Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Last Goodbye

Wrapping up my posts for this year, here's "The Last Goodbye," the ballad by actor-singer Billy Boyd heard during the closing credits of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. With its intercutting of clips from all six Middle Earth epics, along with behind-the-scenes footage, I defy you not to feel yourself getting a little misty as we bid farewell to this mythical era. And with that, I'll see you in 2015!

Timey-Wimey Terminator

If you've spent any time in the trenches of the Terminator franchise, you know what a cornucopia of headache-inducing time paradoxes it is. That terrain only looks to get more swampy with next summer's release of Terminator: Genisys, something the folks at Auralnauts nicely bullseye in this hilarious parody of the latest film's trailer:

New Book!

Earlier this year I was contacted by Rich Handley, whose excellent Lexicon of the Planet of the Apes book I reviewed here, about contributing to a new book he was editing entitled The Sacred Scrolls: Comics on the Planet of the Apes. Naturally, you couldn't keep me away from being a part of something like that, and I found an extra degree of symmetry in the fact that my own Apes fanzine in the '90s had the Sacred Scrolls title. More details here as it gets closer, but for now, here's the very sweet cover by Pat Carbajal, and jump over to 13th Dimension for some info on what I'm covering, and who else is included in the book.

2014: The Year in Interviews

As with last year, 2014 offered me the opportunity to chat with some very interesting folks talking up their latest projects. For ease of navigation, I've gone ahead and compiled them all into a list below. Check them out after the jump:

2014: The Year in Reviews

There are some high-profile year-end movies that I'm trying to sneak in some screenings of, so I'm holding off on a more in-depth "Best of 2014" post until then, but in the meanwhile, here's a look at all the flicks I did full reviews for this past year, with a brief blurb about each. Check 'em out after the jump:

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The MovieFilm Podcast: Episode 61

Between last episode and this one, The Interview went from a planned wide release to a cancelled release to a limited release to an online release. Phew! We attempt to sort through the whirlpool of goings-on surrounding the controversial Seth Rogen-James Franco comedy, while also figuring out whether the movie itself was worth all the hype. In addition, we tackle big questions like whether James Bond can ever be black, whether director Justin Lin can rescue the Star Trek franchise, and whether the traditional late night talk show is a dead format. Of course, there's plenty more as well as we wrap up 2014 with the usual batch of banter, headlines, and deep thoughts. Listen via iTunes or Stitcher (make sure to write us a review!), and leave a comment at our Facebook page to let us know how we're doing!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Nostalgia Theater Extra: Year in Review 2014

For the past few years, I've been doing a "year in review" post where I collect the five most popular Nostalgia Theater posts of the concluding year. In an effort to mix things up, I've compiled a list of all the entries I did in 2014, and you can go through them via the links below. I honestly forgot I'd written about some of these, so I guess you could say I went through some Nostalgia Theater Nostalgia as I went back through these fifty-plus posts. Enjoy!

Nostalgia Theater: The Hogan Family Edition

The Hogan Family enjoyed a six season run from 1986 to 1991, but it's rarely (if ever) seen today, with neither reruns nor DVD to mark its existence. This is a shame, as I have a lot of fond memories of the show, but if it's retained any sort of cultural cache today, it's probably mostly because of the presence of a pre-Arrested Development Jason Bateman in its cast. Of course, just as interesting as its disappearance from the radar is that it existed at all, given some of the tortured drama that occurred behind-the-scenes during its production.

I'll try to boil this down: When it began in midseason on NBC in spring of 1986, The Hogan Family was actually titled Valerie, named for star Valerie Harper, who'd had successful runs on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and its spin-off, Rhoda. Centering on the harried, workaday life of at-home mom Valerie Hogan, the series benefited from strong writing and a quality ensemble, but only did okay ratings-wise. That changed in the second year, when some primo placement behind then-hit ALF (which is where I discovered it) turned it into a genuine smash. Here's the intro for the first two seasons:

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A New Direction For Star Trek

The last few weeks have seen a bit of a minor panic playing out at Star Trek central. With the next film due for release in 2016, the franchise's big fiftieth anniversary, home studio Paramount had settled on Roberto Orci, who co-wrote and co-produced the previous J.J. Abrams-directed entries, to direct the third installment of the rebooted franchise. Then, a few weeks ago, Orci either jumped ship or was pushed. Either way, the center seat was empty at the most inopportune of times, and Paramount was left in a mad rush to get their starship up to speed in time for its release date. 

Well, in a move that's sure to prove polarizing for many, but which I'm actually energized by, the studio has signed Justin Lin, widely credited with turning Universal's Fast & Furious series into the powerhouse roadster that it is, to helm Trek 3 (or 13, depending on your math). While Lin was on a shortlist with names like Edgar Wright and Rise of the Planet of the Apes' Rupert Wyatt, his selection definitely makes the most sense from a strictly dollars-and-cents perspective.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Recommended Reading

I've been saying here for years that the whole notion of requiring voters to display identification at the polls is a solution in search of a problem. Given the negligible percentage of folks who actually vote fraudulently, and the substantial number of people who are unable to vote thanks to new restrictions, it amounts to a poll tax by another name. Here's Ezra Klein on a new study on this "issue":
Out of roughly a billion votes cast, he found 31 credible cases of voter ID fraud. And that is, he thinks, an overestimate. At the same time, thousands of people really are being turned away from polling places because they don't have the right ID. So voter ID laws fix a fake problem by creating a very real one.
Yep. More here.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

SNL Spoofs Serial

Our interview with Rabia Chaudry on last month's Diffused Congruence has proven to be one of our all-time most-listened episodes, which is just one more indication of how much of a cultural footprint the Serial podcast has managed to create in a very short time. As if to underscore that point, the weekly investigative show (which just wrapped its first series last Thursday) just got the imprimatur of a Saturday Night Live parody, with Cecily Strong doing a damn near perfect imitation of Serial host Sarah Koenig. If you're one of the millions of folks who've been listening the show, you're sure to recognize this. Check it out below:

Nostalgia Theater: Teaming up With Mr. T Cereal!

Here's another relic from the halls of forgotten '80s cereal. The cult of fandom surrounding Mr. T during that decade is this weird thing that we all kind of have to live with, but one of its outgrowths was the cavalcade of T merchandising. There was that cartoon show that I talked about way back in my very first Nostalgia Theater, and tying in with that was Mr. T cereal, which launched in 1984 from Quaker Oats (not Ralston, surprisingly, who was usually responsible for these kinds of things).

I have distinct memories of eating this stuff, though I couldn't for the life of me tell you what it tasted like. I'm told at this site that it had a "Cap'n Crunch" flavor to it, and yeah, I can go with it. My clearest memory of this stuff is buying a few boxes of it to bring back with us to Saudi after our summer '84 trip to the States, so I guess I must have really dug it. As usual with these things though, it wasn't so much about the product but the commercials used to sell the product. Observe:

Friday, December 19, 2014

So Long, Stephen.

Last night saw the final episode of The Colbert Report on Comedy Central. After nine years of making the post-Daily Show slot one of the prime destinations for biting political commentary (a situation I don't expect to change with Larry Wilmore's The Nightly Show), it couldn't help but feel a little bittersweet. And while host Stephen Colbert is headed to CBS to take over The Late Show next year to step into David Letterman's sizable shoes, the fact that we'll likely never see the character "Stephen Colbert," played to perfection over the past decade-and-change, still feels like a loss (though I'm sure Colbert is happy as a clam that he can finally be himself). You can watch the entire episode here, or check out this musical number featuring surprise appearances by an eclectic catalogue of some of the many luminaries who've graced the show's stage in the last decade:

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Zaki's Review: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

You may remember me from around this same time last year, fresh from seeing The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, the second leg of director Peter Jackson's jury-rigged trifecta based on J.R.R. Tolkien's relatively slight tome, and decrying the director for contorting a medium-sized story into plus-sized dimensions. It's too long, I said. It's too ponderous, I said. Well, the ponderousness is still present at times, and the length is what it is, but nonetheless, this is the part of the review where I humble myself before you and eat crow.

I dug this one. A lot. And I retroactively loved the previous ones more as a result.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Diffused Congruence: The Daily Show's Aasif Mandvi on His New Book

This month we're pleased to be joined by actor, comedian, and writer Aasif Mandvi as he talks about his journey as a working actor to becoming The Daily Show's "Senior Foreign Looking Correspondent." He talks about how his time with Jon Stewart has made him more "Muslim-ish," what he's learned during a lifetime occupying many different cultures, and how that all led to his new book, No Land's Man. Listen via the embed below, or download at the link. Also, be sure to hit us up at our Facebook page to let us know how we're doing!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Nostalgia Theater: Sonny Spoon Edition

Sonny Spoon was a short-lived detective show that ran on NBC for two half-seasons in 1988. Created by '80s detective show stalwart Stephen J. Cannell, it starred Mario Van Peebles as the title character, a street smart private eye who's also a master of disguise, and Mario's dad Melvin played Sonny's dad Mel. I can't really tell you much about it beyond that, as it just kind of came and went (there were only fifteen episodes produced), and in fact the only reason I know about it at all is because I happened to see an episode or two in Saudi Arabia when I was a lad. The only thing I really do remember about is the jaunty theme music composed by Mike Post, which has stayed with me far longer than the show itself has. Give it a listen below, and see if it gets stuck in your head too.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Awesome Sauce

Hasan Minhaj explains the awesomeness of the just-released CIA torture report to Jon Stewart:

The New Mad Max Trailer Makes Me Happy

As you know, I'm pretty stoked about next year's Mad Max: Fury Road, the first new entry in that franchise in thirty years. I dug the teaser trailer earlier this year, and I think I dig this one even more. Watch, and dig.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The MovieFilm Podcast: Episode 60

It's been a week-and-a-half since the trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens hit the web, racking up a record 100 million global views in the process, and while it's generated plenty of commentary, conversation, and even consternation, the one opinion you've been waiting for is finally here, as Brian and Zaki chime in on the 88 seconds of footage we've seen from the upcoming Disney release, and debate whether we're underwhelmed, overwhelmed, or just plain whelmed. There's still more trailers to discuss though, as we share our thoughts on the first look at Universal's Jurassic World, and pick apart the assembly for Terminator Genesys. In addition, we also talk up some of the latest news out of Hollywood, including the just-announced cast for the DC adaptation Suicide Squad, the search for a new director for Star Trek 3, and much more! As always, go to iTunes and Stitcher to write us a review, and drop us a line at our Facebook page to tell us how we're doing!

Sunday, December 07, 2014

"We Can't Breathe"

And speaking of the Eric Garner grand jury decision, here's Jon Stewart from Thursday's Daily Show, making mincemeat of some cockamamie folks (I'm looking at you, Peter King) arguing that Garner getting choked to death by an overzealous police officer was his own damn fault:

Recommended Reading

Two questionable grand jury decisions in two weeks have left many people wondering about larger problems in our law enforcement apparatus. Matt Taibbi takes that a step further and says that we're on the cusp of a legitimacy problem for the police if corrective steps aren't taken. From Taibbi:
The press and the people who don't live in these places want you to focus only on the incidents in question. It was technically a crime! Annoying, but he should have complied! His fault for dying – and he was a fat guy with asthma besides! 
But the real issue is almost always the hundreds of police interactions that take place before that single spotlight moment, the countless aggravations large and small that pump up the rage gland over time.
Read the rest here.

Nostalgia Theater: G.I. Joe Action Stars Cereal

It's Sunday morning and my kids are watching vintage G.I. Joe cartoons on Netflix, and as I figure out what to make them for breakfast, I'm naturally reminiscing back to the 1980s, and the magical days when just about every kiddie property got turned into breakfast food. To wit, G.I. Joe Action Stars, yet another short-lived licensed cereal churned out by Ralston (yep, them again) at the height of the Real American Hero's popularity, this one lasting from 1985 to...later in '85? I don't know when exactly Action Stars faded away, but it wasn't long for this Earth, let's put it that way. Taste-wise, the stuff itself was nigh indistinguishable from most of the other confections populating the cereal aisle at the time, which is why they relied on the Joe tie-in, including packed-in mini-comics, and commercials like the one below to do the heavy lifting. And in what amounts to proof of my point, I have fonder memories of the commercial than the cereal. Yo, Joe...wanna pass the milk?

One Year Ago in Nostalgia Theater: Mattel's Demolition Man Action Figures
Two Years Ago in Nostalgia Theater: Superboy's Flight Through Syndication
Three Years Ago in Nostalgia Theater: The Animated Planet of the Apes

Thursday, December 04, 2014

First Trailer for Terminator 5!

It's been five years since Terminator Salvation hit theaters and essentially killed the franchise dead, but like any good IP in Hollywood, if there's money to be made, there's a reboot in the wings. And so we end up with Terminator Genisys, which reunites Arnold Schwarzenegger with the one brand that can ensure his continued cinematic viability, wrapping him into a story that promises to go all Back to the Future II on the time-tripping Terminator series, taking us back to its beginnings beyond. The Paramount release is directed by Thor: The Dark World's Alan Taylor, and in addition to big Arnie, it also stars Dawn of the Planet of the Apes' Jason Clarke as John Connor, Emilia Clarke (no relation) as Sarah Connor, and Jai Courtney as Kyle Reese. I got my hopes up with Salvation in '09, so I'm not going to do that again, but I'll just post the first trailer for Genisys after the jump and let you make of it what you will.

James Bond Will Return In...

It's now just over two years since our last James Bond adventure, and if you're anything like me, you're starting to get a little antsy waiting for 007's next bit of big screen derring-do. Well, via a press conference early this morning, the brain-trust at EON Productions made it official: James Bond returns next November in the Sam Mendes-directed Spectre. Longtime fans should be feeling a little giddy over that title, as it seems to signal a long-in-coming return of the franchise's earliest baddies, the international criminal organization SPECTRE (which, from memory, stands for SPecial Executive for Counter-Intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge, and Extortion).

SPECTRE all but disappeared from the Bond series after a lawsuit over the authorship of the novel Thunderball rendered all characters first appearing therein radioactive, and while the movie series did just fine without them, it'll sure be fun to see them back with a modern twist. The returning cast includes (naturally) Daniel Craig as Our Man, as well as Ben Whishaw as the new Q, Naomi Harris as the new Ms. Moneypenny, and Ralph Fiennes as the newly-minted M. The guest stars for this installment include Monica Belluci (how has she never been a Bond girl until now??) and Christoph Waltz. Spectre debuts stateside next November, and looks like I need to finally get back on the horse with my Bond retro review series!