JK ROWLING Gives Back

J.K. Rowling has already done great things for the literary world by creating books that got young people (and not-so-young people!) reading in the millions and, of course, for film audiences everywhere with the adaptation of her epic fantasy tale. Now, though, she has given even more, helping out with a number of charities and showing the difference that generosity can make.

The Guardian reports…

The author JK Rowling has donated £10m to set up a clinic to research treatments for multiple sclerosis, the degenerative disease that killed her mother at the age of 45, it was announced today.

The Anna Rowling regenerative neurology clinic, which will be based at the University of Edinburgh , will carry out research into a range of degenerative neurological conditions and diseases including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntingdon’s and motor neurone disease.

The Harry Potter author has championed research into multiple sclerosis. In 2006, it emerged that she had given a “major” but undisclosed gift to Multiple Sclerosis Society Scotland towards setting up the university’s centre for multiple sclerosis research.

She had served as the patron of the society, but resigned last year after an internal battle over the charity’s reorganisation.

The university said the £10m was the largest direct donation Rowling had made to a charitable cause, and the biggest single gift the university had ever received.

“I have supported research into the cause and treatment of multiple sclerosis for many years now – but when I first saw the proposal for this clinic, I knew that I had found a project more exciting, more innovative, and, I believe, more likely to succeed in unravelling the mysteries of MS than any other I had read about or been asked to fund,” the author said.

“I have just turned 45, the age at which my mother, Anne, died of complications related to her MS.

“I know that she would rather have had her name on this clinic than on any statue, flower garden or commemorative plaque, so this donation is on her behalf, too, and in gratitude for everything she gave me in her far too short life.”

Unlike laboratory-based research centres, the new clinic will work with MS sufferers and help develop test new treatments that could eventually slow, stop and eventually reverse degenerative diseases.

It will be based in a purpose-built unit within the BioQuarter medical research campus, in south-east Edinburgh.

Staff will work closely with other university and NHS research units specialising in regenerative and neurological diseases.

Rowling’s £10m gift is being included in the university’s campaign to raise £350m towards research, increasing scholarships and bursaries and conserving its historic buildings.

Prof Sir Timothy O’Shea, the university’s principal, said: “This exceptionally generous donation will provide great help in the worldwide effort to improve treatments for multiple sclerosis.

“Work at the clinic will build on the already existing important research strengths in neuro-degenerative disorders at the university, which benefit very considerably from our close partnership with NHS Lothian.”

Rowling, whose personal wealth was estimated at £519m earlier this year thanks to the bestselling Harry Potter novels and films, has a long track record of charitable donations. She has also given £1m to the Labour party.

She had previously set up another trust – the Volant Trust, commemorating her mother’s maiden name – which has an annual budget of £5.1m to support women and young people at risk of social exclusion.

BAKUGAN BATTLE BRAWLERS: DEFENDERS OF THE CORE Video Game Trailer!

Bakugan fan? Then you’re definitely going to want to get your hands on the upcoming multi-platform game, entitled BAKUGAN: DEFENDERS OF THE CORE. According to the Bakugan wiki…

Bakugan Battle Brawlers: Defenders of the Core will bring gamers into a fast binding action adventure to save the Earth and New Vestroia from Zenoheld, Spectra and their Vexos minions. Players will create a new hero and discover new aspect of Bakugan by having full control over the creatures when taking on the opponents. For fans who will be getting the DS version, will be taking advantage on the dual screen. The game will have split-screen multiplayer, head to head battles, and free for all. It seems to be a fighting game, where Bakugan duke it out for the most victories. It will have a Collector’s Edition that will come a Hex Dragonoid action figure.

Featuring both a story mode and a battle mode, the game will boast an immersive storyline for Bakugan-lovers to enjoy while also including enough quick-fight options to give the game definite replay value. With Bakugan still going strong and surging in popularity, the game should be a pretty huge hit when it hits shelves on November 2nd, 2010. Now, for those of you who haven’t seen the trailer, prepare to be impressed! And those of you who have seen it, well…I’m pretty sure you’ll enjoy it again!

And if you want a little more? Time for a look at the gameplay!

Of course, to tide you over until the release of the video game, we’ve also got a ton of Bakugan stuff for sale over at CmdStore! From loose figures to stadiums, playsets and accessories, it’s all right here! Take a look at the awesome scope of our Bakugan Battle Brawlers section!

Pre-Order: NEW World of Warcraft Figures

Following the announcement of Blizzard Entertainment’s Special Edition World of Warcraft: Cataclysm, here’s a look at what DC Direct has in-store for fans of the game looking for something awesome to add to their toy-shelves.

HUMAN PALADIN JUDGE MALTHRED

ORC ROGUE GARONA

WORGEN SPY GARM WHITEFANG

SET OF ALL 3 FIGURES

The figures range between 7 and 9 inches and look absolutely stunning, based on the high-detail concept art that World of Warcraft. The armour, the weapons and all the accessories look just as good as the characters’ faces, be they bare skin or covered in dense fur. I have to say that, even as a non-WOW-er, I can’t help but be impressed by the look of these figures–I’ve even considered picking up a few just for the styling of them. As fantasy figures, they really are a cut above. These guys will be shipping in November and join a huge collection of World of Warcraft toys already in stock!

Coming in September… Halo Minimates and REACH

This September, we tart shipping out a series 1 box set of Diamond Select’s Halo Mini-Mates figures! A group of four 2.5-inch figures (with 14 points of articulation!!) based on the hugely popular video game, the Mini-Mates feature video game-accurate armour and accessories while still being anthing BUT game-accurate in terms of form! Master Chief, a UNSC Marine, a Spartan in White Scout Armour, and an Elite in cobalt Assault Armour make up this first series, but given the “collectibility” of something like this, I’m pretty sure you can expect this PX Exclusive to be the beginning of something big–and small.

We’ve also got some brand new stuff coming in from Halo Reach! These items start shipping in September, but you can already take a look at what’ll be out there with individual action figures, 2-packs and vehicles! Click the pic below to check ‘em out!

And if you’re still salivating over REACH, we’re pleased to see thatKotaku.com has a look at the latest live-action game trailer, but not a lot of good to say about it:

The Halo universe is famous for explosions and the colour purple. But pregnant British women? Never seen one of them in a Halo game before.

This is yet another live-action trailer for Halo: Reach, showing the lives of some of the citizens of Reach the day before the Covenant invasion.

They’re OK, but Microsoft, the more of these you put out, the worse they’re getting, and the less impact they’re having. The pointiest tip of the Halo fanbase may get off on seeing bickering civilians, but the majority of customers are in this for the explosions.

Watch it here!

Go and Pay to See Scott Pilgrim Right Now

Vanity Fair‘s John Lopez has something very important to say about the state of contemporary movies and their audiences. Whether or not you’re a Scott Pilgrim fan, it is a brilliant take on what you can do to keep films fresh, fun and truly original:

Let me get straight to the point: Go and pay to see Scott Pilgrim right now. Why, you ask? Well, check out last weekend’s box-office totals. See Scott Pilgrim? Keep looking—it’s down there at No. 10. It made only $5 million dollars in its second weekend of release, a 53 percent drop from the first weekend, with a total domestic gross of $20 million. That’s not good. (Trust me when I say “not good”: Universal not only spent a lot making this, it spent a lot marketing it. They had to market the hell out of it because it was something you probably hadn’t heard about before—you know, the way movies used to be.)

The film’s dismal performance is pretty disheartening for anyone who’s a fan of the new, as opposed to the stale, trite, and cliche, because whatever Scott Pilgrim is, it is definitely not stale, trite, or cliche. It doesn’t redo old ideas, revisit threadbare conceits, or remake twice-told stories in a tired way. In fact, it’s good. Or, if you’re searching for movie-critic adjectives, you could call it “different,” “fresh,” and “innovative,” if not “cool,” “fun,” “heart-warming,” “intelligent,” and/or “awesome.” (Have fun with those, blurb-makers!) Listen, if A.O. “Nashville’s-the-Greatest-Movie-Ever” Scott can recommend a film aimed at video-game-junkie twentysomethings, whose themes and characters are as important to him as a Surgeon General’s Warnings is to Don Draper, there’s probably something there. And if you haven’t noticed, it’s been an atrocious year for movies. That’s not just our opinion: it’s so bad even studio executives are ringing up agents with frantic “Oh my God, what have we done” conference calls to ask, “Oh my God, what have we done?”

So, if the movies have been so bad—if, as we complain, there’s nothing good playing—why is a good movie having such a hard time finding an audience? Scapegoats include Michael Cera’s ability to “open” a movie (though pretty much every actor gets that stigma these days); the inability of audiences to understand what the movie is (so we see only movies that can be easily summarized in canned tag lines? Like what, for example? Inception?); and, of course, comics and fan boys. (Right, because those people definitely don’t pay to go see movies.) Maybe Scott Pilgrim’s target audience—the Facebook generation—is downloading it instead of paying for a movie ticket. It’s hard to say if that’s true, but if it is: please, even if you’ve already illegally downloaded Scott Pilgrim, posted it on your Wall, and exported it to your iPhone 4, I assure you it’s much better on the big screen—almost as if that was the way director Edgar Wright intended it to be seen. And guess what, it wasn’t hastily converted to 3D either, so you don’t have to pay an extra $5 to wear funny glasses, watch an underlit screen, and get a migraine. So, put down the iPad (especially if you’re driving), turn left at the multiplex, and go buy a ticket. Tonight. Come on, it’s a Tuesday in mid-August, where else do you have to be? Plus, if you live in the lower 48, I can guarantee it’s a lot cooler in that theater.

What’s with the pushiness, you ask? Why is this so important? Well, one could argue, if you’ve ever complained at all about the woeful state of cinematic storytelling—how you get more engaging narratives in email forwards than you do at the movies these days—a healthy aversion to hypocrisy pretty much compels you to get your butt in that seat. See, as much as we like to complain about cynical studios and throwaway films, the fact is they make money—or just enough money to justify the bad habits. And if you must know, that’s what studios are trying to do (make money). Further, they don’t make junk out of some callous desire to inflict bland pain on our eyeballs. If anything, they inflict bland pain on our eyeballs out of fear: fear that they’ll take a tentative, baby-step stab at something different, something that presents semi-realistic issues, imperfect characters, and complex resolutions in a novel way—and no one will come. And they’ll lose money. And all the nay-sayers will take the box-office numbers as the final word on a movie’s worth. Worse, the studios won’t make those movies because when you’ve bet $100 million on “something new” and come up short, it doesn’t matter if in your heart of hearts you can tell yourself you made a good movie: you’re not going to bet your next $100 million the same way. If you still have a $100 million to bet. Or a job.

But I saw Toy Story 3 and Inception, you say. I’m doing my part as homo economicus, driving the market to provide the product I want. Good for you, but at this point, Chris Nolan and Pixar are going to be O.K. They are what you might call a “known quantity,” and Hollywood loves those, because they make for safer bets. But Scott Pilgrim was a risk, a gamble, a leap of faith. The sad-but-true fact is that studios and their corporate parents just don’t know how to do that, and when they do, you need to smack them upside the head with box-office success for them to understand the lesson. There was a different time, a desperate time: when the world was in crisis, the old studio system had collapsed, television was offering great storytelling, and gas was $3 a gallon. The studios had nothing to lose then, so they threw everything against the wall, took risks on new talent and crazy ideas, and we got films like Bonnie and Clyde, Chinatown, Apocalypse Now, Alien, Rocky, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, A Clockwork Orange, Star Wars, Jaws, Taxi Driver, Grease, Annie Hall, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and, oh yeah, The Godfather.

So, it can happen. But only if we, the not-so-faithful moviegoers, make it happen. Because studios, executives, actors, producers, writers, directors, agents, would love nothing more than to make the movies we actually want to see—that is, if we go see them. However, we have to demand better films with our wallets and our eyeballs. If we, as the audience, complain that studios don’t love us enough to give us something really worth our time, then we need to have the self-respect necessary to slay the sell-out stooges who tell us we can’t ask for anything better than Vampires Suck. (If you’d seen Scott Pilgrim, you’d get that reference.)

But really, the best reason to go see Scott Pilgrim is because it’s a good movie. It takes a stab at saying something honest in a new way, and has a lot of fun doing it. If you like that kind of thing, and would like to see more of it, please go and pay to see Scott Pilgrim right now. And if you don’t like it, I’ll forward you a really funny YouTube video about double rainbows. You can ROTFL. I’ll be at the theater.

MARK BROOKS’ SCARLET WITCH by SIDESHOW

Sideshow’s new Scarlet Witch comiquette, based on the art of Mark Brooks is the latest addition to our Marvel Sideshow collection. Coming in at a whopping 17.5 inches, the figure is a beautiful rendering of yet another of Marvel’s gorgeous super-powered women. Scarlet Witch looks incredible wearing her classic red (well, scarlet) costume over dangerous curves cast in high-quality polystone. A playful element is added as she toys with a remote, controlling a miniature remote-controlled Vision, her android beloved.

Another comiquette that might interest X-Men fans is the upcoming 17-inch Pyslocke, shipping in the 4th quarter of this year and pre-orderable now!

Michael Cera + The Expendables?

ShowbizSpy has an inside scoop on a new team-up that might just break a few box office records!

MICHAEL Cera wants to land a role in The Expendables sequel — and he’ll do anything to get it!

The Scott Pilgrim vs The World actor says he’s willing to bombard Sylvester Stallone — who directs and stars in the action blockbuster — by email.

“I am going to do a very hard push, get him on the phone and get his email address — I’m assuming Sylvester Stallone’s email is slydog@gmail.com so I will just keep sending emails to that until I get a call from him,” he said.

Cera recently admitted he’s amazed by the shyness of many of the females he meets and dreams of meeting someone more assertive.

“I like a woman to take control but they’re hard to find,” he said. “For example, when I go out to a restaurant I know every girl in there wants to come say hi and be sexually aggressive, but they’re all so gripped by shyness that they don’t even make a move. In some cases the shyness is so severe they won’t even look at me.”

Despite his dislike of shy girls, the 22-year-old star has also admitted that talking to girls is not easy to him either and he occasionally resorts to cheesy chat up lines.

“Hey, lady, those are some sexy-a*s extensions. I guess you won’t mind if I extend to you a personal invitation to party with me one-on-one in a scary motel room,” Cera said when asked to reveal the worst line he had ever used.

Come see us in Toronto at FAN EXPO!

Starting today at 4pm, FAN EXPO opens its doors to legions of fanboys, fangirls, professionals, creators and celebrities from the world of comics, sci-fi, film, television and more! There’s a ton of stuff to see, panels to enjoy and collectibles to snag: you’ll definitely want to check this out if you’re anywhere near Toronto this weekend.

Boasting a guest list that includes Felicia Day, William Shatner, Adam West and many, many more, it’s an event unlike any other in Canada and one convention you won’t want to miss!

We’re going to have our own table, so if you want to snag some of the very cool mercgh we’ll have with us, come by our table! We’ll be CmdStore and Toys on Fire in the vendors’ section of the con!

Star Wars Clone Wars Figures and…Darth Vader Does Yoga?

New figures are on their way from Star Wars: CLONE WARS, pre-orderable now and shipping later this month! If you’re a fan of the film, the show, the comics or just the awesome new style they brought to the Star Wars Universe, then you’ll want to get your hands on these 3.75-inch figures. Here’s the run-down of the figures you can snag both as a complete set or individually:

- Rex CW1
– Obi Wan Kenobi CW2
– Commander Cody CW3
– Destroyer Droid CW4
– Yoda CW5
– Count Dooku CW6
– Anakin Space Suit CW7
– Pre-Visla Mando CW8
– Mando Guard CW9
– Grievous with Cape CW10
– Aurra Sing CW11

And if the animated universe isn’t quite far-out enough for you, then maybe you’d prefer to see something far stranger in the form of this Toronto Sun article detailing Sith Lord Darth Vader’s weekend plans…


Darth Vader may have done battle in a galaxy far, far away, but in Toronto, he’s going to be doing yoga.

The Dark Lord of the Sith and his storm troopers will be descending upon Trinity Bellwoods Park Wednesday morning to embark on a 20-minute exercise regime.

The effort at the park on Dundas St. W., just east of Ossington Ave., is designed to promote this weekend’s Fan Expo at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

“It might be interesting for people to come out and get some shots of Darth Vader and the storm troopers doing park things and creating a little buzz for Fan Expo,” said Roy Mitchell, 36, the head of the Toronto Garrison of the 501st Legion — a group of Star Wars aficionados.

The display starts at 11 a.m. with Vader, storm troopers, bike gunners, snow troopers and clone troopers doing yoga, playing tennis and having a picnic.

The 501st Legion, which boasts roughly 80 members in its Toronto chapter, always make an appearance at the Fan Expo convention.

“We’ll have the main group do each thing and it’s a photo opportunity,” said Mitchell, who will be playing Darth Vader.

“We can’t do things like Downward Dog or anything, yoga will probably be limited to standing poses. We’ll then set up a tennis match and maybe Vader will be standing on the line and be the judge. It’ll be fun and that’s the idea.”

Mitchell added it’ll be interesting to watch the storm troopers attempt to hit the tennis ball with a racket, especially when they can barely see out of the helmets.

“They may get lucky and may make it back to serve, I have no idea,” he said.

Among some of the now-un-caped crusaders appearing at this week’s expo are Adam West, Burt Ward and Julie Newmar, the original Batman, Robin and Catwoman.

For more information about FanExpo, go to: FanExpoCanada.com

SEE YOU THERE!

What Comic Book Games Can Learn From Batman: Arkham Asylum

Platform Nation has a great article telling video game companies what they should take away from the success and general awesomeness of Batman: Arkham Asylum.

Last year, one game took everyone by surprise. Rocksteady Studios came out of nowhere (literally; it was their second game they ever made) with Batman: Arkham Asylum. I would go so far as to say that they re-wrote the book on how to make a game based on a comic book. This year, another superhero looks to rise from the video game ashes after several disappointing efforts. Spiderman: Shattered Dimensions will be arriving shortly, so let’s go over pages from the Batman: Arkham Asylum manual that Spiderman: Shattered Dimensions should take from.

Throw the storyline from the movie out the window. The first thing any comic book game needs to do is come up with a completely new and original story. I hate to say this, but if I have seen the movie and know how the story goes, what is going to keep me playing all the way to the very end? Batman: AA’s story was original, compelling, was stayed in line with the Batman canon for the most part, and brought out the best in the Batman universe. All your favorite characters make an appearance in one way or another. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end, with enough plot twists scattered throughout to keep you saying “Just fifteen more minutes!”

Put me in the character’s shoes. I can’t tell you how many times bad voice acting has ruined a good story. Rocksteady Studios did exactly the right thing: they got the most beloved actors from the Batman series for the roles. Yes, that means Mark Hamill for the Joker and Kevin Conroy to voice the Batman. Just hiring these two actors alone did wonders for the story, as it brought me back to the days were I watched the cartoons on Saturday morning. All of the sudden, I was playing these cartoons. And that is a really, really good feeling. In addition, the graphics fit the game just right. The graphics were dark and gritty, which really enhanced the “creepy asylum” aurora. It was so satisfying to crunch a bad guy, and then see a bunch of tiny bats fly out of his body. All the character models look amazing, and you can see the influences from the comic books sneaking through, which is vital. The small details like Batman’s suit showing damage over the course of the game helped immerse you into the game. And the cut scenes looked and sounded fabulous and they helped move along the story at an acceptable rate.

Make the game fun to play. Everyone knows how horrible controls have ruined Spiderman and Superman games for years. Rocksteady took a “easy to learn, difficult to master” approach which was implemented beautifully. And it wasn’t just a button-masher either. Rocksteady did a fabulous job introducing various mechanics into the game that allowed you to vary the way you took out the bad guys. In addition, the game played in a stealth-like manner similar to the Tom Clancy games, which was really different and ran counter to my “superheros can do everything and beat anybody, no problem” mentality.

Spice things up. As I alluded to above, Rocksteady put many different styles of gameplay in their game. All the boss battles are different, there are some puzzle sections sprinkled about, and the whole “stealthy Batman” mindset really makes this game stand out from many of the other comic book games I have seen. Compare Batman: AA to one of the recent Iron Man games and it becomes clear the variety of gameplay really do make a difference in keeping the game fresh for 8 hours.

Give us the unlockables and extras we crave. For all the comic book fans and achievement hunters out there, Rocksteady didn’t forget you. There are a bunch of riddles set up by The Riddler for you to unlock. These often revolve around obscure comic book villians or Gotham City lore that comic book fans will crave. In addition, there are tons of audio tapes for you to unlock to take the story to another level altogether. Solving all these riddles and finding all the secrets will add on many more hours to the campaign length, because there is just SO MUCH for you to do.

Don’t deny your heritage. Whatever you do, don’t forget the comic books that you are coming from. Batman: AA gave a shout-out to these comics in the form of riddles and Easter eggs, but most importantly they did their research and they designed a game where you were Batman, not some modern evolution of such. That might have been their biggest decision of all.

Of course, I think it’s safe to say that we’re all looking forward to Arkham City and maybe a few replays of AA, but there’s one more thing you might want to check out and that’s this DC Direct series of Arkham Asylum figures. Batman, Joker, Harley Quinn, Scarecrow, Poison Ivy and MORE are coming your way in 2011 as a group of brilliantly-crafted 7-inch figures. Naturally, they’re pre-orderable now!