About Me

My photo
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

The Mr. Controversy Fan Club


Our mascot, "The Owl of Distain"

Become a Facebook Fan
Follow my Tweets

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