Sunday, November 30, 2014

From The Onion...

And what a relief.
Ferguson Decision Reaffirms Right Of Police To Use Deadly Force When They Feel Sufficiently Inclined 
WASHINGTON—Following a legal precedent established over the course of decades, the St. Louis County grand jury decision Monday to not indict officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of an unarmed teen reportedly reaffirmed the right of police to use deadly force whenever they feel sufficiently inclined. “The outcome of this grand jury investigation further supports a police officer’s right to shoot to kill if, and only if, he feels absolutely willing to do so and it suits his purposes,” said Georgetown law professor Adrienne Hoffman, adding that reasonable suspicion to use lethal force is 100 percent optional when an officer fires on a suspect, regardless of circumstances. “This decision makes it completely clear that, when confronted in the line of duty, police are legally justified in using extreme force against a suspect whenever they need to or just feel like it.” Hoffman added that the decision further asserts an officer’s right to claim self-defense against anyone within range of his weapon.

Rock On...

Comedian Chris Rock sat down with Frank Rich for a wide-ranging conversation that covers everything from the recent midterms to President Obama's legacy to Bill Cosby's travails, and all of it is worth reading. Enjoy.

The Plinkett Awakens

Since Friday, the web has been swarmed by all manner of reactions various and sundry to the Star Wars trailer, but we all know there's only one review we were waiting for, that of infamous Internet curmudgeon (and prequel eviscerator) Harry Plinkett (a.k.a. web critic Mike Stoklasa of Red Letter Media). What follows are nine minutes of Plinkett on 88 seconds of The Force Awakens:

And Now the Special Edition...

Well, that didn't take long. It's been just two days since the trailer for Star Wars: Episode VII dropped, we've barely had time to let the good feelings wash over us, and now here's the George Lucas-approved Special Edition version. Keep in mind, this is satire. Or is it?

Nostalgia Theater: That's Incredible! Edition

Like Ripley's Believe it or Not last week, That's Incredible! was another piece of "reality TV" from the 1980s. The series, which aired on ABC from 1980 to 1984, was deceptively simple. Every week, producers would collect a variety of "Wow, people are strange/cool/stupid" footage culled from across the country and the world, and then hosts John Davidson, Cathy Lee Crosby, and Fran Tarkenton would dish them out in front of a studio audience. Think Tosh.0 with more self-importance and less self-awareness. Check out one of the show's intro sequences:

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Recommended Reading

The Sand Creek Massacre occurred 150 years ago today. For those of you who aren't familiar with it, the massacre was the result of years of alienating policy by the United States government toward the Native Americans whose land and rights were being taken. It culminated in an action by militia leader John Chivington that was so barbaric that one feels chills reading the accounts even today. Read a piece reflecting on the tragedy here.

(FYI, the Sand Creek incident has been dramatized in the TV miniseries Centennial, as well as the film Soldier Blue.)

Friday, November 28, 2014

The Star Wars Trailer Awakens

Here it is: The 88 seconds that's going to feed countless hours of examination, conversation, and introspection over the next several months. It's more than a year until JJ Abrams' Star Wars: Episode VIII opens, so it's understandable that we don't really get much in the way of exposition or even context in this assemblage. This is about new owners Disney putting a sign out front that says, "Yep, new Star Wars is on the way." I have some friends who were making plans to hit up a theater to catch this, and honestly I hope they reconsider. What we get here is fine, but it also doesn't look like anything different from the numerous well made fan-produced Star Wars vids littering YouTube. I don't think it'll feel "real" to me until we get some footage of our old friends from the Original Trilogy. Now the wait is on for the first full trailer.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Diffused Congruence: Serial's Rabia Chaudry

Since its launch last October, the Serial podcast has taken the country by storm. Reporter Sarah Koenig's gripping investigation into the 1999 murder of high schooler Hae Min Lee, and the subsequent conviction of her ex-boyfriend Adnan Syed for the killing -- a crime for which he maintains his innocence to this day -- has set records and spurred conversation with how it combines the intrigue of a weekly procedural with broader questions about cultural assimilation and the peculiarities of the legal system. For this episode, Parvez and I are joined by Rabia Chaudry, an attorney and civil rights activist who is a family friend of Syed's, who first brought this case to Koenig's attention. Listen in to hear Rabia discuss her history with Adnan, her thoughts on what she's heard on the show thus far, as well as the other work she's engaged in. 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!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Recommended Reading

Jonathan Chait on how President Obama's end-run around Republicans on immigration last week represented a win for common sense and a failure in strategizing for the GOP:
It is clear that Obama’s executive action places Republicans in a near-impossible spot. The newest evidence is a poll this week from Latino Decisions, finding that 89 percent of Hispanics support Obama’s move. Now, the wording of the poll, which repeats Obama’s justification but not Republican objections, likely inflates support. Still, it seems to suggest extremely high levels of support. If, as seems likely, the next Republican nominee is forced to promise to overturn it during the primary, it will lock the GOP into a stance of implacable hostility toward the overwhelming majority of the Latino community.
Read the rest here.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

It's Here! The First Jurassic World Trailer!

Watch. This. Now.

Man, the wait until June 12 is feeling pretty excruciating right now.

The MovieFilm Podcast: Episode 59

With Thanksgiving on the horizon, we're thankful to bring you episode 59 of the MovieFilm Podcast! Brian starts things off by discussing a Q&A event he attended featuring Christopher Nolan while I share my thoughts so far on the The Martian, a novel currently being adapted into a Ridley Scott film starring Matt Damon. After a Star Trek: The Next Generation-themed listener letter it's onto some headlines, with a discussion on the sad turn of events surrounding Bill Cosby, the troubled start to Aaron Sorkin's Steve Jobs biopic, why Wonder Woman still has us concerned in spite of recently attaching a talented director, and our two cents on the teaser for Jurassic World and the roll out plan for the Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer. After that, Brian shares his thoughts with me on Dumb and Dumber To and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1. 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!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Cracked Cosby

I've spent a lot of time discussing the many accusations swirling around Bill Cosby over on my Facebook page, but I realize I haven't talked about it here, mainly because it's such a horribly depressing story that I'm not sure what I can add to the conversation (especially given how I lionized The Cosby Show just a few months ago). That said, I did want to share a piece by Tom Reimann over at Cracked, who does a good job of bulls-eyeing why the charges against Cosby have taken on such traction now when they've been a part of the record since at least 2006, and been floating in the ether for quite a bit longer. Here's a relevant bit:

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Islamophobia and Religious Violence

Author Karen Armstrong (who wrote one of the definitive English-language biographies of Prophet Muhammad) is interviewed by Salon's Michael Schulson about her new book, Fields of Blood, and chimes in on a host of issues related to the perception (or misperception) that religion is a catalyst for violence as opposed to violence being a byproduct of a variety of interconnected factors. Here she is on the anti-Muslim rhetoric that's becoming increasingly common of late on the left, catapulted by folks like Bill Maher and Sam Harris:

Nostalgia Theater: Ripley's Believe It Or Not

Ripley's Believe It or Not began its life in 1919 as a newspaper feature collecting oddities and bizarre bits of arcana from around the world and throughout history. As "curated" by cartoonist Robert Ripley, the Believe It or Not brand proved so popular that it eventually expanded into books, radio, films, and eventually TV. The first such television venture premiered on NBC in 1949, and was hosted by Ripley himself for its first thirteen eps (before he succumbed to a heart attack). While that show folded after its second year, Believe It or Not came back to television in the 1980s for the version that I'm certain most of my readers are familiar with. Here, check out the intro:

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Hasan Minhaj's Daily Show Debut

Last night my friend Hasan Minhaj made his debut as a correspondent on The Daily Show, and he's off to a great start! Big props to Hasan for scaling the current Everest of comedy, joining the ranks of such illustrious TDS alums as Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert, Rob Corddry, Ed Helms, John Oliver, and so many more. Upwards and onwards!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Mikaela Hoover Talks Guardians of the Galaxy And More!

In the few short years she's been on the Hollywood scene, Washington native Mikaela Hoover has racked up an impressive array of appearances in such high profile fare as How I Met Your Mother, Anger Management, Two and a Half Men, and more, but it' s safe bet that her biggest credit to date is in the smash hit Guardians of the Galaxy, the year's number one film at the domestic box office (with good reason, if you read my review).

I had a chance to talk to the actress recently about her turn as Glenn Close's assistant in the Marvel Studios pic, and she was happy to share stories of her time on the set, including what it was like working so close to Close, and her reaction when she first heard the news that friend James Gunn had gotten the gig to direct the high profile film. In addition, she also talked up her latest project, the quirky webseries Zombie Basement. Read on for some of the highlights from our chat:

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Nostalgia Theater: Remembering the Original Battlestar Galactica

(L-R) Richard Hatch, Lorne Greene, Dirk Benedict
With Glen Larson's passing yesterday, it seemed an appropriate enough time to fire up the Nostalgia Theater time machine and look back at one of his most cherished (especially to himself) creations, the original Battlestar Galactica. Launching on ABC in fall of 1978, the much-ballyhooed series from Universal was one of the most expensive ever made until that time, and it was also the earliest and most prominent of a whole host of attempts by rival studios to capitalize on the out-of-nowhere success of the original Star Wars (eventually Uni was sued by 20th Century Fox for its troubles).

Here, watch the intro theme, with "saga sell" narration by Patrick Macnee:

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Glen A. Larson, RIP

Veteran writer-producer Glen A. Larson has passed away at age 77, following a battle with cancer. Over the course of five decades in the TV industry, his output has provided a reliable well to pull from whenever I was grasping for a Nostalgia Theater. Buck Rogers. The Fall Guy. Magnum. Knight Rider. Some of it was good, a lot of it wasn't. But if you were watching TV in the '70s, '80s, and '90s, it's a fair bet you came across a Larson product at some point, and it's also a fair bet that it's stayed in the part of your frontal lobe where you store your most pleasant memories.

I certainly gave him my fair share of ribbing over the years (and seriously, can you blame me?), but it was always coming from a place of great fondness. With the television zeitgeist taking a pretty sharp turn away from the kind of safe, comfort food concoctions Larson tended to specialize in (exemplified by the sharp contrast between his original Battlestar Galactica and the rebooted 2003 version), it's easy to see why his output dwindled to nary a trickle by the end, but the sheer volume of memorable (and memorably terrible) television that bears his name ensures that his place in the annals of pop culture has been cemented.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Zaki's Review: Rosewater

For his feature directing debut, Rosewater, longtime Daily Show host and "most trusted newsman in America" Jon Stewart made the somewhat counter-intuitive decision to sidestep the comedy genre entirely. Instead, he chose to tell the true-life story of Newsweek reporter Maziar Bahari, who spent 118 days in an Iranian prison following that country's tumultuous 2009 elections, which saw accusations of Florida 2000-esque shenanigans following the electoral victory of Mahmoud Ahmedinajad (with the Ayatollah essentially filling the king-maker role the Supreme Court played here).

Continue reading at AltMuslim...

INTERVIEW: Jon Stewart & Maziar Bahari on Rosewater

For fifteen years, Jon Stewart has been "America's Most Trusted Newsman" as host of Comedy Central's The Daily Show, even as he'd be the first to tell you he's not an actual newsman. When it came time to branch out from his Daily Show desk two summers ago Stewart instead chose to get behind the camera, writing and directing Rosewater, the screen adaptation of journalist Maziar Bahari's harrowing memoir Then They Came for Me, chronicling his 118 days in an Iranian prison in 2009

That prison stay was at least tangentially tied to an appearance Bahari made on The Daily Show , the video of which was used as evidence against Bahari as "proof" he was a spy. Given that connection, I wondered how responsible Stewart felt for what Bahari went through, and when the two came to San Francisco to talk up the film, that was what I led with. Read on for the answer, as well as more highlights from our roundtable conversation:

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Diffused Congruence: Our Lunch With Dean Obeidallah

We start off episode thirteen with audio from Zaki's roundtable interview with Daily Show host Jon Stewart on his feature directing debut, the based-on-true-events Iranian prison drama Rosewater. After that, listen to Parvez and Zaki's lunchtime conversation with comedian and political commentator Dean Obeidallah as we cover a whole host of topics, including his time at Saturday Night Live, what drew him to comedy, and the portrayal of Muslims in media post-9/11. You can download or stream the show below, or listen at iTunes (don't forget to leave us a review!) and Stitcher Radio. As always, feel free to send any comments or questions our way at or via our Facebook page!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Go Read It!

Yesterday I posted an article fondly looking back at the '60s Batman TV series on the occasion of its long-awaited home video release. Check it out over at HuffPo.

The MovieFilm Podcast: Episode 58

After a weeklong break, the boys are back, and with plenty to discuss! First up, Brian shares his thoughts on seeing Steven Spielberg's 1941 for the first time, and after that I weigh in on the 1966 Batman TV series getting a high-definition blu-ray release. From there, listen to a snippet from my sit-down with Daily Show host Jon Stewart on his new directorial effort, Rosewater, and talk some of the latest headlines out of Hollywood, including Marvel's big "Phase 3" plans and the title for the much-anticipated Star Wars: Episode VII. Then it's onto the main event for this ep, as we share our takes on the new Michael Keaton starrer Birdman, and then dive deep into Christopher Nolan's epic new film Interstellar, starring Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway, and discuss why it may be a 2014 favorite for both of them. Listen to it all below! 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, November 09, 2014

Nostalgia Theater: Alien Nation -- A Buddy Cop Show With a Sci-Fi Twist

Gary Graham (L) and Eric Pierpoint (R)
The very best kind of science fiction works by using a fantastical palette to tell stories aimed at illuminating the human condition. On television, that's why The Twilight Zone worked. That's also why the original Star Trek worked so well. I'm pretty sure Alien Nation arrived with a similar set of goals in mind, and while it didn't quite achieve the same lasting degree of longevity as those hallowed brands, I think it managed the feat pretty well, all things considered. Of course, before it ended up on TV, Alien Nation (ah, I love a good punny title) first debuted as a theatrical feature in 1988, directed by Graham Baker and released by Fox. Check out the trailer:

Friday, November 07, 2014

SCOTUS Gets Second Bite at Obamacare?

In a move that's come as a surprise to many, this morning the Supreme Court agreed to hear another challenge to the Affordable Care Act. While we all assumed the Court had issued its final word on the law, the lodestone of President Obama's legacy, with a 2012 decision that left it largely intact by preserving the individual mandate, this new challenge takes aim at the federal subsidies allowing those with low incomes to purchase insurances from federal exchanges. Call me cynical, but I find it at least a little bit suspect that the SCOTUS agrees to this challenge mere days after a midterm election rout that virtually ensures no legislative fixes for the law anytime soon. Like I said. Suspect. Regardless, for a pretty solid overview of what's at issue -- and what's at stake -- read this piece at Vox by Adrianna McIntyre.

Episodic Awakening

I posted this on Facebook yesterday, but just for the sake of posterity, here it is as well. The title for the upcoming Star Wars: Episode VII was announced via Twitter by Disney yesterday upon completion of principle photography. Behold: The Force Awakens. I've gotten a few messages since yesterday asking what I think, and I can't say I really have any strong feelings either way. I'm not blown away, but I'm sure it'll grown on me like even the clunkiest episode titles (Attack of the Clones) eventually did (even though the movie itself never did, in that case). The actual bar this new flick needs to clear with me is that it be good, and hey, at least C-3PO says it will be. So that's nice.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

How Batman Finally Hit Home Vid

Just over two years ago, I wrote a Nostalgia Theater post fondly reminiscing about the 1960s Batman TV series, starring Adam West and Burt Ward. At the close of that piece, I mentioned the legal standoff that had prevented the show from coming to home video, a standoff that wasn't in danger of de-escalating anytime soon. Well, next week the day so many fans have hoped for is finally dawning, with the official, honest-to-goodness release of Batman in beautiful HD. While I was ecstatic when this news first broke earlier this year, I was also more than a little curious how the parties involved managed to cut through the Gordian tangle of legalese that had kept the Batmobile on blocks until now. Well, Jake Rossen at Wired has an in-depth article that looks at the multi-decade journey through the world of Hollywood contracts that got us to this point. Click here to read it.

Ten Years on the Corner!

In all the workaday business of being a grownup, I forgot to note an anniversary of note yesterday, as I hit the ten year mark of maintaining and running this site. On November 4, 2004, my general dissatisfaction with George W. Bush getting re-elected prompted me to start Zaki's Corner, just so that I'd have my little piece of Internet real estate to vent my spleen about issues various and sundry, political and otherwise. Of course, there have been several more elections since then, some with preferred outcomes, some not so much, and I'm not gonna lie, I look back at some of those earlier political pieces where I was railing against the Bush administration, and I do cringe a little bit.

Not because I disagree with the sentiment, mind you, but because of the way many of those sentiments are expressed. I guess that's only natural when move from your mid-20s to your mid-30s, and are essentially keeping a semi-daily catalogue of that process. It's also interesting to see the issues that seemed so important to me back then which have floated off my radar, and the things that are currently on my front burner that I didn't spend much time on at all in the early goings. 

Regardless, being able to write here, to share time with you all, has been this amazing vehicle for both personal and professional growth in ways I never would have conceived of when I first started this whole operation. The Huffington Post happened because of this. Geek Wisdom happened because of this. The MovieFilm Podcast. Diffused Congruence. Real, lasting friendships have happened because of this. None of that is about me, mind you. It's about the loyal readers who've been with me since the beginning and who've jumped on since. Thanks to all of you for being with me on this trek. It's been ten years, but I don't have any intention of going anywhere just yet.

Monday, November 03, 2014

Shadow Government

Another winner from John Oliver, as he takes an extended, hilarious look at what's really at stake in the upcoming election this Tuesday. While all eyes are focused on which way the Senate will fall, there are thousands of uncontested races playing out across the country at the local level, where no one is really paying attention, but where a whole lot more is happening in terms of problematic legislation actually becoming law. As Oliver ably sums up at the end, it's hard to be angry with people whose names we don't know, but maybe we'll start paying more attention after watching this:

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Nostalgia Theater: One of the All-Time Greats

I woke up this morning with the unexplainable urge to binge-watch Looney Tunes cartoons while munching on a Hershey's bar. Well, not that unexplainable, as I happened to I re-discover the following commercial last night while spelunking through the cavernous recesses of YouTube (one of the joys of being hyper-caffeinated late Saturday night while the kids and the wife are asleep). I used to love this spot when I was a kid, watching Saturday AM cartoons in the early '90s (which is when it got heavy rotation), and I'm sure those of you of a similar vintage will feel those neurons a-firing once you click "play." Watch this:

One Year Ago in Nostalgia Theater: The Secret Force of Pole Position

Two Years Ago in Nostalgia Theater: James Bond Jr. Will Not Return