Saturday, December 16, 2006

Underdog

Well, the Underdog movie is coming next year and... I don't know. I know that this has been a long time coming; it seems like forever since I first read it on the list of upcoming movies in Comics Scene. Now here's why the movie won't work...

It's a Disney movie, which is not in and of itself a bad thing, but it probably will be because they make these movies in such a smartassed way. Hey, I'm willing to admit that there could have been a perfectly great Inspector Gadget movie, but look at the mess that happened. Ouch. This is one of those cheap Disney filler projects. My Favorite Martian, etc. Besides which, it's being directed by the guy who made Racing Stripes, which wasn't even adequate cinema. And in this movie, Underdog is just a regular dog (named Shoeshine, ugh) who gets powers in a lab accident and then befriends a boy. Bored yet? I am. Underdog is voiced by Jason Lee, and Amy Adams is doing the voice of Sweet Polly Purebred.

Not really looking forward to this one. Posted by Picasa

The Bible Summarized by a Smartass, Part Twelve: 1 Samuel 17-31

Now we really get to the culmination of Jewish mythology: King David. I guess King David is a sort of Jewish Achilles, while Solomon (his son) is sort of like Odysseus. Or something. Either way, we now rejoin the First Book of Samuel, already in progress. When last we left the Israelites, God had refused to help King Saul and was driving him crazy to hasten his death...

Chapter Seventeen
Saul and his army are encamped at Socoh, just across from a Philistine army. Both armies are in stalemate, so Goliath, an enormous and feared Philistine warrior, begins taunting the Israelites, daring them to settle the matter in single combat against him. This goes on for forty days, at which point David, who has just returned from his dad’s in Bethlehem, gets disgusted and agrees to fight. He’s too young and small to fit in any armor, but he’s a badass so he walks into battle with a sling, sends a rock flying into Goliath’s forehead, and then cuts off Goliath’s head with his own sword. The Philistines flee and David becomes a hero.

Chapter Eighteen
Jonathan apparently falls in love with David, and gives him all of his armor and weapons. Saul makes David the head of the army, but David is so capable and so loved that Saul eventually gets jealous like God when he sees a gold statue of a cow. God wants Saul to die so he can make David king, so he twists Saul’s insanity valve and Saul tries to murder David. He makes up for it by promising Dave his daughter Merab, but then reneges on that. Saul, hoping to put David in a place where the Philistines will kill him, tells Dave he can have his second daughter, Michal, provided he collects one hundred Philistine foreskins. Apparently God and Saul also share a bizarre foreskin fetish. Dave gets the foreskins and his wife. That can’t be sanitary. And what are you going to do with a hundred foreskins, anyway? Make a suit?

Chapter Nineteen
Saul begins to talk openly about killing Dave, but Jonathan “took great delight in David” (draw your own conclusions), so he makes a peace between the two. Things go back to normal, but God makes Saul crazy again and he tries to kill Dave again. Michal helps Dave escape; he goes to Samuel for help.

Chapter Twenty
Dave and Jonathan work out a plan that basically only determines whether or not Saul is still pissed. Guess what? He is. Jonathan is sad, and tells Dave that Saul wants him dead and he should flee. They have a whole moment of weeping and kissing. This is a less clich├ęd love story than Ruth, at any rate.

Chapter Twenty-One
Dave flees to a place called (no kidding) Nob and meets with Ahimelech, a priest. I’d just like to point out, in case you weren’t thinking that way, that the story of David so far contains a hundred foreskins, boys kissing, and a place called Nob. The priest gives Dave the sword of Goliath, then Dave flees again to Gath. They hate Dave there, so he pretends to be retarded so they won’t kill him. Unlike in Texas, the Gathites just ignore Dave instead of executing him or electing him to high public office.

Chapter Twenty-Two
Ahimelech and the priests of Nob tell Saul that he is wrong to try to kill David. To prove he’s not an asshole, Saul has Ahimelech and 84 other priests killed, and then every living thing in Nob.

Chapter Twenty-Three
Dave saves Keilah from the Philistines with a small army. God tells Dave that the people of Keilah are going to give him up to Saul, so he and his army begin to wander around. Jonathan promises to be Dave’s second-in-command when Dave becomes king of Israel.

Chapters Twenty-Four through Thirty-One
Are you bored yet? I am. Man, I didn’t think a story with mutilation, war, a crazy king, a great hero, boys kissing and mass priest slaughter could be as boring and talky as it is in the Bible. Fuck. Alright, let’s supe up this shit: Dave and Saul make up. Samuel dies. David marries two girls, Abigail and Ahinoam, but it’s apparently cool with God because Michal was given to someone else. Saul tries to kill Dave again, then they make peace again. God’s crazy ray apparently wears off, and Dave’s too good a guy to just kill the king. Still, Dave knows the sitch, and decides to flee instead of endure Saul trying to murder him over and over and over again (at least to break up the narrative, for crying out loud). Dave becomes a raider. Saul and the Philistines go to war again, and a medium conjures up Samuel’s soul to tell Saul that he’s going to lose. The Philistine army slaughters the Israelites, including Jonathan, who is killed. Saul commits suicide. Israel mourns. The End.

Except that it isn't. Now David has to be king. Tune in next week for The Book of Samuel II: Israelite Boogaloo.

Dear Santa

What I'd most like for Christmas this year is my very own life-sized Bratz doll. You know, those dolls that seem to only exist for the purpose of teaching young girls to grow up to be slutty whores? Yeah, one of those. Me being a guy of a certain age, you know that kind of shit works for me. So I was thinking, maybe a life-sized one that I could play all kinds of games with, like dress-up and stuff... Well, and maybe some others, too. I'd like a black Bratz doll, because I think black women are so beautiful and their smooth, dark skin turns me on. You know I love the black girls, right Santa? And give her long black hair and long, silky legs. You know what they say, built like a horse, am I right? Hey, c'mon. You're cool, SC, I know you know what I'm talking about. I promise that I'll take good care of her, brush her hair, and clean her vinyl skin with cleanser and a washcloth and even retouch her makeup if I have to.

Thanks! And if there's anything I can do for you, let me know!

Your pal,
SamuraiFrog

Whatever She's Selling, I'll Take Ten

Scarlett Johansson for Louis Vuitton.


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Friday, December 15, 2006

Hanukkah Begins Today

Baruch ata Adonai elohanu melech ha olam, asher kiddishanu b'mitzvotav v'tzivanu l'hadlik ner shel Hanukkah.

Throwdown 12/15

15 random thoughts, questions, and observations for the week.

1. Congratulations to my darling Anne Hathaway, who was named Star of the Year by Hollywood Magazine’s Breakthrough Awards. Jessica Biel and Jennifer Hudson also won awards. Wow, talent actually being recognized for once in Hollywood. Weird.

2. Well, Tara Reid’s a skank again. Knew that wouldn’t last. Ew, you know this guy drunk-fucked her, too. Gross.

3. Mariah Carey has suddenly decided that she needs to sue porn star Mary Carey for having too similar a name. Seriously? Man, Mary Carey’s been in porn for a while now. She even ran for governor of California in that idiot recall circus a few years ago. And Mariah decides this is an issue now? Fuck, leave Mary Carey alone. At least she’s honest about selling her ass.

4. It was recently announced that Miss USA Tara Connor might be stripped of her title because she was stripping on tables in New York clubs. Yeah, because we don’t want to dishonor the good name of the Miss USA Pageant by making it a subject of sexual interest and objectification of women.

5. Scarlett Johansson recently talked about her nude cover of Vanity Fair, about how she and Keira Knightley had g-strings that were cut off by the wardrobe woman, and about how no one really noticed her. She says that people were busy with work and one guy was texting on his Blackberry. That’s so cute that Scarlett Johansson doesn’t know how a guy’s peripheral vision works. Dude, when it comes to looking at naked girls, I can practically see them behind me now, it's that well-honed. I’ll tell you right now what that guy was texting to his friends: “Dude totally looking at ScarJo NAKED right now! No clothes at all, standing and waiting 2 b posed 4 this cover!!! OMFG!!! And my dad wanted me to go into business lol!! She doesn’t even know I’m looking!!!”

6. Man, so not only does Beyonce have to worry about Jennifer Hudson out-hotting her and out-singing her at every turn, now she has to worry about how terrible her breast implants look. Seriously, that looks like two sets of cleavage there. This has been a strangely productive month for watching Beyonce’s perfection fail. Well, you didn’t think she was going to be that perky at 32 without a little help, did you? She needs to shave her moustache again, too.

7. Joel Madden dumped Hilary Duff, apparently because Duffster wouldn’t give it up for him. He’s now apparently dating Nicole Richie, which is about as far away from Hilary Duff as you can get. Good; does this mean my Duffster can go back to gaining some actual weight and looking like her old self? Because she really was the most delectable chunklet. She’s already filed those teeth down, so now she can eat some bacon cheeseburgers.

8. Kevin Federline took the kids to Disneyland. Hmm, so that’s what a parent who wants sole custody of their kids looks like… Step it up, Brit Brit.

9. Britney seems to have smartly dumped Paris Hilton on the advice of her handlers. Brit’s moved on to some douchebag who actually makes Federline look like a catch, frankly, while Paris has moved on to catch Elisha Cuthbert in her spider web. Poor Elisha. I mean, she’s kind of a bitch anyway, but someone so B-level doesn’t really deserve to be corrupted by Paris Hilton when she still has a shot at a real career. Paris should be dating has-beens…like Britney Spears. But I guess this means we’ll be seeing Elisha’s pussy soon.

10. And hey, at least Britney’s taking the advice to heart and is calming her partying…and…oh, fuck, is she sitting in a club in just her bra? Say goodbye to those kids, sweetheart. Man, who knew Kevin was going to be the respectable one? For the love of crumbcake, Brit Brat.

11. AAAAAAAGGGGHHHHH!!!!!! Oh, fuck, that’s even worse!!!! Jebus Q. Kazoo, please make the pictures stop coming!!!! Fuck, bring back Botoxed Stallone!!

12. When asked about O.J. Simpson’s book If I Did It, Kato Kaelin responded: “What do you mean if?” The book was cancelled by the publishers, but O.J. admitted he already spent the $3.5 million advance. I’m sure none of it went to the Browns, right? Oh, and some women are claiming that O.J. showed them how he faked the glove thing in court.

13. Please stop telling me that you really want John McCain to run for president because he’s such a moderate and a strong leader. How anyone still respects this guy after his constant rolling over and playing dead for George W. Bush is beyond me. People really want a guy who compromises his principles to be president? Yeah? Okay, my bloggaz, how about the legislation he’s introduced to the Senate to regulate the blogosphere. Listening now? Yes, just for posting the pictures and videos we all borrow from everywhere, we could be fined up to $300,000. Especially if we allow comments! And God forbid you’re a sex offender, because then you’re going to have your blog taken away from you. Yes, another Republican is trying to make the world safer for his reptilian kind and his corporate masters by cutting off any outlet of free discourse and fair use. And McCain didn’t even offer any evidence that children are being victimized by their comments sections or that posting a picture is costing anyone anything. Still want this ass to be president?

14. And while all of this is going on, the baiji (the white Yangtze River dolphin) has been declared extinct. It survived on this planet for 20 million years. Now, it’s the most recent large aquatic mammal species to disappear from the face of the Earth (the last was the Caribbean monk seal about 60 years ago). And it looks like the Yangtze finless porpoise is going to be next, probably within 20 years.

15. And finally, the stupidest thing I’ve heard all week: Texas State Representative Edmund Kuempel has introduced legislation that would make it legal for blind people to hunt. Wow, Texas, you’re on the ball as always. Texas: last in education, first in executing retards. Except for the ones who make their laws and run their state, apparently.

Standing On the Shoulders of Links

Since I've found myself without much to talk about, other than my own amazement at just how little lettuce breaks down inside the body when you eat it four times a day, I thought I'd just point out how great everyone else is.

Entertainmentwise has a story about another one of those waste-of-time studies; this one uses brainwave patterns to determine the 10 Saddest Songs EVER. Check out the songs; at last, scientific proof that people are sap-loving morons.

Did you know that people are still living in the Tunisian sets built for the original Star Wars? My San Antonio does.

Slowly Going Bald ain't buying what Heroes is selling.

Pajiba finally comes out and calls Mel Gibson what he is: a sick fucking sadist with a violence fixation. Those might not be the actual words, but they're close enough.

The Gilded Moose critiques Lindsay Lohan's crazy email far more brilliantly than I would if I had just stolen the joke.

RadarOnline has a fun guide to the Best Celebrity Catfights of 2006. Go, Kelly Ripa, go!!

And here are some Christmas-related goodies for you. First, Dayton Daily News has a list of the absolute worst holiday specials. Then No Smoking in the Skull Cave has something truly fucked up about Jesus art, and Merna May Is Cool has two hilarious recut trailers for A Christmas Story.

What else? Well, the Golden Globe nominations were announced, and since I think they're just the practice Oscars and don't give a damn, I recommend you to the commentary at The Film Experience to read Nathaniel's more interested thoughts. And also check out The Gilded Moose for a little extra added snark.

And lastly, The Absorbascon and Postmodern Barney have two hilarious, short comic book gags. Dirty minds, but fucking funny.

Grindhouse





Must...see...this...movie...must...get...Robert Rodriguez...fix...

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Martin Nodell 1915-2006

Born in Philadelphia, PA, Nodell went to the Art Institute of Chicago and the Pratt Institute in New York City before beginning his illustrating career in 1938. Working first as a freelancer, he came to All-American Comics in 1940 to work for the legendary comics editor Sheldon Mayer. Mayer was looking for new characters, and Nodell was looking for steady work, so Nodell created the original Green Lantern. He came up with the character on the subway ride home; the green lantern meant "go." The costume was inspired by Greek mythology. The ring was inspired by Wagner. Mayer liked the concept and called in Bill Finger, who wrote Detective Comics, which featured Batman, to work out the character with the illustrator.

Green Lantern first appeared in All-American Comics #16 in July 1940. Nodell's art appeared for a time under the name Mart Dellon because, he later said, "Comics were a forbidden literature, culturally unacceptable. It wasn't something you were proud of." Finger and Nodell wrote and drew Green Lantern's adventures in All-American Comics and All-Star Comics for a year; in 1941, Green Lantern was given his own title, and Nodell followed him there for six years. It was also in 1941 that Nodell met his wife Carrie at Coney Island; they were married two months later. They were married for 63 years.

For whatever reason, Nodell left All-American in 1947 and got a job at Timely Comics, where he was drawing Captain America, the Human Torch, and the Sub-Mariner. In the late forties, when horror comics proved the most popular, Nodell worked on Marvel Tales (the horror-revamp of the company's flagship series, Marvel Mystery Comics) and Captain America's Weird Tales.

Like so many other comics artists, Nodell left the business in 1950 to work in advertising. Comics work was drying up for a brief period, and the ad business needed artists and was willing to pay for them. He joined the Leo Burnett Agency as art director; in 1965, he and is team developed the Pillsbury Doughboy. He retired in 1976.

It didn't quite take; Nodell submitted work to DC Comics in the eighties (All-American had merged with two other companies to form DC). He worked now and then, finally drawing the original Green Lantern in 1991 for Green Lantern #19. In 1996, at the age of 81, Nodell drew an adaptation of Harlan Ellison's "Gnomebody" for Harlan Ellison's Dream Corridor Quarterly #1.

Martin Nodell lived in West Palm Beach, FL, and often went on the convention circuit with Carrie until her death in 2004. He died just five days ago in Wisconsin after a brief illness. It was just one month past his 91st birthday.

The History of the Middle East

Part 5 in a series.

The Neo-Babylonian Empire (or Chaldean Empire)

Still the Chaldeans hoped for an independent Babylon. In 627 BC, after a brief power struggle, Nabu-apal-usur (Nabopolassar) became viceroy of Babylonia. Two years later, Ashurbanipal died without a strong successor, putting an end to the powerful Sargonids. Nabopolassar declared independence from Assyria.

Of course, there was war; it lasted a decade with no clear victor. Assyria was weakened even further, and other parts of the empire began to slip away. In 625 BC a Median chieftain, Cyaxares, established himself as the king of an independent Media, which covered a number of Median and Scythian tribes in a land nearly the size of modern Iran. Nabopolassar formed a treaty with Cyaxares in 616 BC; it was cemented by the marriage of Nabopolassar’s son and Cyaxares’s daughter. Cyaxares immediately attacked Assyria and took Ashur, its ancient capital.

Assyria, now desperate, turned to Egypt for help. Egypt new that a weak Assyria was far better than a powerful new rival in Babylon, and agreed to help. But it was too late; Nineveh fell in 612 BC. The city was destroyed so thoroughly that, 200 years later, a passing Greek army saw a large mound of earth where Nineveh had stood. They asked what it might be; no one had an answer.

Harran, 130 miles west of Nineveh, was the last remaining Assyrian holdout. It was held by a strong Assyrian general referred to as Ashur-uballit II, probably because he hoped to rebuild Assyria. The Egyptians under Pharaoh Necho II were marching to reinforce him, but they were delayed in 608 BC at Megiddo, where they fought and won a battle with the army of Judah. The delay kept him from reaching Harran in time; in 605 BC, Harran fell to Nabopolassar and Assyria passed from history.

Nabopolassar, ill, returned to Babylon, leaving his son, Nebuchadrezzar II, to chase Necho back to Egypt. This powerful son smashed the Egyptian army, hastening Necho’s retreat. Nebuchadrezzar could not savor the victory, however; word reached him that his father had died. Nebuchadrezzar returned home to take the crown. Cyaxares, meanwhile, won a decisive victory that ended the power of Urartu, absorbing its territory. With Media and Babylonia both victorious, the spoils were divided evenly. Media added not only Urartu, but also eastern Asia Minor to its kingdom. The land was largely undeveloped, so Media looked to itself and maintained peace. Nebuchadrezzar had the Fertile Crescent and an empire finally under Chaldean rule from Babylon.

Nebuchadrezzar continued to make war. Egyptian conspirators were whipping up anti-Babylonian sentiment in Judah, and the Jews revolted twice. In 598 BC, Nebuchadrezzar continued the Assyrian policy of exile, taking some of Judah’s rulers to Babylon. In 587 BC he became impatient and destroyed Jerusalem, including the Great Temple. Judah was ruined; the Davidic dynasty was ended. Nebuchadrezzar next turned his attention to Tyre. All the Phoenician cities had yielded to Babylonia except for Tyre; she was the world’s only naval power, the world’s richest trading empire. The city itself stood on a rocky island that no land army could reach. Nebuchadrezzar laid a siege on the city that was completely powerless; the Phoenicians could sail anywhere and their commerce went on uninterrupted. All the siege did for its thirteen years was wither away Babylonia’s prestige. Afterwards, Nebuchadrezzar failed to take Egypt.

Instead, attentions were turned inward, towards beautifying Babylon itself. Nebuchadrezzar turned it into the Babylon of legend, the most glorious metropolis in the world. Even Thebes and Memphis were in decline; no other city compared. No Greek town had yet risen; Rome as a small Italian village no one had heard of. Some claim the population of Babylon reached a million. The walls, such as the justly famous Ishtar Gate, were incredibly ornate; Nebuchadrezzar’s palace covered 13 acres. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon were so beautiful that the Greeks named them one of the Seven Wonders of the World. There were 1100 temples; one of them, to Marduk, was 300 feet on every side.

Babylon was the intellectual leader of the world, having amassed 3000 years of Sumerian and Assyrian scientific knowledge. Thales and Pythagoras are claimed to have been educated in Babylon. The Sumerian 60-base math (60 minutes in an hour, 360 degrees circumference, etc.) came to the west, as did the Babylonian calendar and Babylonian astronomy (the Greeks thought the morning and evening star were two separate planets; the Babylonians knew they were one, called Ishtar, which the Greeks named Aphrodite and the Romans later named Venus).

Babylonia was religiously tolerant, as well. The Jews in exile were not oppressed, nor were they forced to worship Marduk. Though Nebuchadrezzar elevated Marduk above the other gods, giving the priests of Marduk much power, he did not make anyone worship what they did not want to. It is during this time when the early books of the Bible were written, under the guidance of the prophet Ezekial, a patriotic Babylonian. Since Jewish records only reached as far back as their entrance into Canaan, with only dim recollections of Abraham and Joseph and legends of Moses, the writers borrowed much from Babylonian history (which went all the way back to Sumeria). They borrowed from Babylonian lore, too, including the Creation myth (minus the polytheism).

Nebuchadrezzar II died in 582 BC. Turmoil began immediately; his dynasty was ended by a series of weak successors by 556 BC. Then a new king, Nabu-naid (Greek Nabodinus), came to the throne. He set about restoring old tablets and preserving history; he had little interest in political affairs. But there were problems. He was the son of a priestess of the moon goddess Sin, and was hated by the powerful priests of Marduk. He also had no interest in Babylonian defenses, leaving that to his son, Bel-shur-ushur (the Biblical Belshazzar). For now, though, Nabodinus continued a peaceful reign.

There were four great powers in the world: Babylonia, Egypt, Media, and Lydia. They were all, finally, at peace. They prospered under monarchs who had no interest in war.

Within a generation, they would all be destroyed.

To be continued.

Paris & Nicky: Still Slutty

That's about the level of class we've come to expect.

Still...I'm not going to lie and say I don't enjoy this...

Rachel Ray Is At It Again

You'd think that someone who's been on TV as long as she has would know how to dress for the occasion.

Damn it, why do I have to be attracted to her?

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.

BLOODRAYNE (2005)
Pray for me, for I have looked into the cinematic eye of Uwe Boll, and I have found a place in the universe where no human soul can exist. What is it about BloodRayne that makes it so goddamn bad? I didn’t have a problem with Michael Madsen sleeping his way through the badly-written faux-epic fantasy dialogue, because that’s just Michael Madsen. And I thought Michelle Rodriguez was as sexy as always, even despite her attempts at a British accent which made her sound like she was from some fictional West African country. Perhaps it was the “acting” of Kristanna Loken, who seems completely uncomfortable with any sort of action and can barely lift the lame swords they’ve given her. I’m sure the presence of Ben Kingsley as a vampire didn’t help, either. Nor did the appearance of Meat Loaf as an effeminate vampire lord. And the sweeping helicopter shots that look like Lord of the Rings outtakes, Jesu Christos…I think I saw Viggo Mortensen running around in one of them! And how about the fact that Billy Zane appears in the movie twice and still manages to be the worst actor in the movie? Sorry, Billy, but adding the occasional long “A” to a word like “past” does not flatten your Midwestern accent, it just makes you look stupid. But the blame for this monstrosity must be laid squarely at the feet of screenwriter Guinevere Turner, whose tin ear for dialogue has always been apparent to me, and director Uwe Boll, who wields his camera with all of the imagination and skill of an infant. How can a 95-minute movie be this hard to follow? It just doesn’t make any sense. It feels like they cut the movie down from five hours and just didn’t bother to piece everything together. So I guess I can also blame the editor, too, except that he seems to have smartly had his name taken off of the picture. Shame on you both, Ms. Turner and, yes, Dr. Boll. And shame on the other twelve people who produced this abortion. No stars.

GHOST IN A TEENY BIKINI (2006)
Yet another in the series of soft core bikini-related movies I keep seeing on HBO. Which means one thing: more Nicole Sheridan! Boy, do I like her! And fuck me does she look good in a bikini these days. They finally figured out her plastic surgery and her makeup to the point where she just looks absolutely perfect. They’ve also got a new gal, Rebecca Love, whom I will be fantasizing about for some time in the future. And, of course, Evan Stone gives another brilliant comic performance as a creepy butler; I love that guy, someone needs to start sticking him in B-movies. The plot? Oh, something about a ghost. And it’s a musical! Kind of… Anyway, great stuff. Definitely one of the better bikini pictures. *** stars.

COMPLICATED WOMEN (2003)
This excellent documentary highlights women in film during the days before the strict enforcement of the Hays Code. From 1929 to 1934, the screen was much more permissive, especially when it came to depicting women as more rounded characters. There has been a lot of criticism of this documentary, mostly along the lines that it highlights the best of the Pre-Code Era without mentioning that the sex appeal was there to sell tickets; women could be looser, less moral, even nude on occasion. But that’s short-sighted; what’s more important is the way women like Kay Francis, Greta Garbo, and Norma Shearer used that reality to create female characters who were complex, capable, and (gasp!) in some cases better than their male counterparts. This is a good introduction to a wonderful time in the movie industry. **** stars.

HIS AND HER CHRISTMAS (2005)
Damn you, Dina Meyer! DAMN YOU! No stars!

THE DEVIL WITH HITLER (1942)
This is a bizarre piece of propaganda from Hal Roach Studios. It seems that the Board of Directors in Hell (yes, you read that right) are getting tired of Satan and want to recruit Adolf Hitler to be the new CEO. Satan makes them a deal; if he can get Hitler to do a good deed, he gets to keep his job. So Satan becomes Hitler’s valet and tries to make it work. Hitler, Mussolini, and a Japanese caricature named Sukiyaki become a sort of Three Stooges routine, running around like morons while Americans stand up to them and Satan tries to foil his plans. It’s a harmless 45 minutes long, but it has to be seen to be believed. *** stars. Why doesn’t anyone other than Trey Parker and Matt Stone have the spine to do something like this?

CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN 2 (2005)
Second verse, same as the first, only with a surprisingly unfunny appearance by Eugene Levy, more for Piper Perabo to do (yay!), Hilary Duff looking the worst she’s ever looked (boo!) and… well, Bonnie Hunt in a soaking wet shirt is good. And they give Alyson Stoner a bigger part, and since she’s a Disney kid, I’m all for that. I thought it was interesting how they reversed the premise of the first movie (before he didn’t have enough time for his family, now his family is too busy to spend time with him), but just like the first movie, there’s really no point to it. Harmless, but dumb. * star.

OVER THE HEDGE (2006)
Maybe you remember that I fucking hated Shark Tale and Madagascar, which were boring shite about existential crises hidden inside obvious characterizations, increasingly random lines from other movies in lieu of a script, and a serious lack of wit. Over the Hedge, thankfully, reverses that trend. Instead of casting the movie and then tailoring the script to the personae of the actors (fucking Shark Tale, I fucking hate you), the writers actually did the job of writing a pretty good script and hiring actors to bring the characters to life. Even the obvious comic relief character, Hammy the squirrel (voiced by Steve Carrel), is given a rounded, full emotional range. There’s a lot of criticism of American mass consumerism in there that is well-warranted, although I think it might have been a lot more genuine if the character hadn’t have shilled for Wal-Mart. And inside the standard family-and-honesty-are-important message, the film also points out the hypocrisy of people who move to the suburbs to get out of the city, then bring the city with them. Not too preachy, and very fun. **** stars.

M. HULOT’S HOLIDAY (1953)
This is the first of Jacques Tati’s series of films where he plays Monsieur Hulot (the second, Mon Oncle, is a favorite of mine). Here, M. Hulot is simply trying to spend a relaxing weekend at a resort, but other tourists keep disturbing the peace. There’s really not much more to it than that, but Tati keeps the gags coming, some of them belly laughs, some of them gentle. M. Hulot is always good-natured, of course, but somehow seems to cause havoc everywhere he goes. There’s an interesting undertone here of a cultural battle; postwar France is changing too fast for some of its people, the language is starting to slip in favor of English, and many are caught up in new technology and the new problems that come with it. Tati worries that people are becoming unable to enjoy the simple pleasures of the country, instead seeing them as obstacles. But it’s all very funny and very pleasant. **** stars.

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (1963)
Meh. It’s far too clean and antiseptic to be interesting. The only differences from any other version are that it takes place in Italy and the Beast is a werewolf. Otherwise, it’s too boring to even make fun of. No stars.

SUPERMAN RETURNS (2006)
Here are the things I liked about Superman Returns: the opening credit sequence (which mimics almost exactly the sequence from the 1978 film; the visuals are more dynamic, but the font is the same); the use of Marlon Brando (in archival footage from the 1978 film); and the score (virtually an exact transfer from the 1978 film, only in slightly different arrangements that apparently warrant John Ottman a “Music By” credit, even though John Williams might have had an open-and-shut plagiarism suit on his hands over that one). What did I hate? Every single other aspect of this movie. So, to recap, everything in this movie that I thought was any good came from a 28 year old movie. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again; apparently, Bryan Singer loves Richard Donner’s Superman, but just thought it would be better if he himself directed it. Why direct a Superman film and not have the guts to make your own movie? Bryan Singer and producer Jon Peters are so gutless, so spineless, so artistically dead inside, that they’ve tailored this film and its screenplay in such a way as to make the audience do all the work. Do you remember how much you liked Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder? Well, that’s what they’re working with here. They didn’t write a script that is remotely original. It’s not Superman Returns so much as Superman Photocopied with Insufficient Actors. Here, I even made a list of things about this movie that suck.

1. Brandon Routh. All he does is imitate Christopher Reeve, right down to the voice. He doesn’t create two separate characters (Clark Kent and Superman) the way Reeve did. He’s far too young for the role, anyway. And why does he look ridiculously padded in the costume? And for that matter, what’s with the costume’s faded colors?

2. Kate Bosworth is a terrible actress, worse even than the great Hole in the Screen of our time, Keira Knightley. She doesn’t have the gravitas to play a reporter, she always looks like she’s looking somewhere else instead of at the other actors, and she’s just generally unpleasant. The depiction of Lois Lane is insulting; her entire journalism career basically serves as metaphor for her feelings about men. What is it with male writers that they think a woman’s only motivation for anything is getting dumped? She’s winning a Pulitzer for an editorial titled “Why the World Doesn’t Need Superman,” but it might as well be called “Why I’m Okay Now with Getting Dumped by My Boyfriend.” And Kate Bosworth is way too young to have a kid that old.

3. The kid. He’s the second worst child actor I’ve ever seen, just after that girl I saw in that Lifetime movie last week who was supposed to be possessed and tried to kill Dina Meyer.

4. Kevin Spacey. Why is there no one else talking about how much he sucks? I can always see him acting, and it’s distracting. His much-vaunted performance in American Beauty is a virtual copy of several Jack Lemmon performances, especially The Apartment. He just sucks, I’m sorry. The depiction of Lex Luthor is pretty lame, too; swindling a dying woman out of her fortune, then attacking Superman with a Kryptonite shiv? Fucking stupid. And besides that, he seems bored most of the time, like he’s phoning it in.

5. The other actors are all pretty bad too. That guy what played Cyclops in X-Men is just always going to suck in everything. Parker Posey overacts, even for her. Frank Langella theoretically could be good, but has nothing to do. I’ve always found Sam Huntington irritating. And why hire Kal Penn and then never let him speak once?

6. The plot is pretty underwhelming. Superman has to return to Earth and fight a rich guy whose dastardly plan is to create a new continent and flood the United States so he has the best property? You’re kidding? His foul scheme is a real estate scam? Wow, superhero movies really aim low these days. The rest of the movie sucks even harder; Bryan Singer and his actors seem incapable of reducing even the barest facsimile of a recognizable human emotion. And Superman getting carted off to the hospital in an ambulance? Ridiculous!

7. The pacing is for shit. Seriously, what is this, some kind of new 15-act plot structure? The movie takes 125 minutes to tell a 94 minute story; sequences are far too long, there’s almost no action because everything’s so grandiose and overdramatic, and even the ending takes a half hour to go nowhere. I actually marked the moment in the film when I would’ve stood up impatiently and yelled out: “Just fucking END already!” by doing it at home.

8. The special effects are seriously bad. Everything is too heavy, too bleak, and occasionally pixilated. None of them are convincing, least of all anything Superman does, even when he’s just floating. Yeah, I liked Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow too, but Jesus, just because you can replicate shit in a computer doesn’t mean you should.

9. The writing is pretentious. The screenplay acts like Superman is really important, but the writers are too busy taking every little thing seriously to play up any kind of larger metaphor. Superman has always been a noble character to me; he’s not human, but he wants to be. He loves us so much that he not only protects us, he sets himself up as an example of what we could be if we just cared a little bit more. He’s not undefeatable (although I was offended by the scene were Lex’s henchmen beat up a powerless Superman), and even the depth of his power scares him sometimes. He wants to be us, and he’ll die to defend us. On the other hand, he’s the last of his kind, from a people that were destroyed, and he feels a gulf of loneliness that almost no one knows; he’ll always be unable to completely share his humanity with others, so he makes himself a symbol for them. That’s fucking beautiful. All Bryan Singer can do is riff on the Jesus thing. I think Superman dying and getting resurrected twice was a tad excessive. And ripping off John Byrne’s The Man of Steel? How about a little credit there. At least he understood the character.

I could go on and on, but why bother? At least BloodRayne, which is equally nonsensical and almost as equally pretentious, had the good grace to be short and unnoticeable. Superman Returns is easily one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. Worse even than Pirates of the Caribbean: Pick Whichever Part You Like, They Both Suck Ten Kinds of Ass. The fact that critics, especially of the nerdy online variety, were bending over backwards to pretend they loved this movie (despite the heavy flaws they still couldn’t resist pointing out) is asinine. Only an imbecile could enjoy this in any way. Guys, if you keep going to see shit like this and calling it gold, they’re just going to keep making them. Show some social responsibility. No stars.

Complicated Women

Some of the glamorous women of the Pre-Code Era.

CLARA BOW

MAE CLARKE

CLAUDETTE COLBERT

JOAN CRAWFORD

BEBE DANIELS

MARION DAVIES

BETTE DAVIS

MARLENE DIETRICH

IRENE DUNNE

KAY FRANCIS

GRETA GARBO

JEAN HARLOW

KATHERINE HEPBURN

MYRNA LOY

MAUREEN O'SULLIVAN

GINGER ROGERS

NORMA SHEARER

BARBARA STANWYCK

LUPE VELEZ

MAE WEST

LORETTA YOUNG