Sunday, December 31, 2006

Recommended Reading

Saddam Hussein is dead. Robert Fisk offers some perspective.

See you next year, everybody!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Hyphen-sense, tingling!

Turns out, one of Spidey's hidden powers is the ability to "see" punctuation.

Can't argue with that.

The Batman has a gift for understatement.

(Props to Steve Horton for unearthing this one.)

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Shiny.

For those of you wondering about my thoughts on Rocky Balboa, my in-depth comments will have to wait for my year-end wrap-up, but suffice it to say, if you haven't seen it yet, go.

That out of the way, here's a nice hi-res shot of the Silver Surfer, as seen in next summer's Fantastic Four sequel. And to see him in action, check out the new teaser trailer. I didn't love the first FF flick (didn't hate it, either), but just based on what we see here, this one doesn't look bad. We'll see.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Rolling Out

You don't see much in the new teaser for the live-action Transformers, but what you do see... hoo-boy. Color me impressed.

(And while we're on the subject of trailers, I don't know how I missed posting the first look at Live Free or Die Hard -- yep, Die Hard 4 -- due the same weekend as Transformers next summer. Who says this isn't the new age of franchise reinvention?)

Nostalgia Theater: Rocky Edition

As you can tell, the last few weeks have been a little light on the blogging. This is mainly due to the pinch of trying to wrap up my fall classes and put the bow on my thesis. I will, however, definitely be watching Rocky Balboa (a.k.a. Rocky VI) later today. There's certain things you just make time for. Anyway, thesis duty probably means I won't have a review up until the weekend, but I thought I'd prime the pump for any fellow Rock-heads out there with this little beauty, one of the series' trademark "montages cut to '80s arena rock."

Friday, December 08, 2006

Recommended Reading

Jimmy Carter discusses the lack of discussion here in the States of the Israel-Palestine conflict:
The many controversial issues concerning Palestine and the path to peace for Israel are intensely debated among Israelis and throughout other nations — but not in the United States. For the last 30 years, I have witnessed and experienced the severe restraints on any free and balanced discussion of the facts. This reluctance to criticize any policies of the Israeli government is because of the extraordinary lobbying efforts of the American-Israel Political Action Committee and the absence of any significant contrary voices.

It would be almost politically suicidal for members of Congress to espouse a balanced position between Israel and Palestine, to suggest that Israel comply with international law or to speak in defense of justice or human rights for Palestinians. Very few would ever deign to visit the Palestinian cities of Ramallah, Nablus, Hebron, Gaza City or even Bethlehem and talk to the beleaguered residents. What is even more difficult to comprehend is why the editorial pages of the major newspapers and magazines in the United States exercise similar self-restraint, quite contrary to private assessments expressed quite forcefully by their correspondents in the Holy Land.
Buy Carter's book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid here.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

It's finally happening!

It looks like the animals have had about all they can stand and they're finally doing something about it:

Killer whale attacks SeaWorld trainer

California sea lions attack humans

Fla. man loses arm to alligator attack

Right now I'm sitting in dread waiting for the headline about apes on horseback hunting humans for sport.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

NOT From THE ONION...

U.S. bans sale of iPods to North Korea

Yep. That'll show 'em.

From THE ONION...

Pierce Brosnan Offended By Way New James Bond Holds Gun

HOLLYWOOD—According to a source close to Pierce Brosnan, the former James Bond actor felt affronted by the performance of Daniel Craig in the latest Bond film, Casino Royale. "Pierce just felt that he should have carried his gun in such a way that people knew it was James Bond they were dealing with, and not some 'first-year Bobby who doesn't know the first difference between an Aston Martin that transforms into a snowmobile and one that turns into a submarine,'" said the source, who added that Brosnan said the Bond girl bedded by Craig may have appeared attracted to him, but he could tell she was faking it. "Pierce felt the performance was amateur and that in general the film lacked a certain je ne sais quoi." Former Bond actor Roger Moore reportedly agreed with Brosnan's assessment and added that, while he was glad to see someone other than Timothy Dalton in the role, no actor has delivered the pithy elegance befitting 007 since 1979's Moonraker.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Sein of the Times

Until now I've very deliberately stayed out of the cesspool that is the Michael Richards fiasco. At this point what more is there to really say on the subject? At worst he's a bigot, and at best he has some very serious problems. Okay, move on, nothing to see here, right? Absolutely, but you'd never know it from the four car pile-up that was media coverage of this thing over the past week. Still, this video cobbled together by the folks at National Lampoon gave me enough of a chuckle that I thought it was worth sharing. And now let us never speak of this again.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Zaki's Review: Casino Royale (2006)

When last we left him in 2002's Die Another Day, James Bond (Pierce Brosnan), armed with an invisible Aston Martin, a gun-toting Halle Berry at his side, had just defeated a face-changing Korean colonel and his giant space laser. If that description elicits more of a groan than a gasp, you're not alone. After forty-plus years of cinematic spectacle, it's easy to understand why Agent 007's recent adventures haven't done very much to leave expectant audiences shaken or stirred.

It wasn't always like this, of course. There was a time when a James Bond movie represented the pinnacle of filmmaking -- both unceasingly innovative and wildly subversive at the same time. With their unparalleled technical prowess coupled with heaping helpings of violence, action, and innuendo, the early Bond films forged the path that nearly all commercial blockbusters follow to this very day.

But then, that was a long time ago.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Recommended Reading

So, the Democrats have taken control of congress, and surely they'll put the brakes on any Iran-centric invasion plans the Junta is hatching, right? Not so, says Seymour Hersh.

(Check back tomorrow for my Casino Royale review.)

Friday, November 10, 2006

UPDATED - Spider the Third

Here's the spankin' new trailer for next summer's Spider-Man 3, now nicely embedded so you can watch it right here without clicking away.


(Edited to add the iFilm player and remove the old dead link.)

From THE ONION...

Rumsfeld: 'My Half-Assed Job Here Is Done'
WASHINGTON, DC—After nearly six years of much-publicized service as Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld announced his resignation Wednesday afternoon, saying that he had "proudly accomplished everything [he'd] set out to bungle." "Years ago, I decided to bog this great nation down in an extended, grueling foreign occupation, and I'm happy to say that's exactly what I've done," said Rumsfeld in a farewell address at the White House, during which he urged Americans to continue waging the ill-conceived, mismanaged, and evidently unwelcome fight for democracy in the Middle East. "Each of my actions—from undersupplying troops with body armor to focusing on capturing Saddam Hussein while Osama bin Laden remained free—has led America inexorably toward our current state of extreme crisis. Well, anyway, goodbye!" President Bush expressed confidence that Robert Gates, his new nominee for Secretary of Defense, will be able to "f___ everything up the rest of the way."

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Sorkin Sense Tingling!

Some much-needed good news today for fans of Aaron Sorkin's Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, which has been fighting off cancellation rumors almost since the moment it made its ballyhooed debut several weeks back: the show has been picked up through the end of the season.

While there are plenty of naysayers out there (including my good buddy Rich Nelson), and there have certainly been a few creative missteps along the way, I have to say that the show has never been less than involving for me, growing more sure-footed with every new installment. It would be a shame to see it go the way of the dodo when barnacles like According to Jim manage to hang in there for several seasons past their syndicate-by dates.

This past Monday's episode was classic Sorkin, with homosexuals, Chinese dignitaries, joints, Jesus, and John Goodman thrown in for good measure. Hopefully this order for the back-nine eps will encourage more viewers to sample the show...and stick around.

In other Sorkin news, this past Tuesday also saw the release of this veddy nice series set of his recently-ended/already-missed The West Wing. The faux-leather attache case contains the entire series on forty-five discs, plus the complete pilot script written by the man himself. Whether you followed the show for the duration of its run or haven't yet had the pleasure, there's never been a better way to own one of the greatest shows in TV history than in this gorgeous box.

And no, I'm not on Aaron Sorkin's payroll. Really.

Oh, geez...

Sen. Reid Backs Lieberman for Homeland Security Chairmanship

You just knew there had to be a fly-in-the-ointment after the bevy of good news over the past few days.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Random Thought

With George Allen's nail-biter of a loss tipping the scales in the upper house over to the Democrats, you think they'll start calling the senate "The House that 'Macaca' Built"?

Basil Poledouris, RIP

With the passing of Basil Poledouris earlier today due to complications from cancer, one of the greatest film composers in the business has left our stage a little more silent. My first exposure to Poledouris' music was the bombastic, pulsating music from 1987's RoboCop, though I didn't come to truly appreciate his masterful compositional skills until I had occasion to listen to his beautiful, unforgettable music for 1982's Conan the Barbarian, which remains some of the definitive fantasy music of all time. Proving his capability with multiple genres, Poledouris' resume includes projects as diverse as the miniseries Lonesome Dove and the submarine thriller The Hunt for Red October. You can see his filmography in its entirety here to get a sense of what a big loss this is for the film world.

NOT From THE ONION...

GOP Says Rumsfeld Is Stepping Down

Wow. More from me later.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Vote.

"My great-grandfather’s great-grandfather was Dr. Josiah Bartlet, who was the New Hampshire delegate to the second Continental Congress, the one that sat in session in Philadelphia in the summer of 1776, and announced to the world that we were no longer subjects of King George III, but rather a self-governing people. 'We hold these truths to be self-evident,' they said, 'that all men are created equal.' Strange as it may seem, that was the first time in history that anyone had bothered to write that down. Decisions are made by those who show up. Class dismissed."
- President Bartlet (by way of Aaron Sorkin) in the West Wing episode, "What Kind of Day Has it Been"

Friday, November 03, 2006

John the Joke-Killer

The tragedy of the John Kerry fracas over the past week isn't his supposed insulting of US armed forces, nor is it even the Oil Can Harry manner in which the GOP spin-machine pounced all over the story, or the two-days-too-long that it stayed in the spotlight. No, the real tragedy here is how, rather than as a president or even a presidential contender, Kerry's name may well be forever synonymous with a screwed-up punchline -- as in, "Boy, Kerry really 'Kerryed' that joke about Iraq, didn't he?" Bill Barol explains:
Comedy is a fragile thing, and there are many ways to botch a punchline. My personal favorite is the Shmenge, in which the emphasis is placed on the wrong word or syllable, causing a fractional bump in the audience's attention and derailing the rhythm of the entire joke. (Alert readers will intuit that the Shmenge is named for Yosh and Stan Shmenge, the accordion-wielding brothers played by Eugene Levy and John Candy on the old "SCTV" show, who memorably introduced themselves with the words: "I'm Stan Shmenge... " " ...and I'm Yosh Shmenge.") Almost as bad, however, is the method which involves leaving out one key word in a carefully-crafted punchline, altering its meaning and undercutting the intended effect. This has at least two results: It produces a baffled audience and a roomful of comedy writers with their heads cradled inconsolably in their hands. In neither case does it engender confidence or respect or affection, at least one of which I need to feel for a person before I can cast my vote.
And there endeth the lesson.

"GOP Must Go"

That's not coming from me, that's the headline of this editorial from The American Conservative. That's right, The American Conservative. Read the following and tell me who you think they want you voting for come Tuesday...
There may be little Americans can do to atone for this presidency, which will stain our country’s reputation for a long time. But the process of recovering our good name must begin somewhere, and the logical place is in the voting booth this Nov. 7. If we are fortunate, we can produce a result that is seen—in Washington, in Peoria, and in world capitals from Prague to Kuala Lumpur—as a repudiation of George W. Bush and the war of aggression he launched against Iraq.
Okay, so scratch the conservatives and the evangelicals off the White House Christmas card list. Remind me again, who is Bush's base exactly?

Oh yeah.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Recommended Reading

The meme currently being circulated by the media punditocracy is that both parties have used the occasion of this election to sling record amounts of mud at one another through advertising, whisper campaigns, and just general misstatements, making for one of filthiest, sneakiest, lyingest political campaigns in recent memory. As Slate's Jacob Weisberg points out, while there's certainly plenty of dung being flung, it mostly seems to be originating from one side of the aisle -- and it ain't the Democrats.

Zaki's Thesis: On the Defensive

So, yesterday was judgement day for the three-fifths of my paper I've completed up to this point. I sat in a room with my committee chair and my two committee members for what felt like an eternity as they seemingly grilled me over every aspect of everything I've done up to this point. I'll tell you, I think I maintain a reasonably cool head under pressure, but for most of those ninety-some minutes I felt like I was sitting under a hotlamp and being waterboarded by Dick Cheney. By the end, I wanted to find a nice table to crawl under and just curl up in the fetal position.

All that being said, I passed, and by all accounts it went exceptionally well. This of course immediately leads me to wonder how the bad ones go, exactly. Anyway, with the prospectus defense out of the way, the clock is still tick-tick-ticking down, and I have one month to get everything else wrapped up and accounted for before my final defense. I'm thinking for that one I'll just bring my own set of electrodes.

Recommended Viewing

Keith Olbermann presented a particularly effective commentary last night, taking aim squarely at the Junta's newest tactic du jour of attacking John Kerry to cover for their abject failure in every other area of actual governance. Yeah, doesn't make much sense to me either, and Keith sums up the reasons why far more eloquently than I ever could. Video and transcript here.

Colbert on Kerry

Well, YouTube may have been forced to take down all of their Daily Show/Colbert Report clips, but at least we can still count on OneGoodMove to keep us up to date with all the latest, such as this bit from last night's Colbert, wherein Stephen gives a piece of his mind to the senator from Massachusetts, although really it's Tony Snow who ends up with egg on his face.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The Kerry Kontroversy

By now the newscycle has pretty much done its thing with the tempest-in-a-teapot surrounding John Kerry's nonexistent insulting of the US troops in Iraq, with the most recent development being Kerry's hasty mea culpa to make the whole thing disappear.

Now, I get completely that he was joking. I see where he was going. The set-up was promising, but he stuck the landing, and the rest is the stuff that media maelstroms are made of. Still, I think you'd have to be kidding yourself to interpret his comments as anything other than a malaprop, and I would hope that the GOP's naked attempts to tar-and-feather the guy are obvious to all -- especially ironic considering that Captain Malaprop himself, President Bush, was the one leading the charge.

Now, that being said, one of the fundamental tenets of the public speaking course I teach is how to effectively incorporate humor into your speeches. And it's no easy thing, believe me. Ultimately, while there are a lot of nuances and subtleties to telling a joke, the way I boil it down for my students is by saying simply that if you have to read a book to figure out how to deliver a punchline, maybe it's best to just steer clear of the zingers. Based on yesterday, and similar forehead-slappers from the '04 campaign, it seems to me that John Kerry could use some similar advice in perpetuity.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Bryan Singer Returns

Regarding the Superman sequel, we got the heads-up on it a few days back, and now here's that official word we were waiting for, courtesy of Variety. It pretty much confirms everything we already knew, and it firms-up the release date as Summer of '09.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Fox News

Michael J. Fox talked to George Stephanopoulos and you can watch the video here. I've said it before and I'll say it again, this line of attack from those on the Lunatic Right is about as ill-conceived as one can imagine. It's impossible to watch this video (or any of the others) and not be struck by not only the severity of Fox's suffering, but also by the sincerity of his words, such as these towards the end:
You know, it's amazing to — I can't stress enough. I don't want to react personally to these attacks. It's pointless. It's silly.

It's like getting in a fight with a bully. What's the point? You're not going to change his mind. You're just probably going to get a nosebleed. So, you know, why bother?

But make no mistake, it hurts. And it hurt when — it hurt — it hurt to see the president use the one veto of his administration to strike down this legislation.

It was passed through both the houses of the Congress. It had a lot of very — people of very serious conscience proud about it and in their duty as representatives voted for. And to see the president – no.

It really is mindboggling, and I can't even begin to imagine the personal way that single veto would have affected me were I in Fox's shoes. Anyway, I know I'd said we were putting a fork in it, but here's yet one more swing at the Limbaugh post, courtesy of John Nichols of The Nation on the "Swiftboating" campaign being waged by the big blowhard:

Republican politicians like Talent and Green fully understand that, without the behind-the-scenes work of antiabortion groups -- most of which flies under the radar of the media and campaign-finance regulators -- they could not possibly win. And Limbaugh, whose stated goal is to maintain Republican hegemony, is perhaps even more aware of the fact than the candidates he is working so feverishly to elect. That's why the radio personality is on a personal crusade against Fox. That's also why Limbaugh has been willing to stick to his outlandish claims about the actor, even while acknowledging that he's gotten the facts wrong.

Like the Republican politicians who are scrambling to smear Fox, Limbaugh is doing the bidding of one of the most powerful behind-the-scenes political forces in America -- a force that is essential to Republican prospects. And he is not going to let a little thing like the truth make him back off.

Ah, politics. Don'tcha just love it?

Saturday, October 28, 2006

UPDATED - Clip of the Week

David Letterman gives Bill O'Reilly the verbal smackdown -- again. Check it out here, courtesy of OneGoodMove.org. Notice how, no matter the levels of subtlety Dave tries to color his answers with, for O'Reilly it always winds up right back at, "Do you think President Bush is evil? Do you want America to lose in Iraq?" It really gives a sense of how the Fox News flavor of reality comes in one of two boxes and that's it. No complexity, no nuance. Black and white.

UPDATE: And for an example of one of those "artificial facts" that Letterman accuses his guest of filling his head with, jump on over to this article by Cenk Uygur.

From THE ONION...

Recommended Reading

Alright, one more thought on Limbaugh before we stick a fork in things and move on. This time it's from William Saletan over at Slate, who speculates on the bizarre phenomena at work in the talk show host's psyche that would lead him to make the kind of accusations of Michael Fox that he has.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Flying High

Well, this weekend it'll be exactly four months since Superman Returns first flew into theaters, but the big question on many fans' minds was whether or not it would hang in there juuuust long enough to squeak by the magic tally of $200 million in domestic box office. Why magic? Because, all along, the higher-ups at the WB had made clear that any sequel aspirations would hinge on the movie passing that money-making landmark stateside, which it finally did this past week. Following on the heels of that breakthrough comes word from IESB that there is indeed another entry in the Super-canon being prepped for release in a few short years.

While it's not exactly a Warner Bros. press release (and thus should be considered rumor for the time being), the IESB article does offer some tantalizing hints as to what we can expect for Supes' next big screen go-round, including the return of director Bryan Singer, and, despite a lower budget, more of a focus on Superman going toe-to-toe with some epic villain or another. Singer has already mentioned his desire to go "Wrath of Khan" in any potential follow-up, which presumably points the way towards less in the way of angst and melodrama, and more in the way of hardcore action and heightened drama. Naturally, more info here as it starts trickling out.

"I Could Give a Damn About Rush Limbaugh’s Pity"

Michael J. Fox talked to Katie Couric last night to respond to Rush Limbaugh's ad hominem attacks from earlier in the week, and you can check out the video at Crooks and Liars. Considering not only what he's suffering from (which is plain as day, by the way), but also the nature of the charges being levelled against him, Fox proves himself (yet again) to be a class act. Moreso than I could be under similar circumstances, anyway, and certainly much more than Mr. Limbaugh has been at any point in his broadcasting history.

Still, let's stop and think about this for a second. Fox went on TV to prove, in essence, that yes, in fact, he is suffering from Parkinson's Disease. It just goes to show how royally screwed up the state of discourse is in our day and age, when someone who is suffering from a disease is now forced to defend himself for the crime of campaigning for a cure. It's disgusting, and it's something that I hold partisan hacks like Rush Limbaugh directly responsible for. Still, I suppose there's some comfort to be had in the fact that the Limbaugh tirade has nationalized an issue that was confined to a just few states, and by obstinately refusing to issue an apology, Rush has probably galvanized even more people firmly in Fox's corner.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Rush Flush

Is there a more disgusting human being on Earth right now than Rush Limbaugh? If so, it's a pretty shallow pool, I gotta say.

(In the interests of full disclosure, I should state for the record that I used to be a pretty regular Limbaugh listener back in the day. Of course, that was before things like, y'know, a high school education helped me recognize him for the pompous, partisan, ego-driven bag of gas -- later, drug-addicted bag of gas -- that he is.)

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Everything to Fear

First, watch this political commercial, the latest attempt by an increasingly-desperate, increasingly-unpopular GOP to convince us that they represent the only bastion of safety in a terrorism-heavy world:



Now, watch the latest commentary from Keith Olbermann, wherein he discusses said ad, and more (as always, transcript is here):

Remembering Tillman

You may or may not remember Pat Tillman. He was the pro football player-turned-US Marine who was KIA in Afghanistan a little over two years ago. While Tillman's death was initially turned into yet another GOP spin-job (a la the Jessica Lynch fiasco), with a prefab narrative about heroism, hostile fire, the whole shebang, ready to go, it soon came out that Tillman died not under a barrage of enemy projectiles, but rather as a result of fire sustained by our own forces. "Friendlies," as it were.

As if that's not unfortunate enough, the true story of what transpired was then actively supressed by the military establishment -- not only from the public at large, but from Tillman's own family. In the end, the "righteousness" of our presence there was given another black eye -- yet another one among so many, both before and since.

The reason I bring all this up is to refresh your memories as I point you to this open letter from Pat Tillman's brother, Kevin (who served in the Marines with him), as he reflects not only on his brother's death but also wonders what he died for. Real eye-opening stuff. In fact, having read the letter, the only thing I'm wondering is exactly how those self-rightous chickenhawks -- the same ones that proudly sanction murder in the name of Old Glory while decrying anyone opposed to the war effort as an unpatriotic, un-American traitor -- will try to tar-and-feather the guy.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

"You Know My Name"

That's the title of Chris Cornell's theme from the upcoming James Bond revisitation/reinvention, Casino Royale. There've been a couple of versions making the rounds on the web for the past few weeks, but I think the one Cornell posted on his MySpace page is the best.

For what it's worth, I like it. If we're talking about where it falls in the Bond Theme continuum, it has a hard rock edge that makes it closest in spirit to Paul McCartney's "Live and Let Die," and that's fine with me. Look for more Bond news as next month's premiere inches closer.

Military De-Commissions

Earlier this week President Bush signed the Military Commissions Act of 2006 into law. As those of us who've been following these things know, this is the bill that -- among other things -- vaporizes habeus corpus protections for those detained in connection with the War on Terror.

The essential problem here, and one that those on the Lunatic Right (and it doesn't get more lunatic than this) seem willfully ignorant of in their violent denunciation of anyone who opposes this legislation, is not about this new law being used to protect or coddle the guilty, but its potential be used against those who are innocent. And don't tell me that it could never happen, as there's more than enough evidence that it already has, and that's without this law to give more cover to the government.

There's a "baby with the bathwater" mentality driving this bill and those like it that I think set an incredibly dangerous precedent. How this doesn't set off alarm bells for more people, I don't get. Part of me wants to think that Team Bush's commitment to the common good is so strong that maybe they just don't see the huge downside here (as in, "nothing but"). Then again, you and I both know I'm far too cynical for that.

Anyway, Keith Olbermann commented on this bill's passage into law with another rip-roaring special comment which you can check out below (transcript here).

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

From THE ONION...

It's a sad comment on the state of network TV that Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip -- Aaron Sorkin's post-West Wing baby and one of the best shows to hit the 'waves in quite a while -- is already on the ropes and sadly seems headed for a TKO. Rather than lament the show's entree into the early-cancellation sweepstakes, I just thought I'd post this Onion article instead.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Recommended Reading

It's been awhile since I've posted, and it's also been awhile since we've heard from Monty Python's Terry Jones and his acerbic commentaries tearing into the status quo. Thankfully, Terry remedies that with this latest piece for the Guardian, written in the form of an open letter to the Figurehead.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

More Good News

Sometimes you wonder why you bother waking up in the morning:
Experts warn of an accidental atomic war
A Pentagon project to modify its deadliest nuclear missile for use as a conventional weapon against targets such as North Korea and Iran could unwittingly spark an atomic war, two weapons experts warned Thursday.
And, a little further down...
"The media and expert circles are already discussing plans to use intercontinental ballistic missiles to carry nonnuclear warheads," he said in May. "The launch of such a missile could ... provoke a full-scale counterattack using strategic nuclear forces."
Yeesh...I'm going back to bed.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Ramboned?

Sylvester Stallone is sure reliving past glory these days, isn't he? First up, there's December's release of the sixth Rocky flick, and now we find out he's solidified plans to revisit that other popular franchise beginning with an "R". That's right, '80s fans, John Rambo is headed back to the big screen.

Now, I don't think a bigger fan of First Blood (a.k.a. "Rambo I") exists on this planet than Yours Truly, and for years now I've advocated a return to the screen for Stallone's Vietnam vet character -- with the caveat that it be more in line with the thinking man's action pic of movie one, and not so much the over-the-top bloodbath of movie two. Sadly, it looks like Rambo's much-anticipated (?) return will be more like the latter than the former. Says Production Weekly:
The next chapter finds Rambo recruited by a group of Christian human rights missionaries to protect them against pirates, during a humanitarian aid deliver to the persecuted Karen people of Burma. After some of the missionaries are taken prisoner by sadistic Burmese soldiers, Rambo gets a second impossible job: to assemble a team of mercenaries to rescue the surviving relief workers.
I guess I should just be thankful that the villains in this one aren't cartoon Arab terrorists. That's Chuck Norris territory, dammit.

Zaki's Thesis: Prospectus Prospecting

As you may or may not know from my occasional postings on the topic, I'm currently in the midst trying like heck to finish up my Master's Thesis, a rhetorical criticism of the television show Lost (which, apropos of nothing, started its third season this past Wednesday). Given that, and given the fact that the first draft of my prospectus (the first three chapters) was due to my adviser today, I'm sure that goes a way towards explaining why I've been MIA as far as the blogging goes this week. I expect there may be one or two more MIA weeks between now and December 4th (my absitively-posolutely-has-to-be-done-by date).

Anyway, I've been busting my hump for the past week, the last twelve hours of which were spent rooted to the spot in front of my computer. Right now my fingers are frozen in a strange, claw-like formation, I can't feel my legs, and I think the mousepad is talking to me. That said, draft one is done. Done. Mercifully, mercifully done. Now, granted, from here to the finish-line it's going to be all-stress, all the time, but now, just for a moment, I want to take a deep breath, exhale, and forget about the fact that I'm nowhere near finished with everything else I need to finish with before I'm actually finished.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Recommended Viewing/Reading

It's a been light (read: nonexistent) week for me as far as blogging goes, mainly because I'm hip-deep in trying to finish up the prospectus for my thesis, but I did want to drive-by post this latest special comment from my man Keith Olbermann. Watch the clip here, read the transcript here. 'Nuff said.

Back soon! (...hopefully...)

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Surreal Clip of the Week

President Parvez Musharraf of Pakistan, acquitting himself quite admirably on The Daily Show.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Iraq by the Numbers

I mentioned yesterday about the "black is white/white is black" propensities so often exhibited by Team Bush in their constant snowjobbing (or, I suppose, Snow-jobbing) of the American public.

Though there're plenty of examples to go around, nowhere is this more clearly and more often on display than in the increasingly desperate rhetoric being employed by the Administration (and its appendages) when discussing the situation in Iraq.

Tom Engelhardt has compiled a list of facts and figures that have pretty much flown under the radar for most of us, but really drive home what a staggering abortion of a military campaign this whole thing has been. Says he:
This week, the count of American war dead in Iraq passed 2,700. The Iraqi dead are literally uncountable. Iraq is the tragedy of our times, an event that has brought out, and will continue to bring out, the worst in us all. It is carnage incarnate. Every time the President mentions "victory" these days, the word "loss" should come to our minds. A few more victories like this one and the world will be an unimaginable place. Back in 2004, the head of the Arab League, Amr Mussa, warned, "The gates of hell are open in Iraq." Then it was just an image. Remarkably enough, it has taken barely two more years for us to arrive at those gates on which, it is said, is inscribed the phrase, "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here."
Read the entirety of Engelhardt's post at the link above.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

First we saw the release (or "leak" in Administration-talk) of the NIE report which gave a grave assessment indeed of America's conduct, progress, and prospects in this "War on Terror" we're currently embroiled in. Of course, this was greeted with the usual "black-is-white/white-is-black" response from Team Bush and their political and press parrots.

Now journalist Bob Woodward is joining the chorus of those crying foul at the conduct being exhibited by the Figurehead and his henchmen. Now that he has a brand-new book to flog (the aptly-titled State of Denial), Woodward is making the news-circuit rounds and pulling no punches, with a perspective that could only have been gained from unfettered "behind the velvet rope" access (which is itself a sad comment when the man who famously brought down Nixon becomes the ultimate insider).

Here's a bit from Woodward's 60 Minutes interview with Mike Wallace (father, by the way of Chris Wallace, who got the presidential smackdown from Bill Clinton earlier this week):
According to Woodward, insurgent attacks against coalition troops occur, on average, every 15 minutes, a shocking fact the administration has kept secret. "It’s getting to the point now where there are eight-, nine-hundred attacks a week. That's more than 100 a day. That is four an hour attacking our forces," says Woodward.

The situation is getting much worse, says Woodward, despite what the White House and the Pentagon are saying in public. "The truth is that the assessment by intelligence experts is that next year, 2007, is going to get worse and, in public, you have the president and you have the Pentagon [saying], 'Oh, no, things are going to get better,'" he tells Wallace. "Now there’s public, and then there’s private. But what did they do with the private? They stamp it secret. No one is supposed to know," says Woodward.

"The insurgents know what they are doing. They know the level of violence and how effective they are. Who doesn't know? The American public," Woodward tells Wallace.
Meanwhile today, the Junta ramrodded the "Detainee Interrogation Bill" (a.k.a. Bush's Torture Bill) through the Senate, while the House legalized their "warrantless wiretapping" program. No doubt both these developments engendered much backslapping and high-fiving among those on the Lunatic Right, and, as usual, the impotent Democratic wing stood by and did nothing (as has been their M.O. for the past five years).

Makes you wonder what the heck else has to happen before people start actually giving a darn about these things.

Cool Exec (with a Heart of Steel)


The Jon Favreau-directed Marvel epic Iron Man has been gestating in the pre-production pipeline for some time now, with a planned release date of Summer '08. Ever since early word that hoped-for choice Tom Cruise was not going to suit up as alcoholic billionaire-turned-superhero Tony Stark, there's been nary a nugget dropped as to who the movie's producers were eying to fill ol' Shellhead's red-and-gold duds.

Now, pretty much out of the clear blue sky, comes word from Ain't It Cool News that none other than Academy Award-nominee Robert Downey Jr. has been tapped to head up Marvel's next big screen franchise (and the first that's financed entirely from the Marvel coffers). I think I pretty much agree with Moriarty's assessment over at AICN that it's a gutsy, interesting choice on the part of Favreau and the movie's honchos. Hard to say much else 'till we know what direction the flick is going to take.

Here's the word straight from Favreau himself via MySpace:
It is true. Robert Downey Jr. is Tony Stark. I am about as excited as I can be. I saw what he can do and he is extremely enthusiastic about playing Stark. I can say with absolute certainty that there is no better choice. The humor and emotional dimension he brings truly raises the bar on this project. Get ready.
Works for me!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

And lastly...

One more reaction to the whole Clinton thing before we put this sucker to bed, this time from Jon Stewart and The Daily Show, looking at the lockstep (goosestep?) media reaction to the story.

"The 'free pass' has been withdrawn, Mr. Bush."

Well, I may have decided not to editorialize on the Clinton-Fox showdown, but that sure didn't stop Keith Olbermann from doing just that in another searing special comment that takes a broadside at not only the Administration but their lackeys at Fox for attempting, yet again, to dodge any and all accountability on the subject of 9/11 and its aftermath for the past five years. Good stuff, as always.

Monday, September 25, 2006

The Clinton Defensive

I first heard about Chris Wallace's...uh, eventful interview with President Clinton this past Saturday, though it didn't air until yesterday morning on Fox News Sunday. Most of the media heat on this story has taken a "Clinton on the Rampage" approach, or some such variation thereof, playing a select few soundbites here and there of Clinton ragging on Wallace for performing a "Conservative hitjob" while robbing us of any and all context.

Hey, they're the Left Wing Media. It's what they do, remember?

Anyway, the blogosphere has been its usual divided (or is that divisive) self in response to this story, with those on the left proudly trumpeting Their Boy Bill triumphing over the Gathered Hordes of Rupert Murdoch's evil empire, while those on the right are touting this as proof positive that Clinton is one step removed from Crazytown.

Frankly, I think there's enough there to galvanize those on both sides, and I don't think Clinton (or Wallace, for that matter) said or did anything that's going to change anyone's mind who isn't inclined in their direction already. Nevertheless, the interview makes for some fascinating viewing for, if nothing else, giving us a president who dares to go off script. It's like a window into a parallel world.

No real editorializing from me, but you can watch the interview here, and/or read the transcript here.

This Day in History

All day now people have been asking me what I have planned for my birthday, and all day I've been dropping my standard answer: Grading papers and sleeping (though not necessarily in that order).

I'm not sure when it is exactly that your birthday stops being this momentous occasion when you get all kinds of stuff and everyone's nice to you and just becomes...the day after yesterday. For me, I think it happened when I was six.

Anyway, here it is. Twenty-seven years. Happy birthday to me.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Recommended Reading

Hoo-boy...it's been one of those weeks, and it doesn't appear likely to ease up anytime soon.

Still, lest you think I've dropped off the Earth completely, here's the latest from Frank Rich, this time discussing last week's Path to 9/11 telefilm on ABC, to tide you over 'till I can post something more in-depth (God knows there's enough going on right now to warrant it...)

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

"We have not forgotten, Mr. President."

Keith Olbermann on 9/11, five years later. Watch the video or read the transcript, but either way, take it in. Highly recommended.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Four Decades in the Final Frontier

It was forty years ago today that an odd curio entitled "The Man Trap", the debut installment of a brand-new science-fiction series, aired on NBC to little acclaim and even fewer viewers. I wasn't due to arrive on this plane of existence for another decade-and-change, so I can only begin to imagine how the thing was received at the time.

No doubt the mix of futuristic spacemen and forbidding monsters seemed to be pointing the way towards something in the mold of recent sci-fi pic Forbidden Planet, while borrowing liberally from the monster-of-the-week formula employed by TV's The Outer Limits which itself had aired (and ended) not too long before.

Those who even bothered to tune in probably thought it would air for a few short weeks before being consigned to the bin where all cancelled series eventually wind up. After all, this thing couldn't possibly last.

The show was Star Trek, and as we all know, things didn't quite turn out that way.

These days, of course, it's impossible to discuss Star Trek as merely a TV series without the words "classic" and "phenomenon" popping up at some point or other. Back then, though, it was just this strange, cult thing that somehow hung in there juuuust long enough to make the requisite number of episodes to put into syndication. The rest, as they say...

To date, Star Trek (the TV show and the phenomenon) has spawned five subsequent series (including an animated show in the early '70s -- coming very soon to DVD after too long in limbo), not to mention ten feature films (with another in the pipeline), and mountains of licensing rivalled, perhaps, only by that other cult fave beginning with the word "Star".

While Trek is lying fallow at the moment following the cancellation of Star Trek: Enterprise last year (which remains bitterly disappointing to me considering how good it had gotten towards the end), I don't think anyone really doubts the staying power of the franchise, nor its ability to come back blazing. Like the Bond series discussed earlier today, Trek has proven itself a dozen times over, and has more than earned a hallowed place in the pop culture firmament for its next four decades.

Anyway, with the anniversary sure to prompt many fans, lapsed and otherwise, to cast a nostalgic eye to the early adventures of Captain Kirk, Mister Spock, Dr. McCoy, and Co. it seems appropriate enough that the honchos at CBS Corp. (which owns the franchise in the wake of the big Viacom split last year) have chosen the occasion to announce plans to release newly remastered, newly CG'd versions of the 79 original series episodes for syndication (and, down the pike, DVD and HD release, I'm sure).

While the initial news of this last week may have left many a fan with visions of George Lucas' "everything but the kitchen sink" Star Wars Special Editions dancing through their heads, all indications point to a much more archival, much more reserved approach. In addition to the Enterprise pictured up top, check out these comparison shots to get a sense of what the folks in charge are planning:

In an article documenting the extensive plans, the Star Trek official site runs down these and other changes we can expect to the original show:
  • Space ship exteriors – The Enterprise, as well as other starships, will be replaced with state of the art CGI-created ships. The new computer-generated Enterprise is based on the exact measurements of the original model, which now rests in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.
  • Show opening – The Enterprise and planets seen in the main title sequence will be redone, giving them depth and dimension for the first time.
  • Galaxy shots – All the graphics of the galaxy, so frequently seen through the viewscreen on the Enterprise's bridge, will be redone.
  • Exteriors – The battle scenes, planets and ships from other cultures (notably the Romulan Bird of Prey and Klingon Battle Cruisers) will be updated.
  • Background scenes – Some of the iconic, yet flat, matte paintings used as backdrops for the strange, new worlds explored by the Enterprise crew will get a CGI face-lift, adding atmosphere and lighting.
These spiffed-up Star Trek episodes will be making their syndicated debuts starting next week (the 16th), so it won't be too long before we see if the efforts of longtime Trek-tech guru Michael Okuda and his team will bear fruit and make this truly timeless artifact palatable to a whole new generation (...and the next).

Countdown to 007

By the time Casino Royale makes its theatrical debut on November 17th, it will have been four long years since James Bond last graced the big screen (in 2002's Die Another Day). In the interim, it seems like the zeitgeist has sort of left agent 007 by the wayside, what with all the Bauers and Bournes out there showing how secret agents "really" act. Given that, the timing seemed ripe for a reinvention of the hallowed franchise, now in its fourth decade and its 21st official entry.
Last night saw the release of the full trailer for Royale, and it gives us a pretty good sense of how director Martin Campbell (who last visited Bond Country in 1995's GoldenEye) is going to switch things up tonally and stylistically. It seems that the new film will focus much more on the character bits and matters of the heart than is usual for these movies. We also get a sense, for the first time, really, of what Daniel Craig will bring to the part. I've been on board with Craig from the beginning, and there's nothing here that sets off any warning blinkers. Looking good.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Full Court PRESS

For the past several years, my good friend Ray Nowosielski and his team at Banded Artists Productions have been busting their collective humps putting together an expansive documentary digging into 9/11 and its aftermath. The completed doco, 9/11: Press for Truth, had its local premiere tonight in Oakland, a screening which I was regrettably unable to attend, and it makes its LA premiere on Monday (9/11). In honor of Ray's mammoth effort, and to encourage one-and-all to give his movie a look-see, here's the trailer, and here's the Amazon link so you can pre-order your copy.

"Planet of the Arabs"

...or, "How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Hate Muslims".

This faux-trailer was an official selection at the Sundance Film Festival back in '05. Inspired at least partly by Jack Shaheen's Reel Bad Arabs (a fantastic, invaluable read, by the way), it gives a small insight into the way Hollywood has vilified and dehumanized Arab and Muslim characters pretty consistently for the past hundred years or so.

It's sad indeed when one considers that, out of a thousand-some filmic portrayals from 1896 to 2000, about 12 could be considered positive. Now, that number may well have risen a few notches here and there in the past six years, but in the face of those overwhelming numbers, it starts to feel uncomfortably like swimming against the tide.

Anyway, just watch the clip. There's not much else that I need to say.

From THE ONION...

*sigh*

Sometimes you have to remind yourself that The Onion is satirical...
Bush: 'History Cannot Judge Me If I End It Soon'

WASHINGTON, DC—Despite, or perhaps because of, rising fuel prices, the unpopularity of the U.S. presence in Iraq, and mounting legal problems surrounding his administration, President Bush informed his Cabinet Monday that he is unworried about his place in history, White House sources said. "I'm telling you, pretty soon some things are going to develop so that I won't have history to worry about any longer," Bush said. "History may be written by the winners, but it doesn't get written at all if all of human language is lost in, say, fire storms, right? So I can still get off the hook." Although troubles faced by his presidency have been relatively recent, sources said they believed Bush's plan had been put into motion long before he had even taken office.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Olbermann to Bush: "Have you no sense of decency, sir?"

With the trifecta of the fifth anniversary of 9/11, an unpopular war in Iraq, and midterm elections which threaten to shift the balance of power in Congress (not that such an occurence would change things worth a darn), the Administration (as well as its tentacle-like appendages in the Lunatic Right) have been trotting out the chestnut of Nazism, Fascism, and some good old fashioned Booga-Booga with alarming regularity, no doubt in hopes that the corn-fed faithful will be sufficiently keyed-up that they'll put their brains on standby come election day and put these people back in the driver's seat.

It goes without saying this is a disgusting, shameful rhetorical ploy that frankly says far more about those using it than the ones they're railing against (in this case, anyone who dares to disagree with 'em). Thankfully, Keith Olbermann is at the forefront once again, with a withering commentary aimed at BushCo in general, and the Figurehead in particular.



(Read the transcript here.)

Primed

Summer movie season '06 has barely been over for three days, and already it's time to start up the hype train for 2007. First up, the clearest shots yet of Autobot leader Optimus Prime, as seen in Michael Bay's upcoming Transformers. Doesn't look too bad from where I sit. Jump on over to Ain't It Cool News for some alternate angles (not to mention the usual vitriolic garbage from the AICN talkbackers).

Sunday, September 03, 2006

More Recommended Reading

The ever-reliable Frank Rich dissects Rumsfeld's now-infamous "moral confusion/Nazi appeasers" speech from earlier this week.

Recommended Reading

Howard Zinn, writing for the Boston Globe:
The repeated excuse, given by both Pentagon spokespersons and Israeli officials, for dropping bombs where ordinary people live is that terrorists hide among civilians. Therefore the killing of innocent people (in Iraq, in Lebanon) is called accidental, whereas the deaths caused by terrorists (on 9/11, by Hezbollah rockets) are deliberate.

This is a false distinction, quickly refuted with a bit of thought. If a bomb is deliberately dropped on a house or a vehicle on the grounds that a ``suspected terrorist" is inside (note the frequent use of the word suspected as evidence of the uncertainty surrounding targets), the resulting deaths of women and children may not be intentional. But neither are they accidental. The proper description is ``inevitable."

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Karma.

I guess what goes around really does come around:

Trump tells "Apprentice" sidekick "you're fired"

The moral? Never try to trump Trump.

Glenn Ford, RIP

I have to admit, looking back on Glenn Ford's amazingly lengthy catalogue of movie credits, my experience with the late actor, who passed away yesterday at the age of 90, pretty much begins and ends with Superman: The Movie.

Essaying the role of Jonathan Kent, the farmer who finds and raises the infant Kal-El to manhood, Ford effortlessly embodied the earthy, down-home humanity of the man who imbues the future Man of Steel with his moral compass. Just as the movie made us believe a man could fly, so too did Ford make us believe completely when he tells his adopted son, "Now there is one thing I do know, son, and that is that you are here for a reason."

He may only have something like seven minutes of actual screen time, but it says something remarkable about his work in the film that when the character makes a premature exit after having a heart attack (mere moments after reciting the above dialogue), it hits those of us in the audience just as hard as it does young Clark.

Surely a testament to a workmanlike actor who time left by the wayside before he got his full due.

Rumsfeld's Moral Confusion

It's a few days old now, but click here to read about besieged and befuddled Defense Secretary Rumsfeld's speech to the American Legion, wherein he likens critics of the Junta to Nazi sympathizers, going so far as to call them "morally confused." As an aside, I find the notion of Don Rumsfeld deigning to lecture anyone on morality, confused or otherwise, to be the height of comedic gold.

Once you're done there (and you can read the speech in its entirety here -- though let me forewarn that a little goes a long way...), come on back and watch Keith Olbermann on last night's Countdown, as he gives Rummy a much-deserved verbal smackdown.


(If, for whatever reason, you can't watch the video, jump on over to Olbermann's blog to read the complete text of his commentary.)

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

From THE ONION...

Seeing as how I have a job interview later today, this one seemed particularly apropos. This is the type of thing (no pun intended) that keeps me up nights.

Resume Font Offends Employer

CHARLOTTE, NC—The decision to set his résumé in default-font Times–New Roman "deeply, personally, and irrevocably" offended a prospective employer of Seth Hershey Monday. "I look for quality, pedigree, and competency in the résumés that cross my desk, but I don't care if you founded the Harvard School of Business—if you're going to use a crap typeface like this, you might as well send me a finger painting in your own shit," said HealthBest South Associate Vice-President Dick Scottsfield shortly after hurling the document across his office in disgust. "Did he think we'd accept something like this here? Does he take me for a damn fool? If he had chosen the correct font, why, I could've even overlooked this cheap, 14-lb. cotton stock paper." Scottsfield said he intends to offer the job to the first person who uses a decent 12-point Cheltenham Book with an elegant leading.

Terminal

Are you ready for Terminator: The Series? Well, ready or not...
Warner Bros. TV has hired David Nutter to direct the pilot for The Sarah Connor Chronicles, a potential FOX series based on the character from the Terminator films originally played by Linda Hamilton. The pilot is written by Josh Friedman (War of the Worlds).
That sound you hear? It's the life being squeezed out of this franchise like a balloon (and this is coming from someone who like the third movie quite a bit).

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

From THE ONION...

Tide Of War Turns After Rumsfeld's Inspiring Barracks Pep Talk

BAGHDAD—With his highly touted, top-ranked team on the brink of elimination, Secretary Of Defense Donald Rumsfeld delivered an emotional, off-the-cuff barracks pep-talk to his men Monday, inspiring them to mount an offensive surge that just may turn the tide of the contest going into the second half. "Come on, boys, we're getting shelled out there, and I can't believe the shots they're getting through our defense," said Rumsfeld, growing in confidence and passion as the speech went on. "Now, I know they're playing rough, men, and you're hurt, dazed, and demoralized, but there's no way we're gonna let this thing go into overtime, are we! It ain't over yet—not even close! This is our war! Our war! Our war!" The chanting troops immediately charged out of the barracks and regained possession of 80 percent of Iraq.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Cruise News Blues

I went to get my haircut today, and the TV in the corner was tuned to MSNBC. Although the sound was down, I saw a big "Breaking News" banner running across the screen, accompanied by stock video of Tom Cruise at some movie premiere. Immediately I think to myself, "Oh my God, Tom Cruise is dead!" Then, underneath the banner appears the graphic, "Tom Cruise Dumped." Immediately I think to myself, "Oh my God, Katie Holmes just came to her senses!" It wasn't until I got home and logged onto the Internet that I found out the hubbub was in reference to Cruise losing his cushy production deal with Paramount. Apparently MSNBC has a much more elastic definition for "Breaking News" than the rest of us. It was at this point that whatever credibility I may have thought to give MSNBC as a legitimate news organization was scattered to the four winds.

Crying shame about Cruise though.

Mission Emissions

George Bush at yesterday's White House press conference:
Now, if you say, are you going to change your strategic objective, it means you're leaving before the mission is complete, and we're not going to leave before the mission is complete. I -- I agree with General Abizaid: We leave before the mission is done, the terrorists will follow us here.
But, but, I thought...


(I'm so confused...)

Monday, August 21, 2006

Closing the Gate

The TV landscape is littered with failed attempts to translate big screen successes into small screen smashes. For every M*A*S*H or Buffy, the Vampire Slayer (which, let's face it, wasn't much of a movie hit to begin with), there are a dozen Serpicos and Delta Houses.

Thus it was that one decade ago, when I heard that MGM was in the planning stages of 'porting the modest 1994 hit StarGate, starring Kurt Russell and James Spader as explorers who venture through an ancient gateway to a planet millions of lightyears away, into a television serial, I turned my nose up in the air and thought to myself, "How can they possibly match the supreme cinematic experience of StarGate?" I was fifteen, whaddya want.

Anyway, a funny thing happened when Stargate SG-1 premiered. Turns out, the show was actually pretty good. Then, as it progressed, it went from pretty good to darn good. Now, ten seasons and 200-plus episodes later, not only has SG-1 long since matched its cinematic forebear, but, having recently rewatched the movie (directed by Roland Emmerich, two years before he inflicted Independence Day upon an unsuspecting world), it's safe to say that the big screen 'Gate has been reduced to little more than a curio with a nice music score.

During the course of its run, SG-1, which starred Richard Dean Anderson (in the Russell role) for its first eight years and Farscape's Ben Browder for the subsequent two, spanned two networks (Showtime and Sci-Fi), and, as any cult show must, spawned its own successful spin-off (the currently-airing Stargate Atlantis). In the process, it also secured for itself the record for the longest-running sci-fi TV series of all time, wresting the crown from The X-Files.

Well, as all such things must, the journey has finally reached an end for the valiant crew of SG-1, with Sci-Fi Channel's announcement today that the series' tenth year, now in progress, will also mark its last. I have to say, this came as a bit of a shock, as Sci-Fi had always considered SG-1 one of its bedrock, signature shows since they picked it up after its fifth season, and while the spin-off will still be continuing on its merry way, it'll be odd not having it paired with the "Mothership."

Still, MGM considers Stargate a commodity on par with their "James Bond" franchise (which may be overstating things a tad, but then again this is MGM...), so I'm sure they'll do everything they can to find it another home before throwing in the towel (quoth producer Robert Cooper: "What we want to emphasize is that the franchise is not dying. SG-1 will go on in some way. We're just not ready to announce how.").

Although rumours have floated for many a year that a new movie based on the TV series was in the works (which would mark the first time, I believe, that a feature was adapted to a series, then adapted back into a feature), nothing has materialized yet. On top of that, producer Dean Devlin, who teamed with Emmerich to make the '94 feature, has his own plans to produce a sequel that would follow-up on the original film while ignoring the subsequent series. Doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me, but whatever...

Regardless of when or if we eventually revisit the SG-1 team, and in what medium, the series' record-breaking run and immutable place in the sci-fi firmament has made its passing something worth pausing for. No word yet on whether or not original star Anderson will return for the last hurrah, but here's hoping the show goes out with a suitable bang (i.e. the finale of Angel) and not a regrettable whimper (i.e. the finale of Star Trek: Enterprise).

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Recommended Reading

As the race to the midterms begins to heat up, the marching orders from elephantine strategist Karl Rove are for the Republicans to proudly flaunt their supposed credentials in the supposed "War on Terror" (read: play the Fear Card) as a means of maintaining their hegemonic hold on the seat of power. Frank Rich explains to us why this may not be the brightest of ideas to issue from Turd Blossom's shadowed lair.

Many Happy RETURNS?

When Bryan Singer left the X-Men series to head-up Warner Bros.' revival of the Superman franchise, many tongues in tinseltown were left wagging as to who would end up ahead in the superhero rivalry that would inevitably ensue, with Fox's X-Men: The Last Stand in one corner and WB's Superman Returns in the other.

Now, with the summer movie season winding rapidly to down to its conclusions, and both movies having run their first-run course, how did things actually pan out in the end for the comic-based juggernauts? Depends on which standard you measure things by, as this in-depth analysis by Anne Thompson explains to us in excrutiating detail, but it seems to me that things are looking (slightly) rosier for Big Blue. The most relevant bits:
Singer was the creative force behind the X-Men franchise, and now he's gone. [Brett] Ratner is not in the picture; the sense in Hollywood is that Fox scored with Last Stand despite the director, not because of him.
>snip<
The bloom is definitely off the X-Men rose. One could argue that in the long term, the studio would have been better off paying Singer to keep him or waiting to get him back.
And...
"Superman Returns will be profitable for us," says Warner Bros. production president Jeff Robinov. "We would have liked it to have made more money, but it reintroduced the character in a great way and was a good launching pad for the next picture. We believe in Bryan and the franchise. Clearly, this was the most emotional and realistic superhero movie ever made."
While I don't necessarily agree with all of Robinov's quote, and there's heaping amounts of studio spin in there, the big question remains: Whither the Super-sequel? For an answer to that, we turn to this article from the LA Times on what were perceived to be Warner's less-than-stellar summer returns:
[Alan] Horn expects Superman Returns to eventually gross about $400 million worldwide, more than last year's hit Batman Begins. Nonetheless, Superman fell at least $100 million short of his expectations.

"I thought it was a very successful movie, but I think it should have done $500 million worldwide," Horn said. "We should have had perhaps a little more action to satisfy the young male crowd."

Still, he's betting Warner has firmly reestablished the Superman franchise and is planning another installment for summer 2009.
Of course, as with anything in Hollywood, one should believe it only when they're sitting in the theater watching it. And even then, it's probably a good idea to wait 'till after the credits have rolled...

Tapped Out

In light of this week's circuit court decision proclaiming Bush's program of domestic wire-tapping as unconstitutional, followed predictably by the Figurehead's response that, "Those who herald this decision simply do not understand the nature of the world in which we live," the following quote seemed eerily apropos:
"With sheepish submissiveness the German people accepted that, as a result of the [Reichstag] fire, each one of them lost what little personal freedom and dignity was guaranteed by the constitution; as though it followed as a necessary consequence...more than one [of my colleagues] hinted that they had doubts about the official version; but none of them saw anything out of the ordinary in the fact that, from now on, one's telephone would be tapped, one's letters opened, and one's desk might be broken into." (Sebastian Haffner, Defying Hitler: A Memoir, pp. 121-122)

Monday, August 14, 2006

HIGHLY Recommended Reading

Seymour Hersh, the Elliot Ness of investigative journalism, examines the lead-up to the Isreali/US attack on Lebanon.

Friday, August 11, 2006

The Lieberman Report

Jon Stewart shows how, in the wake of his primary loss this past Tuesday, former Democrat Joe Lieberman is proving denial ain't just a river in Egypt:



Meanwhile, here's Lawrence O'Donnell on why Holy Joe won't be able to go the distance in his Independent senate bid.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Democrat No More

...Joe Lieberman, that is (of course, I'm sure some would argue that he hasn't been a Democrat in quite awhile...).

Anyway, in what turned out to be quite the election day nail-biter, Lieberman has been handed his walking papers as a Democratic senator by Ned Lamont, who has just nailed the party's nomination. Here's Jesse Jackson, and here's (of all people) Joe Scarborough with two opinions on why this is a good thing.

However, lest we think ol' Joe has been sent packing indefinitely, he's vowed, in true sore loser fashion, to return to the race wearing a freshly-pressed "Independent" jacket. Here's David Sirota on why this is a bad thing.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Recommended Reading

Anders Strindberg, for The Christian Science Monitor, reiterates a point that's repeatedly glossed over by pundits and politicos alike in their strident huffing-and-puffing about Israel's "right to defend itself," and that is this:

Since its withdrawal of occupation forces from southern Lebanon in May 2000, Israel has violated the United Nations-monitored "blue line" on an almost daily basis, according to UN reports. Hizbullah's military doctrine, articulated in the early 1990s, states that it will fire Katyusha rockets into Israel only in response to Israeli attacks on Lebanese civilians or Hizbullah's leadership; this indeed has been the pattern.

In the process of its violations, Israel has terrorized the general population, destroyed private property, and killed numerous civilians. This past February, for instance, 15-year-old shepherd Yusuf Rahil was killed by unprovoked Israeli cross-border fire as he tended his flock in southern Lebanon. Israel has assassinated its enemies in the streets of Lebanese cities and continues to occupy Lebanon's Shebaa Farms area, while refusing to hand over the maps of mine fields that continue to kill and cripple civilians in southern Lebanon more than six years after the war supposedly ended. What peace did Hizbullah shatter?

Brokebat

Looks like Cesar Romero and Jack Nicholson have some company in the pantheon of those who've played Batman's arch-nemesis, The Joker. This news has been in the pipeline for a few weeks now, but Warner Bros. has just made it official: Heath Ledger, recently Oscar-nommed for his tortured turn as Ennis Del Mar in Ang Lee's Brokeback Mountain, has signed on the dotted-line to play the Clown Prince of Crime in Chris Nolan's much-anticipated (by me, and presumably many others) Batman Begins sequel, currently titled The Dark Knight.

What you see above is obviously not the real deal, but rather a Photoshop mockup that some enterprising soul online made, but it does give a possible indication of what Ledger will look like once he's duded-up with the Joker's distinctive pallor (assuming that's the route they take). An odd choice, to be sure, but not one I'm altogether opposed to. Fansite Batman-on-Film offers some more insight into the plans for the character as well as the new film:

As rumored and expected, The Joker is going to be nothing like Nicholson’s version from B89. “What would be the point in trying to recreate something that was done so well then?”

Expect to see a back story for The Joker and we shouldn’t expect to see him until the middle of the film. “Like Batman in BEGINS.”

The Joker will not be the only villain in the film. “I know you’ve heard this before but trust me -- Nolan and his brother have a couple of surprises up their sleeves!”

“Heath Ledger is perfect for the role as he has never played this kind of part before which is what Nolan was after. Think about it -- if you see Sam Rockwell or Robin Williams or even Hugo Weaving, you’d know exactly how they would play the role before even seeing the film and that’s not very intriguing for fans is it? I have a feeling Paul Bettany was out of the mix after his performance in The Da Vinci Code.”

“From what I’ve heard about the direction of the film expect The Joker to be very creepy and very extreme.”

Supposedly the character of Oswald Cobblepot (a.k.a. The Penguin) also features in the script, as does Harvey Dent (a.k.a. Two-Face). Should be interesting to see what direction they go in for those roles.