Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Theater Marquee

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Even though the much hyped play does not even begin previews until June 7, and most Americans won’t even get to read the play until July 31, London’s Palace Theater is already decorated.  Check out the front-of-house decor below.

HPatCC_FoH_full_Come on, that is beautiful and ornate, especially considering that many Broadway marquees really just have the digital Minority Report-like screens in front of the theaters.  I mean, look at that little one in the bird’s nest snitch.  I’m fairly certain that’s supposed to be little Albus hunched inside.

HPatCC_FoH_nestIt’s not surprising that the theater can have such an ornate decor, given that tickets have already been released out through May 2017, the Palace probably has the money to spare on some really, really nice photo ops.

White as a Ghost: on the casting of Scarlett Johannson

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Scarlett Johansson as "The Major."

Scarlett Johansson as “The Major.”

Scarlett Johansson is an immensely talented actress.  This is not up for debate.  However, what should absolutely be up for debate is the fact that she probably should not be cast as Major Motoko Kusanagi, the leading role in the upcoming Ghost in the Shell film adaptation, out in March of next year.

In the first released promotional still, Johansson’s character is referred to only as “The Major,” though the IMDB page for the film specifically calls her “Kusanagi.”  Following the nasty backlash at Emma Stone’s casting as Allison Ng in Aloha, Rooney Mara’s inappropriate casting as Tiger Lily in Pan (a role she regrets taking, and probably only partially because the film bombed,) and the idiotic whitewashing of Gods of Egypt, it seems that the studios aren’t learning anything yet.  They’re casting whomever they want, and apologizing only after it looks like the movie will fail (and all three of the previously mentioned films did fail.)

When casting a person of color, there is often a small but vocal Twitter backlash from, well, racists.  See also the people who complained that the canonically “dark-skinned” Rue was cast as a young black girl, or the people who complained when Hermione was cast as a black woman in the upcoming Cursed Child play even when her skin color has never been mentioned.   Not to mention the backlash at the idea of casting Idris Elba as James Bond.

Asians have long been excluded from media entertainment and whitewashed. Dreamworks is making a huge mistake attempting to bet the property on a “bankable” star- before this, their first choice was then lesser-known-but-no-less-white Margot Robbie, best known as Harley Quinn in the upcoming Suicide Squad movie.

After so many attempts at whitewashing have failed spectacularly in recent memory, why are the studios still sticking by it?

Respectful dialogue welcome.

The State of Women’s Wrestling: WWE

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2015 was the Year of the Divas Revolution. 2016 is the year of the Female Superstar.  The debut of the new belt is honestly amazing.  Gone is the ugly pink butterfly belt, replaced by a red, smaller version of the men’s title.

The Bella Twins, who have come a long way from being a pair of catty, mean twins who regularly cheat using one another to win their respective matches, have both retired.   Brie and Nikki were with the company for nine years (excluding a hiatus in 2012.)  In that time, Nikki was champion twice and Brie once.  One of Nikki’s reigns was the longest women’s reign of all time (your mileage may vary if you think that was a choice on WWE’s part to punish previous record holder AJ Lee, who retired abruptly after Wrestlemania last year.)

Brie was in a five-on-five tag (Naomi, Tamina, Lana, Summer Rae, and Emma vs Brie, Paige, Alicia Fox, Eva Marie, and Natalya)  match during the pre-show on Sunday.  There is nothing inherently wrong with this, until you remember that Wrestlemania was five hours long and at times felt it.  She got the win over Naomi.  However, when the women of Total Divas lifted Brie onto their shoulders, and an injured Nikki rushed into the ring to celebrate her sister’s last win, the camera cut away.  To a garbage B-roll shot of the crowd in a hallway.  Making the point that WWE didn’t really care about the retirement of one of their core “divas” after giving her husband a touching, amazing sendoff.  It’s a seemingly unintentional jab at the WWE’s attitude toward the “Divas,” a division that the Bella Twins had come to represent.

The clash over the new Women’s Championship was much less controversial, but not without problems.  The wrestling between Becky Lynch, Sasha Banks, and Charlotte (Flair) was fantastic, action packed, and in places brutal.  Becky Lynch in particular ended the match looking as though she had been in a fight, something not normally allowed in the Divas Era.  However, the match ending not on the villainous Charlotte cheating, but rather her father Ric Flair restraining Sasha Banks, threw an annoying cast.  Why was the women’s title match decided by the actions of an old man?  Yes, Charlotte couldn’t win clean and maintain her character, but she should have been the one acting dishonestly instead of her father.

On Monday, Sasha Banks beat Summer Rae via submission, while Natalya beats her tonight on Smackdown (they tape on Tuesdays, the internet tells you immediately.)  Feeding former Total Diva Summer Rae to both women brings up the idea of the line being drawn in the sand between women the WWE believes in as wrestlers (Sasha, Becky, Charlotte, Naomi, Emma, Bayley) and the formerly ornamental women/ reality stars* who may have a difficult time finding their place in the new order of things (Summer Rae-valet for Fandango, Lana-manager for Rusev, Tamina, Alicia Fox, the reviled Eva Marie, Rosa Mendes upon her return from maternity leave.)  Also brought into question are roles for women like Paige and Natalya, who were both serious contenders during the Divas Era and reality stars.  It appears Natalya, at least, is being welcomed into the title picture, creating an interesting storyline.  What happens when the scions of two wrestling families- both talented women in their own right- go head to head?

Is WWE going to draw a line between what they may see as two types of women?  How will the women hired in a time when less skill was required to thrive in the division survive?  How will this affect the terrible but incredibly watchable Total Divas?

WWE seems to be going down a much better road in relation to their female talent, though 2016 has had pitfalls too.  Let’s hope it lasts and improves, and that all of their female talent can thrive in the future.

*I am not saying these women are untalented in any way.  I am saying they have not been utilized or taken seriously as athletic competitors on the main roster.

Didn’t You Used to Write a Blog?

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So, I’ve been on radio silence since November.

I needed to step back and figure out what I wanted PNT to be.  As a news site, it’s well…it’s not really working.  Sites like the excellent The Mary Sue have more writers and resources, and it would be impossible to keep up.  Back to the drawing board.

So, we’re back, but a little different.

So many people in nerd culture are 30 or close.  Can you grow up without giving up what you love?  Of course.  We’ll talk about that.  We’ll talk about getting in shape, and getting in trouble.  We’ll talk about dreams, media, weddings, homes, parties, and careers.

We’ll still talk about nerd issues, and feminist issues, and everything’s going to come through that lens.  But we’re going to grow up, too.  We’re going to be almost 30, and nerds, and still a lot of fun.

Let’s go, nerds.

Tales from the Rumor Mill: Is Slave Leia disappearing for good?

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Princess Leia in her seldom- marketed Hoth style.

Princess Leia in her seldom- marketed Hoth style.

Rumors abound that Disney is doing away with merchandise depicting the most popular Star Wars heroine in the outfit she wore when forced into slavery to Jabba the Hutt.

In the wake of Carrie Fisher telling newcomer Daisy Ridley to “keep fighting against that slave outfit,” the rumor that all further Star Wars merchandise will not feature the iconic metal bikini has caused quite the furor online.

Noted Marvel cover artist J. Scott Campbell posted the following on Facebook, which is the primary evidence anyone has for the ban:

JScottCampbellFacebook I don’t think an outright ban is the way to go on this one, but I completely agree it should not be the main outfit we see Princess Leia in.  Additionally, banning the outfit will only add value to existing Slave Leia collectibles, which is probably not the intended outcome.  I’m not that sorry that Leia can’t be drawn in a sexy pose or in the bikini on the comic book covers.  We have so, so, so much art with her in a sexy pose or in the bikini that it might be nice to force artists to be a bit more creative in their depictions of her.   I wonder if the Marvel ban comes from too much of the art for Leia being submitted being too sexy, creating the need for a ban to produce different results? I need to point out that the constant depictions of her in that outfit are seldom when she’s actually killing Jabba, which is a pretty awesome character moment for her.

I think the best solution is to simply not prioritize this outfit over everything else she’s worn.  The merchandising has admittedly over-emphasized this particular outfit of Leia’s, which is probably why annoyance and outrage abound.  Scaling back for a little while would probably be more productive than an outright ban, and much less attractive for clickbait and headlines.  For the first 2-3 years, the only female figure in the 6-inch  Black Series of prestige action figures was Slave Leia (this changed sometime in late 2014 or early 2015, when Leia’s Boushh outfit debuted. Rey has since been added, with Captain Phasma announced.) For a woman as strong, intelligent, and courageous as Leia, why emphasize the only outfit that is skin-baring and something she wore while enslaved?

What do you think?  Is it Disney/ Marvel’s corporate pandering taking things too far, or a saving throw for Leia’s character to finally get a fair depiction in the merchandise?

Edit: A reader found the question I asked unclear.  There has been backlash against Slave Leia toys in the past year, but on a very small level (I can only find one parent who complained.)  I have edited the question at the end of this post to read: “Disney/Marvel’s corporate pandering” instead of “social justice warriors.” I apologize for the confusion.

Have a Pretty Nerdy Halloween: Last Minute Costumes for You and Yours

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Patterns from zombiepumpkins.com Rexy carved by me, Freddy carved by +2 Comedy's Noah.

Patterns from zombiepumpkins.com Rexy carved by me, Freddy carved by +2 Comedy’s Noah.

It’s Halloween!  Tomorrow, anyway, which means you’ve lost your chance to have anything shipped to your house.  The Halloween stores are a den of picked-over sadness, and you have a party to go to.  What are some quick-and-nerdy ideas you can throw together without budget busting?

 

Singles:

  • Steven, Steven Universe: Red T-shirt with a little yellow fabric paint.  Red flip flops.  A ukelele if you can borrow one.  However, be prepared for possible Tumblr fallout should you go in this direction.
  • Chanel Oberlin, Scream Queens: To be Chanel, you can’t be too over-the top.  Raid a Forever 21 for pretend couture, or just get a ridiculous skirt and make a KKT t-shirt.
  • The Penguin, Gotham. Get a nice dark suit (skirt suit is fine!) an umbrella, and a cane.  Lots and lots of hair gel.  Be sure to practice that limp.
  • Waldo:  Striped shirt, glasses, hat.
  • Catwoman: All black (catsuit optional) with a black mask and cat ears.
  • Doc Brown- crazy hair, white lab coat, best Christopher Lloyd impression you can do.
  • Marty McFly- denim or chambray shirt matched with a red puffer vest.
  • Wrestler of your choice- if you have the shirt, the rest is usually closet couture.  John Cena gear is particularly easy to come by.

Pairs:

I’m just going to link my Valentine’s Day cosplay article here.

Groups:

  • Disney Princesses as (X) Sailor Scouts, Star Wars characters, pinup girls, high school students, superheroes, anything you can think of- just color code things you and your friends already own!  Look at the eighteen million Buzzfeed articles on the subject.
  • That being said, My Little Ponies as anything.  Again, color coding is everything.  You might need to brave the Halloween store for a wig for everyone except Applejack, but that’s a risk you’ve gotta be willing to take.
  • The Kappas, Scream Queens.  See entry for Chanel Oberlin under “singles” and repeat as many times as needed.  #3 MUST have earmuffs.
  • The Scooby Gang: either one, from the original cartoon series OR Buffy the Vampire Slayer
  • Retro Nick Characters- an old plaid shirt and  sweatshirt will make you a fine Arnold, and white short-shorts, a sky blue tee, and a screwdriver will make you Tommy Pickles faster than you can say “wait, that show debuted WHAT YEAR?!”
  • Peanuts (but for the love of everything holy don’t be like the Today Show)
Is Matt Lauer Lucy? What? What is even happening here?

Is Matt Lauer Lucy? What? What is even happening here?

 

Variant Covers: Part One: DC/ Monsters

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After the success of the movie-inspired covers, DC Comics hopes to again entice comics readers to buy single issues with variant covers aplenty.  In October, the second (annual?) Monsters collection will launch.  25 variants will launch in all,  but I’m going to pick best 5 and worst 5.  I’m not into horror art for horror art’s sake, so my opinions aren’t objective.

Overall, 2014 offered a better group as far as strong, scary, iconic images.

(Editorial Note: Yes, some of these images are watermarked as belonging to other sites.  DC utilized these sites to announce these covers, and some of the sites watermarked the images.  I’d prefer to leave them whole with the watermark than pretend I have any right to them.)

 

Best:

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Action Comics #45
This is a beauty that brings to mind an old pulp fiction book or B-movie, and its artistic style really, really sets it apart from the pack.  This is also the most plausible of the lot, if Superman was not seen as entirely “good.”

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Flash #45
Strong, weird art style that sets it apart from the gory quasi-realistic thing most of the covers go for.  It’s very weird, but I really like it.

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Harley Quinn #21
The Mummy is an interesting choice for Harley, and a fun one.  Points for the mallet/ pistol sarcophagus and the mummified pigtails.

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Starfire #5
Again, a weird choice of monster, but strong, eye-catching art that highlights a lesser-known heroine in a great way.  The white background will also set it apart from the largely darker covers.  I’m also a big fan of the fact that this isn’t sexualized in any way, and is really just a cool battle cover for her.  This would be my favorite, except the next one is just so good.

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Superman/ Wonder Woman #22
Come on.  This one is just so damn cool.  Wonder Woman is a harpy, and Superman as a Minotaur- classical monsters for classical heroes.  It’s a strong, iconic cover that really cements these two as the heroes through the ages, while there are clearly a lot of nods to Greek mythology all over Wonder Woman’s mythos and history.  Strong, beautiful cover that will certainly make you look twice.

 

THE WORST

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Black Canary #5
You guys, I am so over zombies.  This brings nothing to the table.  It’s a pretty girl zombie!  Eating a brain!  We should have really gone Siren for this one, since her sonic scream is her trademark.  The style is nothing to write home about, either, which is a shame.

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Green Lantern #45
No, really guys.  SO OVER zombies.  I like the use of white space and the lantern logo in blood, but the art itself is just not attractive.  It’s also just unimaginative.  “What should we do with Green Lantern?”  “Oh, I don’t know.  Make him a zombie.  People still like zombies, right?”

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Grayson #13
On the other hand, this is too attractive.  If I didn’t know this were a monster variant series, I wouldn’t have realized it.  It’s not a strong enough image, and it’s not visually interesting.  No effort in this at all.  He looks like Prince Eric wearing a wetsuit.

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Justice League of America #5
Actually, most of this cover is pretty cool, drawing inspiration from the Universal Monsters of Yore.  However, why is Cyborg a horse?  There is no reason at all, when either Frankenstein’s monster or the Phantom of the Opera would have been logical choices (the Phantom’s half mask could be evocative of Cyborg’s, well, cyborg-ness.)  Good cover felled by one very weird artistic choice.

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Aquaman #45
I couldn’t figure out that this was Aquaman initially.  This cover feels incoherent and weird, with a complete lack of menace or humor.  A monster cover should have at least one of those things.   The concept of Aquaman-as-sea-monster is good and the art style could have worked, but the botched execution killed this one.  I would have preferred something comparing Aquaman to Nessie.

 

 

TOSS-UP

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Sinestro
This feels like a joke that got passed around some artists got submitted for a cover.  It’s really doesn’t fit into the theme, unlike Mephistopheles-Sinestro from 2014.  However, it’s a good execution of a Grumpy Cat Sinestro.  Maybe DC will do a meme variant series next year.

 

See all of the covers here!

D23: What We Learned, Part Four: Everything Else

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Okay, so this is the catch-all, kids.  What doesn’t fall into the movies or theme parks comes here, to this humble final installment.  This will be presented in the order in which I care:

Yesssssss.

Yesssssss.

  • This was it for me.  I’ve always liked the idea of Kingdom Hearts more than the Gameplay, but if you toss Rapunzel and Baymax in, I’m buying.
  • Baymax appeared all in black, with the idea being that this was the original Baymax who sacrificed himself to save Hiro in the film.
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Rey and Finn. Finn is holding a blaster, not a lightsaber. Hmmmmm.

Disney Infinity 3.0

  • Confirmed new characters: Peter Pan, Spot (but not Arlo- The Good Dinosaur) Finn and Rey (The Force Awakens) Judy and Nick (Zootopia) and Hulkbuster and Ultron (Avengers: Age of Ultron)
  • Confirmed new playsets: Marvel Battleground and The Force Awakens
  • Four player will be enabled for the Marvel playset
  • Disney MagicBands will unlock the famous Partners statue from the Magic Kingdom.

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Magic Kingdoms

  • Mobile app that lets you build your own theme park
  • Will have plot elements- Maleficent and company decide to wreck your theme park, because that’s what they do now.

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Star Wars Battlepods/ Battlefront

  • These were showcased as an immersive video game experience.
  • These are already out in the wild, incidentally.  I’ve seen one in person in Ocean City.
  • They’re a little claustrophobic, and one player called them “like a movie I sort of interacted with.”
  • There’s going to be a Darth Vader skinned PS4 released with Star Wars: Battlefront

John Lasseter Studio Collection

  • Lasster’s ridiculous Hawaiian shirt collection was on display, and they’re actually pretty neat to look at.

 

 

 

D23: What We Learned, Part Three: Theme Parks

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With pretty much the entirety of Hollywood Studios having closed in the last year and a half,  people were expecting some pretty big things from D23.

The Mouse delivered.  Instead of release dates, we’re just going to list by project, since several of these cover multiple parks, and most of them don’t have any kind of release date anyhow.

 

Picture from Disney Parks Blog

Picture from Disney Parks Blog

Jungle Cruise Skipper Canteen, Magic Kingdom (late 2015)

  • Full Name will be Jungle Navigation Company Limited Skipper Canteen, and no one will ever call it that.
  • Was under construction for months before it was announced
  • Supposedly going to have more international flavors in its cuisine (Asian, African, and/ or South American)
  • Will be staffed by Jungle Cruise skippers, so expect lots of terrible puns.
  • Like Be Our Guest, it will have multiple themed rooms, such as a crew mess hall and a secret meeting room.
  • Unknown yet if it will be table service or counter service.

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Toy Story Land, Disney’s Hollywood Studios

  • Will expand on existing Pixar Place area
  • In this land, you are a toy, shrunk down to play in Andy’s backyard
  • Two new rides have been announced: a space shuttle mission with the Little Green Men, and a Slinky Dog coaster I may already be in line for.
  • How did this take 20 years for them to do?

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Star Wars Lands, Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Disneyland (no one knows)

  • Star Tours: The Adventure Continues will be updated to include prequel characters and situations, but they are not deleting any of the old tracks.  The ride will still be randomized.  Guess I will have to ride it thirty times.
  • The prequels and the Disney XD cartoon Rebels will be incorporated into the Jedi Training Academy storylines at both parks
  • We’re getting a Millennium Falcon ride!
  • We’re also getting a Space Battle ride.
  • We know very little about this, and it will take a really, really long time to build.
  • We’re getting the Cantina we’ve been begging them to turn Backlot Express into.
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Concept Art, obviously, but wouldn’t that be rad.

 

Rivers of Light and Sunset Safaris, Animal Kingdom (Spring 2016)

  • In an effort to keep Animal Kingdom from being dismissed as a partial-day park, Disney is trying to up their game by adding more nighttime activities
  • Rivers of Light will be a mixed media show of, well, water and light, as well as dancers and fire.
  • Hyenas and African wild dogs are being added to the safari, which will add some nocturnal flair to the usually daytime event.
  • I really am hesitant about both the ethics and logistics about bothering the animals for nighttime.

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Pandora: The World of Avatar (formerly known as Avatarland) Animal Kingdom (2017)

  • Instead of re-enacting the movie, the aim of this seems to be to bring people onto Pandora and let them have their own adventure, like Star Tours vs. Many Adventures of Winnie-the-Pooh
  • Announced rides include the Flight of Passage, where you ride the back of a banshee and look over Pandora.
  • Currently under construction

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Season of the Force, Disneyland (late 2015/ early 2016)

  • Hyperspace Mountain is an overlay that will appear during the upcoming “Season of the Force” event, which I can only hope ties in the Star Wars holiday special, and is at the moment only announced for Disneyland
  • Please still be there when I go to Cali.
  • Both parks will feature the Star Wars Launch Bay, a walkthrough exhibit and playground featuring art, props, characters, and of course merchandise.  This is set to take over the Animation Courtyard of Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Tomorrowland in Disneyland.
  • Disney’s Hollywood Studios will showcase a new fireworks show set to the soundtracks of the iconic films.

 

Instead of a poorly edited picture, here's Patrick Warburton instead.

Instead of a poorly edited picture, here’s Patrick Warburton instead.

Soarin’ Around the World, EPCOT and California Adventure (2016)

  • This incredibly popular attraction is getting an update to become a worldwide adventure, instead of just California.
  • Expected to arrive 2016 (probably to coincide with the long-awaited third theater for the EPCOT ride in hopes to cut down wait times.)
  • Every web site has a poorly Photoshopped picture of the ride vehicle over a landmark