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


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


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.


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.