Rash of Female Suicide Bombers Blows Up Iraq

Four women suicide bombers killed or wounded 350 people on Monday.

Do you think, like, and this is gonna sound really bad, but instead of, say, book clubs or, you know, sewing circles, Iraqi women instead get together, talk about the latest news in blowing-oneself-up-technology, share a little gossip about the hottest Martyr-of-the-Week, help each other design their bombs and the clothing they're going to wear when they go boom?

I smell sitcom. Call it, Sex and the Caliphate (y'know, instead of City).


X-Files: I Want A Better Title

Aside from its awful title, I enjoyed the new X-Files film, and to all the naysayers, I say nay. Or something.

I suppose it's all a matter of expectations. This is summer, of course, the season of bombastic, overblown, overhyped Hollywood schlock, certain Dark Knights notwithstanding. Over the past few months moviegoers have been inundated with men of iron, hulking hulks, drunken fallen angels (or whatever the hell Hancock was supposed to be) and working-class demons from hell, all bright and colorful and loud, so it's no surprise, really, when shown something as quiet, thoughtful and understated as X-Files: I Want to Believe, we're unsure how to react.

Over the course of seven, I mean, nine seasons (forgive me, I do try so very hard to forget those last two agonizingly painful years), we watched FBI Special Agents Fox Mulder and Dr. Dana Scully investigate everything from vampires and werewolves to Bigfoot and slimy fluke-men to alien abductions and government conspiracies. Their cases ran from the sublime to the ridiculous (Jose Chung, anyone?), and while the show became buried under its own convoluted, confusing alien mythology, at its heart, X-Files has always been about the growth of its characters, the paranormal, supernatural-obsessed Mulder and the rational, scientific Scully, and how they grew to first trust, then respect and, ultimately, love one another.

To me, the monster-of-the-week was simply a platform, a framework within which we learned about our heroes while they learned about each other, and that's the mentality I brought with me into the theatre. I wanted to know what Mulder and Scully have been up to, how their relationship has grown and progressed since last we saw them on the small screen, a mere six years ago. It was refreshing to see David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson slip so easily back into their old patterns. It was like seeing old friends, friends who have grown and changed with time, but who are still warm and familiar nonetheless.

Some critics have written about, and my father commented upon, the plot of the movie, how it's not really an X-File. "Where are the aliens?" my father asked midway through the film. He pointed out that the story, the case Mulder and Scully are brought in on, could have been any old movie, how the only thing that made it an X-File is that it was Mulder and Scully. He said they could have done the same movie with Will Smith "and that other guy," and I can't say that he's wrong. Mind you, I don't fully agree with him either, but I understand his point. The plot, involving kidnapped women and a mysterious psychic, is fairly straightforward, with no real twists or turns. No conspiracies, no aliens. It has the feel of a two-hour long episode (they went back to Vancouver to shoot the film, where they shot the first four seasons before moving to L.A. after the first movie). Nothing about the case itself screams X-File, but then again, the same could be said for every case Mulder and Scully worked on. What made the X-Files X-Files was Mulder and Scully, embodied by Duchovny and Anderson, not the cases themselves.

So, with all that being said, I thought it was a damn fine movie. Sure, Chris Carter may not be the best director in the world, and the plot may not necessarily be "film-worthy," but once you see Mulder and Scully together again, and the great chemistry Duchovny and Anderson have with one another, it'll bring flooding back all the great memories of shows past and make you glad to see them one more (last?) time.


The Dark Knight

Brilliant. Masterful. Powerful. Very nearly perfect. But, first things first.

Everyone has heard the accolades about Heath Ledger's performance as The Joker, the rumors of Oscar nominations, etc. And I can say, with punch-drunk weariness at 3:11 in the morning, that Ledger is, indeed, incredible, consumed by the character. He is anarchy incarnate. As Michael Caine's stoic, sensible Alfred tells a pensive Bruce Wayne, "Some men just like to watch the world burn."

I daresay Ledger's Joker is Oscar-worthy, though whether he actually wins is immaterial. The mere fact that his performance is being mentioned in the same breath as an Academy Award speaks volumes for its intensity. Nearly 20 years ago, Jack Nicholson played up the camp in a very different Batman film, and while his performance fit the style of that film, he doesn't hold a candle to Heath Ledger's quiet, menacing insanity.

To go into too much detail would be to ruin the experience for those who haven't seen it yet, so I'm going to try to keep this short and purposefully vague:

The action sequences were very well-done. I love how Batman's more sure of himself this time around, and he's improved his fighting skills. Director Christopher Nolan isn't too keen on lots of flashy CGI, so the whole movie has a real gritty, 1970s crime drama feel to it. Very French Connection or Heat. Lots of physical stunts, very little computer-assisted effects.

Speaking of effects, though, Harvey Two-Face - Oh. My. God. Horrifying, truly.

Can I just say that I love Gary Oldman? Cause I do. He is awesome in everything he does and his Jim Gordon is one of my favorite fictional cops ever. Ever.

The Batpod is actually a pretty cool motorcycle. Looks much better in the film than in the short snippets you see in the trailers.

Maggie Gyllenhaal is far and away a better actress than Katie Holmes. Maggie's Rachel Dawes was actually believable as a city prosecutor and love interest to both Bruce Wayne and Harvey Dent.

I miss Wayne Manor.

Batman's new suit kicks ass. He can turn his head now!

Morgan Freeman's Lucius Fox has some great lines, and a poignant scene with Bruce in the third act.

Christian Bale's Bruce Wayne is still the goofy, aloof, clueless billionaire playboy. I'd like him to show more emotion as Bruce, but he can't, because Bruce is really the implacable mask that Batman wears.

I loved the themes of the movie. Order versus chaos. Dual identities. That very fine line between good and evil, right and wrong.

This is a very dark film, much darker than anything Tim Burton did, much darker than the first Chris Nolan film. No one escapes unscathed, without scars.

Heath Ledger's Joker truly is mesmerizing. Every time he's on screen, you can't take your eyes off him. He doesn't completely steal the show, as Aaron Eckhart is great as Harvey Dent and even better as Two-Face, but, just, wow. I can still hear The Joker's laugh echoing in my head.

And that's all I'm gonna say. The Dark Knight is easily one of the best movies, not superhero movies, but movies, period, that I've ever seen. Maybe not the very best, but it's up there. Believe the hype.


Three years down, one month to go

I finished my second-to-last undergrad course today. Grades will be posted next week. I'm pretty confident I'll get an A or at the very least a B+. My last class started a couple weeks ago and runs through the first week or so of August. Then graduation is the middle of the month. And then ... the Great Unknown.

But first, I need to write an English Lit essay about William Blake or Thomas Paine.

Wish me luck!

Hellboy II: The Golden Army

If you liked Guillermo del Toro's previous films (The Devil's Backbone, the first Hellboy, Pan's Labyrinth) you'll love Hellboy II: The Golden Army, a veritable phantasmagoria of the fantastic, a vertiginous clockwork faerie tale wonderland that only del Toro could have conceived and created. Carnivorous tooth faeries, steampunk ogres, great, five-story tall verdant forest gods and a mechanized clockwork army populate this wonderfully imaginative film. Del Toro brings the best parts of the first movie, the humor, the blue-collar work ethic, the characterization, and adds these incredible creatures and big, vibrant, colorful set pieces and action sequences. Have you even seen a ninja elf? Hellboy II's Prince Nuada would make make Legolas seem like a slow, slogging dwarf.

The story of The Golden Army is steeped in Grimm's faerie tale magic. Long ago, Man warred with the enchanted woodland folk, you know, elves and faeries, etc. And after a bitter defeat, the elf king commissioned the building of these huge golden mechanical warriors, fueled by magic and nigh-indestructible. After laying waste to the human army, the elf king, much to the dismay of his son, the aforementioned Nuada, felt great anguish at the death and destruction the war had wrought, and so he put the army to sleep and divided the magical crown that controlled it into three pieces; one he gave to the humans, one he kept for himself and the third piece went to the king's daughter, Nuada's twin sister, Nuala, after Nuada went into self-imposed exile, vowing to return, to take control of the Golden Army and to finish the war with the humans once and for all. Which is where our story begins. The prince has returned and Hellboy and company need to stop him from wiping out mankind.

Returning as our blue-collar, beer-chugging everyman demon hero, Hellboy, is the ever-lovable Ron Perlman, along with Selma Blair as the chronically tormented love of Hellboy's life, the pyrotechnic Liz Sherman, and Doug Jones as Abe Sapien (providing his own voice this time - no more voice work by Frasier's David Hyde Pierce). Jeffrey Tambor also returns as the hilariously befuddled director of the BPRD, Tom Manning, and joining the team this time around is everyone's favorite ectoplasmic German psychic, Johann Kraus (hilariously voiced by Family Guy's Seth MacFarlane).

This is what a big summer action movie should be, funny, action-packed and simply gorgeous to look at. I want to see it again just to take in all the great creature designs and sets. This was definitely one of my favorite movies so far this summer, right up there with Iron Man and Wall-E (neither of which I ever did get around to writing reviews for, did I?)