How to Spice Up the (Probably) Terrible Fifty Shades of Grey Movie

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Ana does her best Rocky Horror.
The adaptation of E.L. James's preposterous BDSM novel (that famously started life as Twilight fan fiction) drops into theaters like so many hastily doffed panties this Friday. Universal Pictures is hoping a not insignificant chunk of the 60 million people who bought the book will show up to see R-rated re-enactments of NC-17 smut.

I tried to read Fifty Shades of Grey, I really did, but it was hard to to continue when I realized that with every clumsily written paragraph, I was inching inexorably toward my death and the possibility I'd be on my death bed, lamenting -- Comic Book Guy-style -- that I'd wasted my life.

Although if I'm being honest, that'll probably happen anyway.

However, I have read some excerpts, and am aware of the controversy surrounding the presentation of Christian Grey as a romantic lead when he really belongs more in the "abusive piece of shit" category. In any event, it seems like Universal had a tough time both staying faithful to the events in the book as well as trying to get lead actors Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson to act like they don't loathe each other IRL.

But even though the movie comes out in three days, it's not too late to throw some water on this tire fire. To that end, here are some can't-miss* ideas to ensure 50SOG doesn't turn into this decade's Good Luck Chuck.

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The Fight Club Guide to Valentine's Day: Help for the Unromantic, Unattached and Lazy

Categories: Pop Culture

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Thinkstock/Artem_Furman
So it's Valentine's Day and there are dozens of romantic dinners, parties and performances planned all around town. For the truly enamored, a big bouquet of roses, a candlelight supper, some candy and a diamond engagement ring should cover all the bases.

What about folks who aren't "in love" at the moment? You know, people who are happily in a casual we-absolutely-know-this-isn't-going-anywhere friends-with-benefits situation.Or folks who are in a "meh" stage of their relationship? Or guys who would much rather buy a round of shots for their buddies at the sports club than give a girlfriend a Valentine's Day card. And, of course, there are those couples that have trouble communicating hence they shout at each other a lot.

No matter what the situation, there are plenty of unromantic alternatives to the usual expressions of ardor and undying love. Some of them are fun, some of them leave no doubt that the honeymoon's over.

This story continues on the next page.

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Rock and Roll Hero Buddy Holly Lives On via Buddy

Categories: Pop Culture, Stage

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Photo by Peter Cox/Buddy Worldwide Ltd.
Todd Meredith (standing on bass) stars as Buddy Holly at Jones Hall.
Todd Meredith, who has the lead role in Society for Performing Arts' production of Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story, has turned the musical into what could well be a lifelong career.

"I always aspired to be a professional musician," says Meredith from a hotel room in New Jersey where he and the rest of the cast are snowbound by the monster cold front that hit the Northeast this week. "But in fact acting in the Buddy musical has actually made a music career possible."

This is Meredith's 17th tour in the cast of Buddy, and he's turned his knowledge of Holly's repertoire into a popular Holly tribute band -- the Rave-Ons, named after the title of one of Holly's biggest hits -- that now works 50-70 dates per year.

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

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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 masturbatory 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

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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

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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

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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

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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?

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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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