Sunday, December 21, 2008

Majel Barrett, RIP

I'm a few days late with this, but I did want to take a moment to acknowledge the passing of Majel Barrett, better known as Majel Barrett-Roddenberry, widow of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry. Barrett, considered by many to be the "First Lady" of Trek, was one of the few people remaining who'd been present for the creation, appearing in the very first Star Trek episode, the rejected 1965 pilot "The Cage," as Enterprise x-o Number One under Jeffrey Hunter's Captain Christopher Pike.

Though her character didn't carry over to the Shatnerized version of the show that made it to air, she did have a recurring role as Nurse Christine Chapel on the series, as well as providing the voice for the Enterprise's shipboard computer. The latter role was one that she continued to play in subsequent decades through subsequent installments of the franchise, in addition to continuing to appear onscreen. In fact, Barrett has the unique distinction of performing in every version of Star Trek to date, be it film, television, or animation.

It had been announced a few weeks ago that she would be reprising the Enterprise computer voice for the upcoming Abrams flick, giving the new film another valuable link to the past (in addition to Leonard Nimoy's reprisal of Spock), and my understanding is that she had completed her work on the film before succumbing to leukemia this past Thursday. Her voice provided a welcome sense of continuity in a franchise that literally spanned generations, and her absence in future voyages will be leave a considerable void.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Salvation Run

A lot of people strongly dislike the third Terminator movie from back in '03, though I'm not one of them. Sure, it lacked some of the wonderful symmetry in creator/director James Cameron's two films, and while it arguably overrode the "happy ending" hinted at in the second one in favor of a much darker close, I still feel that T3 stands comfortably with its predecessors, wrapping things up in a satisfying way that anticipates the future events depicted in the previous films. Plus, I figure if it was okay with the man himself, it's okay with me.

I knew better, of course, but I kinda hoped they'd leave well enough alone after that third one. Of course, that was never going to be the case, given the box office power behind the Terminator brand, and now we have two competing visions of Cameron's post-apocalyptic world. There's the Sarah Connor Chronicles TV series currently airing on Fox, which I've never seen, but is either awesome or awful depending on who I talk to, and then there's the upcoming fourth film in the series, due out this summer. Still no Cameron, and this time no Schwarzenegger either, but there is a considerable draw for me in the form of Batman star Christian Bale, suiting up for his second big action franchise.

I have to admit to going through a little bit of cognitive dissonance seeing the new trailer for Terminator Salvation and saying "Hmm, not bad." While I'm impressed with Bale's presence in the film and the implied credibility he offers, it's directed by McG, who, other than the inherent douchebaggery that comes with a using a cutesy nickname as a nom-de-guerre (and just to be clear, I'm sure he's a wonderful guy), is also responsible for the two Charlie's Angels movies, which can charitably be called crimes against humanity.

I'm so confused.

Blago-a-go-go and Hannity Inanity

Well, you knew this was gonna happen.

The rightie talkers of America have taken to the air to try to try and force-fit a straight line between the pres-elect and future ex-governor Rod Blagojevich, in the hopes of tarring the former with the same dirty brush. True to form, Sean Hannity is leading the charge, after the trumped-up Bill Ayers thing worked out so well during the campaign, and he's taken to the air to lambast Obama for the potential future wrongdoings he might have committed had he entered into a political bargain with with Blagojevich. Which he didn't.

Yes, my head hurts too.

I think Sean's been spending a little too much time reading his own comic book.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

A Word of Warning

For anyone who, after the last eight years, may have gotten swept up in the misbegotten notion of Democrats as "good guys" and Republicans as "bad guys" comes yet another reminder of just how tenuous that distinction is, with today's story of Governor Rod Blagojevich, Dem from Illinois, arrested for -- get this -- trying to leverage Barack Obama's now-empty Senate seat for personal payola.

I left Illinois just as Blago was taking office, so I can't say I have any exposure to his governing, but I do remember quite well the cloud of corruption under which his scandal-plagued Repub predecessor, George Ryan, left office. I also remember Blagojevich's campaign pledge to root out such corruption. Clearly that didn't happen.

The flashing red light here for all of us is that Blagojevich swept into office by contrasting himself against his predecessor's failed policies and historic unpopularity. Sound familiar? I guess the point I'm making is that I hope Obama's taking diligent notes right now, because the one thing political history has taught us again and again is that it's easy to talk big when the whole process is at arm's length, but it's a whole lot harder when you're right in the thick of it.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Zaki's Review: Punisher: War Zone

First thing first: Punisher: War Zone, the third attempt to craft a film franchise around Marvel Comics' skull-chested vigilante, is not a great movie. Nor is it necessarily even a good movie. What it is, however, is a pitch-perfect Punisher movie, and after the two previous go-rounds ranged from abysmal (1989's Dolph Lundgren starrer) to just mediocre (the 2004 Thomas Jane/John Travolta flick), that's more than enough.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Zaki's Review: The X-Files: I Want to Believe


Oh, how I wanted to.

Before we get to my thoughts on the latest, and possibly last, iteration of the once-mighty X-Files brand, let's take a brief trip through the Wayback machine. To truly appreciate the significance of The X-Files as a pop-culture juggernaut (something that may seem difficult in hindsight) it's important to remember the time and place in which it first materialized. As dreamed up by creator Chris Carter in the fall of 1993, the exploits of FBI agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson), perpetually battling paranormal threats and government conspiracies, expertly blended police procedural and '50s paranoia for a potent mix that captured imaginations and, for a time at least, catapulted The X-Files to the top of the cultural heap.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Welcome to Hil House

So...have you heard the one about Barack Obama's pick for Secretary of State?

I think anyone who follows this blog knows pretty clearly how I feel about the way Hillary Clinton ran her primary campaign (despicable). But does that automatically rule her out from the State Department post? Depending on where you sit on the ideological divide, Obama's pick is either awfully brilliant or brilliantly awful.

Now, I'm not going to say this isn't a choice that's rife with its own potential pitfalls, but from where I sit it does make good political sense, at least. The Clinton selection falls right in line with Obama's stated preference for assembling a "Team of Rivals" style cabinet a la Abe Lincoln, and provides him with someone in a key policy position who can hardly be considered a yes-person (a far cry from the chorus of "yeah-huhs" that GW surrounded himself with).

More than that though, it effectively allows the prez-elect to harness Hillary's considerable domestic and international name recognition and draft it into service for his own political agenda. Smart politics. Now, all of that being said, while there wasn't much daylight between the two of them in terms of domestic policy, they were (and, I assume, are) miles apart in terms of several key tenets of Obama's stated foreign policy. The big question then is which agenda she's loyal to.

It remains an extremely risky move on Obama's part, no question about it, and clearly I'm not the only one with some concerns. Let's hope it doesn't become a move that he (and we) come to regret.

Zaki's Review: Quantum of Solace


If there was any doubt after 2006’s “James Bond Begins” franchise reinvention Casino Royale that the producers of Hollywood’s longest running series wanted to take a hard left turn from the excesses of the Pierce Brosnan era, one need look no further than star Daniel Craig’s second go-round with Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Quantum of Solace.

Like the previous installment in the reinvigorated series, the filmmakers, led by director Marc Forster (Stranger Than Fiction, Finding Neverland) have made a concerted effort to eschew many of the Bond tropes that are so familiar they’ve come to be thought of as essential to the series’ survival. Once again there’s no Q, no Moneypenny, and about the most exotic thing Bond does with his cell phone is make phone calls.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The New Final FrontIer

The first trailer for JJ Abrams' '09 model of Star Trek made its debut in front of Quantum of Solace this past weekend, and the kind folks at Apple have helpfully posted it online as of a few minutes ago. I'm not gonna lie, it's a darn good trailer. Gives us just enough of the old to let us know this is still Star Trek, and just enough of the new to make it clear that this isn't the Star Trek we've seen before.

I gotta say though, at this point I'd almost prefer if they said outright that this is a ground-up reboot that starts fresh, so that I could look past all the glaring inconsistencies with established Trek arcana that I see here, and stop worrying about how it all "fits." Then again, that might just be my inner obsessive Trekkie rearing his head, and I should probably just poke him with a broom and shove him back in the closet.

Color me cautiously optimistic.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Wrath

And here, courtesy of EW, is our first look at the re-imagined Enterprise in JJ Abrams' Star Trek.

The verdict? Not crazy about it.

Let's look at the original Enterprise, as seen in the TV show and the refit version from the first six Trek flicks, both of which were designed by the late Matt Jefferies:

Monday, November 10, 2008

A New Direction For America

No, this isn't a story about Barack Obama, though I'm sure we'll have more of those soon enough.

Rather, today saw some big news on the comic book movie front with director Joe Johnston taking the helm of The First Avenger: Captain America. Johnston's presence behind the camera lends considerable genre experience to one of Marvel's flagship properties, and helps fire the first shot in oh-eleven's Avengers double-barrel movie assault.

The signing of Johnston, who I interviewed back in '04 on the release of his film Hidalgo, is about the best news I could've heard regarding Captain America. I've long pointed to the director's criminally underrated 1991 pic The Rocketeer, a retro fable based on the late Dave Stevens' 1930s-era superhero, as the best example of the appropriate style and tone for Marvel's living legend of World War II. Apparently the Marvel higher-ups were of a like mind.

Still no word on who's writing the script or who's playing the lead, but this one sure got a lot more exciting. Until we know more, we can always look at what we most definitely don't want in a Captain America project. Come to think of it, we probably don't want this either.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Michael Crichton, RIP

A loss to both the film and literary communities today, with the sudden passing of author Michael Crichton after a bout with cancer. Crichton's prior experiences in the medical field lent his sci-fi pageturners a verisimillitude that helped make his name a constant presence on best seller lists and movie screens over the course of four decades. My first exposure to his work was with the '70s film adaptation of his book The Andromeda Strain, as well as the sci-fi pic Westworld, about a theme park run amok (a theme he'd revisit a few years later).

It was only later that I came to know him as an author, reading and enjoying Jurassic Park the book before watching and being disappointed by Jurassic Park the movie. In the wake of Jurassic's blockbuster success, the '90s saw a whirlwind of Crichton adaptations hit the big screen, some good and some not-so-good, including the aggressively mediocre Congo, Sphere, and The 13th Warrior. In the realm of television, although a miniseries remake of Andromeda Strain aired earlier this year, perhaps Crichton's most lasting contribution to the form was his creation of seminal hospital drama ER, which is due to leave the air next year after fifteen seasons.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Audacity

First off, John McCain ended his campaign with a humble, sincere concession that showed the candidate to be far classier than the last few weeks have indicated, and certainly classier than the supporters who were there.

As to the election of Barack Obama, there was no Florida 2000 this time, no Ohio '04 this time. It happened so quickly, so decisively, that even after watching the country's new president-elect deliver his speech, I'm left taking in the surreality, or as Obama might put it, the sheer audacity of it all.

Four years ago, the frustration stemming from President Bush's re-election led me to start this very blog. But in all the sadness and anger that many felt back then, the one thing I always came back to was that all this would do is let Bush take full ownership of his blighted, benighted policies, and put the weight of his catastrophic stewardship of this country on his shoulders alone. Which is exactly what happened.

Now here we are one term removed, with Bush's popularity at previously unplumbed depths. It's a testament to how royally Bush 43 screwed things up. Whether on the foreign or domestic front, things had to get so bad that vast swaths of our country didn't think twice about electing a black president named Barack Hussein Obama. Now that's audacity.

Vote!

Well, it all comes down to this. And given the spirit of the day, and what's at stake, it seemed appropriate to bring this one out again:
"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"

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Santos Speaks!

Bringing full circle the whole West Wing-Campaign '08 parallel that's weaved its way through the primaries and general, actor Jimmy Smits, who portrayed Barack Obama's fictional precedent Matt Santos on The West Wing, provided the introductions at Wednesday's big Obama-Bill Clinton rally in Florida. Politico has posted a nice, extensive interview with Smits, where the actor not only discusses his prior encounters with the (hopefully) future president, but also his thoughts on race and the race. Definitely worth checking out for the insights offered, as well as the weird intersection of life and art.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Recommended Reading

Connecting a few related strands from previous posts, here's Maureen Dowd's latest column, in which she speaks with Colin Powell regarding his endorsement of Obama and his rejection of the GOP's anti-Muslim hysteria. Here's a selection that aptly demonstrates not only the depth of his thinking on this matter, but also the depth of stupidity that's out there:

[Powell] told Tom Brokaw that he was troubled by what other Republicans, not McCain, had said: “ ‘Well, you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim.’ Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim. He’s a Christian. He’s always been a Christian. But the really right answer is, what if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer’s no. That’s not America. Is something wrong with some 7-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president?”

Powell got a note from Feroze Khan this week thanking him for telling the world that Muslim-Americans are as good as any others. But he also received more e-mails insisting that Obama is a Muslim and one calling him “unconstitutional and unbiblical” for daring to support a socialist. He got a mass e-mail from a man wanting to spread the word that Obama was reading a book about the end of America written by a fellow Muslim.

“Holy cow!” Powell thought. Upon checking Amazon.com, he saw that it was a reference to Fareed Zakaria, a Muslim who writes a Newsweek column and hosts a CNN foreign affairs show. His latest book is “The Post-American World.”
Seriously, it's almost comical at this point.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

McCain's Muslims

Here's an interesing vid, courtesy of the American News Project, of a Muslim (inexplicably) working for John McCain's campaign who confronts one of those far right loons of the type that regularly turn up at Palin rallies, spewing all kinds of anti-Muslim hate. Eventually, enough fellow McCain supporters, including several more Muslims, take umbrage to this idiot, and he's turned out of the place, box of hate-slogan bumper stickers in hand. Yay, let's hear it for common sense.

Ah, but before you get too warm and fuzzy, here comes the ironic epilogue to this whole thing:
CNN host Rick Sanchez said he was "mystified" by a last minute decision by the McCain campaign to pull a Muslim grassroots organizer from appearing on his show.

The aide, Daniel Zubairi, had been scheduled to appear on Sanchez's mid-day program after he was caught on video talking down an anti-Muslim protester outside a McCain rally in Woodbridge, Virginia. But, even after telling the network that an interview was "good to go," the McCain shop pulled Zubairi at the last minute, leaving Sanchez in limbo on live TV.

So, near as I can figure, the McCain camp looked at the tea leaves and figured that, given the choice between alienating those few Muslims that are (again, inexplicably) actually supporting him, and the anti-Muslim nutbars who spew hate at their rallies, they came down on the side of the nutbars. Don't wanna tick off that part of the base, I guess. Surreal.

As a further aside: At this stage of the game, I find it absolutely astounding that any Muslim would be so willing to vote against their own best interests in support of a John McCain administration (and, in all fairness, there are a few in my own family). Ultimately they're free to support whoever they choose, but that doesn't make it any less of a head-scratcher for me.

I mean, we're a far cry from the 2K election, where a few perfunctory, placebo promises from George Bush led America's Muslim community to block vote in huge numbers for the GOP (good call, that). This is eight years later, and if two terms of systemic political marginalization wasn't enough, if two years of "Obama=Muslim=Bad" smear-mongering wasn't enough, if the bizarre hate fest at the Republican convention -- led by St. Rudy of 9/11 -- wasn't enough, what the hell else does it take? Seriously, we're starting to enter Ike-and-Tina territory here.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

"Condescending Elitism"



A new special comment from Olbermann in which he lays waste to the past few days of various McCain appendages proclaiming that certain parts of America are more "real" than others. Says Keith, quoting Sarah Palin:

"'We believe that the best of America is not all in Washington D.C.,' Gov. Palin told a fund-raiser in North Carolina last Thursday, to kick off this orgy of condescending elitism. 'We believe that the best of America is in these small towns that we get to visit, and in these wonderful little pockets of what I call the real America, being here with all of you hard working very patriotic, very pro-America areas of this great nation.'

"Governor, your prejudice is overwhelming. It is not just 'pockets' of this country that are 'pro-America' Governor. America is 'pro-America.' And the 'Real America' of yours, Governor, is where people at your rallies shout threats of violence, against other Americans, and you say nothing about them or to them."

Great stuff.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

A General Endorsement



Last week, Bill Maher had director Oliver Stone on his show to promote the then-impending release of his film W. In talking about his attempt to gain an insight into George W. Bush's thinking, Stone mentioned something that stuck out to me; his conclusion (hardly a revolutionary one) that Bush lives in a completely blissful, completely guilt-free bubble, content in the certainty of his righteousness, and blissfully oblivious to the havoc he's wrought on his country and his world.

I've often wondered if the other denizens of the Bush inner circle live similarly guilt-free lives in the stark and damning face of history. Certainly I've wondered that about Colin Powell. Before, during, and after his time in the W Administration, he's always been portrayed as the cooler head that never prevailed, having originated the now-famous "You break it, you own it" warning in advance of Iraq, and who ultimately left his post as Secretary of State in a supposed bout of conscience.

And yet, overshadowing all of his supposed thoughtfulness and supposed cautiousness, his image as the stoic, noble soldier, is the fact that he sat in front of the UN in early '03 and either willfully or ignorantly misled the world into believing a threat existed and there was none. Knowing what happened in the invasion's aftermath, knowing the physical, political, and moral capital our country has lost, I've often wondered if Powell feels a sense of guilt for his part in perpetuating the Bush agenda.

Now, the last thing I want is to psychoanalyze the guy, but I wonder if today's interview with Meet the Press, in which Powell issued a full-throated endorsement for Barack Obama's candidacy, and a full-throated denunciation of John McCain's campaign tactics (if not the man himself), is Powell's way, in some small fashion, of making amends for his part in Bush's Iraq fiasco -- at least in his own mind.

Regardless of what his intentions may or may not be, there's no question that this endorsement is a bad thing for John McCain, no matter how he and his minions try to spin it. A war hero like Powell backing Obama effectively cuts the leg out from the under the "Pals around with terrorists" stuff the Republicans are using to cement the low-info vote.

The question I have is what the far right loons who protested just a little bit too much that they aren't racist, that they'd gladly vote for a Condi Rice or a Colin Powell, are going to say now.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

TREK to the Past

You have to give JJ Abrams and his team credit for the well-choreographed radio silence they've maintained in regards to the upcoming Star Trek remake/reboot/sequel/whatever-the-hell that's due out next May. Up 'till now they've played it pretty close to the chest as far as what to expect from the hoped-for franchise restart.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Final Debate

I think that after tonight we know who the next president will be. Let's see how right or wrong I turn out to be in three weeks.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Re-V

When I was a kid, one of my favorite sci-fi franchises was the fascism parable V. Created by Kenneth Johnson, he of the Incredible Hulk TV series, the concept began its life as a four-hour miniseries which tracked the aftermath of Earth's first alien arrival. While the red-clad Visitors at first seem benign, their true reptilian nature is soon revealed, as is their plan to siphon Earth's water and turn humankind into their food supply. Basically, take Sinclair Lewis's It Can't Happen Here, toss in some of the "To Serve Man" episode of The Twilight Zone, and you end up with something like this.

That first mini racked up huge numbers -- like, Roots-huge -- which in turn led to an inevitable sequel, V - The Final Battle. Of course, by then, those famous Hollywood "creative differences" led Ken Johnson to depart the project, and he took most of the social commentary and hard edge with him. The Johnson-free Final Battle was still a huge success though, which led NBC to greenlight a still-Johnson-free weekly that came and went inside of one season, and sadly V has been mostly forgotten since its mid '80s heyday. Except by, y'know, people like me, who still have the V comic books from DC. And the various V tie-in novels. And bought the DVDs the day they came out.

Though there'd been occasional rumblings of a V reboot in the intervening two decades, including an early '90s take by J. Michael Straczynski (who hadn't yet brought Babylon 5 to the world), the only movement on the V front for the past several years had been a proposed sequel by Johnson himself, that would ignore the second mini and TV series, and pick up twenty years after the first miniseries. Nothing came of this attempt, but he did turn his sequel script into a novel that came out last year. I haven't read it yet, but it's sitting on my nightstand for a while now, and I'm sure I'll get to it one of these days.

Anyway, there's new word that the Visitors may be invading the Earth all over again with a report from Variety that ABC has greenlit a V "reboot," still Johnson-free, which will attempt to do with the concept what Sci-Fi Channel did with Battlestar Galactica. Of course, NBC tried something similar with The Bionic Woman last year and...well, yeah.

Right now I'm of two minds on the subject of a V redux. Certainly, the original concept of encroaching fascism remains as relevant as ever (maybe moreso, based on the video clip in the post below this one), but on the other hand, whenever a big studio meets a high concept, biting social commentary is usually the first thing that hits the bricks. Plus, the fact that they've (again) kicked Ken Johnson to the curb is also not cause for celebration. I mean, he only created the thing, after all.

As always with these things, we'll just have to wait and see.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Contagious Stupidity

A cross-section of the Republican base. This should send a cold chill down the spines of thinking, rational people of any political stripe:



Sick. Just sick.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Sundance on Butch

Legendary Paul Newman collaborator Robert Redford remembers his late friend.

The Veep Debate

Gotta say, while I felt the first one was close, this one was anything but. Sure, Palin over-performed relative to the lowered expectations she'd managed to set for herself these past few weeks, but then again she could have done that just by showing up and not tripping on her way to the podium, which she didn't, and so she did. The one candidate who walked away with this one though was Joe Biden, no question about it. Relatable, knowledgeable, articulate, and compassionate, he did everything the campaign could have asked of him and then some. This race just got a lot harder for John McCain.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Debate

Obama gets a (slight) edge by virtue of the fact that he mostly held his own against a barrage of attacks. That, and he wasn't afraid to look the other guy in the eye. As opposed to, y'know, the other guy. That said, if we were looking for a "There you go again" moment that sealed the whole thing up, we didn't get it. Oh well. On to next Thursday's veep debate, which should be all kinds of (unintended) fun.

Paul Newman, RIP

I'd heard word several weeks back of Paul Newman's rapidly declining health, so I'd steeled myself for the inevitable news that he'd lost his battle with cancer, but that didn't make the gut-punch of seeing it confirmed this morning any less painful. Newman was a legend of the kind there are far too few left of in Hollywood. From Cool Hand Luke to Butch Cassidy to The Sting, and that's just off the top of my head, Newman's film career is peppered with some of the greatest movies of all time, and even in his twilight years he gave complex, nuanced performances, such as his Oscar-nommed turn in '02's Road to Perdition. Beyond his film work, however, Newman was consistently generous over the course of his career with his time, money, and energy in support of charitable and progressive causes, with the ultimate badge of honor being that he earned himself a spot on Nixon's famous "enemies list." He leaves behind a legacy that anyone can be proud of, and most should probably aspire towards.

Monday, September 22, 2008

“Break’s over.”

West Wing honcho Aaron Sorkin posits a meeting between Jed Bartlett and Barack Obama, with the fictional former prez reminding the real life contender just what he needs to do in the campaign's home stretch, and reminding me -- yet again -- just how much I miss that dang show.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Dishonorable.

Team Obama punches back on the lies, smears, and innuendo belched out by the McCain camp over the past few weeks. They need to keep hammering home the reality that the so-called "maverick" of old is long since dead and gone.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Desperately Seeking SOLACE


Anyone who frequents this blog knows how much this life-long Bond-phile dug 2006's franchise reinvention Casino Royale, and I'm pleased with what I'm seeing so far of the Marc Forster-directed follow-up, Quantum of Solace. For the first time ever in the Bond canon, this is a direct sequel to the preceding film, as opposed to another episodic entry. It'll be interesting to see if the filmmakers are able to keep up the emotional and stylistic intensity with the rebooted and revitalized Bond series, or whether it descends to the camp of some of the Moore and later Brosnan films.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Stuck Pig

You know, a few months back, during the height of the Democratic primary, when I'd made it pretty clear that I was backing Obama in this horse-race, some guy with the web handle of "handel" started haunting the comments section of my posts and reprimanding me for my support of same.

This brave soul, who knew me but was either unable or unwilling to tell me who he was, went off at great length about what an empty suit Obama was and how John McCain was the real deal. Well, I'd love for that guy to come out of the woodwork and twist himself in a knot as he justifies the latest bullshit nontroversy trumped up by the scumbags in the McCain camp, and eagerly promulgated by the so-called "liberal media." I'm waiting to hear it. Sincerely.

Anyway, here's Obama's response. Pitch perfect. Let's see if it sticks.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Resolved

As of today, 9/7/08, I've decided I'm no longer going to spend time reading the "comments" section under news articles online. The great thing about the Internet is that it's democratized public opinion and given everyone a voice, but as it turns out, not everyone deserves a voice.

Recommended Reading

Frank Rich on the frightening implications of the presence of the frightening Sarah Palin on the frightening GOP ticket.

Friday, August 29, 2008

PUMA Party

With John McCain's bizarre choice of Alaska governor Sarah Palin as his veep, he totally undercuts his attacks on Obama's so-called lack of experience (itself a misnomer), by picking someone who's been in public life for even less time! Is there any doubt that the Palin pick is a pretty naked ploy to appeal to the crazed Hillary-folks who are still out there clinging to her candidacy despite Hillary's own full-throated endorsement of Obama? Let him have 'em, I say. Good riddance to bad rubbish. And I think he'll be surprised at just how few of these nutbars -- so desperate for a female candidate that they'll support one who's aligned against their own best interests -- there really are.

A Dream Defined

Last night, accepting the Democratic nomination for president, Barack Obama gave what is perhaps the greatest speech in his long history of great speeches:



There's not much I can add that hasn't been said already, suffice it to say that the game is now, at long last, afoot.

We've talked at length during this primary season about how Barack Obama's entire unlikely journey was like something out of The West Wing, and several commentators last night made note of how Obama's acceptance speech had echoes of Aaron Sorkin's The American President. They weren't kidding, either. Check this out:



Whoa.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Momentous Occasion

I'm sitting here at Chicago's Midway Airport, patiently waiting for my flight that will shortly spirit me home to the Bay Area. What makes this otherwise ordinary event so auspicious is that, thanks to my MacBook and the magic spirits you and I know as "airport wi-fi," I'm able to sit here and update my blog. An age of wonders, this! Unfortunately, I don't really have anything important to post, so...yeah.

Hollywood Kryptonite


Well, looks like that Superman Returns sequel we first talked about here and here and here, and which is has been interminably worming its way through Warners' GI tract for the past few years will never happen. The higher-ups at the WB have announced that in lieu of a SR sequel, they're going to attempt a quickie reboot a la The Incredible Hulk from earlier this year. The money quote from Warner prexy Jeff Robinov, via The Wall Street Journal:
'Superman' didn't quite work as a film in the way that we wanted it to," says Mr. Robinov. "It didn't position the character the way he needed to be positioned." "Had 'Superman' worked in 2006, we would have had a movie for Christmas of this year or 2009," he adds. "But now the plan is just to reintroduce Superman without regard to a Batman and Superman movie at all."
Fair enough. It's pretty hard to argue for a sequel to a mega-budget movie that didn't make its money back domestically, and two years out the many flaws in Returns become much more apparent, classifying it as more of a noble failure than a home run. So, even though I wouldn't have minded a continuation, I can see why they'd be advocating a fresh start that presumably tosses director Bryan Singer and leaves star Brandon Routh as the George Lazenby of the red-and-blue tights set. Then, a little further down in the piece comes this gem:
Mr. Robinov wants his next pack of superhero movies to be bathed in the same brooding tone as "The Dark Knight." Creatively, he sees exploring the evil side to characters as the key to unlocking some of Warner Bros.' DC properties. "We're going to try to go dark to the extent that the characters allow it," he says. That goes for the company's Superman franchise as well.
Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't one of the problems with Returns that it was too dark and brooding? Oy, here we go again...

Recommended Reading

Come every election cycle, it seems we get one of those news stories regarding Jon Stewart and The Daily Show, and their place in both critiquing and defining the current cultural discourse. Here's another one.

And Obama's Veep Is...

Joe Biden.

Good choice.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Recommended Reading

We've hit a bit of a lull in the election season, so I've relished the opportunity to keep out of the political morass for a brief while, but today's column from Frank Rich (man, am I glad his stuff is free again) bears posting. Rich examines the impact of Barack Obama's just-completed foreign tour, and how it makes even more stark the difference between Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain. Here's the takeaway:
...what we’ve learned this month is that America, our allies and most likely the next Congress are moving toward Mr. Obama’s post-Iraq vision of the future, whether he reaches the White House or not. That’s some small comfort as we contemplate the strange alternative offered by the Republicans: a candidate so oblivious to our nation’s big challenges ahead that he is doubling down in his campaign against both Mr. Maliki and Mr. Obama to be elected commander in chief of the surge.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Zaki's Review: The Dark Knight

Belief.

That’s the thematic through-line that director Christopher Nolan weaves through his epic sequel The Dark Knight. Just as he used its predecessor, 2005’s superlative Batman Begins as a 140-minute meditation on the nature of fear, Nolan (along with co-writers Jonathan Nolan and David Goyer) uses this follow-up to examine the limits of belief. Belief in others, belief in fate, belief in love, and, via Heath Ledger’s Joker, belief in nothing.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Green With Apathy

A new article at E! Online examines the phenomenon of The Incredible Hulk and how, despite better buzz, better reviews, and just generally being a better film, it hasn't done much at all to outperform Ang Lee's "bomb" from a few years ago (I put bomb in quotes because, let's face it, it's not like anyone lost their shirt on the thing). Sadly, it seems that my prediction from a few months back, that Marvel hoped to saddle the new Hulk to Iron Man in hopes of getting some of its mojo to rub off, is indeed what they attempted, but to little avail. A shame, really.

(And if you haven't seen The Incredible Hulk yet...what're you waiting for?!)

Monday, June 30, 2008

Don S. Davis, RIP


Man, it seems like we're doing a lot of these lately.

Some more sad news today with the passing of Don Davis at age 65. A talented character actor of wide ranging resume, Davis is perhaps best remembered to many for his role as General Hammond on the first seven seasons of Stargate SG-1.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Last Word

I nearly peed my pants when I read this.

George Carlin, RIP

Yet another giant in his field has left us. George Carlin has been a comedy institution for so long that, in my mind, I felt he'd always been there and figured he always would. Probably most famous for his famous "Seven Dirty Words" bit from the '70s which redefined public decency standards, I was first exposed to him at the ripe old age of eight when he played "Rufus" in the Bill & Ted movies.

It wasn't long, however, before I discovered the history behind the man. In all his years on the stage, Carlin never lost his edge, and as his career stretched from decade to decade to decade, he remained a vociferous social critic, using his comedy pulpit to its fullest. As one messageboard eulogy aptly put it, he was a devoutly crabby man who was usually crabby about the right things.

Here's a memorable selection from one of his recent shows, which seems an appropriate way to remember the man:

Monday, June 16, 2008

Zaki's Reviews: Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk

What a year to be a Marvel fan.

The early May release of Iron Man, the first of the comic book giant’s self-financed, self-produced adaptations, shouldn’t have worked. Famously troubled Robert Downey Jr. starring as a B-list superhero? And directed by the guy from Swingers? No, not him. The other guy from Swingers. C’maaaahn.

Stan Winston, RIP

Another huge loss for the world of film. Special effects and makeup wizard Stan Winston, a multiple Academy Award winner for his revolutionary creations, has lost his battle with cancer. Winston first shot to fame as designer of the title character in James Cameron's The Terminator (and its sequels), and went on to design such seminal cinema icons as the monsters in Aliens, Predator, and Jurassic Park, not to mention many, many more.

It's doubtful anyone who has watched and enjoyed movie blockbusters in the past three decades has escaped seeing Winston's wizardry. He most recently had designed the armor worn by Iron Man, and was set to continue his association with the Terminator franchise with the now-filming fourth installment. It's hard to imagine a film world without Stan Winston, but it'll be a much less special place.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Pride and Punishment

Well, the Hulk is back in theaters today after a five-year hiatus, joining stablemate Iron Man in the cineplexes, but Marvel's already looking ahead to its next big screen hero: The Punisher. Again.

Noticeably bereft of cosmic rays, superpowers, or other comic book standbys, you'd think the Punisher, the Death Wish-esque story of Vietnam vet Frank Castle, who wreaks havoc on all criminals after his family is wiped out in mob crossfire, would be among the easiest to translate to the big screen. I mean, hell, we've been seeing some variation or another on this story for as long there've been movies. And yet they keep swinging and missing.

Dolph Lundgren starred as the character in an uneven 1990 flick that went straight to video, then Tom Jane gave it a go in a Jonathan Hensleigh-directed 2004 version. While Jane himself wasn't bad at all, in fact he was rather good, the movie he got stuck in failed to measure up, sadly. And don't even get me started on John Travolta as the bad guy...

Normally that would be the end of it, but here's the trailer for Christmas' Punisher: War Zone, with the folks at Marvel and Lionsgate no doubt hoping the third time is charmed. This time out, Ray Stevenson (late of TV's Rome) dons Castle's ammo belt for the Lexi Alexander-helmed film, which appears to be yet another restart.

I had my doubts when I first learned of Stevenson's casting, but he definitely looks the part, even moreso than Tom Jane, but as to whether he ends up in a movie that's worth the effort, well, let's just say history isn't on his side as far as this character goes.

Tim Russert, RIP

These are the ones that catch you off-guard. I was driving home from lunch when I heard a statement on the radio that Tim Russert, longtime host of Meet the Press, and a familiar face to anyone who's followed election coverage for the past several cycles, had passed away of a heart attack. During his many years as one of the most recognizable faces of NBC News, Russert took equal fire from both right and left accusing him of an "obvious" bias. That indicated, to me anyway, that he was probably doing his job right.

During this past primary season especially, MSNBC had become my network of choice for watching election coverage, and the highlight was usually when hosts Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann would cut to Russert for a grounded analysis that sliced through all the spin and hype. Such was his influence in shaping popular perception that many agree the race effectively ended for Hillary Clinton when Russert declared on the night of the Indiana/North Caroline primaries, "We now know who the Democratic nominee is going to be, and no one is going to dispute it."

It was clear from watching his reporting how energized he was by this upcoming election, and I'm saddened that we won't be able to see his coverage of it.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Look Back in Amusement

With last Saturday's concession speech by Hillary Clinton (and yes, it was a very good concession speech), the period was effectively placed on his absurdly-long primary process. Now, before we begin in earnest the insanity and inanity of the general election, let's watch this clip from Countdown which celebrates the insanity and inanity of the primary season.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Living History

Tonight's primaries in South Dakota and Montana saw Barack Obama cross the 2,118 delegate threshold and claim victory in the (seemingly interminable) Democratic presidential contest. As I sat watching the returns, with Hamza sitting on my lap, and saw the networks announce Obama as the presumptive nominee, I was suddenly gripped by the historic import of this moment.

Tonight we told the rest of the world that in America -- despite centuries of ingrained, institutional racism, despite the fractured, divisive politics of fear -- it's possible for a black man named Barack Hussein Obama to have better than even odds at winning the highest office in the land. This represents a profound, permanent shift in the socio-political landscape, and even though Hamza is too young to understand it, it will forever shape his experience of the world.

What happens in the weeks and months ahead is fodder for another discussion and another time, but for now let's savor the moment. And what a moment.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Support Sport

As is usually the case during the weeks that Jon Stewart and Co. are on vacation, I sit in anticipation of how various events will be covered on The Daily Show. Case in point is the ongoing partisan bickering over Senator Jim Webb's expansion of the G.I. bill, and which gave rise to this bit from last night's show. It's one of the more scathing commentaries that Stewart has unleashed in recent months, and it calls to account the unrelenting phoniness of Team Bush's (including John McCain's) so-called "support" for the troops, which seems to begin and end with getting them onto the field of combat:

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Bits of Bloggy Business

Well, things got a bit hectic there with the winding down of the Spring semester and the drip-drip-drip of grading, grading, grading, but with today's review of Indiana Jones we mark what will (fingers crossed) be the end of a bit of a dry spell around these here parts.

As you can no doubt tell, the long awaited Iron Man review never did materialize, but no worries, as I'm planning to integrate it into my eventual look at The Incredible Hulk in a few short weeks, making for a Marvel Movie-Palooza. If you can't wait 'till then, here's the Reader's Digest version: Awesome. Go see it. Twice.

Also, with the primary campaign lurching inexorably towards its conclusion (though nobody seems to have told Hillary Clinton), I'll hopefully be ramping up my commentary on the election season real soon as well, so keep it here.

Now go read my Indy IV review.

Zaki's Review: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

These are the hardest reviews to write.

Not the unabashed rave or the unqualified thumbs-down, but rather the “eh.” The shoulder shrug. I had the same problem with last year’s Spider-Man 3 (which I never did end up reviewing) and such is the case with Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, a film whose illustrious lineage is both blessing and curse, and for which only the hypnotic, magnetic pull of nostalgia helps elevate it above the merely ordinary.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

"Shut. The. Hell. Up."

It's been awhile, and it's taken a little longer than anticipated to get my Iron Man review up, but until then, check out Keith's latest Special Comment on President Bush (remember him?):

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Hulked Up

This primary election season turned into a bad telenovella in terms of both length and drama, so I'm grateful that tomorrow sees the summer movie season kick into gear so we have something else to talk about while Clinton and Obama rain rhetorical projectiles on each other. Iron Man hits theaters this weekend, and I expect to have my review up sometime soon, but in the meantime here's the full trailer for The Incredible Hulk. Fans of the television show should take note of the four bars of music at the very end of the trailer. Hopefully some of that Iron Man mojo rubs off on this, as the buzz has been thin to non-existent up to now.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Lonely Man

Here's the release poster for July's The Incredible Hulk, with Edward Norton's denims-and-knapsack evoking parallels with the '70s TV series and tossing any memory of the '03 Ang Lee version down the memory hole.

The promotions for this one have really been almost non-existent for something that's meant to be a big summer blockbuster, especially in comparison with the full-on blitz currently underway for Marvel stablemate Iron Man.

This might end up being the smartest way to go with this. By eschewing the highly-hyped approach of the Lee film, which ended up imploding when the movie underperformed, they're no doubt trying to play it low-key in hopes that word-of-mouth will carry the day.

Of course the big assumption there is that word-of-mouth will be good. With the $150 mil that Marvel has sunk into this thing, they'd better hope so.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Laying the Smackdown



That's how you do it.

The Politics of Cynicism

The past forty-eight hours have really been a textbook example for me of just how much of a cesspool our current political discourse is and has been for far too long. First, Barack Obama makes comments in a San Francisco fundraising dinner last week that addressed the growing discontent across large swaths of this country, after jobs and opportunity have been systematically stripped away through decades of economic malaise.

This isn't rocket science. And anyone who's had to look at a paycheck chopped to bits by ever-increasing taxes, while filling their tank with $4 a gallon gas understands exactly what he was talking about. The only "mistake" he made was to bring up the issues of spiritual and personal security -- God and guns -- that those facing financial difficulties seek solace from in lieu of a disinterested government.

These remarks were on-point, insightful, and when stripped of context or subtlety were exactly what the nuance-free Hillary Clinton campaign needed to broad-stroke Obama as an ivied "elitist" while painting herself as a gun totin', beer swillin' Average Josie. It's the kind of contortionism that would make a Circe de Soleil acrobat wince, and sadly it's right in line with what we've come to expect from her campaign. Just when I think the wink-wink-nudge-nudge cynicism of the Clinton camp can't sink any lower, they find a new depth to plumb.

What Obama said may have been unartful, and I'd even disagree on that score, but it was fundamentally true. And it's a discussion that's not only worth having, but must be had. However, Team Clinton has decided that instead of attempting to address the economic problem at the heart of his argument, instead of putting a discussion on the table that would make it easier for any Democrat to score in a general election, it's easier to borrow a page from the GOP "dirty tricks" manual and play up tried-and-true wedge issues. And once again, political expedience takes precedence over all else.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Charlton Heston, RIP

Rare indeed are the personalities who can be described as "legend" or "icon." With the passing of Charlton Heston at the age of 84, the world of cinema and the world at large has lost someone for whom even those terms are perhaps too small.

While in recent years most probably knew him best from annual Easter airings of The Ten Commandments, or perhaps his latter-years role as president of the NRA, for me Charlton Heston will always be George Taylor, the wayward time traveller at the center of 1968's Planet of the Apes (celebrating its fortieth anniversary this year).

It's hard for me to convey just how much of an impact the original Apes had on my ten year old self when I first saw it, or the impact it has continued to have for the innumerable times I've seen it since. The deliciously dystopic tale, with its juxtaposition of biting social satire and edge-of-your-seat chills, with Heston as the misanthropic astronaut forced to become humanity's last champion, is grim sci-fi at its very best.

Clad for most of the film in a torn loincloth and acting against performers in rubber ape prosthetics, Heston plays the embittered Taylor with total conviction, lending every frame utter credibility. The movie's final image of the humbled Heston collapsed in front of a decayed Statue of Liberty remains one of filmdom's truly indelible moments.

This was the power of Charlton Heston the actor: to make his on-screen alter egos larger than life, yet riven with human complexity. During a staggering six decade career, the chiseled, gravel-voiced star, an Oscar winner for 1959's Ben-Hur, played cowboys, crusaders, rogues, royalty, and historical figures ranging from Moses to Andrew Jackson to Brigham Young. Even in small parts, like a self-reflexive cameo in 1993's Wayne's World 2, he brought his trademark gravitas.

Though he took a political turn towards the right in his later years that I strongly disagreed with, there's no question that Heston accomplished a great deal in his life, including his fight for civil rights alongside Martin Luther King. He even went so far as to lead the Hollywood contingent in the 1963 march to Washington and King's "I have a dream" speech.

It's for this reason that I found the actor's final film appearance, as himself in Michael Moore's 2003 documentary Bowling For Columbine, so difficult to watch. Under verbal assault by Moore for his stewardship of the NRA, Heston, confused and unsteady, already suffering from the Alzheimer's that would eventually claim his life, was portrayed as out-of-touch and racist. It was simplistic and unfair, and a far cry from the screen persona that had cemented his place in history.

Ultimately, Heston was simply too large a personality to be easily categorized. He was the quintessential movie star, one of the last remaining standard-bearers from a simpler time, and it's doubtful that Hollywood will ever see his like again.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Showing is Half the Battle

Once last summer's Transformers flick became a blockbuster success, a big budget update of fellow Hasbro stablemate G.I. Joe was all but inevitable, and went quickly from green light to casting to currently filming, for a Summer '09 release.

Now, far more than Transformers, I have a pretty abiding affection for the Joe "Real American Hero" line from the '80s, having watched the cartoon regularly and followed the Marvel comic for the entirety of its decade-plus run. Thus, I was a little trepidatious from the initial news that Stephen Sommers (he of the first two Mummy flicks and the awful, awful Van Helsing) had been hired to direct.

Then a steady stream of solid casting news began to break, and I started hearing good things about the script, then I heard that Larry Hama, writer of the Marvel books and originator of the "Joe vs. COBRA" line, was on board and giving the project his blessing, all of which helped assuage some of my fears. Now, courtesy of USA Today, comes our first look at Ray Park as the lodestone of the entire Joe mythology, Snake Eyes. All I can say is "Yo Joe!"

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Speech

This morning saw Barack Obama give a talk in Philadelphia which was ostensibly intended to tackle head-on the simmering controversy surrounding his former pastor, but ended up with a far greater reach, addressing topics of race, religion, economics, and much more. Of the many stirring speeches Obama has given throughout this campaign, this is surely one of his most memorable, and I would go so far as to say it's one of the decisive and definitive political speeches of this young century. Read the text here, or watch the video below:

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

"Cheap, ignorant, vile racism"

Since before the March 4 primaries, I've watched with an increasing degree of mortification as the Democratic primary has taken a sharp left turn into the bizarre. The tactics employed by Team Clinton to eke out a victory over Barack Obama at any price has taken on a desperation that would be comical if it weren't for the tragically real possibility of a John McCain presidency.

The flap regarding seemingly racist comments about Senator Obama by former vice-presidential candidate and current Clinton surrogate Geraldine Ferraro appears to have been the final straw for Keith Olbermann, who, up to now, has reserved his eloquent, scathing "Special Comments" for President Bush and the various operatives in his junta. No more, as he reads Hillary the riot act for her campaign's recent (mis)conduct. Let's see if it has any effect.

Smashing

While the marketing machine has been chugging along nicely for the May release of Iron Man, including the newest trailer and two new posters, things have been a lot quieter for Marvel's other big summer flick, The Incredible Hulk, which is a bit odd considering it's due out a month or so afterwards. I guess on some level it's understandable that Marvel is keeping low-key on this one. Given the generally "blah" reaction from audiences to 2003's Hulk, directed by Ang Lee, they want to put as much distance between that one and this franchise redux as possible.

The first salvo in the Incredible Hulk marketing machine has now finally arrived with the new trailer. One gets a pretty good idea of what to expect here, with Edward Norton's Dr. Banner seemingly cut from the same cloth as Bill Bixby on the classic '70s TV series. Also visible in there: Liv Tyler as love interest Betty Ross, William Hurt as her father/Banner's main antagonist, "Thunderbolt" Ross, and Tim Roth as Emil Blonsky, the poor sap who mutates into comic book baddie The Abomination. In addition to the cast, the trailer shows off movie's other big selling point: lots and lots of CGI-created monster-on-monster violence. Count me in!

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Curbed Enthusiasm

Larry David on the now-infamous "3 AM phone call" ad, very much echoing my thoughts:
How is it that she became the one who's perceived as more equipped to answer that 3 a.m. call than the unflappable Obama? He, with the ice in his veins, who doesn't panic when he's losing or get too giddy when he's winning, who's as comfortable in his own skin as she's uncomfortable in hers. There have been times in this campaign when she seemed so unhinged that I worried she'd actually kill herself if she lost. Every day, she reminds me more and more of Adele H., who also had an obsession that drove her insane.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Life/Art, Part II

Recommended Reading

There's no way around it, last night's hard-fought primary contest was a stark disappointment, putting an end to Barack Obama's twelve state winning streak, and giving a huge vote of confidence to the smash-and-smear, scorched Earth brand of politics that's been so characteristic of the Hillary Clinton campaign up to now. Sadly, while the current delegate count gives Obama a considerable (perhaps insurmountable) edge, the media narrative has shifted to Clinton's "comeback," which I leave in quotes because the numbers just aren't on her side. Nevertheless, this campaign is going to be exceedingly nasty for the next few months, as John Nichols tells us.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Life/Art

As a die-hard West Wing aficionado, I've long marveled at the eerie similarities between the real life candidacy of Senator Barack Obama and the Wing candidacy of Congressman Matthew Santos (played by Jimmy Smits on the show). As it turns out, I'm not the only one who's noticed this, and as it turns out, it's not entirely coincidental.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Be Like Boy!

What a week for Team Boy! First, we posted the trailer for our newest project, Suckerpunch & Leroy, which you can watch in beautiful streaming Quicktime here.

Then, Variety picked the 24 parody from last Winter as one of the top five viral videos to emerge from the writers' strike. Click here and bask in our reflected glory!

Lastly, jump on over here and read an interview with our erstwhile founder Sean Coyle as he goes off about something or other.

Mr. Boy -- we're everywhere! Be afraid.

Sharpening the Claws

Anyone who follows this blog knows that I hated, hated, hated the last X-Men film, The Last Stand, back in '06. I haven't even bothered to re-watch it since, so there's no way of telling whether time has softened that view, but I'm guessing it hasn't. What really irks me is that the movie was the highest grossing of all three X-flicks, so the folks in charge (I'm looking at you, Fox honcho Tom Rothman) have no reason to adjust their course for future X-outings.

Because of that, I've been more than a little skeptical of the progress on the upcoming "Wolverine" solo movie, saddled with the unwieldy title X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Hugh Jackman is back as the ol' Canucklehead, with Liev Schreiber as baddie Sabretooth, and just for that I'm willing to give it a shot, but they've got a long way to come back from after the fiasco of the last one. The flick is due out May of '09, so we'll see what news trickles out between now and then, but for now check out this article at USA Today.

Keeping up with Jones

Here it is, the first trailer for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls.

Wow.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Roy Scheider, RIP

Over the past four decades or so, Roy Scheider, with his chiseled jaw and distinctive profile, had remained one of the most enduring and recognizable faces in cinema. While he'd appeared in a veritable catalog of some of the most influential movies of all time, including, but not limited to, The French Connection and Marathon Man, his definitive role was surely that of hydrophobic police chief Martin Brody in Steven Spielberg's Jaws, one of my all-time favorite movies, as well as its first sequel, not one of my all-time favorite movies. Scheider remained prolific into the 1990s, starring in the Spielberg-produced TV series SeaQuest DSV from '93 to '95. I guess he'd been sick for a while, but news of his passing earlier today at the age of 75 was nevertheless a big shock to me. Although he had mostly been out of the public eye in the years following SeaQuest's cancellation, save for a brief appearance in 2004's The Punisher, his earlier work had long since cemented his place as an icon of movie history.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Recommended Reading

George Lakoff on the Democratic primary:

There is a reason that Obama recently spoke of Reagan. Reagan understood that you win elections by drawing support from independents and the opposite side. He understood what unified the country so that he could lead it according to his vision. His vision was a radical conservative one, a vision devastating for the country and contradicted by his economic policies.

Obama understands the importance of values, connection, authenticity, trust, and identity.

But his vision is deeply progressive. He proposes to lead in a very different direction than Reagan. Crucially, he adds to that vision a streetwise pragmatism: his policies have to do more than look good on paper; they have to bring concrete material results to millions of struggling Americans in the lower and middle classes. They have to meet the criteria of a community organizer.

The Clintonian policy wonks don't seem to understand any of this. They have trivialized Reagan's political acumen as an illegitimate triumph of personality over policy. They confuse values with programs. They have underestimated authenticity and trust.

More at the link.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Zaki's Review: Rambo

You have to give Sylvester Stallone credit. At 62 years young he’s still an amazing physical specimen, looking something like a sinewy, muscled tree trunk, and running, jumping, and diving with a physicality most of today’s younger action stars would have difficulty matching. It took courage when he donned the silk boxing trunks for Rocky Balboa last year, and it took courage also to revisit his other revered movie icon for one last (?) go-round in Rambo.

It was twenty-six years ago that Ted Kotcheff’s First Blood introduced us to John Rambo, a deeply troubled Vietnam vet trying to make his way in an America that wanted nothing to do with him. For its time and in its own way, First Blood was quite revolutionary, giving us a grounded action movie that dared to poke the still-fresh wounds from our involvement in Vietnam. The film is probably most memorable for its climax, culminating in a heartbreakingly raw breakdown from Stallone’s emotionally-crippled Rambo.