New at Live Action – Buffy the Unborn Slayer?

My latest Live Action post:

Popular action-drama Buffy the Vampire Slayer may have left the airwaves in 2003, but the adventure continues in a comic book series produced by original series creator Joss Whedon. This week, the comic caught the attention of USA Today for an upcoming story in which protagonist Buffy Summers finds herself single, jobless, and pregnant after a drunken party she barely remembers. Unwilling to simultaneously deal with both parenthood and monster fighting, she plans to have an abortion.
Whedon explains:

“Buffy was always about the arc of a life, and it wasn’t ever going to be one of those shows where they were perpetually in high school and never asked why,” Whedon says. “It was about change. So there’s never a time when Buffy’s life isn’t relevant.” […]
“It offends me that people who purport to be discussing a decision that is as crucial and painful as any a young woman has to make won’t even say something that they think is going to make some people angry.”

Right off the bat, the story’s premise seems highly suspect: after seven seasons’ worth of fighting evil and having the weight of the world on her shoulders, Buffy still lets her guard down so fully that she can get unknowingly impregnated by strangers?

Read the rest at Live Action.

New on NewsReal – PC Comics: Superman Renounces His US Citizenship

My latest NewsRealBlog post:
Once upon a time, superheroes were a source of comfort and escape from the difficulties and ugliness of real life. While real-life recession and terrorism aren’t likely to meet any tidy resolutions soon, we can always count on Batman to solve the Riddler’s latest puzzle just in time, or Spider-Man to save the damsel in distress (well, usually).
Somewhere along the line, though, it was decided that our heroes had to grapple with real-world issues. When done sparingly and handled well, this can elevate the genre, such as Harry Osborn’s battle with drugs or 2008’s brilliant The Dark Knight. But more often than not, such efforts these days instead result in train wrecks of heavy-handed political proselytizing and moral confusion.
Such is the case with the latest development in DC Comics’ Action Comics #900, in which Superman decides he has to renounce his U.S. citizenship:

In it, Superman consults with the President’s national security advisor, who is incensed that Superman appeared in Tehran to non-violently support the protesters demonstrating against the Iranian regime, no doubt an analogue for the recent real-life protests in the Middle East. However, since Superman is viewed as an American icon in the DC Universe as well as our own, the Iranian government has construed his actions as the will of the American President, and indeed, an act of war.

Superman replies that it was foolish to think that his actions would not reflect politically on the American government, and that he therefore plans to renounce his American citizenship at the United Nations the next day — and to continue working as a superhero from a more global than national perspective. From a “realistic” standpoint it makes sense; it would indeed be impossible for a nigh-omnipotent being ideologically aligned with America to intercede against injustice beyond American borders without creating enormous political fallout for the U.S. government.

First, it’s interesting to note that the story’s starting dispute comes dangerously close to a damning indictment of Barack Obama for not taking a stronger stand on the Iranian protests of summer 2009, which is surprising coming from an iconic cultural mainstay and a major entertainment company. And while John Hawkins is right to note that there are certain practical difficulties with throwing someone as powerful as Superman into geopolitical situations, I can see definite story potential in exploring the tension between Superman’s no-nonsense moral clarity and the empty suits on Capitol Hill.
But renouncing his citizenship?

New on NewsReal – The X-Men Get Political in "First Class"

My latest NewsRealBlog post:

For the better part of the past decade, moviegoers have gotten a new batch of comic-book adaptations every summer. The trend continues in 2011 with Captain America, Thor, Green Lantern, and the latest film in the X-Men franchise, X-Men: First Class.

Set in the 1960s, First Class goes back to the origins of the mutant team, before leader Professor Xavier and archenemy Magneto became foes. And as the just-released trailer for the film reveals, this prequel has an unexpected political twist.

It seems that the X-Men intervene in the Cuban Missile Crisis. Now, there are a couple different directions this could go: a) President John F. Kennedy is, for whatever reason, unable to stop Soviet aggression himself, so it’s up to our heroes to save the day, or b) the X-Men have to get involved because the United States and the Soviet Union are both hell-bent on settling their differences in the most violent way possible rather than talking to each other. Either scenario could pan out—we all know how Hollywood feels about America and Communists, but we also know how much leftists revere JFK, and may be reluctant to portray the country as too evil under him.

Read the rest on NewsRealBlog.

Link Thanks

First, The Week recognizes my January 12 NewsReal post on Archie meeting Obama and Palin as one of their “Best Opinion” reactions. I’m grateful, though the quote they choose kinda makes it sound like I disagree with Jon Goldwater and was criticizing the comic. Which was the exact opposite of what I said.

Next, radio host Peter Heck links my January 24 American Thinker piece about how Kermit Gosnell’s abortion clinic isn’t as different from the “respectable” death mills as polite society tells itself.  Thanks!

New on NewsReal – "Archie" Brings Obama and Palin Together, Does More Uniting Than the Real Uniter We Elected

My latest NewsRealBlog post:

Considering how often left-wing propaganda infiltrates our popular culture, it’s only fair that we acknowledge entertainment media that opts to remain above the fray. You may have heard about one such example: the current Archie story arc in which the comic-book world’s most beloved teenagers cross paths with Barack Obama and Sarah Palin. ComicsAlliance has a new preview of the latest issue’s first five pages, which cast the political powerhouses in some of the least partisan light they’ve ever been under.

The story so far: Archie and Reggie are competing for student council, and their respective supporters decide some star power is in order to boost their chances. Veronica arranges for Archie to be photographed with the visiting President of the United States, while Trula gets a snapshot of Reggie with the former Governor of Alaska. Unfortunately, neither politician knows he/she’s being used as an endorsement…

It’s possible that the final issue might contain subtle jabs at their guest stars, but the previewed pages suggest we’re in for a lighthearted tale that genuinely portrays Obama and Palin as spirited, good-natured patriots. Indeed, this playful imagery seems to be about as confrontational as things get:

Read the rest on NewsRealBlog.

Movie Review: "The Dark Knight"

This weekend a friend and I saw The Dark Knight, the highly-anticipated sequel to Christopher Nolan’s celebrated franchise reboot, Batman Begins. I can confirm that the media hype is legit: this film is amazing.

Orphaned billionaire Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has been Batman for about a year, and Gotham City is improving for the first time in ages—criminals are scared, the mob is in disarray, and the efforts of new District Attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) leave Bruce hopeful for the day Gotham no longer needs his alter ego, leaving him to a normal life with his beloved Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal, replacing Katie Holmes from Begins). But all of Gotham’s progress threatens to be shattered by the rise to power of a self-described “agent of chaos” known only as the Joker (Heath Ledger).

Knight excels as an action movie (the ambitious action sequences will thrill you all the more when you realize digital effects are used very little), as a crime drama, and as a case study in human nature. I can’t recall the last time I’ve seen a movie that took such a strong grip on my attention, and maintained it throughout a 2 ½ hour running time. Nolan, along with writers Jonathan Nolan (yep, his brother) & David Goyer, have imbued the story with a real sense of unpredictability, and at times even fear of what might lurk around the corner (by contrast, I thought The Incredible Hulk was both a respectable effort and a lot of fun, but there was virtually nothing surprising or unpredictable about it).

Aiding the immersion is the fact that, just like Begins, Knight is far more grounded in reality than the average comic adaptation. Granted, the technology at Batman’s disposal still has one foot firmly planted in science fiction, but it’s decidedly more James Bond than Adam West (plus, Batman’s the only one with access to hi-tech gear). As fanciful as the idea of costumed crusaders is, Nolan’s vision comes closer to making you believe what you’re watching could really happen than any other superhero film ever has. And none of this grounding comes at the expense of the source material’s essence (a refreshing departure from mangling things
for no better reason than the whims of Tim Burton or Joel Schumacher…).

It’s also due in part to the film’s oft-mentioned darkness. If you’re expecting cartoonish villainy, or even something akin to the League of Shadows’ master plan from Begins, think again. This Joker isn’t some unscrupulous goofball out for world domination—he’s a sociopath and anarchist without the slightest hint of decency beneath his grubby clown makeup, and his actions reflect that. While there’s no real gore (save one character’s fate I won’t mention, but every Bat-fan knows who I’m talking about) and there’s no sex (indeed, it’s to the filmmakers’ credit that a sex scene doesn’t happen at a certain point where it would have in most other movies), Knight is violent, even brutal, and there’s a lot of disturbing imagery, harrowing situations, and tense buildups to disaster and tragedy. Young children simply should not see this movie. At the very least, parents should watch it in advance so they know which scenes to skip when watching the DVD with their kids.

But teen and adult audiences would be hard-pressed to find a fictional movie more powerful and rewarding. Everything you’ve heard about Ledger’s phenomenal, menacing performance is true (Jack who?), but as great as he is, he doesn’t overshadow the rest of the cast. As the protagonist, Bale perfectly conveys, and balances, Bruce Wayne’s public image of carefree excess and Batman’s obsession with justice. Without giving too much away about Harvey Dent, let’s just say Eckhart won’t disappoint in the role’s broad range of emotions. Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman display wit and gravitas as butler Alfred Pennyworth and gadget guru Lucius Fox. Gary Oldman’s role as honest cop Lt. Jim Gordon is larger than in Begins, and he soars in it. I thought Maggie Gyllenhaal was a tad too spunky early in the film, but she proves her dramatic credentials later on—and then again, a little spunk helps lighten the load in a film this heavy (unlike some viewers, I wasn’t bothered by Katie Holmes in Begins, and I have no opinion on who is ultimately better).

On that note, don’t take all this talk of darkness to mean Knight is some sort of depression-fest. It’s not. Tragedy strikes and human depravity is on full display, but so are the heroism, courage and decency of Batman, his allies, and even the people of Gotham (refreshingly, the film actually affirms several basic conservative tenets: the futility of appeasement, the occasional need to do harsh, ugly things to defeat evil, and the importance of doing the right thing at the expense of public opinion). There’s wit, humor, and moments that are simply fun and cool. Without giving too much away, the film ends on a bittersweet note that drives home the sacrifices that make Batman compelling in a way few cinema or comic-book heroes can match.

Sure, there are imperfections here and there—a minor plot hole or two, if you look hard enough—but they are eclipsed by the film’s sheer quality. The Dark Knight is easily the best Batman film ever made—not only does
the beloved 1989 version pale in comparison, but the contrast shows just how limited an application Tim Burton’s style really has. But it’s also the best example of the superhero/comic book genre, and an outstanding cinematic achievement in any genre. Simply put, it’s a masterpiece.