Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Cinema Year That Was: Zaki's Flick Picks 2016

Read on to see my personal picks for my favorite cinematic experiences for the calendar year that's now closing. There were some very strong offerings this year, and there are plenty of flicks that just missed the cut, but here's what I ended up putting in my top ten:

2016: The Year in Interviews

As in previous years, 2016 offered me some pretty terrific opportunity to chat with some very interesting folks about their latest projects. For your ease, I've compiled them into a list below. Check them out after the jump!

Russia Grouse

While it's sure looking like Russia was behind the data hack that at least played some part in throwing the election to Donald Trump, Matt Taibbi says, "Not so fast..."

Pretty Much.

Stuck in the Zone

Friday, December 30, 2016

2016: The Year in Reviews

I have my "top ten" for the year on track for tomorrow, but in the meantime here's an overview of all the movies I did full reviews during calendar year 2016, with a little blurb from each. This was a big year for me, as I reviewed more flicks than ever before. (This doesn't include retro or archival reviews, of which there were also a few.) Catch them all after the jump!

Nostalgia Theater Podcast: Thirty Years of Stand By Me!

For the final Nostalgia Theater show of 2016, I'm joined by standup comedian (and avowed Corey Feldman fan) Zahra Noorbakhsh, host of the hilarious #GoodMuslimBadMuslim Podcast for a fun and freewheeling conversation celebrating the thirty year anniversary of the classic coming-of-age tale Stand By Me, directed by Rob Reiner and based on a novella by Stephen King. The film stars Wil Wheaton, Feldman, Jerry O'Connell, and the late River Phoenix, and in addition to being a formative experience for us both many years ago, it also ended up sparking a fascinating discussion right now about friendship, parenting, and the passage of time. There's lots of insights and lots of laughs to be had as we close out the year, and you can listen to it at the embed below, or subscribe at iTunesStitcher RadioTuneIn Radio, or Google Play (and remember to leave a review!). As always, send all questions or comments our way via, and don't forget to hit "like" on our Facebook page.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Why So Serious?

A tweetstorm from me:


Sunday, December 25, 2016

Nostalgia Theater Extra: Year in Review 2016

With the year winding down, it's time once again to look back at this year's crop of Nostalgia Theater posts to see which ones rose to the top and were the most popular:

Nostalgia Theater: Christmas With Atari!

It's the most wonderful time of the year! And my vain attempts to procure a Nintendo Classic this year have drawn my mind back to the days of being a kid in the '80s, and feeling my mouth water with all the Christmastime commercials for all the latest video game products...meaning Atari. It's easy to forget now in the age of XBox and whatever new console Nintendo is promoting, but there was a time when having an Atari 2600 was it. The promised land. You'd be the envy of everyone on your block, even when the system had a roster of games that was pretty embarrassing even back then. Ah, simpler times. Anyway, in honor of the day, here's a collection of just some of those TV spots...

Friday, December 23, 2016

The Podcast: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

One of the things I'm loving about this new age of semi-permanent Star Wars releases coming out is all the great podcast conversations I get to be a part of as a result! Obviously there was my own MovieFilm episode with Brian last Sunday, plus Diffused Congruence with Parvez and Omer, but that's not all! Following our deep dive into all things Star Wars a few weeks ago, I was honored to once again join my friend Rick Shew and his panel of fellow panelists at the Batman-on-Film Podcast earlier this week for a fun and spoiler-filled conversation about Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Click the embed below to play it, or download at iTunes!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The MovieFilm Podcast: Passengers Problems + Damien Chazelle Talks La La Land

In a first for us, it's two episodes in one week for the MovieFilm Podcast! After dissecting Rogue One: A Star Wars Story last time, we have thoughts on Hacksaw Ridge, SilenceThe Founder, and more, and Zaki goes into the ethical issues of new sci-fi romance Passengers, starring Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence. In addition, hear an interview with director Damien Chazelle and composer Justin Hurwitz about their charming musical La La Land, in theaters now.

After that, it's a rundown of trailers: The Mummy! Spider-Man: Homecoming! Fate of the Furious! Blade Runner 2049Transformers: The Last Knight! The Emojie Movie? All that, plus some headlines and other Star Wars news! It's a packed episode to close out 2016, and you can hear it all all via the embed below, or at iTunes or Stitcher or Google Play. As always, please hit "like" on our Facebook page, and send any questions or comments to

Monday, December 19, 2016


Diffused Congruence Podcast: Talking Star Wars With Omer Mozaffar

As we wrap up 2016 at Diffused Congruence, we've once again decided to end the year on a less serious note, and are joined by lecturer and film critic Omer Mozaffar for what's becoming an annual tradition as we have a conversation about Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. The latest visit to the galaxy far, far away gave us old school Star Wars fans a lot to chew on, from an entertainment, political, and even spiritual perspective, and we spend the hour going deep and wide into this new entry in the storied franchise. To that end, we've invited. Listen to it 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 18, 2016

The MovieFilm Podcast: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story!

This week's release of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story means the Force is back in force! To celebrate the occasion, the boys go rogue and dispense with traditional format in favor of a full-on, Star Wars-centric discussion for the full ninety minutes! Listen in as we give our takes on the latest entry of the storied Star Wars franchise, directed by Gareth Edwards and starring Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, and the voice of James Earl Jones as Darth Vader! We unpack the plot, dissecting the details, opining on the music, picking out the Easter eggs, and just generally giving an unvarnished, spoiler-filled take on what we loved, what we were just okay on, and where we'd like to see things going next as the universe of Star Wars spin-offs continue to expand. It's a deep dive into that very special galaxy far, far away, and you can listen to it all via the embed below, or via iTunes or Stitcher or TuneIn Radio (and make sure to write us a review or leave a star rating!). Like always, you can drop us a line at, or at our our Facebook page to tell us how we're doing!

Nostalgia Theater: Yo Yogi! Gets Painfully Hip

Continuing our journey through Hanna-Barbera's periodic attempts at injecting new life into their hoary animated properties by de-aging them, here's Yo Yogi!, which put Yogi Bear down the path that had previously been trod by The Flintsone Kids and A Pup Named Scooby-Doo. This one arrived at the tail end of that trend, and as you can tell, it fully embodied the particular late-'80s/early-'90s milieu it emerged from. Here's the intro:

Friday, December 16, 2016

Geekly Podcast: 2016 Best of TV & FILM Special

Had a great time hanging out with Melvin Elliot for the latest episode of his Geekly Podcast! We chatted about some of his favorite movies and TV shows of 2016, and I chimed in where appropriate with some perspectives on his choices. This was a lot of fun for me, and I think you'll enjoy listening to it as well. Check it out at the embed below:

Geekly Podcast - 2016 Best of TV & FILM Special

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The MovieFilm Commentary Track: Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back

Last year at around this time we did a commentary talking through the original 1977 Star Wars (a.k.a. A New Hope), and with this week's impending release of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (read my review here), we thought it was a perfect opportunity to fire up yet another commentary track, this time talking through arguably the greatest Star Wars of all time, 1980's The Empire Strikes Back. Whether you queue up your blu-ray and watch along with us, or just listen to the track separately while you drive or exercise, we think you'll find lots to enjoy here, including behind-the-scenes trivia, observations on story points, and our own personal histories with one of our favorite movies of all-time. Listen below or via iTunes or Stitcher or TuneIn Radio (and make sure to write us a review!). Drop us a line at, or at our Facebook page to tell us how we're doing!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Zaki's Review: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Click here to read my review of Star Wars: The Force Awakens
“It is a period of civil war. Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire. During the battle, Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire’s ultimate weapon, the DEATH STAR, an armored space station with enough power to destroy an entire planet.” 
Those words unfold via the iconic opening crawl that comes at the very top of 1977’s Star Wars (it’s been retroactively retitled Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, but to me it’ll always be just Star Wars). And the tantalizing promise of adventure those words offer was powerful enough to capture not only the imagination of that first generation to witness them, but every generation since; their appeal has spanned nearly four decades, seven movies, and mountains of licensed merchandise.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Nostalgia Theater: The Flintstone Kids Go Back to Bedrock

Last week I talked about A Pup Named Scooby Doo, which took the beloved Mystery, Inc. characters and de-aged them. Well, staying in that vein, I thought I'd look at another Hanna-Barbera series that built its premise on "youth-ified" versions of beloved animated mainstays: The Flintstone Kids. Now, The Flintstones first debuted as a primetime animated series in 1960, and by the mid-to-late '80s, they'd become part of the cultural wallpaper. Between Flintstones vitamins, Pebbles cereals, and omnipresent syndicated reruns of the original show and the ten (!!) subsequent spin-offs, everyone knew Fred, Barney, et al.

Friday, December 09, 2016

John Glenn, RIP

Yesterday we got word that astronaut John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth, and a real life living legend if ever there was on, had passed away at the age of 95. Later that afternoon I was shuffling through Frasier episodes on Netflix and this episode randomly came up. I had completely forgotten that Mr. Glenn had put in a very funny appearance during the show's 2000-2001 season, but the serendipity was just too much not to share this clip with you. Godspeed, Mr. Glenn. Hail, and farewell.

Circle of Comic Book Movie Life

The Perfect Spider-Man Movie?

Sure looks like it might be.

As you know, Spider-Man made his entree into the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe via last summer's Captain America: Civil War, but that was just the opening act for the character-sharing arrangement between Marvel Studios (home of the Avengers) and Sony (home of cinematic Spidey). Well, the second part of that arrangement comes via next summer's Spider-Man: Homecoming, which gives the spotlight to the Tom Holland-led reboot of the character, with Robert Downey's Tony Stark along for the ride to make sure it's crystal clear to everyone that, "Hey, seriously! This one really matters! And look! Iron Man!" I like what I see of the Jon Watts directed Homecoming so far, so check it out below. Domestic trailer first, and international one after the jump.

Those Damn, Dirty Apes are Back!

Check out our first trailer for next summer's War for the Planet of the Apes, the third film in Fox's very successful Apes reboot that began with 2011's Rise of the Planet of the Apes. With director Matt Reeves back in the big chair after taking the 2014 sequel Dawn of the Planet of the Apes to new commercial heights, there's a lot to be optimistic about here. For this installment, we once again follow chimp leader Caesar (Andy Serkis) as he navigates the complexities of the burgeoning monkey planet, and human beings (led by a typically nutbar Woody Harrelson) make what may end up being their last stand. Check it out below:

Diffused Congruence Podcast: Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir

For our latest episode we take a break from the headlines to present the uplifting story of Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir, her all-star collegiate basketball career and pioneering efforts for Muslim women athletes to play ball professionally while observing the Hijab. Join us as she discusses her love and dedication to basketball, her overall atheltic career, and the exciting new projects she's currently involved with. As always, you can check out the show at the embed below or at this link. As always, send any questions or comments to, or at our Facebook page.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

The Podcast: A Star Wars Conversation

That's not all from the guys! I also joined Rick and the panel for an extended and expansive Star Wars conversation this past weekend as we get psyched for the impending release of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story next week. We talk about our favorite and least favorite Star Wars entries, as well as telling our own personal stories of how we fell in love with the franchise. Click the embed below to play it, or download at iTunes!

Listen to "The BATMAN-ON-FILM.COM Podcast - Vol. 2/Ep. 51 - "A STAR WARS Conversation" #1" on Spreaker.

The Podcast: Talking Lego Batman, Justice League, & More!

Click "play" on the embed below to hear my guest shot this past weekend on the Podcast, as I joined hosts Bill "Jett" Ramey and Rick Shew, as well as panelists Justin Kowalsky and Ryan Hoss for a spirited and fun conversation about the upcoming Lego Batman movie, Justice League, Ben Affleck's solo The Batman film, and many more things DC Comics. Click here to download at iTunes.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Everybody Hates Chris

Christie hits historic low in latest approval poll
It's a pretty steep drop from being the GOP's prophesied savior four years ago to whatever this is. But hey, he's always got a gig if Trump needs anyone to run and get McDonald's. So, y'know, that's nice.

Recommended Reading

With the Republicans' running the electoral tables one month ago, the opportunity to follow on their long-in-the-pipeline promise to uproot the Affordable Care Act is finally within reach. Of course, there's a difference between campaigning and legislating. The real world consequences of doing away with the ACA just like that means 20 million people benefiting from the law potentially losing their coverage. Clearly this is something that the anti-Obamacare cadre in congress needs to think through beyond bumper sticker slogans. Steve Benen at MSNBC lays out the promises they've made, and the problems ahead:
...while I certainly wish Republicans the best of luck in their endeavor, I’m afraid they’ll soon discover what should be obvious: there is no way to keep these promises. If they repeal the Affordable Care Act, and look for a conservative alternative plan that meets all of the tenets Paul Ryan has now presented, they will fail. If such a policy could exist, GOP officials would’ve come up with it a long time ago.
Read the rest from Benen here.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Nostalgia Theater: A Pup Named Scooby Doo Goes Back in Time

Scooby-Doo has been of the most dependable brands for Hanna-Barbera/Warner Bros. since its debut in 1969, surviving any number of permutations and variations throughout the years. One such refresh of the property happened in fall of 1988, coming on the heels of a general trend in animation aimed at taking beloved characters and "youth-ifying" them. This first reared its head a few years earlier with Muppet Babies and would continue with Hanna-Barbera's own The Flintone Kids, and would finally hit dogtown with A Pup Named Scooby-Doo, a prequel (of sorts) depicting the earliest days of those do-gooder detectives of "Mystery, Inc.":

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The MovieFilm Podcast: Arrival, Moana, Fantastic Beasts, and More!

After a brief layover, the MovieFilm boys are back to unpack a whole raft of new releases! Listen in as Brian and Zaki discuss Moana, Miss Sloane, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and more! Plus, a spoiler-filled conversation about the thought-provokig new sci-fi spectacle Arrival. But that's not all! There's also plenty of headlines to cover, including the death of Brady Bunch mom Florence Henderson, plans for a Nintendo theme park, and more Avatar sequels on the way -- whether we want them or not. There's also plenty of Star Wars news to discuss as we head toward the arrival of Rogue One in two short weeks! Lot of fun to be had in the latest episode, and you can hear it all all via the embed below, or at iTunes or Stitcher or Google Play. As always, please hit "like" on our Facebook page, and send any questions or comments to

Sunday, November 27, 2016

"Unique and Powerful Historical Figure"

Matt Taibbi contrasts the outgoing president with the incoming one, and is confident that the passage of time and the contrasts of history will ultimately be kind to President Obama. Says he:
Trump was carried into the White House by an electorate that outlets like the Harvard Business Review tell us was obsessed with the concept of "manly dignity," but it's Obama who has been the great model for young men of his generation. And ten years from now, when the millions of young people who grew up during his presidency start to enter the workforce and become leaders and parents, we'll see more clearly what he meant to this country.
Read the rest from Taibbi here.

Nostalgia Theater: The New Odd Couple Goes Back to Formula

Veteran actor Ron Glass passed away yesterday at age 71, and while many are understandably remembering his Barney Miller and Firefly stints, my thoughts turned to his time on The New Odd Couple in 1982. By that time, the legendary Neil Simon play, about fusspot photographer Felix Unger and slovenly sportswriter Oscar Madison, had already been brought to the screen with a successful 1968 feature film starring Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, and a successful 1970-'75 ABC TV version starring Tony Randall and Jack Klugman. So, what made this version new? Hmm, I have no idea...

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Nostalgia Theater Podcast: Patrick Duffy's Dallas and Man From Atlantis Memories

I struck oil on the latest Nostalgia Theater show, as TV icon Patrick Duffy joins me for the hour to discuss his long career, including his start on NBC's Man From Atlantis, and his career-defining role as "good" son Bobby Ewing on CBS' long-running primetime soap Dallas. Listen as Patrick talks about how he coped with the sudden onrush of fame from the series, his lifetime friendship with J.R. Ewing himself, the late, great Larry Hagman (who passed away exactly four years ago today), and exactly what they were thinking when they put Bobby Ewing in a shower and let an entire season of Dallas continuity go down the drain.

He also discusses the 2012 Dallas revival, and his feelings when he learned it had been canceled after a too-short three season run. It's a fascinating hour with a fascinating person, and I have a feeling you'll enjoy listening to it just as much as I enjoyed being a part of it. Check out the episode via the embed below, or subscribe at iTunesStitcher RadioTuneIn Radio, or Google Play (and remember to leave a review!). As always, send all questions or comments our way via, and don't forget to hit "like" on our Facebook page.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Zaki's Review: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

When it comes to the mega-popular Harry Potter franchise, my personal context is having dozed through parts of the first two movies, 2001's The Sorcerer's Stone and 2002's The Chamber of Secrets, and that's it. It's not that I didn't enjoy them, but having missed them during their initial releases and not having read any of the books, the most immediate sensation I had was of feeling like I really wasn't the primary audience for the series. (I've been assured, by the way, that they take a sharp qualitative uptick with the third film, and I promise, I'll get there eventually.)

Anyway, the preceding is simply my way of couching whatever I have to say about Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the latest attempt to squeeze blood from -- er, that is to say, expand the universe that author J.K. Rowling first brought to life nearly twenty years ago. And borrowing a page from previous geek-friendly movie series like Star Wars and Lord of the Rings that found the best way to carry the brand forward by going backwards, so too does this latest entry into the "Wizarding World" go the prequel route, with a story set some seven decades before young Mr. Potter first donned his striped scarf and enrolled in Hogwarts.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Random Thought

Nostalgia Theater: Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures!

For this week's entry I look back at the late '80s return of one of animation's most iconic characters in an incarnation that initially soared creatively before flying headfirst into an impassable wall of paranoia and stupidity. That's right, it's finally time for Nostalgia Theater to tackle Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures,  the brainchild of legendary animator Ralph Bakshi, which aired as part of CBS' Saturday morning lineup from September of '87 to October the following year.

Mighty Mouse began his life in a series of theatrical shorts in the 1940s, produced by Terrytoons (where Bakshi actually got his start in animation), but the character didn't truly come into his own until the shorts began airing in TV syndication from the '50s through the '60s (he was also briefly revived by Filmation in the late '70s). However, the '80s take foregrounded the gonzo sensibilities of Bakshi and his team (including Ren & Stimpy creator John Kricfalusi). Here's the intro:

Friday, November 18, 2016

HIGHLY Recommended Reading

From David Remnick at The New Yorker comes an absolute must-read piece examining the lead-up to and aftermath of last week's election from the perspective of the man who's job was being vied for, President Obama.

Offering a remarkably candid and insightful window into the now-lame duck's state-of-mind, you'll welcome his thoughts, but I guarantee you'll also find yourself missing him already as you read it. Here's one highlight from many, as Remnick probes the prez on his Oval Office meeting with the President-elect:
"...when I asked Obama how things had really gone [with Trump], he smiled thinly and said, 'I think I can’t characterize it without...' Then he stopped himself and said that he would tell me, 'at some point over a beer—off the record.'"
Oh, to be seated at the bar when that conversation happens. Anyway, check out the rest here. And seriously, read all of it.


"'Nobody Asked Donald Trump What Makes America Great"

Profound thoughts from someone whose presence was deeply missed this election:

Sorkin Speaks!

Meant to post this one earlier, but better late than never. In the aftermath of last week's election, as it became clear that the nightmare scenario had indeed come to pass, legendary screenwriter (and one of my personal heroes) Aaron Sorkin penned a letter to his young daughter and his former wife, apologizing for what his country had just done. Here's a portion of that note:
So what do we do? 
First of all, we remember that we’re not alone. A hundred million people in America and a billion more around the world feel exactly the same way we do.  
Second, we get out of bed. The Trumpsters want to see people like us (Jewish, “coastal elites,” educated, socially progressive, Hollywood…) sobbing and wailing and talking about moving to Canada. I won’t give them that and neither will you. Here’s what we’ll do…  
…we’ll fucking fight. (Roxy, there’s a time for this kind of language and it’s now.) We’re not powerless and we’re not voiceless. We don’t have majorities in the House or Senate but we do have representatives there. It’s also good to remember that most members of Trump’s own party feel exactly the same way about him that we do. We make sure that the people we sent to Washington—including Kamala Harris—take our strength with them and never take a day off.
So, echoing something I said the morning of November 9, in the best West Wing tradition: "What's next?"

(Read the rest here.)

Random Thought

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Kong is King!

I thought I was pretty much done with ever needing to see another version of the King Kong story onscreen after Peter Jackson's epic-length redo in 2005 (which I enjoyed at the time, but have felt absolutely zero desire to revisit). But never let it be said that Hollywood stays away from an idea that works (or has worked), and so the big ape is headed back to the big screen yet again, this time as part of Warner Bros./Legendary's "giant monsters shared universe" that began with 2014's Godzilla.

And while we got our first look at next March's Kong: Skull Island via a Comicon teaser last summer, I think this new full trailer gives us the tone and scope of what they're going for. Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts, the pic stars Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, and John C. Reilly (all of whom are current or future occupants of another cinematic universe, by the way), and certainly looks like a promising start to something based on the vid below:


The Muslim Identity

No, no, that's not the title of a newly unearthed Robert Ludlum novel, it's the topic of a presentation I was asked to give at Menlo College (although, after hearing the phrase, I kind of wanna write that book now!). Now, let me stipulate right upfront that I'm not even remotely equipped to talk about THE Muslim Identity, given how diverse and expansive that phrase is.

That said, I do feel pretty good about discussing MY Muslim Identity, which is how I tackled the talk, making it more of a Q&A back-and-forth with the (bigger than I expected!) crowd and riffing on how the Chuck Norris movie The Delta Force offends me as both a Muslim and a film critic, what the election of Donald Trump might signal for the American Muslim population, and ultimately, why I really, really love watching The Godfather.

While there was no official recording, I did set up my phone's recorder for the bulk of it and uploaded it to YouTube. If you're interested, you can check it out below:

Monday, November 14, 2016

Autocratic Asphyxiation

Whatever we're in for with the next administration, it sure feels like we're headed toward some form of autocracy. And while we won't know for sure for a little while, there are some telltale signs of what's happening that writer Masha Gessen lays out for us:
Trump will be only the fourth candidate in history and the second in more than a century to win the presidency after losing the popular vote. He is also probably the first candidate in history to win the presidency despite having been shown repeatedly by the national media to be a chronic liar, sexual predator, serial tax-avoider, and race-baiter who has attracted the likes of the Ku Klux Klan. Most important, Trump is the first candidate in memory who ran not for president but for autocrat—and won.
Now, Gessen knows from autocrats, having observed Vladimir Putin firsthand, so the list she enumerates of what to look for in the dawn of the Donald is especially necessary right now. I fully expect her useful and important article to become the baseline in assessing the coming weeks and months.

You Maniacs!

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Nostalgia Theater: Superman's Sage Speech

Obviously with this past week's election results, a lot of our conception of people's basic decency kind of took a beating. And while I've taken a "Let's get to work" approach to the bad news that's already come (and is sure to continue in the near-term), it definitely stings when I stop and think about it, and realize how much progress we still have to make, and how tenuous the progress we have made actually is. But as always, the struggle continues, and whenever I feel worn down by it all, I think of this speech by Christopher Reeve at the tail-end of 1987's Superman IV: The Quest for Peace. Now, the movie itself is garbage, but this stirring moment from my definitive screen Superman is enought to make you feel like you can fly:

Random Thought

Deep Cut

Friday, November 11, 2016

Diffused Congruence: Special Post-Election 2016 Wrap-Up

This episode is as much - if not more - for us as it is for the listeners! We had to sit down to ruminate, analyze, commiserate, “unpack” and just try and make sense of the Presidential election results. In spite all of the post-election, armchair quarterbacking, and pontificating that’s out there in the ether right now, we hope that you enjoy and benefit from the conversation and the analysis we attempt to offer. As always, you can check out the show at the embed below or at this link. As always, send any questions or comments to, or at our Facebook page.

The Transition Begins...

Thursday, November 10, 2016


Class Dismissed

My fourth grader ran for his school's treasurer this week. He put together a platform, and I even helped him with his speech.

I came home last night and asked how he did in the election. He smiled sheepishly and said, "Okay."

"Okay? What do you mean?"

"I didn't win," he responded, still smiling, though a little bit more forced.

I asked if he was disappointed, and after a second he said, "No, because I'm going to try again next year. And I'll keep trying."

And that's the lesson my nine-year-old taught me this week.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Food For Thought

Thoughts on the Election

I'm heartbroken right now. I truly am. Even as the election played out over the past year-and-a-half, even as we walked right up to edge of the abyss yesterday, I remained unswerving and absolutely firm in my conviction that America would pull back from the precipice. That we wouldn't do this to ourselves. But the results are what they are. Donald Trump is our next president, and he'll be entering office with a Republican Senate and a Republican House. So here we are, left to take stock of the new normal in our country.

Twelve years ago I made my very first post on this blog in the aftermath of a presidential election, and now here I sit the morning after another, attempting to sort through the mix of data and opinion that's out there, painting a picture of how what happened last night actually happened. As I come to grips with this reality, I'm angry, I'm scared, and I'm confused. But more than anything I'm sad. And the one thing I keep thinking about is that maybe in some weird way it's my fault. Maybe I didn't do enough.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

I'm Too Old For This S__t.

I have a feeling this is how a lot of us are feeling right about now.


Election Day is here, so time once again for one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite shows, exhorting you to do your civic duty as a citizen of this great land:
"My great-grandfather’s great-grandfather was Dr. Josiah Bartlet, who was the New Hampshire delegate to the second Continental Congress, the one that sat in session in Philadelphia in the summer of 1776, and announced to the world that we were no longer subjects of King George III, but rather a self-governing people. 'We hold these truths to be self-evident,' they said, 'that all men are created equal.' Strange as it may seem, that was the first time in history that anyone had bothered to write that down. Decisions are made by those who show up. Class dismissed." 
- President Bartlet (by way of Aaron Sorkin) in the West Wing episode, "What Kind of Day Has it Been"

Monday, November 07, 2016

The West Generation

I recently finished a re-watch of the entirety of The West Wing (this time with my oldest boy), and following that, we segued right into a sequential viewing of Star Trek: The Next Generation. What struck me after going from one series to the next in rapid succession is how similar they are in their depiction of highly-skilled ensembles of characters working to improve their respective milieus. Competence porn, if you will. This in turn prompted the above observation on Twitter

Anyway, after I posted that on social media, another discussion ensued wherein various participants looked to craft character correlations between the two shows. And as we dove deeper and deeper down that well, it ultimately led my friend John Trumbull to make the similarities and differences that we arrived at between West Wing and TNG the subject of his latest pop culture column over at the Atomic Junk Shop. Check it out at this link (I get cited a few times in there as well)!


John Oliver spent an extended segment on his show last night dismantling one of the banes of my existence: So-called "multi-level marketing" plans, which are glorified pyramid schemes dressed up in nicer clothes, and which I've repeatedly over the last fifteen years or so had friends and family get caught up in while swearing up and down that they aren't, in fact, pyramid schemes (they're totally pyramid schemes). The segment is a half-hour long, so a bit of a commitment, but well worth your time. And afterwords, spread the word and let people know: #ThisIsAPyramidScheme!

Sunday, November 06, 2016

Nostalgia Theater: Denver, the Last Dinosaur Goes Extinct

Here's another one of those shows I feel like I'm the only one who bothered to remember. Denver, the Last Dinosaur is an animated series that aired very briefly during the late '80s -- and I think one of the reasons I'm aware of it is because they happened to show the whole run a year or so later in Saudi Arabia when I was a kid. What I remember most is the theme song describing the main character -- an intelligent dinosaur -- as "my friend -- and a whole lot more." Uh, a whole lot more? The show was a like the result of a focus group session gone horribly wrong. Don't believe me? Here, watch this:

Friday, November 04, 2016

Diffused Congruence: Dr. Jonathan Brown

On our latest episode we are joined by Dr. Jonathan Brown, scholar of Hadith and Islamic Studies, and Professor at Georgetown University. Dr. Brown walks us through his journey to Islam, engages in an illuminating discussion about how Muslims have navigated their fidelity to their tradition through changing times, and explores some of the “controversies” raised by Islam’s detractors. We close out the episode with Dr. Brown sharing his support of the BDS Movement and the reasons for his impassioned critique of the Muslim Learning Initiative (MLI) program. Listen to the show via the embed below, or via iTunes or Stitcher Radio. As always, please hit "like" on our Facebook page, and send any comments or questions to DiffusedCongruence@gmail.

The MovieFilm Podcast: Spellbound by Doctor Strange!

Things get very strange in this episode of the MovieFilm Podcast -- Doctor Strange, that is! Yes, the latest superhero epic from Marvel Studios hit theaters last night, but we're already up with an in-depth, spoiler-filled conversation unpacking the Benedict Cumberbatch blockbuster. What did we think? Is it worth rushing out to see? Listen in to find out! (And read my full review here.) In addition, you can also hear quick takes on the supremely relevant political doc Weiner, and Ron Howard & Tom Hanks' failed franchise pic Inferno, as well as Zaki's interview with writer/director Jeff Nichols and star Joel Edgerton about their new drama Loving (in theaters now). All that, plus plenty of Listener Letters and Headlines, including talk of Dragon Tattoo and Passion of the Christ sequels, and the future of the Star Wars spin-off films. Listen to it all via the embed below, or at iTunes or Stitcher or Google Play. As always, please hit "like" on our Facebook page, and send any questions or comments to

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Watch the Latest Wonder Woman Trailer!

Our first look last summer at WB/DC's upcoming Wonder Woman flick was certainly promising, and today's reveal of the first full trailer is continued cause for optimism. The Patty Jenkins-directed film hits theaters next June, and stars Gal Gadot and Chris Pine. With its World War I-era timeframe, this one is meant primarily to fill in the character's backstory before her present-day escapades in Batman v. Superman and Justice League (coming next November). This is the highest profile superhero movie yet that center on a female hero, and if this is anything to go by, it may well end up being the most successful too.

Out Now with Aaron and Abe Podcast: Inferno

I had the chance once again this past weekend to join my buddies at the Out Now with Aaron and Abe Podcast to discuss Tom Hanks and Ron Howard's latest Robert Langdon franchise entry Inferno. As you know from my review, I mostly enjoyed this one, but at least based on the box office (domestically, anyway), I was in the extreme minority, so this made for a fun chat. I always have a great time hangin' with the guys, and I think you'll enjoy giving it a listen as well via the embed below or here at iTunes.

Zaki's Review: Doctor Strange

In terms of his presence in the Marvel Comics from whence he sprang, Doctor Strange is always one of those characters who worked better for me in small doses rather than as the star of the show. Now, don't get me wrong, while the so-called "Sorcerer Supreme" of the Marvel Universe has been a mainstay of the line since his 1963 introduction (via Stan Lee & Steve Ditko) and he's anchored his own title(s) for big chunks of that span, I'm more familiar with him as the go-to source for exposition or deus ex magicka depending on the storytelling necessities of Spider-Man, the Hulk, or various other costumed characters.

All of this is to say that when the announcement came a few years ago that the good doctor was in line to get the big budget Marvel Studios treatment, I was skeptical that the character could hold up under the scrutiny of having to be the center of the action for two hours and change. Of course, that was before Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man (one of my favorite movies of last year) rewrote the conventional wisdom of what to expect from comic book backbenchers. And now Doctor Strange, the movie, is here (more mid-level player than backbencher), proving that if there are indeed limits to the Marvel approach, we haven't bumped up against them just yet.

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

“Vote Wisely This November 8th”

Those are Jon Stewart's words of warning from this past weekend's "Stand Up For Heroes" event in New York after recounting the one time a few years that he got into a Twitter war with the GOP's future nominee that bordered on anti-Semitism. Have I mentioned lately how much I miss Jon Stewart? I have? Well, I do. Watch the video below, and click here for some other highlights from his set:

Joss Whedon Really Wants You To Vote

And if this latest PSA helmed by the Buffy, the Vampire Slayer creator is anything to go by, most of his ire is directed in one particular direction. Meanwhile, Chris Pine (as douchebag co-worker "Leonard") appears to have had way too much fun filming this.

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Recommended Reading

All the Trump-related noise this election cycle has done a pretty good job of drowning out the equally serious spectacle that's been happening with regards to the Supreme Court since February. Here's Jeff Shesol's rundown at The New Yorker of how past is prologue as far as Republican obstruction and the high court.

The Most Accurate Electoral Map I've Seen

Yep, looks about right. Is it next Wednesday yet?

Monday, October 31, 2016

Recommended Reading

One of the go-to attacks from the right when it comes to Hillary Clinton's e-mails is that it's a scandal on par with Richard Nixon and Watergate. Well, John W. Dean was Nixon's White House Counsel, so he knows a thing or two about the comparison, so I put a fair amount of weight behind his words when he says the Clinton's e-brouhaha doesn't stack up to the scandal that engulfed his former boss. All of it is worth reading, but here's a key takeaway:
None of this is to say that Mrs. Clinton did not make mistakes with her email server. But to compare them to Watergate is more than historical ignorance. It distorts our understanding of what actually constitutes an abuse of power, and raises the risks that we will someday install another leader who is all too happy to misuse historical memory to indulge a dark and nasty nature.
Click here for the rest.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Obamacare Fail: A Closer Look

Here's a piece from Late Night with Seth Meyers this week which does a pretty good job of cutting through some of the hysterics about the Affordable Care Act that have been making the media rounds now that premiums are set to go up in the coming year. I've said before, but these bits from Myers are as close as we're getting to Jon Stewart since the man himself retired. (Well, maybe John Oliver too.)

Recommended Reading

From Gabriel Sherman at New York comes this fascinating, in-depth look into the final days of the Donald Trump campaign as we head up to an election day whose outcome is far from certain even now.

Nostalgia Theater: The Original Dr. Strange!

Marvel Studios' big budget Doctor Strange hits theaters stateside later this week, so for this week's Nostalgia Theater I wanted to look back at the previous try at turning the comic book Sorcerer Supreme into a mainstream hit. That attempt didn't fare quite so well. The time was the late '70s, and after CBS and Universal found quick success with their live-action Incredible Hulk TV series in 1977, they quickly went into the Marvel coffers to see what other superheroes could be translated to the small screen. What they arrived at was Stan Lee & Steve Ditko's creation Dr. Strange:

Friday, October 28, 2016

Zaki's Review: Inferno

When I reviewed The Da Vinci Code ten years ago, I found the feature adaptation of Dan Brown's best-selling novel beset with glacial pacing and a decidedly un-cinematic structure. Despite my many qualms, director Ron Howard and star Tom Hanks (turning in his usual thoroughly reliable performance as Brown's hero, Harvard Professor Robert Langdon), certainly weren't among Da Vinci's problems. When the pair reunited three short years later for follow-up Angels & Demons (based on Brown's first Langdon novel), it seemed to mostly address the pacing problems of the previous installment, and I found it mostly engrossing (albeit mostly forgettable too).

So, two movies in, I was fifty-fifty on this series. And now, after an extended seven-year gap, Hanks and Howard are back once more for Inferno, an adaptation of Brown's 2013 novel of the same name. Featuring a script by David Koepp (going solo after co-writing Angels with Akiva Goldsman), this third entry boasts the usual panoply of ancient mysteries, elaborate puzzles, and beautiful travelogue shots of several European locales, but also gives a greater sense of who Langdon is as a character, filling in his backstory to the extent that we actually feel something for him beyond the normal fondness that Hanks effortlessly engenders.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Nostalgia Theater Podcast: Thirty Years of Labyrinth!

It was thirty years ago that Jareth the Goblin King (David Bowie) first invited young Sarah (Jennifer Connelly) into his magical, mysterious maze in the Jim Henson-directed classic Labyrinth. As I discussed in my retro review last month, the film didn't land with audiences at the time, it's become a beloved, multi-generational cult artifact in the years since, with its mix of dazzling puppetry and compelling performances making it feel as timeless today as when it was first released.

For the latest Nostalgia Theater show, I celebrate this auspicious anniversary with my special guests Terry J. Erdmann & Paula M. Block, authors of the brand-new book Labyrinth: The Ultimate Visual History. Join us for a fun chat as we track the film's origins, secrets of its casting, plans for a sequel, and why there can never be another Goblin King who can ever match the late, great David Bowie. Check it out at the embed below, or subscribe at iTunesStitcher RadioTuneIn Radio, or Google Play (and remember to leave a review!)

As always, send all questions or comments our way via, and don't forget to hit "like" on our Facebook page.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

From The Onion...

Yep, been there.
Reality Of Fatherhood Never Truly Dawned On Man Until He Held Newborn Son’s Hospital Bill 
MISSOULA, MT—Describing how he suddenly found himself overwhelmed by a flood of intense emotions, local man Mike Bentzen told reporters Monday the reality of fatherhood didn’t truly set in for him until the moment he held his newborn son’s hospital bill. “Wow, this is going to totally change my life,” said Bentzen as tears welled up in his eyes, adding that he was left completely speechless by the little bundle of papers and that it would probably take some time before the magnitude of what had just happened fully sank in. “I’ve had friends tell me about their experience, but you just can’t understand what it feels like until you’re looking down at it in your own hands. It’s hard to even put into words. Whatever my world was like before, I just know things are going to be very different from this day forward.” Bentzen reportedly started softly weeping as he sat down with his son’s medical invoice in his lap and began imagining how he would deal with this for the next 18 years.

Taibbi on Trump: Fury and Failure

As you know if you've been reading me for awhile, Matt Taibbi's long-form essays at Rolling Stone are always something I look forward to. And his latest piece looking at the impact of Donald Trump not only on this election but our entire electoral process is a terrific piece of writing, especially as we enter the final stretch of this freakin' thing. Here's just one highlight:
It is true that if you talk to enough Trump supporters, you will eventually find an ex-Democrat or two who'll cop to being disillusioned by the party's turn away from the middle class. "My parents were FDR Democrats," says Tim Kallas of Oak Creek, Wisconsin. "I was born and raised to believe that Democrats were for the workingman." A self-described "child of the MTV generation" who has plenty of liberal friends and rocks a long silver ponytail, Kallas says he became disenchanted with the Democrats sometime during Bill Clinton's second term. He was troubled by the Wiki speeches, and says he never signed up for the globalist program. "If you look at what's going on in Europe with the Brexit vote, it's the same conclusion that voters in England came to," he says. "Why are the problems in Greece, or whatever, my problem?"  
This sounds sensible enough, but it stops computing when you get to the part where the solution to the vast and complex dilemmas facing humanity is Donald Trump, a man who stays up at night tweeting about whether or not Robert Pattinson should take back Kristen Stewart. (He shouldn't, says Trump: "She cheated on him like a dog and will do it again – just watch. He can do much better!") This is a man who can't remember what he did 10 seconds ago, much less decide the fate of the nation-state.
Much more from Taibbi here, and all of it is worth reading.

Behold, My Twitter Glory!

Speaking of Wired, the site also compiled a list of what they deemed the best tweets during the third presidential debate last Wednesday, and wouldn't you know, one of my witticisms made the cut! Does this mean I've arrived? Probably not, but hey, click over anyway!


In an interview with Wired earlier this month, President Obama, leader of the free world and noted geek, waxed on the enduring appeal of the Star Trek franchise, and specifically the original series, on the occasion of its fiftieth anniversary. Said he:
“What made the show, I think, lasting, was it wasn’t actually about technology. It was about values and human relationships, which is why it didn’t matter that the special effects were kind of cheesy and bad. Because it was really talking about a notion of a common humanity, and a confidence in our ability to solve problems.”
Pretty hard to argue with that! Read more here.

Pumpkins Power!

The debate and monologue were both great as well, but this is the sketch I couldn't stop laughing at on this week's Saturday Night Live, hosted by Tom Hanks. Clearly I'm not alone.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Nostalgia Theater: The Trump TV Movie

We're just about two weeks out from the close of an election season that, in addition to seeming absolutely interminable, also feels like something out of a twisted, nightmarish reality show. So, so close to the end, folks. Hang in there. Anyway, I was poking around in the Nostalgia Theater closet to see if I could unearth something suitable to the moment, and boy howdy, look at the garish, gold-encrusted turd that that shook out.

The backstory: back in 2005, as Donald Trump's TV show The Apprentice was at its ratings peak on NBC, rival net ABC decided that they too wanted some of that sweet, sweet Donald Trump action (*shudder*). Without access to the Donald himself, they rolled the dice on a splashy sweeps month TV movie entitled Trump Unauthorized, purporting to tell the soapy, sex-and-booze fueled story of the magnate's rise to fame. Here's a promo:

Thursday, October 20, 2016

My Final Debate Live-Tweets For 2016

Honestly, about an hour before the final debate began last night, I just really, really didn't want to watch. I'm done, man. I just November 9th to be here so we can put this whole thing behind us. But, y'know, in for a penny, in for a pound. Having already clacked out commentary on the two presidentials and sole vice-presidential, I figured it was my civic duty to get my Twitter on for the final debate so I could close out the trilogy. With that said, I think Hillary Clinton pretty much cemented her chances last night. Read on to see my responses as the show progressed:

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The MovieFilm Podcast: The Accountant & Ewan McGregor on American Pastoral

For the latest MovieFilm show, the boys discuss the Ben Affleck starrer The Accountant, as well as some quick takes on HBO's Westworld, and Brian's belated reaction to The Magnificent Seven. In addition, get our thoughts on Fox mainstay The Simpsons hitting 600 episodes, and the new trailers for Powers Ranges and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Also, listen to Zaki's interview with star Ewan McGregor as he discusses his directorial debut, American Pastoral, as well as what it's like to be Obi-Wan Kenobi to a generation of kids who've grown up since the Star Wars prequels were released. Listen to it all via the embed below, or at iTunes or Stitcher or Google Play. As always, please hit "like" on our Facebook page, and send any questions or comments to