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Boy, it's been a crazy week. The real life stuff I was anticipating blowing up went and did just that, eating all my free time and making it impossible to sit down and write anything coherent. I was hoping to have a few more weeks of my regularly scheduled media blogging schedule, but that's definitely no longer in the cards. So, I'm announcing that Miss Media Junkie is going on hiatus early. You'll still get sporadic updates, mostly reviews, for the rest of the month. From June to the end of August, I'll be almost totally incommunicado. And while I anticipate picking up blogging again in September, you won't be seeing nearly the same rate of posts.

So, we're going to adjust how things are done around here more fundamentally. Focus is now going to shift to quality over quantity. Arbitrary word limits and targets are out the window, meaning you might get a 200 word entry, or a 1,000 word one, depending on what I'm writing about. However, I promise I will actually proofread things before they're posted and make corrections as needed. I also plan to go back and update or fix some of the content in older posts - the Great Directors list needs updating, for instance.

This has been a long time in coming, and I admit I'm not sure what this blog is going to look like a few months down the road. However, rest assured that I'll keep writing - because I really don't think I have it in me to stop completely.

Happy watching.

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There's usually a film or two every year that I feel obligated to watch because it's very high profile and making waves in the critical community, so I feel that in order to stay informed I ought to see it despite having no interest in doing so. Past titles have included things like "Dreamgirls," "The Road," and "Cyrus." 2013 was a great year and there was a flood of good features that I was happy to tackle with relish. I couldn't watch everything, of course, but the things that got left off my "To Watch" list were super obscure titles like Claire Denis' "Bastards" and Mira Nair's "The Reluctant Fundamentalist," which weren't really part of any major conversations about film that I was aware of.

In 2014, however, there's at least one film that I know I'm going to have to figure out how to address one way or another, and that's Lars Von Trier's "Nymphomaniac." It's being released in two parts, totaling somewhere north of four hours of screen time uncut. There's going to be a lot of explicit sexuality that I'm not looking forward to, particularly as it's coming from Von Trier, who seems to delight in making sex as cringeworthy as possible. "Volume I" opens in selected cities in the U.S. today, so there have been plenty of reviews in circulation - some good some bad, and some indifferent. However, Lars Von Trier is a major cinema auteur, and I've seen a good chunk of his work, enough to know that I really should see "Nymphomaniac" and form my own opinion about it.

I've had mixed reactions to Von Trier films. I enjoyed and fully endorse "Dancer in the Dark," "Breaking the Waves," and "Melancholia." "Dogville," and his earlier films like "Europa" were middling. I flat-out detested "Antichrist," "Manderlay," and "The Idiots." I have no idea which category "Nymphomaniac" is going to fall into, but the premise just sounds unbearably tedious, and this is from someone who just finished watching the six-hour Mosfilm version of "War and Peace." The length doesn't phase me. The content does to some extent, with the promise of lots of kinky business going on, though I've been assured that there's nothing as gruesome as the final scenes of "Antichrist." Von Trier himself claims that the film is not pornography, and that there is nothing particularly titillating about the copious amounts of sex that he depicts.

Maybe it would be easier if "Nymphomaniac" were just empty, gratuitous sex for four hours, or the trashy erotica that I'm expecting the "Fifty Shades of Gray" adaptation to be. Then I could dismiss it more easily. However, "Nymphomaniac" is supposed to be taken seriously as the newest work from a major filmmaker, and I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around that. All the marketing and all the chatter around the film that I've seen so far point to the movie being another Von Trier exercise in shock and awe rather than a mature, grown-up examination of sexuality like, oh, "Last Tango in Paris" or "Eyes Wide Shut" or "Lust, Caution." Sex in Von Trier films tends to turn into a horror show - rape and sex as degradation are way more common than healthy sexual relations - and I don't have much confidence in him changing his approach here, where sex is going to be front and center the whole time. Even if it's not "Antichrist," I expect "Nymphomaniac" to be a difficult watch, to say the least.

I have to say that I am curious about the participation of so many familiar names like Uma Thurman, Christian Slater, Willem Dafoe, Jamie Bell, and of course, The Beef. Von Trier regulars Stellan Skarsgaard and Udo Kier will be in the mix too. And of course there's Charlotte Gainsbourg as the female lead, Joe. This is her third collaboration with Von Trier, and she seems to be one of his few leading ladies who actually enjoys working with him. And I know that I'll probably get something out of seeing "Nymphomaniac," just as I usually get something out of seeing most of the other films I've had these kinds of doubts about.

Watching difficult and challenging movies is good for us. It gets us to examine and push past our prejudices, to deal with uncomfortable subject matter and the emotions that they stir up. Lars Von Trier films disturb and alienate me because they're provocative and dangerous. And that's why I love some of them too. That's why I keep watching them, and that's why I keep watching films from similar directors like Gaspar Noe, Michael Haneke, Harmony Korine, and Nicholas Winding Refn. These are artists who don't play by the rules, and they're important to acknowledge and engage with.
So I will see "Nymphomaniac." All of it. Eventually. Doesn't mean I have to like it though.
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My position on remakes has always been that they are not inherently a bad idea. There have been some great remakes over the years, where filmmakers have put their own spin on old plots and characters to wonderful effect, sometimes even surpassing the originals. However, too often you get remakes that fail to deliver, where the material proves too outdated, where the filmmakers don't bring anything interesting to the table, or where the execution just falls short. Worst of all are the remakes that are little more than retreads of the originals, where everything plays out almost the same, except in a modern, local milieu that is easier for mainstream audiences to connect to. Sadly both the recent "Carrie" and "Oldboy" remakes fall into this category.

Both of these were projects that sounded like they had potential when they were first announced. "Carrie" was in the hands of Kimberly Pierce, who made the well-regarded "Boys Don't Cry" and "Stop-Loss." The story had been revisited a few times already in recent years with a sequel and a TV remake, but this new project had attracted a stronger cast, including up-and-comer Chloe Moretz as Carrie and Julianne Moore as her mother. "Oldboy" was a more high profile project that had been in development for years, at one point connected with Steven Spielberg and Will Smith before it ended up with Spike Lee and Josh Brolin. Lee's track record hasn't been great lately, but he was coming off of the solid indie feature "Red Hook Summer," and had made very strong genre films in the past like "Inside Man."

Sadly, it's hard to think of two remakes with less justification for existing. They're both perfectly decent films, and even manage to do a few thing better than their predecessors. Some of the action scenes in the new "Carrie" are stronger, and the hotel sequence in the new "Oldboy" is a lot of fun. However, both clearly follow the templates of the prior movies, to the point where shots and dialogue are recycled verbatim. No attempt seems to have been made to go back to the source material, Stephen King's "Carrie" novel and Garon Tsuchiya's "Old Boy" manga. The influence of each director is fairly minimal, and what changes have been made are fairly cosmetic. It's hard to see Spike Lee's hand at work in "Old Boy" aside from the appearance of Samuel L. Jackson in a minor role and some of the set decoration.

I found "Carrie" the more egregious offender because it's so utterly rote. Aside from the introduction of cel-phone videos and internet bullying, almost nothing has been updated from the 1970s version. Also, much of the content has been toned down and the characters undermined. Moretz's Carrie is more assertive, which makes her less pitiable. Moore's religious fanatic mother is more humane, which makes her less monstrous and much less entertaining. The film is rated R, but it's fairly tame, and none of the horror is properly horrific. Pierce's direction is disappointingly workmanlike, and I found myself missing De Palma's campiness. The remake is such a toothless, lifeless piece of work, that stinks of good intentions and a total lack of guts. The last thing we need is a kinder, gentler "Carrie."

Now Spike Lee at least got his "Oldboy" off to a good start, giving his protagonist a little more depth and delivering some good early sequences. However, the Korean "Oldboy" was a pulpy, over-the-top action film with a really haphazard story that only worked because Park Chan-wook and his star, Choi Min-Sik were so committed to the high octane style and escalating insanity. Lee never manages to hit the same level of no-holds-barred energetic mayhem, try as he may, so the narrative in the new "Oldboy" doesn't work at all. Brolin plays it way too sane. The female lead played by Elizabeth Olsen doesn't do anything that makes sense. Sharlto Copley's nutball villain seems to be operating at about the right level of crazy, but since no one else it, he sticks out like a sore thumb.

Both films seem hampered by expectations and an unwillingness to depart from formula. They're both determined to give the audience what I guess the filmmakers and the executives thought the audience wanted. A new version of the hammer fight from "Old Boy." A new version of the bloody prom scene. Never mind that both end up feeling perfunctory and unsatisfying because they're so beholden to the originals. I would love to see what an uncompromised Spike Lee Joint version of "Oldboy" would look like, one where Samuel L. Jackson isn't just stuck playing a secondary tough guy with funny hair. Or a "Carrie" that really tackles modern high school bullying and religious fanaticism.

Because the remakes that Hollywood gave us are just a shameful waste of good material.

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I've gone on something of a movie theater binge over the last couple of days, thanks to a couple of gift cards I got for Christmas and an unusually strong Oscar season. Expect the flood of film reviews to continue over the next few weeks. However, there's also the very strong likelihood that this is the last Oscar season I'm going to be able to really be able to fully participate in for quite some time. You see, I've got a major life change coming my way this year that's going to mean my ability to go out to see movies in theaters is going to be drastically, drastically curtailed. I'm looking at my once-a-month habit going down to maybe one or two special trips to the theaters a year for the next couple of years.

This doesn't bother me too much, really. I've known it was coming for a long time now, and there really aren't all that many movies that I'm anticipating so much that I feel I have to see them in theaters. I've been going out less and less often anyway. Ticket prices have been going up in my area again, to the point where the cost of my usual morning matinees finally broke the $8 mark - that's a month of Netflix or Amazon Prime, remember. On the horizon, the next "Star Wars" movie in 2015 is probably the only title I'd seriously consider making an effort to see in a theater with a big audience. And in that case, thanks to Disney's content deal with Netflix, I expect it should show up on the usual streaming services no more than two years later, before the inevitable sequel comes down the pipeline.

Or there are always rentals, which I've been depending on more these days. Netflix and Redbox discs have been a pretty good substitute for Blockbuster. Itunes and I have been getting along, though I still have some quibbles about their selection. Most mainstream films are available by disc in four to six months these days, though as always the indies and foreign films take much, much longer because of different release patterns. However, more and more I've seen the proliferation of VOD, the "second pay window" that lets you watch a relatively new film from home for roughly the same price as a theater ticket (the first pay window is the theatrical run). I expect that this is how I'm going to end up watching a lot of the movies that I usually go to see in theaters - PIXAR and Disney films, superhero movies, and science-fiction spectacles.

Initially, I didn't really understand the appeal of VOD, but it does provide a nice middle ground between going to the theater and waiting for rentals. It didn't make sense to me not to wait an extra few weeks for a movie to hit the rental shelves that I didn't care enough about to see in theaters. However, I've found that I do place a value on seeing certain films in a timely manner. Oscar season's no fun if you haven't seen a good chunk of the major contenders and have the knowledge to form your own opinions and argue them. There aren't many movies that become real cultural touchstones anymore like "Inception" or "Avatar," but when they do appear, they tend to get cycled through the media and people's conversations at a much faster rate these days. If theater trips are out for the foreseeable future, then VOD is the next best thing. Waiting three months for a VOD release isn't too bad of a delay, but six months? Everyone else has moved on, and extra vigilance is required to avoid spoilers people will assume are common knowledge already.

Am I even going to be able to stay at all current with the media landscape though? Is it worth it to try? Probably not. I'm not even sure I can continue this blog in its current form once the major life change happens. Updates are probably going to be drastically reduced and irregular for a few months, but I am determined to keep this blog going, if only to keep my writing skills up. I don't think there should be much of an impact on the content though - I don't review many new movies and shows to begin with, and older content is often much more rewarding to write about than the blockbuster of the week. I'm usually not current with the television posts anyway. The more general media gossip isn't hard to keep up with, and speculation requires fairly little context if you've got a solid idea of how the industry works.

So watch this space for more changes, and be assured that though your friendly neighborhood Miss Media Junkie has some real life to deal with, she is still going to be hanging around in some capacity.
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I love the fact that we're getting so many more prestige pictures in October, movies like "Gravity" and "Captain Phillips" that have been doing very well at the box office. However, this leaves me with a little bit of a dilemma this year. You see, Thanksgiving weekend has become something of a magnet for would-be blockbusters over the last few years, and the prestige pictures are getting edged out. "Gravity" will be in its ninth weekend of release by Thanksgiving weekend, and difficult to find. "Captain Phillips" will be in week eight, and probably even scarcer because it didn't do as much business. This worries me, because these are my best bets for "older parent friendly movies" to take Mom and Dad to during Thanksgiving weekend.

Thanksgiving has always been a movie weekend in or family. I have very fond memories of seeing Disney films like "Beauty and the Beast" and "Aladdin" with older cousins who herded us all out of the house for a Friday or Saturday matinee, and did my own share of herding when I was old enough. There were a lot of James Bond films in the 90s, various historical dramas, Zhang Yimou films, and other Oscar bait when it was just my immediate family, since my parents aren't big on blockbusters. This year is going to be one of those Thanksgivings, with most of the younger cousins grown up or planning to be away for the holiday. But as I'm looking at the upcoming schedule of holiday releases for films that are Mom and Dad appropriate, I worry that I may be in for some trouble here.

I've discussed on this blog before that my parents love movies, but their preferences tend to skew very old-fashioned. Last year was fine with "Life of Pi," a nice adventure spectacle with a respectably mature storyline. Or else we might have gone to "Lincoln" or "Skyfall." This year, there will be no James Bond to bail me out and there's not a lot of Oscar contenders in the mix. I'm looking at a sea of effects-heavy science fiction and fantasy films, exactly the sort of thing that my mother is likely to dismiss as "silly" and my father will reject as being "for kids." So no "Thor," no "Hunger Games: Catching Fire," and no "Ender's Game." If it were just my mother, "Frozen" would be an option, because she loves musicals and never had a problem taking us to Disney cartoons. Dad, not so much.

I'm also worried about content. Films like "The Counselor" and "Blue is the Warmest Color" are out, way too graphic for them to handle. Spike Lee's "Oldboy" should be tamer than the Korean original, but still too violent and intense to consider. "Homefront" with Jason Statham is out for similar reasons. "12 Years a Slave" and "All is Lost" are probably going to be too heavy and depressing viewing. Nearly all the comedies are out for potential crude language and sex. "Last Vegas" and "Delivery Man" are both only rated PG-13, but considering their plots revolve around a a lot of potentially illicit behavior and you can get away with a lot with a PG-13 these days, I'd rather be safe than squirming awkwardly in my seat the entire time.

So what's left? If "Gravity" and "Captain Phillips" are gone from theaters, I'm hoping that I can find "Nebraska" or "Inside Llewyn Davis," which should both be in limited runs by then. "Dallas Buyers Club" is a firm maybe. "Escape Plan," weirdly enough, is also an option. Arnold and Sly may be as silly as superheroes in their own way, but they're still grounded enough in reality to balance that out. Historical movies like "The Book Thief" and "The Fifth Estate" usually go over well. I'm not particularly keen on seeing either of these, but one does what one must. One year not too long ago, the iffy George W. Bush biopic "W." was the only thing Dad was interested in seeing, so that's what we watched.

Picking films at Christmas would be a lot easier. Then I'd have "Saving Mr. Banks," "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," "Grudge Match," "47 Ronin," "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom," and a ton of smaller releases to work with. George Clooney's "Monuments Men" would have been a pretty much perfect pick, and it's too bad it's been delayed. There's a lot I'm looking forward to seeing this season, and I expect it's going to be a great Oscar race, but just thinking about going with my parents to watch anything makes me paranoid. Too dark? Too silly? Too raunchy? Too avant-garde? Too much violence? Too much strong language? Too much CGI?

I'm sure we'll figure out something, but maybe we should just stay in and rent Les Miz again.
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Have you heard about the spectacular misogynist piece that a GQ writer recently lobbed at the young fans of One Direction? Boy oh boy, do I have something to say about this.

Media primarily aimed at teenage girls has always had it rough. Though Hollywood is ready and willing to provide all the "Twilight" and "One Direction" films they want, in order to make a few bucks, these titles are frequently the targets of derision and abuse. Their inferiority is assumed until proven otherwise. I've seen fans bemoan the fact that director David Slade would stoop to helming "The Twilight Series: Eclipse." I've seen disbelief that celebrated documentarian Morgan Spurlock would sign on to direct the recent "One Direction" movie. Justin Bieber is no different from most young pop idols that have come and gone over the years, but the utter loathing I've seen for him online has been borderline disturbing.

Just about anything that appeals to young girls can be suspect. Most young actors who go through the teen idol phase take measures to distance themselves from the label as quickly as possible, because they aren't taken seriously. Sure, the critics are willing to give them their due, but the mainstream forms grudges quickly. Ryan Gosling's first big hit was "The Notebook," and resulted in many male viewers eyeing him with suspicion for years, until "Drive" came around. Leonardo DiCarpio went through a similar spell during his pretty boy "Romeo + Juliet" and "Titanic" days. Zack Efron and Robert Pattinson are still trying to dig themselves out from the fallout of "High School Musical" and "Twilight." What appeals to young women and teenage girls seems to automatically repel a good chunk of male viewers.

But compare this to the media aimed at teenaged boys. Think of the "Transformers" movies and the superhero movies that are squarely aimed at the testosterone-fueled sensibilities of young men of a comparable age. These are the PG-13 blockbusters that break records and drive profits. These are the properties treated as friendly for all audiences, but they really aren't. Ladies get some token romances and shirtless heroes, but most of these movies are built for boys. You might argue that these are generally better quality films, and that's true. However, I suspect that's largely in part because the better talent is attracted to the projects where they'll see greater rewards. Everyone loves superheroes.

Even the terrible fanboy-flicks often get a lot of love. Look at the "Transformers" series, which has been critically reviled roughly on par with the "Twilight" series. They've both been box office smashes despite this. However, you don't see wide-scale bashing of the "Transformers" franchise or its fans. Nobody but the critics wonder if Michael Bay's career is in jeopardy after churning out three awful, shamelessly pandering CGI slug-fests. And the stars who appear in these films? Their involvement is seen as a plus. Megan Fox was a hot commodity for a while because she'd played the sexy Michaela in "Transformers." She had some real prospects until she started badmouthing Michael Bay.

But why should I care what the male half of the population thinks? Why should the Directioners and the Beliebers? Well, imagine an alternate universe where the supernatural romantic melodramas are the big summer blockbusters, where there are a dozen different varieties of them, the biggest featuring A-list stars, headed up by critically respected directors. Imagine that the feminine sensibilities are the mainstream default. They'll throwing in an action scene or cheesecake shot here and there for the teenage boys, but the focus remains on the romance. And imagine if the action films were considered the niche movies, the counterprogramming, given miniscule budgets and directed by second-stringers. Imagine people regularly dismissing the whole genre as formulaic fodder for immature minds, not to be taken seriously.

Why do we devalue media for teenage girls? Because we still devalue teenage girls themselves. We don't take them or their preferences as seriously. We ignore them and forget them. The insistent ones are called annoying and shrill. And when a lot of girls are particularly demonstrative of their fandom, crowding out fanboys at Comic-Con or shattering eardrums at boy-band concerts, spooked males label them as hysterical and abnormal. They feel threatened, confronted with this wave of emotions they don't share and can't ignore. A similar reaction from a mixed crowd at a rock concert or Hall H prompts no such adverse reactions.

How do we fix this? More media for teenage girls and women. Better media. More recognition for the good stuff, like the nicely gender-balanced "Hunger Games," and don't take the double standards lying down. Normalize movies and shows and music and games made for women. Maybe stop pigeonholing it as being for women only. Maybe find a happy medium. Maybe get Michael Bay to direct a romantic comedy.

Unlikely? Yes. But it could happen.
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This is my second attempt to start watching "Homeland," the much awarded, much praised Showtime drama that became a great big deal when it premiered two years ago. The first time around, I watched the free episode that was released when the show first premiered. Not impressed, I didn't give it another thought until all the accolades started rolling in and I started getting recommendations from friends. This time around, I got through another episode, but I still have no desire to go any further. To put it bluntly, the show bothers me on several levels.

Damian Lewis stars as Sergeant Nicholas Brody, a Marine who was held captive by Al Qaeda for eight years before being rescued and returned to the United States. Worried that Brody might have been compromised during his time as a POW, a CIA intelligence officer, Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) begins a one-woman campaign to watch his every move with the help of the CIA's surveillance equipment. She spends much of the first two episodes installing and then utilizing all manner of hidden cameras and microphones to spy on Brody, his wife Jessica (Morena Baccarin), and their two children. When she's not doing that, she's busy trying to justify her actions and the intense level fo scrutiny to her boss, David Estes (David Harewood) and her mentor Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin). Carrie's ultimate goal is to track down the terrorist Abu Nazir (Navid Negahban), who Brody was in contact with during his imprisonment.

I don't have an issue with the basics of this premise. The subject matter is timely and the ideas are intriguing. However, I have no patience with the typical, unrealistic complications that have been included to add more drama. It's not enough that Carrie is an underdog at the CIA, obsessing over a threat that only she seems to believe is there. No, she has to be bipolar and emotionally unstable too, constantly on the verge of a mental breakdown. Sure, it's believable that Jessica Brody would have had an affair that now has to be kept under wraps since her husband has returned from the dead. But did the affair have to be with his very best friend Captain Faber (Diego Klattenhoff)? I found it difficult to watch these episodes of "Homeland" and not see all the seams and the structuring, all the little things designed to make the show more tense and exciting, while at the same time making it feel like generic Hollywood product, completely undermining its believability.

I think part of the problem is that I know that this isn't how intelligence gathering really works, and it's jarring to see the procedures being flaunted so flagrantly left and right. I have this problem with police and lawyer shows too, though my brain has learned to treat them as fantasy after years and years of exposure. "Homeland," however, makes many overtures toward being more realistic than other spy media, but it doesn't make quite enough of them. When I'm watching it, I'm stuck in this odd mental place between the starkly candid "Zero Dark Thirty" and the obviously fantastical James Bond movies, not clear on how much real world logic is applicable to the events I'm seeing unfold. The universe seems similar to the dodgy one that "24" used to inhabit, with more nudity and profanity because this is a premium cable show. I don't think the adult content helps much. It just makes the whole story feel more tawdry and salacious.

I can see how "Homeland" could get much, much better, and I'm sure that it does eventually. However, I find myself totally disinterested in what it's shaping up to be. To me, "Homeland" looks like another paranoid, gung-ho military fantasy about chasing down mysterious terrorist threats and unraveling plots set in motion by evil foreigners - and like so many other films and television shows in the same vein, it feels exploitative, reductive, fear-mongering, xenophobic, and downright distasteful at times. I find it very hard to get any entertainment value out of this as a result. There's too much focus on visceral thrills and emotional turmoil, to the point where the elevated tensions feel very artificial and contrived. Playing up and twisting real-world fears about terrorism like this makes me extremely uncomfortable, especially where there's no grounding context to speak of, and the subject matter is such sensitive stuff. I'm guessing the story will get more nuanced, but the terrible old cliches are killing it right now.

What's worse, I don't find a single character likeable or intriguing enough to want to see more of. Sure, I like all the actors involved here, and I'm thrilled for Claire Danes that she got to sink her teeth into such a substantial role at last. She's great as Carrie Mathison. However, I have no interest in watching Carrie Mathison continue to obsess about Sergeant Brody. I don't care what happens to him or his wife or the kids who look nothing like their mother. The only character I find sympathetic is one of Carrie's intelligence assets, who is almost certainly going to get herself killed off soon in a way that imparts the maximum amount of trauma and guilt on Carrie. And you know what? I don't particularly want to watch that happen. Maybe after I finish off a few more shows and I'm in the mood for something darker I can try to suck it up and tackle "Homeland" again.

But not today.
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Right now, I'm typing out this post using a new version of Gmail that requires that I open a new browser window if I don't want to draft a new message in a cramped text box that's squashed into the right half of my screen. I juggle enough different windows and tabs at one time that I really don't want to deal with another one, but I can't find anything in the settings that would restore the prior one-window method. I liked drafting in Gmail because I get to write and keep an eye on my inbox at the same time. Now, I might as well be using Google Docs or a separate word processing program. There wasn't much warning that this change was going to happen in Gmail, and it's just the first of a string of coming changes to the internet services and programs that I've grown to depend on.

In the next few months, we're going to lose Google Reader, which I was using as my primary aggregator for multiple entertainment news RSS feeds and podcasts, and the current version of Tweetdeck, which I use to update my Twitter feed. Tweetdeck was really just a quick fix for a problem I was having with the Twitter web interface, and not actually more convenient for me, so this could be a good thing, providing the impetus for me to get the issue sorted out for good. I'm going to miss Reader much more, since it is the most popular and most useful newsreader out there. There's some comfort in knowing there are a lot of other people in the same boat as I am. Right after Reader's impending retirement was announced, there was a flood of people on Reddit asking for recommendations for replacements. In both cases it's not going to take much effort to acclimate myself to a new or modified service, but it's still hard to shake the sense of loss, because I spent so much time using both, and I'd gotten very familiar with them.

I've always been something of a late adopter - I managed to skip Windows Vista entirely by holding out with XP until Windows 7 came along. My current laptop is nearly six years old, and I don't own a smartphone, tablet, or anything that supports an app. I'll probably be replacing the laptop soon with a newer model, not because I'm unhappy with its performance, but because you can't just go an buy a brand new 2007 laptop. There are already parts of the internet my processor and graphics card are having a hard time keeping up with, and I've been warned that eventually most of the online services that I use aren't going to run as well with my old, outdated machine as they keep getting upgraded and updated. Of course I've seen the benefits of many of these improvements over the years, but sometimes it feels like I'm running a Red Queen's race. Video platforms continue to be the bane of my existence. I spent a good chunk of yesterday evening updating Java and Adobe Shockwhatever, trying to get an old Stanley Kubrick supercut to play properly. And who knows what kind of horror will be unleashed when Netflix switches over to HTML5.

I've been through this familiar situation enough times before that I know that I'm really just grumbling over change in general. There's nothing I can do about the changes to my online services in the same way that I can't do anything about the volatile gas prices or the end of Saturday mail services. The online world is actually better in many ways because there are a lot of options to conduct basic activities, lots of different providers (except for internet service itself), and a lot of sympathy towards late adopters. If I really wanted to, I could hold out with my current laptop for a very long time. I finally gave up on Windows XP back in 2007, but Microsoft is still supporting the operating system until next year. I might just stick to Windows 7 for a while, considering what I've been hearing about Windows 8, and wait until 9 or 10 roll around.

But first things first. I need a new RSS reader, hopefully one that will let me download audio content directly. And I might just give up Tweetdeck entirely and update directly through the Twitter site, or see if there's another third party services that's a little more user friendly. I need my Gmail account, but I might start drafting blog posts in what used to be my Hotmail account, which recently mysteriously transmogrified into this thing called Microsoft Outlook. I can't really tell the difference between them functionally, so no complaints. The transition was handled so well that it took me a few weeks to realize that I was actually using a different service.

Sometimes technology marches on, and sometimes it can pull a fast one on you.
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And now ladies and gentlemen, The Doom Song.

Doom doom doom doomy doom doom doom DOOM DOOM DOOM dooooom doom doom da doom da doom doom doom doo doom doo doom DA DOOM! DA DOOM! Doom doom doom. Doom doom doom! Doomy doomie doomey doo-wah doom! Doom doom doom, doom dee doom dee doom doom doom. Dum dum dum DOOM! Doom doom doom, doo doo doom doom doom. Da doom, da doom DOOM DOOM DOOM DA DA DOOM! DOOOOOOM!

Dee dah DOOM! Da Da DOOM! DOOM doom doom doom, DOOM doom doom doom, DOOM doom doom doom, DOOM doom doom doom, Da da DOOM da DOOM! Dooom doooooom doooooom dooooom, DOOM DOOM (da-doom doom doom). DOOM DOOM DOOM dooooom doom doom da doom da doom doom doom doo doom doo doom DA DOOM! DA DOOM! DOOM DOOM DOOM dooooom doom doom da doom da doom doom doom doo doom doo doom DA DOOM! DA DOOM! DOOM DOOM DOOM dooooom doom doom da doom da doom doom doom doo doom doo doom DA DOOM! DA DOOM! DOOM DOOM DOOM dooooom doom doom da doom da doom doom doom doo doom doo doom DA DOOM! DA DOOM! Doomerino, Doomeransky, Doomie-oomie-oomie-oooooom! DOOM dah doom dah doom doom doom doom DOOOOOOM! Doom!

Doom doom doomdoom DOOMDOOM doom doom doomdoomdoom doom doom DOOMDOOMDOOM doom doom doom doomdoom doom doom dee deed da DOOOM DOOOM DOOOM! DOOM DOOM DOOM dooooom doom doom da doom da doom doom doom doo doom doo doom DA DOOM! DA DOOM! Doom doom doom, doom dee doom dee doom doom doom. Dum dum dum DOOM! Doom doom doom, doom dee doom dee doom doom doom. Dum dum dum DOOM! Doom doom doom, doom dee doom dee doom doom doom. Dum dum dum DOOM! DOO-WAH-DOOOMIE DOOMIE DUM DIDDIE DOOM!

Doom doom doo-da-doom, doom doom doo-da-doom, doom doom doo-da-doom, DOOM! Doom doom da doom dooooom, doom doom da doom dooooom, doom doom doom doomy doomy doom DOOM doom DOOOOM! Doom doom doom DOOM da-doom doom DOOM do-doom doom DOOM! Doom doom doom DOOM da-da-doom DOOM, da-da DOOM. DOOM da-da-doom DOOM, da-da DOOM da-da-DOOM! DOOM DOOMIE DOOM DOOM. Doom doomie-doom-doom. Doom doom doom DOOM doom, DOO-DOOM DOO-DOOOM! Doom doom doom DOOM! DOOM! DOOM! DOOM! DOOM! DOOMDOOMDOOMDOOM!

Dooom! Dooom! Doomy doomy doomydoomy, DOOM doom doom doomy! Doom dum doom dum doomy doom doom. Da-doomie doomie doom doom doom. Doomie! Doomie! Doom doom doom dee doomie. Doomdoom doomdoom, doom doom doo doom doom doom. Dooooom doom doom da doom da doom doom doom doo doom doo doom. Dooooooooom doom doom da doom da doom doom doom doo doom doo doom. Doom doom doom, doom dee doom dee doom doom doom. Doom doom doom, doom dee dee dee doom doom doom. La la la doom. FA LA LA LA LA LA DOOOM, DOOOM DOOOOOOM!

Doom doom doom doom doom, doom doom do DOOM, DOOOM doom do-doom, DOOM do-doom doom doooom, doom doom dooom, do-do-DOOOM! Doom doom doo doom doom. DOOMY-DOOMY-DOOM, doom do do DOOM. Do do DOOM, doomy-doomy-doomy, Doom doom doom.

Doom da-doom.

missmediajunkie: (Default)
As if we didn't have enough Disney-related rumors going around, yesterday a Colombian radio personality claimed that PIXAR was going ahead with a fourth "Toy Story" movie, to be released in 2015, and had already gotten Tom Hanks and other stars to agree to reprise their roles. None of the usual media news sources backed them up, and frankly anybody who was remotely familiar with PIXAR recognized right away that this was probably not reliable information. There is an untitled PIXAR movie on the slate for November of 2015, and Tom Hanks has claimed that "Toy Story 4" is in development, but there have been just as many denials that PIXAR is going forward with another sequel. Now, it's not too unlikely that PIXAR is considering giving Woody and his friends another movie. A Halloween special featuring the characters is in the works, and several shorts have produced. I caught the one with Rex and the bath toys at a Disney store over the weekend. However, nothing is remotely official yet.

Of course, that didn't stop bloggers and smaller sites from spreading the rumor around, and getting the internet worked up into a frenzy. The discussion went from questioning the news sources to talking about potential ideas for a new sequel to complaining about how PIXAR had jumped the shark by indulging in this kind of sequelitis very quickly. By the time the inevitable denial articles came around from sites like IGN and Ain’t it Cool News, the "Toy Story 4" rumors had already been digested and debated and absorbed like it was a real piece of news. The same thing happened with the rumor that Harrison Ford was returning as Han Solo to the "Star Wars" franchise a few days ago. That one came from a more reputable source, a Fox News Latino correspondent, and was reported by many legitimate news outlets, but ultimately there was no concrete evidence that any of it was true, just like the rumors about the possible "Star Wars" spinoffs about Yoda and Boba Fett and the young Han Solo that were running wild last week.

Entertainment news runs by different rules than regular news. It's a gossip-based economy, where there are almost no bad consequences for making up completely false claims and spreading around bad information. Being first to break this kind of news is much more important than getting the details right. The studios allow them to proliferate because they're fairly harmless. Rumors can even help gauge the public's reaction to certain ideas and possibilities, which is why some suggested that the new "Toy Story 4" rumors might have been planted on purpose, to see how people would react. If this happened with hard news, there would be scandals and backlash and recriminations. Rumors related to the business side of Hollywood are treated much more carefully, because there are hard consequences to getting that kind of information wrong. However, conjecture about projects in development, or who might be attached to play which role, rarely has so much impact, so there's more permissiveness.

I find this attitude a real a pain in the neck, personally. Sure, sometimes the rumors are fun on a slow news day, but they can also be such distracting, annoying, and kind of disheartening. I'm not going to put down anyone for getting excited over a possible "Toy Story 4," but this was such a bad rumor to begin with. A news item from Colombia based on the word of unnamed sources? Why would anyone believe this for a second? Why would countless bloggers and websites pass this around without waiting for any kind of confirmation? Is there any degree of skepticism at all in this process? Geographically I don't live too far from the PIXAR studios in Emeryville. I could know somebody who knows somebody who's working on the development of this new sequel. I could make up just about anything I want, let it loose on Twitter, and cause a media storm of similar proportions. I could say Brad Bird has been working on "The Incredibles 2" all this time, alongside "Tomorrowland," and offer no proof at all, and someone out there would believe me.

Let's just be clear that the preceding paragraph is a total hypothetical, before some data-scraper program gets too excited. Okay?

Sigh. I don't mean to get all worked up, but the rumor mill can be really frustrating sometimes. I particularly dislike that it tends to drown out smaller, but more concrete media news items that I find much more interesting. On the animation front, Dreamworks' "Peabody and Mr. Sherman" recently got pushed back to 2014, and "Me and My Shadow" was pulled from their slate, preceding a potential round of layoffs. And we just got a new batch of promotional material for "Ender's Game" - you know, that movie that Harrison Ford is actually appearing in this November. It's nothing as big or exciting as the recent rumors, but at least these stories are actually real.
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When J.J. Abrams was announced as the director of the next "Star Wars," there was a nice sense of relief. Finally the fanboys could stop speculating and we would get a break from some of the wilder "Star Wars" rumors that were circulating. But this week, Harry Knowles went and started up the rumors about a possible Yoda spin-off movie. We've known for a while that Disney was considering more stand-alone "Star Wars" films apart from the upcoming trilogy, but the newest round of conjecture got Disney CEO Bob Iger to confirm that there was active development going on, and that writers Lawrence Kasdan and Simon Kinberg were working on them. Today there were more rumors that stand-alone movies about Boba Fett and the young Han Solo were in the works, according to Entertainment Weekly.

Meanwhile, over at Marvel, their cinematic universe is expanding at a furious rate. The post-"Avengers" "Phase Two" films are all pretty much locked. Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America are getting their new sequels, and "Guardians of the Galaxy" just landed a leading man. These will lead up to "Avengers 2" in 2015. Most of the current speculation and rumor mongering has been about "Phase Three," which currently has only one confirmed project: Edgar Wright's long-awaited "Ant-Man." "Doctor Strange" is a major candidate to get his own movie after that. This week, there's been a lot of buzz about the possibility of a new "Hulk" movie, possibly an adaptation of the beloved comics storyline "Planet Hulk." There's already a furious debate going on in various corners of the internet about potential directors.

Since the success of "The Avengers" and the conclusion of "Harry Potter," planning out these massive, multi-film series years and years in advance has become the new normal. Nobody's worried about that first 2015 "Star Wars" film being a flop, or the potential failure of an "Avengers 2," which might shutter all the follow-up films, because those properties are so well insulated by their brands. Barring monumental catastrophes, we're going to have at least eleven connected Marvel films by the time we're done with Phase Two in 2015, and potentially many, many more if Marvel can manage the tricky transitions to new characters and the inevitable replacement of aging actors. And if the "Star Wars" prequels have taught us anything, it's that fans will show up to any "Star Wars" movie, hoping it will live up to the originals, in spite of all evidence to the contrary. That should get Disney through at least three new "Star Wars" films, even if they turn out to be terrible. However, J.J. Abrams is not in the habit of making terrible films, so I think it's safe to push that number up to four or five.

And now the fan speculation is free to get weirder and wilder than it ever has before. For years, "Star Wars" fans have idolized the bounty hunter Boba Fett, a minor villain in the original trilogy. Now there's a pretty distinct possibility that the powers-that-be are considering giving him his own spin-off movie. Who could be next? Mace Windu? Jabba the Hut? Admiral Ackbar? And if the fairly obscure Marvel superhero Ant-Man can have his own feature, why not Luke Cage? Or Wasp? Or the Power Pack? The ideas that would have been dismissed as wild fantasizing a few years ago have all suddenly become much more plausible. It's really tempting to want to join in the fun and think about the possibilities of more daring storylines and crazy cross-overs. Why not Avengers vs. X-men? Or if Warners really gets desperate a few years down the line, why not Avengers vs. Justice League? You could do a whole trilogy on that one alone.

However, I'm trying my best not to get carried away. Even though it looks like the sky's the limit right now for these franchises, the risks are still considerable. For Marvel, the longer the series goes on, the more difficult it is for newcomers to find an entry point, and tackling the less popular, more fringe characters means the later films may grow increasingly niche. Also, with two Marvel films being released each year for the next three years, I worry that we're going to hit a saturation point eventually. With "Star Wars," it's even harder to predict what's going to happen. The earliest we'll see the next film is 2015, and how well it does is going to determine how risky the other films are going to get. It's not easy to get these big action franchises off the ground, and Disney has stumbled multiple times trying to launch new ones - most recently with "John Carter" - and ended up buying its way into "Star Wars" and the Marvel Universe.

There's no question that Disney has the ambition, but living up to those ambitions is another matter entirely. Right now, I'm more interested with what's going on with the films already pretty far along in the pipeline. Is swapping out Kenneth Branagh and Joe Johnston for the much less experienced Alan Taylor and the Russo brothers as directors going to hurt the next Thor and Captain America films? And how on earth are they going to pull off something as mad as "Guardians of the Galaxy"? As for "Star Wars," J.J. Abrams should do a competent job, though the idea of cross-contamination with the "Star Trek" universe is a concern. Take heed from one of the rare fans who enjoys both equally - these are universes you do not want colliding. And then there's Abrams' penchant for trying to do everything. The latest is that he's apparently been talking to Valve about a possible "Half-Life" or "Portal" movie on top of everything else.

Yeah, these franchises are going to be crazy enough enough without all the speculation. Hang on tight everybody.
missmediajunkie: (Default)
Yesterday brought the announcement that Mark Romanek had dropped out of Disney's new "Cinderella" adaptation, the one where Cate Blanchett is playing the evil stepmother. Mark Romanek previously directed "Never Let Me Go" and "One Hour Photo," as well as several well-regarded music videos, and is known for his strong visual style and edgy aesthetic bent. It's no mystery why Disney would want to work with him. However, the director's vision was apparently darker than what Disney had in mind, and the general reaction of most observers has been, well, of course it was. I think I'm in the minority in that I'm genuinely disappointed that Disney and Romanek couldn't come to terms. I wanted to see what that "Cinderella" would have looked like. Pairing up a more artistically daring with director with mainstream material can yield some interesting results. Sure, Tarsem Singh's "Mirror, Mirror" was pretty weightless fluff, but it was more visually interesting and thematically sound than that other Snow White movie that came out last year. And I continue ot defend Tim Burton's "Alice in Wonderland" for the voluptuous art design at least.

Directors have a tendency to be pigeonholed more than anyone likes to admit, and much more in modern times than they were in the old days. It used to be that directors had their specialties, but it wasn't that odd to find John Ford directing a comedy or Howard Hawks directing a musical. I've often wondered what would happen if some of our celebrated directors of action movies and heavy dramas had to work with something a little lighter and frillier and more... Disney. So as the Mouse House searches for someone to replace Romamek, I've been pondering over what "Cinderella" might look like if some more unorthodox names were under consideration:

Wes Anderson's Cinderella - Stars Kara Hayward as Cindy, an awkward preteen with a penchant for David Bowie songs, sweater vests, and philately. In order to spend time with her one true love, Fred Charming, during her spring break, she has to infiltrate his private school in the guise of a French foreign exchange student. One thing leads to another, and Cindy ends up competing in a junior jitterbug dance competition against Fred. Angelica Houston plays the stepmother, a complicated soul, whose meanness is really only a defense mechanism.

Christopher Nolan's Cinderella - Stars Ellen Page as Alice Rendl, a brilliant young software designer caught in a web of corporate espionage and intrigue. Joan Allen plays the stepmother, the icy CFO of a major international conglomerate that is trying to get their hands on a new virtual reality program, "Glass Slipper," that has fallen into Alice's lap. Can she unlock its secrets and uncover the secret identity of the hacker Charming before the police come to arrest her at midnight? Will she finally be able to face reality? What is reality?

David Lynch's Cinderella - Stars Amanda Seyfried as Rella, a sweet girl in a small town yearning to fall in love. Unfortunately she's under the strict employ of her unhappy, repressed stepmother, played by Laura Dern, proprietress of a small nursing home for retired circus performers. Rella's only friends are seven dwarf brothers who used to do a tumbling act. One night she has disturbing dreams of a man with a pumpkin for a head, giant mice acting out scenes of suburban domesticity, and lizards speaking backward. Then the universe collapses in on itself with disturbing elegance.

The Coen Brothers' Cinderella - Stars Hailee Steinfeld as Ellie, a stubborn young woman who decides she's destined to marry the boy next door, and plots to run away with him. Alas, he mysteriously disappears before they can depart. Frances McDormand plays the stepmother, who spends the first act threatening Ellie with bodily harm when she ducks out of helping with the decorations for the annual cotillion. In a twist, she turns up murdered, so Ellie must sets out on a journey into the seedy depths of suburban Ohio to find the killers, encountering one colorful character after another in her search.

Quentin Tarantino's Cinderella - Stars Chloe Moretz as Cinders, a teenage assassin out for revenge. Her mission is to kill the evil stepmother played by – who else? Uma Thurman – the secret leader of an international organization of neo-Nazi supervillains. The ball is merely a set-up, and Cinders is really there to rescue Prince Charming, fulfilling an old promise to her mentor in the killing arts, the Fairy Godmother. This requires dueling her stepmother to the death using shards of the glass slippers, and her mother's heirloom Hattori Hanzo sword.

Michael Bay's Cinderella – Stars Rosie Huntington-Whiteley as Cinderella Johnson, personal assistant to a brilliant industrialist named Mr. Charming, who is secretly a government agent. His identity is compromised and terrorists take Cinderella hostage, just as aliens attack the earth and all machines become sentient and turn on humanity. Cinderella and Mr. Charming spend three hours running for their lives, crashing expensive cars, and blowing up anything that moves. Cinderella is in a negligee and glass high heels the entire time, but her lipstick never gets smudged.

Lars von Trier's Cinderella - Actually, now that I think about it, I'm pretty sure that was "Melancholia."
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I think this is a good time to take stock of the current state of race-based casting practices in Hollywood again, since the subject has come up in a few recent releases. First, I want to point out that I've noticed a growing level of sensitivity to the issue, and there have been some significant bullets that have been dodged in recent months. Looking at the list of potentially problematic projects, mostly anime and manga adaptations, almost none of them have moved forward. Notably, the big budget "Akira" project has been all but quashed, while Spike Lee's new version of "Oldboy" is transplanting the story to America instead of trying to revisit the Korean characters.

Two recent prestige pictures have taken some heat for changing the ethnicities of real life people so that the parts could be played by Caucasian actors. I feel that "Argo" was the more egregious case, because director Ben Affleck touted the film's authenticity, yet cast himself as the film's hero, CIA operative Antonio Mendez. And then there's "The Impossible," which got a lot of flack even before its release for choosing to focus on a rich Caucasian family's experiences during the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami. It turns out that there was a real family who the main characters were based on, the Belons, who are Spanish. Notably, "The Impossible" is a Spanish production and has a Spanish director, Juan Antonio Bayona. However, his lead actors are Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor instead of Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz. No one has denied that the characters were anglicized in order to make the film more appealing to wider audiences, but the move was so blatant that "The Impossible" has sparked an outpouring of commentary, including this critical Guardian article.

Another film that prompted considerable discussion was "Cloud Atlas," which had a multicultural cast, and the actors played multiple characters in six different stories, including characters of different ethnicities and genders. This is a problematic one on several levels, but I'm inclined to give the movie a pass because all the racebending and genderbending was handled with balance and consistency, so we had a Korean actress playing a Caucasian woman in one sequence, and then an African American woman playing an Asian man in another, and Hugh Grant done up like a cannibal in tribal war paint in a third. The execution wasn't great, but I can't find fault with the filmmakers' artistic choices since they went to such extremes to pull this off, and the decision clearly wasn't made because they were trying to make the film more marketable or because it was a matter of convenience. In this case the good intentions, even if they were somewhat misguided, alleviate some of the sting. However, I still think the segment that had Jim Sturgess, Hugo Weaving, and others made up to look like Koreans is so off-putting, I'll be using it as a good example of why yellowface makeup is almost always a terrible idea.

The important thing to take to heart is that people are talking about the issue. Directors have had to address casting grumbles months in advance, and to take racial sensitivities into greater account. There are watchdog groups specifically keeping tabs on casting issues, and the audience has gotten more clued in too. I wrote a little about the "Hunger Games" casting controversy, but the real fireworks happened after the film's release, when there was an uproar over insensitive Twitter comments made about the film's African-American characters. I think we are seeing the culture shifting, and the greater awareness of some of these problematic casting practices, even if we're not at the point of widespread rejection yet. However, I'm optimistic that things can continue to improve.

I expect the biggest potential controversy on the horizon is Johnny Depp playing Tonto in "The Lone Ranger." Depp has long claimed Native American heritage and went and got himself adopted by a Native American tribe in a sign of good faith, but I don't know if that's going to be enough to stymie criticisms. His Tonto in the "Lone Ranger" trailers looks awfully stereotypical. Otherwise, I'm hopeful about this summer. Will and Jaden Smith will star in M. Night Shyamalan's "After Earth," "Fast Six" will feature its usual multicultural cast, and the giant robot v. giant monster movie "Pacific Rim" put out a teaser trailer that features Idris Elba and Rinko Kikuchi.

This upcoming awards season will also celebrate the success of films like "Django Unchained," "Beast of the Southern Wild," and "Life of Pi," all featuring non-white lead characters. It would have been nice to be able to add "Argo" and "The Impossible" to that list, but, well, bygones. It's enough for me that the whitewashing of the Spanish and Latino characters did not go unnoticed this time around. And maybe next time, the filmmakers will think twice before writing off non-white leads.
missmediajunkie: (Default)
Tis the season. Christmas is coming, and with it the first trailers for some of next summer's biggest movies, including "Star Trek: Into Darkness," Guillermo Del Toro's "Pacific Rim," and the new Superman movie, "Man of Steel." It's "Man of Steel" that's been on my mind lately. The recently released teaser posters have provoked a storm of discussion, and I've been faced with a familiar dilemma.

One part of me, the skeptic, the cynic, the Dana Scully in me, wants to reject the hype. Zack Snyder has directing duties, and I consider his work pretty shaky at best. Writer David S. Goyer isn't much better, responsible for some of the best recent comic book adaptations and some I'd rather forget about. I'm not against Warners making another attempt to launch a "Superman" franchise after the underperformance of "Superman Returns," but I'm not sure that this is the right creative team to do it with. The involvement of Christopher Nolan as a producer has been touted as a plus, but I'm not convinced that the darker and grittier sensibilities he brought to his Batman movie would translate well to a more idealistic, more fantastic superhero like Superman.

But then there's the Fox Mulder part of me, who wants so very badly to believe. I loved Richard Donner's 1978 "Superman" film as a kid, and was always a little disappointed that nobody got him right since, not in the cartoons, not in the television shows, and not in the modern movies. I look at that new teaser poster, and the possibility of "Man of Steel" being the Superman film I've been waiting for gets me terribly excited. Looking at the cast list, I'm not too familiar with Henry Cavill, the new man in the cape, but Amy Adams should make a great Lois Lane, and Michael Shannon is resurrecting one of the most entertaining villains from the older movies – General Zod. Remember General Zod? If the rumors about the return of Khan Noonien Singh to the "Star Trek" universe turn out to be false, we're still going to be getting some prime sci-fi villain ham next summer.

Then again, the choice of Zod seems a little desperate. It's worth nothing that "Man of Steel" wasn't greenlit because someone had a brilliant new take on the Superman mythos that roused Warners to action. No, it was a court case decided in 2009, the one that gave Superman creator Jerry Siegel's heirs the rights to Superman's characters and origins. The decision stated that if Warners didn't begin production on a Superman film by 2011, they could be sued for lost revenue on an unproduced film. That was the impetus for the new reboot, and it's not one that inspires much confidence. Considering all the false starts and dead ends over the years, Superman has proven to be a tough character to modernize. People are still passing around those awful costume test photos from the scrapped Tim Burton "Superman Lives" that would have starred Nicolas Cage.

But I did like that first teaser trailer that played with "The Dark Knight Rises," showing Clark Kent travelling the world and seeking answers. I liked that it looked different from any other take on Superman I've seen in a long time, and that the filmmakers are clearly not afraid to strike out in a new direction. And maybe getting a little darker and more serious wouldn't hurt, considering that the last time Warners tried to do something lighter and more fantasy-oriented with one of their superheroes, we ended up with "The Green Lantern." The trailer did show off some great visuals, and if the studios can reign in Zack Snyder's worst impulses and bad habits, we could get something really interesting.

Of course that's a big if, and Warners has had a lot more failures than successes lately with its DC superhero franchises that aren't about Batman. They're so far behind the Marvel films, it's no contest.

Considering how much Warners has riding on the film, though, including a potential future "Justice League" franchise, I'm sure they'll spare no expense and take all necessary steps to ensure success.

But Russell Crowe is playing Jor-El. We're not too keen on Russell Crowe.

But Laurence Fishburne is playing Perry White. We like Laurence Fishburne!

So here I sit, debating back and forth with myself, and instead of an angel and devil, I have Mulder and Scully from "The X-files" sitting on my shoulders, and both of them are somehow film nerds who have read too many film articles and comic-book geek discussions. And I haven't decided yet if I'm anticipating "Man of Steel" or if I'm dreading it, if I'm rooting for its success or hoping for minimal embarrassment.

All I know is that next year, whether it's a success or a failure, it's going to be big.


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