It’s official: Tracy McGrady has landed in Houston. All in all, I think this is a great trade for Jeff Van Gundy’s Rockets, provided T-Mac doesn’t forget about Yao in the paint. As for Orlando, at least they got Steve Francis for their troubles, which is better than they made out when Shaq left town.
MSN gets an early look at the Blade: Trinity trailer. It’s basically just a lot of action shots in fuzzy WMP format, but, still, this could be promising. If you enjoyed the first two (as I did), this looks like more of the same. Update: Now in Quicktime.
In three separate cases, the Supremes invoke the Magna Carta and the Founding Fathers to call out Dubya for the trampling of civil liberties under his watch. In the words of the Post, “the opinions, concurrences and dissents were decisive on this: They represent a nearly unanimous repudiation of the Bush administration’s sweeping claims to power over those captives.” (Nearly unanimous because Clarence Thomas, he of the “high-tech lynching,” saw no problem with the US government holding prisoners indefinitely without cause or access to courts…perhaps he’s trying to get invited to Cheney’s next hunting trip.) It’d have been nice if the Supremes had gone farther and also decided on the Padilla case rather than kicking it back to a lower court, but still, this is a solid showing by the Bush v. Gore gang. As Salon waggishly put it, let freedom reign.
In the dead of night (EST), and quieter than the Teddy Bear’s picnic, the Bushies handed Iraq over to the interim government two days early. I agree with Slate‘s Fred Kaplan – this actually seems like a good call for once by the Bushies. I guess they already figured out how much trouble the “Mission Accomplished” banner can cause.
Unfortunately, the diplomatic savvy on display in this surreptitious Iraq transfer hasn’t extended to other world hotspots, as Kaplan notes with North Korea. “By his own careless arrogance,” writes Kaplan, Dubya “has stunningly mishandled this confrontation. He has allowed North Korea—the most rickety spoke on his “axis of evil,” a dangerous regime by any measure — to reach the crest of becoming a nuclear power. He has dismissed numerous opportunities to nip this disaster in the bud. And now he comes up with an old formula that evades the recent shift in the balance.” (The disarmament deal proffered by the Bushies now is insubstantially different from the one suggested by President Clinton a decade ago, the one pooh-poohed by Dubya upon his arrival into the Oval Office.)
McG drops Superman. Good news, but this project still needs a complete overhaul, beginning with a completely new script, one without alien Lex Luthors or evil Kryptonian uncles. If you’re not going to do it right, don’t even bother. We already have Superman IV: The Quest for Peace.
Former Enron chief Ken Lay attempts damage control in the New York Times. “‘If anything, being friends with the Bush family, including the president, has made my situation more difficult,’ Mr. Lay said in a recent interview, ‘because it’s probably a tougher decision not to indict me than to indict me.’” Yeah, ok, buddy.
Several new trailers have emerged since the last update around here: Along with a new look at Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (looks bluescreen-ish, to be sure), Liam Neeson channels Alfred Kinsey, Joel “I tanked the Batman franchise” Schumacher goes after Phantom of the Opera, and Nicolas Cage, Sean Bean, and Helen of Troy undertake a search for political booty in National Treasure. Of these new three, I might pay money to see Kinsey.
Cheney drops an F-bomb in the Senate and likes it (naturally, the GOP moral arbiters don’t care, despite their tsk-tsking Kerry after an earlier outburst.) Meanwhile Dubya loses his temper on Irish TV when asked relatively basic questions about the failures of his Iraq policy. Yes, folks, these people are in charge.
The mystery of the grassy knoll has finally been solved, and the second shooter was…John Wilkes Booth?! For the first time in an age, I took advantage of the New York theater scene last night and caught the much-heralded revival of Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins at the Roundabout Theatre, which chronicles the inner demons of Mssrs. Booth, Oswald, Hinckley, and assorted other murderers and would-be-murderers of presidents. All in all, I’d say I enjoyed it, although it took a musical number or two for me to warm to the material (some never made the leap — the guy next to me left outraged.) And there’s some memorable performances here, particularly Denis O’Hare as Charles Guiteau (Garfield’s assassin) and Michael Cerveris as Booth.
Still, the basic (and ahistorical) message of the play — that all assassins, whatever their surface motives, are just looking for a little happiness, a little love, and a little fame — was encapsulated much more succinctly by Peter Gabriel’s excellent “Family Snapshot” two decades ago. And, while I like that song and admire what this play was trying to be, this “everybody needs a hug” thesis is too reductively simplistic. Notwithstanding freak shows like Hinckley, assassination is by its very definition a political act, as is distressingly obvious to all of us given recent events in the Middle East. Sure, a lot of assassins are flat-out crazies…Hinckley, Mark David Chapman, Sirhan Sirhan. But others — Booth, Guiteau, Leon “McKinley” Czolgosz, James Earl Ray, Brutus — had a political agenda in mind that can’t be explained solely by “bad reviews” or a lack of affection as a child (which is perhaps why the Sondheim play ignores the Stalwart v. Halfbreed internecine strife propelling Guiteau to his foul deed.)
Still, if you can stomach the subject matter, Assassins is a moderately engaging fever dream rumination on American loneliness and presidential murder, replete with a sinister carnival barker and Moebius strip leaps in and out of historic continuity. Perhaps the most resonant effect in the play is that of the other assassins — eerie, floating, voiceless heads underlit to resemble Capt. Howdy in The Exorcist — watching their colleagues from the mists of History, or from the grave. Misery loves company, and from Cassius on, assassins just adore a conspiracy.
Antawn Jamison to DC (for Stackhouse, Laettner, and No. 5) is a done deal…is T-Mac to Houston next? Or will the Diesel do Dallas? Last year’s NBA Draft Day was a bit of a dud as far as big trades go, but I have high hopes for tonight’s festivities, even if the Knicks don’t have a first-rounder and will probably stand pat.
“Editors: Can you show us your cards? Cheney: Sure. One of them’s a six.” By way of Value Judgment, experience the tribulations of poker with Dick Cheney. “Cheney: We will show you our cards after we have collected the pot. It is important that things be done in this order, otherwise the foundation of our entire poker game will be destroyed.” Update: In semi-related news, the Supreme Court bails out Cheney 7-2 on the energy task force documents, although they also decided to punt the case back to a lower court. Hmmm.
In the movie bin, some some news of a Batman Begins teaser (and a first look at Liam Neeson), and James Cameron speaks about his top-secret 3D Sci-Fi project, now starring Brian Cox. If Cameron is really serious about resurrecting 80′s action film stars, one of his favorites, Michael Biehn, is probably waiting by the phone…
The NYT reports that the prisoners of the Gitmo Gulag are at best small potatoes — most having nothing to do with Al Qaeda at all — and that the Pentagon and Dubya administration have continually overstated the detainees’ level of knowledge about Al Qaeda in order to justify the continued existence of the Guantanamo camp. “‘It’s like going to a prison in upstate to find out what’s happening on the streets of New York,’ a counterterrorism official with knowledge of Guantanamo intelligence said. ‘The guys in there might know some stuff. But they haven’t been part of what’s going on for a few years.’” When it comes to the War on Terror, is there anything the Bush administration doesn’t lie about anymore?
“It looks like Buss, the Lakers’ owner, has made his choice: Kobe stays; the others can go. In other words, he is not averse to trading Shaq and is willing to build his franchise around a narcissist who’s on trial for rape, doesn’t make his teammates better and is in denial over all of it.” Well, it looks like my concerns about Kobe joining the Knicks were unfounded. At the behest of Bryant, Lakers owner Jerry Buss sends Phil Jackson off, with Shaq soon to follow. I never really bought into the Zen Master hype, but Phil Jackson is assuredly a better coach than Rudy T. And letting Shaq walk to appease Kobe? That’s just ludicrous…The big guy may be on the downslope of his career, but he’s still in a league of his own.
Slate ruminates on whether lovebirds Elvis Costello and Diana Krall are lousy influences on each other. A bit mean, perhaps, but I’ve thought for awhile that a happy Elvis might mean trouble.
Space enthusiasts and millionaires alike eagerly await Monday’s launch of Burt Rutan’s SpaceShipOne, the first private manned foray into the cosmos. I’d best start saving up my pennies. Update: Mission Success!
Dubya jumps in the polls after Reagan’s photo-op funeral, and decides to celebrate by lying about Iraq and 9/11 all over again. C’mon, y’all Republican moralists out there…Where’s the outrage? Clinton was impeached for far less, and we already know the Baptists won’t put up much of a fuss.
Steve at Now This provides quality commentary on Dave Winer’s recent weblog meltdown, which I discovered while trying to access Tomb of Horrors. Since Winer has successfully parlayed his whole self-promoting Father of Weblogs schtick into a cushy Ivy League sinecure, you’d think he at least give all those blogs an early warning before he shut ‘em down (or, perhaps, convince fair Harvard to pony up some server space.) Still, acting like a self-interested jerk has been Winer’s M.O. for years, so I guess something like this wasn’t unexpected. Update: Winer gets worse.
On her upcoming album Medulla, due out at the end of the summer, Bjork goes acapella (with the aid of The Roots’ Rahzel and Faith No More’s Mike Patton.)
Found while perusing the five star RS review of the all-new (and very old skool) Beastie Boys album, To the Five Boroughs, which is very much both a post-9/11 ode to NYC and a virulently anti-Dubya album (“Put a quarter in your ass, ’cause you played yourself.”) As has been the case since Ill Communication, MCA gets a bit too preachy at times (For example, “We’ve got a president we didn’t elect/The Kyoto treaty he decided to neglect” on “Time to Build,” or “Never again should we use the A-bomb/We need an international ban on/All W.O.M.D’s gone/We need a multilateral disarm.” on “We’ve Got The.”)
Nevertheless, I think the new Beasties project is a success, redeemed by (1) the catchy mid-eighties beats and samples (Check out “Rhyme the Rhyme Well”) and (2) the unleashing of the B’s perennial secret weapon, the King Ad Rock, who seems to be having more fun in the game than the other two guys by miles. (For example, “Yo, what the falafel/You gotta get up awful early to fool Mr. Furley“ on “Oh Word”, or when he channels a mean Smooth B on “Crawl Space.”) You already know by now if the Beasties are your bag, so if you want Licensed to Ill-era beats with Hello Nasty rhymes, To the 5 Boroughs is worth picking up. But, one word of warning from “3 the Hard Way”: “If you sell our CD’s on Canal before we make ‘em, then we will have no alternative but to serve you on a platter like Steak-umm“) Hey, don’t say you didn’t know.
The 9/11 commission concludes that Iraq had nothing to do with Al Qaeda and the planning of the September 11 attacks. Wow, are you serious? Who knew?
“Never in the two and a quarter centuries of our history has the United States been so isolated among the nations, so broadly feared and distrusted.” A bipartisan group of 26 diplomats and military men call out Dubya Diplomacy for causing irreparable harm to the republic, and the statement is heady stuff. “The Bush Administration has shown that it does not grasp these circumstances of the new era, and is not able to rise to the responsibilities of world leadership in either style or substance. It is time for a change.“
Here’s another look at Paul Anderson’s Alien v. Predator, and it’s about as lame as the last one. Plus, as a purely fanboy grievance, Lance “Bishop/Company Guy” Henriksen seems to be screwing up the series’ continuity for a quick paycheck. Ah well.
Life’s too short to spend a lot of copy on this flick, so I’ll keep it brief. I generally like Vin Diesel, I thought Pitch Black was an enjoyable, low-key B-movie, and I liked the first 80 minutes or so of David Twohy’s submarine ghost movie Below. But The Chronicles of Riddick doesn’t make a lick of sense…it’s just a lot of glamour poses and wrestling moves. The only thing that stands out is the goofy, over-the-top art direction, which comes off as a pastiche of David Lynch’s Dune, the Joel Schumacher Batman movies, and the video to Duran Duran’s “Union of the Snake.” There’s a long, drawn-out, and unnecessary sequence in the middle of the film where Riddick and his motley band of Road Warrior castoffs are trying to outrun the fatal sunrise of the planet Crematoria, and, frankly, I haven’t seen something so nonsensical in a movie since Keanu Reeves outraced an atomic blast wave in Chain Reaction. (Ok, I never saw Chain Reaction, but you get the point.) Simply put, this film is embarrassing to all involved and will probably give I, Robot and The Stepford Wives a serious run for their money as the worst science fiction film of 2004.
In less happy NBA news, Marv Albert and the Knicks part ways, apparently because he ran afoul of owner James Dolan for calling out New York’s spotty play. Terrible news…Marv is not only the best in the business – he is the voice of the Knicks. This does not augur well for next season.
In a surprisingly commanding performance, the Pistons blow out LA in Game 5 to take their first championship in 14 years (and the first Eastern Conference win since MJ’s last Chicago run in 1998.) As for the star-studded, star-crossed Lakers, the future looks grim. I just hope Gary Payton gets rejuvenated on some other team, and that Kobe doesn’t end up with the Knicks as rumored…They’re my team and all, but I’d have a hard time rooting for New York with the selfish, vainglorious Bryant as their cornerstone.
A White House Commission on NASA will recommend increased privatization as part of the space agency’s upcoming redesign. At first glance, this sounds like Dubya kicking more money back to his favorite companies. That being said, my lefty-leaning friends who work in the aerospace industry have told me that NASA’s current culture is far too risk-averse and bureaucratic to ever be very efficient, and that privatization may be the only way to make continued space exploration feasible. If so, I guess I’m for it.
“‘Bill Clinton could always see a better day ahead and Americans knew he was working hard to bring that day closer,’ Bush said. ‘Over eight years it was clear that Bill Clinton loved the job of the presidency. He filled this house with energy and joy. He’s a man of enthusiasm and warmth, who could make a compelling case and effectively advance the causes that drew him to public service.’” At the unveiling of the Clinton presidential portraits, Bush effusively praises his predecessor. Very nice of ya, Dubya, but you’re still not getting my Bud Light…or my vote. Nor do I expect such flattery to defang Clinton on his forthcoming book tour.
Meanwhile, Dubya has less to say about a sweetheart corporate tax package being pushed through Congress by the GOP, one that offers ridiculous handouts to various Republican-leaning business special interests. “[W]hat started as an effort to repeal a $5 billion-a-year subsidy has grown into one of the most significant corporate tax measures in years. The Senate bill, 980 pages long, includes more than $167 billion in business tax cuts over 10 years, handing out favors to NASCAR racetracks, foreign dog-race gamblers, Oldsmobile dealers and bow-and-arrow makers, to name a few.” Hmmm…might be time to invest in bow-and-arrow futures. Update: The bill passes the House.
Detroit D’s up again, and are now only one game away from knocking off the vaunted Lakers in 5. This should’ve been a sweep, if not for Game 2′s ugly last minute. Still, I’ll play it safe and continue believing Pistons-in-7. LA is too good and Shaq too dominant not to have at least one breakout game. Or at least I used to think so. With Kobe sabotaging his own team, who knows?
Newsweek visits the set of Batman Begins, and offers up a few new pictures of the Caped Crusader, including one of a pre-Scarecrow Cillian Murphy getting a severe talking-to from the Long-Eared one. ‘Bout time we saw the villains, no?
Also in comic film news, Marvel angles for Chris Columbus to direct Namor. Well, there went what little interest I had in the project…except maybe if they cast Hugo Weaving.
While authorization for attack dog intimidation techniques implicate intelligence higher-ups in the horrors of Abu Ghraib, Bush gets legalistic to (not) explain the pro-torture policies emanating from his administration. Hmmm. I bet the White House is wishing Reagan could die every week right now.
Details emerge about the opening space sequence of Episode III. I feel bad for the FX guys interviewed here, as you could tell from the many design flourishes in the background of Episode II that they were bringing much more quality craftsmanship to the table than Lucas, McCallum, and a lot of the actors.