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Archive for June, 2006

Alpha Lyra, Omega Depp.

In fanboy casting news, Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass is a go at New Line under director Chris Weitz, with newcomer Dakota Blue Richards cast in the role of Lyra. Also, Johnny Depp joins Will Smith in I am Legend (a.k.a. The Omega Man, for those who haven’t read the Matheson novella), likely as Smith’s neighbor, and head of the vampires. That casting should significantly increase the fun factor.

Bots and Bugs.

Elsewhere, Michael Bay’s big-budget version of The Transformers gets a teaser (hopefully the robots work better than the website), and Spiderman 3 gets spoiled rotten over at Dark Horizons — Seriously, don’t go if you don’t want to know.

God and Monsters.

The Reed story confirms what many devout Christians have argued since conservative social activists became a force in national politics in the 1970s: Engaging in worldly political maneuvering is ultimately debasing…Hearts are better changed one at a time in the churches than through elections or legislation.” With Ralph Reed’s recent shenanigans as a newspeg, Slate‘s John Dickerson surveys the continuing crackup of the evangelical GOP.

Win Some…

In a blow to the monarchial presidency that may also affect future rulings on warrantless wiretaps and torture policy, the Supreme Court strongly rebukes Dubya for his Gitmo tribunals, declaring they “were not authorized by any act of Congress and that their structure and procedures violate the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) and the four Geneva Conventions signed in 1949.” As Justice Stephen Breyer summed it up in a concurring opinion: “The Court’s conclusion ultimately rests upon a single ground: Congress has not issued the Executive a ‘blank check.‘”

…Lose Some.

“Every redistricting is a partisan political exercise, but this is going to put it at a level we have never seen…That’s the gift that the Supreme Court and Tom DeLay have given us.” In other news, the Court votes 5-4 that DeLay’s Texas redistricting plan needs to be tweaked — namely, that one district needs to be redrawn to accommodate the Voting Rights Act — but is otherwise legal and constitutional. “[W]ith six justices producing 123 pages of opinions, without any five of them able to agree on how to define an unconstitutional gerrymander, politicians of both parties said that the ruling leaves the door wide open to attempts to copy the DeLay strategy in other states.

My Super Ex-Boyfriend.

You don’t really love that guy you make it with now do you?” Despite a nice throwback credit sequence to kick things off, and several iconic images of the man in blue throughout, Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns is, unfortunately, something of a disappointment. It’s by no means a travesty, like X3 — the FX are top-notch, and the movie does feel like some care went into it. Still, for most of its run, Superman Returns, while hearkening often to the 1978 original and its excellent 1980 sequel, never really reaches the heights of those first two films. Instead, this “requel” feels, for the most part, drab, leaden, and earthbound, and, at best, plays like a badly-paced bodice ripper (or perhaps a forgotten issue of Superman’s Girlfriend, Lois Lane.)

Like I said, Superman Returns starts off well, with a brief look at Krypton’s fate, kryptonite’s origins, and a whirlwind intergalactic tour of a credits sequence (all of which bodes well for a quality Silver Surfer or Darkseid v. Supes movie someday.) But, soon thereafter, trouble arises. We’re treated to a jokey Anna Nicole Smith-ish re-introduction to Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey, who never gets the tone quite right — he’s either too whimsical or too dark), some Americana flashbacks of Superman’s youth in — and return after five years to — the archetypal Midwest, Luthor’s visit to the Fortress of Solitude and subsequent experimentation with Kryptonian technology, and finally Clark Kent’s reemergence in Metropolis and the newsroom of the Daily Planet, still presided over by Perry White (Frank Langella) and staffed by Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth) and Superman’s pal, Jimmy Olsen (Sam Huntington). Frankly, all of this section of the movie takes too long — it seems forever and a day before Superman (Brandon Routh, both better and less Rushmore-esque than I expected) is finally moved to action by a Space Shuttle incident (one involving, of course, Lois.)

I’d like to say the film then finds its momentum, then…but, sadly, it really doesn’t. For one, Luthor’s diabolical master plan — involving growing craggy Kryptonian real-estate that will submerge North America — doesn’t make a lick of sense. But, more problematically, the central questions driving Singer’s Superman, IMHO, just aren’t all that interesting. Will Lois rediscover her deeply-buried love for Superman, the “one that got away,” or will she stay true to her good-hearted current beau, Richard (James Marsden, a.k.a. Cyclops, here blessed with Superempathy)? Can Superman make peace with Lois’s new life (or, at the very least, will he stop superstalking her happy household?) And where does Lois’s doe-eyed child — yep, cute kid alert — fit into all this? (Take a guess.) Not to put too fine a point on it, but, in essence, what Singer has made here is a Superman mythos chick flick, and not a very good one at that.

This is not to say that I only wanted to see Superman crush things for two hours. As sappy and unrealistic as it is, the love triangle that dominates this film might’ve worked in another context (or with another character — This type of thing works better in Sam Raimi’s Spiderman series, but Spidey is generally a more angst-ridden superhero anyway.) But, as it stands, the Harlequin Romance nature of this enterprise, as well as the languid pacing and Luthor’s completely absurd stratagem, are like kryptonite here. Superman Returns looks good, and I’d be up to see Routh don the tights again for another outing. But, as a reboot of DC’s most famous franchise, the movie is passable at best (and it has nothing on Christopher Nolan’s much more enjoyable Batman Begins.)

Dolan’s Land.

“He has one year, one season to do that. At this time next year Isiah will be with us if we can all sit here and say that this team has made significant progress towards its goal of eventually becoming an NBA champion. If we can’t say that, Isiah will not be here.” More post-Larry fallout: The Knicks’ freakshow owner, James Dolan, badmouths Brown and lays down the law with Isiah for next year.

Passing the Buckley.

Boo hiss. The Supreme Court decides 6-3 to strike down a Vermont campaign finance law, which was conceived in part as a challenge to Buckley v. Valeo. “The result appears to doom any future efforts to impose spending limits on state or federal campaigns, legal analysts said.” And, in related news, Slate‘s Dahlia Lithwick and Walter Derringer discuss recent Supreme Court decisions, with special attention to the recent capital punishment case, Kansas vs Marsh.

Warren Peace.

“You have an innovator and a world business leader — the combination of the two making such a huge personal investment of time and wealth, it does raise the bar and raise the profile of philanthropy..” A tip of the hat to Warren Buffett for his recent decision to turn his considerable assets to philanthropy and help the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation better our world. “The foundation, already the nation’s largest with a $30 billion endowment that has largely come from Bill Gates, will hand out more per year than the gross domestic product of nearly 40 countries, including Mongolia, Togo and Zimbabwe.

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