Monday, July 31, 2006


The 10 things from the 1980’s that show up in Miami Vice and
couldn’t help but make it #1 at the box office this weekend.

10) During the opening interrogation, on the TV in the background is the old lady in the Wendy’s commercials who would say, “Where’s the beef?”, this time portrayed by Dame Judy Dench.

9) The ‘Baby on Board’ sign in the rear windshield of the drug lord’s Delorean.

8) The top-loader VCR that Crockett hides the heroin in.

7) Crockett finds the drug lord’s transaction records saved on 5 1/4” disks for the accountant’s Apple 2e.

6) The handheld electronic Pac-Man game that Tubbs beats the hit man to death with.

5) Malcolm-Jamal Warner as Theo Huxtable, District Attorney.

4) The scene where Crockett employs break dancing (including the head spin) to woo the gangster’s girl.

3) When Crockett and Tubbs walk past a multi-plex and the titles on the marquee include Losin’ It, Porky’s II, The Last American Virgin, School Spirit, Fraternity Vacation, Class, Just One of the Guys, and My Tutor.

2) The Tiger Beat magazine at the newsstand that features Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas on the cover

1) Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney in the White House.

Sunday, July 30, 2006


Peter Doran is a Professor of Earth and Environmental Science at the University of Illinois. His study of a region in Antartica revealed that, contrary to what one would assume, the region has cooled over the last few decades, not grown warmer. Many global warming skeptics have cited Doran's study, including Michael Crichton and Ann Coulter, and quoted him saying that, here it is, proof that global warming is a fraud. Slight problem, though; Doran's study didn't debunk global warming at all--far from it. And Doran was surprised to see himself on record as having proclaimed things that he never even would have thought, much less have said. He finally spoke out after watching his words get twisted for years.

On the other side of the fence; a REASON article makes the case that Hummers are gentler on the environment than hybrids.

A Different Sort of Superman Returns

I watched Superman: Brainiac Attack tonight, and was disappointed. For all the talk of Tim Daly returning to the role, he never has a stand-out moment. Powers Boothe is no Clancy Brown when it comes to playing the part of Lex Luthor, and Lance Henriksen is no Corey Burton when it comes to playing Brainiac. In fact, Henriksen is far worse because he puts inappropriate emotion into his performace (which the illustrators inexplicable translate onto the machine's face). The video has the look of the Bruce Timm-produced series from the late 90's, but Timm had nothing to do with this, and it shows. It doesn't even seem to fit into the continuity of the Superman series or the later Justice League series, nor is it as skillfully written as those shows (which are written by comic book geeks for comic book geeks with as many references shoved into each episode as possible). For example, Superman has to go into the Phantom Zone to get some element to rescue someone, but he doesn't encounter any of the villains that he sent away there. Instead, he battles a huge spider/slug creature. No General Zod or anybody else. But the most ridiculous moment (for me) came when Braniac invades the Fortress of Solitude and attempts to connect with Superman's computer. For some reason, the machine is greedy for Kryptonian data. What the writers seem to have forgotten is that in the very first episode of Superman, Brainiac, then Krypton's everywhere super-computer, downloaded everything before saying farewell to the doomed planet. (I will never forget the strange moment when the planet is starting to come apart from earthquakes and volcanic activity, the citizens of Krypton gathered around a Brainiac station demanding to know what is going on, and the long-silent machine suddenly says, "Goodbye, Krypton," with just .01% of pity, before it beams the last of its intellect to an escaping satellite.) SO BRAINIAC ALREADY HAS ALL THE KNOWLEDGE OF KRYPTON! That he fails to remember this only shows what a lame video this is.

A few more comments on "Superman Returns"

My esteemed collegue, Goatboy, summed up many of my thoughts about "SR", but there are a few points that I still feel need to be addressed.


Good things:

-The stunning production values. I can't say that all $260 million (according to the Internet Movie Database) is on the screen, but clearly at least $200 million is.

-The visual effects that really show Superman to be faster than a speeding bullet. Superman zips and zooms like he's never done before.

-Brandon Roush's acting was okay, but his voice was very good. I've heard some people complain that he sounded too much like Christopher Reeve, but I found that to be a strengh, because...

Bad things:

-...I hate that costume! The “S” is too small and the bright red on the S and the cape has been exchanged for a dark maroon boarding on brown. When I saw it in the toy stores a month before the film came out, I was flabbergasted! The funny thing is that KB Toys in the same mall as the movie theater has a Superman toy display with Superman Returns toys from the movie AND Superman toys from the Justice League cartoon show. In design and color, the JL Superman toys are far superior.

-The first time we see Lois Lane, she is on a plane with a space shuttle attached to the top. She asks the somewhat snooty public relations person why only one news gathering organization was allowed on board (there are lots of empty seats elsewhere). The P.R. woman replies something to the effect of, "Let's put that question on hold until later," suggesting there's something sinister afoot. But later never comes. Nothing results from this slightly bizarre and unnecessary exchange.

-The kid pushing the piano to save Lois was a surprising display of power (not to mention heredity) but it felt false. I don't understand how a kid could come to the conclusion that the best way to save his mom is to push a massive object that he normally could never move. I COULD believe if he jumped between the thug and Lois, using his body as a shield, or if he tried to drag her away to safety. But the piano coming out of nowhere just didn't work for me.

-When the Lex-made continent is up and Lex has done away with Superman, why does he just sit around? Why are his minions merely playing cards? Why aren’t they celebrating? Why isn’t Lex laughing and drinking and passing out t-shirts that say, “My boss killed Superman and all I got was this stinkin’ shirt”? In "Superman 4", Superman takes away all of the world’s nuclear missiles, then tangles with the Lex-created Solar Man (made with Superman's DNA from a strand of Superman's hair) and gets sick. In a deleted scene, Lex, knowing Superman is out for the count, is working several phones selling nuclear missiles back to the U.S. and Russia, resupplying the arms race. In this movie, I kept expecting Lex to get on the phone and call up governments and threaten to create new continents on their shores, or at the very least call up contractors so that his utopia can start being built. BUT LEX JUST SITS AROUND!

-What is the deal with those Kryptonian crystals? I understand that they make structures grow, but what happened with Parker Posey's character dropped them out of the helicopter? Did they make even more stuff grow? There didn't seem to be any obvious consequence of her dumping the crystals.


-The foundation for the entire film is horribly flawed. I CANNOT buy the premise that Superman would abandon Earth and not tell anybody. That just doesn't sound like Superman. It's a very irresponsible act to disappear on others, and Superman is all about responsibility. He would have told Lois, been honest with her (heck, they WERE sleeping together), and hoped that she could understand how important going to the remnants of Krypton is to him. One of my caucasian coworkers came up with an excellent analogy, "That's like if you and I decided to go to Europe to find our ancestry but never told our wives. "

AND EVEN IF he didn't tell Lois, we're told that Superman left "after astronomers discovered the remains of Krypton." If Superman disappeared without telling anyone anything (as both Ma Kent and Lois testify in the course of the movie), I would think that Lois, being the great reporter that she is, would doggedly try to find out what happened to the man she loves. Eventually she would find those astronomers and figure out where Superman went to. She might hate him for going, but she wouldn't be in the dark and take up with Perry White's nephew (no matter how great a guy Cyclops, I mean Richard White, is).


Apparently I got one thing wrong in the paragraph above. A coworker/Superman fanatic pointed out that Ma Kent did know about Clark leaving, and covered for him by, over the years, mailing postcards that he sped wrote before leaving. One or more of the postcards can be seen on Lois's desk in the film. How did he know this? By reading the four prequel comic books that DC put out in June. Now I love comic books, but I never heard about these until several weeks after the movie had been released.

I also came up with this criticism of the film:

-At the beginning of the film, a Kryptonian spaceship crashes in the Kent field and Clark emerges. Where did it come from? How come there is no explanation as to its origin? If Superman didn't have a Kryptonian spaceship to get to whatever remained of Krypton in the first place, why did he need one to get back? And if Superman was able to build a Kryptonian space ship with whatever was left over on the planet fragment, why didn't any other Kryptonians build such a ship to escape the initial destruction in the first place?

It turns out that these questions are also answered in the comic book, "Superman Returns: Krypton to Earth". Duh!

But are comic books the best way of informing a mass audience in the 21st century? According to the comic book sales list for June, "S.R.-Krypton to Earth" sold 32,936 copies, "S.R.-Lex Luthor" sold 30,908 copies, "S.R.-Ma Kent" sold 30,074 copies, and "S.R.-Lois Lane" sold 26,493 copies. The comics were 40 pages each and cost $4.00.

Web comic creator T. Campbell wrote in the lastest issue of Write Now, "...people cried hallelujah when All-Star Batman and Robin #1 sold 261,000 direct market copies, but Sluggy Freelance, not even the most popular webcomic, gets 300,000 readers every month."

Perhaps putting the "Superman Returns" prequel comic books on the web might have helped the film. It certainly couldn't have hurt. I would have read them. I would have paid to read them. I wouldn't have paid $4 to read each of them, but I might have been persuaded to go as high as $2.

But now, having seen the film and being for the most part disappointed, I have no interest in the prequel comic books.

But I would read them on my computer screen if they show up on the DVD.

Friday, July 21, 2006


There are two good scenes, and they both take place on dry land. Every time the cast jumps onboard a ship, the audience is in for it. My main complaint about the latest Pirates of the Caribbean wasn't that it made no sense, just that the FUN really lags, for long stretches. During that time, we see tentacles, a surprisingly tedious crew of mutated sailors, Mr. Depp going for laughs, tropical islands, a short man with an unconvincing scheme to become powerful, and other stuff. I did like how the actor playing Davy Jones (clearly based on Cthulhu) spoke his lines in a brogued tenor--no synthesizing his voice to a roar, not even a basso profundo. And I liked the music. I could point out that the kraken was a mollusky vagina dentata, if I knew what that meant. Too damn long.

Friday, July 14, 2006


Mike Mignola, the creator of Hellboy, has adapted his similarly eerie The Amazing Screw-on Head as an animated series, with the voices of Paul Giamatti (as Screw-on Head), David Hyde Pierce (as Emperor Zombie), and Molly Shannon (as Patience). The entire first episode is available for viewing at So very worth it.

Monday, July 10, 2006


I just saw Syriana, and it definitely had its problems, but I thought it was one of the more worthwhile movies I've seen in six or eight months, mainly because the DVD extras were thought-provoking. Also, the writer and director comes from the very same town as toner_low and goatboy. That gets him some points.

Judging from Google, a lot of people hated this film. Ebert thought it was great. I think Fox News summed it up pretty well, and George Clooney (who by the way looks scarily like Paul Krugman in the movie)seems to agree with Fox. I saw interesting takes on two Middle Eastern blogs--one Lebanese, and one Zionist.

One interesting quote from the DVD extras: Not only is America addicted to oil (as Matt Damon and George W. Bush point out), but America is behaving like an addict, with compromises, self-deceptions, and weakness that any crackhead would exhibit.

Still, I have no idea who several key characters in the movie are or what they do, and the whole thing just doesn't come across as compelling because, as good as the story is, few roles are able to climb up off the page--terrific actor Jeffrey Wright is wasted as an icy lawyer who has some kind of damaged relationship with his father (I guess--I really couldn't tell what was going on with those two). William Hurt is mysterious. Christopher Plummer is either a lawyer or lobbyist or diplomat or something, but he's got some great lines. So the final score is head 1 heart 0, which doesn't mean it's bad, just... ah go rent it.

Saturday, July 01, 2006


1. Kevin was too soft in both the humor and menace department. Langella would have been better as Lex. In some ways, Spacey seemed ashamed to be playing the part.
2. They made a good decision to avoid the Lex-as-public-billionaire route, which I never liked. "Boo captialism." What else is new?
3. Lex needed funnier dialogue. Gene Hackman has an edge that Spacey doesn't. Spacey's lack of edge works for him in appropriate parts, like AMERICAN BEAUTY or BEYOND THE SEA. I know people who HATE the humor in SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE, but I really like it, especially its passive aggression. "Otisburg?" "Do you want to see a long arm, Otis?" "Cat-like reflexes." "We all have our faults. Mine's in California."
4. Superman and Lex never have a conversation. Donner had them exchange banter. I liked it when they talked.
5. Perry White is a lovable curmudgeon. Where was that?
6. Ottman writes boring music. When Williams' music stops and his begins, it shows.
7. I liked the treatment of Superman 1 as basically canonical. I liked the references.
8. I liked seeing Clark drink a beer.
9. I liked the threat of Lex eating the dog.
10. I think Superman fixed what was left of his infant spaceship, and used that to get to-and-from.
11. My script polish? Superman goes to the remnants of Krypton. It's a burnt hulk. He returns to Earth, lonlier than ever. Lex resurrects Krypton (on Earth) and it doesn't look like shit. Now, Superman has to choose between having Krypton-on-Earth or doing the right thing. There's a nice bit of internal conflict. That didn't happen.
12. Why didn't Superman bleed?
13. Why was his costume fucked up?
14. I liked Routh.
15. Bosworth was a boring actress for a blandly-written part.
16. I liked how Lex made his new money.
17. I liked Parker Posey.
18. Great opening credits.
19. Great plane rescue. Tears flowed. I wish more like this had happened.
20. At a 3:10pm show, I fell asleep during the rooftop reunion scene. And I have horrible insomnia.
22. X3 was better.
24. It needed another script polish.
25. The Reeve movies always got a boost when Superman had to out-think his opponent. Brute strength is only so interesting for so long.
26. Why doesn't an intelligent guy like Lex realize that his new continent looks like shit and will probably be very hard to develop as real estate? Since all his "advanced alien technology" does is grow big crystals, we don't get any idea of what he'd do when the surviving nations drop hydrogen bombs on him. Let's see that technology do more.
27. Great use of Brando.
28. It was mature and honest that he didn't get the girl. James Marsden played a good fellow.
29. So, was he dead or wasn't he? Why did they put someone with no vital signs in a hospital room. Having that scene be in a morgue would have been really nice.
30. Is it me, or did people seem not to be too unhappy about his death? That really should have been a WRATH OF KHAN-level gut-wrencher. Hell, it looked like his mother was smiling. Even if she had faith in his ability to rise again, this was a dramatic misstep.
31. The kid was okay. As with the ending of TERMINATOR 3, they've done a brave thing; they've upset the pattern so much with a new element that it will *have* to be dealt with in the sequel.
32. At least the myriad ways in which it could have been *seriously* fucked up were avoided. (Tim Burton and Nicholas cage, anyone? How about a little Ang Lee inaction?) It hasn't created problems so vast that a good sequel can't fix.

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