at the TV show that got the whole brand rolling. A unique merger of the spy genre that had exploded in popularity in the post-Bond '60s with the tried-and-true procedurals that were fixtures of the primetime landscape even then, Mission: Impossible, created by Bruce Geller, premiered on CBS in 1966 and ran for seven seasons.

Although it initially starred Steven Hill as no-nonsense "Impossible Missions Force" leader Dan Briggs during the first season, it really wasn't until the late Peter Graves took over the lead in year two, as slick, silver-haired Jim Phelps that Mission: Impossible gained itself a signature star who, together with Lalo Schifrin's signature theme music, helped give the show much of the iconic resonance it retains to this day. Here's the intro from one of the second season episodes:

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A New Lowe

Serving as the perfect punctuation point to my last post, here's Jon Stewart and The Daily Show's take on the Lowe's/All-American Muslim non-controversy, with the show's resident Muslim correspondent Aasif Mandvi offering some helpful context:

All-American Muslim Not Worth The Fuss

Remember the overheated bloviating last year about Park51 (a.k.a. the "Ground Zero Mosque")? Nearly all of 2011 had passed without a similar Muslim-related controversy du jour to take up media bandwidth, but based on the last few days, it looks like one has manifested just in time to beat the buzzer with reality series All-American Muslim. I watched the first episode of the skein -- chronicling the day-to-day struggle of some Muslim families in Dearborn, MI -- when it aired last month, and it didn't really do anything for me, so I didn't bother commenting on it (though a quote from me did make into this post by Zahid Lilani).

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

G.I. Joe 2 Looks Great

Holy crap, how the heck did this happen?

As you know, I wasn't a big fan of 2009's movie, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, so I was extremely wary when a sequel was announced. That initial skepticism turned to optimism, however, when Zombieland writers Paul Wernick & Rhett Reese were drafted to craft the script, followed immediately by more skepticism when it looked like director Stephen Sommers would return. This turned back into optimism when Sommers exited, and then skepticism again when director Jon Chu -- he of several dance movies and that Justin Bieber flick from earlier this year -- was announced as the project's new helmer. So, that's pretty much where we'd left things as of last February.

Well, that calculus changed somewhat yesterday, thanks to the first teaser trailer for the follow-up feature, G.I. Joe: Retaliation. With most of the original cast jettisoned, and returning stars Channing Tatum and Ray Park teaming with the Rock and Bruce Willis for what amounts to an "in-continuity" reboot, I have to admit to being very pleasantly surprised by what I see so far. The set pieces are grandiose without being over-the-top, same with the stuntwork, and they've nailed down an even more impressive cast. Did I mention Bruce Willis? I'm not ready to file this one in the "win" column just yet, but given how much ill will there was going in, the fact that they've put out a decent trailer is practically half the battle.

Check out the new vid after the jump and tell me if it's got you sold:

Monday, December 12, 2011

Broken Bat

Things were quiet for awhile, but the promo machine has now begun to gear up for The Dark Knight Rises, as we start the countdown clock for its highly-anticipated release next summer. There's this week's release of the film's prologue in front of select IMAX screenings of the new Mission: Impossible movie, and there's also the new, very sweet teaser poster showcasing lead baddie Bane, played by Tom Hardy.
(Click the pic for a crazy big version)

In addition to being an effective, iconic image in its own right, the poster also gets some mileage by calling back to a signature moment from Bane's debut storyline, the early-'90s Knightfall epic, wherein the brilliant, steroid-enhanced villain orchestrated a weeks-long psychological and physical campaign against Batman that culminated in his breaking the hero's back (he got better, natch). Not sure if that's where Christopher Nolan is going with this trilogy-capper, but it sure does evoke that same imagery, as seen below.


Time once more to mark another meaningless Internet milestone -- though as meaningless milestones go, this one is slightly more meaningful than most. That's right, I've hit 1000 followers for this site via Networked Blogs. The last few years have been very good to me in terms of the personal and professional dividends this site has reaped, whether we're talking about my Huffington Post work or Geek Wisdom, but knowing there's four digits worth of folks out there who find value in my brain droppings is the biggest ego boost I could ask for. Thanks again to everyone who'se been reading, enjoying, and spreading the word over the years. Here's to more big things in the near and far future.

Let's make sure we preserve this moment for posterity:

Exactly nine months ago, I said I'd bust out the confetti and streamers when we hit a grand, but I can't think of a better way to mark this momentous occasion than by watching a cartoon George C. Scott get hit in the groin with a football:

Friday, December 09, 2011

Nostalgia Theater: Animated Apes Edition

In the lead-up to the theatrical release of Rise of the Planet of the Apes last August, I spent a week's worth of posts taking a fond walk back through the misty history of the original Apes film and its many theatrical offspring, but I only briefly touched on the ways those damn, dirty apes made their mark on the small screen. Well, with Rise making its home vid debut come Tuesday, this installment of Nostalgia Theater offered the perfect opportunity to re-revisit one of those selfsame small screen excursions.

By 1975, Planet of the Apes' time as a dominant force in pop culture was beginning to wane. The movie series had wrapped two years prior, and while a live action show premiered with a lot of hype behind it the previous fall, a combination of unambitious stories and overambitious scheduling doomed the series -- starring Apes movie icon Roddy McDowall -- to a here-and-gone 14 episode run. Still, though the primetime version died a quick death on CBS, that didn't dissuade NBC from taking another shot, this time in cartoon form. Thus was born the final entry in the original Apes onslaught: Return to the Planet of the Apes.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Recommended Reading

Last month, Rolling Stone's Tim Dickinson dug deep into the whys-and-wherefores behind the Republican Party's slow, steady metamorphosis into primarily representing the interests of the country's wealthiest few (though, just to be fair, it's not like the Dems are slouches in this area themselves). Now, Dickinson is back with another exhaustive treatise, this time casting his eye on the key issues that have, thanks to the demands of base voters for ideological purity, crystallized as the new Republican platform -- in the process buoying President Obama's reelection prospects considerably. There's too much meat in this one for me to pull just one highlight, so just jump over here and read the whole thing.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Green Felt, Red Scare

I had some fun yesterday with the outrage in some far right circles over the Muppets' supposed furtherance of a sinister, secret agenda of Communist indoctrination of our kiddies. As it turns out, though, I may just have backed the wrong horse on this one. Based on this clip from his show last night, it sure looks like Conan O'Brien has found the smoking gun of Marxist Muppetry:

From The Onion...

This is funny until you realize just how true it is, then it just becomes sad.
In Major Gaffe, Obama Forgets To Dumb It Down 
CINCINNATI—In a serious miscalculation that may prove devastating to his bid for a second term, President Barack Obama neglected Tuesday to simplify a statement to the point where it could readily be grasped by anyone with the vocabulary of an 8-year-old. "Instead of saying, 'There are many global variables at work here, and unless they all fall into place, we could find ourselves back in a recession,' he should have just said, 'Times are hard. We gotta be strong,'" said Washington Post political correspondent Brian Meltzer, noting that Obama's statement during a speech on job creation was met with dumbfounded looks and audible gasps from the crowd. "Americans are so used to meaningless homespun homilies, they don't know what to do when they're treated like thinking adults. The president has to understand that if he goes out there throwing around words like 'currency' and 'economy,' he'll end up being branded an elitist." In an attempt to correct the error, Obama concluded his speech with the words "Jobs good. No jobs bad. God bless America."

Captain Power Comes to DVD

Last April, I posted a Nostalgia Theater entry wherein I waxed fondly about a piece of forgotten '80s kidvid called Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future, and mentioned that an official release appeared to be in the offing sometime soon (with the news breaking almost immediately after I dropped twenty-five bucks on a bootleg. There's a lesson in there somewhere....)

Anyway, that day is now upon us, with today marking the DVD debut of the series in a spiffy set with a barrel full of of all-new features. Aside from the show finally getting its due in platter form, it's been especially cool for me to see the wave of renewed attention and reminiscences it's prompted, such as this piece by Zach Smith that echoes so many of my thoughts about the show and its era. Says he:

Monday, December 05, 2011

Not Easy Being Green

I took my two oldest kids to see Disney's new Muppets movie yesterday, and we all had a grand old time. They laughed, they smiled, they sang. It was fun for them, nostalgic for me. Ah, but little did I realize that what I was actually doing was unwittingly subjecting my kids to the latest Communist scheme by Big Hollywood to turn our wee ones into unwitting peons of the Proletariat. Yep, it's true.

That's the word, anyway, from Dan Gainor, repping the Media Research Center (a conservative thinktank, natch), in conversation with Fox Business Channel's Eric Bolling (who I have to say has made a pretty good showing this year of out Glenn Beck-ing Glenn Beck). According to Gainor, it's pretty easy to draw a straight line between Kermit the Frog and the "Occupy" movement:

Political Realities

From this past weekend's SNL. Fred Armisen's Obama impression is still pretty bad, but the underlying message is the very embodiment of "funny because it's true."

Friday, December 02, 2011

Nostalgia Theater: The Fugitive Edition

Picking up from last time's conversation about TV shows that have been turned into movies then turned back into TV shows, here's another strong entry in that particular programming niche that also came and went before its time. Beginning its life in the 1960s as the brainchild of creator Roy Huggins and producer Quinn Martin, The Fugitive was that most archetypal of "quest" series, with its deceptively simple premise -- a falsely accused man on the run from the authorities, desperate to track down the key to proving his innocence -- serving as the thematic template for countless others that followed in its wake (Kung Fu being one example, and TV's Incredible Hulk another).