Quote of the Day

“I read Dick Cheney’s book. I don’t want to ruin it for anybody, but in the final chapter he kills Harry Potter. If you want the book, in the bookstore go past the self-help section. It’s in the self-serving section.” –Jay Leno

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who, Fringe, Merlin, Camelot, Harry Potter

There is now considerable attention being paid to the international start of the upcoming season of Doctor Who next Saturday. Here are two clips from the episode:

The Daily Mail has a profile on the next villain, to be featured in the two-part episode to start the season, The Silence:

For The Silence are the most sinister — and the scariest — of more than 200 intergalactic monsters who have done battle with the Time Lord over the centuries.

They will have us all cowering in terror behind the sofa when the sixth series in the current run of Doctor Who returns to TV next week, promises Matt Smith, the Doctor’s 11th incarnation…

Matt says: ‘They are pretty repulsive, but it’s their history that will really chill people. They could turn up anywhere and everywhere, and they’ve been undermining and controlling us for thousands of years but we don’t realise it.

‘And yet, here they are — for the very first time — made flesh in front of our eyes.’

The Silence have been mentioned but never seen in several episodes since Matt took over as the Doctor last year, and will play a central part in the show’s future.

Matt, who has wanted to add a hat to the Doctor’s costume, gets to wear a stetson in the new series as he is mysteriously invited to America’s Utah Desert along with his companion Amy Pond (played by Karen Gillan).

In real life, the Utah desert has been a hotspot for UFO sightings — in Doctor Who, it’s where the presence of The Silence first manifests itself.

Their look has been carefully created for maximum scare-factor, with dark suits, white shirts and black ties made by Doctor Who costume designer Barbara Kidd.

The suits, in particular, are a nod to the Men In Black movies, which starred Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones as smartly attired U.S. Government agents fighting alien invaders.

The Silence’s hands and heads — created by Neill Gorton, principal designer at Millennium Effects, the company which make all the Doctor Who monsters — are the only features that betray the fact they are aliens.

Made from Latex foam, the hands are bony-white and crumpled, while the triangular faces have no mouths, but human eyes sunk deep into the skull with traces of ears and a nose.

‘Humans will have been subconsciously aware of The Silence for many centuries and that awareness will have manifested itself in paintings such as The Scream,’ says Steven Moffatt, Doctor Who’s lead writer, who invented The Silence.

The Daily Mail also had pictures of the previous Doctor, David Tennant, along with his wife (The Doctor’s Daughter Georgia Tennant) pushing their actual daughter Olivia Moffat in a baby buggy. Other pictures show that Tennant had more difficulty handling the baby buggy than flying the TARDIS.

There were multiple interviews with the current stars over the past week. Here are the MTV interviews with Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, and Arthur Darvill.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=xXC2bIAbUZ8

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=ytkPgAaQ-CI

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=E69B5LmDK9k

Craig Ferguson’s interview with Karen Gillan was recorded last week but has been held back to air on this Friday’s episode prior to the start of the new season. Ferguson’s Friday episodes, along with other episodes when he is away, are commonly recorded ahead of time.

The return of Leonard Nimoy to Fringe was a disappointment. The episode primarily took place within Olivia’s head, with the help of some LSD. The scenes involving William Bell (Nimoy) were all animated. Presumably Nimoy’s return from retirement is limited to voice work, in the upcoming Transformers movie as well as on Fringe. This probably really was the end of William Bell. The only exception I can see is that the writers might find it irresistible to bring him back if Nimoy ever expresses interest in an actual appearance. Have we ever been told what happened to the William Bell from the alternate universe? Simply going back to explain how and why William Bell lived in the alternate universe would be of interest.

The episode ended with Olivia’s personality somewhat different as she identified one of the people seen in her head by saying without displaying any concern,  “He’s the guy who’s going to kill me.”  Reportedly the final episodes of the season are going to speed up the mythology along with possibly killing off a character (who we can safely predict will not be Olivia):

The executive producers of Fringe have revealed that a key character will be killed off in a forthcoming episode.

In a recent conference call, showrunner Jeff Pinkner claimed that “somebody who [fans of the show] love deeply will die”.

Fringe always does things the way you don’t expect,” added co-producer Joel Wyman. “It’s going to be effective, and it will be self-explanatory. That’s sort of all we can say without spoiling anything.”

Pinkner also suggested that the events of the third season finale will be “wholly unexpected“.

“It will recontextualise the story of season three in a really cool way, and be fun and entertaining and mind-blowing,” he claimed.

However, Pinkner ruled out the possibility of introducing a third universe to the sci-fi drama, which currently focuses on events in two parallel worlds.

“We are not introducing a third world,” he insisted. “We still have plenty of story to tell just in those two worlds. Maybe at some point in the future there will be a third world, but not yet.”

The third season of Merlin recently concluded its US run. Digital Spy has interviews with the two female leads which give limited hints as to the fourth season. Katie McGrath had this to say:

Is there a part of you that misses playing the ‘good’ Morgana?
“No, I love a bad girl! Absolutely. I couldn’t wait for her to become like this, because at the same time that she became the bad girl, she became powerful. All her uncertainty goes. In the first series, she was the opinionated, spoiled princess, and then in the second series, she was very unsure of herself. In the third series, she was still playing both sides. So by the time we get to the fourth series, she’s got to where ultimately she’s going to go. But in typical Merlin fashion, it’s not what you expect. It’s never what you expect, and in series four, it isn’t either. But I like the fact that she is strong and she’s accepted who she is. She’s assured, and even if you don’t agree with her point of view, she’s committed to it. She believes that she is doing the right thing and that she is saving people like her. She wants to bring back the old traditions, so she will no longer have to hide. I really respect that in somebody, that she is committed to what she believes. To be that strong and powerful is great, especially when you’re a girl. Without being a weak woman and soft, she’s still feminine. She’s a great woman to play!”

Series four will take place one year after the events of series three. What’s changed in that time?
“I think I’m bound to silence! I’m not sure what I can say. Well, Morgana has entirely changed in the year away. She’s been out of Camelot, and she’s probably been hunted and had to hide who she is. So to go from being such a privileged woman to being a hunted fugitive is going to change her. It’s going to make her harder, stronger and more committed. A year has also passed with everyone knowing that she is magical, so that’s also going to have changed how everybody else views her and how she views herself. I’m quite lucky. I’m probably completely biased, but I always say that I have the best character in the show. From season to season, I think she’s changed the most, and this season is no different. I know that everybody will be shocked by what she does in the first two episodes, and how she looks. It’s a complete new image for her. Very cool!”

Morgause appeared to die at the end of series three, so will Emilia Fox be back?
“Yes! Nothing’s ever the way it seems!”

And is there any chance of Mordred returning?
“I’d like Mordred to be back. He’s such an integral part of the story. I don’t know if he’s going to be back, because we’ve only got the first three scripts. But I’d like to think that at some point over the next few years, he’ll turn up, because you can’t tell the story without him. But again, what’s nice about Merlin is that it’s never going to be what you expect, so you can’t think that you know the legends. Even if you do, the show will trip you up and you’ll get a surprise! But I hope he’ll be back. Although [Mordred actor] Asa [Butterfield]’s off working with Martin Scorsese! I love it, we’re so proud of him! That boy, we’ve seen him grow!”

She had a lot more to say about her character, as well as the other version of Morgana in the Starz version of Camelot:

What are your thoughts on that other Arthurian adaptation, the Starz series Camelot?
“When they first told me they were doing it, I wanted to know who they’d cast! I wanted to know who was playing Morgana, and then they cast a Bond girl! How am I ever going to compete with that? Eve Green is my favorite Bond girl and she was so amazing and totally beautiful. I was like, ‘Oh great! Up against a Bond girl, I should just give it all up!’ But I have a friend who auditioned for it and read all the scripts, and she told me that the two shows are so different. [Eva and I] are playing two completely different characters, with a few similarities. Their portrayal of everything is nowhere near what we do. Their Arthur is different, their Guinevere is different, and so on. You can’t really put them in the same box, which is quite nice. I would put Camelot closer to [HBO fantasy drama] Game of Thrones, because it’s for a similar audience. We’re quite lucky in that there isn’t really anything like Merlin around.”

Game of Thrones is premiering on HBO tonight with the reviews sounding very positive. Digital Spy also interviewed Angel Coulby who plays Gwen. She revealed that Lancelot will be returning but does not know for how long.

While I loved most of the Harry Potter movies, I was disappointed with Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and did not have very high expectations from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows Part I. I recall disliking much of the first half of the book, feeling as Ron Weasley did, that we they wandering aimlessly. Therefore I waited until the Blu-Ray came out on Friday as opposed to seeing it at the movie theater, and it was at least as bad as I feared. If I didn’t already own the rest of the  Blu-Ray collection I might have refrained from purchasing this one, but it is hard to leave such a hole when almost at the end of a series.

The movies often improved upon the Harry Potter books by tightening them up in order to make them movie length. In some cases it was necessary to cut too much out for the movie, but in this case it would have helped to cut much of the material from the first half of the final book. If the studio wasn’t rearing the loss of income from the end of the franchise, I bet they would have just released a single book with much of the first half removed. Those who have also followed both the books and the movie could easily skip Part I and wait for Part II. If anyone is only following the movies, they might want to see  the first half hour or so of  the movie, but from there it would be helpful to use the fast forward button liberally.

SciFi Weekend: The Cape; A Baby Timelord; Torchwood Casting and Filming News; The Voldemort Effect

With the limited number of genre shows on this season, and No Ordinary Family taking a lighter approach to super heroes, there has been considerable anticipation for the premiere of The Cape. The show has been billed as a more serious and realistic superhero show. While there is a limit to how realistic such shows can possibly be, we have seen excellent results with such an approach with Iron Man and the latest Batman movies. Unfortunately it is unlikely that television will match the qualities of  Iron Man or The Dark Knight.

Like Iron Man and Batman, The Cape is an ordinary guy who learns tricks and utilizes gadgets as opposed to having true superpowers. The Cape learned his skills from a gang of criminal circus performers. Unfortunately we had all we wanted of mixing a circus and superheroes in the final season of Heroes.

The story would probably have been stronger if they used the full two hours of the premiere as an origin story instead of cramming in a weak follow up story. It is hard to judge shows such as this entirely by their first episodes as there is often room for improvement after initially setting up the situation. Even the last few episodes No Ordinary Family have been much better than the initial stories.

The best thing about The Cape is the return of Summer Glau as super-hacker Orwell. While I welcome her presence, I also fear that her character risks providing easy solutions to any problems. There is also an exaggerated view of the powers of technology in the show. Besides Orwell’s hacking abilities, having Vince Faraday (The Cape) have a card which opens multiple safes and is never canceled was far-fetched.

Besides Orwell, the show provides other supporting characters such as Faraday’s wife. Faraday is forced to take on a secret identity when framed for crimes committed by Chess/Peter Fleming, and when Fleming threatened Faraday’s family. While I can accept the situation of having Fleming keep secret the fact that he is still alive from the public and from Fleming, there is no reason why he can’t secretly see his wife.

Both Faraday and Fleming were pretty careless with their secret identities. The worst mistake was for Fleming to continue to appear as Chess after making it appear not only that Faraday was Chess but that he had been killed.

It is hard to evaluate the show without seeing future episodes. The weekly format of the show does place limitations on it, such as the need to keep Peter Fleming around  for further episodes as opposed to resolving that conflict as a stand alone movie might. James Frain, who plays the title role,  has provided hints as to where the series is going:

Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, Frain teased that Vince (David Lyons) and Peter will be involved in a number of confrontations in the future.

“They have to go head-to-head,” Frain said. “Vince has to confront this guy but he’s in a very unusual position of not being able to destroy him.

“The obvious thing to do is to take your revenge and go get the guy who framed you, but he can’t do that. He needs to keep this guy alive because he can’t prove his real identity without him, and so he realises that to really be free, he has to frame this guy and flip the tables on him. And so it’s not just a straightforward combat – it’s more psychological warfare.”

Frain also suggested that viewers will learn more about Peter as the series continues, saying: “We start to find out that Peter is a little bit more of a ladies’ man than we first thought. As the show goes on, the guy who he is by daytime, the guy who he is in the mask, becomes more and more separate and this conflict starts opening up.”

He added: “There’s going to be some action with a young woman that comes up that’s very interesting.”

I am glad that they will be expanding more upon Peter’s character. Having him be the head of a corporation who turns out to be evil was far too much of a television cliche.

Series creator TomWheeler has provided more background on where he wants to go with the series:

Wheeler says that the cape in The Cape also has its own backstory, and it will be explored throughout the life of the series. “In episode three, you get a big chunk of it,” he says. “One of our writers is getting his doctorate in mythology, and one of the things we talk about is the cape has a lot of primal symbolism. There’s the blanket you tie around your neck as a kid. That’s your first contact with being a superhero, so as a symbol, the cape connects you to childhood. But there’s also the cape in Jungian mythology/psychology that represents the shadow. So we are setting up a history for the cape that is quite dark. Even though the cape has no supernatural ability to do something to the wearer, we do get into what it means to embody your shadow; we explore the question ‘Do you wear the cape or does the cape wear you?’ That becomes an issue. We will be planting clues and mysteries along the way about the cape because there’s a big story to be told about the cape and what Vince is destined for.”

Another aspect of the superhero mythos that The Cape indulges is the super-villain. We’re not talking garden-variety crooks–we’re talking diabolical masterminds and high strange baddies. Wheeler’s ambition is to give The Cape a large rogues gallery, though Vince’s ongoing conflict with Chess provides the narrative spine of season 1. “Chess is a psychotic James Bond and we deal a lot with him and his alter-ego, Peter Fleming,” says Wheeler. “But we will see that while Peter is awful, he has a complicated life. In total, we’ll introduce seven new villains in the first season, including one that’ll be the center of a two-parter in the middle of the season.”

Wheeler says viewers can expect a show that will span a range of genres. There’s an episode that’ll be more sci-fi. There’s an episode that’s more “gothic” and scary. He believes non-geeks will be able to connect with emotional heart of the show–a story of a husband and father trying to reconnect with his wife and family. For all its old fashionedness, Wheeler believes The Cape is as entertaining as other state-of-the-art superhero action fantasies–even the ones of the grim and gritty stripe. “I think there’s a thirst out there for something that can marry the old and the new, something everyone to sit down and watch together as a family,” he says. “But we are very aware of the other entertainments that are out there and we believe we can be a compliment to them. God willing, we can be considered a branch on the tree of the great things Chris Nolan is doing or Zack Snyder or Jon Favreau have done–all the great adult stuff that’s out there.”

More from Wheeler here.

Doctor Who, which has had many inconsistencies during its near fifty-year run, has both had stories stating both that Timelord children do and do not exist. If the British tabloids are to be believed, we might have a Timelord child born on Earth this spring. Reportedly Georgia Moffat, who already has an eight year old son, is pregnant. News was recently released that Moffat is engaged to David Tennant. Tennant played the tenth Doctor, including staring in The Doctor’s Daughter where he met Georgia Moffat. Besides playing the Doctor’s daughter in the 2008 episode, Moffat is the daughter of Peter Davison, who played the fifth Doctor from 1981 to 1984.

There will be another reunion of cast members from Doctor Who. John Sim (who has played The Master, in addition to staring in the BBC version of Life on Mars) will be staring with Marc Warren (Elton Pope in a 2006 episode of Doctor Who entitled Love & Monsters) in Mad Dogs:

Woody (Beesley), Quinn (Glenister), Baxter (Simm) and Rick (Warren) have been friends since sixth form. The fifth member of their gang is Alvo (Ben Chaplin, Dorian Gray), a risk-taking opportunist who, having made his fortune in property, leads a luxurious lifestyle in Majorca.

Now in their 40s, they’ve all taken different paths in life with varying degrees of success. When Alvo flies them to his extravagant villa to celebrate his early retirement, they enjoy a trip down memory lane.
However, all does not go to plan and they find themselves entangled in a web of deception and murder involving beautiful police women, large yachts, Speedos and a rather short assassin in a Tony Blair mask…

Continuing Sky 1 HD’s dedication to homegrown high definition drama, Mad Dogs is a dark and twisted comic tale in which four ordinary guys discover how easily the line between friend and foe can be blurred.

The Doctor Who News Page has a report on the first week of filming Torchwood: Miracle Day. TV Squad has more information from Russel T. Davies on the series.  Lauren Ambrose, who played Claire Fisher on Six Feet Under, has been added to the cast. She will play Jilly Kitzinger, “a sweet-talking PR genius with a heart of stone who’s just cornered the most important client of her career … and maybe of all time.”

Julian Sanchez has blogged about The Voldemort Effect:

…as Harry’s sage mentor Dumbledore notes at one point, it was Voldemort’s choice to regard Harry as his predestined foe that made it true.

There’s a similar phenomenon in American politics, which I long ago mentally dubbed The Voldemort Effect. Maybe it’s always been this way, but it seems like especially recently, if you ask a strong political partisan—conservatives in particular, in my experience—which political figures they like or admire, and why, they’ll enthusiastically cite the ability to “drive the other side crazy.” Judging by online commentary, this seems to be an enormous part of Sarah Palin’s appeal. Palin herself certainty seems to understand this. Her favorite schtick, the well to which she returns again and again, is: “Look how all the mean liberals are attacking me!” Weekly Standard writer Matt Continetti even titled his book about the ex-governor “The Persecution of Sarah Palin.” Perversely, liberals end up playing a significant role in anointing conservative leaders.

This is, I think, a bipartisan phenomenon everyone at least subconsciously recognizes: A political figure—though more often a pundit than an actual candidate or elected official—gains prominence largely as a function of being attacked or loathed with special vehemence by the other side. Which means it’s crying out for a convenient shorthand so we can talk about it more easily; I propose “The Voldemort Effect.”

Matthew Yglesias responded:

I think the equivalence here is not only mistaken, but actually 180 degrees off base. You do see this Voldemort Effect in a lot of conservative thinking, but if liberals go awry it’s more likely to be in the reverse way—a lot of Team Blue’s thinking about politics is dominated by a kind of desperate search for leaders who won’t drive the other side crazy. Hence Bill Clinton, southern good ol’ boy. Hence John Kerry, decorated war hero. Hence calm, rational compromising Barack Obama instead of polarizing meanie Hillary Clinton. And that goes back to war hero George McGovern, southern good ol’ boy Jimmy Carter, Massachusetts Miracle technocrat mastermind Michael Dukakis, etc. In retrospect all of these people are hated by the right and “obviously” represent just another strain of out of touch liberalism, but in advance each and every one appealed to the rank and file as somehow “different” from his predecessors in some key way.

America Returns Those Who Destroyed The Economy To Power (Russian Communists Envious)

The midterm elections are turning out as most expected. The Republicans have won control of the House, while the Democrats will probably retain control of the Senate. Republicans have also had major gains in many states, giving them an advantage in redistricting.

Really, America, wouldn’t it make more sense to vote for the party which kept the United States out of another depression as opposed to bringing back the people responsible for the economic collapse?  What this election really proves is that dishonest talking points and outright lies will win over rational thought about our problems.

As it is getting late, for now I’ll primarily repost some of my items from Twitter and Facebook and will have more on the election later.

I voted for the party which believes in science and rule of law, not the party which is trying to replace both with theocracy.

Christine O’Donnell loses. No happy ending for her–which goes along with her crusade. (One of the retweets changed the word after the dash to “witch.”)

At least if the GOP only takes over the House they’ll still fall short of being able to achieve their goal of replacing the Bill of Rights with the Ten Commandments. Except they’d keep the Second Amendment (and ignore all the confusing stuff about militias and just assume it means an individual right).

The worst news of the night beyond the flat-earthers taking control of the House is the defeat of Russ Feingold in the Wisconsin Senate race. With his strong record on civil liberties, Feingold was endorsed by recent Libertarian Party candidate Bob Barr. How is defeating Feingold a step towards reducing government?

In his acceptance speech Rand Paul spoke of taking our country back. Exactly how many centuries does he mean?

Republicans Retake House. Seeing how the people responsible for screwing up a country can be returned to power, former Communists in Russia are now plotting their return.

People of color will now be in top positions in both the White House and the House of Representatives. First Barack Obama in the White House, and now John Boehner will be the nation’s first orange Speaker.

Is the nation ready for an orange Speaker of the House? More importantly, is the nation ready for a bat-shit crazy Speaker?

There is going to be a tendency for some on the left to respond to the election results by attacking Obama. Some hardcore Clintonistas have already started. This is a mistake. The only thing standing between between us and the insane hordes might be Barack Obama’s veto pen.

The big difference: Previously the Democrats would pass bills in the House but they would die in the Senate due to the need for sixty votes. Now we won’t have liberal legislation pass either House. Instead we will have all sort of lunacy proposed–leading to the GOP getting thrown out in two years.

Just wait until the GOP House passes bills to privatize Social Security and Medicare, with Rand Paul proposing the same in the Senate.

Damn, I now live in a red state. Does that mean I have to unlearn all that science and other elitist book learnin?

If there is a God he sure got my prayers wrong. I wanted the team from Ann Arbor to win in football and the candidate from Lansing to beat the candidate from Ann Arbor in the gubernatorial race. Instead I got the reverse.

Losses by Christine O’Donnell and Sharon Angle represent a poor night for Sarah Palin. Other candidates Palin supported are also going down, possibly including in Alaska.

And a few comments from others:

Often on Election Day we’re forced to choose between a liar and an idiot. Thx to the Tea Party, we can vote for both. –Andy Borowitz

No matter what happens, it’s a bad night for Tea Party voters because it involves so much math. –Andy Borowitz

‎”Politico was wrong, Huffington Post was wrong, hell, all the pundits were wrong. Harry Reid isn’t just Dracula, he isn’t just Lazarus, he’s our Leader and our whole caucus is thrilled that he’s unbreakable and unbeatable.” –John Kerry on the reelection of Harry Reid

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who and Short Skirts; Capria and Another BSG Spinoff; Lost; Star Trek Meets Zombies

Doctor Who begins on BBC America on April 17. A trailer for the upcoming season is above.

Above is a BBC interview with the new Doctor, Matt Smith.

Blogator Who has a BBC Breakfast interview with new show runner Steven Moffatt. Karen Gillan, who will play the Doctor’s new companion, told The Observer (via IO9) that her character Amy likes to wear short skirts:

Amy’s a sassy lady, funny and passionate, and her relationship with the doctor has a really interesting dynamic… She has a love for him, a really deep love for him. But not romantic. It’s been an education in itself to work with Matt, who’s so endlessly inventive, bringing something new to it every day rather than falling into the easy default scared-face. That’s one of the challenges; you’re faced with life-threatening situations every episode, but you can’t just widen your eyes all the time. Yes, this doctor is preeeetty good. As, I’ve said, is Amy, and she gets to wear all these small skirts, which I will admit was very cold, but also very cool. They originally wanted to put me in trousers, but I did say I’d like to wear a skirt because – you’ll understand when you watch it. Actually I think I love Amy. I’m in love with her. I want to be her.

I imagine the short skirts have something to do with her work as a kissogram.

Caprica had another excellent episode this week involving searches for the cyberspace survivors of the dead daughters from each of the key families of the series. The show worked well with the contrast between the more cerebral cat and mouse game played by Graystone with the more adventurous journey by Adama in New Cap City.  With this Battlestar Galactica prequel being a success we might see more. From The Hollywood Reporter:

Syfy also is looking to continue its popular “Battlestar” franchise.

When asked about the chances of its modestly performing spinoff “Caprica” getting a renewal, Stern was bullish. He pointed to the show recently hitting a series high in the adult demographic using Live+7 ratings, drawing 1.6 million viewers and 913,000 adults 18-49.

“We have a lot of hope for that show,” Stern said. “The (DVR data) has been very promising and growing week after week. The ratings don’t reflect the potential audience.”

The network also is looking to order another “Battlestar”-related project. Details were slim, but Stern said the title would mark a return to the franchise’s space-opera roots.

“We’re looking for other ways to spin off ‘Battlestar’ beyond ‘Caprica,’” he said. “That world is so rich. We’re sitting down with (executive producer) Ron Moore and his team. It would not necessarily be a traditional series.”

There is speculation that such a show would concentrate on the first Cylon War. While the stories are all fantasy, Script PhD has an interview with Professor Malcolm MacIver of Northwestern who has consulted on Tron and Caprica discussing the science behind the show.

In other genre shows this week, Lost looked at Sawyer’s past in the alternate reality. When the bomb went off the initial thought was that if this worked everyone would be in the position they would be in if the plane never crashed. Instead it turns out that Jacob and perhaps others from the island were influencing them for years. With the island not around, there lives have been different in the other reality for many years.  It is not clear if this is sufficient to explain it or if there is something else about this reality we do not yet know, but Sawyer’s life is considerably different. Rather than turning to a life of crime he would be being a police officer. The connections between different characters continues as Miles was his partner and he even hooked up with Charlotte.

Flash Forward returned with a two hour episode which gave some explanations but had very low ratings, making renewal appear unlikely.

Warner Brothers is claiming that everything is fine after they no longer have the Harry Potter franchise:

And at today’s Showest presentation, WB head honcho Alan Horn confirmed the news.  I forget exactly what he said on stage, but it’s essentially what I heard: DC Superheroes are coming and they’d replace Harry Potter.

The thing you need to realize is under Alan Horn, Warner Bros. instituted a tent pole release strategy which calls for a few event films to be made every year.  For the last decade, Harry Potter has been used to fill the release calendar and now that the franchise is ending after Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, the studio needs  need blood to take it’s place and a new way of earning the huge money that only tent pole releases can generate.

Enter DC Superheroes.

While nothing is officially on the calendar yet, I’ve heard in 2012 we’re getting not only a new Batman movie…but The Flash!  I’ve heard the studio is currently talking to directors and they’ll announce who it is when they’ve found the right choice.

Again, The Flash isn’t confirmed, but I’m telling you, it’s the next new superhero movie at Warner Bros. and we’re going to hear about it soon.

As a comic book movie junkie, I am beyond excited WB is finally getting into the game with their unbelievable library of characters.

This will provide for a number of movie ideas, but I wonder how many will have the wide spread appeal of the Harry Potter movies.

And, finally, Geeks of Doom reports that Star Trek meets Zombies:

Quirk Books is adding a new zombie tale to their collection with Night of the Living Trekkies, a novel by Kevin David Anderson and Sam Stall which sees Trekkies at a convention meet the undead!

The publisher, which is known for its literary monster mash-ups like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, hails the book as the “strange lovechild of Galaxy Quest and Dawn of the Dead.”

When hordes of the undead come to feast upon the attendees at a Star Trek convention, a group of Trekkies fight for their lives using everything they’ve learned from old Star Trek episodes.

More detail is also provided:

This sci-fi/zombie/comedy/adventure follows a group of rag-tag Trekkies getting together for the fifth annual GulfCon (billed as the “largest Starfleet Convention in the western Gulf Coast region”).

Our heroes are dressed in homemade uniforms and armed with prop phasers-but soon find themselves defending their hotel and convention center against hordes of flesh-eating undead. Suddenly, all of their useless knowledge about particle physics and old Star Trek episodes has genuine real-world applications! And while hotel employees and regular civilians are dying left and right, our Trekkies summon strength and courage by emulating their favorite starship-voyaging characters.

Packed with hundreds of gags referencing Star Trek, Star Wars, comic books, and fan conventions, Night of the Living Trekkies reads like the strange lovechild of Galaxy Quest and Dawn of the Dead. Journey to the final frontier of zombie science-fiction satire!

Health Care Reform and Harry Potter

Posts on health care reform have gotten into a lot of wonky subjects such as the insurance exchange, a variety of plans lumped together under the label “public option,” and details of how the system currently works from the inside. Now that the House bill has passed it seems like a good time to point out his trivia in evaluating the bill.

There have been a lot of comments that the bill is long, which I certainly will not argue with after trying to wade through multiple proposed House and Senate bills in addition to the current one. Length is hardly the key factor in evaluating a bill, but there is an interesting take on this at Computational Legal Studies. They argue that “simple page count vastly overstates the actual length of bill” and turned to word count instead. They counted 363,086 words (including titles, tables of contents, etc.) and further narrowed this to 192,531 words which impact substantive law. This falls in the neighborhood of a Harry Potter novel:

Number of substantive words in H.R. 3962: 192,531 words
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – 257,000 words
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – 190,000 words
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – 198,000 words

How much of the bill will need to be cut for the movie version?

This was also compared to the full US Code:

Size of the United States Code: 42+ Million Words
Relative Size of H.R. 3962: H.R. 3962 is less than 1/2 of one percent of the size of the United States Code

I’m not sure that this is a meaningful argument to minimize the impact of its size. It seems that 1/2 of one percent might be pretty substantial for a single bill. To evaluate this it would help to know how many laws are included in the full United States code and what their typical size is. Regardless, it is not surprising that a bill which handles something as complex as health care coverage would be on the long side.

West Michigan Can Wind Up With Even Worse Than “Crazy Pete”

West Michigan is on the front lines of the culture wars, including the types of areas which banned the Harry Potter books for promoting witchcraft. For years the area has been represented in Congress by Pete Hoekstra (often known as Crazy Pete). Among the low lights of Hoekstra’s career have been discredited claims of finding WMD in Iraq, divulging secrets on Twitter, and resorting to scare tactics which have been criticized by several former national security officials. Hoekstra has become sufficiently crazy to now have potential for to seek higher office as a Republican and he has decided to give up his seat in hopes of becoming governor. If that prospect isn’t scary enough, a Republican who sounds even crazier than Crazy Pete has announced plans to run for his seat.

Jay Riemersma has announced plans to run for Hoekstra’s seat. Riemersma, a former tight end for the University of Michigan and the Buffalo Bills, should have stuck with sports rather than entering politics. He is one Michigan man I will never support. CNN’s Political Ticker summarizes his views:

Since retiring from professional sports, Riemersma has been working for the conservative Family Research Council and coaching high school football. In November 2008, he penned a letter to the editor in the Holland Sentinal entitled “How could Christians vote for Obama?”

In the article, he said that “faith should permeate every aspect of our lives” and said any Christian who chose to support Barack Obama’s presidential bid did so “from a lack of understanding.”

“Too many Christians shroud their God-given light with misguided intentions and uninformed choices,” Riemersma wrote. “Moving forward to the next election, I implore all Christians to base their vote not on a political party or a polished politician, but rather on Biblical principle.”

Former Michigan Coach Lloyd Carr, often considered the Democrat on Bo Schembechler’s staff, will be appearing at receptions for Riemersma in Holland and Grand Haven on Thursday. Apparently Carr is placing loyalty to team above principle.

Some Democrats have felt they have a chance to take Hoekstra’s seat once he steps down, noting that George Bush won 60 percent of the vote in 2004 in this Congressional district but John McCain won just 50.8 percent of the vote in 2008. I fear that Riemersma is just the type who might get out the vote in West Michigan and will likely do better than McCain, especially with Obama not on the ballot.

SciFi Weekend: Harry Potter; Torchwood; Spock; Hayden Panettiere; and Anna Friel

harry-potter-and-the-half-blood-prince-1

The sixth Harry Potter movie, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was a box office success but I found it to be a huge disappointment. There is always a problem turning the full novels into a movie-length story but this movie did the poorest job of the six movies out so far. I felt like I was seeing a succession of excerpts from the novel being placed on screen as opposed to a coherent story. We got a small feeling for the effects of teenage hormones now acting on the main characters and some bits and pieces to lead up to the upcoming final battle against Voldemort in the final installment, but it didn’t work as a coherent story as the novel did.

Emma Watson as Hermione Granger did have a few good scenes as she felt like vomiting at the site of Ron Weasley with other girls, and Ginny Weasley looked far more grown up than I had pictured her. I thought that, while imperfect, at least the conclusion captured much of importance from the novel. I09 was also disappointed in the ending.

Children of Earth

The Torchwood: Children of Earth miniseries which begins on BBC America is one of the best science fiction stories to appear on television in recent years. (Reviewed here but do not read until after viewed due to major spoilers). AOL Canada interviewed Russell T. Davies:

What was the inspiration behind ‘Children of Earth’? It’s a very scary concept.

I wanted it to be a big event. In Britain, it was moving to BBC1, the biggest channel in the country. They wanted to show it across the week, from Monday to Friday. The stakes were high, and I knew I had to make a big impact. I also wanted it to work on an international level, but again, relating it to the domestic story as well – the government, the police, the Army. Then there’s America, the United Nations…that’s the world, but you’re still talking to people in their living rooms, their kitchens. Ordinary lives being changed by huge decisions.

Big events like all the children being affected, and the invasion of Species 456…truly exciting and terrifying. Writ large, yes. But I think I had something to say about the world, and I think that’s the point.

Did you choose children as the victims deliberately?

Quite frankly, I didn’t put too much thought into it. I simply had the idea. I was just like, what if we have all the children suddenly stop and scream? Now, with hindsight, I look back and think, well that was a great idea. I don’t think it would have been as frightening if I said every man should stop and scream. Children are precious and vulnerable, and dramatically represent the innocent.

Did the BBC think they were taking a risk with the bleak ‘Children of Earth’?

They didn’t worry about the bleakness for a second. I think the bigger risk was running it from Monday to Friday. We all took a big breath with that one, and it worked! That week, we had the biggest audiences that we’ve ever had, and we were the number one drama for the entire week. We won every single night.

Will you miss ‘Doctor Who’, now that you’re moving on from it?

Enormously. They’re gearing up for their next season right now, and I’m slightly turning into their stalker. I keep emailing them, ‘How are you?’ ‘How’s it going?’ ‘What’s happening?’ I can’t wait to be a viewer, to sit back and watch their series. It’s the first Doctor Who series that I get to watch for the first time in 21 years.

‘Children of Earth’ had the feeling of a series ender. How is ‘Torchwood’ supposed to return to its alien-of-the-week format?

I’m not sure it will ever return to its alien-of-the-week format. I think we’ve proven that the show can work really well with this continuous-story format. I think we’ve set a new benchmark for Torchwood. Let’s be honest, though: if they gave me a pile of money and tell me to make a monster-of-the-week, I would go and do it. But the story never ends. It looks like an ending because it was the perfect ending to the story, but I could easily write the next five scenes of what happens next. I won’t run out of stories, not until the day I die.

Spock Prime

Starland.com interviewed Leonard Nimoy regarding playing Spock once again, his possible future as Spock Prime in future Star Trek movies, Barack Obama’s interest in Star Trek, and his role in Fringe. Here are some of the questions from the interview:

DM: Do you feel a sense of completion with the Spock character after this film or is this the beginning of a new era for you and Spock?

LN: Both! I don’t know about me and Spock. It certainly is the beginning of a new era for Spock! It is impossible to predict about me and Spock. I have no idea where they want to go next and I feel very comfortable either way. I feel very gratified that I have been able to have some kind of closure. If this is the closure, then I am very comfortable with it. I was not happy at all with the closure that was imposed on the Spock character some years ago when Spock was just simply abandoned and Kirk was killed all in one fell swoop! I felt both were great losses to Star Trek. There was no reason to kill Kirk and there was a neglect of the Spock character. It seemed intentional. It seemed as if someone was saying, “Well, we have to put a stop to that and start with a whole new era here.” Having had this movie and this experience as Spock and seeing Zachary Quinto in the role now, I feel the character has a potentially wonderful, new life and certainly the success of the movie is just so terrific! It is so wonderful to see this happen and to see Star Trek have a chance of a reinvention and a revival. It was certainly in need of a revival.

DM: Can you describe for me, from your perspective, how Spock has changed over the years, from the first pilot to this latest film?

LN: In a lot of ways I feel closer to Spock personally than I ever have.

The Spock that I played in this movie is closer to me, in my personal life condition, than he has ever been before. It was a “performance” during the series years and during the film years because I was far more human and emotional, in the broadest terms, than the Spock I was playing – now that doesn’t mean that Spock had no emotions; as we all know, Spock had his own inner life. But what I was playing was a very logical, very cool, rational Spock. In this movie, my Spock has come to terms with himself in a very comfortable way. So I see myself up there as Spock now whereas Zachary did a wonderful job bringing us a Spock character before the Spock that I played in the original Star Trek series. And, finally, at the end of this movie, we see him arriving at the Spock that I played during the original series.

DM: What do you believe is Spock Prime’s future after this film?

LN: My sense is that he has some work to do. He talked about establishing a new Vulcan colony and I think he will be very involved in that. If we never see him again that is what I would imagine he is doing. He is busy rebuilding the Vulcan story.

DM: There has been a lot of talk of President Obama being an admirer of Star Trek and being compared to the Spock character. He even said he saw the new film and really liked it in a recent Newsweek interview and he mentioned the Spock connection. Have you ever met the President and discussed Star Trek with him?

LN: I met him twice. We didn’t actually talk Star Trek but the first time I met him he gave me the Vulcan salute when he first saw me! My wife and I were at a luncheon for him a long time ago. It was just at the very earliest stages of his beginning to campaign for the nomination for the Presidency. He came through a group of people – it was a small crowd – maybe 60 or 80 people and he saw me and raised his hand in the Vulcan gesture and said, “They told me you were here.” I gave the Vulcan salute back to him and that was the beginning of our relationship. I understand he grew up watching Star Trek.

DM: I assume as well that you are very open minded to appearing as Spock again should they ask you?

LN: I have no illusions on whether or not they need me. They decided that they wanted to make this film using Spock as kind of an anchor for the story, which I think worked very, very well. They don’t have to do that again. If they decide they have a role for me to play I would be very interested in talking to them about it. But I have every reason to believe that they have established a whole new set of characters and they can sail very well without me and that’s fine. Either way is good with me. I am very gratified that this has happened.

DM: Are you going to be a regular on the TV series Fringe now?

LN: I have committed to at least two episodes for next season. That’s the beginning. Then we will see how it goes. The character I play on that show is just being given birth so we’ll just have to see how it evolves.

hayden-panettiere-room-23

Hayden Panettiere of Heroes has attracted attention for her fairly tame topless scene in I Love You, Beth Cooper. I find the pictures of her in an upcoming book entitled Room 23 (such as above) to be far more interesting.

Anna Friel Vanity Fair Topless

Seeing the pictures of Anna Friel in Vanity Fair has me wondering why it was that I stopped watching Pushing Daisies after a handful of episodes and why I have not gotten around to seeing Land of the Lost.

The Odd Lies of Sarah Palin

Sarah Palin was not ready for the national spotlight when John McCain asked her to be his running mate. It is questionable whether she would ever be ready, between her Bush-like lack of interest in the details of policy issues and her lack of integrity. Andrew Sullivan has posted this round up from his previous posts on The Odd Lies of Sarah Palin:

Palin lied when she repeatedly claimed to have said, “Thanks, but no thanks” to the Bridge to Nowhere; in fact, she openly campaigned for the federal project when running for governor.

Palin lied when she denied that Wasilla’s police chief and librarian had been fired; in fact, both were given letters of termination the previous day.

Palin lied when she wrote in the NYT that a comprehensive review by Alaska wildlife officials showed that polar bears were not endangered; in fact, email correspondence between those scientists showed the opposite.

Palin lied when she claimed in her convention speech that an oil gas pipeline “began” under her guidance; in fact, the pipeline was years from breaking ground, if at all.

Palin lied when she told Charlie Gibson that she does not pass judgment on gay people; in fact, she opposes all rights between gay spouses and belongs to a church that promotes conversion therapy.

Palin lied when she denied having said that humans do not contribute to climate change; in fact, she had previously proclaimed that human activity was not to blame.

Palin lied when she claimed that Alaska produces 20 percent of the country’s domestic energy supply; in fact, the actual figures, based on any interpretation of her words, are much, much lower.

Palin lied when she told voters she improvised her convention speech when her teleprompter stopped working properly; in fact, all reports showed that the machine had functioned perfectly and that her speech had closely followed the script.

Palin lied when she recalled asking her daughters to vote on whether she should accept the VP offer; in fact, her story contradicts details given by her husband, the McCain campaign, and even Palin herself. (She later added another version.)

Palin lied when she claimed to have taken a voluntary pay cut as mayor; in fact, as councilmember she had voted against a raise for the mayor, but subsequent raises had taken effect by the time she was mayor.

Palin lied when she insisted that Wooten’s divorce proceedings had caused his confidential records to become public; in fact, court officials confirmed they released no such records.

Palin lied when she suggested to Katie Couric that she was involved in trade missions with Russia; in fact, she has never even met with Russian officials.

Palin lied when she told Shimon Peres that the only flag in her office was the Israeli flag; in fact, she has several flags.

Palin lied when she claimed to have tried to divest government funds from Sudan; in fact, her administration openly opposed a bill that would have done just that.

Palin lied when she repeatedly claimed that troop levels in Iraq were back to pre-surge levels; in fact, even she acknowledged her “misstatements,” though she refused to retract or apologize.

Palin lied when she insisted that the Branchflower Report “showed there was no unlawful or unethical activity on my part”; in fact, that report prominently stated, “Palin abused her power by violating Alaska Statute 39.52.110(a) of the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act.”

Palin lied when she claimed to have voiced concerns over Wooten fearing he would harm her family; in fact, she actually decreased her security detail during that period.

Palin lied when asked about the $150,000 worth of clothes provided by the RNC; in fact, solid reporting contradicted several parts of her statement.

Palin lied when she suggested that she had offered the media proof of her pregnancy with Trig to “correct the record”; in fact, no reports of her medical records were ever published; and the letter from her doctor testifying to her good health only emerged hours before polling ended on election day, even though there was nothing in it that couldn’t have been released two months earlier.

Palin lied when she said that “reported” allegations of her banning Harry Potter as mayor was easily refutable because it had not even been written yet; in fact, the first book in that series was published in 1998 – two years into her first term – and such rumors were never reported by the media, only circulated as emails.

Palin lied when she denied having participated in a clothes audit with campaign laywers; in fact, the Washington Times later confirmed those details.

Palin lied when asked about Couric’s question regarding her reading habits; in fact, Couric’s words were not, “What do you read up there in Alaska?” or anything close to condescension.

Palin lied when she mischaracterized the “$1200 check” given to Alaskans as the permanent fund dividend check; in fact, that fund had yielded $2,069 per person, and she claimed otherwise to obscure the fact that Alaskans also received a $1200 rebate check from a windfall profits tax on oil companies – a tax widely criticized by Republicans.

Palin lied when she claimed to be unaware of a turkey being slaughtered behind her during a filmed interview; in fact, the cameraman said she had picked the spot herself, while the slaughter was underway.

Palin lied when she denied having rejected federal stimulus money; in fact, she continued to accept and reject the funds several times.

Palin lied when she claimed that legislative leaders had canceled a meeting with her to hold their own press conference; in fact, they only canceled it after being told she would not participate, and the purpose of the press conference was very different from the meeting’s.

Palin lied when she announced on the news that she never holds closed-door meetings; in fact, she had just attended a closed-door meeting with the legislature earlier that day.

Palin lied when she said that former aide John Bitney’s “amicable” departure was for “personal” reasons; in fact, Bitney said he was fired because of his relationship with the wife of Palin’s friend, plus a Palin spokesperson later claimed “poor job performance” for his firing – without elaborating.

Palin lied when she said she kept her running injury a secret on the campaign trail; in fact, her bandaged hand was clearly visible in photographs and the story was widely talked about.

Palin lied when she claimed that Alaska has spent “millions of dollars” on litigation related to her ethics complaints; in fact, that figure is much, much lower, and she had initiated the most expensive inquiry.

Palin lied when she denied that the Alaska Independence Party supports secession and denied that her husband had been a member; in fact, even the McCain campaign noted that the party’s very existence is based on secession and that Todd was a member for seven years.

Palin lied when she said the dismissal of her public safety commissioner, Walt Monegan, had nothing to do with his refusal to fire state trooper Mike Wooten; in fact, the Branchflower Report concluded that she repeatedly abused her power when dealing with both men.

I wouldn’t bother with some of these, such as the questions about Trig. Even if Sullivan’s allegations should turn out to be correct I wouldn’t be terribly concerned if she lied about being the mother to cover up a family scandal. I’m far more concerned with the lies which show her abuse of power.

Several of these could use further elaboration which is often provided in the original post which the list links to. The Harry Potter item appears trivial as posted but it relates to a more important point. Palin had attempted to ban books which were offensive to the religious right. Besides the legitimate news stories on the subject which contained factual information, there was also a mass emailing which continued untrue claims, such as that she had attempted to ban Harry Potter. When asked about her attempts to censor books, Palin would routinely respond by saying that the claims in the mass email are incorrect. This was her way of evading answering questions about her actual attempts to ban books.

Palin might not know much about public policy issues, but she is clever at misleading those who look into her past. Besides this evasion on her attempts to censor books, she practiced similar dishonesty when the reports on Troopergate came out. Although the report showed that she had abused her powers, Palin spun the report to deny this finding. When the real, bipartisan report on Troopergate showed she was guilty of abuse of powers, Palin arranged to have a sham report appear to clear her just before the election. Of course these lies are not really “odd lies.” They were calculated lies to cover up past.

SciFi Weekend: The Next Star Trek Movie; Extra Hour For Lost; Harry Potter and Atheism; & Another Kristen Bell Bikini Movie

enterprise

With the first Star Trek movie by J.J. Abrams turning into such a hit, there has been a lot of speculation about his next Star Trek movie. In an interview with Colllider, Abrams says he is  open to anything:

Q:  I just interviewed Bob and Alex… they were talking about not having the typical movie villain but maybe having nature or…

Abrams: Oh! I see what you’re saying.  Well, I’m open to anything.  We’ve had some really interesting discussions so far but, you know – you have to be open to everything to find the right thing so the answer is sure, I’m open to that.  I think in a story it’s important to personify, somehow, what you’re up against so it’s a tricky one to figure out how to, like, fight evil wind! (evil look for emphasis).

Star Trek screenwriters Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman have also mentioned the possibilities open to them in recent interviews:

At issue: do they create a fresh plot with never-before-seen characters and scenarios or — because young Kirk and Spock are now part of an alternate timeline where the past has been altered — do they introduce 2.0 versions of such popular villains as the Klingons or Khan? Orci recognizes each approach has its own merits.

Rebooting familiar elements appeals instantly to fans and attracts the attention of “the media-sphere,” as he calls it.

Meaning that if you cast, say, Javier Bardem as the new Khan opposite Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto, you’ve automatically excited fans and attracted the attention of the moviegoing public.

“But on the other hand,” he adds, “who doesn’t love an original story?”

That they’re even having this discussion is, they know, is no small feat. But the J. J. Abramsdirected Trek has rejuvenated a franchise once believed dead, grossing more than $245 million so far in North America. (Compared to the $49 million 2002’s Star Trek: Nemesis earned.)

“We’d hear that people thought Star Trek was too cold, that women didn’t like it,” Orci says. “But if you look at that period in the 1980s — from Wrath of Khan to the Voyage Home — those movies were very warm; they were about a family.”

Using the Klingons makes sense as they were frequent enemies in past television episodes and movies. There has been a lot of speculation about retelling the stories with Kahn but there is less point in this. Kahn was the villian in one television episode of Star Trek and returned for one of the movies. I would rather see a new story than to retell the original television episode, and the movie with Kahn takes place far later in Kirk’s career.

IO9 discusses the possibility that the next Star Trek movie could include Yeoman Janice Rand:

…co-writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman tell io9 the next film could feature one of Trek‘s most iconic women.

Yeoman Janice Rand, with her imposing blonde beehive, only appeared in a handful of Trek episodes before disappearing (reportedly because star William Shatner wanted Kirk to have more the opportunity to mack on different women every week.) But since she has a fairly major role in “Charlie X” and “The Enemy Within,” she’s always stood out as one of the most significant female characters on the show, up there with Uhura and Nurse Chapel.

Lost paddle

Lost ended the fourth season with a lot of subplots to tie up. There are rumors that some of the characters who died will be returning. This could be in flashbacks or could be a consequence of the atomic bomb which might have changed history. The Hollywood Reporter says that they will be adding another episode on to the final season.

HarryPotter30131

The Harry Potter books and movies have already come under frequent attacks from the religious right. Daniel Radcliffe, who plays Harry Potter, has given them another reason in an upcoming interview to appear in Esquire. The Telegraph reports:

In an interview with Esquire magazine, Radcliffe risked the US box office prospects of the new Harry Potter film by declaring himself to be an atheist.

In a pronouncement that will dismay America’s religious Right, which has long voiced suspicions about Potter’s “anti-Christian” message, the 19-year-old actor said he did not believe in God.

He also expressed his admiration for Professor Richard Dawkins, the prominent atheist and bete noir of Evangelical Christians.

Radcliffe has been reticent on the subject of religion in the past, but in an interview to promote the latest instalment in the film franchise, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, released on July 15, he said: “I’m an atheist, but I’m very relaxed about it. I don’t preach my atheism, but I have a huge amount of respect for people like Richard Dawkins who do. Anything he does on television, I will watch.”

He joked: “There we go, Dan, that’s half of America that’s not going to see the next Harry Potter film on the back of that comment.”

JK Rowling’s stories of the schoolboy wizard are taken very seriously by some Evangelical Christians in the United States. One of the largest Christian groups in the country, Focus on the Family, denounced the books as “witchcraft”.

Conversely, the Church of England published a guide advising youth leaders to use Harry Potter to spread the Christian message, as the characters face “struggles and dilemmas that are familiar to us all”.

Prof Dawkins, author of best-selling book The God Delusion, is no fan of Harry Potter, once remarking that tales of witchcraft are “anti-scientific”.

Harry Potter does show a world in which magic is used in ways which defy the laws of science, but this is presented as fantasy and certainly should not be taken as a claim for the validity of magic.

Couples Retreat small

I’m not certain about the story in an upcoming movie from Universal but the movie reportedly has a lot of scenes with Kristen Bell and Kristin Davis in bikinis and lingerie. Here is the synopsis:

Vince Vaughn, Jason Bateman, Jon Favreau, Malin Akerman, Kristin Davis, Kristen Bell and Faizon Love star in Universal Pictures’ upcoming comedy Couples Retreat. Based on an original idea of Vaughn’s, the comedy follows four Midwestern couples who embark on a journey to a tropical island resort.  While one of the couples is there to work on their marriage, the other three set out to jet ski, spa and enjoy some fun in the sun.  They soon discover that participation in the resort’s couples therapy is not optional.  Suddenly, their group-rate vacation comes at a price.  What follows is a hilarious look at real world problems faced by all couples.