Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Looming Dredd

The last time I talked about the feature reboot of famed British comic Judge Dredd was more than a year ago when genre fave Karl Urban signed on to don the character's signature black-and-red helmet. Since then, the film has gotten an official title (Dredd), an American studio (Lionsgate), and a release date (September 21 this year). What we haven't seen as of yet is any actual footage from the Pete Travis-directed film. Some of you may recall that Dredd, a futuristic lawman in post-apocalyptic America, first came to the screen via 1995's Sylvester Stallone starrer, known today as a punchline that didn't do much to burnish either the actor or character's rep.

As I briefly mentioned in my earlier posts, I've been a fan of Dredd for a long time now -- going all the way back to the time I first saw him on the cover of British mag 2000 A.D. in the mid-'80s. The iconic look, bleak setting, and black humor make for a mix that sets the character uniquely apart (though that mix was embodied quite well in the Dredd-esque first RoboCop in 1987). However, after being burned by the previous film attempt, I'm a bit gunshy about this new go, especially considering how Lionsgate flamed out in fall of last year with their ballyhooed, abortive relaunch of Conan the Barbarian. That said, I really like how Urban looks in the pic above, all duded up in his lawgiving finest, as well as the second pic after the jump:

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Muppets Take Fox News

It's been a little while, but you may recall when Fox Business Channel talking head Eric Bolling (a.k.a NuBeck) was briefly on the warpath late last year over the evil liberal indoctrination scheme supposedly buried inside Disney's new The Muppets feature. In case the details have slipped your mind (or you've already moved onto more important matters), jump over here and get the full skinny. Well, the felt-and-fabric stars of said opus have taken their movie on the road, and when queried about the non-troversy by international journos, they issued this retort:

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Nostalgia Theater: G.I. Joe Extreme

After last week's look at the second G.I. Joe animated show, we continue our archeological expedition into lost Joe history with this oddity, the proverbial Poochie of the brand. In order to understand how G.I. Joe got extremed, I think it's important to understand the era that birthed it. As I mentioned last time, Hasbro's "Real American Hero" line enjoyed a very successful and very long-lived run on the pop culture radar for the entirety of its run, running an impressive twelve years from 1982-1994 when most toy lines faltered after a mere fraction of that time.

But changing tastes and trends (two words: Ninja. Turtles.) as the late '80s turned into the mid-'90s left America's Fighting Man largely by the wayside, even as the toyline trotted out increasingly outlandish subgroupings like "Eco Warriors," "Star Brigade," and, most damningly, a Joe-themed line based on the Street Fighter video games, to try and keep pace. None of these attempts gained much traction, and the final, choked gasp of "A Real American Hero" issued forth in 1995 in the form of Sgt. Savage and his Screaming Eagles.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Recommended Reading

I encountered a technical hiccup in Bloggerville that's going to push Nostalgia Theater to tomorrow from its usual Friday berth, but don't worry, it's a good'n that'll be worth the wait. In the meantime, check out this piece from Robert Reich echoing my own concerns that folks on the left are being a bit presumptuous in thinking that Newt Gingrich getting the Republican nomination would mean President Obama wins re-election in a walk. Says he:
Even if the odds that Gingrich as GOP presidential candidate would win the general election are 10 percent, that’s too much of a risk to the nation. No responsible American should accept a 10 percent risk of a President Gingrich. 
Couldn't agree more. Read the rest here.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Also From The Onion...

I'm normally loath to doing two Onion pieces in a row, but this one was just too hilarious not to post:
Time Traveler From The Year 1998 Warns Nation Not To Elect Newt Gingrich 
WASHINGTON—Saying he came bearing an important message from the past, a stranger from the year 1998 appeared on the Capitol steps Thursday and urged voters not to elect Newt Gingrich president in 2012. "In the late 20th century, Newt Gingrich is a complete disgrace!" said the time-traveling man, warning Americans that 14 years in the not-so-distant past, Gingrich becomes the only speaker in the history of the House of Representatives to be found guilty on ethics charges, and is later forced to resign. "In my time, he shuts down the federal government for 28 days because his feelings get hurt over having to sit at the back of Air Force One. Gingrich gets our president impeached for lying about marital infidelities when, at the same time, Gingrich himself is engaged in his own extramarital affairs. And for God's sake, he divorced his first wife after she was diagnosed with cancer. Won't anyone listen to me?!?" When asked about Donald Trump, the time-traveler said he had no information on the man, as no one from 1998 cared about a "washed-up fake millionaire.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

From The Onion...

Romneymania Sweeps America
From the piece:
"It's amazing to hear your deepest convictions articulated so poignantly by a politician," said out-of-work Denver resident Austin Matthews, 36, admitting he had never before encountered a candidate—or any human being, for that matter—who had connected with him on such a basic emotional level. "He comes right out and says that any acknowledgment of income inequality in the United States is driven solely by bitterness and envy from the lower classes and shouldn't even be discussed publicly. It's like he's tapped directly into the soul of everyday Americans."
Read more at the link.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Newt on the March

That the last few weeks have seen Newt Gingrich's presidential ambitions morph from also-ran to frontrunner status is yet another indication of how barren the GOP cupboard has become of viable national candidates, and also how empty Republican rhetoric about family values is when weighed against the prospect of nominating someone the base thinks will unseat the Big Bad Barack (he won't, but that's a separate conversation, obviously). Nonetheless, nowhere is this disconnect more apparent than Gingrich's blowout win in South Carolina last weekend, which many are chalking up to the former speaker's "Screw the media" tour de force during CNN's debate last week after being asked about his marital indiscretions. Jon Stewart's near-meltdown as he ponders the yawning chasm between rhetoric and reality makes for another brilliant segment on last night's Daily Show. Enjoy:

Recommended Reading

Ryan Lizza at The New Yorker uses years of Obama memos from all the way back to before the administration even began to track the narrative of how the president's high-minded rhetoric while campaigning about orchestrating sweeping changes in office bumped up against the pragmatic realities of governing. This is a long one, but it's well worth your time.

Monday, January 23, 2012

When Action Wasn't Enough

I was thirteen when Last Action Hero, 1993's unintentional disaster movie headlined by Arnold Schwarzenegger, hit the big screen, and my clearest memory of it is the hubristic marketing by home studio Sony that positioned it as a worthy rival to halt the impending unstoppable force that was Steven Spielberg's first Jurassic Park. On the one had there's realistic, CGI dinosaurs on a scale that's never before been attempted, and on the other, there's Arnold being Arnold in something with a kid and a magic movie ticket. Sure, which would you watch? Even back then, when Schwarzenegger was one of the preeminent stars in the world, and I wasn't even in high school, it still struck me as a bonehead move.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Nostalgia Theater: The Second G.I. Joe

This week we look back at the animated adventures of everyone's favorite "Real American Hero" action figures -- but not the ones you probably remember. It's easy to forget now, a quarter-century after the fact, just how impactful it was when G.I. Joe first came to television. Based on Hasbro's toys and created by Marvel & Sunbow Productions, Joe (along with their Transformers animated series) was one of the early examples of how the '80s transmogrified televised kidvid into an expansive lineup of animated half hour commercials. Debuting with a syndicated five-part miniseries in 1983  and a second mini the next year, the regular series started in September of '85 and aired until the next fall, with an impressive ninety-five episodes tallied when all was said and done.

But while Marvel/Sunbow ceased production after a G.I. Joe animated movie in '86, the toyline was still going strong, and so, after a layover of three years and after receiving a bargain basement bid from animation house DiC, Hasbro traded down from Sunbow for the next round of animated Joe in 1989. By then, DiC had already built a reputation as a low rent studio that could be counted on to crank out production, quality be damned (its repertoire included such toy-based 'toons as Mask and Hasbro's COPS), and its take on G.I. Joe did little to dispel that well-cemented notion. 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

PACs Americana

We've spent plenty of space here lamenting the state of election law in the aftermath of the "Citizens United" ruling in early '10, and while many have failed to grasp the frightening extent of how financial influence on elections was unleashed by the Supreme Court, Stephen Colbert has done a brilliant job of making this point again and again, first with the formation of the Colbert SuperPAC last year, and now by handing control of said PAC to Jon Stewart (with whom he is in no way coordinating) while Colbert "explores" a presidential run in South Carolina. Watch this clip from Tuesday's Daily Show to see Stewart and Colbert push, pull, and otherwise contort the boundaries of the post-Citizens United lay of the land, demonstrating the inherent (and entirely legal!) absurdities of current election law in the process:

Monday, January 16, 2012

Recommended Reading

Andrew Sullivan, with whom I agree just as often as I disagree, makes a pretty compelling case for how effective President Obama has been at playing the political long game to get his agenda items enacted -- even if he doesn't always take the bows. And while the old "He's playing chess while everyone else is playing checkers" defense of Obama isn't exactly a new one, Sullivan does manage to give it some actual weight with some of the examples he cites.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Nostalgia Theater: CHiPs Edition

L-R: Erik Estrada, Robert Pine, Larry Wilcox
For this week's dose of Nostalgia Theater, we motorbike our way back to the late 1970s, when the televisual tastes of the masses were so malnourished that an hourlong drama about glorified traffic cops was able to not only last, but last and last for an improbable six seasons. That's right. You knew this day was coming. It's time to talk CHiPs. For anyone who grew up during its broadcast and syndication heyday during the '70s and '80s, I have a feeling the following theme music (composed by John Carl Parker for the second season and beyond, replacing Parker's original opening from year one) is indelibly branded on their psyche:

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A Lifetime of Bondage

It's crazy to me that it's already been ten years since James Bond's last big anniversary celebration, when 2002's Die Another Day marked not only forty years of big screen Bonding, but also the twentieth official film in the longest-lived film series of all time. Given that we're now into the fiftieth year since Dr. No launched Ian Fleming's literary super-spy onto the big screen, and with a new 007 adventure starring Bond-of-record Daniel Craig set to assault theaters this November, it should come as a surprise to precisely no one that the folks at EON Productions, primary purveyors of all things Bond since the very beginning, had something special up their sleeve to make the occasion appropriately festive.

To wit, the just-announced Bond 50 blu-ray set, collecting each and every one of the twenty-two James Bond opuses from Dr. No to 2008's Quantum of Solace in one box. While this isn't 007's first appearance on blu, it is the first time every single movie is being put out with a hi-def spit-and-polish. As longtime readers here should well know, I've been a Bond diehard practically my whole life, and while I've seen each and every one of these flicks more times than I feel comfortable admitting on more formats than I can keep track of, just looking at this box has my mouth watering. The set is due out this fall, but you can lock in your pre-order via Amazon here (and help support this site in the process).

I have every intention of acknowledging the Bond half centennial with more features here throughout the year, but in the meantime, check out the trailer for the big box after the jump and feel your pulse start to quicken.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Monkey Love

Since the release of Rise of the Planet of the Apes last summer and its out-of-the-blue ascent up the box office charts, there's been much discussion about whether actor Andy Serkis might merit a nod for Best Supporting Actor in this year's Academy Awards, which would be the first such recognition for a role that was entirely performance captured. Well, with Oscar-nominating season now upon us in earnest, Rise star James Franco makes the case for why the Academy should have Serkis' back on this one.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Wreathing Wrath

Last week, the wife and I got an evening to ourselves unencumbered by the wee ones, and being an old and boring married couple, we took the opportunity to browse the shelves at our local Barnes & Noble. There, I happened upon a book called Obsessed With Star Trek, which uses a little electronic doodad embedded in its pages to quiz readers on a thousand-plus pieces of trivia culled from the many reams of Trek obscura. I picked it up, paged through it absentmindedly, and two minutes later I'd managed a perfect score on the ten-or-so random queries it had lobbed my way. Afterwards, I glanced up just in time to see a sudden, horrifying realization dance across my wife's eyes: she'd married a Trekkie.

So, yes, as that lengthy preamble should make clear, I'm a Star Trek fan. I have been for most of my life. Needless to say, that's not exactly a credential I brandish openly or even proudly, but it is an abiding fandom all the same, and it's one that kicked into gear fully and irretrievably upon watching The Best Star Trek Ever -- 1982's Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan -- for the first time in 1988. By now it's become such conventional wisdom that it borders on cliché that Wrath of Khan is tops among the many movie Treks (with even the franchise-changing reboot movie from '09, which I wholeheartedly embraced, coming in a distant second). But remember, many clichés become that way because they are, in fact, true and that's certainly the case with Khan.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

"The Elephant in the Room"

I've noted a few times the inherent contradiction, in my view, in Muslims identifying as Republican in today's political climate. Not because there aren't areas of overlap for practicing Muslims with certain conservative principles the Republican platform traditionally supports, but more because of the increasingly mainstream anti-Islam and anti-Muslim views espoused not just by GOP rank-and-filers, but party leaders and elites (including, in some shape or form, every one of the leading presidential contenders). As I said in August of '10 (in my first Huffington Post pickup, FYI):
How much more of this stuff do you have to see? After years of systematic marginalization, after the bastardized transitive property that saw Obama labeled as a Muslim and thus intrinsically evil, is the ginned-up Cordoba Controversy that the GOP has cynically run with -- and the rampant Islamophobia that's followed in its wake -- enough to finally convince you that the Republican Party's so-called "Big Tent" doesn't have very much room for you?
Well, in yet another example of how the Big Tent stretches only so far, we have this vid from The Daily Show chronicling one Muslim Republican's windmill-tilting crusade in Florida to proudly brandish his party credentials -- whether they like it or not. I actually followed this story when it was first happened last fall, and even then I thought it was tailor-made for the Daily Show treatment, so this one's been a long time coming for me:

Friday, January 06, 2012

Nostalgia Theater: Manimal Edition

Back in November I laid into '80s artifact Automan, as well as its purveyor, one Glen A. Larson, promising more looks back at Larson's atrocious output from the era. Well, adding further proof to my longstanding contention that Larson did for science fiction television in the '70s and '80s what the Hindenburg did for airship travel, comes another unfortunate dropping from the early-'80s: Manimal. In case the title doesn't make it clear, it was about a man...who becomes animals. Come on, folks. Keep up.

At this point, my running theory is that Larson came up with his ideas title first, concept later. In fact, I could easily see him dreaming this one up while his feet were resting on the very same ottoman that provided him the inspiration for Automan (which premiered two months later). Manimal starred Brit actor Simon MacCorkindale as the mysterious, debonaire Dr. Jonathan Chase, somehow possessed of the ability to transform into a menagerie of different animals. We're introduced to him via the narration at the tail-end of this awesomely cheese-tastic intro sequence:

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

From The Onion...

Given that the new year marks the beginning of what I fully expect to be a fun time hereabouts vis-a-vis coverage of the upcoming election, and given the opening of festivities with last night's Iowa Caucuses, this one seemed the perfect way with which to inaugurate this year's posting activities:
Obama Openly Asks Nation Why On Earth He Would Want To Serve For Another Term
From the piece:
"My fellow Americans, I come to you today to ask, why?" Obama said to 1,200 people gathered inside a gymnasium at Taylor Allderdice High School. "Why can't our congressional leaders work together to create jobs? Why can't Wall Street ever be held accountable? And most important, why on God's green earth would I voluntarily subject myself to this nonsense for another four years?"  
"I'm dead serious," the president continued, saying that any reasonable person would have walked away the moment the Senate minority leader announced his main priority—above creating jobs and improving American health care—was to make Obama a one-term president. "I'm asking if anybody out there can come up with even one reason why I'd want to endure this unmitigated shit show for another minute, let alone through 2016. What's in it for me, ex­actly? Can anyone answer that? Anyone at all?"
Read the rest here.