Monday, June 24, 2013

Friday, June 21, 2013

Who Am I Introducing?

Not much comment needed on this.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Man of Steel Review

(This review is going to contain spoilers, so this is your warning.)

I am - for those of you who may not know already - a huge Superman fan. One of the biggest you're likely to find, actually, and I have been since I was a kid. I've lost track of how many capes and Superman shirts I've owned through the years. I'm telling you this so that you'll know that I went into Man of Steel really, really wanting to like it.

I didn't.

I'm not quite sure where to begin, so I'll begin with the most obvious thing to me as I was watching it: the movie just didn't have whole lot of heart to it. I was very encouraged by the trailers. They made it seem as though we were going to finally get the Superman movie many of us have always wanted: one that focused on Clark's character, his influences and upbringing, his wanderings post-college and what makes him relatable - his humanity. We thought we were going to be seeing something akin to Batman Begins and see the process and the journey that Clark takes that makes him the man in Superman.

Unfortunately, what little there was of that was played out in a series of short, incomplete and muddled vignettes that made Clark look more like a clueless wanderer than a man searching for his place in the world. And it turns out that the movie is about the least relatable part of Superman - the Kryptonian part of him. He's not Clark. He's Kal. And that focus, I think, is where the disconnect begins.

The plot is a convoluted, confusing mess. The movie jumps around so much that it's often difficult to follow who we're supposed to be focused on and where we are in the world and who is there and whom we should be caring about. And there are no truly inspirational moments where you just want to stand up and clap or cheer or feel a huge sense or relief that Superman is there. Think of the moment in Superman: the Motion Picture where Superman is freed from the kryptonite chains in Luthor's underground lair. Or the moment in Superman II when Superman regains his powers and shows back up on the scene to fight Zod. Those kind of moments are wholly missing in Man of Steel.

And that's another thing that makes this movie a failure in my eyes - we just don't care about Clark or Lois or anyone, really, to be affected by their imminent danger.

The characters in Man of Steel are paper-thin. There's just no depth there. I found Lois's personality inconsistent throughout the film. Perry White was there, but Jimmy Olsen wasn't. But Steve freaking Lombard was there. I can't comprehend that decision at all. Clark Kent - the reporter - doesn't even make an appearance until the last minute or so of the film. Zod's motives are confusing from the beginning and Jol-El's appearance throughout the film is just weird. It's almost as if they said, "well, we've got Amy Adams and Russell Crowe in this movie, so we might as well write them into some scenes." And what's troubling is that the main character , Clark Kent (I don't say Superman because he clearly isn't that character), is an unknown to both himself and to the audience. We're not really given any reason to care about the characters other than that we know we should because we recognize their names.

And then there's the cursing. Why the cursing? I winced almost every time (with the exception of when Clark gets called dumbass on the fishing boat, which felt natural in the context) because it was  unnecessary. Three a-bombs, one a-hole and two d-words... in a Superman movie? In fact, it's the one thing (other than Zod's death scene at the end - more on that in a moment) that will keep me from taking my kids to see this film.  I'm just glad they bucked the trend of slipping at least one f-bomb into a PG-13 movie. Yes, this was supposed to be a darker telling of Superman, but let's not forget that at the very core that he's known for being clean and wholesome, and his movie should at least make an attempt to come close.

This movie was clearly written and made with the intention of trying to capitalize on The Dark Knight films, right down to the music. But that shows a fundamental misunderstanding of what Makes Superman Superman. He's the light to Batman's dark. He's the hope to Batman's fear. We only get a couple of brief glimpses of anything remotely approaching Superman or Clark Kent, most notably at the end of the film when Superman/Kal-el tells the army general that he was grew up in Kansas. And then there's the fact that Man of Steel breaks one of the cardinal rules of Superman: he doesn't kill. He kills Zod and he causes so much destruction in the form of falling buildings that literally thousands of people had to have been killed in the movie's hour-long fight sequence. And even worse, it doesn't seem to bother Clark/Kal-el.

The music was good, but it sounded a little more Dark Knight-ish (both were composed by Hans Zimmer)with it's heavy staccato and loud drones. And it troubled me that there was no real hook line to grab onto. There was nothing to hum. Batman had a hook. Star Trek had a hook. Heck, even Iron Man had a hook. The music was good, but I just didn't find it very memorable or heroic.
[edit: after a re-listen to some of the music from Man of Steel, I'd like to amend this statement slightly. The music does have a bit of a hook to it (at least in the main overture), but I just don't think it's as strong as it could be. It's no Star Wars theme or Terminator 2 or even, well, Superman. But I do like it.]

I did like the dynamic between Lois and Clark, however, or at least that Lois figures out that the mystery man is Clark Kent before there is ever even a Superman or a secret identity. It's an interesting twist that pays off at the end of the film when reporter Clark finally makes an appearance. But their relationship never felt like a romance to me. The filmmakers seemed to disagree, however. To me Lois and Clark/Kal seemed more two people who weren't really friends, but shared a secret. It was a bit awkward.

I thought the more sic-fi aspects of Krypton were interesting, as well. Not awesome, but interesting. I couldn't figure out why Krypton's top scientist - on a world where tech is everywhere, including ships that are capable of interplanetary flight - would ride around on a dragon-like creature. It was interesting. It just didn't seem to fit.

There are several things I don't understand about the film:

• Kal-el gets his super powers from Earth's yellow sun (as referenced many times throughout the film.) His cells act like solar batteries. Being on a Kryptonian ship in Earth's orbit would NOT strip him of his powers, regardless of whether the atmosphere aboard was set for Kryptonian physiology.

• Why would Zod need to kill Kal to get the codex of the Kryptonian people? Didn't we see Kal getting blood drawn on Zod's ship?

• Why was there a Kryptonian under suit that just happened to be outfitted with the crest of the House of El on a ship that crash-landed on Earth and had been there for 18,000 years?

• Why was Kal-el's Kryptonian suit colored red, blue and yellow when there was no color to any of the other Kryptonian suits in the movie, even on Krypton?

I started writing what man of Steel should have been, but I think I'll save that for another time. If the movie had lived up to the feel and the ideals of the teaser trailers, it would have been a good movie. It should have been a character piece exploring Clark's search for his identity and clues to where he came from. Lois Lane didn't even have to be in this movie, much less Perry White or any of the other Metropolis part of Clark that would come later. This should've been the search for Clark and the realization that despite the fact that he was raised as a normal child with loving parents, that he can do things that no mere mortal can do. The climax of the film could've been the eventual revelation of his Kryptonian heritage and his denial of the implications of that - that he's not a normal human, that he's all alone, that he's completely different, that's he's the answer to "are we alone in the Universe." We needed to see why, not just how he decided to become a hero and champion for justice (and actually, Man of Steel never really explains how, either). It needed to be more relatable. More human. More tender. It was headed that way, but it all fell apart pretty quickly on.

As a young boy, Superman captured my imagination. I was about my son's age when I went to go see Superman: The Movie in the theater. I remember seeing Superman II with my grandma one afternoon, and it was awesome. But Man of Steel won't be that movie for a new generation. There's not much here that separates him from any other random superhero in any other movie. And that's a shame.

It looks like we'll have to wait another generation to see if Hollywood can create a Superman origin story that really captures just what a great, human hero Superman is - not because he's from another planet, but in spite of it.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Real Face of Pure Hate

You wanna read what actual hate look alike? Forget all the times the lefties have accused conservatives of hate just because we have a fundamental disagreement with them about something.

If you want pure hate on display, look no further than the readers of the Huffington Post.

In a recent article on the Huffington Post, it was reported that radio and television commentator Glenn Beck had lost his voice due to vocal cord paralysis. In a ten minute video, he apologized for a lot of things and communicated some pretty introspective thoughts. He attacked no one. And he didn't claim that God had done this to him.

But check out some of the comments on the story to the Huffington Post story:

Makos62Glenn, this is God...shut up, or I make it permanent.

Mokus622Thank you Jesus!!!! Please let this be permanent......

PeriwinkleWow - I might get religion. Is this the hand of God at work??

crtt63How appropriate! Who said God doesn't have a sense of humor.

IrishRed1952Too bad it isn't permanent

admin001I am struggling with my better side to crank out some compassion for Glenn....

Ah forget it...thanks to The Powers That Be for shutting this Yakker's yap for a while.

gratnamAlmost makes me believe there is a God.

Kristi WintersHopefully it was contagious and Glenn caught it at the NRA conference.

iMissMollyIvinsIt was caused by 'the gays', 'the abortionists', and single mothers.

...and on and on and on.

I want you to remember this the next time someone claims that conservatives are the ones who are intolerant and filled with hate.


Monday, June 10, 2013

This is What Perjury Looks Like

The director of the NSA lied to Congress on March 12. This is what perjury looks like.

I wonder how long before he's thrown in prison in light of recent developments such as the leak of PRISM.

You Hide Things If You Know You're Doing Something Wrong

Friday, June 7, 2013

Told Ya

I hate to say it, but I called it two years ago. My mistrust in Google was well placed. I just never suspected that there were so many other companies involved in providing data to the government.

Simply put - the government that spies on its own people - people who have not committed or are even suspected of having committed - a crime is unacceptable. That government is not to be trusted in anything.

They're Spying on Us ALL

From the Washington Post:

The National Security Agency and the FBI are tapping directly into the central servers of nine leading U.S. Internet companies, extracting audio and video chats, photographs, e-mails, documents, and connection logs that enable analysts to track foreign targets, according to a top-secret document obtained by The Washington Post. 
The program, code-named PRISM, has not been made public until now. It may be the first of its kind. The NSA prides itself on stealing secrets and breaking codes, and it is accustomed to corporate partnerships that help it divert data traffic or sidestep barriers. But there has never been a Google or Facebook before, and it is unlikely that there are richer troves of valuable intelligence than the ones in Silicon Valley. 
Equally unusual is the way the NSA extracts what it wants, according to the document: “Collection directly from the servers of these U.S. Service Providers: Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple.”

Wow. And all Nixon did was authorize the break-in of a hotel room.

Ask yourself: "does this sound like a government that is using its power responsibly?"

Thursday, June 6, 2013

They Really Are Watching and Listening

From the Guardian:

The National Security Agency is currently collecting the telephone records of millions of US customers of Verizon, one of America's largesttelecoms providers, under a top secret court order issued in April. 
The order, a copy of which has been obtained by the Guardian, requires Verizon on an "ongoing, daily basis" to give the NSA information on all telephone calls in its systems, both within the US and between the US and other countries. 
The document shows for the first time that under the Obama administration the communication records of millions of US citizens are being collected indiscriminately and in bulk – regardless of whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing. 
The secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (Fisa) granted the order to the FBI on April 25, giving the government unlimited authority to obtain the data for a specified three-month period ending on July 19. 
Under the terms of the blanket order, the numbers of both parties on a call are handed over, as is location data, call duration, unique identifiers, and the time and duration of all calls. The contents of the conversation itself are not covered.

Remember, back during the Bush administration when our friends on the left breathlessly accused the president of wanting to wiretap and listen to every call in the United States?  Yeah. Well now something like that is actually happening.

Ask yourself: "does this sound like a government that is using its power responsibly?"

What Fourth Amendment?

The whole"we can collect your DNA any time we want" thing that came out this week has troubled me, but I couldn't really put my finger on why.

This is why.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Obama Administration in One Minute

Yep. That just about sums it up. They don't mince words in Oklahoma, folks.

Secret Government E-mails

From AP News:

Some of President Barack Obama's political appointees, including the Cabinet secretary for the Health and Human Services Department, are using secret government email accounts they say are necessary to prevent their inboxes from being overwhelmed with unwanted messages, according to a review by The Associated Press. 
The secret email accounts complicate an agency's legal responsibilities to find and turn over emails in response to congressional or internal investigations, civil lawsuits or public records requests because employees assigned to compile such responses would necessarily need to know about the accounts to search them. Secret accounts also drive perceptions that government officials are trying to hide actions or decisions. 
"What happens when that person doesn't work there anymore? He leaves and someone makes a request (to review emails) in two years," said Kel McClanahan, executive director of National Security Counselors, an open government group. "Who's going to know to search the other accounts? You would hope that agencies doing this would keep a list of aliases in a desk drawer, but you know that isn't happening."

It's getting harder and harder to not become a conspiracy nut.