Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Zombie Apocalypse Now!

This past weekend, a story hit the web and quickly went viral about a guy going nuts in Florida and getting shot multiple times by cops after they found him naked and eating another guy's face. Perfectly normal, perfectly healthy. I, being the forward-thinking type that I am, immediately pegged this as the leading edge of that zombie apocalypse I live in abject terror of. Seriously, it feels like the news story you see playing in the background at the beginning of every zombie flick ever, that all the characters either ignore or tsk-tsk, and then, next thing you know, everyone is holed up in a shopping mall clutching baseball bats and shotguns. Anyway, in what amounts to proof of everyone else being either ahead of the curve (like me) or out of their minds (also like me), I wasn't the only one who made that inevitable linkage between "Naked Face Eater" and "Zombie Apocalypse." And as this compilation from Gawker shows, it's just the latest in a string of recent incidents that surely signal the impending onslaught. Better keep that copy of the Zombie Survival Guide handy! Don't say I didn't warn you!

G.I. Joe Déjà Vu?

"I'm still alive, y'alls! I'm all around you!" 
Last week I evinced some (okay, a lot of) frustration at Paramount's decision to jettison its highly-anticipated (by me) G.I. Joe: Retaliation from its summer perch and swap it out for a lower-profile late-March release. The stated reason offered up by the studio at the time was that they wanted to pony up the necessary bucks and time to apply the dreaded post-converted 3D process to the completed film. As it turns out, however, while 3D did indeed play a part in the decision, there may have been more to it than just that, and it brings to mind a serious case of G.I Joe déjà vu.

Pegg on Cumberbatch: Not Khan

Got a little bit of clean-up to do this morning vis-a-vis a post from earlier this month. Based on several assured sources populating the web, I did a short piece about actor Benedict Cumberbatch playing the role of Star Trek villain Khan Noonian Singh in the upcoming sequel to J.J. Abrams' 2009 Trek reboot. Based on my assumption that Cumberbatch was indeed playing the role, I noted my mixed feelings about it, feeling that he could certainly act the hell out of the part, but that it was altogether unnecessary for this leg of the franchise to resurrect Khan. Well, if recent news is anything to go by, it would appear that my concern is for naught.

While the current Star Trek braintrust from Abrams on down has played typically coy about the new movie's inner-workings, actor Simon "Scotty" Pegg left little room for doubt when he told the UK's Telegraph (as cited at TrekMovie) of Cumberbatch's role, "It’s not Khan...That’s a myth. Everyone’s saying it is, but it’s not.” I suppose Pegg's phrasing doesn't entirely leave out the possibility that Khan is still in the movie, albeit played by someone else, but I feel like that starts taking us into X-Files-Cancer Man territory where we're parsing every syllable of every word for some heretofore hidden meaning. I think in this case a spade's a spade. No Khan.

Now we can go back to not knowing anything about the movie, just like before.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Bookmark Brian's Blog!

*sigh*

It's always sad when they leave the nest. After many years of nudging, prodding, and pleading from me, my longtime chum Brian Hall, whose musings on various bits of pop culture arcana (usually Simpsons-related) have been a semi-regular feature on this site for awhile now, has set up a slice of the web all his own to dispense with his trademark witticisms and wisdomisms. That's right world, ready or not, Everything's Coming up Brian! Adjust your bookmarks accordingly.

(And don't worry, by no means does this signal the end of Brian's wit and wisdom over here at Zaki's Corner. He doesn't get off that easy.)

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Mass Hysteria!

It seems that, even after becoming a national punchline and getting soundly schooled by President Obama himself at last year's White House Correspondents' Dinner, Donald Trump has yet to give up on the right wing fever dream that the President wasn't born in this country. Of course, Trump being Trump, we kind of know the score with him. With an ego that big, the idea of admitting a mistake isn't really on the table, especially after the way he went all-in and crowned himself Birther King, so the only path forward was to double-down, which he dutifully did in an interview with The Daily Beast yesterday.

For me, with Trump, as with Limbaugh, as with Beck, as with Hannity, and as with all of their ilk, it's really less about what they're saying than the fact that people are listening. Most of the talking head spectrum, right or left, has an investment in portraying themselves as the last bastons of the One Great Truth. That's how ratings work. I get it. But what about the politicians whose job isn't to rile people up against each other, but rather to actually work with folks they disagree with and get stuff done? What's their excuse? That's what came to mind when I saw that (presumed) Republican nominee Mitt Romney is attending Trump's fundraiser, passing up yet another chance to take a principled stand against his party's fringiest fringe.

"Obama is Kenyan." "Obama is Muslim." "Obama is a Socialist." Obama is anything that can cast him -- and, by extension, those who supported him -- as the "other," so folks on the far right can cling to the idea that no, we didn't elect a president they disagree with, we elected an illegitimate president. The system is wrong, not them. It's reactionism instead of reason. When we're able to shut out and "otherize" people, putting them and their views in a little box we don't have to acknowledge, the less compelled we are to solve our problems together. When the starting point of a conversation is calling the other side "demons" or "traitors" or "Communists," how can understanding even enter into the equation?

Friday, May 25, 2012

Nostalgia Theater: De-Neuralizing Men in Black: The Series

This week's Nostalgia Theater really lives up to its title, as the third Men in Black flick this week got me reminiscing fondly about the late '90s MIB animated series. Unlike a lot of the 'toons I spend bandwidth ragging on about here, Men in Black has a concept that's perfectly suited to animation, and the show is a rare successful examples of the often-fumbled movie-to-cartoon switcheroo, following in the stylistic footsteps of home studio Columbia's Ghosbusters animated show.

Well before the first Men in Black movie's summer '97 premiere, Columbia/Sony put an animated spin-off into the development pipeline. So confident were they about the film's box office prospects that they wanted to be ready to immediately capitalize on the audience awareness it was likely to build up. Produced by animation vets Duane Capizzi, Jeff Kline, and Richard Raynis, Men in Black: The Series had a fairly distinct look that helped it stand out from the pack when it debuted on the Kids' WB in fall of '97, just a few short months after the movie's very successful release. Take a look at the intro:

Zaki's Review: Men in Black III

The first Men in Black from 1997 has one of my all-time favorite movie quotes, courtesy of Tommy Lee Jones as he welcomes Will Smith to the film's titular organization:
"Fifteen hundred years ago, everybody knew that the Earth was the center of the universe. Five hundred years ago, everybody knew that the Earth was flat. And fifteen minutes ago, you knew that humans were alone on this planet. Imagine what you'll know tomorrow."
There's a profundity there that gives weight to the slimy alien shenanigans the rest of the thing hinges on, and it's a testament to how effective that first flick was at setting up its characters and scenario that 15 years later, and a decade after the unfortunate Men in Black II, cast and crew so seamlessly step back into their trademark black togs and Ray-Bans that it feels like we missed out on a sequel or two. While there isn't anything especially remarkable or memorable about Men in Black III that you leave the theater with, it's consistently engaging and humorous enough to withstand the barrage of "What? Really?" that its mere existence is likely to elicit after such a long interregnum.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

No Joe! G.I. Joe: Retaliation Retreats To March

Well, this one's a head-scratcher. As you know, I've been consistently impressed with everything we've seen thus far from Paramount/Hasbro's G.I. Joe: Retaliation, feeling that it appears to have addressed the many content and execution issues I had with its unfortunate predecessor in '09. The steady drumbeat of publicity since early this year had made it one of my most anticipated movies of the summer, and we were staring down the barrel of its premiere just over a month from now -- a few short weeks away. But that was then.

In a bizarre move the likes of which I've never seen before from a major studio this late in the game, Paramount has abruptly pulled the Joe sequel from its summer schedule and re-slotted it to debut next March -- a delay of exactly nine months. As Deadline first reported yesterday, the supposed reason from the studio for the delay is to put the film through the dreaded post-converted 3D process and maximize overseas revenue (where they apparently haven't started tiring of 3D the way we're starting to over here). The money quote comes from one of the execs: "We’re going to do a conscientious 3D job because we’ve seen how it can better box office internationally."

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Talking TRON With Sean

As my longtime readers are no doubt already aware, I have a lot of love for Disney's TRON, one of the seminal film-viewing experience of my young life. Thus, when my best friend Sean Coyle, an editor at Disney for several years now, told me awhile back that he was working on TRON: Uprising, the Mouse House's impending animated entry into the franchise, I nearly plotzed. Knowing of my deep affection for both the original film and its 2010 sequel, TRON: Legacy, Sean has teased me with the fact of the show's existence at every opportunity, all the while maintaining strict radio silence about its contents. Until now, that is.

With last week's airing of "Beck's Beginning," a prologue to the series proper, on Disney XD, the big ramp-up to TRON: Uprising's series premiere next month has begun. The series, which fills in the gap between the flashback sequence in Legacy and the film's story proper, chronicles the exploits of a rogue program named Beck (voiced by Elijah Wood) who is trained by the original Tron (Bruce Boxleitner) to take on his mantle as they work to defeat the evil CLU. If the prologue is anything to go by, it looks like the project lacks in neither scope nor ambition, fitting comfortably in the film world of the sequel while also plotting its own unique stylistic course.

I had the chance last week to pick Sean's brain about the show, how he got involved, and what we can look forward to. Here's what he had to say:

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Writing About Writing

Every once in awhile I'm approached at some event or another by a total stranger who knows me, or knows of me, because of this blog, or because of a piece I've written that was cross-posted at Huffington Post. "You're Zaki Hasan...the writer?" Blows my mind every time. I guess I am a writer, at that. Sure didn't see that coming! During encounters such as this, I'm inevitably asked some variation of two questions: How did I become a writer, and how do I find inspiration to keep writing.

My answers to both of these is always the same: By writing. I realize that might sound glib, or even sarcastic, but it's the honest truth. You just have to do it. And once you start doing it, you have to keep doing it. Here's an interesting factoid: I didn't ever plan on being a writer. I was going to be a comic book artist. During my high school days -- an eternity ago, for all intents and purposes -- I'd built a rep as a pretty decent artist. And without tooting my horn too much, it was a deserved rep. I was good. But I wanted more. I wanted to be thought of as an artist who could write.

From The Onion...

Ah, our world in microcosm...
Couple Has Nest Egg Of Debt To Make Sure They've Got Some Money To Owe Down The Road 
BRIMLEY, MI—Local couple Matt and Wendy Ratliff told reporters Tuesday that they have been steadily building up a nest egg of debt to make sure that they always had something tucked away to owe banks and creditors no matter what the future held. "We've been saving a little debt each year for about 15 years now, which might not sound like much, but as the debt grows over time, it will hopefully provide us with a nice chunk of debt we can dig into later on if we happen to run into any unexpected prosperity," said Wendy Ratliff, 47, adding that if she and her husband stuck to their plan, they would have enough outstanding payments stashed away to not only retire in debt but also to ensure that their children could inherit some of their debt as well. "It was a little difficult setting aside the debt at first, but after awhile, we just got used to it. Now we barely notice how crippling it's going to be." Ratliff said the nest egg was personally important to her, as her own mother had never put any debt aside and was now an elderly widow with almost no source of financial hardship.

Monday, May 21, 2012

007 Returns! First Look at Skyfall

It's been four long years now since James Bond last graced movie screens in Quantum of Solace -- a movie I seemed to like far more than most people. That's a span that seems interminable given the usual two-year turnaround between movies, but it's also not as long as could well have ended up being, given all the drama surrounding home studio MGM. And if this first look at November's Skyfall, the intrepid agent's 23rd official movie adventure, is anything to go by, the wait appears to have been worth it.

The film reunites star Daniel Craig, second in my mind only to Sean Connery, with director Sam Mendes, who previously worked with the actor on 2002's Road to Perdition, and the helmer has clearly imbued the project with a fairly distinct visual style for the Bond series. The assemblage doesn't do much to telegraph the plot (or offer a glimpse of Javier Bardem as the villain), but we do see Ralph Fiennes as an administrative-type who early scuttlebutt has taking on a fairly important role in the series. We also get plenty of Daniel Craig punchy-hurty to show he hasn't slowed his step. Catch the video after the jump. It's short, sweet, and the message is clear: James Bond is almost back.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Nicholas Hammond: Spider-Man

With The Amazing Spider-Man next month, Andrew Garfield becomes the third actor to play Peter Parker and his masked alter ego onscreen. The second was Tobey Maguire in the '02-'07 trilogy, and the first was Nicholas Hammond, star of CBS-TV's Spider-Man live action series. Commissioned in the wake of the network's huge success with The Incredible Hulk, Spider-Man never found its footing the same way, running for a mere fourteen eps from 1977 to 1979, but it's lived on thanks to home vid and syndication in a way that belies that puny number. Check out the '70s-tastic intro sequence below, which manages to be awful and awesome all at the same time:

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Recommended Reading

Sara Robinson details how the current wave of conservative dogmatism is putting our country's education system at risk . I usually don't like getting into conservative vs. liberal shouting matches here, but I think a lot of what Robinsons says on the differences between the two worldviews, and the trickle-down impact of those differences, are right on the nose, such as this point:
...for much of Western history, critical thinking skills have only been taught to the elite students -- the ones headed for the professions, who will be entrusted with managing society on behalf of the aristocracy...Our public schools, unfortunately, have replicated a class stratification on this front that's been in place since the Renaissance. 
...this kind of regimented education is profoundly inappropriate in a democracy. If you teach a child that he is incapable (and intrinsically unworthy) of governing himself -- a central assumption of conservatism -- then how on earth can he participate in governing his country?
Read the rest of Robinson's piece here.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Nostalgia Theater: Alien Action Figures -- "They're Unstoppable!"

With the debut of Prometheus, director Ridley Scott's long-in-coming return visit to the Alien universe that he first brought to the screen, just two short weeks away, I've got several Alien-related features in the works to carry us right up to the new film's release. Getting the ball rolling for us is today's Nostalgia Theater, yet another entry in my already-lengthy catalogue of questionable kiddie fare derived from hugely inappropriate, R-rated source material.

While this trend usually manifested as cartoon shows that in turn led to merchandising, every once in awhile they'd cut out the middle man entirely and go straight for the toys. The jugular, if you will. The Alien franchise is one such example. To understand this, it's helpful to realize that Alien was released in 1979 by Twentieth Century Fox, the same studio that cashed out with the Star Wars licensing bonanza just two years earlier.

Thus, given how well both Fox and toymaker Kenner did after boarding the Star Wars gravy train (with a little help from George Lucas, natch), it's easy to figure the thinking here: It's set in outer space...just like Star Wars! There are lots of cool spaceships...just like Star Wars! It's got new and different space creatures...just like Star Wars! The space creatures forcibly impregnate humans with their seed and brutally murder everyone onboard...just like Star W--wait, what?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Avenging Insights

Just two weeks into its theatrical run, and Marvel's The Avengers is already entering the upper echelons of all-time earners. It's weird how, as a comic fan, I'm exulting in this movie's box office conquest even though I'm not the recipient of any sort of kickbacks or ancillary reward. I guess this is how rabid sports fans feel when they say "We won!"

Anyway, one of my favorite bloggers, Tim O'Neil of the excellent blog The Hurting, has seen the film as well, and rather than compose a lengthy review, he's instead offered up a list of 19 semi-connected observations and reactions, all of which are quite insightful, and all of which are worth giving a read. Here he is on that massive box office haul reference above:

Recommended Reading

Anyone who's bothered paying attention to the gridlock in Washington the last three years already knows how the filibuster, once held in reserve as a last resort option to protect the minority, has turned into business-as-usual this congressional session, with its 60-vote requirement to end debate being deployed as a matter of course by Senate Republicans to ensure that it's a kick-and-scream for anything substantive to actually get accomplished in the World's Greatest Deliberative Body. Clearly there's a lot of business in the senate that needs some serious revamping, but none more than the filibuster, which has been used, abused, and dragged far past any semblance of what it was originally intended for. We're a far, far cry from Jimmy Stewart collapsing at the podium from dehydration here. And as Ezra Klein explains in a lengthy piece detailing the practice's history, it may even be unconstitutional.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

On Time Passing

I had a bit of an epiphany a few weeks ago when I saw that a student in the very first class I ever taught, lo those many years ago at San Jose State, was celebrating a birthday that put them at exactly the same age I was when I'd taught them. It's funny how a milestone that's seemingly so arbitrary can end up becoming the cue ball that sends a whole mess of thoughts about age, personal growth, and professional goals caroming around your head.

Those thoughts continued to ferment this past week during the course of a conversation with a friend, when this friend asked whether I look back on my life and feel unhappy at the choices I've made. For some reason, I had a rough time working my way through an answer. Not because I have any regrets -- because I really don't -- but more because that process of self-reflection (not something I do very often) made me suddenly, acutely aware of the passage of time.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Bad "My Bads"

One of my biggest societal pet peeves of late is the non-apology apology. You know the one, where the aggrieved party is given a "Sorry if you were offended" brush-off as recompense for some past slight. Just a cursory look at the taxonomy of that sentence tells us that it's not the act that's being apologized for, but rather the reaction to that act. In other words, "Sorry you're too slow to get me, man." This trend has really hit my radar in a big way thanks to the slew of politicos and public figures who've mastered several variant strains of the non-apology (See: Romney, Willard). Cracked.com has done some legwork for us and compiled just six.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Nostalgia Theater: Forever Knight -- Fangs for the Memories!

With Dark Shadows hitting theater this weekend, and Johnny Depp reprising the late Jonathan Frid's TV role as tormented vampire Barnabas Collins, I thought I'd walk down memory lane by looking back at another anti-heroic TV bloodsucker who briefly commanded a cult audience. I speak, of course, of Forever Knight, a 1992-'96 skein centering on vampiric police detective Nick Knight as he makes his way through the seedy, crime-strewn underbelly of...Toronto (Yes, Toronto). Here's the show's' intro, which gives up all the necessary exposition:

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The End of Superhero Comics?

In Media Res, a website devoted to scholarly discussions and dissections of media and media trends, has an Avengers themed week currently running, with various, interesting pieces on the aspects and implications of the Marvel mega-franchise. Today, they're featuring a piece by me that picks up on some ideas I first alluded to in my review last week, asking if the film's runaway success will end up having the opposite effect on the very comic books that inspired it. Jump over there and give it a read.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

All Hulks Unite

Although The Avengers' record-shattering success at the till last weekend shouldn't have come as any big surprise to anyone who's paying attention, what did catch many audiences and critics unawares was the film's crowd-pleasing depiction of the Incredible Hulk. After the two previous tries at bringing Marvel's green goliath to the big screen were viewed as noble misses by many, most (though, just to take credit where it's due, not I!) had written off the prospects of Bruce Banner's monstrous alter ego ever anchoring another film all his own. That's all changed now, of course.

With the positive reaction to Mark Ruffalo's take on the tormented doctor and the film's heroic portrait of ol' Greenskin serving as wind in its sails, a new Hulk feature seems more of a real prospect as of this moment than it was just a few short weeks ago. To this end, The New Yorker turned to the Tweeter known as @FilmCritHulk, who's built his rep by doling out all-caps insights on cinema 140 characters at a time, on what makes this Hulk so special, and he drops some real wisdom. I found this bit about the '70s TV show and its star, the late Bill Bixby, particularly insightful:

Cognitive Dissonance

Jon Stewart on the brain aerobics the GOP and its mouthpieces must dance through practically ever day in this election year as they try to square their competing narratives: "Republicans, like all Americans, wanted very much to see Osama bin Laden dead. At the same, time they believed Barack Obama is incapable of doing anything right."

What follows is more comedy gold in the Daily Show tradition.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Nostalgia Theater: TV's Live Action Conan --
A Kinder, Gentler Barbarian

After last week's post on the animated Conan the Adventurer rocketed to more than 300 shares on Facebook, I figured I'd stay in that topical vicinity just a wee bit longer. During the mid-to-late '90s, the sudden, unexpected popularity of syndicated fantasy duo Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess led to a subsequent sudden, completely expected surge of fantasy-inspired series tossed at syndicated TV lineups across the country and across world. Shows with titles like Tarzan: The Epic Adventures, and The Adventures of Sinbad, rushed to a fill a void no one knew existed. And unto this fad, hither came Conan:

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Final Amazing Spider-Man Trailer Swings By

With The Avengers now out and wreaking havoc at the box office, it's already time for the next big opus based on a Marvel hero: July's The Amazing Spider-Man, which saw its final trailer released this week attached to Avengers (though not, frustratingly, with my screening). As you know if you've been paying attention, unlike many others I've been mostly on-board with this reboot based on everything I've seen so far, but this new trailer doesn't really do much to move the needle for me.

It seems like, after the previous cuts spent a great deal of time emphasizing the "clean break" nature of the project, this one shunts that into the background in favor of the overarching plot about Peter Parker's parents, as well as showcasing the big bad, Rhys Ifans' as the Lizard. The action scenes look quite impressive (more so than even the swinging action in the Sam Raimi Spider-films), and they should look great in 3D, but there's just something "meh" inducing about this spot that I didn't feel with the others, and which I'm sure Sony really doesn't want happening this late in the game.

It's hard to fully articulate, and I'll fully cop to at least some of this being a result of seeing what Avengers was able to do with the genre, but there's something kind of small-scale and unimpressive about yet another Spider-Man where the hero is jumping around without his mask on as he faces off with yet another monstrous baddie, reboot or no. Obviously, at this stage it's going to be wait and see, but I do wonder if others are going to feel the same way as me, or if they're going to benefit from a sort of contact high by seeing the clip right before The Avengers. Catch the trailer after the jump, and you tell me.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Zaki's Review: Marvel's The Avengers

One of my first memories of comic heroes on the screen -- indeed, possibly one of my earliest memories ever -- comes from when I was four years old and watching syndicated reruns of TV's The Incredible Hulk, terrified and exhilarated at the sight of Bill Bixby metamorphosing into a green-painted, fright-wigged Lou Ferrigno. So different from the comic, but hey, it was the best we had. Cut to several decades later, and as I sat watching Marvel Studios' mammoth superhero jam The Avengers, bringing to life the kind of spectacle that was, until recently, the exclusive pervue of the page, I kept thinking about four-year-old me and wondering what he'd be thinking right about now.

In that sense -- in a very large sense -- The Avengers doesn't merely mark the culmination of Marvel Studios' sometimes interminable, slow-burn plan (initiated with 2008's Iron Man) leading toward the creation of a shared movie constellation comprised of its brightest stars. Rather, it's the ultimate expression of everything superhero movies have fitfully built up to in the thirty-four years since Chris Reeve's Superman stepped out of a revolving door and first took to the sky. As masterfully executed by writer, director, and famed geek god Joss Whedon (he of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer & Angel fame), The Avengers shatters the last barrier separating the printed page and the celluloid image, fully wresting the superhero genre away from the medium that birthed it.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Laying the Blame

Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein, authors of a new book examining the state of our government with the ominous title It's Even Worse Than it Looks, assess the current congressional gridlock and come away with the same conclusion that anyone who's been paying attention to the last few years of unfettered ideology coupled with unabashed obstructionism already knows quite well: It's the Republicans' fault. Say they:
In the first two years of the Obama administration, nearly every presidential initiative met with vehement, rancorous and unanimous Republican opposition in the House and the Senate, followed by efforts to delegitimize the results and repeal the policies. The filibuster, once relegated to a handful of major national issues in a given Congress, became a routine weapon of obstruction, applied even to widely supported bills or presidential nominations. And Republicans in the Senate have abused the confirmation process to block any and every nominee to posts such as the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, solely to keep laws that were legitimately enacted from being implemented.
And to those who quickly deploy the "pox on both their houses" chestnut to assign both parties an equal share of the blame for these shenanigans, the authors make the same point I have several times before that while the Dems have displayed plenty of incompetence plenty of times over the years, it's nothing when compared to the outright, gleeful maliciousness that passes for "politics as usual" in the modern day GOP:

A West Wing Reunion!

Or as close as we're ever likely to get, anyway, courtesy of Funny or Die. With series stars Martin Sheen, Allison Janney, Joshua Malina, and Dulé Hill and others all coming along for the ride, hey, works for me.


And here's a peek behind-the-scenes of the vid. Man, even after all these years, I still miss that show.

I'm pretty sure the above vid wasn't written by Aaron Sorkin, but while we're talking about his creations, click past the jump for the latest trailer from the West Wing mastermind's newest series, The Newsroom, which is looking all kinds of good:

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Road to The Avengers: A Look Back

It's been four years now since Marvel Studios' debut offering, Iron Man, hit theaters and birthed not just a new film franchise, but an entire universe of interconnected sub-franchises. With this "stinger" scene placed after the closing credits, the filmmakers dangled in front of expectant auds the faintest of possibilities that the comic company's premier heroes might -- just might -- one day fight alongside each other on movie screens.

The journey that began there with Samuel L. Jackson's shadow-enshrouded appearance will culminate with this Friday's The Avengers, and while I'll have a review of that opus posted soon enough, I also thought it might be worthwhile to take a look back at the five Marvel Studios productions that paved the way for the team-up pic, taking stock of how they raised the bar for the entire superhero genre.

Here was my take on the Robert Downey Jr. starrer shortly after its release in summer of '08:

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

The Wrath of Cumberbatch

Benedict Cumberbatch (L) to reboot Khan, originally played by Ricardo Montalban (R)
I know, I know, summer movie season 2012 hasn't even started yet, and here we are getting ahead of ourselves and jumping ahead to summer 2013. Still, this one seemed worthy of a post. Although production has been proceeding on director JJ Abrams' Star Trek sequel for awhile now, it's been pretty much radio silence the entire time, as the filmmakers have kept an iron claw clasped on all the movie's secrets, from the storyline to the various new characters populating. This being the Internet age though, and Trekkies being a resourceful bunch, we all knew it wouldn't be long before things started leaking out, and this one is a biggie.

Per TrekMovie (which has a fairly solid track record with these sorts of things), for their second cinematic voyage, the rebooted Captain Kirk & Co. will follow in the footsteps of their esteemed predecessors' sophomore movie entry and square off with the most iconic of all Trek baddies, genetically-engineered superman Khan Noonien Singh, played to the hilt by the late Ricardo Montalban in the original '60s Star Trek first season episode "Space Seed," and the movie series' Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, and (apparently) Benedict Cumberbatch, star of the BBC's Sherlock, playing the 2.0 model.

Recommended Reading

Jonathan Chait at New York magazine has a lengthy piece up tracking the rapid rise to unassailability of WI Rep. Paul Ryan, whose tax-cutting, Medicare-slashing budget plan has gone from "radical Right Wing social engineering" in one year (per Newt Gingrich, no less) to accepted Republican orthodoxy the next. As Chait points out, more so than Mitt Romney, the nominal head of the Republican party, it's Ryan, powered by his peculiar brand of Ayn Rand-infused conservatism, who has become the face and voice of what would be considered mainstream Republicanism today. It's fascinating and a little frightening.

Final Dark Knight Rises Trailer Signals the End is Nigh

Is this the end of our Caped Crusader? They'll never tell, but it's sure starting to look that way in the last trailer for Christopher Nolan's trilogy-closing The Dark Knight Rises. The assemblage speaks for itself, so there's not much I need to say beyond the fact that it looks suitably epic and suitably culminative. If you want to wait and see it on the big screen, look for this in front of Marvel's The Avengers come Friday, and look for the movie itself in late July. So. Far. Away!