Sunday, September 30, 2012

Recommended Reading

With things not really looking up for Mitt Romney lately numbers-wise, most of the conventional wisdom has attributed his collapse in the polls to the now-infamous "47%" jab that may well end up etched on his political tombstone. However, per Noam Scheiber, while the 47% thing sure didn't do him any favors, a bigger source of strife for Romney may well be the man he chose to occupy the ticket with him.

(Not gonna say I told you so...)

Nostalgia Theater: Hasbro's C.O.P.S. -- Fighting Crime in a Future Time

More like C.R.A.P.S., amirite?

*ahem*

C.O.P.S. was Hasbro's late-'80s Hail Mary aimed at replicating the decade-long success the toymaker had enjoyed with G.I. Joe. This time, the military conceit of "Joe vs. Cobra" was switched out with police officers and criminals. Thus, the titular Central Organization of Police Specialists (they sure loved their acronyms in the '80s, didn't they? And wouldn't that be C.O.O.P.S.?), a group of law enforcers in the year 2020 with names like like Bulletproof, and Longarm, and Barricade, would square off with the cadre of colorful criminals populating Empire City, all led by the corpulent Big Boss.

In launching C.O.P.S., Hasbro stuck pretty slavishly to the same script that had allowed Joe to take off, with action figure profiles and backstories devised by genius Joe maestro Larry Hama, a companion comic book (not by Hama -- a pity -- and published by DC instead of Marvel), and the requisite animated series, which was produced by notorious crap mavens DiC rather than Marvel Productions, which had done every Hasbro-related series until then. I actually didn't watch the show regularly, but I remember it thanks to the catchy theme by usual DiC duo Shuki Levy and Haim Saban. Here's the intro:

Saturday, September 29, 2012

From The Onion...

Ah. Satire.
Netanyahu Feeling Like Trip To US To Start World War III Went Pretty Well 
NEW YORK—Following his speech to the United Nations General Assembly this week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Friday that he is “pretty satisfied” with his trip to the U.S. to instigate World War III. “All in all, I think I accomplished my goal of pushing humanity toward the brink of complete and utter annihilation,” said Netanyahu, adding that his implicit calls for international military action against Iran, which would ultimately escalate the conflict to an Armageddon-level of death and destruction, went “fairly well.” “I think I did a good job laying the groundwork for a nuclear holocaust that will kill billions of people and eventually end the world as we know it. Sounded like everyone really liked it, too.” When reached for comment, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told reporters that he was “equally happy” with his own efforts to nudge the world slightly closer to a full-blown apocalypse.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Strike Trek

In a bit from Wednesday night's Daily Show poking fun at the (now-resolved) NFL referees' strike, Jon Stewart was forced to deal with a similar insurrection by correspondent John Oliver, who was in dwarfed by the celebrity scab who stepped into his shoes. Funny stuff.

Not Voting For Obama

As we saw in my post yesterday, and as I've discussed at length previously, the mere fact that I'm openly (and justifiably, I'd say) critical of Mitt Romney's party, positions, and basically his entire candidacy shouldn't be taken to mean that I have unequivocal support for Barack Obama (protestations of certain right wing acquaintances notwithstanding). As I've mentioned, while I'm generally agreeable with his domestic agenda, the foreign policy front is a different thing entirely, as President Obama has continued to enact policies I have huge, huge issues with.

Here, again, we're reminded of our flawed, binary electoral process. And while I don't yet feel a third party is viable enough to support, I fully acknowledge that it needs to happen soon. The alternative is what we have now: a prefabricated political discourse with certain conversations -- especially when it comes to unfettered, unilateral foreign policy decisions irrespective of party affiliation -- entirely off the table. To this point, Conor Friedersdorf over at The Atlantic makes a pretty compelling argument for why he won't be casting a vote for Obama this year, even as he opposes Mitt Romney. Agree or disagree, still a worthwhile read.

Behold My Power! Captain Power Returns!

In the latest ep of the MovieFilm podcast, while discussing the potential resurrections of Manimal and ALF -- both of which received the Nostalgia Theater spotlight before their respective revivals were announced -- the guys were razzing me for my ability to seemingly resurrect long-dead properties with the clack of a few keys. Well, there may just prove be something to that after all. In news I never thought I'd hear, another property I gave the Nostalgia treatment to -- albeit with a great deal of affection -- is getting a full-scale, bells-and-whistles TV relaunch: Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future. Yep, consider me officially plotzed.

With the 1987 show fresh in my mind via its recent DVD release, there remains a lot of promise in its premise, and it could easily stand a reinvention. Going by the title Phoenix Rising (way less transparently toyetic than the "Soldiers of the Future" thing) this new project is headed up by concept creator Gary Goddard (whose Masters of the Universe feature film I discussed just last month), and would be an hourlong drama presumably aimed at the syndication market. Watch the video announcement after the jump, then click over to AICN for more details, and then read my Nostalgia Theater from '11 for why this news is very good.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Recommended Reading

By any objective measure, Mitt Romney is and has been an astonishingly poor presidential candidate, with the only thing really working in his favor being the fact that he outshone the other subpars also vying for the Republican nod. So, given the nearly-unbroken string of gaffes, errors, and stumbles that have dogged Romney, especially in the last week, why is it that the final disposition of the race remains a question mark (even as Obama begins to pull away in the polling)? Matt Taibbi asks this question and emerges with some uncomfortable truths about our flawed system:
Romney is an almost perfect amalgam of all the great out-of-touch douchebags of our national cinema: he's Gregg Marmalaard from Animal House mixed with Billy Zane's sneering, tux-wearing "Cal' character in Titanic to pussy-ass Prince Humperdink to Roy Stalin to Gordon Gekko (he's literally Gordon Gekko). He's everything we've been trained to despise, the guy who had everything handed to him, doesn't fight his own battles and insists there's only room in the lifeboat for himself – and yet the Democrats, for some reason, have had terrible trouble beating him in a popularity contest. 
The fact that Barack Obama needed a Himalayan mountain range of cash and some rather extreme last-minute incompetence on Romney's part to pull safely ahead in this race is what speaks to the extraordinary brokenness of the system. Bruni of the Times is right that the process scares away qualified candidates who could have given Obama a better run for all that money. But what he misses is that the brutal campaign process, with its two years of nearly constant media abuse and "gotcha" watch-dogging, serves mainly to select out any candidate who is considered anything like a threat to the corrupt political establishment – and that selection process is the only thing that has kept this race close.
There's oh, so very much more at the link, and you'd be well advised to read it all.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Zaki's Corner Nominated For Best Blog and Best Writer

Late last week the nominations for this year's Brass Crescent Awards -- honoring the best and brightest in the ever-growing Muslim blogosphere -- were announced. In a total surpise to me, I'm up for Best Blog once again this year, making it three in a row for that category, with an additional nom this time for Best Writer (where the descriptor says you guys find me "artful", "knowledgable", and "thought-provoking"...hey, I'll take it!) Naturally, it's extremely humbling to be thought of so highly by whoever submitted me for contention, and even more humbling to actually be one of the finalists! Hope I continue to measure up! Click on over to the nominations page to cast your vote for me in both categories (voting ends October 21!), and while you're at it, also click through to some of the other nominees, all of whom are doing some very good work.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The MovieFilm Podcast: Episode 5

For our latest MovieFilm go-round, the Mr. Boy team sings the praises of the just-released Indiana Jones blu-ray set, heaps scorn on the 1995 Judge Dredd flick, and explains why 2004's Shaun of the Dead is a Movie That Matters. But there's a whole lot more than just that, with everything from the planned Manimal movie to Warner Bros.' upcoming Godzilla reboot to Clint Eastwood's latest offering (of the non-political variety) getting some talk time in front of the ol' microphone. In fact, this episode is so jam-packed with content that we went nearly a half hour longer without even realizing it. You can stream it live below, or download the episode at iTunes. As always, give us a listen, then leave a comment or send us an e-mail at moviefilmpodcast@gmail.com!


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Sunday, September 23, 2012

Nostalgia Theater:
Pulling Over The Highwayman

With my post from earlier this week expressing utter befuddlement at the possibility of a Manimal movie, I realized that it had been far, far too long since I followed through on my promise to...*ahem*...celebrate other entries from the cavernous catalogue of crap created by TV maven Glen A. Larson. I'm back with a beauty this week, though. Witness: The Highwayman.

Debuting as a pilot movie that aired on September 20, 1987 (twenty-five years ago this week), The Highwayman was completely schizophrenic about its premise -- a result, I can only assume, of taking three vaguely related concepts for shows and soldering them together wherever convenient. One the one hand, it's set in the post-apocalyptic Southwest of 1992 (the world of tomorrow!), a la Mad Max. One the other hand, it's about a group of mysterious "Highwaymen" who covertly right wrongs with futuristic vehicles, a la Larson's own Knight Rider.

Only, the thing of it is that they're not covert, because they ride around in big, damn trucks unlike anything anyone has ever seen, presumably even in the far-flung future of 1992, right out there in the open. Ah, but then again they don't need to be covert, because they actually represent the absolute authority in this nuked out wasteland. Only they don't, because they occasionally get into scuffles with local law enforcement. Oh, hell, just watch the intro, with saga sell narration by William Conrad, and see if that makes sense of any of it:

Friday, September 21, 2012

Recommended Reading

Paul Krugman on how Ayn Rand has become the ideological lighthouse for today's Republican Party, despite all their protestations to the contrary:
...the modern Republican Party just doesn’t have much respect for people who work for other people, no matter how faithfully and well they do their jobs. All the party’s affection is reserved for “job creators,” a k a employers and investors. Leading figures in the party find it hard even to pretend to have any regard for ordinary working families — who, it goes without saying, make up the vast majority of Americans.

Am I exaggerating? Consider the Twitter message sent out by Eric Cantor, the Republican House majority leader, on Labor Day — a holiday that specifically celebrates America’s workers. Here’s what it said, in its entirety: “Today, we celebrate those who have taken a risk, worked hard, built a business and earned their own success.” Yes, on a day set aside to honor workers, all Mr. Cantor could bring himself to do was praise their bosses.
Read the rest here.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Apathetic About The Hobbit

Here's the full trailer for the first part of Peter Jackson's Hobbit trilogy, An Unexpected Journey. For as much as I enjoyed Jackson's Lord of the Rings films during their initial release ten (!!) years ago, I'm weirdly apathetic about this. It all looks very spiffy and professional, no doubt, and it's always good to see Ian McKellen back in action as the wizard Gandalf, but it all seems kind of, I dunno, "meh." Maybe I'll change my mind by the time it hits the screen this Christmas, but in the meantime, watch the assembly below and tell me if I'm wrong.

"Worst President Ever!"

As you know, I have folks from across the political spectrum chime into discussions on my Facebook wall. This is something I always welcome, as the ensuing conversations are usually fruitful, interesting, and productive. Every once in awhile, though, I run headlong into an ideological brick wall, where talking points are meant to stand in for substantive discourse. I dealt with something like this last week, when someone responded to a criticism of Sarah Palin by proclaiming, "You can laugh all you want at her at least she has leadership experience, All Obama does is apologize his way out of everything. Worst president I have ever seen or read about! He is total lame duck!"

That's a tidy little tossed salad of the memes many on the far right have adopted as articles of faith without thought to logic or consistency. The "lacks executive experience" argument, even after three years sitting in the big chair? Check. The "apologizes for the US" lie? check. The "worst president in history" thing? Check. That last point especially is worth dwelling on for a second. As my friend Ray Nowosielski -- an acclaimed documentarian, and no Obama fan, he -- pointed out to me, "...anytime I hear someone claim he's the worst president ever, I assume that person must have started paying attention to current events in 2009."

And that's it. It's not enough to say Obama hasn't done that great a job. Heck, I've been critical enough of the guy in the past that I'd agree with that. But no, it has to be dialed up to eleven, rocketing straight into stupid. Of course, if the example above illustrates the rampant effects of Obama-hate on a micro level, you can imagine how things are going at Fox News, where, as Jon Stewart demonstrated last night, Roger Ailes' various talking heads are going through some pretty pronounced pretzeling to somehow connect the dots from "Worst president ever!" to Mitt Romney as a viable alternative. Watch the vids after the jump. The language is a bit salty, so be aware before you blast the speakers at work.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Manimal. The Movie. Seriously.

In a move that no one was asking or hoping for, word broke earlier this week that the folks at Sony are readying a big screen version of short-lived '80s sci-fi series Manimal, proving definitively that there are in fact no more original ideas in Hollywood. My only explanation for this is that someone in the echelons of Sony has been carrying a torch for the show lo these past several decades, and when they finally worked their way to the executive level, they jumped on the opportunity to turn their childhood fave into a movie. Now, if I were to guess, I'd say that this news will never progress past the "we're planning" stage, but the mere fact that there are serious conversations about this at a major studio is proof enough that after already plundering all the good ideas from times past, we're now moving onto the one that weren't even good the first time. Read my Nostalgia Theater post on Manimal from earlier this year to get a sense of the show in all its glorious awful-ness.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Romney: "Let Them Eat Cake!"

Yesterday some video emerged of Mitt Romney making kind of a boneheaded statement. That isn't particularly noteworthy in and of itself, but what does make his comments at a closed-door fundraiser a few months ago declaring the "47%" of Americans who are Obama supporters moochers who will never support him, worthy of conversation is the stark window it offers not just into Romney's worldview, but also that of those supporting him. For context, here's the full quote:
"There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. ... My job is is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Nostalgia Theater: Rediscovering The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles

The complete cinematic adventures of Indiana Jones make their high-def debut this Tuesday, so it seemed an appropriate time to look back at this overlooked entry in the daredevil archaeologist's canons. After the popular reception accorded to the opening flashback sequence of 1989's Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, which had teenaged Indy (played by the late River Phoenix) acquire his trademark fedora, bullwhip, fear of snakes, and the scar on his chin in one very busy morning, creator George Lucas felt there was enough grist in that mill to expand Indiana Jones' adolescent escapades out to a weekly palette. Thus was born TV's The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles:

Saturday, September 15, 2012

First Look at the New RoboCop

I've been following word of the upcoming RoboCop reboot with cautious optimism for the past few years, and we even spent some time discussing it in our most recent MovieFilm podcast. Well, filming on the Jose Padilha-directed film started today in Toronto, and we've got our first look at what the 2013 model Future of Law Enforcement look like, as embodied by star Joel Kinnaman in some paparazzi pics. While I generally shy away from set pics like this that don't have the official imprimatur, I figured I'd post this just to give a sense of what to expect from this revised take on everyone's favorite bionic bobby. Here's an up-close look at the Robo-suit:


That's certainly a far cry from the iconic Peter Weller model in the 1987 original:

Friday, September 14, 2012

From The Onion...

Romney: 'We Should Never Apologize For American Values Or Japanese Internment Camps'

JACKSONVILLE, FL—Criticizing the Obama administration’s response to the current crisis in Libya and Egypt, Mitt Romney told reporters Wednesday that we should never, under any circumstance, apologize for the values that make this country great, such as our belief in the right to practice religion without persecution, our commitment to the freedom of assembly, or the overwhelming xenophobia that led to the relocation and internment of more than 110,000 Japanese-Americans during World War II. “As Americans, we should never feel the need to question who we are or what we stand for, whether it’s our strong commitment to family or whether we’re rounding up a group of innocent people, separating them from their friends and loved ones, and putting them into what are essentially overcrowded prisons because they happen to be of Japanese descent,” Romney told the assembled press corps, adding that free speech and concentration camps are American ideals that should be cherished, not second-guessed. “So if you ask me, should we ever apologize for freedom, justice, honor, or how we perverted those beliefs to justify one of the most horrifying acts of prejudice in American history, the answer is no.” When asked by reporters what American values are exactly, or what the phrase American values even means, Romney stared at the press, blinked several times, and walked off stage

Smarting From Carter

As you know, I was one of the few champions of Disney's infamous mega-flop John Carter when it opened last March, saying it was a worthy effort that was done in by the bad buzz before it even got a chance. In an informative and revealing chat with The Los Angeles Times, director Andrew Stanton, who rose to fame as one of the preeminent creative minds at Pixar, reflects on the film's rocky road to the screen, and what lessons he's taken away from his longtime passion project cratering at the box office. I'm still hoping that folks who either ignored or were unaware of John Carter during its theatrical run will give it a go on home vid.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Raiders: A Lost Art

With the blu-rays of the Indiana Jones movie series hitting shelves a week from today, George Lucas and Co. have re-released the inaugural Indy opus, 1981's Raiders of the Lost Ark, back to theaters for a special one week, IMAX-only engagement. I had the opportunity to hit up my local cineplex this past weekend and scratch seeing Raiders on the big screen off the ol' bucket list. What really struck me is how truly timeless the movie is. I can't even attempt to count how many times I've seen it, to the point that every cut, every music cue, and every sound effect is imprinted on my cerebellum, and yet there I was completely engrossed, completely engaged.

That says something about the film's staying power an amazing thirty-plus years after its debut, and demonstrates how they just don't make 'em like that anymore. While the subsequent Indiana Jones entries had their highs (1989's Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade -- just as perfect as Raiders, as far as I'm concerned) and lows (guess), they still bespeak the iconic alchemy that Lucas, Steven Spielberg, and Harrison Ford uncorked with that original. For more on why Raiders continues to thrill, check out this very nice appreciation by Brendan Foley that also offers some thoughts on why the sequels do and don't work.

Raiders of the Lost Ark is playing at your local cineplexes through this weekend, and I highly recommend giving it a go, whether you've seen it before or (especially!) if you've never seen it at all. Need more convincing? Check out the re-release trailer after the jump:

Monday, September 10, 2012

The MovieFilm Podcast: Episode 4

"Summer movies in review" episode! For this installment of the MovieFilm podcast, Sean, Brian, and I are joined by our longtime chum and Joblo.com news editor Paul Shirey as we discuss The Avengers, Battleship, Men in Black 3, Prometheus, The Amazing Spider-Man, as well as some renewed chatter on The Dark Knight Rises and Total Recall, among many, many others in a fun and far-reaching look back at the just-ended summer movie season. This jumbo sized entry was so jam packed with content that we ended up with an extra half hour of banter at no additional charge to you, the listener. Stream it with the player below, or download here or through iTunes. Enjoy!


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Sunday, September 09, 2012

Nostalgia Theater:
Two Decades of Batman: The Animated Series

Wow, Talk about a personal timewarp.

Twenty years ago this past Wednesday, Batman: The Animated Series premiered on Fox Kids, where it remained a weekday afternoon mainstay for many years. It wouldn't be an exaggeration at all to say it changed the face of all American animation in its wake forever and always. Commissioned by Warner Bros. animation to tap into the popularity of the then-ongoing Tim Burton Batman movies, The Animated Series took some cursory cues from Burton's unique vision of the Bat-verse, but it blazed a stylistic and tonal path all its own, one that all takes on Batman in the years since have paid homage to in big ways and small.

I still remember the weight of anticipation before the show's debut. The last time Batman had graced animation, he was voiced by Adam West as part of 1985's Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians. That was an eternity ago, and well before Burton completely reinvented the popular perception of DC Comics' Dark Knight. By fall of 1992, there had been an all-encompassing hype machine accompanying the release of Batman Returns the previous June, which just served to prime the pump for the impending arrival of the Batman's animated iteration. When it finally premiered, under the "Fox Action Theater" banner, it looked like this:

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Bloodlust at the DNC

All in all, the just-wrapped Democratic convention went off swimmingly. In terms of messaging, they had a series of powerful speeches all punctuating their big pitch that the country would be better off re-electing Barack Obama than taking a chance on the untried Mitt Romney (talk about a reversal from four years ago!). Also, unlike the previous convention, which had most of the air sucked out of the room the day of the nominee's speech by an octogenarian actor talking to a chair, this one was a masterpiece of coordinated messaging leading up to Thursday's big finish.

Bill Clinton easily takes the prize for the most memorable speech, proving yet again why he's one of the most agile and able political minds of the modern era, but President Obama was no slouch either, and I was as surprised as anybody at what a great job John Kerry did at not only lampooning Romney, but also his own image as the Democratic party's own Mitt Romney. However, while the presentations and pageantry were pretty effective overall, there was one particular trend I found a little unsetting, which Glenn Greenwald elaborates on:
It is hard to count how many times a Democratic party speaker stood up proudly to proclaim: 

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

From The Onion...

Okay, last hit on the Eastwood thing and I'm done. Really.
Clint Eastwood To Publish New Autobiography: ‘I…Where You’re Alive And They—You Write A Book About You’
From the article:
Press materials from HarperCollins confirmed the 750-page volume chronicles Eastwood’s upbringing in Northern California (“I was born, and uh…uh…uh”), his personal life as a husband and father (“Kids are kids now, and that is a thing that we…and I think a lot about that”), and his long, storied career in Hollywood (“You make movies, and then they make them, and then they get made”). 
In addition, a HarperCollins publicist told reporters that Eastwood writes about his political leanings in the chapter “My Time As Mayor, And Listen Here Because This Is Important, And Then You Go And They Go And Everyone Goes, And You’re Writing On The Computer Now, And Small Government Bailouts In Nice Weather, The Academy Award Was, And You Think: ‘Global Warming’s A Problem.’”
Read the rest here.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Executive Decisions

Actor John Cusack interviews Jonathan Turley, a renowned constitutional scholar who I've always respected, for an extremely insightful, extremely sobering chat about the state of the Constitution under President Obama. If nothing else, it serves as a very important reminder that, for all the substantive policy differences between the two parties that this election may well hinge on, one area they're completely in lockstep on is in support of the truism of human nature that once a power is assumed, it's not easily given back. Here's a particular highlight that stuck out to me:
CUSACK: Obama is far more of an imperial president than Bush in many ways, wouldn't you say? 
TURLEY: Oh, President Obama has created an imperial presidency that would have made Richard Nixon blush. It is unbelievable. 
CUSACK: And to say these things, most of the liberal community or the progressive community would say, "Turley and Cusack have lost their minds. What do they want? They want Mitt Romney to come in?" 
TURLEY: The question is, "What has all of your relativistic voting and support done for you?" That is, certainly there are many people who believe – 

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Nostalgia Theater: In Praise of Bionic Six

Here's a 'toon that meant a lot to me as a wee one, but it seems like no one but me even remembers. Bionic Six arrived in the late '80s sweet spot between when standbys like He-Man and G.I. Joe were on their way out, and just before Ninja Turtles came in. Think of what would happen if Steve Austin, TV's Six Million Dollar Man, had a bionic brood, and there's the show.

The "six" of the title were the Bennett family (a super, future family, per the theme song), upgraded with cybernetic enhancements after being mortally wounded, and given code names like Bionic-1 (dad Jack), Mother-1 (mom Helen), Sport-1 (athlete son Eric), Karate-1 (martial artist son Bunji), Rock-1 (uh, rock fan daughter Meg), and I.Q. (son J.D., who's smart. And black. Not sure why he didn't get to have a "1" in his name...).

I realize as I'm typing that it sounds kind of lame, but let me assure you that it wasn't, even with the understandable limitations of the format, genre, and era. Here's the intro, totally catchy title theme included at no charge:

Saturday, September 01, 2012

"The Old Man and the Seat"

After yesterday, I was going to leave the Clint Eastwood thing alone, because I do still really admire the guy and didn't want to seem like I was piling on. But Jon Stewart so masterfully drew together the ideological connective tissue between Clint's haranguing of an empty chair and Mitt Romney's subsequent nomination acceptance speech (which was almost completely ignored in the aftermath of the Eastwood "Clintastrophe"), that I just needed to share it. Part one is below, and part two is after the jump. Make sure you watch both.