Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Full Trailer For Skyfall is Here!

James Bond made a cameo during the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games, which was fun, but as it turns out that was just to prime the pump for this brand new extended look at Skyfall, the Sam Mendes-directed 007 extravaganza (number 23, for those of you keeping track) that opens late October internationally and early November domestically.

In this assemblage we get our first good looks at Ralph Fiennes as a new bureaucratic-type, Ben Whishaw as the new Q, and a blondified Javier Bardem as the big bad. This third appearance by Daniel Craig looks like it might blow his previous two entries right out of the water. My favorite Bondian moment comes when Craig jumps onto the exploding train, then pauses just long enough to adjust his cufflink. Awesome. Check out the international trailer below, and you can watch the American edit here:

Monday, July 30, 2012

Here It Is: The MovieFilm Podcast!

For the better part of the past year, I've poked and prodded my Mr. Boy compatriots Sean Coyle and Brian Hall to get off our duff and record a podcast so we can preserve our random musings for posterity. Here then, the culmination of those efforts. When it came time to think of a title, we thought of the things we wanted discuss...Movies...Films...and came up with MovieFilm. Fine, no points for originality there. Anyway, at the link below, you can listen to the very first bi-weekly episode of this new podcast project from Team Boy:

MovieFilm Podcast Episode 1

The longterm purpose of this show, in addition to just providing me with an opportunity to riff on topics various and sundry with my best friends, is to provide a forum to look back at some classic or modern classic films we may have missed or forgotten about, all the while offering our take on the latest offerings from La-La-Land. For this first episode, we sound off on our likes and dislikes on The Dark Knight Rises, and then pivot to a broader discussion of the entire Batman film franchise. Give it a listen, and then leave your thoughts!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Nostalgia Theater: It's on Fox!

Dipping deep into the personal nostalgia well for this week's entry as I leap back twenty years to summer of '92, which was a momentous era for me for a couple of reasons. First, it marked my moving back home to the States after spending a decade of my formative years living abroad. As it happens, that event converged with the second reason, which is perhaps a bit (only a bit) more important in the grand scheme of things: it signaled the launch of what has to be one of the all-time best lineups of Saturday morning cartoons during my lifetime.

By then, NBC had ceded the Saturday AM turf to teenybopper fare like Saved by the Bell, leaving an opening for upstart Fox Kids to break through in '92 with the double-barreled debut of Batman: The Animated Series and X-Men. Both helped make Fox Kids a top destination the rest of the decade, and I was completely unaware of them until I saw the following extended promo that aired in heavy rotation that summer. In addition to the heroes, the lineup was also bolstered by Taz-Mania, Bobby's World, The Tom & Jerry Kids, Super Dave, and others. Just hearing this jingle is enough to transport me back there.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Recommended Reading

Professor John Esposito dives deep into the "Bachmann Affair," unpacking not only its implications, but also its ramifications. A key takeaway:
Despite all the paranoia, what objectively do we know about Muslim Americans? What does empirical evidence tell us? In contrast to the charges that Muslims cannot integrate and cannot be loyal citizens, major polls by the Pew Research Center and Gallup among others have found that the overwhelming number of Muslims are decidedly American in income, education and attitudes, rejecting extremism by large margins.
Read the rest here.

From The Onion...

I've never been this guy. At least I hope I haven't.
Trivial Pursuit Game Reveals Man Lacks Knowledge Of Basic Social Skills 
DENVER—According to sources who played Trivial Pursuit with local man Derek Watkins last night, the hour-long question-and-answer contest revealed the 30-year-old attorney's glaring lack of knowledge of even the most fundamental social skills. "It became obvious pretty early in the game that Derek was at a complete loss on questions of social propriety and everyday human interaction," acquaintance Sheila Chiu said of the man who could reportedly name all five Allied beachheads at Normandy, yet displayed a conspicuous unfamiliarity with such categories as acting genially toward teammates, avoiding vociferous gloating, allowing others the opportunity to roll the die, and not repeatedly belittling the intelligence of one's fiancĂ©e in front of mutual friends. "Derek clearly had no clue on certain subjects, like having a fun and relaxing time with friends and not being a complete asshole. Though he did get all the sports questions right." Sources confirmed a subsequent game of Apples to Apples allowed Watkins to showcase his boundless ability to generate excuses for coming in last.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Web Point Uh-Oh

A few weeks ago, I was on the phone with a customer service rep for something I can't remember. As our conversation wrapped, he asked for an e-mail address to send confirmation to, and when I dispensed my trusty old AOL addy, he actually laughed, paused, and said, "Really? Still?" Yes. Really. Still. It's my one connection to my earliest days online. It's easy to forget just how different a time it was in the mid-to-late '90s, when America Online was the ISP of choice for the vast majority of web users, or, as I told my media class just yesterday, you needed to buy Internet minutes for monthly use the same way we now have cellular minutes. Forget obsessively checking your Twitter or Facebook several times a minute back then -- if you went over your minutes, there'd be hell to pay. I'm old enough where I can remember the Way Things Used to Be enough to appreciate how far we've come, as do the folks at Topless Robot, who've compiled "7 Ways the Internet Sucked in the 1990s." And between stuff like "Geocities" and "Realplayer," they're right. It totally did. We just didn't know it at the time.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Recommended Reading

Robert Grenier, a self-identified Republican who is also a former CIA station chief explains how, although we've been seeing the propagation of anti-Muslim rhetoric by fringe-operator Republicans for awhile now, it isn't merely limited to the Michele Bachmann wing of the party, having instead metastasized into accepted orthodoxy for what passes for "mainstream" in today's GOP.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Deconstructing The Dark Knight Rises

In the days since I posted my Dark Knight Rises review, I've had a fair number of conversations about what worked for me and what didn't. Prompted by these convos, I was all set to write up a lengthy, spoiler-filled treatise detailing exactly why my response to the film was less than adulatory (though, again, I didn't hate it), but then Julian Darius, founder of the excellent site Sequart did most of my work for me with his brilliant deconstruction of the precise set of flaws that made the movie fall down for me. Whether you liked or disliked the movie, this piece is worth a look. His analysis is so on-point with my train of thought that you can literally read the entire thing and just imagine me saying "Word" at the end. At this stage of the game it should be self-evident, but lest there be any doubts, if you haven't seen the movie yet and want to remain pure as driven snow about specific plot points, for God's sake, don't click through.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Ramadan Knight

With the Muslim holy month of Ramadan -- signaling thirty days of fasting and spiritual refocusing -- beginning on either the 20th or 21st of this month depending on the lunar calendar, there'd been some consternation about potential overlap with the release of The Dark Knight Rises among Muslim nerds forced to weigh catching the flick even if it conflicted with Ramadan obligations. Comedian Aman Ali offers his take on this very pressing dilemma:

Recommended Reading

Paul Krugman offers his theory for what the current brand of conservatism has become, powered by contradictions such as their arguments against government handouts even as they lobby for easing the tax burden on the highest-income earners:
...it’s wrong to think of conservatives as having a single argument for their preferred policies. What they offer instead is more like an onion, with layers inside layers; every time you strip away one excuse there’s another one inside.
Full piece here.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Exploding With Stupidity

Here's Jon Stewart from Thursday's Daily Show, nicely putting the comedic period on Congresswoman Michele Bachmann's increasingly-desperate quest to root out them thar evil Muslims secreted away in our government, as personified by Hilary Clinton aide Huma Abedin, who made the mistake of, y'know, being Muslim. As Stewart demonstrates so well and so often, this really is one of those instances where, if you give someone enough rhetorical rope, they'll often hang themselves. And hoo-boy does Bachmann ever have an abundance of rope.

The Daily Show with Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Smear and Loathing
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Also, while we're on the subject, if there's one thing Michele Bachmann's Islamophobic McCarthyism demonstrates, it's how anti-Muslim rhetoric is sadly in no danger of dying out anytime soon in our discourse. To that end, my friend Jason Van Boom is teaching an online seminar titled "The New McCarthyism: Islamophobia, American Muslims, and the Progressive Response." It starts today, but will run for three weeks, and it's well worth a look.

Nostalgia Theater: Star Wars: Droids --
"Trouble Again" on Saturday Mornings

Nowadays Star Wars is such an omnipresent pop culture Force (yeah, yeah...), that it can power on as a marketing and merchandising juggernaut without missing a step even seven years after the last feature film, with the excellent animated Clone Wars TV series plugging right along. It's easy to forget though just how slim the pickings were in George Lucas' magic kingdom in the aftermath of Return of the Jedi's 1985 release. Back then, with the trilogy concluded and no further movies in the offing anytime soon, it fell to other venues to keep the brand alive. And what better vehicle for that than animation?


(In kind of a random convergence of disparate talents, that theme song, "Trouble Again," is written and performed by Stewart Copeland of the Police.)

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Man of Steel Teaser Hits the Web

I was a little more neutral about The Dark Knight Rises than I would have liked, but it's upwards and onwards now to next summer's batch of blockbusters, including the Superman reboot Man of Steel, which has primo placement this weekend in front of Dark Knight. Light on effects and costumes, and heavy on mood and tone (and bearded Henry Cavill!), the marching orders here are pretty clearly to draw a bright line of distinction from Bryan Singer's Superman Returns as possible and tell potential auds, "No connection. None. Zero. Zip. Don't believe us? Here's some Lord of the Rings music." Check the vid below. Apparently there's two of these floating around. This one has narration by Kevin Costner (playing Jonathan Kent), but the one I saw had Russell Crowe (Jor-El) doing the voiceover. The footage itself is exactly the same, though.


FYI, here's the Superman Returns teaser trailer from '05, which was all about drawing connections with the previous version of the property.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Zaki's Review: The Dark Knight Rises

Read my 2005 review of Batman Begins here

Read my 2008 review of The Dark Knight here

Four years ago, after watching The Dark Knight and having my mind suitably blown, I said repeatedly that I'd be absolutely content if they never made another Batman movie again. So perfectly did the filmmakers hit the nail on the head with what precisely a big screen Batman opus could accomplish that there was simply no way to ever top it. So why bother trying? Sure, there were some dangling plot threads unresolved, with our hero on the run from the police after taking the blame for several crimes he didn't commit, but that was okay. He'd get out of it somehow. He is Batman, after all. We just didn't need to see it. Ever.

After watching director Christopher Nolan's much-anticipated trilogy-capper, and even after appreciating a great many things about it, I still stand by that earlier sentiment. The Dark Knight Rises is resonant, emotional, and sometimes beautiful, but it's also overlong, overstuffed, and oftentimes frustrating. It manages to pack in enough moments of true cinematic mastery to make it worthy of watching and appreciating, even as it takes a series of baffling and unnecessary storytelling detours that only weaken the overall experience and make this trilogy land just short of the greatness it could have had.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

More on Bachmann's Islamophobia

Following up on yesterday's post about Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and her continuing quest to surpass the high bar for crazy she's set for herself, her targeting of Hilary Clinton aide-de-camp Huma Abedin for being a Muslim proved was a bridge too far even for John McCain. The one-time Republican standard-bearer emerged from the Tea Party-induced haze he's been in since his '08 presidential run to excoriate Bachmann on the Senate floor and defend Abedin. From his comments:
When anyone, not least a member of Congress, launches specious and degrading attacks against fellow Americans on the basis of nothing more than fear of who they are and ignorance of what they stand for, it defames the spirit of our nation, and we all grow poorer because of it.
Sadly, that's a side of McCain we see too far, far too infrequently these days (though he did make a brief appearance that one time). And McCain's not the only one, mind you. Plenty of other folks have devoted airtime, floortime, and column inches to calling out Bachmann for her rampant, offensive ignorance, including human rights lawyer Arsalan Iftekhar, who has a new piece up at The Washington Post. Here's a highlight:

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Bachmann's Islamophobic McCarthyism

It's been a while since I've talked about Islamophobia here, not because it magically ceased to exist, but because the sheer volume of nonsense out there can become a little overwhelming sometimes. Still, this seemed worthy of mention, not only for the transparent stupidity of the argument being advanced, but for the all-star team of elected Islamophobes advancing it. In the latest iteration of what's become a very old story, a group of congresspeople alleges, through implication and assumption, that radical Muslims have wormed their way into the highest echelons of our politics to try and impose, what else, Sharia law (duh-duh-DAH!). Yep, real Manchurian Candidate stuff.

Leading the charge on this is Dunning-Kruger poster child Michele Bachmann (who, per Ron Paul, "hates Muslims"), and she's backed up again by fellow Muslim-haters Louie Gohmert (he of "terror babies" fame), and Trent Franks, among others. I'm not surprised anymore by politicians pandering to get votes, however I continue to be surprised by how extreme that pandering has gotten. An omnipresent refrain from Tea Party-types is that they're not racist. And that may well be, but it doesn't help your argument when the folks representing you in the so-called Tea Party Caucus sure as heck seem to be.

Regardless, Anderson Cooper dismantled Team Bachmann's new McCarthyism with surgical precision on his show, discussing the issue with Congressman Keith Ellison, one of two Muslims currently serving. Catch the segment after the jump:

"Not Since Ayds Diet Candy..."

I'm currently living without Comedy Central thanks to the game of chicken that's being played between Viacom and DirecTV over higher premiums for their channels. The net result, I'm one day behind on The Daily Show while I wait for episodes to get posted on Hulu. Here's the opening segment from Monday's ep, the first one back after the July 4th vacation, which starts by humorously drawing a connection between the villain in the upcoming Batman flick and the name of Mitt Romney's old venture capital firm (which Rush Limbaugh separately ran with yesterday), then launches into an explanation of why it's not Romney's wealth that folks find off-putting, but rather how he's leveraged that wealth to ply advantages that the rest of us simply don't have access to.


But wait, there's more! Watch the second part after the jump:

Monday, July 16, 2012

Bain of His Existence

With the rightward tilt of the GOP base forcing Mitt Romney to essentially "memory hole" his tenure as Massachusetts governor thanks to things like RomneyCare and, y'know, the state being Massachusetts, Romney's focal point in making the electability argument has been his time at Bain Capital, the private equity firm he founded and stewarded until either 1999, when Romney says he left, or 2002, when the Obama folks contend he actually left. That three year window is a crucial one, as Bain did some Very Bad Things during that time the Obama people would love to see tied to Romney with staples and baling wire. However, if, per the man himself, he had nothing to do with Bain following his '99 leave of absence "retroactive retirement," Forbes has a list of 35 questions it's imperative he address.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Man of Steel Hits Comic-Con

The big San Diego Comic-Con is this weekend, and while I normally wouldn't even consider making the trek south and braving the lines, crowds, and crowded lines so that I could maybe catch a glimpse of something, I gave it some real consideration this year, almost entirely because it would be the debut of footage from next summer's big Superman franchise reboot, Man of Steel.

First up, check out the new teaser poster to the right. It doesn't give us a great look at star Henry Cavill's face, but does offer a sense of the chain mail-esque look that they're apparently going for. It also owes more than a little to the work of painter Alex Ross (which isn't surprising, as we saw something similar with Bryan Singer's Superman Returns in '06).

Next, click past the jump for just some of the highlights, courtesy of Collider, from yesterday's panel discussion, which featured "surprise" appearances by Cavill and director Zack Snyder (but let's be real here...the only real surprise would have been if they hadn't come):

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Recommended Reading

Paul Krugman on the arrogance of economic entitlement that separates Mitt Romney's most ardent financial supporters from, well, the rest of us, and how, if they get their way vis-a-vis Romney's election, that divide will only grow more pronounced and more precipitous.

Nostalgia Theater: Holy Flashback, Batman!

The Dark Knight Rises is all set to destroy a few box office records this coming week, so I wanted to use this week's Nostalgia Theater to cast our minds back to a time when Batman's pop culture ubiquity came not from how dark of a knight he was, but rather the exact opposite. For many people of my vintage and older, our first conception of who Batman was and how he operated came about almost exclusively from daily exposure to syndicated reruns of Batman, the 1966-1968 series that aired on ABC and near-singlehandedly made the term "camp" a part of our collective vernacular.

Thanks to the distinctive theme song by Neal Hefti, as well as its day-glo color scheme and regular deployment of "Biff!" "Pow" "Bam!" sound effects cards, the '60s Batman was then and probably remains today the most literal translation of the comic book medium ever committed to the screen. Starring a deliciously deadpan Adam West as Bruce Wayne/Batman and an excitable Burt Ward as Dick Grayson/Robin (and Yvonne Craig as Batgirl in year three), the show boasted regular appearances by a variety of famous faces to serve villain duty. Cesar Romero as the Joker, Frank Gorshin as the Riddler, Burgess Meredith as the Penguin, etc.

Every week, the surprisingly celibate millionaire playboy and his *ahem* "youthful ward" would answer the Batphone, then suit up in their tights as they slid down the Batpole into the Batcave on their way to the Batmobile. Ah yes, the show that launched a thousand double entendres. I never really gave much thought to why a grim vigilante motivated by the tragic death of his parents would lead such a fun, carefree existence, because for me it was just fun. Give this a watch and tell me you don't feel yourself getting pulled back in time:

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Dork Knight

The Dark Knight Rises opens a week from tonight. Look for my review a week from tomorrow. In the meantime, watch this. You'll laugh.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Figuring Out The Newsroom

"Do we get to win this time?"

That's what John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) asks his CO (Richard Crenna) at the beginning of 1985's Rambo: First Blood, Part II after being given a covert mission into Vietnam. That line was later re-purposed by Ronald Reagan, and it ended up becoming something of a rallying cry for those who were hoping to re-litigate the mistakes of that war (which was still relatively recent at the time) with the benefit of hindsight now guiding them.

"Oh, if only we'd listened to the military." "Oh, if only we'd gotten out of the way of guys like Rambo and let them do their job." It's easy to forget what a dominant pop culture force Rambo was for a brief moment in the mid-'80s (remember this?), and either as a result of that or perhaps completely unintentionally, John Rambo morphed into a sort of messianic figure for some folks on the right -- the iconic stand-in for all that they wished they could be and do.

I bring that up because I happened to catch the early moments of Rambo II on TV yesterday, just as I was queuing up the third episode of The Newsroom on my DVR. And seeing the two in such close proximity got some neurons firing in my brain that helped me finally figure out what's going on with creator Aaron Sorkin's wildy-divisive new HBO skein (which I happen to like, but a whole lot of very smart people whose opinions I respect don't).

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Lament of the Lota

Wajahat Ali reflects on an intimate issue that's of pressing concern to many Muslims. Especially those of us making our way here in the States. I speak, of course, of the lota. And what is the lota, you ask? Read on for elucidation. Some very funny stuff.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Creativism

Meant to post this last week, but I figure it's timeless enough to be applicable regardless of when it's ingested. Former Monty Python star and current comedy legend John Cleese has some very, very worthwhile lessons on how to unleash your creative self. Highly recommended for anyone who's struggled (as I do ALL. THE. TIME.) with trying to externalize creative ideas in a meaningful way.

From The Onion...

The sad part is that I've actually spent some time thinking about this precise problem. A very pressing concern.
Economically Healthy 'Daily Planet' Now Most Unrealistic Part Of Superman Universe
From the piece: 
"I can totally buy into an epic battle in which Superman claps his hands and creates a sonic boom that sends Darkseid flying through 50 buildings," lifelong reader Richard Taft said. "But as soon as people start lining up at newsstands to read about it in The Daily Planet, I think, 'Doesn't anyone have a computer at work? Are there no smartphones?' Before I know it, I'm suddenly aware I'm reading a fictional comic book, and the spell's totally broken."
More here.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Recommended Reading

Dean Obeidallah explains why Rudy Giuliani was absolutely, totally wrong several months back when he said that Mitt Romney is "a man without a core, a man without substance, a man that will say anything to become president of the United States."

Indian Spider-Man!

Here's a very funny vid that was passed along to me by comedian and filmmaker Hasan Minhaj that answers the question of what would have happened if a certain irradiated arachnid had given its superpowers to someone a little more...South-Asian:


"I wish you'd been bit by a radioactive lawyer." Love it.

Check out the rest of the wide array of shorts from Hasan and his partners over at Goatface. They're sure to put a smile on your face.

Nostalgia Theater: SilverHawks -- Partly Metal, Partly Real

SilverHawks was the second animal-human hybrid cartoon show from Rankin-Bass after their success with ThunderCats in the mid-'80s. The premise was straightforward (and crafted, I assume, after they'd already come up with the title). In the distant future, a gang of intergalactic outlaws led by the evil Mon*Star (not sure why his name needs an asterisk in the middle...) are terrorizing deep space. A group of humans are turned into cyborgs with bird-like abilities and names like "Quicksilver" and "Steelwill,"and dispatched to the far reaches to bring in the baddies. Partly metal, partly real.

(Because, of course,
 metal isn't real. Maybe not the most well thought out of taglines...)

Check out the intro after the jump:

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Zaki's Review: The Amazing Spider-Man

When I was a kid, I had a friend who was so desperate to beat video games with all his lives intact that no matter how far in he got, if he "died" even once, he'd hit "reset" and start over. The Amazing Spider-Man, which takes us back to before the beginning of Peter Parker's webbed journey, feels a little like that. For all its multitudinous flaws, 2007's Spider-Man 3 was at most a flesh wound, and certainly didn't necessitate a ground-up restart. Nonetheless, that's what we got. And while the need for The Amazing Spider-Man's existence is certainly open to debate, it's a rewarding and worthwhile ride all the same, and a promising start to a new series.

This wasn't the original plan, of course. While Spider-Man 3 was indeed hobbled by its kitchen sink of a storyline that saw Marvel's webhead contending with three villains, two love interests, and a partridge in a pear tree, it still put enough butts in seats to become the highest grossing entry in the series globally. Thus, director Sam Raimi and star Tobey Maguire had been webbed back in for a fourth go-round. But when Raimi ran into story problems on the proposed Spider-Man 4 that threatened to push back his start date, rather than take the time needed to work through the problems, Sony chose to cut bait and start over a la Batman Begins (the great-granddaddy in this age of the perpetual reboot).

Monday, July 02, 2012

Spidey on Screen: Spider-Man 3 (2007)

I still remember the wave of disappointment that washed over me while watching X-Men: The Last Stand in summer of '06, the frustration at how Twentieth Century Fox took a franchise that had been built up very effectively by one director (Bryan Singer), only to have it handed over to another director and torn down (Brett Ratner). The one thought that repeatedly flitted through my mind at the time was that it was a good thing Sam Raimi and his team were were back handling Spider-Man 3, due for release the following summer. They'd show us how it was done.

In hindsight, the belief that Raimi's mere presence would stave off the impinging advance of mediocrity comes off as a little naive on my part. 2007's
 Spider-Man 3 is the unquestionable nadir of the Raimi Spider-cycle, an overstuffed spectacle where the fingerprints of studio interference are a little too obvious, and a forced, altogether unsatisfying conclusion to a series that had hit some pretty satisfying creative highs during its short lifespan. However, before we begin launching the brickbats (and there are plenty), it's helpful to bear one small thing in mind: Spider-Man was never meant to be a trilogy.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Spidey on Screen: Spider-Man 2 (2004)

When Spider-Man made almost $115 million during its opening weekend in May of 2002, the proposed sequel immediately went from hypothetical to inevitable, with director Sam Raimi shifting gears immediately following the first film's release to begin prepping the follow-up, which came to theaters a very brief two years later in summer of 2004. And he didn't miss a step. Spider-Man 2 displays the kind of poise and confidence that can only happen when you're following on from a critical smash that also became one of the most successful movies of all time.

Right from the opening credits, with Danny Elfman's suddenly-iconic theme music playing over a series of paintings by famed artist Alex Ross recapping key moments from last time, it becomes apparent that the marching orders here were, "Keep doing what you're doing." Luckily, the foundation they'd built with the first Spider-Man was sturdy enough that they had enormous flexibility to play that thread out. The one thing Spider-Man 2 goes to great pains to make crystal clear is that while the notion of swinging through the sky as Spider-Man may have its appeal, it's no fun being Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire).