Friday, June 30, 2017

Zaki's Review: Spider-Man: Homecoming

When I reviewed The Amazing Spider-Man -- Sony's 2012 insta-reboot that ditched the franchise continuity that director Sam Raimi had started just ten years earlier -- I compared it to a kid hitting reset on a video game just because he'd lost a "life."

Even with the less-than-stellar reception accorded 2007's Spider-Man 3, there was nothing so broken that a solid sequel couldn't have fixed without necessitating a baby-with-the-bathwater approach. Nonetheless that's exactly what we got, with the studio quickly pulling the trigger on a "Here we go again!" reboot, and director Marc Webb & star Andrew Garfield handed the unenviable task of making audiences think they hadn't seen this exact story not that long ago. Still, as I said at the time, "the Spider-Man myth is more powerful than any of its individual tellings, and with Andrew Garfield behind the mask, it'll likely continue to spin for several years yet."

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Great Moments in Presidential Rhetoric

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Zaki's Review: Transformers: The Last Knight

Ten years ago Paramount and director Michael Bay birthed the big screen Transformers franchise, and I was entirely onboard with it. In hindsight, this would prove to be the solitary shining moment for this series, with everything after a very determined race to the bottom. When the first sequel came out in 2009, I pretty much hated it, as I did the third film two years after that. When the fourth hit theaters in 2014, I...didn't end up minding it as much. But as it turns out, that was nothing more than a momentary blip. What we'd call, in stock trading parlance, a "dead cat bounce."

And now here we are with Transformers: The Last Knight, the fifth installment of a series that's practically daring you to care about anything in it or about it at this point. Even with IMAX and 3D being dangled as value-added elements, the big budget series based on Hasbro's long-running action figures has become shorthand for the calcifying corrosion that's befallen summer movie season in recent years. Don't spend time on coherence and clarity on a story level, just go bigger, louder, and explodier. Don't worry, the audiences can always be counted on to dutifully line up at the turnstile and hand over their money -- even if they complain along the way.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Diffused Congruence Podcast: Hakim Archuletta

As we get ready to close out Ramadan, we're joined by special guest Hakim Archuletta on the latest show for a lengthy and engaging discussion about his journey to Islam, as well some counsel from the 30 years he's spent working in the healing arts profession. Check out the show at the embed below or at this link. As always, send any questions or comments to diffusedcongruence@gmail.com, or at our Facebook page.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The MovieFilm Podcast: Transformers: The Last Knight

Transformers: The Last Knight is in theaters now, and hoo-boy, we’ve got lots to say about Michael Bay’s latest rock ‘em, sock ‘em robot romp starring Mark Wahlberg. Listen in as we attempt to make sense of the plot, divine directorial intact, and ultimately figure out what the heck we were doing in the theater! But that’s not all! We also discuss the divergent box office fortunes of Wonder Woman and The Mummy, mention the sudden retirement of Daniel Day-Lewis, and more! Plus: Listener Letters, some big Star Wars News, and all the other features you’ve come to expect! You can listen through 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 MovieFilmPodcast@gmail.com.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Batman-on-Film.com Podcast: The Star Wars Prequels

I once again joined the Batman-on-Film.com Podcast this past weekend for a fun and far-ranging conversation about the much-derided, still-divisive Star Wars Prequel Trilogy. Love 'em or hate 'em, they've been part of the Star Wars tapestry for coming up on two decades now, and so it's worth at least looking at them from a holistic perspective. At least, that was the perspective I offered to host Rick Shew and the other members of the BOF Roundtable for this very interesting conversation:

Monday, June 19, 2017

Zaki's Retro Review: Batman Returns

When the time came to craft a follow-up to his 1989 mega-hit Batman, Tim Burton made exactly the movie he wanted — and exactly the movie Warner Bros. didn't.

Given how superheroes have taken over cinemas over the last decade or so, it's easy to forget what a gamble that initial Batman had been when it first came out. The only serious take on superheroes before then had been 1978’s Superman, directed by Richard Donner and starring Christopher Reeve, and that franchise didn't take long to peter out: Superman IV: The Quest For Peace (1987) signaled the ignominious end (for nearly twenty years, it would turn out) of the Man of Steel's big-screen career.

Continue reading at Fandor...

Sunday, June 18, 2017

The MovieFilm Commentary Track: Batman & Robin Turns 20!

Holy trainwreck! This week marks the 20th anniversary of one of the most fascinating misfires in movie history, Joel Schumacher’s Batman & Robin. The film’s less-than-stellar box office reception in summer of ‘97 marked the end of the Dark Knight’s first movie series, and in the years since has become a fascinating case study for how studios can kill their golden goose franchises. With that in mind, Brian and Zaki have used the occasion to dive in for a feature-length commentary track as they attempt to make sense of George Clooney’s single turn as the Caped Crusader while keeping count of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Mr. Freeze ice puns and puzzling over why Bruce Wayne would put moulded rubber nipples on his Batman suits. It’s a fun and freewheeling conversation that we hope you’ll enjoy being a part of. Listen below or via iTunes or Stitcher or TuneIn Radio (and make sure to write us a review!). Drop us a line at MovieFilmPodcast@gmail.com, or at our Facebook page to tell us how we're doing!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

The MovieFilm Podcast: The Mummy

Is The Mummy magnificent, or merely a mess? The MovieFilm boys tackle the Tom Cruise monster mash -- first entry in Universal’s ballyhooed “Dark Universe” -- and try to figure out whether it should live forever or go back under wraps. But that's not all! We also pay respects to the late, great Adam West following his passing, and share our fond memories of the Batman star and his seminal series. In addition, we also talk up the latest developments on Justice League and X-Men: Dark Phoenix, discuss the trailers for Black Panther and Flatliners, and catch up on the latest Star Wars news! You can listen through the embed below, or at iTunes or Stitcher or Google Play. And as always, please hit “like” on our Facebook page, and send any questions or comments to MovieFilmPodcast@gmail.com.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Batman-on-Film.com Podcast: Wonder Woman

Click the embed below to catch my appearance on the latest Batman-on-Film Podcast. I joined hosts Bill Ramey and Rick Shew, as well as regular panelists Justin Kowalski and Ryan Hoss for an in-depth discussion on the latest -- and most definitely greatest! -- entry in DC's Expanded Universe, Wonder Woman. As always, I had a great time chatting with the gang, and I'm sure you'll enjoy listening to it as well.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Diffused Congruence Podcast: Celebrating the Big Five-Oh!

Parvez and Zaki take a break in the middle of Ramadan to celebrate fifty episodes of the podcast! Listen in for a fun and free-ranging conversation about a whole host of current events, including the tragic terror attacks in London last week, the Capitol Hill testimony of ex-FBI director James Comey, and what lies ahead for the increasingly scandal-engulfed Trump administration. Check out the show at the embed below or at this link. As always, send any questions or comments to diffusedcongruence@gmail.com, or at our Facebook page.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Nostalgia Theater: When Adam West Came Back to Batman!

With yesterday's passing of legendary Batman actor Adam West, it's understandable that much digital ink has been spilled singing the praises of his turn on the '66-'69 TV series based on the DC Comics, and the decades-long impact it ended up having. It's also led to a renewed round of righteous appreciation for the show that gave him his immortality. However, it's worth remembering that while Batman took up permanent residence in the brainpans of those who grew up watching, it also did a number on career of the guy playing the title role.

After Batman went off the air in '69, Adam West suddenly found himself out of work, and spent much of the next few decades trying to get out of its shadow. It wasn't until much later that the star found a second act by lampooning his own image, but for awhile there, his most consistent work came via reprising the Dark Knight (er, sorry, Bright Knight) in various different forms. I talked about one such instance last year, but the first time was in 1977's short-lived The New Adventures of Batman, which aired on CBS:

Friday, June 09, 2017

Zaki's Review: The Mummy (2017)

It's been more than fifty years since Universal's web of interconnected monster movies -- Frankenstein! Dracula! The Wolf Man! -- have dominated the big screen, but the studio has been desperate to recapture that halcyon glory ever since. And when you think about it, it's entirely understandable. After all, long before Marvel Studios was a glint in anyone's eye, before anyone thought to have Batman and Superman square off together onscreen, Universal had already laid claim to the concept of a shared cinematic universe, with its roster of creatures comforting audience from the early '30s through the late '50s.

And while they've tried in years past -- whether with 2015's Dracula Untold in 2015 or 2010's The Wolfman or 2004's Van Helsing -- to reignite those franchise fires, no attempt has really caught on with modern audiences. The closest they came to a box office phenomenon was with 1999's The Mummy. Though the Stephen Sommers-directed film borrowed its title and iconography from the 1932 Karl Freund original, it otherwise went its own way with an Indiana Jones-lite adventure story, and was rewarded with enough success to merit two increasingly far-fetched sequels (though I do have a soft spot for 2001's The Mummy Returns, featuring the cinematic debut of one Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson).

Thursday, June 08, 2017

The MovieFilm Podcast: Wonder Woman + Zoe Lister-Jones on Band Aid

Summer movie season continues! This week: An in-depth, spoiler-filled discussion of Warner Bros. freshly-minted megahit Wonder Woman! But that's not all, you can also hear Zaki's interview with writer/director/star Zoe Lister-Jones about her fresh new comedy Band Aid. In addition, hear quick takes on the trailers for Murder on the Orient ExpressAmerican Made, and Logan Lucky, as well as all the Headlines, Listener Letters, and Star Wars news you've come to expect. Listen through the embed below, or at iTunes or Stitcher or Google Play. And as always, please hit “like” on our Facebook page, and send any questions or comments to MovieFilmPodcast@gmail.com.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Zaki's Original Review: The Mummy (1999)

First published: May 14, 1999

The 1930s and ‘40s or something of a golden age for horror movies in general, and Universal Pictures horror movies in particular. With lightning rapidity, the Studio pumped out a vast coterie of unforgettable monsters ranging from Lugosi's Dracula to Chaney's Wolf Man the Karloff’s Frankenstein monster.

Occupying the lower tier of Universal Horrors was the Mummy series. Never quite as overtly terrifying as his creature kin, the Mummy (first brought to life by Boris Karloff in the 1932 film of the same name) still obviously left enough of an impression on director Stephen Sommers (the underrated Deep Rising) for him to mount a stylish remake cast in the ‘90s mold.

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Nostalgia Theater Podcast: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan Commentary Track

The Commentary Trek continues! After having a blast with our Star Trek: The Motion Picture commentary last month, I'm joined once again by my friend Glenn Greenberg, former Marvel Comics editor, and writer of many Hulk and Star Trek comics, just in time to celebrate the 35th anniversary of fan-favorite film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan! Listen and watch along with us as we discuss our own histories with this beloved film, as well as revealing interesting trivia and behind-the-scenes factoids. As always, we had a blast recording this one, and I'm confident you'll enjoy listening to it. Next up: The Search For Spock! Click below to listen, 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 MovieFilmPodcast@gmail.com, and don't forget to hit "like" on our Facebook page.

Friday, June 02, 2017

The MovieFilm Podcast: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

The MovieFilm boys kick off June on the high seas with an in-depth discussion of Captain Jack Sparrow's fifth (and final?) outing in Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales! But before that, Zaki gives his thoughts on Baywatch and Captain Underpants - in addition to teasing his take on Wonder Woman - and Brian sees The Dark Knight through a whole new lens after revisiting Michael Mann's crime epic Heat. Plus, Universal and Warner Bros. battle over the word "dark," debating the merits of continuing with The Walking Dead, and Zaki interviews chef Jeremiah Tower, subject of the new documentary Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent. Hear all of this and much, much more 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 MovieFilmPodcast@gmail.com.

Zaki's Review: Wonder Woman

Despite being one of the most iconic heroes in the DC Comics stable, Wonder Woman made her cinematic entree under less than ideal circumstances when she bounded into the already-overstuffed climax of last year’s Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, directed by Zack Snyder. As played by Gal Gadot, the character provided one of the few moments of genuine uplift in that dour spectacle, but while her extended cameo was meant to prime the pump for her this week’s Wonder Woman solo feature, directed by Patty Jenkins, still I couldn’t help feeling a bit wary.

As I said at the time, the movie felt like, "a nightmare, mirror-image version of the one in the comics," making me question in advance my ability or desire to sit through several more of these things. I'm someone who genuinely liked 2013's Man of Steel, but if your big idea as a studio is to culminate your big Superman reboot by having him snap a baddie’s neck (no matter how badly he feels afterwards), what would the celluloid spin on one of his classic contemporaries end up looking like? That was my foremost concern as we geared up for the very first silver screen appearance of the first (and most famous) female superhero in comic book history.

Thursday, June 01, 2017