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.