Utopia vs. Dystopia: Post-Obama optimism destroys Christian Bale’s career

In the most recent entry in the much-beloved “Terminator” franchise, Christian Bale as John Connor echoes a line made famous by Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The Austrian-born muscleman-turned-“actor” —despite my love of Schwarzie, I use this term as loosely as possible — playing a cyborg sent back to retroactively abort Connor before he can grow up to lead the human resistance to victory against the machines menacingly intoned three words, which made him a household name.

“I’ll be back.”

Despite his relative lack of range, Ah-nuld certainly had the muscle, deep voice, and the Germanic, chiseled features to sell the line and make it scary.

Bale, as Connor, still using his gravelly “Dark Knight” voice, does not sell the line, even for a cheap giggle.

One of the few bones thrown to casual fans, this line was ineffective at eliciting the laughs it was intended to draw out of a bored audience.

Less effective was the inclusion of a naked, silent, digitally-masked Ah-nuld stand-in, representing the first T-800 Model 101 Terminator, 11 years before it should have appeared according to the first movie.

If, as in the last post, we can blame the failure of Superman Returns on a pessimistic America — which I concur with the esteemed Mr. Michaels is a weak argument — can we blame the seeming lameness of Terminator: Salvation on an optimistic America?

Surely we have had enough of dire predictions of economic doom, the death-knell of traditional values [gay marriage would never have happened on G. Dub’s watch! Hmmph!], and the growing threat of rogue state’s burgeoning nuclear weapons programs [I’m looking straight at you, Kim Jong-Il] to last us another 20 years.

The good news factor, such as the real possibility that the economy may be rebounding, real health care reform [maybe], and the death knell of traditional values [yay, gay marriage! I was kidding before] and the election of the nation’s first black president have many people turning their eyes toward a positive future instead of a grim one.

Why, then, should our science fiction be any less positive?

I am as much a fan of a good scary story as anyone. And I also love dystopian futures as much as anyone.
I am a huge fan of the first two “Terminator” movies, “Aliens” is one of my all-time favorite science fiction movies, and I even love “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.”

Why, then, could I not bring myself to become invested in “Salvation”?

I have been wrestling with this since I saw it yesterday, and have managed to come up with a few things, and none of them is the lack of James Cameron’s involvement.

First, Bale’s Connor is a major dick-head. Constantly yelling, he manages to make everything he says seem less important.

Second, the more interesting character, Marcus Wright, is a simple rehash of every other “robot with feelings” I have ever seen on screen. The added element of casting this overused sci-fi plot device as an ex-con’s second chance at a good life does nothing to breath life into the cliché.

“Hugh” from the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “I, Borg” was a much more convincing cyborg who refused its machine nature to make the most human choice of all: self-sacrifice. That episode still works, even despite TNG’s budgetary constraints and the time elapsed since its initial airing. “Salvation” doesn’t work the first time you watch it, despite a huge budget, and impressive sets, props, CGI models and costuming, and big name actors.

Plus, Anton Yelchin as Cheko—uh, I mean Kyle Reese is another tough sell. He affects the gravelly voice, athleticism and stoic manner one might expect from a child-soldier and nuclear war survivor, but his teeth are much too white to believe he subsists on a diet of “two-day-old coyote.” His lovely pearlies practically burn a hole in the viewers retina when set against the gritty backdrops of this film.

Perhaps, then, the thing “Salvation” lacks most is hope. By the end of this film, the status quo of the future war isn’t markedly changed. While Skynet loses one robot factory, Connor specifically states that its “global network” is still going strong, despite the fact that we are told that the attack was meant to be against “Skynet central.”

In short, the “salvation” one would expect to be central to the movie as heavily implied by the title is absent.

Whereas, despite the fact that the other elements of the “Terminator” franchise — with the exception of “T3,” which is best forgotten — deal with a post-apocalyptic future, this future is never treated as inevitable. There is always the hope that it can be averted, and that if a machine can learn the value of human life, so might we all.

While, in the end, “Salvation” fails because it is not a very good movie, the fact that it is a story of fatalistic hopelessness certainly doesn’t help it in a post-Obama world.

If this weekend’s take, seen here: http://www.newsarama.com/film/090522-terminator-box-office.html, is any indicator, hopeful movies have a longer lifespan in the current market.


Superman, optimism, & DOOM…

Did you know that optimism and Superman are DOOMED in America?

While, its true! Or at least Valerie D’Orazio and Erik Buckman would like you to think so. Here’s Buckman:

So let’s break this down into superheroes and its current trend in film. “Superman Returns,” the 2006 Bryan Singer dirge, didn’t fail because audiences no longer resonate with a super being that can fly, shoot heat from his eyes and is immune to bullets. It failed because Superman is the epitome of good morals and justice, which today’s audience find boring and childish.

It’s hard to give that kind of guy an edge unless he’s under some sort of spell. Perhaps if Clark picked up a crack whore and painted her with feces, then he’d be approaching “cool” again. “The Big Blue Boy Scout” as he is called by cynical fanboys and Guy Gardener, only works in a patriotic America. Changing him through some sort of rebranding effort or Warner reboot won’t make things different.

All of that seems a little (a lot?) shrill to me.

I mean, couldn’t Superman Returns have failed not because  Americans are over morals and justice but because Superman Returns was a shitty movie?

Could it be that people didn’t want to watch a movie where Superman spends most of his time stalking Lois Lane? Perhaps they didn’t want to watch a movie where Superman knocked up Lois and then left for space for like 8 years? Or maybe they didn’t want to watch what was essentially a remake – with better special effects – of the original Superman movie? Perhaps a movie about a man who has awesome powers yet barely uses them through the 2 hour + film isn’t going to be a blockbuster smash? And seriously, is a movie where Kumar beats the shit out of Superman really going to make waves?

Yeah. It was movie goers and the American people who failed Superman Returns, not Bryan Singer who failed movie goers. Optimism and morals are dead in America!

Or maybe things aren’t so bleak. Perhaps optimistic, fun movies can succeed along with dark, brooding films like The Dark Knight. Well, if those movies don’t suck.

If only there was a recent film that could prove my point… hmm…

Oh wait, there is.

Clearly, we are DOOMED.

Bond, James Bond – Live and Let Die

Live and Let Die

Year: 1979

Bond Actor:  Roger Moore (Age: 47)

Bond Country of Origin: England

Women Slept With: 3

Villain’s Evil Scheme:  To dump 2 tons of free uncut heroin on the streets of America, bankrupting the competition and drastically increasing addiction rates, before drastically increasing prices

Read the rest of this entry »

Answer for what exactly?

Jim Cramer:

No one wants to suffer a beat-down. No one wants to be humiliated or embarrassed. I was shocked at [host Jon Stewart’s] behavior. I wish he knew about my background, and I wish he knew about a lot of things that I had done, because I think he would’ve thanked me instead of attacked me…I think the attack on CNBC and the attacks on me were gravely misplaced. It was rather remarkable in that it was so clear that his goal was to just destroy me. One day he’ll answer for it.

If Cramer could provide a list of all of the great shit he’s done it would make things much easier.

Love, the kind you clean up with a mop and bucket…

There is so much brilliance here that words can not describe it:

The part about the gay mafia/Gestapo is so priceless that it can virtually save our economy all by itself.

Sometimes I think I understand all of the abovie in an abstract way – but then the pure reality of their bigotry smacks me in the face.


What I’m Watching – 30 Rock

I should not like 30 Rock – at all. For one, I could not stand Tina Fey or Tracey Morgan on Saturday Night Live. In fact, I credit Fey’s tenure on Weekend Update as beginning of the end of my teenage love affair with that misbegotten sketch show. I didn’t particularly like Mean Girls and absolutely couldn’t stand that other movie Fey was in – the name escapes me and I loath it too much to look it up.

So yeah. I shouldn’t  like 30 Rock, much like love it like I do. But I love it none the less. The question is why?

I think part of the answer is the comedic chemistry between Alec Baldwin and Fey. The two play well of each other – virtually every scene with them is hilarious. Baldwin’s character is pretty well conceived as well. The general idea of Jack – the conservative head of NBC – is funny enough by itself but having Baldwin play a Bush loving neo-con is just brilliant. Add his awkward-cute friendship with Fey’s Liz Lemon on top of that and you have comedy gold.

Another strength of the show is the way Fey and her writers use pop-culture. There are a lot of references and riffs of a lot of different bits and pieces of pop-culture in every episode (this past week’s included Momma Mia and The Sims) and they are big part of the humor of the show. Yet they do not overpower the more character based humor or other aspects of the show. And often these references build on the theme of the episode – the Momma Mia stuff from last week’s episode for example, or the Harry and the Hendersons episode. Unlike other comedies like Family Guy were pop-culture shout outs are the only – and constantly diminishing – source of humor.

Finally, the show makes excellent use of its guest stars. Though at times they seem to come out of nowhere, each one actually has a purpose or sets up a pretty funny joke. For example the Selma Hayck set up a very solid character arc for Jack while John Lithgow’s appearance set up a pretty funny bit about Harry and the Hendersons. Not all guest appearances are created equal – paging Jennifer Aniston – but as a whole they are a fun aspect of the show.

Honestly, there is real way to explain how funny 30 Rock is. It must be seen to be believed.

In sum: 30 Rock is pretty damn awesome – good guest spots, good pop-culture humor, and hilarious chemistry between Alec Baldwin and Tina Fey. 30 Rock’s season finale airs on Thursday (tomorrow) – with added 1000% more awesome, courtesy of Alan Alda.

He’s (back from the) dead, Jim!

One of my first memories of sexual curiosity happened to me when I was less than 5 years old.

I was watching television at my parent’s house in (Wil) Wheaton, Md., and on this afternoon on local T.V. Channel WTTG, an episode of “Star Trek” was playing, which I often watched as a kid.

In the closing credits, there was a picture of a green-skinned, dancing woman, which I was instantly fascinated with. (At the time, I did not have the command of fictional exobiology and alien cultures that I do now, and did not realize that this was an Orion slave girl). All I knew was that I had a thing for green chicks; though I of course had no idea what I would do with one should I come upon her.

Why do I share this embarrassingly nerdy and private preference for spring-green skin?

Because apparently, a young Captain James Tiberius Kirk has my same fetish for viridian-hued, athletic women, at least in the new film, Star Trek. At last, I feel validated.

But this was only the first of many in-jokes for fans hidden so well in a shiny, pop-culture friendly package. And, at least this reviewer felt that the movie worked. About 99 percent of me was completely satisfied with the return of Star Trek to its more muscular, high-octane space opera roots, as opposed to the sometimes needless faux-intellectuality of TNG or unrealistically dark direction of DS9 and Enterprise. And, with apologies to the Kaiser, Voyager simply sucked.

It’s good to see a work of fiction treat the future with optimism, for a change. Unlike the recent spate of science fiction works which go in a much darker direction for the sake of “gritty realism,” Star Trek presents a world where human ingenuity and determination can solve any problem.

And it did not come a moment too soon. When even animated movies targeted at children, such as 9, which was advertised before the film, and seems to be set in a post-apocalyptic world where humanity’s surviving legacy is represented by sapient rag-dolls, we could use a dose of optimism.

That’s not saying that I am not looking forward to Terminator: Salvation, but part of me is just exhausted with nihilistic, sadistically violent and pessimistic fiction. Bond films, Batman and even Observe and Report have all been recently guilty of perpetuating this trend.

I am, after all, a Star Wars guy at heart: I like space fairy tales with happy endings.

Which is not to say that Star Trek is without its darker moments, or flaws. I found that at times, the convenient location of Federation outposts and the patience of the villains were less believable plot devices that time-line altering black holes, but these were really my only problems with the film, and if I am willing to accept transporter beams —which would not be possible without a computer that is smarter than God — I can suspend my disbelief in favor of enjoyment.

And as far as dark moments, one of the most controversial divergences from established cannon is also one of the most tragic moments in the movie. I almost had tears in my eyes twice while watching this film, at two times when heroes lose something irreplaceable. Let’s just say that in Star Trek, if six billion people are killed by a super weapon, it carries much more emotional weight than the Death Star destroying Alderaan.

But that’s enough of my take. Star Trek isn’t a great movie, but it’s damn fun, and I think I will be seeing it at least two more times this weekend. Make up your own damn mind if the Space:90210-vibe is too much for you. But to those who can’t let go of “established continuity” enough to enjoy a good space adventure, let me invite you to watch the original series and count the number of times writers violate continuity. Even in the second pilot, Jim Kirk’s middle initial is “R.”, not “T.”

Trust me, you’ll be able to forgive the little nits, unless it’s your goal to be nit-picky.