Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Go WEST, young Sorkin

Having spent much of the Summer enjoying the first four seasons of THE WEST WING, it took me back to just how amazingly good the show was in its prime under the helm of premiere wordsmith Aaron Sorkin. The show lost some of its footing -- okay, a lot of its footing -- two years ago when Sorkin left over network disputes, and producer John Wells took over, and is only now getting back to its fighting trim with its ongoing election storyline (pitting Democratic contender Jimmy Smits against Republican politco Alan Alda).

Now Aint It Cool breaks this news signalling not only the potential return of Sorkin and producing partner Thomas Schlamme, but also that of wayward WINGer Rob Lowe to the fold. You'll note that the AICN story makes mention of this hypothetical return being for the "last few episodes" of the series, which seems to imply the show coming to the close at the end of this, its seventh season.

Though it saddens me if this is the case -- even without Sorkin, the series stood head-and-shoulders above most network fare -- I also think it's for the best. I've always felt that THE WEST WING should ultimately be a chronicle of the Bartlett administration, with a definite end in sight, rather than serving as a revolving door for whichever celebrity happens to occupy the Oval Office. I'd hate to see it end up like fellow John Wells stablemate ER, where a decade on there's not a single original star left, and the show is very much a shadow of its former self. There's still life in the WING.

I also think that if this does indeed turn out to be the show's final year, it pretty much seals the presidency going to Smits' Senator Matt Santos. As we all know, any presidential election is ultimately a referendum on the administration preceding it, and I can't imagine for one second that the producers of the show will allow a Republican win -- real-world accurate though it may be -- to repudiate the preceding seven years of television. As appealing a candidate as Alda's Arnie Vinick may be, I'd say Santos, along with many of the WING regulars at his side, has this one sewn up.

Recommended Reading

Here's Frank Rich on the continued dirt that's being kicked up by the Rove-Plame scandal.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

UPDATED - SERENITY Sooner...

With most of this Summer's big movies having come and gone, Universal's SERENITY, the feature version of the late, lamented television series FIREFLY, has moved right to the top of my "must watch" list. While the film itself doesn't come out 'till September 30th, you can check out the spankin' new international trailer here.

UPDATE: Here's an article that looks at the history and passion behind Whedon's show, and looks at the unique marketing being utilized by Universal to pump up excitement for SERENITY's Fall release.

Scottie: "Beam me up!"

That's the thought that was probably going through Press Secretary Scott McClellan's mind as he received a veritable barbecuing a few weeks ago at the hands of the White House press corps regarding the Karl Rove revelations (the Rovelations, if you will...). Well, after hearing about it online ad infinitum, you can now experience it for yourself, all in glorious Quicktime. Click here to watch as Scottie demonstrates the new dance craze that's sweeping the nation -- The Squirm!

(Thanks to Parvez for passing this one along -- your "Zaki's Corner" merit badge is in the mail.)

Friday, July 22, 2005

Timing is Everything

I hope you'll indulge me for a moment as I don my cynic's hat. Practically since the election, Bush has been using every possible opportunity to hammer home the importance of renewing the Patriot Act and making permanent those provisions due to sunset at year's end. Heck, he even went so far as to use the bombings in London as a compelling reason to deprive more US Citizens of their civil liberties. Then, yesterday morning sees another quasi-terror attack in London -- nothing too serious, but just enough to put the fear of God back into folks -- and, just like that, this happens.

Hmm. Couldn't have timed that better.

On a related note, for something that's repeatedly been referred to as the single most important weapon in GW's terror-fighting arsenal, has the Patriot Act led to a single successful terror-related conviction? If so, when? If not, why exactly is it so blessed important?

And on another related note, it never ceases to amaze and sadden me how quickly folks are willing to sacrifice their privacy and freedom for the sake of some security which they may or may not even get.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

From THE ONION...

Marine Corps Shortens Slogan To 'The Few'
WASHINGTON, DC—In light of recruiting shortfalls, a near standstill in re-enlistment, and rock-bottom troop morale, U.S. Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Michael Hagee announced Monday that the Marines will alter their unofficial slogan, abbreviating it to the more accurate "The Few." Hagee said, "We are still the Marines, the premier combat arm of the U.S. military." The Marines will also change their motto to Semper Fidelis, Sic Non Sapienti, or "Always Faithful, But This Is Just Ridiculous."

Recommended Reading

So what to make of Bush's pick of John Roberts to fill Justice O'Connor's Supreme Court vacancy? For one point of view -- and admittedly, it is only one point of view -- here's John Nichols for The Nation.

James Doohan, RIP

James Doohan, known to several generations of science-fiction fans as the Starship Enterprise's avuncular engineer Montgomery "Scotty" Scott has passed away at age 85. Doohan had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's late last year, so I can't say this is entirely unexpected, nor is it necessary unwelcome that he was spared the long period of suffering that Ronald Reagan endured.

Being an old school Trekker, I have to say it always saddens me a little when a member of the "old guard" passes on, as I feel yet another link to my childhood disappear. I felt the same when DeForest ("Dr. McCoy") Kelley passed away in '98.

In addition to his appearances in all 79 episodes of the classic STAR TREK and the six movies starring the original cast, Doohan also voiced Scotty and a variety of other characters in the 22 episode TREK animated series in the early '70s and also reprised his role in an episode of THE NEXT GENERATION. His final TREK appearance was in 1994's STAR TREK GENERATIONS.

Monday, July 18, 2005

The White House Sidestep

You might remember this song from when the administration's stated goal in Iraq morphed from stopping the proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction to stopping the proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction related program (pause for breath) activities. *phew*

Well, it's time for the White House Sidestep once again now that it's out in the open that GW's beloved Turd Blossom is the one who leaked Valerie Plame's identity to the press. Today Bush reiterated his oft-repeated pledge to fire whoever leaked the information. You'll notice though, that his phrasing has changed ever so slightly from firing the person who leaked the information to firing anyone who committed a crime while leaking it. Smooth.

Let's see if people pick up on this one.

Joe Harnell, RIP

Some sad news today for fans of sci-fi music with the passing of composer Joe Harnell at age 80. Harnell had an extensive working relationship with writer-director Kenneth Johnson on such projects as THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN, THE BIONIC WOMAN, ALIEN NATION: THE SERIES, and the original miniseries V. Perhaps his most memorable work was on THE INCREDIBLE HULK television series, also with Johnson, for which he composed the show's famous "Lonely Man Theme." That's the piano refrain that was heard at the end of every episode as Bill Bixby's David Banner hitchiked along the side of the road (memorably alluded to on an episode of FAMILY GUY as "That Sad, Walking-Away Music").

His work will be missed.

Superhype! Addendum

USAToday has a follow-up to this weekend's SUPERMAN RETURNS presentation at Comicon here and here.

Rich on Rove

I mentioned the other day that those on the left who are drooling Pavlov-like at the notion of Karl Rove's potential ouster might be allowing their enthusiasm to cloud their judgement. Frank Rich seems to agree, arguing that there is something much darker at the root of the Rove affair which needs to be brought to light, beyond even the removal of Turd Blossom:
This case is about Iraq, not Niger. The real victims are the American people, not the Wilsons. The real culprit - the big enchilada, to borrow a 1973 John Ehrlichman phrase from the Nixon tapes - is not Mr. Rove but the gang that sent American sons and daughters to war on trumped-up grounds and in so doing diverted finite resources, human and otherwise, from fighting the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11. That's why the stakes are so high: this scandal is about the unmasking of an ill-conceived war, not the unmasking of a C.I.A. operative who posed for Vanity Fair.
Read the rest at the link. As with most Rich, this one's highly recommended.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

"Hangin' With JC"

Modern-day Jesus coming to NBC television

Just to recap, this is a show about about a hip, modern Jesus who helps an Episcopalian minister navigate the politics of his church, family problems, and his addiction to painkillers. I'm thinking they really missed the boat on this one by not making it a buddy cop show and being done with it. Can you imagine the network pitch session? ("It's like STARSKY & HUTCH, only instead of David Soul, it's Jesus! No? Okay, instead of Paul Michael Glaser, it's Jesus!")

Anyway, who out there thinks this one has the slightest chance of reaching the airwaves before the Christian Right does its thing?

Yeah, like I thought. Not a prayer.

Get it? Prayer?

Yeah.

UPDATED - Superhype!



With the San Diego 'Con in full swing, look for a slew of announcements about upcoming sci-fi and comic-related projects hitting the streets in the next year. Tomorrow's SUPERMAN RETURNS presentation promises some specially-prepared treats from director Bryan Singer. Until then, here's a previously-unseen shot of star Brandon Routh in the iconic suit.

UPDATE: As promised yesterday, Bryan Singer had much to say during his Comicon appearance. Luckily, Coming Soon! was there to give us the play-by-play.

Sad but true...

Headline in this week's Onion:

Report: Unreleased Harry Potter Book More Secure Than U.S. Trains

Friday, July 15, 2005

Shameless Self-Promotion Alert

As a semi-regular reader of Britain's The Guardian, I was indeed pleasantly surprised when someone passed along this link from the paper's online edition. The story is about reaction to the Joseph Klein-Hillary Clinton tell-all book that was released a few weeks ago. Scroll down to the sixth paragraph, and you'll see that they quote none other than Yours Truly -- or more specifically, they quote my blog. Sweet.

By the Power of DVD!

Wanted to take a break from all the politicking to give a belated DVD recommendation.

Y'know, when you stop to think about it, it's really amazing how much ridiculous shit we tend to buy into when we're kids.

Case in point: He-Man, the world's most implausible secret identity. It's one thing when Clark Kent is able to disguise his identity by, y'know, taking off his glasses, but occupying a whole other level of bizarre is our Prince Adam. I mean, here's a guy who basically takes off his shirt and gets a tan and, presto, secret identity. Ingenious.

Seriously though, anyone who grew up in the '80s has to have a soft spot for HE-MAN AND THE MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE, the animated series which basically invented the concept of the half-hour toy commercial (later perfected with GI JOE and TRANSFORMERS).

Though season releases are still a few months off, BCI, which currently controls the He-Man property, has tided fans over with a 2-disc collection of the fan-picked ten favorite episodes from the series' 130 episodes. They also appear to have a lot of exciting plans for further releases, including the little seen NEW ADVENTURES OF HE-MAN follow-up series from 1989-90.

What surprised me the most as I made my way through these discs was how well it all holds up (qualms about the limited animation aside). I would guess much of the credit for this goes to such writing powerhouses as Paul Dini (BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES) and J. Michael Straczynski (BABYLON 5) among others. This is actually some pretty good stuff, and at 14.99 retail (with some outlets carrying it for as little as 12.99), it's also an easy recommendation. I have the power, indeed.

GALACTICA Goodness

Sci-Fi Channel premieres the second season of Ron Moore's re-imagined BATTLESTAR GALACTICA tonight, and USAToday has a look at why GALACTICA is one of the best shows currently on TV.

Also, a STAR TREK panel at the currently-in-progress San Diego Comicon discussed BATTLESTAR, making special mention of some of the topical subject matter that helps make the show so compelling:

Episodes of the survival-epic Galactica have dealt with contemporary issues such as suicide bombers, civil rights, torture and the paranoia of a society fearing infiltration by those who wish to destroy it.

"We need to ask the tough questions because the press isn't," Burnett said. "And Galactica has attempted to do that."

The panel goes on to posit that GALACTICA's refreshing view of televised science fiction is largely what kicked STAR TREK off the tube.

The Rove Report

The Karl Rove-CIA Leak story has been working itself like crazy over the past few days, for those on both sides of this nation's considerable political divide. Those on The Right swear up and down that their man Karl was (to borrow a phrase from Curly Howard) a victim of "soi-cumstance," while those on The Left feel that short of video footage of Rove stealing candy from a baby while kicking a puppy, this is as close as they'll get to the proverbial "smoking gun." I guess I fall somewhere in the middle.

Although I would like nothing more than to see GW's beloved Turd Blossom hoisted by his own petard, I wonder if there's really enough here to pull the trigger on him. And if not, I wonder if those who have a vested interest in Rove's ouster might not be overplaying their hand a bit. Still, former Nixon council John Dean has one of the more balanced analyses of the situation I've yet seen, and even he seems to think that the gig may soon be up for our man Karl.

Hoping for a beacon of sanity in all the Left-Right back-and-forth, I turned to Mark Evanier, who offered this succinct summation of the current status quo:
All the pro-Rove e-mails I've received and much of the online spinners assert that Rove couldn't possibly be guilty of leaking the identity of an undercover C.I.A. agent because, they say, Ms. Plame was not undercover. Perhaps that will prove to be true but I have to wonder. Seems to me that if I'm the Prosecutor in this matter, the first thing I do is take the testimony of some high-level C.I.A. official and ask, "Was Valerie Plame undercover?" If he says no, then game's over and we can send the Grand Jury home with our thanks and some lovely parting gifts. If he says yes, then doesn't that become the operating assumption of the Grand Jury proceedings? They may or many not find enough evidence of a crime to return indictments against anyone in particular...but if this were, say, an inquiry into a possible murder, it wouldn't go on this long unless someone was willing to testify the first day that someone had been murdered.

At the same time, I think those eager to see Rove tumble downhill are leaping too quickly to the assumption that, since he's the evil genius who knows all, it's inarguable that he knew all. Already, this part of the story is turning from "Rove told reporters" to "Reporters told Rove." I think it's been established that Rove was more involved than his past statements on this matter indicated but so far, that's more of a political embarrassment than a certainty of indictment. I also see a lot of attempts to read things into each lawyer's statement that may not be there.

Couldn't have said it better myself. So I won't.

And for the unintentionally-humorous side of this whole thing, here's Ann Coulter with her usual frothing-at-the-mouth schtick.

Fallout

Yesterday saw the identities of the alleged perpetrators in last week's bombing attacks in London revealed, and the portrait being painted is not an especially comfortable one. First, with the headline trumpeting that the attacks were motivated by the ongoing geo-political situation in the Mid East, it puts to the lie the tried-and-true Bush-Blair chestnut that these attackers are out to "destroy our way of life."

Still, in an effort to dig into motivations, the story seems to imply that the suspect in question regularly reading the Qur'an and praying was enough to act as the proverbial "red flag." This is much the same problem I've had with most of the mainstream coverage of this sort of thing. There's rarely an effort to distinguish between "fundamentalists" and those who simply practice their faith. Believe it or not, there is a distinction to be made. More worrisome to me however were some comments gleaned from some of the suspected attacker's friends. Specifically this excerpt:

"He was a Muslim and he had to fight for Islam. This is called jihad," or holy war, said Asif Iqbal, 20, who said he was Tanweer's childhood friend.

Another friend, Adnan Samir, 21, nodded in agreement.

"They're crying over 50 people while 100 people are dying every day in Iraq and Palestine," said Iqbal. "If they are indeed the ones who did it, it's because they believed it was right. They're in Heaven.

"Have you ever been inspired in life?" he asked.

Wow. That sound you hear is me slapping my forehead.

It's one thing for the media to foster misconceptions about Islam. Heck, between clarifying the meanings of "jihad" and "fatwa" lately, I've found myself a whole second vocation. Still, to hear such ignorance being propagated by Muslim youth, who should really know better...frankly it's hard to know how I'm supposed to feel.

These are young kids who've managed to get their heads so twisted in knots they've found a way to justify murder. Regardless of how you feel about the casualties in Iraq and Palestine, how does what happened in London in any way improve their lot? If anything, it makes things worse for them. I called it disgusting when it first happened, and I'm calling it disgusting again.
"He always told me to read the Quran and said Islam is the way (of life)," recalls Iqbal.
And yet, if he had truly believed that, I wonder if I'd be sitting here typing this.

Emmy Roundup

A little late pulling to the starting gate with this one, but I've gotten a couple of e-mails since this morning asking me my thoughts on yesterday's Emmy noms. Now, the Emmy's have always been notorious for either A) stagnating with few new choices or B) picking one new favorite to shine all the attention on while neglecting other promising shows. This year they seem to have gone a little from column A, with recognition for stalwarts like 24 and THE WEST WING, and a little from column B, 15 nominations for DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES.

The nominees for best drama series are all solid picks, though the fanboy in me kind of wishes they could have shown BATTLESTAR GALACTICA a little love for daring to go where no sci-fi show has gone before. I suppose LOST is filling that role in the nominee lineup, but that's one show I've yet to fully glom onto. Maybe once the DVD is released.

I'm also sad to see that neither THE SHIELD nor its star Michael Chiklis made the cut this year, though Glenn Close and CCH Pounder did score nods in the Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress categories. The presence of 24 in the list is, of course, a no-brainer. The only shocking thing is that it has yet to take home a win after four seasons. It's also good to see THE WEST WING hanging in there, as it has really undergone a creative resurgence this past season after its first unsteady year without creator Aaron Sorkin.

Looking at the list for Best Comedy, more than anything it's just sad how pathetic the state of television comedy has become in the wake of FRASIER and FRIENDS departure. I'm not sure by what gradient new Emmy fave DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES qualifies as a comedy, but I wouldn't be at all surprised to see it walk away with the win, which would be a huge disservice to the consistently-funny but ratings-deprived ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT, which could sorely use another win. I also find it utterly inexplicable that the routinely unfunny gay minstrel show WILL & GRACE still manages to squeak its way into the roster, depriving much worthier shows like CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM or ENTOURAGE. Time to put this one out to pasture.

As to the rest of the nominees, a solid group all. It's especially good to see some recognition for Hugh Laurie, who is excellent as the riveting lead on Fox's HOUSE. It's also always nice to see the once-and-always Captain Kirk, William Shatner, in the Supporting Actor lineup, along with the talented Terry O'Quinn. However, I do wonder why the Best Actress in a Comedy category couldn't find room in its DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES lovefest to finally give GILMORE GIRLS' Lauren Graham a shot at the prize. The fact that Graham has escaped Emmy's clutches until now is criminal.

Here's the list of the major categories and the nominees:

DRAMA SERIES
"Deadwood"
"Lost"
"Six Feet Under"
"24"
"The West Wing"

COMEDY SERIES
"Arrested Development"
"Desperate Housewives"
"Everybody Loves Raymond"
"Scrubs"
"Will & Grace"

ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES
"Arrested Development," Jason Bateman
"Everybody Loves Raymond, Ray Romano
"Monk," Tony Shalhoub
"Scrubs," Zach Braff
"Will & Grace," Eric McCormack

ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES
"Boston Legal," James Spader
"Deadwood," Ian McShane
"House," Hugh Laurie
"Huff," Hank Azaria
"24," Kiefer Sutherland

ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES
"Desperate Housewives," Marcia Cross
"Desperate Housewives," Teri Hatcher
"Desperate Housewives," Felicity Huffman
"Everybody Loves Raymond," Patricia Heaton
"Malcolm in the Middle," Jane Kaczmarek

ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES
"Alias," Jennifer Garner
"Law & Order: Special Victims Unit," Mariska Hargitay
"Medium," Patricia Arquette
"The Shield," Glenn Close
"Six Feet Under," Frances Conroy

SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES
"Arrested Development," Jeffrey Tambor
"Entourage," Jeremy Piven
"Everybody Loves Raymond," Peter Boyle
"Everybody Loves Raymond," Brad Garrett
"Will & Grace," Sean Hayes

SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES
"Boston Legal," William Shatner
"Huff," Oliver Platt
"Lost," Naveen Andrews
"Lost," Terry O'Quinn
"The West Wing," Alan Alda

SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES
"Arrested Development," Jessica Walter
"Everybody Loves Raymond," Doris Roberts
"Two And A Half Men," Holland Taylor
"Two And A Half Men," Conchata Ferrell
"Will & Grace," Megan Mullally

SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES
"Grey's Anatomy," Sandra Oh
"Huff," Blythe Danner
"Judging Amy," Tyne Daly
"The Shield," CCH Pounder
"The West Wing," Stockard Channing

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

More Than Meets The Eye?

The '80s nostalgia boom continues in full swing with today's official announcement of director Michael Bay's signing to direct a big screen adaptation of cartoon fave THE TRANSFORMERS. Look for a combination of CG and live action to be used in bringing Optimus Prime, Megatron, Bumblebee and Co. to your local cineplexes.

I can't say that I've enjoyed a single Bay film, with the possible exception of 1996's THE ROCK (although I'm hoping next week's THE ISLAND will change that), but I think he's the ideal marquee choice to bring the Autobot-Decepticon spectacle to life. Here's hoping executive producer Steven Spielberg will be able to keep Bay's tendency towards hyperactive camera moves and split-second edits in check. More news as it develops.

"Beneath Contempt"

Leave it to Fox News to come through with its trademark class and sensitivity in the wake of a tragic event. Observe:
BBC Television News director Roger Mosey has lashed out at comments made on Fox News Channel and on the Fox News website accusing the BBC of portraying Arab terrorists sympathetically. In a statement today (Wednesday) Mosey referred to an unnamed Fox "contributor" who said after the London bombings that "the BBC almost operates as a foreign registered agent of Hezbollah and some of the other jihadist groups." Mosey also referred to an opinion piece posted on the Fox website titled, "How Jane Fonda and the BBC put you in danger." Said Mosey: "I am writing this in a building which was bombed by Irish terrorists. My colleagues and I are living in a city recovering from the wounds inflicted last week. If I may leave our customary impartiality aside for a moment, the comments made on Fox News are beneath contempt."
Still, "beneath contempt" is pretty good by Fox standards.

Watergate Now

So is this the end for Karl Rove? The political operative/Evil Genius largely credited with molding Bush Jr. into a president not once, but twice (and that's just a small slice of his political accomplishments/Evil Deeds) now finds his prodigious posterior firmly entrenched in the Hot Seat.

As the press has been reporting (yes, actually reporting!), all indications are that Rove (known alternately as "Turd Blossom", "Bush's Brain" or "Who?" depending on who you ask) did in fact leak the identity of Valerie Plame, CIA-operative and wife of Ambassador Joseph Wilson, to a reporter -- a treasonable offense.

The only question now is whether it was an act of political retribution for Wilson's vocal criticicisms of Bush's Iraq escapades, or, as the GOP spinmeisters would like us to believe, Rove was merely guiding the story away from the Wilson angle.

In the past, little things like facts and proof have never deterred the Bush White House from its tried-and-true "Look at that!" brand of distraction, but things are complicated somewhat by Bush's repeated proclamations in the past that he'd fire anyone who turned out to be involved in the Plame "outing." This as contrasted with his stony silence now that his Svengali has turned out to be the culprit. Whoops.

Now the only question is whether the media is going to run with it and continue to put the administration's feet to the fire (as they did during Monday's White House press briefing) or let it go and move onto the next big diversion.

With the recent outing of Mark Felt as Deep Throat, I've wondered once again whether a Woodward & Bernstein would even have much of an impact in today's world of 24-7 political corruption. I suppose this is our chance to find out.

Here's documentarian Greg Palast with his take on "Rovegate."

Monday, July 11, 2005

Fantastic Foot-in-Mouth

So it seems the box office has defied overwhelming negative reviews and doomsaying prognostications (including one from me) and seen FANTASTIC FOUR emerge with a quite -- wait for it -- Fantastic $56 million, in the process bringing to an end the longest box office slump in 19 years. Quite a nice showing for a film budgeted at $100 million (cheap by today's blowout standards).

Based on a the response I saw this past Saturday from the crowd of mostly families and teens, and the lack of any direct competition for a few weeks yet, I predict a very nice haul when all is said and done, making a sequel a foregone conclusion.

As to my own thoughts, it's hard not to be both excited and disappointed with the film. Any fan of the comics will find plenty of little moments to rejoice in, but will probably find just as many larger problems with the story structure, execution, and needless deviations from the source material. I know that if I was ten years old, I'd have been eating the whole thing up with a spoon.

What helps considerably in overcoming the underwhelming, syndicated sci-fi show direction by the inexplicable choice of Tim Story (BARBERSHOP) is the uniformly-good work turned in by the cast of relative unknowns. The production might have the chintzy look of dinner theater, but by God that sure doesn't stop the cast from giving it far more than the laughably ham-fisted script deserves.

While Ioann Gruffud and Jessica Alba do the best they can with the severely-underwritten roles of Mr. Fantastic and The Invisible Woman, it's Chris Evans' Human Torch and Michael Chiklis' Thing who are the film's true special standouts. Julian McMahon also does a credible enough job as the villainous Victor Von Doom, but the script (by Michael France & Mark Frost) does such a complete hatchet-job on the premiere Marvel supervillain that the iconic comic book image of Doctor Doom is left barely a shadow of its former self.

Ultimately, FANTASTIC FOUR is as lightweight as they come. It's a strictly-for-the-kiddies, enjoy-it-in-the-moment, forget-it-when-it's-over popcorn flick. And on that level, it works. The biggest problem with that approach, however, is that BATMAN BEGINS already raised the bar so high for the comic book genre that FANTASTIC FOUR can't help but feel like a deflating balloon in comparison.

There's no attempt here to reach the heights scaled by SPIDER-MAN 2 or X2, nor does it strive for the surreal artistry of HULK. All that can be said is that it avoids the fate that befell cellar-dwellers like ELEKTRA and MAN-THING (which was so bad it bypassed theaters entirely and went straight to the Sci-Fi Channel).

In it's own way it's a little sad that the highest praise I can offer up for Marvel's premiere superhero team -- "The World's Greatest Comic Magazine" -- is that it's not as bad as ELEKTRA, but take that for what it's worth.

Well, glad we've cleared THAT up...

We have a new winner in the category of "Most Useless Celebrity News Story of the Month." A new poll has found that of 45 celebrities surveyed, 20% identify with the Disney character Goofy.

Figured this was something worth passing on because, I don't know about the rest of you, but I've lost many a night's sleep wondering which cartoon characters John Stamos most relates to...

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Recommended Reading

Tony Blair has recently been riding a way of renewed popularity, following not only his re-election, but Wednesday's announcement of London winning the 2012 Olympics. In the wake of Thursday's terrorist attacks, I wonder if Blair will be able to ride a wave of patriotic fervor to higher approval still, the way GW was able to for that brief moment in late '01.

It may be too early to tell about that, but here's Robert Fisk on how the attacks are indicative of the bumbling Bush-Blair tag team's failure to take anything other than a superficial look at the reasons for and the implications of these horrific acts.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Fantastic Fizzle?

Right about now I have a feeling Avi Arad is quaking in his designer boots. Despite all of the Marvel CEO's feel-good protestations in the face of overwhelming and rapidly-building negative buzz, it's looking more and more like the much-anticipated FANTASTIC FOUR, hitting theaters tomorrow, is shaping up to be a Fantastic Flop.

This unfortunately comes as no great surprise based on everything I've heard during the film's entire tortured production, but the movie is getting absolutely eviscerated by the critics, with a stunning 21% "Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, at last count (a number sure to fluctuate once the mainstream reviews are published tomorrow). Roger Ebert, who usually has something kind to say about these sorts of movies, is especially vicious in his review, in the end saying simply:
...the really good superhero movies, like "Superman," "SpiderMan 2" and "Batman Begins," leave "Fantastic Four" so far behind that the movie should almost be ashamed to show itself in the same theaters.
This is doubly a shame given how much Marvel has riding on the film, something that's gotten extensive write-ups in both the LA Times and Wired.

Gonna be seeing this one tomorrow, so I should have my review up by this weekend.

Bombs in London

I hate to say it, but yesterday when I read that London had won the bid for the Olympics, my thoughts immediately turned to whether this could potentially lead to a terrorist act. Sadly we didn't have long to wait for "The Secret Organization of Al-Qaida in Europe" to do its thing. Disgusting.

Friday, July 01, 2005

No Justice, No Peace

The dark clouds have been looming for awhile now, and now that Sandra Day O'Connor has announced her retirement from the Supreme Court -- the first of many expected high court vacancies during the next few years -- we can expect a full-blown thunderstorm to break out very soon. With the way Bush's second term agenda has been falling on its face, coupled with his approval rating going down the tubes, he needs a confirmation for whoever he nominates to keep that slowly-creeping "lame duck" label from sticking. I'll tell you one thing though, If you thought the Bolton confirmation was a battle, you ain't seen nothing yet.