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Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The Perverse Appeal of LOST

This post contains no LOST spoilers.

The Queen and I are halfway through season three of LOST and goddamn I love this show.

It's hard for me to admit because LOST is popular, and it's crucial to my self-image that I only enjoy television shows that hobble along for a season or three, unappreciated by the unwashed masses, before getting unceremoniously axed. Freaks & Geeks, Arrested Development, Firefly, and so forth. (We are going to conveniently ignore that I also liked The Sopranos, and that I laugh until my stomach hurts every time I stumble across AFHV ...) And yet here I am, a LOST junkie, just like half of America.

Intellectually I recognize that the third season has all of the same problems of the first two: it shows us the trees, so to speak, and willfully ignores the forest. In other words, the creators of LOST have inverted the traditional mystery formula by making the clues themselves the focus of the show, instead of using them as an means to a end (the end being the solution of the central mystery).

Here's a hypothetical example (hypothetical in the sense that I just made all this up; again, no spoilers in this post.) An episode ends with someone on LOST finding a leather-bound tome entitled "Secrets of the Island." Yes! Finally we'll learn what's going on! But in the next installment, that person opens the book to discover that the whole thing is written in ancient indecipherable pictograms. Dammit! But in the last five minutes, someone notices that the final third of the book is blank, and the ink of the last entry is fresh! "It's a work-in-progress," says Major Character. "Someone is still writing it!!" And in the last five minutes of the next episode it is revealed via flashback that Other Major Character studied Ancient Indecipherable Pictology in college--holy shit!!!! And this goes on for three more episodes, at which point Major Character confronts Other Major Character with the book, and he (O.M.C.) confesses that he is using the book to record the movements of the other castaways, but only because a giant, ambulatory, sentient coconut threatened to kill him if he didn't. And you, the viewer, are, like, "well, I'm glad the mystery of the book is cleared up BUT WHAT'S THIS ABOUT A GIANT AMBULATORY SENTIENT COCONUT??!!!" Lots and lots of clues (and episodes about clues), but you're not one jot closer to understanding the central mystery. And meanwhile the LOST prop department is hastily burying the book in a Superfund site, hoping that no one remembers the title.

I found all this exasperating during season two (during which I parodied the style with The Adventure of the Missing Stocking.) But I've succumbed to Stockholm Syndrome or something, because now I kind of enjoy the sheer absurdity of it.

The structure of the narrative reminds me, in many ways, of a computer roleplaying game (CRPG). A quick primer for my seven non-nerd readers: in a CRPG (such as World of Warcraft, a.k.a. WoW), you typically start out as a puny little nothing, a 47-pound weakling armed with a broomstick. As such, you only have the wherewithal to fight monsters of a comparable degree of fragility (rats, typically). But every time you dispatch one, you gain "experience," and once you've acquired enough experience, you "level". Leveling (as it is called) means that your abilities go up, you are able to buy and use better weapons, and can now go toe-to-toe with slightly more menacing creatures--giant ambulatory sentient coconuts, say. Kill enough of those, level again, and move on to the next class of baddies.

I love CRPGs (so much so that I've avoided WoW like the plague--if I wanted a all-consuming addiction I'd pick up some heroin from a Seattle street corner, thanks). I love them despite my frequent realizations, while playing, that in-game progress is largely chimeric. When you're a level 1 squire it may take you two minutes to kill a rat; when you are a level 9 knight you can kill a rat with a single stroke--but you don't fight rats, you fight ogres, and the time it takes you to kill them is ... two minutes. You environment levels up as you do, such that you are pretty much playing the same game all the time, albeit with cool new equipment and a more impressive sounding rank. The excitement you feel upon leveling fades almost immediately, as you start accumulating experience to reach the next stage.

This is the LOST formula in a nutshell. During each show you gain a little experience in the form of new information: about the island, the characters, or both; every four episodes or so you level up, as some (allegedly) major piece of the overall puzzle falls into place. After leveling up in a CRPG, you typically head to Ye Olde Flail 'N' Scented Candle Emporium, sell all your current equipment, and buy the improved weapons that your enhanced abilities now allow you to wield; likewise, after a revelatory LOST episode, fans chuck all their old theories into the dustbin and cook up new ones consistent with the revised facts. Then, having done so, each--the player of a CRPG, or the viewer of LOST--is handed a brand new quest, or puzzle, or plot plot. The ephemeral thrill of leveling vanishes, replaced by a longing to hit the next milestone. You never disembark from the treadmill, it just goes faster.

This may sound like criticism, but it's not. It's admiration. Like the creators of World of Warcraft, the writers of LOST have managed to throw a saddle on the addictive lure of leveling and ride it to success. And bully for them. Like I said, I love this genre, even if I can visualize the levers they are pulling.

LOST is not the first program to attempt this, to be sure. Lynch tried it with Twin Peaks, but the wheels flew off the cart in the second season (and even before that, the ride was pretty bumpy). The X-Files came close to pulling it off, but it wasn't certain if the writers would ever provide resolution to the core "mythos" mysteries, and after a while fans (such as myself) gave up on the series. That's what CRPGers call an "endgame problem"--the game might be fun to play, but the whole enterprise feels pointless unless there's a clearly-defined "ending" on the horizon. (Even WoW, which you could conceivably play forever, has a maximum level that a character can reach, giving players a concrete goal toward which to strive.) The creators of LOST obviated the "endgame problem" by announcing that the series will end in 2010, and swearing that answers will be supplied. (For details, see this commendably spoiler-free USA Today article from last year.)

Another piece of lingo that crops up a lot in CRPG circles is "grinding": when your character has to do the same thing over and over again (killing rats, for instance) to acquire the experience necessary to level. If the CRPG isn't intrinsically interesting, then grinding is just that: a grind. But if the world is well-constructed, and the game is well-written, grinding is tolerated (and even enjoyed) by players as a necessary evil, something to keep you immersed in the storyline as long as possible. After all, a game in which you started at level 70 and killed the End Boss in your first fight would be lame beyond belief.

Much of LOST is grinding, honestly: stuff to keep the viewer occupied until the next bombshell drops and the story is taken the next level (so to speak). But here, halfway through season three, it's becoming increasingly obvious (at least to me) that the grinding itself is pretty fun. That's high-praise right there: these guys can even stall entertainingly.

Yes some of the episodes are clunkers, and lot of the plot twists don't endure a moment's scrutiny, and I STILL REMEMBER THE TITLE OF THE BOOK YOU GODDAMNED CHEATS!! But the game's been a lot of fun so far, and I'll gladly play through to the end.

Original here

BBC announces Nintendo Wii deal

Pensioner playing Nintendo Wii, AP
The Wii has brought many people to gaming for the first time

The BBC's iPlayer video service will soon be available via the Nintendo Wii.

The video download and streaming service that lets people catch up with BBC programmes will soon be a channel on the hugely popular game console.

Early versions of the service will be available from 9 April but more polished software will be released as the service is developed.

The BBC is still at loggerheads with internet service providers (ISPs) over who should pay for extra network costs.

ISPs say the iPlayer is putting strain on their networks, which need to be upgraded to cope. Simon Gunter, from ISP Tiscali, is leading a call for the BBC to help pay for the rising costs.

But Ashley Highfield, head of future media and technology at the corporation, has said he believes the cost of network upgrades should be carried by ISPs.

The news of the Nintendo Wii deal comes as the BBC reveals a steep rise in the numbers of people using the iPlayer.

Fast seller

"The BBC's catch-up TV service can now be accessed on an increasing number of different platforms - from the web and portable devices to gaming consoles," said Erik Huggers, BBC's group controller for Future Media and Technology, announcing the deal in a speech at the MipTV-Milia conference in Cannes.

He added that the iPlayer will also soon be available on television.

The iPlayer on the Wii is currently being tested and the BBC expects to release more test versions in late 2008. An early version of the service is available from 9 April. It is only available in the UK to licence-fee payers.

The iPlayer will be accessible via the internet channel on the Wii console. The BBC said a message would be sent to Wii owners to alert them to its availability.

The news comes as the BBC releases the latest viewing figures for the iPlayer.

In March 2008, more than 17.2 million requests to download or stream BBC programmes were made via the iPlayer. This is up 25% on the previous month and means more than 42 million programmes have been accessed via the iPlayer since its Christmas 2007 launch.

Nintendo's Wii has rapidly become the world's most popular console largely thanks to its innovative motion-sensitive controller.

In the UK it has become the fastest-selling console ever, shifting more than one million units in just 38 weeks after going on sale.

Original here

Defendants: RIAA's private eyes are watching us—illegally

Last week a pair of rulings further muddied the waters around the RIAA's argument that making a file available over a P2P network constitutes distribution as defined by the Copyright Act. This week, the hot issue is the role that MediaSentry plays in the RIAA's legal campaign and whether the company should be licensed as a private investigator. A pair of defendants in separate cases are arguing that the company does need a license and that all evidence gathered by it should be excluded. The RIAA, in turn, is arguing that no license is necessary—and that even if MediaSentry's evidence was obtained illegally, it should still be admissible.

Defendants: MediaSentry needs a license and the evidence it collected is worthless

A college student at Northern Michigan University representing him or herself recently submitted a motion seeking to quash a subpoena directed at the school, arguing that the data collected by MediaSentry was "obtained through felonious conduct." The motion refers to a ruling made last month by the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Growth that MediaSentry needs to be licensed in order to "perform regulated activities." Regulators at the department have reportedly sent the company a letter informing them of the decision, although MediaSentry refused to confirm receipt to Ars. The company has also received a cease-and-desist order from the Massachusetts State Police saying that its investigative activities violate state law.

Doe number 5 in LaFace Records v. Does 1-5 believes that's enough to exclude MediaSentry's data. "[E]quity demands that Plaintiffs not be permitted to benefit in any way from the felonious conduct of their agent," argues the student. "It shocks the conscience to think any subpoena would be sustained when based solely on such outrageous conduct."

A newly-reported contested case in Florida raises many of the same issues. In Atlantic v. Boyer, Eva Boyer has filed her answer, affirmative defenses, and counterclaims in response to a lawsuit filed against her by the RIAA earlier this year. Boyer accuses the RIAA of "abusing" the federal judiciary and hiring "unlicensed private investigators" who "receive a bounty to invade private computers and... networks."

Under Florida law, private investigators are required to obtain a license. Boyer points out to the court that MediaSentry lacks such a license, saying that the labels have "conspired among themselves and others" to illegally investigate Florida residents.

RIAA: no license necessary


A copy of the cease-and-desist
order sent to MediaSentry

For its part, the RIAA has consistently argued that MediaSentry doesn't need PI licenses, telling Ars that the information the company collects is available for "anyone to see." A new filing by the RIAA in Lava v. Amurao seeks to thwart the defendant's motion to exclude the evidence collected by MediaSentry. The labels argue that MediaSentry is a "copyright investigator," not a private investigator, and therefore the New York law requiring PIs to be licensed doesn't apply.

The RIAA appears to overstep by arguing that licensing is also impractical because MediaSentry "can have no way of knowing... the location from where [the files] are being distributed." Yes, an IP address is obviously insufficient to pinpoint the name or address of someone who might be using that address. But a simple nslookup can often be enough to determine that a KaZaA user is a Comcast subscriber in the Los Angeles metropolitan area or is using the Harvard University network. In short, MediaSentry should be able to quickly figure out roughly where a user is located.

The RIAA also argues that the cost of obtaining licenses in all 50 states would be "prohibitive." The labels cite the $10,000 bond required in New York and say that multiplying that by 50 states would "seriously interfere with a copyright owner's legitimate right to investigate and protect its copyrights from infringement." This, coming from an organization that has shown zero hesitation to spend millions of dollars pursuing well over 20,000 individual copyright infringement lawsuits, seems implausible.

Even if it turns out that the evidence was obtained illegally, the RIAA argues, the evidence collected by MediaSentry should still be admissible. "Ultimately, the law is clear that even illegally obtained evidence, which Defendant cannot show here, is still admissible in a civil case," reads the RIAA's filing. "Contrary to Defendant's contentions, there is simply no policy justification whatsoever that would support the exclusion of relevant evidence of copyright infringement."

Copyright attorney Ray Beckerman reports on Recording Industry vs The People that the motions in Lava v. Amurao will be argued this Friday in White Plains, NY, so it's possible that the judge will issue a ruling on the PI licensing issue in the weeks or months ahead. The RIAA is seeking to dismiss the case against Rolando Amurao after determining that his adult daughter is the alleged copyright infringer.

As was the case with the making available rulings, we could see different judges coming down on different sides of the issue. There's a lot at stake here, especially if it turns out that some of MediaSentry's evidence was collected illegally. The uncertainty around MediaSentry's status may be behind the company's recent decision to remove all references to its "investigative services" from its website.

Further reading

  • Ray Beckerman dug up the filings in this report and has links to PDF copies of the documents. These include a copy of a cease-and-desist order sent by the Massachusetts State Police to MediaSentry
Original here

BREAKING: Disney/Pixar Announce Upcoming Slate!

This just in: Today in New York City, our Moviefone colleague Kevin Polowy attended the Disney/Pixar Animation Presentation hosted by Dick Cook and John Lasseter. Apparently, a whole handful of new, upcoming titles were announced -- some of which we've known about and some brand new. Additionally, they screened 30 minutes of WALL-E footage and announced that Sigourney Weaver would do a voice in the film. Kevin reported back, saying the footage "looked really strong, and turned this skeptic into a believer." (I don't know how Kevin was worried about this one; it's just too damn adorable.) Aside from WALL-E, here are highlights of what else was announced:

  • Up will follow WALL-E for Pixar, featuring the voices of Ed Asner, Christopher Plummer, John Ratzenberger and Jordan Nagai.
  • Tinkerbell will go direct-to-DVD, followed by three sequels. So four Tinkerbell films all together.
  • Rapunzel is back! Not only that, but the classic story will be done in full CGI.
  • King of the Elves is another film coming from Disney animation in 2012, and it's based on a Phillip K. Dick story.
  • Toy Story and Toy Story 2 to be released in 3-D in 2009 and 2010.
  • Toy Story 3 hits theaters on June 18, 2010
  • Newt will be Pixar's film in 2011, and it comes with this description: "What happens when the last remaining male and female blue-footed newts on the planet are forced together by science to save the species, and they can't stand each other?
  • Cars 2 coming in 2012!

UPDATE: Full press release after the jump, including more titles from Disney animation ...

DISNEY'S 'FAIRIES' DIRECT-TO-DVD FRANCHISE WILL ALSO DEBUT

NEW YORK, April 8, 2008 /PRNewswire/ -- The Walt Disney Studios unveiled a diverse and ambitious slate of 10 new animated feature films from Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios to be released through the year 2012 at a New York press conference held today by Dick Cook, chairman of The Walt Disney Studios, and John Lasseter, chief creative officer for Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios.

The line-up includes new films from Disney and Pixar's accomplished team of filmmakers, and features vocal performances by such top celebrity talents as John Travolta and Miley Cyrus ("Bolt"), Reese Witherspoon, Billy Connolly and Emma Thompson ("The Bear and the Bow"), Anika Noni Rose and John Goodman ("The Princess and the Frog"), as well as return engagements by Tom Hanks, Tim Allen and the rest of the "Toy Story" vocal ensemble ("Toy Story 3"). The roster of new animated features includes six new films from Pixar Animation Studios, four from Walt Disney Animation Studios, and the first four in a series of direct-to-DVD films featuring Disney Fairies from DisneyToon Studios. Starting later this year with the release of Disney's "Bolt," all Disney and Pixar animated features will be presented in state-of-the-art Disney Digital 3-D(TM). Additionally, newly converted 3-D versions of the beloved classics, "Toy Story" and "Toy Story 2," are set to debut in 2009 and 2010 respectively.

Among the upcoming animated films on the 2008 release schedule are "WALL*E" (Pixar) from Academy Award(R)-winning director/writer Andrew Stanton ("Finding Nemo") opening nationwide June 27th; "Bolt" (Disney) from the talented new directing team of Chris Williams and Byron Howard, due in theatres on November 26th; and the Disney DVD and Blu-ray release of "Tinker Bell," the first in a new franchise of original entertainment set in the world of Fairies, on October 28th. The Studio's 2009 animated slate includes the summer release of Pixar's first 3-D feature, "Up," from director Pete Docter ("Monsters, Inc.") and co-director Bob Peterson, the Christmas Day release of Disney's original animated fairy tale "The Princess and the Frog" from acclaimed veteran Disney directors John Musker and Ron Clements ("The Little Mermaid," "Aladdin," "Hercules,") and the Disney DVD and Blu-ray release of "Tinker Bell North of Never Land" (working title). 2010 brings the highly anticipated return of Buzz and Woody in the Disney Digital(TM) 3D summer release of Pixar's "Toy Story 3" directed by Lee Unkrich ("Finding Nemo," "Monsters, Inc."); followed by the Christmas arrival of Disney's version of the classic fairy tale, "Rapunzel," featuring the directing debuts of animation legend Glen Keane and directing partner Dean Wellins, and the Disney DVD and Blu-ray release of "Tinker Bell A Midsummer Storm" (working title).

In the summer of 2011, Pixar's "newt" marks the directing debut of multiple Oscar(R)-winning sound designer Gary Rydstrom. Christmas 2011 brings Pixar's first fairy tale, "The Bear and the Bow," from acclaimed filmmaker/writer Brenda Chapman ("The Prince of Egypt"). The Disney DVD and Blu-ray release of "Tinker Bell A Winter Story" (working title) also debuts in 2011. The year 2012 will mark the return of Lightning McQueen, Mater the tow truck, and an international cast of favorite and new car characters in Pixar's "Cars 2," directed by Brad Lewis (producer of "Ratatouille"). Scheduled for Christmas 2012 from Walt Disney Animation Studios is "King of the Elves," an adaptation of a Philip K. Dick short story, directed by Aaron Blaise and Robert Walker ("Brother Bear").

Commenting on the announcement, Cook said, "We couldn't be more proud and excited about our upcoming line-up of feature projects. With so many great films literally on the drawing boards and computer screens, we felt that now was the perfect time to give moviegoers all over the world an update on the state of our art. In a year when our Studio is marking the 80th anniversary of Mickey Mouse, the character that started it all for us, it seems especially timely to share our plans for the future of animation. With John Lasseter and Ed Catmull guiding our creative efforts both at Emeryville and in Burbank, this is as exciting a time as any in our history."

Lasseter added, "This is an amazing time for animation at Disney and Pixar, and it's a thrill to be working on such a diverse and original group of films with such an all-star team of filmmakers. The thing I love best about my job is that I get to work at both Disney and Pixar with filmmakers who are passionate about their projects and who are the absolute best in the business. We're excited to be pushing the boundaries of 3-D and computer technology to tell our stories in the best possible way. At the same time, we're drawing on our past to emphasize memorable characters, original edge-of-your-seat stories, and believable worlds. Walt Disney and his creative team taught us how to blend comedy, powerful emotion, and action-filled excitement in our films, and this group of incredible filmmakers is bringing their own originality and sensibilities to the
process."

WALT DISNEY ANIMATION STUDIOS/ PIXAR ANIMATION STUDIOS RELEASE SCHEDULE
2008 -- 2012:

2008:

WALL*E (Domestic Release Date: June 27th, 2008)
Pixar Animation Studios
Director/Screenwriter: Andrew Stanton
Producer: Jim Morris
Co-Producer: Lindsey Collins
Sound and Character Voice Designer: Ben Burtt
Composer: Thomas Newman, with an Original Song Performed by Peter Gabriel Voice Talent: Fred Willard, Jeff Garlin, Sigourney Weaver, John
Ratzenberger, Kathy Najimy

What if mankind had to leave Earth and somebody forgot to turn off the
last robot?

Academy Award(R)-winning writer-director Andrew Stanton ("Finding
Nemo") and the inventive storytellers and technical geniuses at Pixar
Animation Studios transport moviegoers to a galaxy not so very far away for
a new computer-animated cosmic comedy about a determined robot named
WALL*E.

After hundreds of lonely years doing what he was built for, WALL*E
(short for Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-Class) discovers a new
purpose in life (besides collecting knick-knacks) when he meets a sleek
search robot named EVE. EVE comes to realize that WALL*E has inadvertently
stumbled upon the key to the planet's future, and races back to space to
report her findings to the humans (who have been eagerly awaiting word that
it is safe to return home). Meanwhile, WALL*E chases EVE across the galaxy
and sets into motion one of the most incredible comedy adventures ever
brought to the big screen.

Joining WALL*E on his fantastic journey across a universe of
never-before-imagined visions of the future is a hilarious cast of
characters including a pet cockroach, and a heroic team of malfunctioning
misfit robots.



BOLT (Domestic Release Date: November 26th, 2008, Disney Digital 3-D(TM))
Walt Disney Animation Studios
Directors: Chris Williams, Byron Howard
Producer: Clark Spencer
Voice Talent: John Travolta, Miley Cyrus, Susie Essman
For super-dog Bolt (voiced by John Travolta), every day is filled with
adventure, danger and intrigue -- at least until the cameras stop rolling.
When the canine star of a hit TV show is accidentally shipped from his
Hollywood soundstage to New York City, he begins his biggest adventure yet
-- a cross-country journey through the real world. Armed only with the
delusions that all his amazing feats and powers are real, and with the help
of two unlikely traveling companions -- a jaded, abandoned housecat named
Mittens (voiced by Susie Essman), and TV-obsessed hamster in a plastic ball
named Rhino -- Bolt discovers he doesn't need superpowers to be a hero.
Miley Cyrus ("Hannah Montana") brings her vocal talents to the role of
Penny, Bolt's human co-star on the television series.



TINKER BELL (Disney DVD and Blu-ray Release Date: October 28th, 2008)
DisneyToon Studios
Director: Bradley Raymond
Producer: Jeannine Roussel
Enter the magical world of fairies and meet the enchanting creatures of
Pixie Hollow, who "nurture nature" and bring about the change of the
seasons. Changing the colors of the leaves, moving a sunbeam to melt snow,
waking animals from their winter slumber, or giving a patch of sproutlings
a sprinkle of water are all within the realm of these seasonal specialists.
Tinker Bell thinks her fairy talent as a "tinker" isn't as special or
important as the other fairies' talents. But when Tink tries to change who
she is, she creates nothing but disaster! With encouragement from her
friends Rosetta, Silvermist, Fawn and Iridessa, Tink learns the key to
solving her problems lies in her unique tinker abilities ... and discovers
that when she's true to herself, magical things can happen.



2009:

UP (Domestic Release Date: May 29th, 2009, Disney Digital 3-D(TM))
Pixar Animation Studios
Director: Pete Docter
Co-Director: Bob Peterson
Producer: Jonas Rivera
Writer: Bob Peterson Voice Talent: Ed Asner, Christopher Plummer, John Ratzenberger, Jordan
Nagai

From the Academy Award(R)-nominated team of director Pete Docter
("Monsters, Inc.") and co-director Bob Peterson comes "Up," a comedic
adventure taking off (and lifting spirits) in summer 2009. Carl Fredricksen
spent his entire life dreaming of exploring the globe and experiencing life
to its fullest. But at age 78, life seems to have passed him by, until a
twist of fate (and a persistent 8-year old Wilderness Explorer named
Russell) gives him a new lease on life. "Up" takes audiences on a thrilling
journey where the unlikely pair encounter wild terrain, unexpected villains
and jungle creatures. When seeking adventure next summer -- look "Up."



TOY STORY in 3-D (Domestic Release Date: October 2nd, 2009)
Pixar Animation Studios
Director: John Lasseter
Producers: Ralph Guggenheim, Bonnie Arnold
Composer: Randy Newman Voice Talent: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Don Rickles, Jim Varney, Wallace
Shawn, John Ratzenberger

Originally released by Walt Disney Pictures in 1995, "Toy Story" was
the first feature film from Pixar Animation Studios and director John
Lasseter. The film went on to receive Oscar(R) nominations for Best
Original Score, Best Original Song, and Best Original Screenplay, and
earned Lasseter a Special Achievement Award (Oscar(R)) "for the development
and inspired application of techniques that have made possible the first
feature-length computer-animated film." The 3-D version of this landmark
film is being personally overseen by Lasseter with his acclaimed team of
technical wizards handling all the necessary steps in the conversion
process.



THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG (Domestic Release Date: Christmas 2009)
Walt Disney Animation Studios
Directors: John Musker, Ron Clements
Producer: Peter Del Vecho
Composer: Randy Newman
Voice Talent: Anika Noni Rose, Keith David, Jenifer Lewis, John Goodman
A musical set in the greatest city of them all, New Orleans, "The
Princess and the Frog" marks Disney's return to the timeless art form of
traditional animation. The film teams Ron Clements and John Musker,
creators of "The Little Mermaid" and "Aladdin," with Oscar(R)-winning
composer Randy Newman to tell the most beautiful love story ever told ...
with frogs, voodoo, and a singing alligator.

TINKER BELL NORTH OF NEVER LAND - working title (Disney DVD and Blu-ray
Release Date: 2009)


DisneyToon Studios
Director: Klay Hall
Producer: Sean Lurie
In autumn, Tinker Bell is entrusted with crafting a great treasure that
can rejuvenate the Pixie Dust Tree. But when her friend Terence offers to
help, Tink's temper and stubbornness get the better of her, shattering both
her creation and her friendship with Terence. To set things right again,
she must embark on a journey far North of Never Land ... and along the way,
she will discover an even greater treasure.



2010:

TOY STORY 2 in 3-D (Domestic Release Date: February 12th, 2010)
Pixar Animation Studios
Director: John Lasseter
Co-Directors: Lee Unkrich, Ash Brannon
Producers: Helene Plotkin, Karen Robert Jackson
Composer: Randy Newman Voice Talent: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Kelsey Grammer, Don
Rickles, Estelle Harris, Jim Varney, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger

Originally released in 1999, "Toy Story 2" went on to become one of the
most popular animated features of all time. The film picks up as Andy is
heading off to Cowboy Camp and the toys are left to their own devices. When
an obsessive toy collector named Al McWhiggin (owner of Al's Toy Barn)
kidnaps Woody, and Woody learns that he's a highly valued collectable from
a 1950s TV show called "Woody's Roundup," the stage is set for a daring
rescue attempt by the gang from Andy's room. The film introduced such other
memorable characters from "Woody's Roundup" as Jessie the cowgirl, Bullseye
the horse, and the Prospector.

TOY STORY 3 (Domestic Release Date: June 18th, 2010, Disney Digital
3-D(TM))


Pixar Animation Studios
Director: Lee Unkrich
Producer: Darla K. Anderson
Writer: Michael Arndt
Composer: Randy Newman Voice Talent: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Don Rickles, Wallace
Shawn, Estelle Harris, John Ratzenberger, Ned Beatty

The creators of the beloved "Toy Story" films re-open the toy box and
bring moviegoers back to the delightful world of Woody, Buzz and our
favorite gang of toy characters in "Toy Story 3." Lee Unkrich (co-director
of "Toy Story 2" and "Finding Nemo") directs this highly anticipated film,
and Michael Arndt, the Academy Award(R)-winning screenwriter of "Little
Miss Sunshine," brings his unique talents and comedic sensibilities to the
proceedings.



RAPUNZEL (Domestic Release Date: Christmas 2010, Disney Digital 3-D(TM))
Walt Disney Animation Studios
Directors: Glen Keane, Dean Wellins
Producer: Roy Conli
In this new telling of the classic fairy tale, "Rapunzel," audiences
will be transported to a stunning CG fantasy world complete with the iconic
tower, an evil witch, a gallant hero and, of course, the mysterious girl
with the long golden tresses. Expect adventure, heart, humor, and hair ...
lots of hair, when Rapunzel unleashes her locks in theaters for the 2010
holiday.

TINKER BELL A MIDSUMMER STORM - working title (Disney DVD and Blu-ray
Release Date: 2010)


DisneyToon Studios
Director: Carolyn Gair
Producer: Margot Pipkin
After being confronted by her antagonist Vidia, an irritated Tinker
Bell retaliates by taking a photograph of Vidia ... without considering the
consequences. Now, the two must set aside their differences and cooperate
to prevent evidence of the existence of fairies from falling into human
hands.



2011:

NEWT (Domestic Release Date: Summer 2011, Disney Digital 3-D(TM))
Pixar Animation Studios
Director: Gary Rydstrom
Producer: Richard Hollander
Writers: Gary Rydstrom, Leslie Caveny
What happens when the last remaining male and female blue-footed newts
on the planet are forced together by science to save the species, and they
can't stand each other? That's the problem facing Newt and Brooke, heroes
of "newt," the Pixar film by seven-time Academy Award(R) winner for sound
Gary Rydstrom, and director of Pixar's Oscar-nominated short, "Lifted."
Newt and Brooke embark on a perilous, unpredictable adventure and discover
that finding a mate never goes as planned, even when you only have one
choice. Love, it turns out, is not a science.

THE BEAR AND THE BOW (Domestic Release Date: Christmas 2011, Disney
Digital 3-D(TM))


Pixar Animation Studios
Director: Brenda Chapman
Producer: Katherine Sarafian
Voice Talent: Reese Witherspoon, Billy Connolly, Emma Thompson
A rugged and mythic Scotland is the setting for Pixar's
action-adventure "The Bear and the Bow." The impetuous, tangle-haired
Merida, though a daughter of royalty, would prefer to make her mark as a
great archer. A clash of wills with her mother compels Merida to make a
reckless choice, which unleashes unintended peril on her father's kingdom
and her mother's life. Merida struggles with the unpredictable forces of
nature, magic and a dark, ancient curse to set things right. Director
Brenda Chapman ("The Prince of Egypt," "The Lion King") and the
storytelling wizards of Pixar conjure humor, fantasy and excitement in this
rich Highland tale.

TINKER BELL A WINTER STORY - working title (Disney DVD and Blu-ray
Release Date: 2011)

DisneyToon Studios

Producer: Sean Lurie

The fourth, as-yet-untold story of Tinker Bell and her fairy friends
will take place in winter, completing the cycle of the seasons.



2012:

CARS 2 (Domestic Release Date: Summer 2012, Disney Digital 3-D(TM))
Pixar Animation Studios
Director: Brad Lewis
All the world's a racetrack as racing superstar Lightning McQueen zooms
back into action, with his best friend Mater in tow, to take on the globe's
fastest and finest in this thrilling high-octane new installment of the
"Cars" saga. Mater and McQueen will need their passports as they find
themselves in a new world of intrigue, thrills and fast-paced comedic
escapades around the globe. "Cars 2" is being directed by Brad Lewis,
producer of the Oscar(R)- winning film "Ratatouille."

KING OF THE ELVES (Domestic Release Date: Christmas 2012, Disney
Digital 3-D(TM))


Walt Disney Animation Studios
Directors: Aaron Blaise, Robert Walker
Producer: Chuck Williams
Legendary storyteller Phillip K. Dick's short story (his only
experiment in the fantasy genre) becomes the basis for this fantastic and
imaginative tale about an average man living in the Mississippi Delta,
whose reluctant actions to help a desperate band of elves leads them to
name him their new king. Joining the innocent and endangered elves as they
attempt to escape from an evil and menacing troll, their unlikely new
leader finds himself caught on a journey filled with unimaginable dangers
and a chance to bring real meaning back to his own life.

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10 Horror Remakes That Should Be Made

While everything in our horror-loving hearts is screaming that the remake trend needs to be put down like Kevin Bacon in Friday the 13th, we all need to come to terms with something a little sad - it's never going to stop. They’re too damn simple and profitable to die, so we might as well try to make the best of it. With Prom Night limping into theaters this weekend and production amping up on a remake of My Bloody Valentine, it got us thinking about what other '80s horror flicks should be remade for a new generation. Looking over the last few years of slasher remakes, the ones that really haven't worked have taken source material that, quite honestly, didn't need to be remade. Think about movie remakes like you would music covers.

There are plenty of songs that could use a reinterpretation by a new artist, but would you pay money for an entire song-by-song cover album based on an LP that was perfect in the first place or would you just listen to the original? In the same way that issuing a song-by-song remake album of Exile on Main Street or Revolver would be a really bad idea, remaking Halloween, Psycho, or other already-perfect horror movies just feels like a waste of time. On that note, in the world of '80s movies, no one ever needs to remake Re-Animator, From Beyond, The Thing, Near Dark, The Howling, Poltergeist, or A Nightmare on Elm Street (which we know is happening but we’re choosing to remain in denial). No, they're not all equal, but they're all movies that should exist purely in their original form and are still being admired and introduced to a new generation every day (usually by a cruel older brother). As my grandpa used to say, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."

However, there are dozens of '80s horror movies that were pretty "broke" in the first place and could use a good update. Some were never that good to begin with, and some look more like a product of their big-haired era than others. It leads one to the question of why a movie should EVER be remade and there are really only two answers - to bring a forgotten story to a larger audience or to fix a movie that didn't quite work the first time. For the most part, a movie that didn't work twenty-something years ago won't work now, so remakes have to walk a fine line - source material that's good enough to warrant a second look but not great enough that any future attempts will pale next to the original. With that in mind, as a service to the producers who will be looking for the "next Prom Night" after this weekend, here are The Deadbolt’s ten suggestions for horror films that are just itching for a remake.

10. Lady in White (1988)

Falling neatly into the nobody-saw-it category of remakes is Frank LaLoggia's Lady in White, an unusual little ghost story that originally starred Lukas Haas and Len Cariou. The movie barely made a dent in the slasher-crazy world of '80s horror movies, but it's the kind of alternative to what the genre is currently doing that could really make an impact in the '00s. Think about all the buzz that The Orphanage built at the end of last year (not enough if you ask us) and how tired people are of the same-old-slash-old when it comes to the torture porn genre. We could all use a good ghost story to wash the taste of The Hitcher and Hills Have Eyes 2 out of our collective mouths. And Lady in White is a solid, old-fashioned, hair-on-the-back-of-your-neck supernatural tale that starred Haas as a kid who gets locked in school closet during Halloween of 1962 and sees something unusual in the classroom that leads him to the murderer of a young girl. Lady in White was something that not a lot of ghost stories were or are to this day - scary. Lukas Haas would later appear in My Chemical Romance's video for "Welcome to the Black Parade" because two members of the band were fans of the scary flick. If someone could recreate the same atmospheric chills as the original in a remake, it could inspire a whole new generation of Screamo fans.

9. Child's Play (1988)

Hold up. I know that this sounds like a really bad idea at first. Half of you are probably in the camp that the original is good enough that it should stand on its own and the other half are probably so exhausted by the awful sequels that the mere prospect of another film in the franchise makes you hurl. We understand and feel your pain. But that's precisely why a Child's Play remake isn't a half-bad idea. In much the same way that Zombie tried to amend for the recent Michael Myers flicks by restarting the Halloween franchise, somebody really should be forced to give audiences some celluloid atonement for a few of the Chucky movies. There's still a lot of strength in the original concept of a childhood toy gone very wrong. Imagine if someone could take the idea seriously again. Turn Andy, the childhood lead, into a loner kid, maybe even aging him a little bit, who pairs with his sadistic toy to wreak havoc on the bullies who have wronged him and the adults who have left him to wither. Yes, we're actually suggesting a serious Child's Play movie, which could be the worst idea ever or could be a fascinating alternative to the cookie-cutter remakes that litter the genre. It certainly wouldn't be like any of the other remakes on this list. At least not until someone remakes Puppet Master or Demonic Toys. Wait, there’s an idea...

8. The Hunger (1983)

The Hunger is infamous for a number of reasons, very few of which have anything to do with the film's quality. The Hunger marked the debut of director Tony Scott (Top Gun, True Romance), starred David Bowie, turned into a cult hit in goth circles, and gained worldwide infamy for a lesbian seduction scene between Catherine Deneuve and Susan Sarandon. Lesbian vampires in goth makeup? Evanescence is already writing the soundtrack for the remake. Seriously, The Hunger is a campy, cheesy film but it features some themes about aging that are certainly even more relevant in today's botox-crazed society. Deneuve played a vamp whose eternal partners went through rapid aging just before they died. When one (Bowie) went to a doctor for help and went from suave club dude to old man in mere minutes, the doc (Sarandon) became fascinated with the situation and eventually became the vamp’s lover. The original chose atmosphere over character and story and looks incredibly dated, but there's enough good material here to warrant a remake. Goth kids everywhere would line up days in advance and if you kept the lesbian material, so would most of the horny young men in America. Imagine Wild Things with bloodsucking instead of just sucking. At the very least, it’d make a fortune on DVD.

7. Demons (1985)

Written by the amazing Dario Argento and directed by the son of the influential Mario Bava (Lamberto), Demons is one f-ed up movie that not nearly enough people have seen, making it the perfect fit for a remake. The basic foundation of the story is a tale that's been told for decades and is not going to go away any time soon - art will kill you. In the original, a group of people are invited to the opening of a new movie theatre. As the movie unfolds, they start to turn into demons and kill each other. It's mostly played for gore and Argento-esque insanity, but Demons has themes that could easily translate to today's censor-ific world, one who believes that Eli Roth and Rob Zombie are making horned creatures of teenagers anyway. The original chaos comes from a demonic mask (most foreign horror movies do) but the remake could play off the power of cinema straight away. We've all been sitting in a theater, watching a horrible movie, and just hoping that the guy next to us might turn demon and start a rampage just to alleviate the boredom.

6. Slumber Party Massacre (1982)

There's no denying that Slumber Party Massacre is bad. It's one of those movies that's so bad that it transcends its awfulness and becomes enjoyable on the same level as a lot of Burt Reynolds '80s filmography or the works of Uwe Boll. According to IMDB, the legendary T&A slasher classic was originally written as a spoof of horror movies but was filmed as a straight forward horror movie when the producers didn't realize it was a parody. In other words, it's bad on purpose. Sorta. Why remake a bad movie? Well, it would have to be done as the parody it was always intended to be. You know those horrible straight-to-DVD American Pie movies like Band Camp and Beta House? Imagine "American Pie: Slumber Party Massacre." The remake of Slumber Party Massacre would work as a mix of Scream - a tongue-in-cheek but also scary satire of horror - and the American Pie movies. Cast it with enough young celebutantes, and this is a license to print money. How many people paid just to see Paris Hilton get a pole through the head in House of Wax? Now picture her, Lindsay, and a gaggle of other annoying starlets in Slumber Party Massacre. Somebody NEEDS to make this happen.

5. Basket Case (1982)

"The Tenant In Room 7 Is Very Small, Very Twisted, and Very Mad." Basket Case is one of the most over-the-top, ridiculous horror movies of the '80s and, if you couldn't tell by now, we at The Deadbolt think that the modern scary movie genre could use a few more flicks that come completely from left field. Imagine Basket Case treated seriously. Anyone who's ever lived in an apartment building of any size has experienced that sensation that someone in your building might be less than human. Whether it be odd sounds in the middle of the night or smells that just don't smell like home cooking, urban dwellers know that neighbors can be scarier than any cinematic boogeyman. In Basket Case, the guy down the hall happens to be a normal-looking country guy with a large basket in his hands. What's in the basket? His deformed twin brother, of course. It turns out the brother is in town seeking revenge on the doctors who made him into the nightmare that he has become. It's a ridiculous movie, but the little dude in the basket always scared the crap out of us. And what if one of our more twisted current filmmakers like Crispin Glover or Harmony Korine treated the deformity realistically? Talk about terrifying.

4. Happy Birthday to Me (1981)

This one is purely a case of logic, something we know doesn't usually happen in the world of horror remakes, but stick with us here. If they're remaking My Bloody Valentine and have remade Prom Night and April Fool's Day, why the hell shouldn't they remake Happy Birthday to Me, the best of the early '80s slasherpalooza one-offs (meaning films that never turned into franchises and existed purely as VHS staples for an entire generation of horror buffs)? Happy Birthday to Me is about a girl who, after an accident, becomes a part of an exclusive clique, but she watches as most of her friends start to die as her 18th birthday approaches. Cliques, teenagers getting murdered, and death by shish-kebab. A smart producer would buy the rights to Happy Birthday to Me and do it tongue-in-cheek, much like Slumber Party Massacre. This could be the definitive teen horror movie for the generation of brain-dead media drones that are currently addicted to such gossipy reality fodder as The Hills. In fact, there you go - get MTV Films to adapt Happy Birthday to Me as the ultimate My Super Sweet 16 episode gone horribly, horribly wrong. Honestly, if Prom Night makes even a dime, we're willing to bet this is going to happen almost immediately. If it makes money, try to thank us in the credits.

3. The Dead Zone (1983)

The Zone TV series has fallen prey to USA's makeover as a more family-friendly network (ditto The 4400), but Stephen King’s original concept is so good and the original movie so strong that this wouldn't be as much of a remake as a continuation of the ideas from King's novel. The show has legions of fans still lamenting its passing who would love a fresh, high-budget take on The Dead Zone, and the themes of the original film/book are the ones that should truly be restored. Let's be honest - the idea that there's a leader who will someday destroy the world and only you know how evil he truly will be hasn't lost any of its power, particularly with Commander Cuckoo-Bananas still in the White House for a few months. The Dead Zone could even be a series of remakes like the Body Snatchers movies that, ignoring the most recent one, have successfully played off the fears of each generation that made them. It's been 25 years since the Cronenberg film and a talented director could make a masterpiece of a new take on the fears of death and power that King played with in The Dead Zone.

2. Christine (1983)

More King and yet another situation where it's not that the original film is that bad, but that a quarter-century later, a newer model might bring the story to a new generation. Let's take Christine, the story of a killer 1958 Plymouth Fury, and bring it drifting into the new millennium. Cars in every form from NASCAR to The Fast and the Furious movies are more popular than ever. King is still a household name. And there's something intangible about John Carpenter's take on the original material that never quite worked. There are also arguably no films on this list that look quite as dated as the original Christine. Can't you just picture Paul Walker or Jim Sturgess in a modern spin on a killer car? Or the filmmakers could go real old-school and do it Death Proof-style, focusing more on the killer chases than the supernatural aspects. All we know is that with the popularity of everything that goes fast - and with Tarantino proving that "cars + gore = awesomeness" in those first brutal Texas kills in Death Proof - taking another spin around the block with Christine seems like a no-brainer.

1. Fright Night (1985)

Remember all those "rules of remakes" early in this feature? Fright Night fits them all. It's a good movie, not great, that has been largely forgotten by the generation who were born after it was released. Teenagers may still be watching Halloween and Nightmare on Elm Street, but very few are checking out Fright Night, a Tom Holland vampire flick that was totally effective when it was released but looks crazy, crazy dated now. The zombie trend - the Dawn remake, the 28 movies, the Resident Evil movies - seems to be coming to a close. What's next? Why not vampires? The Zack Snyder take on Dawn of the Dead helped drive a zombie renaissance over the last few years, and there's no better remake to do the same for bloodsuckers than Fright Night, a film about a boy who has a vampire living next door to him but no one will believe him. We picture a Fright Night remake with smart, clever dialogue and characters spouting lines written by the likes of Joss Whedon or the team behind The CW's excellent Reaper. This could work. In fact, with the horrible success ratio of horror movie remakes, it might be the only one on this list that will.

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Why We Love Tina Fey


On November 5th, 2007, after negotiations failed again, the members of the Writers Guild of America walked out of their offices to strike. In Los Angeles, they formed packs outside studios, hoisting signs, and chanting slogans. In New York, they gathered in Rockefeller Center, marching on a strip of sidewalk. Every now and then, a celebrity joined the line, talking about how much they “support the writers.” But there was one famous face that became a mainstay—Tina Fey, bundled in a sweater, holding a hand-written sign over her head.

Because she is so familiar on-screen, it’s easy to forget that Tina Fey is first and foremost a writer. She was in Saturday Night Live’s writers room long before she became the anchor of Weekend Update. She didn’t just star in Mean Girls—she wrote the script. And while she was nominated for an Emmy for playing Liz Lemon on 30 Rock, she is also the show’s creator.

And that is why we love Tina Fey—she is beauty, brains and dead-pan humor all rolled into one. Men agree—she was #80 on Maxim’s list of the “Hot Women of 2002.” Even Time gave her props as one of this year’s “100 Most Influential People.” She is calm and collected, the celebrity you’d most want to be stuck in a burning building with, and one of the few you could trust to babysit your kids. It’s not just that we love Tina Fey—it’s that it’s kind of impossible not to.

What makes Tina so darn likeable is that her life is, well, normal. She grew up in a suburb of Philadelphia in a Greek family. (Her birth name is Elizabeth Stamatina.) Her mom stayed at home, while her dad rotated jobs—paramedic, grant writer, mystery novelist. By eighth grade, Tina knew she loved comedy. “I remember me and one other girl in my class got to do an independent study,” she told the Onion A.V. Club. “She chose to do hers on communism. I chose comedy. We kept bumping into each other at the card catalog.”

After graduating from the University of Virginia, there was no meteoric rise to the top that would make a good montage in a biopic. Tina headed to Chicago where she hoped to join Second City, an improv troupe known as a minor-league system for Saturday Night Live. (Dan Akroyd, Bill Murray, and Gilda Radner all started there.) She worked at a YMCA for two years while waiting for the invitation to join.

And then things finally started happening. Tina quickly gained a reputation as a great sketch comedian. Adam McKay, a Second City alum who was the head writer at SNL, urged her to send scripts to executive producer Lorne Michaels. Two months later, Tina landed her dream job. Two years after that, she became SNL’s first female head writer. A year later, she was tapped to co-anchor Weekend Update.

“Some people feel Tina can do no wrong in my eyes,” Lorne Michaels told the New Yorker. “That’s just because she’s wrong less often than other people.”

On a show that is notoriously a boy’s club, Tina made comedy about women. She is the feminist most of us want to be—not bra burning or man hating, but the type who supports other women full-heartedly. While head writer, Tina nurtured Amy Poehler, Rachel Dratch, and Maya Rudolph. And her writing zeroed in on our culture’s bizarre notions of gender. In one Weekend Update, Tina pointed out, “In honor of Women’s History Month, the Women’s Museum of Dallas has developed a list of ten influential women in U.S. history, and put their images on trading cards. Hey, kids! It’s the great women of U.S. history! Collect all … ten!”

In many ways, Mean Girls was a continuation of Tina’s feminist mission. A Lindsay Lohan vehicle, sure, but the movie cut deeper—exploring the horrible ways teenage girls treat each other. Tina achieved the impossible—sending a message without being preachy. Only she could pull off the pivotal scene in which Ms. Norbit gathers the tenth grade girls in a gym to talk out their issues and do trust falls. Anyone else would have had the entire audience rolling their eyes.


In 2005, Tina announced that she was creating a sitcom for NBC that would take place behind-the-scenes at a sketch comedy show similar to SNL. The only problem—Aaron Sorkin, the television god behind the West Wing, was creating a drama with the exact same premise called Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. Everyone predicted that Studio 60 would trounce 30 Rock. After all, 60 is the bigger number. And there seemed to be dischord at 30 Rock when Rachel Dratch, set to star in the show, was replaced by Jane Krakowski.

NBC premiered the two shows a month apart. As predicted, Studio 60 won—pulling in 13 million viewers to 30 Rock’s 8 million. But then a funny thing happened. Studio 60 turned out to be boring as all get out. Meanwhile, the absurd situations and perfect deadpan humor on 30 Rock generated killer word of mouth. Soon, TV Guide called 30 Rock the, “best new comedy of the year.” 30 Rock picked up the Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series while Studio 60 was canned.

Tina Fey has been on the radar for years, yet she remains immune to the tabloids. That’s probably because, off-screen, her life is run-of-the-mill. She met her husband, Jeff Richmond, at Second City and he also moved to New York when he was hired as a composer on Saturday Night Live. In 2005, they had a daughter. Tina took less than two months off for maternity leave. “NBC has me under contract; the baby and I only have a verbal agreement,” she joked.

Since 30 Rock draws heavily on Tina’s life, it wouldn’t be surprising if Liz Lemon had a baby sometime in the near future. “She could do an international adoption and get the paperwork wrong and somehow end up with a huge, muscular thirteen-year-old,” Tina hinted in the latest Entertainment Weekly.

In the meantime, Tina has two movies in the pipeline. Baby Mama is coming out in 2008—it’s the first movie Tina has starred in and not written. She plays an infertile businesswoman who hires Amy Poehler to be her surrogate. Only Amy turns out to be the kind of pregnant woman who guzzles beer on a regular basis.

And Tina is currently writing the screenplay for Curly Oxide and Vic Thrill, about a punk rocker who teams up with a band of Hasidic Jews. It’s slated for release in 2009, but will have to wait until the strike ends and Tina lays down her picket sign.

By Kate Torgovnick

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