Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The 25 Sexiest Daily Show Moments: #5-1

We've had quite a sexy week together, you and I. It's hard to believe that in ten years, we'll grow so passionless and distant. More roommates than lovers, really. Until then though, we've still got #5-1 of the sexiest Daily Show moments. And that's something. Isn't it?

If you missed #25 through #6, there are links at the bottom of this post.

#5 Battle of the Bulge

We always knew Ed Helms was sexy. We always knew he'd look great in a Speedo. But it wasn't until his employment of a state-of-the-art nut-cam that we knew it was love.

#4 News I'd Like to F@#k

How great is Sam Bee? She's the best thing to come out of Canada since round bacon. Best of all, she's been pregnant on the show, so you know she puts out. Total DSCILF.

#3 Popping a Big Tent

We've already seen Stephen Colbert erotically eating a banana, and it was hot. It was damn hot. But when it comes to Colbert erotically eating things, I think Colbert erotically eating pizza wins.

#2 Sexism

Sexism? More like sexyism. Am I right? When I first saw this segment, my intial reaction was a boner. Then, my second reaction was another boner. But, my fourteenth reaction was to compile the very list you're reading right now. God bless you, Ms. Schaal.

#1 Moment of Zen: Shirtless

Can you imagine finding an old film strip of Charlie Chaplin, Albert Einstein and Martin Luther King shirtlessly writhing and posing together? I mean, you know things like that happened all the time, but to have it preserved on film? Well, that's exactly what it felt like to unearth this magical video. Someday your grandchildren will show this to their robots.

Previously: The 25 Sexiest Daily Show Moments: #10-6

Previously: The 25 Sexiest Daily Show Moments: #15-11

Previously: The 25 Sexiest Daily Show Moments: #20-16

Previously: The 25 Sexiest Daily Show Moments: #25-21

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Who should be the next Batman villain?

Warner Bros.
Aaron Eckhart is the latest actor to take on Harvey Dent (aka Two-Face). In Tim Burton's "Batman Forever," Tommy Lee Jones played the same character.

By Christopher Bahn
MSNBC contributor

Perhaps no other superhero has undergone such drastic reinventions over the decades as Batman. The Caped Crusader was invented in 1939 by Bob Kane and Bill Finger as a night-stalking noir detective who used his fearsome bat-inspired costume to terrify criminals.

When comic-book violence became a political hot potato in the 1950s and 1960s, the mandate was whimsy above all, and Batman was softened into a cheerful, colorful hero whose exploits were often downright silly.

He got even sillier in the 1960s TV show starring Adam West, a series that so successfully satirized Batman that for many years the character was synonymous with the goofiest side of superheroes. But since Frank Miller’s landmark 1986 miniseries “The Dark Knight Returns,” Batman has returned to his dark roots.

Director Christopher Nolan embraced that version of Bruce Wayne with 2004’s “Batman Begins” and the new “The Dark Knight,” with a gritty, realistic approach to superhero storytelling that stays as far away as possible from the comic approach of the TV show or the goth-campy movies kicked off by Tim Burton’s 1989 “Batman.”

As such, Nolan has to be careful about what characters to draw on for his version of Batman: It was no mistake that he chose the terrorist leader R’as al Ghul and the fear-spreading Scarecrow as the antagonists for “Batman Begins.”

“Dark Knight” brings in two of Batman’s most popular villains, The Joker and Two-Face, and reinvents them in a grimmer, more frightening mode. It’s a near-certainly that “Dark Knight” won’t be the final installment in Nolan’s series, and with that in mind, here’s a look at which villains in Batman’s roster would fit Nolan’s un-whimsical vision — and which wouldn’t.

Femme fatales: Catwoman and Talia al Ghul
Bruce Wayne’s only paramour so far in Nolan’s films has been his childhood friend Rachel Dawes, a squeaky-clean city attorney who inspires him to be a force for good. But Batman’s relationships in the comics have included several women whose moral character is cloudy gray, not lily white.

Jewel thief Selina Kyle is a habitual criminal, but she does adhere to a moral code of her own, even if it often puts her at odds with Batman.

His relationship with anti-heroine Talia al Ghul is perhaps even more complicated; she’s the daughter of R’as al Ghul, the terrorist villain of “Batman Begins,” and has divided loyalties, sometimes aiding her father’s plans for world domination, and sometimes siding with her lover. Although Batman has repeatedly foiled the illegal schemes of both father and daughter, R’as approves of Batman’s romance with Talia and would like to see them married; in some stories, Talia and Bruce Wayne even have a son.

Nolan-ability rating: Catwoman: A-. Talia al Ghul: B-
Catwoman seems almost certain to show up eventually if the current Batman series continues. Talia, on the other hand, probably won’t unless R’as al Ghul also returns, given her character’s intertwined relationship with both men.

Costumed crime lords: Penguin, Black Mask, Scarface and The Ventriloquist
Batman helped clean up Gotham City’s organized crime, but clearing out the villains opened the door for supervillains: tougher, costumed foes who could give Batman a run for his money. “The Dark Knight” sees the introduction of the two most prominent, The Joker and Two-Face, but there are plenty of others, some of them awfully bizarre.

The dapper, gentlemanly Penguin, played with quacking elegance by Burgess Meredith on TV and reimagined as a grotesque hunchback by Danny DeVito in 1992’s “Batman Returns,” is portrayed these days in the comics as an eccentric but efficiently scheming criminal who controls much of Gotham City’s underground. Though this Penguin’s not as flamboyant as past versions have been, it’s still hard to take him seriously out of the comics’ operatically weird world, and Nolan himself has said moving Penguin into the movies would be “tricky.”

A better pick might be Black Mask, a ruthless and brutal crime boss who takes his name from his ebony skull disguise, and comes with the twist that he bears a grudge against Bruce Wayne rather than his Batman alter ego.

Much thornier would be Arnold Wesker, a mild-mannered ventriloquist who keeps a bloody grip on his criminal empire but will only speak though his dummy, Scarface, a wooden doll carved to look like a 1930s gangster. Scarface’s story is more tragic than Penguin’s since The Ventriloquist is so deeply insane, but ultimately the duo would probably be laughed out of the theater.

Black Mask would fit perfectly, especially if they need another villain in Two-Face’s evil mode.

Nolan-ability Rating: Penguin: D. Black mask: B. Scarface: D.

Monster men: Man-Bat, Killer Croc and Clayface
Although Batman has more than his share of psychotic nasties in his rogue’s gallery, most of them are still human. That’s not the case with this trio, who are beasts and monsters in body as well as mind.

Man-Bat is the Mr. Hyde-like double of scientist Kirk Langstrom, who transforms uncontrollably into a giant winged mammal after a lab accident. Killer Croc, similarly, is a mutated beast-man who’s slowly becoming less human and more crocodilian over time. He’s not really much of a lead villain in his own right, but would make an excellent secondary bad guy. There have been several versions of Clayface, but the most well-known version is a bloblike creature that can change its shape and eats humans to survive.

Nolan-ability Rating: B+ for all three.
Visually these guys are among Batman’s most interesting villains, but there’s one potential problem: So far, Nolan’s movies have steered clear of overtly fantastical elements. R’as al Ghul, for instance, is basically immortal, but that’s only hinted at in his appearance in “Batman Begins.” If Nolan decides that monsters will work in his Bat-world, all bets are off.

The puzzlers: The Riddler and Cluemaster
Played as an outrageously over-the-top cackling bad guy by both Frank Gorshin on the TV show and Jim Carrey in “Batman Forever,” Edward “Riddler” Nygma wears a trademark green suit covered with question marks and specializes in leaving Batman mocking puzzles at the scene of his crimes — or hints at future dasterdly deeds, daring Batman to stop him. His jester-like qualities sometimes make him something of a low-rent Joker, but lately in the comics he’s turned over a new leaf and reinvented himself as a detective, solving puzzles instead of creating them.

Speaking of pale imitations: What would “Jeopardy!” quizmaster Alex Trebek be like if he turned his formidable game-show hosting abilities to evil? That’s essentially the premise of Cluemaster, who turned to a life of crime as after being fired from his high-profile TV job, with a signature attention-grabber of leaving clues behind for Batman to follow. Even the Riddler, not exactly the least gimmicky of villains, felt contempt for Cluemaster’s shtick, which he thought was a rip-off of his own.

Nolan-ability Rating: The Riddler: B. Cluemaster: D.
The Riddler’s apparently got a pretty good shot at a future film, if you can believe comments made recently by Gary Oldman, who plays Commissioner Gordon in the series. Anthony Michael Hall has been rumored to play the role, and “Doctor Who” star David Tennant reportedly would love to do it.

Penny Plunderer
It’s not exactly uncommon for a Batman villain to have a theme that all his crimes and misdemeanors revolve around, but Joe Coyne’s particular peccadillo was possibly the most pathetic of any of them: He was obsessed with pennies, going to ludicrous lengths to steal rare coins and one-cent stamps, and defended himself by hurling rolls of copper coins at Batman’s head. After getting caught, the poor schmuck got sentenced to the electric chair, which seems harsh for a guy who was, after all, just small change.

Nolan-ability Rating: C-.
He’d work as comic relief, but the series hasn’t shown much inclination to need any.

Pop quiz: Which villain got the highest ratings on the 1960s “Batman” TV show starring Adam West? The answer might have even longtime Batman fans asking “who?” Weirdly enough, the most popular guest villain was none other than the flamboyant pianist Liberace playing a dual role as a pair of twins — famous pianist Chandell and his evil brother Harry, who schemed to steal a fortune from Batman’s Aunt Harriet and blackmail his own brother in the bargain.

Nolan-ability Rating: D-.
A villain played by Liberace is pretty much the dictionary definition of “camp,” exactly what Nolan’s avoiding.

Just as Superman is often plagued by the mischievous genie-like extradimensional being Mr. Mxyzptlk, Batman has his own magical imp who pops in every now and then to sow trouble. Bat-Mite doesn’t really mean any harm, and in fact has a childlike hero-worship of Batman, but whenever he uses his magic to “help,” he usually just complicates things.

Nolan-ability Rating: F.
Bat-Mite only works as a character if you keep things light and zany. Put him in a movie, and you might as well put Homer Simpson, Daffy Duck and the Tasmanian Devil in there while you’re at it.

© 2008 MSNBC Interactive

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Heath Ledger talks about playing the Joker in “The Dark Knight”

I gotta say that it at first creeped me out to re-listen to the interview I did with Heath Ledger about a year before he died from a prescription drug overdose. The idea of repackaging his thoughts on “The Dark Knight” initially struck me as a bit exploitive considering the hype around his acclaimed performance in the Batman flick that opens Friday.

I interviewed Ledger in December 2006 when he was promoting the independent Australian film “Candy,” which features one of the many memorable performances by the actor. Ledger had just been cast as the Joker, and I couldn’t help but wonder what the guy would bring to character who had been portrayed by everyone from Cesar Romero to Jack Nicholson. We didn’t discuss the role for very long, but I think what’s repackaged in this brief podcast at least provides a glimpse into the performer’s uneasiness with the expectations that come with starring in a blockbuster.Dark%20Knight.mp3

Both fans and industry insiders are speculating that Ledger will receive a posthumous Academy Award nomination for his anarchistic take on Batman’s most celebrated nemesis. And might he even pull a Peter Finch, who died in 1977 before winning the best actor Oscar playing troubled TV news anchor Howard Beale in the movie “Network?” (Finch’s unforgettable performance achieved its immortal status when his enraged talking head successfully convinces his audience to collectively open their windows and bellow “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore!”)

But what I am instead left with is how much Ledger seemed committed to following his own path, to taking roles that intrigued him or fed his creative side. Remember, after breaking out in the very mainstream “A Knight’s Tale,” Ledger made a conscious choice to skip over the big-budget popcorn movies and do the likes of “Monster’s Ball,” “Brokeback Mountain” and “The Brothers Grimm.” His interpretation of the Joker, though a character from a huge film franchise, is in the spirit of his other creative choices.

Ledger seemed to have his eyes on his future, on a career that would continue to surprise him as much as his fans. And hearing him speak about it all these months later, I’m left with the sadness of knowing that we’ve undoubtedly missed out on a slew of great, unrealized performances.

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The Best On-Screen Portrayal of ‘Batman’ Characters


Batman has had a very long history on our screens, making his first appearance in a 1943 serial, over 20 years before Adam West would pull on the purple Batman costume. As such, we’ve had a veritable slew of actors portraying the likes of Batman, Robin, The Joker, and other characters from the Batverse over the years. But just who are our favorites, and who should never have been?

I’ll take a look at the Batmans of the last 60 or so years, as well as a random assortment of villains and heroes that joined Batman along the way. I will say though, that to do justice to the 1960’s Batman TV series would take a lot longer than I have, given that Wikipedia has over 35 listed villain guest stars, including John Astin as the Riddler, Eartha Kitt as Catwoman, and Vincent Price as Egghead. You really can’t beat them for campy, but they don’t really match up to reality.

Batman: The Animated SeriesBatman

The battle for best Batman has long been fought, but only recently decided. Prior to Christopher Nolan’s 2006 Batman Begins, my personal favorite (and many others would agree) was Michael Keaton. In tandem with Tim Burton, they portrayed a dark and surreal Batman that I loved. However, soon came Val Kilmer and George Clooney, who made a mockery of one of the greatest characters ever.

However with Nolan’s Batman Begins came Christian Bale, who for most, has taken the mantle as best Batman ever. He was realistic, gritty, young, and has an acting talent unlike any of the others.

But all of that being said, my title still goes to another man: Kevin Conroy. Or, maybe I should be giving the award to producer Bruce Timm, the man who is responsible for the animated version of my favorite superhero. Conroy’s voice is perfect for the role, and I still can’t get past the sheer amount of the animated Batman that I have seen.

Batman: The Animated Series, Mark Hamill's JokerJoker

Arguably Batman’s most fiercest villain, the Joker, appears in more comics than any other Batman villain. He has been depicted throughout comics and on screen in a veritable plethora of forms, from inhuman to a scarred malformed human.

Jack Nicholson portrayed the Joker in the 1989 film Batman, directed by Tim Burton. But he was more of a clown — the uncle you don’t like to have round at Christmas — than the Joker really was. He shot people, killed people, laughed, but he wasn’t… the Joker.

Now the only real choice we have, in my opinion, is once again laid at the feet of Bruce Timm, but this time voiced by none other than Mark Hamill. That’s right, for those of you not aware, it was young Luke Skywalker — or actually an older version, really — who voiced the maniacal villain in Timm’s animated TV series, and for many his voice, and in particular his laugh, has been the perfect combination.

However, I think that no one will doubt the fact that, come July 16 (for we Australians), or whatever date The Dark Knight hits your cinemas [July 18th in the U.S], Heath Ledger will soon become the best Joker we’ve ever seen. Until then, it’s Mark Hamill.

Michelle Pfeiffer as CatwomanCatwoman

This category won’t go on for long, as it exists mainly to ensure to the world that Halle Berry should not be considered even as part of the DC Universe. Her rendition of Catwoman is, in all reality, horrible, and a real black mark on DC’s record. The real competition only exists between Adrienne Barbeau who played Catwoman in the animated series, and Michelle Pfeiffer. For me, my money rests on Pfeiffer, for her fantastic, portrayal in Batman Returns. It was realistic, funny, cruel and passionate, and they are four attributes that Selina Kyle exudes.

Michael Gough as Alfred PennyworthAlfred

Without a doubt one of the most pivotal characters in the Bat-verse is Alfred the butler, who has been portrayed by a veritable mass of men. William Austin was the first to portray Alfred, and if not for a following role, he could take the win simply for the fact that Austin’s portrayal changed the way that the comic version of Alfred was drawn.

Skipping over the ’60s and into the ’90s movies, my winner is Michael Gough, who portrayed the aging butler to perfection in the four movies. An actor who has appeared in over a hundred films, Michael Gough was trustworthy and loyal to a tee, and really exemplified the father-figure that Alfred should be.

Two notable mentions are Michael Caine, from Nolan’s pair of movies, and Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., from the animated series. Both are much better representations of their characters than many other characters were given, and show a deep respect for the character.

Gary Oldman as Commissioner James GordonJames Gordon

Another actor who, though remaining much in the background, is pivotal to the Batman story is that of Commissioner James Gordon. Absolutely central to many Batman comic arcs, Gordon has been commissioner of Gotham for longer than there has been a Robin. I will admit that I am only looking at Gordon for the sole purpose of expressing my undying love for Gary Oldman.

Though there have been others — such as the only other actor to portray the same character in all four Burton/Schumacher films, Pat Hingle — Gary Oldman portrays one of my favorite characters to a perfect tee. And though Bob Hastings from the animated series is top notch, Oldman simply cannot be beat.

There are masses of other characters in the Bat-verse, but very few who have doubled up in actors. For example, Chris O’Donnell made a complete cock-up of Robin in the last two films in the ’90s. And Danny Devito was a great Penguin, but has no one to go up against.

So for now, let us just say that Christopher Nolan and Bruce Timm have managed to pin down most of the awards, and that Tim Burton always knew what he was doing and should have been left in charge.

Got a different opinion on any of my choices? We want to hear them, so comment away people!

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Hellboy overpowers Hancock in US

Selma Blair and Ron Perlman in Hellboy II
The Hellboy sequel was directed by Guillermo del Toro

Hellboy II: The Golden Army has become the latest superhero movie to top the North American box office chart.

The movie, which sees the return of actor Ron Perlman as the red-skinned hero, took $35.9m (£18.1m) on its opening weekend.

It nudged fellow superhero film Hancock into second place with $33m (£16.6m).

Opening at number three with $20.6m (£10.4m) was 3D adventure Journey to the Center of the Earth - the latest adaptation of Jules Verne's novel.

Mexican-born director Guillermo del Toro returned to direct the Hellboy sequel.

The original Hellboy movie also topped the North American box office in 2004 and went on to enjoy strong DVD sales.

Paul Dergarabedian, president of box office analysts Media By Numbers, said del Toro's acclaimed fantasy Pan's Labyrinth - which won three Oscars and three Baftas in 2007 - had "made a big impression on a lot of people".

"If they weren't fans of Guillermo del Toro before, they certainly are now," he added.

Disney animation Wall-E, the tale of a trash-compacting robot with a heart of gold, fell from number two to number four.

Wanted, starring James McAvoy and Angelina Jolie as members of a fraternity of assassins, fell from number three to number five.

Eddie Murphy's Meet Dave - a comedy about mini aliens operating a human - took just $5.3m (£2.7m) to make its debut in seventh place on its opening weekend.

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