Thursday, March 31, 2016

Sad Affleck

I meant to post this here last week, but I figure this one is good enough that a few days late is still fine. Witness Ben Affleck's slow realization of just how terrible the reviews for Batman v. Superman have been. Stuff like this is why the Internet exists, folks.

"Galactically, Deliberately Ignorant"

The description above comes from Kevin Drum at Mother Jones in reference to GOP frontrunner Donald Trump and his grasp of the basic issues of policy and governance that he'll presumably be required to have some awareness of should he actually ascend to the office he's seeking. Click here to read Drum's account of what happened when Trump was tossed a relative softball by an audience member at a CNN town hall Tuesday night. Yikes.

Fallen Icon

If you read my review or listened to our MovieFilm episode on Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, you already know I'm not crazy about the way the Zack Snyder film contorts and twists its portrayal of Superman into a version that doesn't resemble the one that's lasted for decades upon decades. I'd been planning on delving into my unease at this portrayal in greater detail, but this piece by Devin Faraci over at Birth.Movies.Death pretty much conveys my thoughts, and then some. Says he:
What would Superman do? Be a good guy, be polite, be kind. Every time.  
Every time until 2016.
Read the rest here.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Zaki's Very First Review: Rumble in the Bronx

First published: March 22, 1996

Note: Dipping into the archives, I realized that last week marked twenty years since my very first film review was published, in my high school paper The North Current. Given how old this is, I don't make any apologies for how it reads or what I say, but yeah, I do kind of cringe a little. But regardless, in the interests of disclosure, feel free to read on.

"Where has this guy been?" I found myself wondering that question countless times throughout Rumble in the Bronx, starring Hong Kong martial arts sensation Jackie Chan.

I know that outside the U.S., especially in Asia, Chan is a legend whose popularity rivals that of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone. What I'm thinking is, "Why has it taken this long for Chan to hit it big in the land of opportunity?"

The MovieFilm Podcast: The Batman v. Superman Episode!

Justice dawned at the box office to the tune of record-breaking $167 million opening weekend, but the questions remains: Is Batman v. Superman a good movie? Is Ben Affleck the best Batman we've ever seen? Will Henry Cavill's Superman ever manage to crack a smile? Brian and Zaki get into it it all with an extended conversation that discusses the pluses and minuses of the Zack Snyder-directed superhero epic's convoluted plot, what we thought of the various performances (Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor), and whether the pieces it sets up for future films in Warner Bros.' DC Comics "shared universe" add up to a satisfactory whole. (Click here to read my full review.) In addition, we also talk about the sad passing of comedy legend Garry Shandling, share some Listener Letters and offer quick takes on some other new releases. You can catch it via the embed below or at 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!

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Nostalgia Theater: The Horrible Justice League TV Pilot

Justice is currently dawning at multiplexes, and if you want my thoughts on Batman v. Superman you can click over here and check out my review, but meanwhile I wanted to take another dip into the well of previous attempts to translate the expansive DC Comics universe to the screen. Last week I looked at the abortive Legends of the Superheroes TV specials, and this time I'm talking about that time CBS almost turned the Justice League into a live action series -- before common sense prevailed.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Zaki's Review: Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice

You may recall, I was quite effusive in my praise of director Zack Snyder's Man of Steel when it was released three years ago. I took no end of grief for that, but I still stand by that initial assessment. Sure, I had some quibbles with Warner Bros.' second try at rebooting their Superman property for the big screen (following 2006's failed franchise-starter Superman Returns), but I still left the theater satisfied, and was confident that any issues would be ironed out in the inevitable follow-up whenever it materialized down the pike.

Of course, that was before the film's $668 mil global haul proved substantially less than the billion dollar bonanza that was no doubt hoped for. Thus, early in the development cycle they hit a bat-shaped panic button to quickly shore up their nascent franchise. And so, here we are with Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, a mega-budgeted mess of a movie that betrays all the telltale signs of a studio at war with itself. It tells you something about how little confidence Warners has in Superman when the character is essentially a supporting player in his own sequel.

Monday, March 21, 2016

The MovieFilm Commentary Track: Superman: The Movie

With the release of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice mere days away, Brian and Zaki take a fond stroll down memory lane as we look at the very first big budget superhero epic of the modern era, Superman: The Movie. Listen in as we offer up anecdotes about the making of the Richard Donner film starring Christopher Reeve, as well as our thoughts on Superman's pop culture longevity, and how this telling of this most iconic of tales stacks up against more recent iteration. Whether you watch alongside us or listen separately, there's lots or trivia and laughs as we go through this undeniable modern classic together for the very first 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!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Nostalgia Theater: Legends of the Superheroes -- The Original Dawn of Justice

This week sees the long-awaited, much-anticipated release of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, and while I'll have plenty to say about that in a couple of days, I figured I'd take a look back at the first attempt to team up DC Comics' most recognizable heroes in live action. That's right, I'm talking about Legends of the Superheroes. What's that? You have no recollection of this? Congrats. That means you're one-up on the cast and crew, who have to live with this waking nightmare every day (the ones that are still around, anyway).

Produced by Hanna-Barbera as kind of a sidelight to their Super Friends animated show, Legends of the Superheroes was a pair of TV special airing on NBC that had the distinction of bringing Adam West and Burt Ward back as Batman & Robin after a decade-long interregnum. But that's about where the project's appeal begins and ends. Where Batman walked the narrowest of tightropes between playfulness and mockery, Legends of the Superheroes went all-in on the latter, looking like even more of a joke in the process.

Friday, March 18, 2016

The MovieFilm Podcast: Episode 90

In this week's MovieFilm Podcast, we discuss a whole host of new and upcoming releases, including Zootopia, London Has Fallen, and the upcoming film from Richard Linklater, Everybody Wants Some!! After that, it's on to headlines, including our thoughts on Spider-Man making his Marvel Cinematic Universe debut in the upcoming Captain America: Civil War, and the plans for an in-home option for viewing brand-new movies. We also have reactions to the trailers for Ghostbusters, Ben-Hur, and The Legend of Tarzan. From there, it's on to the main event: A spoiler-filled conversation about the new mystery thriller 10 Cloverfield Lane. What did we think? You'll have to listen in to find out. You can catch it through 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!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

MGM's Ben-Hur Remake -- Why? Just Why?

I first talked about this one way back here, and then promptly forgot all about it until yesterday afternoon, when MGM dropped our first look at the new film. On the list of movies that absolutely were not crying out for a remake, William Wyler's 1959 classic epic Ben-Hur, winner of a then-record eleven Academy Awards (including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor for star Charlton Heston), is certainly up there near the top.

Nonetheless, the Lion doesn't exactly have a deep bench of exploitable IP's to pull from, so I guess the only surprise is that it took this long to happen. Still, I gotta say, everything about this new take, released by Warner Bros. and directed by Wanted's Timur Bekmambetov, just looks chintzy and low class -- and only more so when compared with the scope and majesty of the original.

Boardwalk Empire's Jack Huston assays the title role here, a Jewish noble who's betrayed by his Roman best friend. He's a good actor, but he's no Heston. He just lacks that larger-than-life quality that made the original work. Same goes for Toby Kebbell (last seen as Doctor Doom in the unfortunate Fantastic Four remake last year) as Messala, his Roman friend-turned-foe. I don't know, am I being an old fuddy-duddy? Watch the trailer after the jump, and you tell me:

Watch the Latest Trailer for X-Men: Apocalypse

Given the way Fox's Deadpool showed up a month ago and laid waste to the box office, it kind of feels like the tail is wagging the dog when it comes to the studio's X-Men franchise. As such, it almost feels anti-climactic looking at this latest assemblage promoting the Memorial Day release of X-Men: Apocalypse. The ninth film in the X-franchise aims to wrap up the "prequel" trilogy that began in 2011 with X-Men: First Class, bringing back James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, and Jennifer Lawrence for their contractually-mandated duties.

This one give us a better sense of the plot's shape, as well as what super-mutant Apocalypse (played by Oscar Isaac) intends. We also get more of the other X-Men, including new/old recruits Cyclops (Tye Sheridan), Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), etc. I was mostly okay with the first trailer from last December, but this one didn't really move the dial for me. Granted, my ticket has already been sold, but I wonder how this will play to folks who aren't already onboard -- or if that's even a realistic question to ask this many films into the franchise. Regardless, check out the vid after the jump, and leave your thoughts:

Monday, March 14, 2016

Larry-as-Bernie: “I’m Great But Not Five-Facebook-Posts-A Day Great”

As usual during an election year, Saturday Night Live has really found its stride, with a solid cast and some solid material to work from. Here's the cold open from this past weekend's show, which has a pretty funny bit with Darrell Hammond's Donald Trump excepting an endorsement from Jay Pharoah's creepy Ben Carson. However, the real gem is Larry David once again popping up as Bernie Sanders. I've mostly stayed out of opining on the Democratic primary here and elsewhere, but I think this pretty much sums it up for me:

"Someone Will Die"

After the events of last Friday, with a Donald Trump rally canceled over security concerns, and a further coarsening of feelings both for and against the candidate, Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo believes things are headed in a very grim direction:
What we have seen over the last two weeks isn't just an escalation of chaos and low level violence but a progressive normalization of unacceptable behavior - more racist verbal attacks, more violence. This is in turn clearly attracting more people who want trouble - on both sides. If you're an angry racist who wants to act out on his anger, can you imagine any better place to go than a Trump rally? If you hate Trump, his supporters and all he stands for and want to get physical about it, where best to go?
Marshall goes on to clarify that he's not implying an equivalence on both sides of this divide, but the point he raises is a cogent one. Sometimes rhetoric and passion get so overheated that they can take things in a direction no one wants. It sure feels like that's happening right now. Read the rest here.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Birth of a Supervillain

There's a great piece up at the New York Times that looks at the improbable rise of Donald Trump to the GOP's frontrunner, and how the roots of this race can be found in the humorous shellacking Trump took at Barack Obama's hands at the 2011 White House Correspondents' Dinner. That night, you may recall, was memorable for the fact that Obama would, hours later, preside over the operation that took out Osama Bin Laden. But as far as what audiences saw at the dinner, it was Trump gamely taking broadside after broadside for his birtherism, his business practices, his reality TV show, you name it. None of that sat well with the famously thin-skinned billionaire, and one might say the roots of what became his presidential run were planted that very evening, in the soil of his wounded ego. In other words: Thanks, Obama!

Read the whole article here.

Nostalgia Theater: The Best Spider-Man Fight Scene of all Time

The Internet lit up this past week thanks to the brief glimpse of Spider-Man at the tail end of the new trailer for May's Captain America: Civil War. Certainly for me, as a fan of the character going back to practically when I was in the cradle, it was kind of surreal to see a depiction of Marvel's webhead that truly feels like he swung right off the comic book page, looking for all the world like a John Romita drawing come to life.

Anyway, that got me thinking about the old CBS Spider-Man TV series from the '70s, when our options were far more limited. I'll spend a bit more time on this show at a later date, so I'll keep most of my powder dry, but for now watch the fight scene below from the pilot movie, featuring Spidey (Nicholas Hammond and/or a stuntman) taking on various bald martial arts guys. Watch, and be grateful for how far we've come. (Though I defy you not to have that twangy '70s music stuck in your head the rest of the day.)

One Year Ago in Nostalgia Theater: TV's Hunter -- The Poor Man's Dirty Harry

Two Years Ago in Nostalgia Theater: The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. Rides into the Sunset

Three Years Ago in Nostalgia Theater: Beastmaster -- Walk With the Animals, Talk With the Animals

Four Years Ago in Nostalgia Theater: Highlander: The Series -- Weekly Beheadings on a TV Budget

Thursday, March 10, 2016

First Look at Spider-Man in the MCU!

Check out the latest trailer for Captain America: Civil War, which is about six weeks away. This is a pretty terrific spot with lots of great shots of our heroes throwing down (my kids will love all the Ant-Man focus), along with more details on what brings on this conflict. But I'm pretty sure the one thing everyone will be talking about is our very first visual confirmation of a certain webhead's entry into the vast construct that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe. That's right, Tom Holland's Spider-Man makes his MCU debut after Disney and Sony brokered an unprecedented deal to share the character, and one watch of this vid should make clear which side he's on. I have little doubt that, after Tobey Maguire, after Andrew Garfield, Holland will now be thought of as the "real" Spider-Man simply by virtue of his inclusion here. Check it out below:

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Nostalgia Theater Podcast: Celebrating Twenty-Five Years of Darkwing Duck With Creator Tad Stones

After a brief gap, we're back with an all-new episode of the Nostalgia Theater show! This week, we’re talking about Disney's Darkwing Duck, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this very year (read my article on the show here). A spin-off of Disney’s very successful DuckTales, Darkwing was created by veteran animator Tad Stones (Chip 'n' Dale's Rescue Rangers, Buzz Lightyear of Star Command), who was gracious enough to join me for a fun and insightful hour of conversation as we took a fond look back at the terror that flaps in the night, plus his many other experiences in the world of animation. Check out the show via the embed below, or subscribe via iTunesStitcher Radio, or TuneIn Radio. As always, send all questions or comments our way via, and don't forget to hit "like" on our Facebook page

The Rubio Rescission

Back in 2012, after Barack Obama's reelection campaign was bolstered so heavily by the disproportionate support from the Hispanic community, I was fairly certain that, come 2016, we'd either see Marco Rubio heading the Republican ticket or at least being the running mate for the party's nominee. And while the second part is still a possibility, any notion of Rubio being the standard bearer is just wishful thinking (on his part). So what happened, exactly? How did a candidate who came into office with so much promise (the Obama comparisons were flying fast and furious for awhile there) end up being so much of a nothing when it came to actually running for the top job? Nate Silver has some suspicions.

Sunday, March 06, 2016

Recommended Reading

Matt Taibbi over at Rolling Stone looks at Donald Trump's ascension and makes some linkages with George W. Bush's election sixteen years ago, positing that one led to the other, with some key distinctions to be made all the same:
...Unlike Bush, who had the decency to not even try to understand the news, Trump reads all sorts of crazy things and believes them all. From theories about vaccines causing autism to conspiratorial questions about the pillow on Antonin Scalia's face to Internet legends about Americans using bullets dipped in pigs' blood to shoot Muslims, there isn't any absurd idea Donald Trump isn't willing to entertain, so long as it fits in with his worldview.  
But Washington is freaking out about Trump in a way they never did about Bush. Why? Because Bush was their moron, while Trump is his own moron. That's really what it comes down to.
 Read the rest here. As always from Taibbi, informative and entertaining.

SNL's Anti-Trump Ad Ain't Exactly Subtle

Despite the fact that Donald Trump hosted an episode of Saturday Night Live a few months ago (garnering crazy ratings in the process), the sketch show poked fun at the GOP's presumptive frontrunner last night with a faux campaign ad that doesn't exactly disguise what they think underlies his appeal. Check it out below:

Nostalgia Theater: Pat Morita is Ohara

Last week's discussion on David Janssen's unconventional, short-lived cop show Harry O sent my mind drifting back to yet another unconventional detective skein built around a beloved performer -- and with a weirdly similar title, at that. I'm talking about the '87-'88 series Ohara, starring Noriyuki "Pat" Morita as the title character, an LA detective who relies on his, y'know, "Eastern-ness" to help him solve crimes.

Yep, it was exactly as gimmicky as it sounds.

Were it not for audience familiarity with and fondness for Morita (both from his Happy Days tenure as Arnold as well as his then-continuing role as Mr. Miyagi in the Karate Kid films -- for which he'd been nominated for an Oscar), I doubt the thing would have gotten any traction at all. Here's the intro, which is like a grab bag of '80s intro cliches (jump to 30 seconds in):

Friday, March 04, 2016

Zaki's Review: London Has Fallen

Just to get it out of the way early, I wasn't a big fan of Olympus Has Fallen when it hit theaters in spring of 2013.  As it happens, that year saw two "White House under siege" thrillers debut within months of each other, and while Olympus was first out the chute, I enjoyed the second, Roland Emmerich's action-comedy White House Down, just a little bit more. Don't get me wrong, both are exceedingly dumb, but the latter was fun-dumb, while the former was dumb-dumb.

But in the almighty battle for box office glory, Olympus took the franchise-making crown. Thus, here we are a scant three years later, and Gerard Butler's indomitable Secret Service agent Mike Banning has taken his act across the pond for London Has Fallen. While North Koreans were the baddies last time, for this go-round it's hordes of Muslim terrorists that are after Aaron Eckhardt's President Benjamin Asher, who has to be wondering how the same stuff can happen to the same president twice.

Thursday, March 03, 2016

Breaking the China

In today's installment of "Republicans Eating Their Own," 2012's GOP standard-bearer Mitt Romney unleashed a volley against 2016 frontrunner Donald Trump today, excoriating the millionaire (whose endorsement he actively sought during his election bid, let's not forget) for the potential ways he could disastrously impact the national and global economy should be get elected.

This is pretty tough talk when you consider that, if Trump is indeed the nominee, one presumes that the power brokers will be expected to coalesce around him. One almost wonders if some of these folks are secretly determining that a Hillary Clinton presidency is preferable to the alternative. Josh Marshall has some more thoughts:
There's no way to unsay any of this. He's lashed himself to one trajectory for this campaign. And there's no going back. Remember, Mitt Romney the GOP's last nominee for President. Can you imagine pro-Hillary SuperPACs running these passages in ads in October? You don't have to. I guarantee you it's already being planned.
Very interesting the way things are moving right now. Read the rest here.

Watch the First Trailer For Ghostbusters!

From practically the moment Ghostbusters 2 hit theaters in 1989, there had been talk of a third film in the series. This went on for literally decades, with the stars never quite aligning (and Bill Murray famously reticent to return), until the death of original star Harold Ramis a few years ago, and the subsequent exit of original director Ivan Reitman, moved the project out of the "sequel" column into the "remake" category.

While the new film isn't beholden to the continuity established by the other two, it's fully benefiting from their iconography nonetheless. Directed by Bridesmaids' Paul Feig, the 2016 Ghostbusters stars comedy all-stars Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones as the titular team, and this first look gives a pretty good sense of what to expect tonally and technologically from the high-stakes picture from Sony.

As a pretty big fan of the extant franchise, what we see so far with this one ain't bad. On a gut level, I'd have really preferred this new take to exist within the same world of the other films -- I'm just not sure we need to see another Ghostbusters origin considering we've already gotten the best possible version of that story -- but this still looks promising enough that I'm willing to wait and see. Look for the new Ghostbusters in theaters this summer.

The MovieFilm Podcast: Episode 89

Lots to discuss in this week's show! First up, short takes on new and upcoming releases Eddie the Eagle, Triple 9, and Eye in the Sky, including Zaki's fascinating interview with Eye in the Sky director Gavin Hood about what went into the making of the complex drone warfare drama. But that's not all! With the Academy Awards in the rearview, we have our thoughts on the last Oscar show, and whether our picks were their picks.

We also discuss the Netflix original series Fuller House, and how its popularity was such that it garnered it a second season renewal almost instantly, as well as planned reboots for the Lethal Weapon and Predator franchises, as well as the announcement of an R-rated cut of the upcoming Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. You can catch it via the embed below or at 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!