Friday, November 19, 2010

Have a quick recipe that rocks! You could win one of our $200 gift cards! momsinschool
Lost in the Harry Potter-verse? This infographic will get you caught up

Monday, November 15, 2010

Yes, I've been struck by iPad lust, but I'm still a cheapskate! Humor me! simplymacscavengerhunt

Simply Mac Photo Scavenger Hunt to Give Away iPad

Yes, I've been struck by iPad lust--it was the Sketchbook Pro app that did me in. But I'm not so far gone that I am willing to shell out $500 for it. I am willing to enter a contest, however, a rather clever contest where they make you take pictures of fun, Thanksgiving-related things and tweet to, link to, and Like them. That I am willing to do for a shot at an iPad. So here's the link, folks.

Wish me luck...

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Win a $200 Williams Sonoma gift card! Give us your best quick holiday recipe!
Interactive Harry Potter Infographic showing every major character

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

5 Tips to Make Your Blog Posts Pop Visually
5 Ideas for Harry Potter Book 8

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Got a great holiday time-saver recipe? Enter it in our contest to win a $200 Williams-Sonoma gift card momsinschool

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Playful poltergeists! Headless buffaloes! The home of the insane undead! The chilling conclusion of college ghost stories!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Malevolent shadows! Phantom whispers! Haunted church bells! Even more college ghost stories!

Thursday, October 28, 2010 Phantom joggers! Ghoulish paintings! A gateway to the netherworld! More college stories!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Ghost girls! Spectral matchmakers! And more! More college ghost stories!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Last call for our Scary Story Contest... winner gets an Amazon Kindle
Just in time for Halloween, 4 ghost stories from America's colleges

Monday, October 18, 2010

Interview with makers of Waiting for Superman. How can we fix the public education system in America?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

7 Things the Harry Potter Movies Got Wrong

Monday, September 27, 2010

Marvel Studios prez talks Iron Man 2 alternate opening marvel ironman
5 Rules for Using Irrelevant Infographics to Get Relevant Backlinks

Friday, September 24, 2010

My review of Suzanne Collins' Mockingjay hungergames

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Marvel studios pres talks Iron Man 2 alternate opening marvel ironman

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Is the recession the end of the American Dream... or the beginning? comic
Hurley of Lost performs live with Weezer. AWESOME!
5 Reasons You Should Go to School

Monday, September 20, 2010

The recession ended last year? Why does this hurt more than help? comic

Friday, September 17, 2010

Why Steve Jobs really had those ninja stars

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Comic strip: the WoW-TRON rapture

Monday, September 13, 2010

An infographic with every alien movie ever made

Friday, September 10, 2010

An infographic of every movie ever made with an alien in it

Thursday, September 9, 2010

How to get ready for a job interview

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Who should play Katniss in Hunger Games movie?

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Does anyone else think this looks like an Australian Red Dawn?
September movie preview
Movies to Watch For: Red Hill
How to find the perfect college for you
3 Ways to Take of Your College Search

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Key to Finding the Right College
2010 Summer Movie Season in Review

Friday, August 20, 2010

Just re-themed so the good stuff is above the fold. Let me know what you think.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

JJ Abrams: 7 Minutes in Heaven
Monsters looks like a far better alien invasion film
Does anyone else think this Skyline trailer is underwhelming?

Friday, August 13, 2010

I want this X-wing mailbox. Yeah, you read that right. starwars
Infographic: Anatomy of an Arcade This one brought tears of nostalgia to my eyes. videogames
Infographic: How the Flux Capacitor Works

Monday, August 9, 2010

Lando Calrissian gets his own Star Wars Blaxploitation flick starwars
The Other Guys end credit sequence is actually an infographic of the financial meltdown otherguys
Got a great app idea? Win a 3G iPad contest ipad

Friday, August 6, 2010

Infographic: Let the Wookie Win starwars

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Chewbacca rides on a giant squirrel into battle against Nazis Pure fan art awesomeness starwars

Monday, August 2, 2010

What do your dreams mean? inception

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Inception Infographic

Monday, July 26, 2010

My DVD Review: Lovely Bones buries the story Can't wait for Peter Jackson to get back to Middle Earth

DVD Review: Lovely Bones buries the story

SPOILER ALERT: I don’t plan on divulging important points of the plot for this particular film. However, should I slip, consider this your disclaimer. There may or may not be spoilers ahead.

The first thing you need to know is, I am a Peter Jackson acolyte. He hooked me with Fellowship of the Ring, with his living, breathing vision of Middle Earth. With each additional chapter in the trilogy, my fandom became ever more rabid. King Kong only fanned the flames. Even District 9, which Jackson produced, marked another notch in the master’s belt. He could do no wrong.

Well, then came The Lovely Bones. And this is the second thing you need to know: Jackson can do wrong. He is human, after all. Bones proves this.

Adapted from the much acclaimed Alice Sebold novel about a 13-year old girl named Suzie who is raped and murdered and then watches from the afterlife as her family struggles and then grows through subsequent trials, a Lovely Bones film was a bold choice for the director. It had a complex narrative structure. It had an undeniably sexual undercurrent throughout. It was devoid of the fantasy element with which Jackson was so comfortable. All of these offered a challenge to Jackson. In the end, they may have been what undid him.

Jackson struggles to translate Suzie’s narrative to film. In the novel, Suzie can see everything and everyone, what they’ve gone through, what they’re thinking about. This makes for the perfect omniscient narrator. Jackson tries to recreate this by having Suzie stand in a gazebo in various afterlife-ish locations and watch as things happen in the present. In the book, she slides backward and forward through time with ease, and, within the book's pages, over a decade elapses. In the movie, Jackson cuts clumsily from earth life to afterlife. A decade is compressed into months. This shortchanges characters like Suzie’s mother and brother, her high school crush, and her sister, all of whom we get to see fall and then transform in the book.

Jackson strips out all sexual themes. Now I’m not the type that enjoys watching movies with a ton of sex. It’s powerful stuff and needs to be used responsibly. But when you take on a book like this, you have to accept the fact that the book is about sex (and a bunch of other stuff, of course). In Jackson’s Bones, sex is removed; we are left with plain old grief, suspicion, and joy. Suzie’s mother never falls. Her sister is never rescued by her loyal boyfriend. Suzie never learns the bliss of real love. In fact, when her moment with her high school crush does finally come along, it feels a abrupt and little creepy because of the absence of sex throughout the rest of the film.

You take these things away, and Bones feels like a Lifetime original movie with some snazzy special effects. Stanley Tucci as the bad guy makes your skin crawl, but even his bite is dulled by the void in this film. The novel itself was a fairly good read; stripped of its core strengths here it becomes syrupy, fuzzy nonsense. Jackson buries his story and leaves those who haven’t read the book struggling to find it.

Consider me another Peter Jackson who can’t wait to see his return to Middle Earth.
If you're going to rob a bank, pick a scary disguise... like Darth Vader

Friday, July 23, 2010

JJ Abrams & Joss Whedon panel at Comic Con

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Further evidence that Disney (not Pixar) is creatively bankrupt At least, they've got the good sense to go to Pixar.
Dictators and their favorite movies
4 Reasons College Is Not For Everyone
Brad Pitt to star in World War Z zombies

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Oliphaunts vs. AT-AT One elf took down an Oliphaunt with arrows. It would be no problem for a blast-proof AT-AT.
StarTrek 2 to Start Filming in January 2011
Inception's Joseph Gordon-Levitt to play Riddler in Batman 3?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Man Found Dead After Watching Twilight: Eclipse He must've been Team Jacob... died of a broken heart
15 Action Movies to Get You Ready For The Expendables

Monday, July 19, 2010

This game is addictive
What are Inception's Oscar odds?
My Review of Inception - Originality is still possible

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Inception: Originality is Still Possible

Originality lives- at least a spark of it.

Concepts had long stopped challenging us. Rather than attempting to break ground with new ideas, science fiction resigned itself to rehashing old ideas about wormholes, androids, doomsday scenarios, alien invasions, and genetic monsters. They became occupied with how to tell these stories in lighter, darker, or higher octane ways than the next guy. The recent reboot fetish is just the latest symptom of this dearth of creativity (in its truest sense).

Then I watched Inception, director Christopher Nolan's latest work, about a band of Extractors, thieves who break into the dreams of others and steal (or plant) valuable ideas. The film is packed with great performances all around, amazing special effects, and masterful editing, but it is the idea that makes this film absolutely outstanding. Flat out, this is a creation of pure and original thought. You (or I) have never thought about dreams in this way. We have explored outer space, the planet's core, and the deepest oceans, but we have never thought of using the medium of dreams- something we're so familiar with- in this way. And Nolan and his team think through this medium and the world and logic of dreams so thoroughly that the audience has no choice but to accept it and hold on for dear life as one mindblowing development after another is thrown at them.  

The audience will recognize familiar elements. This is a heist movie in spirit- albeit unlike like one you've ever seen. It is also a psychological thriller- but one where inner turmoil is manifest in huge, earthshaking ways. It had some spy-movie DNA mixed in for good measure. Audiences will notice similarities to The Matrix, which could be considered a sister piece to it. But, for all the thought the Wachowskis put into their cyber-punk, reality-switching opus, I would argue that Nolan and his team have out-thought them, going levels deeper than they ever dared to. At the heart of all this familiarity is a concept we have never seen. And it is an extremely compelling one.

On top of being a grade-A brain-bender, Inception is a thrilling ride. Whatever slow parts there are in the setup give way to a breathless second half that is nearly impossible for me to describe here. You can't imagine it until you see it- and that is a rare thing to be said about movies nowadays.

If you see one movie this summer, make it Inception.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Give us your best idea for a college-themed app. Win a free iPad.
Give your best college app idea. Win a new iPad.
Rush Hour director to take on Hercules?
Flashback Review: Original Karate Kid Still Has Some Kick karatekid

Flashback Review: Original Karate Kid Still Has Some Kick to It

SPOILER DISCLAIMER: Okay, so this movie is over 26 years-old, but just in case you missed the whole eighties phenomenon that was The Karate Kid, I am warning you now that there may be some spoilers. And, with that, on to the review.

Like so many eighties films, The Karate Kid had been put on the nostalgia shelf and labeled cheesy. I’d nearly forgotten the 1984 film, directed by John G. Avildsen and starring a very young Ralph Macchio and veteran Pat Morita, until news of the recent reboot surfaced. Honestly, I wrote off the reboot- I haven’t even seen it yet- as another crime in the recent remake-mania that has gripped Hollywood. And it wasn’t until my wife came across the original trilogy in a bargain three-pack at WalMart (only $13) that I decided to revisit The Karate Kid.

Sitting through the first (and best) film of the franchise, I was both charmed (by the quaintness of it) and surprised (by the weight of the performances).  You know from the first notes of the synthesizer soundtrack that you are getting an eighties movie. The after-school special camerawork only reinforces this. It would be easy to discount the movie at this point, but that would be a mistake.

Ralph Macchio
I was amazed at what a credible leading man he was. He has the looks of a 16 year-old, but he moves fluidly between humor, anger, frustration, and finally triumph. Amidst a cast of unbelievably evil bad guys, he holds your attention, never giving you reason to doubt that this is a real kid going through real struggles. Even beside Pat Morita, Macchio carries the movie.

Mister Miyagi
It’s no secret that Mister Miyagi stole his share of scenes. His zen-master sayings were ubiquitous on the playground in 1984. What surprised me this time as an adult was the depth he conveys through his sparse lines and physicality. Somehow injected into the middle of an average eighties feel-good film, the scene where Daniel finds him drinking to the memory of his dead wife was funny and heartbreaking while delivering a subtle rebuke about the treatment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. Even today, this would have been a brave move, much less in 1980’s America when we were still too afraid to bring up racially tinged issues.

The Finale
The film transforms in the last 15 minutes as Daniel moves up through the tournament until he comes face to face with Johnny, his key antagonist. It is here that the dramatic weight of the moment really seems to catch up with the potential of its two protagonists. Cheesy sneers are hurled from the bad guy bench. Johnny sweeps Daniel’s leg as directed by his super-evil, king-of-all-bullies sensei. Mister Miyagi does his hand-rub thing to Daniel’s knee- even this comes across as cheesy. 

But when Daniel limps out onto the mat, you would have to be a corpse not to get goosebumps. The music builds. The excitement of the crowd climbs to full boil. And little Daniel, in his clean, white, Luke-Skywalker outfit, stands alone on one leg, still and ready to strike. It is a genuine movie-magic moment. I was so sucked into that moment, in fact, that I forgot to make fun of the idiotic comments the bad guys in background were making. Then Daniel strikes. Everything crescendos. You almost want to cry, it’s so cathartic.

By the time the credits finally roll, The Karate Kid still has plenty of kick, the kind of kick that never gets old. The cheesiness of the times often creeps into movies in any decade. But a talented pair of actors and some great moments can make those things fade into the background.
Cuban prisoners shared cells with rats and roaches... does that mean there are human-rat-roach hybrids running around in Madrid?
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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The sci-fi short that Hollywood wants to turn into a movie Pure awesomeness!
Peter Jackson doing auditions for The Hobbit Pickmepickmepickme
9 Stupidest Superhero Secret Identities
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Why actors don't matter in movies

Actors Don’t Matter… Directors Do

So much of marketing in Hollywood has come to revolve around the actors. After all, they are the faces we see on every poster, commercial, and trailer and throughout the two-hour running time. When we like the film, we quote their lines and mimic their moves. Interestingly, however, actors aren’t the best indicator of a film’s quality. They are more like the pretty packaging that years of writing, craftsmanship, and fine-tuning are stuffed into when it’s time to sell. No, my friends, directors, the men and women you rarely see or hear, are the best indicators of a film’s quality.

Why Actors Don’t Matter

The Hollywood marketing machine is a formidable juggernaut. If it tells us to love Lindsey Lohan, we will. If it brands a brooding, deathly pale anorexic as a teen heartthrob, women young and old buy it hook, line, and sinker and line up to adore him by the millions. If the Machine decides it hates an actor, they can call down lightning from the heavens to strike that individual until they have been shunned by every human being in the Northern Hemisphere and are working at McDonalds for seven bucks an hour. This marketing machine is at the heart of our collective misconception about actors and the quality of our movies.

Let me explain. Hollywood marketing cares little for what’s inside a movie. It does not believe that the moviegoing public is smart enough to look inside before purchasing a ticket. It believes that moviegoers are sold mostly on what’s on the outside (posters, trailers, commercials, cereal boxes, etc.)- and maybe they have the sales data to support this idea.

Who can they put on the packaging? Not the flawed, ordinary guy who made the movie. No one would know him from Adam. So they put actors out there because people know them. In this regard, actors carry the marketing bulk of most films. They are a product endorsement  and therefore no solid indicator of a film’s quality.

Observe Will Smith. There is no doubt the man makes money for movies. He is one heckuva product endorsement. Check out his box office revenues:
Keep in mind, this is the money he brought in (and he is supremely gifted at drawing in audiences on just his appearance alone), not an indicator of the quality of his movies. To determine that, we turn to the critics. Now, it is not uncommon for a few Eberts to go rogue and hate what people really like and vice versa. But when the Tomatometer gives you a score below 50% that means more than a few critics hated the movie. With this in mind, here are Will Smith's Tomatometer scores:
Will Smith uniformly performs well at the box office, which is exactly what Marketing was banking on, but his quality record is just plain spotty, swinging from 69 percent (just okay) to 27 percent (ouch). These disparities are even worse for actress Angelina Jolie and other A-listers.

When it comes to the actual filmmaking, to the construction of these complex displays of light and sound, actors usually have little to do with it. True, some actors will insist on having a say in the script. Or they won’t choose a movie unless they personally approve the script and the final cut. Or, like Edward Norton in American History X, they may end up usurping the director’s chair altogether.

These are exceptions to the rule. Most actors come on board a film long after the script has been written, the storyboards drafted, and the sets built. They did not come up with the story or the lines that come from their mouths. They had little to do with the special effects that made those aliens/zombies/dinosaurs look so real.
But I’ll tell you who did. You guessed it… DIRECTORS.

Why Directors Do Matter

No one is more involved in the filmmaking process than the director. In fact, they are usually involved in every step of the film's creation, from sketches on a napkin to the final minutes in the editing suite. A director has final say on every creative decision (Uma Thurman's great yellow jumpsuit, keep that line, hate that line, hate that actor, that robot looks better in lime green, etc.). So when you are seeing a movie, you are seeing the sum of a director's creative decisions, whether by commission or omission. Actors flit very briefly through this process. If directors are like the mothers that carry their films to full-term (and they are), actors are like the sort-of friend who stops by every couple weeks for tea.

Observe the Tomatometer. Let's take one of the most iconic directors of our time, Steven Spielberg:

Like his movies or not, Spielberg does consistently quality movies. He never dips below a 50 percent (which is bad for any Rotten Tomatoes newbies out there). He is as regular a guy as you will find in the movie business. Luckily, his high quality movies also make gobs of cash. That is why he rose to the top and why he continues to sit there today.

Of course, not every director that does a great movie is a Spielberg. Some are wildly inconsistent, soaring from a 90 percent on one film to a 20 percent their next one. Take Gladiator director Ridley Scott:

Scott's career is a case study in how certain directors can be so inconsistent. Of course, this means that when you go into a Ridley Scott film, you never know what you're going to get. But at least the man is consistently inconsistent. You understand that you are taking a risk when you walk into Robin Hood.

The last group of directors is consistently bad. They're so bad, in fact, that I won't bother creating a bar graph for them. For example, check out much maligned director Uwe Boll. Here is his recent filmography:

  • In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale - 5%
  • Postal - 8%
  • Bloodrayne - 4%
  • Alone in the Dark - 1%
  • House of the Dead - 4%
  • Blackwoods - 11%

Without a doubt, Uwe Boll's movies are crap, all of them. No inconsistency here. So even if Uwe Boll makes a movie with freaking Academy Award-winner Anthony Hopkins, you know it's going to be crap.

Trust not in actors to bring you good movies. They have nothing to do with the quality of a movie. Cover the pretty faces and names you see on movie poster and let your eyes go directly (no pun intended) to the bottom of the credits, to the name next to 'directed by'.

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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Brad Bird pitching in on Tron: Legacy?

Monday, July 12, 2010

The 10 Most Common Dreams inception

Friday, July 9, 2010

With Shyamalan out of it, who is the new "next Spielberg"?
So you want to be a time traveler?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Lost earns 12 Emmy nominations including Outstanding Drama

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Darkseid vs. Apocalypse: Who Would Win?
My DVD Review: How To Train Your Dragon Takes Flight

My DVD Review: How to Train Your Dragon Takes Flight

SPOILER ALERT: I do not plan on writing anything that gives away major plot points. But should I slip, let this blurb stand as your warning.

The Fourth of July weekend was a good excuse to hit the dollar theater with my kids. With Clash of the Titans being a little too intense, we coughed up 75 cents per person (I know, eat your heart out, movie-lovers of Los Angeles and New York!) and sat down to How to Train Your Dragon, the Dreamworks animated feature that had a successful run in the spring and will probably be headed to DVD soon. After a chatty, overly busy opening, this movie comes to life in a way that few family (non-Pixar) films do nowadays.

The first act of the film is your normal kiddie movie fodder: a misfit who no one likes who also has brilliant ideas, a parental figure with whom the protagonist struggles to connect, and a magical happening that spring boards the protagonist into acts of hiding, pretending, and finally heroism and sacrifice. Honestly, I found the opening sequence in which the village is attacked by dragons to be more of the same overly self-aware dribble we typically get from Dreamworks. The protagonist/narrator scarcely has time to take a breath between delivery of hip critiques on the village's resident Vikings. Most Dreamworks films (even the great Kung Fu Panda and semi-great Monsters vs. Aliens) suffer from this mallady- they feel like a teenager who walks into their first dance and acts as loudly and stupidly as possible to get everyone's attention. Thankfully, most of these films get past this desperate-to-be-liked stage (not Shrek) and really soar. Dragon does this in spades.

Thanks to the attentive, sensitive guidance of director Chris Sanders (Lilo and Stitch), the relationship between Hiccup, the lead character, and Toothless, a downed dragon who is as powerful as he is lovable, is launched early on. This is where the film gets its lift. Hiccup's interactions in the village are mired by forced self-awareness. Every time he goes to the forest to meet Toothless, the scenes are packed with humor, drama, and finally exhilaration, as the duo takes to the skies. The flying scenes in both 3D and 2D are breathtaking, invoking the same power as the banshee scenes in Avatar. This movie makes you want to fly.

All of this hurtles to an appropriately large climax in which Hiccup and Toothless duel with a mountain-sized uber-dragon in the clouds. The dramatic tension between father and son, son and dragon, and son and friends is held until this satisfying conclusion.

My conclusion from Dragon is this: the company that produced this movie is not the same one that made Shrek or Shark Tale. Despite the tinges of Dreamwork exec meddling, this company shows the same restraint and ingenuity we saw in Kung Fu Panda. I'm guessing they are one and the same. Whatever this company is, they have every right to make their own name for they are clearly on par with Pixar.

Dragon is one of the few movies this year that truly deserves a recommendation. Once it takes off, it soars, taking the audience to feelings and places mostly forgotten in youth.
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My DVD Review: The Fantastic Mr. Fox is (Almost) Fantastic
5 Problems w/ Career Placement at Online Schools

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

My DVD Review: The Fantastic Mr. Fox is (Close to) Fantastic

So the copy of The Fantastic Mr. Fox that has been sitting in my Netflix queue for, like, four months finally arrived. I was happy to get a movie that would keep the kids' attention and in which I had at least an ounce of interest. It is indie director Wes Anderson's first outing in animation and kiddie material (in this case, an adaptation of the Roald Dahl novel of the same name). It had a host of great actors behind it, from George Clooney (as the titular character) to Bill Murray to Meryl Streep to Adrien Brody. It was a rare opportunity to satisfy my more high-brow tastes and spend quality time with the kids.

What I can tell you is that, most of all, Fox is an indie movie. Tongue-in-cheek cheekiness pervades the entirety of the film. Not that that's a bad thing. It's just a tad too subtle for youngsters and probably for most adults. In fact, the first laugh of the film came some fifteen minutes in. And it came only from me, mostly because I had just barely adjusted to Anderson's trademark deadpan humor. As the film progressed, I realized this humor defined whole film. The old-school stop-motion animation. The close-ups. The folksy soundtrack. The muted dialogue and movement. All of it seemed calculated to put all of this drab, cool casualness squarely in the audience's face.

Not that that is a bad thing.

The humor really does grow on you. The relationships between the members of the Fox family feel real and accessible. And even the heist/prison break plot generates some real thrills. What the crew accomplishes with the crude, strictly CG-free stop-motion is incredible in its own right. The no-frills approach does, however, hamper the action just as it seems ready to crescendo. Which brings me back to my original summation of the movie. It is determinedly indie. In the case of animation, an art engineered to heighten reality, the filmmakers' conscious decision to subdue this action seems forced and unnatural.

There are plenty of fantastic things about Fox. I would not have paid to see this movie in the theater, but it is worth the change blown at the Redbox or on Netflix. Watch it ready to let go of your popcorn sensibilities and just enjoy its uber-casualness for what it is.

Friday, July 2, 2010

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Thursday, July 1, 2010

How 3D will destroy movies

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Why 3D Will Bring Down Movies

3D will be the death of movies, if left unchecked. You wouldn't know it by current trends, which show 3D accounting for larger and larger profit margins for blockbusters like Avatar and Alice in Wonderland. Therein, however, lies the problem. The current obsession with 3D as a miracle cure-all for shoddy filmmaking and otherwise lackluster ticket sales will ultimately kill real craftsmanship and creativity in mainstream movies.

The Return of 3D
At the end of the summer of 2009, 3D was but a gag, a jokey throwback to 1950s campiness, never to be taken seriously again. The Polar Express, Spy Kids 3D, Journey to the Center of the Earth, Monsters vs. Aliens, and a host of other films used the technology as an added bonus for moviegoers with modest success but always as an accessory to the films.

Then Avatar happened.

James Cameron's tour de force destroyed all previously held stigma regarding 3D with the general public. Avatar's runaway success became 3D's success. Keep in mind, 3D accounted for less of the movie's gross revenues than most people think- IMAX revenues, all in 3D, accounted for roughly 8 percent of the total. But the co-branding of Avatar with next gen 3D tech was enough to blend the public perception of the two into one. Avatar came to herald a new day for 3D.

In actuality, the film succeeded because of undeniable craftsmanship and universal appeal. A whopping 73 percent ($1.98 B) of the film's sales came from foreign markets where 3D and IMAX were in shorter supply. International audiences latched onto it because of its gorgeous images and anti-imperialist, anti-corporate messaging.

Regardless, Hollywood failed to equate a timeless story and meticulous craftsmanship with the $2-billion success. "It must have been because of the digital 3D," they agreed sagely and promptly started slapping 3D onto every major title possible.

3D Overkill
Since the success of Avatar, 3D is ubiquitous. It is a marketing tagline in and of itself.

Disney released Alice in Wonderland, which broke records of its own, thanks to higher ticket sales from those blasted glasses (they encourage you to give them back after the movie so they can "recycle" them- it's actually so they can resell them to another sucker for $4).

Dreamworks released How To Train Your Dragon, probably the only worthy 3D successor to Avatar so far.

Interestingly enough, Warner Bros.' Clash of Titans remake, which added 3D in post-production to capitalize on the 3D craze, actually suffered because of the "improvement." Audiences complained that watching the 3D was like watching the movie through a Viewmaster.

Now, in case you've missed pretty much every movie promotion in the last month, here are some of the cases of 3D infatuation:

Toy Story 3 – first teaser trailer featured characters stepping out of the screen, gawking at the 3D effect

The Last Airbender – after the latest trailer unreels, all alone on the screen is a big 3D.

Despicable Me – on every poster, just under the title, is the phrase "in eye-popping Real3D."

Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore – on every poster, just under the title, is the phrase "unleashed in 3D."

Step Up 3D – basically what they're saying is now you can see Channing Tatum get his groove on in three dimensions.

Pirahna 3-D – tagline: "This summer 3D shows its teeth."

Resident Evil: Afterlife – tagline: "Experience a new dimension of evil."

Legend of the Guardians – tagline: "Take flight in 3D"

Jackass 3D – 'nuff said

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – "The Worldwide Phenomenon… the Motion Picture Event of a Generation… Presented in Two Parts… in 3D"

Voyage of the Dawn Treader – just under the title on the posters: "in digital 3D"

Tron: Legacy – just below the title on the posters: "in 3D Dec 2010"

Gulliver's Travels – just below the title on the poster: "in digital 3D Christmas"

In some of these cases, 3D stands in for any detail about the movie itself. It's almost as if the studio marketing departments would have us believe that story, character, and actual quality are secondary to some nifty 3D effects. They are going to find out the hard way that movies will always sell on quality.

Sensory Over Substance
I can see some moviegoers responding to these points with a big "so what?" After all, what harm does it do to make every major release 3D? Isn't it just another bonus for the moviegoer? And the movie studios need to make their money, right?

I'll tell you what the problem is. 3D is a gimmick, nothing more or less. In more positive terms, it is merely a tool of the filmmaker- just like sound, color, Smell-o-vision, CGI, music, and any other component of film. I understand that studios need a way to recoup the large investments they put into films.

The problem here is the cart-before-the-horse mentality this all entails. Follow the logic, if you will: "A 3D movie (Avatar) made a ton of cash. It must have been because of the 3D. Therefore, if we just add 3D to every film, they will make a ton of cash, too." This kind of thinking can only hurt the components that actually affect a film's success and audience satisfaction.

Rather than considering how they can deliver a solid story and a satisfying character arc, studios will be preoccupied with amping up the sensory experience. "Who needs storytelling when you can blow audiences out of their seats with three-dimensional explosions and charge a premium for it?"

3D is just the beginning of this movement. Millions are being pumped into other ways to amp up the sensory experience- and charge more for it. A friend of mine recently participated in a field test of a new theater chair that rumbles, shakes, and swivels along with the action on screen. Theaters plan to charge $16 and up for these seats. Add 3D glasses to that and pushing into the twenties. And somewhere, studio execs are slobbering all over their martinis anticipating this.

I can just see the movie posters in a year: "One man will face the world… in digital 3D… in a shaking chair… and did we mention it's in 3D?"

The gimmicks that come and go are distractions from what really matters about movies- the things that really leave you satisfied when you leave the theater. True, some filmmakers will still deliver great stories. Others will have to fight the studios to get them to look beyond their newest toys. Needless to say, good movies will get harder to find.

Monday, June 28, 2010

10 Russian secret agents arrested in the U.S.
PHOTOS: Iconic stars pose int heir iconic roles
Hulu to start testing paid subscription service? NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!
Batman 3 script is in the works
Warning: do not drive or operate heavy machinery while watching Amelia

Warning: Amelia may induce drowsiness

Note: Before sitting down to watch Amelia, starring Hilary Swank, Richard Gere, and Ewan McGregor, this blogger spent the entire afternoon trying to banish his farmers tan and taking his kids down the waterslide about 10,000 times. This reviewer is willing to acknowledge this as a contributing factor to his drowsiness while watching the aforementioned film.

The kids all in bed, the house quiet, my wife and I snuggled up on the couch to watch Amelia, which had been sitting untouched in its Netflix envelope for over a month. The movie started. Pretty pictures of planes began to slide across the screen.Some woman, whom I wouldn't care about if I didn't already know it was the famous Amelia Earhart, wants to to fly. No one expects much from her. She flies with two lazy-bum pilots across the Atlantic. There is turbulence and I wake up long enough to see one of the pilots and Hilary Swank almost fall out an open door during flight (you would think they would bolt those things shut)- I'm thinking this probably didn't really happen but was added in to keep test audiences awake. Well, they make it to Wales. Amelia becomes an overnight celebrity. Richard Gere sees her chatting with Ewan McGregor so naturally he proposes to her while heavily intoxicated. My eyes droop once. They droop twice. And, BAM, I am out.

I wake up two hours later to a darkened living room, my wife snoozing upstairs.

There is something to be said for trying to watch a movie- much less a biopic drama- after a long day in the sun. But I would also submit that the test of a great movie is its ability to hold your attention even after a long day in the sun.

When I think about, Amelia is a film of gorgeous images with little life, little pulse underneath the dressing. the principal actors literal walk through their parts, hit their marks, and move onto the next scene. But it's probably not their fault. What's on screen suggests that director and writers gave little thought on how to give these historical characters real life and depth. the movie plays like someone opened the Amelia Earhart section in the encyclopedia and crafted scenes to illustrate each notable event.

Sadly, although the title itself promises a certain degree of intimacy with the legendary woman aviator- something we've never seen before- , it never really delivers on that promise. I could have watched a History Channel documentary and gotten the same experience in half the time. Except the sleep. I probably could've stayed awake through a History Channel documentary.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Walking robot is scary and cool at the same time
Sam Raimi talks about World of Warcraft movie
Anyone out there commemorating the death of Michael Jackson today?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

My DVD Review of Surrogates

DVD Review: Surrogates Gets Better As It Goes

Increasingly more movies start with a blast and end with a whisper. Modern filmmakers tend to be great starters but lackluster closers, cooking up more trouble than they have ingenuity to solve. Fortunately, Surrogates, helmed by Die Hard 4 director Jonathan Mostow, grows in drama and ingenuity as it plods along, building finally to a thought-provoking enough denouement.
The androids of the title, operated remotely by humans, have a distancing effect on the first third of the film. Surrogates are played with a distinct sense of alienation, all perfect skin, stiff stances, blank faces, and glazed over eyes. Granted, this decision works in the world of the movie- it is necessary. But it does make it hard to connect with any of the onscreen players.
Luckily, the film becomes progressively more interesting as the film delves into the juxtaposition between the surrogates and their operators. A tall black man, for example, turns out to actually be a nerdy, white lab tech. Bruce Willis’ character, Tom Greer, is a baby-faced pretty boy with a headful of Ken-doll hair as a surrogate. The real Tom is bald, unshaven, and scarred. This is where the fun starts, as well as the intriguing connections between the online social world we find in World of Warcraft, Facebook, or Twitter and the surrogates of the film. Ultimately, this film is a scathing commentary on the avatar-based culture we have built.
Once Tom destroys his surrogate and is forced to push ahead in his physical body, the audience can connect with him and his awakening to the ills of the surrogate movement. The film finds a solid rhythm in a chase between Tom and a female surrogate s she leaps and crashes through Boston traffic. When Tom plows over a sidewalk full of surrogates with his car like orange caution cones, you don’t know whether to chuckle or cringe. Regardless, you know you’ve entered a real film fun house.
Surrogates gets more entertaining and clever as it careens along. If at all, it suffers from pacing that feels a little off-beat and a script that discovers its legs a little too late. Production values are good enough but could have been slightly more convincing with a bigger budget.
Narnia lives! Voyage of the Dawn Treader trailer is out
Airbenders unite! 5 Other things that would be cool to bend

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Airbender fans! Other stuff that would be cool to bend

Other Things That Would Be Cool to Bend

The Last Airbender, directed by M. Night Shymalan, hits theaters on July 1 and the trailers have, thus far, exceeded my expectations. Needless to say, the date is circled on my calendar and my kids and I are already making plans to shave our heads and paint them with blue, phosphorescent paint.
In anticipation of the big release, I got thinking what other stuff would be cool to bend. Bending fire or air or rocks is cool, of course, but they just strike me as sort of old-world. Here's my list of five things that would be awesome to bend:

5. People – It would be like having a voodoo doll for every single person on the planet. Imagine the possibilities, especially against people like bullies, bosses, politicians, and criminals.

4. Stocks – Change the stock market from unreliable to your personal ATM machine. Why trust Goldman Sachs (and who does?) when you can order your favorite S&P 500 companies to perform? Retirement in the Caymans is closer than ever.

3. Radiation – One word: microwave. Bad guys knocking at your door? Fry them from the inside like last night's leftovers. Alien invasion imminent? Send E.T. home with a nuclear blast. Feeling humanitarian? Destroy malignant tumors with carefully controlled microwaves.

2. Light – With control over light comes all kinds of cool powers. First, you could turn yourself invisible by bending light waves around your body. Second, you turn any light waves into a focused laser beam. Third, you would have the ability to alter your appearance at any time.

1. Gravity – Why would this be the best bending power of all? Only because gravity can manipulate the very fabric of space-time. Open wormholes. Destroy your enemies with mini-blackholes. Travel across the expanse of space in seconds. Tear apart the solar system or create a planet. Gravity-bending is where it's at.

Voyage of the Dawn Treader trailer is out! Narnia lives!

Narnia Lives: Voyage of the Dawn Treader Trailer is Out!

When Prince Caspian failed to live up to expectations and Disney (in typical Disney money-grubbing fashion) sold the rights to Fox, I thought we had seen the last of the Narnia series. Much to my surprise, however, the trailer for Voyage of the Dawn Treader is out and, although not directed by Andrew Adamson, it does not appear to suck. It comes out this Christmas. Watch the trailer below:

Jerry Seinfeld hates Lady Gaga. Now I remember why I liked him.
Old movie review: Eragon

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Old Movie Review: Eragon Bites

I spent this weekend at home and somehow my kids talked me into watching Eragon (2006), the poorly executed film based on a novel by another 16-year-old too in love with Tolkien's dwarves, warriors, and sorcerers to come up with anything truly original. Can anyone else out there not fathom why fantasy writers and fans alike can't move beyond the elves and wizards and dwarves and dark riders? Anyway, moving on (which I hope the majority of fantasy writers will do), I vaguely remembered hating Eragon the first time around. Something about a crappy villain, stupid dialogue, and interior monologue stuff = a negative residue. Well, bless its heart, the movie still suffered from the same stuff the second time around.
Frankly, I take any story written by a sixteen-year-old with a huge grain of salt. It always has an air of "I-live-in-Connecticut-and-my-next-door-neighbor-is-a-literary-agent-and-owes-my-mom-a-favor-so-he-agreed-to-give-my-story-a-chance" to me. Anyway, the book really comes off that way. There is the nice but boring farm boy (no way,a farm boy who is propelled into the center of an epic war by no desire of his own? Never heard that one before!). There is the menacing magician guy (given a different title to distinguish him from all the other menacing magic guys out there). And can anyone explain why good guys always suck at magic compared to the bad guys?
And then there's Eragon's name. For one thing, it sounds like a straight ripoff of Aragorn from LOTR. Second, it is clear the kid was having trouble making up fantasy names so he took the word 'dragon' and replaced the first letter with the next letter in the alphabet. Very clever, Mister Paolini. You should name your next character Fragon. I mean, why ruin a good thing, right?
More than anything, this movie suffers from a terrible lead actor and poor production values. There's no brains to it. Just a lot of valor and good people getting killed so the hero has a motivation. I would have laughed harder the second time around if my wife hadn't been scolding me the whole way through for laughing at such a great movie.
Anyway, if you want to laugh for me, check out this video about the cuddly relationship between Eragon and his dragon:

The World's Most Popular Superpowers

Yes, I've been really into infographics lately. The challenge of consolidating a ton of information into a visual format really appeals to me. As a lifelong comic book fan, I had to make this infographic making sense of the more (and less) popular superpowers out there (superstretch abilities just can't get a break). Hope you like it:

Comic Superpowers
Source: Online Schools

Zombie Epidemic Map Infographic

Here's an infographic that I did for College Life. I had a lot of people complain about it starting in Latin America, like this was somehow tied to the immigration mess in Arizona. I assured them I am not anti-immigrant and that the darn thing had to start somewhere. It got a lot of love from Wired Science and Mythbusters. So enjoy the map. Hope it leads someone to safety when everything hits the fan:

zombie pandemic, zombie outbreak
Source: Online Classes

Monday, June 21, 2010

Infographic: Most Popular Superpowers
Infographic: Weird Facts About Lightning!
Star Trek Cologne is here! I'm guessing it smells like Cheetos, body odor, and Klingon mask latex
Everything you need to know about getting money for school
The Most Unnecessary Remakes of All Time

Friday, June 11, 2010

Superman vs. The Hulk: Who Would Win?
Transformers promise they can change

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Bad Solar Storms Coming?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

9 Things We Should Do With the Guatemalan Sinkhole
Gender Gap: Fact or fiction?
OEDb's Top 10 Online Universities

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Pics of upcoming Thundercats TV series
Quite possibly the worst site on the internet

Monday, June 7, 2010

I'm not sure what has fans so ticked about this leaked Green Lantern promo art
Christopher Nolan's Superman to hit theaters in 2012
Happy 25th birthday, Goonies!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Do Online Classes scare you?
Everything you need to know about scholarships classesncareers

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Peter Jackson may direct The Hobbit
Guillermo Del Toro drops out of The Hobbit
Grasshopper Outbreak in the Western US this Summer
For anyone who missed it, here's an awesome Zombie Epidemic Map
Top 250 Movies of All Time Map
World of Streetfighter Infographic
How to Watch Security Camera Feeds on the Internet
What really happened to the dinosaurs
Top 10 Movies Coming Out That Better Not Suck
Just rewatched Bourne Ultimatum. Matt Damon would've made a much better Batman that Christian Bale. Who's with me?
Mr. Tumnus is the Young Charles Xavier?! xmen
Hollywood by the Numbers Infographic
The 15 Best and Wost Series Finales in TV History

Friday, May 28, 2010

What would happen if a zombie virus hit the U.S.? Zombie Pandemic Infographic

Thursday, May 27, 2010

If you could rewrite the ending of Lost, how would it go?
Industrial Light & Magic celebrates 35 years movies

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

5 Reasons Pixar Should Make The Incredibles 2
Vampires vs.#Werewolves Infographic: Who Would Win?

Monday, May 24, 2010

What (and What Not) to Wear to Prom

Friday, May 21, 2010

Are ugly vampires always bad?
The Vampire Spectrum Infographic - where does your favorite vampire fit in? twilight

Thursday, May 20, 2010

5 Ways to Tweet Your Way to Success socialmedia
Ninjas rescue student from muggers news
5 Indicators the Economy is Still in Trouble
I watched The Cove last night - amazing documentary

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Shrek 4 review is out
Megan Fox won't be on Transformers 3 meganfox
Lost in 108 seconds
Like, WHOA! Keanu is back in sci fi movies

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Anatomy of Jack Bauer Infographic 24
Spider-Man reboot gets new writer... they are so going to screw the franchise up
Newest and last episode Totally Lost
5 Things That Went Wrong w/ Flashforward
20,000 Leagues Under The Sea Remake? By the director of fight Club? movies

Monday, May 17, 2010

Top 10 Summer Movie Trailers
Lost Time-jumping Infographic
Michael Emerson hints at Ben's big role in Lost finale
May 31 is 'Quit Facebook' Day - Will you? facebook
Are we in the middle of a mass extinction? science
Dan Akroyd on alien abductions danakroyd ufos
ABC cancels Flashforward, renews #V
George Lucas' letter to the creators of LOST
3 Potential Villains for Iron Man 3 ironman
Man charged with DUI while driving Barbie toy car news

Friday, May 14, 2010

Summer movie originals vs. reboots, remakes, & rehashes movies
How to Pick a Banshee - some Avatar humor movies
Shia LeBouf promises a better Transformers movie next time movies
First Pics from Green Lantern Set movies
Perpetrator of stock market plunge revealed
James Cameron's next project to be Forbidden Planet movies
50 Things You Learn From Movies
Infographic: The Truth About Robin Hood robinhood
Nick Fury to get his own SHIELD movie? Seriously?
5 Scenarios the Lost Finale Should Avoid
Batman vs. Iron Man: Who Would Win?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Elena Kagan loves Orrin Hatch's... gun? elenakagan
Hawaii can now legally ignore requests for Obama's birth certificate obama
How to Prepare for an Earthquake earthquake
Flying missile-zapping laser stuck in Congress science
Half of Russians believe bribery solves problems russia
Are you part neanderthal? science

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Voyager 2 space probe hijacked by aliens? science
Best Summer Movies Previews
Funny photo of the day
5 Things Lost has Given Us
Trailer for JJ Abrams and Steven Spielberg's Next Project movies
Mystery fungus killing America's bats science

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The World's Most Beautiful Libraries
Baboon mummies point to ancient lost land of treasure science
How big is the Gulf Oil Spill? Compare for yourself oilspill
9 movie remakes that need to be stopped movies
Betty White to host the Oscars? This sounds like the media's flavor of the month... a very old flavor bettywhite
Finally, the backstory on Jacob and the Man in Black lost

Monday, May 10, 2010

Superman not the last son of Krypton after all comicbook
Men in Black 3? Seriously? Does Will Smith even know how to funny anymore? movies
Star Trek Infographic! Love it! Learn it! star trek
5 Rules for making the Avengers movie avengers
Ever wonder how online colleges compare with traditional colleges? Check out this video and infographic online education

Friday, May 7, 2010

In memory of Jin-Soo Kwon, Sun-Hwa Kwon, and Sayid Jarrah
Best and Worst Hairdos of Star Wars
Huge increase in hiring, but unemployment goes up D'OH!
Isabella now the top name for girls - something to do with Twilight, no doubt

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Research: How America is getting dumber
New blog post: So is unemployment up or down? Today's numbers confusing

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Guys Who Make Money Doing Insane Things
5 Most Anticipated Video Games of 2010
80 percent of people unemployed in August still out of work: study

Monday, April 19, 2010

5 Questions Lost Better Answer Before It Wraps

With five episodes left in the final season of the masterpiece that is Lost, we the loyal few find ourselves mesmerized, frustrated, and frequently blown away. How it will all end is anyone's guess at this point. But one thing is for sure, a show which has largely been driven by winds of mystery and speculation needs to answer a few questions before it wraps up.
This season, we've already been privy to quite a few doozies: where did Richard Alpert come from (cool), where did the Blackrock come from (underwhelming), what's inside the temple (disappointing), and other whoppers. But other larger issues remained unaddressed. These are the five questions this blogger needs to have answered or else he will haunt Carlton Cuse's footsteps forever:

  1. What is the Smoke Monster? We know he has mommy issues and, according to Jacob, if he gets out he will turn the world into a living hell. Yada yada yada. But what is he really? He has a habit of taking the form of dead people. And he has the incessant, almost mechanical, clicking sound. So, if he's not a nano-cloud and he isn't a security system created by some extraterrestrial race, then what the heck is he? What exactly is his relationship to Jacob or to John Locke, for that matter?
  2. Where did all the old stuff on the Island come from? Seriously, all we've been shown are a bunch of ancient Egyptian-esque structures with a bunch of pirate-looking Others hanging around them. From the Temple to the Lighthouse to Jacob's statue to the Frozen Donkey Wheel itself, where did these things come from? Who built them? What, if anything, do they have to do with the paranormal properties of the Island? Specifically, how does the Island have the ability to warp around through space-time? If they just leave it at "electromagnetic energy" I am going to put a brick through the Bad Robot's front window. Seriously.
  3. What is the Sideways world? I suspect it is an artificial construct of some kind, what with every person who ever inhabited the Island suddenly conveniently placed in the Los Angeles area. I trust they are headed toward reconciling the two, but if they don't, so help me...
  4. What is up with Walt and Aaron? So Walt is probably like 25 years old by now, but I need some closure here. The kid had spooky powers. The Others just had to have him. It was one of the key conflicts of the first season, as was Claire's baby Aaron. And now both of these mutant kids are just off the hook. I don't think so. They better get back on the Island, stat. We need some answers.
  5. What is the Island? The Island has been a character with a will of its own independent of Smokey or Jacob apparently. So what is the Island? What is the intelligence that drives this insanity, this need for candidates? And what is it that gives the Island to reach out across the ocean and guide Fate itself anytime and anywhere. I will feel very slighted if they just toss us some ambiguous line and leave us to wonder for the rest of our lives.

Even thinking about these questions has got my blood pressure up. So I will leave you with these, dear reader, and the hope the Misters Cuse and Lindelof deliver on all of the promise they have built up. For some last minute tidbits from the Dynamic Duo before we plunge into the last 5 episodes ever, check out Jeff Jensen's fabulous podcast.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Awards Season in Full Swing... Avatar Dominates

Usually, awards shows are quick to dismiss sci-fi and fantasy stuff. They grudgingly gave Peter Jackson the Oscars he deserved after three incredibly well-made LOTR movies, and even then it was to keep their ratings up. That's why, honestly, I'm surprised that everyone is talking so early about Avatar's status as an Oscar frontrunner. I am even more surprised that Avatar walked away with a Golden Globe for Best Picture.

I am not surprised that Avatar is recognized as an incredible feat of cinema. If you've read my review, you know that I think Avatar is the most paradigm-shifting piece of filmmaking I've seen since Return of the King. Rather, I am surprised that the powers that be in Hollywood are recognizing it as such. That they are willing to put aside their arthouse preferences to recognize larger than, popcorn-chomping, blockbuster entertainment.

Anyway, here's hoping that Avatar takes the whole thing come Oscar Night. Here's hoping Cameron, with all his insane visionary talent, his serviceable screenwriting ability, and his megalomaniac sensiblities, can stand up once again and proclaim himself King of the World.