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?