Thursday, August 29, 2013

LOLwut? James Spader to play Ultron in "Avengers: Age of Ultron"

Well, that was unexpected.

On the heels of a controversial superhero movie casting choice last week (Ben Affleck as Batman, if you've been living under a rock) we have another big casting.

This time, we get to find out who will play the Big Bad in "Avengers: Age of Ultron."

And that actor is ... James Spader!

Pictured: The Face of EVIL!

So, full disclosure, I don't really know much about Ultron, other than that he's an angry robot/android/automaton, so I can't actually judge whether Spader will be a good Ultron. Also, we don't know if it will be a voice role only or if Spader will be in the movie in the flesh, or what. There's not even any information about which iteration of Ultron will be the bad guy in the new Avengers movie.
However, I do think James Spader is a fantastic choice for a villain in general. 

I know Spader's work best from "The Practice" and its spinoff, "Boston Legal," (which I watched sporadically because I love William Shatner). While I'm pretty sure that Ultron will not be an intelligent, offbeat, jerky lawyer (though that would be a pretty scary supervillain), I think that there are aspects of his performance that will make him a pretty terrifying villain. 

When I think of Spader and the smattering of roles I've seen him in, the word that comes to mind is "control." He is great as a character with obviously complex emotions bubbling just under his smooth surface. That kind of control - a detachment of sorts - is something that makes for an excellent villain. I love that kind of bad guy so much more than some wild-eyed killer. There is something infinitely more terrifying about somebody who does villainous things not only on purpose, but with clear knowledge of exactly what he or she is doing. 
So that controlled detachment that Spader does so well will be perfect when playing some sort of roboty dude, even a pyscho angry one. 

Spader was not even remotely on my radar as an addition to a superhero movie (then again, neither was Ben Affleck last week) ... but I have to say, I'm pumped to see what he can bring to the movie. I was already incredibly excited about "Avengers: Age of Ultron" - I LOOOOOOOOOVE "The Avengers" and really like all of the accompanying movies - but now I'm even more thrilled about it!

Now to wait until May 1, 2015!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Fall TV Preview: CBS

It's almost that time of year - time to decide which new shows you'll put into your TV-watching rotation! I'll be previewing the new shows of Fall 2013 and letting you know what I'll be watching - and what I'll be avoiding like the plague.

Next up in our preview of new TV shows ... CBS!

(Logo from Wikipedia)

We Are Men (Mondays at 8:30 p.m. Premieres Sept. 30) This sitcom follows the antics of a recently jilted man and three older divorced dudes he meets at an apartment complex. While I like main actors Tony Shaloub, Kal Penn and Chris O'Donnell, the previews make this look like another sitcom that prominently features men being stupid. I need to watch another sitcom about that kind of "hilarity" like I need a sharp poke in the eye. Jen's Take: Heck no, I won't watch!

Mom (Mondays at 9:30 p.m. Premieres Sept. 30?) This sitcom is about a single mother/recovering alcoholic, played by Anna Faris, who moves to Napa Valley to start a new life. I do like the idea of tackling some darker issues in a comedy - I think that the best comedy comes from realistic situations rather than wacky things that could never happen - but I don't particularly like Anna Faris. I don't love its chances. Jen's Take: Maybe I'll watch!

Hostages (Mondays at 10 p.m. Premieres Sept. 23) As the name implies, this show is about hostages. Specifically, the family of a doctor scheduled to operate on the president is taken hostage by a rogue FBI agent, and the doctor is ordered to assassinate the president. I love the concept, but I'm not sure it will work as a TV show. How do you keep it going for an entire season? I suppose if it's something like "24," where things are happening practically in real time, it could work, but I see this as more of a movie concept. Still, it's based on an Israeli series, so it must have worked at least somewhat. I'm intrigued, at least - I do love a good thriller! Jen's Take: Maybe I'll watch.

The Millers (Thursdays at 8:30 p.m. Premieres Oct. 3) No, this is not a small-screen version of "We're the Millers." (Darn.) This sitcom is about a man who is inspired to leave his longtime wife when his son gets divorced and moves into his daughter's house. There is a lot of potential for family comedy here, especially between generations, but, hmmm. I feel like my intergenerational family comedy quota is already filled by "Modern Family," and I can't imagine this show could be better. Jen's Take: Maybe I'll watch.

The Crazy Ones (Thursdays at 9 p.m. Premieres Sept. 26) This is the big new comedy CBS is excited about, because it stars Robin Williams and Sarah Michelle Gellar. Specifically, Williams plays an advertising genius and Gellar plays his polar-opposite daughter. I like that it's a family comedy, but with a workplace twist, and I love Sarah Michelle Gellar and support her being on TV again (I watched the ill-fated but delightful "Ringer"). I also like Robin Williams, and I think an eccentric genius might be perfect. I don't completely buy them as father-daughter, but I think it could work if they have good chemistry. Jen's Take: I'll definitely watch!

What CBS shows will you be watching this fall?

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Fall TV Preview: ABC's New Shows

It's almost that time of year - time to decide which new shows you'll put into your TV-watching rotation! I'll be previewing the new shows of Fall 2013 and letting you know what I'll be watching - and what I'll be avoiding like the plague.

First up, let's look at what ABC has on tap this fall.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Tuesdays at 8 p.m. Premieres Sept. 24.) One of ABC's biggest TV shows this fall is "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.," the small-screen companion to the Marvel Cinematic Universe O' Cash. The show will bring back favorite side character Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) as headliner (despite his apparent death in "The Avengers" last summer) and put him in charge of non-superhero S.H.I.E.L.D. agents. The show is supposed to supplement the cinematic universe (including the upcoming Thor and Captain America movies), but the show is also supposed to stand alone for those people who haven't devoted many hours of their lives to sitting in theaters watching superhero movies. The great Joss Whedon, who directed "The Avengers" co-wrote and directed the pilot, and although it's unclear just how much of a hand he'll have in it going forward, I'm excited that Whedon is involved in another TV show. I'm also excited about more solid nerd fare being on network TV. Jen's take: I'll definitely watch!

The Goldbergs (Tuesdays at 9 p.m. Premieres Sept. 24.) It's a sitcom about a 1980s family. I'm not actually sure that there's any other twist than the fact that it's about an '80s family. However, creator Adam F. Goldberg has worked on some solid stuff, including the cult hit "Community," so I'm willing to give it a chance. That, and I might be too lazy to change the channel after "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." Jen's take: Maybe I'll watch.

Trophy Wife (Tuesdays at 9:30 p.m. Premieres Sept. 24.) A reformed party girl (Malin Ackerman) finds herself in the midst of crazy shenanigans when she ends up marrying a guy with three kids and two ex-wives. It sounds like it will be playing into a variety of lame stereotypes and feature boring manufactured drama between the new wife and the ex-wives and the bratty children. Lame sauce. Jen's take: Heck no, I won't watch!

Lucky 7 (Tuesdays at 10 p.m. Premieres Sept. 24.) This show, about a group of gas station employees who win the lottery together is based on a BBC show called "The Syndicate." The show is expected to follow a different character each episode, so there is potential for some good deep character drama. However, I tend to be very wary of BBC remakes, since U.S. rehashes are normally not nearly as good. Jen's take: Maybe I'll watch!

Back in the Game (Wednesdays at 8:30 p.m. Premieres Sept. 25.) This sitcom follows a former promising softball player who lost it all when she had a child, lost her scholarship and dumped her husband. She ends up coaching a team full of misfits who got cut from a Little League team, including her son. It definitely has some potential of wacky family misadventures, especially with her father, played by James Caan, on the scene. Still, it doesn't have any super great hook for me to particularly want to tune in. Jen's take: Maybe I'll watch.

Super Fun Night (Wednesdays at 9:30 p.m. Premieres Sept. 25.) This is the new Rebel Wilson sitcom, which is the exact reason I will watch it, without even knowing what it is about. The show follows three nerdy single women who hang out every Friday night. Wilson is a star and writer for the show, which is enough for me. Jen's Take: I'll definitely watch.

Once Upon A Time In Wonderland (Thursdays at 8 p.m. Premieres Sept. 26.) It's spin-off time! This show is a spin-off of ABC's popular fairy tale drama, "Once Upon a Time," and follows Alice, who doctors think is crazy because of the whole "going to Wonderland" thing. I'm super excited for several reasons. First of all, I love Lewis Carroll-based stories. There's something super cool about Wonderland, and as long as they keep the imagination going, I think the show will be super cool. Secondly, I like stories about people who aren't crazy, but everyone thinks they are because they see something or go somewhere that normal people don't. That is just a cool hook for a show. Finally, I really love "Once Upon a Time," despite the fact that it does get quite over-the-top at times, and I'm excited about having a spin-off! This show will have references, connections and cross-over episodes to "Once Upon a Time." Yay! Jen's Take: I'll definitely watch.

What will you be watching on ABC this fall?

Friday, August 23, 2013

Ben Affleck as Batman? It could work ... if Zack Snyder doesn't get in the way!

The big casting news out of Hollywood today is that Ben Affleck is our next Batman!

"I'm Batman." 
(Photo from Wikipedia)

Yep, he will play Batman in the new "Man of Steel" sequel, directed by Zack Snyder.

The Internet has gone predictably crazy, as it does every time that someone is cast in a big movie. Many, many fanboys and fangirls turned into Comic Book Guy:

"Worst. Batman. Ever."
(Photo from Wikipedia)

But that's to be expected. They could cast Bruce Wayne himself as Batman and there would be a crop of complaining fanboys and fangirls.

Me, I'm happy about Ben Affleck as Batman, because I love him and I think he has the potential to do a great job. Yes, yes, I know about "Daredevil," a particularly terrible comic book movie in which he starred. However, I've watched Affleck's career pretty closely, and, in general, he's a pretty great actor. He can be serious and dark, but he has some comedy chops that I hope they utilize in the movie. I know the trend, thanks to Christopher Nolan, is to have Batman be a super dark, super tortured vigilante, but I actually really love Michael Keaton as Batman in the Tim Burton movies from 1989 and 1992. I like that quirky, dark humor, because, let's face it, it is kind of hilarious and ridiculous that a rich guy dresses up in a rubber bat suit and mask to fight crime.

The thing I'm worried about in the whole thing is that Zack Snyder is directing the movie! Let's face it, "Man of Steel" was a fairly terrible movie. It had great casting, but Snyder did absolutely nothing with it. The story was predictable, the romance between Clark & Lois came out of nowhere, and the interminable final battle scene was an epic snoozefest. The visual effects were bad and dark. It pretty much stunk as a movie. 

I know it did well at the box office, but there is no way that Zack Snyder should get another shot at it. In fact, despite the fact he directed "Watchmen," which was a pretty solid piece of filmmaking, Snyder should never be let near a movie again after the abomination unto filmmaking called "Suckerpunch." He could have redeemed himself with "Man of Steel," but he didn't.

So, I guess, in a way, I'm not happy about Ben Affleck being cast as Batman in the "Man of Steel" sequel, because I'd like to see what Affleck could do with the character under a competent director. He wasn't on my list of people I'd like to see play Batman (everyone has a list like that just sitting around, right?), but I think he could be a really interesting, good choice. I'm just gonna roll with it and see what happens.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

You should be watching 'Broadchurch'

Earlier in the year, the U.K. lost its collective damn mind over "Broadchurch." (Seriously, they broke records tweeting about the finale.)

Now, it's finally made its way to American shores. And guess what? You should be watching it.

I finally caught up on the first episode last night, after letting it sit on my DVR since the first episode aired last Wednesday, and it was just as wonderful as I'd hoped it would be.

"Broadchurch" is about the investigation of the murder of a young boy named Danny in a seaside town in Britain. It's investigated by the town's Detective Sergeant, Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman), and her new-to-town boss, Detective Inspector Alec Hardy (David Tennant). They have to reign in the press and keep the town going while they investigate the townspeople who might have murdered Danny.

I'm completely intrigued by the show. The first episode is a lot of setup, establishing Ellie and Alec and their somewhat adversarial relationship, as well as introducing, at least a little bit, a wide variety of townspeople who may have something to do with Danny's murder. The pacing is a little deliberate, but every moment is fascinating because the acting is so strong. I was especially impressed by Olivia Colman, who brings a lot of depth to the character of Ellie, despite the fact that she doesn't a ton in the episode. David Tennant is also very good, showing in every part of his being the weight he has to carry as he investigates the horrible crime and keep things very professional and by-the-book. And, like I said, we saw a glimpse of the other characters who may figure into the story, and I look forward to seeing what they bring to the table.

As excited as I was to watch "Broadchurch," since I'd heard it was great, I was still a little bit scared. It looked dramatic and emotional, and apparently by the end of the season, it makes everyone cry. And they're not wrong - it was tough at a few points in the first episode. But it's telling such an interesting story, with such wonderful acting, that despite the emotional toll - or maybe because of it, a little bit - I'm glad I'm watching it, and I can't wait until the next episode airs Wednesday night.

If you missed the first episode, never fear - you can watch it, ad-free, at BBC America's site. And then, tune in Wednesday night at 10 p.m. to see what happens next!

I have a feeling it's going to be worth it!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Midweek Mancandy: Matt Damon

This week, we would like to salute the delectable star of the upcoming movie "Elysium":

(Photo from

That's right. Our Mancandy this week is Matt Damon!

Here's the thing about Matt Damon - he's an awesome, diverse actor, and he's almost chameleonlike. He is pretty famous for being Jason Bourne, and he was great in the Bourne movies. But he's done a smattering of everything. He does well in comedy and drama as well as action. He's currently nominated for an Emmy for his role in "Behind the Candelabra," and it's a well-deserved nomination - he was great as Liberace's naive young lover, Scott Thorson. The thing is, it's sometimes hard to remember what movies he's been in because his roles are all so different from each other. On the screen, he doesn't read as "Matt Damon" - he becomes the character.

The other thing about Matt Damon is that he can be quite cute and quite hot, sometimes at the same time, and sometimes one or the other. We love the "Elysium" look, with muscles and the shaved head. He looks tougher and buffer than he has in a while. Trust me, we approve of this current Matt Damon look! (I mean, look at him!) But he's pretty good-looking no matter what. 
Just take another look at that photo from "Elysium" ... you don't have to wonder why he's this week's Midweek Mancandy! 

Gaiman, Moffat weigh in on "Doctor Who" casting

In the aftermath of the big casting announcement for "Doctor Who" on Sunday, The Mary Sue has a nice little roundup of quotes from showrunner Steven Moffat and writer Neil Gaiman that sheds a bit more light on the whole process, as well as where the show could potentially be going.

Gaiman has several awesome responses. Moffat, well ... not so much. (*shakes fist*)

Gaiman, who has penned two episodes of "Doctor Who," made the big revelation, first of all, that a black actor actually turned down the role of the Doctor at some point. (He wouldn't say who it was, though!) He says that he is sure that there will be a nonwhite Doctor and a female Doctor at some point, but, as a writer, he doesn't think it's time yet.

He wrote:
... if I were show-running (I’m not) I wouldn’t cast a woman as the Doctor yet, and it would absolutely be on my list of things to do in the following regeneration ... Some of that is stuff I’d find hard to articulate, mostly having to do with what kind of Doctor you follow Matt Smith’s Doctor with: someone harder and much older and more dangerous and, yes, male feels right to me, as a storyteller. Where you go after that, ah, that’s a whole new game…
First of all, I absolutely agree, as I wrote in a blog entry on Monday. (And, for the record, I had not read Gaiman's thoughts before I wrote that blog entry. I just think like Neil Gaiman!) I think Capaldi is going to be a perfect change from the extremely manic Matt Smith, and I think he's going to be a great lead-in to a more groundbreaking Doctor. I really, really believe that's where the show should be heading.

Secondly, I have no problem with casting Capaldi - in fact, I continue to get more stoked about him taking on the role - if he's the right person for the job. I would hate for a female or minority actor to take the role and have him or her be the wrong choice. Not only do I want the right person as the Doctor because I'm a big Whovian and I want the show to be completely awesome, but I also want a groundbreaking casting to go well to prove that a woman and/or minority actor can succeed in the role too.

So, Neil Gaiman and I are in agreement about Capaldi's casting, as well as the idea that a woman should be the Doctor on the next regeneration.

What does our buddy Steven Moffat have to say about the whole thing?
It's absolutely narratively possible [that the Doctor could be a woman] and when it's the right decision, maybe we'll do it. It didn't feel right to me, right now. I didn't feel enough people wanted it.

I don't have a problem that it didn't feel right to him. I don't have a problem that he didn't do it this time. But really? "I didn't feel enough people wanted it." What a cop-out, wussy answer.

Creative writing should not be a democratic process. There have been many, many, many times something has happened to a character on a show, in a book or in a movie that I didn't want. Shall I count how many times that a favorite character of mine has died? (Keep in mind I'm a big fan of both Joss Whedon and George R.R. Martin!) That a character made a poor romantic decision? That a piece of fiction ended in a way that I didn't want it to end (even if I could see it hurtling that direction)? We can just use the new "Doctor Who" episodes to prove that! Did anybody in the audience want Rose's fate, bittersweet as it is? How about Donna Noble? Considering the fact that I still can't watch the episode "Journey's End" without weeping, I would say that I did not want Donna's fate. That doesn't mean that they weren't the right things to do. A lot of times those things that people don't want to happen are the things that move a plot along or change a character in a way they need to be changed. Even more importantly, sometimes those things that people don't want to happen are the things that really hit readers/viewers at their emotional core, and isn't that what we want from a great book or TV show or movie? It's what I want - there are few things in this world more weirdly satisfying than getting so emotionally wrapped up in a story that I start to cry. (As long as my husband isn't in the room, since he likes to tease me for crying over fictional characters' fates.)

Like I said, if Moffat didn't think that the Doctor should be a woman this time around, that's fine. In fact, the consensus of many sci-fi-lovin' feminists of the internet is that Moffat probably is not the right person to have anything to do with the first female Doctor, since he has a hell of a time writing women who aren't horribly problematic. (There is something to that theory, as much as I generally like most of Moffat's work.) But Moffat needed to have the cajones to say, "Yes, it's a possibility for the Doctor to be female. No, this was not the time to do it," and leave it at that, instead of blaming other people for that decision.

Oh, and then Moffat twisted the knife a bit with this quote: "Oddly enough most people who said they were dead against it – and I know I'll get into trouble for saying this – were women. [They were] saying, 'No, no, don't make him a woman!'"

Ugh, bite me, Moffat. If it's not the right decision, don't do it, but don't be obnoxious about it.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Goodreads Review: "The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones"

City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments, #1)City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It's no "Harry Potter" or "The Hunger Games," but "City of Bones," the first book in "The Mortal Instruments" series, is a fun trifle of YA fiction. I didn't fall madly in love with it or with the characters, like I do with my favorite books, but I did keep going back to it and, by the end, I was ready not only to see the movie (the reason I read the book in the first place), but also to see what happens next. That's a pretty good review for me.

"City of Bones" follows teenager Clary Fray, who discovers that she can see some weird things in the world right about the same time that her mother, Jocelyn, is kidnapped and she discovers and fights a demon in her apartment. This is her introduction into the world of the Shadowhunters, magical demon-fighters. At the Institute, she meets Jace Wayland, a talented orphan, and his adoptive siblings, Isabelle and Alec Lightwood, as well as Hodge Starkweather, the librarian/tutor. With the help of her "mundane" friend, Simon, and her newfound shadowhunter pals, she tracks her mother and finds out more about herself and her family in the process.

In a lot of ways, "City of Bones" is very cliche YA fiction. Clary is awkward and misunderstood, but she learns that she's special. There is some unrequited love and a little dabbling of romance. All the teenagers are amusingly attractive. The overarching plot is also pretty predictable.

However, I was pleased by some plot twists that genuinely surprised me. Not everybody is who they seem, and although several of the "twists" seemed obvious looking back, I was surprised at the time I was reading it, and that's good enough for me. (Granted, I usually read books without thinking too hard about what I think is going to happen next, so sometimes things that surprise me are painfully obvious to everyone else.)

I also appreciated the world that author Cassandra Clare worked on building in "City of Bones," and I look forward to exploring it more. Even though it's obvious that the idea of the Shadowhunters is inspired pretty heavily by other media, I do think she did a good job coming up with the world, creating its inhabitants and make it (mostly) make sense as a part of our world. That's one of the fun things about Urban Fantasy, and something Clare did a pretty good job of - she made it at least somewhat believable that a world like that could exist with our own, and that fantasy creatures could live in our world.

Yes, "City of Bones" is silly and predicable, but it's also a fast, breezy, fun read. It has the potential to be a fun movie (and I like many of the casting choices), and it was an enjoyable addition to my summer of mindless books!

View all my reviews

Peter Capaldi: The Doctor We Need?

There was a tiny bit of me that was disappointed when Peter Capaldi was chosen as the Twelfth Doctor for BBC's smash hit sci-fi series "Doctor Who."

It's nothing against Capaldi. It's just that a part of me was desperately hoping that the BBC and showrunner Steven Moffat would really shake things up and cast a woman or a minority or (shockingly) a minority woman.

But, you know what? I think Capaldi might be just what "Doctor Who" needs right now, and maybe - just maybe - he'll be the perfect lead-in for a more shocking casting choice the next time the Doctor regenerates again.*

It's easy to forget that Matt Smith was kind of a shocking casting choice when he became the Doctor. He was extremely young and fairly untested, and he took the Doctor in a more manic direction than the Tenth Doctor, played by David Tennant. Smith is like a crazed puppy in the role, and although he does have moments of darkness and grief (which is very necessary for the Doctor!), I always felt that Eleven was lighter than Ten, who was lighter than the brooding Ninth Doctor (Christopher Eccleston). Overall, through the entire run of the series, I feel like the Doctor has gotten progressively sillier and more manic. Casting Capaldi, who is a generation older than Smith and seems much more reserved, tells me that they're ready to reign things back a little bit and insert a bit more darkness and make the Doctor a bit more sinister and brooding.

Don't get me wrong, I don't think that "Doctor Who" will take a giant left turn and suddenly be a massively dark show. "Doctor Who" is a show for all ages, and while it's definitely not opposed to scaring the bejeezus out of children (and adults!), the BBC is never going to let it get anywhere near, for example, "Torchwood" territory. But I think that Nine's underlying darkness has been slowly changing to Eleven's huge swings between massive amounts of silly fun and absolute gut-wrenching anguish. I think Capaldi will be able to reign that in and give the audience a more subtle performance. As much as many of us love Smith's performance as Eleven, I think everyone has to admit he's a bit exhausting because he's so wild. I feel like Capaldi as Twelve will be a nice shift and allow for some different kinds of stories to be told.

So why will this possibly pave the way for a more shocking casting choice? I feel like Capaldi will be able to take the Doctor down a notch or five and allow the fans some breathing room. I truly think that Smith will be remembered as one of the craziest Doctors, and while that is a perfectly wonderful way to be remembered in the annals of Whovian history, I think that viewers will be very, very happy to have a more normal, older, refined, calm Doctor for a few seasons. Then, when it's time to regenerate again, as always happens, the viewers will be more ready for a more groundbreaking casting choice. (And while it's sad to think that casting, for example, a black man or a woman would be so out there that viewers will need to be primed for it, it's just the way it is.)

I don't want people to think that I think Capaldi will be a throwaway Doctor between the especially manic Eleven and a potentially groundbreaking Thirteen. I haven't seen Capaldi in much, but he has always stuck with me because he was so good in "Torchwood: Children of Earth." (It does make you wonder: If Captain Jack Harkness ever comes back, will he go, "Hey! You look like that one guy!"? Or, will The Doctor look in the mirror and be like, "I look a lot like that guy I saved from Pompeii!" since Capaldi was in the episode "The Fires of Pompeii"?) I am actually incredibly excited to see what Capaldi will bring to the role. As much as I fell in love with Nine, Ten and Eleven, I was more excited than sad when they regenerated, because part of the beauty of "Doctor Who" is seeing what the new Doctor will do.

And now the wait begins ...

* A note to super-nerds (with Series Seven spoilers!): I know that the Doctor technically should only be able to regenerate one more time after Capaldi, since Time Lords can only regenerate 12 times, and if the John Hurt character in the 50th Anniversary Special actually turns out to be another regeneration of the Doctor (as opposed to Moffat's trickery! *shakes fist*), then Capaldi would be the last (thirteenth) version of The Doctor. However, the Master has regenerated more times than that, so it's clearly possible that Time Lords can regenerate more than that in special circumstances. And if a rabid, worldwide fanbase, fantastic ratings in several countries and merchandising opportunities out the wazoo aren't "special circumstances," I don't know what is!

(Photo from