Sunday, January 30, 2011

Henry Cavill is Superman

AICN was up first with it, and now Dark Horizons and Deadline swiftly followed suit with the official word: director Zack Snyder has found his leading man for Warners' upcoming reboot Superman: The Man of Steel, and it's none other than Brit actor Henry Cavill. I first became aware of Cavill from his supporting turn in 2002's highly-underrated The Count of Monte Cristo, then again when he was a finalist for the new Bond in Casino Royale. Cavill, then 21, was deemed too young for the part, and thus lost out to Daniel Craig (clearly the right choice), but at 27 now, he's the right age to take on the most iconic of superheroes.

I'm not especially familiar with Cavill's catalogue, but he's made a name for himself the last few years on Showtime's The Tudors, which I've never seen, but my wife has, and she was very excited to hear this news (a little too excited, now that I think about it...). However, looks-wise he certainly fits the generic handsomeness the role requires, and he's got an impressive resume, so if he's okay with Snyder and producer Chris Nolan, that's good enough for me. As far as the project's storyline, the typically tightlipped production team is keeping things close to the chest, but it supposedly tracks Clark Kent's early years as he ponders the fateful decision to don the red-and-blue.

Honestly, I'm hoping there's going to be bit more to it than that because, having just been through ten interminable years of Clark Kent wishy-washiness on Smallville (with the end very nearly in sight), it sounds like kind of a yawner. I'm sure we'll hear a lot more news on this one, casting and otherwise, in the weeks and months before shooting starts, on the way to a Christmas '12 release, but for now, let's take a moment to mourn John Williams' "Superman March," which has likely played its last on the big screen, and also the movie star hopes of the last Superman, Brandon Routh, which would appear to be permanently dashed.  But hey, thank goodness for those Chuck checks, right?

Click past the jump for the full text of the WB press release.

Recommended Reading

Like many of us, I've been following the current popular uprising in Egypt with rapt fascination, wondering where and how the pieces will land when all is said and done.  Of course, the political unrest in that country can be traced, domino-like, to similar unrest a few weeks ago in Tunisia that saw the long-entrenched dictator Ben Ali deposed and exiled.  And that event, according to many, can be traced to an act of protest by a young man named Mohamed Bouazizi, who felt that immolating himself before a house of government was the only thing that would get his voice heard.  As he does so well, Hamza Yusuf Hanson examines the significance of this action, contrasting it with suicide attacks against innocent civilians, and also delves into what it potentially signifies for that region of the world, whether Tunisia, Egypt, or beyond.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Recommended Reading

Longtime readers of this site know that when Don't Think of an Elephant author George Lakoff has something to say, I'll usually link to it.  His latest piece is no exception, as he examines President Obama's creation of a pro-innovation, pro-competitiveness narrative in his State of the Union speech on Tuesday.  As Lakoff explains, while the existence of a narrative where there was none before is a good thing, and there were many positives to the speech, there were also some unfortunate things the president seemingly went out of his way to leave unsaid (think Social Security).

Temecula Mosque Update

You may remember waaaay back in August when the Park51 furor was burning white hot that another mosque controversy had been ignited to slightly less fanfare in the small town of Temecula, CA.  After local Muslims announced plans to build a center to accomodate the needs of their growing congregation, the usual combo platter of hatred-paranoia-ignorance reared its ugly head, and even led some of the local troglodytes to devise the novel plan of scaring off the big bad Muslims by singing songs while holding dogs.  Seriously, I'm not making that up.  And, of course, who could forget protester Diane Serafin and her perplexing "I'm not prejudiced against Muslims because I was nice to a gay person one time" line of defense?  Surely, Temecula's best and brightest.  Anyway, the saga of the Temecula mosque reached something of a denouement this past week, with the city council voting unanimously to allow the project to continue unimpeded.  That didn't stop a whole buch of hilarity from ensuing during that final council meeting though, and Talking Points Memo has all the depressing (but ultimately uplifting) details.

De La Garza Back To LAW & ORDER

The Law & Order: Los Angeles cast shakeup that saw the show removed from the NBC sched indefinitely a few weeks ago is now complete. Yesterday brought some very welcome news from producer Dick Wolf that Law & Order vet Alana De La Garza is joining the cast of the troubled spin-off, with her character, ADA Consuela "Connie" Rubirosa, hopping coasts to pair off with Terrence Howard's DDA Jonah Decker.  De La Garza was the junior ADA in the final four seasons of the Mothership, and had emerged as one of the most popular actresses to occupy a pretty thankless role, so this is a good thing.

It's no secret that I was a big fan of De La Garza in the part, and especially of the chemistry she had with co-star Linus Roache.  While I'm still smarting from Roache's Mike Cutter being consigned to TV limbo after the original show's cancellation, the fact that DDA Rubirosa gets to continue on makes the pill go down slightly easier.  Still no word on when Law & Order: Los Angeles returns for its do-over, but now that the casting deck has been sufficiently shuffled, I'd expect an announcement very soon.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Olbermann Exit

The news of Keith Olbermann's abrupt exit from MSNBC last Friday garnered quite a bit of chatter on all sides of the blogosphere this past weekend, and while I meant to chime in much sooner, I figured better late than never given the amount of posts I've devoted to his various commentaries (special or otherwise) over the years. While initial speculation lingered on Olbermann being forced out in a purge orchestrated by NBC/Universal's new owners Comcast, that one was pretty thoroughly debunked in the intervening 72 hours. The picture that's emerged thanks to the intrepid reporting of Bill Carter (a.k.a. Late Night Man on the Scene), is that the split was welcomed equally by the man himself as the folks signing his cheques.

For me personally, while I agreed with Olbermann on many (though not all) things, and always enjoyed hearing his perspective on the issues of the day, Countdown had long since moved past the "must see" position it once occupied for me. That speaks less to any perceived drop in quality, but is instead testament to the solid block of programming that Olbermann almost singlehandedly ushered onto MSNBC's lineup, whether Rachel Maddow or Ed Schultz or Dylan Ratigan or, of course, Lawrence O'Donnell.  While all are ostensibly "liberals," they still represent a spectrum of opinions and points of view that went virtually unrepresented on cable news a mere five years ago.

As to the post-Olbermann spread at MSNBC, I've long been a fan of Lawrence O'Donnell, both for his political commentaries on The Huffington Post as well as his creative work (he shepherded The West Wing following Aaron Sorkin's exit), and I'm glad to see him take over the higher-profile Countdown slot (and the exposure that comes with it).  As to Olbermann, I have no doubt that the brand he's built for himself so successfully over the last eight years will be put to use in new and interesting ways, and I look forward to seeing where he inevitably ends up on the flip-side of his contractually obligated exile.

For a roundup of reactions to Olbermann's departure, click past the jump.

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Frank Gaffney Crazy Train

I've spent a lot of time during the past year talking about the seeming spike in Islamophobia and Islamophobic rhetoric across the country.  Much of this, naturally, has been centered on the Park51 controversy in New York, but there's also a pretty big chunk of it that's always been there.  Case in point is crack(pot) conservative commentator Frank Gaffney, who proudly brandished his anti-Muslim credentials long before it became the fashionable thing to do.

While Gaffney's been wetting himself for awhile now over the dread threat of "creeping Shariah" (a prominent meme on the right that I previously discussed here) his newest windmill to tilt at comes in the form of Suhail Khan, prominent Muslim conservative, whose current involvement with CPAC -- the Conservative Political Action Conference -- is, per Gaffney and his Rube Goldberg-esque chain of happenstance and coincidence, proof positive that the organization has been taken over by the so-called "Muslim Brotherhood."

Scenes From the FIRST CLASS Struggle

In the last few months, most of the noise on the X-Men movie front has surrounded director Darren Aronofsky (currently garnering much Oscar buzz for The Black Swan -- which I still need to see!) signing on to direct the next Wolverine entry starring Hugh Jackman.  I guess it tells you how under-the-radar Matthew Vaughn's prequel/stealth reboot X-Men: First Class has been flying that after briefly mentioning the project at its inception last May, I've almost completely neglected it here.  This despite the fact that director Vaughn and producer Bryan Singer lined up a very solid cast, with headliners James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender, as the proto-Charles Xavier (a.k.a. Professor X) and young Erik Lensherr (a.k.a. Magneto) respectively, reprising the roles immortalized by Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen in the initial trilogy. The film, depicting the pair's journey from fast friends to bitter enemies, sounds promising, and could potentially mark the X-franchise righting itself after previous missteps.

Publicity-wise it's been radio silence since production ramped up, with the filmmakers hustling to ready the film for its June launch, but after the unplanned leak of a questionable publicity still earlier this week engendered much teeth-gnashing among the usual geek suspects, the dam seemingly burst, with Vaughn not only releasing several official shots of the cast (which, in addition to McAvoy and Fassbender, includes Kevin Bacon as the villainous Sebastian Shaw and Mad Men's January Jones as the seductive Emma Frost) in action, but also chatting at length with both SlashFilm and Geoff Boucher of "Hero Complex." From Vaughn's comments, it seems he's barely keeping his head above water trying to get the thing finished, which confirms my initial concerns from May over the extremely stunted production window that Fox has afforded it.  Still, I really like what I see so far.  The array of talent assembled both behind and in front of the camera is first-rate, so hopefully that bodes well for First Class.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Getting Weaponized

In case you couldn't tell yesterday, I love, love, love the Lethal Weapon series.  To me, the notion of revisiting the franchise without stars Mel Gibson and Danny Glover is as heretical as a Die Hard that's not anchored by Bruce Willis.  Just pointless.  Still, it appears to be full steam ahead for Warners' Lethal plans, with some more info hitting today via Deadline.  Uber-producer Joel Silver, who shepherded the original quadrilogy of Lethals, is taking point on this one as well, with plans for a new take and new cast to continue the series. I'm in total agreement with Vince Mancini over at FilmDrunk when he makes the point that, "when I think of premises Hollywood hasn’t already done to death, I think interracial buddy cop movie."

Of course, it's also not hard to see that while the buddy cop movie has indeed been mined to within an inch of its life (Rush Hour, anyone?), Lethal Weapon remains the benchmark for the entire genre (thanks to the very long shadow cast by Shane Black's script for the 1986 original), not to mention one of most successful franchises in WB history.  Now, revisiting a brand that saw its heyday and ended so perfectly (with movie four in 1998) was unnecessary a few years ago when the plan was to reunite Gibson and Glover, and it's even more unnecessary now that the plan is to start from the ground-up, without the stars, and especially without series director Richard Donner.  This just makes me sad.


Morbid Curiosity Leading Many Voters To Support Palin

"Reminds me of when Lindsey Graham was elected, just because everyone in South Carolina thought it would be hilarious."

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

"Petty Woman"

In the aftermath of last week's tone deaf video testimonial by Sarah Palin (which I discussed at Huffington Post here), the negative reaction came fast and furious from seemingly all quarters, questioning either the content of her message, the timing of her message, or both. This backlash in turn prompted Palin to hit the media circuit to take on the tough questions once and for all.  Except, by "media circuit" I mean "Sean Hannity," and by "tough questions" I mean "Sean Hannity."  The result was as predictable as it was hilarious.  Jon Stewart explains:

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Petty Woman
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Yep, looks like.

Seriously, is nothing sacred?

Johnston on Cap: "Flat-Out Fun"

Last week we got our first clear look at Chris Evans as the title character of next summer's Captain America: The First Avenger, and while we've gotten another look at him in action (above) and seen what the film's primary villain -- Hugo Weaving's Red Skull -- may look like, we're still waiting for word on the first official trailer for the Marvel release.  In the meantime though, director Joe Johnston spoke with Geoff Boucher of the "Hero Complex" blog at the Los Angeles Times, and after viewing a rough cut, the October Sky and Jurassic Park III helmer is confident that the highly-anticipated superhero epic will be "a helluva lot of fun to watch" for audiences. Given my undying love of The Rocketeer, Johnston's previous WWII-set superhero pic (which, appropriately enough, came out twenty years ago this summer), I'm very much looking forward to seeing what he can do with the genre after two decades of filmmaking and technological advances.  More from Boucher's interview with Johnston at the link, including the director's thoughts on the strong performance he feels was turned in by star Evans.

LOLA Gets Benched

Well, it looks like the various behind-the-scenes tooling and retooling at Law & Order: Los Angeles will have a little bit more time to settle down, as the series' hiatus, planned to end February 8, has now been extended indefinitely.  Per NBC, the official reason for the move is a desire not to upset the apple cart after a better than expected performance from the net's Parenthood, currently airing in the Tuesdays/10 PM slot that LOLA was expected to occupy, and solid ratings from David E. Kelley's Harry's Law, which currently has the Mondays/10 PM slot that Parenthood was expected to move into.

The notion of "good ratings" is something that's been alien to NBC for several seasons now, so the fact that they now have several shows performing solidly must seem like they've caught lightning in a bottle, and since the Law & Order franchise has mostly been a reliable performer wherever and whenever they've slotted it onto the schedule, it makes sense to hold the retooled show in reserve.  No idea when we can expect Los Angeles to return with its back twelve, but I'd expect it'll be sometime in March, allowing for an uninterrupted block of new episodes before the TV season comes to a close in May.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Revamp Cramps

I expressed a certain degree of bewilderment this past week when I learned of NBC's plans to revamp Law & Order: Los Angeles halfway through its frosh season as a way of shoring up the series' declining ratings fortunes.  Like I said before, the decision by producer Dick Wolf to show lead actor Skeet Ulrich the door and replace him in the cop role with DA Alfred Molina may well end up paying creative and audience dividends in the longterm, but that doesn't change how utterly bizarre the entire premise of the change is.

The notion that Molina's character, heretofore depicted as a ladder-climbing political animal, has an entire history in law enforcement, unmentioned until now, that would allow him to seamlessly transition roles is one of those storytelling contrivances that would get a screenwriting student laughed at and/or yelled at by his instructor. Still, it's hardly the first time a show has been hastily revamped in the middle of its run.  Sometimes it pays off (four words: Saved by the Bell), and other times not so much (three more words: The College Years). To wit, HitFix's Alan Sepinwall has combed through TV history both recent and ancient to find similar such examples of the dreaded "retooling" and here's his list of the hits and the misses.

Recommended Reading

In examining the last week's media coverage of the Tucson shooting incident and the subsequent, ongoing questions about "how hateful is too hateful?" vis-a-vis the current political discourse, Frank Rich bullseyes the problem in attempts by both media and political figures to treat the issue as if the vast majority of vitriol isn't coming from one particular side of the partisan divide:
As the president said in Tucson, we lack not just civil discourse, but honest discourse. Much of last week’s televised bloviation was dishonest, dedicated to the pious, feel-good sentiment that both sides are equally culpable for the rage of the past two years. To construct this false equivalency, every left-leaning Web site and Democratic politician’s record was dutifully culled for incendiary invective. If that’s the standard, then both sides are equally at fault — rhetoric can indeed be as violent on the left as on the right.
But that sidesteps the issue. This isn’t about angry blog posts or verbal fisticuffs. Since Obama’s ascension, we’ve seen repeated incidents of political violence. Just a short list would include the 2009 killing of three Pittsburgh police officers by a neo-Nazi Obama-hater; last year’s murder-suicide kamikaze attack on an I.R.S. office in Austin, Tex.; and the California police shootout with an assailant plotting to attack an obscure liberal foundation obsessively vilified by Beck.
Obama said, correctly, on Wednesday that “a simple lack of civility” didn’t cause the Tucson tragedy. It didn’t cause these other incidents either. What did inform the earlier violence — including the vandalism at Giffords’s office — was an antigovernment radicalism as rabid on the right now as it was on the left in the late 1960s.
More from Rich at the link.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Memorial Disservice

Here's Jon Stewart on Wednesday's emotional memorial service at the University of Arizona in Tucson, and how long it took for the pundit class to start the nitpicking, whether over the Native American blessing that started the event ("peculiar," per Fox's Brit Hume), the seating arrangements, or even President Obama's much-praised (and rightly so) speech:

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RISE to Thanksgiving

Just a brief follow-up on my post regarding Rise of the Apes, the Planet of the Apes prequel I discussed on Thursday.  Fox announced yesterday that the James Franco starrer is being moved out of its June 22nd mid-summer slot and will instead bow four months later on November 23rd to take advantage of the Thanksgiving weekend.  Since we know so little about the movie, it's difficult to know whether this is a sign of concern that it won't be able to hold its own during the summer, or simply a way for the filmmakers to continue honing the photorealistic apes that the whole thing hangs on.  From my total outsider's perspective, I think moving the flick away from the crowded summer season -- with everything from Transformers 3 to Harry Potter 8 schedded right on top of each other for two months straight -- can only be a good thing, allowing the new Apes some room to breathe and stand apart in the fall.  Only time will tell. 

Friday, January 14, 2011

British Justice

While we wait to see how all the big changes on Law & Order: Los Angeles from earlier in the week will play out (in early February, not later this month like I'd originally thought) the second season of cross-pond companion Law & Order: UK continues on its merry way, airing Friday nights on BBC America.  If you're a fan of the brand and haven't been watching this consistently excellent series, you're really missing out -- I can't recommend it enough.  Still, if you have given it a go and found the Brit-ness of the show too much of a hurdle to jog around, then you'll appreciate this helpful vid, narrated by Steve Zimkilton (the voice of all the stateside L&O skeins), that guides you through what you need to know to enjoy Law & Order: UK:

Ghost of a Chance

As we've seen just over the last year, the long-promised third Ghostbusters movie is becoming the '80s franchise equivalent of the white whale.  The last time we checked, star Bill Murray said it wasn't going to happen, then other-star Dan Aykroyd said it was going to happen, then director Ivan Reitman essentially said he didn't know what was going to happen.  Meanwhile, Ernie Hudson is sitting by the phone juuust in case.  Of course, the key fact underlying any Ghostbusters 3 discussion is that it doesn't matter how many of the series' stars line up for a return engagement, because if the notoriously persnickety Murray decides that Dr. Peter Venkman has hung up his proton pack for good, then that's the ballgame. I can't imagine a scenario where the studio would go ahead with a Murray-less Ghostbusters that wasn't a total reboot (and, like I've said before, don't think for a second that Sony isn't giving that idea serious consideration).  Proving that point, Deadline's Michael Fleming has conducted his own lengthy analysis of the Ghostbusters 3 logjam and arrived at a similar calculus.

FIRST LOOKS - Evans as Cap, Garfield as Spidey

Yesterday saw not one, but two of our first looks at two of the upcoming cinematic superheroes hailing from the Marvel Universe.  First up, by way of Entertainment Weekly, is Chris Evans, all duded up in his patriotic finest as Captain America: The First Avenger:
I already said back when we saw those high-res concept pictures that I was digging this look, so no big surprises here (though my inner nerd does appreciate that they threw some wing decals on the temples of his helmet).  I'm pretty much in agreement with what director Joe Johnston has contended in previous interviews, that the uniform had to be functional and utilitarian, and a guy running around a WWII battlefield in flag-colored tights probably wasn't going to work.  Captain America hits theaters in July, and I'd expect we'll be seeing a trailer before too long so we can check out how he looks in motion (and also be sure to check out my in-depth interview with Johnston from last year).

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Palin Perplexia

I think this week may well have marked the moment that Sarah Palin finally jumped the shark.

To say I was shocked or surprised by her smarmy, self-serving video responding to the tragic events in Tucson last weekend would be to imply that the former governor is still capable of doing anything that can shock or surprise me.  While it may indeed be a stretch to say that her PAC's website, with its stark image of crosshairs emblazoned over Gabrielle Giffords' congressional district, led directly to the shooting incident that left Giffords in critical condition, there's certainly an argument to be made that our increasingly vociferous partisan rhetoric could stand a cooling-off period.  So, let me amend my earlier statement to say that if Palin herself had admitted this and taken the moral high ground, that would have surprised me.

New Info on New APES

The last time we talked about Fox's upcoming Planet of the Apes franchise revival Rise of the Apes was way back in June, when I noted that actor James Franco had been retained as "the human," and Andy Serkis (recently signed to revive his signature role of Gollum in Peter Jackson's Hobbit movie duo) was onboard to provide motion-capture for chimp revolutionary Caesar.  Since then, John Lithgow and Brian Cox and others joined the Rupert Wyatt-directed film, principal photography was completed, and still there wasn't much mention of the project in the mainstream or genre circles -- speaking to either a general lack of awareness or a general lack of interest (hopefully the former, possibly the latter).

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


When I first noted the selection of actor Skeet Ulrich to play Detective Rex Winters, the first role cast on the then-upcoming Law & Order: Los Angeles last summer, little did I realize that he would end up becoming the new show's version of George Dzundza.  And yet, here we are, barely half a year into the series' freshman year, and in a pretty sweeping retooling effort, Ulrich has been shown the door by producer Dick Wolf, along with actors Megan Boone and Regina Hall, the assistants to executive DDA's Terence Howard and Alfred Molina respectively. The dismissal of Boone and Hall doesn't really make much of an impact on me, as neither had much time to make a mark, but I have to say that I am disappointed at Ulrich's ouster.

Certainly the show has had its issues (some of which I discussed here), but I always felt those were more about stylistic and creative decisions rather than casting.  And while I made mention in my review of the pilot episode that I didn't see much chemistry between him and partner Corey Stoll, the more recent installments had gone a long way toward addressing that, and I was looking forward to seeing the pair continue to grow together.  No idea who the producers are planning to replace Ulrich with, but I'd guess it's going to be an older actor in the Jerry Orbach mold. That said, Stoll already does the world-wise cynic bit to perfection, which doesn't really much room for contrast. Either way, we'll know who's on deck before too long, as Law & Order: Los Angeles resumes its first season later this month.

Update: Well, I guess now we know -- and I guess I was sort of right.  The current plan for LOLA 2.0 a few weeks after its return is for Molina's crusading DA Ricardo Morales to trade in his law license for an LAPD badge as the show's new senior detective.  Meanwhile, Terrence Howard's Jonah Dekker moves up to full-time DDA.  I'm not even remotely sure what to make of this.  It could end up being a brilliant bit of TV two-stepping, or one of those dunderheaded examples of midstream retooling that we'll all shake our heads at in hindsight.  Only time will tell.

Back in Bondage!

Ever since we first got word last April that development on the next installment of the evergreen James Bond movie franchise was being shuttered indefinitely by the producing team of Michael Wilson and Barbara Broccoli pending the resolution of MGM's (also evergreen) financial difficulties, it's been a waiting game as we've watched various developments with the studio. After several months of uncertainty, things took a positive turn last August when new management signalled an infusion of cash and the light at the end of the long, dark tunnel that's made this one of the longer 007-free spells in the series' history (not as long, though, as the six year gap between 1989's Licence to Kill and 1995's GoldenEye -- also prompted by similar financial distress at MGM).

Well, the good news is that the next James Bond flick is finally, officially back on. As we'd assumed all along, director Sam Mendes (who previously worked with current 007 Daniel Craig on 2002's Road to Perdition) is helming from a script by series scribes Robert Wade and Neal Purvis. With production set to ramp up later this year after Craig dispenses with his committment to the American adaptation of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, that should leave plenty of time for the still-untitled "Bond 23" to meet its planned November 2012 release date -- just in time to celebrate an amazing fifty years since the series first hit the big screen with 1962's Dr. No. Ian Fleming himself couldn't have planned it better.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Stewart Talks Tucson

I have a friend (one of the participants in that legendarily long-winded Park51 discussion) who once said of Jon Stewart something along the lines of "he's not as smart as people want him to be."  While I think that's possible and, in fact, probable, I also think Stewart has risen to the forefront and become the Vox Populi for so many not because of his perceived intellectual heft, but rather his perceived intellectual curiosity.  Instead of demagoguing opponents into silence, he's distinguished himself from much of the pundit class precisely because he approaches issues with the desire to learn and the willingness to be educated.  Certainly, that's what made his heartfelt, emotionally raw response to the events of 9/11 so resonant for so many, and it's also why last night's thoughts on the tragic events in Tucson last weekend are so powerful.

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Sunday, January 09, 2011

Recommended Reading

I've often expressed with bemusement how the lionization of Ronald Reagan on the right has been blown so completely out of sorts that it's come to have only a tangential relationship to what the man actually thought and what he actually accomplished.  That said, there are some very clear political lessons that Reagan embodied during his presidency that the current holder of the office could do well for himself by taking to heart before the next election, and Frank Rich helps to break those lessons down for him.

Put the Gun Metaphors Away

Keith Olbermann hosted a special edition of Countdown last night where he spent the full hour addressing yesterday morning's horrible shooting incident that claimed the lives of seven people and left Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in critical condition.  He ended the program with this commentary on the need for pundits, politicos, and populi alike to tone down the violence-tinged political rhetoric that's grown so unhinged that it could, quite possibly, have allowed this to happen (and that goes for both sides of the partisan divide).  Transcript here.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Recommended Reading

Yesterday's announcement of the selection of Bill Daley (of the Chicago Daleys) to replace Rahm Emmanuel as President Obama's Chief of Staff seemed to elicit equal parts teeth-gnashing from progressives and backslapping from establishment types.  While the establishment reaction was to be expected, the anger from progressive quarters strikes me as odd, especially given Obama's pragmatism manifesto from a few weeks ago.  In that light, the choice of a party loyalist like Daley to step in for a party loyalist like Emmanuel fits right in with his way of doing business.  Glenn Greenwald makes mostly the same point, and his take -- both on the Daley selection and progressive anger -- is the best I've seen.


Remember two summers ago when, in the lead-up to the release of the JJ Abrams' Star Trek reboot, I completed the mammoth of task of re-viewing and reviewing all the Star Trek feature films?  Remember the shellacking I gave Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, the William Shatner-directed entry that, until 2002, held  the distinction of being the least-successful flick in the whole movie catalogue?  Well, I caught some of the movie on cable recently, and had to admit to myself once again that despite the shellacking, the fact remains that -- either as a result of it being my very first Trek theatrical experience or simply because of its very few good points -- I still have something of a soft spot for the Shat-fest, and can't quite bring myself to write it off entirely. Clearly, the folks at Topless Robot were being bedeviled by this very same, very pressing issue (nerds of a feather, and all that), and they've helpfully enumerated for us the reasons why you shouldn't loathe Trek V -- and the reasons why you absolutely should.  Good stuff.

The New Batch

Here's last night's Daily Show segment with Jon Stewart delivering initial impressions of the 112th Congress, from new Speaker of the House John Boehner's weepiness and oversized gavel to yesterday's comical political theater with the Constitution being read in its entirety.  It's been a good week for The Daily Show, back from break after two weeks, and this was one of the strongest bits:

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I've seen Tron Legacy twice now -- once in 3D, and once as the first theater experience of my four-year old (which, appropriately enough, is the the same age I was when I saw the original Tron lo those many years ago).  I was desperately hoping to have a full review posted to the site in something resembling a timely manner, but the holiday crunch coupled with end-of-semester grading kept pushing it further and further back until I had to grudgingly admit that it probably wasn't going to happen (maybe for the home video window!).  The short version though: I loved it the first time, and loved it slightly more the second time.  Not perfect, mind you -- there are some narrative shortcuts and creative cul-de-sacs that probably could have been avoided -- but it's impossible not to appreciate how much creative ideation the filmmakers managed to pack in.

It's visually lush, emotionally poignant, and mentally stimulating.  In other words, my kind of movie experience.  Now, how much that view is colored by my lifelong fondness for the original I leave to you to determine, but Massawyrm over at AICN has just posted a lengthy treatise on the film delving into the vast richness of the ideas it ponders that not only touches on and reaffirms many of the same impressions I had, but also brought some new points to my attention that I hadn't previously considered.  All of this only further cements my view of Tron Legacy as a work of remarkable insight.  If you haven't seen the movie yet, I'm not sure how much you want to be spoiled by his analysis, but it's definitely worth a read -- either before or after you watch it (which hopefully you will soon).

Thursday, January 06, 2011

The Bad Humor Men

My blog buddy Ricky Shambles provides us with another example of what passes for humor on the Right Wing fringe -- something about an extremist mosque and a bottle of Pepsi.  I don't get it, but hey, maybe you will.  I already discussed the total disconnect between Right Wing ideology and comedy in a post from last summer, but seriously, I don't even know where to start with this one.  Good catch from Ricky.

Sommers' End for JOE

Last summer I mentioned my wariness about the plans for a sequel to 2009's G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (which, you may remember, I didn't love).  Well, the chances of said sequel not completely sucking have increased slightly with yesterday's word from The Los Angeles Times that, contrary to what everyone was assuming, director Stephen Sommers won't be back to helm the follow-up.  Considering that I laid most of the blame for the debacle of the original on Sommers' shoulders, this is good news.  While there's no word on who the studio is looking at to replace him, my dream pick to take the reins would be someone like Joe Carnahan, who brought exactly the right tone of deference and defiance to last year's sadly-underperforming The A-Team (which, you may remember, I did love).  But unless Paramount and Hasbro truly plan to venture outside the box like Fox did recently when picking Darren Aronofsky for their next Wolverine flick, I'm not really holding out much hope for that.  And yeah, like I said, I'll probably go see it anyway.  Shut up.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Four Color Frustrations

In my "Muslim Batman" post from Friday, I mentioned how my monthly consumption of comics has dwindled of late to a mere trickle after a double digit diet of books every month for almost twenty years.  In addition to being prompted by financial concerns, another motivating factor in this exodus has been what I feel is a rapid decline in the quality of output from the mainstream (read: superhero) publishers, with Marvel and DC both neck-and-neck in what seems like a race to the bottom. Still, like a bad breakup, I can't bring myself to walk away entirely from the hobby I've loved so much for so long, which is why I still poke my head in and check out articles like this countdown of the 5 Worst Comics of 2010.  Some I've read, some I haven't, but all are pretty darn depressing.  Their number one pick in particular -- writer J. Michael Straczynski's listless, meandering storyline about the newly-douchebaggish Superman (see above) "finding himself" on a cross country walk -- managed, in a single, self-righteous bound, the nigh-inconceivable feat of putting the brakes on an uninterrupted two decade run buying Superman comics.  Talk about Kryptonite.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

The Saga Concludes!

Just in time to help us to ring in the new year, filmmaker Mike Stoklasa is back, along with his sociopathic alter ego Harry Plinkett, to conclude his feature-length dissections of the Star Wars prequel trilogy.  If you thought the Attack of the Clones video review from last April was time intensive, this one is his longest yet -- a massive hour and forty-five minutes!  While I enjoyed Revenge of the Sith at the time it came out, and still consider it the strongest of the three prequels, I've always couched that praise in terms of it being the best movie it could be given the two that came before it, and the fact remains that the original three are ultimately weakened rather deepened by the existence of their newer siblings.  Plinkett pretty much cements this viewpoint for me, scoring his usual points on the demonstrated deficiencies both in content and technique (I especially like the Citizen Kane mashup).  Check out part one below, and two and three after the jump: