Spillage, Ohio-style.

Turn Off That Videogame and Watch a Movie for a Change!

Because I like to step on Dellamorte’s toes…

Entertainment journalists are spoiling for a cross-media showdown between Grand Theft Auto IV and Iron Man, and I am not having it. The notion that teens to thirtysomethings – and probably more fortysomethings than you’d think – will be so sucked into the reportedly “expansive” universe of the most hotly anticipated video game since Airworld that they’ll skip the first big event film of the summer is utterly preposterous. It’s the same trash we heard when the last three Harry Potter books were released; and while two of those titles enjoyed splashy, Friday-into-Saturday midnight releases, their would-be victims – Ang Lee’s Hulk and The Simpsons Movie – enjoyed healthy openings.

Granted, there are a couple of key differences with the GTA IVIron Man non-showdown: 1) They’re almost exclusively catering to the same demographic, and 2) They’re visual media. Whereas readers might’ve craved a two-hour break from the printed page, gamers would probably prefer to decompress by sleeping (provided their bloodstream isn’t completely polluted with Red Bull). Though interactivity is also a factor, but every gamer I know needs a little passivity here and there. And while the late September debut of Halo 3 might’ve just kept The Kingdom from hitting $20 million last year, it was a thinking man’s action film set in the Middle East; there’s not a chance gamers would miss the opening weekend of Iron Man (a functioning man’s action film partially set in Afghanistan), especially when the film has been so appealingly advertised.

But will they have cash left over after blowing $60 on GTA IV ($90 if they splurge on the special edition)? Of course, they will. Though a fraction of this demo might’ve ventured out for a glazed-over, half-amused viewing of Harold & Kumar 2 last weekend (and/or Forgetting Sarah Marshall the weekend before), most of them haven’t been hitting the theaters too regularly this year – as opposed to 2007, when they had 300, Blades of Glory and Disturbia vying for their dollar. They’re primed for a big swinging-dick of an event movie. And even if they weren’t, the first weekend of May is hardwired into their consciousness; anything marketed with an ounce of confidence – i.e. not the compromised theatrical cut of Kingdom of Heaven – is guaranteed $50 million.

Which brings us to the more compelling question: “What’s a reasonable expectation for Iron Man‘s three-day?” As Anne Thompson has reported, Paramount is muting their enthusiasm, acting like $50 million would get the champagne bottles popping down on Melrose. Though I understand the importance of downplaying expectations, $50 million is a franchise-killer. In a May stuffed with worthy competition (Speed Racer and What Happens in Vegas… arrives on the 9th, Prince Caspian and Indy 4 thereafter), $50 million makes $150 unlikely, which means Paramount has some ‘splainin’ to do (and a Van Helsing-sized failure to disavow).

No one is expecting this. Thompson seems to think an extra $25 million on top of Paramount’s pre-weekend estimate is a safe bet, but even $75 million seems a shade low to me. Unless there’s superhero malaise setting in (and woe betide The Incredible Hulk and The Dark Knight if so), I think a number equal to X2‘s $85 million three-day from 2003 is more than realistic. Iron Man just feels like it’s got the zeitgeist. If nothing else, it’s at least sharing the zeitgeist with GTA IV.

Hark! I Hear! I Hear the Cannons Roar! Ro-ar!

According to AICN’s Moriarty, the best piece of film music I’ve heard in years will hit iTunes tomorrow. And if you haven’t heard Michael Giacchino’s “Roar” yet, it’s because you didn’t hang around for Cloverfield‘s closing credits. Or skipped the film altogether. Either one’s a distinct possibility. Regardless, you need this.

The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Gavin Vereek

Creative writing of any kind (novels, screenplays, filthy limericks) would be non-stop bliss were it not for two tedious tasks: titles and names. If there’s a particular section of the brain that aids in the conceiving of either, I lack it. Of all the plays and screenplays and films I’ve left languishing in various states of disrepair, only two have titles: Crisis in the Golan Heights and The Libertine and the Imbecile – and of those two, only the latter has anything to do with the action of the plot. Everything else is untitled: Untitled Angry Young Man Drama, Untitled Conceited Young Man Comedy, Untitled Samuel Gompers Biopic/Unofficial Joysticks Sequel. Even my North By Northwest homage bears the hyper-imaginative moniker Untitled North By Northwest Homage (by the end of September, I anticipate having to rechristen it Unproduceable Eagle Eye Ripoff).

Character names are a separate hell, mostly because I am deathly afraid of exhibiting the same tin-eared ineptitude that plagues multi-gazillionaire author John Grisham. Though the man may know how to spin a savagely convoluted yarn (at least, he did back in the early 90s when I had the idle time to thumb through his “beach reads”), he frustrates easy reading by populating his tales with the onerously monikered likes of Royce McKnight, Avery Tolar, F. Denton Voyles, Fletcher Coal and Gavin Vereek. Anyone know a Vereek? (Google turns up a mere twenty-seven pages of matches for “Vereek”, most of which cite Tony Goldwyn’s performance as the aforementioned in The Pelican Brief.) And, even if you did, would you want to use such a clunky surname in a work of fiction? Colorful and/or unusual names certainly have their place in fiction (e.g. Stephen Dedalus, Binx Bolling, Haystacks Calhoun), but unless you’re writing a Marx Brothers script, they should never be so outlandish as to drag the reader out of the narrative. Also, some names just don’t date well (and, in case you’re wondering, “But Mark Twain did it!” is not likely to spare you the quintessential ass-whipping of the modern age).

So when I go about christening characters in my facetiously titled trifles, I ask myself three questions:

1) Do they sound too “Grisham-y”?

2) Would I do a double-take if introduced to this person at a cocktail party?

3) Are they nicknamed “Nigger”?

If it’s “No, no, no”, then I’m all like “Welcome to a world where tough guys carol, Emil Muzz.”

That’s a lot of Dragnet references in one week. And I’m afraid there was no point to the last couple of paragraphs. I need to get my ass out of Ohio.

I Like Gods. I Like Them Very Much.

While I’m running shit into the ground…

See you tomorrow, when I’ll try to finish my anguished (‘cuz it’s very negative and I adore Wong Kar-Wai) My Blueberry Nights review.