Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Incredible Hulk Trailer Is Up

The new full Hulk trailer's up.

I don't dislike what I'm seeing here, but nothing in this new trailer makes it obvious why we needed this Hulk reboot. It doesn't tweak any nostalgia I have for the TV show (aside from those three notes they snuck in at the end), there isn't any interesting visual stylistic flourishes going on, and judging from the animation quality of the Norton-Hulk, CG hasn't really gotten good enough in the last four years to make CG Hulk look like anything other than a semi photo-realistic cartoon. So I'm interested to see this movie, but not really excited. What I hope is going on is this: a trailer for a big expensive summer movie has to get the 12-year olds into the theaters. So that trailer has to emphasize the monsters, the helicopters, and Hummers blowing up in a park. But if the script, which Norton was deeply involved in, is actually really good, then it's quality might not be readily apparent in a trailer meant to show just action action action. So could still be great. But William Hurt looks and sounds very cool, and I'm happy to see Tim Roth back in a big movie, so color me hopeful.

(Did anyone else think the giant action scene in the park just looked like an obvious cost-cutting measure? I can think of less interesting places to blow stuff up in a movie --- oh wait. No I can't.)

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Iron Man, Jeremiah Wright and South Korean Freaks with Harvard Fetishes

It's been a while, so here's some Inanities catch-up:

1.) I am completely hyped for "Iron Man." Like total DragonCon-nerd kind of excitement. I'm listening to Audioslave's "Cochise" and Sabbath's "Iron Man" all the time because they're in the trailer. Recently I picked up some "Iron Man" comics, just to see what was up with Tony Stark these days in the Marvel Universe (turns out he's now the director of S.H.I.E.L.D.. Fellow nerds will understand immediately the implications of that statement.) All this hype and anticipation is, of course, entirely manufactured by Marvel Comics (who financed the movie all by theyselves), and a week after it's out I'll have forgotten all about Tony Stark and will be looking ahead to the cinematic exploits of Banner, Jones and Wayne later in the hot months, but until Friday, "Iron Man" is looking to be a very big deal. (Also, Aintitcool's Harry Knowles and Moriarty both raved about the movie after they saw an early screening. Things are looking up for this thing not to suck.)

2.) Reverend Wright is bringing me way down. His very public, very unapologetic, very impolitic appearance yesterday at the National Press Club was all about him, I think, no matter what he says he was doing with regards to defending "the black church." Listening to snippets of his press conference on NPR on the drive home yesterday, I could hear how much fun he was having up behind the lectern fielding questions. He backed down from nothing, and only helped Obama once when he confirmed Obama's claim that Obama had not been present for Wright's most incendiary sermons. But besides that, Wright was busy plunging a chef's knife into Obama's side over and over again, defending his 9/11 comments and reaffirming his belief that the US government invented AIDS to wipe out the black race.

Mostly what Wright did yesterday was deepen the suspicion that many working-class white voters already have (a group Obama's apparently had trouble connecting with) that despite Obama's inclusive, hopeful rhetoric, Obama is an African-American of the Sharpton/Jackson/Wright mold, an angry black activist in other words, and if president, would not have their interests at heart, would in fact be working against their interests. That is, of course, a myth, but Wright helped yesterday to perpetuate it, and from a cursory viewing of all of this one can reasonably assume Wright may be attempting to sabotage Obama's bid for the White House. I can't even begin to understand why Wright would do that, but the evidence is plain. Is Obama going to be able to get out from under this guy?

3.) Who but freaks get into Harvard anymore? I read this article from the Times the other day about elite South Korean prep schools that focus like laser beams on getting their students into America's Ivy League schools. Fifteen-hour school days. Parents who scold their kids when they come home with a 98 on a test. Sixty-seven of your classmates ace the math section of the SAT. Here's a day in the life of a student at an elite S. Korean prep school:

"She rises at 6 a.m. and heads for her school bus at 6:50. Arriving at Daewon, she grabs a broom to help classmates clean her classroom. Between 8 and noon, she hears Korean instructors teach supply and demand in economics, Korean soils in geography and classical poets in Korean literature.

At lunch she joins other raucous students, all, like her, wearing blue blazers, in a chow line serving beans and rice, fried dumpling and pickled turnip, which she eats with girlfriends. Boys, who sit elsewhere, wolf their food and race to a dirt lot for a 10-minute pickup soccer game before afternoon classes.

Kim Hyun-kyung joins other girls at a hallway sink to brush her teeth before reporting to French literature, French culture and English grammar classes, taught by Korean instructors. At 3:20, her English language classes begin....

...Evening study hall begins at 7:45. She piles up textbooks on an adjoining desk, where they glare at her like a to-do list. Classmates sling backpacks over seats, prop a window open and start cramming. Three hours later, the floor is littered with empty juice cartons and water bottles. One girl has nodded out, head on desk. At 10:50 a tone sounds, and Ms. Kim heads for a bus that will wend its way through Seoul’s towering high-rise canyons to her home, south of the Han River.

“I feel proud that I’ve endured another day,” she said."

I'm not sure this is a snapshot of a future America where everyone is working in the service-industry because absolutely everything else has been outsourced to frighteningly-driven kids like this, but it may be a glimpse into how much work we may soon have to ask our kids to do just to stay competitive with the other 6.3 billion people in the world. And all that work won't be to stay ahead of the world and improve our quality of life, all that work will be just to keep our heads above water.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Hulk Smash

When Norton said he was keeping the film more in line with the tv show than with the comic, I don't think he was kidding. Ang burned me bad with the Bana/Ang Lee Hulk, but this looks like it could actually be pretty good.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Chris Matthews is Endearing

This is what I read during my lunch break today. Great article. I've always been a fan of Chris Matthews. One day he'll say something that makes my head explode with indignation, and then the next he'll say something that I totally agree with, (and I like this because I don't usually like things that challenge my assumptions). If you've ever seen his show, you probably already have a good sense of who he is, or so this article asserts. What you see is what you get with this guy. He's a loudmouth and sometimes he has to cram his foot in there. Like the time he saw Tipper Gore on-screen while he was anchoring MSNBC's coverage of the opening of the WWII Memorial and said, his admiration evident in his voice, "She's a good-looking woman." And then, immediately after, "I shouldn't have said that." Or those times he references, seemingly apropo of nothing, a scene from an old movie (like "Lawrence of Arabia" for example), never caring how long it takes to set up the scene, tie it to current events and finally make his obscure point. He doesn't seem to self-censor, and he clearly loves his job more than any political wonk on the beat. That's worthy of admiration. So to find out that he doesn't get much respect from his peers, is kind of surprising.

"Tim — as in Russert, the inquisitive jackhammer host of “Meet the Press” — is a particular obsession of Matthews’s. Matthews craves Russert’s approval like that of an older brother. He is often solicitous. On the morning of the Cleveland debate, Matthews was standing in the lobby of the Ritz when Russert walked through, straight from a workout, wearing a sweat-drenched Buffalo Bills sweatshirt, long shorts and black rubber-soled shoes with tube socks. “Here he is; here he is, the man,” Matthews said to Russert, who smiled and chatted for a few minutes before returning to his room. (An MSNBC spokesman, Jeremy Gaines, tried, after the fact, to declare Russert’s outfit “off the record.”)

Matthews has berated Russert to several people at NBC and has told friends and associates that Russert is like John F. Kennedy while he is more like Richard Nixon. Kennedy was the golden boy while Nixon was the scrapper for whom nothing came easily. It’s an imperfect comparison, certainly (Matthews is Irish Catholic, for starters, and Russert is not charismatic by any classic Kennedyesque definition), but it does offer a glimpse into how Matthews perceives himself, especially in relation to Russert. It’s also worth noting that Nixon was obsessed with Kennedy, and Kennedy could be dismissive and disparaging of Nixon."

And this:

"According to people at NBC, Matthews has not been shy in voicing his resentment of Olbermann. Nor, according to network sources, has Olbermann bothered to hide his low regard for Matthews, although when I spoke to him, Olbermann denied any personal animosity toward Matthews and told me that he appreciates his “John Madden-like enthusiasm for politics.”

The article goes on to say that with Matthews' contract is running out, some at NBC are thinking of letting him go and putting David Gregory in his place. This mystifies me. If MSNBC is in a hurry to promote pure unadulterated boring, then they definitely should replace Chris with David Gregory, the Wolf Blitzer of NBC News. But no one I know is looking for a better source for boring, so maybe that doesn't make much sense.

I don't know if Matthews is worth $5 million a year (which is how much he makes currently), but no one can say he doesn't work for it. Most weekday mornings he's up at 7am to give "his take" to viewers on "Morning Joe," MSNBC's morning talk-show, and later he does his evening Hardball shows, and then he also has his weekly "The Chris Matthews Show" which airs Sunday. The guy works. Gregory? Other than a couple run-ins with the White House press secretary, and a faux-pas or two on the unwatchable Today show, I can't remember a single interesting thing Gregory's said, or an interesting story he's reported. I kinda doubt he has. Good-looking and mediocre is preferable to unpredictable and entertaining, I guess.

Anyway, the article's great (and long! And in this case that's a good thing!), and you ought to give a bit of it a read.

And finally, click here for some "Pineapple Express" poster action. Good stuff.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Obama and the New US Foreign Policy

Former TalkingPointsMemo writer Spencer Ackerman wrote an article called "The Obama Doctrine" for "The American Spectator" magazine. In that piece, Ackerman interviews some of Obama's foreign policy advisors like Samantha Power, (she of the "Hillary is a monster" comment), and Anthony Lake, (Clinton's old national security advisor), to get a sense of how an Obama administration would approach international relations. In plain language these advisors explain how an Obama presidency could truly mark a new beginning in how we deal with the rest of the world.

"What's typically neglected in these arguments [about the efficacy of Bush's stated policy of "spreading democracy" to the exclusion of all other concerns] is the simple insight that democracy does not fill stomachs, alleviate malaria, or protect neighborhoods from marauding bands of militiamen. Democracy, in other words, is valuable to people insofar as it allows them first to meet their basic needs. It is much harder to provide that sense of dignity than to hold an election in Baghdad or Gaza and declare oneself shocked when illiberal forces triumph. "Look at why the baddies win these elections," Power says. "It's because [populations are] living in climates of fear." U.S. policy, she continues, should be "about meeting people where they're at. Their fears of going hungry, or of the thug on the street. That's the swamp that needs draining. If we're to compete with extremism, we have to be able to provide these things that we're not [providing]."

This is why, Obama's advisers argue, national security depends in large part on dignity promotion. Without it, the U.S. will never be able to destroy al-Qaeda. Extremists will forever be able to demagogue conditions of misery, making continued U.S. involvement in asymmetric warfare an increasingly counterproductive exercise -- because killing one terrorist creates five more in his place. "It's about attacking pools of potential terrorism around the globe," Gration says. "Look at Africa, with 900 million people, half of whom are under 18. I'm concerned that unless you start creating jobs and livelihoods we will have real big problems on our hands in ten to fifteen years.""

It's a totally different way of looking at things. I think if Obama's elected President, we'll have seen the last of the market-tested sloganeering that passed for foreign policy debate these last 7 and a half years.