LOTR "Race the Boxoffice" update:

End of book II, beginning of book 3 (or end of "The Fellowship", beginning of "The Two Towers", if you prefer.) The fellowship is broken. Boromir is about to...er, depart. As it were.


Fully geeked.

Check out ROTK stills here.
In celebration of the countdown.

Congratulations! You're Merry!

Which Lord of the Rings character and personality problem are you?
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Well, they got the bloodlust right, anyway.
LOTR "Race the Boxoffice" update:

The Council of Elrond is over. Next up: The Ring Goes South (II ch. 3). I make no excuses for my sloth.


Killer sweet.

You are Bruce Lee.

Which Martial Arts Movie Star Are You?
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[Via Greg in the Captain's Chair.]
Cruise Control.

Johnathan Last gives The Last Samurai a qualified thumbs-up in the Weekly Standard for "trying" to be a great picture. Since I haven't seen it, and won't because it stars Tom Cruise, I can't address the film on its own merits. What I can address, however, is Last's half-hearted defense of Cruise as movie star:
Though say what you will about Cruise, one fact remains: He's no Steve Guttenberg. Or Mark Harmon. Or Brad Pitt. Or any other of the disposable, pretty-boy movie stars who have crowded the multiplex on and off for 20 years. Tom Cruise is the leading man of his day and, all things considered, he's probably better than this generation of moviegoers deserves. (Historical footnote: In 2035, when the Thalberg awards are handed out and all is said and done, George Clooney will be considered the star of his generation, but that's then and this is now.)
I'm sorry, but he's sure as hell not what I deserve; I can't possibly have been that evil. He is the disposable pretty boy of his generation, which Guttenberg and Harmon are not (who the hell thinks they're "pretty"?) As for Pitt, I can name at least two movies in which his performance was tolerable ("Thelma and Louise" and the somewhat limp remake of "Ocean's 11"), which is two more notches than I can count on Cruise's coup stick.
If you tour Cruise's filmography, you'll see an actor doing competent work in movies that are better than they have to be.
I see a performer giving exactly the same performance, without variation, in every stinkin' film he's ever been in. He is himself in every movie, in the worst possible sense; I can never get the sense that he's anyone but TOM FUCKING CRUISE every moment he's on screen.
For every "Days of Thunder" there's a "Color of Money";
You say that as though there were a qualitative difference between the two.
for every "Mission Impossible: 2" there's a "Minority Report."
That's a sore point with me; a potentially great premise ruined by bad casting. His performance in every movie is the same. Minority Report is Cocktail is Risky Business; only the props and costars change.
His popcorn films are often mediocre ("The Firm") and even his prestige movies can be terrible ("Born on the Fourth of July," "Far and Away," "Eyes Wide Shut"). But if you do the numbers, he bats about .600 and hits to all fields with power ("Rain Man," "Top Gun," "Magnolia").
You could easily replace Cruise in "Rainman" with any reasonably competent actor, or even a mediocre actor of Cruise's own caliber, and it would be essentially the same. Dustin Hoffman did all the heavy lifting (not that I necessarily agree "Rainman" is a good example of a base hit; it's more like a seeing-eye single than a double to the wall. "Top Gun" is an execrable piece of crap and I found "Magnolia" unwatchable. So by my count he's more Rey Ordonez than Alex Rodriguez.)
And above all else, with Tom Cruise you always get the sense that at least he's trying.
And that's exactly what I have against him. When I watch a movie I don't want to see the wheels turning. With Tom Cruise I always feel like I have to supply half the lead performance.
Golden calf alert.

Michael Crichton challenges the sacred beliefs of the environazis in his address to the Commonwealth Club--and it's a pip:
So I can tell you some facts. I know you haven't read any of what I am about to tell you in the newspaper, because newspapers literally don't report them. I can tell you that DDT is not a carcinogen and did not cause birds to die and should never have been banned. I can tell you that the people who banned it knew that it wasn't carcinogenic and banned it anyway. I can tell you that the DDT ban has caused the deaths of tens of millions of poor people, mostly children, whose deaths are directly attributable to a callous, technologically advanced western society that promoted the new cause of environmentalism by pushing a fantasy about a pesticide, and thus irrevocably harmed the third world. Banning DDT is one of the most disgraceful episodes in the twentieth century history of America. We knew better, and we did it anyway, and we let people around the world die and didn't give a damn.

I can tell you that second hand smoke is not a health hazard to anyone and never was, and the EPA has always known it. I can tell you that the evidence for global warming is far weaker than its proponents would ever admit. I can tell you the percentage the US land area that is taken by urbanization, including cities and roads, is 5%. I can tell you that the Sahara desert is shrinking, and the total ice of Antarctica is increasing. I can tell you that a blue-ribbon panel in Science magazine concluded that there is no known technology that will enable us to halt the rise of carbon dioxide in the 21st century. Not wind, not solar, not even nuclear. The panel concluded a totally new technology-like nuclear fusion-was necessary, otherwise nothing could be done and in the meantime all efforts would be a waste of time. They said that when the UN IPCC reports stated alternative technologies existed that could control greenhouse gases, the UN was wrong.

I can, with a lot of time, give you the factual basis for these views, and I can cite the appropriate journal articles not in whacko magazines, but in the most prestigeous science journals, such as Science and Nature. But such references probably won't impact more than a handful of you, because the beliefs of a religion are not dependant on facts, but rather are matters of faith. Unshakeable belief.
Rachel Carlson, you ignorant slut.

Paula: you might want to forward the link to PETAfriend. Just for the pleasure of watching her turn plaid with rage.

[Via Arts & Letters Daily.]
LOTR "Race the Boxoffice" update:

As of 0900 the hobbits are headed for the Barrow downs (chapter 8). That's 145 pages, but I did take time out last night for 1) an hour's nap, 2) the baking of banana bread, and 3) some online chat. I'll make up for the lapse this weekend, probably.
That's mah boy.

My brother, the ASCAP artist.

(What he says in the Heaven Hill clip about drinking and driving down home back in the day is God's own gospel truth, btw.)


And now we join the countdown already in progress.

Note the placement of the ROTK countdown button atop the left-hand margin. In lieu of an advent calendar this year, I've decided to see if I can re-read all three Lord of the Rings volumes (technically all one volume, since I finally bought the hardbound single-volume edition a couple of years ago), appendices optional, before the movie opens next Wednesday. I'm also trying not to read any reviews. Yes, I'm sure it kicks a huge amount of ass, and yes, I seethe with an appropriate level of envy at those of you who get to see it before I hit the noon show on Wednesday, and those of you who get to see the trilogy in the theater. You can all bite me. I just don't want to hear any debates about how he deviates from the %#%$# book in this one until I actually see it for myself. Thanks.

LOTR "Race the Boxoffice" progress report: Prologue: Concerning Hobbits begun 0400 EST. Correction: 1600. Judas Priest, if you can't do the math, don't put it in military time.


Nerd alert.

[Butthead] This is the coolest thing that I have ever seen. [/Butthead]

[Via Dean Esmay.]

Peter Jackson would like to film The Hobbit.
"I'd be interested in doing it because I think it would give continuity to the overall chapter," he said.

Many of the lead "Rings" characters do not appear in The Hobbit, but the wizard Gandalf, played by Ian McKellen, and Gollum, the cave dweller corrupted by the powerful ring, do and should make a comeback. Arwen, the elf princess played by Liv Tyler, could also feature again, Jackson said.
Arwen? ARWEN?? I realize Jackson's got a major boner for Liv Tyler, but given the fact that she is not going to be aging backward during the interim, just how the hell would Arwen fit into the prequel that occurs some sixty or so years before the action in the Ring cycle?

Not to mention the fact that Ian Holm can't be expected to film an entire movie where he's in nearly every scene with his face taped back, and replacing him as Bilbo could be difficult.
A salute to my least favorite song by an ex-Beatle.

"Was it a millionaire who said 'Imagine no possessions',
A poor little schoolboy who said 'We don't need no lessons'."
--Elvis Costello, The Other Side of Summer

[Steer from Damian Penny, who probably doesn't hate that song as much as I do.]
Protester inadvertently says something sensible.

Re the bear hunt in New Jersey:
"I fought against this day for 10 years,” Smith said. “One week of bear hunting, nothing’s going to be solved. Come spring the bears will still be eating our garbage and still be walking through our back yards."
Dead right, sister. So can I take it you're for extending bear season to a more reasonable length?

[Thanks, Paula.]
My favorite dead film writer.

Hollywood continues to plunder the rich vein of Philip K. Dick short stories. If we're lucky one or two of the movies will actually end up resembling the stories on which they were based.

(Minority Report sucked, by the way. Tom Cruise in a Dick movie is an obscenity.)