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.