Thursday, June 30, 2016

Recommended Reading

Matt Taibbi has his own piece up responding to that Atlantic article by Jonathan Rauch I linked to a week ago, in which Taibbi takes issue with the contention that democracy itself is the problem with our politics as opposed to the actors inhabiting it. Says he:
Donald Trump is dangerous because as president, he'd likely have little respect for law. But a gang of people whose metaphor for society is "We are the white cells, voters are the disease" is comparably scary in its own banal, less click-generating way.  
These self-congratulating congoscenti could have looked at the events of the last year and wondered why people were so angry with them, and what they could do to make government work better for the population.  
Instead, their first instinct is to dismiss voter concerns as baseless, neurotic bigotry and to assume that the solution is to give Washington bureaucrats even more leeway to blow off the public. In the absurdist comedy that is American political life, this is the ultimate anti-solution to the unrest of the last year, the mathematically perfect wrong ending.
Read the rest from Taibbi here.

Sully: Eastwood & Hanks' True Life Tale

Dramatizing the 2009 "miracle on the hudson" that saw an airliner land on the Hudson River with zero loss of life after two engines failed, the upcoming film Sully stars Tom Hanks as Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, and is directed by Clint Eastwood. When the project was first announced, I wondered if there was enough "meat" in the story to sustain a feature-length runtime the first trailer for the October release looks like it may have found an interesting "in" to the story, and it sure looks like Sully will be a quintessential fall, movie with another terrific performance from Hanks in the cards. Watch it below:

From The Onion...

Reince Priebus Smiles, Shakes Head While Flipping Through Old Briefing On GOP’s Plans For 2016
WASHINGTON—Breaking into a smile as he read the words “inclusiveness” and “young voters,” RNC chairman Reince Priebus couldn’t help but shake his head in amusement Wednesday while flipping through an 18-month-old briefing on the Republican Party’s plans for the 2016 election, sources reported. “Oh man, I completely forgot we came up with this whole 20-point program for how we would appeal to Latinos,” said Priebus, chuckling to himself as he thought back on the two years’ worth of meetings that resulted in a detailed strategy of embracing immigration reform, countering the Democrats’ “war on women” rhetoric, and running on a “positive agenda” of hope and tolerance, which he and other GOP leaders had calculated would put their party’s candidate on the best possible footing for this year’s presidential contest. “Wow, and there are our favorable assessments of Jeb Bush and Scott Walker! Boy, oh boy, that really takes me back. You know, all things considered, this was a pretty solid plan for taking back the White House. Oh well.” Priebus went on to state that the briefing wasn’t a complete waste, noting that the section on enacting voting restrictions to subdue minority turnout was still fully usable.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Oliver on Brexit

Funny stuff from John Oliver as he lays out the aftermath of last week's Brexit vote in the UK:

The MovieFilm Podcast: Talking Independence Day: Resurgence!

Welcome (back) to Earth! Brian and Zaki anticipate the fourth of July by discussing director Roland Emmerich's Independence Day: Resurgence, the Fox sequel that's either twenty years in the making or about seventeen years too late, depending on your point-of-view. But that's not all: We also have quick takes on the new "Ultimate Edition" of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Warner Bros.' The Legend of Tarzan, the latest attempt to reboot the classic Jungle Lord for the big screen. In addition, get our thoughts on the new theme song for Ghostbusters remake, reactions to the first trailer for Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, and some news on Star Wars: Rogue One. Lots to listen to as we head into the long weekend, and you can hear 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

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Recommended Reading

With "Brexit" eating up much of the conversation over the past few days as folks try to make sense of the UK public's decision to leave the European Union via referendum this past Thursday, Politico runs down the myriad of ways that British PM David Cameron fumbled the ball on the way to this decision. It's equal parts comical and -- given the potential consequences -- tragic.

Nostalgia Theater: TV's Fantastic Voyage!

Fantastic Voyage began its life as 1966 science-fiction feature directed by Richard Fleischer and starring Stephen Boyd & Raquel Welch. The film, which boasted a novelization written by none other than Isaac Asimov, follows a team of experts who are shrunk to microscopic size along with a space age submarine called the Proteus and injected into the body of a comatose scientist to repair damage to his brain from the inside. The kitschy premise was enough to make the film a medium-sized hit when it was released. Here's the trailer, by the way:

Friday, June 24, 2016

Diffused Congruence: Zarqa Nawaz

For our latest episode we're joined by Zarqa Nawaz, creator of the CBC comedy Little Mosque on the Prairie (the first sitcom to ever focus on the lives of Muslims in the west). During this breezy conversation Zarqa discusses her own entry into the creative arts, how the idea for the show came about and how it got to the air. She also talks about her engaging and very funny book Laughing All the Way to the Mosque: The Misadventures of a Muslim Woman. Listen via the embed below, and as always, send any comments or questions to us at or via our Facebook page!

Zaki's Review: Independence Day: Resurgence

I was sixteen years old when Independence Day was released in summer of 1996. I was there on opening day. And I loved it. Man, did I love it. I was absolutely exuberant in my reaction and effusive in my praise. And at the risk of revealing a little too much about myself, you can see all of that on display to an embarrassing degree in my vintage review. Now, while I've revised my estimation of that film slightly (read: a lot) downward in the intervening decades, I've always been able to appreciate it for being a well-crafted bit of summer nonsense.

All this preamble is merely to set the stage for the fact that when it came time to watch Independence Day: Resurgence, the belated sequel to one of Hollywood's primordial mega-blockbusters, that sixteen-year-old was at the forefront of my thoughts. And while this might be retroactively giving myself too much credit, I'd like to believe I'd have been pretty unmoved by director Roland Emmerich's long-in-coming follow-up, which ups the spectacle and CGI whiz-bang, but leaves you longing for the (seriously) subtlety and (I'm not kidding) restraint he practiced with the first one.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Recommended Readings

First go to The Atlantic and read Jonathan Rauch's piece on "How American Politics Went Insane," where he makes a pretty compelling case for where the rot currently eating our politics from the inside started.

Then jump over to New York magazine and read Jonathan Chait's rebuttal to Rauch, where he makes the case that this isn't a "pox on both their houses" situation. Gotta be honest, while I think Rauch raises some good points, I think I'm coming down on Chait's side of this one.

Nostalgia Theater Podcast: Remembering TV's The Incredible Hulk

For the latest Nostalgia Theater show I take a look back at one of my favorite TV shows, The Incredible Hulk, which aired on CBS from 1978 to 1982, and has enjoyed a perpetual afterlife through syndicated reruns. The series, developed by Kenneth Johnson and starring Bill Bixby & Lou Ferrigno as the two sides of Dr. David Banner ("Physician. Scientist"), was the first attempt to take a Marvel Comics character seriously in the mainstream, and you can draw a straight line from its successful approach right through to the current age of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Joining me for this conversation is former Hulk comic book writer (and TV show superfan) Glenn Greenberg for a fun and fact-filled chat that will leave you feeling anything but anger or outrage. You can catch the show 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, June 20, 2016

Anton Yelchin, RIP

Anton Yelchin, me, and director Jeremy Saulnier during the Green Room press tour
Wanted to take a moment to acknowledge yesterday's very sad passing of actor Anton Yelchin following a freak accident involving his own car. Although best known as Pavel Chekov in the rebooted Star Trek movies (with his third -- and now final -- turn in next month's Star Trek Beyond), Yelchin had been acting since he was nine, and racked up a whole array of very impressive film and television credits. He was particularly good as the title character in 2007's Charlie Bartlett, and he did a terrific job channelling Michael Biehn as the young Kyle Reese in 2009's Terminator Salvation.

Most recently he'd appeared alongside fellow Trek actor Patrick Stewart in this year's horror thriller Green Room, which I had the chance to interview him about just this past April. In all my time on this blog, this is the first time doing an "in memoriam" on someone I'd actually interacted with, which makes this feel more acutely personal than ever before. We only talked for fifteen or so minutes, but he struck me as very thoughtful and introspective. It was clear he took his craft more seriously than himself. He was a good actor, a good guy, and at age 27 there's no reason to think he wouldn't have had a long and fruitful career stretching well into the future. Just a sad, sad story.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Recommended Reading

A Prairie Home Companion's Garrison Keillor offers his unique perspective on what's at stake for this election if a certain orange-hued troll ascends to the highest office:
His response to the Orlando tragedy is one more clue that this election is different from any other. If Mitt Romney or John McCain had been elected president, you might be disappointed but you wouldn't fear for the fate of the Republic. This time, the Republican Party is nominating a man who resides in the dark depths. He is a thug and he doesn't bother to hide it. The only greatness he knows about is himself.
Read the rest here.

From The Onion...

Satire. Barely. 
U.N. Warns Trump May Be 7 Months Away From Acquiring Nuclear Weapons 
According to an alarming new global risk report published Tuesday by the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs, presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump may be just seven months away from acquiring nuclear weapons. “A year ago, the threat didn’t seem great enough to warrant serious concern, but at this moment, a nuclear-capable Trump is now a very real and very imminent possibility,” said UNODA high representative Kim Won-soo, adding that the agency’s current projections showed Trump potentially procuring nuclear weapons, as well as advanced ballistic missile technology, as early as January of next year. “The longer we wait to act, the closer he comes to obtaining a nuclear arsenal. The final red line for preventing him from acquiring this devastating capability comes in early November. If he is not properly dealt with before then, there will be no way to stop him from going nuclear.” While U.N. officials said the international community should prepare for the destabilizing effects of Trump acquiring such weapons, they still held out hope that citizens of his nation might yet rise up against him and topple the extremist before he posed a global existential threat.

Nostalgia Theater: Independence Day Action Figures!

Twenty years ago, in summer of '96, the movie to beat at the box office was Fox's Independence Day. And with the sequel, Independence Day: Resurgence, hitting theaters later this week, I thought I'd turn the Nostalgia Theater spotlight towards some of the merch that was put out to tie in with the Roland Emmerich-directed alien invasion pic. The toy rights for the film were purchased by then-new (now defunct) toymaker Trendmasters, which had launched two years earlier with toys based on Battlestar Galactica and Godzilla, and they had a whole assortment of aliens, figures, and vehicles ready to go. Here's a TV spot:

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Dr. Sam Beckett Leaps Again!

Earlier this week Late Show host Stephen Colbert roped in Quantum Leap star Scott Bakula for a bit that sees the actor's Quantum character Dr. Sam Beckett drafted into duty to stop a certain presidential campaign before it can start. Funny stuff:

They Will Remember

Timothy Egan at the New York Times takes stock of the sobering historical junction we find ourselves at, staring down the barrel of a presidential candidate who presents an existential thread to this country and her history. As he says, future generations will look back this moment and judge us for the decisions we make.
They will hang their heads in sorrow at the time when the man leading the party of Lincoln suggested that a sitting president was a traitor, somehow sympathetic to Islamic nihilists who slaughter innocent Americans. Trump implied it. Then he banned a newspaper for its headline about it. 
He wasn’t finished, this 70-year-old with the temperament of a 7-year-old. He made no rousing call for unity and courage, no plea for a partisan pause. He said the president must resign, as if it wasn’t an assault rifle easily obtained by a New York-born fanatic that killed 49 people, but the American commander in chief.
It's a sobering litany, to be sure, and there's even more at the link.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Hana Ali on the Champ: "My Father Knew Islam is About Peace"

The late, great Muhammad Ali's daughter, Hana Yasmeen Ali, remembers her father and offers what she thinks his likely response would have been to the Orlando shooting tragedy:
Our father would be profoundly saddened and disappointed by the cowardice and heartless displays of inhumanity shown by the so-called Muslim gunman who took the lives of so many innocent people in the name of a religion which has as its very meaning: peace. 
As much as my father loved his faith, he raised us to respect all religions and all people and to judge no one. He taught us that no man has the knowledge and understanding God has, and he often quoted one of his favorite Islamic sayings when teaching us this spiritual lesson. "If all the oceans were ink and all of the trees were pens, it still would not be enough to write the knowledge of God."
Read the rest from Hana here.

The MovieFilm Podcast: Taking Stock of Ninja Turtles and Warcraft

Cowabunga! Strap on your nunchucks and get your pizza on as Brian and I discuss the sequel Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, and why it's ended up disappointing at the box office despite being a much better movie than its predecessor. In addition, they also talk the video game adaptation Warcraft, and offer some thoughts on the planned Ocean's 11 spin-off film and Netflix's upcoming Stranger Things miniseries. All that, plus the usual Star Wars news, listener letters, and witty banter and random digressions you've come to expect. Check out the show via the embed below or at iTunes or Stitcher or Google Play. As always, please hit "like" on our Facebook page, and send any questions or comments to

Monday, June 13, 2016

Recommended Reading

Jonathan Chait takes stock of Donald Trump's bloviating, nonsensical response to yesterday's tragic killing spree in Orlando, and arrives at one takeaway:
What Trump calls “political correctness” is simply the presumption that Muslims are mostly peaceful and, in the absence of evidence of hostile intent, have a right to equal treatment. As with most of his policies, Trump has left the details of his plan vague, but its overall contours are clear enough. The plan is to persecute Muslims.
Yep, and we can see it not just from Trump, but the troglodytes that are following in his wake. More here.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Recommended Reading

Robert Reich connects the dots from Donald Trump and our current political moment to its roots in the 1990s and Newt Gingrich's ascension to power on the back of an implicit promise to drive governance to a halt:
Yes, Gingrich scolded Trump for his recent comment about the federal judge. But Gingrich’s approach to politics has been almost as divisive and destructive. After Gingrich became speaker of the House in 1995, Washington was transformed from a place where legislators sought common ground into a war zone. Compromise was replaced by brinkmanship, bargaining by obstruction.
And that's where we've sat ever since. Thanks, Newt. Read the rest here.

Nostalgia Theater: Beverly Hills Teens (or White Privilege: The Series)

Here's an '80s artifact that just feels tone deaf and odd when viewed with thirty years of hindsight. Beverly Hills Teens arrived in syndication in September of 1987 as an ostensible family friendly antidote to all the "good guy vs. bad guy" violence other kids shows like G.I. Joe and He-Man were propagating during that bygone era of magical, toy-fueled kidvid. After all, why export good old-fashioned jingoism to the world when you could just as easily broadcast a universal message of glorious, glorious USA-style decadence. And who better to animate this thing than noted crap factory DiC? Here, watch:

Friday, June 10, 2016

Zaki's Review: Warcraft

Full disclosure: I've never played the Warcraft or World of Warcraft video games. I've never read the novels or comics. I've never played the collectible card game. When it comes to this brand, despite its twenty-plus year presence (a lifetime!) as part of the pop culture ether, I'm a complete neophyte to the Blizzard Entertainment property. I feel like that bit of context might be helpful as I walk you through my utterly baffled reaction to Universal Studios' big budget adaptation directed by Duncan Jones (whose Moon and Source Code I remain a pretty big fan of).

My understanding is that Jones comes to the feature version (which finally arrives after ten long years in the development pipeline) as a longtime fan of the franchise, and that much is surely plain to see. In fact, that may be the very thing that so bogs it down. The film is so steeped in adoration for its source material that I have no doubt the same faithful who've kept the brand alive for all these years will luxuriate in every Easter Egg and snarky aside. But for anyone coming in cold, the mythology is impenetrable, the effects are lackluster, and the performances are mannered to the point of distraction.

Recommended Reading

Jonathan Chait says the last few weeks have made the prospect of a Trump presidency less likely even as they've made that same notion a lot more terrifying. Says he:
...the disintegration and debasement of his internal enemies, many of whom submitted after he belittled them, seems to have only confirmed Trump’s confidence in the soundness of his methods. His megalomania has soared to new heights. “I will give you everything,” he told a crowd of bikers over Memorial Day weekend. “I will give you what you’ve been looking for, for 50 years. I’m the only one.”
Read the rest from Chait here.

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

INTERVIEW: The Conjuring 2's Madison Wolfe

In only a few short years as an actor, Madison Wolfe has racked up an amazing array of big and small screen credits. From with her debut in 2012's On the Road and The Campaign to her appearances in last year's acclaimed films Trumbo and Joy, she's steadily built up a repertoire of appearances alongside some of biggest names in the industry, including Will Ferrell, Bryan Cranston, and Jennifer Lawrence. Her latest film is this week's much-anticipated horror sequel The Conjuring 2. I had a chance to talk to Madison about about her career so far, how she nabbed her Conjuring role, and what she hopes to accomplish in the future. What follows are some highlights of our chat:

Monday, June 06, 2016

Diffused Congruence: Ramadan Fitness and Fiqh-ness Special!

Welcome to our special Ramadan episode of Diffused Congruence, as Parvez and I are joined by guest Imam Tahir Anwar for some insight into how best to maximize one's spiritual pursuits during the month of Ramadan, and fitness trainer Rehan Jalali on how to make one's morning and evening meals as efficient and healthy as possible so you don't feel ill-effects from the long fasts. We had a great time with both of our guests, and we're confident you'll find a lot to benefit from in these interviews. Send any comments or questions to or via our Facebook page!

INTERVIEW: Emilia Clarke on Me Before You and Game of Thrones

The new film Me Before You (now in theaters) marks a bit of a change of pace for Emilia Clarke after the action antics of last summer's franchise opus Terminator Genisys. The romantic drama, based on the best-seller of the same name by Jojo Moyes, Emilia is Louella "Lou" Clarke, a free-spirited young woman tasked with taking care of Will Traynor (Sam Claflin), a recent victim of a motorcycle accident that has left him quadriplegic

For the actress, the project was a switch from her famed role as the Mother of Dragons on HBO's hugely-successful Game of Thrones. I had a chance to talk to her recently about why Me Before You so appealed to her, how she responds to those that think it puts forth a negative message about the disabled, and more. Read on for some highlights, including her response when I confessed that I've never actually seen Game of Thrones.

Sunday, June 05, 2016

Nostalgia Theater Rewind: The Muhammad Ali Cartoon Show

With the passing of legendary athlete Muhammad Ali this Friday, there's been a lot of reflection on the outsized impact the outsized personality had on pop culture above and beyond his prowess in the ring. In addition to starring in several feature films, he also headlined his very own Saturday morning cartoon show, for which he provided his own voice, in the mid-'70s. I looked back at this show in a Nostalgia Theater entry a few years ago, and I figured now was as good a time as any to link back to that one.

Continue reading...

Friday, June 03, 2016

Zaki's Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows

Click here to read my 2014 review of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

You may recall that I wasn't an especially big fan of Paramount's big budget Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot when it hit theaters two summers ago. On top of a whole host of narrative issues, probably my biggest issue with the Michael Bay-produced, Jonathan Liebesman-directed opus was the way it seemed embarrassed of its own premise. As I said at the time:

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

The MovieFilm Podcast: X-Men: Apocalypse + Emilia Clarke on Me Before You

This week the MovieFilm gang dives deep into a spoiler-filled dissection of the latest -- though far from greatest -- entry in Fox's long-running X-Men feature film franchise, Apocalypse (click here to read my full-length review). We get into the story, praise what works, and offer our thoughts on what doesn't. In addition, hear my interview with the delightful Emilia Clarke about her new romantic drama Me Before You as well as her continuing work on Game of Thrones.

All that, plus some thoughts on Disney's Alice Through the Looking Glass flopping over Memorial Day weekend, whether it's a good idea to make a Mary Poppins sequel fifty-plus years after the original, what those reshoot rumors actually mean for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, some Listener Letters, and the usual bits of banter and non sequiturs you've come to expect!

Listen at the embed below or at iTunes(make sure to write a review or leave a star rating!), StitcherTuneIn Radio, or Google Play). You can also drop us a line at, or at our our Facebook page to tell us how we're doing!