Though Disney’s purchase of Fox clears all final hurdles in terms of rights to the original “Star Wars”, there’s still no way for anyone to watch the historic theatrical cuts of any of the original films. Instead, the new Disney+ streaming service now offers a 4K Special Edition with even more changes to the beloved classic. Is this the definitive version of “Star Wars” for the rest of eternity? Does Disney’s assumption of the franchise provide a new hope? Can Disney honor history and give fans what they want without negating George Lucas’s insistence that his Special Editions are the only editions? What is “Star Wars” and what will it be in the future? In this episode, we solve the whole thing. You’re welcome.
Old Movie Club finally takes on the big one, David Lean’s 1962 epic “Lawrence of Arabia.” Sand! Endurance! Men! Camels! Violence! Anticolonialism mixed with racism! Omar Sharif redefines thirst in the desert! The real romance in the movie without romance! This is a movie that builds myths with one hand and undermines them with the other. This episode has no overture, but there will be a brief intermission.
Our Book Club reconvenes to discuss “This Is How You Lose the Time War”, a beautiful novella about the relationship between two time-traveling operatives in a multiverse-wide struggle. Also, Erika keeps stuffing us full of food metaphors. Plus: What are we reading? This episode will go down like ice cream on your brain tongue.
We live in a world of film sequels and franchises. And yet, some films we love, that were certainly worthy, never received a sequel. This episode attempts to correct that, but in order to create we must also destroy—and name the film sequels we would like to eradicate from memory. All of these momentous decisions are made via the most perfect decision-making process yet devised: a draft. This episode is so good, you’ll be begging for a sequel.
In this final appendix to our Summer of Spider-Man, we watch a movie that’s probably much better than you’ve heard—2012’s “The Amazing Spider-Man.” Yes, it wasn’t necessary to re-tell Spidey’s origin ten years after the Tobey Maguire version, but you know what? This movie does it better, Andrew Garfield is pretty great as a mopey skateboarding Peter Parker, and Emma Stone is a fun and smart Gwen Stacy. We also discuss “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” which is a movie that reminds us of Batman movies—the really awful ones.
Watch movie. Do podcast. Repeat. We’re pretty sure this is our first time discussing “Edge of Tomorrow,” but can you ever really be sure? Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt star in this film about fighting an alien invasion through countless iterations of a single event. But unlike “Groundhog Day”, the origin of the time loops is key to the plot. If you haven’t seen this one yet, you’re missing out on one of the decade’s most under-appreciated sci-fi films. Watch movie. Do podcast. Repeat.
It’s almost Halloween and we’re watching a horror movie! As recommended by Steve Lutz 475 episodes ago, it’s a Canadian tale of girls becoming women, and women becoming wolves: “Ginger Snaps.” We discuss parallels to “Buffy”, connections to “Orphan Black”, and ultimately whether this film can live up to its feminist aspirations or if it’s yet another case where a girl is punished for becoming a woman—er, werewolf.
Holy Nostalgia! Our tour of live-action Batman features comes to an end with 1966’s “Batman”, in which a rogues gallery of villains from the Batman TV series—Joker, Riddler, Penguin, and Catwoman—take on Batman and Robin. We praise the… acting stile of Adam West and why…. he… was perfect for this part. We ponder how influential the 1960s Batman was on public perception of superheroes and comic books for decades thereafter. And we finally answer the question you’ve all been asking: What weighs five ounces and is very dangerous? To the batcave!
Your voice is your passport, so prepare to be verified. We discuss 1992’s “Sneakers,” a spy/heist thriller in which a team of smart people solve puzzles while trying to navigate the NSA, Russian spies, and an angry genius who works for the mob and is trying to overthrow the world order. Yes, star Robert Redford rolled a very high Charisma score, but the rest of the cast is also amazing.
Grab a shard, climb up your orrery, and get ready for the conjunction—it’s time to watch 1982’s “The Dark Crystal”, directed by Jim Henson and Frank Oz. This is a fantasy film featuring a prophecy, a young hero, a plucky animal sidekick, and villains so scary that it scarred several of our panelists’ young minds. And did we mention everyone’s a Muppet? Netflix has a new “Dark Crystal” prequel series, but we won’t spoil that—this is all about the original 1982 film.
Jason’s commitment to drafting things as a lifestyle continues in this episode, in which he’s joined by six panelists to draft X-Men from across movies, TV, and comics. The goal is to form a four-person X-Team, complete with names. Along the way we learn a lot about childhood loves, softball, vampires, the basics of German, and how the coolest and worst X-Men can co-exist.
Pour a sugary bowl of cereal and sit down in front of the TV for a long morning of entertainment. It’s time for our Saturday Morning draft, in which nine people of various ages draft favorite their favorite kid programming from their childhood. Plus cereal. Did we mention cereal?
September 21, 2019 • 1 hour, 25 minutes • Saturday Morning Draft • Jason Snell with Erika Ensign, David J. Loehr, Chip Sudderth, Allison Truj, Monty Ashley, Kelly Guimont, Kathy Campbell and Brian Hamilton
Our survey of the films of Hayao Miyazaki turns to his most recent film, 2013’s “The Wind Rises.” In many ways, it’s his most adult film, the story of an aeronautical engineer who must pursue his dreams amid earthquakes, rising geopolitical tensions, and personal challenges. Is movie tuberculosis like real tuberculosis? Is Miyazaki’s approach to pre-war Japan (and its allies, Germany and Italy) delicate or problematic? Does the film sufficiently address whether creators are complicit in how their work is used? Is the wind still rising?
Our season-by-season survey of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” goes to college, as we explore season four. UC Sunnydale is full of welcoming professors, friendly TAs, annoying roommates, and a collection of government commandos who are experimenting on the local demons and vampires. Spike returns as comic relief. We’re all about Willow and Tara. And then there’s that episode where nobody talks and that other one where they’re all dreaming. We break it all down like it’s 1999.
The Summer of Spider-Man concludes with 2007’s “Spider-Man 3”, a controversial sequel that’s packed full with villains (Sandman, Venom, and Extreme Sports Goblin) battling the increasingly unpleasant emo version of Peter Parker. Sandman’s daughter is very ill. Eddie Brock is an awfully unpleasant person. And at long last, the greatest character in the franchise—Bernard the Butler—gets his due. We watched it so you don’t have to!
Our Summer of Spider-Man swings on with 2004’s “Spider-Man 2.” Flush with the success of the first film, this is a much more confident outing that’s also more clearly set in modern times, isn’t afraid to have a sense of humor, and makes great use of director Sam Raimi’s horror-movie resume. And at the center is perhaps the biggest reason for the film’s success: Alfred Molina as Dr. Otto Octavius, a Frankenstein who is his own monster, after having created a set of robotic limbs so intelligent that each pair needs its own jacket.
We live in a world awash with superhero films today, but back at the beginning of this century it was a dark age. 2002’s “Spider-Man” finally brought one of the world’s most popular superheroes to the big screen, setting the stage for the genre’s elevation later in the decade. The Summer of Spider-Man is here, as we revisit Sam Raimi’s three Spidey films and judge how well they hold up to modern eyes. Up, up and away, web!
Comrades, we come to discuss HBO’s excellent miniseries “Chernobyl.” It’s simultaneously a horror movie about radiation poisoning, a indictment of a system that suppressed the truth in order to avoid showing signs of weakness, a tragedy about a humanitarian disaster, and an exciting tale of scientists attempting to work the problem and avert a continent-wide catastrophe. The subject matter may be hard, but the result is some of the most compelling television we’ve seen in some time.
Our Book Club returns with reviews of the six finalists for the Hugo Award for best science fiction/fantasy novel of the year. You’ll be thrilled by our panelists attempting to remember what happened in books they read months ago! We liked five out of the six, which is a great batting average—but oh, that sixth book. Also, we read some novellas and short stories, too! And Erika’s up for another Hugo!
A long time ago we used to be friends, but I haven’t thought of you lately at all—until you got that new series at Hulu, anyway. We’re discussing the UPN/CW classic series “Veronica Mars”, featuring Kristen Bell as a teenage noir detective trying to solve her best friend’s murder with the reluctant help of her disgraced private-investigator dad. If you’ve never seen it, it’s worth a watch! We discuss season one of the show in detail (including revealing who the murderer is at the end), but don’t discuss much at all about the next two seasons and don’t touch at all on the contents of the fourth season that just premiered.
Our Rocket Surgery crew returns to the current decade to discuss Tim Burton’s billion-dollar 3-D smash hit, “Alice In Wonderland.” What if everything you remember fondly from Lewis Carroll was turned into a catchphrase? Why so much eye stabbing? Who is the Jabberwocky and what has it done with the Jabberwock? What does Johnny Depp bring to his role of a mild hat enthusiast? When did Monty give up and start reading IMDB trivia? Nobody mention how big the Red Queen’s head is!
Fresh from the theater, we tackle “Spider-Man: Far From Home.” We consider the lighter side of the death and resurrection of billions of people, the unique position this Spider-Man has in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the value of various surrogate dads. We’re also surprised at how interesting Mysterio turned out to be despite the fact that he’s Mysterio.
For 4th of July week we’re going to the beach — Amity Island, to be precise. Old Movie Club takes on the original summer blockbuster, 1975’s “Jaws”, directed by some kid named Steven Spielberg. Two of our panelists have never seen it! But we all learn some important lessons about how much blood the human body contains, the ins and outs of tourism marketing, and how the most important part of the journey is the sharks we met along the way.
If we told you that there was a 1990s movie starring Martin Sheen’s brother featuring a post-apocalyptic world of skateboarding, sword-wielding Jedi dudes, would you believe us? Well, you shouldn’t, because we made it up on the spot. Concluding our trilogy of improvised “Rocket Surgery” episodes, this is “Last Dance of the Devil’s”, a film so bad that its title is mispunctuated.
Our survey of Christopher Nolan’s trilogy of Batman films concludes with “The Dark Knight Rises.” It’s clear why fans of the gritty darkness of “The Dark Knight” might have been disappointed with this film, because it’s strange in many surprisingly comic-booky ways… and we kind of love it? We discuss the choice to have the film’s primary villain have his mouth covered and speak in surround sound, the competence of Selina Kyle, the steadfastness of Michael Caine’s Alfred, the heir apparent earnestness of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and the proximity of certain middle-eastern rendition sites to Gotham. If you miss this episode, look for us in a café in Florence and give us a nod.
Our cinematic survey of Batman rolls on with Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight.” Nolan’s film was a huge hit and remains well loved, but how does it hold up on rewatching? Our panel found a film overflowing with ideas, sometimes to its credit and sometime to its detriment. Is this really two movies jammed together into one? Why was Rachel Dawes re-cast? Why does Batman hate dogs? Turn on your sonar vision and find out!
If you’re not watching “The Magicians”, you’re missing out. This is a TV series that started off fine, but then became spectacularly good with its third and (just completed) fourth seasons. We take some time at the beginning of the episode to try to entice new viewers to watch, and then dive into the shocking events that occur in the most recent season. After all, sometimes you’ve got to be a fish.
Climb on a dragon and join us for our traditional breakdown of the just-completed season of “Game of Thrones.” Did the story reach a satisfying conclusion? Were the character arcs consistent? Did the structure of the season satisfy us or undercut our assumptions about what the show was really about? And what is to become of the Night’s Watch? One last time, we go to Westeros.
For some reason, this seemed like a good time for our panelists to get together and draft their favorite and least favorite TV series endings of all time. We’ll wager that there are opinions you’ll disagree with and shows you’ve literally never heard of.
It’s time once again for our Book Club to tackle the six novels that made it to the Science Fiction Writers Association’s shortlist, the nominees for the Nebula Awards. All four of us read all six nominees and we discuss their merits (and occasionally demerits). The concept of being a Reverse Nemesis With a Twist is introduced. If you’re looking for a few books to add to your reading list, this episode will hit the spot.
Time to boldly go back to the earliest days of the Star Trek canon with our review of the second season of “Star Trek: Discovery”, which mixed in some Doctor Who and Star Wars sensibilities with varying results. We praise the characters, shrug at some of the mystifying plot points, and are left pondering where the series and the franchise go next. Plus there’s an enormous amount of love for Anson Mount’s Christopher Pike. Never forget: #theybuilttheset.
Part Two of our team coverage of “Avengers: Endgame!” Chip Sudderth assembles more of our Incomparable regulars and newer voices for a different angle on the movie—weaponized nostalgia, timey-wimey nonsense, delightful surprises and sour notes, and what this movie means for the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
We’re in the endgame now. In this, the first of two episodes about “Avengers: Endgame,” we break down the plot of perhaps the biggest movie of all time. How does time travel work? How do we feel about the final destinations of beloved characters? Why does the Hulk need to take the stairs? Who is worthy of wielding the power of Thor? Also, Jason has a pitch for a new Captain America TV series.
We’re all out seeing “Avengers: Endgame”, so here’s something completely different to tide you over. A while ago we all were talking about how our Rocket Surgery selections are so weird and obscure that we could just make up an entire movie and nobody would be able to tell the difference. So we did that. As with episode 453, here’s a Rocket Surgery about a movie you won’t find on IMDB or YouTube, because it totally doesn’t exist. We made it up on the spot, plot point by plot point. It’s 1963’s “The Howling Horror of Dracula.”
Pop on your mind-control goggles, unpunch your nemesis, and prepare to board the world’s largest hydrofoil—it’s time for us to discuss 2018’s much-awaited Pixar sequel “Incredibles 2”. Brad Bird’s original film tops the list of favorite animated films for many of us. This film… doesn’t. In this episode we detail all the ways that both story and an unfortunate change in Pixar’s release schedule let this movie down, while trying our best to also highlight the many reasons we still find it worthy of revisiting.
We break down the “Star Wars: Episode IX - The Rise of Skywalker” teaser trailer scene by scene, speculate about what the title means, question how to balance the closure of the classic saga without straying too far into nostalgia trips, and offer some wild speculation. Then we wrap things up with a discussion of the future of the franchise now that it’s moving (at least temporarily) to the forthcoming Disney+ streaming service.
“Paper Girls” is a comic that looks like it’s steeped in ’80s nostalgia, then makes you think it’s a modern story commenting on ’80s nostalgia, and then takes a 90-degree turn and becomes something even more interesting. This week we discuss the comic by Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang, which begins as a story about four girls delivering newspapers on a morning in 1988. The first 25 minutes or so is all spoiler-light, and then after the Spoiler Horn we jump into our discussion of the first two trade-paperback collections. (There are five volumes in all, with the sixth and final collection due this summer.)
It’s the Rocket Surgery Film Festival! In this episode, we’re watching something that proves that computer-game film adaptations were a bad idea from the very beginning! Based on a late 1970s Atari game, it’s the ill-fated “Star Raiders.” There’s a not-dashing star pilot, a sullen space princess, an annoying robot, and is that Sheriff Lobo in a tight-fitting jumpsuit? If you’re looking for a cross between “Star Wars” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark”, are you in for some disappointment. Once again, we watched the movie so you don’t have to.
Correction: Due to a clerical error, none of these movies actually exist. This episode was entirely improvised.
Protocol Omega has been activated, so it’s time to discuss the final season of Netflix’s “Travelers.” This is a mid-budget Canadian time travel show that we love, and if you haven’t dived in yet, now’s a great time. In this episode we talk about the show’s surprisingly satisfying ending, try to work out what makes this show’s particular brand of time-travel rules so intriguing, discuss some of our favorite moments, and air a few of our complaints about the final season.
Put on some flannel and pop in a grunge CD—it’s time to talk about Marvel’s 1990s throwback movie, “Captain Marvel.” We discuss Brie Larson and Samuel Jackson’s buddy-movie connection, surprise twists designed to trip up comics know-it-alls, and the dangers of gaslighting someone with cosmic powers. Strap in, and let’s fly this thing into orbit!
Spin a web, any size, and join us as our Comic Book Club discusses the comics from 2014 that inspired “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” and, more generally, the concept of alternate versions of Spider-Man. We read “Edge of Spider-Verse,” which introduces Spider-Gwen and Peni Parker, and the “Spider-Verse” issues of “Amazing Spider-Man.” Along the way we talk about our favorite alternate spiders and what path the makers of “Into the Spider-Verse” might choose as they ponder sequels and spin-offs.
Take our advice—it’s good advice—and revisit 2011’s “Source Code”, an under-appreciated gem of a sci-fi thriller directed by Duncan Jones and starring Jake Gyllenhaal. A first glance at the plot summary would suggest it’s a certain kind of movie, but this film has many more layers that are revealed over its 93 well-paced minutes. (And if you don’t know what it’s about, don’t look!) We’ve got praise for the script, the direction, the performances—especially by Michelle Monaghan and Vera Farmiga—and at some point we order Jeffrey Wright a creepy pizza. You’ll never look at Chicago commuter trains the same way again.
Dan Moren’s second novel, “The Bayern Agenda,” is coming soon to bookstores. He joins Jason to discuss how writing a novel is different the second time around, how the book connects (and doesn’t connect) with his previous novel, where he writes, and how he balances tech writing and podcasting and novel writing. And in a final lightning round, Dan answers some of the Internet’s most pressing Dan Moren-related questions.
We’re just back from the annual Gallifrey One convention, and so with “Doctor Who” on our minds we thought we’d ask a panel of fans both new and old to select their favorite “Doctor Who” monsters of all time. But let’s keep in mind that if science fiction has taught us anything, it’s that we were the true monsters all along.
Clip the labels off your clothes and put on a World War II replica bomber jacket—it’s time to revisit one of our favorite novels of this century, 2003’s “Pattern Recognition” by William Gibson. It was Gibson’s first book to be set in the present day, and yet 16 years later it still feels like a work of science fiction, with a very modern story about brands and viral marketing and our desperate search to find meaning in a world that may have none. If all you’ve read of Gibson is “Neuromancer”, it’s past time that you visited the post-9/11 world of cool-finder Cayce Pollard, the mysterious internet video clips known as The Footage, the global marketing firm Blue Ant, and a series of increasingly lonely international hotel rooms.
Put on your fake beard and step out of a magic door, because 2004’s “Howl’s Moving Castle” is in the spotlight. Hayao Miyazaki adapts Diana Wynne Jones’s novel as an anti-war statement that also plays as a Miyazaki’s Greatest Hits collection. We discuss the choices of the English audio dub versus the original Japanese version, ponder the film’s many discarded story threads, note the lengthy scenes involving climbing and cleaning, and debate the true role of Calcifer the fire demon in Howl’s household.
Our Old Movie Club visits two musicals—but they’re both unusual. From near the beginning of the sound era comes “Gold Diggers of 1933”, a Depression-era tale of showgirls and swells and misunderstandings with enormous Busby Berkeley production numbers. And from the early days of Beatlemania comes 1964’s “A Hard Day’s Night”, intended (at least by its financiers) to be disposable boy-band fluff, but ended up being one of the most influential films of the 20th century.
It’s time to dive in to the first film in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, 2005’s “Batman Begins.” We discuss how it changes the tone after the embarrassing Joel Schumacher films, its remarkable roster of acting talent, the more grounded tone and technology, and a whole lot more. Plus, one panelist’s deep love of Michael Caine is revealed at last.
We convene a special panel of anime mavens to discuss the iconic series “Cowboy Bebop.” Why has this series made such an impression? We cover all the best characters, episodes, and moments.
In this era of peak TV, with more than 500 scripted English-language series on the agenda for 2019, what better time for our very well-read panel to suggest books and book series they’d like to see turned into new TV shows? If you’re a TV producer, you’d better act fast—since we recorded this episode, one of our picks has already been announced as a new project! If you’re not a TV producer, consider this a great reading list of books that you’ll like so much you’ll wish they were adapted into TV shows.
Happy New Year! We take this opportunity to look back at 2018, as a collection of panelists shares some of their favorite works from the past year. Then a second group discusses their favorite Incomparable (and related podcast) moments and we play some classic audio clips.
January 6, 2019 • 2 hours, 41 minutes • The best stuff of 2018, plus clip show • Jason Snell with Aleen Simms, Monty Ashley, David J. Loehr, Antony Johnston, Dan Moren, Chip Sudderth, Erika Ensign and Steve Lutz
We all suspected Sony’s new animated Spider-Man movie would be a slapdash cash grab. Instead, “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” is one of the best animated movies of this or any other year, with great characters, an exciting story, and a mind-boggling visual style that changes the game for animation and superhero movies alike. We come in praise of Miles Morales, Peter B. Parker, and all the other spiders who populate this delightful gift of a film.
The latest “Doctor Who” season—and the first featuring Jodie Whittaker as the Doctor and Chris Chibnall as showrunner—is now in the books. In this episode we bring Doctor Who podcasters, experts, and fans to discuss what worked about the new season, what didn’t, and what our hopes are for the next series when the show returns in (gasp) 2020.
In this holiday season, what could be more emblematic of the spirit of Peace on Earth (of the past) and Goodwill toward men (who aren’t whalers or aquarium directors) than 1986’s “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home”? We celebrate “the one with the whales”, an enjoyable romp through 1980s San Francisco that also features a soundtrack that sounds like a Christmas carol, nuclear wessels with terrible security practices, and Admiral Kirk’s to-go pizza box.
Consult the lawgiver’s scrolls and watch out for talking dolls! It’s a madhouse! A madhouse! And also, the 50th anniversary of “Planet of the Apes.” Join us as we explore the world of spaceman Taylor (Charlton Heston) and his long journey through an empty desert into a land populated by officious orangutans, plucky chimpanzee scientists, and wry yet violent gorillas. Does it hold up? Why did such a dark vision generate kids’ lunch boxes and multiple sequels and spinoffs? And what are the intricacies of Ape Law?
Break the shrink wrap and lift off the lid! It’s time to get together with friends and family to play some games. In this second Incomparable Board Game Draft, we’re allowing all sorts of tabletop (non-roleplaying) games. The result: 21 more games you might want to consider playing this holiday season—some classics, some brand new.
Jason chose Disney’s “The Black Hole” for this edition of Rocket Surgery, and after viewing it, he’s pretty confident in his decision. But there is dissention in the ranks! Some panelists will stick up for Disney’s strange 1979 horror-as-sci-fi film, which features ranting scientists, robot ESP, laser contests, a giant rolling gumball on fire, a down-home robot prospector, and one hell of a chandelier. Oh, and did we mention there’s a black hole?
Gather ‘round the dinner table and prepare to partake in an amazing feast produced by your podcast pals. To celebrate Thanksgiving we’re drafting an entire meal, dish by dish. Kathy reveals her hands-off approach to Thanksgiving dinner. Phil has follow-up questions. Monty has a plan for immortality. Moisés implores you not to eat the Bay Leaf. And once we’re all full, Brian will bring you coffee. Pull up a chair!
November 17, 2018 • 59 minutes • Thanksgiving dinner draft • Jason Snell with Kathy Campbell, Tiffany Arment, Philip Michaels, David J. Loehr, Jean MacDonald, Brian Hamilton, Monty Ashley and Moisés Chiullan
Last week, we tackled the cinema classic “2001: A Space Odyssey.” This week, we look at its sequel, 1984’s “2010: The Year We Make Contact.” There’s no denying it—this movie carries a heavy burden, and tries to explain a lot of things that fans of the original film didn’t need to have explained. And yet, at its core is a smart, entertaining mid-80s sci-fi movie with a great cast, some kitchen dolphins, and a few questionable Russian accents. Listening to this episode will be as easy as cake, comrade.
Pick up a femur, order a moon sandwich, and always remember to bring your space helmet with you! On its 50th anniversary, we’re discussing Stanley Kubrick’s classic “2001: A Space Odyssey.” What is the Monolith’s purpose? When and why does HAL become murderous? And why is there so much solarized stock footage of landscapes? Watch out for cheetahs!
Sit back and let our panelists take you into the world of movie music, as we draft our favorite film scores. (Songs with lyrics not eligible!) Who is this John Williams guy and why is he hogging the limelight? If James Horner’s scores all sound the same, why do we keep picking them? This is one episode that wasn’t overproduced by Hans Zimmer.
Well, gosh! Our slow walk through all seven seasons of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” reaches season three, full of extra slayers and friendly-but-demonic mayors and all the hallmarks of your senior year in high school. Is Faith a good addition or does she disappoint? Does Xander continue to stink or does he grow up? Was the introduction of Anya (and the vampire version of Willow) all we could wish for? Did the WB network demand all of the romance and love-triangle subplots? We talk about the season as a whole and our favorite (and least favorite) episodes.
Two years ago we drank beer on a podcast and talked about it, and wouldn’t you know it, we’re back for more beer! The Incomparable’s Oktoberfest returns with five polarizing beers chosen by listener (and Almanac Brewing co-founder) Jesse Friedman and mailed to all of our houses. We open them and drink them on air—in stereo, just like the flavor of a hazy IPA!
Will we finally understand why people line up to drink Pliny the Elder? Who put coconut in our stout again? Why does Dan keep trying to ruin the podcast? Will the podcast get progressively sillier as we drink beer? The answer to that last one is “yes.”
This summer we devoured two novels by Mary Robinette Kowal, “The Calculating Stars” and “The Fated Sky.” They’re both exciting tales of space exploration, with well-rounded characters having to navigate challenges both external and internal, cultural and scientific, personal and global. They’re set in an alternate timeline where the Space Race we know happened quite a bit differently, and at the center is the world-famous Lady Astronaut, Elma York. We seriously can’t recommend these books highly enough. Listen in to find out why, and then stick around for a list of other books we really enjoyed!
After “The Matrix” was a hit, we got the inevitable plague of Matrix-like tales of ultraviolent dark pop philosophy. Of these, 2002’s “Equilibrium”… was one. At the pleading of Dan Moren, our Rocket Surgery team disassembles this tale of totalitarianism and gun-based martial arts starring Christian Bale, Emily Watson, Taye Diggs, and Sean Bean. It’s a movie that thinks it’s very, very smart when it’s actually really dumb. Be sure to take your Prozium, or the Grammaton Clerics will set you on fire!
Look, the ’90s was a dark time, okay? A year before “The Matrix” there was another film about identity and memory and the meaning of reality, cloaked in noir tropes and gunfire and mind-blowing revelations. It’s 1998’s “Dark City”, directed by Alex Proyas and starring Rufus Sewell, Jennifer Connelly, William Hurt, and a heavy-breathing Kiefer Sutherland. This is a film that was a favorite of both Roger Ebert and European video pirates. Why is Kiefer Sutherland the only being alive who can use a syringe? Why is memory like paint? And can you tell us the way to get to Shell Beach?
Grab your crystal dagger and leave your village forever! It’s time to discuss our latest Miyazaki movie, as selected by John Siracusa: 1997’s “Princess Mononoke.” We lend a certain ugly dignity to the proceedings by discussing this medieval fantasy tale featuring wolf gods, disgusting pig spirits, and the occasional cartoon beheading. Stand away from the leper holes!
Thanks to Amazon, this most recent season of “The Expanse” won’t be the last! The show has been saved, and it’s a good thing, because we really enjoyed season 3. In this episode, we discuss how the show’s producers made some clever diversions from their source material, space spies, hallucinatory cops with hallucinatory hats, David Strathairn’s amazing Belter accent, amoral fathers and the rage-monster daughters who love them, and the plethora of stolen spaceships that populate the solar system.
It’s been fun, but just as Labor Day Weekend is the traditional end of summer, so too is this the end of the Summer of Marvel! In this episode our panelists pitch Marvel movies they’d like to see in the future, and we save some time at the end to reveal the results of our poll of Incomparable panelists to see where all the MCU movies rank.
Hang on to your cyborg limbs! As the Summer of Marvel winds toward a close, our penultimate installment has us revisiting the “Guardians of the Galaxy” films. How do they hit us upon rewatching? How vitally important was the tone of the original film in terms of making the Marvel Cinematic Universe less of a snooze? What do the movies have to say about the power of sisterhood? Does Peter Quill have any internal life at all? Why does Jason dislike Ego’s Planet so much? And how does “Avengers: Infinity War” rely on the character development of the second Guardians movie? All that, plus a tree and a raccoon outwit a human repeatedly.
There are Thor movies, and then there’s “Thor: Ragnarok.” From the liberal use of the Hulk to the perfectly bizarre Jeff Goldblum to the delightful villainy of Cate Blanchett, this is a wacky cosmic romp that’s a universe apart from the two previous Thor installments. Loki just wants to eat grapes, Valkyrie wants to be left alone, and Doug’s not here anymore, man. Pour one out for ol’ meow meow and join us for the Lord of Thunder—or is that the God of Hammers?—and his finest hour.
The Marvel Universe has wizards now? Yes, and “Doctor Strange” is the movie where we meet them. But more than anything, this is a character study of Mister Doctor himself, who is laid low by distracted driving and then has to rebuild his life by moving to Nepal, stealing books from a magical library, and getting half-frozen on the side of Mount Everest before being thrust into mystical battles against his will. Spectacular visuals! Mads Mikkelsen trapped in a wall! Tilda Swinton as a super weird ageless magical being (who was Asian in the comics)! Dormammu, we come to bargain.
Our Summer of Marvel rolls on with a movie we haven’t covered—2015’s delightful comedy heist film “Ant-Man”—as well as its brand-new sequel, 2018’s “Ant-Man and the Wasp.” We discuss de-aging Michael Douglas, the unlikely brilliance of casting Paul Rudd, the relentless competence of Hope Pym in the face of Scott Lang’s incompetence and the unpleasantness of her father, and everything we love about Luis.
Order some schwarma, because we’ve assembled a powerful panel to discuss Earth’s mightiest heroes. Our Summer of Marvel continues with a re-examination of three films we originally reviewed when they were released: “The Avengers”, “Avengers: Age of Ultron”, and “Captain America: Civil War”, which is really an Avengers movie when you think about it. How do they hold up? What works and, in hindsight, what doesn’t? Which characters benefit from Joss Whedon’s screenwriting tics, and which do not?
Thaw yourself out of the ice and wave a flag, because we’re revisiting “Captain America: The First Avenger” and “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” as we continue our walk through the Marvel Cinematic Universe. We discuss the charismatic power of Chris Evans, the smoothness of the Red Skull’s face, the unrecognizability of the Winter Soldier, our lack of trust in Robert Redford, and how Black Widow splits time between setting Steve Rogers up on dates and changing all the sizing tags on his clothing. Buy some war bonds and join us as we discuss that star-spangled man with a plan!
Take off your pants and prepare a long scene-setting speech about space mythology, because it’s time to discuss “Thor” and “Thor: The Dark World” as we continue our Summer of Marvel. We praise the excellent casting of Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston, as well as smaller players Stellan Skarsgård and Kat Dennings, while wondering about what went wrong with Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster. (Hint: It’s mostly the writing.) Perhaps most importantly, Jason finally sees what other people see in “The Dark World” that he doesn’t… even if he remains unconvinced.
The Summer of Marvel continues our walk through the Marvel Cinematic Universe with 2008’s “Incredible Hulk,” starring Edward Norton. Released weeks after “Iron Man”, it’s often ignored, and yet it’s a fascinating look at the decisions Marvel did (and didn’t) make as it built its film franchises. Also just for kicks, we compare and contrast with Ang Lee’s 2003 “Hulk” starring Eric Bana, because gamma dogs.
The Incomparable’s Summer of Marvel begins with a look back at 2008’s “Iron Man” and 2010’s “Iron Man 2.” How unlikely was it that a B-list Marvel Comics superhero nobody had ever heard of would end up kicking off one of the most successful film franchises of all time? How did perfect casting and a light touch with the subject matter pay off in this unlikely success? And how does the sequel balance being a second “Iron Man” film and the launch of a much larger franchise?
The Incomparable’s Book Club reaches the finish line of our annual SF/Fantasy award read, as we discuss the six nominees for the Hugo Award for best novel. From new series to concluded trilogies to standalone epics, this year’s list had a lot of variety. And for good measure, we throw in a few of the short-fiction nominees that we really liked.
Put on your leg warmers, insert your shoulder pads, and warm up your synthesizers. It’s time for us to take a time machine back to the 1980s, where our panelists will participate in a draft of their favorite musical albums from that decade. This is one episode that is guaranteed to be totally awesome.
Inflammable means flammable? What a country! It’s a perfectly cromulent thing to do, to pick quotes from “The Simpsons” in draft form. So we have assembled a learned panel of people who haven’t seen the show in years, bribed them with plenty of Malk (with Vitamin R!), and set them to choose their favorite lines from the most quotable TV show of all time. We hope you find this episode excellent. If you don’t, don’t blame us—we voted for Kodos.
Endlessly quoted, residing on every list of the best films of all time, you might think that “Casablanca”—released 75 years ago—is overrated and played out. Nope! It’s a fun film with romance, snappy ironic dialogue, and a stunning cast. And it’s also a fascinating historical document, given that it was written before Pearl Harbor and produced in the early days of America’s involvement in World War II, when the end of the war was anything but a foregone conclusion. We discuss the magical letters of transit, Captain Renault’s jocular amorality, Victor Laszlo the speechifying drip, Ilsa’s piercing stare, Major Strasser’s favorite cereal, Sam’s implausible piano handwork, the Ken Cinema in San Diego, and how the war was like a rap battle.
Fresh from the movie theaters, here’s our flash review of “Solo: A Star Wars Story.” In a world where there’s a new “Star Wars” movie every year, sometimes it’s a relief not to have the fate of the galaxy at stake. What are the rules of Sabacc? Are references the lowest form of fan service? Will casual fans be more enthusiastic than hard-core ones? Why watch droids fighting for entertainment when you have holograms? From train heists to floating space yachts to surprise cameos, we break it all down.
Our Book Club has reconvened to take you on a tour of the seven novels nominated for this year’s Nebula Awards, honoring the best in Science Fiction and Fantasy. After you listen your summer book list will be replenished! We liked almost all of these books, so there’s a lot to choose from—and only one of the six is a later book in a series, so you won’t have to do homework to get reading. Read them all and Jason will give you a gold star and a pizza party, but he’s eating all the pizza.
Climb aboard your sentient sailing ship, put on a high-fashion eye patch, and prepare for the big musical number—it’s time to talk about Season 3 of “The Magicians.” This is a series that just keeps getting better, and for our money, this was one of the best and most unexpected seasons of television we’ve seen in a long time. Along the way we mention Buffy, Star Trek: TNG’s “Darmok” and “The Inner Light”, and how the journey can be appreciated even when the story doesn’t quite stick the landing.
It’s time for the second episode in our series on “childhood canon”—the works we encountered as children that set us on the pop-cultural path we walk to this day. For the purposes of this discussion, “works” may also include furniture.
After seeing opening-weekend showings of Marvel’s “Avengers: Infinity War,” our panelists got together for a quick discussion of our first impressions, favorite moments, key complaints, and thoughts about where the Marvel Cinematic Universe goes from here. (If you haven’t seen the movie yet, don’t listen!)
What were the works we encountered as children that set us on the pop-cultural path we walk to this day? We begin a two-episode series on our individual childhood canon. Also, John McCoy would really like you to find a movie he remembers seeing as a kid.
Check that your documents are in order and prepare to make an unusual border crossing. “Counterpart” is a spy thriller with a science fiction twist. Featuring a great lead performance from J.K. Simmons and an incredibly strong supporting cast, this is a show that features exciting spycraft mixed with some serious questions about identity, the sum of our experiences, and the road not taken. We discuss the first season, with a spoiler horn before we get to the most surprising plot twists that lead into the show’s forthcoming second season.
His reputation precedes him. Harlan Ellison is probably one of the best writers of the last century, but he may be more famous (or infamous) for his irascibility, his lawsuits, and his reputed bad behavior. In this episode, six people (two of whom are Ellison novices) read six of his most lauded short stories and discuss the man and his words.
It’s our 400th episode. What better way to celebrate than with a draft featuring some of our most prolific panelists? We pick topics both impractical and practical, and works both unrealized and culturally vital. (Don’t ask questions.)
Fifty years ago Patrick McGoohan fascinated and confused us with “The Prisoner”, a 17-episode TV series about a man stripped of his name, given a number, and held captive in an idyllic village that doubles as a bizarre surveillance state. It’s allegorical and metaphorical and downright mind-bending, with a baffling conclusion that we’re still scratching our heads about today. What makes this show so great? How does it hold up so well to this day? And have you ever really looked at your hand? We want information, and by hook or by crook, we’ll get it.
Our Book Club returns to discuss two late 1960s works by the legendary Ursula K. Le Guin, who passed away earlier this year. We tackle the fantasy novel “A Wizard of Earthsea” and the science fiction novel “The Left Hand of Darkness”, both deeply influential in different ways. The works were new to some of our panelists and old favorites for others, so we discuss both what they represented at the time and how we view them from the perspective of 2018.
It’s already one of the most successful superhero films of all time, but it’s so much more than that. Our topic this episode is “Black Panther,” which dives into issues from feminism to the long-term effects of imperialism to the legitimacy of monarchies. Plus there’s spectacular production design, some amazing action scenes, and one of the most memorable (and sympathetic) villains in recent movie history. Wakanda Forever!
Put on your super suit, but be sure to take off the cape! We discuss Pixar’s “The Incredibles”, a spectacular story of superheroes, being your best self, family, mid-life crises, and the dangers of machine-learning AIs.
We return to bad 1950s science fiction for our latest Rocket Surgery installment, which features 1959’s “The Cosmic Man.” There’s a UFO the likes of which we’ve never seen, in the form of a ping-pong ball in a canyon. Army men and a world-famous scientist that even little kids recognize joust over whether the UFO should be used as a weapon or to benefit all of humanity. And meanwhile, there’s John Carradine checking in to a mountain lodge in an outfit that is not at all like what an alien would wear his first time on Earth.
Hop into your spore chamber and prepare for Black Alert — “Star Trek” has returned to television, and we’ve got our overview of the first season of “Star Trek: Discovery.” Did it meet our expectations? Was it more comfort food or modern TV drama? “Star Trek” shows live or die by their characters, so did Burnham, Saru, Tilly, Stamets, and company find their way into our hearts? Why were there so many plot twists? And what are we hoping for in season two? We break the whole thing down.
“The Good Place” just finished its second season, and we still couldn’t love this show more. We discuss the moral growth of all the show’s characters in season two, break down the meaning of the final episode, and float a bunch of theories about where the show might be headed next.
Step through a teleportation door and boot up your brain’s fight computer, because our Comic Book Club has returned to discuss DC’s “Midnighter.” He’s was once a Batman analogue but now he’s his own man, with no secret identity, a penchant for strategic violence, and an amazing dating profile. And thanks to three recent trade-paperback collections written by Steve Orlando, you can get to know this singular superhero as he journeys from Oakland to Boston to various made-up DC Comics cities.
In the 54 years of “Doctor Who” there have been roughly 275 different stories. We collected seven “Doctor Who” fans and forced them to pick favorites in a draft format! The result is a great selection of 28 stories from both the classic and modern eras, unless you’re a fan of the single Doctor who did not have a single episode picked.
Welcome to the 21st! Your mission is to listen to us discuss “Travelers”, an enjoyable time-travel TV series available in most of the world on Netflix. With a twisty science-fictional premise, some fascinating character complications, and a dose of humor, this Canadian import is worth your time. We discuss the basic premise of the show and why we like it a lot, and then fire off the Spoiler Horn to discuss the details of the show’s first two seasons.
Our survey of the films of director Hayao Miyazaki continues with 2001’s “Spirited Away.” It’s a real weird one, and sure to be turbocharged nightmare fuel for kids… but as adults, we have more capacity to appreciate a film as absolutely bugnuts as this.
(Some downloads of this file contained an audio error at 32 minutes, with multiple overlapped voices. Re-download the file to get a corrected version, or just skip ahead about a minute.)
Here’s the story
Of nine lovely people
Who were picking songs from favorite TV shows
It was a very short draft
Just four rounds
With some picks no one knows
Happy New Year! We take this opportunity to look back at 2017, as our top hosts and panelists of the year talk about their favorite stuff from the year gone by. And then it’s time to list our favorite Incomparable moments and play some clips.
January 1, 2018 • 2 hours, 26 minutes • Our favorites, plus our annual clip show! • Jason Snell with Erika Ensign, Dan Moren, Monty Ashley, Tony Sindelar, David J. Loehr, Brian Hamilton, Aleen Simms, Steve Lutz and Glenn Fleishman
Our (increasingly inaccurately named) team of rebel UK podcasters takes on “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” Join us for another deep dive into the themes, performances, and surprises of the latest “Star Wars movie.” We promise not to mention Porgs until the very end!
“Time and Relative Dimension in Space” meets “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…” as a hardy rebel band of podcasters who are “Doctor Who” fans form The Incomparable’s second panel about “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”. We take on the themes of failure and redemption, the unexpected fan reactions, and specious comparisons between “Doctor Who” showrunners and Star Wars directors. And porgs. Always porgs.
Grab a porg, put on your matching necklaces, and get out your ancient Jedi texts—it’s time to discuss “The Last Jedi,” episode VIII of the “Star Wars” saga. (And if we missed something, please understand that we’ve only seen it once so far!)
In this special episode we discuss our personal holiday traditions, including foods, travel, gift-giving, decorations, and media. We also debate the reality of tofurkey and learn many things about legendary bearded gift-giving characters courtesy of a country that’s shaped like a chicken.
Stand above the icy river waters and ponder what life would be without 1946’s holiday classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Would you be shocked to discover that not everyone likes it? In this episode we’ve got two fans of the film to tell us why it’s great, and a detractor who is attempting to crash this car into the town’s oldest tree. What are the pros and cons of one of the definitive Christmas movies of all time?
Yeah, baby, we’re back! It’s time to return to Sunnydale and discuss the second season of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” considered by many fans (including Jason) to be its best. The main adversaries are a trio of vampires, including Billy Idol, the bizarrely insane Drusilla, and Angelus—because Latin names are more evil. Plus there’s an evil smurf, a tragic rendezvous at Giles’ apartment, a big rock, inexplicable gypsy ensoulment curse strategies, and a whole whiteboard full of classic horror tropes.
Our Video Game Club is back in action as we play two short artsy-fartsy narrative games. “What Remains of Edith Finch” is a game about a young woman returning home to the Pacific Northwest and exploring the mysteries left behind by her family—which sounds an awful lot like other games we’ve played, but it’s very different! We also played “Tacoma”, by the developers of “Gone Home”, which (despite its title) is not set in the Pacific Northwest but in outer space. Both games have interesting approaches to immersive storytelling, and they’re both worth playing.
Eat a peach, put on a white ball gown, and join us as we enter a fantasy world full of puppets and David Bowie musical numbers. In 1986’s “Labyrinth”, a teenager accidentally gets her baby brother kidnapped by goblins. To get him back, she has to enter a magical world and meet many strange creatures along the way. The credits are full of notable names, including Jennifer Connelly, Jim Henson, George Lucas, and Terry Jones. It’s Erika’s favorite movie, but Jason has never seen it! Are puppets people too? Let’s find out!
Old Movie Club returns with two paranoid films set amid the intrigue of postwar Europe: 1949’s “The Third Man” and 1965’s “The Spy Who Came in from the Cold.” The former features Orson Welles, a collection of suspicious characters in Vienna, and a whole lot of zither music. The latter features Richard Burton mixing insobriety with spycraft, and a very peculiar library. (This episode is presented in black and white.)
Here in North America, the leaves are brightly colored and there’s a chill in the air. What better time to stay inside, make a warm pot of tea, and curl up with a good book? Our panel has many suggestions for excellent books to read if you or a friend is looking for a good science fiction or fantasy novel.
Beloved (yet creepy?) children’s author Roald Dahl is in our spotlight this week, as we talk about some of our favorite books by Dahl, including “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”, “James and the Giant Peach”, “Danny, the Champion of the World”, and “Matilda.” We also discuss film adaptations and all the uncomfortable bits that have been cut out of new editions of Dahl over the years. Look for the golden ticket inside this podcast!
Join us for a draft of animated Disney movies! From across 80 years of Disney history, our panel will pick 24 of our very favorites.
It took thousands of pages over seven novels, but eventually Stephen King finished his genre-busting series, The Dark Tower—and eventually we finished it too! Join four faithful readers who have taken the journey with Roland and his Ka-Tet and are ready to report back. We’ve got 30 minutes of non-spoiler discussion for prospective readers, followed by a lightning-round palaver about all seven main-sequence books, and how they link with other parts of King’s work.
On the 30th anniversary of the debut of “Star Trek: The Next Generation”, we watched the show’s first and last episodes and used them to appreciate what worked right out of the gate (casting) and what took a bit longer to jell together into one of the great science fiction TV series of all time.
With Jason away “on assignment,” a Rebel force of podcasters takes over The Incomparable’s transmission tower to celebrate (and introduce you to, if you haven’t watched them yet) Lucasfilm’s animated extensions to the Star Wars canon: the six-season Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels, which is entering its fourth and final season. Why do adult fans love them? Did they actually redeem the prequels? Who are the breakout characters who became as important as anyone in the movies? We steer clear of the big spoilers!
Our survey of Miyazaki movies crosses over with Anime Club in this episode, where we discuss Studio Ghibli’s 1995 film “Whisper of the Heart.” Written by Miyazaki but directed by Yoshifumi Kondô, it’s a coming-of-age story with some resonance with “Kiki’s Delivery Service,” except there’s no magic and the cat doesn’t talk. But it’s still one magical cat.
This week we learned that Lucasfilm has parted ways with Colin Trevorrow, who was previously slated to write and direct 2019’s installment in the “Star Wars” saga, and realized that the absolutely dumbest way to react to the news would be to draft a bunch of possible replacements. So in this episode we present our suggestions to fill that director’s chair, from the real to the ridiculous to the ones from beyond the grave! Along the way we take time to discuss the challenges of finding ways for creative people to mesh with big studio-controlled franchises. And all without a single “Star Wars” spoiler!
The penultimate season of “Game of Thrones” is in the books, and we’re here to wrap the entire thing up. All of that slow travel and scene-setting from the previous seasons is swept away, and this is our reward. Reunions! Death speeches! Dragon-on-dragon action! And we discover the secret of Jon Snow—no, not his actual parentage, but the fact that he’s best when paired with other, more interesting characters.
Time for 1997’s “Batman & Robin”, featuring George Clooney as Batman, Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze, Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy, and Alicia Silverstone as Batgirl. At least we can laugh about it now… to keep from crying.
(Part two of two.)
So when Batman won our Summer Superhero Spectacular, we embarked on a quest to talk about all the Batman movies. Which leads us to the unfortunate spectacle of us watching both “Batman Forever” and “Batman & Robin.” This week, it’s the Val Kilmer Era, so let’s go back to 1995 and marvel at Jim Carrey’s understated performance as the Riddler and Tommy Lee Jones’s equally subtle performance as Two-Face. We are so, so sorry.
(Part one of two.)
Destiny has her hand on our backs, and she’s pushing! That’s why we’re talking about The Tick, Ben Edlund’s hilarious superhero satire, in all its forms. From the original comics to the groundbreaking animated series to the 2000s live-action series to the all-new series premiering on Amazon Prime Video this month, we’ll cover it all. The night is young and we have umbrellas in our drinks. Evildoers, eat our justice!
We return to our first wave of inductees into The Incomparable’s Television Hall of Fame, as we enshrine 10 more series that our panelists consider among the greatest of all time. This second batch spans seven decades and includes sketch comedy, animation, sitcoms, dramas, and even a show that premiered less than a year ago.
[Part two of two.]
August 5, 2017 • 1 hour, 8 minutes • TV Hall of Fame Draft, Part 2 • Jason Snell with Monty Ashley, Dan Moren, Dr. Drang, John Siracusa, Erika Ensign, Andy Ihnatko, Moisés Chiullan, David J. Loehr and Glenn Fleishman
Using our authority as a podcast about popular culture, The Incomparable has established a new Television Hall of Fame. Enshrined within will be the greatest TV series of all time, as chosen by a panel of 10 Incomparable experts in draft format. New inductees include shows created across six decades, and in every conceivable genre.
[Part one of two.]
July 29, 2017 • 1 hour, 9 minutes • TV Hall of Fame Draft, Part 1 • Jason Snell with Glenn Fleishman, David J. Loehr, Moisés Chiullan, Andy Ihnatko, Erika Ensign, John Siracusa, Dr. Drang, Dan Moren and Monty Ashley
“Atomic Blonde,” a major motion picture opening this summer, started its life as a graphic novel written by Antony Johnston. In this special episode, Jason and Antony discuss the origin of the graphic novel “The Coldest City”, why some stories fit better as graphic novels rather than serialized comics, the value of taking some time to indulge passion projects, the process of having Hollywood option your story, and the choices made when adapting a story from one medium into another. (This episode contains no spoilers for “Atomic Blonde” or “The Coldest City”, so listen without fear.)
Despite a lot of trepidation based on previous lackluster film efforts, our panel rushed out to their local cinemas to see “Spider-Man: Homecoming” and came away with a pleasant surprise! They made a good Spider-Man movie! But did Tony Stark save the day, or just get in the way? Does Michael Keaton give a better villain performance than he ever did as a superhero? Did Tom Holland wear the suit, or did the suit (which talks, by the way) wear him? Our very own sinister six take apart the highs and lows of this exciting new chapter in the cinematic life of our favorite wall-crawler.
The latest season/series of “Doctor Who” is over, and there’s only one last Christmas special to go before Peter Capaldi leaves the role. In this episode, we take a look at the season as a whole, including analysis of the Doctor, Bill, Nardole, and Missy. We pick our favorite episodes and then throw our least-favorites on the bonfire, before turning our attention to idle speculation about where Capaldi’s final episode might take us.
Settle back with a bagel or two and get ready for a film that fails to bring all the excitement and world-building of fantasy roleplaying to life! Our brave panelists watch 2000’s “Dungeons & Dragons”, which features dungeons, dragons, a horribly unbalanced party, an infuriating lack of connection to the game, a set of polar-opposite performances by Jeremy Irons and Thora Birch, a six-foot-tall “dwarf”, political theater even more boring than The Phantom Menace, generous garnishes of racism and sexism, and a villain who wears blue lipstick. Oh, and did we mention that TV’s Doctor Who is in it as an exposition elf? Join us as we watch until the end and finally say, “Ugh, WTF?”
Looking for a good science fiction or fantasy book to read? Have we got a list for you. Our intrepid panel read all the novels nominated for the Hugo and Nebula awards this year—eight in total—and has returned with the results. No spoilers, but we’ll share our feelings about all eight books. With any luck, you’ll come out with one, or four, or eight books to add to your reading list.
Our video game club is back in session, having played “Life is Strange”, the story of two young women in a town on the Oregon coast who become enmeshed in the town’s surprisingly dark underbelly. Every choice you make and every fact you uncover could completely change the story… or more likely, change the details a little bit. Plus there’s school politics, young love (or not—you decide!), diner food, beached whales, evidence dungeons, and more than a little time travel. We had a hella good time playing, and you probably will, too!
“Wonder Woman”, the first female-led superhero movie in ages, has arrived! After praising director Patty Jenkins and star Gal Godot in a pre-spoiler segment, we discuss the necessity of the post-“Batman v. Superman” framing sequence, the choreography of the fight scenes, the innate humanity of Gal Godot’s Diana, how this compares to recent superhero fare, the World War I setting, and maybe even Chris Pine’s watch.
Our discussion of “The Godfather Part II” concludes with coverage of the street parade in Little Italy that leads to Vito’s murder of the previous Don, a peculiar congressional hearing, Fredo’s ultimate betrayal, Vito’s revenge, and the widening chasm between the approaches Vito and Michael take to being the head of a crime family.
[Part two of two.]
We take a deep dive into Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Godfather Part II”, which is really two movies in one. Robert De Niro stars as young Vito Corleone, who comes to America and learns how to become The Godfather. And Al Pacino stars as Michael Corleone, trying to live up to the standard set by his father in the first film. In this episode we talk about its overarching themes, the two-timeframe approach, and the first portion of the film itself, including a visit to pre-revolution Cuba and Lee Strasberg as a grumpy old man who really wants you to look at his cake.
[Part one of two.]
A panelist from the very first episode, Dan Moren is now a published science-fiction novelist. Dan’s book, “The Caledonian Gambit,” was released today. Seven years ago, before The Incomparable even existed, Jason read a draft of Dan’s book… proving that sometimes the road to having your book published can be a long one, but with talent and perseverance it can be done. In this special episode, Jason talks to Dan about how he started writing novels, when he started working on what would become “The Caledonian Gambit”, how he got an agent, the revision process, and where his novel-writing career takes him from here. (The episode doesn’t have any spoilers for the book.)
The first footage from the new Star Trek series, “Star Trek: Discovery” has arrived, and our crew of Trek fans has assembled to break down the details from the trailer and gauge their expectations. New Klingons! Mysterious alien objects! The potentially doomed crew of the USS Shenzhou! A holographic Sarek (and a lousy childhood on Vulcan)! A creepy alien who senses that death is near! In true Incomparable style, we talk for an hour about 143 seconds of trailer.
The Guardians of the Galaxy are back, and so we’ve convened our panel of moviegoers to break down the good and bad of “Vol. 2.” Ego’s weird art collection! Yondu’s true status as a Space Dad! Sylvester Stallone being himself! Fighting sisters, deadbeat dads, and Fleetwood Mac. We break it all down, as usual.
Channel Four and AMC’s “Humans” intrigued us with its classic sci-fi premise—what if human-like androids integrated throughout society suddenly become sentient?—when it premiered in 2015. The show’s second season recently completed on American screens, so we’ve gathered to discuss the latest developments. It’s a unique mixing of big ideas and domestic life, but does the second season suffer from the show’s reluctance to make major changes at the end of season one? What made this season so frustrating, so often? Which storylines worked—and which ones were missed opportunities? Why does Carrie Anne Moss keep talking to blades of grass stored on a server? Why would any human want to be a Synth? What’s Mark Zuckerberg doing here? We cover it all.
This week we draw your attention to another excellent TV series that recently concluded a run of episodes: SyFy’s “The Magicians”. Based on a series of books by Lev Grossman, this is a show that starts out as a mash-up of Harry Potter and Narnia and goes in some very surprising directions while continually improving in quality. Love, war, sex, fairies, gods (some evil, some capricious, some just annoying)—there’s a lot to love about this show.
In the first half of the episode we talk generally about the show and why we like it; the second half, after the Spoiler Horn, is devoted to breaking down the events of its just-completed second season.
(Content advisory: “The Magicians” contains a couple examples of sexual assault/abuse. And we talk about them.)
FX’s “Legion” TV series is based on a character from the X-Men comics, but knowing the backstory isn’t important. This isn’t another superhero comic adaptation, but something unlike anything we’ve seen before—a visual and auditory feast, great actors, and smart writing that will make sure you sit up and pay attention. If you’ve written off comic-book TV shows and movies, time to circle back and appreciate this eight-episode first season from writer/producer Noah Hawley (“Fargo”). Expensive music! Beautiful sets! And actors who used to be in “Downton Abbey”, “Parks & Recreation”, and “Designing Women”! What more could you ask for?
A bunch of people born in the 1970s discuss two films from that decade about young people coming of age: 1973’s “American Graffiti” and 1979’s “Breaking Away.” The first is a film (set in 1962) featuring young people driving around a northern California town on the last night of summer before reality sets in; the second is about young people riding bikes (and swimming in a quarry) in Indiana. The first comes from the future director of “Star Wars”; the second comes from the future director of “Krull”. Both are full of faces you will recognize. And both have interesting things to say about being young and the prospect of growing up.
We draft our favorite episodes across every “Star Trek” series, to induct 35 episodes into the Trek hall of fame. Human Play Dom-Jot?
Our Book Club reconvenes to discuss the works of novelist N.K. Jemisin, specifically her most recent books, “The Fifth Season” and “The Obelisk Gate.” We also discuss the Inheritance Trilogy, which started with “The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms.” Plus, what are we reading now?
Rarely do we devote an episode to a television comedy, but “The Good Place” earned our love and your attention. It’s a single story told over 13 half-hour episodes, with twists and turns and a lot of laughs. Why has Eleanor been sent to heaven by mistake? Why did a 70s dude high on mushrooms figure out the secret to eternal life? Why do we keep being gently reminded of Douglas Adams? Why is there a lava man in the conference room? Why does purgatory feature warm beer and Eagles live albums? We break it all down, and leave space after the Spoiler Horn to discuss the many surprising plot developments as the season went along.
Tape plastic wrap to your windows and wear a heavy jacket, because we’re revisiting Neil Gaiman’s 2001 novel “American Gods” (and its not-a-sequel, 2005’s “Anansi Boys”) before these books make it to TV screens. We appreciate Gaiman’s writing style and the tightrope he walks to tell the story he wants to tell, but have some questions about invisible gods, tall tales, roadside landmarks, and the rules of this world.
Put on your helmet, strap on your rocket pack, and stash that chewing gum somewhere, because it’s time to discuss 1991’s throwback adventure film “The Rocketeer.” Timothy Dalton chews the scenery! Billy Campbell is a bad boyfriend! Every character actor ever makes an appearance! Gangsters join forces with the Feds to fight Nazis! Jennifer Connelly… is also present! And there’s a Zeppelin!
In the wake of the enormous success of “The Sixth Sense”, M. Night Shyamalan’s follow-up “Unbreakable” was seen as a disappointment, but we think it deserves a critical reappraisal. 2000 was a desert for superhero movies, but “Unbreakable” actually seems more impressive after 15 years of modern takes on the genre. We discuss the film’s interesting color palette, the weight of a full paint can, the water-resisting qualities of Bruce Willis’s green poncho, why anyone would like the colors rust and brown, and the practicality of Samuel L. Jackson carrying a glass cane. And stick around—I hear this one’s got a surprise ending.
Our survey of terrible movies from various decades returns with a stop in the 60s, to visit 1965’s low-budget spectacle, “The Wizard of Mars,” featuring John Carradine in the title role as one of the horrors of the red planet. How many parallels are there between this film and “The Wizard of Oz”, really? Why are caves on Mars so peaceful? How much oxygen does it take to stay alive on Mars? Join us as we laugh to keep from crying—we’ve come all this way, there’s no reason to turn back now!
Our walk through the films of animation master Hayao Miyazaki continues with 1986’s “Castle in the Sky.” From floating princesses to angry pink pirates to exciting train chases, this film—set in a sort of steampunk Wales—has it all. Oh, and did we mention the airships? It wouldn’t be a Miyazaki movie without flying things and lots of clouds.
The Incomparable’s Book Club reconvenes to discuss two books from the past about future dystopias: Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451” and George Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four.” Is Bradbury just angry about reality TV? Does Orwell just want you to read his essay about language? Can we read these famous books without bringing along our preconceived notions of what they’re supposed to mean? At what temperature do Kindles burn? Don’t worry—in the end this entire episode is going down the Memory Hole.
Remember, remember, the fifth of November… We discuss the 2005 film “V for Vendetta” and the Alan Moore and David Lloyd comic series that inspired it. Who, if anyone, is the hero of the film? How did the Wachowskis adapt the 1980s comic’s sensibilities to the 2000s? What’s with the film’s strange structure and surreal visual choices? And, most importantly, is V a man, an idea, or both?
You’ve heard us talk about the best of “Black Mirror”, now hear us talk about… the rest of “Black Mirror.” Cut from the main episode for time, here’s our (unedited) discussion of “Fifteen Million Merits”, “The Entire History of You”, “The Waldo Moment”, “Playtest”, “Men Against Fire”, “The National Anthem”, “White Bear”, and “Shut Up and Dance.”
Charlie Brooker’s anthology TV series “Black Mirror” has been compared to “The Twilight Zone”, with its dark, twist-laden tales about the advance of technology and how it affects society. Does it live up to the hype? Our panel watched all 13 episodes—all currently available on Netflix—and is here to report back on the strengths and weaknesses of the series. We also discuss our five favorite episodes in detail, so you can skip to the highlights if you don’t want to utterly darken your soul.
Comic book movies got you down? Too much of the same old thing? This episode has the cure for what ails you, as we pitch a bunch of great comics that we’d like to see get the big-screen treatment that would be guaranteed to enliven the genre. And maybe along the way, we’ll add to your comics reading list, too.
Grab your flowerpot and engage the rainbow drive! It’s time to discuss Steven Spielberg’s “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial,” the film that eclipsed “Star Wars” as the biggest grossing film of all time. What makes the film a perfect time capsule of being a kid in 1982? Does it hold up to modern eyes? Is it science fiction, fantasy, magical realism, or something else? Where did all those frogs come from? Hey, he’s an alien, we don’t know what he’s capable of.
We begin an ongoing series of looks at the Batman film series with the first two modern entrants, Tim Burton’s “Batman” and “Batman Returns.” Tony educates us on the most important traits of Batman. We recall the marketing campaign that put the bat logo on everything. We spend a lot of time breaking down the first film, and…. yeah… “Batman Returns” is also a movie that exists.
It’s time to send 2016 into oblivion! Our four most commonly-heard panelists join Jason for a look back at our favorite media stuff of last year. Then we recall some of the best episodes and moments from The Incomparable in 2016.
Striking from a hidden base, our rebellious European podcasters have once again taken over the Incomparable Death Star—er, Zeppelin—to provide their own unique opinions on “Rogue One,” the latest Star Wars film.
Put on your Kyber crystal necklace, don a stylish white cape, and keep the Force with you! It’s time to break down “Rogue One,” the first big-budget live-action non-saga “Star Wars” film. We discuss how the film juggles its many characters and settings, the issues with reviving past film elements through CGI, the splendor of Darth Vader’s bachelor pad (and the weirdness of his bathroom), the unexpectedly spectacular space battle, the vacation plans of the Empire’s records division, the film’s strange disconnection with its teaser trailer, and a whole lot more.
Get your cowboy hat and your favorite Radiohead playlist, because it’s time to venture into the park for our first-season review of HBO’s “Westworld.” Is Anthony Hopkins running Westworld the park or “Westworld” the show we’re watching? Why can’t the Man in Black take a hint? Who is good and who is evil? Are the hosts sympathetic characters or empty, scripted shells? (And can’t you ask that question that about any fictional character?) We provide some quick analysis and also ponder where the show might take us in season two.
As a new “Star Wars” movie nears its release, we turn our attention to some of our least favorite features of this franchise we love. Our panelists draft our least favorite Special Edition changes, retcons, Original Trilogy and “Force Awakens” elements, and more. Plus we each pitch a new “Star Wars” movie that can right a wrong in the existing canon.
We deconstruct and reconstruct the recent release “Arrival,” staring Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, and Forest Whitaker, and based on a story by Ted Chiang that we discussed nearly 300 episodes ago. There’s praise for the story’s restraint, quiet tone, beautiful scenes of solitary obelisks in remote cow pastures, and realistic portrayal of its main characters. We also enter a spirited debate about the film’s sci-fi plot mechanism, the way its aliens (and alien language) are portrayed, and the morality of a choice that one character may—or may not—have made.
Submitted for your approval: A discussion of one of the finest and most influential television series of all time, “The Twilight Zone.” We dive into a few handpicked episodes and try to explain the reason why the show still resonates more than 50 years later. Is Anthony really just a misunderstood kid? Why do we hope that the Air Force re-uses its flying saucers? How much Shatnering is too much? And how many years should you let cherry brandy age? You’ll be shocked by the twist at the end of the story. (It turns out we were the monsters all along.)
The epic film about the early days of the space race, 1983’s “The Right Stuff,” is on the launch pad this week. What does the film say about modern mythmaking? Can you have too much Chuck Yeager? Is this peak Dennis Quaid? Why do astronauts have to be test pilots instead of demolition-derby drivers? We’ll figure it out. Let’s light this candle!
Live from the Now Hear This podcast festival in Anaheim, it’s our supervillain/monster draft. What makes a villain super? When is hating a monster actually just a misguided case of space racism? Who—other than Lex Friedman—is the greatest monster of all? It might be you! Listen to find out!
November 5, 2016 • 1 hour, 21 minutes • Monster/Supervillain Draft • Jason Snell with Erika Ensign, David J. Loehr, Steven Schapansky, Aleen Simms, Dan Moren, Brian Hamilton, Steve Lutz, Monty Ashley and Joe Rosensteel
We’ve spoken many times about the great deal the Marvel Unlimited all-you-can-read comic subscription service can be… but if you’ve got tens of thousands of comics available to you, where do you start? We convened our Comic Book Club to come up with 20 suggestions—ranging from single issues to long runs and major events—that will help you make the most of a month or a year of Marvel Comics.
Leave the gun and take the cannoli—it’s time for us to discuss 1972’s “The Godfather,” truly one of the most lauded films of all time. We discuss why Al Pacino’s Michael Corleone is truly the main character, ponder how that horse head really got in that bed, marvel at how long it takes for news of assassination attempts to reach family members, explain the Vito Corleone retirement plan… and then drop our hands to our side and let the podcast slide naturally out of our hands.
We’ve done episodes where we’ve sat around and drunk beer before, but we always had the thin veneer of some other topic to guide us. This time, however, the topic of the episode is beer, and we’ve conscripted listener (and Almanac Beer co-founder) Jesse Friedman to select five different beers for us to imbibe and discuss. Is Jason a monster for liking dark beer? What will our panel think of the sour and bitter choices? What’s the difference between a lager and an ale? What makes dark beer dark? Jesse has the knowledge, and we let him share it while we drink the beer he bought us.
Our review of Pixar movies reaches 2010’s “Toy Story 3”, the first film in more than a decade for a bunch of classic characters. Are the toys traveling from purgatory to hell to heaven, Divine Comedy-style? Who’s working on that garbage truck? Does the climactic slide to death go too far? And yes, our panel of parents gets a bit weepy as Andy prepares to go off to college.
Our rocket surgeons take on 1981’s “Frankenstein Island,” Jason’s go-to bad movie from his high school days. What do balloons have to do with Frankenstein? What’s that brain doing in that tupperware container? Why are there zombies dressed like longshoremen? What is John Carradine doing? How did Jocko lose the eye? There are so many questions, but so few answers.
Get out your space pen and take the cat out of its hibernation chamber, because it’s time to take on the 1979 classic “Alien.” We discuss how the film cleverly layers sci-fi and horror movie conventions, discuss its initially slow pace, and speculate about the crew’s taste in underpants and footwear. Corporate android betrayals! Questionable parenting! Phallic concept art! Chest bursting! We break it all down.
We discuss Playdead’s video game “Inside”, a compelling and meticulously realized side-scrolling puzzle game with some amazing surprises along the way.
On the occasion of Star Trek’s 50th anniversary, we’re talking about one of our very favorite Star Trek movies: 1996’s “Star Trek: First Contact.” (What? We already did a two-parter about TOS!) Featuring zombie-like Borg, a time travel plot, and some great guest stars, it’s the definitive Next Generation movie.
After 20 years, we revisit Mary Doria Russell’s first-contact classic “The Sparrow.” It’s a story about aliens, spirituality, and why God allows terrible things to happen to good people. And boy, do terrible things happen to people in this book. (Content advisory: One of those things is sexual assault of humans by aliens.)
Old Movie Club returns with two classic films directed by Billy Wilder and starring William Holden: The darkly tragi-comic Hollywood story “Sunset Boulevard” and the dramati-comic World War II prisoner-of-war story “Stalag 17.” Monty pitches a “Sunset Boulevard” prequel featuring a butler and a chimp. We notice the similarities between “Stalag 17” and an enormous number of sitcoms and comedy films from the following 30 years.
There are a million stories in Kurt Busiek’s “Astro City”—and that’s why we love this comic-book anthology series. From alien invaders to creepy floating protectors to regular everyday people, the broad canvas of “Astro City” awards the reader with short stories and longer arcs. Plus: What are we reading?
Nope, Jason, John, Serenity, and Dan aren’t going to analyze the trailer for “Star Wars: Rogue One.” It’s not going to happen. It would take rebel podcasters, striking from a hidden studio, to bring this podcast to its knees…
Our Rocket Surgery series returns to the heady days of the ’90s, home of questionable cyberpunk movies, to watch Keanu Reeves in “Johnny Mnemonic.” How can a movie written by the godfather of cyberpunk, William Gibson, be such a disaster? We’ll fax you the answer.
We review “Star Trek Beyond,” the latest installment in the J.J. Abrams-produced “Star Trek” movie universe. What are the best cast pairings? Why was Idris Elba’s character in need of simplification? When does the spin-off about Jaylah in Starfleet Academy start filming? And what is this franchise’s best destiny?
Women instead of men! Slimer with a girlfriend! Dogs and hats living together! Mass hysteria! We review the 2016 version of “Ghostbusters.”
Strap in and prepare for the jump to lightspeed—it’s time for us to pick the very best (and weirdest) spaceships throughout film, TV, books, and more. Let’s hope this thing where we draft spaceships doesn’t get too nerdy!
We convene a panel to discuss the TV shows we’re watching and liking from the past year, and then take our traditional deep dive into the latest “Game of Thrones” season.
Our Rocket Surgery panel attempts to apply logic to “Cool Cat Saves the Kids,” an inexplicable educational film featuring a couple of people in animal suits, some music videos, parade footage, and many questionable lessons for children. But there are cameos by Erik Estrada and Vivica A. Fox! Anyway, our logic slides right off.
Professor Siracusa’s Anime class is back in session, as we watch two short films with similar themes, both by director Makoto Shinkai. First there’s “The Voices of a Distant Star,” which features a boy and a girl separated by light-years as she fights an alien scourge. Then there’s “5 Centimeters Per Second,” in which a boy and a girl are separated by… a long train journey. Both are beautiful explorations of teenage romantic angst and isolation, with images that will stick with our panelists for a long time.
Ride like the wind, Bullseye! Our survey of Pixar films continues with “Toy Story 2,” the movie that introduced us to that Pixar Moment. You know the one. (Bring tissues.) We also discuss the philosophy of the Toy Story movies, a bunch of amazing gags, the state of the art of computer animation in 1999, and a whole lot more.
We convene a panel of superhero TV experts to recap the past year’s superhero series, including “Arrow”, “The Flash”, “Gotham”, “Agents of SHIELD”, “Agent Carter”, “Daredevil”, “Supergirl”, “Legends of Tomorrow”, and “Jessica Jones.”
(If you’re a complete spoiler-phobe, you may want to avoid some of these segments, though there is probably not a single character death or other twist that couldn’t be reversed at any point…)
We celebrate all of mutantkind with a broad discussion of Marvel’s Uncanny X-Men, especially the versions we grew up reading in comics. What makes their outsider status resonate? Where should new readers start? And we choose some of our favorite X-Men characters in a sequence of choices that is definitely not a draft.
Old Movie Club views two films produced—and some would say directed—by Howard Hawks. The fast-paced comedy “His Girl Friday” leads us off, followed by the original sci-fi horror film “The Thing from Another World.” Both feature snappy overlapping dialogue, but only one features a murderous alien carrot man.
It’s time for our annual survey of some of the best science fiction and fantasy novels of the year, as we read all seven of the nominees for the Nebula Award. If you’re looking for some new books to read, check out our discussion—we tread lightly on the spoilers.
After 300 episodes, we discuss how our media-consumption habits have changed because of the podcast. Then we shift gears for a couple of drafts, and we answer a bunch of questions from listeners.
May 14, 2016 • 2 hours, 37 minutes • Our 300th episode. • Jason Snell with Glenn Fleishman, Lisa Schmeiser, John Siracusa, David J. Loehr, Erika Ensign, Dan Moren, Monty Ashley, Scott McNulty, Steve Lutz, Chip Sudderth and Andy Ihnatko
Flash! Direct from theaters to this podcast, we convene a panel of recent viewers of the latest Marvel superhero epic, “Captain America: Civil War.” Do the rationales of the two sides hold together in the face of reality? Is Tony a bad dude for recruiting a kid to use against his opponents? How do the new faces, including Spider-Man and Black Panther, fare? And how well does this movie fit into the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe series as a whole?
It’s a cult show that could’ve hit the zeitgeist if it had just happened a few years later. From angsty vampire-human romances to a butt-kicking lead in a nice dress, the first season of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” delivers. We break down our favorite episodes, marvel at the show’s great casting, and appreciate the unlikely nature of a smart, character-driven teen series emerging from the wasteland that was The WB network in the late ’90s.
Our survey of director Hayao Miyazaki’s work continues with 1984’s “Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind,” in which a post-apocalyptic world (of the 1980s nuclear armageddon variety) is populated by princesses, bugs that can’t help but be buggin’, a bunch of flying vehicles, and a suspicious fall through quicksand.
You asked for it, and we delivered! Batman University is in session, as we dive into “Batman: The Animated Series.” Lifelong Batman fan Tony Sindelar has provided us with a 10-episode watch list, which served as a refresher for our panel and an introduction for our host. What makes many people call this version of Batman the definitive one? How does a show that’s for kids end up being so strikingly adult? How is the character of this Batman not like recent movie depictions? We’ve got the answers.
The first teaser trailer for “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” has dropped, and so in the spirit of our “Force Awakens” teaser breakdown, we’re back to provide frame-by-frame analysis of all 90 seconds. This is the first in a new series of “Star Wars” anthology movies, this one set before and around 1977’s original film. How do you make a period piece about a fictional period? What’s Felicity Jones’s character all about? Why does Forrest Whitaker have a Darth Vader breathing harmonica? And why does Jason refer to all droids like they’re vacuum cleaners? For some questions there are no good answers.
Our survey of questionable science fiction films moves to the 1950s for “GOG,” a story featuring a secret nuclear base, a couple of “robuts,” a shifty Swiss scientist, a neglected Coke machine, a whole lot of science lectures, and then many dead scientists.
Comic Book Club returns with a discussion of Kieron Gillan and Jamie McKelvie’s “The Wicked + The Divine.” It’s a story about the temporary return of a pantheon of gods, and touches on issues of fame, youth culture, and—as Wikipedia informs us—pop music. Fortunately, there’s also a murder-mystery plot to drive everything forward. Plus: Lisa tells us what comics to read next!
The worst of the Next Generation “Star Trek” movies, “Insurrection” and “Nemesis”, are in our sights. Why don’t they work? What were the producers thinking? How tenuous was Star Trek’s life as a franchise that two bad movies in a row could kill it? You’ve got to laugh to keep from crying.
Our Book Club returns to read two recent, highly praised science fiction novels. From Kim Stanley Robinson comes “Aurora,” the story of a spaceship sent from Earth to a far-off star in a trip that will take generations. And from Ian McDonald comes “Luna: New Moon,” a sort of “Dallas” (or is it “The Godfather”?) set on and under the surface of the moon. Plus, what else are we reading?
The recently released video game “Firewatch,” by Campo Santo and Panic, is the subject of our discussion this week. This is a game that’s got a plot, but so much of the richness comes from characters and dialogue. Also, there are a lot of trees.
Our draft of favorite albums concludes! Opera, classical, and show tunes are heard from, amid the squalls of electric guitars. Also, we lose our Canadian government funding. But you’re sure to find (or rediscover) some music of interest! (Part 2 of 2.)
And now for something completely different: A draft of our favorite albums. Live from that metaphorical desert island, we select some favorite collections of music for you to listen to again and again—or to discover for the very first time. (Part 1 of 2.)
What does God need with a starship? We take a look at the two most (justly) maligned films starring the original “Star Trek” cast, “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” and “Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.” What do these two films have in common? Do they have any redeeming qualities? We watched them so you didn’t have to, because we need our pain!
It’s taking the culture by storm, the biggest Broadway musical in years—and it’s about… the first U.S. secretary of the treasury, Alexander Hamilton? It seems unlikely, but nothing about the “Hamilton” story is likely. Lin-Manuel Miranda took the biography of a lesser-known early American figure and turned it into a story full of catchy songs and social commentary, including the rapid-fire hip-hop lyrics and the casting of non-white actors in most of the parts. Four of our “Hamilton”-mad panelists discuss the appeal of the show and why it works so incredibly well.
(This we’ve also launched an entire podcast devoted to “Hamilton”, so if you want to hear various panels discuss the show song by song, you may want to subscribe to that, too.)
Piano intro and outro music from Hamilton played by Christopher Breen.
In this edition of Comic Book Club, we discuss one of Marvel’s newest heroes, Kamala Khan, the star of G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona’s “Ms. Marvel.” She’s a Muslim from New Jersey, so in some ways she’s a very different kind of Marvel super hero, but she’s also a tortured teen trying to come to terms with her identity—so in other ways, she’s very much the model of a Marvel super hero. Plus: What are we reading?
Just as “The X-Files” is revived for a limited-run miniseries, we take time to look back at this classic TV series from the 90s. (With gorgeous new HDTV versions available on Netflix!) We discuss some classic episodes, the dynamic between Scully and Mulder that really made the show work, and a whole lot more. The truth is in here—you just have to want to believe.
We celebrate the amazing life and career of David Bowie, from his stunningly varied music career (yes, including those collaborations with Queen, Mick Jagger, and Bing Crosby) to his film and theater roles. (And between Major Tom and the Spiders From Mars, who was more sci-fi than Bowie?)
Jump in your TARDIS, visit the Space Lions, and get prepared for a 24-year-long night! This week our panel takes on the recently-concluded ninth series of “Doctor Who.” How does this season measure up to the previous ones? Was the more character-focused conclusion a good change of pace? How did Missy, Ashildr, and Clara make things feel a bit different? And how well did the show handle the moment when Clara faced the raven? This episode is bigger on the inside.
In this year-end review episode, our panelists discuss their favorite bits of entertainment from 2015. When that’s done, we review the top moments from The Incomparable in 2015, complete with clips—and a mysterious visitor.
Our many-part analysis of “The Force Awakens” continues. In this episode we praise the casting of Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, and Oscar Isaac, and ponder how the diversity of the “Star Wars” universe has increased. Plus, did Luke hide something in all the droids? Why does Finn hold a lightsaber like a baseball bat? Why would one of the Weasley brothers become a fascist? And ultimately, why is this film redemptive for the franchise as a whole?
In this installment of our continuing coverage of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” our East Coast panel gushes a little, complains about Starkiller Base a little, ponders “The Force Awakens” as a buddy movie, copes with death, and tries to imagine what it will be like to get a new “Star Wars” movie every year. Also, Scott keeps bringing up “Star Trek.”
Lots of people have opinions about “The Force Awakens,” and it’s sort of our charter to overdo it when it comes to “Star Wars.” So this week we’re presenting several follow-up panels about this new film. In this installment, we travel across the pond for a panel predominantly made up of residents of the UK. Why are there Scottish people in space? Who is the face of fresh young fascism? Where can we get red replacement arms?
After three years of anticipation, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is finally here, and our panel of “Star Wars” fans is ready to review it. So here we go.
With “The Force Awakens” only a week away, we pause to ponder why we’ve anticipated this film release for more than three years. What spoilers have we avoided? (This episode certainly contains none.) What does it mean that “Star Wars” is now an extended film franchise releasing new films annually? How many times are we going to see the film next weekend, and how will we find time to podcast about it? And perhaps most importantly, can any new “Star Wars” movie ever possibly hope to capture the excitement we felt when we discovered these films as children?
On this Old (Holiday) Movie Club, we review a certifiable Christmas classic, “Miracle on 34th Street.” Then we watch a very different sort of film set on Christmas, “The Lion in Winter.”
Join us as we revisit three childhood holiday TV classics, 1964’s “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” 1965’s “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” and 1966’s “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” You’ll learn about Big Santa’s despotic reign over the Grotto of Malfunctioning Headlamps, groove to Schroeder’s piano jazz trio stylings, and may even discover a Hoober-Bloob or two.
We tackled “Her” and “Ex Machina,” two films about artificial women and the men who love them. But while Scarlett Johansson’s Samantha wants to send a ‘Dear John’ update to all humanity, Alicia Vikander’s Ava has more in mind than pleasant dinner conversation. What do these films say about online relationships, society’s power dynamics, and tech-industry culture?
We have seen tens of thousands of years into the future, and our best psychohistorians think the Galactic Empire will once again reign supreme… so long as there aren’t any surprise mutants or aliens. In this episode, we discuss Isaac Asimov’s classic “Foundation” trilogy. From the perspective of 2015, what still works, and what seems out of date? Plus: What else are we reading?
This week came the announcement we’ve been waiting for: A new “Star Trek” series is in the works. But with the announcement came a bunch of interesting details (it’s going to be exclusive to CBS’ streaming service, it’s going to be produced by one of the co-writers of the J.J. Abrams “Star Trek” movies) and a lack of specifics (they’re still interviewing writers and didn’t announce even the most basic of premises). Our panel of Star Trek fans analyzes the interesting decisions CBS has made so far, tries to imagine how a “Star Trek” series from 2017 might differ from its predecessors, and discusses the importance of creating a series that can keep the franchise alive by appealing to a new generation of fans.
On Halloween, our Rocket Surgery series takes us to the swinging ’60s and the height of NASA space exploration at Kennedy Space Center! In this corner, a robot astronaut named Frank! In that corner, a horde of invading aliens and their terrifying monster! In between, a bunch of stock footage, a very ’60s soundtrack, a bunch more stock footage, scientists riding scooters, the least sexy beach bikini scene ever, some military stock footage, and a party where everyone is wiggling their butts until the guy on the diving board is lasered to death. And did we mention the stock footage?
It is a great day, comrades. We will sail our submarine to America, and watch one of their greatest thrillers, 1990’s “The Hunt for Red October.” Join us as we talk about how time has made the cold-war themes feel even more classic, ponder why the movie works despite plenty of signs suggesting that it shouldn’t, and… well, let’s just say we do a lot of Sean Connery impressions. This podcast contains one ping only, so don’t slip on your tea!
We all went and watched “The Martian” at movie theaters and then came home and joined together to talk about it! From Vicodin-topped potatoes to shiny zoomy space stuff, we work the problem to provide something a bit more informative than a Tumblr full of sad pictures.
Our Book Club reconvenes to cover two books that are both sort of about the end of the world: Paolo Bacigalupi’s “The Water Knife” and Neal Stephenson’s “Seveneves.” Regional apocalypses versus worldwide apocalypses! Plus, what else are we reading?
The premiere of ABC’s new comedy “The Muppets” prompts us to look at the entirety of the Muppet universe and lore, from TV to movies to viral videos. We also ponder what’s wrong with the new ABC series, posit some theories about how Kermit went from “Sesame Street” to “The Muppet Show,” and participate in an impromptu Muppet draft. Don’t felt, don’t tell.
Our pointless search for the best superhero concludes. In these final rounds, we challenge our heroes (and their advocates) with devilish scenarios suggested by Incomparable listeners! Our advocates face a jury of their peers, leading to a final confrontation with our two remaining heroic contestants.
Our final pairings are:
(1) Spider-Man vs. (2) Captain America
(5) Doctor Strange vs. (3) The Flash
(1) Batman vs. (2) Wonder Woman
(12) The Thing vs. (2) Wolverine
September 26, 2015 • 1 hour, 17 minutes • So it's come to this • Jason Snell with Monty Ashley, Dan Moren, Tony Sindelar, Lisa Schmeiser, Chip Sudderth, Moisés Chiullan, Erika Ensign and David J. Loehr
Our interests in reading and technology collide in this survey of books about computers and the tech industry, using the 20th anniversary of Douglas Coupland’s “Microserfs” as the jumping off point. Soldering irons and circuit boards! Berkeley hippies fighting German hackers! Early signs of the tech industry’s ongoing mistreatment of workers! Glenning! Join us in a trip through technology’s past, all the while keeping an eye on where we are today.
We discuss two notable TV series from the summer of 2015, “Mr. Robot” and “Humans.” They’re both excellent. One is about humans, and one is about robots (or not), but not the ones you might think from the titles.
Old Movie Club returns with two films featuring George C. Scott: “The Hustler” (featuring an electric performance by Paul Newman) and “Anatomy of a Murder” (starring Jimmy Stewart as a simple country lawyer). One more outburst and I’ll clear this courtroom!
Our summertime superhero tournament continues, as 16 champions are reduced to eight. This round brings new judges and a requirement to argue against the opposite opponent! Who will withstand the withering assaults? Only time will tell.
(1) Spider-Man vs. (4) Kitty Pryde
(11) Beta Ray Bill vs. (2) Captain America
(1) Superman vs. (5) Doctor Strange
(3) Barry Allen/The Flash vs. (2) The Hulk
(1) Batman vs. (13) Moon Knight
(6) Barbara Gordon/Batgirl/Oracle vs. (2) Wonder Woman
(1) Iron Man vs. (12) The Thing
(6) Rorschach vs. (2) Wolverine
On the occasion of our fifth anniversary, we present this special episode where Jason and five of our favorite panelists come together live around a table to talk about nothing in particular.
Our ridiculous celebration of superheroes continues in round 2, in which 32 heroes enter and 16 depart! This round incorporates your comments and votes, which we solicited after our last round. This also marks the final round for judges Lutz and Michaels, who assure you that absolutely no cash has changed hands in exchange for their votes. We’ve also added some new advocates and shuffled the deck a little bit. Join us on the next segment of our journey to discover which superhero reigns supreme.
(1) Spider-Man vs. (8) Aquaman
(5) Silver Surfer vs. (4) Kitty Pryde
(11) Beta Ray Bill vs. (14) Kate Bishop/Hawkeye
(10) Wally West/The Flash vs. (2) Captain America
(1) Superman vs. (9) The Falcon
(5) Doctor Strange vs. (4) The Tick
(11) Invisible Woman vs. (3) Barry Allen/The Flash
(7) Ghost Rider vs. (2) The Hulk
(1) Batman vs. (8) Black Widow
(5) Daredevil vs. (13) Moon Knight
(6) Barbara Gordon/Batgirl/Oracle vs. (3) Green Arrow
(7) Deadpool vs. (2) Wonder Woman
(1) Iron Man vs. (9) Gambit
(12) The Thing vs. (13) Big Barda
(6) Rorschach vs. (14) Invincible
(10) Nightcrawler vs. (2) Wolverine
August 15, 2015 • 1 hour, 54 minutes • You're Three Feet from a Spider • Jason Snell with Steve Lutz, Philip Michaels, Lisa Schmeiser, Shannon Sudderth, Chip Sudderth, Philip Mozolak, Tony Sindelar, Dan Moren and Monty Ashley
Our survey of terrible films continues with 1993’s “Super Mario Bros.”, which features surprisingly little of the characters, setting, or joy that one might attribute to the beloved video-game franchise. Bob Hoskins, John Leguizamo, Dennis Hopper, and the directors of the original “Max Headroom” film collaborate on this dreadful tale about evolved dinosaurs, dystopian parallel-universe New Yorks, and a couple of plumbers named Mario, one of whom is also named Luigi.
Our Comic Book Club reconvenes to discuss “Runaways,” the 2003-2004 comic series by Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona. This is a Marvel Comic that’s also an original creation, and we’re tackling the 18 issues of the first volume, which form a self-contained story. How does the book alienate its teenage protagonists? Does the plot twist make sense? And why isn’t this a Marvel movie or TV show?
It’s time for our annual dive into the Hugo Awards, focused mostly on the five nominated novels, but also touching on short fiction, comics, films, and TV episodes, as well as this year’s big Hugo controversy.
In celebration of the four days of Comic-Con 2015, we present a four-day celebration of silly superhero debates! We’ve seeded 64 heroes into a tournament that’s designed to find the most incomparable superhero of them all. Or something like that. The advocates are sometimes passionate and sometime disinterested, but that’s okay, because the judges are completely capricious.
July 11, 2015 • 2 hours, 33 minutes • Summer Superhero Spectacular round 1 • Jason Snell with Steve Lutz, Philip Michaels, Tony Sindelar, Lisa Schmeiser, Chip Sudderth, Dan Moren, Andy Ihnatko and Monty Ashley
Pixar’s latest film, “Inside Out,” tells the unlikely story of the conflict of emotions inside the head of a young girl. Join us as we draw a circle around our own parental sadness and instead focus on the joy of an instant Pixar classic.
Old Movie Club reconvenes to watch two films based on the works of Dashiell Hammett: 1934’s “The Thin Man” and 1941’s “The Maltese Falcon.” We appreciate the drunken aplomb of Nick and Nora and the shifty glory of Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet, all while taking in the faint scent of gardenias.
Time to once again wrap up the TV season as a whole and “Game of Thrones” in particular. First we discuss shows we’ve enjoyed watching this year (including the final seasons of “Justified” and “Mad Men”), and then we fire off the Spoiler Horn and talk about the controversial fifth season of “Game of Thrones.”
Time for our annual review of the Nebula Award nominees for the best SF or Fantasy novel of the year, with podcasters from Skiffy and Fanty, SF Signal, and The Three Hoarsemen! We’ll cover (in a spoiler-light fashion) books about space stations, alien invasions, empires, mushrooms, and tea ceremonies. There’s even a deadly incident involving a Zeppelin!
Draw a beard on your face with a Sharpie, prepare to learn math via touch, and we’ll take you to the second level! Our trek into films of questionable quality continues with John Boorman’s 1974 sci-fi epic “Zardoz,” starring Sean Connery in a red diaper and a floating stone head. Even the writer/director/producer can’t explain what happened, and neither can we—except maybe for Glenn.
After a season full of comic-book superhero TV shows, we’re here to chart the highs and lows of “The Flash,” “Arrow,” “Agents of SHIELD,” “Agent Carter,” “Daredevil,” and “Constantine.” Some of them were great, some quite surprising, and others crushing disappointments. (This episode contains light spoilers—nothing we consider completely earth-shattering, but if you wish to be completely spoiler free, listen after watching or consult the time code in our show notes.)
Professor Siracusa’s Anime 102 is in session! This week we’re discussing the 1995 anime classic “Ghost in the Shell” and touching on its follow-up TV series, “Stand Alone Complex.” This is a cyberpunky action story about cyborgs and the meaning of life, and it’s full of guns, car chases, ninjas, weird outfits, and exposition.
On the occasion of David Letterman’s retirement after 33 years of hosting a late-night talk show, Jason Snell presents his take on Letterman’s significance, told with the help of a few friends.
This episode is all about assigned reading from our school days. Stuff we loved and, more importantly, stuff we hated. Does Jason hate all French literature, or just Emma Bovary? Whose teachers assigned Ursula LeGuin and Kurt Vonnegut? And will Charles Dickens tear our friendly group of podcasters apart? Be sure to do the reading—there might be a quiz tomorrow.
Six members of The Incomparable panel went to see “Avengers: Age of Ultron” together, in person! And afterward we convened at Dan Moren’s house to discuss it over pizza and beverages. This is that conversation.
Comic Book Club returns to discuss two ’90s stories featuring art by Alex Ross, “Marvels” and “Kingdom Come.” These books—one each for Marvel and DC, each available in a single trade paperback—feature lavish art and intriguing themes about the relationship between superhumans and regular humans. How do they told up two decades later? Our panel of longtime comic experts and babes in the continuity woods weighs in.
A new “Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens” trailer has appeared! And, as was fated, we are here to deconstruct it within an inch of its life. Dark Side IKEA end tables! John Boyega quotes us the odds! Bespoke evil ships! And is that a glimmer in your eye, or just some lens flare? Plus we give some love to BB8, everyone’s favorite robotic soccer ball.
Dan Moren reports in from the Star Wars celebration, and Serenity Caldwell phones in from her car. This is serious business, people.
Lay in a course and engage the warp drive! Our “Star Trek” Debate Club returns with spirited discussion of the best and worst captains in the galaxy, along with the best and worst aliens. Plus we get controversial with our choices for the most overrated and underrated things in “Star Trek,” and engage in a bit of lightning philosophy. Live long and prosper!
Play ball! It’s opening weekend, so Old Movie Club returns with two classic baseball movies: “Pride of the Yankees” and “The Bad News Bears.” Even if you don’t like baseball (like Erika), you may enjoy these movies just fine! One’s a biopic from the 1940s complete with a song, and the other is an appropriately gross 1970s comedy. Join us, won’t you?
Our Rocket Surgery visit to bad sci-fi movies returns with a look at 1984’s “The Ice Pirates.” Foam robots! Swords and lasers! A mysterious water world! A strange balance of racism and social commentary! Bad effects! Baby animals! Robert Urich! A space herpe! Questional castration methods! Poop jokes! Oakland Raiders! John Carradine! Please, someone make it stop.
In honor of Sir Terry Pratchett, who died a week ago, four voracious Pratchett readers discuss what made Pratchett great, their favorite Pratchett works, and recommend places for newcomers to Terry Pratchett to get started.
Finished, this podcast torture is. We conclude our conversation about “Star Wars - Episode III: Revenge of the Sith,” taking you all the way through the dissatisfying ending. As a bonus, we try to rank the prequels, and discover a surprising winner. (part 2 of 2)
War! We begin our final battle with the “Star Wars” prequels with our take on “Star Wars - Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.” After a long string of opening statements, we take on the crawl and the first few scenes of the film. Why does a droid wheeze? Why are villains introduced off screen? Why is Christopher Lee wasted? What’s the deal with all the elevators? Why is Darth Vader a chump? Why is there even more boring political science? What happened to Natalie Portman, and why is she wearing beaded bedclothes while standing on balconies? (part 1 of 2)
We celebrate Leonard Nimoy, pondering what made us love Mr. Spock, discussing some of Spock’s finest moments, and even bringing up some lesser known corners of the Nimoy canon.
Our Old Movie Club, featuring classic films many of us haven’t seen selected just for us by Philip Michaels, is back!
In this edition, we look at two underappreciated films of Alfred Hitchcock: 1943’s “Shadow of a Doubt” and 1948’s “Rope.” The former features Joseph Cotten shooting up through the ceiling of creepy, a battle of telepathy versus telegraphy, the special bond of people named Charlie, murder by soda, and an appearance by the Exposition Radio Network. The latter offers long unbroken scenes, drunk Farley Granger, a perfect murder perpetrated by Batman villains, and Jimmy Stewart as Columbo. Both films have Hitchcock in common, as well as Hume Cronyn… and murder!
Introducing a new recurring segment on The Incomparable that we call Rocket Surgery, in which we watch an unappreciated science fiction movie from the past and then talk about it.
For our first installment, we watched the 2003 film “The Core,” starring Hilary Swank, Aaron Eckhart, Stanley Tucci, Delroy Lindo, and Bruce Greenwood. Yes, this is a movie about people riding a spaceship (of a sort) down into the core of the Earth in order to blow it up with nuclear bombs because reasons.
Our discussion topics include the science of birds, peaches as metaphors for the Earth, friendly whales, the destruction of the Golden Gate Bridge, and the powers of computer hackers.
We convene our Comic Book Club not to talk about a specific comic, but more generally the plight of the comic-book reader when it comes to events and continuity. Marvel and DC are both in the process of revisiting and changing their continuity via dramatic in-universe events. Is continuity worth the trouble? Are events fun, or soul-crushing? How do we feel about the old and new Marvel Secret Wars? Does the new all-woman Avengers team fill us with excitement or trepidation or both? And stick around after the show as we discuss Superman’s new power, the appeal of Harley Quinn, and even more comic nerdery!
Okay campers, rise and shine, and don’t forget your booties because it’s coooold out there! We partake in our midwinter ritual of watching “Groundhog Day” over and over again, not because we have to, but because we want to. How does something that seems so generic on its surface unfold into one of the deepest and (dare we say it) most beloved films of all time? Plus, we cope with the Andie MacDowell problem, theorize about everything Phil did in Punxsutawney that the movie didn’t show us, and liken the entire thing to a video-game speed run. Let’s live here!
The end of the world is here, or in the near future, or in the far future, or maybe all three? Our Book Club reconvenes to talk about three somewhat apocalyptic novels: “Station Eleven” by Emily St. John Mandel, “The Peripheral” by William Gibson, and “Slow Apocalypse” by John Varley.
Comic Book Club returns, with a look at a work by legendary writer Alan Moore. This one’s “Promethea” (1999-2005), a strange mixture of Wonder Woman and mysticism and tarot cards and… well, there’s a lot. We discuss the amazing visuals, coloring, and lettering, and ponder the difference between appreciating a work of art and being entertained.
Hello and, again, welcome to the Aperture Science computer-aided enrichment center. We hope your brief detention in the relaxation vault has been a pleasant one. You are now in possession of the Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device. With it, you can create your own portals. These intra-dimensional gates have proven to be completely safe. You, Subject Name Here, must be the pride of Subject Hometown Here.
You know what my days used to be like? I just tested. Nobody murdered me. Or put me in a potato. Or fed me to birds. I had a pretty good life. And then you showed up. You dangerous, mute lunatic. So you know what? You win. Just go. It’s been fun. Don’t come back.
It’s a new year! So as is traditional, we spend some time looking back at our favorite stuff from the past year. Plus we pick some of our favorite moments from the podcast and listen to listener choices for favorite Incomparable moments of the year.
In just moments, Rufus T. Firefly will appear, and all the people of Freedonia will cheer at the presence of their new leader. In the meantime, let’s take some time in our Old Movie Club to discuss the enduring and hilarious works of the Marx Brothers in general and the films “Duck Soup” and “A Night at the Opera” in particular.
It’s the holiday season, when it’s time to consider what’s truly important. We spend time with family and friends and maybe even reserve a few moments to ponder some of life’s mysteries: Is Bea Arthur really Boba Fett? Does Han Solo have a secret Wookie bride? What is Tobor spelled backward? And does C-3PO have eyelids?
It’s your usual detective story, with a guy obsessed with a mystery, a femme fatale, and… an asteroid that’s about to kill most of the living things on the earth? That’s the premise for “The Last Policeman” by Ben Winters. We liked the book (and its two sequels) quite a lot, though that comes with a big caveat based on what your definition of “fun” is, and apparently if you’re a soulless monster or not. Plus: What are we reading?
Not many people remember the ’80s sci-fi TV series “Galaxy Quest,” starring Jason Nesmith and Alexander Dane, let alone remember it with fondness. But we’ve assembled a panel full of Questarians who will change your mind. By Grabthar’s hammer, what a topic!
In the not too distant future—next Sunday A.D.—there was a guy named Joel, not too different from you or me. He worked at Gizmonic Institute, just another face in a red jumpsuit. He did a good job cleaning up the place, but his bosses didn’t like him, so they shot him into space. And thus began “Mystery Science Theater 3000.”
There’s now a teaser trailer for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”, and you know we have opinions. And so, in great Incomparable fashion, we’re here to talk about 80 seconds of video for more than an hour. How could we not?
With this season of “Doctor Who” completed, it’s time to break down the start of Peter Capaldi’s tenure as our favorite Time Lord. Is he a good man or a cosmic hobo? Why are hugs untrustworthy? Why does Jason keep watching episodes in hotel rooms? These questions and many others are asked, and some of them are even answered.
We wade into the world of webcomics, discussing the explosion of sequential art on the Internet and our very favorite webcomics. If you don’t spend hours and hours reading comics after listening to this episode, we haven’t done our jobs.
Old Movie Club returns! And things get dark awfully fast, because we watched two Film Noirs: “Kiss Me Deadly” (1955) and “Out of the Past” (1947). These films contain action, punching, unlikely romance, death by fishing line, horrible ethnic stereotypes, questionable female characters, inexplicable plots, and a box containing a nuclear whatsit. Va-va-va-voom!
We review the new TV shows of the fall, including the influx of new comic-book based series such as “The Flash,” “Gotham,” and “Constantine.” Also we highlight some of the best shows the fall has to offer, and laugh at some of the worst.
Come with us if you want to live! It’s time for our re-watch of 1984’s classic sci-fi/horror/monster/car chase movie “The Terminator.” It’s a film that offers a fine distillation of everything ’80s, from Linda Hamilton’s Guess jeans to the pulsating Casio keyboard soundtrack. How do Kyle Reese’s stolen pants remind him of home? And whatever you do, keep an eye out for a gigantic Austrian!
London is a thriving modern metropolis, but beneath its streets and behind its doors are ancient, magical secrets. In this episode, a group of (North) Americans discuss some of our favorite London-based urban fantasy novels. This is a spoiler-light episode, so listen in and get ready to add a whole bunch of books to your to-read list. Plus, what are we reading?
Set your phasers to stun and get ready for another round of our panel’s choices for the best and worst of “Star Trek.” This time, we’re debating the best and worst Trek series and movies. Jason and Brianna’s mirror-universe duplicates are revealed. And Tony spends a lot of time talking about sea life.
Space detectives! Pathologically honest spaceship captains! Murderous alien molecules! Solar-system-wide diplomacy! You’ll find all this and more in “The Expanse,” a sci-fi novel series by James S.A. Corey that’s soon to become a SyFy channel series. The members of our Book Club highly recommend it. Also: What are we reading?
Why build fantasy sports teams when you can build a fantasy sketch-comedy team? On the occasion of the debut of season 40 of “Saturday Night Live,” we assemble six different SNL fantasy casts from the very first cast to the most recent vintage. Almost everyone gets a Phil Hartman! But only after a whole bunch of rules debates.
Wind the frog and acquire more monkeys! It’s time for us to discuss the very first computer-animated feature film, 1995’s “Toy Story.” We ponder the rules of when toys can reveal themselves to people, question the physics of the Pizza Planet claw, and speak in defense of Sid (but not of Randy Newman). Also: Is this the end of Slinky Dog?
Dear Network Executives,
We know your libraries of intellectual property are full of perfectly good shows, ready to be dusted off and revived for modern audiences. That’s why our panel of esteemed Idea Men is here to provide you with some suggestions about what shows to bring back, and how.
Also, please consider casting John Hodgman in everything.
Take your flu medication, head west out of the abandoned cities, and join us for our discussion of Stephen King’s classic novel “The Stand.” We discuss why we enjoy (literary) apocalypses, question King’s setting of the revised edition in 1990, and join forces with an impossibly wise Yoda figure to plan the ultimate battle between the forces of good and the forces of Vegas. Baby, can you dig your man?
Post-show: Our own personal apocalypse plans, revisited.
Set your phasers to stun and join us for a celebration of everything we love… and hate… about Star Trek. Our panel of Star Trek fans picks their favorite episodes and characters! But we balance out the niceness by also picking the worst episodes and characters “Star Trek” has brought us over the years across five different TV series.
Want more Star Trek? And don’t forget to listen to our very own Random Trek podcast, hosted by Scott McNulty.
Sharpen your shivs and barbecue some rats, because it’s time for us to talk about the apocalyptic video game “The Last of Us.” We talk about the story and the characters in this relentlessly bleak story of a man and a girl trying to survive both zombies and people. If you want even more, stay tuned after the music for an entire bonus episode about gameplay and technical aspects of the game.
Put in your mix tape and get ready for a climactic dance-off! We’re talking “Guardians of the Galaxy,” Marvel’s latest hit movie and a real departure in so many ways. What makes the movie work? What are its flaws? We break it all down.
Oi, guv’nor! In this episode five people from North America spend a lot of time talking about British TV we love. If you are not from the UK, you’ll find a lot of fantastic “programmes” from the telly that are worth your attention. And if you are from jolly old Blighty, please laugh along as ignorant Americans assume that every TV show from England is produced by the BBC. Grab a cuppa and a curry and join us, won’t you?
In the long tradition of big, giant robots came 1999’s “The Iron Giant,” the film Brad Bird made before he made “The Incredibles.” It was kind of a flop in its initial release, but this animated feature has become rightfully recognized as a classic. We debate the Giant’s original purpose, break down a surprisingly large succession of poop jokes, and ponder the Giant’s ultimate destiny to be the benevolent robot-king of Iceland.
On Comic-Con weekend, we convene to discuss the latest rash of re-casting comic book heroes. Thor is now a woman! Captain America is black! We’re all for increasing diversity in a medium whose classic characters are dominated by white men, but what are the right ways to do it? And are there wrong ways, or does every little bit help?
“Doctor Who” will be returning shortly, with Peter Capaldi stepping into the role. So what if you’re “Doctor Who”-curious, but intimidated about where to jump in? Our panel of extraordinary “Doctor Who” fans has lots of recommendations for you. Then we survey the highs and lows of the show’s revival era, which featured Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant in the role of The Doctor.
Bury your dead in a Zeppelin and call your interplanetary accountant—it’s time for our annual read of the Hugo Award nominees. We cover this year’s award nominees, plus the “retro Hugos” from 1939, both of which will be awarded in August in London. Also, someone defends Mira Grant.
Break out the stars and stripes, put on your tap shoes, crawl into your shame hole, and join us for a very patriotic edition of Old Movie Club. We discuss the musical “1776,” which stars KITT from “Knight Rider” and the guy from “The White Shadow,” and the biopic musical “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” which stars James Cagney.
We celebrate our 200th episode with this mega-sized installment. We discuss what it means to have geeky enthusiasms (and whether we should grow up), and then listen to some reader feedback. Plus there’s a draft, some beer, and special guest stars.
June 27, 2014 • 2 hours, 43 minutes • Our 200th episode! • Jason Snell with John Siracusa, Serenity Caldwell, Dan Moren, Erika Ensign, Monty Ashley, Greg Knauss, Steve Lutz, David J. Loehr, Glenn Fleishman, Scott McNulty and Neal Pozner
In this episode we recap our take on the TV season that recently concluded. In a segment with little to no spoilers, we largely discuss shows we like, including “Orphan Black,” “Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD,” and even “The Blacklist” and “The Good Wife.” Then at the end of the show we slip into spoiler territory and talk about season 4 of “Game of Thrones.”
In this episode we convene a panel of women who love geeky stuff to discuss portrayals of girls and women in geek media, how girls and women are received in geek culture, and the books, movies, comics and TV shows that do it right.
We love Pixar, and we’re a bunch of creative professional types. So as you can imagine, we devoured “Creativity Inc.”, by Pixar president Ed Catmull. Is it a business book or an anti-business book? How do you foster creativity? Is Pixar’s formula one that provides safety while preventing works of staggering genius? How much is a director or writer the author of a Pixar movie, and how much is the studio itself? And is the wild success of “Frozen” proof of anything?
Every year Scott and Jason read all the Hugo Award-nominated novels, which supposedly show off the best science fiction has to offer. That hasn’t always gone well, so this year they’ve read the eight novels nominated for the Nebula Awards—and recruited three other SF podcasters to join them in the fun. We discuss all eight novels with extremely light-to-no spoilers, so it’s safe to listen. And the good news? All eight of these novels are pretty good!
Following in the footsteps of our video-game draft, it’s time for us to select some of our favorite computer games of all time. Real-time strategy! Arcade style! Text adventures! From the earliest days of video games up to the present, we’ve got it covered. Now if we could just figure out what was in those crates…
Grab your black cat and portable radio, climb on your mom’s broomstick, and join us for a king-sized discussion of Hayao Miyazaki’s classic animated film “Kiki’s Delivery Service.” This film features a climactic scene featuring an out-of-control dirigible, so you know we love it.
The casting for “Star Wars: Episode VII” has been announced, and so our team of interested “Star Wars” fans has arrived to break down the returning actors, the new faces, and our hopes for the future of the franchise. Plus we talk Kremlinology and Soviet industrial design, lament a bag of villains, and confuse screenwriters with pasta.
Danger, Will Robinson! It’s time to think outside the bots. We follow up our computer draft with a draft of favorite robots, androids, and other artificial intelligences. Also, we debate a whole lot about what makes a robot different from a computer. Kill all humans!
Live from Macworld/iWorld in San Francisco, it’s the Incomparable Computer Draft! We pick the best computers of all time—real and fictional. (It goes off the rails quickly.)
Grab your shield, steal your old uniform, and hop on your motorcycle, because it’s time for us to discuss “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.” It’s the latest Marvel movie, and even though Steve Rogers is the title character, there’s an awful lot of SHIELD in this movie, too. Does the franchise aspect of these films help or hurt? Are the action scenes more interesting than the urban disasters featured in most recent superhero movies? And is the Falcon really Cap’s only friend outside SHIELD? Also, we reveal the Hydra secret handshake.
Warm up your modem and turn your nuclear-launch key—it’s time to play Global Thermonuclear War! We discuss “WarGames,” the 1983 John Badham film starring Matthew Broderick, Dabney Coleman, and Ally Sheedy. Is this the ultimate film for computer nerds like us? How do the film’s Cold War themes contrast with its anti-technology themes? Can a computer make moral decisions? Why is there so much nerd shaming and sexism? And why do they let tour buses into the heart of America’s nuclear command? So many questions, Professor Falken, and so few remote-controlled pterodactyls.
In the spirit of April Fool’s Day, we present the second edition of The Incomparable Game Show. Two teams match up in a battle of trivia and pointlessness. (Or is that redundant?)
March 30, 2014 • 1 hour, 36 minutes • Another Incomparable game show. • Jason Snell with Glenn Fleishman, Greg Knauss, Steve Lutz, Monty Ashley, Erika Ensign, Scott McNulty, John Siracusa and Dan Moren
Our Book Club reconvenes to discuss “The Martian” by Andy Weir. It’s a nuts-and-bolts adventure about a stranded astronaut who uses his botany and engineering skills to stay alive on Mars. Did we mention botany? And engineering? There’s a lot of both. Also, we tell you what we’re reading.
We reconvene our Old Movie Club to watch two gritty early-1970s films that have been unfortunately remade in the last decade: “Get Carter” starring Michael Caine, and “The Taking of Pelham One Two Three” starring Walter Matthau. We learn about slide-based pornography, metaphors involving stick-shift cars, angry New York transit officers, kazoo parades, and so much more.
It was the dawn of a new age—the rise of sci-fi shows with story arcs, complex characters, and computer-based special effects. “Babylon 5” was a trailblazing TV series and we give it the treatment it deserves in this double-sized episode. The curious can join us for a lengthy pre-Spoiler Horn conversation about why we like the show, and the veterans can stick around for detailed, spoilery conversations about where the show went during its five seasons on the air.
Do you love cardboard and hate sanity? Then join us for our draft of favorite board games! We do some uranium mining on a donkey, propose a new trivia-themed podcast, debate the merits of Sanka versus Yuban, and discuss two different versions of Risk—three, if you count the version Tony invented where each Risk battle is settled by a full game of Monopoly.
Do you like sand? Then you may get upset as we conclude our discussion of “Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones,” in which we ponder the mystery of droid consciousness, fail to get excited about seeing our old friends from Episode I again, open a Variety Pack of monsters, debate Yoda’s fighting strategy, and talk John Siracusa off the ledge. Finally, we ponder whether it’s worse for a movie to be bad or boring. (Part 2 of 2.)
Against the advice of our doctors, we’re back with more prequels. This time it’s “Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones.” With three different opening statements, our podcast is about as bureaucratic as the Imperial Senate. We also discuss R2’s incompetence as a security system, ponder Anakin’s puzzling pick-up lines (and haircut), sympathize with the boring job of the Jedi, and question the plight of the Fett family and the clone troopers. (Part 1 of 2.)
Harrison Ford is Indiana Jones, but will he always be? We discuss the interesting problem of replacing the face of your franchise, whether it’s Doctor Who or James Bond or Captain Kirk or Batman or Superman. Fortunately, we leave plenty of time for digressions into old TV shows (including “Three’s Company,” “Bewitched,” and “Magnum P.I.”) and anger the internet’s foremost Robocopians. Spoiler: In the end, Hollywood ruins everything.
Unlock the front door to your mind palace, fake your death in numerous ways, and draw on a fake mustache! Season 3 of “Sherlock” is on our agenda, and we discuss all three episodes in turn. How does the introduction of Mary improve the cast dynamic? Does the middle episode sag as in past seasons, or prove to be a highlight? The game is on, Watson.
Our book club returns with discussion of two books! First we talk Scott Lynch’s “The Lies of Locke Lamora,” a fantasy book about a gang of thieves that are even outlaws to other thieves (spoiler horn at 12:00). Then it’s Ann Leckie’s “Ancillary Justice,” a space opera about AIs and ships and empires and corpse soldiers that brings Iain M. Banks to mind (starts at 28:48, spoilers at 33:22). Confusingly long prologues! Fun with gendered pronouns! Questionable burrito metaphors! Plus: What are we reading (starts at 68:13)?
We continue selecting our favorite all-time console video games. John chooses the classics. Steve has a bad fur day. And Moisés continues his descent into madness. Boop beep beep boop! (Part 2 of 2)
It’s time for us to select some of the very best console video games of all time. From Mario to Zelda, from sports to music, from Atari to Intellivision, we’ve got the entire history of the video-game industry covered. Are you a bad enough dude to listen? (Part 1 of 2)
We say goodbye to 2013 by listing our favorite stuff from the past year. We also recall our favorite podcast moments and read a whole bunch of listener comments. (This is a new episode, though it does contain a few classic Incomparable clips from 2013 and earlier.)
January 1, 2014 • 2 hours • Best stuff of 2013, plus our favorite podcast moments. • Jason Snell with Dan Moren, Erika Ensign, Greg Knauss, John Siracusa, Steve Lutz, Tony Sindelar, Scott McNulty and David J. Loehr
“Doctor Who” said farewell to Eleventh Doctor Matt Smith on Christmas Day. In an Incomparable Christmas tradition, we convened almost immediately after the airing of the episode to discuss “The Time of the Doctor” in great detail in an unedited live flashcast. Cyberman-head companions! A turkey that takes 300 years to cook in the vortex! Lots of past plot boxes checked! A teary farewell and regeneration! Kidneys of a dubious color! We break it all down.
The Incomparable Radio Theater of the Air wishes a Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.
December 22, 2013 • 1 hour, 24 minutes • The Incomparable Radio Theater of the Air wishes you all the best. • Jason Snell with Andy Ihnatko, David J. Loehr, Erika Ensign, Glenn Fleishman, John Siracusa, Lex Friedman, Lisa Schmeiser, Moisés Chiullan, Monty Ashley, Philip Michaels, Scott McNulty, Serenity Caldwell, Steve Lutz, Tony Sindelar and Merlin Mann
‘Tis the season for holiday music! Unfortunately, while we unabashedly love the holidays, only some holiday music strikes our fancy. Join us as we talk about what makes a good holiday song and then stick around (if you dare) as we complain about some of the worst the season has to offer. Happy holidays, folks!
(This is a remastered version of the episode. The bonus track, “Human Santapede”, is appended at the end of the regular episode.)
Holiday TV: There’s a lot of it, and some of it is good. A lot of it is bad. We talk about classics great and not-so-great and induct some very special shows into the Incomparable Holiday Vault. Also, Steve reveals a deep, dark secret.
Winter’s here and it’s time to light a fire, get under a blanket, and curl up with a good book. Our panelists are well read and of exquisite taste, so we’ve got a boatload of suggestions for you. From funny to serious, there’s a book in our list that will hit the spot the next time you’re looking for something to read.
In this special unedited flashcast edition, we talk about the 50th Anniversary episode of Doctor Who, “The Day of the Doctor,” immediately after viewing it! It just about made our heads explode and we want to watch it again immediately. Join us for our post-episode breakdown of what we saw and what we liked.
50 years ago some very clever people invented “Doctor Who.” 50 years later we still love it. On the occasion of the show’s golden anniversary, here’s our unabashed lovefest for the BBC’s most clever invention. Four American fans discuss how we discovered the show, our favorite Doctors and stories, and the unique and welcoming culture of sci-fi fandom.
Pick up the clicker and join us for our conversation about the new TV season. We talk ABC’s “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”, “Sleepy Hollow,” “The Blacklist,” “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” “The Crazy Ones,” “The Michael J. Fox Show,” “Masters of Sex,” and also NBC’s “Dracula”—which we haven’t actually seen. Plus returning shows of note like “Parks and Recreation,” “Bob’s Burgers,” “How I Met Your Mother,” and “The Big Bang Theory.” We also talk about how exciting corporate synergy can be, Scott endorses a show you should watch if you have the channel it’s on, and we provide our pitch for “CSI: Dracula.”
Old Movie Club returns! We look at three films from 1952: “Singin’ in the Rain,” “High Noon,” and Best Picture winner (!) “The Greatest Show on Earth.” One of these movies is not like the others. Plus: The haunting repetition of Tex Ritter! Charlton Heston’s commitment to the circus! And Phil asks Jason what it feels like to have no soul! Travel back 61 years in time and join us, won’t you?
November 9, 2013 • 1 hour, 26 minutes • "Singin' in the Rain," "High Noon," and "The Greatest Show on Earth." • Jason Snell with Philip Michaels, Lisa Schmeiser, David J. Loehr, Erika Ensign, Steve Lutz and Monty Ashley
Awful people can make great art. Nice people can write bad books. Can you separate the creator from the art? We struggle with Orson Scott Card and his (rightfully) classic novel “Ender’s Game” and go on to list other writers and series who we’ve hand to break up with. To make things not entirely disappointing, we also talk about authors and series that have never let us down.
In this episode we talk about two video games even non-gamers like Jason can enjoy, “Gone Home” and “Brothers.” We ponder what makes a game challenging, and if a game must be challenging to be good. John likes both games, but has a list of grievances. All disagreements will be settled with a duel of ’80s mixtapes at dawn! Plus: What other games are we playing?
Grab a pint and marinate your brain as we discuss the “Cornetto Trilogy,” three films by Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright that are linked in theme if not in characters: “Shaun of the Dead,” “Hot Fuzz,” and recent release “The World’s End.” Why aren’t there more smart genre comedies? How do Pegg and Wright so deftly handle different genres? How are these movies like the Commedia dell’arte? Why do Jason and Jeff want to punch Nick Frost, then hug him? Plus, we give even more Incomparable love to “Spaced.”
The winner of our iTunes review contest had us read John Birmingham’s “Weapons of Choice,” which our Book Club used as a jumping-off point to talk about alt-history novels, time travel, military SF, and a whole lot more. You don’t need to read the book to appreciate the episode! Plus: What are we reading?
Live! From a (somewhat echoey, sorry) room in Portland Oregon, we talk about the exciting new world of Internet-aided content creation. How have sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo and even Amazon changed how people create and consume books, movies, TV shows, and music? And what’s the missing piece of this content revolution?
Bonus episode! Here’s an edited fourth installment of our Dungeons and Dragons campaign. Our heroes have made it inside a strange desert temple and have mostly not died… yet. But the night is young and the basins in this temple are full of an unknown magical fluid, so anything could happen!
Take the red pill and enter “The Matrix,” 1999’s influential sci-fi/action classic. Why does Morpheus talk like a fortune cookie? Is Keanu’s woodenness an asset or detriment? Was skeuomorphism the fall of man? And if we accept that living things can be used as batteries, why wouldn’t the machines just use cows? Grad students, we are about to blow your minds. Whoa.
We conclude the second Incomparable Film Festival with 21 more films we think are worth seeing, in fantasy draft format. Don’t miss the exciting Lightning Round, and stay tuned when it’s all over for our expert post-draft analysis! (Part 2 of 2.)
September 19, 2013 • 1 hour, 16 minutes • The 2nd annual Incomparable Film Festival. (2 of 2) • Jason Snell with Dan Moren, David J. Loehr, Monty Ashley, Steve Lutz, Andy Ihnatko, John Siracusa and Philip Michaels
It’s time for the second Incomparable Film Festival! We pick 35 films that we think are worth seeing, in fantasy draft format. From horror to comedy to drama to sci-fi to kung-fu, we’ve got just about every genre covered. (Part 1 of 2.)
An entire comic book about Hawkeye, the lesser Marvel superhero with a bow and arrow? Okay… this looks bad. But seriously, bro, this is one of the very best comics being published today. We cover the first two trade-paperback editions of Fraction and Aja’s series, including Lucky the Pizza Dog, 50 Shades of Purple, and how hooking up a laserdisc player is similar to defusing a bomb. Hop on board and join us—we’re great at boats.
Special guest star Philip Michaels gives us an old-movie education with two caper movies from the 1950s, “The Lavender Hill Mob” and “The Killing.” One’s funny, one’s not, but both teach us that crime doesn’t pay! Plus young Stanley Kubrick, funnyman Alec Guinness, the second-greatest fight scene Steve has ever seen, and a guest appearance by General Eisenhower.
A boy with no name travels to the end of the lane and discovers how a pond can be an ocean in Neil Gaiman’s brief and wonderful novel “The Ocean at the End of the Lane.” Also Dan explains Jason’s perfect vacation, there’s lots of talk about cats, why David has issues with Old Yeller, and we talk about other Neil Gaiman works that we like.
Do you like stories, love, and life? Then even if you’re not a regular comic book reader, you should read “Saga,” by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples. (Unless naked robot sex disturbs you, in which case you shouldn’t.) We cover the horns and the wings, bad connections on the interstellar cellphone network, seahorse agents, super space high school, a frog with a banjo, the wisdom of hiring a ghost as your babysitter, and much more.
Load your shotgun, put on your clear plastic suit, and climb into that suspiciously humming box! We’re here to talk about three very different time-travel movies: “12 Monkeys,” “Looper,” and “Primer.” Is “Crazy Brad Pitt” a thing? If you met a younger version of yourself, would you fight or cuddle? Why is the apocalypse like Philadelphia? Also something about a Weeble in a time machine, we didn’t really understand that part.
Live! From San Diego County! It’s a podcast where Jason Snell, Steve Lutz, and Greg Knauss drink beer and talk about Comic-Con, a glut of too much good media, the pros and cons of wearing costumes, Adventure Time, Glenn’s health scare, and much more. It’s slightly tipsy and more than slightly rambling, but we hope you’ll crack a beverage of your own and join us for this cocktail party.
Put on your red shirt, renew your blogging license, and swallow some alien bacteria! It’s time for our annual read of the five Hugo Award nominees for best novel. We liked some of them, we hated some of them, but we talked about all of them! But beware: The diabolical eyes of the Centers for Disease Control are watching us all.
It’s our 150th episode! Since we don’t normally answer listener questions and read comments on the show, we’re devoting this episode to that very topic. We read your emails, your iTunes reviews, and your tweets, and announce a contest that will let one lucky listener choose the topic of a future episode. Are we too critical or not critical enough? Do we disagree too much or not enough? Plus: Why we’re not kidnapping Stephen Fry, a new magazine for apes, light eatage, and some Glenning.
The Incomparable’s Superhero Draft is now in session, and justice is on the clock! Hear our collection of panelists assemble several excellent super-teams. Who will inhabit the Hall of Justice? And why are Superman and Batman looking on forlornly? Are they just not team players? Take your Sharknado to the Evil Museum and ponder just why Iron Man might not be the hero you think he is.
Jason’s on vacation this week, so instead of a conventional episode, here’s an edited third installment of our Dungeons and Dragons campaign. Hot on the heels of the death of Eglath, our heroes step into the maelstrom and discover the secret of the stone temple on the other side. Also, is that a lobster? And who is that guy wearing a hat?
Though we were tempted to release this episode in eight 10-minute installments, we refrained. Our Book Club reconvenes to discuss John Scalzi’s novel “The Human Division,” which was initially released as a serial and later as a single-volume novel. Does the serialized format help or hurt? Is Scalzi’s return to his “Old Man’s War” universe a triumph? PLUS! We discuss all the short fiction nominated for the Hugo Award this year.
Quick! Before the planet is destroyed! Climb on your Kryptonian dragonfly-horse thing and join us to discuss “Man of Steel,” the first in a new cycle of Superman movies. We debate the talents of director Zack Snyder, question the movie artistically and as a calculated act of commerce, praise a lot of very good things about the movie, and complain a whole lot about gleeful destruction and the accompanying property damage.
Winter is coming! Any day now. No, really… Wait for it… Hmm. In the meantime, here’s our review of this year’s “Game of Thrones” season, recorded with all of us in the same room! Haven’t seen it? Skip ahead an hour and listen to us talk about other TV shows we watched during the 2012-2013 TV season, including the finale of “Fringe.”
“My Neighbor Totoro” is an animated classic in which nothing much happens, but we love it anyway. We discuss how the movie is all about children’s fears of change, ponder the differences between subtitled and dubbed versions, and contemplate corn as a cure for tuberculosis. CREEPY!
Press down on the warp lever and hide away your out-of-date continuity reference materials. It’s time for us to discuss J.J. Abrams’ reimagined Star Trek, with an emphasis on the new film “Star Trek Into Darkness.” Among our topics: The great casting in both movies, the merits of a Spock-to-Spock Skype call, McCoy’s Tribble-based scientific method, and the themes of self-sacrifice in the new movie. Plus we reference every single classic Star Trek movie along the way! And yes, there are spoilers. Lots and lots of spoilers.
From aliens in the wi-fi to a brain leech under a hat, from some bad nannying to a trio of idiots with a really big space magnet, it’s been an odd half-season for our favorite Time Lord. Here’s our recap of the second half of series 7 of “Doctor Who.” Plus: The Spoiler Horn makes it safe for everyone who wanted to learn the Doctor’s real name.
Put on your high-tech suit of armor and join us for our discussion of “Iron Man 3.” We talk about Tony’s post-traumatic stress, his problematic relationship with technology, and his questionable choice to use remote armor to give a present to his girlfriend. We also discuss the pros and cons of the first two Iron Man movies, analyze how this film fits in as a post-“Avengers” story, and appreciate Tony’s MacGyver moment.
No more mutants! We discuss the 2005 Marvel Comics miniseries “House of M,” in which writer Brian Michael Bendis gets to show off his love of meetings, Doctor Strange, and meetings chaired by Doctor Strange! Also, there’s a crazy “What If?” style parallel universe, approximately a billion spin-offs, and in the cruelest twist, Peter Parker is briefly allowed to be happy. And finally there’s a shocking finale that set the tone for mutant storylines up to the present day. Listen before the Scarlet Witch wishes this podcast out of existence!
We delve into the children’s literary classic “A Wrinkle In Time,” by Madeline L’Engle, as well as its recent graphic-novel adaptation by Hope Larson. Why is there a brain on that table? What are the pros and cons of cooking dinner on a Bunsen burner for the average Super-Cool Science Family? Come for the Cold War allegories about communism, stay to talk religion with a bunch of nerds!
Bonus episode! Here’s the (warning: UNEDITED) result of our second Dungeons and Dragons session. After some dithering in the local vicinity, we venture out into the desert to meet glass spiders and some really unpleasant green guys.
We conclude our discussion of “Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace.” We discuss the merits of podracing, debate who the Jedi’s version of Fonzie is, and grapple with tricky euphemisms. Plus, is the final lightsaber duel cool or just over-choreographed? And why is there a hall full of forcefields, next to a room with no guard rails? Party on, Darth! (Part 2 of 2.)
They said it couldn’t be done! They said it shouldn’t be done! But here we are, talking about “Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace.” Why are the Jedi such jerks? A little Jedi goes a long way. Also, the biggest letdown of John Siracusa’s life to date, stupid droids, good actors being boring, text versus subtext, the merits of prequels in general, and why this is a movie that makes us dream… of a better movie. Exqueeze me? (Part 1 of 2.)
Get out your 20-sided dice and join us in a game of Dungeons and Dragons. Scott McNulty is our DM. Jason, Ren, Dan, Steve, and Tony are our party. Things don’t go well.
Load your shotgun and gather your platonic apocalypse friends around you! It’s time for us to discuss two books about the end of the world, Peter Heller’s “The Dog Stars” and Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road.” Do names matter when the world has ended? We also revisit John Siracusa’s doomsday plans (a moat is involved), Lex offers a depressing death plan, Jason extolls the virtue of dirty apocalypses, and Scott laughs it up from his apartment full of canned food.
How much do we love old-time radio dramas and full-cast audioplays? This much.
April 1, 2013 • 47 minutes • Our salute to old-time radio drama. • Jason Snell with David J. Loehr, Serenity Caldwell, Andy Ihnatko, Dan Moren, Glenn Fleishman, John Siracusa, Lex Friedman, Lisa Schmeiser, Monty Ashley, Scott McNulty, Steve Lutz, Ben Boychuk and John Moltz
Don’t make us angry… you wouldn’t like us when we’re angry. Our Comic Book Club talks all things Hulk. We begin with a discussion of two She-Hulk series, by John Byrne and Dan Slott, and then move to talk about Proper Hulk, Gray Hulk, Red Hulk, Planet Hulk, Ruffalo Hulk, and more! Plus: What are we reading? (Jason gets really excited about “Hawkeye,” who is not a Hulk.) And, other than being green, how is the Hulk like parsley? Channel your inner rage and listen to this episode.
John Siracusa assigns us two animated films from director Satoshi Kon, “Perfect Blue” and “Millennium Actress.” Then we watch them! Featuring: What to look for in Anime tropes, blurring of reality and fantasy, when animation is better than live action, and the lovingly rendered start-up sequence of a Macintosh Performa.
Disconnect the intelligent computer that runs your entire planetary society, because it’s time for the second half of our discussion of the original “Star Trek.” What do today’s kids think of this nearly 50-year-old show? We ponder the gender politics of splitting Captain Kirk (and a little dog in a weird costume) into good and evil halves. And what about the low standards of the Enterprise’s Engineering department? Please listen: It will only take 71 of your Earth minutes! (Part 2 of 2.)
Lay in a course and set your phaser to stun! We discuss our favorite (and least favorite) episodes of the original “Star Trek” series. Was Dr. McCoy promoting vegetarianism? Why did Spock have such a lovely collection of hats? What does Bob Barker have to do with the Guardian of Forever? Join us as we boldly go where so many have gone before. (Part 1 of 2.)
Cut off your thumb and send it to a friend just to see what grows! In this episode of our Book Club, we talk about Daniel O’Malley’s modern supernatural fantasy novel, “The Rook.” (We liked it a lot!) It’s sort of about a supernatural version of Britain’s MI-5, written by an American-educated Australian civil servant. Also: What are Scott, Dan, and Jason reading?
We convened on the Macworld Live stage at Macworld/iWorld 2013 to discuss the works of Aaron Sorkin. From “The West Wing” to “Sports Night,” “The American President” to “The Social Network,” it’s all here.
Get out your magical key ring and prepare for our discussion of “Locke and Key” by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez. It’s a dark fantasy/horror comic with some touches of Stephen King, fitting since Joe Hill is Stephen King’s kid! It’s also really good. We drop some mild spoilers for Vol. 1, “Welcome to Lovecraft,” which you should go buy right now. Plus: What comics are we reading?
Our fellowship is sundered, as we wrap up our look at the “Lord of the Rings” movies with a discussion of our favorite (and some least-favorite) performances. Also, is Yoda better than Gollum? Who likes Orcs, anyway? Why does Liv Tyler make Jason want to go to the bathroom? And there are many, many endings. (Part 2 of 2.)
It’s a two-part podcast about a three-part movie series spread across six discs based on a novel divided into three parts! We tackle Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, from its epic length to the perils of adapting such rich source material. Plus a spotter’s guide to differentiating between Dwarfy, Elfy, Beardy, and Hobbits One through Four. And Glenn proves that he knows Elvish. The road goes ever on, and on, and on… (Part 1 of 2.)
Insert a quarter and settle back to listen to us discuss the Oscar-nominated animated feature “Wreck-It Ralph,” which is inspired by classic video games. If you make it past the first level, you’ll also hear us discuss some of the video games our collection of elderly gentleman played when they were children back in the ’70s and ’80s. If you don’t make it that far, keep trying—the change machine’s right over there.
We say goodbye to 2012 by listing our favorite stuff from the past year. We also recall our favorite podcast moments, read a whole bunch of listener comments, and celebrate the three brand-new words we popularized this year. (This is a new episode, though it does contain a few classic Incomparable clips from 2012—and beyond.)
A live “flash” episode recorded right after we watched the 2012 “Doctor Who” Christmas special, “The Snowmen.” We welcome (back?) Jenna-Louise Coleman and discuss whether this new start for the Doctor has rekindled our enthusiasm for the show.
Showing remarkable optimism, we gathered on the eve of the Mayan apocalypse to discuss movies we might see in 2013. In this episode, we discuss the trailers for much-anticipated films “Star Trek Into Darkness”, “Man of Steel”, “Pacific Rim”, “Oblivion”, “After Earth”, “The Lone Ranger”, and “Upstream Color.” Also: Robot Thursdays, the merits of Star Trek punctuation, a Bolivian, Ethan Hunt versus the Fresh Prince, and traditional Kryptonian formalwear.
With great power comes the responsibility to book great guests. And so when it came time to discuss “The Amazing Spider-Man” and Spidey in general, Jason turned to reknowned spider-fans Andy Ihnatko and Dan Benjamin. We discuss how the Spidey in the new movie is a different sort of guilt-trip superhero. Dan explains why you can’t actually kill a spider. Andy previews his new comic book, The Indigestible Spider-Man. We touch on the changes in Ultimate Spider-Man and speculate about the soon-to-arrive Amazing Spider-Man #700. Jason sings two different Spidey theme songs and does his J. Jonah Jameson impression. This giant-sized episode is more Spidey than you can shake a web at.
Trim the tree, wrap the presents, and watch out for the killer in your attic! It’s time for us to place five new gems into the Incomparable Holiday Vault! We discuss some beloved holiday classics and offer a few surprise choices. This is a darker installment, as we uncover the racism in some holiday staples, and then Steve inducts a horror movie. And can a talk show really be a holiday special? You’re gonna shoot your eye out with that thing!
We follow up on our previous episode to ask Serenity Caldwell how she uses her iPhone to read books (and discover her shocking method of scanning pages). Then there’s a discussion of Lois McMaster Bujold’s latest Vorkosigan novel, “Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance.” Finally (at 65 minutes in if you’re skipping ahead), Jason asks Scott to recommend which unread book on his Kindle he should dive into next.
We talk a lot about what we read, but how do we read? Join our Book Club as we talk about ebooks, paper books, and libraries, and how we like to read today. Plus, we tell you some of the books we’re reading right now.
Turn on your electrical generators, fire your nuclear missiles, and notch your bow and arrow—it’s time for our review of the fall TV season, including both new and returning shows. We discuss “Revolution,” the since-cancelled “Last Resort,” “Arrow,” “Elementary,” and returning shows “Fringe,” “The Walking Dead,” “Boardwalk Empire,” and many others!
Were we pranked, or did Disney really just buy Lucasfilm and announce a new Star Wars trilogy? We decided to just assume it’s happening and record a live flash podcast about this unexpected turn of events.
We discuss the Indiana Jones movie series, including a brief revisitation of “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” the good parts of “Temple of Doom,” Dan’s childhood love for “Last Crusade,” and utter denial about “Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.” Also, Lex hasn’t seen it. Recorded live at Cingleton Symposium, Montreal, October 2012.
Our very own Glenn Fleishman’s was on “Jeopardy!” We debriefed him about his adventures immediately on his return. In this episode, Jason and Glenn are also joined by Andy Ihnatko and Steve Lutz, and we talk about game shows and their modern reality-competition show equivalents, as well as harken back to the heyday of the panel show, where drunk celebrities engaged in witty repartee. It’s an episode so comfy you’ll feel like you were back in the womb at Bill Cullen’s house.
Rob Reiner’s legendary heavy-metal mockumentary “This is Spinal Tap” is in our sights. This is one of our very favorite films, and so Jason, Andy Ihnatko, and Ben Boychuk talk about why they love it while regaling one another with favorite lines from this amazingly quotable movie.
Robot sheriff, coming through! We break down the first half of “Doctor Who” season 7, and discover the truth about the Siracusa Threshold. Today we are all John Siracusa, except for Scott. He’s our Rory.
Soon to be a major motion picture you probably shouldn’t see, David Mitchell’s 2004 novel “Cloud Atlas” is in our sights. This novel consists of six separate stories set in different genres and timeframes from the 1850s to a post-apocalyptic future, and yet they’re all interlinked. Somehow. It’s fun, weird, and challenging, but what does it all mean? Read it now before every character in it becomes Tom Hanks and Halle Berry.
A video game beloved by John Siracusa, “Journey” for the PS3, is in the spotlight. We toot the biggest Spoiler Horn of all time — don’t listen if you haven’t played it! — and then talk about what we liked and didn’t like about Thatgamecompany’s desert-and-spoiler epic.
We take on one of our favorite movies, “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan,” while also acknowledging the flaws that make it all the more lovable. Topics include: How Genesis is the galaxy’s worst Kickstarter project; Why it’s always important to count the planets, especially at Ceti Alpha; The size of the Botany Bay library and why it makes Khan so mad at Kirk; Why Scott’s email is more secure than the Reliant; The real name of Khan’s right-hand man; and how Spock’s death solves Kirk’s mid-life crisis. Also, we scientifically prove that “Wrath of Khan” is better than Star Wars.
FLASH! A bonus (unedited) episode, in which we react quickly to the premiere episode of this season of Doctor Who, “Asylum of the Daleks.” Plus: The Incomparable won an award! For podcasting! We react quickly to the announcement of the Hugo Awards. And we do many, many Dalek impressions.
Our Book Club reconvenes to discuss Jo Walton’s Small Change trilogy of novels, “Farthing,” “Ha’Penny,” and “Half a Crown.” (We fire off the spoiler horn before each novel.) These novels explore an alternate-history in which Britain makes peace with Nazi Germany, and focus on a detective who just wants to do his job—but his job keeps changing in increasingly awful ways.
Believe it or not, some of us have managed to breed successfully. Even Steve Lutz. So we talk about what media we provide for our kids. Topics include dealing with the Star Wars prequels, Spongebob Squarepants, how young you need to be to watch “Apocalypse Now” or “The Exorcist,” why “Tron: Legacy” cost Ben dearly, why John became a master weaponsmith in his childhood, Jason’s debates with his son over whether Spider-Man or Batman is better, Lisa’s childhood reading of “The Godfather,” picking video games for your kids, and how your children’s peers will just ruin them anyway.
Our Comic Book Club returns to discuss super-team comics. What makes them work, and what makes them fail? And our primary subject is Top 10, Alan Moore’s other amazing twelve-issue superhero comic series. If you haven’t read it yet, you should!
Pixar takes on princesses with the new film “Brave.” We discuss Pixar’s mother/bear-daughter story, but also the larger issues of female characters in animation and film in general. What’s wrong with the Disney Princesses? Why can’t girls play Belle or Ariel as if they were an action hero, anyway? How does Merida compare with the female protagonists in Miyazaki’s work? Did Pixar change its own fate?
Our Book Club discusses “Redshirts” by John Scalzi. It’s a book that’s far more complex than its elevator-pitch premise would suggest, but did our panel appreciate its winking narrative-within-narrative structure? And more broadly, why are we worried about some of our favorite geek creators turning inward and pandering to the nerd audience?
In our hundredth episode, we take a look at why we do The Incomparable. Can entertainment be appreciated without analysis and criticism? We also discuss how The Incomparable came to be, and pick some of our favorite (and least favorite) moments. Please forgive us for this self-indulgent meta-episode. We promise not to do another one until number 200.
Summer’s here and it’s time to get to the beach with a good sci-fi novel. Our panelists are well read and of exquisite taste, so we’ve got a boatload of suggestions for you. From funny to serious, there’s a book in our list that will hit the spot the next time you’re looking for something to read.
Good news, everyone! We’re here to talk about the animated TV comedy “Futurama.” Join guest host Glenn Fleishman, special guest Andy Ihnatko, and virgin guests Jonathan Seff and Dean Putney as we discuss Bender, Fry, Dr. Zoidberg, and even Morbo.
The 2012 Hugo Award Nominees. Of all the sci-fi novels published in the last year, these are five of them! (And four aren’t actually sci-fi.) But that hasn’t stopped us from reading them and giving you our opinions. Join our book club as we talk about five books and pick our favorites. Plus: Vomit Zombies! A unique novel-sponsorship opportunity for Coca-Cola! Our near-unconditional love of author Jo Walton! And what the locusts are reading this year!
Unfurl your banners, steal some dragons, slap your insolent nephew, and get ready to listen to us discuss the second season of HBO’s “Game of Thrones” in this special live session. Plus, John explains the Internet to Jason.
We travel to where geekiness and comedy come together, to discuss our favorite geek TV comedies. From traditional sitcoms to animation to movie commentary, we’ve got you covered. Plus there’s a lot of singing.
Our book club takes a dive into the world of Paolo Bacigalupi, covering his award-winning novel “Ship Breaker” as well as its recently-released follow-up, “The Drowned Cities.” These books are apparently considered YA (or Young Adult) fiction, leading us to discuss what that label means, if anything. We also talk about Bacigalupi’s particular brand of eco-apocalypse, his use of science fiction to make us reconsider what’s going on today in the world, and how to pronounce his name. And of course, we coin a new word: it’s half monster, half mentor, all Scott McNulty.
Avengers assemble! We discuss Joss Whedon’s Marvel movie, which has been a hit with audiences and critics. But some members of our panel don’t agree. How much do expectations factor in to one’s enjoyment of a movie? Has the bar for summer action blockbusters been set too low by the likes of “Transformers 2”? Should every action-adventure movie aspire to be something more? Why is this the first time that the Hulk has been portrayed properly in a film? Grab your cosmic cubes and prepare for 90 minutes of movie-smashing discussion.
From despotic rulers to lethal hummingbirds, it’s time for us to address the cultural phenomenon of “The Hunger Games.” Join us as we discuss the movie and original book, as well as (following carefully placed Spoiler Horns) the other two books in the trilogy. Why do all households in Panem get the Bravo network? Should “1984” be a Little Golden Book? And why does Lisa know which district of Panem is in charge of making lumber? This episode has the odds ever in its favor.
Take off all your clothes and set the lock code on your mobile phone! It’s time for us to discuss the second season of the BBC’s “Sherlock,” starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. We walk through all three movie-length episodes, starting with the exemplary “Scandal in Belgravia,” moving on to the not-so-exemplary “Hounds of Baskerville,” and concluding with the mind-blowing “Reichenbach Fall.”
We wrap up our six-part series on the classic “Star Wars” movies with the climactic final half of “Return of the Jedi.” We discuss how the Empire is ahead of the rebels every step of the way, question Luke’s choice of forest camouflage, and explain why Ewoks are better unsubtitled. Also, how is Luke’s journey to being a Jedi not like what you see in most action movies? Who is more heroic in the end, Luke or Vader? Why does the Emperor wait so long to show us his lightning fingers? Why are rebel ships equipped with fireworks? And is Endor the name of the moon, or the name of the planet the moon is orbiting, or both?
We tackle the last of the classic “Star Wars” trilogy, “Return of the Jedi.” Why does Jabba the Hutt enjoy avant-garde wall hangings and ’80s dance moves? Isn’t it sad how Boba Fett goes out with a whimper? Are the alien languages in “Star Wars” too fake-sounding? And what’s up with Leia’s metal bikini? (Part 1 of 2.)
Here be dragons! Special guest hosts Glenn Fleishman and Lisa Schmeiser discuss books featuring winged and scaly creatures, from Anne McCaffrey to George R.R. Martin. Glenn and Lisa are joined by special guest stars Dori Smith and Sarah Barbour, who are also knowledgeable in the ways of the dragon.
Get out your magic wands, prepare your incantations, and prepare for a battle of wills involving ancient powers and callow youths. We discuss two recent novels with magic at the fore: Lev Grossman’s “The Magicians” and Erin Morgenstern’s “The Night Circus.” One of them we liked a lot… the other, not so much! Prepare yourself for a magical podcast.
It’s the Incomparable Game Show! In a clash of young(ish) versus old(ish), two teams vie for the honor of being the team who wins. Sci-fi questions, confused androids, and a visit from a parallel-universe version of The Incomparable are all part of the story. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you won’t learn a darned thing. Join us, won’t you?
Please join us for Jason and John’s survey of the films of director Hayao Miyazaki. Even if you don’t have kids, like animation, or care about Japan, we think these are some of the greatest films ever made. From “My Neighbor Totoro” and “Kiki’s Delivery Service” to “Spirited Away” and “Nausicaa,” we cover the highlights (and oddities) of his filmmaking career.
Who Watches the Watchmen? We discuss Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’s classic comic “Watchmen.” What made it remarkable and influential? Is it too stuck in an ’80s sensibility? Did the movie ruin everything? And will the recently-announced prequels stink?
It’s the end of the world! And since our eyeglasses are intact, we have time enough at last, to read. We discuss Maureen McHugh’s “After the Apocalypse” short-story collection, Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road,” and other apocalypse tales we have known. Do zombies have their own David Attenborough, leading expeditions into Cleveland? Why should you be afraid if heavy snowfall combines with the appearance of strange invisible magic ghost sex-dragon monsters? And why does John Siracusa plan to ride out the apocalypse in style? We ask several of these questions, but you’ll have to listen to see if we ever answer any of them.
We close the books on the first Incomparable Film Festival with this special follow-up episode. We provide the show times for each day of the festival, share your feedback, and reveal the results of your vote for the best slate of films. We also check in with two panelists who couldn’t make the original draft, one of whom has a bone to pick with John Siracusa. The other one instead tells a heartwarming tale of projectile vomiting. (Part 3 of 2.)
Continuing our assembly of the Incomparable Film Festival! We fill out our list of 35 classic films for imaginary display to imaginary crowds. Find out our final 21 (or is it 22?) choices! Then vote for your favorites. (Part 2 of 2.)
We’re creating the Incomparable Film Festival! Each day for a week, one of us will introduce five films (to be screened at an imaginary location not to be determined). To prevent duplication of selections, our seven participants will choose favorite films in a draft format. When all is said and done, 35 classic movies will be chosen by our panel of geeks. (Part 1 of 2.)
Our Comic Book Club gets in a romantic mood with a discussion of comic-book romances—the (very) few that have stood the test of time and the (very) many that have been thwarted by clones, telepaths, cloned telepaths, and—worst of all—Satan’s Annulment. Also, what are we reading?
Step through your time portal, buy some cheap 1950s hamburger, and prepare for our discussion of Stephen King’s new novel 11/22/63. How does a 21st century man react to the racism and sexism of the south in the mid-20th century? Would the world have been a better place if Kennedy hadn’t been assassinated? Is Canada really eyeing the state of Maine anxiously? Like the book, we have some—but not all—of the answers.
Live from the Macworld |iWorld Live Stage, it’s a discussion of our favorite (and least favorite) uses of technology in movies, TV shows, books, and more.
Go north, get lamp, and check your inventory, as guest host Greg Knauss takes you on a journey into the world of interactive fiction, also known as “text adventures.” Did families in the ’80s really sit around the Apple II playing “Mystery House?” Will saving a game really erase your floppy disc? Listen if you dare, but watch out for grues!
It’s fun for the whole family, as we discuss some of our favorite movies for kids (and their parents). Did we really recommend an animated movie from Dreamworks? And a movie with Melanie Griffith? And a German fantasy film? Well, yes, but you’ll have to listen to find out which ones.
We bid farewell to 2011 by listing the favorite things we inhaled into our brains during the past year. We also recall our favorite podcast moments, read a whole bunch of listener comments, and more. (Although this is a clip show, two-thirds of the running time is actually original material!)
All hail the power of motherhood! We discuss this year’s “Doctor Who” Christmas special, “The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe.” Plus, why Christmas episodes make us feel warm inside, and the amazing scanner-blocking powers of wool!
Grab some eggnog and hitch up your reindeer! It’s time to put six holiday films in the Incomparable Film Vault! We discuss some beloved classics and offer a few surprise choices that redefine what “holiday” and “film” actually mean. What is a realistic depiction of Santa? Is Bill Murray’s best Scrooge not actually in “Scrooged”? Has Clarence the angel left a trail of dead bodies behind him? Is Kris Kringle the original Apple Genius? Happy holidays, everyone!
It turns out we all like They Might Be Giants! So we did an entire episode about geeky music. We pick favorite TMBG songs, and then bring up some other geeky tracks we love by Fountains of Wayne, Moxy Früvous, and “Weird Al” Yankovic.
Break out your gaming laptop and pass the ammunition: It’s time to discuss Neal Stephenson’s “REAMDE.” Why does the book’s plot take a hard left turn halfway through? Why does Stephenson struggle to write endings—and does he succeed this time? Is this book about family, the victory of the outsider, or blowing things up? (Can’t it be all three?)
Gather some bounty hunters and warm up the carbon freezer! It’s time for the conclusion of our epic discussion of “The Empire Strikes Back.” We dissect the evolution of the Han-Leia relationship, the truly playful nature of Yoda and the importance of Dagobah, Vader’s agenda and his crunchy gloves, and Luke’s continuing adventures with garbage.
Launch your probe droids and cut open your tauntaun! It’s time for part one of our two-part discussion of “The Empire Strikes Back.” Does Han Solo just want to be loved? Is Chewie sabotaging the Falcon on purpose? Why is snowy Hoth the setting? Why is Ben Kenobi a man of few words? Who’s scruffy-lookin’? And what is the purpose for Darth Vader’s clamshell office, anyway?
Ernest Cline’s “Ready Player One” is a sci-fi novel that’s chock full of references to 1980s culture. But is it a good book, or are the references all that it’s got going for it? What will John Hughes movies be like in the future? And what do Cline, P.G. Wodehouse, and Umberto Eco have in common?
A new TV season is here! We analyze the new shows, plus some returning favorites. Among our targets: Revenge, Homeland, Terra Nova, Once Upon a Time, Grimm, Person of Interest, American Horror Story, Ringer, A Gifted Man, Boss, and returning shows The Walking Dead, Fringe, Community, Supernatural, Haven, and Dexter. Also: Why does Scott McNulty think every show is Prime Suspect?
When you want to get in the Halloween spirit, who you gonna call? Join us in celebrating 1984’s supernatural comedy classic, “Ghostbusters.” Are ghosts a serious environmental hazard requiring the intervention of the EPA? Why do the Ghostbusters transform from college professors into blue-collar plumbers when they put on their jump suits? Is Roasted Terror Dog with Human Nougat the worst candy ever devised? And which one of our panelists attended a cat-themed bat mitzvah in the same ballroom destroyed by the Ghostbusters?
Is Patrick Rothfuss’s “The Wise Man’s Fear” a rich fantasy novel about storytelling and myth-making, or is it a collection of good story elements scattered across an overlong plot? Could it be both? Ninjas! Off-camera shipwrecks! Board games! Sexism! Off-camera courtroom drama! Discursions within digressions within framing sequences! Join us as we discuss yet another 1000-page fantasy novel, the sequel to “The Name of the Wind.”
We discuss “A Dance With Dragons,” the latest 1000-page installment in George R.R. Martin’s bestselling “Song of Ice and Fire” fantasy series. Is this series going to end well? Which parts of this book were good, and which just treaded water? Would adding Klingons have helped? Why are trees the Westeros equivalent of security cameras? These are the sorts of questions you ask deep in the middle of a long fantasy series.
Our Comic Book Club tackles the topic of #1 issues, especially those in DC’s recent relaunch. We recommend some books and talk about some of our favorite Number Ones. Also we touch on a few of the controversial #1 DC issues and question whether DC is really trying to reach a new audience or just pander to the old one.
Why do secret agents wear make-up under their eyepatches? When do text messages not properly convey thanks for saving the universe? Are the Cybermen the worst villians ever? We wrap up the sixth season of “Doctor Who” with discussion of the last three episodes as well as the season as a whole.
We conclude our TV Fantasy Draft with the unveiling of our series pitches. Vampire and ghost detectives! Star Trek meets the West Wing! A sitcom starring a robot and an omnipotent being! A gritty techno-drama. A psychedelic drama set on a Zeppelin! And John Siracusa’s pitch seems awfully familiar somehow.
Who are the best TV characters of all time? Six people set out to draft teams of 10 characters each, from which they would form some of the strangest TV ensembles ever seen. Will Captain Kirk, Columbo, and The Fonz end up on the same show? Perhaps the craziest episode we’ve ever done highlights dozens of our favorite characters from TV history.
This past summer’s superhero movies are in the spotlight! Are the gods just aliens? When are mutant strippers unrealistic? Why would you beat up people after costing them their jobs? And why do the Stark boys enjoy themselves—and cheesy foodstuffs—so much? Our esteemed panel breaks down how “Captain America,” “Thor,” “X-Men: First Class,” and “Green Lantern” fared.
Press the Green Anchor and jump into a parallel timestream: it’s time to talk “Doctor Who.” In this flash episode we deconstruct the two most recent episodes, “Night Terrors” and “The Girl Who Waited.” And here’s a hint: we liked one of them way more than the other.
This podcast is cancelled! We discuss TV shows that failed to reach their proper natural lifespan. When all is said and done, you’ll hear recommendations for 25 excellent series that burned bright and weren’t allowed to fade away. Fantasy football drafts were never this good.
Strap on your jet pack and locate your pet monkey! Our Comic Book Club reconvenes to discuss works by writer Brian K. Vaughan, who excels at the high-concept premise. In the spotlight: “Runaways,” “Y: The Last Man,” and “Ex Machina.” With plenty of digressions along the way, about feminism, parenting, sexism, and (once again) how hard it is to write an ending.
Flash podcast! A largely unedited Skype conversation after this weekend’s “Doctor Who” midseason premiere, “Let’s Kill Hitler.”
Rip off your hearing limbs and join us for the first anniversary edition of The Incomparable. As with the first podcast, the Book Club discusses a China Mieville novel: in this case, “Embassytown.” Also: What are we reading? Glenn is reading a comic book. We are disappointed.
We read the 2011 Hugo nominees for Best Novel. Sit back and enjoy our reviews of “Blackout/All Clear,” “Cryoburn,” “The Dervish House,” “Feed,” and “The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms.” Plus, we recommend a few of the nominated short stories.
Talking “Finding Nemo,” “Toy Story 2,” and “Wall-E.” Plus, we discuss what Pixar should do next to challenge itself, try to understand why “Cars 2” was made, and pick out our least favorite thing Pixar has ever done. Hint: Jason has a problem with rats. (Part 2 of 2.)
Old men with balloons! Wisecracking monsters! Superheroes with mid-life crises! The films of Pixar are in our sights this week. Join us as we pick our favorite films and explore why Pixar’s movies are better than those from other animation studios. (Part 1 of 2.)
From the Wall in the north (behind which lurk the fearsome White Walkers) to across the Narrow Sea (which is sort of dull), the first season of HBO’s “Game of Thrones” has everything the George R. R. Martin book has, with perhaps more attractive naked people having sex in front of you. Also: Uncomfortable chairs.
Continuing our discussion of “Star Wars,” the original film. We praise the jump to hyperspace, explain why TIE fighter pilots wear black, ponder how Han and Leia somehow turn up in an Aaron Sorkin scene, reveal why there is no Space OSHA, comment on Ben Kenobi’s old man slippers and incomparable pseudonym, and expose the rebellion so rich it can have its own university and mint its own medals. (Part 2 of 2.)
“Star Wars,” the original film, is finally in our crosshairs, and if we can bulls-eye a Womp Rat we can take on this classic sci-fi film. We talk about our first memories of Star Wars, pretend the prequels didn’t happen, give Cantina drink-ordering tips, and marvel at Darth Vader’s coffee-drinking habits. (Part 1 of 2.)
Pour yourself a White Mickey and listen to our discussion of the first half of “Doctor Who’s” split season. We discuss “The Rebel Flesh,” “A Good Man Goes to War,” and the season as a whole. Or half? We also debate the merits of Lesbian Victorian Silurians and Auton Roman Centurions.
DC decides to stick a fork in continuity and reboot its universe. Publicity stunt, bold creative move, or both? Andy Ihnatko joins Lisa, Jason, and the good Jason to discuss this latest attempt to save the comics industry.
Everybody’s got an adorable parallel-universe nickname — The Walternate! Flauxlivia! Pacey! — on the always unpredictable Fox sci-fi show Fringe. Sure, it’s no Lost (nor X-Files, nor “Enemy Within”) but it’s got its charms, including high-speed pregnancy, Leonard Nimoy impressions and cast members from “The Wire” not being given enough interesting things to do.
Do you know where your towel is? Are you a hoopy frood? Have you just consumed your fifth Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster? We have. And you’d better catch up. In honor of our 42nd podcast and the recent Towel Day, The Incomparable celebrates the life and work of Douglas Adams. We feature our special guest, Yoz Grahame, who worked for Adams’ The Digital Village, the producers of Web sites such as h2g2.com (a precursor to Wikipedia of sorts).
Turn on your flux capacitors, calculate how many “jigabytes” your hard drive contrains, and prepare for our deconstruction of the “Back to the Future” movie series. Which film reigns supreme? Plus, we talk about other time-travel movies we love. This episode recorded entirely live in a tiny, enclosed space.
After long delays, our Comic Book Club discusses Warren Ellis and John Cassaday’s “Planetary,” which is only fitting given that the 27-issue series took 10 years to be released. We also talk about how hard it is to write a satisfying ending to any fictional work.
Neil Gaiman breathes life into the TARDIS in this week’s “Doctor Who” episode, “The Doctor’s Wife.” We discuss what we liked about this much-hyped episode, as well as detailing how Rory dies this week.
Our Book Club discusses the works of sci-fi writer John Scalzi, including “Old Man’s War.” We also talk about “The Forever War” and many other books. We play the “new author remakes classic novel” game we just invented. Find out why Dan says “Ce Podcast est Fini!” And stay after the end to learn Jason’s secret plan to create a terrible sci-fi trilogy.
Flash discussion of Doctor Who’s “Curse of the Black Spot.” We try to give it CPR, but we do it wrong and the patient dies. Or, no, wait! It came back to life! Hooray! Unrelated: why Rory is like Kenny from “South Park.”
Flash! A discussion about the first two episodes of this season of “Doctor Who,” “The Impossible Astronaut” and “Day of the Moon.” Who is in that spacesuit? Who is the little girl? Are the Silence just lazy? We speculate wildly.
Everybody wants to rule the world, er, the kingdom of Westeros. As the “Game of Thrones” series continues on HBO, we discuss the source material: George R.R. Martin’s bestselling “Song of Ice and Fire” books. If you haven’t read the books, you will be spoiled! We’ll post the climactic resolution of this podcast in about five years, so invest your time wisely.
Based on the best-selling novel! Inspired by HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” in this episode we discuss the translation of books to the screen. Should movies be faithful to the book? Is it better if filmmmakers take liberties? And what books do we wish would be made into movies? If you don’t want to listen to this episode, just buy the novelization.
The lesson learned? Never share anything you love with John Siracusa. Like, for example, “Real Genius.” Or any ’80s movie. Or any ’80s anything. Or from-any-other-time anything. Fear John Siracusa, for he is the destroyer of dreams.
Stories by science-fiction writer Ted Chiang, including the anthology “The Story of Your Life and Others.” Plus, enough recommendations to get you through every bathroom break and bus ride for the next three years.
Make it so, Number One! Star Trek: The Next Generation is on our agenda. We talk favorite episodes, least-favorite episodes, killer snowflakes, why Jean-Luc Picard is catnip to the ladies, why everyone loves Geordi, and why in the future no one needs Wet Wipes.
A hero with an unpronounceable name, magic that doesn’t actually do much, cardboard female characters, a story where nothing really happens, and the first and inconclusive part of a longer series? Sounds like an acclaimed fantasy novel to us! “The Name of the Wind” on this week’s Incomparable Podcast.
Zombie, Spaceship, or Wasteland? We explore the reasons Geek Culture exists, what it means, and if it really exists. Also: are nerds just as awful and exclusionary as jocks? Why will Oprah sit astride the apocalypse? Find out what happened when Scott McNulty met Kitty Pryde. And most importantly, learn the deadly secret about how Dungeons and Dragons relates to nuclear submarines.
Grab your pound of dice, a bag of Cheetos and your +1 wit, to join the Incomparable Podcast as we venture forth into the world of “Dungeons and Dragons” and other role-playing games. Hey, at least we don’t LARP.
Hello. Our name is The Incomparable. You killed our father. Prepare to listen to a spoiler-filled podcast about the most quotable movie in the universe, “The Princess Bride.”
Dive through a wormhole to defend the honor of the Imperium! We discuss Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan series of novels, which we really can’t recommend highly enough. It’s swashbuckling Sci-Fi adventure with some great characters and a big canvas. And you can read most of them for free!
Don your mask and cape and join us for a discussion of the good, the underrated, and the overrated in the realm of superhero movies. And you think we’re going to praise “The Dark Knight” you might be in for quite a shock… No, seriously, we rip it apart. We also discuss “Superman 2,” “Darkman,” “Iron Man,” “Megamind,” “The Incredibles,” “Unbreakable,” “The Rocketeer,” and many others.
Recorded live and in person before a studio audience (of one)! We discuss Stephen Fry, Sherlock Holmes, James Bond, Sean Connery, Scottish accents, corpulent detectives, V for Vendetta, 1984, Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury, Solaris, The Fountain, Garfield, “in medias res” movie conceits, Doctor Who special effects, our favorite TV shows of all time (including Buffy, Max Headroom, Sports Night, Spaced, Smack the Pony, and the Rockford Files), The Middleman, Kevin Sorbo, Gene Roddenberry’s posthumous oeuvre, and why Steven Spielberg can’t make a good TV show. Also: the debut of the Spoiler Quack.
Comic Book Club returns with a discussion of comic-book “special events,” and why they are (in most cases) amazingly disappointing. We discuss our favorite and least-favorite events, from Crisis on Infinite Earths to Civil War to that time that Superman fought Spider-Man.
Get your hat and your shotgun and prepare for the Zombie Apocalypse! We discuss AMC’s TV series “The Walking Dead,” as well as touch on some zombie movies including “Zombieland” and “Dawn of the Dead.”
Hop in your time machine and listen to our latest Book Club installment—and then be sure to travel back and prevent the podcast from having ever been recorded, because time travel is tricky like that. We discuss “How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe” and other time travel books we have liked.
If you do something every Christmas for six years, it’s time to call it a tradition. And so we have to add the “Doctor Who” Christmas special to our lists. We enjoyed this year’s episode, “A Christmas Carol,” so much, we recorded this flash podcast to talk about it. Happy holidays, everyone.
Is “Die Hard” the greatest Christmas movie ever made? Dan Moren thinks so. Others are less sure, but there’s no denying how great this seminal ’80s action flick is. We discuss John McClane’s adventure at Nakatomi Plaza, as well as other Christmas movies and TV shows we have loved.
Happy holidays from everyone at The Incomparable. In this pre-Christmas edition we talk about beloved gifts from our childhood, and discover a strange collection of cruel parents as well as a Transformer tragedy.
Greetings, programs! It’s time to talk about “Tron” and the new sequel, “Tron Legacy.” Also, what’s the appropriate use of CGI? When should creators go back and use computers to “improve” their work? And does Jeff Bridges’ CGI doppelganger fall right into the middle of the Uncanny Valley?
A new topic on the podast: video games! We talk classic (okay, OLD) games as well as the latest and greatest motion-controlled games. From Pong to the Kinect, we’ve got it covered—plus why the human race is doomed if someone invents a holodeck.
In honor of the release of the seventh Harry Potter film, we convene a collection of panelists to discuss the books, the movies, the phenomenon that is J.K. Rowling’s young-wizard saga. (If you haven’t read the series, there are spoilers and also the entire podcast will make no sense. Except for the part about “Magnum P.I.” and Pablo Picasso. This episode sponsored by the word “exegesis” and the musical stylings of Tom Bombadil.)
Discussing Joss Whedon, from Buffy to Firefly (to the Avengers?) and everything in between. What’s the appeal? What are our favorite episodes? Why did Firefly die young and leave a great-looking corpse?
Three Hugo winners enter our Book Club. “Spin” by Robert Charles Wilson, “Hyperion” by Dan Simmons, and “The Yiddish Policeman’s Union” by Michael Chabon. Also: Why sequels suck. And we’ll work you like a ham!
The Fantastic Four is the topic of this installment of our Comic Book Club! We talk “Unstable Molecules,” a strange mini-series about the fictional “inspiration” for the Fantastic Four. Also: the bad movies and worse TV shows, Ultimate Fantastic Four, and more.
Booooo! We get ready for Halloween with a discussion of horror and scary movies featuring two horror aficionados and also Jason, who doesn’t have a stomach for it. Plus, we highlight a neglected horror classic.
“Raiders of the Lost Ark,” and why it’s so great. Also, “Star Wars” comes up a few times.
Dissecting the fall TV season, including “The Event,” “No Ordinary Family,” and the promising third season of “Fringe.” Plus other sci-fi shows we have loved and hated, why trying to ape “Lost” is a bad idea, and Dan suggests a new “Law & Order” spinoff.
Comic Book Club returns! This week we talk about TV adaptations of comic books, TV shows inspired by comic books, comic books that would make good TV shows, and more. Plus, random discussion of X-Men Annuals, the Micronauts, and why Reed Richards is a douche (in X-Men Annual #5, anyway).
Our Book Club reconvenes, to discuss Nick Harkaway, Cherie Priest, William Gibson, favorite prose stylists (Shakespeare? Please!), and multiple Shatners. Also in this episode, we introduce listeners to two new inanimate-yet-Incomparable characters: the Spoiler Horn and its good friend, the All-Clear Bell.
Movies and movie soundtracks are on the agenda, as we talk Giacchino, Star Trek soundtracks, bad movies we have loved, Blade Runner, Kick Ass, and the prospect of a “Dark Tower” movie/TV series combo platter.
It’s British TV time. Steven Moffat’s “Sherlock” and “Doctor Who” are on the agenda. We mention his sitcom “Coupling” too. And Glenn cranks the pretension meter up to ten, only for Jason to crank it right back down to one.
I call this meeting of Comic-Book Club to order! Today we will be discussing “The Unwritten” by Mike Carey and Peter Gross, published by Vertigo. But of course, we end up talking about much more than just “The Unwritten,” as any good book club should.
In the very first episode ever of The Incomparable, recorded before we even knew what we were going to be called, we talk about a whole bunch of novels, including China Mieville’s “The City and The City,” Paolo Bacigalupi’s “The Windup Girl,” and Cory Doctorow’s “For the Win.” We mispronounce some of their names, float an idea for books that burn themselves, and ask the most important question a reader should ask: Are there Zeppelins?