Friday, November 30, 2012

Powering the Islamophobia Machine

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

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Jackman, Stewart, McKellen Set For X-Men Return

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

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

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

From The Onion...

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

Recommended Reading

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

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Stewart on Gaza: Status Quo Ante

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

Monday, November 26, 2012

Larry Hagman, RIP

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

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

Sunday, November 25, 2012

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

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

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

007@50: Dr. No (1962)

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

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

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Producer Tripp Vinson Talks Red Dawn Remake

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

Monday, November 19, 2012

From The Onion...

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

The MovieFilm Podcast: Episode 9

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

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Sunday, November 18, 2012

Nostalgia Theater: The Day Superman Died

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

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

Friday, November 16, 2012

Recommended Reading

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

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Snyder Talks Watchmen, Superman

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

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

Purple. Lots of Purple.

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

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Nostalgia Theater: What the Dr. Ordered...

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

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

Friday, November 09, 2012

Zaki's Review: Skyfall

Read my 2006 review of Casino Royale here

Read my 2008 review of Quantum of Solace here

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

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

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Turd Splattered

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

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

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

About Last Night

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

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

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

From The Onion...

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


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

Monday, November 05, 2012

The MovieFilm Podcast: Episode 8

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

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Sunday, November 04, 2012

Mouth Breathers III: The Saga Continues

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

Nostalgia Theater:
James Bond Jr. Will Not Return

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

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

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Whither Your Franchise?

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

Worry Wars

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

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

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Confirmed: Bryan Singer Directs New X-Men

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

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