popular thinking

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Like many folks, I count myself as a fan of the 1970s disaster flick, The Poseidon Adventure. Check out this tribute site. Then check out the new version, simply titled Poseidon, and you'll quickly see that just about everything but the basic plot has undergone an extreme makeover. For one thing, the only potential escapee who makes it into both plots is the curious little boy. Everyone else gets younger and more photogenic. Where is the Shelley Winters, the Ernest Borgnine, the Jack Albertson? Gone, gone, gone. Sure, Emmy Rossum, Jacinda (we still remember you from the Real World!) Barrett and Mia Maestro are good-looking and all, but even so, this script doesn't give us too many reasons to care about their survival. Same goes for the rest of the new crew. Richard Dreyfuss is supposedly to be a gay guy who just got dumped, but why are we supposed to know that later? No reason. Director Wolfgang Petersen used the same CGI giant wave technology he previously employed in The Perfect Storm.

And according to my interviews with real-life scientists and people associated with cruise ships, it'd take a perfect storm to even produce the kind of "rogue wave" that could damage a ship.

Read my story on the "reality" of a Poseidon adventure here.

But if you really want to see this Poseidon, know this: Essentially, the disaster movie has taken most of its pages straight out of the horror movie genre's playbook. Deaths are more gruesomely depicted and telegraphed, to the point in one case in which the audience actually cheers one character's demise. Other deaths happen and are quickly forgotten. Why bother mourning? We've got escaping to do.

So my prediction is...it'll do big business opening weekend, but really, like M:I:III before it, Poseidon will get capsized by The Da Vinci Code. That's the movie people really are waiting to see (despite any buzz you've heard or read about the return of many of your favorite superheroes).


OK, so tonight's episode of Lost certainly kept the plot moving in a forward direction, telling us some things we could've guessed (bye bye, Ana Lucia and Libby, and yes, Michael let unHenry go as part of a deal hoping to get Walt back) and some things we might not have guessed (that another hatch, The Pearl, watched everything going on in the Swan hatch and that punching in the numbers might not mean anything, or does it?).

Mike Benson from ABC talked to me a bit about The Lost Experience, an interactive multimedia strategy to keep the fans hooked. Benson said he figured that movies have been luring in fans with online extras, so why not do the same with a TV show, especially if that TV show already hopes to "break the rules." Their first attempt came a year ago with the launch of a site for the fictional Oceanic Airlines.

Last night, we saw another TV ad for the Hanso Foundation, and in small print, it said "paid for by sprite." The ad touted a Web site, www.sublymonal.com, which, no wonder, has that "great lymon taste," but also does give added clues to unlocking info on the Hanso Foundation site. For more, click on these sites...

http://blogs.abc.com/inside_the_experience/ (official ABC blog)


I'm not sure if I have anything witty to say yet that can top the Universal Hub's headline from yesterday -- Local media critic writes about local media just in time to stop writing about local media -- but give me a little more time, and I'm sure I'll come up with something that's not only slightly amusing, but also slightly informative. Because we sure could use a full-time media critic in this town, and every other town in the land. Don't worry. That's not the slightly amusing or informative line. Unless you were amused and/or informed. In which case, you're welcome.

RELATED: The Phoenix press release.


Will people go see the movie, or are they sick and tired of seeing Tom Cruise onscreen? We hit the streets yesterday. The good news? Just about everybody knows who he is. The bad news? Just about everybody thinks he’s jumped the shark, the couch and everything else in the real world.

Why not look ahead to the future? Let's greenlight M:I:IV (IV not included). Here is my pitch.

Or read it here:

The camera pans to reveal Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) enjoying his second retirement by scuba diving in the South Pacific. His leisurely underwater jaunt is interrupted by a plane crash.
An airliner plunges into the water, large chunks of debris flying past Hunt. The cockpit strikes him, knocking him out.
Cut to several years later.
Hunt reawakens, sporting that frosted hair Cruise pulled off in “Collateral,” and his child is not OK. Only Hunt didn’t know he had a child.
No, wait, that’s not the impossible part. Stop laughing.
His daughter (Dakota Fanning) is the chosen one, as predicted in a series of hieroglyphic drawings. A mysterious group on the island is made up of the descendants of the ancient cartoonists - they worship Hunt’s daughter and kidnap her, believing they can use her electromagnetic powers to steer an asteroid into Earth.
None of those fancy face masks will help Hunt this time.
To infiltrate this group, Hunt submerges himself in a bath of pink goo that reconfigures his DNA to match one of these Others.
Hunt emerges as a six-foot woman (Brooke Shields).
Now it gets complicated.
Hunt rescues his daughter but not before the asteroid’s orbit has been altered. The ensuing crash will trigger an Atlantic Ocean tsunami that will overwhelm the East Coast.
Hunt must recruit a renegade group of pilots and oil drillers for a rocket trip into space, land on the asteroid, drill a nuclear bomb into its core and rocket back to Earth before getting blown up in the explosion.
Now that’s a movie.
Paramount can send royalty checks to this writer at the Boston Herald address.

NOTE: Any similarity to “Mission: Impossible III” director J.J. Abrams’ previous works, including “Lost,” “Alias” and “Armageddon,” is entirely internalized and unconsciously copied.


Yes, really. That's one thing to take away from the third installment of the movie adaptation of the former TV franchise. Having J.J. Abrams on board as director certainly made the M:I franchise look more comfortable to viewers who already have watched plenty of Alias. I first wanted to say that M:I:III plays out like a two-hour, big-screen, big-budget episode of Alias. Actually, though, it's even more true that Abrams' TV show has been an effort to duplicate Mission: Impossible.

That doesn't completely excuse all of the other unconscious or conscious copying of previous movies. Or does it? Films drop hints or nod in admiration to preceding flicks all of the time, and audiences and critics don't seem to mind that.

If you go see M:I:III, perhaps it'll be more interesting if you bring this shortcut checklist with you...bomb in the head, a la last week's Alias? Check. Shot of adrenaline to the heart, a la Pulp Fiction? Check. Tom Cruise riding by airplanes on his hog, a la Top Gun? Check. OK. I won't ruin the rest for you, but keep an eye out for scenes or plotlines you may have seen played out earlier in True Lies, Born On The Fourth Of July, Minority Report, Entrapment, 24 and Lost.

Not that I hated the film. It was neat to see how the whole rubber face switcheroo actually works. But c'mon...you can't get a cell phone signal in the middle of Shanghai? Surprise!


Yes, really. That's one thing to take away from last night's talk by David Sedaris at Symphony Hall. Sure, there were the amusing essay readings. About an hour's worth of Sedaris. But then...the monkey.

(Cue the flashback)

The supposedly sold-out appearance by essayist David Sedaris at Boston's Symphony Hall on Wednesday night -- there were a smattering of empty chairs, and yet people stood on the crowded sidewalk outside hoping to find anyone selling tickets. Local satirist Baratunde Thurston, whom I knew had extra tickets thanks to MySpace, met me outside and took my extra ticket, selling off his in the process. But enough about him. Back to Sedaris. The audience clearly loved him, even before he opened his mouth. Then when he did, my mind immediately wandered. First thought: Perhaps Sedaris, with his quirky voice and quirkier nonfiction worldview, is our generation's Truman Capote. Listen to Sedaris here, thanks to NPR. In Boston, he chose to read his current essay in The New Yorker, two other essays from the magazine (one past, one future) and his yet-to-be-completed graduation speech that he intends to deliver June 4 at Princeton University. "I'm completely Ivy League struck," Sedaris said of accepting the commencement speech request.

That kickstarted a few other thoughts in my head. Thought No. 2: What a weird small world it is, Sedaris mentioning Princeton as his first graduation speech, since well, I went to Princeton and served on the senior year committee to pick my class' speaker -- we chose Garry Trudeau, who also views current life through a humorous yet serious prism. Thought No. 3: Sedaris isn't known as a comedian, but he is funny. Moreover, he is best known simply for writing and reading his essays aloud. Over the past 10 years, I've struggled at times to figure out how best to present my own humorous take on the madness that surrounds us. Seeing Sedaris behind the podium reminded me of where my own quest began -- even farther back than 10 years, back to when I was still in high school, standing behind a podium in the school's chapel, reading my essays aloud to the congregation and hearing their laughter and capturing their complete attention. And that reminded me of something I learned and relayed to my schoolmates back then. Something so simple it can fit on a fortune cookie.

Stop searching forever. Happiness is right next to you.

Maybe it's time I heed that advice again.

Oh, right. I forgot about the monkey. Sedaris said his appearance and much of the fees raised would be going to a local nonprofit called Helping Hands, which, strange but true, raises and trains capuchin monkeys to befriend and help quadriplegic people. After an hour of reading, Sedaris introduced a woman from Helping Hands and a monkey -- funny at first, but once the woman went on for close to a half-hour about the organization, the event truly made the leap from sublime to ridiculous. They took a few questions, though not mine (which I almost got Baratunde to ask, if only they would've called on him): Aren't they the least bit concerned that training these monkeys to be slaves, that some day the slave monkeys might rise up against their human oppressors and start a war that ends with monkeys ruling the planet? Well?

The Monopoly Guy, on deck outside Fenway Park. Posted by Picasa

The Monopoly Guy, hanging out on Boston's Beacon Hill. Watch your back, John Kerry! Posted by Picasa

The Monopoly Guy, on the loose at Boston's Old State House. Posted by Picasa


The latest edition of the Guinness World Records is available in paperback today. I spoke with the head U.S. record research guy yesterday about how one goes about setting and/or establishing a world record. Turns out it's fairly easy. And I finally got an answer to that age-old question: Did Cindy and Bobby Brady ever have a shot at the teeter-totter record?

RELATED: The official Guinness World Records site.


If you haven't made it over to the Brattle Theatre (or an independent cinema near you), do so soon to catch Blackballed while it's still on a big screen. The mockumentary for the paintball crowd stars Rob Corddry and includes longtime Boston stand-up legend DJ Hazard. Both Corddry and Hazard talked with me about the film.

Richard Pryor's daughter, Rain, also came to town this weekend, performing in Newton. She spoke to me from Paris (hooray for international cell phone plans), where she clearly was having a gay old time. So to speak.

What in the world are Lover's Cups? Read this and find out. Click here for the MIT project page.

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