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Mike Reyes, aka Mr. Controversy, has considered himself a writer ever since he was a child. He wrote for various school publications from about 1995 until 2006, and currently runs both The Bookish Kind and Mr. Controversy, which is an offshoot of the regular column he wrote in High School. He's also a film journalist/critic for Cocktails & Movies and CinemaBlend, as well as the author of several short stories such as "The Devil v. George W. Bush". Any inquiries for reprinting, writing services, or general contact, should be forwarded to: mikereyeswrites@gmail.com

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Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Note To Anonymous Posters...

First off, if you're going to leave comments like, "YOU SUCK BIG DICK! HAHAHAHAHA!" or "Aww, I'm sorry you got dumped :(...NOT!", then I will not publish you unless you have a name attached to your comments. (And even if you have a name, I'll only publish them when I think there's comedy/good arguing to be had. Otherwise, you get posted in diatribes like this one.) Obviously you feel strongly enough about the matter that you want to make public record of it on the Internet, so why not go all the way and attach your name to your cause? Otherwise, you're the one sucking the appendage there my friend.

Second of all, I must thank you for speaking up on the dick sucking matter, because obviously your demographic isn't being heard from enough in the public forum. Would you like to perhaps comment more on the dick sucking epidemic that's seized the world of today? Would you care to interview fellow dick suckers and spit back up the product of your investigation? Or would you like to shut the fuck up and take the child's talk to Perez Hilton.com where it belongs?

Lastly, you're probably one of a handful of people I could think would post such stupidity. I won't address any of you in this post, but I'm sure you know what I'd say if I did. Just like you'd know that I'd respond publically to your stupidity and single you out like the moron you are. In short, I will leave you with one piece of advice. To say anything on the Internet, you need two things.

Brains, to know what you're talking about...

...and balls to back it up.

And now, to play us out of the year 2009, Alec Baldwin sums up my thoughts on the year.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Happy Friday Video - 12/18/09

Now that the whole Avatar spiel is done, it's time to relax. And nothing's more relaxing than the awesome, the amazing, the man with the same first name,swing quotient, and imagination as myself...Mr. Michael Buble. I need to work with this guy.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Last Temptation of James Cameron, Part III

(This is Part III of a three part series. Here's Part I, Part II, and the prequel. Yes, this post is massively late, but I think it's worth it. I must also disclaim that I am part of the IMAX Film Crew, and as such I have been given free prizes from time to time as rewards for my participation in promoting the IMAX brand. All that are interested in doing the same are welcome to visit www.facebook.com/imax, and sign up.)

So it's been a while since Avatar Day, and the reception was been mixed at best. Some were still on the "game changing" bandwagon, and some were not so impressed. Whatever the opinion, after that day two major forces had factored into the equation.

- The number of IMAX theaters has increased...sort of.

A lot of people after Avatar Day have gone on to say that IMAX 3D really changed their perspective on the film more than the standard 2D trailer did. This should be both encouraging and disheartening to IMAX fans. First, the encouragement: the number of IMAX theaters will increase, as IMAX is currently in a major partnership with AMC Theaters. Technically, this could be seen as a carry over from their commitments with Loews Theaters (seeing as AMC bought Loews not too long ago); but no matter how you see it this spells big news. However, the discouraging part is that most of these theaters will probably be "Digital IMAX", or "Fake IMAX" as some have come to call it. Take for example, the New Brunswick AMC Theater on Route 1 in New Jersey. They've currently renovated one of their standard theaters into a new Digital IMAX, and after looking into the process it's easier to see how some might not be so happy.

Basically, the main difference between a "Digital IMAX" and a traditional IMAX film is the method of presentation. Traditional IMAX is one projector that uses the IMAX 70mm celluloid print, which is shown in a specially built IMAX theater that can house a full sized IMAX screen. Digital IMAX, however, is only slightly bigger than a traditional screen (and comparatively smaller than a Traditional IMAX screen) and uses two 35mm digital projectors to create an image that seems like IMAX, but really isn't. (This article from the LF Examiner explains a lot of the difference) Even picture quality is better on a traditional IMAX screen, which begs the question, "Why even continue to build Digital IMAX screens?". The answer: Avatar.

A lot of people can't make it to "traditional" IMAX screens, and for a film everyone is going to want to go see (especially in IMAX 3D) AMC would be at an advantage to offer it in their Digital IMAX format. For those who know better, they'll steer clear of said format and either go for the Traditional IMAX or stay home. For those who don't (which is a lot of people), they'll be happy with Digital IMAX and think they're getting the full monty. Either way, this format (while inferior to the real thing) is still being charged at the same rate as a Traditional IMAX, and as such will help boost the box office take if promoted correctly. (And judging by the way they're promoting it at the New Brunswick theater, it's being promoted correctly.) Still, one could present the argument that "Digital IMAX" should be its own brand, and thus charged at slightly less than IMAX per ticket, but that's an entire article in and of itself.

- James Cameron has to make sure that film isn't a "theater only" experience.

It's a well argued point that this film might not be the theatrical juggernaut everyone hopes it'll be. This isn't "Titanic 2.0", but it's not destined to be "Ferngully: The Second Coming" either. This movie IS going to rack up some decent numbers, and people will be tripping over themselves to see it. And with IMAX rumored to be booking the film for an unprecedented three month release window (Star Trek was lucky to get two separate release windows of two weeks a piece, with an already built in fanbase. The average IMAX film in 2009 had about a month to two months solid.) the studio is anticipating this to be a great big shining star.

However, movie studios have been slowly learning that films that underperform in the theaters sometimes find a better home on DVD. And undoubtedly, this film has about a 50/50 shot of performing on par with or above the hype it's built in, with the odds shifting against day by day. Also, with ticket prices rising (especially after Jeffrey Katzenberg started screaming for higher 3D surcharges) and limited availability of true IMAX theaters; people might find themselves saying, "Eh, I'll wait until it hits DVD." Though, to a certain extend, how this film find its audience in theaters will determine its DVD legs as well; simply because people are more likely to blind buy a movie they hear their friends praising. (Though one could say that even if the film does pretty well in theaters, it'd still need some strong DVD sales if they hope to even approach making the film's budget back.) Say the film grosses at least half of its projected $250 mil. budget; putting us at an even $125 mil. Now, list price on DVD's amounts to anywhere between $19.99 - $24.99 for a single/double disc standard definition version. List Price on a Blu-Ray release is around let's say $24.99 - $39.99 for a single/double disc High Def version. And because this is a pretty big film, lets assume there will be a big collector's edition DVD set with all the bells and whistles, which would probably clock in at $49.99 for Standard and $79.99 for Blu Ray.

Going by those figures, you'd have to sell quite a few copies to break even. Specifically...

- Between 6,253,127 - 5,002,001 copies of a single/double disc Standard Def version

- Between 5,002,001 - 3,125,781 copies of a single/double disc High Def version.

- About 2,500,500 copies of the special collectors edition in Standard Def.

- About 1,562,695 copies of the special collectors edition in High Def.

If James Cameron has done his job, then he's made a film that not only wows the audience in theaters, but also transcends the theatrical exhibition experience and translates just fine onto home screens. If this is the case, Avatar will be a smash hit on DVD with people who have seen it in theaters and those who will experience it for the first time. However, one major step that has to happen before said DVD/Blu Ray release is the improvement of the home 3D experience.

Currently, 3D DVD presentations are only in Anaglyph 3D, which is the traditional red/blue lens 3D. While it's still somewhat effective, it is not a format that lends itself to prolonged viewing times. Not to mention, the coloring of the lenses washes out all color detail of the actual picture; thus taking the viewer completely out of the experience and reducing the film to a collection of 3D sight gags. The bottom line is in order for 3D films to work on DVD, a conversion to Polarized 3D glasses must be made in the home video market.

Looking back, both of those points are still valid. There are a lot of obstacles standing between James Cameron and a repeat of the box office success he achieved with Titanic. However, I think this movie is still on track for some measure of success. This is mostly due to the ever increasing blend of new and old media tactics James Cameron has engaged in. With the more traditional means of media, James Cameron has increased visibility for the film through sporting events such as the World Series and NFL Sunday, as well as partaken in critic screenings and print and television interviews.

On the new media front though, Facebook and Twitter have been invaluable when it comes to breaking ground in the new media frontier. The best example of this being the MTV interview that occurred on November 30th, where Cameron, Sam Worthington, and Zoe Saldana engaged in an interview that answered questions pulled from fans preregistered to watch the event live via streaming video through Facebook. Cameron, no stranger to breaking new ground himself, was pleased with the chat and seemed to believe that it was the best way to possibly quell fan backlash.

Also, IMAX has gone out of their way to promote the hell out of this film. Not only have they created a new website where you can basically schedule & invite people for an IMAX viewing of Avatar, they've seriously laid it on thick with their internet campaign through Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other social medium. The crescendo for their campaign though is a 24 hour "Avatar-a-thon" that they have been holding as of 12:01 AM this morning. $250 million is a huge number to make up, let alone attempt to double; so the company is taking great strides to help boost the numbers. And what's one of the best ways to get people's attention? Free stuff, naturally; and there will be tons of it given away during this event. (If you're interested in entering for prizes, follow this link to IMAX's Facebook page.)

Indeed everyone involved seems to be pitching in something new for the Avatar campaign. Fox has incorporated new technologies such as "interactive trailers" into the marketing campaign, UbiSoft worked closely with James Cameron and his handpicked development team to create the prequel video game, Mattel introduced the web cam friendly I-Tags, and Panasonic is blazing trails in 3D televisions, not to mention there was the announcement of of polarized 3D finally making its bow on the Blu Ray market sometime in the coming year.

So in the end, even if Avatar doesn't light the way in terms of ticket sales or storytelling (the story has been slammed as "derivative" of everything from Dances with Wolves to Ferngully: The Last Rainforest) the technologies involved benefit everyone involved. 3D has been labeled as a passing craze for a while now, and for a while it did die out. But with the advents of polarized 3D, IMAX theater systems, and now home theater 3D experiences; James Cameron may have just given 3D its permanent fixture in showbusiness. Film marketing will never be the same, film making will never be the same; and most of all, moviegoing will never be the same, once Avatar makes its mark on history.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Book Review: "I Drink for a Reason" by David Cross

Just a little disclaimer here, since I vaguely remember some sort of legal rigmarole involving bloggers having to declare where they get their free stuff (which I've always done) but I received a free copy of this book from the fine folks at Hachette Book Group. They are awesome as anything, and like any good publisher they love publicity and the printed word so much that they'll give you the latter, so long as you provide the former. Also, as a nice guy measure, I've included the link to the book's official web page at Hachette's website, so that if you're so inclined you may buy it through them.

If you're a comedy geek worth their salt these days, you know David Cross. If you're a fan of underrated television shows like Arrested Development, you know David Cross. Even if you're some kid with no taste who watches shit like Alvin and the Chipmunks (or a kid with taste who loves Men in Black), you know David Cross. He is the definition of a character actor, because you know his face, but you might not know his name. After reading, I Drink For A Reason, I not only forgave him for Alvin and the Chipmunks (which I never saw, but it's a matter of principle), I wished Arrested Development was still on the air.

I Drink For A Reason is much like Drew Carey's Dirty Jokes and Beer, in that it's both part anecdotal ("Beef with Jim Belushi" gives everyone the backstory on his long standing dislike of "The Belush", and even provides a link to a video of David being escorted off stage at one of his blues concerts.) and part off the wall comedy. Except in David Cross's case, you should replace "off the wall" with "batshit insane" (a prime example being "Excerpts from the Galley Copy of James Frey's Latest Memoir, Lesson Learned".) He even opens the book opining about writing the book and the fortune. fame, and author parties it will allow him to indulge; allowing him to criticize while mockingly wish to be a part of the leisure class.

This book is proudly a product of a comedian that hasn't sold out (Not completely, anyway. I still hold Alvin and the Chipmunks against you, David!) and therefore hasn't toned down his humor in an effort to mainstream it. This is after all the guy who, according to the book jacket, is "currently fucking Amber Tamblyn". When you're banging the girl from Joan of Arcadia, you're not only located in the dead center of obscure, you tend to revel in it. (Look at her picture and prove me wrong.) As such, this isn't a book for every one. There were points where it was a little too much for me, and there were still points that only made me smile or chuckle a little. Those moments have nothing on the ones where I was laughing my ass off in the middle of the work day. (I tend to read on my lunch break, so I'm often spotted laughing behind a book.) Some of the standouts include "Gay Canada" (which is continued in animated form on the website, idrinkforareason.com), "I Hate America!, or 'I Hate America?", and "The Bill O'Reilly Fantasy" (which gets so out there at the end, I could swear I've written similar).

Another great attribute this book can lay claim to is the fact that scattered throughout the book, as mentioned before, are web links to videos that compliment certain passages from the book. While Gay Canada's sequel feels more like a hilariously nonsensical detour than an actual continuation, and Jim Belushi's video proves that he's not only a lame singer, he also really is a douche; the fact that there's extra material online makes me feel like anyone who buys the book is getting more for their money. In the worst case scenario, a book written by a comedian is just a rehashing of their material, and you'd probably be better off listening to the recordings, or borrowing said book from the library. But in Cross's case, it's not just riffs on everyday life that populate this book. Part travelogue, part satire on society, part name calling fueled/profanity filled rants, I Drink For A Reason not only makes you laugh, it also makes you laugh hysterically.

So what's David Cross's reason for drinking? I think it's one of two options: Either he drinks for the same reason I do (to stay funny/become even funnier/seem even funnier/cry), or it's to wash away the residual anger he and the rest of us Arrested Development fans have against Fox and their bungling of a modern classic.

I'm Currently Reading: "Stop This Man!" by Peter Rabe, courtesy of my new friends at Hard Case Crime

What Do These Guys Have In Common?

Give up? They've all returned. I'm back, everyone! After an unintened sabbatical, I'm once again back on the Net. The short short version of my alibi is simple: I had writer's block. I wasn't writing reviews, the last planned part of the Avatar thing is still in the works (due to massive writing block), and I was nicely (but still suckily) dumped.

So now your dear friend is back, single and ready to end the year better than it started. We'll be starting with my first review outside of the Cannonball Read (of which I am not a part of this round), which should be up shortly. Good to see you all again!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Cannonball Read: Entry 18 - "King Dork" by Frank Portman

September 1st is here, and the Cannonball Read is only eight days away from being finished. Seeing as I doubt that I'll be able to finish "The Lightning Thief" by Sept. 9th, this is pretty much considered the last of my reviews for series 1. Nevertheless, it's been an honor and a priviliege to be a part of such a wonderous literary road race.

As usual, if anyone has suggestions, requests, or dedications, feel free to post them on the Comments Board. Also, for the uninitiated, here's where to go for all the background you need on this epic quest, http://www.pajiba.com/cannonball-read.htm .

A very hearty special thanks goes to Brian Prisco for allowing me, and all the others, to participate in this clusterfuck of literary wonderment. Another special thanks goes to Hachette Book Group for letting me be a guinea pig for their literary wares. It's thanks to these forces of bookishness that I've been sane through some tough shit this year. I'd also like to preemptively thank a new friend, Hard Case Crime, for giving me review copies of some of their books. They'll be a definite part of Round 2, should a Round 2 be announced.

One would assume that Round 2 will start here, as Round 1 had before it:

And now, the final review of Series 1, King Dork.

I forget how, but somehow I stumbled on the title King Dork on Pajiba and decided it was at least worth a shot. Before reading it though, I told myself I had to read The Catcher in the Rye. I'm glad I did, because knowledge of The Catcher in the Rye is definitely something you're going to want when reading this book. It is referenced, mocked, paralleled, and eventually vindicated, depending on how you look at it.

The story of King Dork, much like Catcher, focuses on a teenage boy who thinks he's above the norm and can see past the veil of normalcy. Thomas Henderson (aka, Chi-Mo) lost his father at an early age, due to a car accident. His mother is a bit spacy, his step father is out of touch, and his sister is a queen bitch in training. His main coping mechanism with life as a teenage outcast? Musical endeavours with his best friend, Sam. Their high school lives are nothing more than dodging bullies, ogling girls, questioning creepy academic professionals, and changing their band name about every two weeks or so.

As if Thomas's life couldn't get any more mixed up, he becomes involved in two quests that may or may not be intertwined. The first is an effort to track down this girl, Fiona, whom he made out with at a party. The second is to decode some sort of coded message system scattered through his father's teenage library, which happens to contain a copy of Catcher in the Rye. The main weight of the book is within these quests, but some of the load is also carried by Tom's ever evolving interactions with his own family. This book, at least from the pull quotes in the back, seems to be trying to set itself apart from "the Catcher Cult", but in fact it aligns itself ever so perfectly as a successor to its throne.

This book reads as if it were "Catcher 2.0", and like it or not Thomas Henderson is the new Holden Caufield; Suburbia is just as soul crushingly lonely as New York; and instead of missing a brother, he misses his father. The music's changed, but the tune is very similar. It's not that King Dork is a bad book, it's actually entertaining and pretty funny at times. It's just that it's hard to identify with the protagonist, who sometimes comes off as a little too Juno-esque for his own good. Also, he uses acronyms a little too much, which makes it easy to find yourself flipping back a couple pages to try and decipher what the hell he's talking about. Which, one would think, is a good way of separating the two factions of the audience: teenagers who read this and the parents who are trying to understand them. You either get it, and you eat a book like this up over the course of a couple days...or you don't, and you wade through it for a couple months. (Or, more applicable in this case, you fall smack dab in the middle and you take a couple weeks.)

Then, of course, there's the central mystery of Thomas's father. It has a decent build up, decent followthrough, but in the end it just muddles itself into obscurity. Which is a shame, because it starts to ramp back up towards the end of the book, after being dropped a little in the middle section. That ramp up, however, leads to nothing. It should be noted that this is Portman's first book, but that's still not a complete excuse for what could have happened here. On the "First Book" spectrum, it's smack dab in the middle of the best ("Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone") and the worst ("Twilight"). It's mildly entertaining, and I'd highly recommend it for teenagers. Parents, on the other hand, just won't understand.

And now, in honor of King Dork, I'd like to share some punk band names that I've created myself:

- Crock Pot Abortion (thanks to Revolutionary Road)
- Marshmallow FUCK! (a yell of frustration while shopping for s'mores supplies)
- Muppet Death Threat (a thought that occured one day after thinking about Elmo)
- Sister Mary Francis and the Cocksucking Extravaganza (special thanks to my brother Nick for the second part of the name)

Next Time: The Lightning Thief (Book 1 of Percy Jackson and the Olympians) by Rick Riordan

Apologies for the Delays...

I'm sorry I've been tardy. I have part III of The Last Temptation of James Cameron to start/finish, I have a new Cannonball Read review to finish off the first year of competition, and I have a video for you all to watch. Until those first two things get done, enjoy the last!

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Last Temptation of James Cameron, Part II

(This is Part II of a three part series. Here's Part I, and here's the prequel of sorts.)

I said yesterday, as our technology for making movies has progressed, so has our technology for making people aware of said movies. With the advent of the Internet, advanced reviews are easier to circulate, information can travel faster, and if you have a Smartphone with email capability, you can snap photos on set and transmit them to Harry Knowles himself. The movie going public demand a certain level of insider access to film productions, and as such you have everything from spy reports to misdirecting comments from directors, thanks to the likes of Ain't It Cool News. In the beginning it was easier, but nowadays it's much much harder (or so it seems) to keep a production under wraps. If you want your movie to be kept secret, it's going to need legal measures, which are easily circumvented if you have a clever pseudonym that shrouds your identity in anonymity.

It is this need for insider access that has evolved the movie making business into what it is today. The industry has accelerated in pace to the point where there's more releases in quicker timeframes, and this combined with that need for more information becomes the need for more product. Quicker timeframes mean less time to promote a film, which means more bombs/under appreciated gems, which means more crap films/bigger DTV outlets, etc. All of these factors have made teaser materials into a necessity instead of a luxury. People have become more informed and involved in the film promotion process that it's gotten to the point where it's difficult not to start promoting something from it's earliest stages of conception. People have come to expect concept art and a quick little tease as to what exactly it is you're selling. We're at a point where people get excited when a film gets greenlit, which makes it nigh impossible to hide a major production from anyone's eyes for too long.

And yet, somehow, James Cameron did it. He kept the film under tight wraps, he made sparse comments about the nature of the film, and in doing so he's taken old marketing techniques & puts a new social networking spin on them. The information for this film has been controlled & deliberately released from day one, just like the old days. There's only been one teaser poster and one teaser trailer to date...and the film is set to open in December. This has caused everything from rampant speculation to open criticism and ridicule.

The reason people are so frustrated because they're so used to the "inside access" system, they've forgotten what it's like to wait. In this case, there's such a head of advanced talk built around this film that people are more than demanding their fair share of information as to what exactly is going to be presented when the logos role. The truth of the matter is, the marketing model of Hollywood today has become an inverse of what it used to be. Which is, the bigger the picture, the smaller the ad push. Why sell what you know is going to sell? Why build a whisper campaign when you can just let the masses talk amongst themselves until the chatter gets so loud, the only way to quell it is giving them what they want?

Make no mistake, James Cameron is a genius. He knows how to tell a story, he knows how to sell a story, and he knows how to play the game the moviegoer expects. He's not like George Lucas, where every property of his is a territorial pissing match. He's not like Michael Bay, where the economy of story gets raptured by the beauty of CGI. He's not even like Steven Spielberg, who works at a moderately paced clip, despite the fact that he's attached to so many projects it's almost impossible for him to choose what's next. This is James Cameron we're talking about here, and this is his long awaited return to the genre that he helped innovate and revitalize back in the 80's and 90's. When you look at his resume, and you look at the results, go ahead and try to tell someone that there's a good chance "this might not work".

The marketing machine is just revving up, folks. Avatar Day could build solid interminable buzz through word of mouth, once there's proof that the product is worth the posturing. And with new technologies that word of mouth will spread if it's there. James Cameron and Fox have put all of their eggs in this basket of 4000. The hard part though, is going to be following this up with a campaign that saturates the market with all the right things. Because while James Cameron is an impressive filmmaker to date, so was George Lucas before Episode I. That's where we'll pick up on Monday. Have a good weekend, everyone.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Last Temptation of James Cameron, Part I

I kind of see this as a companion piece of sorts to an earlier column I ran, so if you'd like the full picture, click here. Otherwise, it is with great pleasure that I introduce the trailer for James Cameron's apology for follow up to Titanic Terminator 2. After 14 years, the movie he saw in his head will be plowing through ours come this December.

Here we are, the end of the summer movie season. As predicted, XMen Origins sucked and Night at the Museum 2 score some decent numbers. However, Beth Cooper tanked and Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs made a nice little splash at best. Long story short, 20th Century Fox needs a hit more than Amy Winehouse at Woodstock. Avatar looks like the last, best hope for such a hit; and for a film that's supposed to be at best a "blockbuster hit", it's gonna need to start reving up the marketing machine. So far, it has.

Beginning with small screenings of footage at places like ComicCon and theater expositions, James Cameron has been building nice buzz in professional circles, as well as the upper and mid level echelons of geekdom. However, it's the lower tier of geekdom and the general public that are gonna need a little finessing, seeing as this marketing campaign is about as urgent as a presidential campaign. Every vote counts, and if every ticket is a vote, James Cameron's gonna need a LOT of $10 - $14 dollar votes to recoupe the over $200 million he's spent making this film.

Which leads us to Avatar Day, the event anticipated since its announcement at ComicCon. In essence, it's the theatrical equivalent to the free samples you get at Costco. If it were limited to about 100 Costco locations worldwide. And if it were limited to about 400 samples per showing, which would roughly make about 4,000 samples distributed. Now for the sake of argument, since Avatar Day is being held at IMAX 3D locations, let's do some quick maths to see where we stand. If EVERY PERSON out of the theorized 4000 likes what they see in the test drive tomorrow, and decides "I have to see this, I NEED to see this in IMAX", that adds up to about $74,000 at the going rate of $18.50 gained from the Lincoln Square IMAX location. (You'd figure New York would be one of the most expensive.) If these numbers are correct, and if the budget rounds off to about $250 million, you're looking at $249,926,000 still being needed to break even.

Let's be a little more realistic though and up the number to 12,000; which would be all 4,000 people who show up to Avatar day and at least two friends whom they've managed to convert. That brings us to about $222,000 for one day, $666,000 for a three day weekend, and a $249,334,000 shortfall for breaking even. In order for Avatar to break even, solely on IMAX admissions alone, 13,513,513 people would have to buy an IMAX ticket to Avatar. That's roughly 3,378 crowds the size of Avatar Day, and about 9 years of Avatar Days. (I could have screwed up the maths, so if anyone comes up with more accurate figures please let me know.)

Correct numbers or not, this still brings us to the same conclusion: this movie has to hit big and it has to hit fast. Gone are the days of $100 million opening weekends, extended theatrical runs, and at least a year's worth of lead time before home video release. The world of movies is faster, more costly and more brutally competitive than it was back in 1997 when Titanic set the record for highest grossing film ever. Even then, there were several key factors that made Titanic the hit it was.

- It was a historical picture about a well known disaster.
- It had a highly marketable screen couple, who both went on to build impressive careers.
- It was a romance movie, which made it perfect for dates.
- It had a highly marketable pop song from a recognizable pop star.
- It had very positive word of mouth.

In short, Titanic had all the things movies used to be able to rely on, before the Internet became part of the show. It had what we'd now refer to as an old fashioned marketing campaign.

Back in "those days", you'd have a teaser poster. A simple one sheet that was cryptic, with few hints about what your movie was about and an iconic image. A dinosaur skeleton, a meteor impact, or even a blazing number five could make you ask, "What movie's that for?". Your mind set to work, you'd try to find out all you could and read Premiere or Entertainment Weekly (back when those publications still mattered) for anything about the upcoming releases.

Then you'd have a teaser trailer, which is essentially like a teaser poster but with moving pictures and sometimes dialogue. You're interest would be piqued enough that you'd keep the freshly revealed name of the movie in your mind when it came time for release. You'd scour the trade magazines for anything about the development, and sure enough plenty of other eager movie geeks would be doing the same thing. The buzz would build to the point where the studio would be idiots not to notice.

Which would lead to the final theatrical trailer. The big payoff, the moment where the full scope (or at least enough of it) would be revealed, and the story would finally be so clear you'd decide whether it was your cup of tea or not. Oh, and around this time, you'd get a final poster too. Something that if done right would be iconic enough for people to spoof over time.

That's not even counting official production stills, movie company swag, interviews, and all the other materials that'd be released from the teaser phase until opening night. Which all helped, but weren't as prevalent in the pre Internet days. Then, especially in the case of Titanic and others of its ilk, you'd have the music video for your big soundtrack single. More than likely, it'd be a ballad with clips of the singer belting the tune mixed in with equal measure of footage from said film. (Sometimes, if they were cheeky enough, they'd have a video where the musical artist/act would interact with the film.)

If all of this goes well enough, you'll have a huge opening weekend and your film will become a brand name. Even despite changing your release date, an affair on set that ruined your marriage, and a budget that rose faster than you could say "Waterworld". Hell, if you're lucky enough, you might win an Oscar...or 12.

Which brings us to that dreadful question. What do you do when you've become the biggest success story ever? Some fade into legend, others try hard to replicate said success. In James Cameron's case, he disappeared for 12 years, did a couple documentaries, and nursed the idea that eventually produced Avatar in his mind. Unfortunately for him, in those 14 years the movie marketing machine evolved.

Again, let's compare 1997 to now:

1997: Teaser materials (trailers/posters) were only for franchise/event pictures with pre-built names.
2009: Teaser materials are pretty much required at this point.

1997: At most you'd have two posters, two trailers, and a music video for your franchise/event movie.
2009: Two posters are a minimum for every film, with character posters (or varying international locales, if you're doing a disaster movie) as a viable option. Not to mention you now have teaser trailers, redband trailers, internet only (aka yellow band) trailers, final theatrical trailers, and TV spots. Oh, and you might get a music video. No promises.

1997: Strong word of mouth at work, school, etc. was enough to sell a picture.
2009: Thanks to the Internet, everyone can slam your film before it's even shot; or build up the hype to such improbably levels your film won't be able to match it.

Basic point: as our technology for making movies has progressed, so has our technology for making people aware of said movies. This is where it starts to get tricky, and this is where we'll pick this up tomorrow.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Woman Troubles

Chad Newhall. Mild mannered Best Buy employee by day...indie filmmaker by night. I am proud to call this man friend; and I am proud to present a short film made by him and his partners at the production company Immortal Dog. Please enjoy Woman Troubles, and don't forget to subscribe to their YouTube feed.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Cut & Print - 8/13/09

This is kinda like "The Monday GAAAH!" (which shall return, when it does), but this is all movie related. These items aren't really long form pieces, just stuff I felt I needed to share with you, the audience.

First off, here's the red band trailer for "Legion". Basic story: God wants us all dead, so he's sending his angels to finish the job. Archangel Michael defects to save an unborn child who is the new savior of humanity. Or, as some have described it, "angels with machine guns". Count me in for a ticket. (And Dennis Quaid, I forgive you for G.I. Joe.)

Second, here's the poster for Sandra Bullock's new comedy waste of effort, All About Steve. Here's a big tip Hollywood...no matter how hot, fresh, or funny your leading man is, Sandra Bullock will kill his career. Especially if it's in a "romantic comedy".

You want proof?

- Hugh Grant: hasn't really done anything big since Two Weeks Notice. (Though I'll admit, that one was kinda cute.)

- George Lopez: She was a guest staroh his show...which was cancelled after two seasons. Coincidence?

- Brendan Fraser: played her husband in Crash...and then did the third Mummy movie, followed by Journey To The Center of the Earth, followed by G.I. Joe. (Which he was funny in, but the movie sucked.)

- Ryan Reynolds: went from being on the rise in awesome movies like Just Friends to being in X-Men Origins and The Proposal. Also married Scarlett Johannson, which really isn't going to set off any career buzzers either.

How are we to know that Bradley Cooper didn't lose out on Green Lantern because of this? (I know Ryan Reynolds got the role eventually, shut up.) Look, I get it...Hollywood finally saw that Bradley Cooper was an underappreciated actor. He was awesome as Will Tippin in Alias, he was a perfect asshole in Wedding Crashers, and I was one of the few loyal viewers to Kitchen Confidential before Fox fucked it up! Now he's got "The Hangover" under his belt (as well as fellow All About Steve cast member/poster casualty Ken Leong), and this looks like it could kill his career. Because this just screams, "Hey Kids! Did you like the Hangover? Well THIS is just as funny!", which is gonna lead to disappointed people. Why didn't they just photoshop Zack Galafinikis's head in there, and retitle it, "Spot the Re-Tard"? It's funny, it calls back directly to a gag from the film, and I dare you to look at Sandra Bullock in this poster, and tell me that doesn't fit!

Robert Stack doesn't have to resurrect his ass from the grave to tell you this...Sandra Bullock is box office poison! Do us all a favor Hollywood...give us a Murder by Numbers sequel. She was awesome in that picture! In the meantime, you really should retitle your movie. If it was really as "All About Steve" as you say it is, then why isn't Steve center frame with everyone looking at him?! Oh right...this is a Sandra Bullock picture. Not too late to change the title, Fox! Seriously, bank that "Spot the Re-Tard" option. Consider it thanks for Avatar!

Which leads me to the final bit of news...Monday, August 17th is the day geeks everywhere get to reserve their tickets to Avatar Day screenings taking place on Friday, August 21st. The presentation will consist of a 16 minute sneak peek of James Cameron's latest opus, and will be on limited 2D, 3D, and IMAX/IMAX 3D screens worldwide. The trailer for the tie in game and all the merchandising will also be unveiled that same day. Go to avatarmovie.com on Monday at 12 PM (3 PM EST) to reserve your seats! If you don't get in, they'll still be unveiling the 2-D trailer that same day. (With Inglorious Bastards, if they're smart. You don't fuck with Tarantino and get away with it.)

And that's all I've got on that! As for the here and now, I've booked passage into District 9 tonight. (Seeing as I missed the NY screening, I figure a midnight screening is the way to go.) I'll try and be back later with something that's not so movie oriented. (But I will admit, is a bit of a downer.)

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

G.I. Joe: The Way It Should Have Been

An Open Letter to Ain't It Cool News

Dear Ain't It Cool News,

Your man Jonathan had a screening of District 9 in New York last night, and from what I've heard it was quite awesome. You may have noticed a couple empty seats, and no responce when you called the names of myself and my buddy Chris last night. Well, funny enough...I didn't know we'd won tickets until I searched his name this morning. As stupid as I was, I only searched my last name, and only came up with someone else's name. As the kids say today, "FML!". I hope this doesn't stop you from picking my name in the future, when I enter for other cool stuff. I know I've ripped on the big guy from time to time, but I'm still a regular reader, and I enjoy the reviews and contests. Fucking figures, I win tickets to the coolest sci film of the year, and I miss out. On the plus side though, I did get to spend time with my girlfriend; and made another friend at a publishing house, so I guess it kinda balances out.

Keep up the cool work,

Mike Reyes

Monday, August 10, 2009

In Memoriam: John Hughes

Naturally, as a movie geek, I must pay tribute to John Hughes' passing. Naturally, as a kid of the 80's, I must pay tribute to John Hughes' passing. But more so, as a person who enjoys art, I must pay tribute to John Hughes' passing. Up until his films in the 1980's, the teen years had mostly been depicted as carefree years with zany hijinks and a gosh darn it attitude to boot. Hughes brought angst and emotion to a genre that would falter without his artistic touch. Face it kids, your movies aren't gonna be as good as these. There will never be another Ferris Bueller, or Wyatt and Gary, or Duckie for that matter.

Even his films dealing with families and adults were a high water mark for just what you could do with tragedy, coincidence, and a little John Candy, who was a good friend of his. A friend he felt he lost to Hollywood, and whose absence eventually would spur him to retire from the business. (Besides his want to raise his children the right way.) The best way to pay tribute to his work though, is to showcase it. And with that, I present to you a tribute video I stole from Ain't It Cool News.

The Wild Rumpus

Behold, the new trailer for Where the Wild Things Are, which looks even more awe inspiring with dialogue.

Where the Wild Things Are opens in Conventional and IMAX theaters on October 16th.

The Wild Things (screenwriter Dave Eggers' reimagining of Where the Wild Things Are) is in stores October 1st.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Your Friday Video of Happiness

Trying a new feature that doesn't make me look like an asshole professor. Behold the Friday video of happiness. This week's was stolen from Pajiba, and happens to be a wonderful back door way of promoting the film (500) Days of Summer. By the way, if you haven't seen it yet...do. Just drop everything, cancel the G.I. Joe tickets and go see (500) Days of Summer. (Unless you have tickets for The Hurt Locker. I hear that's quite good too. In which case, do a double Indie feature.)

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Song and Dance, Scale 6

funny pictures

It's been a while since I've done one of these, but the basis for this one's been rattling around in my head for a while. It's out, it's done, and it's ready for your consumption. I hope you all enjoy!

No One Cares

In this dreadful day and age,
gracing every page
Of any supermarket rag on racks.
You have the shallow and the weak,
Who are destined to peak.
In about a week.
A minor winning streak.

Ain’t our attention spans…bleak?

And these people, that we sheeple and stammer over.
Begin to wheeze and whine.
About their privacy, their heartbreaks, and their struggles.
How ‘bout how hard it is to earn a goddamn dime?

Well the next time “R. Patz”, complains he cannot walk in spats.
Or K Fed knocks some cornpone bitch up and raps.
I propose that we say, in our own special way.

For them to go to Hell and shut their yaps.

No one cares.
You’re not exactly evergreen.
No one cares.
But somehow we love to watch it all when you make a scene.
You’re not too bright, but that’s ok.
Because a big celeb meltdown’s good anyday.
But really, no one cares.
We’re just watching ‘cuz the clicker’s broke.

Now Jon and Kate have decided to separate,
And they’re both crying to Tabs night and day.
And Paula Abdul is leaving Idol, boo hoo.
We’d only feel sadder if you were gay.

But for one week you’ll be king and queen,
you’re faces plastered on ev’ry screen.
Whether you’re nice or whether you’re mean,
We’re watching.

And the minute that something bigger breaks,
you’ll be dropped like eggs inside the crate.
Because let’s be honest you were never that great,
You’re boring.

No one cares.
Ms. Lohan can you make up your goddamn mind?
No one cares.
Are you jillin’ girls or jackin’ guys?
You’re not too bright, but that’s ok.
Because we only like your temper tantrums anyway.
But really, no one cares.
We’re just reading ‘cuz the TV’s broke.

It’s impossible that we’d be concerned.
With the level of apathy that you’ve earned.
We’d rather be talking right to a fern.
You’re vapid!

Yet somehow you still think that you’re the tops.
When in fact your mouth’s a suspect on Cops.
It keeps running and running, and never stops.
You’re stupid!

So do yourself a favor, and clean your act up!
Show us that you’re really worth giving a fuck!
Start living like a person, and showing some class!
Otherwise, there’s the door, don’t let it hit your ass!

No one cares!
Get over yourself, because the world is laughing at you.
No one cares!
We’d rather see you eaten by a tiger, it’s true.
Yes the world’s turned its back on the prospect of civility.
When it comes to you, we’ll treat you with anonymity!
You never existed, you’ll be left without pity!

(Not even China.)
(Flash some vagina.)
(Just wanna remind ya that...)

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Cannonball Read: Entry 17 - "The Catcher In The Rye" by J.D. Salinger

We're drawing to the close of the first ever Cannonball Read, if my calculations are correct. September 1st is the deadline, after which a new round of fun will begin. I look forward to possibly winning the whole ball of wax (if not, at least a 5K) next year. Until then, I'm basically winding down the clock by logging as many last minute entries as I can.

As usual, if anyone has suggestions, requests, or dedications, feel free to post them on the Comments Board. Once more, special thanks to Brian Prisco for allowing me, and all the others, to participate in this clusterfuck of literary wonderment. Here's where you can get the history of "The Run": http://www.pajiba.com/cannonball-read.htm, and here's where you can sign up to become one of the runners: http://gospelaccordingtoprisco.wordpress.com/choose-your-weapon-the-combatants/ Careful though, you might get published on Pajiba.com; and be open to the ridicule/admiration/unwanted or wanted sexual advances of the Eloquents. It's just how we roll.

I had a hard time writing this review. I'd finished the book about a good two or three days prior, but I've just had a hard time writing about it. It's not that this is a bad book, on the contrary, I believe it's a pretty good read. It's just...how much more can one say about "The Catcher in the Rye"? The problem with reviewing a classic is it's been done to death. Literary scholars have done it, armchair scholars, even kids in grade school who were "forced" to read it have analyzed this work. So how do you review a classic that's been reviewed to death? Simple: put a personal spin on it.

For the sake of those who aren't familiar with the basic story, I'll sum it up as quickly as possible. Holden Caufield gets kicked out of yet another prep school, and has a couple days before he has to face the music with his parents. In those couple days he'll wander around New York and begin a downward spiral that'll eventually lead to his needing to see a psychiatrist. You see, Holden has a problem with the world...it's made up of phonies. To him the world is a place of liars, thieves, whores, and tricksters. Even the people he does like tend to get on his nerves at times. Yet through all of this, Holden's great ambition in life is to be the catcher in the rye. The person standing on the edge of society, stopping its children from falling off the cliff with nothing but a huge catcher's mitt. The last line of defense between the harsh real world and his idealized view of the "real" world.

At least that's my take on the book's message. To me, Catcher in the Rye is the story of a young man who sees "beyond the veil". He looks past the world of childhood and into the world of adult life. What he sees is cold and uncompromising, something different from the days in his life where he could truly find joy. It's no coincidence Holden's a teenager, naturally because Salinger uses the great in-between as his canvas. Those teenage years define us so much. I find that everything, from our tastes in entertainment to our philosophies in life, is defined by these years we spend transitioning from the lives we came in with to the lives we're gonna go out with. To the unprepared, it's a scary time; and Holden Caufield is definitely unprepared. By the end of the book, the world has had its way with him because he hasn't truly grown up enough to realize how it all works. He's the stereotypical know-it-all teenager who thinks he's got the world figured out, and in the end he doesn't engage in some quirky adventure where he learns more about himself. He strolls the back alleys, frequents the seedy hotels, and drinks in the dive bars of New York. He's roughed up, insulted, and taught a hard lesson about life. It isn't fair or unfair, it isn't preset or preordained. It's what you perceive it to be.

For Holden Caufield, his perception influences his actions, his actions influence his life, and his life influences his perceptions. He's trapped in a vicious cycle that perpetuates itself with a fresh batch of hate, fear, and superiority. This cycle alienates him, gets him into trouble, and ultimately leads him to edge closer and closer to an eventual nervous breakdown. This is wild speculation from my high school years, where you always dig for that "deep" connection between the things you like, but I still believe Lester Burnham from American Beauty is a kindred spirit to Holden Caufield. Much like Holden, Lester eventually sees past the veil of lies his world is made up of. Only instead of bitter truth, Lester sees nothing but endless beauty. Catcher in the Rye is a bit dated, but it still tells a valid tale of teenage rebellion and the arrogance of youth. So long as there's teenagers in the world who think they've got it all sorted out, and so long as there's works of pop culture exploring those themes in adulthood as well, then this book will be in print for quite a while.

Next Time: King Dork by Frank Portman

Friday, July 24, 2009

Happy Avatar Day, or "I Still Frakking Wish I Was @ Comic Con!"

A while back I was griping about how James Cameron's big picture Avatar wasn't giving it supporters much to work with in terms of what they should be hyping when it came to the film. True to form, James Cameron has proceeded to make me look like an ass, by not only showing footage to Comic Con audiences last night, but also by making a big announcement.

The good news: There will be a trailer, and it will hit theaters on August 21st.

The better news: This is also when they're unveiling the toys and the video game trailer to the general public.

The best news: In select 3D and IMAX 3D theaters, you're gonna get a 15 minute extended look at the beast they call Avatar!

That's right, 15 minutes culled straight from the film will be shown in front of actual public audiences, and you'll have a chance to reserve tickets to the experience! This is a one day event, and it's FREE! Fox hasn't announced locations or how to reserve tickets, but if they're smart they'll block out a whole day of showings and just continue to repeat that loop all day. One showing alone will not do. As usual, I'll be keeping an eye on this and eagerly awaiting the opportunity to go down to Atlantic City and have my eyes pleased by Avatar.

As if this wasn't awesome enough, Disney has announced that Tron Legacy (aka T2ON, Tron 2, Tron 3.0 [if you count Killer App]) will be heading to theaters around the November/December 2010 timeframe. Oh yeah, and it's going to IMAX 3D. Yeah, it's a good time to be a geek! This just makes me wish even harder for an IMAX theater in Central Jersey.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

IMAX Fall Schedule Update

Before I begin, I'd like to say that I've been accepted into the IMAX Crew fan club. As such, you'll probably be seeing me post more about IMAX than usual on here. To those who know me, this isn't a surprise seeing as I've been an IMAX pusher since I saw Batman Begins in IMAX. To those who don't...now you do.

The IMAX Schedule for this fall had a huge gap between Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince and Disney's A Christmas Carol, which would leave them with about four months of downtime. After a busy summer, the last thing they would want is downtime, so IMAX did what any good company would do...fill in the gap. I am pleased to announce that Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and Where the Wild Things Are have now officially been announced as IMAX releases. This just makes the fact that Cloudy is being released as a 3D picture even more awesome, seeing as there haven't been too many films in complete IMAX 3D.
As such, the fall schedule will go as follows:

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (IMAX 3D) - September 18th
Where the Wild Things Are - October 16th.
Disney's A Christmas Carol (IMAX 3D) - November 6th
James Cameron's Avatar (IMAX 3D) - December 18th

For future news and updates on IMAX features, visit http://www.imax.com/. Also, don't forget to friend them on Facebook and apply for your own membership into the IMAX Film Crew. If you're as much of an IMAX fan as I am, you'll want to get in on the exclusives it offers.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Palin’s Folly

“Once I am ‘Sarah Palin, Alaskan’, I can really call it like I see it.”

Not satisfied with merely becoming the poster child for the Republican Party’s way of life, Sarah Palin has become the poster child for their hypocritical values as well. With her resignation in effect as of Sunday, now former Governor Palin proved that just because you’ve been elected to office, it doesn’t mean you have to serve. After all, look at all the other figures in political history that have resigned similar, if not bigger commissions: Spiro Agnew, Richard Nixon, Jim McGreevey…they turned out just fine. I would submit the theory that not only is Ms. Palin’s resignation yet another blow to the reputation of the Grand Old Party, it also fits right into her long history of maverick behavior.

After all, only a maverick would stand by abstinence only programs while her own daughter is pregnant. (And only a maverick would admit to her own teen daughter’s out of wedlock pregnancy in order to prove that yes, she did have a mentally handicapped baby all by herself.) Only a maverick would abandon their post after a successful election, because they feel they can do more for their people by not being in office. Actually, maybe Sarah’s right on that one. She can do more good for Alaska by her removing herself from office! Either that or she has some deep, dark secret she’s hiding. Whatever it is, we’ll never know. At least, we’ll never know until Olbermann finds out whatever it is.

The scariest part? After all of these goings on, Republican voters would STILL vote Palin for President in 2012. According to a USA Today poll taken on July 7, 2009; about 2/3rds of Republican voters would have still liked to see Ms. Palin as “a major national political figure". Amazing how the party that wants to hunt the bad guys and “make ‘em pay, the USA way”, would be the party that ditches their responsibilities and continues to carry on leading an abusive relationship with their electorate. What are we supposed to expect from our politicians now? “You can vote for me, but not only will I not fulfill half the promises I make, I may not even be here in a couple months”? Could you imagine the flack President Obama, or any Democratic politician would catch if they did such a thing?

However, I would also like to say that not all Republicans are bad necessarily. A lot of people make that mistake, and I'll go on record saying that some Republicans aren't as horrible or hardlined as some would like to make them out to be. We can’t have a one party system, and anyone who’s smart can see that. Still, the Republicans need to start choosing their figures more carefully, otherwise they’ll scare off some of their party faithfuls. Case in point: I grew up in a Pro Regan/Pro Bush Sr. household as a kid. My parents supported and respected McCain to a degree, but ultimately even their choice was tempered with the knowledge that should he die (as nature, probability, and Dick Cheney’s personal wishes would project him as doing during his first term), the second coming of Annie Oakley would have the launch codes, and we’d all possibly be Strangeloved. Sure enough, yesterday’s Washington Whispers poll from USNews.com said that 66% of voters felt Palin should be “returning home to care for her family” after her resignation. Clearly, they knew something the 13% of voters who said she should run for president didn’t.

For now though, Palin is sadly the best looking candidate for the party’s future, and that’s a sad note for the Republican Party. She’s still highly visible, highly known, and all they’d need to do is pull the biggest Eliza Dolittle since George W. Bush to get her ready for prime time. Though personally, I think the party should groom Mitt Romney or Mike Huckabee coming back to give Obama a run for his money. It’d be nice to see more intelligent discourse on television, and they actually seem like they know what they’re doing. (Plus, Huckabee is a good sport. You can’t deny that after last year’s Conan/Colbert/Stewart throwdown.) Either way, 2012 will be interesting, and if the backlash is just starting now, I wonder what people’s opinions of Sarah Palin will be by time primary season starts?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Cannonball Read: Entry 16 - "The Lie" by Chad Kultgen

The Chairman is smilin' upon us again, which means it's time for another book review. I've got programming laid out until at least book 19, possibly until book 24 (depending on if I like the Percy Jackson series' first entry or not), and I'm gonna just keep plugging through to see how far I can make it by September 1st.

As usual, if anyone has suggestions, requests, or dedications, feel free to post them on the Comments Board. Once more, special thanks to Brian Prisco for allowing me, and all the others, to participate in this clusterfuck of literary wonderment. Here's where you can get the history of "The Run": http://www.pajiba.com/cannonball-read.htm, and here's where you can sign up to become one of the runners: http://gospelaccordingtoprisco.wordpress.com/choose-your-weapon-the-combatants/ Careful though, you might get published on Pajiba.com; and be open to the ridicule/admiration/unwanted or wanted sexual advances of the Eloquents. It's just how we roll.

With only two books under his belt, Chad Kultgen has proven that he is Bret Easton Elis's smirking revenge. I read his debut novel, The Average American Male, not too long ago; and it had completely impressed me. However, when compared to The Lie it seems like more of a creative writing exercise to warm himself up to write this book. It's as if the protagonist from his previous novel was the inspiration for one third of the vicious triangle that plays itself out. And make no mistake, this isn't a love triangle...it's more like a revenge triangle.

The Lie is the stories of three former college students: Kyle (the nice guy), Heather (the sorority slut), and Brett (the rich misogynist). Through these three viewpoints, one large story plays out through their four years at SMU. The story of a collection of experiences that end up changing all of their lives, and in some way shape or form ruining them. We know this from the outset, and as the story proceeds we're constantly reminded that something big is about to happen. At certain points, each one of them seems to hold onto some sort of redeemable qualities, but the closer these events get to critical mass, the darker and more sinister the deeds of our protagonists get. By the final page, what started as an uneasy truce has become a massively fractured and damaged battleground of hearts and minds. No one leaves clean, everyone has done something unforgivable, and everyone has lied.

Kultgen's writing so easy and fast to read because of the confessional style he uses in his writing. Only this time, we have three people's perspectives It's as if you're listening to someone tell you a story instead of just reading straight prose. It helps fully envision the events when you hear someone recounting them, instead of some omniscient narrator recounting them. It isn't being laid out by someone who isn't there, isn't experiencing it...it's all brought to light by the three people who were architects in their own demises. That's the scariest part of the book: it's real people narrating their lives. There is no separation between the audience and the characters, and that lack of distance puts us in a position to observe these events a little closer than we'd like to.

Though the book is named The Lie, it is not just one lie that sends everything into a tailspin, but a series of lies. Hurtful lies. White lies. Lies of omission and slander. In the end, the scariest thing about the events in this book is that it's hard to pick one lie that's the most devistating or the most unjustified. It swims in the moral gray area, until it nosedives into deep blackness towards its end. If I had a book club, this would be an official selection. If you enjoy dark comedy and even darker drama, pick this book up. (I would even recommend it as the perfect bookend to I Love You, Beth Cooper.)

Coming Up:

Entry 17 - "The Catcher in the Rye" by J.D. Salinger

Entry 18 - "King Dork" by Frank Portman
Entry 19 - The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians - Book 1) by Rick Riordan

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Cannonball Read: Entry 15 - "I Love You, Beth Cooper" by Larry Doyle

Quick as a northern bullet, I’m back with another review. My reading speed seems to accelerate in fits and starts, so this should be one of the starts. (New Moon will probably be a hell of a fit.)

As always, I would also like to thank Brian Prisco for not only being able to make sense of my writing but actually sometimes seeing them fit for mass consumption. (It really helps if the authorities think you’re of sound mind.) If fame and adventure through the printed word suit your fancy, here's where you should be going for the ground rules: http://www.pajiba.com/cannonball-read.htm; and here's where you go to sign up.: http://gospelaccordingtoprisco.wordpress.com/choose-your-weapon-the-combatants/

Almost any child of the 80’s knows at least one John Hughes movie by heart. Almost any child of the 90’s knows at least one The Simpsons episode by heart. Larry Doyle (who, coincidentally enough worked as a writer for The Simpsons) manages to crossbreed elements of these two genres into one of the wildest nights of teen comedy history.

Valedictorian Denis Cooverman (the captain of the debate team) decides to take a stand and proclaim his love for Beth Cooper (the captain of the cheerleading squad). The only reason he does this is because at the heart of his speech there is a theme that all graduates can take to heart…you are more than likely leaving these halls with some form of regret. Graduation is your last chance to say or do things you’ve been meaning to do for a while, and the best part is…there won’t be any repercussions whatsoever. At least, that’s how it’s supposed to happen, and as life (and really good fiction) would have it…not everything is what it’s supposed to be. In one night, Denis will experience enough revelations, confrontations, and repercussions to last him up until his 10 year reunion. He will also, for one night in his until now pathetic life, get to live the life of a teenager.

This was an easy, easy read; mostly because it’s a lot of fun and not even halfway through the chapter it gains some serious comedic traction. Everything that happens to poor Denis Cooverman (as depicted in illustrations at the head of each chapter) is something straight out of the teen comedy playbook. Underage drinking? Check. Sexual tension? Check. Pop culture references? Check. Quirky sidekick? Check. Part of what works so well about this book is that it has all of the prerequisite elements, but it also has a genuine heart at its core. The characters have some baggage that Hughes’s characters didn’t. Beth knows high school is the peak of her existence, Denis learns that Beth Cooper isn’t perfect but still likes her anyway, and Rich just might be gay. This book is quickly paced and funny enough to keep the pages turning, and Doyle manages to throw together a bully comedy and a sex comedy without sacrificing either’s integrity.

Perhaps the most interesting part about this edition though is that it’s the first time I’ve ever heard of an author revising their own work after its publication, much less after its film adaptation. As the foreword points out, you rarely ever hear about an author revisiting their work after its initial publication. Not only did Larry Doyle write a bestselling, critically acclaimed (and Thurber Award winning) novel…he decided to make some additions to it that were inspired by his own adaptation of the movie. On top of that, there are two pieces by the author on his writing process as well as a collection of true life high school disaster stories. (One of which is, fittingly enough, written by a real life Beth Cooper.) All these elements make this a mass market reissue that actually one ups the original hardcover printing. (Which is so rare, I can’t think of any other instances at this moment.)

Overall, this is to the current generation of teenagers what the John Hughes comedies of the 80’s were to teens of the era: its breeding ground for future nostalgia. Even Doyle himself realizes that all this story has done is, “change the props”. Denis Cooverman’s yearnings have been felt by generations before and will be felt by generations after, which makes this an evergreen read. The class of ’07 has the same issues, hopes, dreams, and fears as the class of ’87; the real life anecdotes help prove that. The big message of this book is that high school doesn’t really end. Sure, you leave the building, but you don’t leave the people, you don’t leave the drama, and you certainly don’t leave your dreams. If you loved “Pretty In Pink”, or perhaps “Bart Burns Down The House”, then you should have no hesitation in picking up “I Love You, Beth Cooper”.

Next Time: The Lie by Chad Kultgen

Monday, July 13, 2009

Guns Blazing

If you've seen The International, then you know what you're about to see, so revel in it. If you haven't seen it, then do so. It's a decent little action drama, with a hell of a shootout.

Friday, July 10, 2009

A True Genius

Just wanted to throw up a quick note that Nikola Tesla, the scientific genius ultimately screwed over by Edison, was born on this very day. You should be celebrating his birthday, for he is the textbook case of unappreciated genius. Read more about his amazingness here, and in further tribute to him I post the ultimate reason that Tesla pwns Edison...David Bowie never played Edison in a major motion picture.

The Cannonball Read: Entry 14 - "Angels and Demons" by Dan Brown

Much like a relative or a forgotten TV show about lifeguards, I’ve returned when you least expected. For various reasons, this book was a bit of a climb, but I managed to muddle through. Also, interesting bit of trivia: this is the first review I wasn't able to locate the cover art of the exact issue of the book I own/have read. I just went with the movie one because it looked nice. Just a little nitpick on my end.

As always, I would also like to thank Brian Prisco for not only being able to make sense of my writing but actually seeing them fit for mass consumption. Normally this is where I'd encourage you to familiarize yourself with the rules: http://www.pajiba.com/cannonball-read.htm; and here's where you go to sign up.: http://gospelaccordingtoprisco.wordpress.com/choose-your-weapon-the-combatants/ However, we already have a winner in the "first to 100" portion of the contest. Nevertheless, if you want to sign up and get ready for the next round, then giddy up! All reviews submitted have a shot of being published at Pajiba.com. (Which is as cool as it sounds, trust me. Four times I've had it happen, and it's just as cool as the first.)

Back when everyone was heralding it as the hot book of the summer, I picked up a copy of Dan Brown’s “The DaVinci Code”. The story of the Holy Grail being the ultimate tell all dealing with the formation of modern religion, and the quest to keep it secret, were both tantalizing prospects for me. What made me even happier was the hero, Robert Langdon, was a professor. He wasn’t some the stereotypical action hero who shot and killed his way to the truth (which I’m fond of in some instances), he was an academic who solved puzzles & thought his way to the end of a crisis. If you really want to boil a Robert Langdon story down to its core essence, it’s a big treasure hunt that involves complicated clues, shadowy organizations, and high intellectual stakes. This is basically what Angels and Demons does, except it’s locked into one location and it’s over the course of a couple hours. While Angels was written before DaVinci, it was DaVinci that took off and was made into a movie first. Another classic case of “Oh, well he wrote this book too” lead Angels and Demons to become the movie sequel, while it was the literary prequel.

Either way you slice it, this book was pretty good. The thing readers have to remember about Dan Brown’s writing is that while it’s fun, it’s not winning any awards. I could totally see the villain coming from the trailers and his motivations weren’t that hard to decipher either. (That’s not a spoiler, there’s only two female characters prominently featured throughout the book. Brown tends to write himself into quite the sausage fest, and one would hope he rectifies this with The Lost Symbol.) The story is simple: Langdon is dragged into a race against time through Vatican City to save the four “preferiti” (the four front runners for becoming Pope) from being murdered by the Illuminati. This all happens after the Pope and a preeminent physicist/priest are murdered and some high grade explosive material is stolen from the CERN particle reactor. Antimatter, that is. Luminescent gold. Swiss tea. Along for the ride is beautiful physicist Vittoria Vetra, daughter to the slain physicist/priest. Throw in an assassin, various members of the Vatican and the Swiss Guard, and you basically have a really good Scooby Doo mystery for adults. Literally, the last 40 pages or so are what I like to call the “I would have gotten away with it all if it weren’t for you meddling kids” section of the book.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, mind you. While Angels and Demons is the more action packed story, DaVinci had the better structure. Exposition was laced throughout and the villain’s motives were clearly developed so that way when the villain was revealed, it wasn’t a total info dump. Another thing I like about Brown’s writing is the fact that he uses “shadow organizations” that actually exist (such as the Illuminati or Opus Dei) and throws in some mythical back story that’s somewhat plausible. The Illuminati did hate the church, but would they really come back after all these years & wage war? Probably not, but it makes for exciting stuff. He mixes the history and the fiction well enough that you don’t see the seams when you zoom past them at breakneck speed. Just don’t slow down, otherwise you’ll find yourself picking it apart mercilessly. The fact is Brown isn’t an “award winning author”, he’s a “best selling author”. He’s able to spin a good yarn, pace his story at a fast enough clip, and get you to have fun while thinking just a little more about said shadow organization’s true history. Basically, he’s James Patterson with a treasure hunting fetish. Right down to the shorter chapter structure.

The highlight of the book, at least in my perspective, is a monologue given a good portion of the way into the book. In this speech is perhaps one of the best pro religion/anti science that I’ve ever read. Normally, I’m one to side with the eggheads who use test tubes and beakers to tell me how the world works; but the way this argument is worded and the points it makes are just so well thought out that I could actually see how the other side felt for once. And better more, I couldn’t just say, “Well, you’re wrong”, because it made so much sense. I highly recommend Angels and Demons if you like The DaVinci Code, or if you just like intellectual treasure hunting adventures in general. It’s both a beach read and a pop culture “must read”, much like its successor. Just don’t expect to think too deep on this one. The pool is shallower than you might expect, but it's still deep enough for a good swim.

Next Time: I Love You, Beth Cooper by Larry Doyle

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