Saturday, July 12, 2008

Hancock Isn't The First Superhero Screw-Up

Now that Hancock is a hit, people may be tempted to describe it as the first example of a whole new genre: the superhero who's a walking (or flying) disaster. But don't believe the hype: there have been caped catastrophes for nearly as long as there have been superheroes at all. Click through for our roundup of the most disastrous and least can-do of our spandex-wearing protectors. With minor spoilers for old comics and TV shows, probably.

The Greatest American Hero. Soon to be a major motion picture, probably starring Will Ferrell or Jack Black. This TV show features probably the most archetypal semi-competent hero, complete with out-of-control flying and crashing into things. Ralph Hinkley loses the instruction manual for his super-suit and is stuck trying to figure out how to control its awesome powers by himself.

Green Hornet. No, not the original radio or TV versions of the Batman-esque crime-fighter — stop writing those angry comments! — but we're getting the distinct impression the upcoming Seth Rogen movie will feature a sloppy hero whose sidekick, Kato, is the famous and can-do member of the duo.

Ambush Bug. Actually, is Ambush Bug even a hero? In his first appearance (which I have somewhere, and which is probably worth a whole dollar now) the teleporting insect guy tries to assassinate the mayor of Metropolis. But he quickly becomes a kinda-sorta superhero, who mostly mocks the conventions and tropes of comics and gets killed over and over again. He also fails to save his doll sidekick, Cheeks The Toy Wonder, from being dismembered. Poor Cheeks.

Most of The Tick's supporting cast. At least in the animated TV show (It's been forever since I read the comics), the Tick is a semi-competent hero who often misses what's right in front of him. But at least he manages to defeat his enemies most of the time, with the help of his sidekick Arthur. Most of the other heroes i the Tick's world, like Die Fledermaus, American Maid and Sewer Urchin, are too self-absorbed or silly to be much use most of the time.

Most of the cast of Jim Valentino's normalman. Normalman crashes on a planet where he's the only non-superhero, but most of the superheroes he meets are worse than useless. Sure, Captain Everything has every super power ever, but he's so dim-witted he usually just makes matters worse. And Levram's main superhero team is too busy taking attendance to do anything else.

The Legion Of Substitute Heroes. They're the superheroes whose powers aren't cool or useful enough to join the future Legion of Super Heroes, but they keep trying anyway, and finally do save the world from an alien plant invasion. Antenna Lad can tune into radio broadcasts from any era, but only at random. Chlorophyll Kid can make plants grow fast. Color Kid can change the color of any object. Infectious Lass can inflict disease, but has a hard time aiming this ability properly. Etc. etc.

Rod Rescueman is a bumbling superhero in the animated movie Twice Upon A Time. He's got his superhero learner's permit, which is just a blank piece of paper (but it's notarized!). Attempting a practice run at rescuing a "damsel in distress," he inhales all the flames around her — then breathes fire at her, singeing her to a crisp.

The Inferior Five. Another parody superhero team, they have the requisite lame or out-of-control powers. "He can fly — if the wind's with him!" "She's stronger than an Ox — and almost as smart!" Ha ha, aaaaah yeah. Anyway, weirdly enough they had their own title that lasted 12 issues.

Irving Forbush. Marvel Comics' semi-mascot and hero of its Not Brand Echh comic, Forbush Man wears a crockpot on his head and stumbles through a series of wacky adventures.

Major Bummer. Soon to be a major motion picture (well, according to IMDB anyway), this short-lived 1990s comic was about a slacker who accidentally gets superpowers from aliens. But he just wants to sit around on his couch and watch TV. Unfortunately, the aliens also cause him to attract supervillains, including a Nazi dinosaur called Tyrannosaurus Reich.

Mystery Men. Already a major motion picture! William H. Macy, Ben Stiller and Hank Azaria are loser superheroes: Macy's The Shoveler, who can handle a shovel, Stiller's Mr. Furious, who has rage powers, and Azaria's "effete British superhero" The Blue Raja. Loosely based on the awesome Flaming Carrot comic by Bob Burden, this movie shows second-rate superheroes who finally do triumph over the A-list supervillain Casanova Frankenstein.

Kinnukiman was one of the most influential characters in the Japanese Shonen Jump anthology comic back in the day — a weak superhero that you'd call on if all the other, better heroes weren't available. A muscle-bound idiot, he was always getting into wacky scrapes. Later, he turned out to be an alien prince, and he went off to fight in an intergalactic wrestling federation.

Nuklear Man: Like Hancock, the hero of Brian Clevinger's novel The Nuklear Age has amnesia, and can't remember anything before he appeared in the rubble of a nuclear attack on Metroville's power station. Also like Hancock, he has Superman-esque powers and is totally self-absorbed and obnoxious... plus, he's easily distracted by shiny objects.

Superflop was the alter ego of British comedian Les Dawson, the superhero who failed utterly to protect the town of Leeds from the Masked Fred. (Dawson's show Sez Les, regularly featured John Cleese and Olivia Newton John — a combination that' s hard to imagine.) Superflop also got to star in his own comic strip in British comics magazine Look-In.

The Roach is the all-purpose stand-in for every lame superhero, in Dave Sim's misanthropic comic Cerebus. The Roach's other guises include Wolveroach, MoonRoach (a take-off on obscure superhero Moon Knight) and Punisheroach.

Super Melvin is possibly the dumbest ventriloquist's dummy of all time, operated by ventriloquist Jeff Dunham. Here's a clip of his act, from Comedy Central.

Zeroman was an animated series a few years ago, starring Leslie Nielsen as the ne'erdowell protector of Fair City, the alter ego of mailman Les Mutton.

Webcomic VG Cats features Pantsman, the alter ego of the comic's author, who disguises his identity by wearing underpants on his head.

Demolition Man. Poor D-Man. He started out so promising, as a super-wrestler who refused to throw a fight with the Thing from the Fantastic Four. (How exactly do you throw a fight with the Thing anyway? Lose more?) Later, it turned out he was addicted to super-strength drugs and had to kick. Finally, in the pages of Daredevil, he went nuts and started stealing jewelry thinking he was collecting infinity gems for a "Cosmic Gamemaster." He was living in a pitiful sewer lair, until Ben Urich sent D-Man's idol Daredevil to get him out of there.

Captain Rightful is "the incompetent, armless superhero" in Jay Stephens' graphic novel The Land Of Nod.

Red Tornado. The original Red Tornado was Abigail "Ma" Hunkel, who put a saucepan (yes, again) on her head and went out to fight crime. But she ripped her pants and had to go home again. Later, she was replaced by an android that used to be evil but isn't any more, who has the awesome power of making wind. Yeah.

Wonderella is sort of a ditzy female version of Superman, in the webcomic The Adventures Of Wonderella.

Commenters daviddonne and Johnny Zito point out that I somehow forgot the Great Lakes Avengers, the midwestern branch of Marvel Comics' flagship super-team. They're mostly pretty useless, like Mr. Immortal, who's like Torchwood's Captain Jack — kill him and he just bounces back. But the group has a ringer: Squirrel Girl, who can control squirrels and somehow manages to defeat Doctor Doom and a number of other A-list supervillains single-handed.

And then commenter Trystero pointed out I missed The Pro, a sex worker who gets superpowers from meddling aliens. She's actually quite an effective superhero, but she's also a bad role model, urinating on a vanquished foe and using her superspeed to give tons of blow jobs for a quick profit. You can read the whole thing here, for now at least, but be warned — it's pretty NSFW.

Original here

Comrades in Chaos, Invading Iraq

The mini-series “Generation Kill” documents the profane, and sometimes profound, experiences of an elite Marine reconnaissance battalion leading the 2003 invasion of Iraq.


Restraint can be as important to a serious television drama as it is to art collecting or the dinner table. Particularly when the subject is as raw as war, sentimentality or florid emotionalism can offend and even repel viewers. Its exercise can be a sign of respect and sensitivity, but it can also seem smug, a veiled form of one-upmanship.

“Generation Kill,” an HBO seven-part mini-series about the invasion of Iraq that begins on Sunday, is bold, uncompromising and oddly diffident. It maintains impeccable dignity even as it tracks a group of shamelessly and engagingly profane, coarse and irreverent marines, members of an elite reconnaissance battalion that spearheaded the invasion. The odyssey of these men from training tents in Kuwait to occupied Baghdad is laid out with brutal candor and without the aid of maudlin cinematography or emotive music. The closest thing to a thematic score is the starched, staticky clatter of radio traffic: “Roger that” and “This is Hit Man II, over.”

It is a true story of combat and male bonding, but it is told disjointedly and atonally, perhaps because it pursues clashing goals. “Generation Kill” tries to honor the ordeal — and the humanity — of its heroes while exposing the futility of their quest. It was written by David Simon and Ed Burns, the team behind “The Wire,” and was adapted from the prizewinning book by Evan Wright, a contributing editor at Rolling Stone who was embedded with Bravo Company for the duration of the assault.

The script is faithful to Mr. Wright’s account, respectful of the soldiers he befriended and as opaque and ascetic as “The Wire,” an opus that forced viewers to parse multiple plots and a huge cast of characters without directions or subtitles.

The main people in “Generation Kill” are numerous and hard to distinguish, and even the most basic story lines are blurry and difficult to follow. It’s as if the creators wanted to resist any comparison to HBO’s classic World War II series “Band of Brothers,” by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks. That could stem from a desire to stake out a different kind of wartime storytelling. But it is also a way to avoid condoning or romanticizing a war that most Americans no longer view as necessary, or even wise.

Yet no matter how flat or diffuse its affect, “Generation Kill” is at its best a tale of battle-forged camaraderie, a “Band of Brothers” set not at Agincourt or Normandy, but Iraq in 2003.

Mr. Wright’s opening conceit in the book, and it is an understandable one, is that these highly trained troops, raised on hip-hop, video games and “South Park,” are somehow a different species from the men who fought in World War II and even Vietnam. He describes them as the disenfranchised orphans of a post-Monicagate society, a generation desensitized to violence, captive to pop culture and more disaffected from authority. “Culturally, these marines would be virtually unrecognizable to their forebears in the ‘Greatest Generation,’ ” Mr. Wright wrote in his prologue.

It’s a different war, but warriors don’t change that much from one conflict to the next. The men who fought at Guadalcanal and the Battle of the Bulge would probably feel right at home.

The first episode opens with marines training in the desert of Kuwait, practicing martial arts, insulting one another with crude, lewd racial slurs and gay-bashing jokes, mocking pious letters from schoolchildren, reading skin magazines and waiting restlessly for war to start. They are preoccupied not with the latest BBC reports, but with rumors that Jennifer Lopez, or as they refer to her, J. Lo, has been killed. Mostly they grouse about idiocy up the ranks, the generals and politicians who sent them into combat with shortages and inappropriate equipment (including woodland camouflage for a desert war) and absurd grooming standards — basically an updated version of Bill Mauldin’s World War II grunts and dogfaces.

It takes a while, but two men in First Recon’s Bravo Company emerge as the Willie and Joe of “Operation Iraqi Freedom”: Sgt. Brad Colbert (Alexander Skarsgard), known as Iceman, a lean, tautly disciplined and laconic team leader, and his driver, Cpl. Josh Ray Person (James Ransone), who is small, wiry and relentlessly chatty. Amped up on the ephedra-based stimulant Ripped Fuel, Ray entertains — and irritates — his comrades with nonstop George Carlin-like riffs about their mission, the Iraqi people and the real instigators of the war. (Starbucks is one. The North American Man/Boy Love Association, Nambla, is another.) The men sarcastically sing Avril Lavigne songs, and read Hustler and Noam Chomsky.

Brad and Ray, veterans of Afghanistan, remain cool and even sardonic under fire and show contempt for less sanguine officers who panic and holler.

Mostly they and their brethren pride themselves on being professional killers, eager to fire their weapons and in their Marine-barracks parlance, “get some.” They complain about their deprivations and boast about the Recon marine’s ability to make do without. “See, the Marine Corps is like America’s little pit bull,” Ray explains to the Rolling Stone reporter (Lee Tergesen). “They beat us, starve us, and once in a while they let us out to attack somebody.”

It is in keeping with the series’s sense of propriety that Mr. Wright’s tale is never about Mr. Wright. The reporter is in the lead Humvee on all the missions but remains a self-effacing minor character, not a star.

“Generation Kill” avoids cheesy cinematic clichés, but some are unavoidable simply because they are true. As in every platoon in every classic war movie, this one is a cultural collision of archetypes: the Southern hick, the Los Angeles gangbanger, the Dartmouth graduate and even a New Age and fitness nut who wants to move to San Francisco because he says there are no fat people there.

Under the leadership of Lt. Nathaniel Fick (Stark Sands), a courteous platoon commander who gets in trouble for questioning inane orders from his superiors, Bravo fights the enemy while dodging the mistakes and personality disorders of officers. The worst include Captain America, a souvenir-obsessed hysteric, and Encino Man, a huge and dangerously dimwitted former football star favored by the battalion’s ambitious and at times reckless commander, Lt. Col. Stephen Ferrando (Chance Kelly), known as Godfather because of his raspy voice, a result of throat cancer.

Brad and his team are intent on avoiding civilian casualties, but they abound: a shepherd and his camel, shot by a trigger-happy 19-year-old lance corporal; an Iraqi driver who didn’t understand the warning shots fired from a Marine checkpoint; a hamlet of women and children obliterated by a bomb.

Avoidable civilian casualties are unavoidable in any war. “Generation Kill” also highlights the collateral wrongs that are specific to this conflict — early harbingers of a quagmire yet to come.

Marines look on helplessly as Baghdad is looted and children succumb to disease and chaos. The men find a wallet on an enemy fighter that identifies the man as a young Syrian who wrote the word “jihad” on his entry papers. “This is the opposite of what we want,” Lieutenant Fick tells the reporter. “Two weeks ago he was still a student in Syria. He wasn’t a jihadist until we came to Iraq.”

“Generation Kill,” which has a superb cast and script, provides a searingly intense, clear-eyed look at the first stage of the war, and it is often gripping. But like a beautiful woman who swathes herself in concealing clothes and distracting hats, the series fights its own intrinsic allure.

Original here

Nine Inch Nails sends fans to downward spiraled drainpipe

On Monday night, I trespassed in Griffith Park, ran from men with flashlights and retrieved a valuable envelope hidden inside a drainpipe.

No, I’m not a secret agent. Just a Nine Inch Nails fan.

To kick off the band’s upcoming tour, they are hosting an exclusive concert in Los Angeles on July 19. Spots on the guest list go to the craziest fans, and I’m on it.

The band posted a file to its website with concert tour locations a couple weeks ago that visitors could download and open in the Google Earth software. Last Friday, a mysterious place marker appeared on the map, labeled “under the rock,” that pointed to a location in Burbank. Beneath that rock was an envelope giving the lucky discoverers entree to the show.

That event kicked off a viral campaign that puts fans in treasure-hunt scenarios, but with the pressure-cooker timing of an episode of “24.” Trent Reznor and Co. have a reputation for these unusual stunts. The band launched an alternate reality game in 2007 for its “Year Zero” album. That adventure sent fans digging through a digital trail of cryptic websites, calling phone numbers and analyzing digital files found on memory sticks in concert venue bathrooms.

Reznor, a Los Angeles resident, has long given special treatment to fans in his home city. He arranged a secret show in April of last year for local fan club members, who were contacted by cellphone and told to meet in Echo Park.

Message boards were buzzing all weekend about the Friday event, as local NIN-heads waited for the second concert ticket treasure hunt. That time came around 7 p.m. Monday when the next marker, titled “in the drainpipe,” appeared.

My brother TJ, a 33-year-old hard-core fan who has followed the band across continents to attend shows, was one of the first to see it. “We’ve got to go,” he shouted as I sat bewildered on the couch. “We’ve got to go right now!”

As he drove down winding back roads, I kept asking why he was breathing so heavily, why he was yelling and why he was driving almost double the speed limit. He told me to shut up and memorize the map. You know how big brothers can be.

When we pulled up to a side entrance at the park, we were greeted by a locked gate and a parked minivan. A sticker adorned the car’s rear window that read “NIN.” We were at the right place.

TJ veered his car onto the curb, jumped out and started running. As I jogged behind him, I began to understand why my brother has long been obsessed with the industrial rock group. Reznor’s constant efforts to provide a surreal fan experience make it easy to get pulled in.

As we neared a split in the road, a man shined his flashlight in our faces. “We found it,” he said. But we knew the prize wasn’t where they were walking from. We ran past the wannabe saboteurs, and as I began recognizing areas from the satellite images, I felt a burst of adrenaline. I sprinted past TJ and stopped at the spot I had remembered, sweating and gasping for air.

He jumped in the ditch, and using his cellphone as a makeshift flashlight, he reached into the drain.


NIN tickets: “in the drainpipe”As we jumped up and down, celebrating our victory, it was obvious that Reznor had accomplished his goal. Those feelings of excitement and anxiety are the same emotions he aims to put across in his music. And that could explain why fans have been so overwhelmingly receptive to such a bizarre spin on one of the oldest forms of music promotion — a ticket giveaway.

– Mark Milian

Photo of Reznor by Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times; photo of TJ’s jackpot moment by Mark Millian

Original here

8 Ways They're Going to F**k Up the Dragonball Movie

<justin_chatwin_goku.jpgem>By Bryan Hartzheim

We’ve now seen the first poster of the live-action Dragonball movie, and it is not satisfactory. Let’s start with the good: they got the number of stars on Goku’s original Dragonball correct. And now the bad: Bulma looks like Claire from Resident Evil, Master Roshi looks like Chow Yun Fat wearing a Hawaiian shirt, Chichi looks like nothing, Goku looks like he’d be at home at a bro bar, and Mai—who gives a shit about Mai? At best, she was a minor comic foil to Pilaf’s antics. She doesn’t throw a punch in the whole comic series. Worst of all is how Goku holds his Dragonball like Yamcha’s weak-ass “super move,” sokidan.

This does not look good. Next thing, we’ll be getting Krillin totally written out of the movie and replaced by some random asshat. Wait, this has already happened, you say? This movie is shaping up to be one giant ass-eating piece of suck. Before things get any worse, we’ve assembled a must-have list of elements for the movie to retain from the series in order to keep the spirit of the original Dragonball intact. That’s right, the original series (the arc this movie is being based on); no “It’s over nine-thousaaaaaand!” Z bullshit here. Not including a single one of these things will result in something significantly worse than Dragonball GT.

8) No Gratuitous Shots of Bulma’s Boobies
By last count, Bulma bares her bust at least three times to various horny males, including the time Oolong changes into her to show her vanilla pudding bags to Master Roshi (she also does one emphatic flash of her bottom half, for good measure). Yes, before she became relegated to fixing broken Dragon Radars and sporting groovy new hairstyles of the day, Bulma was the series resident fan service who flashed us more than a drunken college chick in Girls Gone Wild (well, nearly as much). To be deprived of her rack for a sissy PG-13 rating would be a disservice to any red-blooded male and many rugged, rack-appreciating females (God bless you gals!). Emmy Rossum’s shirt should come down at least twice, with close-up of Yamcha's nosebleeds when appropriate.

7) Starring More Svelte Femme Fatales than Testosterone-Induced Warriors
On that note, seriously, the entire Dragonball series has like, two legitimate female fighters, one of whom is an android. Even including the movies, the world of Dragonball is not a female-friendly place. It’s a Darwinian landscape where women are shoved to the margins, and in those margins make rice balls for the hungry warriors. We don’t care what women are thinking about, unless it’s about how their men are so difficult to deal with—as they should be, the world-saving bad-asses that they are. So why does the poster have more chicks than dudes on it? Where the hell are Krillin, Tienshinhan, and all of Piccolo’s instrument-named henchmen? Why is Mai suddenly his right-hand “man”? This just smacks of marketing deception and equal opportunity employment. The fact is, in Dragonball, the women can’t do it too. Get Chichi back in the house making Gohan a geek; again, pull Bulma’s shirt down all the way to her ankles; and if we must include Mai, at least “reinvent” the series with a little lesbian action with Lunch in both her incarnations (is she even in this movie? No? Blasphemy!). Please, ladies, let us guys have this one and just go and eat chocolate and sip chardonnay or whatever it is y’all do together on a Friday night.

6) Making Goku More Like Gohan than God
Speaking of Chichi, all indications of story synopses point to a sad, sad premise of the movie: Goku is a high school student. Goku is a simple, generous soul, and probably the strongest manga character who ever lived. He is not, however, a student. Goku hates school, or, at least, he can’t read. We’ve never seen him read anything other than a Dragon Radar, and we’re not about to start with any of that learning nonsense now. Save the school story arc until the mentally-weak Gohan (that's him above) enters the story. Leave Goku, eternal savior and representative of the little guy (remember, he is the lowest level of Saiyan) as he is.

5) Replacing the Japanese Music with Generic '80s Metal

Man, Dragonball had some great music didn’t it? Of course, I’m talking about the original Japanese mood music, not the bastardized American metal rock. Don’t believe me? Compare the intros. First, the Japanese original Dragonball theme song:

It gets you pumped for the action and journey, with inspirational lyrics like “The world is itself a giant treasure chest,” and “Let’s break through the sky on cloud machines” that testify to the adventure of the search for seven magical orbs from God. The American song, on the other hand:

A bunch of assholes screaming “Rock the Dragon!” to wailing guitars like Ultimate Warrior’s intro music. It’s a little catchy in a mindless chant sort of way, but we’re taking the “mystical” quotient down several notches with this kind of stuff.
4) Creating Original Characters for the Movie
Original characters created apart from the author’s intentions are never a good idea. That’s how creatively-challenged anime TV series always fuck up the original manga – they include unnecessary, unmotivated characters who have no relevance in the grander story arc, but can fill up precious screen time by stalling us while the manga’s creator thinks of new ideas. Hence, bland and derivative characters like Pikkon (or Paikuhan, above), the robot on Kaio’s tiny planet, and every filler character in Naruto. The movie is already including lame “schoolmates” of Goku’s named Weaver and Texas Battle. These characters should not have any role whatsoever in the movie other than to die swift, grotesque deaths, ala assassin Tao Pai Pai's tongue-into-the-temple. That being said, we don’t need every single dead member of the Red Ribbon Army either (just General Blue—he’s hilarious!). Speaking of dead characters, making Master Mutaito into Sifu Norris, played by Ernie Hudson, just sounds plain retarded, as does this description according to DB the Movie: “Male, late 50s—early 70s, noble and intelligent man, regardless of race or nationality.” Let me get this straight: you mean to say he’s intelligent despite his race and nationality? Wow, imagine that! Racist xenophobes.

3) Making Yamcha and Yajirobe Cool
Okay, so it appears that no animal characters are going to be included in the film, hence robbing us of an Oolong vs. Puar shape-shifting derby. (On a side note, we submit that Oolong and Puar make the best Dragonball slaves. You could make them change into every hot celebrity who ever lived and have sex with them – in Oolong’s case, however, only in three-minute quickies. Or you could send one to work everyday while you lie at home and have sex with the other one’s celebrity likeness. The possibilities are endless.) But with Piccolo as the main adversary, Vegeta not yet in the story, and Krillin, Goku’s BEST FRIEND, inexplicably written out of the entire movie, we might be seeing a lot more of Yajirobe and Yamcha, two of the most laughably weak characters who’ve ever lived on the combustible Dragonball earth as Goku’s posse. We love them, but they must be used as comic relief, if at all.

Yajirobe is, to quote Urban Dictionary, “a pussy-ass character in the Dragonball series who pretty much does nothing except eat and give the other fighters senzu beans.” Perfectly said; he’s a fucking coward. But Yamcha looks like he’s going to enjoy some underserved bad-ass status when in reality he’s probably the most pathetic character in the entire series. Did you know that if you do something sad but hilarious like fall on your ass in a Japanese gym class, the other kids will say you pulled a Yamcha? (Check out this Japanese “tribute” to Yamcha’s efforts.) We’re talking about a character who, after his colleagues learned elaborate fireballs, sound-piercing energy blasts, and razor-like slicing beams, still thinks he can get by with the “Wolf Fang Fist.” Can’t anyone do the “Wolf Fang Fist”? It’s just a bunch of punches and kicks. Even when Yamcha does something more complex like a Kamehameha blast or spirit ball, he manages to fuck it up somehow and get killed or maimed right after. I could go on and on about Yamcha.

2) Kamehameha Abuse
For all the jokes about Dragonball being a one-dimensional anime and manga series where the characters only use Kamehameha blasts to kill each other, they’re simply unfounded. Only two battles in the entire manga series have been decided by a Kamehameha: the Cell saga, and one early on where Goku turns a giant octopus into takoyaki (it’s true; look it up). The anime series uses Kamehameha blasts considerably more, but again, TV series always screw with the original creator’s intent. That being said, Kamehamaha blasts, while they must be doled out incrementally and with caution, need not be the end-all either. Goku and co. have finished off opponents by slicing off their heads; flying jump kicks and head butts to the abdomen; razor-blade beams cutting bodies in half; spontaneous combustion; delayed combustion; energy collected from the planet; turning people into cookies; and by switching bodies with frogs. Let’s not forget any of that invention.

1) No Fighting Tournaments
Do you know the rumored story of how Akira Toriyama nearly ended Dragonball barely a couple dozen episodes into its initial run? Apparently, audiences weren’t digging the mix of martial arts and humor following Toriyama’s mega-gag manga Dr. Slump, so Toriyama was instructed by his editors at Shonen Jump to end the damn thing. Toriyama thought to himself that if he’s going to go out, he’s going out with a bang, and decided to pit all of his characters against each other in an elimination-style fighting tournament. The rest, as you know, is history, and the movie needs to incorporate this history by having at least one grand fighting tournament, and also having Wayne Knight or Dom DeLuise play that filthy fucker Bacterian. You know, there are not nearly as many good obese actors as there used to be.

Original here

Feature: Top Ten Movie Presidents

Watching those ridiculous YouTube Democratic presidential debates the other day made me ask myself: what movies had better presidents than the current crop running for office? As usual I set right to work to figure it out.

Criteria: Must be a president, elected or otherwise (obviously); has to have more than just a quick entrance/photo op; exhibit a unique quality

10 President Lindberg Tom “Tiny” Lister Jr.The Fifth Element
President: Lindberg
Quality: Dumb
It’s true, he can’t enunciate his words particularly well but so what! Just knowing this man, with the intelligence of a grapefruit, was able to rise up to become the President of the United Federated Territories lets me know the future is going to be a great place. Thankfully, I’ll be dead by then.
9 President-Elect Dobbs Robin WilliamsMan of the Year
President-Elect: Tom Dobbs
Quality: Humor
On a lark, this late-night talk show host decides to run for office. Amazingly, he gets elected. Williams in all his looniness comes across as a likable guy. It’s also always a pleasure to see stuffed shirt posturing lose out to common sense and lightheartedness in a debate.
8 President Whitmore Bill PullmanIndependence Day
President: Thomas J. Whitmore
Quality: Leadership
Pullman might be slightly miscast in this role but all is forgiven when he leads a squadron of planes into the heart of invading aliens. Yeah, his rally cry may have been a bit corny, but any president willing to risk certain death gets my vote.
7 President Beck Morgan FreemanDeep Impact
President: Tom Beck
Quality: Compassion
How much does it suck to have most of the East Coast disappear due to a comet strike during your administration? Ask Beck. He handles the dire situation with care and the utmost class. Could we expect anything different from Morgan Freeman? I think not.
6 President Shepherd Michael DouglasThe American President
President: Andrew Shepherd
Quality: Regularness
This is probably the most realistic portrayal of the president in any movie. The most powerful man on earth is humanized and made to be just a man. Douglas doesn’t disappoint either — he nails the role.
5 President Richmond Gene HackmanAbsolute Power
President: Alan Richmond
Quality: Mean
Hackman portrays one ruthless son-of-a-bitch. He’ll stop at nothing to cover-up the murder of his mistress by the secret service. His actions lend credence to the statement: Absolute power corrupts absolutely. I know I’ll never piss anyone off in government ever again.

4 President Marshall Harrison FordAir Force One
President: James Marshall
Quality: Tough
This is our tough guy president of the list. He kicks the ass of Russian hijackers, flies Air Force One and does some crazy high-wire act between fighter jets — as they’re flying! If one has to lead by example, this is one hell of an example for others to follow!
3 President Dale Jack NicholsonMars Attacks!
President: James Dale
Quality: Squirreliness
This president doesn’t get much accomplished after the Martians land and attack. As things fall apart all around him, the best he can drum up is, “I want the people to know that they still have 2 out of 3 branches of the government working for them, and that ain’t bad.” I feel better now, don’t you?
2 President Muffley Peter SellersDr. Strangelove
President: Merkin Muffley
Quality: Meekness
His name alone should invoke images of a nerdy guy out of his element. It turns out he actually is totally worthless as he does absolutely nothing during a nuclear crisis. Peter Sellers captures Muffley’s complacency perfectly.
1 President Mitchell Kevin KlineDave
President: Bill Mitchell/Dave Kovic
Quality: Honesty
Okay, so he doesn’t actually get elected president, but he takes the place of the president and runs the country for a short while. I think this is the kind of president every American yearns for. He is an everyday kind of guy, who wonders aloud why everything is done in such an asinine manner. He can’t be real!

Yes, I know there are hundreds more. Before, you start randomly thowing names at me, think about it. Then give me the qualities these individuals exhibit and the movies they’re in.

By the way, we are so screwed in the next election . . .

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Quantum of Solace Quad Poster

By Kellvin Chavez on July 11, 2008

Santi sent over the British quad poster for Quantum of Solace the 22nd James Bond 007 film, starring Daniel Craig Mathieu Amalric, Olga Kurylenko, Anatole Taubman, Gemma Arterton, Joaquín Cosio, Dame Judi Dench, Jesper Christensen, Giancarlo Giannini, and Jeffrey Wright.

The film is due out on November 7th 2008

"Quantum of Solace" continues the high octane adventures of James Bond (Daniel Craig) in "Casino Royale."

Betrayed by Vesper, the woman he loved, 007 fights the urge to make his latest mission personal. Pursuing his determination to uncover the truth, Bond and M (Judi Dench) interrogate Mr White (Jesper Christensen) who reveals the organisation which blackmailed Vesper is far more complex and dangerous than anyone had imagined.

Forensic intelligence links an Mi6 traitor to a bank account in Haiti where a case of mistaken identity introduces Bond to the beautiful but feisty Camille (Olga Kurylenko), a woman who has her own vendetta. Camille leads Bond straight to Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric), a ruthless business man and major force within the mysterious organisation.

On a mission that leads him to Austria, Italy and South America, Bond discovers that Greene, conspiring to take total control of one of the world's most important natural resources, is forging a deal with the exiled General Medrano (Joaquin Cosio). Using his associates in the organisation, and manipulating his powerful contacts within the CIA and the British government, Greene promises to overthrow the existing regime in a Latin American country, giving the General control of the country in exchange for a seemingly barren piece of land.

In a minefield of treachery, murder and deceit, Bond allies with old friends in a battle to uncover the truth. As he gets closer to finding the man responsible for the betrayal of Vesper, 007 must keep one step ahead of the CIA, the terrorists and even M, to unravel Greene's sinister plan and stop his organisation.

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5 Famous Sci-Fi Weapons That They're Actually Building

By Philippe Boucher

Ever find yourself watching a movie, and at the moment the villain whips out an elaborately sinister doomsday device, you say, "Hey, I wouldn't mind having one of those things!"

Well, it turns out defense contractors are thinking the exact same thing. The only difference is they have billions to spend to make it happen. Coming soon to a battlefield near you:

The Advanced Tactical Laser, Boeing's Flying Laser Cannon

We've been waiting for a good freaking death ray for, oh, about 70 years. So when Boeing says, " ... directed energy weapons are relevant to today's battlefield and are ready to be fielded," we pay attention.

Now, Boeing's already doing a few interesting things with laser technology on a smaller scale (like mounting devices to Humvees and using them to detonate bombs from a safe distance. They can also put a bigger one in a jumbo jet and use it to destroy incoming ICBMs from hundreds of miles away. But those are hardly death rays, right? They're reassuring defensive measures designed to protect our brave men and women!

That's where the Advanced Tactical Laser comes in.

Designed to engage (that is, utterly destroy) ground targets, the ATL is a weapon fitted to an aircraft like a C-130 transport plane. From 10,000 feet up and five miles away, this 40,000-pound, megawatt-class, chemical laser will melt a hole through a tank.

Or should we say, tanks. The ATL is intended to strike up to 100 targets in rapid succession. Oh, and the beam's silent. And invisible. One moment you're having a nice cup of coffee atop your troop transport, the next you're a smoking hole in the ground.

This space age, science fiction gadget is scheduled for live fire demonstrations later this year.

Where They Got the Idea:

Independence Day.

Or, quite possibly from the 1985 Val Kilmer comedy Real Genius.

Railguns, the Navy's Fleet-Destroying Doom Cannons

If you're into sci-fi or first-person shooters, chances are we had you at "railgun." For everyone else, there's the above picture. If you can't make out the writing there, it says "Velocitas Eradico." Speed destroys. That's from a recent railgun demonstration by the US Navy.

Railguns work by electrically generated magnetic repulsion, no toxic chemicals or propellants involved--so yay, finally a gun that kills people and not the environment! In the test pictured above, the projectile was fired with an electric charge of 10.6 megajoules, that's a one second pulse of 10.6 million watts, or enough electricity to power the average American household for a year. When applied in a single split second to an aluminum slug that's much, much smaller than your house, it's enough to make the slug do Mach 7. For those of you who just imagined a seven blade razor, first pretend you're not an idiot, and then try to conceive of something moving fast enough to ignite the air around it and to fuck up anything it strikes in ways science barely understands.

How far away are these things? Well, the Navy intends to put 64 megajoule railguns in their new, all-electric DD(X) battleships, which should be ready in 10 years.

Winston Churchill, in a quote that wasn't used on Navy recruiting posters, dismissed Naval tradition as "rum, buggery and the lash." In American, that's "rum, boning dudes and the lash." If Churchill's right, we just hope the rum makes the sodomy go down easier. We'd join a radical off-shoot of Scientology that thought Tom Cruise was too heterosexual and timid in his beliefs if there was a chance we'd get to fire a railgun.

Where They Got the Idea:

They seem to have combined Quake's railgun ...

... with the BFG 9000 from Doom.

The iRobot Warrior, brought to you by Roomba! The Robotic Floorvac

The world has already gone from bomb disposal bots (which seemingly half the police departments have now) to patrol robots fitted with assault rifles. So what's next? Fully-armed droid soldiers?

Well, they decided to skip that step and went right to droid soldiers that can fire a million fucking bullets a second. The company iRobot (yes, the Roomba guys) are teaming up with Australian weapons company, Metal Storm, to create Warrior. iRobot will provide the robot part, and Metal Storm provides the Firestorm weapons system, and revolutionary guns that work by stacking the ammo in the barrel and cooking it off via electrical impulses.

The result is a robot that can shoot little 40 mm grenades at you at a rate of 4,000 a second.

Having the rounds triggered electronically meshes well with a computer targeting system. And the guns are designed not to jam, so don't count on that once these bastards start rolling down your street.

Or maybe we should just relax. After all, iRobot says Warriors are "being engineered with advanced software, giving them the ability to perform some battlefield functions autonomously."

See? Perfectly harmless.

Where They Got the Idea:

It reminds us of the unmanned Hunter-Killers that roamed the landscape of the future in the Terminator series.

It probably would have reminded us of the ED-209, but iRobot scrapped their original plans to make them look like a robotic chicken fucked a machine gun toting fencing helmet.

"Rods from God," Space-Launched Kinetic Megabombs

There's an urban legend about a woman killed by a shaft of frozen urine fallen from a plane's leaking toilet. Then there's the one about pennies dropped from the top of the Empire State Building, passing through pedestrians' skulls like bullets. Then there's the one about telephone pole-sized tungsten rods dropping from an orbital weapons platform at 36,000 feet per second to impact the earth below with the force of a meteor strike.

Guess which one you won't find on Snopes under "stupid bullshit?"

Yes, enormous Swords of Damocles hanging in space are one more reason to lie awake at night, thinking about how much safer we feel thanks to science.

The so-called Rods From God system would have two satellites placed in orbit, one to control communication and targeting, the other containing the rods. When released, nothing but gravity and a little remote guidance is needed to bring them down on target like the wrath of Zeus.

The brute force of hundred-kilogram rods traveling over 7,000 MPH makes them ideal for penetrating underground bunkers, your mother, and hardened nuclear missile silos. You know, things you might find in a rogue state, in violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Such treaties don't apply to hypervelocity rods, though they strike with the force of a tactical nuke, they produce no radioactive (and far less political) fallout. The US Space Command (where we always claimed our Dad worked even before we knew it existed) says they plan to have this capability by 2025.

Where They Got the Idea:

These apparent James Bond fans seem to have combined the orbital death laser from Diamonds Are Forever with the wicked-awesome spear gun Bond used in Thunderball.

Modular Disc-Wing Urban Cruise Munitions (i.e. Exploding Flying Saucers)

We know what you're thinking. "C'mon, Cracked, that's Photoshopped! You don't really expect me to believe the military has flying saucers?" Well ... they might. One thing they definitely have are Lethal Frisbee UAVs, or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles.

These are robotic drones being developed for the Air Force by Triton Systems, who believe they're well-suited to urban combat environments. Fired from a device like a skeet-launcher, the discs then fly via remote or internal guidance into hostile, heavily-defended areas.

High maneuverability would allow them to, say, access an upper story apartment or flank and close on an entrenched enemy position. When near the enemy, the drone detonates. Its MEFP warhead will spray the area with armor-piercing shrapnel to shred infantry or, alternately, form a single-targeted explosion to destroy heavy vehicles or perform demolition work.

Basically just imagine this thing ...

... only killing a bunch of dudes.

So all this means that pretty soon it'll be easy to spot insurgents. They'll be the ones with the champion Frisbee dogs.

Where They Got the Idea:

We're thinking the Manhacks from Half Life 2, the irritating little hovering robots with their spinning blades.

Only instead of cutting you, it blows the shit out of the room you're in, killing everyone nearby. So quite an improvement, really.

If you enjoyed that, check out our look at futuristic movies that already got it wrong in 2001 to Timecop: 8 Movie Futures Already Proven Wrong. And then watch the video that explains The REAL Reason Guns Are Dangerous.

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Episode 12: Marketing at the Movies: From distraction to infraction.

In this week’s episode, I rant about the movie going experience, the marketing surrounding it, and how’s it’s gone from distraction to infraction.

You can either listen to this post via podcast:

Or read it as a blog post:

Wanted, starring Angelina Jolie

I went to the movies to see the new blockbuster WANTED starring Angelina Jolie and Morgan Freeman during its opening weekend. My review? A great summer action movie that played out as The Matrix meets Office Space. Very slick. Very enjoyable.

But NOT so enjoyable was the process leading up to the movie. The pre-game, if you will, was unbearable.

Remember the claims that movie companies were placing subliminal messages (Drink Coca Cola) in their pre-movie intros? They were attempting to get you to buy something without you even knowing it.

You were forced to sit in the semi-dark theatre, chomping on popcorn, and actually (gasp!) talking to the person you came with. Cheesy music played in the background while you waited for the previews.

So it was a minor breakthrough when theatres came up with the idea to show you amusing, time-passing “Movie Scramble” games.

The next step was an ad for the local pizza joint or tavern that looked like they simply scanned in the print ad that they ran in the phone book that year, and put it up on the big screen.

But all that has changed…

Now you’re getting full-featured commercials and highly produced movie shorts pitching products for minutes on end. And it doesn’t stop with the theaters simply bringing in revenue from outside businesses.

They’re in on the game as well, pitching the fact that you can watch a standup routine of a comedian I’ve never heard of, movie-style. This strikes me as a weird genre. I can listen to stand-up on Sirius Radio or on podcasts and still get the jokes. Or I can have the full experience with a boisterous crowd at one of a dozens standup shows in Manhattan.

But really? Paying money to go to a movie theater to watch a comedian perform on screen?

Even the message to turn off your cell phones was an ad. There’s a giant 30 foot screen saying Shut Off Your Cell Phones. Everyone is looking at the screen. There is nowhere else to look. We get it. We’re supposed to turn off our phones. There’s still going to be that one moron that forgets, but we understand.

So why is the message up there not for 5 or 10 seconds, but 30 seconds or more? Why of course… it’s the glowing, pulsating AT&T logo at the bottom.

Really? That’s where their money is best spent? Do you think anyone, anywhere is signing up for a specific cell phone carrier based on seeing their logo on a Shut Off Your Phone movie promo?

How does that conversation go?

Marketing exec # 1 says: You know boss, we’ve heard from people in the field. Research shows buyers are really confused with our smart phones, they don’t know the difference between the Moto Q, the Blackjack, the Palm Centro, the 4 Blackberry models, or the Treo. We recommend allocating some marketing dollars to make up some collateral so people can easily read about the advantages of each model. What do you think?

Marketing exec # 2 says: No, I have a better idea. We don’t want to help people that are already in our store ready to buy and use our phones. Instead, lets pick a random place like a movie theatre, and put up our logo on the screen that tells everyone to TURN OFF THEIR PHONES. That would be a huge success.

Know what my suggestion is? Give that money back and cut the price of text messages on the iPhone. A recent TechCrunch article that got popular on Digg computed that the cost of text messages under the new iPhone plan was $1,310 per megabyte.

Apple iPhone

OK, again, we get it. You’re subsidizing the cost of the iPhone. But do you have to take ALL our money? I have a feeling that it doesn’t cost you upwards of $20 a month in expenses for users to send a few hundred texts at 160bytes of data.

Some people complain about the number of “real” movie trailers that they show, but that’s been well-documented, and most people enjoy those, so I’ll give them a pass. Ditto for paying $9 for a ginormous package of teeth-rotting gummi bears or bushel of popcorn and a 55 gallon drum of Pepsi. It’s been that way for years and the difference is, you have a choice. You can choose not eat or very easily snag a 99 cent bag of Twizzlers at the convenience store across the street.


But the number of commercials was relentless, with some even being shown twice. At times it was hard to distinguish between a commercial and a new trailer. That’s because it was a trailer. As a commercial. As opposed to the trailers that were trailers.

But to my surprise, the unwanted marketing experience transcended from the screen to the theater itself. I heard a voice in the aisle behind me, and turned to see a representative from the theater. She was making some kind of announcement, and I feared that we had lost air conditioning power. Earlier while I was waiting in the lobby, they made an announcement that the 3pm showing was still on, but that one particular theater in the building did not have air conditioning. Kind of a problem on a 90 degree day.

This was confirmed to me as I witnessed 2-3 ladders crowded near the entrance, with only maintenance workers legs visible as their unseen torso disappeared into the ceiling, frantically trying to repair some hidden generator as the temps neared triple digits outside. Or maybe they were just manequin legs giving us a false sense of work being done. Either way, cool air – and cash — was escaping the building.

But no, the representative wasn’t informing us of any problems in the theater. Not content with making us sit through ads, they were now going to physically take our cash. Along with a handicapped male in an electric wheelchair, they proceeded to slowly pace the aisles – Sunday church style – asking for cash donations to the Boys and Girls Club. Of course this charity is a fine organization. I am sure they do wonderful things. My heart goes out to the individual in the wheelchair. Please please, be generous and donate to the Boys and Girls Club.

But I prefer to donate to charities of my own accord. As an athlete by nature, I freely give to friends and co-workers running or biking for a good cause. Because people close to me have battled cancer, I’m focusing more of my donations on organizations that are working on a cure. But to solicit money from me simply because we were an easy mark - a captive audience that could not get away – seemed exploitive, both for the handicapped worker, and their targets. I can tell you the audience was visibly awkward.

Another blogger once wrote (apologies for not having the link to reference) that the difference here was that we paid money for one thing (to see a movie), and because we had, we were entitled to that and just that – a movie going experience. We didn’t ask to see commercials before the film started. We can’t get away. Forget about timing it to come on right as the previews start. On a Saturday in downtown Manhattan? That’s fine if you bring your first row neck brace.

On TV, there is an understanding. You watch free TV, the content is subsidized by commercials. Conversely you can pay for HBO or Showtime and see no ads. Surf your favorite website for free? You’ll likely see some banner ads. Pay for Sirius radio? Most stations have no advertising.

Yes, there was a time when audiences were concerned that corporations were subliminally selling their products. There was a time when theatres were happy to distract you with word puzzles and trivia. That time is long gone. The theatres have crossed the line from distraction to all out infraction. They know they have you. And now you can’t miss it, and you can’t get away.

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