Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Zaki's Review: Superman Returns

There’s a moment in Superman Returns, Bryan Singer’s lavish revival of the Man of Steel saga, that sums up the character’s evergreen appeal. After an in-flight mishap, a passenger plane hurtles helplessly towards the Earth, and certain doom. Then, as if in a dream, the plane's fuselage is steadied by the firm, godlike hands of a man from the sky, as he guides it to the ground and gently lays it to rest. The crowd erupts into applause, the caped rescuer smiles and takes to the clowds. And just like that, Superman is back. In real life, recent history has shown us a far, far different ending to far, far similar scenario, but in the fantasyland of our shared collective consciousness, Superman is there. Superman is always there.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006


Tonight may be the night that a certain Man of Steel makes his triumphant return to the big screen, but that's not stopping the folks at Sony and Marvel from getting out the early word on the third installment in their blockbuster Spider-Man series. It's not due out 'till next summer, but here's our first look at footage from the film, including glimpses of Thomas Hayden Church as Sandman, Topher Grace as Eddie Brock, Bryce Dallas Howard as Gwen Stacy, and, of course, our pal Spidey in his venomous new duds.

Back tomorrow with my Superman Returns review.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Recommended Reading

In the face of tumbling approval numbers and just a general cloud of incompetence hanging over their heads, the newest marching orders coming from Karl Rove's darkened lair seem to be for Team Bush and the GOP braintrust to once more trot out the War on Terror, tie it in to war in Iraq, and loudly thump their Republican chests that they're the ones who are out front on both. To which I say, "Go for it." Larry Beinhart agrees.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Vim and Vidal

Famed screenwriter and cultural critic Gore Vidal talking to Britain's The Independent:
"Benjamin Franklin was shown the new American constitution, and he said, 'I don't like it, but I will vote for it because we need something right now. But this constitution in time will fail, as all such efforts do. And it will fail because of the corruption of the people, in a general sense.' And that is what it has come to now, exactly as Franklin predicted."

The Fury and The Fuhrer

Who said it, Ann Coulter or Adolph Hitler? As it turns out, not as easy to tell the difference as you'd think.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Damon: The Final Frontier?

It's been a few months now since news first broke on JJ Abrams' involvement in a proposed relaunch and/or revamp of the Star Trek franchise, pegged early on as a prequel tracking the early days of James T. Kirk, Mister Spock, and Co. Now comes word from TV's The Insider that Abrams is eying none other than Jason Bourne himself, Matt Damon, to step into William Shatner's well-worn Starfleet issues. Even though my gut tells me that this is a BS report, I have to say...not bad. The Bourne flicks have proven Damon has the range, and there's even a (very slight) resemblance to a young Shatner. All in all, a very solid choice, and not at all the worst thing in the world if it should pan out...

Brando Returns

One of the first nuggets of news to break on Bryan Singer's Superman Returns was that the director would find a way to repurpose extant footage of Marlon Brando from his late '70s stint as Superman's Kryptonian paterfamilias and incorporate the late Oscar Winner into the new film. Here's a neat featurette from effects house Rhythm & Hues showing how exactly Brando was brought back to life for the film. Neat, yet creepy.


Fan-Favorite First Season Of Bush Administration Released On DVD

WASHINGTON, DC—Responding to growing demand, the Bush Administration has announced that their popular and critically acclaimed first season will be made available as a 12-DVD set later this summer. "We're including everything we experienced as it was meant to be seen, from the magnificent inauguration to the dark days of the World Trade Center attack," according to a statement released by the administration. "See the classic cast of characters you loved—Rove, Ashcroft, Laura, and even the president himself—in the roles that made you love them." Viewers have criticized the Bush Administration's recent seasons for uninspired cast changes and convoluted plots, but most say they are still eagerly awaiting the scheduled 2008 finale.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Recommended Reading

A little while ago someone interviewed Bill Maher and asked who he thought would win the congressional midterms. Maher essentially said that while the Democrats had momentum on their side, he was sure that somehow they'd find a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. As if to prove Maher's point, here's Frank Rich on how the only thing worse than the Republican leadership at its most insidious is the Democratic leadership at its most incompetent.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Closing Out Coulter

Okay, I've already spent far too much time this week ragging on this broad, so I promise, after this one that'll be it for awhile (probably until she starts flogging her next screed). That said, Coulter appeared on The Tonight Show earlier this week, and while I didn't watch the entirety of the segment, I did stick around long enough to see her intro'd, and watched agape as she was feted by the audience with a reception on par with any movie superstar. The mind boggles.

Anyway, here's Joe Conason on the failure of those in more moderate corners of her own political segment to repudiate her, and here's a blog posted by Mark Evanier which I've gone ahead and pasted in its entirety because it essentially sums up my own thoughts on this matter to a tee (not to mention the thoughts I would've had if I'd watched her on Leno):

I feel almost dirty writing something here about Ann Coulter. It strikes me that all her invective and "controversial remarks" have but one purpose: The financial enrichment of Ann Coulter. There are people out there who hate Liberals and will shell out good money (or tune in talk radio) to enjoy them bashed and attacked...and I don't think most of them even care if the attacks are fair or the facts are accurate. They just want to see "the enemy" slapped around. A similar marketplace is growing with regard to beating up on George W. Bush but it hasn't yet proven to be as lucrative. Judging by the polls, it may still get there.

The section of Coulter's new book that's making headlines and getting her on highly-rated TV shows is her attack on a small group of 9/11 widows whose main sin seems to be that they made commercials for John Kerry. (Has anyone asked her if she'd object to 9/11 widows making commercials for Bush-Cheney?) The premise here is that Democrats — or maybe it's Liberals she's singling out — trot out "victims" to make their cases and then argue that victims are sacred and that the opposition isn't somehow allowed to respond to them.

Seems to me that, first of all, Ann Coulter has no problem responding to victims. So if there's a problem there, her gripe is with folks on her side who allow that to intimdate them. Or maybe they don't respond because some of them think that you lose more than you gain when you attack someone like a 9/11 widow or a mother whose son died in Iraq. Certainly, we see a lot of right-wingers this week who think Coulter's doing more harm than good to their cause. It also seems to me that the unseemly action for a woman whose husband died in the 9/11 tragedies would be to just take the settlement money and go shopping, rather than to try and change the system or demand investigations.

It especially seems to me that George W. Bush and those who support him have done a darn good job of wrapping themselves in victims and other sacred heroes. Bush does it every time he invokes 9/11 in response to some criticism or gets himself photographed with grieving families or surrounded by uniformed firefighters. His supporters do that every time someone faults Bush or Rumsfeld and the rejoinder is, "You're attacking our troops." Same trick: Instead of debating issues, you hide between someone who's considered inviolable. If I thought Ann Coulter was out to get everyone on both sides to knock that off, she'd be my new hero...but I don't. I think she just wants to stir hatreds to sell books.

Last night, Jay Leno had Coulter on, paired with George Carlin for what NBC press releases promised would be mano a mano combat. But that was a false promise because Carlin, even if he thinks Coulter is utterly wrongheaded, is not about to fault someone too much for saying things that some find offensive. He kind of makes his living doing that, after all. Leno offered a feeble challenge to her views but since she's good at this kind of thing and since her supporters packed The Tonight Show audience to cheer her, she came off as a superstar, at least to the kind of viewer likely to ever buy her book. I suppose Jay and his producers thought it was worth it because of the ratings they'd get with the great Carlin-Coulter Slap-Off...but they didn't even get that. The numbers for last night were about average for a Wednesday, maybe even a few tenths of a point off. I'd like to think it's because America, like me, is already bored with this bogus controversy.

And here endeth the lesson.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006


Iran Ready To Talk About How Awesome Nuclear Program Is

TEHRAN—As international tension builds over Iran's decision to continue refining and enriching uranium, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi announced Monday that the nation was "willing to enter open bilateral talks" to discuss how absolutely great it is that the country will soon have a functioning nuclear program. "Iran wishes to bring the world's diplomats to the table so that we may jump up on it and shout about how truly glorious it is to have this incredible power," Asefi wrote in a open letter inviting more than 100 heads to nuclear-proliferation-celebration talks in Tehran this September. Asefi acknowledged that Iran now has a responsibility to "come clean about how much we love our new nukes," and said he looked forward to comparing armaments with other countries, especially Israel.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Recommended Reading

David Carr examines the Ann Coulter phenomenon for the New York Times. I especially liked this bit:
You can accuse her of cynicism all you want, but the fact that she is one of the leading political writers of our age says something about the rest of us.
Ain't it the truth, though.

Post-Zarqawi Reality Check

Even though there was a kind of euphoric binge in the immediate aftermath of Zarqawi's death, there was also a tacit understanding among even the most cheery of administration cheerleaders that things in Iraq would more than likely continue to be business as usual. However, what becomes increasingly clear when trying to get sense of the bigger picture is that, apart from the Goldstein-esque picture we've had painted for us these past few years, Zarqawi remained essentially a cipher. As Tom Engelhardt describes it:
His face filled the screen in life and death malevolently and photogenically. He looked the villain -- particularly useful for an administration focused on a Manichaean world of good and evil, governing a country that tends to like its enemies straight-up and, if at all possible, personified in a single face.
Since Team Bush seems pathologically unable or unwilling to track down Bin Laden (because, as we all know, they didn't catch the One-Armed Man until the last episode of The Fugitive), who will they find to be the next boogyman that's trotted out for our daily One-Minute Hate?

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Zeroing Zarqawi

Ever since word got out of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's death by way of US carpet-bombing late last week, I've scanned various op-eds and newspaper columns to find something that attempted to look at the situation in Iraq post-Zarqawi as objectively (or relatively objectively) as possible. That is to say, without dipping into Fox News "Go team! USA! USA!" territory, or, for that matter, leaning too far in the opposite direction either. This USA Today editorial seems to hit closest to the mark (no pun intended), taking a broad look at what his passing could mean for the future, and potential avenues that should be explored in its aftermath.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

More Than Meets...

Here's the teaser poster for Transformers, a live-action film based on the '80s toyline/cartoon show, directed by Michael Bay, and due out Independence Day '07. Normally I'd be sketchy on this one given my disdain for Bay, but Steven Spielberg is exec-producing, so depending on how much influence he exerts it could turn out alright. Still, nothing can match the sheer nostalgic joy of the original animated Transformers: The Movie with its awesomely-80s soundtrack. Ah, memories.

Obviously the jury's out on this updated version until we see more (presumably the first trailer will be attached to either Superman Returns or Pirates of the Caribbean II), but with the release of this poster the hype machine has begun to...(wait for it)...roll out!

Anyway, check out the movie's official site here.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Random Thought

You know things are getting a bit ridiculous at the pump when you drive by a gas station, see that the cheap stuff is $3.15, and the first thing that comes to your mind is "Sweet!"

The Girl Who Cried "Godless"

I stopped by Target yesterday to pick up some odds-and-ends, when whose visage should I see staring back at me from the cover of a new release in the book section but that withered husk Ann Coulter. It'd been awhile since we'd heard any of her trademark hate-filled invective, but as any student of arcana will tell you, vampires always come back. Anyway, the newest ride being taken by this one-trick pony is on how the "cult of Liberalism" is a godless one. Thus the title of her book, Godless (normally that'd be an Amazon link, but I'll be darned if I'm gonna send any traffic her way).

So, after glancing at the cover text I just rolled my eyes, shrugged, and went about my business, knowing in the back of my mind that an inevitable media firestorm was sure to erupt over whatever nonsense she spewed this time out. And I'll say this about Ann, she deserves points for consistency. This time out she's criticizing the widows of 9/11 victims for daring to have a political opinion. According to her Bizarro World logic, if you actually have a personal stake in the debate, you're effectively disqualified from stating your views. Sure, makes all the sense in the world.

Now, Coulter has long since become a parody of her already-ridiculous persona, and a quick glance at Amazon shows that, just since September 11th, she's managed to crank out five books peddling some variation on the same tired "Liberals Eat Puppies" schtick. It gets old after awhile, and I don't even consider myself liberal! What really irks me though is the fact that she obviously has a rather sizeable "right on" contingent out there that eagerly laps up her every dropping. What I'm wondering is, at what point do even they have to throw their hands in the air and start backing way slowly?

To wit, Keith Olbermann tackles the Coulter conundrum in this segment from Countdown, including a clip from an interview where the formerly bow-tied Tucker Carlson, about as big a Right Winger as there is out there, is left agape by the venomous vitriol being portioned out by this poster girl for the Lunatic Right. Wotta trainwreck.

Heaven Help Him

...or not.

Ironically, in trying to prove the existence of God, this guy managed to make himself an early candidate for the Darwin Awards:
A man shouting that God would keep him safe was mauled to death by a lioness in the Kiev zoo after he crept into the animal's enclosure, a zoo official said Monday.
Guess the lioness just prayed harder.

Monday, June 05, 2006


Check out this piece for the LA Times by Elliot S. Maggin on Al "I will not run in '08" Gore's doco An Inconvenient Truth, which I've yet to see, though I intend to. Maggin used to write Superman comics when I was a kid, and he also wrote several novels featuring the Man of Steel, though he is now primarily an educator. Proving that you can never stray too far from your comic book roots, Maggin equates the former veep's current crusade to inform the world of the perils of global warming to that of Jor-El, Superman's Kryptonian father, who tried in vain to convince his fellows that their beloved planet would soon be nothing but an irradiated memory.

Granted, he doesn't take the comparison too far (which is probably for the best), but come on, how often do I get to have a post-heading like this?

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Fisk on Haditha

Although I've been following the developments for quite some time, I've resisted commenting on the Haditha massacre in Iraq, which saw innocent women and children allegedly gunned down by United States marines in a blind rage after one of their own was killed by a roadside bomb. I mean, other than being sickened to the very core of our beings, what other reaction is there to have?

Anyway, Robert Fisk summarizes some of my own feelings on this unfortunate event, and even postulatates on how things could have gotten so bad in Iraq that it came to this. Here's an excerpt:

I suspect part of the problem is that we never really cared about Iraqis, which is why we refused to count their dead. Once the Iraqis turned upon the army of occupation with their roadside bombs and suicide cars, they became Arab "gooks," the evil sub-humans whom the Americans once identified in Vietnam. Get a president to tell us that we are fighting evil and one day we will wake to find that a child has horns, a baby has cloven feet.
And I suspect that the Iraqis knew that we never really cared about Iraqis. The question is, how many more Abu Ghraibs, how many more Hadithas, are we going to be hearing about before all is said and done?

Knowing the Score

Okay, I just had my fanboy geek-out moment of the morning.

With its June 27th premiere creeping up quickly, the Superman Returns promo blitz is getting more concrete, just in time to wash away the bad taste left over from X-Men 3. As a special treat, SoundtrackNet has posted an in-depth track-by-track review of the Returns score, with sample clips from every track -- including our first listen to John Ottman's version of John Williams' immortal "Superman March"! I can only imagine what it's going to be like to sit in the theater and hear it.

(I especially liked the restatement of the "Kent Family Theme" in Track 2.)

Friday, June 02, 2006

Zaki's Review: X-Men: The Last Stand

Note: Before we begin with the review proper, a word of apology. I meant to post this much earlier in the week, but it's amazing how thoroughly a toothache can sideline you. But, having juiced myself up with a healthy supply of Ibuprofen, I powered through and got it done. With that out of the way, on with the festivities!

By all accounts, the labyrinthine X-Men mythology that has existed in Marvel Comics since the 1960s and which now spans thousands of separate-yet-interconnected series, issues, and storylines, should have proven a nigh-insurmountable task to adapt to the big screen. It was a testament to X-Men and X2 director Bryan Singer that he was able to take this selfsame mythology and weave it through the course of his two films, making it work not only as a viable adaptation, but a viable film series in its own right. Thus, it was with a high degree of anticipation that we left the theater when the credits rolled after X2. After two entries, it seemed like they’d worked the bugs out, and the sky was surely the limit for the next of many, many X-films.