Monday, July 29, 2013

From The Onion...

True fact.
Report: Only .00003% Of Things That Happen Actually Matter 
WASHINGTON—Despite the sense of importance virtually all people place on the details of their day-to-day lives, a new report out this week from the Pew Research Center found that only three in every 10 million things that happen actually matter. “For example, in the entire 20th century, the only events that really made any difference of any kind were the Holocaust, the invention of the atom bomb, civil rights, and at most one or two other things,” the report read in part. “Meanwhile, our research found that how much caffeine you drink, your kid’s soccer game, what time the supermarket closes, where you go on vacation, weekend box-office returns, who shot JFK, and your taste in design do not matter in any way, regardless of your level of interest in them. In fact, the last thing that actually mattered at all was 9/11.” Pressed for comment, Pew researchers acknowledged that their new report was not among the .00003 percent of things that matter.

Reza Aslan and the Fox News Zealot

Author and academic Reza Aslan, whose work I've linked to a handful of times on my site, has a new book out entitled Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, chronicling his research into the real life of Jesus, separate from the religious construct that's revered in different ways by the Christian and Muslim faiths. Now, what's interesting about this book is that his conjectures about Jesus are just as likely to be discomfiting to Muslims as they are to Christians, but that hasn't stopped certain vested interests from proclaiming that Aslan's work represents some kind of a shadowy attempt to blaspheme Christ by a Muslim who has no right to even mention his name.

This absurd implication was given literal expression last Friday when Aslan appeared on an online segment for Fox News entitled "Spirited Debate." The host, one Lauren Green, who I'd expect most people had never heard of before this weekend (though that's definitely not a problem anymore), starts right off asking, "You're a Muslim, so why did you write a book about the founder of Christianity?" And from that (in)auspicious start, things swiftly proceeded in a downward fashion, with the nearly ten minutes that followed quickly taking their place in the "Train Wreck TV" Hall of Fame. Check out the vid below, in all its cringe-inducing glory:

The MovieFilm Podcast: Episode 27

The MovieFilm Podcast marks one momentous year of power-packed production! To celebrate, the Mr. Boy gang is joined once more by Paul Shirey, news editor at Joblo.com, to share his firsthand account of sitting in the famed Hall H at the San Diego Comic-Con as the year's biggest movie announcements were being unfurled. Get the full skinny on Superman-Batman, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, and more! But that's not all! We also discuss the just-announced Rocky spin-off entitled Creed, and engage in a spoiler-filled conversation about the latest opus from Fox's X-Men franchise, The Wolverine (read my review here). All that, plus a look back at the history of the MovieFilm Podcast, and an X-Men-themed movie quiz dished out by Sean. Join us as we mark our first year, and beyond! Listen via the embed below, or download or stream at iTunes or Stitcher. As always, make sure to write a review to let us know how we're doing!


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Sunday, July 28, 2013

Nostalgia Theater: Tracking Time Trax

Dale Midkiff as supercop-from-the-future Darien Lambert on TV's Time Trax
The early '90s saw an explosion of syndicated sci-fi fare that was put into development, I'm fairly certain, as a reaction to the stratospheric success enjoyed by Star Trek: The Next Generation, which garnered the kind of ratings off network that many broadcast shows would have killed for. However, while Next Gen benefited from the audience loyalty (and comparatively high budget) that came as a natural perk of being part of that storied franchise, not all other offerings fared nearly as well. One such example is Time Trax.

Co-created by Harve Bennett, who produced four of the classic Trek crew's film adventures (including the best one), Time Trax was the premiere offering from the Prime Time Entertainment Network (PTEN), a jury-rigged "fifth network" that offered blocks of syndicated shows to local stations (we'll talk about another of their skeins, Kung Fu: The Legend Continues, one of these days). The premise was simple: One hundred years in the future, hardened criminals use a time machine to escape into the past, and police officer Darien Lambert (Dale Midkiff) is sent back to recapture them. Check out the first season's intro for the full skinny:

Friday, July 26, 2013

Zaki's Review: The Wolverine

Read my review of 2009's X-Men Origins: Wolverine here

Believe it or not, Fox's X-Men franchise is now thirteen years old. And in those thirteen years they've cranked out six movies that've run the qualitative gamut from X-cellent to X-crement. The first one in 2000 got things off to a solid, if unremarkable, start, and for awhile there 2003's X2 was one of the best comic book flicks ever made (until Marvel Studios showed up and ran the tables with their various Avengers-related entries). The wheels came off the wagon shortly thereafter though, both with 2006's unfortunate trilogy-capper X-Men: The Last Stand, and even more so with X-Men Origins: Wolverine in 2009.

While I was ready to write the whole thing off at that point and bid adieu to the franchise, I had my mind suitably blown by the 2011 prequel X-Men: First Class that there was renewed reason to think that perhaps its minders over at Twentieth had finally figured out how to run this particular railroad. And so it is that we arrive at The Wolverine, the sixth X-flick overall, and the second go at giving series star Hugh Jackman a spotlight project all his own (though, to be fair, the '09 Wolverine wasn't really much of a "solo" effort given how many other mutant characters they tried to cram in).

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Rocky Returns?

Now this is interesting. Seven years ago we watched Rocky Balboa hold his own in the ring and walk into the sunset, never to be seen again, we assumed. Well, never might be shorter than we thought. Per Deadline, the team of writer/director Ryan Coogler and star Michael B. Jordan, whose ripped-from-the-headlines tearjerker Fruitvale Station is currently gobbling up accolades from critics, may be reuniting for MGM's Creed, a unique Rocky spin-off that would see the Italian Stallion become mentor to the grandson of his deceased friend Apollo Creed (who was played by Carl Weathers, and who bit it at the hands of Dolph Lundgren's Ivan Drago in 1986's Rocky IV). 

This film would see Jordan following in Weathers' footsteps, playing a child of privilege tasked with living up to his legendary name. I gotta be honest, there's no reason this should sound like anything but a mercenary cash grab, but after reading the potential plotline, I'm...intrigued. While the logical part of me feels Rocky Balboa in '06 was a perfect end for the character, and to quit while you're ahead, this is a way to carry the legacy forward without a dreaded reboot. While the idea for this originated with Coogler rather than series creator Stallone, the fact that Sly is onboard to reprise the beloved boxer is a positive sign, and Jordan is a charismatic rising star who I can easily see as the scion of Apollo. Assuming Creed moves forward, I'm sure I'll have plenty more to say as things develop.

(Source: Deadline)

The League of Supermen

Here's the best thing I've seen this week. Next Tuesday the DC Universe animated movie The Flashpoint Paradox hits shelves, with actor Sam Daly voicing Superman. Sam is, of course, the son of Tim Daly, who's built up a pretty sterling rep himself as the voice of many a Superman over the years, and this production allows Daly the elder to welcome Daly the younger to a very exclusive club. Observe:

Monday, July 22, 2013

Dennis Farina, RIP

Just got word that veteran character actor Dennis Farina, a hometown boy from Chicago, has passed away at the age of 69. Farina had one of those faces that everyone who watched TV or movies knew even if they didn't know his name. An eighteen year veteran of the Chicago police force in his pre-acting years, he was able to use that accrued real world experience to segue seamlessly into a thirty-plus year career of embodying memorable characters on both sides of the legal divide, playing hoods in films like Get Shorty, Big Trouble, and law dogs in Out of Sight, Manhunter, and more.

As longtime Law & Order watchers know, Farina had the not-inconsiderable job of following up Lennie Brisco in the "lead detective" role after actor Jerry Orbach, and did so for two seasons from 2004 to 2006 as the stylish Joe Fontana (opposite Jesse L. Martin). In addition to headlining such series as Crime Story in 1986, and Buddy Faro in 1998, Farina made guest appearances on everything from Miami Vice to the animated Justice League (wherein he voiced veteran superhero Wildcat). Farina was able to embody equal parts credibility, authority, and humor without needing to do much. His passing is a real loss for fans.

Apes News Dawns at SDCC

While other news sort of sucked up the oxygen at last weekend's San Diego Comic-Con (like this, ferinstance), the thing I was most excited to hear about was what was up with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes -- which is actually the first honest-to-gosh Planet of the Apes sequel in more than forty years! We already know that Matt Reeves has replaced Rupert Wyatt in the director's chair for this installment, which plays the ball where it was left laying at the end of 2011's Rise of the Planet of the Apes, but we got a whole ton of new info this week courtesy of the 'con. First up was this interview by Anne Thompson with director Reeves in the lead-up to San Diego. Click past the jump for some highlights:

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Ramadan Reading

As I mentioned last week, Muslims follow a lunar calendar, which means that the months move back every year, which in turn means that all Muslims experience very short and very long Ramadans at least twice during their lives. We're in a "long Ramadan" phase for the next several years, with eighteen hour fasts in the midst of summer pretty much the norm. I'm not trying to complain about it, because obviously there are people out there who have things far, far worse than not being able to eat and drink for two thirds of the day, and part of the whole point of Ramadan is to increase our awareness of what they're going through. Still, I don't think it's talking out of turn to say that some days are easier than others. Here's a very nice piece by my friend Hesham Hassaballa about how he approaches it.

Supes and Bats Meet on the Big Screen in 2015

As you know, I really dug last month's Man of Steel, but the reaction to that flick among both fans and non-fans has been about as polarizing as anything I've ever seen. Nonetheless, with the film rapidly approaching a $700 mil global haul against a $225 mil budget, a sequel was pretty much a foregone conclusion, especially given Warner Bros.' well-documented designs on spinning their various DC Comics IPs into a shared movie universe a la Disney's Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Thus, while expectations were for a Man of Steel sequel announcement at yesterday's big Hall H panel at the San Diego Comicon, I think most folks were taken aback by what that announcement actually entailed. Rather than go the standard solo follow-up route, the DC Entertainment braintrust has decided to fast-track their team-up plans by pairing Henry Cavill's Superman with a rebooted Batman for a Superman/Batman project to be released in summer of 2015 (aka "Nerd-pocalypse").

Nostalgia Theater: Doing the Bartman!

This past week we got word that Fox animation mainstays The Simpsons and Family Guy are due for a crossover episode sometime next year. Interestingly, while you'd think folks would be excited by this news, the general reaction I've seen has been something to the effect of, "Eh, who cares about The Simpsons anymore?" Sad, but true. And that in turn got me thinking about a time long, long ago when Bart, Homer, et al, were so ubiquitous that everyone cared about them.

Back when the show was first picking up steam in the early '90s, you couldn't turn your head without seeing Bart Simpson dolls, Bart Simpson T-shirts, Bart Simpson you-name-it as far as the eye could see. I'd argue that ubiquity reached its most fevered peak with the release of The Simpsons Sing the Blues, a concept album with the characters singing tunes reflecting their characters, in December of '90. To tie in with the album, we also got this music video for "Do the Bartman," the first single:

Thursday, July 18, 2013

From The Onion...

I don't usually do two Onion posts in a week, but this one made laugh out loud too hard not to share it. America's Finest News Source on Secretary of State John Kerry's intentions in the Mid-East:
Man Who Couldn’t Defeat George W. Bush Attempting To Resolve Israel-Palestine Conflict
From the piece:
“We are confident that [this person who managed to win just 19 states against George W. Bush, even in the midst of two highly unpopular and costly foreign wars] will be able to establish a framework to bring about lasting peace in the Middle East,” said State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki, stating that the diplomat, who was actually deemed by the American populace to be a worse option than four more years of an administration led by a former baseball team owner and Dick Cheney, could provide the leadership necessary to resolve the bitter, bloody conflict that has raged for more than six decades.
Read the rest here.

Ramadan Reading

One aspect of Muslim culture that people aren't necessarily aware of is its rich tradition of devotional music from all over the world, representing a unique fusion of faith and society that neatly illustrates the diversity of thinking that can be found within the religion itself. When Ramadan started last week, one of the goals I set for myself was to use my voluminous commute times to explore the multiplicity of Islamic music from all over the world. Thankfully, my friend Hind Makki made that task inordinately easier by compiling this exhaustive list of some of the best Muslim devotionals from all over the world. I've enjoyed going through them, and I expect you will as well.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Evanier Takes it on the Chin

As you know, the various goings-on in the late night scene remain of interest to me even as my actual viewing of the late night scene dwindles substantially (these days I've even taken Conan off my DVR rotation, and pretty much stick to The Daily Show and that's it). Mark Evanier is a lot like me in that regard, but with boatloads more in-the-trenches time accumulated in the TV industry. Over the past few weeks, Evanier has taken to his blog to defend the soon-to-retire Jay Leno from the various accusations about chicanery and deviousness that have swirled around him for seemingly time immemorial, but most especially since he reconquered The Tonight Show after its brief Conan-hosted interregnum in '09-'10. The result is a most fascinating series of posts offering a candid take on the inner workings of the industry from someone who's about as "in the know" as it gets. You can find links to all ten parts of "Taking it on the Chin" below (after the jump), and if you have even the barest interest in this stuff, I suggest giving 'em a look:

Recommended Reading

As the Affordable Care Act marches toward full implementation in January of next year, and with House Republicans continuing on in their quixotic bid to strike the law from existence (newsflash: ain't gonna happen), there's good news that's starting to come out on how Obamacare's positive effects on the pocketbook are already being felt, in big ways and small. Jonathan Cohn at The New Republic has the details.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

From The Onion...

Ah, tell me you haven't been there.
Best Buy Employee Going To Tell You What He Has At Home

MEDFORD, OR—After asking if you needed help while browsing wireless routers, a Best Buy employee is now going to give you a detailed explanation of what he uses at home, sources are confirming. “I’ve had this NETGEAR dual-band router for years, and honestly, I haven’t had a single issue with it,” said the employee, noting that he at one point owned a cheaper model of the same router, but upgrading has “definitely been worth the extra 30 bucks, no question.” “I always have a lot of devices running on the network at the same time—usually my laptop, my Xbox, and my iPhone—and there’s never been any problem in terms of connection or internet speed. And the signal is really strong no matter where I am in my apartment.” The employee will reportedly go on to talk about the product’s warranty.

Recommended Reading

Dean Obeidallah echoes a point I made in my post Sunday on the Zimmerman verdict, and one I've been making repeatedly since, about the shocking lack of empathy that's evident in some of the wackadoo reactions to the case from ostensibly sensible people. Says he:
...when I say we lack racial empathy, I'm not talking about feeling sorry for a race because of their "plight." I mean true empathy -- "the ability to understand and share the feelings of another." 
Racial empathy means being able to honestly contemplate what it would be like to be a member of a different race.
Well said. And we've got a long way yet before we get there. Read the rest from Obeidallah here.

Ramadan Reading

Something I'm trying to do this Ramadan is post links to pieces reflecting the diversity of opinions and points of view within the Muslim community as they make their way through this holy month. One of the key aspects of Ramadan is the Taraweeh, evening prayers after the breaking of the fast, which can stretch long into the night depending on the time of year that Ramadan occurs (Muslims follow a lunar calendar, so it varies each year).

To be honest, the personal endurance this nightly routine requires -- not so much the several hours of standing in prayer, but staying focused through those several hours of standing in prayer -- is probably the most challenging part of the month for me, even more than managing without food and water during the day. Nonetheless, there's a deep fulfillment one can derive from this nightly expression of faith, a fulfillment that's nicely encapsulated in this piece from last year by Kinza Khan.

"Acquitted Development"

Here's John Oliver on last night's Daily Show, channeling what I think a lot of us (though clearly not all of us) were feeling in the wake of last weekend's verdict in the George Zimmerman trial:

Monday, July 15, 2013

Recommended Reading

Imam Khalid Latif is the chaplain of the Islamic Center of New York University, and for the past few years he's made a regular part of his repertoire during this, the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, a series of daily posts reflecting on its significance in his life. His post from yesterday is a thoughtful treatise wherein he ponders the broader implications of the George Zimmerman verdict, the underlying question of race, and how that question in turn suffuses the lives of Muslims here in America. One part in particular stuck out to me (the bolding is mine):
People of good conscience need to stand and speak in defense of those who are not able to stand and speak for themselves. Denying racism exists comes from a place of privilege. There are different Americas, black, white and otherwise and we should not become individuals who are oblivious to the experiences of others simply because they are not our own. We have abolished slavery in our nation but still remain slaves to ourselves.
Well said, and certainly as Muslims a big part of what this month is about is positively addressing the point he brings up in that last sentence. Read the rest here, and be sure to keep checking in throughout the rest of the month for his further Ramadan reflections.

The MovieFilm Podcast: Episode 26

Lots to listen for in the latest MovieFilm show! After listening to the audio from my exclusive interview with directors Jim Rash & Nat Faxon about their lovely new film The Way Way Back, you can hear the gang and I discuss the floptastic reception accorded to Disney's big budget gamble The Lone Ranger (which, you'll recall, I've been singing high praises of), and try to figure out where the fault lies -- in its stars or within us. We also talk about whether we're all suffering from superhero burnout after the destruction-fueled climax of Man of Steel, and offer our takes on the trailers for Lindsay Lohan's new film The Canyons, Vince Vaughn in Delivery Man, and The Lego Movie. After that, we breach the much-vaunted Spoiler Wall, as Brian and I debate the Robots v. Monsters shenanigans of Guillermo Del Toro's new opus Pacific Rim while Sean listens in quiet awe. All that, plus the usual batch of Listener Letters, and a MovieFilm quiz on movie robots make for another packed episode of the show! Give it a listen via the embed below, or download or stream at iTunes or Stitcher. Like always, make sure you write us a review to let us know how we're doing, and enjoy!


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Sunday, July 14, 2013

On the Zimmerman Verdict

I mentioned this in a tweet last night, but I thought it was worth unpacking a bit further. First of all, the whole Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman affair is tragic, whichever way you look at it. A series of bad choices led to one life being lost and another being forever changed. While Zimmerman was found not guilty in a Florida court last night, he's only a "winner" in the narrowest definition of that term. I doubt he'll ever be able to resume any normalcy in his life -- at least not anytime soon -- and the social and racial wounds this case has exposed aren't likely to heal over simply because the jury had its say.

What I want to discuss isn't so much the "could've-should've" about how the case went down and how it was ultimately decided, but rather the spectator-like approach it manifested. On the one hand, you had people expressing sadness for the death, sympathy for the family, and bemoaning what they perceive as a miscarriage of justice. While some of these reactions also veered into the inappropriate, the majority of them still fell into the expected range given the nature of the case. On the other hand, this is a post I saw on my Facebook feed: "Yes!!!! Yes!!!! Yes!!!! Not Guilty!!!!!!!!!! Yeeeeeeees!!!!!"

Nostalgia Theater: I Am the Greatest -- The Muhammad Ali Cartoon Show?

Here's another one from the "Yes, this exists" file. As we've discussed here a few times, there's this weird subgroup of kidvid where they take a real life personality, translate them to animation, and turn it into a TV series. We saw this phenomenon in the '80s with this, and in the '90s with this and this, but one of the earliest exemplars of the form came in 1977, when Muhammad Ali, the reigning heavyweight champion of the world, one of the most visible and popular athletes of that (or any moment), hit Saturday mornings on NBC. The result was...well, take a look:

Saturday, July 13, 2013

From The Onion...

Insurance Company Gets F___ed Over By Another Cancer Patient
From the piece:
“We got the first bill and just couldn’t believe how expensive it was,” said Blue Cross Blue Shield CEO Scott Serota, adding that at first, he thought the invoice was a mistake. “Every visit to the oncologist ran about $140, not to mention the thousands of dollars for every MRI and CT scan, and then the chemotherapy and cancer drugs were more than $10,000 per month. And he paid for maybe—maybe—5 percent of it. The rest was dumped on us.” 
“It’s absolute f___ing bullshit,” Serota continued. “I can’t believe they’re just allowed to get away with that.” 
According to reports, Blue Cross Blue Shield’s expenses have only gotten more unreasonable since Greison was first diagnosed with the life-threatening disease this past March. After an initially successful chemotherapy treatment, the health insurance company was reportedly informed that the cancer was no longer in remission and was forced to pay over $125,000 for a further two weeks of inpatient care in a hospital. 
Sources confirmed that such headaches for insurance companies are unfortunately incredibly common when dealing with any cancer patient.
Read the rest here and laugh -- then cry.

Recommended Reading

As you know if you read this site, I have some major issues with libertarianism as a political philosophy, both for the way it repackages the principled selfishness of Ayn Rand, and also the blinkered naiveté it relies on to propagate. In a new column, Paul Krugman encapsulates my issues with libertarianism when he dissects the movement's latest rebirth under the aegis of "populism," with Kentucky's Senator Rand Paul serving as its most visible face.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Ranger Danger

As I alluded to in Sunday's Nostalgia Theater, this past weekend saw Disney's much-hyped, mega-budget adaptation of The Lone Ranger flame out at the box office, taking in an unseemly $48 million over the five day weekend, which makes the road to profitability seem nigh-insurmountable given the $250 mil that the Mouse House reportedly dropped on the Johnny Depp starrer. As you know, I dug the flick quite a bit, and have been frustrated at the dogpile it's been engendering all week, mostly from people who clearly haven't seen the movie ( though I do have to give it up for this very funny Onion piece).

Nonetheless, there are some real reasons that Ranger failed to find a love connection with modern auds, and Scott Mendelson over at Forbes lays out a pretty good case that what went wrong with this film wasn't its subject matter or setting, but rather the ungodly amount of money it cost to bring what's ostensibly a franchise-starter to the screen. I voiced the exact same concern on the MovieFilm Podcast over Man of Steel, which cost somewhere in the same vicinity as Lone Ranger, and is thus just as fraught with peril going forward. As Mendelson says perfectly in the article, “Don’t spend Return of the King money on Fellowship of the Ring”. Read all of his analysis here.

Monday, July 08, 2013

Recommended Reading

Remember the IRS scandal from a few months ago whose implications were so vast and shocking that it was supposed to mean the end of the Obama Administration? No? That's okay, most others have forgotten about it as well, despite the perfect storm of a scandal hungry opposition party and a scandal-hungry media working in conjunction to advance the narrative. As Alex Seitz-Wald at Salon says...
...two months later, we know that in fact the IRS targeted lots of different kind of groups, not just conservative ones; that the only organizations whose tax-exempt statuses were actually denied were progressive ones; that many of the targeted conservative groups legitimately crossed the line; that the IG’s report was limited to only Tea Party groups at congressional Republicans’ request; and that the White House was in no way involved in the targeting and didn’t even know about it until shortly before the public did.
Read the rest of his scathing deconstruction of this nontroversy here.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Nostalgia Theater: Filmation's Lone Ranger

Disney's Lone Ranger is currently in theaters, and while I enjoyed it immensely, it's not doing so great at the box office. I may revisit that subject down the line, but in the meantime I wanted to delve into the thrilling days of my own yesteryear and look at my first experience with the legendary masked man. While the character has had a long and storied media career in radio, TV, and features, my first exposure to him came not by way of the beloved Clayton Moore TV series (which I only watched fairly recently) but via a short-lived animated series from Filmation entitled The New Adventures of the Lone Ranger. Here's the intro:

Friday, July 05, 2013

INTERVIEW: Jim Rash & Nat Faxon on The Way Way Back

Jim Rash & Nat Faxon have been comedic forces individually for awhile now, as evidenced by Rash's scene-stealing role as Dean Craig Pelton on NBC's Community and Faxon's memorable turns in films such as Walk Hard and Bad Teacher. However, they've also been creative collaborators since their time with legendary comedy troupe The Groundlings. They were awarded a "Best Adapted Screenplay" Oscar (with director/co-writer Alexander Payne) for 2011 dramedy The Descendants, and for their next project, they've not just penned the script but also co-directed coming of age tale The Way Way Back.

The film stars young Liam James as troubled youth Duncan, who must contend with his mother's overbearing boyfriend Trent (Steve Carrell) while learning lessons from young-at-heart rebel Owen (Sam Rockwell) about the truly important things in life. Also featuring memorable appearances by Toni Collette (as Duncan's mother), Allison Janney, Rob Corddry, Amanda Peet, and Maya Rudolph (not to mention Rash & Faxon themselves), The Way Way Back is a charming film that packs a lot of laughs and a lot of heart into its breezy 103 minutes.

I had a chance to talk to the twosome at length recently, and was absolutely delighted to be able to pick their brains about how the film, which spent some time sitting on the screenwriting "black list" (the annual compilation of the best unproduced screenplays floating in the Hollywood ether), finally came to fruition, how they breakdown their creative partnership, and how Rash feels about the late word that his sitcom Community had garnered a last-second renewal from NBC:

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Zaki's Review: The Lone Ranger

Armie Hammer and Johnny Depp saddle up for justice
As a long-in-coming reboot of a much-loved (though little seen, recently anyway) pop culture mainstay, Disney's big budget opus The Lone Ranger is a bit too long and a bit too uneven at times. But the high stakes project, which re-teams global superstar Johnny Depp with his Pirates of the Carribean helmer Gore Verbinski, is also undeniably fun, representing a return to the kind of prominence for the legendary lawman that's largely passed him by for the better part of the last five decades.

Amazingly enough, 2013 marks eighty years since the Lone Ranger made his debut, by way of a 1933 radio show produced by George W. Trendle. From then to now, the Ranger has ridden his great horse Silver through features films, television shows, comics, children's books, you name it. While that cultural footprint is no doubt impressive (a 1980 Filmation cartoon show was an integral part of my childhood), the sad reality is that the character hasn't really mattered since the 1950s, when he was played by the iconic Clayton Moore on a long-running TV series (with actor Jay Silverheels as Native American sidekick Tonto).

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

The MovieFilm Podcast: Episode 25

Lots to listen to as the MovieFilm Podcast marks a quarter-century! First up, I offer my take on new releases White House Down, The Lone Ranger, and The Heat, including the audio from my exclusive interview with director Paul Feig about the Sandra Bullock-Melissa McCarthy comedy. After that, the gang discusses Pixar's decision to cut down on the amount of sequels they produce, Paramount's plans to reboot the Terminator franchise, and how the bursting-at-the-seams schedule of summer 2015 movies might just end up breaking the geek world in half!

We also take stock of the summer season so far, and see how the box office take of the big release stack up to their predictions. In addition, there's discussions of the trailer for the Ryan Reynolds-Jeff Bridges team-up R.I.P.D., and the Sylvester Stallone-Arnold Schwarzenegger team-up Escape Plan, and an in-depth conversation on the merits and demerits of zombie opus World War Z. All that, plus the usual listener letters and a trivia quiz pitting Brian and I against each other for the ultimate prize: bragging rights until next time. As always, stream below, or listen/download to the show through iTunes or via Stitcher Radio, and remember to write a review or rank us on iTunes and Stitcher, and be sure to hit "like" on our official Facebook page!


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