Monday, December 31, 2012

The Vicious Consequences of Islamophobia

This past Saturday brought us the horrific story of a New York woman pushing a man named Sunando Sen, who happened to be Hindu, off a subway platform to his death due to her irrational hatred of "Muslims and Hindus" -- a hatred that was fermented and promulgated on the back of the anti-Muslim invective of the Robert Spencer-Pamela Geller crowd (who I've spent a fair amount of time lambasting on this site), and which has garnered a renewed spotlight thanks to an Islamophobic advertising campaign sponsored by Geller's group aimed at, you guessed it, New York's subways. My friend Wajahat Ali examines the linkage between rhetoric and action, and the worrying phenomenon of "death by brown skin."

The MovieFilm Podcast: Episode 12

The last MovieFilm installment of 2012 finds the gang sans holiday-traveler Sean, but Brian and I still had plenty to talk about as we pondered the real reasoning behind G.I. Joe: Retaliation's nearly one year push, wonder if we're getting too old for this "stuff" after seeing the Pacific Rim trailer, and as for reviews? Brian adds to the conversation started last episode regarding Jack Reacher, and we share our thoughts (with an asterisk) on This Is 40 and Django Unchained. Oh, and the Police Academy movies may happen to factor into the mix as well.

As always, stream it below, or download at this link. If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, send them along to, or to our official Facebook page. And be sure to write up a review at iTunes!

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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Recommended Reading

In case you haven't been paying attention, the nation is due to go over the so-called "fiscal cliff" the day after tomorrow, which will, economically speaking, lead to some variation of this. The situation we're dealing today with is a result of our incompetent elected officials truly outdoing themselves on that front, by engineering a situation so catastrophic that they would be forced into action to divert it, and failing to act even then thanks to the ideological litmus tests of the Tea Party and Norquist types. As is painfully clear now, even with the outcome of the last election, and even with the economy hanging in the balance, John Boehner is incapable of making any kind of a deal thanks to his being hogtied by his party's far right flank. While a lot of conventional wisdom has the two sides making some kind of last-second save, Robert Reich remains skeptical. Follow the link to read why.

Nostalgia Theater Extra: Year in Review 2012

Looking back at the past year's worth of Nostalgia Theater, I've been a litte amazed at my ability to put out a new entry every week and find fun new topics to cover. Given that this is the last weekend of 2012, I thought it might be fun to count down the five most popular Nostalgia Theater posts of his past year, with a brief word about each. Click past the jump to start the festivities!

Nostalgia Theater: When Chicago Enters the Summer Zone...

Something a little different for this, the last Nostalgia Theater of 2012. As you know, every once in awhile I like to focus on an artifact that's sort of specific to me, and I think today's is one example. Back in the late '80s (specifically, summer of '89), there was a TV spot that aired in heavy rotation on Chicago's WGN (Channel 9) promoting the station's rejiggered summer lineup (Andy Griffith and Benson reruns, anyone?), and which I saw a lot of during our annual trip to Chi-town from Saudi that year. For some reason the jingle just stuck with me, but never in a million years did I think I'd ever see it again, so I was as surprised as anyone to see that it had enough resonance with someone else that they actually tossed it onto YouTube. Enjoy!

Friday, December 28, 2012


Here's a list of five bills that could have becomes laws this past year -- covering the gamut from taxes to civil rights -- that would have meant an improvement in the lives of countless citizens, were they not blocked by the Republicans in congress (whose collective intransigence this past term has made them the most historically do-nothing bunch to ever lay claim to that title). It's depressing and yet, sadly, utterly expected.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

007@50: Goldfinger (1964)

Click here to read my retro review of 1963's From Russia With Love

When it came time for Agent 007's third cinematic escapade, the wind was clearly at his back, having conquered the global box office twice already. The overwhelming popular reaction to the first two film forays meant that producers Albert Broccoli and Harry Saltzman had earned themselves the ability to go even bigger and bolder, and so they did for 1964's Goldfinger, which would end not only cement James Bond's place as a pop culture icon, but also formalize the checklist of integral items the world at large would come to expect from a Bond adventure: dazzling gadgetry, death-defying stunts, demoniacal archfiends, and, of course, Pussy Galore.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Recommended Reading

The Boston Globe has a lengthy piece performing a post-mortem on the election which really goes deep and wide in its analysis of how exactly the Obama team pulled it off, and how the Romney team thought they'd pulled it off, but totally didn't, covering everything from the strategy during the primaries to the conventions to the debates to the final concession on election night. It's a bit of a long one, but if you're anything like me, this kind of thing is addictive reading.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Nostalgia Theater: X-Men -- The Crappy Cartoon Everyone Loved

L-R: Cyclops, Jubilee, Wolverine, and Beast wonder why they're animated so badly
A few months ago I marked the twentieth anniversary of Batman: The Animated Series, a momentous TV show whose impact is still felt in big ways and small when it comes not only to how that character is portrayed, but also in other facets of televised kidvid. Well, another twentieth anniversary that slipped right under my radar was that of another seminal Saturday AM series on Fox, X-Men, which was just as significant and made just as much of a ratings mark. But unlike Batman, which has held up remarkably well and will no doubt continue to do so, X-Men was actually pretty terrible at the time, and has only gotten worse in the intervening decades. Let's talk.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Recommended Viewing

Lawrence O'Donnell was in fine form in a twenty-minute tour-de-force last night that saw the MSNBC host take NRA prexy Wayne LaPierre to school for his insulting, condescending press conference yesterday that attempted (in vain) to deflect attention away from his organization's role in allowing the Connecticut shootings to occur. As you know, I really like O'Donnell, and segments like this are exactly why.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

From The Onion...

Here's a helpful list of important factoids about this year's top movies via America's Finest News Source. For example, Men In Black 3 answers the question “What would happen if there was a third Men In Black movie?”

Second Amendment Solutions

In the wake of last week's tragedy in Newtown, CT, there's been a lot of introspection on the part of many about the role that guns play in our society, and there's been a lot of deflection from certain vested interests in making sure that blame is cast anywhere but those guns (culminating in a desperate, tone deaf press performance yesterday from NRA head Wayne LaPierre). What's most fascinating to me about the "don't ever blame guns ever" stuff is how completely nuance-free those arguments tend to be.

I'm not opposed to sensible gun laws that make sense terms of allowing for sport and for private owners to protect themselves, but still making sure the public sphere doesn't turn into Dodge City. And yet, to hear some folks, any talk in that direction is akin to trampling on the Second Amendment, wiping your nose with the Constitution and personally flipping George Washington the bird. Here's a good piece by Robert Barry on why a lot of the noise on the right about the Second Amendment and its intent by the Founding Fathers is just that -- noise.

Full Star Trek Into Darkness Trailer Hits

This one's nearly a week old, but between finals and life getting in the way, the past week's worth of posting kinda got away from me, so I just wanted to make sure I'd preserved it here before too much time had warped by. Two weeks ago we got the "announcement teaser" for Paramount's Star Trek Into Darkness (so, in essence, a teaser for the teaser), with the promise from Par of more to come. Well, the expanded theatrical trailer hit the web earlier this week, and I don't really have much to add beyond this quite-expansive dissection from TrekMovie, so I'll merely echo my earlier sentiments that it looks pretty sweet and I'm suitably stoked. Carry on.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Zaki's Review: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) finds a precious ring
I went into The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring completely cold when it debuted in December of 2001. Hadn't read the book, hadn't seen the animated flick, I knew nothing about it other than the fact that it existed. And even without the years of history, the depth of fandom, or the weight of expectation, it was (and remains) one of the most revelatory experiences of my cinema-going life up to that time. Not only did I come away appreciating the intricate and involved fantasy world that novelist J.R.R. Tolkien had conveyed to the page, but also how effectively director Peter Jackson translated that world to the screen.

The filmic Lord of the Rings trilogy is considered a seminal experience by many, myself included, and yet I couldn't help but feel the sting of wariness when I first heard the stirrings that, following the unquestionable popular and critical success of those three entries (with 2003's Return of the King taking home eleven Oscars, including Best Picture), Jackson and his fellow travellers were planning to turn their gaze to The Hobbit, the original Middle Earth adventure that laid the pipe for all the questing and walking (and walking and walking). When several years of court battles, legal challenges, and structured bankruptcies threatened to derail any possibility of The Hobbit ever seeing the inside of a movie theater, I was surprisingly okay with that.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Morgan Freeman and the Media: Anatomy of a Hoax

A phenomenon we see with increasing frequency in today's social media age is the immediate "share," where we can propagate a picture or quote to our entire social circle with the flick of a finger whenever we see something we like or agree with. While this can help facilitate dialogue about a variety of issues, it's also apparently divested us of the need to practice due diligence in finding out if the information we're posting and/or citing is actually legitimate. Instead, we simply take it at face value if it supports what we already believe. Confirmation bias, they call it.

We saw a microcosmic exemplar of this phenomenon occur in real time this past weekend in the wake of the Newtown shootings, with a quote purporting to be from Oscar winning actor and one-time "Easy Reader" Morgan Freeman decrying the media's passive-aggressive role in promoting violence by giving fame to the perpetrators of said violence. First one person shared it, then another, then another, and before you knew it, entire Facebook and Twitter feeds were subsumed by people slapping Freeman an imagined high-five. Here's the questionable wisdom in question.

The MovieFilm Podcast: Episode 11

It's trailers-a-go-go for this episode of the MovieFilm show as the Mr. Boy gang embarks on an extended dissection of the latest assemblages for some of the most highly-anticipated impending releases from the Dream Factory, including Tom Cruise in Oblivion, Will Smith in After Earth, and the first looks at JJ Abrams' sequel Star Trek Into Darkness and Zack Snyder's Superman reboot Man of Steel. In addition, the guys give their take on the Golden Globe nominations, and I talk about how The Hobbit nearly made me throw up. There's a whole lot more than that, though, including brief discussions on Jack Reacher and The Guilt Trip, and a holiday-themed movie quiz to help celebrate the season. As always, stream it below, or download at the link. If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, send them along to, or to our official Facebook page. And be sure to write up a review at iTunes!

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Sunday, December 16, 2012

Nostalgia Theater: He-Man and She-Ra Get Awkward

We already know what a cash cow the He-Man property was for both toymaker Mattel and production house Filmation throughout the 1980s, with both the action figures and weekday afternoon animated series providing both companies with a lot of flush times for the majority of that decade. So much so that eventually both companies decided to try and leverage that success (as well as He-Man's huge popularity among young girls) toward a spin-off property, and thus was born He-Man's long-lost twin sister, She-Ra: Princess of Power.

While She-Ra ran for nearly a hundred episodes and remains fairly beloved by the generation that grew up with it, I'm not getting into that here. Instead, I want to share this bizarre music video thing Filmation created in support of 1985's The Secret of the Sword theatrical feature (cobbled together from the first five She-Ra eps). This vid was actually never released publicly until waaay later in the early aughts, and after seeing it, I'm sure you'll understand why. Just to clarify, they're brother and sister. That's important to note, because you'd be hard-pressed to come away with that impression while watching:

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Some Perspective

Hearing and watching the news and horrible images coming out of Connecticut over the last twenty-four hours, it's easy to be overwhelmed by despair and disillusionment  But then I see stories like this, and my mind is drawn back to this quote by Kurt Vonnegut, and the small bit of reflection it elicited in me a few years ago for Geek Wisdom:
“There’s only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.” 
— Kurt Vonnegut
Man shows inhumanity to man. It’s axiomatic of our existence. It’s the story of our past, it’s the story of our present, and it will very likely be the story of our future. Indeed, it’s a lesson that’s reinforced every day, whether we’re watching the evening news or the latest entry in the Saw series. However, our history is also littered with awe inspiring examples of men and women showing incredible compassion in the face of unspeakable evil and insurmountable odds. Every story of tragedy has a story of heroism to go with it. For every Holocaust, there’s a Schindler. Vonnegut’s words, spoken so simply, are nonetheless laced with considerable profundity. The imperative to be kind to one another may seem obvious, but part of being human means that both the right thing and the wrong thing are forever at arm’s reach. It doesn’t hurt to be reminded every now and then which one we should choose.

Recommend Readings

I'd hoped to have my review of The Hobbit posted yesterday, but with the horrific news that kept coming out of Connecticut morning into evening, I just couldn't find the strength to finish it, so that'll have to wait until early next week. In the meantime, in light of yesterday's events and the seemingly endless caravan of similar stories in the past few weeks, months, and years, here are two surprisingly similar pieces from two very different voices on the ideological spectrum on how gun legislation can play a preventative role in incidents such as this. First up, Ezra Klein has a list of twelve very instructive facts about gun control and gun violence. Next up is David Frum as the seemingly lone voice on the right who's saying, contrary to the meme that locks into place like a deflector screen whenever there's a story like this, now is the exact time to be talking about gun control. Read 'em both.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Broken Senate: Self-Filibuster Edition

One of the more comical/exasperating bits of business to emerge of late from the Senate, a.k.a. the Greatest Deliberative Body in the World (an erroneous appellation if ever there was one) was an amusing exchange last week when Republican leader Mitch McConnell engaged in some political gamesmanship that promptly blew up in his face. It all started with a proposal -- by him -- to have the Senate vote to give the president authority to raise the debt limit on his own without congressional oversight. When Democratic leader Harry Reid said he'd be willing to take McConnell up on that vote...well, watch Jon Stewart explain it better than me. I say again: *sigh*

Oh Yeah, G.I. Joe 2 Is Still Coming Out

Waaaaaay back last May I mentioned here that the Paramount sequel G.I. Joe Retaliation, which was positioned for release in the middle of last summer, was being pushed way back by the studio to a late May 2013 berth. Though the given reasoning at the time was to add post-produced 3D and squeeze more filthy lucre from ticket-buyers, there was also chatter that it was to tweak the pic and add more Channing Tatum, whose character Duke was apparently axed early in the initial cut, after the Jump Street star saw his box office profile rise.

Well, as if to remind us that yes, Retaliation is still being released, Par has put out yet another new trailer (catch it after the jump), and there is indeed more Tatum in the mix, though whether Duke still buys the farm remains an open question. I was feeling good about this flick earlier this year, and I remain so even with the lengthy delay, and even with the craptacular new poster to the right that looks like a high school Photoshop project. Yecch. Anyway, let's see if I end up with egg on my face come March 29.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Social Media Un-Training

An increasingly prevalent problem in the 21st century, thanks entirely to the ubiquity of the various social media platforms we're constantly plugged into, is that we're simply too available. There's no such thing anymore as simply being indisposed. Being away. Being out. The days of having to wait to reach someone or to be reached seem positively Paleozoic in the age of smartphones and "push" notifications and every other way we're on the grid, constantly prodded by notifications from this person or that app. Well, as Jon Mitchell says in a very thought-provoking op-ed, the problem lies not in our technologies, but in ourselves, and the key to moving forward has to be about training -- or rather un-training -- ourselves and our acquaintances in how to to use social media rather than be used by it.

New Man of Steel Trailer Takes Flight

As expected, Warner Bros. dropped the full-length trailer for the upcoming Superman reboot Man of Steel yesterday in advance of its big screen placement in front of this Friday's The Hobbit (full review soon). I'm pretty impressed with this one's look and feel, and also with the actors -- especially star Henry Cavill -- occupying director Zack Snyder's screen-scape. We get our first good looks at Michael Shannon as villain General Zod, Kevin Costner as Jonathan Kent, Russell Crowe as Jor-El, Diane Lane as Martha Kent, and Amy Adams as Lois Lane.

As to the trailer itself, my initial impressions are that while it is indeed re-treading a lot of familiar tropes vis-a-vis Superman's origin, something which really has been done to death, they do seem to have taken seriously their marching orders to go back to formula and make the Superman myth relevant to modern auds (as opposed to the archeological expedition that was Bryan Singer's Superman Returns). So far, so good. Man of Steel hits theaters next summer, so I expect we'll have plenty more to discuss between now and then.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Nostalgia Theater: Before Smallville -- Superboy's Flight Through Syndication

Gerard Christopher as TV's second Superboy
Superboy was a syndicated series that ran for four seasons beginning in the late '80s and continuing into the early '90s. And while you'd think its place as part of the voluminous canons of on-screen Superman iterations would give it some continuing cache, it's almost completely disappeared from the cultural radar in the two decades since its final first-run episode aired -- much to my regret, as I liked it a quite a bit. A little context might be helpful here as we delve back through the lens of time and look back at the Teen of Steel's television tenure.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Taibbi on DeMint Exit and GOP Implosion

The big news out of Washington this week was that Senator Jim DeMint, the Tea Party impresario who struck out when promised to make the Affordable Care Act President Obama's "Waterloo," and who struck out several more times when he endorsed also-rans like Christine O'Donnell, Sharron Angle, Richard Mourdoch, and Todd Akin for the Senate, was throwing in the towel and retiring.

Even though DeMint is ostensibly trading up by taking a high profile perch at the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank, it still counts as a win for those who value reason over dogma and ideas over ideology in our government (DeMint was one of the first in the line of hostage-takers during the last debt ceiling drama two summers ago, lest we forget).

As Matt Taibbi explains, DeMint's exit from the Senate, coupled with Mitt Romney's spectacular loss at the polls just over one month ago, is merely indicative of the much broader identity crisis that's currently afflicting the once-Grand Ol' Party as it attempts to finds its way in the new reality that's seen President Obama re-elected, and where the Tea Party label has become more of a liability than ever:

Friday, December 07, 2012

Debt Limit Redux

A lot of media bandwidth right now is being taken up by the so-called fiscal cliff, with the Obama Admin and Congressional Republicans in a game of brinksmanship over the expiration of the Bush tax cuts at the beginning of the year. The truth is that a lot of this talk is just being used to generate dissonance in viewers. At this stage, based on who has the leverage and the mechanism of the tax cuts' expiration, the onus is almost entirely on the Republicans to lose the argument gracefully -- in other words, whether they'll quietly pass a tax cut for the middle class and let rates rise on the top 2% of earners, or whether they'll put up a huge stink and still pass a tax cut for the middle class and let rates rise on the top 2% of earners. Either way, inevitability.

The real question mark, however, is hovering over impending negotiations with John Boehner as to whether House Repubs will raise the debt limit -- a formality under all previous administrations -- or if they'll play another game of economic chicken like two summers ago (when they first realized they could get their way by threatening to shoot the hostage). Back then, President Obama made concessions big and small to make a deal happen, and watched the United States' credit rating get downgraded anyway. This time, per the Prez, he's not negotiating. No way, no how. It's a pretty firm line in the sand, but let's see what happens moving forward. In the meantime, Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo has a pretty good layout of what the stakes are in this fight, and why it's pretty important to pay attention to.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Star Trek Into Darkness Trailer Beams Up

With that ominous teaser poster released just a few days ago, we knew that the inevitable teaser trailer had to be on its way sooner rather than later, and sure enough, early this morning Paramount offered up our first real look at some of what to expect from director JJ Abrams' highly-anticipated sequel Star Trek Into Darkness (still not digging that title, but c'est la vie):

I have to admit, I do find it somewhat amusing how many dyed-in-the-wood Trek heads online are losing their minds with cries of "That's not Star Trek!" over less than two minutes of out-of-context footage. Heck, for all I know I may end up agreeing with them, but not yet, because as now we just don't know enough. This is meant to convey tone (dark!) and not plot.

And since we don't know, I won't bother speculating on what represents what or who's playing who. That said, we do get looks at the key crew, Captain Kirk and Co., and a whole lot of havoc wreaked by Benedict Cumberbatch as the villainous...uh, not Khan. For now EW has five key takeaways from these 90 seconds, and click past the jump for a slightly-extended Japanese edit of this teaser.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

007@50: From Russia With Love (1963)

Bond makes the acquaintance of SPECTRE hitman Red Grant (Robert Shaw)
Click here to read my retro review of 1962's Dr. No

When Dr. No inaugurated the big screen's James Bond franchise in fall of 1962, it stormed theaters to the tune of $16 million domestically against a $1 million budget. With a return on investment like that, a sequel was a foregone conclusion. Or at least it would have been a foregone conclusion were a follow-up not already well underway before the first film even hit the screen.

Indeed, fully anticipating the rapturous response to Dr. No, producers Harry Saltzman and Albert Broccoli, along with home studio United Artists, upped the ante in every way possible for From Russia With Love, 007's second silver screen foray: bigger budget, bigger stakes, bigger action, bigger star (thanks to newly-minted global phenomenon Sean Connery), and, ultimately, bigger box office.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

The War on Christmas: Dispatches From the Front

I had a very interesting conversation with somebody recently who adamantly, and quite seriously, maintained that having someone say "Happy holidays" to them at a department store as opposed to "Merry Christmas" constituted not just an insult to, but an attack on, their beliefs. They actually said that. Fascinating.

Anyway, that was a bit of a head-scratcher for me, but the thinking behind that thinking sure came into much starker relief after seeing this piece from last night's Daily Show looking at the annual Fox News-induced celebration of the so-called "War on Christmas." This is a good'n, folks. And make sure you catch part two after the jump.

Superman in Chains!

Like Star Trek Into Darkness, which we got a look at yesterday, the Superman reboot Man of Steel is also hitting screens next summer, and it's also going to have a trailer attached to The Hobbit next week. In anticipation of that assemblage, the folks at Warner Bros. have released this teaser poster depicting Henry Cavill as the titular hero, his arms handcuffed and flanked by military personnel.

I know some folks online are complaining about this, for whatever reason, but I like it. It's a clear, clean way of driving home how this depiction of the Kal-El is going to be tonally very different from Superman Returns, the long-on-pomp, short-on-conflict Bryan Singer non-starter in '06. I also think the suit looks pretty good, and Cavill certainly looks good in it. As with Trek, as soon as I have a trailer to post, it'll go up.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Star Trek: First Glimpse of Darkness

The sequel to JJ Abrams' rebooted Star Trek is due to hit theaters this May, just over five months from now, so it's natural that the promo campaign has started to kick into gear. The first trailer for the film, saddled with the unwieldy appellation Star Trek Into Darkness, will be attached to The Hobbit next week, but should hit the web before then (and I'll post it as soon as it goes up). In advance of that, though, here's the teaser poster for the movie, which clearly seems inspired in its iconography by the poster for another recent, highly-anticipated sequel. Paramount has also released the official synopsis for the movie, but since it might be considered spoiler-y, I've put it after the jump just in case.

The MovieFilm Podcast: Episode 10

The MovieFilm show hits double-digits! For this week's headlines, we talk about the latest developments on the Star Wars front, debate Joseph Gordon-Levitt possibly donning Batman's cape-and-cowl in the Justice League movie, get cautiously optimistic for how X-Men: Days of Future Past is shaping up, and decide that our excitement for the Boy Meets World spin-off means we're hopelessly stuck in the '90s. It doesn't stop there, though. There's also my exclusive interview with Rich Handley, author of the new book, A Matter of Time: The Unauthorized Back to the Future Lexicon

In new releases, we have lengthy discussions on Steven Spielberg's latest opus, Lincoln, and the new James Bond flick, Skyfall, with Brian and Sean putting their heads together and attempting to stump me, the self-proclaimed Bond-spert, with a 007 trivia assault. Yep, just another fun episode of the MovieFilm Podcast. You can stream it below, or download it at the link. As always, send us your questions, comments and concerns at or our official Facebook page, and make sure to write up a review at iTunes if the fancy strikes. Enjoy!

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Sunday, December 02, 2012

From The Onion...

I gotta be honest. I'm one of these people.

Romney's Shellshock: A Portrait of Cognitive Dissonance

It's nearly a month after the election, and with the benefit of hindsight (and actual returns), the certainty of President Obama's re-election seems like a bit of a foregone conclusion. However, leading up to November 6, even as the majority of polls seemed to signal the electoral winds blowing the president's favor, there was one person who had no doubt about how things would turn out: Mitt Romney. In fact, the former Massachusetts gov was so confident in his prospects that he apparently begged off of even having a concession speech prepared. Whoops.

Now, given the drubbing he actually endured at the polls, that bravado seems ill-advised -- and kind of hilarious. Yet, there sat Team Romney on election night, by all accounts "shellshocked" by the returns. How could this have happened? Not Romney losing, mind you. There are plenty of reasons for that. But how could their glasses have been so rose-colored, even in the face of cold hard numbers from the Nate Silvers of the world saying a presidency just wasn't in the cards? Noam Scheiber of The New Republic unpacks the numbers and in the process paints a vivid, instructive portrait of cognitive dissonance at work.

Nostalgia Theater: The Centurions -- Power Extreme!

The Centurions was a mid-'80s animated show that, like so many similar offerings, was as much about selling toys as telling stories. That notwithstanding, it was actually a pretty decent show that holds up reasonably well today. Produced by animation house Ruby-Spears, the show centered on a group of three special operatives in the near future who, with a shouted "Power extreme!" use modular power suits to equip with a variety of gadgets and gewgaws with which to make battle with evil Doc Terror, hell-bent on conquering the planet. Here, watch the intro for the full skinny:

Friday, November 30, 2012

Powering the Islamophobia Machine

I've spent a lot of time over the past few years calling out and picking apart the creeping anti-Muslim sentiment being expressed in many ostensibly mainstream media appendages -- sentiment that, if not overt, is implicit enough and prevalent enough to be problematic. Well, a new study by NC sociology professor Christopher Ball, as detailed by Wired, finds that the Islamophobia machine that kicked into gear following 9/11 powered by a very few, very wealthy, agenda-driven financiers,  has certainly done its bit to get people fearful, hateful, and distrustful, a sentiment that's inadvertently borne out by the sole comment underneath the article. As my friend Wajahat Ali, co-author of the "Fear Inc." expose on the Islamophobia Industry, notes, "the study reiterates and validates" the earlier study's findings.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Jackman, Stewart, McKellen Set For X-Men Return

Earlier this month, director Bryan Singer was confirmed as returning to the film franchise he birthed, helming the upcoming X-Men sequel Days of Future Past, due to hit theaters in summer of '14. Well, once that happened it was only a matter of time before several other dominoes began to fall into place vis-a-vis the cast. First, the director himself made it official via his Twitter feed that original Xavier Patrick Stewart and original Magneto Ian McKellen would be present in some capacity, and now the question I'd asked earlier, whether they'd find some room in there for the franchise's good luck charm, Hugh Jackman, has also been answered.

The Wolverine actor, who just wrapped work on his solo sequel for the character, is now in negotiations to bring his steel-clawed alter ego into the larger X-Men fold. Assuming this all pans out, that would make Jackman seven-for-seven for Fox's mutant franchise. Clearly he recognizes that the series has been just as good to him as he has to it. I have to say, the more I hear about Days of Future Past, an ambitious time-tripping tale that which will also have the central First Class cast reprising their roles, the more it seems to be shaping up to be something special. You'll note, however, that one name not being bandied about very much for a return visit is Halle Berry's. To which I say: good.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

From The Onion...

Baby Knocked Out With Cough Syrup Praised For Being Such A Good Little Traveler 
NEWARK, NJ—Rendered unconscious by a powerful sleep-inducing cough suppressant, 8-month-old Emma Janofsky reportedly won praise from fellow airline passengers Sunday for being “such a good little traveler.” “Look at that, she’s not even stirring—what a perfect sleepy angel!” Deborah Lesser said of the nearly comatose Janofsky, whose pulse slowed dramatically as her internal organs struggled to process the potent cocktail of chemicals her parents had mixed into her applesauce. “I just can’t get over how precious and well behaved she is. You must be so proud.” Thanking Lesser, Janofsky’s mother then excused herself to carry her limp, drooling daughter to the lavatory to deal with the infant’s desperate attempt to expel the drug from her bowels.

Recommended Reading

With the dawn of a new Senate on the horizon, there's hope once again of reforming the filibuster, which has long since outpaced its intended role as protection for the minority voice and become an active encumbrance on the business of legislating and governing. I've long been advocating for, if not abolition of the practice, at least some very serious re-tooling, but Salon's Alex Seitz-Wald says we should just axe it entirely, and offers up five reasons why that's a good idea.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Stewart on Gaza: Status Quo Ante

Jon Stewart and The Daily Show took Thanksgiving week off, but the host returned last night just in time to offer his take on the eruption of conflict that rocked Gaza and Israel during the last weeks, and the subsequent media round-robining:

Monday, November 26, 2012

Larry Hagman, RIP

This past Friday, I was clearing episodes of the revived Dallas series off my DVR, and I offhandedly thought to myself how I hoped Larry Hagman's health would hold out so he could continue to work his wily ways as the duplicitous, magnetic J.R. Ewing for several years yet. Little did I know that Hagman, a true TV icon if ever there was one, had actually already passed away, losing a battle with throat cancer despite the best hopes when it was diagnosed last fall that he'd win that fight like he'd won so many others throughout his 81 years, including bouts with alcoholism and liver disease.

Though Hagman probably made just as much a mark on TV auds as Major Tony Nelson, the astronaut who gets "stuck" with the magical Barbara Eden in I Dream of Jeannie, which ran from 1965 to 1970, it was his Dallas run -- initially envisioned as a short-term supporting turn -- that truly cemented his place in the pantheon. For fourteen seasons, from 1978 to 1992, and 357 episodes (more than any other

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Nostalgia Theater: The Fall Guy -- Remembering the Unknown Stuntman

One of my favorite regular diversions here in Nostalgia Theater has been to shoot BBs at producer Glen A. Larson's execrable TV output from the '70s through the '90s. From Automan to Night Man, with a touch of Highwayman tossed in, it's been a good run. And while I'm sure there will be plenty more entries like that in the weeks and months ahead, this isn't one of those times. No, this week we look at a Larson excursion that actually executed a decent concept fairly well: The Fall Guy. I've joked previously about Larson seemingly coming up with his titles first, concepts second, and while I have no idea if that happened here, if it is, it actually kinda-sorta worked.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

007@50: Dr. No (1962)

Sean Connery: the prototypical James Bond
Beginning this week, I start a run of James Bond retro reviews looking back at the many cinematic exploits of Ian Fleming's unflappable super-spy. To be honest, this is the one movie franchise I've gotten more requests from readers to give the retro treatment to than any other, but time and resources conspired against me until I got ahold of the brand spankin' new Bond 50 blu-ray set that came out a few months ago, with transfers so pristine and beautiful that I decided I'd make time for these excursions. To wit, as the James Bond films hit their gold anniversary, let's start at the start: Dr. No.

By 1962, James Bond 007 had become a well-known, worldwide literary phenomenon, with even President John F. Kennedy among his fans. The spy novels by author Ian Fleming, inaugurated in 1952 with Casino Royale, were packed to the gills with espionage, intrigue, and sexuality, and were the perfect companion to keep with you on a long commute or on your nightstand. Bond's screen debut

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Producer Tripp Vinson Talks Red Dawn Remake

L-R: Adrianne Palicki, Josh Hutcherson, Isabel Lucas, Chris Hemsworth, Josh Peck
Last week, I had the opportunity to speak with producer Tripp Vinson about his remake of seminal '80s opus Red Dawn, directed by Dan Bradley and starring Chris Hemsworth, Josh Peck, Josh Hutcherson, and Adrianne Palicki, which opens this Wednesday after several years sitting on MGM's shelf thanks to the studio's unsteady financial situation. With the film finally hitting theaters, Vinson was eager to discuss its long journey to the screen, as well as the similarities with and differences from its predecessor. What follows are some highlights from our conversation:

Monday, November 19, 2012

From The Onion...

Given recent events, tragically comical.
8-Year-Old Palestinian Boy Pleasantly Surprised He Hasn't Been Killed Yet 
GAZA CITY—As civilian casualties continue to mount amid the escalating conflict along the Gaza Strip, 8-year-old Palestinian boy Walid Suleiman expressed both joy and astonishment Monday that he has yet to be killed in an Israeli military attack. “Boy, I thought I’d be dead by this past Saturday for sure, but amazingly enough, here I am,” said Suleiman, adding that he is “pleased, but pretty shocked” not to be among the estimated 100 Palestinians left dead by widespread Israeli airstrikes in the region over the past six days. “I’d have bet you anything that by today they’d have already dug my corpse out from underneath a giant pile of rubble and buried me alongside the rest of my family. Guess I won the lottery, eh?” At press time, incoming Israeli aircraft could be heard swiftly approaching as Suleiman limped back to his home.

The MovieFilm Podcast: Episode 9

Verily, our cup runneth over for the latest MovieFilm Podcast! The biggest news is an extended, exclusive interview with Tripp Vinson, producer of the controversial Red Dawn remake wherein he explains how this new version of the tale is different from the '80s original (as well as his hidden connection to The Hangover). But that's not all: we also offer our take on the latest directorial contenders for the upcoming Star Wars sequel from Disney, Mark Wahlberg starring in Michael Bay's Transformers 4 (yes, they're making that), devour the trailer for Brad Pitt's big budget zombie flick World War Z, chat briefly about Skyfall and Wreck-It Ralph, and soar through an in-depth discussion of Robert Zemeckis' much-anticipated return to live action with Flight while offering our thoughts on the rest of the director's oeuvre  There's plenty more than that though, and to get it all, you need to listen to the whole thing, either by streaming below or downloading at the link. Send any questions or comments to us through the official MovieFilm Facebook page, or e-mail us at

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Sunday, November 18, 2012

Nostalgia Theater: The Day Superman Died

Let us pause for a moment to remember the tragic events of exactly twenty years ago today -- the day Superman died. I still remember the blanket of media coverage in the weeks and months leading up to the comic's release, as various talking heads on the news breathlessly informed us that the Man of Steel would bite the big one in the upcoming Superman #75. I was twelve years old then, and used to read the Superman comics fairly regularly at the time, but in those pre-Internet days when pop culture news wasn't disseminated faster than the speed of thought, I first learned about this when my older brother, having seen one of those aforementioned stories, conveyed the news.

"They're killing off Superman," said he, matter-of-factly. Of course, a lifetime of comic reading had conditioned the both of us to take a reflexively dismissive position on this kind of thing. Back then, the saying went that in comics, the only characters who stay dead are Uncle Ben (Spider-Man's murdered paternal unit) and Bucky (Captain America's doomed World War II-era partner). In the decades since, the latter has not only been brought back quite successfully, but will have a main role in the next Captain America flick, so whaddya do. Anyway, I knew this was all just a gimmick, but that sure didn't stop the media from running rampant. He was going to be dead. Dead dead. Observe:

Friday, November 16, 2012

Recommended Reading

Longtime readers know that I link fairly often to pieces by former George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum, whose politics and philosophy I strenuously disagree with, but whose observations about the travails afflicting the current GOP (many of which were borne out by last week's election results) I tend to find generally reasonable. However, coming from the ideological framework he does, Frum still gets it wrong occasionally, and my friend Ahmed Rehab, director of the Chicago chapter of CAIR (the Council on American-Islamic Relations) calls him out for just such an instance.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Snyder Talks Watchmen, Superman

Director Zack Snyder, he of next summer's big Superman reboot, Man of Steel, recently talked up his take on the original superhero with the "Hero Complex" blog over at The Los Angeles Times, also offering up some new thoughts on his 2009 comic book adaptation Watchmen, which remains a fiercely divisive picture even this many years out.

I liked it quite a bit when I saw it, and I continue to do so, but I certainly understand where people are coming from with their dislike or disinterest. Still, it clearly has its fans, as Warner Bros. has yet another blu-ray special edition of the movie on shelves as of this week. Here's Snyder on how opinions of the film have changed in the years since its release, and how it has new meaning in the post-Avengers era:

Purple. Lots of Purple.

Here's a very interesting graphic courtesy of artist John Nelson that re-envisions the traditional blue/red electoral maps by focusing on population rather than geography, mapping votes at the the county level and demonstrating not only where the majority of votes come from, but also how the country isn't quite as divided as the media narrative would have us believe. For more on how Nelson put it together, click here.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Nostalgia Theater: What the Dr. Ordered...

For some reason, I thought the commercial below was just the coolest thing ever when I saw it in early '92. Didn't drink Dr. Pepper, didn't like Dr. Pepper (both of those conditions have now been remedied), but the jingle just stayed with me, so much so I figured that alone was reason enough to give it this week's Nostalgia Theater spotlight. While folks in the '70s and '80s grew up with the "I'm a pepper, you're a pepper" Dr. Pepper ad campaign, by the time we got to the early '90s, the soda giant clearly felt the pressing need to keep up with the times and 'zazz things up a bit.

To wit, they recruited "Guy in White T-shirt and Jeans" to up the cool factor. His catchy exhortations to random beach-goers and guys in space suits to give him "what the Dr. ordered" while waxing profoundly about how "what's in is out" and "what's out is in" were enough to earn permanent mind-space with twelve-year old me. I did a little bit of research to dig up who this guy is and what his deal was, but came up bone dry. I did, however, find this extensive, hilarious article from a few years back that examines not only the spot below, but the other three ads in this particular campaign. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need someone to just gimme a Dr. Pepper!

Friday, November 09, 2012

Zaki's Review: Skyfall

Read my 2006 review of Casino Royale here

Read my 2008 review of Quantum of Solace here

There's a particular, special kind of pomp that greets the clockwork release of James Bond's cinematic  escapades every couple of years. It's a pomp that at once underscores each new installment's role as the storied series' leading edge, while at the same time highlighting its ultimate transience as just one small cog in the machine that is, first and foremost, "The Franchise." The most successful of its kind. More than any individual film in the vast, ever-expanding catalogue, the Bond films' place of permanence comes from the totality of that catalogue, the breadth and width of which has long since rendered the films a kind of pop culture perpetual motion machine, ensuring that they carry on simply because they carry on.

It's for this reason that Skyfall, 007's twenty-third official movie (arriving exactly fifty years after Dr. No and Sean Connery first started the run), feels like such a game-changer -- more, even, than Casino Royale, which rebooted the whole dang thing six years ago. Coming on the heels of an interminable four-year delay (after 2008's Quantum of Solace) as home studio MGM got its financial house in order -- with a

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Turd Splattered

I'm not one for schadenfreude. I'm really not. But the "buh-huh-wha" reaction by Karl Rove to Fox New's on-air calling of Ohio for President Obama Tuesday night, sealing his re-election in the process, really was a thing of beauty. Rove was the guy who orchestrated an all-out assault on the prez and congressional Dems via his Crossroads Super PAC(s) -- an assault which bore no fruit and arguably left the once-Turd Blossom as the night's biggest loser. I can just picture him anxiously sitting by the phone like the corrupt banker Keinszig in The Godfather, Part III as he awaits the reckoning by the billionaire cabal he bilked to the tune of $400 million. Like I said, I'm not one for schadenfreude -- but I'm willing to make an exception this one time, just like Jon Stewart was:

And here's part two, as Stewart defenestrates the usual gang of bloviators on Fox News as they react to the news of Obama's win, with their "makers vs. takers" narrative shockingly reminiscent of a strain of illogic I saw move through my social media feeds far too often on election night from people who frankly I'd expect a lot better of:

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

About Last Night

Seeing the reactions of various right-leaning friends and acquaintances on my Facebook and Twitter feeds last night as the election returns slowly came in and the disposition of the race began to crystallize, I totally got it. I realized that they felt exactly the same way John Kerry voters (I hesitate to say "supporters") did in 2004: trying desperately, even as the potential victory gets pushed further and further out of reach, to envisage a scenario that sees their guy pulling a last minute upset. Again, I got it. And honestly, the lessons of Kerry and '04 are just as applicable here.

Like Kerry, Romney too is a Massachusetts pol who got saddled early on (rightly or wrongly) with a "flip-flopper" tag that pretty much stuck. He wrested the nomination based on an illusory standard branding him as more "electable" than the other contenders also vying for the spot (and in a very narrow sense that was true here -- I mean, did you get a look at the GingrichBachmannPerryCainSantorum he was running against?). So he rose to the top as the "Okay, I guess..." option. But as far as what he stood for? What he was about? Didn't matter. He wasn't the other guy, and that's all you needed.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

From The Onion...

Here's a helpful election day PSA from America's Finest News Source:


It's election day again, so it's time once more to post one of my all-time favorite quotes and exhort you to partake in your civic duty:
"My great-grandfather’s great-grandfather was Dr. Josiah Bartlet, who was the New Hampshire delegate to the second Continental Congress, the one that sat in session in Philadelphia in the summer of 1776, and announced to the world that we were no longer subjects of King George III, but rather a self-governing people. 'We hold these truths to be self-evident,' they said, 'that all men are created equal.' Strange as it may seem, that was the first time in history that anyone had bothered to write that down. Decisions are made by those who show up. Class dismissed." 
- President Bartlet (by way of Aaron Sorkin) in the West Wing episode, "What Kind of Day Has it Been"

Monday, November 05, 2012

The MovieFilm Podcast: Episode 8

"Star Wars lives!" The Mr. Boy gang was all set to discuss a variety of different topics for the latest MovieFilm episode, then Mr. Lucas dropped his little bomb mid-week, and that changed our trajectory somewhat. So this week, in addition to the answering listener e-mails, debating the role celebs should have in politics, and dissecting the trailers for Gangster Squad and Iron Man 3, the centerpiece of Episode 8 (or rather Episode VIII) is an extended discussion about the impact of Lucasfilm's acquisition by the Disney company, the impending open-ended continuation of the Star Wars saga, and what it all means not only for the brand, but for the film industry, and heck, even for society. We had a blast recording this one, so hopefully you'll have just as much of a blast listening. Stream it below or download it at the link. Send any questions or comments to us through the official MovieFilm Facebook page, or e-mail

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Sunday, November 04, 2012

Mouth Breathers III: The Saga Continues

Here's a vid courtesy of Chase Whiteside at New Left Media (whose work I previously posted here) of a cross-section of Romney supporters opening up a little too candidly for the camera at a recent rally in Ohio. Just a reminder, folks: when making your voices heard vis-a-vis the political process, it can be helpful to know exactly what you're for, what you're again, and the whys of each, lest you end up looking like this:

Nostalgia Theater:
James Bond Jr. Will Not Return

We're mere days away from once more engaging in a shared cultural institution we have the privilege of partaking in like clockwork every couple of years. Something that continually defines our times and says something important about our place in society. The last time we had this opportunity was in November of 2008, and now here we are four years later, ready to again have our voices heard. I'm speaking, of course, of the new James Bond flick, Skyfall, due for release this coming Friday. What did you think I was talking about?

My Skyfall review is on-tap for later this week, and starting shortly I'll also be embarking on an expansive run of retro reviews looking at the fifty year history of the Bond series from 1962's Dr. No to now. In the meantime though, here's a little curio from 007's long history that's likely been overlooked since its spotlight time two decades ago -- and rightly so, I'd say. That's right, this week we take a brief, confused look back at the brief, confused shelf-life of Bond, James Bond. Junior.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Whither Your Franchise?

Staying in the Star Wars neighborhood just a little bit longer, in the wake of this week's Big Freakin' Deal, in case you're losing any sleep over which of your favorite film franchises are controlled by which studio, the folks at Empire have created this very helpful infographic to help you separate the Disneys from the Time/Warners and the Hobbits from the James Bonds in your fantasy leagues.

Worry Wars

I had a very lengthy, very interesting discussion with the guys about the Disney-Star Wars acquisition for the next MovieFilm show (which you can listen for this coming Monday). One observation I made was how, for as much of a money-minting machine Star Wars has always been, it was a money-minting maching under the oversight of one guy, which lent it a weird kind of purity (and I know that sounds contradictory given how much blog-space I've given over to piling manure on the prequels).

But with Disney's announced plans to keep their Star Wars spigot in a perpetual "on" position through another trilogy and beyond for as long as possible, there's now going to be an institutional, assembly-line quality in place, a la the Bond series or Star Trek or any one of a dozen other corporate-owned franchises. Here's The American Prospect's Tom Carson (no Star Wars fan, he), who I think makes a very cogent observation that mirrors my own thoughts:

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Confirmed: Bryan Singer Directs New X-Men

With the last two days' worth of oxygen in the geek-sphere being sucked up by rampant speculation surrounding the understandably big news about the Emperor's new digs, one story that got lost in all the hubbub was yesterday's official confirmation that, per Fox's hopes, director Bryan Singer has signed on the dotted line to helm the studio's 2014-targeted X-Men: First Class sequel. The move is a homecoming of sorts for the director, who returns to the big chair of the franchise he inaugurated in 2000, and nearly ten years after his last entry, the very successful X2. It also has him essentially swapping roles with the project's original director Matthew Vaughn, who now takes over the exec producer duties Singer held previously.

While this flick, subtitled Days of Future Past, is ostensibly a follow-up to 2011's First Class, it also promises to bring Patrick Stewart, Rebecca Romijiin, Famke Janssen, and several other stars of the original X-Men trilogy back into the fold, giving viewers the opportunity to see Stewart's older, wiser Charles Xavier go head to bald head with his younger self (as embodied by James McAvoy). Maybe even a Magneto-off between Michael Fassbender and Ian McKellen? Also, given his presence (big or small) in every X-film to-date, I'm hopeful they'll find a way to squeeze Hugh Jackman as Wolverine in there as well, for good luck, if nothing else (though we'll also get his second solo entry next summer with The Wolverine). As always, more on this as it develops.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Disney Buys Lucas, The Star Wars Saga Continues, And the Internet Breaks in Half

Yesterday afternoon my cell phone was buzzing with so many texts one after the other that I sort of felt like I was a character on The West Wing after some geopolitical crisis has just occurred. Thankfully it was nothing as serious as all that, but in geek terms, the day's events were probably just as momentous. The story of the day -- and probably the week -- is that the Walt Disney Company got one step further in its eventual goal of owning every piece of intellectual property ever created by gobbling up the entirety of George Lucas' Lucasfilm, lock, stock, and barrel-shaped robot.

This is news I honestly never expected to hear, because it just never even occurred

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Still A Good Day

I was suitably impressed by the teaser trailer from earlier this month for next year's made-to-order Valentine's Day date movie A Good Day to Die Hard (a.k.a. Die Hard 5) that I started to have a really good feeling about Bruce Willis' impending return to the screen as Det. John McClane for the character's silver anniversary celebration. Now, I established earlier that I'm kind of an easy sell for all things McClane, so maybe I'm just betraying my biases here, but I continue to feel the positive vibes with the second, more story-centric assemblage (embed after the jump), which boasts a cameo by Mary-Elizabeth Winstead as daughter Lucy, and has Our Man John butting heads with son John Jr. (Jai Courtney) as the pair get up to trouble in the former Soviet Union. And as far as the teaser poster to the left, I know that some folks online have been dogging on it as lame and forced, but come on, how can you not love that tagline?

I Love the Matrix Sequels

There. I said it.

It wasn't always that way, mind you. When The Matrix Reloaded hit theaters in May of '03 on the back of an anticipation so suffocating that I doubt any movie could have measured up, I attended the midnight show opening night -- and when I wasn't baffled by the philosophical mumbo-jumbo (and don't get me started on that rave/orgy thing...), I slept through the rest. Based on the immediate negative reaction, this clearly wasn't the sequel that I (or most people) had expected. I skipped the third film, Revolutions, entirely when it hit theaters a few months later, and the conventional wisdom quickly hardened that the Matrix sequels, like the Star Wars prequels, were an idea better left unrealized.

Then, on a lark, I got the massive 10-DVD box set (now available in an insanely affordable blu-ray iteration) that was released during Christmas of '04, packed to the gills with supplements, add-ons, and most importantly, a running commentary track by noted Wise Men Cornel West and Ken Wilber, whose conversational explication of the series' ins-and-outs was like a flint finding a spark. Without the weight of

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Nostalgia Theater: Extreme Ghostbusters -- Like Regular Ghostbusters, But Extreme!

L-R: Slimer, Wheelchair Guy, Goth Girl, Grunge Guy, Black Guy, and Egon
One of my most popular posts of all time is my Nostalgia Theater piece from exactly one year ago looking back at Filmation's also-ran animated Ghostbusters from the mid-'80s. That series, which I affectionately refer to as "The Fake Ghostbusters" (as contrasted with the officially licensed Real Ghostbusters show that ran concurrently), tried to ride the coattails of the very successful Columbia Pictures film to less-than-successful results, but it at least had the benefit of a concept that actually predated the film, making it seem slightly -- only slightly -- less mercenary. I'll give no such quarter to this week's Nostalgia Theater pick: just in time for Halloween, it's Extreme Ghostbusters!