Sunday, March 31, 2013

Nostalgia Theater: Kenner's Jurassic Park -- Merchandise 65 Million Years in the Making

If there's one notion that's been cemented by my time in the trenches as a parent, it's that kids love dinosaurs.

This Friday sees the re-release of Steven Spielberg's Jurassic Park to theaters -- now spiffed up with a new transfer and 3D -- to celebrate the seminal dino-flick's twentieth anniversary. I've got plenty to say about the film itself these many years removed from its initial theatrical foray, but I'll save those thoughts for my retro review later in the week. Now, after the sticker shock of Jurassic Park being twenty years old wears off, join me  for this week's Nostalgia Theater as we take an excursion through the mists of marketing cynicism and navigate the rapids of absurd brand management. Jurassic Park. Action figures.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

"Pimp My Right"

After some time off to recharge his batteries, Jon Stewart and The Daily Show returned to the air with several segments throughout the week on a variety of issues of import. Monday night's episode was a particularly memorable one as Stewart took on the GOP's ongoing identity crisis issues in the wake of the last few presidential elections, and their comical attempts to diversify their ranks (which I've been chronicling for awhile now). I've actually been meaning to post these vids all week, but hey, better late than never, right? Catch part one below, then two and three after the jump. Make sure you stick around for part three!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Health Scary

Ezra Klein over at The Washington Post lays out 21 graphs demonstrating the obscene disparity between healthcare costs in the US as compared to other countries in the world. Seeing this depressing reality, it gladdens my heart to no end that congressional Republicans are still so focused on repealing the Affordable Care Act...

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Wolverine Trailer Slashes the Screen

Despite the fact that it's due to hit theaters in less than ninety days, the marketing has been surprisingly sedate for Fox and Marvel's upcoming X-Men spin-off The Wolverine, which brings star Hugh Jackman back for his sixth go as the hirsute hero with the Ginsu-knuckles. In fact, yesterday saw the release of the very first assemblage of footage, with the assumption presumably being that all the G.I. Joe theater traffic this weekend will give a quick jumpstart in the awareness department with the target demo.

As you can tell from the poster to the right, the story takes our hero to Japan, some years after we last left him (chronologically) in 2006's X-Men: The Last Stand. I can't say there's anything about this trailer that has me jazzed for this one beyond just seeing Jackman in the role again, but director James Mangold is no slouch, and the intent is clearly to focus a little more inward for this one than the bombast of the last few X-opuses. The movie opens in late June and one presumes we'll get to see more footage before then, but for now check out both the domestic and international teaser trailers after the jump:

Zaki's Revew: G.I. Joe: Retaliation

Read my 2009 review of G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra here

Duke (Channing Tatum) and Roadblock (Dwayne Johnson)
Now that's more like it.

G.I. Joe: Retaliation is the Joe movie I've been hoping to see since I was a little kid, and it's exactly the kind of movie that its predecessor, 2009's exercise in cotton candy excess G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, isn't. First, some helpful context: I'm someone who grew up pretty much right smack in the middle of the demo that toymaker Hasbro targeted when they laid out their "G.I. Joe vs. Cobra" multimedia assault in the early '80s. Toys, action figures, comic books, I was immersed in all of them, with the Marvel comic books especially serving as one of those beacons that stayed with me through a wide swath of my childhood.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

INTERVIEW: G.I. Joe's Larry Hama Reflects on 30 Years of A Real American Hero (Part II)

Read Part I here!

Picking up where we left off yesterday, in the second half of my extended conversation with Larry Hama, the legendary G.I. Joe creator discusses the political underpinnings (or lack thereof) of his Joe comics, what it was like returning to the property almost ten years after its apparent demise, and what lessons he's learned from his many decades fighting in the trenches with the "Real American Hero." Catch all the festivities after the jump:

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

INTERVIEW: G.I. Joe's Larry Hama Reflects on 30 Years of A Real American Hero (Part I)

Last week I teased my interview with G.I. Joe creator Larry Hama by posting his fresh thoughts on the new feature film Retaliation, which he'd just seen. But that was just the tip of a very tall iceberg. Hama began his tour with Joe in 1982, when he took on the little "toy book" that no one else wanted to write. From there, he helped shape every aspect of the extended Joe universe, down to penning the "file cards" that adorned each toy's packaging, and was a key component in making the "Real American Hero" one of the most successful multimedia properties of the 1980s. Although the Marvel book ended its run in 1994, it didn't stop there for Larry Hama and G.I. Joe.

In 2001, when Joe was brought back to comics by Chicago-based Devil's Due Press, it wasn't long before Hama (who'd also clocked a lengthy run on Marvel's Wolverine and DC's Batman by then) was brought in to lend the brand his blessing. When the property jumped from Devil's Due to comic publisher IDW in 2008, he was again there for the creation, penning not only the G.I. Joe: Origins series that offered fresh insights into these legendary characters, but also, since 2010, the new G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero series that picks up its numbering and continuity right where the Marvel run left off lo those many years ago.

In part one of my extended conversation with Mr. Hama, he discusses the beginnings of G.I. Joe at Marvel, how he came to be involved and create the characters, how he dealt with the toyline's early '90s excess, and much more -- including an answer to a G.I. Joe question that's bedeviled me going all the way back to my childhood Joe fandom. Catch the full transcript of part one after the jump, and be sure to check tomorrow for the second half:

Monday, March 25, 2013

The MovieFilm Podcast: Episode 18

The latest MovieFilm installment starts off with my interview with legendary G.I. Joe writer Larry Hama as he discusses the origins of the Marvel Comics run and the continuing popularity of the "Real American Hero" line thirty-plus years later. From there, the gang discusses new releases The Incredible Burt Wonderstone and Olympus Has Fallen, seguing from there into the latest round of Hollywood Headlines, with a focus this week on old TV shows transitioning into new movies, including 24, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Good Times (??), and the headline-making, Kickstarter-funded Veronica Mars feature film. In addition, we have in-depth discussions on the new trailers for Kick Ass 2, Star Trek Into Darkness, and TV's Hannibal, plus a fond thirtieth anniversary reminiscence of Francis Ford Coppola's classic The Outsiders, and a MovieFilm quiz on the many facets of the Lethal Weapon franchise. As always, you can stream below or download at the link. Also, make sure to write a review or rank us on iTunes, and hit "like" on our official Facebook page!

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Sunday, March 24, 2013

Nostalgia Theater: The First G.I. Joe Movie

With the long-delayed sequel G.I. Joe: Retaliation finally hitting theaters next Thursday, I kick off a week of Joe-related content here at Zaki's Corner by shining the Nostalgia Theater spotlight on the first G.I. Joe movie. Released in 1987, the animated G.I. Joe: The Movie marked the culmination and conclusion of the Marvel Productions/Sunbow Studios run with Joe that began in 1983 with a daily syndicated series that, coupled with the Transformers show, shaped the childhood of many a wee one while cementing the "Real American Hero" brand's bona fides.

While originally intended to go to theaters, the failure of the Transformers animated flick at the box office in 1986 meant the Joe movie immediately getting downgraded to straight-to-video (and as I mentioned in this post, that wasn't the only way The Transformers: The Movie impacted G.I. Joe: The Movie). What did hit video stores in '87 was a pretty weak affair all around. While I'm the last person to say the daily show was a bastion of storytelling logic, it did at least make a sop toward keeping one foot rooted in reality. Okay, "rooted in reality" is too generous, but you get what I'm saying.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Tonight Shuffle Official?

A few weeks ago, I mentioned the noise coming from the industry press that last place network NBC was looking for a repeat of its late night unpleasantness from four years ago by sidelining current Tonight Show host Jay Leno in favor of Jimmy Fallon, who's currently holding the Late Night slot immediately following Tonight. Well, per The New York Times' Bill Carter, whose time in the trenches as the author of two definitive works on the subject makes him the undisputed authority on all things late night, says it's all over but the official announcement vis-a-vis the next Tonight transition.

Per Carter, Leno's current contract, which would take him through fall of '14, will be his last, giving him twenty-plus years at the desk (minus those awkward nine months), and Fallon will take over shortly thereafter. Also per Carter, the Fallon Tonight Show would be the first to be based in NY since Johnny Carson moved it to Cali in '72. Given that Leno is still champion of the time slot even as his network finds new barrels to bottom, I remain perplexed why the Peacock isn't simply letting Jay exit on his own terms. Regardless, there are plenty of other questions that this news raises, most of which Mark Evanier sums up pretty thoroughly.

(Source: The New York Times)

G.I. Joe Creator Larry Hama Digs Retaliation

I had the singular honor earlier this week of spending nearly an hour talking with Larry Hama, the legendary comic book writer who almost singlehandedly shaped the modern day mythology of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero via his role as primary author of the long-lived Marvel Comics Joe series in the 1980s and '90s. So far-reaching was his work on the property that its impact continues to be felt thirty-plus years later on toy aisles, on comic racks, and on the silver screen.

While we covered a whole lot of ground vis-a-vis Joe (and more!) that I'll share with you next week, I wanted to tease our talk a bit by posting his thoughts on the upcoming film sequel G.I. Joe: Retaliation, a preview screening of which he'd left mere moments before getting on Skype to talk to me. Given that there are few people who know the ins-and-outs of G.I. Joe better than he, and given the generally negative reaction to the first flick, what did he think of this second try? Find out after the jump:

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Recommended Reading

Following on from my Sunday post, the RNC recently undertook an extensive study -- an autopsy, if you will -- to determine causes of and divine solutions for the recent electoral travails of the GOP, much of which is as ideologically-driven as it is a demographic problem. Well, the results of said autopsy were revealed yesterday (and were greeted with an immediate chorus of nays from the usual coterie of hard right enablers), but Benjy Sarlin over at TPM has the six main lessons one can glean from the report.

Phoenix Rising Powers Up

As longtime readers likely know quite well by now, I have an inordinate amount of fondness for Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future, a little-seen, much-loved late '80s sci-fi series I gave the Nostalgia Theater treatment to here. Given that fondness, I was super excited to report last fall that a reboot for the property, titled Phoenix Rising, was in the works via concept creator Gary Goddard. Well, it was radio silence for awhile there, but it looks like things have been moving right along on the Phoenix front, with Goddard talking up his vision for the new show's tone, characters, and storylines:

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Recommended Reading

Here's Rolling Stone's Tim Dickinson on how, while the national Republican Party is beset by internecine struggles trying define itself in the wake of costly electoral losses in the last two presidential cycles, the state-level GOP hasn't found itself gripped by any such recriminations. Rather, the pro-tax cuts, anti-science platform that was voted down in November (democracy would be great if it wasn't for all those people voting...) has only agitated those in power to accelerate those agenda items while they're still able. I'm not one for alarmism, but it certainly does give one pause. Check it out here.

Nostalgia Theater: Beastmaster -- Walk With the Animals, Talk With the Animals

Marc Singer as Dar, last of his tribe
The saga of Beastmaster in pop culture is a strange one. The concept first came to life via a 1959 novel by Andre Norton. That book, about a Navajo space explorer who teams up various genetically-enhanced animals on an alien planet, was then adapted into a 1982 feature film. Well, "adapted" might be too strong a word. The flick took the title of Norton's book, but other than that did its own thing entirely, re-envisioning the author's future-set sci-fi story as a prehistoric fantasy fable, with a pre-V Marc Singer as Dar, lost prince who can communicate with animals. While many assume that Beastmaster was cranked out in response to the undeniable box office success of Conan the Barbarian, it came out in August of 1982, less than six months after the Schwarzenegger sword-and-sorcery tale, so the timing precludes it being a Conan-inspired cash-in. Here's the trailer:

Saturday, March 16, 2013

INTERVIEW: Actor Jim Sturgess On Upside Down

Ever since his breakout performance in 2007's Across the Universe, actor-musician Jim Sturgess has leveraged his reputation as one of Hollywood's rising stars to seek out unique, interesting projects that represent unique, interesting artistic visions.

His latest film, the dreamlike modern day fairytale Upside Down, which opened yesterday in limited release, is no exception. Directed by Juan Solanas and co-starring Kirsten Dunst, the surreal, modern day fairy tale is about a pair of star-crossed lovers trapped on two conjoined worlds separated by inverted gravity. Check out the trailer here.

I recently, I had a chance to speak with Sturgess about the film, how he chose it, and what it was like seeing a green screen vision realized. I also briefly discussed his previous project, 2012's Cloud Atlas, and how close he came to snagging the lead in Marvel Studios' 2014 epic, Guardians of the Galaxy. Read the text of our conversation after the jump:

Friday, March 15, 2013

See? Me. Again.

As they did last year, a few weeks ago the kind folks at the Islamic Scholarship Fund once again asked me to join in on a panel discussion (last time it was at Stanford, this year at Berkeley) to encourage engagement by young Muslims in non-traditional career paths (i.e. liberal arts, religious studies, et al). I was there in my capacity as a writer, and I think I said a few things that might be worthwhile. Check out the vid below (FYI, my bit starts at around 1:05:50, though my intro is at 27:35):

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Recommended Reading

Current House Budget Committee chair and former Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan proposed a new budget this week, and it looks...a whole lot like every other budget he's proposed, going so far as to assume that ObamaCare will be repealed (FYI, it won't be). Now, we've danced a few jigs with past Ryan budgets a couple of times already, but as Steve Kornacki at Salon points out, as he struggles to make his relevance felt in the aftermath of a pretty decisive drubbing at the polls last fall, Ryan has maneuvered himself into a particular historical sand trap that very few previous failed veep contenders have managed to climb out of.

End of the Line For Clone Wars

Way back in the day when Lucasfilm announced an animated series set in the interregnum between Star Wars Episodes II and III chronicling the much-ballyhooed "Clone Wars" period, I couldn't help but arch my eyebrow. Nonetheless, for five seasons now, the animated Star Wars: The Clone Wars has managed the dual feat of making me care about the prequel era of Star Wars history, but also made me think of Anakin Skywalker, the erstwhile Darth Vader on whose tragedy the entire saga came to rest, as a heroic figure. That was no mean feat given what the show had to work with, and it certainly wasn't helped when the series launched with a mezzo-mezzo feature cobbled together from pisodes of the CG series.

Thanks to the diligent work of the storytelling artisans at Lucas, I've enjoyed seeing the time period of the Star Wars prequels enriched and enlivened through the weekly cartoon show, even as it functioned under the constraints of a fairly narrow narrative corridor, with a pre-ordained conclusion that doesn't really allow for

Monday, March 11, 2013

In Memory Yet Ewing

Tonight's episode of TNT's Dallas marks the end of an era. And while that's a phrase that's bandied about so lackadaisically these days that it's lost a great deal of its import, there's no better way to describe this. When we bid farewell to series star Larry Hagman in November after the veteran actor succumbed to cancer, we knew with a feeling of sad inevitability that before too long the time would come to say goodbye to his outsize alter ego, J.R. Ewing. With the closing seconds of last week's ep bringing the curtain down on more than three decades of Texas-style villainy, tonight's episode is tasked with bringing closure both to the characters and to us in the audience. While I eulogized Hagman last fall, I can't think of a better exaltation for J.R. than this one. Not gonna lie, it made me a little misty.

(Source: The Dallas Decoder)

The MovieFilm Podcast: Episode 17

On this week's show, I starts things off with an exclusive interview with actor Jim Sturgess about his new film Upside Down. After that, the gang and I discuss why big budget fairytale Oz the Great and Powerful is a hit while Jack the Giant Slayer isn't. In addition, we talk up the Academy Awards and whether Argo really deserved Best Picture, and try to make sense of exactly why some folks seem to really dislike Anne Hathaway. All that, plus the latest developments on Warner Bros.' long-delayed, long-suffering Justice League movie, who is and isn't coming back for Star Wars: Episode VII, and more, topped off with a Movies That Matter segment reminiscing on 1985's Goonies, and an Oscars-themed quiz administered by Sean. It's two hours of MovieFilm goodness for this go-round, so don't miss a beat! Either stream below or download at the link. Also, make sure to write a review or rank us on iTunes, and hit "like" on our official Facebook page!

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Sunday, March 10, 2013

Nostalgia Theater: Hammerman -- Can't Don't Touch This

There were a lot of cultural oddities that typified life in the late '80s and early '90s, but one of the oddest surely has to be the meteoric rise and near-immediate descent of MC Hammer as the world's preeminent hip-hop maestro. Thanks to hits like "U Can't Touch This" and "Too Legit to Quit," an entire generation of suburban white kids got into rap music, and catapulted Hammer to that pinnacle of pop culture prominence: Saturday morning.

I talked a few weeks ago about ProStars, the NBC 'toon that teamed-up sports figures Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky, and Bo Jackson as crimebusting super spies in fall of '91. But the celebrity superheroics didn't end there, because that same season, over on ABC, Hammer (née Stanley Burrell) tried his hand at the animated hero game with Hammerman. And what was Hammerman, you ask? Let's hear it from the man himself:

Friday, March 08, 2013

Zaki's Review: Oz the Great and Powerful

James Franco as the Wizard of Oz

The last time director Sam Raimi, one of the most talented visual voices of his generation, tried his hand at a big budget blockbuster, this happened. And so, with the unfortunate, unplanned end of his post-facto Spider-Man trilogy proving an unsatisfactory experience both for him to make and the audience to watch, it's entirely understandable that the one-time Evil Dead helmer decided to move as far afield from the webslinger's big city turf as possible when seeking out his next blockbuster opus, Disney's Oz the Great and Powerful.

But while the director does his best to invest his trademark visual flair into this (*cough*unofficial*cough*) prequel to MGM's 1939 screen adaptation of The Wizard of Oz, that flair is largely subsumed by sumptuous, empty calorie excess. Oz is less a personal statement than it is a checklist of blockbuster "to-dos." It trades on the audience's long-entrenched familiarity with the original film's redolent imagery (re-imagined here in glorious high-def 3D) but relies on that familiarity to forgive the absence of little things like character and depth.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Behind the Disney-Star Wars Deal

In the months since the acquisition of Lucasfilm and the Star Wars empire by Disney was announced, the web has been in a state of continuous buzz, with legitimate and conjectural news items burped out with a remarkable consistency. And though JJ Abrams was officially announced as the man shepherding Episode VII of the revived Star Wars saga, we still don't know much about what lies ahead -- indicative of both George Lucas and Abrams' penchant for lockdown secrecy on their projects.

Still, we may not necessarily know what lies ahead, but thanks to a very in-depth article by Devin Leonard over at Bloomberg, we now have a pretty detailed account of exactly how the whole Disney deal went down, with about as revealing an insight into Lucas' mindset in the days lead up to and immediately following the sale as I've ever seen. From the piece:

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Raimi on Aborted Spider-Man 4

With The Amazing Spider-Man 2 now ensconced in filming, we're well and truly enveloped in the rebooted Spidey franchise, but not too long ago, the hope had been for director Sam Raimi and star Tobey Maguire to return to the series and hopefully clean up the mess left by movie three. That didn't end up happening, and while Raimi moved on to Drag Me To Hell and this Friday's Oz the Great and Powerful (more on that soon), how Raimi's fourth Spider-flick fell apart has always been an open question -- until now. In a revealing chat with The Vulture about Oz, the director finally opens up with regards to Spidey 4's quick collapse:

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Sequestration Defenestration

Here's Jon Stewart from last night, chiming in on the now-inevitable onslaught of sequester-induced budget cuts that should be smacking a lot of us in the face very shortly. As it turns out, the process of governing isn't altogether dissimilar from autoerotic asphyxiation. Not much else I really need to add after that. Enjoy:

To Be a Hero

My friend and fellow diehard Superman fan Jeffrey Taylor (who also co-hosts the excellent From Crisis to Crisis Superman podcast) has been penning a pretty terrific column for for awhile now counting down until this summer's Man of Steel feature film. In his latest post, he asks the question of why, given powers and abilities far beyond any mortal man, did Clark Kent choose the path of a hero? Would you? Could you? Good stuff from Jeffrey. Give it a read here.

Final Iron Man 3 Trailer Amps Up

When Iron Man 2 came out three years ago, one complaint that often came up was that it seemed inconsequential, as if it was marking time until The Avengers brought the real fireworks. While I didn't dislike part two quite as much as others, that's a complaint that basically holds up. It was, and it was. Even though there was plenty of action and whatnot, in comic book terms Iron Man 2 felt sort of like the filler issue you get in-between major storylines.

Well, based on this new, final look at Iron Man 3 before it makes its bow in less than two months, "inconsequentiality" doesn't look like a brickbat that can easily be lobbed at this one. After sitting out the first two flicks, it looks like Tony Stark's definitive baddie, The Mandarin, is making up for lost time, and making things hellish for Tony Stark in the process. With star Robert Downey openly wondering recently how much longer he'll be wearing the bionic britches, this trailer just re-emphasizes how it'll be pretty darn difficult for anyone else to replace Downey when that time finally comes.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Late Night Wars: Episode III

Remember that time just over three years ago when NBC uncorked a fiasco over who got to host, or continue to host, The Tonight Show? Well, that contretemps, which saw Conan O'Brien briefly ascend to the Tonight throne before ceding it once more to once-and-present host Jay Leno, worked out so well for them (after the similar Tonight war between Leno and David Letterman in the early '90s), that it looks like NBC is hoping to make it a trilogy (which I'm sure will make New York Times reporter Bill Carter, who managed to squeeze two quite-excellent tomes out of the previous late night wars, very happy indeed).

Per this report at The Hollywood Reporter (after similar such word a few months ago), the net is ready to make the next season Leno's last, with plans to make current Late Night host Jimmy Fallon their man at 11:35 (all the better to square off with ABC's younger-skewing Jimmy Kimmel Live, now airing opposite both Leno and

Nostalgia Theater: Defenders of the Earth -- Newspaper Heroes Unite!

In the mid-'80s, the animation wing of Marvel Productions had found a great deal of success by adapting comic book heroes Spider-Man (read my previous Nostalgia Theater here) and the Hulk, as well as toy heroes Transformers and G.I. Joe. When it came time to find new properties to give the cartoon treatment to, the studio cast its gaze far, far backward to the days when it was the Sunday funnies in the newspaper that generated the most iconic characters in pop culture. Thus, partnering with King Features Syndicate, Marvel unleashed Defenders of the Earth.

Premiering in fall of '86 in syndication, Defenders was actually a pretty brilliant idea -- at least on the conceptual level. Team up iconic adventure strip heroes Flash Gordon (created by Alex Raymond) and Lee Falk's The Phantom and Mandrake the Magician (plus Mandrake's aide-de-camp Lothar) as a Justice League of sorts. I'm surprised no one thought of it sooner! Set in 2015 (the world of tomorrow!), the heroes, joined by their second generation offspring (i.e. Flash Gordon's son, Phantom's daughter, etc.), faced off daily with Gordon's alien nemesis Ming the Merciless. Here's the intro:

Friday, March 01, 2013

Besieged Boehner

As the just-concluded fight over the Violence Against Women Act, as well as the recent dust-ups over the fiscal cliff and Hurrican Sandy relief demonstrate, Speaker of the House John Boehner has been so boxed-in by the extreme exigencies of his caucus that he's unable to advance must-pass legislation without violating the so-called "Hastert Rule," named for former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, which requires any Republican speaker to garner majority support from his own caucus before voting. This essentially forces an informal "supermajority" threshold on the House of Representatives just like the one that's ground things to a halt over yonder in the Senate.

I've said it before but it's worth repeating: I really do feel bad for Speaker Boehner. I may have a host of disagreements with the man over policy positions he holds, but he's no dope. He knows the bipartisan calculus required to get things done, but it just so happens that this moment in history coupled with the configuration of House Republicans has made him the congressional equivalent of Quinton McHale. Talk about a thankless gig. As Steve Kornacki over at Salon explains, with the pressing deadline of the sequester beckoning, another Hastert violation is likely just the start of the dregs Boehner must plumb if he has any hope of saving House Republicans from themselves (and it's no guarantee they even want to be saved, mind you).

Oldman Joins Planet of the Apes Sequel

With Dawn of the Planet of the Apes due to hit theaters summer of 2014, we're starting to see more news trickle out about the anticipated Planet of the Apes sequel-to-the-reboot. When we last left things in 2011's Rise of the Planet of the Apes, the uplifting ending had chimpanzee revolutionary Caesar (Andy Serkis) headed to the treetops in Muir Woods outside San Francisco accompanied by the triumphant strains of Patrick Doyle's music score. However, a mid-credits coda made clear that, thanks to a rapid spread of a new super-virus, the days of human dominance were likely at an end.

Well, we get to follow this strain (pun unintentional) in the sequel, which picks up 15 years after Rise, and has Caesar attempting to hold together his followers (who have presumably all learned to talk in the interim) while the remnants of humanity fight to hang on. Last week came word that actor Jason Clarke, who got to make quite an impression in January's Zero Dark Thirty, had signed on to play one of the key