PURVIEW: Disneyland Expands!

15 09 2009

They even release music compilations. Go figure.

They even release music compilations. Go figure.

So. If you weren’t already aware, I’m an adult (mostly). I mean, I still watch an occasional Saturday morning cartoon (if I’m awake) or the latest offering from [adult swim] (if I’m still awake), but I don’t collect toys –ahem, “action figures”– or anything particularly juvenile. (You’ll notice, of course, that I’ve not included my continued reading of comicbooks –ahem, sequential art– since they’ve achieved literary status.)

My point, if I have one, is that I’ve not attended Disneyland without a sense of irony since I was twelve. It was a little surprising, then, that I found myself so excited the prospect of the park expanding (as announced at D23 over this past weekend).

What’s D23, you ask? (Follow that link for a full answer.) Succinctly, though, D23 is “the first official community for Disney fans.” This translates as: official membership (with certificate “suitable for framing,” natch) and a subscription to an “oversized” magazine filled with “behind-the-scenes stories you can’t find anywhere else.”

Pixar = $$$

Pixar = $$$

The major component of D23 (aside from its merchandise) is this (presumably) annual expo, which recently concluded. Among the highlights, as reported elsewhere and collected here:

A new Muppets movie has been announced. “The Cheapest Muppet Movie Ever Made” will be written by Jason Segel (“Forgetting Sarah Marshall”) and is rumored to develop an unused story idea by Jim Henson.

Guillermo del Toro (“Pan’s Labyrinth”) will develop “animated films full of chills and thrills for audiences of all ages” with new producation label: Double Dare You.

“Toy Story 3″(!) is set for release on June 18, 2010. It concerns (grown-up) Andy donating Woody, Buzz, and the rest of the gange before he moves away to begin college (and binge drinking).

“Tron: Legacy,” sequel to the cult hit “Tron,” comes out in December of next year. It continues the story of Kevin Flynn, creator of the game. “Tron” is remembered for being the first feature-length film to use computer generated images (I think. I was distracted by that lightcycle sequence).

A fourth(!) “Pirates of the Caribbean” film has been confirmed. “On Stranger Tides” will debut in the summer of 2011. Johnny Depp will star.

Jay Rasulo, flanked by stormtroopers.

Jay Rasulo, flanked by stormtroopers.

By 2013 Disneyland will have doubled its size. First, the addition of themed worlds suited to each of the company’s princesses is planned for completion by 2012. This sounds very similar to the Mickey’s Toontown attraction, which opened in 1993.

Next, an enlargement of the Dumbo ride and the creation of Pixie Hollow (featuring Tinkerbell). The biggest news (brace yourself, nerd) was the announcement of improvements to Star Tours. Says Jay Rasulo, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Chairman, “We’re going to do things with Star Tours that have never been done in any park attractions before at any theme park anywhere.” Translation: 3D. And I’m sure that Anthony Daniels will be included.


PURVIEW: “Archie Marries Veronica”

24 07 2009

So. You may have heard about this story elsewhere. (If so, why?) Moreover, it means I’m late to this party. Not that I was invited. And not that I wanted to go, but, you know, I would have, if I’d been invited.

I haven’t read an Archie comic since I was a kid (then again, who didn’t read Archie comics when they were younger?), so this news, sadly, was lost among the other items that have recently claimed my attention (namely, this whole “mess“).

So it was with mild shock that I discovered Archie will soon be married. To Veronica. Almost fifteen years ago, Archie found himself involved in another relationship quandary; that time, Archie needed to determine whether he was best suited for Veronica, Betty, or Cheryl Blossom(!), an old “flame.”

This time around, Archie will select Veronica Lodge, “comics’ favorite rich girl” as his “blushing” (wasn’t she with Reggie for all those years?) bride. The six-part story begins in Archie #600 (to be published in August) and will be written by Michael Uslan (acclaimed producer of Batman [1989], National Treasure [2004], and The Dark Knight [2008]) and illustrated by Stan Goldberg (who began his career in the 1940s with Timely Comics).

The announcement has garnered extraordinary attention from fanboys and Muggles alike: CNN, MSNBC, The New York Times. But what does it really mean? Extra issues sold, I suppose. The same thing happened when Captain America was killed in April 2007.

So I started to think back on comic book weddings, because I’ve nothing better to occupy my time (until school resumes in the fall). So, a (not)comprehensive list of funny book nuptials:

Mr. Fantastic/Reed Richards + Invisible Woman/Sue Storm: Dr. Doom, in a fit of jealous rage, tries to interrupt the ceremony by dispatching a group of hired goons.

Spider-Man/Peter Parker + Mary Jane Watson: After a momentary bout with a case of cold feet, and an extended sequence with Electro, Peter and Mary Jane are married by M.J.’s uncle, a judge, Spenser Watson. The event  occurred simultaneously in the daily comic strip.

Cyclops/Scott Summers + Marvel Girl/Jean Grey: Having rebuffed Scott several times, Jean finally relents. Shortly thereafter, they travel to the future to raise Scott’s son, Nathan. Because that’s one way to avoid the messiness of conception and the inconvenience of childbirth.

Superman/Clark Kent + Lois Lane: Nearly every living artist who had previously worked on a Superman book did so for this one-shot. Clark is without his powers in the issue (the consequence of a comic book crossover).

Green Arrow/Oliver Queen + Black Canary/Dinah Lance: Before the ink on the wedding certificate has had a chance to dry, Dinah stabs Oliver in the neck with one of his arrows, apparently killing him. It’s later revealed that the villain Everyman replaced Oliver sometime after the ceremony.


21 07 2009

Borat was so 2006.

So. I saw “Brüno” the other night. Does the film test the limits of good taste? Certainly so. Does Sacha Baron Cohen prove capable of sustaining his outrageous cult of personality? Maybe. Does his movie expand the boundaries of comedy? Not really. All in all, declining returns.

Time.com supposes that “Brüno” may have been adversely impacted by Twitter, the latest interweb distraction. Although it drew the top spot of the domestic box office (with slightly over $30 million), it endured a staggering 40% dropoff in attendence from Friday to Saturday, according to Variety.com.

If Time’s assessment is correct, then this severly shifts the dynamic of movie marketing. What used to take several days to circulate among friends by word-of-mouth, is now distributed immediately. How does a studio protect itself against such a threat?

The answer(s) for now: It doesn’t because it can’t. I had read (and heard) of instances of audiences walking out on Brüno. With the emergence of Twitter, moviegoers may restain themselves from purchasing a ticket in the first place.

I’m willing to laugh even at the most ridiculous images, and “Brüno” has these in abundance. Indeed, some of its most graphic scenes arrive within the opening minutes.


Brüno employs not-too-subtle interview techniques.

Unlike its predecessor “Borat,” “Brüno” possesses a mean-spirited jag that didn’t sit quite right with me. Whereas Borat was played as largely unaware and naïve, Cohen uses Brüno to poke at people until they react; it’s as if Cohen is either impatient or unwilling to permit jokes to sufficiently gestate: the comedic equivalent of bothering a hornet’s nest with a stick.

One scene depicts Brüno (and his woefully unprepared agent) screening a pilot before an audience of about a half-dozen middle-aged men (and one woman). After his footage is universally panned, Brüno enters the screening room to confront them (to their credit, none of them retract their criticism).

What does Cohen hope to achieve by doing this? He embarrasses his agent by claiming that the most offensive pieces (no pun intended) were his agent’s idea; he insults the test audience by claiming that they don’t recognize “art” when they see it; and he forces the plot of the film by drawing upon the comment cards provided by the screeners (after he’s told them they know nothing).

“Brüno” will not change minds (or hearts), because Cohen often insults others on-screen. Rather than give interviewees “enough rope with which to hang themselves,” Cohen attempts to elicit inappropriately humorous replies. In one scene, Brüno offers that the man across from him (a Southern pastor attempting to “convert” Brüno from homosexuality) has perfect “blow job lips.”

Will this movie hurt or help a homosexual agenda? Closed-minded persons can rest (relatively) easy, because “Brüno” employs such a cartoonish characterization of homosexuality that most viewers will either dismiss or deride it.

But what do I know? Queerty.com posts:

“Bruno doesn’t need to be a finely tuned teaching moment; that’s asking too much of mainstream cinema fare. But the film let’s us laugh with and at stereotypes. It’s a pornographic enterprise into America’s remaining taboos. If the film starts even one conversation about “how wrong” all of that is, it’s a success — and, dare we suggest, something we should support.”

And Out editor Aaron Hicklin stated on CNN:

“You’d really have to be quite dense and idiotic to think this is was in any way an accurate reflection of the way gay men live their lives.”

Of course, Out‘s most recent issue interviews Cohen as Brüno, which raises the question of journalistic intent. Does Out mean to participate in the marketing and cultural distribution of “Brüno?” Or does the magazine hope to introduce, and possibly advance, a legitimate dialogue concerning homophobia (as depicted in the movie)?

My opinion is that Cohen’s act is purposefully stereotypical but not maliciously so. Of course, one assumes (including Cohen) that the audience is “in” on the joke, and, as seen in “Brüno” itself, not everyone is. One should view “Brüno” with a measure of self-awareness and restraint; if you can watch it without becoming naseous or taking offense, then you’re probably okay.

PURVIEW: Green Lantern

17 07 2009
The future looks bright for Green Lantern fans.

The future looks bright for Green Lantern fans.

It’s a good time to be a Green Lantern fan. Just this week it was announced that Ryan Reynolds will be donning spandex as Hal Jordan in the live-action adaptation set to begin production next January. In two weeks, an animated film, produced by Bruce Timm (the guy who delivered Batman: The Animated Series from 1992 to 1995), is set to be released. And this past Wednesday saw the publication of Blackest Night, the eight-issue crossover event from DC Comics that features the Emerald Knight.

Although I can’t say that I’m breathless with excitement (I’m no pubescent Twilight fan after all), I am anticipating good things in the months to come.

In addition to Ryan Reynolds starring, it has been reported (at Variety.com and elsewhere on the web) that Martin Campbell (Casino Royale, GoldenEye) will direct. The dude’s rebooted the James Bond franchise twice; I think he’s more than suited to the task of translating Green Lantern to film.

Marc Guggenheim and Michael Green have been assigned the duty (privilege?) of scripting the movie. Neither is unfamiliar with comic book narrative: Guggenheim currently writes Amazing Spider-Man; Green is a regular contributor to Superman/Batman.

Moreover, neither is unfamiliar with film narrative: Green is the creator of Kings, a modern-day interpretation of the Biblical story of King David (although NBC has recently cancelled it). Guggenheim is the co-creator of Eli Stone along with Greg Berlanti (a producer on Green Lantern).

It’s too early to spread rumors or cast aspersions, but that won’t stop fanboys. Empire Online posits potential casting for Carol Ferris, Jordan’s boss and love interest: Rose Byrne, an Australian actress (28 Weeks Later). It even presupposes a villain: Hector Hammond, a former consultant to Ferris who (after exposure to cosmic radiation, natch) turns into a telepathic terror.

The animated film is much more simply summarized (it’s already complete), and is what you’d expect: an origin story. Jordan is recruited into the Green Lantern Corps and placed under the supervision of Sinestro, an esteemed member of the Corps. When Jordan discovers that Sinestro might be involved in conspiratorial shenanigans, he must act quickly to restore justice to the galaxy.

Green Lantern: First Flight is the latest (fifth!) in the series of direct-to-video features produced by Warner Premiere (a subsidiary of Warner Bros), and is directed by Lauren Montgomery, who also helmed the preceding feature, Wonder Woman.

Blackest Night is the crossover event of the summer, which means nothing to most people, but much to fanboys. The story (whose plot elements have been building for several months) concerns the emergence of William Hand (formerly a minor villain among Green Lantern’s rogues gallery) as the herald of Death. Given powers to resurrect the dead and warp their desires to match his, Hand leads (predictably) the Black Lantern Corps.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Silver Age Green Lantern, an occasion to be celebrated at Comic-Con International in San Diego next weekend. Yours truly will not be attending, for it has sold out. Nevertheless, my spirits remain high for my favorite superhero, but my expectations are guarded.

[update] GamesBeat is reporting that an official video game tie-in has been greenlit (no pun intended). Double Helix is producing the game (the first to feature Green Lantern). The studio (a division of Foundation 9) is no stranger to adapting film properties; it has recently released games based on The Golden Compass, The Matrix, The DaVinci Code, and Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.

Blackest Night #1 is available now ($3.99).

Green Lantern: First Flight is scheduled to be released on 28 July 2009

Green Lantern is scheduled to be released on 17 June 2011.

PURVIEW: The Price Is Right

15 07 2009

"My" episode airs 20 OCT 2009. Set your TiVos.

"My" episode airs 20 OCT 2009. Set your TiVos.

So. I attended a taping of The Price Is Right yesterday with my friend Kelly, her friend Sunny, and Sunny’s aunt Donna (still with me?).

The show is produced at CBS Studios in Beverly Hills (actually, it’s adjacent to The Grove, a (very) high-end shopping center; naturally, parking is not validated by the studio and we ended up fronting a bill for the daily maximum ($24).

We meant to arrive at 9 a.m. and were about thirty minutes late: too late, it seems, for the first taping of the day (12:30 p.m.). Kelly had arranged for “guaranteed” seats, but this was for naught as one of the CBS pages (adorned in a maroon blazer) informed us that the taping was “full.”

Indeed, each of the pages wore a similar “uniform” and none was older (it seemed) than 22. As to why anyone would desire to become a CBS page is beyond conjecture, but suffice it to say that there are (probably) less interesting ways to spend one’s summer.

In any case, we were told to return at 12:30 for the afternoon taping (4 p.m.) and our group was added to a list of intended returnees.

After some time spent window-shopping (with coffees, natch) at The Farmer’s Market (which celebrates its 75th anniversary this year), we made our way back to the studio. This renewed effort was rewarded with a spot in the audience.

Each of us was assigned a name tag and a number (yours truly was given #133) upon presentation of photo i.d. and proof of possession of a Social Security number (this, we were told, was necessary in the event that we won something as a contestant).

"The Waiting Game"

"The Waiting Game"

Much of the day was wasted with waiting for the taping to begin. We waited for our group to be called. We waited to be seen (and interviewed!) by the show’s producers (namely, Stan Blits). We waited to be seated in the studio. All in all, we were there for a little over eight-and-a-half hours (if our parking ticket was any indication).

First, the studio was much smaller than expected (about 300 guests fit comfortably). Second, despite some recent retooling of stages, the decor is as garish as anything from the 1970s (although the show debuted in 1956.

All the games you remember (and love) are there: “It’s In the Bag,” “Lucky Seven,” “Safe Crackers.”

In addition to cameras and crew members, there were three twenty-something(?) interns whose sole job (it seems) was to whip the audience into a frenzy. One guy in particular gesticulated at every opportunity, exhorting us to shout prices and advice to each contestant; yours truly made sure always to exclaim, “One dollar!”

The taping moved ploddingly: as the next game was assembled (behind curtains, natch) host Drew Carey engaged contestants: “Where are you from?”; “What do you do for a living?”; “Why are you here?” Drew made a consistent effort to suggest local eateries (In-N-Out, Pink’s, and Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles were among his favorites).

When a woman from our section was called (seated two rows behind yours truly), I knew then that I had a slim chance of being called “down.” For the record, she ended up bidding on the showcase featured at the end of the episode.

Nothing shouts classy like rubber daisies and blinking lights.

Nothing shouts classy like rubber daisies and blinking lights.

Her competitor, a cement mixer on legs, won not only a new car during his game but also landed $1 on the Big Wheel, thus claiming a $1000 prize. He went on to win the showcase showdown as well, netting nearly $60,000 in prizes (another new car among them).

A suggestion, then, reader if you want to be called as contestant, is that you should fulfill one of the following archetypes: attractive female college student; elderly (presumably feisty) woman; or, rugged and bearded behemoth.

Was I disappointed at not being called? Hardly. I almost didn’t stay for the second taping; when we were rebuffed upon arrival I intimated my desire to return home, but reconsidered. When else was I going to view a taping of one of the most venerated and consistent games shows in American television history?