Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Future is Back!

Remember when I posted the trailer for the impending UK-only Back to the Future theatrical re-release, and you oohed-and-aahed and then got really depressed because it was a UK-only release?  Well rejoice, Futurians, because your prayers have been answered -- for two showings, anyway.  That's right, AMC Theaters will be offering two special 25th anniversary screenings of the seminal Robert Zemeckis classic on October 23 and 25 (followed by the trilogy's newly-remastered Blu-ray release on the 26th).  I was planning to be in LA that weekend anyway, so I'm looking forward to catching this with my Mr. Boy compatriots (Back to the Future fanatics, all).  You can get all the details on the AMC screenings here .

Monday, September 27, 2010

"The Lowest Response"

Of all the hate-baiting and fearmongering that's gone on surrounding the Park51 center, perhaps the most egregious offender (which is really saying something, mind you) is North Carolina congressional candidate Renee Ellmers, who's seemingly wrapped her entire campaign (or at least a decent-sized chunk of it) around stirring up anti-Muslim resentment rooted in a questionable grasp of history and an even more questionable grasp of issues that are directly relevant to her constituents in NC.

Needless to say, there's a whole mess of crazy in there to pick apart, and like his recent chat with crackpot congressman Louis Gohmert, Anderson Cooper rightly called out Ellmer's more blatant falsehoods during an appearance on his CNN show this Friday. Not only did he question the premise of her entire argument, but he also questioned its inherent contradictions, and called to account her, shall we say, "Palin-esque" knowledge of historical events (leading him at one point to exclaim that hers was "the lowest response I have ever heard from a candidate").

The resultant segment, including commentary and context from an actual religious scholar, makes for one of the more compelling politics-related vids to hit the web of late and is worthy of a viewing in its entirety:

Recommended Reading

Noam Schreiber at The New Republic has a fascinating, in-depth profile of David Axelrod, the man who's largely credited with winning Barack Obama the presidency, and the discontent he's now feeling in his role as Obama's political strategist. In particular, one observation about the differences between the two men jumped out at me: "Axelrod is a liberal with a populist streak; Obama is more of a technocrat who leans left but generally shuns ideology." And yet, as I mentioned the other day, even with his staunchly center-left leanings and down-the-middle style of governing, Obama has still been tagged with every brand of "otherness" the opposition can toss at him, whether communist, socialist, fascist, etc.

Read the entire article here.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Right Wing's Sharia Shenanigans

Last weekend saw a veritable who's who of conservative luminaries hit Washington at a conference bearing the Orwellian appellation of "The Value Voters Summit."  Now, in addition to the usual anti-Democrat, anti-Obama stuff that's about par for this type of gathering, the other big booga-booga trotted out by speaker after speaker after speaker was the clear and present threat Islam represents to America, culminating in our friend Newtie exhorting his audience that, "we should have a federal law that says under no circumstance, in any jurisdiction in the United States, will Sharia be used in any court to apply to any judgment made about American law."

To which I'm pretty sure most American Muslims reacted the same way I did: "Uh...what?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Tax Cut Punt

Of course, my last post shouldn't be taken to imply that I'm especially happy with the Democratic leadership right now either, especially based on their bizarre, baffling, and simply wrongheaded decision yesterday to punt a vote to cut taxes for the middle class tax (those earning $250k and under) into the post-election lame duck session.

It's just beyond me how the Democrats can continue to kneecap themselves on issue after issue, whether health care reform, job creation, or this.  In a year where the country is in a "throw the bums out" mood, they've managed yet again to misread the temperature on an issue the public overwhelmingly supports them on.  In the process they've made it that much harder for those who'd be inclined to support them to justify that support. 

While digging into the rationale behind the Dems' decision, Greg Sargent unearthed this telling tidbit:
According to a very plugged in Senate aide, Senators debating the issue were very aware that the polling was on their side. Yet, paradoxically, this ended up tipping the balance against holding the vote. Senate Dems felt they were alreadly winning on the issue, and in the end they thought a vote risked upsetting a dynamic that was already playing in their favor.

"People felt like, Why rock the boat on a good situation?" the aide tells me. 
Why rock the boat.  Unbelievable.  It's exceedingly sad that the Democrats' one and only lifeline right now is that people seems to dislike the Republicans even more.  Still, if they think that'll be enough to prevent that electoral shellacking that's looking increasingly likely in just a few short weeks, they're in for a very rude awakening

Lemon Pledge

This past Wednesday Republican leaders unveiled their ballyhooed "Pledge to America" (obviously intended to evoke the "Contract With America" from the '90s), which they said would give voters a clear idea of how they intend to lead if (when?) they retake the reins of congress.  In all the various reactions that followed (including, surprisingly enough, some decidedly mixed notices from the Republican side), I think Jon Stewart made the clearest case that as far as the GOP leadership is concerned, "new and different" equals "more of the same."  Observe:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Postcards From the Pledge
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

Nolan Seeks Director for SUPERMAN

Last Friday I mentioned that there still wasn't anything solid to report on the development of the big screen Superman reboot that Chris Nolan has been shepherding.  While there's still nothing solid to report as yet, we do have some indications of who producer Nolan and screenwriter David Goyer are potentially zeroing in on to helm the project.

As Mike Fleming at Deadline reveals, they've begun meeting with a handful of directors (including, but not limited to, Tony Scott and Watchmen's Zack Snyder), with a decision likely coming soon on who will take the reins for the Christmas 2012 release.  I can't say I'm blown away by any of the choices listed thus far, but then I'm not entirely sure who I'd want to direct the movie aside from Nolan himself.

And speaking of Superman flicks, in that same post I also mentioned the upcoming All-Star Superman animated feature that's due out next spring, and here's the trailer for the project courtesy of MTV:

Hmm.  Not bad.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Recommended Reading

The New Yorker's Lawrence Wright examines the parallels between how a few radical imams in the Middle East were able to whip up a frenzy around the offensive Danish caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad a few years back, and how a few radical Right Wing bloggers were able to whip up a frenzy around the Park51 Islamic Center in New York this past summer.

"Fox 1.0"

Jon Stewart made on of his semi-regular visits to his frenemy Bill O'Reilly's show last night, and as before it made for a most interesting discussion that reinforced the same point I made the other day about how the Right Wing fringe has turned into its mainstream to such a staggering degree that it's rendered O'Reilly an artifact of a bygone era.

Here's the first part:

And the second:

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Recommended Reading

Roger Alan Stone explains the many valuable lessons that President Obama seems to have missed in his self-professed favorite movie, The Godfather.

Gingrich, D'Souza, and the New Language of Political Discourse

So, have you heard the one about how President Obama hates America because he's motivated by "anti-colonialist" loyalty to the ghost of his dead Kenyan father?

That's the talking point that began circulating last week, coughed up by conservative writer (and walking, talking embodiment of racial Stockholm Syndrome) Dinesh D'Souza by way of Forbes magazine and his impending book The Roots of Obama's Rage (and based on his use of "rage" as a given, I'm wondering what Obama he's talking about exactly, because honestly I'd settle for "mildly annoyed" at this point). Anyway, this meme was then propagated through the media on the back of Newt Gingrich's ringing endorsement, which Slate's Dave Weigel rightly refers to as "a nuclear trigger" in the current political environment.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


Back in early August we first got word that uncertainty about the show's future had led Law & Order: Criminal Intent star Jeff Goldblum to depart after only two seasons on the job (and less than a year after taking over the reins from series vet Vincent D'Onofrio).  This in turn threw into question whether the veteran procedural would be back at all.  As I said back then:
...the show's one and only lifeline is wrapped around whether the producers are successful in luring back D'Onofrio (whose Goren character was fired in the season's second ep).  If no, then I doubt they'd bother bringing in a new lead just to have him turn the lights out after eight-to-ten episodes.
Well, after a month-and-change of radio silence, the intent for Criminal Intent has been revealed.  According to Deadline, D'Onofrio is officially back onboard full-time as Det. Goren for a final batch of ten episodes that will close out the series' decade-long run -- that "victory lap" I talked about before.  Negotiations are also underway for Kathrn Erbe to return as Goren's longtime partner, and I'd assume that should fall into place fairly soon. 

Monday, September 20, 2010

Stale Soup

As anyone who's seen David Zucker's painfully unfunny An American Carol or Fox News' failed attempt to outdo The Daily Show with The 1/2 Hour News Hour already knows, Right Wing humor just doesn't work.  Nor, for that matter, does Left Wing humor.  The goal of all comedy is to go where the funny is, and that can't happen if it's also governed by a specific partisan or ideological mindset.

Say what you will about Jon Stewart and Company's Leftward tilt (which I doubt anyone would deny) but it's not like they haven't given President Obama just as much grief during his time in office as they did the other guy.  So now the spankin' new RightNetwork, which is only available OnDemand for the time being, is giving Right-leaning comedy another go with the Soup-inspired Leftovers, and, well, here's Gawker's take:
Ouch. Get a robot, style him like the teens we see at the mall but don't let him show any emotion, rip-off The Soup's virtual set, reuse an old sitcom laugh track and throw in some Kirstie Alley fat jokes: the viewers will love it!
Watch the clip below, and you'll agree that about says it.  Holy yikes!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Recommended Reading

Hamza Yusuf Hanson, founder of Zaytuna College and one of the preeminent voices in the American Muslim community, offers his thoughts on the controversy surrounding the Park51 Islamic Center, and cites an example from his own Irish-American roots to draw a parallel with the Islamophobic panic that's seemingly gripped certain quarters of this country.
In many ways, Muslims are the new Irish. While they are spared the blatant bigotry of job ads that caution, “No Muslims need apply,” Muslims often feel the chill of their reception during job interviews, especially women wearing a scarf, or men with a beard and skullcap.
But the Irish narrative is also one of good cheer for the Muslims. They aren’t called “the fighting Irish” for nothing. The Irish pressed on. Slowly, they built some of the finest schools and colleges in our nation, as well as churches and charitable hospitals. They were hardworking and industrious, and their natural genius flourished in the opportunities afforded them in a free and open society.
Check out the rest here.

Dancing With The Gods

Director Kenneth Branagh, currently hard at work readying his big screen adaptation of Thor for its launch next summer, spoke briefly with the Los Angeles Times' Geoff Boucher recently about his take on Marvel's famed Thunder God, and how it differs from Jon Favreau's approach to Marvel stablemate Iron Man (the second installment of which hits DVD very shortly):
“It’s how you dance pretty close to the edge to get the sort of modernity and the edge that Iron Man has and the real sharp comic sensibility of those two men,” he said. “So it’s a different kind of dance.
“I think Thor comes from a different place story-wise and character-wise. We have both Norse histories for Thor, hundreds of myths and fables told in many different ways, in addition to what Marvel has pillaged for the past 40 years or so to come up with their version of things, which sits in very strong structure, a really strong narrative structure.”
More from Branagh here.  Of course, as those who follow this site already know quite well, Thor is just one piece of the shared universe that Marvel has been building since the first Iron Man. The real test will come with Avengers in 2012 in determining whether these disparate franchises with different requirements for suspension of disbelief can successfully coexist anywhere but the comic book page without mainstream auds thinking it's just a big episode of WWE Smackdown.

Taking It Down A Notch

I love this.  And I'd totally go, but I've got $#it to do.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Rally to Restore Sanity
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

And the response from Stephen Colbert:

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
March to Keep Fear Alive
Colbert Report Full Episodes2010 ElectionFox News

Men of Steel

Okay, for all the grief I've given Smallville on this site lately, I have to admit that this nostalgic promo vid from the CW looking back at the last nine years and pumping the upcoming final season managed to hit all the right buttons to bring me onboard for the proto-Superman series' home stretch:

And while we're on the subject, there's new word on the Man of Steel's next feature venture as well.  No, nothing on Chris Nolan's planned reinvention just yet, but this could potentially be just as promising.  The folks at Warners' "DC Universe" animated division, are currently at work on All-Star Superman, a DTV adaptation of the exemplary Grant Morrison-Frank Quitely comic series of the same name (one of the best runs I've seen in twenty-plus years of Super-fandom).  As the comparison shot below shows, it certainly looks like they're doing their best to hew closely to Quitely's detailed linework in bringing it to animated life.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The DAILY Grind

And while we're on the subject of The Daily Show, if you're like me, you're continually amazed at how the show's writing staff is always able to find just the right clips for whatever the occasion demands, seamlessly mixing social commentary and truth-telling into a potent cocktail that never fails to be painfully cutting and wickedly funny.  This terrific, in-depth piece at New York Magazine gives us a peek behind-the-scenes at the laborious process Team Stewart goes through every day to manufacture about fifteen minutes of comedy every night.  Well worth a read for any Daily fan.

Primary Color

Jon Stewart examines the fallout from Tuesday's primaries, and in his own inimitable way makes the same point I mentioned the other day about the Democrats' ill-defined strategy to stave off a midterm shellacking, and how they never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Tea Party Primaries - Beyond the Palin
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Bonded Servant

Following up on my post from last week comes further indication that things may be heading toward resolution at MGM for the James Bond franchise to get back on-duty sooner rather than later.  Tucked away inside Deadline's post on director Gary Ross (Pleasantville, Seabiscuit) circling Lionsgate's upcoming adaptation of The Hunger Games is the tidbit that another director in contention had been Road to Perdition's Sam Mendes.  Mendes, you may recall, had been hard at work developing Bond 23 with the assumption that he would take the reins on the project once the creative and financial hurdles had been cleared away.  Insofar as his involvement in Hunger Games...
Mendes, for instance, bowed out of contention last Friday, and I’m told it was because the MGM picture is clearing up and it looks like production on 007 could begin by late summer or early fall, 2011 with Mendes at the helm and Daniel Craig back in the Aston Martin.
Still nothing official, of course, but all indicators seem to be pointing in a positive direction.  Again, good news.


After Glenn Beck's self-aggrandizing "Reclaiming Honor" rally a few weeks back, and especially after the primary victories of Christine O'Donnell and other Tea-types last night, this one seems eerily apropos:
Nation Once Again Comes Under Sway Of Pink-Faced Half-Wit
"This particular pink-faced half-wit is at the height of his persuasive powers," Ellington said of the bloated, hateful multimillionaire. "By exploiting citizens' greatest anxieties during an uncertain time in our nation's history, the pink-faced half-wit has been able to promote his own vain, avaricious self-interests under the guise of standing up for the very disenfranchised people whom he himself is fleecing."
"I've seen a number of pink-faced half-wits during my career, and in the pantheon of bombastic demagogues, this one will surely be remembered as one of the most disgusting," Ellington continued. "It's truly extraordinary: He may well be too ambitious and narcissistic to be able to comprehend how much damage he is doing to our country."
According to scholars, pink-faced half-wits have had remarkable staying power throughout history despite their outlandish, easily debunked claims, shameless self-promotion, and complete lack of credentials. More often than not, experts said, these pasty, shallow dullards skillfully manage to control debate on the most important social and political topics of the day.
More at the link.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Recommended Reading

Glenn Greenwald explains why the Democrats' current midterm strategy of repeating "You think we're bad, well they're even worse!" as often and loudly as possible to scare their disenchanted base into showing up at the polls and staving off a Republican takeover of congress is a bad idea:
That the Right has become an even more twisted, malicious and primitive version of what they were during the Bush years is unquestionably true.  And it's perfectly legitimate to point out the flaws and excesses of one's political adversaries.  But the expectations which large numbers of Obama voters had -- based on the promises made -- are not going to be forgotten with these distracting, divisive strategies.  The great irony of the Obama presidency is that a central promise of his candidacy was to reduce the corrosive cynicism pervading the citizenry regarding our political system, but dashing the hopes of huge numbers of first-time and young voters -- as the "enthusiasm gap" compellingly reveals is occurring -- will likely do more than any other single event to increase cynicism levels to all new heights.  It's easy to imagine large numbers of people who decided for the first time that politics can matter -- people who were enthused supporters who expected the fundamental change they were promised by electing Barack Obama -- giving up "hope" for a long time, if not forever, in the face of a Party which now has little to say to them other than:  But Look Over There at Sarah Palin!!
This is a key point that the Dems seem to be deliberately skirting, which lends even more inevitably to the midterm routing that many are seeing as a foregone conclusion. Much more from Greenwald at the link, and all of it is worth a read.

Mosque Moves (And Other Points Of Confusion)

Here's an excerpt from Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan's Washington Post op-ed yesterday, making the argument that the Cordoba House planners should consider moving the planned Islamic center:
No doubt, it is the legitimate right of Muslims to build a community center near Ground Zero. Yet, I believe it is not a wise decision, considering the collective sensitivities in American society. This is a moment to go beyond rights and reach for the common good: To build it elsewhere, if possible, would be a sensible and symbolic move.
A perfectly reasonable and moderated position to take, stated eloquently and to-the-point.  Well said, Mr. Ramadan.  I applaud yo--waaaaait a minute!

Isn't this the same Tariq Ramadan who's been called a "subversive scumbag" by Pamela Geller, and a "stealth Jihadist" by Robert Spencer?  And aren't Geller and Spencer the same folks who whipped up the current frenzy about moving the Islamic center?  And weren't they also the organizers of the hate rally this past Saturday keynoted by a veritable rogues gallery of hate-mongers with the express goal of, you guessed it, moving the Islamic center?

So, if Geller and Spencer are on the same side of this issue as "stealth Jihadist" Tariq Ramadan, what exactly does that make them?  By moving the center, does that mean we'd be...letting the bad guys win?  I'm so confused.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Roger Ebert Returns

The long, strange journey of film review program At the Movies is coming full circle. And I couldn't be happier.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Brolin Talks HEX

For as much as I loathed last June's Jonah Hex movie this past June, I thought the star performance from actor Josh Brolin was just about the only redeeming factor in what was otherwise an unmitigated disaster from the time it unspooled to just after the credits rolled.  Given that Brolin was a fan of the Hex character going in, I'd really been hoping that we'd get his unvarnished take at some point on the catastrophe the feature adaptation of the DC Comic turned out to be.  Currently out making the press rounds for the upcoming Wall Street sequel, the actor has graciously obliged, offering up some choice reflections on Hex's flop-tastic fate (via Filmdrunk):
Reassess the Jonah Hex situation for us, are you proud of the film?
You mean now that I don’t have to promote it? No.
We had an original intention and that got away from us a little bit. Everybody did do their best to try and create the best movie with what we had, but I think it got so derailed at a certain point that the assemblage of what we could use was so disconnected to what our original intention was that it just got mixed up.
I still think it’s a lot of fun if you go in and see that movie. That’s what I told the marketing people at Warner Bros. I said, ‘I can’t lie about this, so I have to look for a truism that I can go with. So I do think that if you go in there, kind of like with Piranha 3-D — when you go to see that movie you go, ‘This is ridiculous and this is fun’ — so if you went into Jonah Hex with that, I think you had a good time.
Gotta love his candor, especially how right up-top he says to disregard all that nicey-nice stuff he said about the movie two months ago (you know, when he had to). The only part I disagree with is the "good time" thing, because I went into Hex with expectations that were somewhere around a hundred feet below-sea-level, and still managed to walk out of the theater feeling like I'd been kicked in the groin for ninety minutes.  And while I haven't seen Pirahna 3-D (nor am I really gripped by any great need to), I have to think its filmmakers are saying, "Uh, would you mind not comparing our movie to Jonah Hex?"

Moore Drama

And while we're on the subject, Watchmen writer Alan Moore has been feuding with DC Comics for so long and so vociferously that it's long since taken on the air of legend in circles of nerd-dom.  In a new interview with Bleeding Cool, the famously iconoclastic Moore, who's never been shy about his opinions, reiterates his litany of complaints against the publisher, and also offers his thoughts on the Watchmen movie as well as DC's continuing overtures to have him agree to comic book follow-ups and add-ons:
It revitalized a moribund industry. It changed the face of Comics. And so I would imagine that given our understanding of the industry standards during that time, and given the fact that, as I say, DC’s contractual stuff sometimes seems to be a bit shaky. So there may be… I mean, it’s occurred to me that I could possibly get a lawyer to look into this. There may be some problem with the contract, or some potential problem that may require my actual signature saying it’s okay to go ahead with these prequels and sequels. It might be that they can’t just do this. It may be that… it would seem that if they had gone out of their way to try and tempt me with worn-out rights to a property that was mine anyway, or sums of money… they’re offering me a million or two million, then I would imagine that what was potentially on offer to them would be higher by a couple of factors, maybe two or three factors, who knows? It could be a huge amount. So this would seem to explain their apparent desperate need to get me to put my signature upon something, which I’m not inclined to do. This is because I actually felt that the work we did on Watchmen was somehow special. I have got a great deal of respect for that work. I do not want to see it prostituted. This has always been my position. I don’t want to see it prostituted and made into a run of cheap books that are nothing like the original Watchmen which, anyway, wouldn’t work if it was dismantled. Those characters only work as an ensemble. A comic book about Doctor Manhattan would be really obtuse and boring. A comic book about Rorscharch would be really miserable. They only work together in Watchmen, although I’m sure there are perhaps people out there in the industry who would like to be the artist or writer on some Watchmen prequel or sequel simply to have their name attached to a successful property for once. When Dave Gibbons phoned me up, he assured me that these prequels and sequels would be handled by ‘the industry’s top-flight talents’. Now, I don’t think that the contemporary industry actually has a ‘top-flight’ of talent. I don’t think it’s even got a middle-flight or a bottom-flight of talent. I mean, like I say, there may be people out there who would still be eager to have their name attached to Watchmen even if it was in terms of “Yes, these are the people who murdered Watchmen”. I don’t want to see that happen.
Now, whether you agree with him or disagree, the one thing you can't say about Moore is that once he takes a principled stance, he doesn't stick to it interminably.  Much more from the always-entertaining author at the link.


You may recall that I admired Zack Synder's film adaptation of Watchmen quite a bit when it first came out.  Having recently watched the director's upgraded "Ultimate Cut" of the film, I stand by that initial impression, though clearly the movie ended up having neither the artistic nor commercial reach that both he and the studio no doubt hoped for.  Of course, before Snyder actually got his take to theaters, Watchmen endured a twenty-plus year slow walk through development hell that saw everyone from Terry Gilliam to Darren Aronofosky take a whack at the Alan Moore-Dave Gibbons graphic novel with all coming thiiiis close until budgetary and/or creative issues put the whole thing into turnaround.

Of these, the version that came perhaps the closest to actually getting made was at Paramount in '06 under Bourne director Paul Greengrass.  Unlike the Snyder model, which was slavishly devoted to replicating its printed progenitor (to either its benefit or detriment, depending on your view of the final product), Greengrass envisioned a Watchmen that preserved the comic's thematic underpinnings while updating the setting from the Reagan '80s to a post-9/11 world.  As this interview with production designer Dominic Watkins shows, had Greengrass' version actually gotten made, it would have been vastly different from the one that made it to theaters last year.

With the director planning to employ his trademark shaky-cam, faux-doco style to ground the story's more fanciful elements, Watkins goes on to claim that this Watchmen would have anticipated the "comic book real" style that Chris Nolan later perfected between his two Gotham City sojourns.  Would a Paul Greengrass Watchmen have been any better (or more successful) than Zack Snyder's, or is this one film that was always destined to be a cult item at best?  Unfortunately, the world will never know, but these images of Watkins' proposed designs certainly provide us with a fascinating window into what we might have watched.

Friday, September 10, 2010

HIGHLY Recommended Reading

Jason Linkins over at HuffPo picks apart the media's shameful role in propagating the "Quran Burn 2010" story which sucked up so many countless hours of airtime this week.  In this case the news orgs involved, irrespective of partisan stripe, essentially played the role of professional pot-stirrers, hoping desperately to stoke what was always a non-story about a hateful idiot leading a small flock of hateful idiots into a national nail-biter that had, by yesterday afternoon, somehow managed to encompass most of our prominent political figures, the safety of our troops abroad, and (naturally) the Park51 community center in NY.  Talk about the gift that kept on giving.

Nostalgia Theater: Small Wonder Edition

We're going way obscure with this one.  For all the time I spend on this site singing the praises of the '80s, the decade also produced a fair number of turds so stinky that no amount of nostalgic sheen can spray them away.  One such example is Small Wonder, a syndicated sitcom (remember when sitcoms used to be syndicated?) about a family and their robot daughter who lived in the closet.  Naturally this led to all kinds of fun mistaken identity shenanigans, plus ten-year-old Tiffany Brissette as the titular "wonder" (aka VICI, aka Vickie) talking-like-this-all-the-time.  Hilarious!

I first saw this when I was around six in Saudi Arabia during the month of Ramadan, which was ostensibly when the programming geniuses over there used to wheel out all the "best" American shows.  I guess they didn't get the memo on this one.  Not only is this considered "one of the worst low-budget sitcoms of all time," it also proved the death knell for the careers of virtually everyone in its cast.  More shocking still, the badness that was as plain as day even back then didn't stop the show from finding enough of an audience to last a shocking four seasons and 96 episodes (from '85 to '89).

I have no explanation, but clearly it's that very same audience that compelled Shout! to release the series on DVD starting this year.  Anyway, feast your eyes below on the first act of the first episode, then sob softly at the innocence you've lost.  You're very welcome.

Recommended Reading

Playwright Wajahat Ali discusses the seeming spike in Islamophobia recently as part of a broader interview on "the power of storytelling" with Sally Steenland of the Center for American Progress:
What’s happening now is sadly something that’s had a pattern in American history. Right now, it seems like “Tag, you’re it.” And it’s Muslims, Pakistanis, or Middle Easterners who are “it.” Japanese Americans who were born and raised here were put in relocation centers and camps. Jewish Americans were forced to change their names. An Irish Catholic, John Kennedy, had to prove when he ran for the presidency that he wasn’t loyal to the papacy over America.
It might seem bleak and ugly, but there is an opportunity for healing and bridging the divide. It is up to us to work as a community. Americans need to know that Muslims have always been here. We are your neighbors and doctors. We are your cab drivers and dentists. We are your students. We are your teachers. I am hopeful that out of this ugliness with Park51 [the proposed mosque near ground zero] we will see a moment of healing.
Regarding his last point, while it's well stated (and right, of course) I do find it bitterly amusing that "x" number of people, rather than being comforted by it, would probably convulse in a mass panic from hearing that Muslims are their neighbors, doctors, etc.

There's more at the link, including thoughts on the role of American Muslims in shaping their narrative going forward.  Also, Wajahat's play "The Domestic Crusaders" is due to be published in McSweeney's this December, so definitely support him (and this site) by checking it out.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Back To Back to the Future

Watch the sweet trailer below and feel your pulse begin to race as you realize that the original Back to the Future is returning to cinemas next month in celebration of the movie's silver anniversary (which I discussed here)...

...then feel yourself lapse into depression as you realize you'll be missing it unless you happen to live in the UK.  But hey, at least you can drown your sorrows while watching the trilogy's impending Blu-ray set, so that's something.

James Bond Will Return (Eventually)

Last month it looked like the financial sinkhole that MGM found itself in, and which had threatened the survival of the James Bond franchise (as well as the planned film adaptations of The Hobbit), was heading toward some kind of resolution.  Things seemingly went dark after that, but Deadline posted a small update yesterday on where the Lion currently sits.

The short version is that things are moving right along for Gary Barber and Roger Birnbaum of Spyglass  Entertainment to take over the studio's reins, essentially turning MGM into a production shingle that will no longer distribute its own product. While The Hobbit will likely find producing partner Warner Bros. ready and eager to pick up the slack, things are a little more complicated for 007:
Warner Bros, Sony Pictures Entertainment and 20th Century Fox are the obvious outlets, but don't count out Paramount. That studio has been co-financing partners with Spyglass on Star Trek and the upcoming sequel. That has grown into a strong relationship. I'm told that Paramount is making an aggressive push to win that franchise, much the way that it captured the Marvel Entertainment deal before that enterprise was sold to Disney. That gave Paramount distribution rights to the Iron Man series and the upcoming films Thor, The First Avenger: Captain America and The Avengers. Obviously, Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson hold a lot of say in where the films go, but it will be a hotly contested property--if MGM indeed stops functioning as a distributor.
Bottom line: Expect an all-out nuclear war among the various majors as they attempt to land the goldmine that comes with the Bond distribution rights.  But the upside is that wherever the franchise lands, it'll probably happen relatively quickly after MGM reorganizes, meaning the next installment will hopefully not have too long of a layover.  Further, it will finally mean an end to the perpetual Sword of Damocles that's hung over the series' for the last quarter-century thanks to MGM's perpetual financial peril.

Burn Noticed

What I find even more irksome than the comically-mustachioed Pastor Terry Jones' plans to host "International Burn A Koran Day" at his tiny FL church on 9/11 is the notoriety that the national media is so readily handing to him.  With seemingly round-the-clock coverage breathlessly weighing the "will he/won't he" question, you'd think this guy is a legitimate, mainstream figure and not a fringe character with a history of extremist rhetoric.  Why bother?  In my view, the only way to respond to such rampant stupidity is to mock it mercilessly, which I was all set to do last night until Jon Stewart tackled the subject on his show, stealing most of my thunder right out from under me. So, well, just watch this:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Weekend at Burnies
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Abdul Rauf Breaks Silence On Park51

Via a New York Times op-ed, Park51 Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf addresses the planned community center in-depth for the first time, highlighting some of the center's goals that have been lost in the increasingly-fevered "Ground Zero Mosque" hyperbole:
From the political conflicts between Israelis and Palestinians to the building of a community center in Lower Manhattan, Muslims and members of all faiths must work together if we are ever going to succeed in fostering understanding and peace.
At Cordoba House, we envision shared space for community activities, like a swimming pool, classrooms and a play space for children. There will be separate prayer spaces for Muslims, Christians, Jews and men and women of other faiths. The center will also include a multifaith memorial dedicated to victims of the Sept. 11 attacks.
I am very sensitive to the feelings of the families of victims of 9/11, as are my fellow leaders of many faiths. We will accordingly seek the support of those families, and the support of our vibrant neighborhood, as we consider the ultimate plans for the community center. Our objective has always been to make this a center for unification and healing.
Yep, sounds exactly like the "15-story middle finger to America" that one classy commentator eye-rollingly referred to it as.  

Read the entirety of the Abdul Rauf piece here.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Garfield Talks Spidey

While the Marc Webb-directed Spider-Man 3D-boot may not be due out until 2012, newly-designated Spidey star Andrew Garfield (who also has a key role in David Fincher's upcoming The Social Network) is out making the press rounds for his new film Never Let Me Go, and the topic naturally drifted towards his impending superhero spin (which starts filming this December).  Here's the relevant portion from Garfield's interview with The Hollywood Reporter:
Have you been prepping for Spider-Man?
I have been waiting for this phone call for 24 years, for someone to call me up and say, "Hey, we want you to pretend to be a character that you’ve always wanted to be all your life, and we’re going to do it with cool cameras and cool effects and you’re going to feel like you’re swinging through New York City. Do you want to do that?" [laughs] “Let me just consult with my seven-year old self and see what he thinks...” So my seven-year-old self started screaming in my soul and saying, This is what we’ve been waiting for. Like every young boy who feels stronger on the inside than they look on the outside, any skinny boy basically who wishes their muscles matched their sense of injustice, God, it’s just the stuff that dreams are made of, for sure. It’s a true fucking honor to be part of this symbol that I actually think is a very important symbol and it’s meant a great deal to me, and it continues to mean something to people. So yeah, I feel like I’ve been preparing for it for a while. Ever since Halloween when I was four years old and I wore my first Spider-Man costume.
What's your approach to wrapping your brain around the coming shift in terms of your increased visibility with Spider-Man?
Not to give it credence, not to give it any of my energy. Just approach it like any other job that I care about deeply. That may be naïve of me to think that I can just get away with that. But if you give focus to something, it will grow. I just want to be an actor, really. And of course all those things came into consideration when I was making the decision. But at the end of the day, I had faith that I would be able to not be defined by it. And I still have faith that I will be able to get lost in roles and just keep doing what I love to do.
Have you gotten any advice about how to balance it?
I’ve witnessed other friends go through it, so I’m aware of the pitfalls, for sure. So I already feel as prepared as I can be, and also no advice can really prepare you for something so visceral.
Is there any other prep work you’ll need to do? Will you need to change your physicality or do training?
I’m sure there will be a bunch of that, yeah. Flexibility is my main focus right now. Making sure that I can be as flexible as possible. It’s all kind of starting up so I haven’t really got much to say about it
I gotta say, while I'm still pretty apathetic about this movie in general, it's hard to fault this guy's enthusiasm!

Sunday, September 05, 2010


This one gave me a chuckle.  Sean Whitmore and Brian Hanvey tackled the problem with Smallville on their Comic Critic blog, and in the process neatly echoed my post about the show from a few months back.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Reich-ommended Reading

On the heels of economic news that keeps going from worse to worser, it's hard not to feel a little bit discouraged when you realize that, irrespective of political stripe, we have a political establishment that's seemingly dug in its heels against the middle class.  As Robert Reich says, when comparing our curent malaise to the Great Depression:
This time around, policymakers had knowledge their counterparts didn’t have in 1929; they knew they could avoid immediate financial calamity by flooding the economy with money. But, paradoxically, averting another Great Depression-like calamity removed political pressure for more fundamental reform. We’re left instead with a long and seemingly endless Great Jobs Recession.
Reich goes on to examine the roots of this so-called "Great Recession," as well as posit some of the possible ways out.  Well worth a read.

LAW & ORDER Update

As the late-September premiere of Law & Order: Los Angeles inches closer, we've started getting a better sense of what the show's approach will be to the hoary formula that had already been pretty well perfected by its predecessor.  Up top is the first shot of the show's full cast.  No great shocker that Terrence Howard and Alfred Molina are so prominently positioned, as it's largely their marquee names that will be used to sell the series to auds new and old.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

The STAR TREK Review To End All STAR TREK Reviews

We already know that JJ Abrams' Star Trek reboot from last year is pretty darn good, so no big shock there, but what is a surprise is that Harry Plinkett, the sociopathic movie critic alter ego of filmmaker Mike Stoklasa, enjoyed it quite a bit as well.  Stoklasa, you'll recall, built Plinkett's web rep with feature-length smackdowns of the first two Star Wars prequels that went viral pretty much the instant they went online.  While his disgust for those flicks was pretty tough to miss, it turns out that a Plinkett review can be just as funny, cogent, and thought-provoking when it's a movie he didn't hate.  Whether you liked or disliked (I know there's a few of you out there...) Abrams' Trek, this will make you look on it in a new way.  As is usual with these things though, be prepared to set aside a decent chunk of time to watch, as this one clocks in at over an hour.  Check 'em out after the jump.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

The Palin Persona

When I read things like Vanity Fair's exhaustive write-up on Sarah Palin's transformation from small town, small-time politico to national figure, I wonder if John McCain had any idea of what he was unleashing when he plucked Palin from obscurity two years ago and dropped her onto the global stage. Did he have the slightest inkling of the Frankenstein monster he was supplying a life-giving lightning bolt to?  As I've said several times, Palin remains of interest to political watchers less for who she is than for what she represents, by herself and through her avatars in the Tea Party movement. While I've often commented on the divisive, ignorance-is-bliss brand of politicking the once-governor has built her brand on ("mediocrity write large," quoth me), the piece also sheds light on a worrying undercurrent of paranoia and cruelty underlying Palin's public persona, and of which many of her most ardent of followers likely remain unaware. Of course, as it says in the article, "Such falsehoods never damage Palin’s credibility with her admirers, because information and ideology are incidental to this relationship."

And Conan's new show is called...

Via the man himself:

Like he said: Simple. Pure.

And some background, courtesy of the Vulture:
Show insiders tell Vulture that O'Brien and team pretty much settled on this name weeks ago, but like so many things in Hollywood, choosing a name isn't always simple. You have to clear the title legally, to make sure nobody else has the rights to it, and that's even true when the name is your own. For the last few weeks, O'Brien's army of lawyers and TBS have been doing their due diligence making sure it's okay to use "Conan" as the show's title. One stumbling block could have been the Conan the Barbarian franchise, which has included comics, books, films, and, in 1997, a short-lived TV series called Conan. But now, it's clear that all issues have been worked out.
Look for Conan to return to late night in just a few short months on November 8.