Saturday, September 30, 2006
By this I mean movies like WarGames, Cloak and Dagger and Tron - movies that had video games at the core of the story but weren't based on real video games. I do not mean movies like Mortal Kombat, not Street Fighter, not Lara Croft: Tomb Raider - The Cradle of Life and definitely not Super Mario Bros. DOA: Dead Or Alive (produced by Paul W.S. Anderson, not a good sign - I've never forgiven him for Mortal Kombat and Event Horizon) is from a real game, but it sucks less than most of its ilk. Not that that's saying much, because it's still something of a missed opportunity.
Never mind the plot - island princess Kasumi leaves her sanctuary to track down her brother at the Dead Or Alive tournament, wrestler Tina wants to prove that she's a real fighter, thief Christie is out to steal the cash, blah blah blah - the movie knows what counts; babes and brawls, and it's got lots of both of them. Devon Aoki (Kasumi), Jaime Pressly (Tina), Holly Valance (Christie), Sarah Carter (the adopted daughter of evil Eric Roberts) and Natassia Malthe (the bodyguard sworn to kill Kasumi for leaving) adequately fill the quota for the former - they even throw in a completely gratuitous volleyball game! - and whenever the movie threatens to be swamped under a serious story moment you can bet the swords will be flying and the booty will be kicked very soon. The movie also has an endearingly tongue-in-cheek tone (which has to be courtesy primary screenwriter J.F. Lawton, he of Pretty Woman, Under Siege and VIP fame) and it comes in at well under 90 minutes... but somehow it doesn't take off the way it should.
It's tempting to say it's because of the acting - Devon in particular behaves as if English is her fifth language, and Eric Roberts... well... - but who goes to movies like this for the acting? The problem is more to do with Cory Yuen's direction - the action's heavily stylized but at its most thrilling when it's filmed straightforward; no abrupt changes in speed, no overactive cameras. It's also a pity that the makers upped the "hard to take seriously" factor by including comical sound effects for blows; you never got that on The A-Team, thankfully. And ultimately it falls short on the guilty pleasure scale compared to the first Charlie's Angels, although I did admittedly watch it after spending hours and hours on various buses AND after eating an entire spiced loaf by myself. I think I'd have liked it more if I had been a bit more alert... but Bloodsport for the Zoo generation is still preferable to Bloodsport for the Jean Claude Van Damme generation.
Sunday, September 24, 2006
...and I adored it.
Just as anybody watching Prison Break and expecting it to be The Glass House or Oz is grasping entirely the wrong end of the stick,so anyone watching this expecting Jesus Christ Superstar will be inevitably disappointed. True, the songs aren't exactly Menken & Ashman; yes, some of the singing sounds treated; and for sure, some of the lip-syncing (especially Vanessa Anne Hudgens') is Hall of Fame poor. But everyone proclaiming this the Worst Musical Ever really needs to take a look at something truly inept like From Justin To Kelly,and then come back and apologise to everyone involved with this TV movie; unlike that misbegotten vehicle, High School Musical overcomes its limitations and emerges as what it wants to be - a charming little diversion.
Zac Efron and Miss Hudgens make up for their involvement with Summerland and Thunderbirds respectively, but Alyson Reed as the cellphone-hating drama teacher and The Suite Life of Zack and Cody's Ashley Tisdale as the egotistical would-be scheming ice queen of the school are the standouts (I say would-be because the movie's biggest roadblock in the way of our heroes isn't actually placed by her); the movie's extremely eager to please and doesn't have a mean bone in its body, and Kenny Ortega's improved as a director since the stodgy Newsies - this is great fun throughout, and the characters are likable and sympathetic (and, it has to be said, very attractive, which is hardly a minus for this kind of thing... as you can tell from the list down yonder).
Its message about it being okay for people to be who they are may be obvious, but it's harmless and appealing - it's aimed squarely at younger audiences, but not all older viewers will be squirming... I say not all because Sharon is 38 (two years older than me) and likes Grey's Anatomy, but if it was a choice between an hour with boring old Meredith Grey and watching Troy and Gabrielle breaking into "Breaking Free," I know which one I'd go for. High School Musical's a delight, which is more than can be said for quite a few Disney movies made for the BIG screen lately.
This could be the start of something big indeed. (But I'm not going to buy the soundtrack - I might get the DVD though...)
Friday, September 22, 2006
But this Melissa Odabash business is worrying. It's worrying personally for two reasons.
One is because of my reaction - maybe it's because I'm not a parent, but those pictures of Kaia really didn't ring any JonBenet Ramsey-type bells in my mind. Which is not to say I wasn't filled with anger... but it was anger at people attacking Cindy. I hate attacking her, no matter what. (I dread to see what some of the tabloid columnists will say about this.) And attacking her over what are basically innocent pictures as well... pictures which aren't even on the official website anymore. (And which I linked to in a previous post, because there is no way I'm uploading them here.)
But the other thing that bothers me is the picture that caused the most fuss... I wish I could say I was revolted by it. But every time it pops in my mind, I do my damnedest to get rid of it, because while it's definitely not kiddie porn (you'll never convince me Cindy would let her children do anything like that) it's hard to entirely disagree about the sexual aspect. It's true that pedophiles can get stimulation everywhere, but when I see pictures of Cindy's daughter I want to think she's adorable (which she is) and that she's already inherited her mother's beauty (which she has)... but I do not want to think about her the way I think about her mother. I like young girls, but not that young. I'd like to hear Cindy's view, as opposed to her publicist's. And I'd also like to know Kaia's opinion - but they aren't talking.
But I'd especially like to know if something's going on with Cindy... what with this, her business in St. Tropez and her display for the Ultimate Fighting Champion, I'm starting to come close to wondering.
One thing for sure - I still support her, I still have her as my #1, and I still love Cindy Crawford.
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Monday, September 18, 2006
Cindy attending the fourth annual Runway For Life. Sheer bliss. (Sadly I had to take two down because they were blurry.)
The taking it on the chin bit comes from complaints on other blogs about her daughter Kaia's modelling Melissa Odabash swimwear. Some say it's one step away from child pornography, others are more liberal... but judge for yourself.
Yes, I did see a police car coming along; yes, someone asked me if I managed to catch him; and yes, I did look into looking for them on the other side of that wall (I couldn't get to them). But I should have caught the guy. I should have gone back there a little sooner. And I shouldn't have been put off by his threat.
I don't know how to feel. Proud that I tried to do something good? Bad that I confirmed what I knew all along - that I'm a coward? I'll settle for frustrated. Frustrated at myself for not getting the kid; frustrated that people will do stuff like that for a damn DVD.
And sorry that I couldn't do anything for the woman in the store; she was crying about what had happened, distraught. That was worst of all. For her sake, I hope they catch the little shit. Or if they don't, I hope the DVDs he stole freeze up.
Friday, September 15, 2006
Cindy: Following in the footsteps of Denise Van Outen, Wonder Woman and The Hoff, Ashlee Simpson is going to be appearing in Chicago in the West End (as Roxie Hart, so more appropriately following in the footsteps of Ginger Rogers and Renee Zellweger). And how does the Haylie Duff to Jessica's Hilary qualify as a Cindy? Well, I never go to the theatre so I'll never see her - and as for the rest of you, you don't live in London!
Cindy: Colosseum's service. I sent off for The 13th Warrior (terrible movie, but great Goldsmith) and Noble House last Friday, and I got them on Tuesday (and Colosseum's in Germany!). And they threw in a promo of L'Avion as a bonus. I do like them.
Cindy: Vanessa. Vanessa Minnillo, that is. (Even if her website subscribes to the MuffinMan Updating System.) What with her and Marcil, I may have managed to counteract the whole Feltz association - any suggestions for a new name for the downer category?
Cindy: Ratings for Bush's latest dictat slipping. Winston Churchill once said that Americans generally do the right thing once they've tried all the alternatives; keep it up.
Cindy: Sharon continuing to date, and thankfully avoiding anyone reminiscent of the BBC.
Cindy: LivingTV announcing they're getting the third season of Veronica Mars, and Sci-Fi UK announcing they've gotten Heroes. (Admittedly Sci-Fi is part of the NBC Universal family (makers of Heroes) but at least it's showing up.) Finally.
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
Half a lifetime ago, I worked in this now-empty space. And for 40 days after the attacks, I worked here again, trying to make sense of what happened, and was yet to happen, as a reporter.
All the time, I knew that the very air I breathed contained the remains of thousands of people, including four of my friends, two in the planes and -- as I discovered from those "missing posters" seared still into my soul -- two more in the Towers.
And I knew too, that this was the pyre for hundreds of New York policemen and firemen, of whom my family can claim half a dozen or more, as our ancestors.
I belabor this to emphasize that, for me this was, and is, and always shall be, personal.
And anyone who claims that I and others like me are "soft," or have "forgotten" the lessons of what happened here is at best a grasping, opportunistic, dilettante and at worst, an idiot whether he is a commentator, or a Vice President, or a President.
However, of all the things those of us who were here five years ago could have forecast -- of all the nightmares that unfolded before our eyes, and the others that unfolded only in our minds -- none of us could have predicted this.
Five years later this space is still empty.
Five years later there is no memorial to the dead.
Five years later there is no building rising to show with proud defiance that we would not have our America wrung from us, by cowards and criminals.
Five years later this country's wound is still open.
Five years later this country's mass grave is still unmarked.
Five years later this is still just a background for a photo-op.
It is beyond shameful.
At the dedication of the Gettysburg Memorial -- barely four months after the last soldier staggered from another Pennsylvania field -- Mr. Lincoln said, "we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract."
Lincoln used those words to immortalize their sacrifice.
Today our leaders could use those same words to rationalize their reprehensible inaction. "We cannot dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground." So we won't.
Instead they bicker and buck pass. They thwart private efforts, and jostle to claim credit for initiatives that go nowhere. They spend the money on irrelevant wars, and elaborate self-congratulations, and buying off columnists to write how good a job they're doing instead of doing any job at all.
Five years later, Mr. Bush, we are still fighting the terrorists on these streets. And look carefully, sir, on these 16 empty acres. The terrorists are clearly, still winning.
And, in a crime against every victim here and every patriotic sentiment you mouthed but did not enact, you have done nothing about it.
And there is something worse still than this vast gaping hole in this city, and in the fabric of our nation. There is its symbolism of the promise unfulfilled, the urgent oath, reduced to lazy execution.
The only positive on 9/11 and the days and weeks that so slowly and painfully followed it was the unanimous humanity, here, and throughout the country. The government, the President in particular, was given every possible measure of support.
Those who did not belong to his party -- tabled that.
Those who doubted the mechanics of his election -- ignored that.
Those who wondered of his qualifications -- forgot that.
History teaches us that nearly unanimous support of a government cannot be taken away from that government by its critics. It can only be squandered by those who use it not to heal a nation's wounds, but to take political advantage.
Terrorists did not come and steal our newly-regained sense of being American first, and political, fiftieth. Nor did the Democrats. Nor did the media. Nor did the people.
The President -- and those around him -- did that.
They promised bi-partisanship, and then showed that to them, "bi-partisanship" meant that their party would rule and the rest would have to follow, or be branded, with ever-escalating hysteria, as morally or intellectually confused, as appeasers, as those who, in the Vice President's words yesterday, "validate the strategy of the terrorists."
They promised protection, and then showed that to them "protection" meant going to war against a despot whose hand they had once shaken, a despot who we now learn from our own Senate Intelligence Committee, hated al-Qaida as much as we did.
The polite phrase for how so many of us were duped into supporting a war, on the false premise that it had 'something to do' with 9/11 is "lying by implication."
The impolite phrase is "impeachable offense."
Not once in now five years has this President ever offered to assume responsibility for the failures that led to this empty space, and to this, the current, curdled, version of our beloved country.
Still, there is a last snapping flame from a final candle of respect and fairness: even his most virulent critics have never suggested he alone bears the full brunt of the blame for 9/11.
Half the time, in fact, this President has been so gently treated, that he has seemed not even to be the man most responsible for anything in his own administration.
Yet what is happening this very night?
A mini-series, created, influenced -- possibly financed by -- the most radical and cold of domestic political Machiavellis, continues to be televised into our homes.
The documented truths of the last fifteen years are replaced by bald-faced lies; the talking points of the current regime parroted; the whole sorry story blurred, by spin, to make the party out of office seem vacillating and impotent, and the party in office, seem like the only option.
How dare you, Mr. President, after taking cynical advantage of the unanimity and love, and transmuting it into fraudulent war and needless death, after monstrously transforming it into fear and suspicion and turning that fear into the campaign slogan of three elections? How dare you -- or those around you -- ever "spin" 9/11?
Just as the terrorists have succeeded -- are still succeeding -- as long as there is no memorial and no construction here at Ground Zero.
So, too, have they succeeded, and are still succeeding as long as this government uses 9/11 as a wedge to pit Americans against Americans.
This is an odd point to cite a television program, especially one from March of 1960. But as Disney's continuing sell-out of the truth (and this country) suggests, even television programs can be powerful things.
And long ago, a series called The Twilight Zone broadcast a riveting episode entitled "The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street."
In brief: a meteor sparks rumors of an invasion by extra-terrestrials disguised as humans. The electricity goes out. A neighbor pleads for calm. Suddenly his car -- and only his car -- starts. Someone suggests he must be the alien. Then another man's lights go on. As charges and suspicion and panic overtake the street, guns are inevitably produced. An "alien" is shot -- but he turns out to be just another neighbor, returning from going for help. The camera pulls back to a near-by hill, where two extra-terrestrials are seen manipulating a small device that can jam electricity. The veteran tells his novice that there's no need to actually attack, that you just turn off a few of the human machines and then, "they pick the most dangerous enemy they can find, and it's themselves."
And then, in perhaps his finest piece of writing, Rod Serling sums it up with words of remarkable prescience, given where we find ourselves tonight: "The tools of conquest do not necessarily come with bombs and explosions and fallout. There are weapons that are simply thoughts, attitudes, prejudices, to be found only in the minds of men.
"For the record, prejudices can kill and suspicion can destroy, and a thoughtless, frightened search for a scapegoat has a fallout all its own -- for the children, and the children yet unborn."
When those who dissent are told time and time again -- as we will be, if not tonight by the President, then tomorrow by his portable public chorus -- that he is preserving our freedom, but that if we use any of it, we are somehow un-American... When we are scolded, that if we merely question, we have "forgotten the lessons of 9/11"... look into this empty space behind me and the bi-partisanship upon which this administration also did not build, and tell me:
Who has left this hole in the ground?
We have not forgotten, Mr. President.
May this country forgive you.
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
The feelings of sadness and loss with which we look back on Sept. 11, 2001, have shifted focus over the last five years. The attacks themselves have begun to acquire the aura of inevitability that comes with being part of history. We can argue about what one president or another might have done to head them off, but we cannot really imagine a world in which they never happened, any more than we can imagine what we would be like today if the Japanese had never attacked Pearl Harbor.
What we do revisit, over and over again, is the period that followed, when sorrow was merged with a sense of community and purpose. How, having lost so much on the day itself, did we also manage to lose that as well?
The time when we felt drawn together, changed by the shock of what had occurred, lasted long beyond the funerals, ceremonies and promises never to forget. It was a time when the nation was waiting to find out what it was supposed to do, to be called to the task that would give special lasting meaning to the tragedy that it had endured.
But the call never came. Without ever having asked to be exempt from the demands of this new post-9/11 war, we were cut out. Everything would be paid for with the blood of other people’s children, and with money earned by the next generation. Our role appeared to be confined to waiting in longer lines at the airport. President Bush, searching the other day for an example of post-9/11 sacrifice, pointed out that everybody pays taxes.
That pinched view of our responsibility as citizens got us tax cuts we didn’t need and an invasion that never would have occurred if every voter’s sons and daughters were eligible for the draft. With no call to work together on some effort greater than ourselves, we were free to relapse into a self- centeredness that became a second national tragedy. We have spent the last few years fighting each other with more avidity than we fight the enemy.
When we measure the possibilities created by 9/11 against what we have actually accomplished, it is clear that we have found one way after another to compound the tragedy. Homeland security is half-finished, the development at ground zero barely begun. The war against terror we meant to fight in Afghanistan is at best stuck in neutral, with the Taliban resurgent and the best economic news involving a bumper crop of opium. Iraq, which had nothing to do with 9/11 when it was invaded, is now a breeding ground for a new generation of terrorists.
Listing the sins of the Bush administration may help to clarify how we got here, but it will not get us out. The country still hungers for something better, for evidence that our leaders also believe in ideas larger than their own political advancement.
Today, every elected official in the country will stop and remember 9/11. The president will remind the country that he has spent most of his administration fighting terrorism, and his opponents will point out that Osama bin Laden is still at large. It would be miraculous if the best of our leaders did something larger — expressed grief and responsibility for the bad path down which we’ve gone, and promised to work together to turn us in a better direction.
Over the last week, the White House has been vigorously warning the country what awful things would happen in Iraq if American troops left, while his critics have pointed out how impossible the current situation is. They are almost certainly both right. But unless people on both sides are willing to come up with a plan that acknowledges both truths and accepts the risk of making real-world proposals, we will be stuck in the same place forever.
If that kind of coming together happened today, we could look back on Sept. 11, 2006, as more than a day for recalling bad memories and lost chances.
Saturday, September 09, 2006
Friday, September 08, 2006
Rashod D. Ollison from the Baltimore Sun writes: For someone who has composed songs for more than 100 movies, including the Academy Award-winning score for Titanic, writing a 10-second snippet of music should have been a cakewalk for James Horner.
But the assignment -- to create the theme that introduced Katie Couric on last night's CBS Evening News -- was anything but, at least according to a profile in yesterday's Wall Street Journal.
The network brass wanted "urgent and serious, yet light." Couric, said Horner, wanted "wheat fields blowing rather than Manhattan skyline."
So did Horner succeed?
Well, yes and no. The cough-and-you-missed-it clip was light on the strident drums and bombastic horns typical of the evening news. The music blows away without leaving an impression.
Jerry Del Colliano, a music industry professor at the University of Southern California, says the theme is "critical to a medium that routinely bombards audiences with sound effects, music bumpers, promos and theme music."
The music fits Couric: firm yet polite but ultimately boring. It complements the "warmth" of the orange-gold graphics. In a way, Horner, 53, accomplished his musical mission.
"Setting a this-isn't-your-father's newscast tone right from the start is important," says Vicki Kunkel of Leader Brand Strategists, a brand management firm in Chicago. "The theme song sends the message that this will not be an in-your-face newscast but will quietly and confidently deliver the news with a sophisticated air.
"Will viewers notice the snippet of majestic horns and strings?
"Older viewers shouldn't care," Del Colliano says. "An aging audience for evening newscasts and the proliferation of the Internet -- is anyone paying attention? ... The next generation listens to its own beat in more ways than music."
Thursday, September 07, 2006
Cindy Crawford is fuming about reports in a French magazine that claims she confessed to having Botox injections to keep her looks from sagging. Style magazine Gala recently printed an article following an alleged interview with the US beauty, but Crawford's representatives insist the chat never took place and the ageing model is hurt and upset. In the article, Crawford is credited as saying, "I owe the quality of my skin to my cosmetic surgeon," but her angry spokeswoman Nicole Caruso states, "Cindy didn't make the statements attributed to her in the article. "We're investigating this matter fully and intend to take all appropriate action against the source of the falsehoods."
It sure sounded convincing, though. I'm still on Cindy's side, no matter what happens; it's not like she's Gary Glitter or Michael Jackson (or OJ Simpson, come to that).
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
While it's understandable that some feel that way, there's actually a reason. Yes, it's appalling when masses of people die en masse. And yes, it's horrifying when people are murdered in savage circumstances. And no, they shouldn't have their tragedies neutered or watered down in any way. But... but how widely known was Stephen Lawrence before his racially-charged murder? Or JonBenet Ramsay? Or that girl who escaped after being held captive in Austria for years? And how individually known are the casualties of war? Or the 9/11, Bali, Madrid or London bombings? We can't put faces to all the victims, and that's probably a good thing - if we kept getting it in our faces at high levels of impact all the time sooner or later we'll all get desensitized to horrifying and undeserving fates. And I don't want to be desensitized; I want to be in horror at death, both fictional and real.
Being famous put Irwin more at a one-on-one level with people; they didn't know him, but in a sense they sort of knew him as a familiar face - as a character - as a hero. As a sort of friend. When you can put a face to someone and you admire that someone, hearing about his passing makes it hurt more than if it was as part of a natural disaster or war strike, and that's why there's so much news focusing on the end of the Crocodile Hunter. Domestic outrages are outrages, but they don't resonate much worldwide (again, not to imply they're not important, because they are); Steve did.
Monday, September 04, 2006
Sunday, September 03, 2006
Friday, September 01, 2006
Vanessa: Channel 4, for their upcoming sub-fourth form bid for attention... er, drama about G.W. Bush's assassination. (As one wag noted, there's only one way it'll be pulled...)
Vanessa: The MTV Music Video Awards. Madonna, Kanye West and Christina Aguileraisacunt going home empty-handed and works by Shakira, the Pussycat Dolls, Beyonce and Kelly Clarkson managing to bag one each do not really make up for James Blunt winning two. He should never be the big winner at these things. Or any things not involving wusses.
Cindy: John Williams, proving yet again that he has no peers when it comes to making me even mildly interested in sports (along with Gayle "Where is she now?" Gardner, he can take all the credit for getting me to watch some of the 1988 Olympics) - he's written the new theme for Monday Night Football. Expect it to be out online by the end of the first game.
Vanessa: Work this week. Have you ever had to country-sort thousands of pieces of mail? And mailsort several more thousand as it comes off the printing line and bag them up? And have to rush through some of them rather than take the time to separate the letters that get stuck together? Better to be busy than go through a fallow patch, I admit, but that fallow patch is lookin' mighty tempting now.
Cindy: Keith Olbermann. (See Butch's blog, or here.)
Vanessa: Joseph Stefano, he of The Outer Limits and Psycho, passing on.
Cindy: The guy who wrote to me gushing over The Longest Weekend. If that doesn't inspire me to get a move on...
Vanessa: Adult Swim being classified on Bravo's EPG as one two-hour block instead of each show (including shows which I believe weren't part of it in America, like Kid Notorious and Stripperella) getting its own listing. Oafs...