June 25, 2005

By nature of no connection to Joel Schumacher, I dub thee awesome

Just came back from Batman Begins with my friend Tami, and I think it's a good thing for this movie that both me, a certifiably insane Batman fan, and Tami, someone who admittedly knew very little background on much of the Batman universe, found the movie to be great. Insane amounts of spoilers warning now commences.

The trailer alone indicated that this would be truer to the comics (or as we shall refer to in geek terminology, the "source material" because, see above, I am indeed big dork. Guh) than the cinematic abortions that were, well, pretty much all four of the previous movies. While Batman and Robin made the two Burton films greater by nature of comparison, there's no arguing that Burton's "vision" of the first two films were abject butchery. He made the Penguin a mutant and for god sakes, people, having the Joker kill Batman's parents is like the "Greedo shooting first" of comic book movies. It's simply inexcusable.

In fact, the flaws of the earlier films are cast in an even brighter light by the fact that Begins managed to prove the "necessity" suggested in the plot changes such as Burton's were, in fact, hackneyed bullshit. We see the random mugger kill Bruce Wayne's parents, and while the plot slightly changes from the original comics, the connection to the central plot becomes a device to further it, not a way to tie everything together. In other words, it can work. It could have worked fourteen years ago. Tim, we love ya, but don't ever touch another comic book movie again, m'kay?

Now don't get me wrong; there are elements of this story that are simply moronic: the villians' master plot involves a machine that converts water into vapor. Of course, it only does this to drinking water in pipes, and does not vaporize air moisture, the moisture in people's bodies, the river the device is at one point carried over, or any sewers, as the effect of steam rising all over Gotham would likely be ruined on film by crystallized clouds of shit. The use of such a device as a, well, plot device, was up there with Burt Reynolds' famous casual suggestion in Hooper that jumping the canyon would be no problem; he'll just need a rocket car. It wasn't as bad as Don Cheadle in Ocean's Eleven saving the day by means of a low-yield shockwave generator, but it came damn close. Later in the movie, by the way, Morgan Freeman shows up to conveniently give Batman all the devices he needs to become Batman, including a rocket car. He then leaves to have more "Morgan Freeman: will play the helpful, compassionate old black guy in your movie" business cards made up.

Speaking of crystallized clouds of shit, the other thing Batman Begins highlighted was how Joel Schumacher actually managed to cast every single major role in Batman and Robin incorrectly. The sheer levels of perfection in most of the cast of this movie are almost a form of redemption. In fact, one of the few things about the movie that annoyed me was a result of almost-too-perfect casting. I'll explain (final major spoliers warning): when they first announced prrior to filming, I heard Ken Watanabe was being cast as Ras al-Ghul. While I loved Watanabe in The Last Samurai, I was a bit wary about the need to divert this character so greatly from the comic- much of Ras in the comics is defined by being an ominous old white guy- his appearance as a businessman-meets-Satan figure was a big element. Watanabe is too young to be Ras al-Ghul and, well, Japanese. This casting befuddled me further ten minutes into the movie when Liam Neeson shows up as Ras' right-hand-man Ducard, a character not in the comics and created solely for the movie. Why? Because the moment Neeson appeared on screen and opened his mouth, he was Ras-al-Ghul. It was like they improperly cast the character, and then spent ten minutes having the charcter next to an actor who would have been the perfect casting. So when, an hour later, it turns out (suprise) that Neesom was really Ras al-Ghul and Watanabe was just his decoy, I was almost pissed at why they even bothered. Just fucking accept that Neeson owns the character.

Speaking of ownage, Gary Oldman now owns Jim Gordon. The character is his now. Michael Caine was interesting, because it wasn't that he was great as Alfred- he was simply great as Michael Caine. He didn't really emit any great personification of Bruce Wayne's butler because he was simply too busy being great at whatever he does. Caine had about ten lines in the entire movie; every one of them were perfect. Then, of course, there's She Who Will Soon Wed the Crazy Man. I really, really didn't get how people were all up about Katie Holmes in this movie. She had only one really stupid line in the whole thing, and it was more a script problem than an acting one. The problem I think wasn't as much Holmes as it was her character of Rachel Dawes even existing in the first place; she's not part of the comics, and basically existed to be a mirror for Christian Bale's moments of strife. If they really needed a female character, why didn't they just put in Ras' daugher Talia? It's a much better character and would have fit in perfectly.

Overall, the movie clearly diverges from the continuity of the comics- but certainly not the the level of the earlier Batman films, and in fact not even as much as Marvel's recent cinematic alterations of Spider-Man and the X-Men. If the fans could deal with Spidey's web being organic, they can deal with the modifications to this one. I expected to like this movie, but not as much as I actually did. Unlike the last few Batman films, I'm anxious for the sequel. And for god's sake, just cut Adrian Brody a check for whatever he wants and make him The Joker already. We shouldn't even be discussing this.

Update: slight error: reader Troy Toland points out that Ducard, albeit in a different incarnation, appeared briefly as an actual character in various Batman comics. That I didn't know this minute detail both shames and pleases me.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 10:02 PM

June 24, 2005

Friday Cat Blogging

Poor Man, you lose. Sorry.

The baby cheetahs at the National Zoo. Now available for your viewing pleasure. Does your zoo have five baby cheetahs? I didn't think so. We so win the adorable war. Deal with it.

(Via Mom.)

Posted by August J. Pollak at 8:58 PM

June 23, 2005

God, what a prick

Shorter George Pataki: You know, I was bored being Governor anyway.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 10:11 PM

A friendly reminder

Bush signing flag

President George W. Bush performs an act of civil disobedience.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 9:39 PM

How 'bout that

Elana, our editor over at Campus Progress, decided to call up Ted Leo for the hell of it and ask him to be on one of our conference panels and he said sure. That's pretty awesome of him.

If you've never heard of Ted Leo, check out our story on him here, and check out his own site for some music and political commentary.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 12:38 PM

June 22, 2005

Oh, goody

Randall Terry throws hat, poster of dead fetus into ring:

Sen. Jim King, a Jacksonville political landmark since 1986, will face a re-election fight from conservative activist Randall Terry.

Terry, a nationally known abortion opponent and spokesman for Terri Schiavo's parents this year, is scheduled to announce today he will run to unseat King next year. He had previously announced he was considering a run.

The contest is already centering itself as a core fight over Republicanism. King is a social moderate and fiscal conservative who has sometimes clashed with the right-wing elements of the party. Terry says the district has no room for moderation and that he can better represent Republican principles.

You know, I'm as liberal as they come, but even I'm not kneejerk enough to agree that nominating a terrorist "better represents Republican principles."

Randall Terry is a psychopath with direct ties to convicted murderers. "Nationally known abortion opponent?" He enables and funds domestic terrorists. The man shouldn't even be allowed to run for office because he should currently be a convicted felon.

I have no intention of tying the GOP to Terry running, because they don't choose their nominees; the voters do. But I think we all should hold the GOP accountable if they choose to sidestep this and say nothing about a terrorist lunatic trying to run for office under their flag. They had plenty of time to call Richard Durbin a traitor for imagined statements; they should have no problem with condemning Randall Terry.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 10:02 AM

June 21, 2005

Golly, that's strange

If you go to the right-wing hate site Free Republic, you'll notice that they now discuss their imagnary incident of Dick Durbin calling American soldiers Nazis so often that they need a special link to go to all the collected posts on it. You'll also note the poll they have on the side, where the populace of this bastion of objective thought is pretty evenly divided over whether Durbin should be censured or expelled from the Senate for the thing he didn't actually do.

So, okay. Let's give the Freepers the benefit of the doubt. Let's say they haven't grossly and laughably invented what they wanted to hear in their own heads, and that a U.S. Senator actually flat-out said that American soldiers were Nazis. Let's say that doing that, as the Freepers say, is a treasonous action and is inexcusable.

Okay, so here's a Google search of FreeRepublic for "KKKlinton" - I'm sure we can have a debate about the semantics, but I think it's safe to say that they're invoking the Ku Klux Klan when referring to Bill Clinton. Google found 14 instances of this. "KKKlintoon" lists another 10. Just "Klinton" yeilds over 850 results, but we've got more than enough to merit grasping here, so let's give the Freepers the benefit of the doubt and assume that 850 times, they merely forgot how to spell Clinton's last name on that one.

So, a couple of Freepers outraged at what they imagined Durbin to say have no problem with calling the President (also, you know, the Commender in Chief of the Army) a Klan member. But that's not bad as Hitler, right? Okay, so here's the Google search of FreeRepublic for the term "Hitlery." It's one of their nicknames for Hillary Clinton- a member of the United States Senate. It lists over four thousand entries.

Since Powerline and their lunatic friends have openly declared that Durbin apparently needs to be removed from office over something they're pretending he said about Nazis, perhaps they'll join in the condemnation of a right-wing Hate site for calling a member of the Senate a Nazi over four thousand times. This is me holding my breath.

Remember, little right-wing bigots, don't get mad, raise a Fuehrer.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 11:03 AM

Stuff + Cats = Awesome

Stuff On My Cat is site devoted to putting stuff on top of cats.

This is the reason the internet was created.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 9:32 AM

June 20, 2005

Newest comic - "Gutting reactions"

Enjoy, and as always, feel free to check out our lovely selection of crap merchandise.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 12:05 AM

June 19, 2005

Weekend mailbag

It's time for one of those moments where the overload of e-mails fills me with massive guilt over being unable to respond to all of them, hence I print them here to acknowledge that I in fact actually read them, even if I'm too much of a lazy punk to answer them all.

Via Elizabeth in Portland, Oregon sends a letter she sent to Oregon Representative Earl Blumenauer:

Not long ago I heard three stories back-to-back on the news; the first was about the number of unemployed Americans; the second about the billions of dollars lost to American businesses due to the mostly-unregulated import of goods that violate the copyrights and patents they hold; and the third on the lack of personnel to conduct adequate port security, especially on shipping containers. It occured to me that all of these problems could be solved by creating a new WPA - this one meaning "We Protect America", but with the goal the same as the one in the '30s - to provide both jobs and the services the US desperately needs. If the corporations currently losing money would fund the positions for the men and women inspecting the shipping containers at our nation's ports (and perhaps with a little help from Homeland Security?), as a country we'd be (a)safer; (b)more financially secure; and (c)better able to conduct our overseas trade negotiations with, for example, China, which appears to be one of the main parties in violation of infringement laws.
From Jess Gordon:

In regards to your entry about the Gitmo hearings, I have two quick points.

1. My Congressional rules and regulations may be a bit rusty, but when someone, anyone, testifies in front of a Congressional panel, are they or are they not sworn to tell the "truth, whole truth and nothing but the truth" so help them non-Muslim God? If this is so, then when Gen. Huntington basically said "I don't know" to the question of how many prisoners in Gitmo there were, wasn't he basically lying? Didn't he confirm that he was lying (under oath, I presume) to the panel when he later specified how many countries were "represented" in Gitmo? Or is this a case of plausible deniability?

2. If we can assume the above is indeed true, then does it bother you as much as it does me to think that members of our military are lying to the body of people responsible for representing the citizenry of the country? Point being, if the General knew the number of people at Gitmo, but said that information was "outside the scope of my responsibility" even though he made it clear just minutes later that it wasn�t, I think it would be a safe bet that he (Gen. Huntington) was ordered by his higher-ups to not answer the panels� questions about such things....

Now this is the kicker, I mean what REALLY bothers me. All of the military are supposed to answer to an ultimate higher authority, that being the civilian leadership.

If we put 2 & 2 together, it looks to me like the military is acting as though it is only responsible to �certain� parts of that civilian leadership.

I wonder which branch of our government it is??? Hmmmm....


And from Russ Bliss, who apparently found a way to actually be critical of my post about the Super-Dickery site:

As Atrios found out when the Iraqi insurgents blew up an "armored personnel carrier" and he called it a "tank":

We have to keep up on our study of gun porno. Basically:

If it spews a bunch of bullets out of a long barrel when you pull the trigger, and you can shoot it while carrying it, it's an automatic rifle.

If it's heavy enough that you have to set it on the ground or anchor it, it�s a machine gun.

Only if the machine gun uses multiple revolving barrels it�s a gattling gun.

And perhaps it�s a Gatling gun.



Eh.

Finally, Thunton Updike sends a story about a Canadian teen sent to jail for anti-American model rocketry.

Okay, that's all for now, gotta upload a comic and get back to work with work... work. I'm a pretty words typing guy!

Posted by August J. Pollak at 10:41 PM