Welcome to Barely Related, a conversational Friday column that presents the non-gaming news stories that we, the Joystiq staff, have been talking about over the past week. And no, we're not stopping our focus on industry and gaming news. Think of this as your casual weekly recap of interesting (and mostly geeky) news, presented just in time to fill your brain with things to discuss at all of those weekend shindigs.
Grab a fresh drink, lean back in your armchair, and get ready to talk nerdy with us.
Sony cancels The Interview theatrical premiere after terror threats
The North Korean group that hacked Sony Pictures threatened this week to attack any theater that showed Seth Rogen's new comedy, The Interview, and the nation's largest theater chains took the threat seriously. AMC Theaters, Regal Cinemas, Cinemark Theaters and the Cineplex Odeon Corporation, among others, canceled their Christmas Day premieres of The Interview after Sony said it would allow theaters to choose how to proceed with showings. Sony then canceled the release entirely.
"We respect and understand our partners' decision and, of course, completely share their paramount interest in the safety of employees and theater-goers," Sony said in a statement. It condemned the hack and ended the release with, "We stand by our filmmakers and their right to free expression and are extremely disappointed by this outcome."
The threat against theaters reads, in part, as follows: "The world will be full of fear. Remember the 11th of September 2001. We recommend you keep yourself distant from the places at that time."
The Interview stars Rogen and James Franco, with a plot that hinges on them assassinating North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. The FBI announced today that North Korea was behind the cyberattack. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest yesterday called the hack a "serious national security matter" and said that the administration is preparing a "proportional response."
Meanwhile, activist group Fighters for a Free North Korea, led by former government propagandist Park Sang Hak, plans to balloon-drop copies of The Interview into North Korea at the earliest opportunity.
Full Sony Pictures statement... pic.twitter.com/zxM0hMQxHG- Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) December 17, 2014
Curiosity rover unearths methane spikes, organic molecules on Mars
Excuse you, Mars. The Curiosity rover has observed methane spikes in Mars' atmosphere that hit between late 2013 and early 2014, just north of the Gale crater. Overall, methane levels on Mars are lower than scientists expected, but these spikes increase those levels tenfold. NASA says that there are many potential sources of the methane, including underground chemical reactions – between water and rock, for example – or even microbes, which would mean life on Mars. For now, though, NASA can't be sure of the source.
In May 2013, Curiosity dug up Mars soil samples now confirmed to contain organic molecules. "For the first time, organic matter has definitively been detected on Mars," NASA says. NASA has been replicating the results and analyzing these samples over the past year. The soil samples come from the Gale crater, which is believed to have been a lake millions of years ago – Curiosity recently found that each cubic foot of soil in the crater contains two pints of water.
Beetlejuice 2 is happening
Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice! Tim Burton and Michael Keaton are officially working on Bettlejuice 2, and Winona Ryder is on board to return as morose ghost friend Lydia Deetz. Burton is directing. He told MTV News that he reconnected with Ryder on the set of a music video for The Killers, reigniting his love for Lydia and the franchise.
"I worked with [Ryder], I hadn't seen her in awhile, and she was so great," Burton said. "I was so happy to see her. So those kinds of elements mean something to me. Michael, and her, and that character, I just miss it, there's some freedom about that character that I love."
Parks and Recreation final season trailer flies into the future
Parks and Recreation (also known as Peter Quill's alternate storyline) kicks off its seventh and final season on January 13 on NBC.
C-SPAN doesn't get better than this
"Oh god, it's Mom." Republican pundit Dallas Woodhouse put his head in his hands as he said it, while live as a guest on C-SPAN's Washington Journal with his brother, Democratic pundit Brad Woodhouse. With no advance warning, Momma Woodhouse called in to express her distaste for her sons' political rivalry, and said she wished they would get the bickering out of their systems before heading home for the holidays.
Refresh your memories of Doctor Who's The Master from The Mistress herself
In a new video, actress Michelle Gomez takes Doctor Who fans and new viewers through a history of appearances from one of The Doctor's main, consistent villains, The Master. The Doctor Who Christmas special airs on December 25 at 6:15PM GMT (1:15PM EST).
JK Rowling regrets one death in Harry Potter
The Harry Potter books mature their readers to eventually tackle many serious issues, including death. Plenty of characters die throughout the series, especially when the battles between Light and Dark heat up later on, but author JK Rowling admits that she feels guilty about one death in particular: Diagon Alley ice cream shop owner Florean Fortescue.
"I originally planned Florean to be the conduit for clues that I needed to give Harry during his quest for the Hallows, which is why I established an acquaintance fairly early on," she writes on Pottermore. The post continues, "The problem was that when I came to write the key parts of Deathly Hallows, I decided that Phineas Nigellus Black was a much more satisfactory means of conveying clues. [...] I seemed to have him kidnapped and killed for no good reason. He is not the first wizard whom Voldemort murdered because he knew too much (or too little), but he is the only one I feel guilty about, because it was all my fault."
Rowling is dropping more inside scoops about the Harry Potter world this month, during the Christmas event on Pottermore.
Attack on Titan live-action movie features a Titan taller than the largest Godzilla
It's really big. A new poster for the live-action Attack on Titan film shows a Titan more monstrous than anything shown in the manga or anime. This guy is roughly 400 feet tall, compared with the Colossal Titan of the manga and anime, which comes in at 200 feet tall, ANN reports. The movie Titan is larger than this year's Godzilla, which stands at 350 feet and is the tallest movie Godzilla to date. Yikes.
School of Rock brings it to Broadway
Let's rock, let's rock today.
School of Rock: The Musical is set to debut on Broadway on December 6, 2015, from noted composer Andrew Lloyd Webber. Webber purchased the rights to School of Rock – yes, the School of Rock starring musical funnyman Jack Black – in 2013. Tangled lyricist Glenn Slater is working on the musical's new songs, but the show will also include classic rock tunes from the 2003 movie.
Prepare yourself – Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens this week next year
We recommend deep breaths.
[Images: Sony Pictures, Hajime Isayama]