Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Zaki's Review: Sherlock Holmes

The recipe behind Warner Brothers' big budget redo of Sherlock Holmes is deceptively simple. Start with a familiar brand that's been out of the public eye for awhile. Add a critically adored star on the popular upswing. Sprinkle in a few well-liked supporting players. Top things off with a quirky director in need of a mainstream breakthrough. Heat, stir, and voilà. Brand new franchise, ready to serve. It all seems so...elementary.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Zaki's Review: Avatar

The one thing you can't say about Avatar, director James Cameron's return to mainstream filmmaking after twelve long years toiling in the salt mines of IMAX docos, is that it lacks for sheer audaciousness -- in execution, if not content.

In an age when high-def TVs and Blu-Ray players have made the home viewing experience an increasingly appealing alternative, this is the Titanic helmer's defiant challenge to apathetic filmgoers to stake out a seat in a crowded multiplex and experience his epic the right way: In front of an IMAX screen, with state-of-the-art 3D projection.

I suppose if anyone has earned the right to boss his audience around, it's James Cameron.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

What Would Teddy Think?

The senate's ongoing, debilitating negotiations with (read: obeisance to) anti-reformers like Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson has seen a potentially strong health care bill steadily chipped and whittled away by compromises both material and moral. In the process, staunch, vocal reform advocates like Howard Dean are saying to kill what the bill has become and start over through reconciliation, while staunch, vocal reform advocates like Anthony Weiner and Tom Harkin are saying to work with and build on what they've got.

Given that these are all voices I respect on this issue, it's hard not to be left feeling a little bit whiplashed (hopefully that doesn't count as a pre-existing condition). Through it all however, the one question that's been continually on my mind has been that of the late Ted Kennedy's hypothetical vote. Kennedy, whose lifelong pursuit of meaningful reform remained tantalizingly out of reach, famously said after some very, very close calls that the "perfect" shouldn't become the enemy of the "good."

So how "good" would he think things are right now? Although we'll never get a definitive answer to that, we may have gotten one that's as close to definitive as possible thanks to this op-ed penned by Kennedy's widow, Vicki. Mrs. Kennedy makes the case that this bill, as damaged as it may well be, would still be enough of an improvement on the status quo that it's worth supporting. I'm still unsure of where I stand on this, but I have to admit that as far as affirmative arguments go, this is a pretty compelling one.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Simpseniority

Twenty years ago tonight saw Fox air a Christmas special featuring characters spun-off from its critically-beloved, popularly-ignored sketch comedy series The Tracy Ullman Show.

At the risk of re-stating what is common knowledge to most, the special was "Simpsons Roasting on Open Fire," and the characters were the Simpsons. The half-hour series that arose following the special's success began a run that fall that has continued uninterrupted to this very day, generating billions of dollars in syndication, box office, and licensing revenues in its wake.

Even though The Simpsons has been mediocre-to-bad for longer than it's been good (which I'm not alone in feeling), those twenty years of history have given the show an air of cultural permanence afforded only to national monuments or Saturday Night Live. Though these days it's something of an elder statesman of primetime fare, I can remember quite clearly -- almost wistfully -- those heady early months when George Bush Sr. criticized the show for its lack of values, and when "Bart Simpson: Underachiever" t-shirts became a proud talisman of preteen rebellion.

Twenty years. Crap, I'm old.

Iron Mania

We got the poster a few weeks ago, and now the footage is here. Although it's making its debut in theaters this weekend (probably in front of Avatar), Paramount and Marvel have also been nice enough to post the teaser trailer for Iron Man 2 in all its HD-Quicktimey goodness.

In addition to reaquainting us with the smarmy Tony Stark bravado that Downey Jr. embodied so well, the trailer also gives us our first in-motion looks at Mickey Rourke's baddie Whiplash and Scarlett Johannson's Black Widow, as well as glimpses of Sam Rockwell as rival industrialist Justin Hammer, and Don Cheadle decked out in his War Machine finest.

Of course, the danger here is that it'll end up being overstuffed and unwieldy like Spider-Man 3 from a few year back -- which may still end up being the case. Here's hoping Jon Favreau has learned from Sam Raimi's missteps.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Ill-Health

Watching the health care debate for the past week, with the Dems standing in a circle and opening fire, has been as depressing as its been utterly predictable. The final straw seems to have been the loss not just of the public option, but the Medicare buy-in proposed as an alternative (thank Senator Lieberman for that one). This in turn has prompted a great many progressive voices -- up till now staunch supporters of health care reform -- to jump ship, Howard Dean most prominent among them. I'm not sure I'm at the point yet where I think it's a good idea to squash the thing and just start over (especially after douchebag moves like Tom Coburn's today on the Senate floor) but Glenn Greenwald, with gaze focused laser-like at 1600 Pennsylvania, sure doesn't fill me with confidence based on his appraisal of the situation.

Monday, December 07, 2009

The Mile Lie Club

A new meme began to make the rounds in Rightie Blogworld over the weekend, propelled mostly by the delightful Debbie Schlussel (described elsewhere as -- ouch! -- "The Poor Man's Ann Coulter"). Reading like some kind of neocon wet dream given electronic form, it's the "heroic" account via e-mail of one Ted Petruna by one Ted Petruna.

In the e-mail, the NASA employee breathlessly recounts how he bravely led the charge in tossing certain undesirable (read: Muslim) elements from an airplane he happened to be on. Here, said Ms. Schlussel with barely-concealed glee, was all the proof we needed to expose the Big Bad Muslim Booga-Booga hiding under our collective bed. Of course, all it took from me was a basic understanding of human behavior to read Petruna's story and say, "Yeah, that didn't happen."

And wouldn't you know, it didn't.

Seems Petruna concocted the whole thing to forward around and impress his circle of what must surely be fellow intellectuals. Even better, once it got out and the essential elements of the story were not only questioned but actually disproved, he still stands by the lie! Given the racist scaremongering involved in this story, I have to admit to some barely-concealed glee of my own at seeing this ignorant idiot hoisted with his own petard.

Left Behind

Matt Taibbi on birthers, Sarah Palin, and the American left (or "left," as it were).

Monday, November 30, 2009

Iron Man Too

Here's the first round in the eventual marketing fusillade for next summer's Iron Man 2 -- the teaser poster. For those not versed in Marvel minutia, the red-and-gold guy in front is still the titular titan inhabited by Robert Downey, and the guy behind him is trusty sidekick James Rhodes (played by Terrence Howard last time, Don Cheadle here), a.k.a. War Machine, a.k.a. Another Toy to License.

Given the overwhelming critical and popular success of the first flick, they really have the wind at their backs for this installment, and are well positioned to set up the impending Avengers jam-flick they're planning. Jump over to Yahoo! for more pics from the sequel, including looks at Mickey Rourke as the villainous Whiplash, and Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Kirk Out

JJ Abrams' Star Trek reboot hit DVD last Tuesday, and I was gladdened to see that it held up just as well on the small(er) screen as it did on the big. Now that the final box office tally has officially crowned it king of the movie Treks, talk has inevitably shifted to the sequel, and I'm sure we'll have plenty of grist between now and the planned summer '012 release of Star Trek 2 (or 12, if you want to get technical).

Still, one piece of the puzzle that's only been hinted at up 'till now in various interviews from various parties is the role Team Abrams had planned for once and former Captain Kirk William Shatner. Now the scene written for the Boston Legal Emmy winner has emerged online, and is pasted below. This takes place near the end of the film, during the scene where OG Spock (Leonard Nimoy) meets Spock 2.0 (Zachary Quinto) for the first time. Given what was actually made, I suppose the usual spoiler warnings should be considered in effect. Consider yourself duly warned:

Recommended Reading

The departure a few weeks back of Team Obama's top legal eagle Greg Craig (whose name sounds like a Mad Men character, by the way), marked what was probably the highest profile parting-of-ways so far in this administration. Although much was left unsaid in the immediate aftermath of Craig's resignation, the behind-the-scenes story -- told here courtesy of Time -- gives us one of the clearer insights so far into how this president tries to tow the line between progress and pragmatism, perhaps to the detriment of both.

Moyers Moves On

Since its premiere on PBS in early '07, Bill Moyers Journal, the weekly discussion program on current affairs, has been an oasis of journalistic nuance in a desert of a opinionated demagoguery. Thus, Moyers' announcement this week that he'll be retiring the show this April comes as a real blow. From his in-depth look at the run-up to the Iraq invasion (which I first mentioned back here) to his analysis of last summer's health care town halls, Moyers' perspective was unabashedly progressive, but his ability to treat complex issues with complexity set him apart (and continues to set him apart) from his fellow journos. While I'm sure Moyers will continue to pop up from time to time with special projects either on PBS or elsewhere, there's no question that the weekly Journal's absence will leave a large void to be filled.

Rogurgitation

I want to say right off the bat that I'm extremely averse to revisiting the insanity that is the Sarah Palin Crazy Train. Not just the woman herself but the flock that idolizes her.

Still, with her memoir's release this week and the subsequent book tour drawing the moths to the flame, we're once again subjected to stories like this, with a seventeen year old Palinista (Palinaut?) called out by a reporter on the issues she's espousing, and in true maverick fashion, the teen blames the so-called liberal media for playing "gotcha." It'd be comical if it wasn't so commonplace.

Call it the Palin Effect, if you like: Be proud to be ignorant. When the facts don't line up with your ideology, chuck the facts. Here's the always-illustrative Matt Taibbi, with whom I agree entrely in this regard (apologies in advance for the blue language):

Complaining about the assholes we interact with on a daily basis is the #1 eternal pastime of the human race. We all do it, and we get to do it every day, because the world is full of assholes. Me personally, I waste an enormous amount of time seething over people who get onto crowded subway cars with big backpacks on and/or talk in the Amtrak quiet car and/or drive 57 mph in the fast lane or, my personal favorite, walking with glacial slowness in a horizontal row four overweight tourists across on a New York City sidewalk. We all get into furious arguments at work that make us want to explode in self-righteous fury (in my office dramas I always realize I was actually the asshole a day or so later) and when we get home from work, this is usually what our loved ones hear about for at least the first hour or so.

Not health care, not financial regulatory reform, not Iraq or Afghanistan, but — assholes.

Sarah Palin is on an endless crusade against assholes. It’s all she thinks about. She doesn’t really have any political ideas, in the classic sense of the word — in fact the only thing resembling real political convictions in Going Rogue revolve around the Trans-Alaska pipeline and how awesome she thinks it is.

This is why I have such a problem with labeling Palin's appeal as being aimed towards conservatives. Conservatism may be a movement with which my disagreements are legion, but there's enough policy grounding there to at least begin a serious issue-based conversation. What Palin represents is something else entirely: Mediocrity writ large. That can't be something true conservatives are thrilled to have associated with them.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Afgone

Tom Engelhardt lays out what the prez should say in regards to his still-percolating Afghanistan strategy, but because of either limitations of the establishment or of the self, probably won't.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Base.

A new survey from Public Policy Polling provides some insights into self-identified Republicans that are, if not staggering, certainly instructive in regards to the mindset that's driving the right wing base these days. Here's the breakdown, courtesy of Talking Points Memo:

The poll asked this question: "Do you think that Barack Obama legitimately won the Presidential election last year, or do you think that ACORN stole it for him?" The overall top-line is legitimately won 62%, ACORN stole it 26%.

Among Republicans, however, only 27% say Obama actually won the race, with 52% -- an outright majority -- saying that ACORN stole it, and 21% are undecided. Among McCain voters, the breakdown is 31%-49%-20%. By comparison, independents weigh in at 72%-18%-10%, and Democrats are 86%-9%-4%.

At this point, I think it's safe to say the inmates have taken over the asylum. More at the TPM link above, including the distinction between this finding, and those Dems who feel that the 2K election was stolen from Gore by W.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Hannitized

Bringing this week's Jon Stewart/Sean Hannity dance to a fitting conclusion, here's Jon's acknowledgment of Hannity's acknowledgment. About sums it up, don't you think?

Imprisoned

AMC's new take on perennial fave The Prisoner starts this Sunday, running six hours over three nights. And as mentioned here previously, it may look intriguing, but as with most such efforts (see: V), it's usually hard to top the original when it comes to, well, originality, and early reviews seem to be bearing this out. Still, to celebrate the '09 version's impending *ahem* Arrival (that's a Prisoner pun so nerdy that even I feel embarrassed), Topless Robot has compiled a list of the series' most memorable moments. Enjoy.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Owning Up

In regards to my post yesterday, with The Daily Show poking Sean Hannity with a stick for some editorial legerdemain during his coverage of last week's Republican healthscare rally, my gut told me that the Fox yakker wouldn't even acknowledge the catch and just roll right past it. Well, my gut was wrong. Last night Hannity did own up to the (according to him) "inadvertent mistake," and therefore I'm acknowledging his acknowledgment:

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Going Nuclear

Every couple of years, depending on which party is holding the keys and which party is in the backseat, the "nuclear option" -- ending the ability to filibuster -- gets floated by various congressionals as a way of ending perceived obstructionism from the minority. This would eliminate the need for sixty votes to end debate and allow for a simple majority vote on most major legislation.

Just a few years back, when the Dems were using the maneuver to roadblock various Bush appointees, the Republican leadership of the time, led by Bill Frist, came pretty darn close to going nuclear and doing away with the supermajority. At the time, cooler heads prevailed, aware no doubt that the party in charge one day won't be, and that's when they'll wish they had it, and I pretty much agreed for that very reason.

However, thanks mostly to wish-washy Dems like Lincoln and Nelson, not to mention the dependably undependable Mr. Lieberman, that sixty vote threshold is sure doing a hell of a job squeezing any actual reform out of health care reform. Thanks to this and many more examples, Steven Pearlstein makes a pretty compelling argument that if there's any hope to be had of things actually getting done in Washington, now is as good a time as any to drop the bomb on the filibuster.

From THE ONION...

These Obama-as-comic-nerd Onion stories are always great.
Barack Obama Names Alan Moore Official White House Biographer

WASHINGTON—At a press conference Monday, President Obama announced that he had appointed legendary comic book writer Alan Moore as the official biographer of his time in the White House. "As evidenced by his epic run on Swamp Thing #21–64, Moore's deft hand with both sociopolitical commentary and metaphysical violence makes him an ideal choice to chronicle my time in office," Obama said of the author of Watchmen and From Hell, whom he reportedly chose over others on a short list of potential biographers that included Warren Ellis, Grant Morrison, and Bob Woodward. "I look forward to seeing the kinds of subplots he will surely weave throughout the main narrative of my presidency, and how he'll tie them all back together at the end in a way that just elevates the thing to a whole other level. God, that guy is the master." Although Obama has not yet settled on a publisher for his White House biography, he is reportedly leaning toward DC's Vertigo imprint for its creator-friendly ethos, high production values, and willingness to publish content for mature readers.

Watching the Watchers

Jon Stewart catches Hannity with his finger on the "edit" button. We already know that the op-ed portion of Fox News programming has, shall we say, an elastic relationship with the truth, but geez, it's like they're not even trying anymore.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Recommended Reading

Frank Rich post-games last Tuesday's election, with some advice for the teabaggers as well as for Team Obama.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Jaytalking

Jay Leno is someone who I've always admired even when I've been cool to his TV work. While the nightly monologue and various comedy bits play a little too often to the cheap seats, Leno is, by all accounts, an incredibly gracious and humble guy, and his nose-to-the-grindstone work ethic is an example anyone can learn from. His current situation provides ample evidence of both.

Even with a decade-plus reign as late night TV's undisputed ratings king hosting The Tonight Show, he seems to have been set up to fail by NBC with the current Jay Leno Show, airing weeknights during the 10 o'clock hour. The thinking behind the strip appears to have been motivated less by any artistic calling then by simple economics, not to mention keeping Leno from bolting to another network a la David Letterman fifteen years ago.

The resultant show is a weird hybrid of Leno's strongest Tonight bits (monologue, Headlines, etc.) and some new stuff that frankly needs to be either tweaked or tossed (I'm looking at you, Green Car Challenge). Still, even with his current show only firing at about 60-75% efficiency, I'm genuinely rooting for the guy to make it work and somehow pull it off against the admittedly high odds. This interview is one of the reasons why.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Recommended Reading

There's an election coming up this Tuesday to decide congressional representation of a sliver of New York commonly known as its 23rd district. Any other time this election would merit exactly the amount of thought you've given it up 'till now: none. But these are hardly normal times, and the battle for New York's 23rd has accidentally ended up as the fulcrum in the GOP's continuing struggle for its own identity, and as Frank Rich explains, it could well determine what shape that tattered brand assumes come next fall's midterms.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Verily.



ABC has been kind enough to release around ten minutes from the pilot of its revived V series. While not unimpressive, there is a bit of "been there, done that" going on that's probably unavoidable given how much the original's iconography has been appropriated in the intervening quarter-century (I like the line about Independence Day that the writers threw in -- deliberately, no doubt). While there's been a swell of bad buzz ominously brewing around this offering, I'm still hoping they do something unique with what remains a truly great premise even after all these years.

TEAM Time

This pic has been making its way around the web since late last week, but I wanted to make sure I acknowledged it before too much time passed. Witness the new incarnation of schlock-TV fave The A-Team, from the big screen adaptation hitting theaters next summer.

An A-Team feature is one of those things that's been promised/threatened for at least a decade now, and in principle it's actually not a bad prospect for a big screen redo. Let's face it, the 1980s series, a product of Stephen J. Cannell's TV assembly line, wasn't exactly Hemingway, but for four-and-a-half years it did provide a reliably entertaining hour of television chock-a-block full of guns, explosions and TV-safe violence, not to mention a regular forum for Mr. T to dispense his wisdom ("I pity the fool," and the like).

This one stars, from left to right, the suddenly-hot Bradley Cooper as Templeton "Faceman" Peck, UFC star "Rampage" Jackson as Bosco "B.A." Baracus, District 9 star Sharlto Copley as "Howling Mad" Murdock, and Liam Neeson doing a pretty convincing George Peppard as team leader John "Hannibal" Smith. Flick is being directed by Joe Carnahan, who did the terrific Narc a few years back, and his presence promises just enough grit to hopefully raise this above the usual summer blockbuster. Then again, it's the freakin' A-Team, so what the hell do I know.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

On the Mark

Here's noted comic book and television writer Mark Evanier with his reflection on the partisan situation in Washington that's been so crippling to the health care fight as well as other Obama action items.

One of the many things that makes me optimistic about Obama succeeding with his agenda is that so much of the opposition is controlled either by looneys or by sane Republicans who are terrified of pissing off the looneys. Lately, there's been the perverse amusement of watching the teabagger crowd turn on Lindsey Graham, the senior senator from South Carolina. Graham toes the Conservative line about 96% of the time but since that 4% involves partnering with John Kerry to do something about Climate Change, Graham is a traitor, a quisling, a RINO, a sell-out, a socialist, a fascist, an enemy of the people, etc. At a recent rally, he mentioned something about negotiating on some piece of legislation (health care, I think) and a woman jumped up and yelled, "God does not negotiate!"

Well no, He doesn't. That's because He's God and there's no one to negotiate with. He's also not a member of a minority party that doesn't have the votes to advance its own agenda very far. He can get His way without having to drum up swing votes.

Fruit bats like that lady do not typify the Republican party...but she may typify the kind of voter the G.O.P. doesn't dare alienate. I don't think there's much chance that Republicans will nominate Sarah Palin in 2012...but they're probably going to have to genuflect to her (or someone else who emerges to fill the same role) in much the same way that Democrats once had to kiss the feet of Jesse Jackson. No one wanted Jesse on the ticket but no one wanted to alienate his supporters.

My friends who voted for Obama are driven up the wall by the teabagger crowd that thinks Medicare is not a government program and by the birther crowd that thinks Obama is still being born in Kenya...and I'll admit those mobs are exasperating in their way. But think how annoying it would be to have Obama attacked by people with genuine issues. Or to have the Republican leadership not genuflecting to the nutcase right. There's a very sane, non-nutcase Conservative movement out there and if it ever got control of the Republican party, it might get something done.

Which doesn't mean the Democrats should get cocky. Right now, they're like the Yankees: Winning the occasional game because of the opposition's errors.

I've posted his entry in its entirety, but don't let that stop you from jumping over to Mark's blog and taking a look around.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Web Deficient

Last night's Daily Show looked at the ongoing attempts by the Republicans to vest themselves of their current image as the party of the rich, the old, and the white. Clearly this is an uphill battle, and not helping one bit is RNC chair Michael Steele, who at this point has become so comically hapless that I feel like he needs his own funny theme music to play whenever he shows up on those talking head shows. To wit, the ballyhooed debut of the spankin' new GOP website this week, which probably could have gone better.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Unsporstmanlike

There was something instructive about the ripple of joy that passed through Right Wing World last Friday, as news broke that my hometown of Chicago had lost out on its bid to host the '16 Olympic games.

Now, I would expect the natural level of investment most Americans had in hosting the Olympics was either general excitement or (more likely) general apathy. Heck, I'm a native Chicagoan myself, and my own feelings were probably somewhere in the middle. But the outright elation by those on the right was something else again.

From El Rushbo calling it "the worst day" of the Obama presidency to Glenn Beck saying it was "so, so sweet," all illusions of civility and common interest were tossed aside, and the petty nature of what passes for modern conservatism was suddenly stripped bare for all to see.

Suddenly, the "Loyal Opposition" had been reduced to the level of my two-year old, who snatches any toy from the hands of my eight-month old and throws it across the room rather than let him play with it. So invested was the anti-Obama crowd in its fervor that they applauded (literally!) any perceived failure, even one that would have benefited our country.

The sad part is that this underlying irrationality streches far beyond the Olympics, having already extended its tendrils into the interminable health care debate and beyond, and it has Paul Krugman asking:
How did one of our great political parties become so ruthless, so willing to embrace scorched-earth tactics even if so doing undermines the ability of any future administration to govern?
It's a good question, and Krugman posits his own theory at the link above.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen

MASH star Alan Alda fondly reminisces about his friendship with the man who put the words in Hawkeye Pierce's mouth, the recently departed Larry Gelbart.

Also, check out this Vanity Fair presenting Gelbart's final interview, including (but hardly limited to) reflections on his part in shaping the classic series.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Recommended Reading

The Obama speech on Wednesday helped staunch the bleeding, and put Republican belligerence on display for all to see. Sure would have been nice if the prez hadn't taken his sweet time to get there, though. Frank Rich agrees.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Larry Gelbart, RIP

On Thursday night I was having a conversation with friends on how amazing it is that TV's MASH remains as witty and intelligent today as it did when it first premiered in 1972. This morning I learned that Larry Gelbart, the man largely responsible for imbuing MASH with its comedic soul had passed away after a battle with cancer.

Of course, Gelbart's filmography goes wider and deeper than chronicling the TV misadventures of "Hawkeye" Pierce and "Trapper" John, including the Oh, God films and cross-dressing comedy Tootsie. Still, those first four years that Gelbart served as MASH's exec producer and head writer were so key in laying down the razor thin balance between comedy and pathos that it kept the show plugging along for seven more years after he himself had moved on.

In his latter years Gelbart, always the unabashed liberal, had taken to posting his insightful commentaries on the Huffington Post, which I was always glad to see and which I'm saddened to know are no longer forthcoming. The world has truly lost one of its great and wise wordsmiths with his passing.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Health in a Handcart

Between Republican ignorance and Democratic indolence, the health care debacle over the course of the past summer has really been excruciating to watch. President Obama is all set to deliver a big "muster the troops" speech in front of congress tomorrow, ostensibly to get the reform train back on the rails and into the station, but all signs seem to be point towards the same moneyed/corporate interests that have gummed up the works in the past working their mojo to ensure -- once more -- that nothing substantive gets done. How utterly expected. But hell, don't take my word for it. Click over and read Matt Taibbi's exhaustive analysis of the situation...and prepare to be depressed.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Recommended Reading

Robert Reich explains how the right wing managed to hijack the health reform message, and how the the ever complicit Dems did part of the job for them.

Mouth Breathers

A cross-section of the nutcase Beck-spawn currently showing up at various town halls across the country to protest against health care reform, and against their own interests. Pay special attention for the brain donor who proudly refers to having read the "U.S.S. Constitution."

Monday, August 31, 2009

House of Ideas Meets House of Mouse

Wow. Seriously?

Looks like Spidey, Iron Man, the X-Men, the Hulk, the Fantastic Four, etc. are moving into some shiny new digs with word this morning that Disney is forking over a cool 4 bil to buy Marvel Entertainment lock, stock, and irradiated spider. What this means for the publishing end, the licensing end, and especially the movie end for the Marvel that we know (or knew) is anyone's guess, but holy cow, was this ever out of the blue.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Lionized

The remembrances and legacy pieces about Ted Kennedy have been coming fast and furious, and there's no doubt plenty more to come, but this is probably the best of the ones I've read so far, courtesy of David Von Drehle and Time.

(Thanks, Parvez.)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Senator Edward Kennedy, RIP

Ted Kennedy's death is momentous in many ways. With his passing, our last direct link to the legacy of Jack and Bobby Kennedy, both lost before their time, is gone. Further, and perhaps more relevant right now, his passion and advocacy for health reform was second to none, as indicated in this op-ed he helped pen for Newsweek last month. Certainly his absence in the current debate has been deeply, sorely felt. That said, there's another spate of emotions this news elicits which is also equally relevant. Here's an excerpt from Mark Evanier, echoing my thoughts entirely:

The term "mixed feelings" cannot begin to describe my reaction to the death of Senator Edward Kennedy. An awful lot of the legislation he backed did things I thought should be done and had to be done. Not only that but he generally achieved those things the hard way: Though they were Liberal initiatives, he nearly always managed to enlist at least one prominent Republican as a co-sponsor or strong supporter. Given how Washington works these days, he may have been the last elected official who knew how to make bi-partisanship happen.

Against all that, of course, were his personal failings. A lot of us wanted to admire him, respect him and cite him as a leader. He certainly didn't make that easy. Even now, when some might want to mourn him unreservedly, you have to wonder. He's been in dreadful health for months now. Why oh why didn't he step down last year so that his successor could be in or near office today? The Democratic push for Health Care Reform (his pet issue) didn't need this additional complication.

He's right. Perhaps Kennedy wanted to hang in there just long enough to cast that symbolic vote for the health care reform he'd spent so many years fighting for, but in what ultimately comes down to a numbers game, one man out is one vote less. Still, Kennedy's contribution to the senate as a true advocate for the disenfranchised is unassailable, and while Chappaquiddick is now and forever will be an unfortunate part of his legacy, his record of service to this country constitutes a far, far greater part.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Dead Start

Science ponders 'zombie attack'

As someone with perhaps an unhealthy fixation on this subject, I'm heartened that the scientific community has finally joined me in trying to figure out, y'know, the important stuff.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Recommended Reading

Rick Perlstein on the storied history in this country of everyday citizens emerging as far right crazies in the face of a progressive political agenda, and the subsequent exploitation of their fears by those with an interest in maintaining the status quo.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Zaki's Review: G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra

I'll admit it. This is not a fun review to write.

It's been a few days now since I've seen G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, and in trying to judge it for what it is rather than what it should be, I'm still trying to figure out whether I'm being too generous because of my fondness for the source material, or too harsh because of that same fondness.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Prostitutes

Back after a two-week sabbatical, Olbermann didn't miss a beat last night with a blistering Special Comment aimed at those in our congress, on either side of the partisan divide, primarily responsible for holding up necessary health care reform:

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Pee Planning

Due to my childlike inability to maintain bladder composure at the movies, I've long been faced with a Sophie's Choice between going without soda, or risking the mad dash to the restroom at the exact moment something important ends up happening on-screen. Well, thanks to sterling service offered by this website, it looks like those days are now done. Super-sized Icee, here I come.

Recommended Reading

Jonathan Alter of Newsweek explains (with tongue figuratively in cheek, for the sarcasm impaired) why the status quo of our current heath care system is okay by him.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Radio Silence

Striking a blow for good judgment and our collective cochlear health, it seems the prospects for the currently unemployed Sarah Palin getting her own radio talk show have dimmed slightly. Mammoth syndicate Clear Channel, home to Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, has apparently passed on a hypothetical "Sarah Palin Show," in the process depriving us all of the chance to hear that lilting, angelic voice hold forth for fifteen hours a week.

Maybe Shatner's available.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Care Scares

The so-called "Blue Dogs" in the Democratic caucus may well have stuck a dagger in the heart of health care reform thanks to the corporate special interests that are pulling their strings, but lest the Republican side of the aisle be left off the hook on this one, their crazies in the congress and in the media have been out in force of late chumming up the health care waters with increasingly unhinged rhetoric about socialism and fascism, expressly intended to scare the pants off the dimmest bulbs in their base. Well, lest anyone doubt the Republicans' pursuit of their own political fortune at the expense of the people they claim to represent, then this point-by-point refutation of a right wing anti-health care meme currently making the rounds is the first place you need to go.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Sarah Trek

From Monday's Tonight Show, Conan O'Brien finds the perfect way to navigate the morass that was Sarah Palin's gubernatorial exit speech:

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Village People

The Prisoner, the classic sci-fi series about a man stripped of his identity and trapped in a place called "The Village," is one of my all-time favorite series, and like most dormant properties with any kind of cultural clout, has had a remake promised/threatened for several decades now. I always thought this was a risky move, as the show's brilliantly psychedelic visual excess rooted it squarely in a '60s aesthetic that any new version would find difficult to retain, no matter how large the budget at play.

Well, the return of The Prisoner is now upon us, with AMC's miniseries project. Jim Caviezel, he of The Passion fame, steps into the late Patrick McGoohan's loafers as Number Six, the titular captive, and Sir Ian McKellen lends a singular identity to the insidious Number Two, played by seventeen-plus actors in the series' seventeen episode run. AMC suddenly has a lot of cred in the original programming department, resting largely on the shoulders of the terrific Mad Men, so I'm hopeful this measures up. Here's an extended promo for the show that made its premiere at the San Diego 'con this weekend:

Monday, July 27, 2009

Recommended Reading

Paul Krugman on how the Dems are (yet again) their own worst enemies in the now-unfolding health care debacle.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Battlestargate



Talk about the little franchise that could. Stargate began life as StarGate, an entertaining enough seen-and-forgotten MGM action pic from '94 brought to us by the pre-Independence Day team of director Roland Emmerich and producer Dean Devlin.

In 1997, the TV series Stargate SG-1, without Devlin and Emmerich but with MacGyver, hit Showtime, and a decade-and-change later, the brand is still chugging merrily along on Sci-Fi (sorry, SyFy) even after the cancellations of both of its TV appendages (SG-1 in '07 and Atlantis last season).

The newest round in the chamber is Stargate Universe, for which the network has just released this new promo. Taking the franchise in a somewhat different direction, it appears (at best) influenced by Battlestar Galactica (RIP), and at worst by Star Trek: Voyager. For the show's sake, I hope it's more the former than the latter.

From the promo, you can see The Fully Monty's Robert Carlyle is the lead, as well as blink-and-they're-gone appearances by Lou Diamond Phillips, Christopher McDonald, and 'gaterfamilias Richard Dean Anderson cameoing as Major General Jack O'Neill. This doesn't look bad at all, and I'm suddenly a lot more optimistic about checking it out when it hits this fall.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Birther Defects

The whole health care debate, with the Democrats once again willingly playing their own opposition, has been the frustrating main act playing out on the Washington stage this week, but it's the political sideshow stuff that's been just as fascinating to observe.

Just when you think the Republicans can't find a way to come across as more ignorant and bigoted then last week's Jeff Sessions/Jon Kyl/Orrin Hatch triple-threat during the Sotomayor confirmation hearings, this week saw the "birther" meme wending its way through the right wing achieve a kind of mainstream critical mass, further marginalizing the already-marginal GOP as the party of the extremely rich and/or the extemely racist.

For those who might not be in the know, the conceit here, propagated by the increasingly crazed fringe that the Republican party increasingly considers its base, is that Barack Obama isn't legally the president because he was actually born in Kenya, not America, and his rise to the presidency is actually the end result of a multi-tiered, multi-party, multi-decade conspiracy spanning several states, several government officials, and the willing acquiescence of the American people.

Hoo-kay.

Of course, this is laughable on its face, and all easily disproved, but it crystallizes for us once again just where the GOP is at these days that instead of its leaders tamping down this kind of nonsense, they're encouraging it, either explicitly when asked about it head-on, or tacitly through their sponsorship of wink-wink-nudge-nudge bills in congress.

Witness first this embarrasing exchange between Hardball host Chris Matthews and rightie talker/birther supporter/convicted felon G. Gordon Liddy as he makes an ass of himself trying to defend his position. Next, watch as Jon Stewart (a.k.a. The Most Trusted Man in News...yikes!) takes the wrecking ball to these nuts as well as the media giving them a forum.

What's so repugnant about this so-called movement is the underlying racism it traffics in. Every single one of the assertions being peddled by these people can be laid to rest with a single LexisNexis search. And yet, rather than accept the frightening reality that we live in a country where it is indeed possible to elect a *gasp* black man named *gasp* Barack *gasp* Hussein *gasp* Obama, it's easier to concoct a scenario where they simply don't have to.

The cognitive dissonance at work goes something like this: "I support the president. I hate Obama. Therefore, Obama isn't legally the president." Circle takes the square.

We saw the lefties pull some of this same stuff during the bygone Bush II era: "GW lost the popular vote, the Supreme Court intervened on his behalf, therefore we'll never know the real truth." And so it went for several years. Still, leave it to the Republicans to add in a nice little cocktail of xenophobia, racism, and ignorance to their "He's not my president!" riff.

One thing I emphasize repeatedly in my communication classes is the idea that true progress can emerge only when reasonable people can find a way to disagree reasonably. The birthers, not reasonable and barely people, put the period on that thought, aptly proving this Confucius-like chestnut from noted social critic and former veep Dan Quayle nearly twenty years ago: "What a waste it is to lose one's mind. Or not to have a mind is being very wasteful. How true that is."

Hmm. Indeed.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Full Taibbi

A few weeks ago I linked to an excerpt from Matt Taibbi's searing exposé of financial giant Goldman Sachs, and their role in the economic mess we find ourselves in currently. Given this week's announcement of profits by Goldman beyond even what they'd expected, Taibbi's piece is worth another look, and Rolling Stone has helpfully posted the entire article online.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Random Thought

Yeah, the new chairperson of the Young Republicans is apparently a racist, which is bad, obviously, but what I find more interesting is that 39 is what passes for young in Republican circles these days.

Egon On



I had the pleasure of meeting actor/director Harold Ramis, best known perhaps as Egon Spengler of the Ghostbusters, around ten years ago when he did an "Actor's Studio" type Q & A at Chicago's Columbia College, the film school where I was doing my undergrad. Just a charming and down to earth guy, Ramis had by then long been established as a reliable on-camera second banana and a solid comedic writer and helmer, with Groundog Day and Analyze This under his directorial belt.

Even then though, in the midst of promoting the then-upcoming Bedazzled remake, the one topic that kept coming up was Ghostbusters. Not whether there would be another one, but when. Although Ramis freely offered up plenty of behind-the-scenes anecdotes on the making of the '84 classic and its '89 sequel, back then he was a lot more reticent about discussing further installments for the '80s juggernaut than he is now, as is evident in the above clip.

I dearly love the Ghostbusters franchise, both the films and the long-running cartoon show (which holds up a lot better than I would have thought), but my one concern as I've watched properties resurrected to underwhelming results is that as more time passes (and we're at twenty-plus years now), it gets tougher to compete with your own legend. To his credit, Ramis is cognizant of and candid about this danger, and that makes me feel a lot more sanguine about a hypothetical Ghostbusters III.

Recommended Reading

Frank Rich on the aftermath of the Palin resignation, and what it says about the increasingly narrow constituency to which she caters. I think this segment here pretty much nails it:
The essence of Palinism is emotional, not ideological. Yes, she is of the religious right, even if she winks literally and figuratively at her own daughter’s flagrant disregard of abstinence and marriage. But family-values politics, now more devalued than the dollar by the philandering of ostentatiously Christian Republican politicians, can only take her so far. The real wave she’s riding is a loud, resonant surge of resentment and victimization that’s larger than issues like abortion and gay civil rights.
More at the link.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Fair Jordan


AICN dropped the first word yesterday afternoon, and it spread rapidly from there before Variety finally confirmed the next big comic book casting. After months of speculation and a list that included Trek star Chis Pine and pop star Justin Timberlake, it's Ryan Reynolds who is going to don the black-and-green tights of DC Comics' Hal Jordan, a.k.a Green Lantern.

This is good news.

I've been a Green Lantern fan for about as long as I can remember, with a full run of the title stretching back to the mid-'80s, so this has always been a movie I've been hopeful for but wary of.

At one point in the '80s the folks at the WB wanted to use the property, about one of 3600 space cops who patrol universe with their willpower-driven rings, as a comedic vehicle for Eddie Murphy. More recently there were rumors that it would become a Jack Black movie, so there were a lot of ways this thing could have gone wrong.

Thankfully the current take plays it straight down the middle, with a script by TV/comic book scribe Marc Guggenheim (a classy guy who I had the opportunity to have a very brief conversation with recently) which early reviews describe as heavy on the epic, and direction by Martin Campbell, who previously worked his mojo on Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig's respective 007 entrees.

Pulling Reynolds into the Lantern tent is a pretty savvy move on the part of the studio, as it signs him to a multi-picture deal before his salary skyrockets (as it appears poised to). This would also make him the only actor to inhabit multiple characters over multiple comic book universes, having playing Nightstalker Hannibal King in Blade: Trinity, Wade "Deadpool" Wilson in May's X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and now Jordan.

Reynolds had been attached to a spin-off flick based on his Wolverine appearance, though I'm not sure where this latest development leaves that. It'd be something if he could somehow manage to pull off both. As far as Green Lantern goes, there's lots of cause for optimism here, with a great crew attached to a great concept, and obviously we'll have a lot of time between now and the eventual release to watch it progress.

On a somewhat related note, early August sees the DVD release of Green Lantern: First Flight, the latest in DC's PG-13 animated features released directly to the home market. There have been some pretty great entries in this line since its debut in fall of '07, and this looks to be no exception. Check out the trailer here.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Suped Out

Certain films improve considerably with the passage of time, revealing new nuances and hidden depths of meaning that only increase their esteem in our eyes. And then there's Superman Returns. Though I was initially (guardedly) positive towards the Bryan Singer opus, its drab ponderousness becomes more pronounced and more problematic during repeat viewings (including on FX just this morning), and its stock has fallen considerably with me subsequent to my initial theatrical experience.

Clearly I'm not the only one who felt that way, as the last time we checked a total reboot seemed to be in the cards for the cinematic Superman franchise. Well, another hand has now been dealt bringing us closer to that end, with new word that the big screen's last cape-bearer Brandon Routh's multi-picture contract has sunsetted, essentially signalling the WB's saying, "Don't call us, we'll call you," as it pertains to further sojourns in red-and-blue.

If true, that really is a shame. Even though there are huge chunks of Superman Returns that I'd just as soon soon see chucked into the Phantom Zone as ever referred to again (I'm looking at you, Super-kid), Routh wasn't one of them. He acquitted himself nicely in what can be a pretty thankless role, and it's unfortunate that he'll likely never get the chance to reprise it.

(As an aside, it's a little ironic to me how Singer's decision to bolt the X-Men series for Superman ended up basically wrecking both franchises. Good call, Bryan.)

More Wasilliness

One last hit on the Palin pipe and then I'm done (for today, anyway). Like me, Bruce Reed over at Salon finds it somewhat unlikely that higher office is in her future. Jump on over there to see exactly why. Good stuff, and a strong dose of common sense for Palinauts like the "Reagan Republican" who defaced my last post with a comment shilling his blog of rightie talking points. That comment has since been deleted by yours truly, as will any such comments. I run a nice clean establishment here, so go peddle that stuff elsewhere.

(Thanks once again to me for the original link to the Salon piece.)

Palinoscopy

Republican strategist Todd Harris has probably the best quote to emerge after yesterday's out-of-the-blue announcement by Sarah Palin that she was taking the long walk:
“I think Sarah Palin is on the verge of becoming the Miami Vice of American politics: Something a lot of people once thought was cool and then 20 years later look back, shake their heads and just kind of laugh.”
Not sure what Palin has planned next, but contrary to general opinion, I'm not sure a presidential run is on the radar, though I am sure the Palin story is far from over.

And on the subject of Palin stories, here's Todd Purdum's lengthy Vanity Fair piece dissecting the future ex-governor's brief life as a veep candidate, reminding us yet again that there's a whole lot of crazy going on there.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Taibbi Takes Down...

This month's print edition of Rolling Stone has a brutal expose by Matt Taibbi of financial giant Goldman-Sachs and their hand in our current economic travails. The online edition has posted a pretty substantial excerpt of the piece that has enough of the trademark Taibbi-ness we've come to expect. It's a long one, but stick around 'till the end for his response to Goldman's response.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Zaki's Review: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

The first Transformers worked. Inexplicably, it turns out.

The second Transformers doesn't. Inevitably, it turns out.

As I sat watching Revenge of the Fallen, the second silver screen outing for the evergreen Hasbro toyline, a most peculiar thing began to happen. I could actually feel myself aging right out of the target demo.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Michael Jackson, RIP

King of Pop Deat at 12

LOS ANGELES—Michael Jackson, a talented child performer known for his love of amusement park rides and his hobby of collecting exotic animals for his Neverland Ranch, died from sudden cardiac arrest Thursday at the age of 12. The prepubescent singer, who enjoyed playing dress-up and often referred to himself as "the King of Pop," was celebrated for his naïve exuberance and his generosity toward other children. "This is a terrible loss for music and for all of us," brother Jermaine Jackson said. "He had so much potential to blossom into a gracious and mature human being. As it is, the world will never know the genius Michael Jackson might have become had he grown up." The singer leaves behind a large body of hits, 25,000 unopened toys, and nearly $400 million of debt.
Too soon?

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Recommended Reading

Back on the ol' laptop for this one. With the discussion on public health care beginning to heat up (and by "heat up" I actually mean "cool down"), Robert Reich has posted a list of suggestions it might be helpful for President Obama to save in his beloved Blackberry.

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Great iPod Experiment

I just downloaded an app from the iTunes store that will, in theory, allow me to post to my blog whenever I have my iPod and an Internet connection. If you're reading this, I guess it worked. Consider yourself duly honored, as you've shared in something momentous.

Salvation Through Laughter

The folks at The Editing Room hit it out of the park last year with their hysterically funny Indiana Jones parody script, and they don't disappoint now with a brilliant send-up of Terminator Salvation.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

From THE ONION...

And perfectly putting the pin in this particular story...


Oh Captain, My Captain

About two years and three months ago I posted a brief entry on the then-unfolding "Death of..." storyline in Marvel Comics' Captain America book, depicting the assassination of Steve "Cap" Rogers through the machinations of his longtime foe the Red Skull. As envisaged by writer Ed Brubaker (in one of the best ever runs in the character's lengthy history) the comic book storyline has since shifted to Rogers' presumed dead/now-returned sidekick Bucky Barnes assuming the red/white/blue togs of his fallen mentor. Surprisingly, it's remained just as involving and engrossing without Rogers in the preeminent role, but this being comics and all, we knew it was just a matter of time until a move back towards the status quo was made. I ended my initial blog post by asking, very rhetorically, when is he coming back? And now we know: July 1st.

Lettermania

This past Monday, David Letterman gave it one more go at putting the whole Palin kerfuffle behind him with what is, by all appearances, a sincere and humble apology -- again. Observe it here.

Now observe the mouth-breathers who showed up at Letterman's CBS Studios in New York for a "rally" calling for his ouster (and I put "rally" in quotes because I'm not sure fifteen people makes for much of a rally). History has shown us already that these pro-Palin events tend to really bring out the loons, and this one didn't disappoint, with an extra-crispy brand of crazy on display:



Palin must be so proud to have supporters like this.

(And here's Letterman's Top Ten List from last night poking fun at the protest.)

Monday, June 15, 2009

300!

Just a brief note to mark what is probably an utterly insignificant achievement in the blog world (and even less so in the real world), but momentous to me nonetheless. If you take a gander at the "Followers" box to the right, you'll note that I've now hit 300 subscribers. I'll assume that the number of subscriptions isn't so much an indication of any inherent quality here as it is a reflection of my shameless self-promotion at every possible opportunity, regardless of appropriateness. Seriously, I'm like an Amway guy. Anyway, just so it's preserved for posterity...

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Terminal

We're coming up on a month now since Terminator Salvation, the third sequel to James Cameron's 1984 original, came to theaters, and if box office totals are any indication, I wasn't alone in greeting it with a shrug. After struggling mightily to cross the $100 million mark (itself increasingly irrelevant in this age of skyrocketing costs), the much-ballyhooed sequel will top out with an embarrassingly meager take of $135 mil or so, well short of its $200 mil-plus budget, effectively spelling the end of the Terminator movies for the time being.

It wasn't supposed to be like that, of course. This was supposed to be a franchise reinvention in the mold of the Nolan Batmans, or the Craig Bonds, or even the Abrams Trek. In fact, if you're a died-in-the-wool Terminator fan, then the month of May in general wasn't very good for you between Salvation's flame-out and the much-hyped, little-watched TV series The Sarah Connor Chronicles meeting its own Judgment Day after being canceled in the middle of a cliffhanger. It's a little sad to look at these continued diminished returns, where one of the most hallowed, revered brands in sci-fi and filmdom is reduced to a mere footnote.

I don't have near enough experience with the show to have an informed opinion, but while I didn't hate Salvation, by no means should that be interpreted to imply that the opposite is true as well. The fact that I couldn't even be arsed to write a review should serve as testament to the general level of apathy I felt as I walked out of the multiplex, and continue to feel now as I sit typing this. Not so much a review, this is more a meditation on the continued Hollywood propensity towards strip-mining properties of any perceived value, as reflected through the lens of The Terminator.

Given the distance of several weeks since its release, I've had plenty of opportunities to summarize my impressions on the film, and the only thing I can really bring myself to do is pity poor, poor Joe McGinty. He tried. He really tried. When McGinty, known to fan and foe alike as the director McG, signed on to helm, there were hoots and hollers from Terminator fans in particular and film fans in general, and bloggers the world over had their fingers poised, ready to deride when the signal was given. He was, after all, the man who'd inflicted two successively awful Charlie's Angels movies on an unsuspecting public. Plus, he made the really boneheaded decision to adopt a cutesy-poo nickname as an alias.

Either one of these would have been a tough cross to bear, but taken together they became darn near insurmountable. I think it was because of this double-whammy, and the lowered expectations that came with, that I found myself -- despite myself -- actually rooting for the guy. Interview after interview, he asked, pleaded even, to be given a chance. Don't judge him on what he's done, judge him on what he will do. Fair enough, I thought. And as pictures and trailers and more continued to work their way out leading up to the big release, I had cause for optimism. The production design indeed looked impressive, the stunts indeed looked spectacular, and it starred Christian Bale in the lead for goodness sake! He wouldn't do a bad movie, right?

And the answer is no, he wouldn't. He would, however, do a mediocre one, and that's what Terminator Salvation ended up being. Despite an absolutely massive effort to clear the bar that the Terminator franchise had previously set, what McGinty has done is to pack the movie with enough whiz-bang and spectacle to carry you through it and not make your brain ache until after you've gone home, gotten a good night's sleep, and sat down with your Corn Flakes the next morning. After that -- hoo-boy -- get ready to break out the Tylenol.

The broader point though, and one that I've become increasingly cognizant of as I get older and I see more and more revered franchises from yesteryear trotted out for remakes, reboots, or (God help us) "re-imaginings," is that maybe it's okay to just leave well enough alone sometimes. Certain stories are simply meant to stand as is. No part two. No trilogy. No TV series. Just a beginning, middle, and end. Certainly as it pertains to Cameron's Terminator -- the first one and (arguably) the best -- that's very much the case.

Here was a film expressly not intended to be sequelized into franchise heaven. It told a story, a specific story, about the immutability of fate, and how love can transcend time, and that was it. Credits roll, fade to black. The fact that Cameron was able to squeeze another entry out of that with 1991's Judgment Day is a testament to his own creativity, making an end-run around his own concept to "fit." The fact that they were able to get another sequel to that was in turn a testament to the solid conceptual foundation Cameron had laid, even without his continued involvement.

Nevertheless, as much as I enjoyed both Terminator 2 and Terminator 3 (yes, even Terminator 3), neither adds anything to the simple finality of the first movie, thus both were (and are) essentially unnecessary. Of course, I'm not naive enough to think that Hollywood isn't just as much about "business" as it is about "show," but the key to any sequel isn't just to make money to ensure yet another sequel, it's to build on the original while maintaining fidelity to it, otherwise you end up with a purely monetary exercise. Sadly, such is now the case with The Terminator. It's become Planet of the Apes. It's become RoboCop. A brilliant, done-in-one story that's subsequently watered down and watered down through add-ons that extend the brand but diminish the simple power of the original.

Does the premature end of Sarah Connor and the limp box office fate of Salvation spell the end of The Terminator as a brand? I doubt it. If not right away, then somewhere down the line it'll be jolted back to Frankensteinian life in hopes of squeezing more blood from the stone, just like they're even now planning to do with the aforementioned Apes and RoboCop. There's too much money at stake for them not to try. But it is, however, the end of The Terminator as a concept with anything substantive to say. After Salvation, it's become something that, however technically proficient, is nonetheless utterly soulless and ruthlessly mechanical. How bitterly ironic.

Recommended Reading

GOP strategist Mike Murphy on the demographic realities conspiring to ensure that -- barring a sudden paradigm shift -- the Republicans will have an extended stay out of the White House and in the congressional minority.

Friday, June 12, 2009

How Do You Solve a Problem Like Sarah?

No shocker if you follow this blog, but I'm not a Sarah Palin fan. I've never been a Sarah Palin fan. My first real exposure to her was with her "coming out" speech at the Republican Convention last fall, and it's been downhill since. It's reached a point now where whenever I hear her voice, an unbidden chill runs down my back. Not just from what she's saying, but yeah, from the way she says it. Nonetheless, I have some friends, die hard Republicans, who are (rather bafflingly) equally die hard in their Palin fervor.

Now, in a Republican field that's so devoid of marquee names that they're turning to El Rushbo to dictate policy, I suppose that's understandable, but it seems to me that her brand of hypocritical moralizing is everything the GOP should want to separate itself from in these days of ever-dwindling returns. In her case, it's both the message and the messenger that's toxic. The spectacle that's currently playing out between she and David Letterman exemplifies everything I'm talking about, as she pulls the outrage card beyond all reasonable measure in hopes of getting just a little bit more media face-time to feign indignation over an "offense" that any reasonable person would have brushed to the side one apology ago.

Come on.

I think Robert Elisberg over at Huffington Post bullseyes the Palin Problem far better than I, so just jump over there and give it a read (thanks to me for posting the link).

G.I. Dunno

The bad news keeps coming for the big screen G.I. Joe. Read the rumors here, including the spin-tastic comments from producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura, and make up your own mind. For my part, I've heard from enough sources with no dog in the fight that this thing is a stinker, which saddens me to no end. Really, it's been a race to the bottom with every piece of news that's leaked out, starting with the hiring of Stephen Sommers to direct and working outward from there, like ripples in a pond.

The exception for me has been the casting, which I consider mostly solid except for the unfortunate choice of the vacant Channing Tatum for the not-inconsequential role of lead soldier Duke. Still, I have to think that the trainwreck(s) currently unfolding (behind-the-scenes turmoil and toxic word of mouth) have moved this flick into Worst Case Scenario territory for the Paramount execs who greenlit the thing. Right now they must be thanking their lucky stars that they had Star Trek last month and Transformers in a few weeks to shore up the ol' balance sheets.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

David Carradine, RIP

Very sad to hear of the passing of David Carradine, known to one generation as the pacifist martial artist Kwai Chang Caine, who headlined TV's Kung Fu in '70s, and known to another as the titular "Bill" of Tarentino's Kill Bill series. Though Carradine was part of acting royalty that included (but wasn't limited to) father John, brother Keith, and niece Ever, my first exposure to him was in the 1980s with reruns of Kung Fu I used to watch growing up in Saudi Arabia. For me, he continued to embody the spirit and serenity of that character long after it had left the air (and after its '90s successor, The Legend Continues, had run its course), which is why the news of his passing is made doubly sad, and a little confusing, with the knowledge that it was a suicide. I don't know what demons he was battling that led him to this point, but I hope his family is able to make their own peace with his choice.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Recommended Reading

Frank Rich examines the recent Cheney Media Tour, culminating in dueling policy speeches by President Obama and Dick:

[Cheney's] speech itself, with 20 mentions of 9/11, struck the same cynical note as the ads, as if the G.O.P. was almost rooting for a terrorist attack on Obama’s watch. “No one wishes the current administration more success in defending the country than we do,” Cheney said as a disingenuous disclaimer before going on to charge that Obama’s “half measures” were leaving Americans “half exposed.” The new president, he said, is unraveling “the very policies that kept our people safe since 9/11.” In other words, when the next attack comes, it will be all Obama’s fault. A new ad shouting “We told you so!” awaits only the updated video.

The Republicans at least have an excuse for pushing this poison. They are desperate. The trio of Pillsbury doughboys now leading the party — Rush Limbaugh, Newt Gingrich, Cheney — have variously cemented the G.O.P.’s brand as a whites-only men’s club by revoking Colin Powell’s membership and smearing the first Latina Supreme Court nominee as a “reverse racist.” Republicans in Congress have no plausible economic, health care or energy policies to counter Obama’s. The only card left to play is 9/11.

More at the link, including how the Dems are playing their cowed and cowardly role to perfection once again after so much practice during the Bush era.