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editorial


This past weekend, Netflix unveiled their latest Marvel collaboration, Iron Fist. Despite their stellar track record with such hits as Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage, this one caused the most concern ever since its conception. For one, Iron Fist isn’t necessarily a “street-level” character like the other three are. Because his powers are mystical in nature and he spent most of his life living in another dimension in the mystical land of K’un-Lun, it was hard to imagine how this would translate to the small screen in the framework that the other “Defender” shows had already set up. After the first trailer dropped, fears eased, as it seemed to fit right into the paradigm that Marvel TV has so successfully set up. However, when the first 6 episodes were screened by critics and were universally panned, concerns grew once again.

(more…)

diary

Stop putting it out there, stop reading it, stop writing it, and stop eating it up with a shovel.

There’s an episode of South Park (naturally) that strikes the nail with great ferocity and accuracy and charm. Britney Spears has shot her face off, but yet she is still thrown out to the lions and the hordes. They rip her to shreds, but the triumph is brief. The cult must have more self-proclaimed virgin blood, and so they move on to Miley Cyrus.

This was five years ago and it has proven prophecy as Cyrus’ every move is now monitored, her every action debated and labeled as bold or bizarre. She’s a slut, she’s a feminist, she’s crazy, she’s smart. We can’t make up our minds, but she is, undoubtedly, #1 in our hearts and #1 in our cross-hairs. (more…)

This is not a typical NerdBastards article, but this is something that we wanted to tell you about: a group of former Jim Henson Company puppeteers, people behind The Muppet Show and Fraggle Rock, who have come together to educate children in refugee camps through puppetry. They are No Strings International and they need a hand right now. 

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According to a report by NBC News, there are one million Syrian children living in refugee camps, displaced from their homes by a situation that may get worse before it gets better… if it ever gets better. 75% of those children are under the age of 11.

Some call them “The Lost Generation”. To borrow and contort a phrase, I can’t visualize what one million of anything looks like, but I can imagine the darkness caused by one million extinguished lights.

To save these kids from slipping away, there are certain things that they need: warmth, love, and food. These are basic things and there are living saints, aid workers, who are providing them, but they also need help coping with the shocking loss of everything that they have ever known.

Enter No Strings International, a not-for-profit organization with the ability to cut through language and cultural barriers while delivering a different kind of aid.

Comprised of puppeteers and aid workers, the people at No Strings are using puppets as a teaching tool in a way that should be familiar to anyone who grew up watching Sesame Street and similar shows. The difference is, these lessons are being taught in refugee camps all over the world and they are about land mine awareness, hygiene, HIV/AIDS, gender equality, natural disaster preparedness, and how to deal with trauma.

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Created by former Muppet Show puppeteers Kathy Mullen and Michael Frith , and Johnie McGlade, an aid worker who stumbled onto the idea while using a puppet named Seamuss at a camp in the Sudan to communicate with both children and adults, No Strings International has made 13 short films in 24 languages for 14 countries.

Here is a look at some of their campaigns.

I had a chance to talk with Rosie Waller, the Programs Manager for No Strings via email as they try to secure financing for their work in the Syrian camps. Here’s Ms. Waller on what happens after these films are completed and ready to go to refugee camps in places like Afghanistan, Haiti, and Syria.

The next step is to host workshops in that part of the world, where we invite delegates from organisations dealing directly with children and young people, either in Syria, or living as part of the refugee community, so we can share best practice ideas about how to target the films and follow them up.

Our trauma-healing film in particular is very sensitive: children can respond on a profoundly emotional level because it deals with very difficult issues like loss and grief. It’s therefore vital that facilitators showing this film have the right additional tools so that it’s ultimately a very positive experience for those children. In addition, the No Strings workshop is co-led by a small team of exceptionally talented puppeteers, who share a range of techniques that local facilitators can use to help children explore feelings together in small groups.

With our peace-building film, puppetry is a tool young people can use to challenge the film’s inherent messages, and work through new ideas. These are techniques that we’ve shared in many parts of the world, and they’re a lot of fun as well as very effective.

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As you can tell, No Strings goes above and beyond to craft these projects in a way that makes them as accessible as possible, and that extends to the look of the puppets that are used to reach the affected children. Here’s Ms. Waller on that process.

Working with a designer like Michael Frith, our puppets have a certain signature look. It’s important [that] they’re instantly appealing to children and full of character. There’s always a little whimsy to them, a charm, which draw audiences in. What’s also important is that they fully reflect the audience they’re designed for, and that they’re culturally appropriate, so we work closely with our partners in the field throughout the design stage.

To finish their latest batch of films and fully launch their program in those Syrian refugee camps, No Strings has taken to the internet and IndieGoGo.

With a little more than one day left and less than half of their $50,000 goal met, though, Ms. Waller is realistic when I ask her what will happen if they fall short of their goal.

We’re hoping to reach our IndieGoGo target, but we’ll be shooting the films whatever happens because we’re committed to them.

If you have an interest in checking out the No Strings International IndieGoGo, go here. To go to the No Strings website and read up on what they’ve done and why they do it, click here. You can also follow them on twitter.

Source: NBC News, h/t to Gerry Duggan

Carrey

If you are a fan of either the original Kick-Ass movie or the Kick-Ass comic books from Mark Millar and John Romita Jr., then you know that both contain copious amounts of gun violence, much of which is doled out by Hit-Girl, a once child and now teenage assassin.

That violence is shocking, graphic, and according to the cover of issue #2: “Sickening violence: Just the way you like it!”. So, in short, it’s kinda their gimmick and sorta their thing. That’s not to say that the book is dripping in blood and that it contains little to no virtue — that’s not at all the case. But if you are one of those people, the people who have put pop culture in the cross-hairs following the shocking shooting sprees in Aurora, Colorado and at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, then you’ve surely taken notice of the Kick-Ass comics, the original film, its upcoming sequel, and now, Kick-Ass 2 star Jim Carrey‘s stated objections to the violence in the film.

I did Kickass a month b4 Sandy Hook and now in all good conscience I cannot support that level of violence […] my apologies to others involve with the film. I am not ashamed of it but recent events have caused a change in my heart.

The above was tweeted out by Carrey yesterday, causing a stir, some praise, and a deluge of negative press for the star, with one headline calling Carrey’s statements “Career suicide”. Mark Millar also reacted to Carrey’s statements via his Millarworld site, though the modesty averse comic superstar approached the matter with a civil and complementary tone while artfully defending the art-form of fictional violence.

Carrey

Here is some of that:

As you may know, Jim is a passionate advocate of gun-control and I respect both his politics and his opinion, but I’m baffled by this sudden announcement as nothing seen in this picture wasn’t in the screenplay eighteen months ago. Yes, the body-count is very high, but a movie called Kick-Ass 2 really has to do what it says on the tin. A sequel to the picture that gave us HIT-GIRL was always going to have some blood on the floor and this should have been no shock to a guy who enjoyed the first movie so much. My books are very hardcore, but the movies are adapted for a more mainstream audience and if you loved the tone of the first picture you’re going to eat this up with a big, giant spoon. Like Jim, I’m horrified by real-life violence (even though I’m Scottish), but Kick-Ass 2 isn’t a documentary. No actors were harmed in the making of this production! This is fiction and like Tarantino and Peckinpah, Scorcese and Eastwood, John Boorman, Oliver Stone and Chan-Wook Park, Kick-Ass avoids the usual bloodless body-count of most big summer pictures and focuses instead of the CONSEQUENCES of violence, whether it’s the ramifications for friends and family or, as we saw in the first movie, Kick-Ass spending six months in hospital after his first street altercation. Ironically, Jim’s character in Kick-Ass 2 is a Born-Again Christian and the big deal we made of the fact that he refuses to fire a gun is something he told us attracted him to the role in the first place.

Ultimately, this is his decision, but I’ve never quite bought the notion that violence in fiction leads to violence in real-life any more than Harry Potter casting a spell creates more Boy Wizards in real-life. Our job as storytellers is to entertain and our toolbox can’t be sabotaged by curtailing the use of guns in an action-movie. Imagine a John Wayne picture where he wasn’t packing or a Rocky movie where Stallone wasn’t punching someone repeatedly in the face. Our audience is smart enough to know they’re all pretending and we should instead just sit back and enjoy the serotonin release of seeing bad guys meeting bad ends as much as we enjoyed seeing the Death Star exploding.

Now, Millar is right: this is Carrey’s decision, and I’m sure it’s not one that he came to lightly. Putting his advocacy ahead of his career is not likely “suicide”, but it could be detrimental and lasting. Not just because there will be some who disagree with Carrey’s politics, but because some may perceive this as Carrey being either unstable, disloyal, or both while putting his advocacy ahead of his castmates and the studio’s interest as well.

Carrey

Speaking of Universal’s interests, I can only imagine how they feel about this mere days after taking a risk and rescuing Carey’s Dumb and Dumber sequel from the burn pile.

As for why Carrey felt the need to be so public and not just have his morality cake while silently abstaining from doing press for the film, well, one assumes that he has an obligation to do press for Kick-Ass 2, and one wonders if the studio will now silently abstain from pushing him to do that, lest they crave the carnage of another derisive statement from the star.

Would he go this far again, though? Frankly, it already feels like a bit of damage has already been done, and we’re talking real damage to Carrey’s career, because he badly needed Kick-Ass 2 to be a smooth success. Unless you count kiddie fare like Horton Hears a Who, Carrey hasn’t had a hit since 2008’s Yes Man and a blockbuster since 2003’s Bruce Almighty, and his last film, Burt Wonderstone, was a certified bomb.

The actor is teetering on the edge of box office irrelevancy, no longer a certified draw and certainly not able to command the same fees that he once was.

I don’t think Kick-Ass 2 would have been a way back to the glory days of Carrey talking out of his asshole for $20 million dollars (though, some would say he’s now doing it for free on twitter… har… har), but it could have stopped the slide and re-introduced Carrey to a younger audience and a slew of different roles. Maybe it still can, but right now, it doesn’t seem like Carrey or Kick-Ass 2 is goona come out of this un-bruised… that is unless Carrey takes this a bit further and puts his money where his mouth is.

All throughout twitter and in articles, people are responding to Carrey with a shrug and something to the effect of: “Well, then donate your salary to the victims”. Carrey actually has a history of impressive charitable acts, so that may yet happen, but embracing that challenge and making a real statement with actions and not mere words… now that would be praise worthy.

Kick-Ass 2 opens up on August 18th, no word on when Jim Carrey’s wallet will do the same and catch up to his mouth.

 

brad pitt

Yesterday, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas came down from their respective perches atop Mount Olympus and a huge pile of Disney Dollars to tell us all how the movie industry’s comeuppance was about to come: progressive pricing that would place a premium on big damn summer fare while squeezing smaller films out into the box office ghetto.

Coincidentally enough, today we’re getting a chance to sorta see what that looks like with Paramount’s World War Z Mega Ticket “Deal”. What does the mega deal get you? Well, according to Deadline, the $50 Mega Ticket includes:

[A]dmission to the June 19 3D showing of the flick, a download or stream of the film when it’s released on home video, custom 3D glasses, a limited-edition official movie poster and a small popcorn. […] The offer is good at megaplexes in Irvine, San Diego, Houston, Atlanta and Philadelphia.

Now, if you had already planned on seeing World War Z, you have a burning need for the above mentioned baubles, and you feel like that really is a value, then go nuts. But for people to think that this is a step toward the future that Spielberg and Lucas predicted, well, that’s hard to believe.

For one thing, the value of advanced screenings for the studios comes from word of mouth and buzz. That’s why such passes are often given away: the studios want to make the viewer (and potential viral marketing sleeper agent) comfortable with as little investment to justify as possible. That’s partly why some members of the press get into advanced screenings as well.

If you pay $50 to see World War Z early, that experience needs to justify that cost — moreso than if you had shelled out $10 bucks or seen it for free, because now your investment is much more than mere time or a few bucks and now it can be held accountable.

brad pitt

Put it this way: if I go to a fast food place and my burger is rubbery and tasteless, I’m going to be displeased. If I go to a nice restaurant and get a $50 steak that is equally rubbery and tasteless, I’m going to be pissed, I’m going to complain, and I’m going to let people know about it the experience.

Is Paramount sure that they’re offering up a $50 steak that is worth the price? For their sake, I hope so, but in light of the chatter surrounding World War Z, with stories about a set in chaos, re-writes, and no planned ending, well… it seems like Paramount could have used all the good buzz and word of mouth that they could get.

To the larger point, with regard to the theory about progressive ticketing, — and Luke did a nice job talking about that last night — I’d add that the embrace of that new model would have to assume that theater owners had suddenly become eager to be complicit in their own destruction, because I can’t imagine the National Association of Theater Owners fighting such a shift with any less ferocity than they have in the fight against smaller theatrical to home release windows ( a fight to keep the theater experience away from extinction).

Why is that? Well, the economics of the situation boil down to this: theater’s make a ton of their money on concessions, not the movie tickets themselves. What is required for concession sales? People, and if packages like this or progressive pricing become commonplace, it would price out a large segment of the market, because for most of us, this is a time of “No fucking around” when it comes to our finances, a time when the weighty line between the black and red of a budget jumps right off the kitchen table to crawl up our guts before sliding across our necks.

People can barely afford the cost of a standard ticket right now, let alone some ratcheted up price, and so while we shouldn’t hold our breaths for a break or mercy, we should be confident that for as long as the studio’s need to appease theater owners (and they will until such a time as our infrastructure can promise as impactful and lucrative a VOD release as the present model offers for theatrical releases), we won’t have to worry about progressive pricing being anything more than an annoying gimmick. A gimmick that, for now, only faintly threatens the magical and communal nature of seeing a movie in a packed theater and irreplaceable signature experiences like IMAX, the Alamo Drafthouse, the dying drive in, the reRun theater in Brooklyn, and several others.

Source: Deadline

 

XboxOne_Reveal Two

Maybe this will all change once we get a better look, but right now, you can just smell the disappointment, can’t you? As a semi-spoiled half-futurist, I think it’s safe to say that I expected more from the last big reveal of this new console generation. That’s Microsoft’s curse. They get to close the stitch on the wound of dashed hope that was borne by an unreal set of expectations for a generation that feels like a placeholder.

No real 3-D, no holo-gaming, no photorealism, and I can’t control Master Chief with the power of my mind? Fucking bullshit.

To make matters worse, we don’t even know the depths of their possible failure because they mostly refrained from showing us real and sustained gameplay; something that has become the norm in an industry that fetishizes worthless cinematics whenever they try to rap at their audience about a new property or a re-dressed old property.

Speaking of re-dressed old properties, Microsoft probably should have embraced a Kinect re-brand in light of the tepid response that the original received.

Despite what the industry tells us, motion gaming still feels nascent with a full potential achievement that remains unlocked — the fucking wand, the twitchy camera bar, the irrelevant Wii U that bleeds relevancy from a shallow well more and more everyday — reset and rebuild, but don’t deliver unto me a corpse with sprinkles on it.

The boys in the lab over at Bill Gates’ jolly green giant project are putting a lot of burden on the back of the Kinect, further committing to the wonder of voice control, recognition, and the Kinect’s ability to now (allegedly) recognize real, human body movement as well as eye movement and the beat of our hearts and fuck that is a little creepy.

“I’ve detected weakness Dave, initiating extermination function zero. Good bye Dave.”

It’s not all bad though, the Snap function — that allows users to watch live TV (through their cable system) and split screen web search — is kinda cool, but it only pulls even with PC and Tablet capability. Again, dashed expectations pepper this reveal because we won’t see an outlet for high volume ambition in gaming like this for half a decade — at minimum — and by then, Apple will have us live streaming Downton Abbey from an antenna in our assholes.

xbox one

It’s funny, to Microsoft, this is a victory. They’re calling this thing the ONE most likely because they plan on selling it to you as the ONE device that you will need and that is the holy grail: ONE device to make all others obsolete, but this isn’t that. This is just another ONE, and I already have enough other ones that do 90% of what this one does. Prettier ones that don’t look like an Atari 2600 briefcase with a massive footprint.

You’ll need to hang on to that old 360 if you want to play your old games, by the way. The Xbox One doesn’t do backwards compatibility, but on the bright side, Microsoft did recognize that people didn’t want to be online all the time, especially if they just wanted to embrace the “single player, close out the outside world” experience that is a under-celebrated but hugely important part of gaming. So the system won’t need to be online all the time, though obviously, a great part of the One’s bells and whistles comes from full connectivity and an Xbox Live membership so that we can have that “relationship” with our TV that the introductory add teased. By the way, I’m pretty sure that you also need to love sports to enjoy your Xbox One, because FUCK did they hammer the head off that nail.

As for gameplay, I have to assume that it will also be a large part of this new system, but as I said before, we didn’t get anything approaching a significant look at that in this presentation… the one that mostly felt like a needless E3 appetizer.

Sure, we know that there will be a new Forza game and that Modern Warfare: Ghost has a mo-cap dog and fancy sounding volumetric lighting, but as a gamer, there was little here for me and right now, that just about sums up this next generation as a whole.

Incremental innovation, empty hype and a lot of redundancy — right now, this future looks bent. Wake me when the PS5 gets announced.

UPDATE: Now reports are surfacing that the Xbox One will indeed need to be connected to the net once daily and — though there is a bit of confusion on this — it seems like there will be some kind of fee associated with playing used games. Fees that could range from $40-$60.

UPDATE 2: Regarding the used game fee, Major Nelson has responded, saying:

We know there is some confusion around used games on Xbox One and wanted to provide a bit of clarification on exactly what we’ve confirmed today. While there have been many potential scenarios discussed, today we have only confirmed that we designed Xbox One to enable our customers to trade in and resell games at retail.

Beyond that, we have not confirmed any specific scenarios.

Another piece of clarification around playing games at a friend’s house – should you choose to play your game at your friend’s house, there is no fee to play that game while you are signed in to your profile.

 

Editorial: A Note About Boston

Boston

We say snarky things about movies and TV shows here, but in this instance, when reality has forced itself upon us all in such a violent and everlasting way, what more can we say besides, we are speechless and saddened by today’s horrific events in Boston and our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families.

With all of that said, here are some smart words from a fellow nerd and a very smart man, aka Patton Oswalt, who shared the following on his Facebook page earlier today.

Boston. Fucking horrible.

I remember, when 9/11 went down, my reaction was, “Well, I’ve had it with humanity.”

But I was wrong. I don’t know what’s going to be revealed to be behind all of this mayhem. One human insect or a poisonous mass of broken sociopaths.

But here’s what I DO know. If it’s one person or a HUNDRED people, that number is not even a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a percent of the population on this planet. You watch the videos of the carnage and there are people running TOWARDS the destruction to help out. (Thanks FAKE Gallery founder and owner Paul Kozlowski for pointing this out to me). This is a giant planet and we’re lucky to live on it but there are prices and penalties incurred for the daily miracle of existence. One of them is, every once in awhile, the wiring of a tiny sliver of the species gets snarled and they’re pointed towards darkness.

But the vast majority stands against that darkness and, like white blood cells attacking a virus, they dilute and weaken and eventually wash away the evil doers and, more importantly, the damage they wreak. This is beyond religion or creed or nation. We would not be here if humanity were inherently evil. We’d have eaten ourselves alive long ago.

So when you spot violence, or bigotry, or intolerance or fear or just garden-variety misogyny, hatred or ignorance, just look it in the eye and think, “The good outnumber you, and we always will.”

Hug your loved ones.

-The Editorial Staff

Opinion: The End of Nintendo

DD

With reports that Sony will debut the PS4 in three weeks and with a possible holiday release on the table, the next generation has begun. Soon, Microsoft will follow with their Xbox 360 follow-up and Nintendo will sit there, their latest system not even a year old, their gamble foolish from the start.

A few years ago, when the Wii pioneered motion gaming — making it a must have system for casual gamers, families, and a lot of people who had never before owned a console before — it seemed like they could do no wrong.

Back then, the mobile gaming market wasn’t dominated by smartphones and tablets. Back then, Sony and Microsoft got caught on their heels, fighting a war over half the available market.

Then, back then ended. Android and Apple seized the mobile market and Sony and Microsoft eventually lowered their prices, marketed their systems as home entertainment hubs that could do things that the Wii could not, and then they entered the motion gaming market as well, with the Move and the Kinect, robbing Nintendo of the one thing that made them unique.

What makes them unique now? Their lack of foresight, and their pending irrelevancy.

See, when Sony and Microsoft had Nintendo beat, the House of Mario doubled down and brought a new system to market, even as it’s peers were writing off this generation and preparing to move into the future.

Will that system, the Wii U, be able to stand in against competition that will surely have them beat in every facet of the game? All signs point to no.

nintendo-wii-u

The End. 

Companies die. It’s a sad thing because it means jobs and legacies vanish, but Atari just filed for bankruptcy, and Sega abandoned the console game years ago, fully aware that smaller companies cannot compete in the console wars against companies like Sony and now Microsoft — a lesson that Nintendo is now learning more fully.

Why am I so confident that the end is near for Nintendo, the home of NES and Gameboy, one of the industries’ forefathers?

I’m confident because they’re already beginning to erode, even before the next Sony and Microsoft system hit the market. From a report on Forbes.com:

Nintendo cut sales forecasts for all of its hardware and software today, most notably the Wii U. The company slashed shipping estimates on the Wii U from 5.5 million to 4, and software estimates from 24 million to 16.

The article goes on to say that, despite a profitable holiday season quarter, that Nintendo still suffered an annual loss last year. Again, this is in the last days of disco for an ending generation, and Nintendo couldn’t even live up to their own expectations with it’s new, shiny product (with current gen performance capabilities) that they are now locked into.

What about the DS and the 3DS? According to TGDaily:

The company also cut forecasts for its other consoles. 3DS sales are now likely to be 15 million by March – 14 percent fewer than predicted – with DS sales down eight percent on their forecast at 2.3 million.

Now, I don’t want to sound like I’m eager to dance on Nintendo’s grave. I grew up with an NES in my living room and adored the N64, but the past is the past and Nintendo’s corporate overlords have demonstrated a lack of vision and painful ineptitude when it comes to reading their own marketplace.

Who is the Wii U for anyway? As I said, motion gaming is now available on every system, so they have no edge there. What about hardcore gamers? Turns out they require top-line graphics and strong third party developer support — things that the Wii U doesn’t provide. Home entertainment fans? The Wii U doesn’t have a Blu Ray player. Budget conscious shoppers? You can buy a 500 gig PS3, with the Blu Ray player for the same price as a base model Wii U with only 8 gigs, and that doesn’t even count the cost of an extra tablet controller.

Is Nintendo pondering a price cut to try and gain a foothold? No, their doubling down on their failures once again.

Like I said, I don’t want Nintendo to fail, but they’re handheld products are equaled by other multi-functional products that are viewed as essential by most consumers, something that renders their products in-essential. Furthermore, they released an overpriced, under-performing, awkward to use console that doesn’t meet the demands of the average consumer, a consumer whose expectations are set to rise when Sony and Microsoft announce their new products, products that I imagine will one day host Mario and other Nintendo properties as the company stumbles down the same ravine that Sega did.

It didn’t have to be like this. The future was plowing toward the station and instead of waiting, Nintendo jumped too early and fell right onto the tracks.

They could have strived for innovation, they could have aimed for a niche, any niche, but instead, they relied on the strength of brand loyalty and the assumption that Wii owners would rejoice over backwards compatible peripherals, and everyone else would wait for the system to offer a healthy library of games.

Sadly though, the market doesn’t wait, and now Nintendo’s window has closed and they are a cautionary tale.

Game Over.

Editorial: That Word

I’m not going to say or type that word. I have my reasons, namely that it isn’t an active part of my vocabulary and I recognize the legitimate causticity of it, but with that said, I firmly believe that a word’s power comes from the intent behind it’s use. Sadly though, others do not agree, and so we have a supposedly “politically correct” replacement phrase like “N-word”.

Why am I writing about “the N-word” on a movie site called Nerdbastards? Well, a few weeks ago, actor Samuel L. Jackson was being interviewed by a Houston based TV reporter named Jake “The Movie Guy” Hamilton and the term figured prominently.

The video can be seen here, but at around the 13:55 mark, Hamilton asks Jackson about the “N-word” controversy in his new film, Django Unchained. In the film, which focuses on slavery, the word that the “N-word” refers to is uttered more than 110 times according to various reports. (more…)