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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Growing Organs in the Lab

Written on June 8, 2009 – 3:19 pm | by Drew Halley |

Why transplant an organ when you can grow yourself a new one?


A homegrown bladder (Photo courtesy of BBC)

This research isn’t something that might happen in the distant future. It’s being used today to grow fresh organs, open up new ways to study disease and the immune system, and reduce the need for organ transplants. Organ-farming laboratories are popping up across the planet, and showing impressive results. Here we look at the state of the union of a rapidly advancing field called tissue engineering: what’s been accomplished so far, and what’s right around the corner.

Patients who undergo organ transplants require loads of toxic drugs to suppress their immune systems; otherwise their body might reject the organ. But tissue engineering could make organ transplants a thing of the past. By using a patient’s cells to grow new types of tissue in the lab, researchers are finding new ways to custom-engineer you new body parts by using your own cells.

At the cutting edge of organ engineering is Tengion, a clinical-stage biotech company based outside of Philadelphia. Their most successful research to date led to the creation of the Neo-Bladder. Tengion takes some of your cells and grows them in culture for five to seven weeks around a biodegradable scaffold. When the organ is ready, it can be transplanted without the need to suppress the patient’s immune system (because the organ was grown from the patient’s own cells, it carries no risk of rejection). Once the organ is in, the scaffold degrades and the bladder adapts to its new (old) home.

The Tengion Neo-Bladder is in Phase II testing, meaning that they have already implanted the organ into individuals and studied how the body adapts to it. After 5 years, the company was able to show that the homegrown organs are safe and effective, capable of treating the bladder effects of spina bifida (a neural tube defect that effects bladder function, among other things). After another round of Phase II trials, Tengion will move on to Phase III testing; after that, the Neo-Bladder should be approved and be made commercially available.


Atala wants to grow you an organ

Tengion’s Neo-bladder is nearing the completion of its clinical trials, but they weren’t the first to grow one. If anyone on Earth deserves the job title “Organ Farmer,” it’s Dr. Anthony Atala. He and his research team at Wake Forest University Medical Center pioneered the world’s first lab-grown bladder, and they remain at the forefront of the organ-growing field (Atala is also the chairman of Tengion’s scientific advisory board). Wake Forest is the world’s largest regenerative medicine research center, and their current research is growing 22 different types of tissue: heart valves, muscle cells, arteries, and even fingers.

So how many different types of human organs have been grown and transplanted? The lab-grown bladders are among the only transplants of an entire organ, but a wide variety of partial organ transplants have taken place. Skin cells are regularly grown in culture and grafted onto patients’ bodies. A graft was grown from a patient’s trachea cells and transplanted to replace part of her airway that had degraded due to disease. Cartilage has been grown and transplanted into a patient’s knee.

A number of technologies are under development but have yet to be transplanted into human bodies. Recently, Dr. Nicholas Kotov and his lab at the University of Michigan have engineered artificial bone marrow, a task that was previously doomed to failure. Kotov and his colleagues realized that in the body, stem cell differentiation relies on chemical signals in three dimensions (whereas in a petri dish, it takes place in two dimensions). This insight led to a new methodology that more closely replicated the natural environment of stem cell differentiation in bone marrow tissue. The resultant homegrown marrow grew and divided normally, even releasing antibodies in fight off an introduced influenza strain. It can be used to study the role of bone marrow in fighting disease within the body, as well as creating a “bioreactor”: harnessing the artificial marrow within a device to grow cells and tissues.

Tengion is pretty busy these days as well. Their new website lists a variety of new applications on the horizon, including a Neo-Kidney augment, artery replacements (including in the heart), and variations on their bladder technique to replace cancerous organs. Their company pipeline gives a general idea of the relative stages of each project.

A number of initiatives are under way to create an artificial pancreas, which would revolutionize the way we treat diabetes. By providing diabetics with a healthy pancreas, doctors could restore their natural control of blood glucose by giving them an endogenous source of insulin. Anyone with experience of diabetes knows the difficulty of manually monitoring and controlling your sugar levels, not to mention regularly injecting insulin. A lab-grown pancreas replacement would be an incredible benefit to the 23.6 million individuals in America alone who suffer from diabetes.


The Minnesota rat heart

As we previously reported, researchers at the University of Minnesota grew an entire rat heart in a laboratory last year. Their next goal is to grow a pig heart, a significant milestone towards growing a human heart due to their similar structure. Researchers hope to combine the scaffold of a pig heart with human cardiac tissue to grow a hybrid heart suitable for transplant.

Another exciting frontier is the field of printable tissue and organs, which is just what it sounds like. Inkjet cartidges are cleaned out and loaded with a mixture of live human cells and “smart gel.” Then, layer by layer, the cells are printed atop one another until a 3D organ is constructed. Just as a normal printer can deposit different colored ink, organ printing allows scientists to specify where to place different cell types. Organ printing has already created beating cardiac cells, and could soon produce organs that are viable for transplant. But unlike other 3D printers, I wouldn’t want this one in my living room.

The hottest areas in tissue growth are the types hardest to make: nerve, liver, kidney, heart and pancreas cells. But these are precisely where Alata and Tengion are heading, pushing the industry into fresh territory. Coupled with new regenerative treatments like Cook biotech’s foams and stem-cell organ patching, tissue engineering will be keeping our organs young and healthy in the years to come.

Merely a decade ago, tissue engineering was still a new field that struggled to find funding and support. Today, thousands of scientists worldwide are coordinating efforts to reach new breakthroughs, and the demonstrated potential of these methods has helped bring in investors. That should keep the organ growing field moving forward in the future months and years, and we’ll be covering new advances as they emerge.

Check out this Wired Science video that tours around Atala’s lab:

Crow Meat Comes Back -- Boosts Sexual Potency?

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June 9, 2009—In Lithuania, eating crow isn't an exercise in public humiliation, as the English idiom suggests. Here, crow is literally eaten, and says one connoisseur, "it increases sexual potency."

© 2009 National Geographic (AP)

Unedited Transcript

Despite their intelligence and function as scavengers, crows are rarely popular birds.

The large black birds with a noisy squawk have traditionally held the role of evil-doer or thief in fable and fairy-tales.

In Lithuania, crow has been part of a traditional diet throughout the centuriesmostly eaten during times of hardship.

The meal of crow remained widespread in Lithuania into the 20th Century but almost died out during Soviet occupation. Now it is making a comeback.

SOUNDBITE (Lithuanian) Andrius Gudzinskas, Hunter: "We are hunting young crows because we need them for our feast, which is a century-old tradition. I support this tradition and will keep doing it (shooting crows). The birds are not bad - they do good but they also do harm. Their number can only be regulated by hunting."

Hunts for the black colored birds, which has several species nearly world-wide, last several days, and involve driving hundreds of kilometers in search of crow flocks.

Back home, the birds are plucked and then the crow meat is prepared in cooking oil at a high temperature and served with vegetables.

SOUNDBITE (Lithuanian) Vanda Mikalauskiene, Cook: "We boil it for about an hour because it's game meat and it's tough. Usually a chicken is boiled for 15-20 minutes but this is a wild bird."

The hunters claim the younger birds are better. Here they are considered delicacies, said by some to taste like quail.

SOUNDBITE (Lithuanian) Dalia Keriene, Kalnaberze Resident: "This is a great dish, crow meat is very tasty and good for men because it increases sexual potency. Try it and you'll see."

With its reputation as a scavenger, which includes dining from piles of garbage, some fear disease from eating crow. But a local medic explains that after being cooked at the right temperature the crow meat is absolutely safe to eat.

SOUNDBITE (Lithuanian) Kristina Mikolaitiene, Medic: "Crows are cooked in boiling oil with a temperature of 190 degrees Celsius so that all bacteria die and there is no danger for health."

In the village of Kalnaberze, residents gathered for a recent feast to devour the crow meat.

SOUNDBITE (Lithuanian) Jorune Liutkiene, Kalnaberze Resident: "I've been taking part in this feast for three years. I like it. When tried it for the first time I was a little bit scared but then I understood that it's tasty."

While eating crow is an English idiom that might refer to admission of a humiliating mistake, in Lithuania, it could be part of a re-emerging tradition.

The United Countries of Baseball

Israel declares "revolution" against gas guzzlers

By Allyn Fisher-Ilan

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel declared a "green tax revolution" on Monday, proposing a new customs levy on large vehicles and a rebate for junking older gas-guzzling models.

Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said he hoped his plan would persuade Israelis to switch to hybrid cars while earning the state up to 400 million shekels ($100 million) a year.

"We are introducing a green tax revolution," Steinitz said.

The plan would be implemented over the next decade and must first be approved by parliament's finance committee, which was likely to do so in the coming weeks, Environmental Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan told reporters, alongside Steinitz.

Israel's conflict with Palestinians has long overshadowed environmental concerns. But high levels of carbon emissions from a growing fleet of private and commercial vehicles has begun to eat into the country's gross domestic product, Erdan said.

He said up to 2 percent of Israel's GDP of 714 billion shekels in 2008 was lost to the costs of automobile pollution, including illness, damage to buildings and other infrastructure.

Due to the recession, Israel is expected to post a budget deficit of 6 percent of GDP in 2009.

The government's plan to cut state spending was rejected by labor unions so new ways to increase revenues are being sought to keep the deficit under control.

The government has already raised fuel taxes and increased the value added tax (VAT) to 16.5 percent from 15.5.

Critics said the new tax plan, which would raise the base tax on new vehicles from 75 percent to 92 percent, then offer discounts for cars with better gas emissions standards, may actually increase the prices of many smaller cars.

Steinitz said purchase taxes would be slashed to just 30 percent for hybrid vehicles, and that the bulk of most tax increases would be borne by purchasers of larger, luxury automobiles or SUVs.

Erdan said the policy also meant to educate the Israeli public "to get used to opting for consumer items that do less damage to the environment."

The government would also try to encourage Israelis to get rid of thousands of older vehicles clogging the roads -- about 70,000 are at about 20 years and older -- by paying 3,000 shekels ($750 shekels) apiece to junk them, Erdan said.

(Additional reporting by Steven Scheer; Editing by David Cowell)

You Have Three Days To Pick Your Facebook Vanity URL. Choose Wisely, Or You’re Screwed.

by MG Siegler on June 9, 2009

lastcrusade-knightWhat are you doing this Friday night? Going to a bar with friends? Going to a movie? Wrong.

If you’re a real web addict you’ll be sitting at your computer waiting for the clock to strike 12:01 AM Eastern Time. That’s when Facebook’s new vanity URLs are going to go live, and the landrush to get one will begin.

And it’s going to be a landrush because it’s a first-come, first-serve basis, as Facebook writes today. It looks like Facebook will give you a bunch of options based on your real name, but you can also pick your own vanity name.

But there are some rules:

Facebook usernames will be available in basic text forms, and you can only choose a single username for your profile and for each of the Pages that you administer. Your username must be at least five characters in length and only include alphanumeric characters (A-Z, 0-9), or a period or full stop (”.”). While usernames are currently available only for Romanized text, we’re looking at how we might support non-Romanized characters in the future.


We first talked about Facebook getting serious about vanity URLs back in March. It’s been clear for a while that people prefer them rather than having the current profile.php?id=500065899 nonsense. But up until now, only famous public profiles have been able to get one.

Come 12:01 AM on Saturday, they’ll be open to all. So choose wisely when you pick a name — or it could well end up like that tattoo you regret later in your life if you pick something like “mileycyrusfanforever.” Facebook notes this in their own way:

Think carefully about the username you choose. Once it’s been selected, you won’t be able to change or transfer it. If you signed up for a Facebook Page after May 31 or a user profile after today at 3 p.m. EDT, you may not be able to sign up for a username immediately because of steps we’ve taken to prevent abuse or “squatting” on names.

While Facebook had been playing around with the idea of charging users to get these vanity URLs, they will offer them for free. Facebook is also asking people with a trademarked or protected name to email them here to avoid the obvious issues. You can watch the countdown to the feature live here.


Electric Superbike Uses iPhone For Its Dashboard

Apple fanboys might still be drooling from yesterday’s iPhone 3Gs announcement, but I bet they never saw this coming: an electric superbike with an iPhone for all its instrumentation!

Heck, I was happy to finally get MMS support!

The MotoCzysz E1pc is one of the many entries in the TTXGP race this Friday. How the iPhone is integrated into the bike is still a mystery but features like its native GPS will surely be used. And whether it wins or loses, it definitely gets points for creamy white geeky goodness.

The E1pc can go from zero to 120 mph in “seven or eight seconds” according to Michael Czysz, the company’s founder. It uses ten lithium-ion battery packs with three electric motors all mounted on a carbon fiber main frame.

Here’s a video of its test run:

Get Adobe Flash player

Czysz explains, “With teams from around the world ascending on the Isle, this is a true international competition and even though the machines are futuristic the race is not and the premise even less so- this is an old fashion ‘run what you brung’ race. Never would my Grand Father or even my Father imagined such a motorcycle would ever exist, even I would have doubted this event possible in 2009 only a few years ago.”

The TTXGP is a zero-emissions motorcycle race taking place on the famed Isle of Man Mountain Course. Some of the teams include Mission Motors, Brammo, EVOdesign and of course MotoCzysz. Other entrants include Barefoot Motors, Electric Motorsport and one of my favorites…KillaCycle Racing. Teams from the United States, United Kingdom, India, Austria, Germany and Italy all plan to compete.

TTXGP founder, Azhar Hussain, said, “With twenty-four confirmed entries, we are thrilled with the high level of interest the TTXGP has generated globally, and the superb quality of teams that will be involved.”

Source: Hell for Leather

Neolithic Age: Prehistoric Complex Including Two 6,000-year-old Tombs Discovered In Britain

ScienceDaily (June 9, 2009) — A prehistoric complex including two 6,000-year-old tombs representing some of the earliest monuments built in Britain has been discovered by a team led by a Kingston University archaeologist. Dr Helen Wickstead and her colleagues were stunned and delighted to find the previously undiscovered Neolithic tombs, also known as long barrows, at a site at Damerham, Hampshire.

Dr Helen Wickstead examines some of the artefacts found at Damerham. (Credit: Image courtesy of Kingston University)

Some artefacts, including fragments of pottery and flint and stone tools, have already been recovered and later in the summer a team of volunteers will make a systematic survey of the site, recovering and recording any artefacts that have been brought to the surface by ploughing.

Dr Wickstead said that further work would help to reveal more about the Neolithic era. “We hope that scientific methods will allow us to record these sites before they are completely eroded,” she said. “If we can excavate, we’ll be able to say a lot more about Neolithic people in that area and find out things like who was buried there, what kinds of lives they led, and what the environment was like six thousand years ago.”

She said the find was particularly rare because it was close to Cranborne Chase, one of the most thoroughly researched prehistoric areas in Europe. “I was really excited. It’s rare to find sites of this kind and the tombs are likely to be of national importance,” said Dr Wickstead. ”What’s really extraordinary is the location – it’s one of the most famous prehistoric landscapes, a mecca for prehistorians, and you would have thought the archaeological world would have gone over it with a fine tooth comb.”

Dr Wickstead, a visiting researcher in the Faculty of Science, is also project manager of Damerham Archaeology Project, an educational body set up last year to discover more about the archaeology of the area around Damerham village.

The importance of the site at Damerham first emerged in 2003 when English Heritage spotted crop marks – which can indicate buried archaeological sites - on aerial photographs of the area. Dr Wickstead volunteered to begin geophysical tests of the area and it was while her team was planning the work that Martyn Barber, a member of the Damerham Archaeology Project, looked at a Windows Live Map of the area to find the car park where he was due to meet his colleagues and was astonished to see another tomb a few hundred metres from the first. “To find any new monuments of this date still visible as humps on the ground is unusual,” said Dr Wickstead, “But to find two is fantastic – we were flabbergasted.”

Work on the site is in its early stages but Dr Wickstead said the tombs may contain human bones, while nearby there are cropmark traces of some larger circular enclosures which may have been built at the same time as the prehistoric monument at Stonehenge, which is 15 miles away.

In Neolithic times, a ritual burial involved leaving a body out so the flesh would decay. Some of the bones were later put in a tomb, or relatives may even have kept some bones as a special talisman. ”We don’t know whether these sites contained chambers with bones in them - some long barrows never contained bones at all, rather like cenotaphs today. We may also find that any chambers have been destroyed by ploughing – only by excavating could we find out for sure,” said Dr Wickstead.

She said her team were sensitive to the emotions stirred by discovering human remains. “The recovery of ancient human remains is always handled sensitively,” said Dr Wickstead. “We feel respect for the dead people we study, and we treat their remains,with care.”

Adapted from materials provided by Kingston University, via AlphaGalileo.

Kingston University (2009, June 9). Neolithic Age: Prehistoric Complex Including Two 6,000-year-old Tombs Discovered In Britain. ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 10, 2009, from­ /releases/2009/06/090608143835.htm

World record for most people dressed as Smurfs in Swansea

The world record for the largest number of people dressed as Smurfs has been smashed in Swansea.

Crowd of people dressed as Smurfs: World record for most people dressed as Smurfs set in Swansea
The city of Swansea was turned blue as a group of 2,510 people crammed into the Oceana nightclub Photo: SWNS

The Welsh city was turned blue as a group of 2,510 people, the majority of whom were students from the local university, crammed into the Oceana nightclub to almost double the previous record.

The event was organised by UK fancy dress costume seller Jokers' Masquerade and was not verified until 1am as every "Smurf" had to be checked to make sure no natural skin was showing.

The record was previously held by the town of Castleblayney in County Monaghan, Ireland, which recorded 1,253 Smurfs gathered in the high street last year.

Rebecca Oatley, of Jokers' Masquerade, said: "Smurf Guinness World Record holder has become an illustrious title.

"There have been five attempts over the last 18 months, with Swansea trumping Castleblayney's 1,253 Smurfs recorded last year.

"We knew that if we were going to break the record, we had to do it in style and 2,510 Smurfs will be a tough act to follow for any budding record-breakers."

She added: "This is just the beginning of our world record run. We are hoping to set, break and smash Guinness World Records for iconic characters from Daleks to Superheroes. Watch this space."

'Lost city of the Incas' was not a true city

Machu Picchu a pilgrimage center connected to Andean vision of the cosmos

Image: Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu may have been less of a city, than a spiritual destination for the Inca. New research argues the ceremonial path into the city was conceived as a replica of the path followed by the first Incas in cosmological myth.
Giulio Magli

By Rossella Lorenzi

Machu Picchu, the "lost city of the Incas," was not a true city but rather a pilgrimage center symbolically connected to the Andean vision of the cosmos, an Italian study has concluded.

According to Giulio Magli, professor of archaeoastronomy at Milan's Polytechnic University, Machu Picchu was the ideal counterpart of the Island of Sun, a rocky islet in the southern part of Lake Titicaca.

"This island had a very important sanctuary which was a destination of pilgrimage. An apparently insignificant rock was believed to be the place of birth of the sun, and therefore of the Inca civilization," Magli told Discovery News.

The Inca, who ruled the largest empire on Earth by the time their last emperor, Atahualpa, was garroted by Spanish conquistadors in 1533, believed that the sun god was their ancestor.

Surrounded on three sides by the gorges of the Urubamba River (also called the Vilcanota River), and tucked between two massive mountain peaks — the Huayna Picchu and the Machu Picchu — the Inca city features about 200 stone structures and was probably inhabited by no more than 750 people. It is perched some 8,000 feet in the clouds.

After its abandonment at the time of the Spanish conquest, it was lost to the jungle for nearly 500 years, and was then discovered by Hiram Bingham, an American explorer, in 1911 (although recent studies claim that it was actually discovered 40 years earlier by an obscure German entrepreneur).

Theories about the city's function abound. Machu Picchu has been wrongly identified as the traditional birthplace of the Inca people, their final stronghold, and a sacred center occupied by virgins devoted to the sun god.

Another recent interpretation, based on archival research published in the mid-1980s, and widely supported by scholars, suggests the spectacular site was a private estate of the emperor Pachacuti, who built it around 1460 A.D.

"Any interpretation is doomed to remain speculative. Machu Picchu remains a mystery. We do not know for sure what the Inca called it, we do not know when and why it was constructed, or why it was abandoned," Magli said.

Published on the Cornell University physics Web site, Magli's study examined Machu Picchu's urban layout, its ancient access ways, and the position of the site in relation with the cycles of celestial bodies during the Inca's reign. He then compared these aspects to a well-documented Inca pilgrimage site on Lake Titicaca, located on the border of Bolivia and Peru .

According to Magli, the pilgrimage to Machu Picchu avoided a much easier and faster route along the Urubamba River, instead ascending through the difficult and spectacular Inca trail, which ended at the gate of the town.

"The admitted visitors perhaps left their ritual offerings just near the entrance wall. Indeed, many peculiar stone pebbles, mainly of obsidian, have been recovered there," Magli said.

"The pilgrims were then confronted by the imposing view of the Huayna Picchu mountain. Most likely, this was their final destination. Indeed, the last part of the pilgrimage, oriented north, took place inside the town," Magli said.

The author of "Mysteries and Discoveries of Archaeoastronomy," Magli suggests that the ceremonial path into the city was conceived as a replica of the path followed by the first Incas in cosmological myth.

In their final leg, the pilgrims approached three important places: the so-called quarry, an area possibly connected with Mother Earth and the underground travel of the first Incas, the temple of the three windows (it was believed that the first Incas came out from one of the three windows), and the Intihuatana Pyramid, which resembled the sacred mountain Huayna Picchu, located at the end of the path.

According to Magli, the picture also fits with celestial cycles that appeared in the sky at the times of the Incas. These were dominated by the Milky Way, which was perceived as a "celestial river" having its terrestrial counterpart in the Urubamba River.

"Machu Picchu was located at the ideal, opposite crossroads between the terrestrial and the celestial rivers. It was the other end of the sun's path," Magli concluded.

According to Jean-Pierre Protzen, who teaches architecture at the University of California, Berkeley, the study brings an additional dimension to the site.

"Magli's argument that Machu Picchu was a pilgrimage site and not a royal estate is well worth considering, although it is in need of a much more substantial proof. There is no reason to believe that it could not have been both," Protzen, a leading expert on Inca architecture, told Discovery News.

© 2009 Discovery Channel

The 20 Most Anticipated Movies of 2010


Seth Rogen fatigue is setting in, so we left The Green Hornet off the list. Ditto to the inevitable Nightmare on Elm Street remake, even though it landed Jackie Earle Haley to play Freddy Krueger. Remakes of Clash of the Titansand Death at a Funeral and the possible Ben Stiller/Tom Cruise comedy The Hardy Men might be good, but there were too many other interesting movies to pick from.

So what does that leave? Well, it’s an accepted fact that Hollywood has run out of ideas and is just coasting on remakes and sequels, so while putting together this list, we tried to come up with as many totally original movies as we could. In the end, we’ve got four sequels, three of which are based on books; four additional non-sequels based on books; three movies based on TV shows; and one based on a well-known legend.

That left only six original movies. Oh well. Despite that, we think we put together a damn good list.

bh2.thumbnail20. Black Hole

Plot: Teenagers who spread “the Bug,” a fictional, incurable STD that causes the sexually-active to develop horrific physical deformities, as well as those who didn’t catch it but reacted to the plague.

Director: David Fincher

Cast and Crew: None released

COED’s Take: A kind of safe-sex PSA wrapped in the body of a sci-fi thriller, “Black Hole” is based on a graphic novel by Charles Burns (not a remake of the 1979 film) about a sexually transmitted disease that’s rapidly spreading among teenagers. The story follows two such teens, Keith and Chris, as they get infected with the ‘the bug,’ which causes them and the story to devolve into a dreamy, hallucinogenic wasteland – a perfect fit for director David Fincher (Se7en, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button). Sounds pretty awesome – but not as awesome as Fincher’s other upcoming project, Heavy Metal. (Unfortunately, we have no idea when that one’s coming out.)


20090128_ateam_190x19019. The A-Team

Plot Outline: A group of Iraq War veterans looks to clear their name with the U.S. military, who suspect the four men of committing a crime for which they were framed. more

Director: Joe Carnahan

Cast and Crew: Bradley Cooper, Bruce Willis, Common, Woody Harrelson

COED’s Take: When we heard that they’re making a feature-length version of “The A-Team”, the first thing we thought of is, of course, Mr. T, badass (but cheesy) action and a sweet van. And we’re hoping they stick to that formula as closely as possible. Unfortunately, they’re already starting off with a deficit, as Mr. T will be replaced by someone not nearly as cool (Common? Seriously?). But with A-class actors, like Liam Neeson, Bruce Willis and Woody Harrelson all rumored to be on-board, that still leaves some room for hope. And if director Joe Carnahan can pull this one off, it will be a huge hit. Otherwise, I pity the fool… (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)


stallone_l18. The Expendables

Plot Outline: A team of mercenaries head to South America on a mission to overthrow a dictator.

Director: Sylvester Stallone

Cast and Crew: Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mickey Rourke, Jason Statham, Sylvester Stallone, Brittany Murphy, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren

COED’s Take: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mickey Rourke, Jason Statham, Sylvester Stallone, Jet Li, Ivan Drago Dolph Lundgren, Steve Austin and Randy Couture are a team of mercenaries headed to South America on a mission to overthrow a dictator. How F’ing awesome is that?! As soon as I hear “written and directed by Sylvester Stallone” my ears perked up. Throw in the action movie hall of fame cast and you’ve got a winning formula. Sure this movie probably won’t win an Oscar, but the body count will be ridiculously high and your balls might explode from a surge of testosterone.


0002240017. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Plot outline: Lucy and Edmund return to Narnia with their cousin Eustace and join up with Prince Caspian on the Dawn Treader, a ship headed for the edge of the world.

Director: Michael Apted

Cast: Ben Barnes, Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, Will Poulter, Eddie Izzard

COED’s Take: This one almost didn’t happen — after The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian had a disappointing box office run in the U.S., Disney dropped the franchise altogether. Luckily, Fox picked it up and moved the release date from early summer back to Christmas. The twelve-year-olds inside of us loved the first two Narnia movies, and the gaping hole left by The Lord of the Rings is still almost too much for us to bear, so we’re looking forward to another big-budget epic fantasy fix.


three-stooges16. The Three Stooges

Plot outline: A brand new comedy based on the original exploits of Larry, Curly, and Moe, the Columbia Pictures comedy team from the 1930s and ’40s.

Director: Bobby and Peter Farrelly

Cast: Jim Carrey, Sean Penn, Benicio Del Toro

COED’s take: Let’s get this straight: it’s not a biopic. It’s not a remake of any particular Three Stooges short. Instead, writer/directors the Farrelly brothers are basically making a new Three Stooges adventure — just with Jim Carrey, Sean Penn, and Benicio Del Toro stepping into the roles created by Larry Fine, Curly Howard, and Moe Howard, respectively. Will that work? We have no idea; we’re still baffled at the thought of Jim Carrey gaining weight and Sean Penn doing physical comedy.


Twilight eclipse15. The Twilight Saga: Eclipse

Plot outline: Bella Swan must choose between vampire Edward Cullen and werewolf Jacob Black; meanwhile, Victoria, the leftover evil vampire from the first movie, comes back for revenge.

Director: David Slade

Cast: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner

COED’s Take: Why include the third Twilight movie to come out in less than two years? Two reasons. One, because it’s literally highly anticipated: right now there are a couple million 14-year-old Twilight fanatics searching the Web for articles that mention it. And two, because the new director, David Slade, might actually bring a spark to this franchise. He did 2005’s Hard Candy — the most disturbing movie to feature a teenage girl cutting a grown man’s testicles off since, well, ever — and 2007’s30 Days of Night. So, at least he knows his way around vampires.


grown_ups_set_4014. Grown Ups

Plot outline: thirty years after their high school graduation, five friends reunite for a Fourth of July weekend.

Director: Dennis Dugan

Cast: Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock, David Spade, Rob Schneider, Salma Hayek, Maya Rudolph, Maria Bello

COED’s Take: Which Adam Sandler are we getting here? The upcoming Funny People Adam Sandler or the You Don’t Mess with the Zohan Adam Sandler? The presence of Rob Schneider would seem to suggest the latter, but this one is an ensemble movie — a rarity for Sandler — and Schneider aside, it would be really hard for this good of an all-star cast to screw up. Plus, we just kind of like high school reunion stories.


movie_robots_4-113. RoboCop

Plot: No plot released

Director: Darren Aronofsky

Cast and Crew: None attached

COED’s Take: Disguised as a vigilante shoot-em-up, the original 1987 Robocop, directed by Peter Verhoeven, is actually a smart piece of social-commentary filmmaking, which rips both Capitalism and human nature a new one with over-the-top violence and a vicious sense of humor. And if you ask us, it doesn’t need to be remade and certainly can’t be improved upon. That said, director Darren Aronofsky (The Wrestler, Requiem for a Dream) is signed on to the project – an odd union, but at least this “reimagining” is in the hands of someone with an actual imagination. So while we’re excited about this one, we’re mostly just hoping nobody f**ks it up.


Las Airbender12. The Last Airbender

Plot outline: Based on the animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender, the story takes place in a world divided into the Fire, Water, Earth, and Air Nations. A young “airbender” named Aang must stop the Fire Nation from taking over.

Director: M. Night Shyamalan

Cast: Noah Ringer, Dev Patel, Cliff Curtis, Jackson Rathbone, Shaun Toub, Aasif Mandvi

COED’s Take: This will either be a really cool movie or an epic failure to end all epic failures. M. Night Shyamalan finally branches beyond his patented thrillers, which is nice since The Happeningand Lady in the Water sucked. But is he up for this kind of big-budget fantasy? Few people have heard of the source material, which means box office is pretty shaky unless the ad campaign wows a lot of people. But it will be cool to see Slumdog Millionaire’s Dev Patel try to make a name for himself beyond last year’s Best Picture winner.


Johnny-Depp-as-the-Mad-Hatter-Tim-Burton-Alice-in-Wonderland11. Alice in Wonderland

Plot outline: Tim Burton and Johnny Depp (as the Mad Hatter) take on Lewis Carroll’s classic.

Director: Tim Burton

Cast: Johnny Depp, Mia Wasikowska, Michael Sheen, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, Crispin Glover, Christopher Lee

COED’s Take: Who better to take on Carroll’s cracked-out, drug-influenced Alice in Wonderland than Burton and Depp? Plus, the six of you who saw the first season of HBO’s In Treatment already know that Mia Wasikowska will give a terrific, star-making performance as Alice. The only red flag? An odd March release date. We thought the combination of Depp and a big budget made for an automatic summer debut.


Couple of Dicks10. A Couple of Dicks

Plot outline: A comedy about two cops who try to locate a stolen baseball card and rescue a kidnapped woman.

Director: Kevin Smith

Cast: Bruce Willis, Tracy Morgan, Seann William Scott, Adam Brody, Kevin Pollak

COED’s Take: So it’s a cop movie starring a white guy and a black guy. Sounds like the most generic thing possible, right? Well, the script was good enough to attract director Kevin Smith — who has never, ever directed a movie he hasn’t written before. And everybody believed in the project enough to take a pay cut as a deal to keep the movie’s R rating. Might this be another The Hangover-style project — something that sounds like it’ll just come and go but then turns out to be hilarious?


Russell Crowe Robin Hood9. Robin Hood

Plot outline: a re-telling of the Robin Hood legend from the Gladiator team of Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe.

Director: Ridley Scott

Cast: Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett, Mark Strong, Kevin Durand, William Hurt, Vanessa Redgrave, Scott Grimes

COED’s Take: This would’ve been even higher on our list had they kept their first idea: originally, the movie was going to be called Nottingham and star Crowe as a sympathetic Sheriff of Nottingham squaring off against a not-so-pure-hearted Robin Hood. At one point, Crowe was even planning on playing both roles. Eventually, though, they decided to make a more straightforward version of the legend with a focus on historical accuracy, and Crowe settled on Robin. Knowing director Ridley Scott, expect some spectacular battle scenes. Blanchett as Maid Marian isn’t too bad, either.


book-of-eli-AFM-poster-full8. The Book of Eli

Plot outline: A man fights his way across post-apocalyptic America in order to protect a book that holds the secret to saving humankind.

Director: Albert Hughes

Cast: Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman, Mila Kunis, Michael Gambon, Tom Waits

COED’s Take: Terminator Salvation disappointed, Doomsday flopped, and The Road got delayed a year and still hasn’t come out yet. So will The Book of Eli swoop in and take the Great Post-Apocalyptic Movie crown? Denzel Washington usually does contemporary thrillers, so it’ll be cool to see him in a sci-fi flick, but who we’re really pumped about is Gary Oldman, in an over-the-top bad guy role that anyone who’s seen The Professional knows he’s ridiculously awesome at playing. Oh, and Mila Kunis is hot.


fey-carell7. Date Night

Plot outline: A regular date night between a middle-aged married couple becomes much more than they expected.

Director: Shawn Levy

Cast: Steve Carell, Tina Fey, Leighton Meester, Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Mark Ruffalo, James Franco, Taraji P. Henson, Common, Kristen Wiig

COED’s Take: All you had to say was that Steve Carell and Tina Fey were teaming up to play a married couple. Talk about a great pairing. But then to add ridiculous star wattage in the form of Wahlberg, Franco, Kunis, Henson, Ruffalo, and the rest makes us think that this is going to be a seriously funny — and seriously huge — movie.


harry_potter_and_the_deathly_hallows_movie_poster6. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I

Plot outline: Harry, Ron, and Hermione go on the run from Death Eaters while trying to find the remaining Horcruxes.

Director: David Yates

Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Bonnie Wright, Evanna Lynch, Alan Rickman

COED’s Take: We’re still not thrilled about Warner Bros. splitting up Deathly Hallowsinto two movies, because c’mon: eight movies will just look weird on our DVD shelves. But Part I promises to be the darkest Potter film yet; not that they’d ever do this in a million years, but it’d be easy to make an R rated cut, given all the torturing and killing that happens. Yep, you heard it here first, parents:Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is all about torturing and killing.


jonah-hex5. Jonah Hex

Plot outline: In the late 1800s, a Wild West bounty hunter tracks a voodoo practitioner bent on raising an army of Confederate zombies.

Director: Jimmy Hayward

Cast: Josh Brolin, Megan Fox, John Malkovich, Will Arnett, Michael Shannon

COED’s Take: Okay, first, that’s the coolest synopsis ever. Second, Josh Brolin is the man — after No Country for Old Men and W., who better to take on a cool-as-hell bounty hunter? But then there are two other factors which sweeten the deal, and they both involve Megan Fox.


poster_ironman-24. Iron Man 2

Plot outline: Tony Stark, with his buddy Jim Rhodes, squares off against Whiplash and the Black Widow while continuing discussions with Nick Fury about the Avengers Initiative.

Director: Jon Favreau

Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Mickey Rourke, Scarlett Johansson, Sam Rockwell, Samuel L. Jackson

COED’s Take: Emily Blunt was originally going to be the Black Widow but had to drop out because of scheduling, so Johansson took over. Blunt would’ve been way better, but everything else about this film indicates lots and lots of awesomeness. Don Cheadle taking over the role of Jim Rhodes/War Machine from Terrence Howard? He’ll knock it out of the park. Jackson, Rockwell, and Rourke? Yes, please. Jon Favreau back in the director’s chair? If it’s half as good as the first one, it’ll still be one of the better movies of the year.


rum_diary_depp_set13. The Rum Diary

Plot outline: Self-destructive freelance journalist Paul Kemp tries to make sense of his life while writing for a run-down newspaper in 1950s Puerto Rico in this movie adaptation of the novel by Hunter S. Thompson.

Director: Bruce Robinson

Cast: Johnny Depp, Aaron Eckhart, Amber Heard, Richard Jenkins, Giovanni Ribisi

COED’s Take: Johnny Depp, a big Hunter S. Thompson fan, has been trying to get this movie made for years. He already played Thompson outright in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, which has become a cult classic; seeing what he does in another Thompson role is already making us salivate (as is his co-star Amber Heard).


christopher-nolan-director-12. Inception

Plot outline: we got nothing.

Director: Christopher Nolan

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Michael Caine, Cillian Murphy, Ken Watanabe

COED’s Take: This movie could very well be terrible. All anyone knows about the plot is what director Christopher Nolan has chosen to reveal: that it’s “a contemporary sci-fi actioner set within the architecture of the mind.” If you can figure out what that means, let us know. But since this is Nolan’s follow-up project to The Dark Knight, the second-highest grossing movie in the U.S. ever, and since Nolan has also directed Batman Begins, Memento, and The Prestige, and since he’s assembled a terrific cast, we’re willing to follow him anywhere — especially the realm of the unknown.

ad_cast1. Arrested Development

Plot: No plot released

Director: Mitchell Hurwitz

Cast and Crew: Michael Cera, Jason Bateman, David Cross, Portia de Rossi, Jeffrey Tambor, Will Arnett

COED’s Take: Hands-down the most anticipated movie of 2010, Arrested Development fans have been pining for a big-screen adaptation ever since this ingenious show was kicked off the air (yes, by someone retarded). And after tamping down a slew of rumors about its future, the producers have made it over some hurdles necessary for moving forward, like signing Michael Cera on to the production. But until we start seeing official trailers, we’re just going to assume this one isn’t even coming out, just to stave off the disappointment.