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Friday, May 30, 2008

The Strangers 

The Strangers claims to be based on a true story, a disputable fact that is ultimately irrelevant. (So irrelevant I have not bothered to expend the thirty seconds on Google necessary to verify.) If it’s true, it’s precisely true enough to 1) have some “this could happen to you” resonance, and 2) not true enough to require paying anyone for the rights to the story. “Cheap” is how modern mainstream horror movies roll, and so long as you’re going for that 1970’s feel—which The Strangers most assuredly does—“cheap” verisimilitude is just fine. Part of the fun, even.

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull 

Here’s the question that stuck with me, going into the fourth installment of the Indiana Jones franchise: in an age of digital wonders, where a man in a metal suit dogfights with jet fighters and a kid in a race car slaps the laws of physics around with casual mastery, can a movie franchise with ambitions that seem somehow quaint in comparison hold its own? In short, can a pulp hero hold his own in a world of superheroes? And on the heels of that: Would Messrs. Lucas and Spielberg, worried about this potential inadequacy, turn their aging action hero into some kind of superman, a la John McClane in Live Free or Die Hard?

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Monday, May 19, 2008

Radio Free Id: Serious Business 

I come here, not to bury Speed Racer, but to defend it.

As you may recall, I liked it quite a lot, an opinion that put me in a distinct minority. Critics panned it with a personal intensity that suggests the movie had insulted their mothers (witness professional laughingstock Armond White likening its racing scenes to friggin’ Nazi parades), and box office returns were limp compared to this summer’s so-far darling Iron Man. Even as a fan of the film, I had to acknowledge—thanks to the accursed rating system on the other site I write for—that Iron Man was the superior film. (I gave SR 3.5 stars out of 5, and IM got 4. Both are pretty rare from me.) And conventionally speaking, Iron Man is the better film: great actors, tight script, buckets of gee-golly action and special effects laced with humor and buoyed by just enough drama to keep the whole thing from floating away.

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Saturday, May 17, 2008

Comics: Welcome to Tranquility vol. 2 

Enough with the zombies.

Yeah, zombies. You know, the horror movie staple that now graces the cover of at least one comic every damn week. The gimmick Marvel Comics got ahold of and—in true Marvel fashion—figured that if it works one time, it should work a hundred more times over the course of several years. (This mentality should suit them well in Hollywood.) Even the “joke” of it became questionable with repetition; exactly why do audiences want to see their favorite superheroes disemboweled and rotting over and over and over again? The zombies are good for one meta-joke, though: blatant symbols of a trend that simply will not die, no matter what good-meaning people do to put ‘em six feet under. This crap just keeps on coming.

And this from a guy who adores zombie movies.

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

The best thing I have read in quite some time. 

WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO:

"SAN FRANCISCO - The California Supreme Court has overturned a voter-approved ban on gay marriage, paving the way for the state to become the second in the United States where gay and lesbian residents can marry.

The justices released the 4-3 decision Thursday, saying that domestic partnerships are not a good enough substitute for marriage in an opinion written by Chief Justice Ron George.

Outside the courthouse, gay marriage supporters cried and cheered as news spread of the decision."

Dorian advises caution:

"Yes, but...

While there are some good things here, including a notation that calling them anything other than marriage is unacceptable, which should avoid the cluster-fuck that happened in New Jersey, and the ruling does go into effect immediately, Arnie has been a bit of a flip-flopper on the issue, and there is an upcoming ballot initiative to amend the state constitution to ban gay marriage, civil unions and partner benefits. And the LAST anti-gay marriage measure that was on the state ballot passed by a landslide."

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The stupidest thing I have read in quite some time. 

(And that is really saying something.)

Michael Medved, world-class douchebagel:

In today’s ruthlessly competitive international economy, the United States may benefit from a potent but unheralded advantage: the aggressive edge sustained by the inherited power of American DNA.
IT GETS BETTER.

Nevertheless, two respected professors of psychiatry have recently come out with challenging books that contend that those who chose to settle this country in every generation possessed crucial common traits that they passed on to their descendents.

Hey, Medved: Psychiatrists =/= Geneticists.

And yes. He is saying we have a genetic legacy for greatness, which is not at all similar to a belief in Aryan superiority.

In “American Mania,” Peter C. Whybrow of U.C.L.A. argues that even in grim epochs of starvation and persecution, only a small minority ever chooses to abandon its native land and to venture across forbidding oceans to pursue the elusive dream of a better life. The tiny percentage making that choice (perhaps only 2%, even in most periods of mass immigration) represents the very essence of a self-selecting group. Compared to the Irish or Germans or Italians or Chinese or Mexicans who remained behind in the “Old Country,” the newcomers to America would naturally display a propensity for risk-taking, for restlessness, for exuberance and self-confidence –traits readily passed down to subsequent generations.
And in case you forgot this was being posted on Town Hall, let's slide in some conservative values in a discussion of freaking genetics:

The United States also benefited from our tradition of limited government, with
only intermittent and ineffective efforts to suppress the competitive, entrepreneurial instincts of the populace. Professor Whybrow says: “Here you have the genes and the completely unrestricted marketplace. That’s what gives us our peculiar edge.” In other words, “anything goes capitalism” reflects and sustains the influence of immigrant genetics.
Later, Medved slips in something about how Obama and Clinton want to enlarge the government. Because if there's any single policy reflective of the past 8 years in D.C., it's been "less government."

OH WAIT THAT'S RIGHT.

My favorite, absolute favorite quote:

Aside from the varied immigrants who now make up nearly 15% of the population, the forebears of today’s Americans journeyed to this continent from Asia, Africa, Latin America and every nation of Europe.
Yes: Except for the immigrants, America is made up entirely of immigrants. I wonder which group he might be singling out with his statistic?

Hat tip to Dave for finding this. The poor bastard.

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Friday, May 09, 2008

Speed Racer, Iron Man 

(Iron Man review originally posted last week... but I wasn't around to pimp it, so here it is.)

Iron Man:

You might have forgotten this under the onslaught of Serious Business superhero movies like Superman Returns, Batman Begins, the Spider-Man trilogy, Daredevil, et cetera, but superhero stories are supposed to be fun. A good time. Something that makes you say “wow” at least a few times. The term “escapism” has come to have a negative connotation in recent years, but sometimes escapism can be a good thing: if only, for a couple hours, to step into the world of the near-possible. That’s Iron Man, a superhero movie that drops the albatross of intense emotional angst and replaces it with wit and a hero that remains charming even in his flaws. I’d forgotten such things were possible.

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Speed Racer:

I asked myself “are they really doing that?” no less than six times throughout Speed Racer, most of those within the first twenty minutes. (After that I found my groove.) Don’t get me wrong: It was a happy question, asked a little disbelievingly. You may think you’re ready for the sheer kinetic craziness of the movie’s style after seeing the trailer, but brother, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

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