Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Nostalgia Theater Podcast: Richard Hatch Goes Back to Battlestar Galactica

A veteran of almost five decades in the film & television industry, Richard Hatch starred alongside Karl Malden on the final season of The Streets of San Francisco, and has appeared on such seminal series as Dynasty, Murder, She Wrote, The Love Boat, MagGyver, and many more. He’s probably best known for starring as Captain Apollo on the 1970s sci-fi series Battlestar Galactica, created by the late Glen A. Larson, as well as playing Tom Zarek on the show’s 2003 remake. Mr. Hatch joins me on Nostalgia Theater this week to talk about his nearly forty year association with the Battlestar brand, as well as his new project, the upcoming webseries Blade of HonorYou can catch the show via the embed below, or subscribe at iTunesStitcher RadioTuneIn Radio, or Google Play. As always, send all questions or comments our way via MovieFilmPodcast@gmail.com, and don't forget to hit "like" on our Facebook page

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Nostalgia Theater: Generation X -- The X-Men's First Movie!

Finola Hughes and Jeremy Ratchford head up the mutants of Generation X
X-Men: Apocalypse is sitting atop the box office this weekend (read my review here), and as the ninth X-Men flick in sixteen years, it's easy to look at the Fox superhero franchise as one of those evergreens that's just always been around. But believe it or not, there was actually a time when the X-Men just couldn't catch a break in live action. With a theatrical feature mired in development hell for most of the '90s, Marvel Productions rolled the dice by taking the franchise to primetime in Generation X, the X-Men's very first movie.

Airing on Fox in February of 1996, the Generation X TV movie was intended as a backdoor pilot for a weekly skein, taking its title and premise from the comic series of the same name created by Scott Lobdell and Chris Bachalo. The comic book was built around two longtime X-Men supporting characters mentoring a new batch of students at Charles Xavier's vaunted school for Gifted Youngsters, and as you can tell from the title, it was a quintessentially '90s book, which the telefilm did a pretty good job of adhering to, I'd say. Here, dig this trailer:

Saturday, May 28, 2016

INTERVIEW: Kate Beckinsale on Love & Friendship

Kate Beckinsale is a performer who has always ably jumped between such bombastic Hollywood fare as Total Recall and her signature Underworld series, and smaller offerings such as her latest project, Love & Friendship. The film, currently in limited release, reunites Beckinsale with writer-director Whit Stillman, with whom she first worked on 1998's Last Days of Disco.

Based on Jane Austen's unfinished novel Lady Susan, Stillman has turned the epistolary prose into a film that not only highlights not only Austen's particular brand of comedy, but Beckinsale as the conniving "Lady" of the title, Susan Vernon, who is at turns devious and alluring as she manipulates friends, family, and acquaintance alike in her search for physical and material contentment.

It's a showcase turn for the actress, and it's clear that she had a great experience reuniting not only with her Last Days director, but also with her co-star form that film, Chloƫ Sevigny, an enthusiasm that was palpable during my conversation with the star during her recent visit to the Bay Area. Read on for some highlights of that chat:

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The MovieFilm Podcast: The Nice Guys + Kate Beckinsale on Love & Friendship

For this week's show we dive in with a brief conversation about writer-director Shane Black's delightful action-comedy The Nice Guys, followed by my interview with actress Kate Beckinsale about her work on the new Jane Austen adaptation Love & Friendship, directed by Whit Stillman. After that, hear our takes on the new trailers for Star Trek Beyond and Ghostbusters, and the upcoming TV remakes/reboots of Lethal Weapon, 24, MacGyver, and Frequency. In addition, we discuss the big shakes up with Warner Bros.' DC Comics movies, why the cast for Thor: Ragnarok has us excited, and why the possible title for Star Wars: Episode VIII might not be so great. As always, 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 MovieFilmPodcast@gmail.com, or at our our Facebook page to tell us how we're doing!

Looking Back at Ghostbusters

We're inching ever closer to the release of Ghostbusters, this summer's reboot of the 1984 comedy classic. Unfortunately the reboot has already been the subject of mild controversy, with some questioning the decision to recast several male roles with female actors and others calling out the sexism behind that criticism. Furthermore, the trailer set an unwanted record as the "most disliked" film trailer in YouTube history.

If you're like me, however, you probably can't help but be a little bit intrigued by the reboot. That's simply because the original Ghostbusters left such a lasting and generally pleasant impression 32 years ago. If the new film captures any of the same comedic flavor, it'll be worth a watch.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Out Now with Aaron and Abe Podcast: The Nice Guys

Been a busy week of podcasting for me! Click "play" on the embed below to hear my guest shot on the latest episode of Out Now With Aaron and Abe, featuring a lot of fun banter, plus an in-depth discussion on The Nice Guys (which you already know I loved). Click here to download at iTunes.

Monday, May 23, 2016

The Batman-on-Film.com Podcast: Talkin' BvS, the DCEU, & More

Click "play" on the embed below to hear my guest shot on the Batman-on-Film.com Podcast, as I joined hosts Rick Shew and Bill "Jett" Ramey for a spirited and fun conversation about Batman, Superman, Batman v. Superman, and all things DC Comics. Click here to download at iTunes.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Trump and the Authoritarianism Urge

Interesting vid from Vox on how the rise of Donald Trump can't simply be written off as an isolated phenomenon, but rather the inevitable result of the ideological "sorting" that's been happening in this country for the past several decades:

Star Trek Beyond Trailer Brings the Noise

Our first look at the impending three-quel Star Trek Beyond dropped last December to a mostly muted response. I thought it looked fine, but maybe I'm just an easy mark. I was happy to see stars Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, and Karl Urban back as Kirk, Spock, and McCoy, respectively. But a lot of the Internet chatter seemed to center on the foregrounding of motorcycle antics and Beastie Boys music (as if that's a bad thing!), and there sure didn't seem to be a lot of buzz around the Justin Lin-directed flick after that first look.

Well, clearly Paramount is hoping (desperately?) to change the tenor of the conversation in the ramp up to the film's late July release. After all, this is Star Trek's fiftieth anniversary year, and the last thing they need is a movie (thirteenth in the series!) that the fans aren't feeling jazzed about. To that end, the first volley in that effort is the reveal of the full trailer, which hit the web Friday night following a special "fan event" featuring the film's cast and crew orchestrated by the studio to win over hardcore Trek devotees.

Nostalgia Theater: Back to School With X-Men: Evolution

With this week's upcoming release of X-Men: Apocalypse (read my mixed review of that one here), I thought I'd look back at another time the Marvel mutants made their mark in animation. Now, I already discussed the groundbreaking X-Men animated series from the '90s, which I argued is remembered more fondly than it probably deserves, a couple of years ago. But in fall of 2000, mere months after the first X-Men feature film lit the fuse on that still-going movie series, the second X-Men series, X-Men: Evolution made its debut on the now-defunct Kids' WB. Here's the intro:

Friday, May 20, 2016

Zaki's Review: The Nice Guys

Summer movie season is only a few weeks old, but somehow it already feels interminable. As such, the arrival of writer-director Shane Black's The Nice Guys couldn't be a more perfectly-timed tonic to the usual onslaught of CGI mayhem we've come to expect between now and August. In 1987, Black's script for the original Lethal Weapon pretty much cemented the template for the modern "buddy" movie, and it's a testament to its long shadow that so many subsequent films have either emulated or repudiated the Lethal formula of unlikely partners initially bickering and eventually bonding.

It's a formula Black himself put a twist on in his under-seen '05 caper Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, and it's a front-and-center once again for this latest offering, a 1970s-set piece that bounces between dark comedy and darker comedy. The Nice Guys stars Russell Crowe as muscle-for-hire Jackson Healy, and Ryan Gosling as a mediocre private investigator named Holland March. When their individual investigations of a case involving a dead porn star, a missing girl, and the Detroit auto industry puts them on the same path, the two are forced to pair up (in great Shane Black tradition).

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Here's the Second Ghostbusters Trailer

As the release date for director Paul Feig's all-female Ghostbusters remake gets closer each day and the existence of said film becomes harder to ignore, we've seen an explosion in the last week or so of the man-baby portion of the Internet that can't abide the thing they loved being different from the way they loved it. I don't really have time for folks like this guy, but I will say that while I didn't think the first trailer was bad, it also didn't really knock my socks off.

It felt like a functional bit of franchise management (which is pretty much what this movie is, anyway). This second trailer gives us some funny bits in addition to the usual bustin' business, and really my only concern is that they not give away all the best jokes in the trailer. I like Kristen Wiig, and while I know she's not everyone's favorite, Leslie Jones is cracking me up in everything I've seen from this. Watch the trailer below, and look for Ghostbusters (starring all women! Aaaargh!) in theaters this July:

Nostalgia Theater Podcast: Ten Years Without The West Wing

This past Saturday marked ten years since Aaron Sorkin's seminal series The West Wing left the airwaves on NBC. Starring Martin Sheen, Rob Lowe, Allison Janney, Bradley Whitford, and many more, the sparkling drama is one of the most honored shows in television history, remains one of my all-time favorites, and I still miss it this many years later. And so, to mark a decade without The West Wing, I turned to my good friend and fellow Wing-nut Zainab F. Chaudary to share our fond memories of the Josiah Bartlet Administration, how we were first introduced to the show, and whether the fantasy world of The West Wing offers some insights into the current political moment we find ourselves in. 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 MovieFilmPodcast@gmail.com, and don't forget to hit "like" on our Facebook page.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Recommended Reading

With the battle lines for the presidential campaign becoming more firmly drawn, Jonathan Chait lays out what he thinks the primary attack needs to be against the Donald Trump campaign:
His entire appeal rests on the bedrock of his identity as a successful entrepreneur. The vast wealth Trump claims to have amassed allows him to supposedly fund his own campaign, escaping the influence of fundraisers who control his opponents. His alleged deal-making skill explains why he will be able to improve every trade deal, solve every legislative impasse, and finesse every diplomatic conflict. Trump’s endlessly repeated proposition is that he will take the skills that made him so rich and generously use them to make the country rich. Without that, he’s just a dumber version of Pat Buchanan.
Read more here.

Diffused Congruence: Joe Bradford

For our latest episode we're delighted to be joined by Joe Bradford, Muslim scholar, author, blogger, and entrepreneur. Joe discusses his journey to Islam and experiences studying Islamic law and legal theory in Saudi Arabia. We spent a good amount of time discussing issues related to finance and the current projects he is involved with in that field. We also discuss a recent and very interesting encounter he had with the Ted Cruz campaign! Check it out through the embed below, or via iTunes or Stitcher. As always, please hit "like" on our Facebook page, and send any comments or questions to DiffusedCongruence@gmail.com.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Nostalgia Theater: Ten Years Without The West Wing

Yesterday marked ten years since one of my favorite TV shows of all time, Aaron Sorkin's The West Wing, aired its final episode on NBC. You already know what a big impact the show and its creator have played in shaping my persona, and my ardor for it is unabated even after this many years. I'm currently in the midst of another re-watch of the series now that it's available for streaming on Netflix, and the memories just come flooding back no matter how much time goes by.

More than just presenting likable, intelligent characters we want to know, it gives us a world we really wish we could live in, especially given the horrific, orange-hued turn that real world politicking has taken of late. Anyway, given that this is Nostalgia Theater, you can watch the show's title sequence below (that theme music by Snuffy Walden still gives me chills after all these years), and if you click past the jump, I've re-posted my 2006 reflection The West Wing's final episode:

Friday, May 13, 2016

The MovieFilm Podcast: Choosing Sides on Captain America: Civil War!

With Captain America: Civil War currently battling atop the box office and breaking records in the process, the MovieFilm gang reconvenes to dissect the latest -- greatest? -- superhero epic from Marvel Studios. But that's not the only topic on the agenda: First Brian talks about his adventures signing comics on Free Comic Book Day, then I offer quick takes on the new financial thriller Money Monster, starring George Clooney and Julia Roberts (read his review here), and Fox's upcoming X-Men: Apocalypse, the ninth film in the studio's long-running series (read his review here), as well as a fascinating interview with the filmmakers behind the scathing upcoming documentary Weiner, which chronicles the fall, rise, and fall of disgraced congressman Anthony Weiner. In addition, we discuss the latest headlines out of Hollywood and the newest round of Star Wars news. As always, 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 MovieFilmPodcast@gmail.com, or at our our Facebook page to tell us how we're doing!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Zaki's Review: Money Monster

As an "I'm mad as hell" screed against the oversight-free excesses of Wall Street bankers, director Jodie Foster's Money Monster certainly arrives at the right historical moment to tap into the same "throw the bums out" exasperation that's helped turn Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign from a longshot into a contender. Director Adam McKay made a similar deep-dive last year in the riveting, angry-making The Big Short, one of my favorites of the year, and there was the potential to do something in a similar vein here.

Unfortunately, Money Monster goes for the low-hanging fruit offered up by being a by-the-numbers potboiler. The kind that will get the audience wound up enough to stay engaged for the hundred minute runtime, but not think about it much past the time they leave the theater. As a result, despite Foster's best efforts to squeeze tension out of the central conflict, it's a tonal mishmash that can't settle on what it's trying to say, and it squanders a lot of the goodwill generated by the tremendous cast headed up by George Clooney and Julia Roberts.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Zaki's Review: X-Men: Apocalypse

Ten years ago I took a shank to X-Men: The Last Stand, a sequel I found so disagreeable that I likened it to "studio-mandated seppuku" (which might have been a bit hyperbolic in hindsight). On the other hand, two years ago I was quite effusive in my praise of X-Men: Days of Future Past, which I called the very best of the Fox series. So, if we're using those two entries as the benchmarks, the goalposts of what to expect from these things, then X-Men: Apocalypse, the ninth film based on Marvel Comics' line of comic books, falls somewhere in the middle: neither as bad as the worst, nor as good as the best. It's just...fine.

Lacking the "All Mutants Unite!" marketing hook that Days of Future past employed to bring together two generations of X-casts (scaling new box office heights in the process), Apocalypse settles back into the "rebooted" timeline begun in 2011's terrific X-Men: First Class, content to fill the gap between one entry and the next without really leaving a mark of its own. Like the just-okay The Wolverine three years ago, it's entirely adequate at keeping the franchise fires lit for Fox (lest the rights revert to Disney/Marvel), while coasting on whatever goodwill audiences have built up over the series' long life.

Sunday, May 08, 2016

From The Onion...

Report: Well, Here We Go
WASHINGTON—With Donald Trump’s two remaining GOP rivals suspending their candidacies and clearing a path for the billionaire businessman to assume the Republican presidential nomination, reports indicated Wednesday that, well, hoo boy, here we go. “So I guess that’s that—we’re off and running here,” said Oregon resident Carl Jacobs, raising his eyebrows and drawing in a deep breath as he echoed the sentiments of millions of Americans across the country who confirmed there’s no turning back now following the real estate mogul’s decisive victory in Indiana and that, boy, this is really just the beginning when you think about it. “The train has left the station, and we are on our way. I guess we just go with it and hold on tight.” Additional reports confirmed that, yeah, better strap in, because—wow—this is actually happening.

Nostalgia Theater: When Captain America Throws His Mighty Shield...

After last week's Nostalgia Theater looking back at the old Iron Man cartoon show from the 1960s, I got a few requests asking when the '60s Captain America 'toon would get the same treatment. And with Captain America: Civil War currently demolishing the box office, and because I'm all about customer service here at the Corner, let's take a look at that one. The truth is, as far as the background of the show goes, everything I said last week is still applicable here.

Like with Iron Man and the other heroes included in the Marvel Super-Heroes syndicated package, Cap got thirteen episodes for his show, with stories all culled from the Stan Lee/Jack Kirby comics from earlier in the decade. They employed limited animation and sound effects, but as far as fidelity to the source, well, it didn't get much closer than this, considering it was the source material.

Check out the intro below, with the super-catchy theme song that lets us know what happens when Captain America throws his mighty shield...

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Zaki's Review: Captain America: Civil War

A little over a month ago, Warner Bros.' execrable, excessive Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice arrived in theaters. As you know if you read my review, that film, with its storyline about the aftermath of a destructive superhero battle leading to a battle of wills between heroes, landed with a resounding thud for me. Perhaps my biggest complaint was how it was doing an end-run around its audience by forcing an emotional investment in its characters and their world that hadn't yet been earned. Well, here we are mere weeks later with Marvel's Captain America: Civil War, covering extremely similar thematic and narrative terrain while doing right exactly what the earlier film did so wrong.

Believe it or not, it was eight years ago this week that the first Iron Man's huge critical and commercial success kicked off the massive multi-franchise edifice that we've come to know as the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Since then, Marvel Studios has gone from success to success, launching several concurrent series (last summer's delightful Ant-Man was one of my favorites of the year). And with Civil War and the beginning of  their "Phase Three," we see the ultimate expression of the studio's fabled long game. Not only does it pay off plot and character threads we've watched intertwine for the better part of the last decade, it plies our history with those entanglements for maximum impact.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

"Trump Has Won"

Well, it's all over but the counting. As of tonight, the eventuality that seemed nigh inconceivable a year ago has come to pass: Donald Trump has locked up the necessary delegates to make it a mathematical certainty that he'll be the Republican party's presidential nominee this year. Jonathan Chait has a pretty good breakdown of how we got to this point, and what precisely Trump's ascendancy means vis-a-vis the GOP, but I think this particular bit was worth highlighting separately:
The paranoid mendacity of Joe McCarthy, the racial pandering of Barry Goldwater, Richard Nixon, and George Bush, the jingoism and anti-intellectualism of Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, and Sarah Palin — all these forces have embodied the essence of American conservative politics as it is actually practiced (rather than as conservative intellectuals like to imagine it). Trump has finally turned that which was always there against itself.
We're through the looking glass now, people. Buckle up. Read all of Chait's commentary here.

Nostalgia Theater Podcast: IDW Publishing’s Chris Ryall on Transformers, G.I. Joe, Star Trek and More!

For this episode of the show, I'm joined by Chris Ryall, editor-in-chief of IDW Publishing. As the current purveyor of comic book adventures of high profile licenses like Transformers, Star Trek, G.I. Joe, My Little Pony, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and so much more, IDW has become the go-to place to find Nostalgia Theater favorites on the comic shelf. Chris discusses the process by which IDW has been able to amass such an amazing roster of top drawer titles from topflight talent, and he also talks up one of IDW's latest projects: the impending relaunch of '70s-'80s fave Rom: Spaceknight. You can listen to the show 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

Sunday, May 01, 2016

See? Me.

I was honored to be included in a pretty sterling lineup of Muslim professionals in the Rad Talks - Bay Area event yesterday in Oakland, wherein I was asked to deliver a brief talk about film criticism, and more specifically, the importance of Muslim involvement in that field. Hopefully there'll be a better quality version that shows up down the line, but in the meantime here's the video of the live stream. Big thanks to the Muslim Writers' Collective for hosting the event and the vid.

Nostalgia Theater: Iron Man & Captain America's First Civil War

We're mere days away from the theatrical release of Marvel's big budget blockbuster Captain America: Civil War. Like me, I'm sure you can feel the anticipation building. And with the ideological divide between Captain America & Iron Man serving as the foundation for the film's central smash-up, I figured this was a perfect time to take a look back at the first time the iconic superheroes had a throwdown onscreen. For this, we need to take a deep dive all the way back to 1966, and the syndicated Marvel Super Heroes cartoon show.

By way of background, this was a weekday skein produced by Grantray-Lawrence Animation that aired on local stations, with each half-hour consisting of three seven-minute segments starring various heroes in rotating slots. Over the course of 65 installments total, The Incredible Hulk, Sub-Mariner, Thor, Captain America, and Iron Man all got the Marvel Super Heroes treatment for thirteen episodes each, which essentially meant near-verbatim translations of the then-recent comic stories using the original art from the books and severely limited animation where lips and random appendages were often the only things moving.