Free Dr Pepper for everyone

My friend Mike notes that Dr Pepper will offer a free soda to every person in America this year — but only if Guns n Roses releases their fifteen-year-old, $13 million boondoggle album Chinese Democracy. I couldn’t care less about the album, but free Dr Pepper is good, especially if it’s from Dublin.

Oddly enough, the idea of enticing Axl Rose with Dr Pepper was sort of floated on this blog way back in 2003. If you weren’t reading the blog back then, the entry won’t make any sense. Actually, it won’t make any sense even if you were reading. This site had strange beginnings.


First Watchmen photos

Newsarama has the first photos of the upcoming adaptation of Alan Moore’s Watchmen. Like Moore himself, I’m too skeptical about the comic’s translation to film to get very excited by the movie, but these photos pique my interest. They do an especially good job taking Nite Owl — an unimposing superhero design if ever there was one — and making him look like someone you wouldn’t want to mess with. I hope they portray the middle-aged, flabby guy beneath the mask equally well; if he’s just another riff on Bruce Wayne, they’re going to miss the point of the character.

More background on the movie is available here.


Bravo to Penn Jillette

Famous magician Penn Jillette displays a lot more sense discussing free speech than he does naming his daughter (not that I’m one to say anything about that). After AMC theaters declined to show The Aristocrats, a new movie he co-produced that features 100 comedians telling their versions of the same filthy joke, the film’s distributor said the decision is a blow to free speech. Penn, true to his libertarian roots, takes it all in stride:

“At least it’s showing that words have power, and we haven’t had that statement made in a while–and the fact that it’s being made by a goofy, stupid person doesn’t make it any less uplifting,” said the speaking half of comedy team Penn & Teller.

Jillette was referring to AMC Film Group Chairman Dick Walsh, who, with other executives, decided to reject the film…

Jillette added that although AMC’s decision could cost him money and viewers, he doesn’t want to play the victim.

“One thing I really hate is people like Michael Moore and Mel Gibson, who are the exact same person with 1,000 sit-ups’ difference,” Jillette said. “They try to make themselves into a martyr no matter how much money they’re making. We are not martyrs on this.

“For us to make any sort of statement that our artistic expression is being trounced would be self-serving, unpleasant and not true.”

The movie will be playing in other chains and independent houses. More info, a trailer, and show times are available at the The Aristocrats website. For the D.C. crowd, it’s showing at the Loews in Georgetown and the Landmark on E St. on August 12; for Virginians, it’s in Fairfax’s Cinema Arts Center on the 19th; and for the Marylandians, at the Landmark on Bethesda Row, also on the 19th.

[Link via MagiCentric.]


“And the Oscar goes to…”

“…Steven Spielberg for his placement of a Snickers bar in Terminal!”*

What am I talking about? Grant McCracken has an interesting post up today about how an unbranded soda can distracted him while watching an episode of “Columbo.” Normally it’s the obvious brand placement in cheap TV shows or movies that shatters our suspension of disbelief and reminds us that we’re watching a commercial scene. But as Grant points out, a fictional world full of unbranded items is equally contrived. His solution:

I donít object to the presence of brands on TV or at the movies. After all, the real world is thoroughly branded, and an imaginary world should follow suit. What I do object to is the presence of a brand: one brand, a sudden can of Coke that looks less like naturalism than a Martian landing.

Hollywood, repeat after me:

Many brands. Good. One brand. Bad.

Alice, may I have your full attention:

Many brands. Good. No brand. Bad.

He has a good point. It’s not the mere presence of brands that’s annoying, but rather their unsubtle placement; the shot of a product that lasts just a moment too long or a brand’s unnatural ubiquity throughout a film is what jars us.

So given that placing brands in movies often makes sense both financially and aesthetically, why don’t we stop denigrating the practice and embrace it as part of the modern filmmaker’s art? Why not give an Academy Award to the director who can most subtly and logically weave brands into a film?

Would that be too crass? Perhaps. But directors who are above the practice wouldn’t care about such a minor prize anyway, and for those who do incorporate branding it would provide a reward for doing it well. Besides, if the Atlas Shrugged epic movie ever gets made this would give it an appropriately capitalist Oscar to aspire to.

On the other hand, I only see 2-3 movies a year so I’m hardly the best judge of the matter.

*I have no idea if a Snickers bar actually appears in this movie, but it would be my candy bar of choice were I forced to live in an airport terminal.


The Dark Knight Returns

A trailer for Batman Begins, the first in a new series of Batman movies, is available on the official website. The film is a prequel that tells the story of how Bruce Wayne came to be the Dark Knight. By all indications, the new series abandons the campy special effects orgy that the previous one devolved into and focuses on the dark, pathological side of the character. It looks like in summer 2005 I’ll finally have reason to go to a movie theater again.