Monday, June 27, 2005

Movie review: Batman Begins

Okay boys and girls, this is one of the movies that I was really looking forward to seeing, and I certainly wasn’t disappointed!

I’ve been disappointed before with Batman movies, though. Just about everyone who ever got a kick of seeing Michael Keaton playing Batman in the first two movies directed by Tim Burton felt betrayed when director Joel Schumacher cranked out “Batman and Robin” as a grade F camp movie that’s only good for two things: killing time and really wasting money.

When director Christopher Nolan, whose past works include the innovative “Momento”, announced that he was picking up the Batman franchise for its fifth movie, the one and only question from everyone was “Will this movie suck too?”

Thankfully Nolan answered that question with a resounding “HELL NO!”

Batman Begins” is about the birth of Batman, told in a way that really hasn’t been told before… from a realistic view. Everything about the Batman mythos, from the training to the tools to the cave to the car to the suit and even to the cowl itself was explained. Even the “pointed ears” of the cowl had a reason for being that way, which was demonstrated quite well in the movie.

Christian Bale plays the role of Bruce Wayne as slowly develops from a perpetual crime victim to a man looking for justice. His quest takes him to the other side of the world, where he is invited to train with the “League of Shadows” under a man named Ra’s Al Ghoul, who also supposedly seeks justice. Eventually, though, the justice that the “League of Shadows” wants involves destroying Bruce’s home of Gotham City. There is a great fight scene involved here, and Bruce returns home with a new sense of purpose.

A big problem with previous Batman movies has always been how Batman was portrayed the actors. Actors like Val Kilmer and George Clooney thought Batman was just Bruce Wayne in costume. Keaton got it right when he showed that Batman WAS Bruce Wayne, and the “millionaire playboy” was the real disguise. Keaton got it right, and so did Bale in this movie.

Bale’s Wayne isn’t perfect. He wakes up in the afternoon full of bruises from battling bad guys. He actually FEARS bats, which he uses as a weapon in some very ingenuous ways. As Batman, he doesn’t pose for the cameras or make charity appearances like Clooney’s version did. He skulks around like a ninja. He disappears when people aren’t looking. He makes people FEAR him, and in one memorable scene, he grabs a corrupt cop to the top of a building to shake him down for information. When the cop cries out “I swear to God,” Batman replies “SWEAR TO ME” before dropping him just a few inches from certain death. THAT is Batman! That’s the Batman that fans have been looking for all this time.

There are some big names in this movie as well. Ken Watanabe, Liam Neeson, Morgan Freeman, Rutger Hauer, Katie Holmes, Gary Oldman, and of course Michael Caine help flesh out the movie, but again, director Nolan made it clear that this wasn’t about star power. This was about telling a story. That was the other big problem with previous Batman movies, especially with the two made by Schumacher. Every character filled by a superstar in Schumacher’s movies was played to such an extreme that it couldn’t HELP but come out campy. That obviously didn’t happen here.

The movie shows Gotham as a city crumbling under rabid corruption and crime. It’s not pretty. It’s not glitzy and glamorous and larger-than-life with neon colors and oversized statues. It’s dirty, it’s diseased, and it’s dying. It’s the kind of city that we can recognize. And the struggle to bring it back up was also a great metaphor for the Batman franchise, which was also corrupted and brought down by its lack of credibility.

In short, if you’re a fan of the Dark Knight… and especially a fan of Frank Miller’s classic “Dark Knight Returns”… then you will LOVE this movie! Hopefully Warner Brothers can keep the same direction for the next two Batman movies that Bale is contracted to be in, especially given the hint of the next possible villain at the end of this movie.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Quick word on eminent domain decision

Just wanted to drop off a quick word about today's Supreme Court decision concerning Eminent Domain. Longtime Brutally Honest supporters know my stance on this. I've long opposed the repeated, systematic, and blatant abuse of government power that has come about through this power, but at the same time, I had a feeling that the highest court in the land would side with the government on this one. They just gave too many hints in their questions that they wouldn't go against precedence here.

And yes, that decision is a GRAVE injustice to Americans! Once again the justices made a SERIOUS constitutional MISTAKE in allowing local governments the ability to STEAL YOUR PROPERTY and directly hand it over to another private entity.

And yes, I am eager to talk more about it... but not right now.

First up, be sure to check out this week's Brutally Honest audio rant that gets uploaded this Friday evening. I do cover this subject in my rant along with some other serious issues.

Second, I will be going into this issue in detail in next week's column. The tentative title will be "The Death of Private Property in America". That should give you some idea of the direction I'll be taking this matter.

So be patient for a little bit, and believe me I will be going after this matter full-bore. And then come back here and vent away. I really want to hear your views on this matter.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

What? No "Oops" over Terri Schiavo?

The autopsy report came out today over the severely brain-damaged Terri Schiavo... and the doctors concluded that there were NO signs of physical abuse as claimed by the conservatives and neo-conservatives. NONE!

Remember that? Remember how the conservatives were screaming and shouting that Terri was abused by her husband and that supposedly led to her condition? Sorry, no signs of that ever happening.

Also, remember those claims that she was conscious enough to follow objects with her eyes? Apparently that was another impossibility, because her optic nerves were also dead from the brain trauma. That means that she was blind. Also, despite what some of the conservative experts who did not examine her claimed, there was no chance that she could have recovered from this kind of brain damage.

You know, guys, I understand the determination of Terri's family to cling to hope. I don't blame them for wanting a miracle to happen. I wish that could have happened to her. I do. This was not an easy subject to deal with. But all of these other people who basically turned this into a pathetic overblown media circus and were the ones who cranked out all of these false claims of abuse and paraded all of these quacks (i.e.. Senator Frist) in front of the media to give their "expert opinion" should be ashamed of themselves.

And YOU KNOW that they aren't going to apologize over this. YOU KNOW that they aren't going to ask for forgiveness for cranking out those abuse allegations. They're either going to wash their hands clean of the matter and say "oh well, we tried", or they'll refuse to accept the autopsy results. They might even claim that this is all just a conspiracy to cover the matter up. They don't ever want to admit that they were in the wrong!

And you know what? If the autopsy results did say that she was abused, I would have been one of the first people to ask for a grand jury hearing against the husband for possible murder charges. But there was no sign of abuse, no signs of anything other than the fact that she was suffering from osteoporosis from being in that persistent vegetative state. (You know... the condition that all of those pro-life people said that she really wasn't in.)

It's pathetic, it really is pathetic to see the depths that some moralists will sink to in order to get attention. Having seen moralism in action, I'm not surprised by it, but I am thoroughly disgusted by it.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Jackson verdict: heads are going to roll!

I feel really sorry for the prosecutors in the Michael Jackson case right now... because they will probably be out of a job real soon.

The so-called "Trial of the Decade" ended with Michael Jackson MOONWALKING after being acquitted on all charges against him.

Now folks, I'm not going to go into whether or not I think he did the things he's accused of. The fact that he looks like a melting reject from Madame Toussant's Wax Museum should be proof enough that this guy is about five beers short of a six-pack. He's got serious issues, and the fact that he has made an obscene amount of money in his life only added to those issues.

That said, the District Attorney's office had TEN opportunities to find SOMETHING to pin on Jackson in this matter, and the fact that he moonwalked out of court instead of being convicted means that the DA's office FAILED to do their jobs! You don't bring charges against someone with that much money and name recognition and then HOPE that you get a conviction. You have to guaran-damn-tee that conviction! You have to bet your job, your law license, and your family's name that you WILL get that conviction.

So right now every person handling the case in the DA's office is working on borrowed time. They had might as well find a new line of work, because it's extremely unlikely they will find work in the private field. In fact, I have a few lines that these folks should try out...

  • "Today's entree is the grilled grouper with Cajun spice and steamed vegetables."
  • "Would you like McFries with your order?"
  • "I'm sorry, but the shake machine is not working today."
  • "Paper or plastic?"
  • "Can I help you find a new car?"
  • "Hi, I'm with the temp service."
  • "What kind of loan can I help you find?"
  • "Ez-Lube Customer Service, how can I help you?"
And of course the ever-popular...

  • "Welcome to Wal-Mart!"

Jim "Blue Book" Exon: RIH!

So former Senator James Exon, the architect of the Communications Decency Act, has finally shuffled off this moral coil at age 83.

Good! He died after his masterpiece did!

This is the man who took the most salacious images possible, threw them into a blue binder, and then showed this dreaded "blue book" to every member of the Senate and told them that if they didn't support his bill, then they were supporting letting children see hardcore porn. That's how the CDA got passed in the Senate, and he used his power as chairman of the consolidation committee to make sure his law got inserted into the final joint Telecom law that Bubba Clinton signed in 1996.

Prior to 9/11 and the PATRIOT Act, this was THE most tyrannical piece of legislation since the Alien and Sedition Acts, and the courts wasted no time in putting a stop to his project! If this law was allowed to stand as it was written, then a lot of people would have been convicted of it, myself included. And we're not talking about the adult websites either! Anyone talking about the Ken Starr Report online would have been sent to prison. In fact Matt Drudge himself would have been convicted by this law, because he was the one that broke the Monica Lewinsky story from his website. Anyone wanting to talk about serious sexual issues would have been convicted. Anyone chatting in a chat room or sending email would have been convicted. Anyone in a newsgroup that uses language that wasn't super-santizied would have been convicted.

This man threatened the freedom of MILLIONS, and all to satisfy his ego-centered moralism! That goes to the heart of evil!

So now he's dead, just like the bulk of his project. And if there is any justice in this universe, then he is rotting away in hell where he belongs and where all of his supporters and allies who conspired to destroy the First Amendment will someday be going to as well.

(RIH: Rot In Hell!)

Friday, June 10, 2005

Something that makes you say "hmmm...."

Did you notice that the feds managed to bust up an alleged terrorist cell JUST BEFORE Bush Junior started his rant about the Congress extending and expanding the tyrannical PATRIOT Act?

Coincidence? I don't think so.

It's just too damned convenient to suddenly have this major and highly publicised federal bust go down JUST as the President is convincing Congress to give the government even MORE power and take away judicial review of these matters.

And exactly HOW do these "new tools" were used to bust this ring? Nobody wants to talk about that. It sounds more like this suspected "sleeper cell" was outed by good old-fashioned undercover work, and you wouldn't need the PATRIOT Act to do that. You just need people doing their jobs.

Congress needs to let this thug law die, but obviously they won't now because they essentially got "wagged" into it.

Oh, and don't fall into the LIE being spread by Bush and the Bush-supporters about these being "needed tools" for terrorism. The power these guys want will not be "just" used for finding bad guys. They will use it for EVERY case they have. EVERY charge, no matter how slight, will suddenly be treated like a homeland security case. It's already been used to go after a non-terrorist case in Nevada, so don't lie to yourself and say this stuff won't happen!

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Airline Workers: get ready to get screwed again!

So the big airlines want what United got though the federal courts, namely they want concessions on their pension programs.

A federal judge recently gave United Air Lines the right to back out of their pension obligations for five years, defaulting to the federal government... which will cover less than 70% of payments to those employees who contributed sizable portions of their own money into the system.

So now the rest of the airlines want in on that. They're going to Congress... hat-in-hand... and BEGGING Congress to relax the already super-loose pension rules so they can keep some more money and let the federal government pick up more of the costs of their pensions.

But members of Congress decided to give the airline execs a grilling for what they want. They're sitting in their committees with their self-righteous indigignation on full tilt, blasting the suits away about being irresponsible and reckless and all of the pain and misery that will be inflicted on the poor American workers!

Well I've got news for you folks... it's all an act.

Those same airline execs will be back to meet up with members of Congress, but they won't be back begging and pleading. Instead, they'll have their checkbooks out. They'll show up at the next fundraiser, or they'll foot the bills for the next Congressional junket.

The next thing you know, those rules breaks will be quietly inserted inside an appropriations bill, or tacked onto some other bill that has nothing at all to do with the airlines. And if the press gets wind of it, those same members of Congress that appeared to be so "concerned" about the poor American workers will turn around and say how America really NEEDS to have the airline industry survive instead of falling into bankruptcy.

Remember that these are the same people who run Social Security and the federal budget, and we know how "reliable" those things are, don't we? These are the same people who couldn't even run their own banks! Both the House and the Senate had their own banks, and both banks collapsed because the members of Congress drove those banks to ruin. If these guys can't even balance their own checkbooks or the checkbooks of the nation, how can they be expected to hold the airline executives accountable?

Oh, and it needs to be said... it doesn't matter which political party pretended to be on "your" side on this matter, both parties will hose you over. That's the one thing that's truly bi-partisian about Congress... both parties will hose you just to pocket some extra campaign bucks or to lay out in the Bahamas!

So yeah, all you guys in the airline industry who have invested in your pension program should expect that infamous letter from your big bosses saying that you're going to lose about a third of what you've been putting in over the years, and you're not going to get it back. It's gone... pocketed by your employers as part of their big bonuses, or else given to the same members of Congress who pretended to get all high-and-mighty in your name.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Quick review: "Oil Storm"

Watched "Oil Storm" on FX last night. This was one of their original creations, from the same network that came up with "The Shield", "Rescue Me", and "Nip/Tuck". It's also owned by Rupert Murdoch, the same guy who owns and runs the conservative-leaning Bush-kissing Fox News. There's a reason why I mention that, and you'll find out in a bit...

Here's the synopsis: A series of events - some natural, some accidental, some caused by terrorists - cause America's oil pipeline to be severed. Prices go through the roof, and then through the stratosphere. America is crippled by the economic repercussions of being without oil, and everything that the politicians do seem to only make the matter worse.

The movie is done in documentary style, which means there's a lot of phony news footage and "home videos" to carry the story along. Some of the footage seems real, others came out too fake. Some of the "home video" footage manages to capture the human drama on events as they happen, while others come out too pressed.

My only gripes are two-fold.

First, there's a "happy" ending to this movie that is just not realistic. I won't say what it is, but once you see it, you'll know it isn't realistic. A last-minute miracle by the Bush Junior White House to "save the day" and everything starts to right itself because of it. First the Bush Junior people can do nothing right, and then suddenly they find that last-minute save and everything is okay. God bless America and God bless Bush Junior. Yeah, right. That's why I mentioned that FX is owned by the same person who owns Fox News.

My second gripe is that not ALL of the key issues were touched on with this movie. The key message given is "hey, we can't trust Saudi Arabia for our oil!" And that's true. We can't bet the bank on those guys. But it doesn't go into the fact that we haven't had any new refineries built in two decades. It doesn't deal with the various EPA regulations that force refineries to come up with different blends for different vehicles. It doesn't mention that all of that oil we have in the Alaskan Oil Pipeline goes to tankers that go to the Asian countries instead of staying in this country. It doesn't mention ANWAR. It basically focuses on our dependence on Saudi Arabia and suggests a few other alternatives, but not all of the alternatives.

Speaking of which, with all of the chaos and resistance and outright riots that break out, why is it that nobody talk about impeaching Bush Junior in this hypothetical account? Well we know the answer to that question... because this is a Rupert Murdoch production. The fates can work against the Bush Junior White House, but it cannot do any wrong according to Murdoch's operation.

This is a really good movie, though, and one that I strongly recommend that people watch, because this stuff CAN happen to us. Just be mindful of the subtle pro-Bush hints near the end of it.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Supreme Court To Sick People: DROP DEAD!

That should be the headline in tomorrow's newspapers... but of course they won't be so cruel.

The Supremes basically sided with the federal government today and said that their laws override states rights when it comes to medicinal use of marijuana. The 6-3 decision can basically be summed up this way: If you want sick people to use pot legally, you have to go through Congress to change the law. You can't have the states do it.

The problem being, of course, that Congress will NEVER EVER have the courage to do it! These are the same folks who BLINDLY voted for the PATRIOT ACT! And they're going to RENEW that law again and expand on it!

Remember Prohibition? Congress overwhemlingly voted for the Volstead Act, and they absolutely REFUSED to repeal Prohibition even after it was proven to be a failure. People had to summon the Constitutional Convention to override Congress and repeal the Volstead Act.

Well I think that's going to be the only way we can fix some of these problems. We're going to have to override Congress.