6 Erotic Films Probably Better Than 50 Shades of Grey Will Be

Photo by Cory Doctorow
A sentiment I can get behind.

In 2011, the erotic romance novel "50 Shades of Grey" was released, quickly becoming a global phenomenon, selling millions of copies to an audience eager for sexy thrills and, in many cases, an introduction to the world of BDSM.

I won't lie, the success of that book and its sequels creeps me out. It was developed from sexually explicit "Twilight" fanfic, when writer E.L. James uploaded it to various fan sites under the pen name "Snowqueen's Icedragon." There's something disturbing about realizing that there's a huge online population who enjoy masturabatory reading material based on books like "Twilight" and the "Harry Potter" series, but thanks to the internet, that's a thing now.

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Zombies Are Popular; Is the Genre Peaking?

Categories: Pop Culture

Photo by Gianluca Ramalho Misiti
I've often written about my decades-long love affair with zombie films and how the usually hyper-violent subgenre of horror movies has in recent years been experiencing a puzzling (to me) acceptance by a much larger and more mainstream audience than ever before.

Hardcore horror fans tend to be very protective of the types of movies they enjoy, and very passionate about them. Attend a horror convention or a late-night showing of any scary movie with a cult following, and that becomes obvious. Like any type of horror movies, zombie films have changed an awful lot over the years, and while it's not for me to decide if those changes are "good" or not, I have noticed a few trends that I personally find odd, and one that disturbs me.

The mainstream acceptance and integration of all things zombie is weird enough. Anyone checking out any retail website that sells cutesy fandom items will stumble across plush zombie dolls and other cute toy versions of a creature that, in most incarnations, is still a flesh-eating reanimated corpse. That's kind of weird, but also cool, and is definitely evidence that the zombieverse has shambled into a much broader section of pop culture than ever. I still remember the days of trying to explain why I liked "those movies" to people who couldn't understand the appeal, even to other horror fans who just didn't get the whole zombie thing. That's definitely changed, it's rare that I encounter someone with that reaction now.

When other movie monsters have become really popular, the material they're in and the fans they have tend to broaden in ways that aren't always cool, if a person is happy with their status as a monster. Vampires are a perfect example. While they were once spooky, blood-drinking, undead creatures that were usually played for scares, we now have lame lovelorn creeps that sparkle and fall in love with teenage girls, or they're presented as some sort of bisexual superheroes that would be more at home in a Gothic club or a romance novel. Lame.

Zombies aren't immune from such treatment either. So zombie movies with a romantic angle have appeared, such as Warm Bodies and the semi-romantic comedy DeadHeads. I guess I can't criticize people for coming up with new angles for this type of film. Creativity is a good thing, but the idea of romantic zombies just kind of leaves me cold. I hope that they don't eventually get the Twilight treatment and become accepted as brooding, sparkling sex objects. I asked my friend Thea Munster (professional last name she adopted), the Founding Director of the Toronto Zombie Walk, the first and among the largest zombie fan gatherings in the world, her thoughts on this:

"The appropriation of zombies from horror culture into the mainstream has somewhat decentralized the power of the zombie as a monster. Originally zombies were outsiders terrorizing the status quo, but they were also a very powerful political tool, as a zombie's strength lies in numbers and a relentless, unstoppable refusal to back down and to see a goal through. One zombie is easy to outrun or kill, but a horde is unstoppable, it will overwhelm in numbers. For those of us who grew up punk rock or in an alternative culture, the zombie represents the ability to have a voice against the wrongs of society. One person cannot change a civilization, but a unified group can make an impact."

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Pop Culture and Beyond: The Most Popular Art Attack Posts of 2014

Photo by Son Lam
It should come as no surprise that a RenFest post made the list.
"What is art?" is one of those questions that can be answered an infinite number of ways, which probably means that the best anything is "anything can be art." That's one of the joys about this blog: it gives us here are the Press room to stretch our wings and write about all manner of subjects.

And so we do. From the stage to the screen (big and small), from street art to fine art, from parenting to marijuana and from nudity to Doctor Who, we touch on a little bit of everything in the pop culture spectrum.

As 2014 winds down, we thought now was a good time to flashback to the year that was and the posts that you enjoyed the most. Thanks for reading and for commenting and for taking a chance on some of our weirder entries.

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You'll Be Able to See The Interview in Houston After All

Photo by Ed Araquel
Seth Rogan and James Franco in The Interview, coming to a theater near you. For real.
Well this is a surprising turn of events. Earlier today Alamo Drafthouse founder Tim League announced that Sony is authorizing screenings of the previously pulled The Interview on Christmas day.

Currently the Drafthouse's website is being absolutely hammered as people try and pick up tickets to see the film, so if you're going to the digital ticket route be patient. No word, as of yet, on any other Houston theaters that will be screening the film; we'll update as we know more.

(Lest you think we're playing with your emotions, here's a tweet from League confirming that the film is coming to Houston.)

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The Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 Is Worthy Alternative if You Hate Apple

Photos by Cory Garcia
As Web Editor, my chief interest is in how our website looks. (iPad Mini 2 on the left, Galaxy Tab S 8.4 on the right)
If you've been hesitating in getting into the tablet game, heed this advice: Just give in. A tablet computer may not change your life, but they're incredibly useful devices that can really enhance your recreational time.

It's hard to believe now, given the fact that tablets are damn near everywhere in society, that when the iPad was unveiled, a lot of people scoffed and said no one would be interested in it. Now non-tablet devices are trying to rip off the beauty that is touchscreen computing, because what good is technology if it's not making your operating system needlessly complicated?

Your best bet is to stick with actual, honest-to-God, "this is what they're created to do" tablets. An even better bet is to stick to the smaller models; what you lose in screen size you gain in reduced weight, which equals less arm strain and makes for a more enjoyable experience.

While the iPad may be the name that everyone knows in tablets, some folks just aren't interested, and that's fine. While in the broad strokes, iOS is a boon for those who want a system that just works (when Apple isn't breaking it themselves), some people just aren't interested in being tied into the Apple ecosystem.

Well, good news: If you're the type who's more at home with Android, there's a lot to like about the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4.

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Why Do Disney Films Have So Few Women in Them?

Cinderella on Sofia the First
"And then the prince traveled the land with the glass ceiling trying it on every woman in the kingdom."
There's no argument to be had that women are in fact underrepresented in Hollywood. Dr. Martha M. Lauzen, the executive director at the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University, compiled a report of the characters in the top 100 grossing films of 2011. Despite women being 51 percent of the population, they only represented 33 percent of the speaking roles in movies, up 5 percent from 2002. Worse than that, only one out of ten films featured a clear female lead protagonist. We won't even go into how embarrassing it is that neither Marvel or DC has launched a solo female superhero at a time when The Hunger Games is breaking box office records and even a terrible film like Lucy can rake in almost $500 million.

I got into a discussion about this online when someone spoke up about Disney as a counter argument. He said he couldn't even remember a male lead in a Disney film besides The Jungle Book. It's become a pretty silly and sad talking point of the Men's Rights "movement" that Disney has descended into this hot bed of radical feminism bent of emasculating men. "Where are teh menz?" they ask of this den of she wolves where men are barely present.

Which is a little weird because women are nearly as poorly represented in animated Disney films as they are in other films.

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[Video] A Yoga Flash Mob in Houston Wants to Remind You That the Holidays Should Be Fun

Categories: Pop Culture, Video

Be honest: With less than two weeks to go before Christmas, how are you doing this holiday season?

If you're stressed, don't feel bad because you're not alone. What many consider to be the most wonderful time of the year is sometimes anything but that. It seems that no matter where you go, there are crowds and lines and noise and terrible parking situations. Even if you're one of those people who love to get out and shop, holidays at the mall can be a nightmare. It's enough to frazzle even the strongest.

That's why in these hard holiday times, it's nice that there are people out there who want to remind us via the magic of a yoga flash mob what the season is really supposed to be about.

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Why Sofia the First Will End in a Bloody Civil War

"Remember, your family is totally capable of ordering your bloody death for petty reasons."
My primary hobby in the world is overanalyzing the complex feudal politics of the kingdoms in Disney. It's how I relax. I've already explained before how Brave is not just the story of a plucky young woman finding the strength to be who she really is, but also a complex plot by her father to ensure that his line will maintain the loyalty of the lords underneath him through a combination of feminism and perpetual hope of a union. There was also my bit about how Elsa's status as a woman who is not defined by her romantic partner might be the lesson young girls need in the modern world, but creates a problem if Arendelle is to know continued peace.

Lately the princess that my daughter has been shoving into my eyeholes continuously is Sofia of the show Sofia the First. It's not a bad show, most of the time. The focus remains on learning how to be kind and fair, which is certainly something that we can all agree the world needs more of.

However, after sitting through probably my 125th episode I suddenly realized that if the tale of Sofia is taken far enough it's definitely doing to end in a blood civil war.

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Is Any Part of Bill Cosby's Legacy Worth Salvaging?

Categories: Pop Culture

A promotional image for the The Cosby Show
Bill Cosby's present is secure. Despite the 17 women (so far) who have publicly come forward with notably similar allegations of drug-enabled sexual assault, the comedian received standing ovations for his stand-up performances in the Bahamas and in Florida recently. His comeback tour will likely continue over the next few months. A handful of venues have canceled his engagements, but more than two dozen shows remain on the schedule.

Cosby's legacy, however, may be marred forever. Unsurprisingly, it's the cultural critics who grew up worshipping his TV family -- those who feel the betrayal of The Cosby Show's wholesomeness most acutely -- who have led the charge in renouncing everything the comedian has ever done. Roxane Gay powerfully (if not entirely convincingly) argued that, in the case of Cosby, the choice is "art or humanity": "There is only one side that matters...We have to stop supporting any of his endeavors. His art does not absolve him. Art is nothing compared to humanity, nothing at all." Mike Ryan was no less absolute: "All the good he did -- and his contributions to popular culture really did do a lot of good -- is now ruined."

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[Video] Meeting the People of the 2014 Halloween Montrose Crawl

Costumes have been packed away. Leftover candy is being consumed. Thoughts are turning toward Thanksgiving. After weeks of anticipation, Halloween has come and gone. Sure, between now and then there will be other costumes parties and cosplay conventions and other excuses to dress up, but Halloween is the big day, the one that we look forward to the most.

This Halloween was even more exciting because it was on a Friday, which basically meant that the entire weekend was going to be one long, costumed party. Saturday Halloweens are cool too, and we expect 2015 to be pretty wild, but there's something about getting dressed and knowing the entire weekend is ahead of you that just makes a Friday Halloween a bit more special.

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