Friday, October 31, 2014

From The Onion...

Again, just this side of satire.
Traumatized Nation Terrified To Make Its Voice Heard In Another Election
From the piece:
“When I think back to past years—whether it’s ’86, ’88, ’94, ’02, ’04, 2010, or 2012—I realize that pretty much every time I’ve spoken up, I’ve been badly hurt,” said Dayton, OH resident Kellan Avery, adding that the mere thought of scanning a list of candidates and selecting one filled him with a profound sense of terror. “You want to voice your opinion, you really do, but as soon as you say your piece—wham!—they slap you right back down again. And these people are supposed to be there for us. It just…it breaks you down.”
Read the rest here.

Koch Fiends

Earlier this week Jon Stewart found out the Koch Brothers are advertisers on The Daily Show. This is what happened next:

Monday, October 27, 2014

Recommended Reading

Slate's John Dickerson tells us what this upcoming election is really about. Short version: Not much.

Sugar Why

Another good one from John Oliver's HBO skein Last Week Tonight. This time the comedian tackles the ins-and-outs of the sugar industry, which has the average American consuming an annual 75 pounds of the sweet stuff. (Just typing that makes my teeth hurt.) Check out the vid below:

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Nostalgia Theater: The Cult of Urkel

A few weeks ago I linked to a Key & Peele sketch that nicely encapsulates the bizarre transmogrification undergone by the sitcom Family Matters (which premiered on ABC in fall of '89) as it metamorphosed from "blue collar Cosby Show" to a weekly showcase for nerdy next-door-neighbor Steve Urkel. With his "Did I do that?" catchphrase and cartoonish appearance, he was a marketer's wet dream, even as he flew in the face of the show's entire aesthetic.

It wasn't long before the character, intended as a one-off guest spot, came to dominate the whole thing, shooting all credibility to the four corners as he and series star Reginald VelJohnson engaged in increasingly outlandish escapades (seriously, that skit was just barely exaggerating). It's easy now, with twenty years of remove, to look back and wonder what the heck they were thinking, but being in the middle of it, actually living through the Cult of Urkel, was another matter again.

For some perspective, here's the intro for Family Matters' first season:

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The MovieFilm Podcast: Episode 57

For this week's show, we start things out by discussing HBO new a la carte online plans, as well as the new Simpsons World app that offers every episode from that show's multi-decade history. After that, listen to my interview with up-and-coming actress Mikaela Hoover, who appeared in Guardians of the Galaxy last summer, and has a new webseries entitled Zombie Basement on the way.

From there, it's on to headlines: The hot trailer for Avengers: Age of Ultron just dropped, and we unpack it, as well as the news that Robert Downey Jr. signing to appear in more Marvel films, DC's overloaded slate of superhero movies, and Johnny Depp's questionable costume choice for the upcoming Into the Woods. After that it's the main event, with the guys explaining why they liked -- but didn't love -- the new Brad Pitt starrer Fury.

Of course, there's plenty more than that, and you can listen to it all below! Be sure to 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!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

What I Did Today

From December of 2004 to now, I've linked to clips from or discussed The Daily Show 150 times on this blog. 150. That should give some sense of what a huge influence on my work, personality and overall worldview Jon Stewart has been over the years. That's also why the pic below, taken during today's press junket for Stewart's new film Rosewater, means so much to me. Look out for the text and audio from our conversation very soon. Man, what a world.

The Avengers 2 Trailer is Here!

Is it already time for Marvel Studios to start promoting their next big box office behemoth? (checks calendar) Hmm, guess so. Avengers: Age of Ultron, the sequel to the third biggest box office hit of all time is queued up to rock the box office next May, and based on the assemblage below, we're in for more of what we dug about movie one, albeit with a much darker tinge. We get good looks at all the returning favorites (including Iron Man wearing one of my fave armor configurations), plus newbies Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor Johnson) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), not to mention Ultron, the CGI baddie with the James Spader voice. Joss Whedon directed again, and it'll be in theaters next May. Not too much else I really need to say here. Looks sweet. Watch it after the jump:

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Nostalgia Theater: Double Dragon -- Good Game, Terrible Cartoon, Worse Movie

Anyone who grew up in the '80s and had some degree of interest in the video game scene is familiar with Double Dragon. The quintessential beat 'em up game, it first hit arcades in 1987, and is well known for its side-scrolling street-fighting antics, with our heroes, martial artist brothers Jimmy & Billy Lee, making their way through various gangland environs and dispatching various street toughs while attempting to rescue their ladyfriend. See some of the gameplay below:

Thursday, October 16, 2014

From The Onion...

Heh.
Entire Conversation With Parents Spent Changing The Subject 
SEATTLE—Deftly switching from topic to topic from the moment he answered his phone until ending the call 20 minutes later, local man Andrew Heltman reportedly spent the entirety of a recent conversation with his parents changing the subject. “Yeah, things are fine at work, the usual—but hey, aren’t you guys leaving for vacation soon?” said Heltman, 26, who while speaking to his father did nothing but redirect discussions of his career, personal finances, and political views to more innocuous areas such as the Kansas City Royals’ postseason run and Ken Burns’ recent documentary series The Roosevelts. “No, I’m still not sure what my plans are for Thanksgiving yet. You going to invite Aunt Jean? How’s she doing?” Once the phone was handed over to his mother, sources confirmed Heltman spent the remainder of the call steering the conversation away from his romantic life with repeated inquiries about the family dog.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Ebola Facts

There's been a lot of hysteria over the past few days regarding the perceived threat of Ebola and the supposed complicity of our government in its supposed spread. A lot of that noise has been emanating from the Fox News crowd, so you wonder if Fox anchor Shep Smith was to speaking to his colleagues or his viewers earlier today when he stated firmly, "We do not have an outbreak of Ebola in the United States." Watch:

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

INTERVIEW: Co-Creator Mike Shoemaker on Hulu's The Awesomes

Hulu's The Awesomes just wrapped its second season (directed by my best bud Sean Coyle!), but as co-creator Mike Shoemaker explains, there's still plenty of super-comedic action on the way for the animated offering, which features voice work by comedy greats such as Seth Myers (also co-creator of the show), Bill Hader, Kenan Thompson, and many more. Shoemaker, a lifelong comic book buff, first conceived of the idea along with Meyers in the early 2000s when the pair was working on Saturday Night Live. But as he explains, the show's journey from concept to cult favorite was long and circuitous before finally becoming a Hulu original. Keep reading for some highlights of our conversation:

Monday, October 13, 2014

Oliver: How is Columbus Day Still a Thing?

With schools mostly open on Columbus Day, I just experienced the single way the "holiday" has any remaining relevance in my life when I swung by the post office only to realize too late that it was closed. As such, I found more than a little to relate to in this vid from John Oliver's HBO show asking why Christopher Columbus is still being feted annually given the...questionable state of his so-called accomplishments.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Urkel Effect

My video of the week. Key & Peele on how '90s sitcom Family Matters transmogrified from a low-key family comedy into "Goddamn Quantum Leap!" (Some salty language, so be aware of where and with whom you're watching.)

Nostalgia Theater: ExoSquad -- Warfare, Bigotry, and Genocide on Weekday Mornings

ExoSquad was an animated series that lasted for 52 episodes from 1993 to 1994, which no one seems to remember today. Produced by Universal Cartoon Studies, it was a sci-fi strip at least partially inspired by Japanese anime, and despite the fact that it came wrapped in the bright colors and limited production values that typified stateside animation of the era (not to mention being primarily intended to sell toys), it managed to serve up some pretty compelling serialized storylines trafficking in themes like genetic engineering, slavery, bigotry, open warfare, and even genocide. High falutin' stuff for kidvid! Here's the intro, which lays out the premise pretty well:

Saturday, October 11, 2014

INTERVIEW: Director David Dobkin on The Judge

Thanks to such films as Wedding Crashers and Fred Claus, David Dobkin has earned a reputation as being primarily a comedy director, but as he revealed in our chat discussing his new project The Judge, in theaters now, starring Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall, his interests as a filmmaker are fare more eclectic.

The intergenerational family drama, written by Nick Schenk and Bill Dubuque from a story by Dobkin himself, features Downey as hotshot defense attorney Hank Palmer, who is forced back to his Indiana hometown following his mother's death, and must work through lingering issues with his father, no-nonsense Judge Joseph Palmer (Duvall).

The Judge also has such respected performers as Vincent D'Onofrio and Vera Farmiga in the cast, and my first question for the director was regarding the top-tier talent he had lined up in front of the camera, including two of the greatest actors of all time headlining. Read on for his answer, as well as other highlights of our conversation:

Friday, October 10, 2014

Diffused Congruence: Parvez & Zaki Celebrate One Year!

After last week's debate about Islam and Muslims between Bill Maher and Ben Affleck (which conspicuously had no Muslims actually involved in the conversation), we celebrate one year of the Diffused Congruence Podcast by chatting about the rise of anti-Muslim and Islamophobic invective from mainstream media figures, and why this podcast is meant at least partially as a response to that. In addition, we also delve into the secret origins of the show, and and what we hope to achieve going forward. Download or stream the show below, or listen at iTunes (don't forget to leave us a review!) and Stitcher Radio. Feel free to send any comments or questions our way at diffusedcongruence@gmail.com or via our Facebook page!

Thursday, October 09, 2014

The MovieFilm Podcast: Episode 56

In this week's show, the guys make plans to leave Gotham, discuss whether Robert Downey Jr. will/should make another Iron Man movie, and the news that Paul Feig has signed on to direct an all-female Ghostbusters cast. We also unpack the all-new animated series Star Wars Rebels, and Brian explains to me why I should watch David Fincher's latest, Gone Girl. But that's not all! We also have an exclusive conversation with director David Dobkin about his new film The Judge, opening Friday. As always, hit up iTunes and Stitcher to write us a review, and hit "like" on our Facebook page to tell us how we're doing!

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Recommended Reading

Max Fisher at Vox runs us through the gauntlet of recent cringe-worthy cable news segments to make the point that these orgs are instrumental in fostering a pretty toxic (and uncritically tolerated) air of Islamophobia which could, per Fisher, "further normalize bigotry against Muslims in America, making it the default."

Monday, October 06, 2014

Recommended Reading

H.A. Goodman says Ben Affleck was right and Bill Maher was wrong in that Real Time kerfuffle last Friday. Click over to read why.

Once Upon a Time in the West

As you know, The West Wing is up there as one of my favorite TV series of all-time, and the only show I've watched the whole way through multiple times. (Here's what I said when it wrapped up back in 2006.) Well, hard as it is to believe, this fall marks fifteen years since the Aaron Sorkin-created political drama first aired on NBC. To celebrate this auspicious moment, James Dyer of Empire has compiled the definitive oral history of the series, getting on-the-record remembrances from just about everyone who was ever associated with the skein for lengthy deep-dive of a read that any fan needs to set aside time for.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Nostalgia Theater: The Flash's First TV Series

One of my prize possessions, natch
This Tuesday sees the premiere of the CW's The Flash, a spin-off of their successful Arrow, but of course, this isn't the first time the DC Comics hero has raced to the small screen. After Tim Burton's Batman broke box office (and merchandising!) records in 1989, we saw a miniature version of the same superhero fever we're experiencing right now, with various related and competing properties being fast-tracked at various venues to try and capture some of those sweet, sweet Bat-bucks. The Flash ended up being the first beneficiary of this fervor, hitting screens in fall of 1990 on CBS after being developed by Danny Bilson and Paul De Meo (who wrote the excellent, underrated feature The Rocketeer and would go on to produce another DC Comics-based show, 1992's The Human Target).

Here's the intro of the resultant series:

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Batman v. Bill Maher

On last night's Real Time, Bill Maher got some back-up in his vocal anti-Muslim views from author Sam Harris (who once said "We should profile Muslims, or anyone who looks like he or she could conceivably be Muslim"), but the pair faced some welcome pushback from the rest of the panel, which included journalist Nicholas Kristof, former RNC chair Michael Steele, and Batman himself, Ben Affleck. Watch highlights (lowlights?) of the exchange below, which one friend of mine rightly referred to as "maddening."