Monday, February 29, 2016

Spotlight on Spotlight

As you already know, I loved the film Spotlight when it was released, and it was my top flick pick for 2015, so I was very pleased to see the true story depicting the Boston Globe's investigation into criminal sexual misconduct in the Boston Archdiocese took home the Best Picture prize at last night's Academy Awards. How did this happen when it sure looked like Leo DiCaprio's man-against-nature pic The Revenant seemed to be rising to the top? Vulture's Kyle Buchanan tells the tale, also explaining how Oscar glory eluded Sylvester Stallone for his terrific reprisal of Rocky Balboa in Creed.

John Oliver Tackles Trump

Up to now, John Oliver has mostly kept the American election at arm's length on his weekly HBO skein, Last Week Tonight, preferring to let the folks currently occupying his old digs at The Daily Show get ankle deep in that mire, while he focuses his unique forum on the stuff that goes mostly ignored. Well, last night signaled something of a sea change for Oliver, who devoted the entirety of his time to one sustained comedy piece picking apart the Trump phenomenon bit by bit. It's comedy gold, and the length and depth of the takedown perfectly illustrates how his show is able to do stuff that others can't. Watch it all below:

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Recommended Reading

Josh Marshall from TPM read the same Times article I linked to yesterday about the GOP struggling to control the Trump monster it unchained, and he has some thoughts of his own that are very applicable:
If we do a project in a rough and ready way, which is often what we can manage under the time and budget constraints we face, we will build up a "debt" we'll eventually have to pay back. Basically, if we do it fast, we'll later have to go back and rework or even replace the code to make it robust enough for the long haul, interoperate with other code that runs our site or simply be truly functional as opposed just barely doing what we need it to. There's no right or wrong answer; it's simply a management challenge to know when to lean one way or the other. But if you build up too much of this debt the problem can start to grow not in a linear but an exponential fashion, until the system begins to cave in on itself with internal decay, breakdowns of interoperability and emergent failures which grow from both.  
This is a fairly good description of what the media is now wrongly defining as the GOP's 'Trump problem', only in this case the problem isn't programming debt. It's a build up of what we might call 'hate debt' and 'nonsense debt' that has been growing up for years.
Read the rest here.

Nostalgia Theater: David Janssen is Harry O

In the early '70s, there weren't very many TV stars bigger than David Janssen, who was a beloved figure with audiences thanks to his four-season run as Dr. Richard Kimble on The Fugitive, which wrapped up in 1967 with what was -- and remains to this day -- one of the highest rated TV broadcasts of all time as audiences finally saw Dr. Kimble clear his own name and track down the One-Armed Man (it would later get a series remake in 2000 starring Tim Daly). In the years following The Fugitive's conclusion, Janssen appeared in several films, but never quite crossed over to big screen stardom.

In 1971, he returned to the small screen as the star of O'Hara, U.S. Treasury. But while that didn't make a mark, the following year Janssen top-lined TV movie Such Dust As Dreams Are Made Of. Airing in March of '73, Janssen was Los Angeles P.I. Harry Orwell, a rumpled former cop who relies on his wits rather than his mitts. The movie, a backdoor pilot, did well enough for ABC to order a second pilot, Smile Jenny, You're Dead, which aired in February of '74, and led the network to pull the trigger on a full series, which began the next fall. Here's the quintessentially '70s intro:

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Recommended Reading

With the tides of inevitability starting to swirl around Donald Trump as he ascends to the top of the dungheap that passes for the Republican presidential field, the so-called "establishment" wing of the GOP is in full-blown panic mode as they see the sudden, real possibility of the Frankenstein monster of resentment and belligerence that they've spent the past several decades creating in the lab coming to life and deposing them.

While there is sort of a car wreck fascination to this whole thing, on an entirely separate level, it's freakin' terrifying given the real stakes that are in play. To get a sense of the battle lines being drawn on the way to the Republican convention, with veteran slime-slingers like Karl Rove shocked -- shocked! -- at their own tactics being used against them, give a look at this in-depth piece over at the New York Times (a paper that, if a President Trump had his way, wouldn't be around much longer).

From The Onion...

Because science.
Report: Getting Out Of Bed In Morning Sharply Increases Risk Of Things Getting Even Worse
WASHINGTON—According to a report published Thursday in the Journal Of Applied Psychology, the act of getting out of bed in the morning dramatically increases the risk of things becoming even worse. “No matter how bad things were upon waking up, the very moment our trial subjects pulled off the covers and stepped out of bed, things spiraled even further downward for them in roughly 92 percent of all cases,” said lead researcher Alison Chaudhary, who added that her research team observed no instances in which rising from one’s bed and beginning to go about one’s day improved things for any of the test participants. “In addition, we discovered that the chances of everything going completely and irreversibly downhill rose even higher should one subsequently get dressed and head toward the front door. After that point, once one has left their home, the likelihood of avoiding being weighed down by steadily mounting misery, pain, and humiliation was quite close to zero.” Chaudhary noted that the only guaranteed way to ensure everything doesn’t fall apart right in front of your eyes is to stay in bed, pull a blanket up over your head, and remain there indefinitely without moving.

INTERVIEW: Aaron Paul Talks Triple 9

After wrapping up his career-defining run as Jesse Pinkman on AMC's Breaking Bad, actor Aaron Paul hasn't missed a step, nimbly jumping from star vehicles like 2014's Need For Speed to ensemble pieces like the upcoming Eye in the Sky and the heist pic Triple 9, in theaters now.

I talked to director John Hillcoat about the tense thriller, about corrupt cops planning a daring robbery in Atlanta, a few days ago, and now here's are some highlights from my roundtable with the always-chatty and boisterous Paul (who I previously had a great time interviewing for Need For Speed).

Read on to see the actor's thoughts on what drew him to this project, his relationship with costar Norman Reedus, and whether or not he feels intimidated by the long shadow of Jesse Pinkman:

Friday, February 26, 2016

INTERVIEW: Hugh Jackman, Taron Egerton, and Dexter Fletcher on Eddie the Eagle

The new Fox film Eddie the Eagle, in theaters today, brings to life the true story of Eddie "The Eagle" Edwards, the unlikely phenom who briefly became a cause célèbre — and an icon to underdogs the world over — when he competed as a skier in the 1988 winter Olympics.

Directed by Dexter Fletcher, the film stars Kingsman's Taron Egerton in the title role, and co-stars Hugh Jackman, soon to be the once-and-former Wolverine, as his American coach, an over-the-hill alcoholic who finds a reason for his redemption in Edwards' uphill struggle for Olympic glory.

Talking to Fletcher, Jackman, and Egerton about the feel-good film, what became clear is not just affection they have for the project, but how much they enjoyed working with each other. Read on for some highlights of our conversation:

Diffused Congruence: Professor Mohammad Fadel

With this election season's craziness really kicking into gear, we're very excited to be joined by Mohammad Fadel, Associate Professor of Law at University of Toronto, to help us make sense of the rampant Islamophobia being espoused by many candidates, how that may translate into the election, and what the recent death of Justice Antonin Scalia will mean for the tone and tenor of the Supreme Court moving forward. We had a blast recording this one, and we're confident you'll have as much of a blast listening to it. Listen to our conversastion via the embed below, or download at the link. Also, be sure to hit us up at our Facebook page to let us know how we're doing!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Taibbi: Prepare for King Trump

Matt Taibbi has a lengthy -- lengthy! -- new essay up at Rolling Stone that examines the Trump nomination -- the possibility of which feels a whole lot more likely today than it did a few weeks ago. Per Taibbi, the Donald's race to the top is an indictment of our entire electoral process, and the inevitable result of decades of misuse and abuse. Here's a taste:
...unless the field unexpectedly narrows before March. Trump has a chokehold on somewhere between 25 and 40 percent of the Republican vote, scoring in one poll across every category: young and old, educated and less so, hardcore conservatives and registered Democrats, with men and with women, Megyn Kelly's "wherever" notwithstanding. Trump the Builder of Anti-Rapist Walls even earns an estimated 25 percent of the GOP Latino vote.  
Moreover, there's evidence that human polling undercounts Trump's votes, as people support him in larger numbers when they don't have to admit their leanings to a live human being. Like autoerotic asphyxiation, supporting Donald Trump is an activity many people prefer to enjoy in a private setting, like in a shower or a voting booth.
There's much more, of course, and all in that inimitable Taibbi style that we love so much. Read it all here.

INTERVIEW: Director John Hillcoat Talks Triple 9

John Hillcoat has built a sterling career helming some of the most engrossing and character-rich dramas of the past several years. From 2005’s The Proposition to 2009’s The Road to 2012’s Lawless, the Australian director’s films are always populated by top-tier ensembles and dripping in moral complexity, never failing to plum the depths of the human condition in surprising and thought-provoking ways.

His latest project, the crime thriller Triple 9, opening this week, features an all-star cast including Chiwetel Ejiofor, Casey Affleck, Kate Winslet, Norman Reedus, Aaron Paul, Anthony Mackie and Woody Harrelson. The film is a crime thriller that takes its title comes from the “999” police code signaling an officer in immediate need of assistance. I had the chance to talk to Mr. Hillcoat about the film’s origins, its casting process and more.

Continue reading at Fandor

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Glossing Over Scalia's Legacy

Glenn Greenwald on the reflexive desire among some to avoid critical commentary about Justice Antonin Scalia in the wake of his passing, with the chestnut about respect for the dead being used as cover for something more sinister in terms of the man's legacy and impact on the politics of this country. Says he:
We’re not talking about Scalia, The Friend, or Scalia, the Grandfather. Virtually none of us knew him in those roles. We’re talking about Scalia, the highly polarizing, highly controversial Supreme Court Justice whose actions and beliefs affected the lives of millions of people. We’re not guests at his family’s house for a wake. We’re citizens shaping how he and his public actions will be understood and remembered and perceived. Trying to suppress any criticisms of him, so that only adulation can flourish, is worse than irrational; it’s propagandistic. 
That doesn’t mean one should express glee that Scalia is dead, nor does it mean that if one is a family friend of his relatives that one should spout criticisms in their grieving faces. But it most certainly does mean that from the moment public adulation of someone like this is permitted, so, too, must criticisms of them be permitted. That is especially true at an academic institution devoted to the study, practice and debate of law. To insist that only one side is permitted to be heard – the side that hails Scalia as a benevolent genius – is as oppressive and anti-intellectual as it gets.
Read the rest from Greenwald here.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Recommended Reading

The primary contest in South Carolina last night saw Jeb Bush suspend his campaign, and the race whittled down to, in essence, a three-person race between Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio. With Bush ostensibly the "moderate" in the mix, his exit gives a sense of what Republican voters are looking for, as does Donald Trump's commanding, decisive win. Here's the rundown of what we can take away from the Republican race thus far, via Michelle Hackman at Vox.

Nostalgia Theater: Harry and the Hendersons Hides Out in Primetime

Here's another entry in the very long list of movies turned into TV shows: Harry and the Hendersons began its life as a feature film starring John Lithgow and Melinda Dillon as the "Hendersons" of the title, who accidentally run over a Sasquatch while trekking through forest. Taking the creature home, they soon find themselves endeared with the lovable giant (played by Kevin Peter Hall), who they name Harry, and hilarity ensues as they try to keep him secret. It was low-risk, low-reward entertainment, making $50 million against a $16 mil budget. Here's the trailer:

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Hollywood and the Stories That Desperately Need to Be Told

Note: What follows is part of a series appearing over at Patheos asking, "Has Hollywood Become Our National Conscience?", which I was honored to be asked to submit a piece for. You can find my contribution below, and please also check out the rest of the essays as well.

"September 11th changed everything."

When exploring the notion of Hollywood becoming our national conscience, I can't help but find my memory drawn back to that fateful fall morning some fifteen years ago. It was a phrase we first heard in the immediate aftermath of that day's horrific events, and in the years and months since it has been tossed out by both electioneering politicos and partisan pundits with such regularity and nonchalance that it has lost much of its initial meaning.

"September 11th changed everything."

And yet, in many ways, it didn't.

Continue reading at Patheos...

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The MovieFilm Podcast: Episode 88

With the Ryan Reynolds superhero epic Deadpool (read my review here) blowing the doors off the box office this past weekend, we take the opportunity to examine the stunning success of the X-Men spin-off and make some predictions about what its R-rated, blood-soaked path means for the future of the genre, and whether we can expect more violent, swear-filled superhero excursions in the near future. But that's not all! We also take the opportunity to discuss the new JJ Abrams-produced Hulu miniseries 11/22/63, offer reactions to the new trailers for Jason Bourne and Batman v. Superman, plus all the usual fun and frivolity you've come to expect. 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 MovieFilmPodcast@gmail.com, or at our our Facebook page to tell us how we're doing!

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Nostalgia Theater: The Animated Rambo!

This past week I got the chance to interview Rambo creator David Morrell for the Nostalgia Theater Podcast, and while we covered a whole lot of ground in that chat, I asked him the one question that has been bugging me for thirty years: What were they thinking when they turned traumatized Vietnam vet John J. Rambo into an animated cartoon star for kids? You'll have to listen to the show to hear his answer, but let's take a moment to gaze upon the epic WTF-ness that is the animated Rambo: The Force of Freedom:

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Here's the Final Batman v. Superman Trailer!

At this point I've lost count of how many trailers we've gotten for the upcoming Batman v. Superman, but I know that I bounce back and forth between being intrigued and fatigued based on which assemblage we're talking about. With the Zack Snyder-directed movie due to hit in around six short weeks, we're entering the final stretch marketing-wise, and at least Warners is ending on a strong foot with this final trailer.

I especially like the opening sequence that gives us a sense of how this new Ben Affleck iteration of the Dark Knight will operate, and how different he is from the previous Christopher Nolan version. (It also seems clearer than ever that, for a movie that began its life as a straight-ahead Man of Steel sequel, Superman is pretty much the bridesmaid in this flick.) Check it out below, and look for BvS in theaters on March 25.

Zaki's Review: Deadpool

When you think about it, it's a bit of a minor miracle that a movie like Deadpool even exists. The Tim Miller-directed comic book adaptation stars Ryan Reynolds as Marvel Comics' "Merc with a Mouth," a red-suited rogue created by Rob Liefeld & Fabian Nicieza who's built a fan fave reputation on wisecrackery and badassery. And while the R-rated film ostensibly exists within the same X-Men franchise that's given Twentieth Century Fox a steady stream of blockbusters since 2000, it's sort of off to one side of those other flicks.

After sixteen years and seven movies, this is actually the first attempt by Fox to go "shared universe" with their X-Men license, and in that sense Deadpool does kind of feel like the Ant-Man of the Marvel Mutant Movies. If you know how I feel about Ant-Man, you know that's a compliment. It's the scrappy little upstart that takes advantage of the connections, while also benefitting from lowered expectations. And really, it was hard not to go into this one with lowered expectations.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Recommended Reading

Donald Trump's decisive win in the New Hampshire primaries starts making his political ascension suddenly feel a lot more "real" even after his consistent place atop the polls from the moment he entered the race. It's really hard to see how another GOP candidate can take in enough oxygen to serve as a viable alternative, which in turn only makes Trump snaring the nomination feel more inevitable. As Ezra Klein says, this isn't a particularly promising moment in our political history:
Trump is the most dangerous major candidate for president in memory. He pairs terrible ideas with an alarming temperament; he's a racist, a sexist, and a demagogue, but he's also a narcissist, a bully, and a dilettante. He lies so constantly and so fluently that it's hard to know if he even realizes he's lying. He delights in schoolyard taunts and luxuriates in backlash.
Read the rest from Klein here.

Nostalgia Theater Podcast: Rambo Creator David Morrell Draws First Blood

For this week's Nostalgia Theater Podcast I discuss the Rambo phenomenon with author David Morrell, whose 1972 novel First Blood is where it all began. Despite its reputation for ultra-violence, the Rambo series, starring Sylvester Stallone as war-weary Vietnam vet John J. Rambo, is a fascinating artifact that lies at the intersection of the pop culture and politics of the 1980s. The franchise reignited discussion about the Vietnam conflict, and inserted itself into the political vernacular of the time (anyone remember Ronald Reagan quoting and comparing himself to Rambo?).

In addition, it also sparked a mountain of tie-ins and merchandise, including (but certainly not limited to) a weekday afternoon cartoon show and a whole slew of action figures and accessories. Listen in as David Morrell discusses the origins of Rambo, what he thought of the various sequels (not to mention the cartoon show!), and how he feels now that Stallone has decided, as of a few weeks ago, to retire the character for good. Check it out via the embed below, or subscribe via iTunesStitcher Radio, or TuneIn Radio. As always, send all questions or comments our way via MovieFilmPodcast@gmail.com, and don't forget to hit "like" on our Facebook page!

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Recommended Reading

Here I go linking to David Brooks again. The New York Times' conservative columnist looks at the current lineup of folks vying for the White House and comes away feeling wistful about the guy who'll be clocking out next January:
To hear Sanders or Trump, Cruz and Ben Carson campaign is to wallow in the pornography of pessimism, to conclude that this country is on the verge of complete collapse. That’s simply not true. We have problems, but they are less serious than those faced by just about any other nation on earth. People are motivated to make wise choices more by hope and opportunity than by fear, cynicism, hatred and despair. Unlike many current candidates, Obama has not appealed to those passions.
Read the rest here.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Nostalgia Theater: Sliders Slides Into Oblivion

The success of Fox's X-Files revival, now in the middle of a six episode run, got me thinking about other genre series from that same era. That, in turn, slid my mind over to Sliders, which began airing on Fox as a two-hour movie in March of 1995. Created by Tracy Tormé (a Star Trek vet and son of singer Mel) and Robert K. Weiss, the series had a terrific premise and cast, and with novels, comic books, etc., it also had the makings of a genuine crossover hit. That is, until network politics scuttled the whole thing and left Sliders as a gruesome reminder of what happens when art and commerce have a head-on collision.

"Bern Your Enthusiasm"

As soon as it became clear that Larry David was going to be Saturday Night Live's go-to Bernie Sanders this election season, we all knew this parody was inevitable. And once David was announced as the host for last night's episode, it was a matter of when, not if, they'd go there. And man, they didn't disappoint. This is pretty good. Pretttttttty, pretttttttttty, pretttttty good.

Friday, February 05, 2016

More Recommended Reading

On the other hand, here's Salon's Cody Cain to drive home yet again what a disaster a hypothetical Trump presidency might be.

Recommended Reading

Jonathan Chait says Donald Trump is the least bad option among the various contenders currently jockeying for the Republican nomination. It might sound counter-intuitive, but as these things go he makes a certain amount of sense.
Trump’s candidacy represents, among other things, a revolt by the Republican proletariat against its master class. That is why National Review devoted a cover editorial and 22 columns to denouncing Trump as a heretic to the conservative movement. A Trump nomination might not actually cleave the GOP in two, but it could wreak havoc. If, like me, you think the Republican Party in its current incarnation needs to be burned to the ground and rebuilt anew, Trump is the only one holding a match.
There's more here, including a parallel example from recent history.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

The MovieFilm Podcast: Episode 87

It might be the dog days of January and February at movie theaters, but that doesn't mean the MovieFilm gang doesn't have plenty to talk about! First up, the '90s are alive and well with FX's The People vs. O.J. Simpson and Fox's The X-Files revival. Then, some thoughts on the new release The Finest Hours, Disney's harrowing true life Coast Guard rescue film. From there, it's on to some Listener Letters and reactions to the trailers for upcoming sequels Independence Day: Resurgence and Alice Through the Looking Glass

But that's not all, we also have plenty of headlines to discuss: The Fast & Furious saga races towards its planned conclusion, while the Terminator franchise, on the other hand, hits an unplanned conclusion. Meanwhile, '80s favorite Masters of the Universe might finally be getting the big budget blockbuster treatment, and Elizabeth Banks has signed on to play an unlikely role in the big screen version '90s kidvid fave Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. All that, plus Star Wars news, and much more.

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 MovieFilmPodcast@gmail.com, or at our our Facebook page to tell us how we're doing!

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Recommended Reading

Donald Trump may have come in second to Ted Cruz in last night's caucuses in Iowa, but that hardly means the ex-Apprentice host is out of the contest. And as this in-depth piece by Eli Stokols and Ben Schreckinger over at Politico shows, his current political run has been the product of extensive analysis of the electorate that he's trying to woo. He may sound nuttier than a fruitcake, but don't call him crazy.