Asawin Suebsaeng

Asawin Suebsaeng


Asawin Suebsaeng is a reporter at the Washington, DC, bureau of Mother Jones. He has also written for The American Prospect, the Bangkok Post, and

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A graduate of Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Penn., Asawin came back to DC with hopes of putting his flimsy Creative Writing major, student newspaper tenure, and interest in human rights and political chicanery to some use. He started cutting his teeth at F&M's student-run weekly, The College Reporter, serving as editor in chief. He has interned at The American Prospect, been a reporter for the Bangkok Post, and scribbled for His favorite movie is either Apocalypse Now or Pirahna 3D, depending on the day or mood.

How Obama and The NSA Are Being Used To Promote Bruce Willis' New Movie

| Wed Jul. 17, 2013 3:46 PM EDT

Barack Obama has been in a bunch of Hollywood movies. Granted, it's generally in the form of archival footage, often played out of context. In Zero Dark Thirty, you can see him talking about torture. In Pacific Rim, he's at a White House press conference taking questions on the alien invaders. In Battleship, the president is visible on a jumbotron telling America to calm down (again, on the subject of alien invasion). In last year's Total Recall remake, his face is on the dollar bills of the future. And now, he's also being used to promote Bruce Willis and Helen Mirren's latest action movie.

The ad campaign for RED 2the sequel to 2010's darkly humorous surprise hit RED—is mostly what you'd expect for a mid-summer release: the standard social-media push and loud commercials emphasizing the explosions, the guns, the globetrotting CIA mayhem, and the all-star cast that includes John Malkovich, Mary-Louise Parker, Anthony Hopkins, and Lee Byung-hun. (The film is directed by Galaxy Quest helmer Dean Parisot and written by the Hoeber brothers.)

But on July 10 (just nine days before the film's wide release), American TV stations began airing a new ad titled "Barack Obama: NSA Code RED," set to the hard-rock edge of AC/DC's 1980 song "Shoot to Thrill":

The description on the YouTube version, which currently has over 26,000 views, begins by paraphrasing President Obama: "'These folks keep America safe.' Watch this video to meet the real heroes protecting us." Here's the trailer promoted on RED 2's official Twitter account:

The TV spot splices together sound bites from Obama's June 7 remarks on the National Security Agency/Edward Snowden controversy with a few bullet-riddled and goofy clips from the new film. For instance, the part when Obama says, "the people...involved in America's national security...take this work very seriously," is paired with the image of Helen Mirren firing two handguns out of both sides of a very expensive sports car.

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Michele Bachmann Deploys Most Michele Bachmann Quote Ever

| Tue Jul. 16, 2013 11:52 AM EDT

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.)—the tea party lawmaker who served as one of the main inspirations for season five of True Blood—recently attacked the Obama administration's push for immigration reform in the most Michele Bachmann way possible. Here she is talking about immigration reform, and how conservatives in Congress can stop the president from granting undocumented immigrants the right to vote in American elections:

[Obama] has a perpetual magic wand, and nobody's given him a spanking yet and taken it out of his hand. That's what Congress needs to do. Give the president a major wake-up call. And the way we spank the president is we do it through the checkbook.

Bachmann, the one-time front-runner for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination who sits on the House Intelligence Committee, had more to say about Obama's "magic wand," claiming that in 2012 he unilaterally gave undocumented "Latina" immigrants the right to vote, and that he will likely do the same in 2014, thus dooming the GOP forever. (That's not true. Click here for a breakdown of why.) Bachmann made the magic wand comments in a recent interview with WorldNetDaily, a premiere birther and conspiracy-mongering website.

"The Newsroom," Season 2: Not an Unpardonable Train Wreck Like Season 1

| Sun Jul. 14, 2013 9:15 PM EDT

A little over a year ago, the first season of The Newsroom premiered on HBO. Here are the 21 adjectives and four adverbs I used to describe it:

Whiny, sententious, stale, tedious, rambling, unamusing, flat, ho-hum, childish, embarrassing, jejune, twitchy-eyed, daffy, obvious, frustrating, self-congratulatory, left-leaning, emotionally manipulative, alarmingly candy-ass, maddeningly idealistic, and arduously quirky.

Having had nearly 13 months to reflect on season one, I stand by all 25 words. But here are two words to describe the second season of writer Aaron Sorkin's HBO series: Markedly improved.

To everyone else who devoutly hate-watched the 10-episode first season (including those who don't work in news and media), I am just as surprised as you are. It appears that Sorkin wasn't lying when he indicated he had taken note of last year's tidal wave of criticism and made tweaks to the show.

A Two-Word Review of "Grown Ups 2"

| Sat Jul. 13, 2013 8:44 PM EDT

Just don't.

(The film opened yesterday, but I'm not counting this as part of the review, okay?)


"Pacific Rim": The Most Exciting, Monster-Filled Anti-Pollution PSA Ever

| Fri Jul. 12, 2013 7:28 PM EDT

Pacific Rim
Warner Bros. Pictures
131 minutes

"Today we are canceling the apocalypse!" commanding officer Stacker Pentecost (played by the mega-talented Idris Elba) screams, rallying his troops as they prepare for the climactic battle in the war against alien aggressors.

The aliens in Pacific Rim are Kaiju, skyscraper-crushing colonizers from another dimension. The amphibious monsters emerge from a portal at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, start flattening cities, kill tens of thousands of civilians, and kick off a world war. Nations set aside their differences in order to fight the new enemy as trusting allies (a common geopolitical theme in alien-invasion flicks) build gargantuan robots called Jaegers to defend humanity against its Godzilla-sized foes. The humanoid robots—whose appearances provoked the inevitable slew of Transformers comparisons—are each operated by two pilots in a cockpit inside their heads. The international Jaeger program trains an elite, ethnically diverse crew of scientists, technicians, and "rock star" fighters.

"Making Pacific Rim was a lot like what you imagined making movies would be like when you were 12," screenwriter Travis Beacham said. And that it is. Director Guillermo del Toro makes the large-scale battle sequences thunderously exciting, and drenches them in neon and an urban visual poetry. The sci-fi epic is visually stunning in a manner practically made for IMAX 3D consumption. On top of that, it has heart and charm to spare, and it's populated by likable and funny characters that audiences can genuinely care about (with fine performances all around, particularly from Elba, Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Hunnam, and It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia funnyman Charlie Day).

But here's the kicker: In the same way that the real enemy in Michael Bay's action film The Rock is the US government and not the renegade general, the true culprit in Pacific Rim isn't actually a sea monster from another dimension. It's pollution. That's the root cause of the apocalypse that the Jaeger pilots are charged with canceling.

In a short, yawn-and-you'll-miss-it monologue toward the beginning of the film, Dr. Newton Geiszler (Day) explains why the Kaiju suddenly began cropping up. Geiszler has found definitive proof that during prehistoric times, the world-conquering creatures avoided our planet because they couldn't stand the earth's oceanic conditions or atmosphere. But as modern civilization pumped more and more pollutants into the Pacific and shredded the ozone layer, the human race made the world a hospitable environment for Kaiju to roam.

So there's the moral of the story for you: Quit ruining the planet, or else malicious aliens the size of the Vatican will come and eat your hometown.

It's a decent enough message. But since the film's release comes in the same week we learned that pollution causes sharknados, I'm starting to sense some potential overkill coming from the entertainment-environmentalist complex. Or I suppose you could just enjoy the damn thing as—in the words of one American entertainer—a dazzling "Robots Punch Monsters" summer blockbuster.

And on that note, here's a trailer for Pacific Rim:

Pacific Rim gets a wide release on Friday, July 12. The film is rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence throughout, and brief language. Click here for local showtimes and tickets.

Click here for more TV and film coverage from Mother Jones.

To read more of Asawin's reviews and culture reporting, click here.

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