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Get Your Geek On With 'Comic-Con Episode IV'


Movie maker Morgan Spurlock, director and star of "Supersize Me" and "The Greatest Story Ever Sold," has a new documentary opening on the West Coast this weekend, "Comic Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope." Unlike his other films, this one does not center on Spurlock himself. Here's Los Angeles Times and MORNING EDITION film critic Kenneth Turan.

KENNETH TURAN, BYLINE: "Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope" delivers on its title. It introduces a group of determined popular culture enthusiasts who've come to San Diego's enormous convention in the summer of 2010 to pursue their different but connected dreams. Skip Harvey, for instance, is a second generation geek whose parents met at a planning meeting for a Star Trek convention. He's also an aspiring artist who burns to break into the business.


SKIP HARVEY: I read comics every day as a kid and I really, really want to do this so badly.

TURAN: Also wanting a break is Holly Conrad, a young costume and creature designer. She and a group of friends are preparing an elaborate action sequence from the video game Mass Effect for Comic-Con's Masquerade evening.


HOLLY CONRAD: And it's a big chance for me to get myself out there. It's about getting all your friends together and going on a suicide mission. And that's what this is. It's a suicide mission for my future.

TURAN: Director Morgan Spurlock, who's been brash and confrontational in the past, has made a surprisingly sweet and empathetic film here. He understands the charming innocence of Comic-Con's true believers, and he respects their pureness of heart.

Comic-Con began in San Diego in 1970 as a way for comic fans to meet with professionals. Today, it attracts upwards of 125,000 visitors and provides an unparalleled opportunity for fans to be as weird as they want to be. Spurlock shows folks living their dreams by dressing up as their favorite fantasy characters, from "Star Wars" storm troopers to "Alice in Wonderland."

While the film interviews such big names as Marvel Comics luminary Stan Lee, it belongs heart and soul to fans like James Darling. He met his girlfriend Se Young Kang at the convention in 2009 and now wants to propose to her, in public, at a mass event for Comic-Con super star Kevin Smith. You'll want to be there.

INSKEEP: Kenneth Turan reviews movies for Morning Edition and for the Los Angeles Times.

And now we have news of a ratings reversal. You might remember Ken's review of the movie "Bully" on our show last week. It's a documentary following five students and their families who are affected by bullying.


UNIDENTIFIED CHILD #1: They punch me, strangle me, take things from me, sit on me.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD #2: Give it to him hard.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: He's not safe on that bus.

INSKEEP: It's a film filled with powerful stories and some powerful language, which earned it an R rating from the Motion Picture Association of America. The Weinstein Company, which produced this documentary, unsuccessfully appealed the rating last month. They argued the R classification would exclude the very children it aims to help.

Now, the director of the film has agreed to remove some explicit language. The director says, though, the profanity remains unchanged in one key scene where a kid is beaten on a school bus. The changes were apparently enough for the MPAA and the rating has been changed to PG-13.


INSKEEP: It's NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Kenneth Turan is the film critic for the Los Angeles Times and NPR's Morning Edition, as well as the director of the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes. He has been a staff writer for the Washington Post and TV Guide, and served as the Times' book review editor.