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Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Reznor makes $750,000 even when the music is free

Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails made headlines again this week as he released his new, four-part instrumental album Ghosts I-IV, at a variety of price points, including a $300 super-deluxe package. He's also giving away Ghosts I at no charge, even throwing the tracks up on The Pirate Bay for anyone to download. And it appears to be working quite well for Reznor, who has managed to sell all 2,500 copies of his $300 package without major label backing or much in the way of splashy marketing. If Reznor's earlier experiments in digital distribution failed to recoup their costs, he's clearly learned his lesson: grossing $750,000 in the space of three days isn't a bad haul for any businessperson.

Reznor was disappointed by an earlier experiment in which he released the music of his friend Saul Williams. That album was available online either for free or for $5 (for a higher-quality version). Under 20 percent of downloaders paid up, and Reznor complained that he couldn't even cover his costs for producing the album.

With Ghosts, Reznor had some obvious advantages. NiN is a better-known brand with a devoted following, and Reznor's strategy of using multiple price points made his music easily accessible to fans. Those who wished to pay nothing could download a free version of Ghosts I. For $5, a digital version of all four albums was available, and for only $10, fans could get all the music on CD along with an immediate digital download. $75 and $300 deluxe versions were also made available and include things like a Blu-ray disc, a DVD of the multitrack audio files from the project, videos, deluxe packaging, and more.


Can a ghost make you a millionaire?

For all the talk of Reznor "pulling a Radiohead," though, the actual strategy was different. There is no "choose your price" component, and there is no free download of the complete project from the NiN site. Instead, Reznor's strategy is more akin to the "free sample" model. It's also an attempt to move beyond the music biz's long-term fixation with a single product, the CD. Reznor is using five price points to segment his offerings, and the extra work this required appears to have paid off.

In covering the story, the New York Times noted that "one option Mr. Reznor is not offering fans is a way to obtain the entire collection free," but Ghosts I-IV is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike license that does allow noncommercial redistribution.

Even without a major marketing campaign, the album release generated so much interest that the NiN servers were knocked offline. Reznor apologized to fans, saying, "Sorry again about the hassle. Somebody kicked the plug out of our internets, but we're all set now."

Reznor gains something valuable from every transaction, even if downloaders elect not to pay; he harvests the e-mail addresses of fans interested in his music. These addresses are obviously marketing gold, but Reznor makes sure to treat his fans with respect, even when asking for their information. "We hate spam as much as you do, if not more so," he writes.

While it's routine now to hear media execs talk about how "people want to do the right thing" when it comes to paying artists, those comments are generally followed by a defense of lawsuits, DRM, and ISP filtering plans. The thinking goes that even in a world in which all locks can be picked, most people don't stop locking their doors. Reznor's experiment shows that the carrot approach can work well for artists, even with the stick.

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Fan Made Back To The Future

Doc recast as a fat black guy is a classic touch.

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Review – Diablo Cody's "Body"

“I have no idea what to think about this.”
-
Latino Review

Jennifer’s Body is a very different movie than Juno. For example, it is extremely gory. One passage from Cody’s script describes a scene where blood and viscera is scattered everywhere, with intestines strewn about ‘like party streamers.’ One victim is described as looking like ‘Lasagna with teeth.’ There are a couple scenes where a Jennifer graphically tears apart unknowing High School boys. Some of the descriptions gave me an uncomfortable feeling deep in the pit of my stomach. The gore described on these pages is Hard-R. However, I assume that the film will likely be cut down to a PG-13 to capture the teen audience. But I’m not really sure that is possible...”
-
Slash Film

[The quotes above represent the extent of the spoilers.]

Okay, I’m looking at a September 20, 2007, draft of
Jennifer’s Body. So far, we know that Jennifer will be played by Megan Fox (of Transformers). The protagonist, however, is a girl named Anita “Needy” Lesnicki who shall be played by Amanda Seyfried (of Mean Girls). The film will be directed by Karyn Kusama (of Girlfight).

To strip everything down to a simple sound-byte, I’d have to say that Jennifer’s Body goes overboard with the way it tries to sell itself. One of the sure signs of overselling in screenwriting is a flashback structure, which I talked about previously in the
Hitman review. A flashback structure is where we open with the ending, there’s a cliff-hanger, because something’s at stake, and then a character “tells his/her story” through voice overs. We go through the entire story (filled with voice overs, mind you) until we come full circle back to where we started at the ending. There’s usually a twist and then the story’s over. I really despise this structure with every fiber of my being. Although, a few scribes on TriggerStreet showed me how some films used this structure to a good, defensible purpose – Amadeus, Double Indemnity, and Titanic, to name a few. In the case of Amadeus and Double Indemnity, the audience gets emotionally prepared for a tragic ending. Okay, fine. In the case of Titanic (which Pat talked about in her third exposition article), we first see the ship after it sank, we learn how it sank, so that we’re not too distracted when it sinks.

But this script feels like a step backwards for Diablo, because flashback structures are so common in amateur screenplays it’s almost clichéd that new writers resort to this. It’s as if the writer hasn’t found his/her confidence yet and feels the need to overplay their hand and give a peak at the ending so you’ll read the script all the way through. A confident writer would never feel the need to do that and certainly wouldn’t resort to a cheap gimmick like that to get people to read the whole story. And I believe that, ultimately, this kind of structure does not satisfy audiences. It turns the story into an empty narrative puzzle where you ask yourself, “okay, so how do the characters get from point A to point B” as opposed to wondering and worrying throughout the movie HOW it will end for the characters that you really care about. Thus, the deteriorating relationship between the two leads came as no surprise, nor was it engaging, because we already saw the ending. The showdown in the pool was robbed of all its tension and fear because we already saw the ending. It’s as if Diablo has given us a safety-net in her story and cushioned the audience by showing how it will end when nobody really wants that in a movie. They’re happier not knowing and riding that wild roller coaster from beginning to end. There's something to be said about being too nice to your audience.

Diablo didn’t even really follow the usual traditions of flashback structures. Usually, an amateur would show us HALF of the third act climax in the opening scenes in order to hook us into reading to the end to see how that specific scene plays out and then there’s a twist. Here, though, Diablo shows us in the first few pages of the script the entire third act climax from beginning to end, and when we actually get to the end, there are no twists, which was also a bit of a letdown. The most important section in your screenplay is the ending, and her structure really pulled the rug out from underneath her own ending and you walk out of the theater feeling less than thrilled. Also, there were no questions hanging over our heads as we jump into the story as we would usually experience in this kind of structure, such as “does this person live or die?” Instead, because we see the whole scene and it had some surprising supernatural elements to it, the only thing we might ask ourselves is, “What the hell was that all about?” Other than that, there was nothing at stake, and to go through the entire story just to answer “What the hell was that all about?” isn’t worth it. It’s better to tell your story in chronological order, let the audience get into it, let the tensions naturally rise over the course of three acts, let the audience wonder and worry throughout, and let them be surprised and wowed by the ending.

Okay, let’s talk about the dialogue. Another way that, to me, she oversold her story is in its excessive dialogue. This had much more dialogue than Juno, which isn’t necessarily a good thing. She is, of course, known for her snappy lines, which I loved in Juno, and you look forward to reading more, but here, I felt like we were given too much of it because we not only have lots of dialogue in the regular scenes, but we also have lots of voice overs from Needy as she tells her story. It’s too much. Even the parents are rattling off Cody-speak. This is the perfect opportunity to show the world confidence and discipline from a matured Oscar-winning artist by toning down the dialogue. By the way, if you guys ever become famous for dialogue, the worst thing you can do is to give them MORE in your next script. You have to keep your fans hungry for your work by giving them less. Or something completely different. Because people WILL tire of this kind of talk and if this is all you’re good for, you may not have a very long career. Thus, I’d suggest an emphasis on other strengths in order to showcase a range of skills and sustain longevity in your career.

There are two areas I believe she can do this:

1) Master the Lost Art of Horror

So much of the script was filled with, not fear or dread or tension or anticipation, but SUDDEN EXTREME GORE, which pulls the script down a few notches to the category of cheap thrills. Just because you see gore does not necessarily qualify your script as good horror, because that isn’t fear. Most definitions of “horror” include both repugnance and fear. Here, it’s just repugnance. Ya know, I recall Justin Clark saying in his
review of Feast: “James Cameron once said, in reference to his work on Aliens, that gore isn't fear. It's disgust, a totally different emotion. No matter how gory your film is if there isn't anything more to it than that, it's no different than watching people drink sperm-tainted beer in American Pie. It's getting to the point now where the true art of dread, of terror, of watching people, characters and things be threatened by a truly frightening menace has taken a back seat to ‘safe’ thrills.” That’s exactly how I feel about this spec.

2) Master the Art of
Visual Storytelling.

I know my more devoted readers are sick of hearing about this, but it’s important, and I’m not sure she’s even aware of this principle. If you were to tone down the dialogue and emphasize the visuals, you will inevitably write scenes filled with better tension, such as the Tarantino example we studied in the
Write the Shots article. I also had two examples here and here that would serve her well.

RANDOM THOUGHTS

- In terms of formatting, it was a bit sloppy. Hey, if you’re going to be a pro screenwriter, know the format. The “smash cut” on page 19 wasn’t the right technique for that transition nor was it necessary to call out any transitions at all. Write a proper MONTAGE or a SERIES OF SHOTS by actually listing the shots, which is what we’re supposed to do. And quit writing “we see.” Obviously, “we see.” It’s a movie. That’s the point, isn’t it, to “see?” On pg 88, we had, “We hear the voice of Chip’s Mom through the door.” That’s called “(O.S.)”.

- Pg 85 – How does Needy figure out that Jennifer possibly killed Ahmet?

- I can't share anymore thoughts without revealing the plot, but for me, the pacing was off at times, particularly in the 80-page range with that passing of time, which I thought really undercut the tension. I also had questions about the arcs of the characters.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Don’t let this review and current Juno backlash fool you. Diablo is an immense talent that I believe still needs to be nurtured because she has a lot to learn. What we’re seeing in Jennifer’s Body is a case of nerves more than anything else, an anxious artist that’s eager to “kick ass” without having the experience and necessary study of the craft under her belt to really do that.

Yet.

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What piracy crisis? MPAA touts record box office for 2007

After learning how a bill becomes a law, your kids might also learn about the wonders of copyright, thanks to the MPAA. The motion picture trade group has signed an agreement with the popular Weekly Reader publication for kids that will highlight "canine crime-fighting ambassadors Lucky and Flo." That's right: DVD-sniffing dogs will educate children about the value of copyrights in a "fun and exciting way." Sounds like a blast.

But this sort of thing has become crucial to the MPAA. Take a look at the group's homepage; nearly everything is about copyrights and piracy. The MPAA routinely asserts that the movie business is being decimated by piracy, but the press release announcing the Weekly Reader deal sits just below a far more interesting piece of news (PDF): data that shows the US box office doing its biggest year of business ever in 2007, growing 5.4 percent over 2006 and bringing in $9.63 billion.


Message to kids: Even dogs can
respect copyright. Why can't you?

Piracy is so bad, according to the MPAA, that we need special legislation to target the dastardly college pirates who are destroying the business. It's so bad that Weekly Reader subscribers will learn about the $7 billion a year "lost" to Internet piracy. It's so bad that the MPAA wants ISPs to ignore years of common carrier law and the promises of "safe harbor" and start filtering their traffic, looking for copyright violations.

The real world isn't quite this simple, of course. It turns out that the MPAA's college numbers were off by a factor of three, a revelation that came after years of hiding the study's methodology but continuing to lobby Congress with its numbers. There's no possible way that the MPAA can truly know what it "lost" to piracy, either, as it has no real idea what percentage of downloads would have resulted in sales. And, with the notable exception of AT&T, no other major US ISP has publicly entertained the idea of filtering traffic.


Certainly the MPAA has the right to fight illegal downloads of its material, and it certainly has the right to go after those making a profit by ripping off its DVDs. But the rhetoric around "piracy" (a term used far too broadly) simply doesn't fit with reality. If piracy is killing the movie business, it's doing so in exactly the same way that home taping killed the music business in the 1980s.

Swapping movies over the Internet was more of a niche practice back in 2001 as bandwidth constraints made it impractical for many. Certainly it's much simpler now, and advanced P2P protocols like BitTorrent (combined with free trackers like The Pirate Bay) make it relatively simple. But the movie business did $9.63 billion at theaters alone in 2007, a substantial increase over 2001's $8.13 billion. US box office has also risen for the last two years, and international growth rates have been much higher and more constant.

DVD piracy and file-swapping pose problems for the industry, no doubt about it, but the entire issue deserves to have the rhetoric scaled back a bit. As Dan Glickman, the MPAA boss, admitted, "Ultimately, we got our Hollywood ending. Once again, diverse, quality films and the timeless allure of the movie house proved a winning combination with consumers around the world."

So break out the champagne (for the MPAA execs) and the dog biscuits (for Lucky & Flo); home taping didn't kill the music business, and file-swapping isn't destroying theatrical revenue.

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Japanese Star Wars Gorier, Longer, More Awesome

darthjapanese.jpgThe official Star Wars blog says the Japanese manga adaptation of the first three Star Wars movies is light years better than Marvel Comics' original adaptation. To hammer home how flawed the American version was, here are some comparisons of how certain scenes appeared in the U.S. and japanese versions.

According to the Star Wars site:

[I]t's truly an unfair comparison to gauge how well Marvel Comics originally adapted the classic trilogy films against how Japanese artists did the same. The deck is definitely stacked in manga's favor. For the Marvel adaptations, produced during each film's post-production period, the artists had not seen the films -- they were working merely from the script, with some key photography and maybe some concept art... Japanese manga has a much more flexible format and page count to accommodate a more deliberate and varied pace of storytelling. Since the Japanese manga versions did not come out until 1997, the artists benefited from years of studying the flow and dynamics of the movies.

handjapanese.jpgIt's not just the problems of pacing and available space - while Marvel's 22-page limit for each issue reduces the destuction of Alderaan to one panel, the manga spends six pages on the same event - but also of editorial restrictions: Vader cutting off Luke's hand is shown in all its gory detail in Japan, but American audiences find a piece of machinery suspiciously in the way.
handamerican.jpg But as much as the manga adaptations improve on their American ancestors, they do lack the wonderfully overwritten exposition of the Marvel books. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but when those words say things like "Then, the darkness swallows him. Deep. Vast. Unnatural in its totality. And with the sudden hiss of a lightsaber igniting... Luke finds it conceals far more than he ever dared imagine! wouldn't you rather have the words themselves?

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Family Guy’s Cleveland Gets Own Show

Cleveland Family Guy Spin-OffWhen Joanie loved Chachi it lasted exactly 17 episodes. When Frasier loved Niles it lasted even longer-ish.

When Skeletor remembered he had a mentor that had long ago been locked on another planet with He-Man's sister, it was like a steel-toed boot to the nethers. But that's just the risk of a spin off, now isn't it? You think you've got a great product, but then Hordak shows up and kicks you in the jellies.

Unless the spin-off of which you speak belongs to Cleveland Brown of Family Guy fame. He, apparently, is on the threshold of carrying his own show.

Family Guy, the show that occasionally battles the Simpsons, gets featured in video games and sometimes returns from the dead, is gonna be torn in two like an earth worm who's bottom half is getting it's own television spinoff.

Wikipedia is wise and knows all things, let us then consult it for further enlightenment on these matters:

"During a live broadcast of "Loveline," Seth MacFarlane announced that a spin-off featuring Cleveland was currently in the works with the studio and writers."

The Hollywood Reporter seems quite knowledgeable about the whole thing too:

"The project, tentatively titled "Cleveland," is being written by "Family Guy" creator Seth MacFarlane, Mike Henry — who voices Cleveland and serves as writer-producer on the series — and "The Simpsons" alum Rich Appel, executive producer/showrunner on MacFarlane's other animated comedy for Fox, "American Dad.""

Now if we had our pick as to spin-offs we'd like to see, Mike Seaver's gym coach would take a low-paying job in California, thus having to move his entire giant family out there for weekly antics-galore. Also we'd have a show called Joey.

He'd move to California too.

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4 Things to Expect from The Clone Wars TV Show (and 3 Things Not To)

Who knew, back in 1977, when Luke Skywalker casually asked Ben Kenobi "You fought in the Clone Wars?" that such an innocent, off-hand question would spin-off into one of the biggest multimedia franchises in fanboy history? Yes, George Lucas' Star Wars: A New Hope did spawn arguably THE biggest franchise ever - take your blood-pressure pills, Trekkers - but that had an entire movie, starring Harrison Ford and Alec Guinness, as it's foundation. The Clone Wars, possibly the most popular Star Wars tangent since Boba Fett, was founded by that one sentence, a lot of fan love, and Lucas' legendary inability to let go of a good idea. Years later, after we witnessed the beginning of the wars in Attack of the Clones and their end in Revenge of the Sith, The Clone Wars have inspired novels, comic books, video games, toy lines, animated series - you name it.

And, believe us, Clone Wars fans have a LOT to be excited about in the near-future. Picking up where Genndy Tartakovsky's beyond-cool Clone Wars 2D-animated series left off in 2005, Lucasfilm is actively in production of a 3D-animated, 100-episode, PG-13 rated Clone Wars TV series that's scheduled to air on the Cartoon Network and TNT. If that wasn't cool enough, it was announced weeks ago that the Star Wars: Clone Wars series would kick-off with a theatrically-released feature - that's right, a SEVENTH Star Wars feature film - that will hit theatres on August 15, following Anakin and Obi-Wan during their wartime tours of duty.

Now, if you guys in the Stormtrooper helmets can stop hyperventilating, there are some hard questions we need to ponder about The Clone Wars series. As we mentioned, we've already seen the wars begin and end in the prequel trilogy, which begs the follow-up, "Are there really that many more stories to tell about the Clone Wars? Particularly when we already know the fates of so many of the major players in the conflict?"

We all know what happens to Obi-Wan, Anakin, Palpatine, Dooku, and the rest, so what can we expect from the TV series that will offer us something new? As our Jedi cups runneth over with these new announcements of theatrical features, we here at The Deadbolt have assembled a quick list of 4 things you can definitely expect from Lucas' new Clone Wars series and 3 things that... well... don't get your hopes up.

4 THINGS TO EXPECT FROM THE CLONE WARS SERIES:

1. New Recruits for Both Sides of the Force

Okay, we know what happens to Yoda and Palpatine after the Clone Wars, but that shouldn't make the series any less dramatic. World War II movies are still exciting even though we all go into them knowing the fates of FDR and Hitler. How do they accomplish that? By showing us the famous conflicts through different sets of eyes. This isn't to say that we won't be seeing Mace Windu or General Grievous from time to time, but the best way to expand the scope of The Clone Wars is to show us new perspectives on the battle, and it sounds like Lucas is prepared to do just that.

While speaking at the 2007 William S. Paley Television Festival, Lucas told Creative Screenwriting that some episodes would focus entirely on such lesser-known (though fan favorite) Jedis as Kit Fisto or Shaak Ti and was quoted from the event as saying that other episodes would feature a cast of only Clone troopers. Lucas also made news when the official Star Wars website announced that a new Jedi, the young Ahsoka Tano would be joining the cast as a previously unmentioned Padawan trainee who served under Anakin Skywalker during the Clone Wars. (Wonder why she wasn't mentioned in Sith? We're all assuming she dies, right?) Also, expect Asajj Ventress, the Darth Maul-esque female Dark Jedi to play a big role in the series, as well as Captain Rex, a Clone Trooper friendly will Obi-Wan and Anakin.

2. The Lighter Side of Anakin Skywalker

We're not saying that The Clone Wars is going to show us the softer, fuzzier side of the man who would be Vader, but it definitely looks like the new series will display Anakin's war-time heroism and bravery, front and center, to show us the definite contrast and depth of his fall from grace in Revenge of the Sith. In a video on the official Clone Wars website, Supervising Director Dave Filoni discusses how the series will touch on the newly-promoted, full-fledged Jedi Knight's "good side", particularly through his relationship with his comrade/former mentor Obi-Wan and his new Padawan Ahsoka.

While Attack of the Clones and Sith often featured Anakin at his worst (slaughtering Sand People or... you know... ALL of the Jedi, kids included), you can expect The Clone Wars to show him at his best, setting up why people like Obi-Wan, Padme, and the rest of the Jedi placed so much trust into that sad, flawed man. And, besides, as we know from Sith, during the Clone Wars, Anakin has to save Obi-Wan's skin ten different times - well, nine, if you don't count that business on Cato Neimodia - so he can't be all bad... for now.

Even though they both met their ends in Revenge of the Sith, there are two things you can't deny about Count Dooku and General Grievous - they're both pretty bad-ass and we know next-to-nothing about them. (Well, if you haven't read the various novel/comic book tie-ins to the Clone Wars... or if you're not a hardcore Hyperspace-subscribing Star Wars fanboy... or if you don't run your own Star Wars wiki... you probably don't know much about them.) Lucas just teased us with little nuggets of cool about the Count and the General in Clones and Sith and The Clone Wars series seems like the likely place to finally pay off those teases. In the official trailer for the series, Dooku is featured heavily, and the Clone Wars website has posted a cool new piece of concept art of the good General. Expect this devious duo to be the "Big Bad" of the Clone Wars series, filling in the unknown portions of their evil doomed lives and leaving Palpatine to pull the puppet-strings in the shadows.

4. There Will Be Blood

Did you think that there was a lot of death in the PG-13 Revenge of the Sith? (We're still pretty shook up by the whole Youngling slaughter.) Well, prepare for more of the same in The Clone Wars. Not only is this a war-time TV show - more in the style of Band of Brothers than Hogan's Heroes - but the producers seem committed to making this a much more adult animated show that TV is used to seeing. And we're talking in terms of content and character development rather than sex or dick jokes. According to the online site Wookiepedia, Lucas was quoted on the May 1, 2007 episode of Late Night with Conan O'Brien as saying, "It's very much Star Wars. It's not a, you know, South Park comedy. It's not a kiddie's Spongebob Squarepants. It's sort of the first dramatic animated show that is, um, PG-13, so it doesn't really go on late night, it doesn't go on Saturday afternoon, it actually doesn't go anywhere."

Lucasfilm's head of fan relations Steve Sansweet has described the look of the show as "a melding of Asian anime with unique 3-D animation styling," which - as any of you who familiar anime know - means that you should be expecting an INSANE level of action. From what we've seem from the series' trailer, it looks like the show will be a mixture of staggering believable wartime battles - where clone troopers are reaching into a pile of goo that used to be their clone brother's face - and over-the-top, hyper-kinetic Jedi-on-Jedi action. Not everyone is going to make it out of The Clone Wars alive (we're looking at you, Ahsoka), and those that do will never be the same again (looking at you, Anakin).

3 THINGS NOT TO EXPECT FROM THE CLONE WARS SERIES:

1. The conception of Luke and Leia

C'mon! You KNOW it happens during this time frame. Why can't we get a little glimpse into Anakin and Padme's wedded bliss? Are we such prudes? And, besides, you know that R2 probably secretly filmed the whole thing. That little tin can is such a closeted-pervert.

2. The re-election campaign of Jar-Jar Binks

Jar-Jar, fandom's favorite whipping boy, popped up as a senator in Attack of the Clones, and it was thanks to his dim-witted suggestibility that Palpatine was able to become Supreme Chancellor of the Republic. It might have seemed like a good idea at the time, but as the Clone Wars dragged on, you just know that the investigative staff at the Naboo Tribune must have pieced together Jar-Jar's role in the seemingly endless war. Lucas could use this story to parallel the current war in Iraq (oh, timeliness!) and smack Jar-Jar around a little more for our pleasure. That's win-win.

3. The cost-benefit analysis of The Death Star

Revenge of the Sith ends with the beginning of construction of The Death Star, but the initial planning phases - design, budgeting, accounting - must have taken place during the Clone Wars. Show us Palpatine pitching the project to his executive board, the Sith accountants trying to make the numbers work, the Emperor reviewing carpet samples and paint swatches with his interior designers... it'd be like The Office meets Trading Spaces, but with Star Wars! Doesn't that sound awesome? Doesn't it? Hello? Where did everyone go?

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Are Lost's New Time-Travel Physics Junk Science? Maybe Not, Expert Says: Hollywood Sci-Fi vs. Reality

As if smoke monsters and tropical polar bears weren’t enough to keep our heads spinning, Thursday’s episode of Lost, “The Constant,” opened up a whole new can of worms: the fourth dimension.

Flying from the island toward a mysterious freighter, pilot Frank Lapidus can’t keep his helicopter on the bearing that physicist Daniel Faraday says will get Desmond and Sayid to the freighter safely—presumably through a wormhole. They encounter some turbulence, and Desmond begins, yes, traveling through time, with increasingly rapid lapses between 1996 and the present (which, on the show, is still 2004). With new particle physics research recently taking time travel from Doc Brown fantasy to down-the-line possibility, we spoke with Dr. Michio Kaku, whose new book, “Physics of the Impossible,” makes Lost’s flip-flop between past and present look, well, not impossible.

Unlike deadly black holes, traversable wormholes could make a condition such as Desmond’s feasible if the portals that skip time and space without an event horizon were ever discovered, Kaku says. When treating him remotely over Lost’s super satellite phone, Faraday asks Desmond if he had been exposed to any extreme doses of radiation or electromagnetic energy that could make him “a little confused.” And that’s where the show’s producers did their homework for the key plot twist when the helicopter sends Desmond’s conscience to become unstuck in time.

“To open the wormhole, you need large amounts of energy,” Kaku says. “In principle, if you could harness the energy of a star, you might be able to bend time into a pretzel, but we are talking about astronomical amounts of energy.” Maybe like a huge source of electromagnetic energy that needs to be discharged every 108 minutes to keep from ripping a giant, gaping hole in the time-space continuum? Like the one that Desmond got an extreme closeup with in the Season 2 finale?

Maybe. When Desmond warps back to visit Faraday at Oxford University in 1996, he watches Faraday zap a mouse with a dose of radiation, thereby sending her mind into the future. Upon her return a few minutes later, the lab rat can run a complex maze without hesitation; Faraday “unstuck” her in time. And there’s no law of physics preventing this kind of time travel—just a lack of know-how. Stephen Hawking tried to create a chronology projection conjecture forbidding time travel, but he failed. So while most physicists would say that time travel is possible, we’re not officially back to the future just yet.

“It would take a very advanced civilization to really do this,” Kaku says. “We are too primitive to harness this technology.” But it’s looking increasingly like some new island inhabitants might have just figured it out in time for some post-writers’ strike competition. —Erin Scottberg

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If They're Remaking Slap Shot Then the Terrorists Have Won

slapshotposter.jpg"This is not a sequel," said screenwriter Peter Steinfeld, assuring us that a new version of the legendary sports movie, Slap Shot, would have a voice of its own.

"I am going to try to adhere to the original movie as best as I can. At the same time, it can't be just a retread of the original."

Yes, as alarming as it might be that any studio (Universal in this case) would seriously consider a new spit and polish on a classic, it's almost gotten to the point that we expect it. Maybe Steinfeld is the right guy for the job, but that's first assuming the job itself is the right thing to do.


But one thing that hits me like a bowling ball in the gut is Steinfeld's confirmation that he'll incorporate the original's most memorable element.

"You have to work the Hansons into the movie," he insists. "I think people would really be let down if the Hansons were not in the movie. They are such an iconic part of that classic."


To me, this is exactly the reason you don't make a new version of Slap Shot and sure as hell don't parade the Hansons out to be a part of it. All that can be gained by it at this point is undoing some of the legacy of the first film. Need I remind anyone that at some point a group of executives thought Blues Brothers 2000 was a good idea?

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Jean Claude Van Damme Gets Serious About What's Left Of His Career

jcvd.jpgIt's easy to make fun of Jean-Claude Van Damme because, well, rent one of his movies. The Muscles from Brussels is probably the worst of the action stars. Make no mistake, for about 22 months back in the early 1990s, Van Damme was a star. Those days are long gone now, and Van Damme told MTV recently that he probably wouldn't even embrace stardom if it presented itself again.

In a new interview, Van Damme says he has turned down lucrative roles - notably in
Rush Hour 3 and an upcoming update of Street Fighter - because he doesn't need the money. Now, he just wants to "do something I'm proud of." First on that list, a movie in which he plays a version of himself.

Go figure.

The film is titled
JCVD - uh huh - and it will premiere at Cannes, if the star is to be believed. "It's an acting type of film, a dramatic part. It's funny. It's got everything." I know what you're thinking and yes, I believe Van Damme is so uncomfortable with the prospect of acting that he clumsily calls it 'an acting type of film' as a defense mechanism.

"Being drunk, my [character's] life was from success to failure. And this guy is now leaving the States to refresh himself, to go back to Brussels to see his parents. He's got no money and he's looking for any type of movie to pay his lawyers for child custody. And then he shows up in a post office where a heist is happening, and people think I'm part of it. And then it becomes very "Dog Day Afternoon." I think it's the best film I've done in my career."
The movie certainly had an impact on Jean-Claude, who remarked, "After 37 movies, I said, 'I will never do another movie I would not like.' What (director Mabrouk El Mechri) did to me, it's like Scorsese did to De Niro years ago." 'Scuse me? Did he just, in some small way, equate himself with Robert De Niro?

Van Damme also reports that he will finance a film he plans to direct called Full Love. I strongly suspect it will be 90 minutes of the fading action star gazing longingly into a full-length mirror.

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Tron To Triumphantly Return To Theaters In 2011 (And In 3D!)

YOU JUST GOT DEADLY DISCEDIt's been over twenty five years since the original Tron flick took drive-in theaters by storm, but it looks like Tron fever may be sweeping the nation again in the next decade. According to film site Dark Horizons, Disney has plans to release a 3D sequel to the video game film, using the same technology in previous 3D efforts such as Chicken Little and The Nightmare Before Christmas.

The Hollywood Reporter previously wrote that Joseph Kosinski, currently said to be working on a Logan's Run remake, will be helming the project and that Lost writers Eddie Kitsis and Adam Horowitz would write the script. We just hope they haven't abandoned Tron's spandex roots. That, and that the discs are still deadly.

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6 Terrible Cameos That Just About Ruined the Movie


A well-handled cameo subtly acknowledges the fourth wall without taking the audience out of the flow of the movie. A poorly-handled cameo hurtles through the fourth wall and furiously pimp slaps you until you're unable to remember what the fuck this movie was about in the first place. Here are six of the pimp-slappingest cameos of all time.

#6.
Saving Private Ryan (1998)

The Cameo:

Ted Danson

The Lead Up:

We're immersed in the movie for a full hour already. We've seen the most graphic vision of D-Day ever shown on film. We've learned of the mission to save one man and we've seen the team lose a man in exchange.

Philosophical questions abound when suddenly the soldiers find themselves face to face with a squad of Nazis. Everyone has their guns pointed at one another, sweat is slowly forming on top of each and every brow. People are screaming in German and English and the entire theater is quiet with tense anticipation. And then it happens, the Germans get mowed down by ... Sam mother-fucking Malone from Cheers. Hey, Sammy!

Why it Nearly Ruined the Movie:

Maybe they got the idea to cast an '80s sitcom star in a war movie from Casualties of War. That Vietnam movie answered the question "Who do people want to see in a horrifying movie about cultural and oh so literal rape?" with the name Alex P. Keaton.

But Sgt. Sam Malone causes even more problems than Private Marty McFly, because his whole comedic persona on Cheers was based around a stone-faced droll delivery. So when he actually tries to be serious, you just keep waiting for him to crack a joke about how much tail he used to score when he was pitching in the minors.

Think back right now and see if you can remember anything about Ted Danson's role in the movie. If you're like us, all you hear is:

Sam: Hey there guys, looks like you've had a rough day. Sit down and tell me all about it.

Tom Hanks: We're looking for a Ryan. Private James F. Ryan.

Sam: Ryan eh? Let me go check. Carla! Hey Carla! You know guy named Ryan?

Sergeant Carla: Yeah, two of my eight kids are named Ryan.

Sam: No, Private James Ryan. Poor sap lost all his brothers and these guys need to find him.

Sergeant Carla: Haven't seen 'em. But you can have my boys instead. They're already proficient with firearms.

Tom Hanks: Thanks anyways, we'll be leaving now.

Lucky for us, Danson's only on screen for about six minutes, and Spielberg sucks us back into the action with a 10-minute scene of the guys holed up in a church for the night doing nothing but talking.

#5.
Star Trek III: The Search for Spock(1984)

The Cameo:

Christopher Lloyd

The Lead Up:

Spock is dead, Bones has Spock's soul, the Vulcan chick isn't Kirstie Alley anymore and Scotty's weight gain continues unabated. Kirk and crew then proceed back to the Genesis planet so that they can save Kirk's bastard son because he's being threatened by ... Christopher Lloyd?

Why it Nearly Ruined the Movie:

This cameo transcends the space-time continuum that Trek writers regard with such reverence that they screw with it at least once per movie (and 10 times per season). People who watched The Search for Spock on the big screen in 1984 did not see the Klingon villain Kruge, but rather the perpetually stoned cab driver "Reverend" Jim Ignatowski from the recently canceled TV show Taxi. For our under-30 readers, imagine if The Matrix had ended with Neo having to fight Kramer.

And while the makers of The Search for Spock can't be blamed for what came later, it should be noted that things didn't get any better for the later generation, who watched it post 1985 and saw the guy from Back to the Future who liked to say Jiggowatts.

While he's on screen for a large portion of the movie (being the main villain and all), Lloyd's role seems less like a top-billed performance and more like a cameo that just won't end. In trying to pinpoint exactly what it was about Christopher Lloyd's performance that made a horrible movie worse we discovered that he bore a striking resemblance to a stereotypical relative most of us have.

Lloyd is that annoying uncle that comes for Thanksgiving and doesn't leave until Groundhog's Day. While he's there he eats all the food (takes up all the screen time), bullshits about how he used to be in the special ops (pretends he's a barbaric Klingon warrior) even though there's no picture of him where he weighs under 200 pounds (looks like he could scare a 4-year-old). When he finally leaves (gets kicked into a river of molten lava) we feel relieved that we will not have to see him until next Thanksgiving.

#4.
Signs(2002)

The Cameo:

M. Night Shyamalan (playing a douchebag/himself)

The Lead Up:

Mel Gibson is an ex-Episcopal priest who stopped believing in God after M. Night's character killed his wife by being a drunken asshole.

Mel and his family discover a crop circle in their farm, they see an alien on their roof and chase it into a corn field where it disappears. It's around this time that they start to suspect something out of the ordinary might be going on. Unfortunately, it's not much longer before the audience starts to suspect the same.

It starts innocently enough. M. Night drives by in a car. No big whup. M. Night had tiny parts in The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable. Sure it's egotistical, but Hitchcock did the background cameo thing, and Hitchcock has always given M. Night a boner. Time to get back to the business of story telling as the family has another close encounter and then ...

Wait a second, now M. Night is calling them at home. A voice cameo in addition to the visual? Wait, what is Gibson doing at M. Night's house? Oh, M. Night just happens to possess key plot development points (they don't make crop circles near water) while also inviting Gibson to go deal with the alien stuck in his basement. Why, that doesn't make sense at all.

Why it Nearly Ruined the Movie:

Up until this movie, fans of M. Night's work had two assumptions that always came to fruition:

1) The movies would have an engaging plot with a twist that would make your skull explode.

2) He'd have a short cameo that had little to do with the actual plot.

But this movie fell short on both accounts because:

1) A "twist" being that your dead wife gave you a clue to defeat ONE fucking alien, instead of ALL of them seems like a waste of the power to see into the future.

2) M. Night's cameo was one of the first "Signs" (betcha didn't see that coming!) that he was descending into clinically insane narcissism.

We're guessing the character he plays is supposed to be mysterious: is he a deeply remorseful man seeking redemption or a sadistic bastard that still wants to fuck around with Mel Gibson's mind? Of course this would have only been mysterious if the character wasn't such an unremitting asshole: he killed his wife and only apologizes to him when he needs someone to kill the alien in his basement? That's not spooky, that's just fucking wrong.

Also, if you're going to create a character who's only reason for existing is to deliver a key piece of information and move the plot forward, it's probably best not to cast yourself. That tends to feel less like a cameo and more like you realized your plot wasn't going anywhere, and jumped in front of the camera and made up a bunch of shit that would get your movie to make sense again.

#3.
Finding Forrester (2000)

The Cameo:

Matt Damon

The Lead Up:

Very rarely can you find an instance where someone turns out to be the worst person on the planet for a job that they're given. For instance, while you may believe that our current President has done a poor job in office, you would have to acknowledge that if he was replaced by Osama Bin Laden, things would get a whole lot worse. Being bad for the job is one thing, but being the worst person for the job is almost unprecedented.

All the cameos up to this point on this list have been distractingly bad, but none featured the worst possible person for the job. Sam Malone was bad, but it probably would have been worse if Spielberg replaced him with Cliff Claven. But Finding Forrester manages to find the exact wrong guy for a cameo, and stick him in the film's most pivotal small part.

This cameo doesn't occur until the end of the movie, by which point you've either left or been sucked into the story. If you're still there, you felt bad when you saw Jamal (Rob Brown) get reprimanded for allegedly plagiarizing the first paragraph of an essay. You feel justice when Jamal is cleared and the jackass professor gets his ass verbally handed to him by Forrester. And the simple joy of watching Forrester ride a bike through New York has just uplifted your heart. The school outfit Anna Paquin wears throughout the film also uplifts your ... heart. Forrester moves back to Ireland and all is well with the world. Until Jamal is asked to meet with Forrester's lawyer, who happens to be ... Will Hunting.

Why it Nearly Ruined the Movie:

At what should be considered the most poignant moment in the movie we get a case of the What the Fucks, not to mention the Why the Fucks and the How the Fucks. Will Hunting shows up to tell Jamal that William Forrester has died and left everything to him. We think Will also tells Jamal that Forrester wrote another book, and asked him to do the foreword before excusing himself to go see about a girl, but we can't remember as our minds are reeling from being forced to acknowledge that the movie we've just been tricked into caring about was just the director of Good Will Hunting doing a lazy retread of his most successful movie.

See if this sounds familiar: A Gus Van Sant directed movie about a poor kid living in the ghetto who turns out to be a closeted genius. He faces resistance from uptight academics, but is helped along by a mentor with a no-nonsense attitude and a beard. Eventually, the mentor helps the boy genius come to terms with his talents.

Films have been considered remakes that had less in common than these two.

Van Sant tries to disguise the similarities by exchanging Will's math genius with Jamal's literary genius, and authentic sounding South Boston accents for meme-spawning approximations of black slang. And it just might have been enough to distract you from the fact that this is basically a lazy Mad Lib of Good Will Hunting if he hadn't gone and tapped Will Hunting himself to deliver the most important news of the movie.

#2.
Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass (1985)

The Cameo:

Scott Baio, Red Buttons, Sammy Davis, Jr., Sherman Hemsley, Telly Savalas, Ringo Starr, Ernest Borgnine, Beau Bridges, Lloyd Bridges, Patrick Duffy, Merv Griffin, Karl Malden, Pat Morita, John Stamos, Sally Struthers, Jonathan Winters and many many more.

The Lead Up:

The cameo-fest that is Alice in Wonderland starts when Alice meets the White Rabbit (comedian Red Buttons) and doesn't end until they mercifully roll credits on this two-part miniseries that aired on CBS in December of 1985.

Why it Nearly Ruined the Movie:

This movie ruins the lovable relationship most kids had with Alice in Wonderland. Oh, the child-friendly themes of following strange animals and drinking and eating poorly-labeled foodstuffs is still there. But then another actor or comedian pops up and takes our mind away from the whimsical story by making us go, "Wow, they must be desperate for money to wear that outfit."

Alice may go through the looking glass but we go through the tunnel of the childhood trauma. Mr. Miyagi is a horse, George Jefferson is a mouse, Ringo Starr is a Turtle and dear old Sammy Davis Jr. is a pot-smoking caterpillar.

Worst of all they take a badass like Kojak.


And turn him into this.


Which makes our faces look like this.

#1.
Ocean's 12(2004)

The Cameo:

Bruce Willis

The Lead Up:

Danny Ocean's likable crew is tasked with undoing everything they did in Ocean's 11, the only movie from the series that was actually good. As if this isn't unsatisfying enough, they have to accomplish the task by stealing an egg! We wish to God we were kidding.

The plot to steal the egg involves one of the most retarded schemes ever shown on film. Tess (played by Julia Roberts) has to pretend to be ... Julia Roberts. Why? Because Tess (again we'll remind you, played by Julia Roberts) just happens to look like ... Julia Roberts. This unfunny meta-joke is what you'd end up with if Charlie Kaufman's retarded twin brother from Adaptation was a real screenwriter. But the utter ridiculousness of the idea doesn't truly get a running start and kick you in the groin until Bruce Willis shows up playing ... Bruce Willis.

Why it Nearly Ruined the Movie:

In a movie with a bad premise, bad setup and horrific execution (and later a few bad twists) you may think that a bad cameo would be par for the course. Oh how deliciously wrong you would be.

Bruce Willis has a total of two tricks in his acting bag, playing an edgy burnt-out cop and playing a quirky assassin. While these two tricks have given him more money, fame and women than any burnt-out cop or quirky assassin should have, we still like to believe that he wakes up every morning in a cheap motel with a bad hangover yelling at no one in particular to get him two aspirin and his ex-wife on the phone.

In Ocean's 12, Willis and director Steven Soderberg decide to take the character of Bruce Willis in a different direction, making him into a creepy guy that appears to stalk Julia Roberts. It's as if a deranged maniac that knows more about Ms. Roberts than her own parents came bursting into her dressing room.

In addition to being creepy, Willis also sounds like a pussy. It is simply unacceptable for Bruce Willis to utter the phrase, "You're not supposed to fly when you're eight months pregnant" unless he's fighting a female assassin who is pretending to be pregnant in order to conceal a bomb and he's just thrown her out of an airplane at 30,000 feet, and watched her body explode in midair. That is the only scenario in which that line is acceptable coming from Bruce Willis.

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The 12 Smuggest Pricks in Hollywood

dane%20cook.jpgBy Rebecca Kelley

Like flies to honey, smug pricks are attracted by the alluring pull of the Hollywood sign. Whether under the guise of actor, musician, political pundit, or plain ol' Z-list celebrity, there are enough self-righteous assholes in the spotlight to start their own country (may we suggest Pricktenstein?). Below we've detailed 10 of the smuggest pricks in Hollywood. While we've barely scraped the bottom of the barrel, we feel that these asswads round out the various prick classifications.

12) Wilmer Valderrama
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Take a look at that photo and remind yourself that this man has reportedly tapped Mandy Moore, Jessica Alba, Lindsay Lohan, Scarlet Johansson, and countless other beauties who most likely now have gonorrhea, courtesy of Fez. Other than the retardo trifecta of having a shitty first name, crap MTV show, and movie career, Wilmer's only claim to fame is that he's seen more vag than a gynecologist. Take him out of Hollywood and he'd be some random short Latino dude who details your car, but because he stumbled onto That 70's Show and leeched onto Ashton Kutcher's teat like a hungry parasite, he gets to bang any hot girl he can get his douchey hands on.

10) Chris Daughtry / Jennifer Hudson (tie)
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These two assholes were gorging on humble pie when they were contestants on American Idol, yet once they sell some records and get cast in a major motion picture, suddenly their farts don't stink. Chris Daughtry (now just “Daughtry,” in case you can't read that ridiculous tattoo on his back) sneered about the “cheesy” pictures from American Idol he was asked to autograph. Jennifer Hudson, when not picking her teeth with her Oscar, would wipe her ass with American Idol if it were a physical entity that she could grab in her meaty paw.

Listen, fuckwads: as corny as American Idol is, both of you would be nothing without that show, so drop the sense of entitlement and give credit where it's due. It's not like you have to suck Simon Cowell's dick or anything, just don't act like you could have easily put out a hit album or won a goddamn Academy Award all by yourself without the aid of a number one TV show and exposure to 40 million people.

8) Bill Maher / Dr. Phil (tie)
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We are utterly convinced that Bill Maher makes every chick that he bangs put on a Bill Maher face mask because it's the only way he can have sex with himself. Every joke he makes on Real Time with Bill Maher oozes with so many self-congratulatory back pats that it's nauseating. Dr. Phil is even worse. While Bill Maher at least proverbially sucks his own cock due to somewhat intelligent observations, Dr. Phil takes idiotic claims like “You need to ditch that zero and get with a hero” and re-purposes it under the guise of sound advice and enlightening psychiatry. Unfortunately, millions of fat housewives like to hear Dr. Phil talk as much as he likes it, which only adds fuel to his fat, bald fire.

7) Anyone on Fox News
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Hannity, Colmes, O'Reilly, oh my! Throw in a couple of newscasters and the ever-delightful frequent guest, Ann Coulter, and you've got enough attention whoring to power Times Square. Normal people don't say the sort of shit that spews out of Fox News and plops into your living room. But what if you want attention, yet aren't intelligent or charismatic enough to gain it? Well, here's an easy fix: just say something retarded like “Women shouldn't be able to vote” or “Gay marriage will lead to people marrying goats, dolphins, and ducks,” and congratulations, somehow you've magically caught people's attention. Whether that attention is positive, however, is another story...

6) Eddie Murphy
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Want to know why you didn't win that Oscar you felt you so richly deserved, Eddie? It's because Academy voters remember Norbit, Daddy Day Care, and, God help us, The Adventures of Pluto Nash. They've given up on the Raw/Beverly Hills Cop/48 Hours Eddie Murphy, because he died with acid washed jeans and feathered hair. All you give us is bullshit kids' movies and sneer at us for not respecting you as an actor, then you pull on a fat suit and hone your “craft” by recycling movie premises that weren't funny to begin with. You aren't entitled to shit because you give us nothing BUT shit. When you put out a few quality movies in a row, then we'll talk; until then, we hear that Wesley Snipes needs a new direct-to-DVD costar.

5) Bryant Gumbel
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Listen, Bryant. Stop interviewing athletes as if you're reporting from the heart of the shit going down in Darfur. We get the feeling that Bryant describes his own dumps in grandiose prose. Sometimes a turd is just a turd. No need to polish it up and pass it off as fois gras. Bryant Gumbel makes the guys over at ESPN look like the dudes throwing the awesome kegger down the hall, and he's the guy who files a noise complaint because he has cello practice at 8 am the next morning. He is in serious need of a wedgie, preferably of atomic proportions.

4) Sean Penn
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When Chris Rock made a joke at Jude Law's expense at the 77th Academy Awards, the appropriate response is to chuckle politely, not stiffly retort that um, hello, Jude Law is “one of our finest actors.” Sean Penn's funny bone seems as broken as his character's mental abilities in I Am Sam. I mean, the guy makes millions, is a fantastic actor, and has won numerous awards for his craft. What the fuck is he so sour about? Dude's totally got Rosebud Syndrome. Upon his deathbed he'll drop his Oscar and mutter “Madonnaaaaaa” or something.

3) Dane Cook
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Sure, we'll guiltily admit to chuckling at a Dane Cook every now and then, but that's because he's adept at telling stories. The man has no jokes (none that he hasn't stolen, anyway), but try explaining that to his numbskull fanbase and you'll get incredulous stares from an army of guys wearing pink polo shirts and cargo shorts. It's sad, really. These guys don't know any better, and their sheeplike adoration of Dane Cook only further encourages him to do ill-advised shit like “act” and “release music albums.” Unfortunately, the only cure for Dane Cook-itis is to introduce his douche bag fanbase to another smug prick to idolize. It's kind of like The Ring, only the ring is actually a barbed wire tattoo around the bicep.

2) Dustin Diamond
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Listen up, Frankie Muniz and that kid with the big head from Jerry Maguire: just because you're annoyingly entertaining as a child actor doesn't mean you'll have a thriving and illustrious career as an adult. When that fall from grace happens, you have two options: accept that your youth was your time to shine and respectfully rejoin society with your dignity intact...or emulate Dustin Diamond in every way possible. Dustin desperately clings onto his smug prickery because it's the only thing keeping him in the spotlight. Sex tape? Check. Celebrity Fit Club? Check. Hack stand-up comedy act where you crack “clever” jokes about Zack Morris being gay? Zing and check. Dustin, do us a favor and just fuck off and die already, because nobody gives a shit about Screech Powers any more, no matter how hard you try to convince us otherwise.

1) Uwe Boll
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Uwe Boll is the adult embodiment of “I'm taking my ball and going home.” Please understand, Uwe, that you make SHITTY movies. Don't get all pissed off when critics react appropriately to bullshit like House of the Dead, Alone in the Dark, Bloodrayne, and any other video game or comic book you can utterly massacre during the transition to the big screen. Beating your critics in a boxing match doesn't mean you're now magically some fantastically talented director; it just means that you're a delusional prick who by some act of God continues to get paid good money for sub par work.

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