Thursday, March 30, 2006

Awkward.

Here's a video that's positively cringe-inducing. It appears to be a college TV station's news show, and it looks like the guy they picked to do the weather had about thirty seconds of prep time. The result is, well, see for yourself:

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Breakin'

No, that post heading isn't about the much-loved breakdancing flick from the '80s (or its even more loved sequel, Electric Boogaloo). Just wanted to poke my head back in just in case you were wondering where I'd gotten to. Last week kind of got away from me in terms of keeping my corner of the blogosphere above water, but with Spring Break shining its fleeting glow upon me, I'm hoping now's the time to right that ship.

I caught the movie adaptation of V For Vendetta over the weekend, and while I think it's far from perfect, I certainly saw quite a bit in the film that makes it worthy of viewing and worthy of discussing. I'll try to pop back in either today or tomorrow with some more fully-formed thoughts. Until then, you can check out this Katrina Vanden Heuvel piece for The Nation on the curiously subdued reaction by the media to the film's political subtext.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Recommended Viewing

Right now my wife is glued to the telly watching American Idol, and I'm desperately trying to find something -- anything -- else to occupy my time before I too get sucked into Rupert Murdoch's insidious vortex. It's a battle I'm losing, by the way.

Anyway, in search of an exit, I opened up my e-mail in-box (thanks, Parvez!) and found this flash-animated gem by cartoonist Mark Fiore waiting for me. You may remember Fiore's work from the "It's all Newsweek's fault" cartoon I posted a link to a few months back.

This time at bat he sends hugs and kisses to our Neocon overlords, whose own insidious vortex got the Figurehead (not to mention us) into the Iraq mess.

Monday, March 20, 2006

War is Heck

Well, as of today it's three years out for Bush's glorious blunder in the Mid East, and it doesn't appear that there's an end in sight. Don't see much in the way of action hero aircraft carrier landings and "Mission Accomplished" banners these days, that's for certain. Here's the always incisive Robert Fisk on how far the American ideal has fallen, and here's Fred Kaplan on all the numerous ways Iraq went so wrong so fast.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

LEGAL Wranglings

Check out this clip from last week's Boston Legal, an episode entitled "Stick It," wherein James Spader tells the U.S. government to do just that. All the more remarkable considering this was broadcast on ABC, the same network that showed Bill Maher the door not too long ago for making comments that weren't at all dissimilar. Just further evidence of a very definite zeitgeist shift.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Clooney Qualifier

In case you're trying to get to that George Clooney blog from the Huffington Post that I linked to a few days back and which has since mysteriously vanished, it's not The Man putting anyone down. Rather, it seems the initial posting wasn't so much a (semi) original piece from Oscar's Golden Boy as it was a cobbled-together "greatest hits" number from various interviews Clooney has given in the past few months. Naturally this has led to a spot of controversy, up to and including a heated round of he-said, she-said fingerpointing between Clooney's reps and Ms. Huffington herself. Click here for the full skinny.

What's wrong with this picture?

This was on Yahoo! News as of about five minutes ago. I'm thinking the years since American Pie haven't been very kind to Shannon Elizabeth...
Wonder how long before someone catches it.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Recommended Reading

Fresh from his Oscar win, and just in time for Good Night, and Good Luck's DVD release tomorrow, here's George Clooney once again letting us know why he's a liberal, dammit!

Friday, March 10, 2006

Superhype Returns

I'm sure that as its mid-June premiere inches closer, the promotional onslaught for Superman Returns will begin to reach deafening proportions. Even for me! Anticipating the fireworks, Warner Home Video has fired off the first round with its "Year of Superman" minisite. While you're there, check out the very cool "Superman Franchise" promo trailer showing the many faces the Man of Steel has worn during the course of the five decades that he's been a screen fixture.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Impossible.

Maybe there's just something about hearing Lalo Schifrin's pulse-pounding theme music (or some variation/remix thereof) intercut with heavy duty action scenes that gets the blood pumping, but twice now I've gotten jazzed for a Mission: Impossible movie because of the trailer, and twice now I've been disappointed.

The first flick back in 1996 was a huge letdown after it basically took a giant dump on everything that made the TV series great, and the second one in 2000 was actually even worse, mainly serving as an excuse for exec producer/star Tom Cruise to engage in a lot of slow motion gravity-defying antics, aided and abetted by director John Woo at his watered-down worst.

So after being twice-burned, why are we still talking about this franchise? Well, M:I - III has a few things in its favor (one of which is most certainly not Cruise, who has been absolutely insufferable lately). Foremost among these, it's directed by JJ Abrams, whose experience as creator of Alias proves he knows his way around the spy genre, and whose time on the series Lost shows that he knows a thing or two about suspense and intrigue. It also features the eminently watchable Phillip Seymour Hoffman (Oscar's newest anointee) as the baddie.

I got to see a handful of semi-completed scenes from the film a few weeks back, and I'll admit, they got my curiosity piqued. Of course, I've been down this road a couple of times already, so I'm understandably gunshy. Will the third Mission follow the downward spiral of its pretty-lousy predecessors, or will it blaze a bold new trail to the magic kingdom of Not Bad? We'll find out together in May, but the new Japanese trailer makes a pretty good case for the latter.

Dana Reeve, RIP

Less than two years after Christopher Reeve passed away due to complications from his paralysis, his widow Dana has died of lung cancer. It was largely his wife's steadfast commitment by his side that Reeve credited with giving him the strength to keep up his almost-ten year fight to not only overcome his condition, but also to spread awareness of it. I don't really have anything I can add to this, except to say that it's incredibly sad news.

Monday, March 06, 2006

To The X-Treme

Check out the full trailer for this summer's X-Men: The Last Stand, a.k.a. X3. Although I remain guarded about the movie itself after some of the things I've heard, the trailer's not bad at all.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Oscar Wrap

Well, the show's over with no big surprises to be had, save for the biggie at the very end, with Crash wresting the Best Picture prize from Brokeback Mountain. Not having seen either flick, I can't say with certainty that the best show won, but I will say that I predicted the upset accurately (along with most of the other prizes awarded during the night, a full list of which you can see here). That either means that I'm incredibly awesome or incredibly dorky. I'll leave it to you to decide which.

Anyway, my viewing of the show was less about rooting for any specific movie (my favorite, Munich, used up the last of its legs just getting itself a Best Picture nod) and more about the curiosity factor. You know, to see who would inadvertantly insult whom, and which stars would stump for which pet political cause. Sadly, there wasn't much in the way of the "Trainwreck Factor" for this Oscar show.

That said, George Clooney's early win for Syriana (and kinda-sorta for Goodnight, and Good Luck) was certainly well-deserved, and I think his self-effacing speech was probably one of the better ones to grace the Oscar stage, capped by the perfect clincher -- "I'm proud to be out of touch." I was also happy to see King Kong win three of the four technical awards for which it was nominated. They don't really count for much, but they were still richly deserved.

I think the big problem with these shows, and I've been watching with some regularity since Unforgiven took home the big prize back in '93, is the fact that they all tend to be so very rote and so very self-involved. That's one thing you can always count on.

It was all I could do not to wince at the air of self-congratulatory pomp, especially whenever they'd break for another clip montage showing yet again the numerous ways movies have elevated all life as we know it. I can't even imagine what it must be like for the poor schlubs who have to sit through the show that aren't nominees or presenters, and don't have a $1500 gift basket waiting for them.

Still, despite AP writer Frazier Moore's excoriation of the show in general and the host in particular, Jon Stewart proved as good a reason as any to tune in. He definitely brought the funny, and his very presence helped to puncture a hole in the self-absorption (always a good thing). He also kept things moving along at a brisk pace, sprinkled in plenty of his trademark banter throughout the night, and even brought along some pre-shot videos from his Daily Show team.

You can check out the full opening monologue, so graciously posted by OneGoodMove.org, and judge for yourself, but I certainly hope this isn't the last time we'll see Jon take on Oscar.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

KINGDOM Coming

Regular readers know I enjoyed Ridley Scott's Crusades epic Kingdom of Heaven considerably, despite the theatrical butchering it received when Scott's original cut, at three hours and change, was chopped down to just over two hours.

The blame for this lies mostly with the studio bigwigs at Fox, who it seems were far less concerned with artistic integrity than they were with how many screenings they could logjam into a single night (I say "mostly" because Scott still had to sign-off on it, which he did). Of course, the final knife-twist for poor Ridley must surely have been that even in its newly emasculated form, the film landed with an embarrassing thud at the domestic box office.

Still, the wonderful age of DVD Double Dipping that we live in, with studios never failing to pass up an opportunity to make some additional cash, virtually ensured that Kingdom would eventually see the light of day at its intended length. True to form, Fox has announced the May 23rd release of a Kingdom of Heaven Director's Cut, in a beautiful four-disc package.


In addition to two discs dedicated to the film itself, this package also includes two additional discs with behind-the-scenes and historical documentaries, among others, making this a great package for fan and non-fan alike. If you haven't seen the film yet, I can't recommend it enough, but do wait the extra few months it'll take for this definitive version to hit shelves before you venture out to rent it.

Patriot Games

Our democracy at work:
...In an election year in which no politician wants to be perceived as soft on terrorism, the Patriot Act is on a fast track to renewal, warts and all.
Big shout-out to our reps in Congress for keeping their priorities straight. Kudos, fellas!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Corrie, Interrupted

Rachel Corrie was an American activist helping Palestinian families dealing with life under occupation when she was killed in 2003, at 23 years of age, by an Isreali-driven bulldozer. I remember hearing about this at the time and just feeling heartbroken. Here was a young woman who put her money where her mouth was, putting into decisive action her desire to help others, and who made the ultimate sacrifice for her beliefs. It was senseless, pointless, and utterly tragic, made only moreso by the collective apathy of our revered Fourth Estate to her death.

The reason I bring all this up is because of this op-ed from the LA Times (registration may be required) from Katherine Viner about her play, entitled "My Name is Rachel Corrie," which has already been staged internationally to considerable acclaim, but which has been "indefinitely postponed" from making its planned stage debut in New York City. The pedantic reasoning being offered by the folks who pulled the plug is that the play's cancellation (sorry, postponement) is due ostensibly to the current political situation in Isreal and Palestine, which makes for too "edgy" a climate in which to debut such a play. Why let people actually see the thing and make up their own mind, right?

Reading this story, I could barely suppress my gag reflex. I wonder where the First Amendment crusaders are on this. You know, those same loudmouths who were kicking-and-screaming about how freedom of speech trumps all issues of religious or ethnic sensitivity (at least when it comes to those cartoons of Prophet Muhammad). Where is the hue-and-cry over this act of political rug-pulling at the expense of artistic expression? Shouldn't Rachel's story be told irrespective of whether or not a group of hypothetical people in a hypothetical audience end up feeling hypothetically offended? At the very least, doesn't she deserve that? Or does the concept of free speech only extend so far as our own zone of comfort, so long as nothing offends us?

The hypocrisy is so thick you can choke on it. Absolutely disgusting.

Recommended Reading

Steven Grant has a timeline of the events preceding 9/11 through to the Iraq invasion. Most of this is stuff we already know, but it's always worth another look.

From THE ONION...

Democrats Vow Not To Give Up Hopelessness

I especially liked this:
"We are entirely capable of bungling this opportunity to regain control of the House and Senate and the trust of the American people," Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said to scattered applause. "It will take some doing, but we're in this for the long and pointless haul."
The sad part is that it sounds like something Reid would actually say.

Seaborn Ho!

The West Wing has been MIA for the past several weeks, helpful no doubt in allowing the show's creative regrouping following the untimely passing of actor John Spencer, and also giving them a chance to plot the arc for the episodes leading up to the show's Spring finale.

Of course, one of the biggest questions in need of answering is which character will replace Spencer's Leo McGarry character on the Democratic ticket as vice-president. You may recall my speculation about a month or so back that this would mark the return to the series of Rob Lowe, a.k.a. Sam Seaborn, who left the show after its fifth year ostensibly to pursue the Bigger and the Better, and had two series cancelled out from under him for his troubles.

Now comes word that amid a veritable cornucopia of former West Wing semi-regulars coming back for the last few installments, Lowe is all set to make his big comeback during the final two episodes. The final two episodes. You know, like when they're likely to announce Leo's replacement. I'm thinking "done deal," at this point.

In other (sort of) related news, pre-production is continuing on Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, the new "behind-the-scenes of an SNL-type show" pilot from departed Wing creator Aaron Sorkin (who unfortunately will not return to see his baby off). The most recent news is the welcome addition of Bradley Whitford, currently wrapping up seven seasons as deputy chief-of-staff Josh Lyman on The West Wing, to the cast.

As repeatedly demonstrated during that series' first four years, the union of Sorkin's words and Whitford's acting is one of the few perfect marriages that Hollywood has been able to produce. It also bodes well for the future prospects of the new show (which already has an impressive cast-list that boasts Matthew Perry, Amanda Peet, DL Hughley, and Steven Weber, among others).