Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Zaki's Retro Review: Star Trek Generations (1994)

If you were a Star Trek fan during the fall of 1994, you didn't have far to look to get your fix. The Next Generation had ended its run just months earlier at the top of its class, Emmy-nominated as "Best Dramatic Series." The first of the spin-offs, Deep Space Nine had held its own for a season-and-a-half, and another spin-off, Voyager, was being readied for its premiere a few short months hence to help raise the curtain on an entire new network (UPN, RIP).

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Zaki's Retro Review: Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991)

After years of hostilities, the Klingon Empire wants peace with the Federation. The times are changing, and our characters are at a historic crossroads. As Mr. Spock attempts to explain the benefits of opening a dialogue with their once-implacable foes, Captain Kirk explodes, "Don't believe them! Don't trust them!" "They're dying," implores Spock. Kirk's icy reply: "Let them die."

Suddenly this isn't the invincible space captain whose exploits we've followed for decades. Instead it's just a man. A vulnerable man, swimming against the tide of time and too blinded by his own hate to see it. It's a bit bracing to get such a different perspective on our beloved hero, but it's merely the beginning of a character journey that helps make Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country one of the most layered and complex in the series.

Recommended Reading

Over the course of the past week, it's been alternately fascinating and depressing to watch the story about Bush era torture memos play out in the media. Very quickly it became about the debate about torture instead of the torture itself.

Glenn Greenwald has a must-read breakdown of why this goes far beyond partisan politics, and why those who would argue otherwise are the most complicit of all. Worth special mention, this bit that points out how far this complicity stretches across party lines: they have done for years, Democratic leaders continue to lead the way in shielding Bush crimes from scrutiny and stifling public disclosure of what was done. Obama met yesterday with Congressional leaders and emphatically argued against the establishment of a Truth Commission, insisting that such an inquiry would interfere with his political agenda. Senate Majority "Leader" Harry Reid then dutifully and obediently announced that Senate Democrats will block any such investigations in favor of a Senate Intelligence Committee proceeding that will occur largely in secret and will not be completed until the end of the year, at least (I remember when Democrats used to mock GOP leaders for having Dick Cheney come to Congress and give them their marching orders). Democratic Congressional leaders are doing now what they did throughout the Bush presidency: namely, pretending to oppose what was done while doing everything possible to protect and enable it and shield the wrongdoers from scrutiny (in large part because some of the wrongdoing was by their own party).
In other words, the same political shell game that's always played in Washington regardless of which side is the home team.

Zaki's Retro Review: Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989)

Twenty years ago, for the first time, I got to see a Star Trek movie in the theater. Unfortunately for me that movie turned out to be Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.

After saving the whales, the planet, etc. last time around, the Enterprise crew is enjoying some much-needed shore leave, with Kirk, Spock, and Bones camping it up in Yosemite. When a Vulcan named Sybok (Lawrence Luckinbill), free with his emotions and driven by religious zeal, takes hostages at a planet in the Neutral Zone, ship and crew are called back into action, despite the Enterprise herself being less-than-ready for active duty. Soon enough, a deeper connection between Spock and Sybok is revealed, and what started out as a "simple" hostage rescue turns into a mad quest to the center of the galaxy, with the Enterprise's crew allying with Sybok against Kirk as the ship warps toward an eventual meeting with God himself.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Zaki's Retro Review: Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)

By 1986, Star Trek was twenty years young. While it may have started out as the little show that bucked the odds, it had since become a proven commodity and reliable moneymaker that Paramount could count on to refill their coffers every couple of years. Thus, pretty much as soon as The Search For Spock hit theaters, another entry took on the air of inevitability.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Zaki's Retro Review: Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984)

If loyal Trekkers had any doubts about Mr. Spock's fate following his heroic sacrifice in the closing minutes of Star Trek II, those concerns probably evaporated once it was announced that Leonard Nimoy was stepping behind the camera to direct the follow-up. After all, it wouldn't be much of a "Search" if they didn't, y'know, find him. Suddenly, Trek III wasn't about whether Spock would be back, but how.

Thursday, April 23, 2009


Keith Olbermann tosses down the gauntlet to rightie noisemaker Sean Hannity following his agreeing yesterday to waterboard himself for charity.

Says Olbermann:
"For every second you last, a thousand dollars -- live or on tape, provided other networks' cameras are there. A thousand dollars a second, Sean, because this is no game. This is serious stuff. Put your money where your mouth is, and your nose. Oh, and I'll double it when you admit you feared for your life, when you admit the horrible truth -- waterboarding, the symbol of the last administration, is torture."
Does anyone really think Hannity'll do it? C'maaaahn.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Zaki's Retro Review: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)

The Wrath of Khan is where I became a Star Trek fan. And all it took was Mr. Spock dying.

When you think about it, after the limp ponderousness of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, it's a wonder a sequel materialized at all. But chalk it up to the undying optimism of loyal Trekkers, enough of whom convinced themselves it was a good movie, and enough of whom gave it enough repeat viewings, that by the time it ended its theatrical window, a movie series had been born (Star Wars fans went through a similar hopeful denial back in '99).

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Tortured Illogic

Jon Stewart subjects the right wing Talking Head Brigade to some verbal waterboarding over their defense of Bush-era "anything goes" interrogation techniques. Seriously, sometimes this stuff writes itself.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Zaki's Retro Review: Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)

Note: We're doing something a little different here. With the release of JJ Abrams' revitalized Star Trek just a few weeks away, I thought it might be fun to stroll down memory lane with the movie Treks that preceded it, starting with 1979's Star Trek: The Motion Picture and working forward through the nine (!!) sequels. All of this will, hopefully, provide some helpful context once Trek '09 finally hits. Let's see how we do!

"The Human Adventure is Just Beginning"

Thus was the first silver screen adventure of the USS Enterprise proudly trumpeted by Paramount Pictures in time for its Christmas '79 premiere. I beat Star Trek: The Motion Picture into the world by only a few months, so I wasn't around to experience what it must have felt like for the die hards.

Here was Star Trek, reborn on the big screen in the post-2001, post-Star Wars age of special effects, all under the auspices of series creator Gene Roddenberry as producer and the direction of Robert Wise, who'd already done sci-fi "right" with 1951's The Day the Earth Stood Still. Finally, the devotion they'd shown to their beloved series for the ten year dry spell (well, except for the cartoon show) would be borne out. Or would it?

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Zaki's Review: State of Play

It's a twist of timing that's either ironic or fortuitous, depending on your point of view. Just as web and TV alike have been playing the funeral dirge for print journalism in the wake of bankruptcies and reader apathy, director Kevin Macdonald's crackerjack suspenser State of Play hits theaters singing a valedictory ballad for the old fashioned, rumpled-trenchcoat brand of investigative journalism.

In a storyline adapted from the British miniseries of the same name, the film stars Russell Crowe, sporting unkempt hair and prominent gut, as Cal McCaffrey, intrepid (if bedraggled) reporter for The Washington Globe, a revered daily institution floundering in the digital age (but then, aren't they all?). While following up on two shootings that occur one rainy night in DC, McCaffrey's investigation widens to include the seemingly-unrelated death of a woman working as an aide to his close friend, the idealistic and on-the-rise congressman Stephen Collins (Ben Affleck).

Thursday, April 16, 2009

A Word With Wolvie

We interrupt our regularly-scheduled blog for this brief message from Hugh Jackman:

As an aside, Free Comic Book Day has been a regular occurrence the first Saturday of every May since '02, but this is the first time the organizers have been able to rope in a star of Jackman's standing to give the event some face time. Hopefully this signals the beginning of a trend.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


I didn't hate Transformers, and I'm looking forward to seeing the sequel, but still...
Michael Bay Signs $50M to F*@% Up 'ThunderCats'

"I couldn't be more excited to completely f*@% this up," said Bay, who plans to begin production on destroying the live-action adaptation next month. "ThunderCats has a great story, endearing characters, action, adventure, space-travel, and fantasy. It will be an honor to run it into the ground."

"I'll use every directorial tool I have to suck the very life and charm out of this beloved cartoon," added Bay, claiming that the film could turn out to be the most colossal piece of shit he's ever worked on. "I won't rest until I get every last scene exactly wrong."
Read the whole thing at the link.


Between the antics of Fox News nutcase Glenn Beck and today's aimless teabaggery, it seems like the right wing has been overtaken of late by an extra-crispy brand of looniness. In his pointed examination of this phenomenon, Matt Taibbi zeroes in on the peasant mentality that's at the root of this, as well as the real problem that emerges when populism and classism collide:
...the reason the winger crowd can’t find a way to be coherently angry right now is because this country has no healthy avenues for genuine populist outrage. It never has. The setup always goes the other way: when the excesses of business interests and their political proteges in Washington leave the regular guy broke and screwed, the response is always for the lower and middle classes to split down the middle and find reasons to get pissed off not at their greedy bosses but at each other.
Don't stop there, though. The entire post is worth a look.

Monday, April 13, 2009


As anyone who may mistakenly have surfed across Fox News during the last few weeks already knows, the latest cause célèbre on the right is a series of "tea parties" all over the country. These protests supposedly demonstrate the populist rage aimed at the dire and oppressive tax policies of the current administration. You know, the administration that's been in office for less than a hundred days, and whose tax policies would actually help the same people who are showing up to hoist their ridiculous placards.

From the very start, something struck me as off about these protests -- something artificial. And who knew, I was right. Like with most things Republican for the past couple of decades, the usual trifecta of right wing politicos, blowhard pundits, and the same top two percenters who would be hurt by Obama tax policies are using average people as walking billboards/willing dupes. Paul Krugman elaborates: turns out that the tea parties don’t represent a spontaneous outpouring of public sentiment. They’re AstroTurf (fake grass roots) events, manufactured by the usual suspects. In particular, a key role is being played by FreedomWorks, an organization run by Richard Armey, the former House majority leader, and supported by the usual group of right-wing billionaires. And the parties are, of course, being promoted heavily by Fox News.
However, the takeaway from all this for the righties may not be what Rush, Newt, et al., wanted, as Andrew Sullivan, not exactly a frothy-mouthed liberal, explains:
Under this onslaught from conservative media and political outlets, it is not that surprising that Obama’s negatives among Republicans and even independents has jumped.

But this, when you come to think about it, is far more worrying for the Republicans than for Obama, if Obama maintains a centre-left course. The right’s strategy is clear: define Obama as a far-left radical, and wait. Offer nothing substantive as policy alternatives, but keep the drumbeat up. It’s a classic strategy – and it was what John McCain and Hillary Clinton tried last year.

And we all know how well that worked out for them.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Useful Tips

Hmm. Good to know I'm not the only one who's given this scenario just a little bit too much thought.