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Archive for June, 2008

Clowns love Dominos.

“Does it depress you…how alone you really are? You had plans…look where that got ya!” Yes, even more news on the Dark Knight front: Domino’s has a fun site up with an exclusive variant trailer…and be sure to play 3-Card Monte with the Joker before you go. (If that site’s bogged down, low-quality versions have popped up on Youtube here and here.)

Update: Another exemplary new poster, and — just in case the deal isn’t closed yet — it looks like the teaser for Zack Snyder’s Watchmen will open the show. It’s safe to say I’m reaching LotR-levels of anticipation at this point.

Update 2: Gotham Tonight Episode 3 (crime in the city) and Episode 4 (Jim Gordon profile) are now up. Looks like Bal’more’s New Day Co-Op and MCU have both made it to Batman’s town.

This Place is a Prison.

Rumors were floating around a few weeks ago, and an earlier attempt with Christopher Eccleston failed…but now it’s confirmed. The classic British sci-fi show The Prisoner will return as a six-episode miniseries for AMC and ITV, with Jim Caviezel as Number 6 (Patrick McGoohan) and Ian McKellen as Number 2 (Leo McKern, most memorably). “While the original show worked as a metaphor for the paranoia of the Cold War, AMC says the remake will reflect 21st-century stressors such as constant surveillance and the conflict between liberty and security.

The Major, Retired.

“Garland, what do you fear most in the world?” “The possibility that love is not enough.” Character actor Don Davis (probably best known in genre circles as Major Garland Briggs from Twin Peaks and Scully’s dad on The X-Files — he was also on Stargate), 1942-2008.

Obama: Don’t Tread on Me.

“‘The use of patriotism as a political sword or a political shield is as old as the Republic,’ Obama said. ‘Still, what is striking about today’s patriotism debate is the degree to which it remains rooted in the culture wars of the 1960s — in arguments that go back 40 years or more. In the early years of the civil rights movement and opposition to the Vietnam War, defenders of the status quo often accused anybody who questioned the wisdom of government policies of being unpatriotic.’

From Unity (NH) to Independence (MO), Sen. Obama — pushing back against the current GOP strategy — delivers a long and eloquent speech on the issue of patriotism. [Transcript.] “His speech put the issue in a sweeping historical perspective, speaking of charges that Thomas Jefferson had sold the nation out to the French and that John Adams was in cahoots with the British. He also questioned policies enacted in the name of patriotism, from Adams’ Alien and Sedition Act, Abraham Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus and Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s internment of Japanese Americans…’I give him credit. He is taking this very seriously,’ said presidential historian Robert Dallek.

Stating — and Rejecting — the Obvious.

“‘As he’s said many times before, Senator Obama honors and respects Senator McCain’s service, and of course he rejects yesterday’s statement by General Clark,’ Obama spokesman Bill Burton said in a statement.” So…I guess Wes Clark won’t be the veep. For some ill-defined reason, the Obama campaign sees fit to throw the general under the bus because Clark, a guy I run hot and cold on, simply stated the obvious. Getting shot down over Vietnam, however ostensibly character-building, in no way constitutes executive experience: “I certainly honor his service as a prisoner of war. He was a hero to me and to hundreds of thousands and millions of others in the armed forces as a prisoner of war. And he has traveled all over the world. But he hasn’t held executive responsibility…I don’t think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be president.”

Said Obama in Independence today: “McCain had ‘endured physical torment in service to our country’ and ‘no one should ever devalue that service, especially for the sake of a political campaign, and that goes for supporters on both sides.’” Fair enough, but that wasn’t at all what Clark was doing. McCain’s basically getting away with the same sort of resume inflation as Sen. Clinton did in the primaries, and Clark — a five-star general who knows what he’s talking about — called him on it.

One could argue that there’s a method to this move by the Obama campaign, but even that theory suggests a certain ugly political opportunism at work. (One could also argue karma had some part to play in all this, since Clark earlier jumped all over Samantha Powers’ gaffe during the primaries.) Nonetheless, between this, the Senator’s switchback on telecom immunity (which I discussed in the comments here), and various other recent triangulations, the Obama campaign has had a pretty lousy week. I don’t know if it’s the recent influx of “veteran” hands, an attempt to beat back the National Journal liberal label, or just an early-summer malaise, but that sickly-sweet smell of Old-School Dem Politics is lingering in the air. Get it together, y’all. I know the polls look good, but this defensive-minded playing-not-to-lose is assuredly not the way to go.

Update: “I’ve said this for some weeks now, they’ve been repeated many times.” Clark sticks to his guns, and Webb has his back. Meanwhile, Salon‘s Glenn Greenwald makes the case against Obama’s last two weeks: “There is no question, at least to me, that having Obama beat McCain is vitally important…[but] his election is less likely, not more likely, the more homage he pays to these these tired, status-quo-perpetuating Beltway pieties.

Update II: Obama clarifies on Clark: “I don’t think that General Clark you know had the same intent as the swift boat ads that we saw four years ago, I reject that analogy…I think in at least one publication was reported that my comments yesterday about Senator McCain were in a response to General Clark. I think my staff will confirm that that was in a draft of that speech that I had written two months ago.

Update III: Fred Kaplan has a theory about Clark v. McCain: Grunts are from Mars, Flyboys are from Venus.

We screwed up Afghanistan…

“Just as it had on the day before 9/11, Al Qaeda now has a band of terror camps from which to plan and train for attacks against Western targets, including the United States…’The United States faces a threat from Al Qaeda today that is comparable to what it faced on Sept. 11, 2001,’ said Seth Jones, a Pentagon consultant and a terrorism expert at the RAND Corporation.

In the NYT, Mark Mazzetti and David Rohde explore how, despite all their endless bluster and unconstitutional behavior, the Dubya administration is losing the war against Al Qaeda, and has apparently given up on catching Bin Laden. “By late 2005, many inside the CIA headquarters in Virginia had reached the conclusion that their hunt for Bin Laden had reached a dead end…’You had a very finite number’ of experienced officers, said one former senior intelligence official. ‘Those people all went to Iraq. We were all hurting because of Iraq.’

…so why not Iran?

“The Democratic leadership’s agreement to commit hundreds of millions of dollars for more secret operations in Iran was remarkable, given the general concerns of officials like Gates, Fallon, and many others. ‘The oversight process has not kept pace — it’s been coöpted’ by the Administration, the person familiar with the contents of the Finding said. ‘The process is broken, and this is dangerous stuff we’re authorizing.‘”

In related news, The New Yorker‘s venerable Sy Hersh reports that the Dubya administration has been stepping up covert activities in Iran…and Congress is once again going along for the ride. “In other words, some members of the Democratic leadership…were willing, in secret, to go along with the Administration in expanding covert activities directed at Iran, while the Party’s presumptive candidate for President, Barack Obama, has said that he favors direct talks and diplomacy.

Quantum Theatrical.

What, you mean he’s gone rogue again? Fresh off Casino Royale, Daniel Craig returns as 007 in the new trailer for Marc Forster’s Quantum of Solace, and M doesn’t seem too happy about it.

Frat Club.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me [twice], you can’t get fooled again. A leaden mishmash of The Matrix, Fight Club, and various much-more-entertaining FPS shoot ’em ups, Timur Bekmanbetov’s aggressively dumb and derivative Wanted is what I’d call a total misfire…if it wasn’t totally in keeping with the similarly adrenaline-fueled, barely coherent nonsense that was Night Watch. I haven’t read the source material, although a quick peek at the Wikipedia (and the fact it was penned by Mark Millar) suggests it was probably much more wry and entertaining than this flick turned out to be (and made more sense, given it’s set in a universe with supervillains.)

As it is, however, Wanted plays like Michael Bay’s version of Gus Van Sant’s Elephant, a hyperbolic, stultifying stupid, aggro-laced paean to the Columbine mentality. Now, I’m all for leave-your-brain-at-the-door actioners, and I could forgive Wanted its video game physics, its cheap-and-easy nihilism, its plagiarism from much better movies, and its intrusive whiteboy angst-metal if the movie actually turned out to be entertaining. But, a few minor setpieces aside (namely the limousine hit, which was everything ths film should’ve been in 60 seconds — perhaps Bekmanbetov should try his hand at videos), Wanted is basically the opposite of fun. Like Night Watch, it’s so bogged down by turgid plotting and long bouts of needless exposition (as well as, in this case, scenes cobbled together from other sources) that the film has no pulse. How bad is it? When a baby started screaming in my theater during the final act (when Morgan Freeman started monologuing yet again in the Fraternity’s library), prompting a yelling match between the disgruntled babyless (“Get that goddamn kid out of here!) and the babied (“F**k you! Babies have rights too!“), I was kinda thankful for, at long last, an entertaining diversion.

As Wanted begins, we are introduced to one Wesley Gibson (James McAvoy, who seemed to have learned his American accent solely from Billy Zabka movies and Sprite commercials.) Gibson is a depressed, obsequious worker drone somewhere in the Great American Cubicle Hive — Chicago, to be precise. He hates his job, he hates his boss, he hates his routine, and his “best” friend is pretty obviously sleeping with his aggravating girlfriend. Gibson is such a capital-L Loser, in fact, that his relatively common name brings up 0 hits on Google. (Sigh…would that were the most ridiculous thing about this movie.) One day, however, he is approached in the local supermarket by “Fox”, an alluring — albeit currently on the wrong side of skinny — minx (Angelina Jolie, trying but clearly bored), who immediately gets him involved in a shoot-out and car chase against a rival killer (Thomas Kretchmann).

From there, Gibson is soon initiated into a secret and ancient cabal of assassins known as the Fraternity, led by Morgan Freeman (playing Lawrence Fishburne playing Morpheus) and including members such as The Gunsmith (Common), The Butcher (Konstantin Khabensky), and The Repairman (Marc Warren). Each of these FPS Minibosses, basically, train Gibson in the arts of their order (it seems to involve him needlessly getting his ass kicked a lot) until he’s reached his full potential as a genetic prodigy, and can thus seek out and kill the murderer of his father. But who are these assassins actually killing, and for what purpose? Even total badasses, it seems, aren’t free of the occasional moral quandary.

That’s basically the set-up — If it sounds like you’ve heard variations on this story before, you have. I neglected to mention the scene involving Gibson’s father’s final mission, which [a] plays almost exactly like Trinity’s early shenanigans in The Matrix and [b] first establishes that, here, bullets not only travel for miles but can bend their trajectory in flight. This may sound like a cool idea to some, I guess — for me, it put me right in House of Flying Daggers mode. Once you’ve established something so ridiculous, it’s hard to feel invested in any of the ensuing action sequences. There’s no danger at all if the laws of physics don’t apply — You’re just going to show me what you show me, and that’s that. (I would argue that movies like The Matrix bend these sorts of rules, but don’t break them. Besides, the Wachowskis introduced a higher-level threat with the Agents anyway.) In any case, magically-bending bullets is only one example of the suspension of disbelief required here. Don’t get me started on the Loom, or the Moravian Express, or the Total Miracle Body Bath, or anything else in Wanted. Like Night Watch, it doesn’t make a lick of sense.

Again, I could have looked all that over if the movie was good fun regardless. But, it’s not. When Wanted isn’t drowning in expository gobbledygook — which is most of the time — it brays at you with idiotic macho posturing. (There’s a reason a Dubya quote came to mind above when writing this — this is a film tailor-made for “windshield cowboys” and tough guy poseurs.) In other words, Wanted is basically Fight Club for the fratboy Nickleback set, without the intellect or sense of irony that made Fincher’s movie one of the best of the ’90’s. Jolie especially does what she can — she’s a star through and through — but she can’t redeem this boring, moronic pile of dren. In other words, folks, Wanted is effing terrible. In the final moments, McAvoy breaks the fourth wall and asks us, “What the f**k have you done lately?” Sadly, I went to see this film.

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