Thursday, March 31, 2011

Base Chumps

Those of you who follow my Twitter feed (and if you're not, get on it, willya!) know that I've been having some fun over the last few weeks watching the various politicos on the Republican side of the aisle twist and maneuver themselves to look appealing to the increasingly-wacky GOP base, whose votes -- as I mentioned yesterday -- they'll need if they want to square off (and likely lose) against President Obama next year. I believe it was Lawrence O'Donnell who said at one point that people don't say they're going to run in an election unless they think they can win. Certainly, it tells you something that there still isn't a declared Republican candidate, and those potentials who voters could possibly get behind (Chris Christie, John Thune) have explicitly taken themselves out of the running for 2012. In other words, let Obama get re-elected, and we'll take our chances after he's gone.

So while the realities of electoral politics have virtually ensured that any Republicans with a sense of self-preservation rule themselves out, that also means the folks who are jockeying to get a seat at the big table represent the absolute cream of the crazy. Whether relative newbies like Herman Cain (who really dislikes Muslims), or "establishment"-types (and I use that term very loosely) like Michelle Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, and Sarah Palin (who just picked yet another fight with the "lamestream" media), or the half dozen others mulling a run, we're left with a motley assortment of ideologues, idiots, and dilettantes joined together by a common belief in regressive social policies, irresponsible fiscal policies, and scaring the crap out of you about President Obama. In other words: red meat for the base. But hey, don't take my word for it. Here's Jon Stewart from last night's Daily Show on the Republican "Base Race":

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Indecision 2012 - Base Race - Bachmann, Cain & Gingrich
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Trump and the Birther Bounce

The "Birther" movement got a shot of adrenaline this week thanks to the will-he/won't-he political machinations of Donald Trump, whose flirtation with a (never going to happen) Republican presidential run saw him outflank the Palin/Bachmann/Beck wing of the GOP by appealing directly to the "Barack Obama was born in Kenya/Indonesia/Not Here" crowd. Now, I've already waxed philosophic here and here on this perplexing phenomenon, which really has to be the cockroach of conspiracy theories -- no matter how devastating or decisive the evidence against it, it somehow always manages to survive -- but as Slate's David Weigel explains, it's now morphed into a new strain altogether:
What Trump is Reform Birtherism. It's deductive. "There's something on that birth certificate that he doesn't like," said Trump last week. "I don't know what is on the document," said [Jerome] Corsi in 2009. The truth is unknowable, because Obama is hiding something about his birth documents.
In its own way, it's sort of brilliant, as it creates a circular wall of illogic where all evidence is just further proof of the grand conspiracy -- which reaches even deeper then we thought! Now, whether Trump actually believes this stuff or not is irrelevant, as nearly a third of Republicans do claim to hold doubts about Obama's citizenship, so any presidential aspirant needs to lock down the crazy vote if they want get to the starting gate. And what better way to that than to say you're willing to be their captain? Much more from Weigel at the link as he delves into the many ways Birtherism, thanks to Trump and Co., has gone mainstream, and the contortions Republican legislators are going through to ignore information that's right in front of them.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Good Grief.

Back in 2008, a webcomic called "Garfield Minus Garfield" made its debut, taking extant Garfield strips by Jim Davis and digitally removing the titular cat and his dialogue so that what emerged instead was a sad portrait of a lonely man named Jon Arbuckle, dealing with the onslaught from an increasingly depressing world. Taking that deliciously postmodern idea and possibly doing it one better is "3eanuts." As dreamed up by Illinois teacher Daniel Leonard (who discusses the strips here), "3eanuts" removes the final "punchline" panel from the late Charles Schulz' immortal Peanuts comics, in the process creating a dystopic tableau of morose children trapped in an ever-widening spiral of despair. Just brilliant. Here are some samples, and you can check the rest of 'em out here.

See? Monkey.

So, last week I was complaining about the nonexistent marketing campaign for Rise of the Apes, Fox's upcoming Planet of the Apes prequel, and especially the lack of any official stills from the movie other than one shot of star James Franco at a computer. Well, another pic hit the web late yesterday courtesy of the folks at ComingSoon, who snapped it at the annual CinemaCon in Vegas (where studios trot out their wares to impress the nation's exhibitors). While not expressly described as such, I'm reasonably certain the new image depicts Andy Serikis as Caesar, the super-intelligent chimp who begins the ape revolt:
For some comparison, here's Roddy McDowall as the original series' Caesar, doing something similar:

De La Garza Talks LOLA, Ulrich Exit

As we await the April 11th premiere of the newly-revamped Law & Order: Los Angeles, some nuggets of info have begun to sneak out about the big changes that are planned for the skein's midseason debut. Foremost among them is the much-hyped departure of star Skeet Ulrich, in a move that seemingly everyone but NBC's promo department is playing coy about. In a new interview with Zap2It, actress Alana De La Garza, whose return to the Law & Order fold is another change the new show is implementing, avoids mentioning Ulrich by name, but does discuss what it was like to jump into the series on the "hard day" that saw his character killed off.

And while we're on the subject, here's another NBC promo for the revamped LA, this time featuring star Alfred Molina dropping some very extended expo to drive home his character's impending prosecutor-cop switcheroo for those in the audience who may be a little bit slower on the uptake:

Monday, March 28, 2011

UNWELCOME and the Lowdown on Sharia

Last night saw CNN air the special Unwelcome: The Muslims Next Door, in which host Soledad O'Brien looked at the rigmarole surrounding the plans for a new mosque in Murfreesboro, TN (that I've previously discussed here, here, and here) and the subsequent lawsuit by some local residents to try and prevent it. While I think the show did a nice job of giving the anti-Muslim crowd (you know, the ones who vociferously proclaim that they're not bigots just before they say incredibly bigoted things) enough rope to hang themselves, one thing I would have liked more of was clarification once and for all of "Sharia law," the supposed "creeping" of which has been used as a Sword of Damocles in right wing circles for awhile now (as hilariously evident in the brilliant "Barney Fife as Racist" performance art by the Murfreesboro plaintiffs' attorney).

One welcome expert voice that O'Brien did bring out, however, was Noah Feldman, author of the terrific book After Jihad (among many others). Feldman, who I was first exposed to when I edited "Islam & Democracy," his 2004 lecture with Islamic scholar Hamza Yusuf (the trailer for which -- also edited by me -- you can check out here), is about as authoritative a voice as I've seen on this subject, but a thorough explanation of Sharia isn't exactly something that can be boiled down to the few soundbite-sized nuggets he was given on the special. However, three years ago Feldman (who also helped draft the Iraqi constitution) wrote a far lengthier piece for the New York Times that delved fully into Sharia's many intricacies and modalities, and it's essential reading for anyone who's ever had a question about what constitutes Islamic jurisprudence, or who hears "duh-duh-DAH" in their head whenever someone mentions Sharia.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Amy Adams is Superman's Girlfriend

While director Zack Snyder's new film Sucker Punch was coolly received by critics and debuted in a disappointing second place this weekend, that hasn't stopped the anticipation for his Superman reboot one bit, and I have a feeling the anticipation will only increase with today's fresh news, courtesy of Hero Complex, that multiple Oscar-nominee Amy Adams has snagged the iconic role of intrepid girl reporter Lois Lane (a.k.a. Mrs. Superman). In the early goings, there was some question about whether the Henry Cavill-starrer would feature Lois at all, but it's hard to imagine Superman without Lois too far behind. Even TV's Smallville, set in Clark Kent's pre-Metropolis years, should have ruled out any possibility of the character appearing, but lo and behold, she showed up (played by the terrific Erica Durance) in the show's fourth year, and has stuck around for the duration.

With the selection of an actress of Adams' stature to fill the role in Snyder's film, it not only adds to an already-impressive roster of players, but it pretty much confirms that Lois Lane will play an integral part in the genesis of this Superman. This is extremely welcome news to me, as the horribly miscast, too-young Lois played by Kate Bosworth in Superman Returns five years ago was probably the domino that tipped that whole enterprise over. Then again, I thought '70s-'80s Lois Margot Kidder was pretty badly miscast as well, so maybe Bosworth's presence was just another example of director Bryan Singer's slavish devotion to the Donner-Lester-Reeve series. While the Durance version is probably my all-time favorite portrayal of Lois (not counting the Dana Delany-voiced '90s animated version), Adams' casting is so perfect that she's well positioned to snatch the crown and keep it.

Nostalgia Theater: Perfect Strangers Edition

If you're already feeling old after yesterday's post on the demise of Saturday morning cartoons, this'll make you want to go and lie down. Perfect Strangers -- a much-cherished favorite from my childhood -- turned twenty-five this past Friday. That's right, having premiered in 1986, the show that immortalized the phrase "Dance of Joy," and enabled an entire generation to dismissively say, "Don't be ree-deek-ulous" is now old enough to legally rent a car all by itself. After recently re-watching the first (and -- frustratingly -- only) DVD release of the series with my kids, I was happy to find not only that it measured up quite well to my fond memories, but also that I could comfortably watch it without my finger perpetually poised over the "skip ahead" button on my remote.

While it probably lasted a season or two longer than it should have, and it may seem quaint in comparison with boundary and content-stretching comedies of today like Arrested Development or Community, what Perfect Strangers ably demonstrated at its best was the simple pleasure of watching two skilled performers with impeccable timing play off each other, and few modern comedy duos have had the easy chemistry of stars Mark Linn-Baker (scheming, urbane cousin Larry) and Bronson Pinchot (bumpkin, immigrant cousin Balki). In honor of this momentous occasion, TV Squad has a piece up celebrating the show's silver jubilee, including highlights and a "Where are they now?" But before you click over, watch this with me, and remember the days when sitcoms used to have actual honest-to-gosh theme songs:

Recommended Reading

Soon to be ex-New York Times columnist Bob Herbert leaves the paper on a high note with this meditation on the increasing inequality in wealth and income in this country, and what it says about us as a people:
There is plenty of economic activity in the U.S., and plenty of wealth. But like greedy children, the folks at the top are seizing virtually all the marbles. Income and wealth inequality in the U.S. have reached stages that would make the third world blush. As the Economic Policy Institute has reported, the richest 10 percent of Americans received an unconscionable 100 percent of the average income growth in the years 2000 to 2007, the most recent extended period of economic expansion. 
Americans behave as if this is somehow normal or acceptable. It shouldn’t be, and didn’t used to be. Through much of the post-World War II era, income distribution was far more equitable, with the top 10 percent of families accounting for just a third of average income growth, and the bottom 90 percent receiving two-thirds. That seems like ancient history now.
Read the rest at the link.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Death of Saturday Morning

The other day I was commenting to my wife how innovations like "Netflix Insant" and "Hulu," while making entertainment options available at the push of a button, have also taken away the simple pleasure of just waiting for things to come on. I still remember anxiously suffering through an interminable hour of The Smurfs on NBC Saturday Mornings in the early '80s just so I didn't miss a minute of Spider-Man And His Amazing Friends on the other side, or waking up extra early on weekday mornings and sneaking downstairs to watch He-Man or Robotech or whatever. I feel bad that my kids, whose concept of TV is basically "I want to watch Rocky & Bullwinkle!" and bam, it's there, will never experience that pins-and-needles anticipation in quite the same way. Of course, as John Cheese at Cracked points out, the slow extinction of time-based TV viewing patterns is just one of several things that ensures our kids will continue to not get us (and vice-versa, I suppose).

Friday, March 25, 2011

Wonder Shrug

In the same vein as my post from last Saturday highlighting what I feel is the essential problem with Wonder Woman, both as a character and a franchise, Graeme McMillan over at SpinOff has some helpful suggestions of his own for the in-production Wonder Woman TV pilot to increase the chances of success for the David E. Kelley production (which may or may not even make it past pilot stage).

(And, by the way, I erred in that previous post when I referred to Cary Elwes as playing the love interest in the pilot. While Elwes does indeed play a part, the "love interest" bit actually goes to actor Justin Bruening, late of '08's short-lived Knight Rider reboot, who will essay the role of Steve Trevor -- the "Lois Lane" of the Wonder Woman mythos.)

Thursday, March 24, 2011


Ever since the Super Bowl spot almost two months ago, there's been heavy anticipation for the full Captain America: The First Avenger trailer to finally make its debut, which it did last night courtesy of Entertainment Tonight, and here it is in HD straight from Marvel. As you can see, it does a very nice job of laying out both the narrative sweep and stylistic approach to the Joe Johnston-directed film, in the process throwing down the gauntlet for "Most Anticipated" of this summer's bumper crop of superhero pics.

In addition to fully displaying the Benjamin Button-esque effects that will transform Chris Evans' Steve Rogers from scrawny to brawny, the trailer also offers our first good looks at Tommy Lee Jones as Colonel Chester Phillips, the man who recruits Rogers into the "Super Soldier" project, and Stanley Tucci as Dr. Erksine, the scientist who makes it all happen. I have to say, I love this. It offers tantalizing hints of everything I could want in a Cap movie, while still holding enough back to promise plenty of surprises. The summer movie season officially just got interesting.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

APES Rise Earlier

The Planet of the Apes prequel Rise of the Apes is sure antsy. Having already shifted its release date from mid-summer to mid-fall, the Fox release has now been moved back to the summer, on August 2 (almost exactly ten years to the day that Tim Burton's Apes remake bowed in 2001). While Fox's PR on this move is that a summer slot will allow the James Franco starrer to "break through," this is worrying news to me. A fall release would have carried with it more prestige, less competition, and a larger window to build up a marketing presence.

Early August, while still technically part of the summer, has a "taking out the trash" vibe to it that worries me, and the fact that Rise will open directly against three other pics means it'll have an even harder time standing out. With no footage, trailers, posters, or even stills released yet (save for the riveting shot above -- doesn't it just make you want to rush out and buy your ticket right now?) I worry about Rise of the Apes' prospects barring exceedingly strong word-of-mouth, and that makes me worry about the future of this franchise.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

"A LAW & ORDER First"

The last time we talked Law & Order here was nearly two months ago, when I mentioned that the Los Angeles iteration of the brand was back in the shop for significant retooling, with original series star Alana De La Garza joining the new show. Well, April 11 has been announced as the return engagement (called the "premiere" by NBC, which sort of tells you how they want you to view the previous half-season), and this spoilerific promo makes it crystal clear that a quiet retirement isn't exactly in the cards for Det. Rex Winters (the exiting Skeet Ulrich).

The "first time in twenty years" line refers to the similar fate suffered by George Dzundza's Sgt. Max Greevey in the Mothership's second season premiere, and the "Law & Order first" refers, of course, to Alfred Molina abruptly resigning his DA post to instead assume the primary detective role. At this point we're in uncharted waters with this brand, and if they're able to pull this switcheroo off without the "network notes" seams showing, man, my hat will be off to them.

Recommended Reading

For the past few days I've been parsing our involvement in Libya and the justifications for our involvement in Libya (because wars, like movies, need to come in trilogies) and trying to figure out if it's a good idea. Glenn Greenwald says it isn't. I think he's probably right.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Sheathing the Claws

After last week's heartbreaker of a story that Darren Aronofsky had departed directing chores on Fox's Wolverine sequel over family concerns, I wondered -- ominously -- who the studio would draft into service to fill his shoes. According to EW, however, they're not exactly rushing to fill out their dance card just yet, deciding to let it "air out" (whatever that means) before reconnoitering and starting anew. Another possible roadblock for the film -- based on the iconic Chris Claremont/Frank Miller Wolverine comic series from the mid-'80s -- could be the plans to shoot the majority of the Japan-set story in that country, which may simply be impossible given the ongoing situation over there. Clearly there's more that needs to be figured out than just who's going to call "Action!", and per a Fox rep, they're in "no hurry" to get The Wolverine going again. Given the planned summer 2012 release, I'm not sure how much wiggle room the studio has, but I'm glad they're taking their time to hopefully get it right rather than just get it out.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Islamophobia's New MVP

And while we're spending the morning on the Islamophobia Express, I couldn't very well let this one go by without comment. Back in '99, former Saturday Night Live cast member Victoria Jackson made an appearance on the show's twenty-fifth anniversary special and plaintively asked erstwhile emcee Bill Murray, "What happened to me?" Well, anyone who's seen the sometime-actress, sometime-comedienne show up on Fox News and/or at various Tea Party events in the years since knows the question could rightly apply to more than just her career. While she's a veritable pull-string doll of nonsensical conservative/Republican talking points, it seems like her most bileous vitriol has been expressly reserved for Islam and Muslims.

To wit, her new role as columnist for the far-far-far-right WorldNetDaily, wherein she uses her stream-of-consciousness debut offering to drop various "truths" like how all Muslims support terrorism and behead their wives, and, of course, how Barack Obama is a secret Muslim. As an aside, I'm always amused when I hear from various self-proclaimed authorities who are convinced -- convinced! -- they know a religion better than the actual people who follow it. The rest of the column is the usual assortment of pre-packaged catchphrases and half-formed thoughts we'd expect, but Jackson has clearly staked her flag on a whole new beachhead of looniness. Witness such gems as:

The Hate Update

It's been a fascinating few weeks since I posted my thoughts on the video of last month's hate rally in Yorba Linda, CA protesting a fundraiser by the Islamic Circle of North America. For one, after my commentary appered at Huffington Post, I was contacted by David Elezrie, the rabbi who organized the rally, which you may recall drew politicos like local councilwoman Deborah Pauly, who called for event attendees to be "sent to an early meeting in paradise." Nice lady. Anyway, per Rabbi Elezrie's statement to me, his rally was specifically about condemning the extreme rhetoric of Amir Abdel Malik Ali, one of the speakers at the fundraiser, but that "another protest" sprung up at the same time, and the really nasty stuff was coming from them.

Okay, so let me first say that, having heard some of the things he's said over the years, I'm certainly not going to defend Malik Ali (and in fact I appeared on my NBC affiliate a few years back to condemn similar such inflammatory comments from him). In my view, rhetoric like his isn't remotely helpful at fostering dialogue, and I do wonder what the ICNA folks were thinking having a decidedly controversial figure headline what should have been a decidedly non-controversial event. That said, assuming we take Rabbi Elezrie's "it was that other protest what done it!" as a given, my response would be that yep, it really sucks when an entire group is blamed for the irrational actions of a bigoted few. Really, really sucks.

But, in a clear example of something going around and then coming right back around, it turns out the city council of Villa Park, which Ms. Pauly has done such a sterling job of representing to the citizens of the world, didn't take kindly to one of their own spouting hateful nonsense like that "early meeting in paradise" thing, and they've issued a statement re-affirming the "Constitutional right to freedom of religion" while also condemning "violence and threats of violence, and terrorism and threats of terrorism." And as far as how Pauly has responded to her bigotry going global, as well as other fallout from the vid, jump on over to the Orange Juice blog for all the high (and low) lights.

Michael Gough, RIP

Some very sad news this week with the passing of actor Michael Gough at the age of 94. During his 70 year acting career, the quintessentially British Gough amassed a massive catalogue of credits both on stage and screen, in England and stateside, but I'm willing to bet that the lion's share of people's memories of the actor come from his stint as Alfred Pennyworth, the bat man to three different Batmen over four different films. Assuming the role in Tim Burton's Batman in 1989 and reprising it for Burton in 1992's Batman Return (he would also reunite with the director in 2000 with Sleepy Hollow), Gough remained with the series through its transition to director Joel Schumacher with Batman Forever in 1995, right to its bitter (very bitter) end in 1997's Batman & Robin -- one of only two actors to stay for the duration (the other being the late Pat "Commissioner Gordon" Hingle).

While Michael Caine has done a tremendous job of making the Alfred role his own in the Chris Nolan Bat-series, Gough's reassuring presence at the center of what was becoming an increasingly far-fetched and nerve-deadening franchise provided it with one of its few constants (both for the audience and the characters), allowing for alternately touching and amusing byplay with all three actors who essayed the title role -- Micheal Keaton, Val Kilmer, and George Clooney. Gough's storyline in the final film -- with Alfred suffering from a fatal ailment that forces Bruce Wayne to deal with the ramifications of possibly losing his only parent -- provided that monstrosity with its sole emotional throughline, and that alone would have made him the Batman series' MVP, even if he didn't already have a career's worth of experience earning that honor.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Problem With Wonder Woman

Given my fondness on this site for covering the media lives of various comic book heroes, one question I've gotten fairly often is why I don't spend any time on Wonder Woman. Indeed, looking back through my archives, the last time I focused on the character was in this post from exactly six years ago discussing the then-new signing of Joss Whedon for the then-impending WW feature -- both of which fell through subsequently. And that really sums up the state of Wonder here: it's not for lack of interest, but rather lack of anything substantive to cover. Unlike her more popular DC stablemates Superman and Batman, who bound from franchise to franchise with ease, Wonder Woman's extra curricular career until now has mostly been confined to a three season TV show in the '70s, and her role as reliable Super Friends/Justice League seat-filler.

It's possible that may change now with NBC having commissioned a now-filming TV pilot produced by the legendary David E. Kelley and starring Adrianne Palicki as Princess Diana/Wonder Woman (alongside villain Elizabeth Hurley and love interest Cary Elwes), but NBC's track record lately coupled with the failure rate for female superhero properties and the general "blah" reaction to the script makes me think this one doesn't have great odds in its favor. Not helping matters is yesterday's release of the first still of Palicki all duded up in her WW finest, which you can check out in hi-res here. Now, as I tweeted yesterday afternoon, it's really not that bad. But as I immediately follow-up tweeted, I couch that "not bad" in terms of its relative faithfulness to the Wonder Woman costume as it's existed for (most of) the last seventy-some years.

And therein lies the problem.

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Greatest APES

After my last post, I figured I may as well stay in the geek realm for just a little bit longer. If you're a "Zaki's Corner" regular, you already know quite well that the original Planet of the Apes from 1968 remains unchallenged as my "favoritest movie ever," as manifested in a veritable fortune showered on toys, posters, and various other artifacts of Ape-eana (remember this thing?). What you may not know is that back in high school I even created my very own Apes fanzine called The Sacred Scrolls, that I self-published along with a buddy and distributed to a subscriber base of forty or so fellow Ape-ophiles.

The 'zine, featuring articles, original fiction, and even comic stories by yours truly, didn't make it past two years, mainly because in the pre-blog, pre-job wilderness of the early-'90s I was going broke dropping a couple hundred bucks at Kinko's four times a year, but also because I realized pretty quickly that proudly trumpeting one's Planet of the Apes fandom wasn't exactly a pitstop on the Dale Carnegie roadmap for high school success. Regardless, those early efforts left enough of a mark to merit a brief mention in film historian Eric Greene's book Planet of the Apes as American Myth, so there is that.

Anyway, I bring all that up as preamble to this great piece by Gerardo Valero posted to Roger Ebert's blog on why that first Apes flick manages to retain so much of its appeal even forty-plus years after it first hit theaters. Reading Valero's recollections of viewing Apes for the first time, I'm reminded of my own initial reaction -- equal parts horror and fascination -- that birthed a lifelong affinity for the brand (well, except for the misbegotten Tim Burton version ten years ago, my initial schizophrenic reaction to which I discussed here). I think Valero really hit the bullseye with this graf:


You might recall the brief sabbatical I took from the blogosophere late last year to work on a mystery-shrouded projected to be announced at a later date. Well, that later date is now upon us, and the shroud can finally be lifted. Behold Geek Wisdom: The Sacred Teachings of Nerd Culture. Published by Quirk Books and edited by Hugo Award-winning author Stephen H. Segal, Geek Wisdom is a series of mini-essays meditating on the wit, wisdom, and insight of some of the most notable quotables in pop culture history. In this book you'll learn why we all want the Force to be with us, why Quantum Leap's Sam Beckett is a role model for us all, and how Optimus Prime isn't that different from Martin Luther King Jr. You know, the important stuff.

For some background, I was roped in by Stephen last fall to be one of four contributing authors, alongside such luminaries as Hugo and Nebula nominated author N.K. Jemisin, World Fantasy nominee Genevieve Valentine, and my blog buddy Eric San Juan, who co-wrote the terrific A Year of Hitchcock. Needless to say, being part of this power-packed lineup made me feel sort of like I'd been drafted into the 1992 Dream Team. Believe it or not, working on this project was even harder in some ways than writing my Masters' Thesis (which you can read in its entirety here, FYI), but having seen a proof of the completed book just weeks ago, I can say with total confidence that regular readers of this site will absolutely dig it. Geek Wisdom will be out in August, but you can pre-order your copy right now.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Snyder Talks Supes

Out making the promo rounds for his upcoming Sucker Punch (which, to be perfectly honest, I'm not hugely interested in based on what I've seen thus far) director Zack Snyder took some time to chat with Geoff Boucher of "Hero Complex" and talk up the highly-anticipated Superman re-revival (which recently signed Diane Lane and just added Kevin Costner as the human parents of Henry Cavill's Clark Kent). While I'd expect it to be mostly radio silence on this one until they actually start filming, Snyder does drop a few choice tidbits that help set the stage for what to expect from his take on Krypton's Last Son.

The first thing you need to know? Forget every Superman movie you've ever seen -- this one is starting fresh. After the middling-to-negative reaction to Bryan Singer's Superman Returns, I think we all pretty much knew that any new filmic entry would blaze its own trail, which is probably for the best, anyway. The Superman story has been revived, renewed, and retold for several generations now, and it's better that this generation get its own version rather than continue to toil in Christopher Reeve's considerable shadow. The one piece of unfortunate collateral damage is John Williams' indelible, iconic, insurmountable "Superman March," but c'est la vie.

Aronofsky Clawed Out

Well, that Wolverine sequel I was so optimistic about has at least one less reason to be optimistic, with director Darren Aronofsky, who was all set to reunite with star Hugh Jackman (after their previous teaming on The Fountain), leaving the project before filming was scheduled to start. After the ghastly first Wolverine flick, I'd just about written the spin-off series off, but Aronofsky's signing gave the first inklings of hope that perhaps they were interested in doing something a cut above the usual bombast we expect. On the plus side: Aronofsky is exiting because of family issues, and not due to the dreaded "creative differences" that one would normally expect. On the minus side: well, it's not like family issues are a great thing either. Anyway, here's hoping Fox finds a director who's actually a worthy replacement, and that they don't go the Ratner route with this franchise again.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Devil, You Say

Looks like those of you who'd been keeping the candle lit for a Daredevil sequel for lo these many years are about to get your wish.

This news is somewhat timely for me, as I just re-watched the original 2003 flick two days ago on blu-ray. Having the opportunity to re-assess it after an interregnum of several years, and especially in context with the post-Iron Man age of Marvel movie epics we're currently in, that first Daredevil seems like even more of an oddity to me. While the director's cut (the only version currently available on BD) is substantially improved from its bowdlerized theatrical sibling, the movie still can't help but feel both too big for its ambitions and too small for its potential.

Although a big chunk of the blame for this can be claimed by director/writer Mark Steven Johnson's relative inexperience (which he also brought to Ghost Rider a few years later), I'd say the larger share can be apportioned to the notoriously heavy-handed management at Fox, whose desperate bid to reshape a traditionally lower-key, street-level character into a crowd-pleaser a la Spider-Man backfired rather spectacularly, with all talk of a franchise seemingly flaming out along with spin-off Elektra in 2005.

Monday, March 14, 2011

You Don't Know (About) Jack

If you're like me, you've spent many a sleepless night pondering why actor Alec Baldwin bailed on playing Tom Clancy's intrepid CIA analyst Jack Ryan after just one film. Having established the beginnings of a very solid franchise with the 1990 John McTiernan-led thriller The Hunt For Red October, Baldwin's decision to skip out on what could have been the iconic role of his career (not to mention a guaranteed paycheck) by bolting from 1991's Patriot Games in favor of a stage run of A Streetcar Named Desire always struck me as a bit of a "George Lazenby" moment.

After all, while the Ryan series continued on its merry way, with first Harrison Ford (in Games and 1994's Clear And Present Danger), then Ben Affleck (in 2002's The Sum of all Fears), and now Chris Pine (in the upcoming Moscow) inhabiting the part, it's safe to say that Baldwin's career has only recently met up with that early promise (via his Jack Donaghy character on NBC's 30 Rock). As it turns out though, there was a little bit more involved in the Ryan defection than just an actor following his muse, and Baldwin has finally spoken on the whys-and-wherefores of his leaving Ryan behind in, of all places, a Huffington Post op-ed wherein he offers some career advice to the waterlogged dinghy that is Charlie Sheen. The short version? Baldwin got screwed. The long version? Check it out here.