Is iOS7 a PR Stunt? Classic Coke Drinkers Want to Know.

Everyone loves a good conspiracy theory, and with the revelation that the NSA’s PRISM system was used “to gain access to the private communications of users of nine popular Internet services” — anything seems possible.

With this in mind, I couldn’t help but think that the “user” unhappiness with the beta release of iOS7, Apple’s new operating system, was engineered. Even planned. Much like the launch of New Coke.

First let me regale you with the history of New Coke and then I’ll draw obvious comparisons and conclusions, and maybe you’ll start to believe my twisted theory.

In case you were just a twinkle in your fathers eye back in the mid 80's the New Coke story goes something like this…

“New Coke was the reformulation of Coca-Cola introduced in 1985 by the Coca-Cola Company to replace the original formula of its flagshipsoft drink, Coca-Cola (also called Coke). New Coke originally had no separate name of its own, but was simply known as “the new taste of Coca-Cola” until 1992 when it was renamed Coca-Cola II.
The American public’s reaction to the change was negative and the new cola was a major marketing failure. The subsequent reintroduction of Coke’s original formula, re-branded as “Coca-Cola Classic”, resulted in a significant gain in sales. This led to speculation that the introduction of the New Coke formula was just a marketing ploy; however the company has always claimed it was merely an attempt to replace the original product.”
~ Wikipedia Excerpt

In case you didn’t read between the lines:

  1. After initial rollout and acceptance of New Coke, there was a huge backlash from customers, specifically from a very vocal Southern minority who viewed the beverage as a distinct part of the region’s identity. (Coca-Cola’s headquarters is based in Altlanta, Georgia.)
  2. These unhappy drinkers viewed the company’s decision to change the formula as another surrender to the “Yankees”. They and others like them showed their unhappiness by bombing Coca-Cola’s headquarters with 400,000-plus calls and letters. Remember the internet did not yet exist in the form that we know it today.
  3. Other drinkers joined the growing cacophony of voices in expressing their displeasure. Newspaper columnists wrote about the New Coke formula, chastising both the taste and the Coca-Cola executives who made the decision to change said formula. Talk-show hosts used it as fodder for opening monologues. Even Fidel Castro denounced the New Coke. There were boycotts and public protests, with cases of the New Coke being poured out in the streets.
  4. A grassroots movement was organized by aspiring PR noobie, Gay Mullins, in an effort to get the old formula back into the public’s hands.
  5. Regional bottlers, who had once applauded the move as a bold tactic to stave off the encroaching upstart Pepsi, filed a lawsuit against Coca-Cola corporate.

All of this fuss over carbonated sugar water.

(caption: New Coke was introduced to compete against the sweeter competitor, Pepsi.)

In the end, the board of Coca-Cola changed their minds and brought back the old formula branding it “Coke Classic” and sold it right along side the “New Coke” — which even some Coca-Cola loyalists loved and continued to drink. By years end, Coke Classic outsold both New Coke and Pepsi and six months after reintroduction sales increased “more than twice the rate of Pepsi’s.”

Years later, Sergio Zyman (Coke’s Marketing Vice-President) talking about the New Coke expereince was quoted saying, “Yes, it infuriated the public, cost a ton of money and lasted only 77 days before we reintroduced Coca-Cola Classic. Still, New Coke was a success because it revitalized the brand and reattached the public to Coke.”

In essence, Coca-Cola had it’s cake and ate it too.

Some people, even those in the Marketing and PR, believed the results of this fiasco were too good to be coincidence and many entertained that the conspiracy theories could have merit — whether or not Coke-Cola did it on purpose. Former CEO Donald R. Keogh refuted these theories stating, “We’re not that dumb, and we’re not that smart.”

The company currently refutes these theories on it’s own web site, publishing their version of the New Coke saga.

Now if you reread the previous paragraphs, swapping out the words Android for Pepsi, iOS7 for New Coke, newspapers for bloggers/new media, Apple for Coca-Cola — perhaps you’ll start thinking like I do.

What if the release of iOS7 Beta was done purposely to fuel the flames of discontent? What if it was done to increase news coveragegenerate hateful tweets, inspire I hate iOS7 facebook pagesJonyIveRedesignsThings tumblrs and generally keep us focused on the flaws until the actual, final, ready for public-consumption release of the new iOS in the Fall of 2013?

Like they say, “there no such thing as bad publicity.”

What if when that happened, Jony Ive, in that alooo-min-eee-um laced voice tells us we’ve been punk’d and gives us the real iOS update? The update with all the currently announced functionality improvements but, sporting a gloriously intuitive, retooled and revamped visual design.(Regardless of whether they ape Windows 8 or Android Ice Cream Sandwich)

The competition will weep, critics and haters will eat their words, loyalists will rejoice and the stock price will climb into the stratosphere and all will be right in the world of Apple.

Logic tells me this will never happen — but it never hurts to dream.

… … …

Full Disclosure: The author owns an iPhone 3 and 4 as well as an HTC EVO - but has since migrated to the iPhone 5 and the HTC One X+. Currently he’s grooving on Google Now, though he does so on the competitors OS.


Photo Credits: Jane M Sawyer

I Yam Whut I Yam…

Answers to the Dustin Sensos Questionnaire aka Five Design Questions

Tell us who you are in one sentence.

I’m a former VP, Director, Designer, Cog-In-the-Machine and these days I design mobile apps and websites — constant in my ability to spark the gears of inspiration and initiate the creative process, I love to color outside the lines and eat paste, break things and put them back together again — and I’m partial to run-on sentences.

If you weren’t a designer, what would you do?

I’d draw comics. However, since my design skills exceed my drawing skills — I’d ask DC or Marvel (if they’d have me) if I could stay on and write (instead). More realistically, I’d be a doctor, lawyer, accountant, engineer or any of the other careers approved by most Asian parents. And I’d be miserable.

Thank God for Design School, Mrs Mast, Mrs Gilmore, Richard CarlyonAkira Ouchi,Robert Meganck and the many other influences in my life who said, “Fuck It, what do you have to lose?” (They didn’t use those exact words but, the gist of it boiled down to the aforementioned quote.)

What is something you wished you designed, either because you love it, or because you feel you could have done it better?

The original ZVOX mini speaker. One cabinet, one connecting wire and a one page owners manual. Afforable enough for the everyman and designed by maverick Winslow Burhoe, it generates immense room filling sound. Marvelous.

What was your biggest design mistake?

Asking, “Who is Martin Sorrell?” in an all hands meeting, on my first day as a designer at OgilvyPR Worldwide. Open mouth, insert foot.

What advice would you give someone entering the design field?

Never stop learning, never be afraid to fail, never shy away from something new and never turn down an opportunity just because it is in another city, state or country — you lose that flexibility as you get older.


Photo Credit: Directors Bureau / Wunderman Agency

Put Down the Smartphone and Back Away From the Table

To anyone not invested in the outcome, it would appear as if the ruckus over which smartphone operating system is superior, is a matter of national security. So thick is the fighting that family members, loved ones and coworkers are forced to pick sides. If we could harness the effort exerted in defending our choices — we might yet have a solution to the world’s energy problems.

To be fair, anyone who evangelizes or professes a preference for one platform or the other is often rejoicing in the pure wonder of technology. To quote Arthur C. Clark, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” It is the discovery of just how much you can do with a palm sized hunk of metal, glass and plastic that invariably pushes us to preach to nonbelievers or the uninitiated. 

However, it is the discovery of the limitations of our own chosen platforms and the advantages of the other that makes us question our faith. We are propelled by the fear that perhaps we backed a horse that won’t come in first place, or worse a horse that won’t even be a factor in the race. 

In deference to this, we often rebuke the opposing operating system. We continue professing our faith in the form of stickers, tattoos, and blog posts. Nay we say! Android trounces the iOS platform and vice versa. Why be a slave when you can chart your own destiny! Yelling so loudly we can’t hear the opposition as they respond with retorts of a better end-to-end user experience. So simple your grandmother could use it the Android warriors retort! That's the whole effin’ point the iOS spartans chant. The battle rages on with both sides flinging flaming fireballs designed to extinguish the opposition.

“We sell more phones,” the Android army exclaims.

“We make more money off our phones,” defends the iOS knights.

“Your mapping app sucks,” cry the Android legions.

“Your apps are mostly trash,” charge the iOS minions.

Meanwhile, in the trenches there’s a creeping suspicion among some of us, that we’ve made the wrong decision. We’ve invested too heavily in the ecosystem, and are trapped by our choices. Each successive purchase compounds the number of manacles already on our wrists. (Unless we’ve rooted or jail-broken our devices.) All the while our compatriots intimating that if we defect, we’ll lose mountains of content and be branded a traitor. Like those early adopters before us who made similar choices; between Betamax instead of VHS, Sony MiniDisc instead of iPods and HDDVD instead of BluRay — we fight on. We fight on so that others might validate our choices and relieve us of our buyers remorse.

Offshore is the once mighty RIM armada flying a Blackberry flag. Coming over the horizon are the upstart Windows Wildings - ensuring that the war will be waged on many fronts, over many continents for years to come — with the only victor being choice.

... ... ...

Full Disclosure: The author owns an iPhone 3 and 4 as well as an HTC EVO - but has since migrated to the iPhone 5 and the HTC One X+. Currently he’s grooving on Google Now, though he does so on the competitors OS.


With just two weeks to go, Jack's partner is eager to wrap things up and leave a now desolate Earth.

...   ...   ...

OK. OK. Two reviews in less than six months seems like I'm developing a man crush on Mr. Tom Cruise but, I promise you it's just a coincidence. I'm just using this movie review as a test of PostHaven's new blogging platform. (no really…with Posterous shutting down it is a valid exercise.)

I was looking forward to this movie, having followed the trailers and featurettes on the bubbleship and how they shot the skytower, via the internet and other media outlets. Regardless of what you think of the film, one thing is for certain - in DC at least - the combination of marketing and paid off. Tom Cruise can still open a big movie weekend. In the Washington DC metro area it was hard to find a ticket, shows were sold out through midnight on Saturday and I was lucky enough to snag one for the IMAX presentation.

Usually I'm not a fan of 3D or IMAX but in the case of Oblivion, this is exactly what the movie needed. Amazing in its scope, you get a feel for the sky tower, the empty landscapes and the results of an Earth wasted by elemental change as a result of a devastated moon. The first half of the movie is pristine. We are introduced to Jack Harper (Cruise), a drone tech with a full complement of science fiction toys: the impossibly clean bubbleship with a 270 degree view of the world, a next gen motorcycle and the requisite pulse weapon. Jack along with his "teammate" and operator Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) are the mop up crew. With only two weeks left in their rotation before they return to the Mothership. The Mothership headed for Titan, one of Saturn's moons.

They're leaving Earth, along with the rest of humanity, because even though they won the war with the long gone aliens, the Earth is no longer fit to support life. They're there to repair drones who are protecting giant ships meant to harvest the last of Earths resources before the Titan trip.

Yet Jack, who keeps having memories of a past prior to the invasion, can't help but think perhaps they're wrong, perhaps they're meant to stay on Earth for just a little longer.

...   ...   ...

The last half of the movie devolves into echoes of other movies you might have seen before, if you're a big fan of science fiction. I'll leave those 5-6 movies unnamed because they would give away key plot points. This doesn't make the movie any less enjoyable because of the rush of emotion in the second half of the movie. As Jack Harper, Cruise is equal parts stoic and lonely individual looking to connect. As Victoria, Andrea Riseborough does credit to her classical stage acting background by living the part of a "team member", lover, spouse (it's never spelled out in the movie) - who is torn between her feelings for Jack and her desire to leave the planet.

The aforementioned BubbleShip and SkyTower. (all the comforts of home)

...   ...   ...

Though Oblivion was based on producer/director Joseph Kosinski's unpublished graphic novel of the same name, you will undoubtably leave the movie knowing he was heavily influenced by works that came before. In many ways that's all right -- as it doesn't diminish the enjoyment of the movie. If anything, it makes you want to view the movies you think influenced Kosinski -- to see if your hypothesis is correct. Keep in mind there are only seven plots (some say 12) in storytelling so in the bigger scheme of things -- it's often how you tell a story and to whom that determines success and resonance.

For me Oblivion marks the kickoff of the Summer Movie season, and it can only get better. Grab some popcorn, get smack dab in the middle of that IMAX screen and soak it all in.


Returning from four weeks of vacation spent overseas in Southeast Asia, on a visit home to Laos, I was jonesing for a catch-up weekend on all the first movies I had missed while I was MIA. The obvious selection for my first reinsertion into the U.S. pop-culture machine should have been the new James Bond flick, Skyfall. However, the new movie Jack reacher just seemed too compelling. I was pleasantly surprised by my last minute pivot. (Future posts will eventually cover the Southeast Asia adventure — I promise).

... ... ...

Check your movie critic hat at the door upon entering the theater and you'll be treated to a solid and entertaining two hours and 11 minutes. If you're familiar with the Lee Child thrillers, on which the Jack Reacher movie has been fashioned, you'll spend a little time getting over the fact that Tom Cruise is not the Jack Reacher from the novels. Cruise does an outstanding job of portraying Jack Reacher. By the end of the first act, any reservations you may have had regarding the fact that he's not six foot five, brawny or blond – is replaced by the fact that Cruise truly inhabits the character of Jack Reacher. Unbending, stoic and morally unconfused, Cruise's version of Jack Reacher is without scruples when it comes to seeing that justice is served (versus what is right or wrong based on proof). Audiences will gravitate to him because he sees the world in black and white with few if any shades of gray.

 He's a modern day Dirty Harry without the magnum, the Terminator without the mechanical directive, the Punisher without the comic book affectations.

 Critics will complain that the plot, as it unfolds, makes it obvious to cinephiles exactly what is going on — and if you're an attentive movie watcher you'll realize that part is true. The movie has less to do with keeping the audience in the dark and more to do with keeping them guessing how the Jack Reacher character will resolve the problem(s) at hand.

 Here's where all the joy in Jack Reacher comes to a head — women will swoon (like the women in the movie) for Reacher and men will gravitate towards his level of control. On this latter point, it's a level of control that allows Reacher to drop off the grid, untethering himself from the indignity of modern life, the binds of mortgage payments and the demands of a wired life. A quote from the actual book explains how he got to be this way, "I was in the machine. My whole life. Then the machine coughed and spat me out. So I thought, OK, if I'm out, I'm out. All the way out. I was a little angry and it was probably an immature reaction. But I got used to it.”

In essence, Jack Reacher is his own man, living life on his own terms.

Armed with a military background that gives him the chops to back up his understated bravado Jack Reacher, as played by Cruise, is the antithesis of the Arnold Schwarzenegger era action hero. Jack Reacher's first line of defense is intellect, which prevents him from responding to every obstacle with a catchphrase and a hail of bullets fired from an automatic weapon.

Everyone involved with this movie seemingly brought their "A" game, with top billed cast turning in solid performances. Director Christopher McQuarrie ( Usual Suspects) also brings his formidable talents to the project and it shows - from sound design, music and cinematography the all the work is impeccable.

I'm sure studio execs are holding their breath, waiting on weekly box office totals, to see if this will be a breakout hit. Waiting to see if this movie will provide them with a franchise with a wealth of source material. At last count, Lee Childs has had at least 16 Jack Reacher books published. And for pure fun the Reacher novels are easily the best thriller series going. Let us hope this movie, based on the novel "One Shot", is the first of many more to come.



Last, summer (or was it the summer before?) my mother showed up unannounced. She said she gave me a heads up but I told her since you flew across the Atlantic, calling from New York City after you land is not considered a "heads up." What followed was a week of unplanned dinners and outings followed by a second week of unplanned dinners and outings in NYC folowed by a wedding (not mine).

I only recently found my cache of notes/posts from that period. On the eve of yet another family outing (this time half-way around the world) I present Two Weeks of My Mother on Twitter v2.O. (OK, OK this time they were facebook posts, primarily because I needed more characters to describe the madness.) Overall though Ive got to cut her some slack since she's in her early 80s and not early 70s as I had thought.

Got confirmation that my Mom will touchdown in NYC June 15th. Right now she is in Paris trying out her mothering logic on my younger brother. It's like a test run.
via Facebook
... ... ...

So it begins. My mother landed in NYC on the 15th — though I can't be sure because she hasn't called, or e-mailed or texted. And of course her cell phone is turned off. You know if the tables were turned I'd get an earful. I guess this is payback.
via Facebook
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Mom is still MIA, or maybe my siblings like keeping me in the dark. Then again they've assimilated the European lifestyle so maybe they're on holiday too. That means I'm free for the 4th.
via Facebook
... ... ...

So I found Mom. (who is OK, thanks for asking) But I can't call her back because she keeps calling and leaving 20+ minute messages. Nothing coherent. Just ambient noise of breakfast being eaten. Hang up Mom (and chew with your mouth closed...)
via Facebook
... ... ...

 "So what do you want to do Mom?" Upon where she answers "I don't know, you decide." Of course I'll make a decision and hours into our outing she'll whisper, "This is not what I really wanted to do." 
via Facebook
... ... ...

My sister worries since my Mom will often walk into a room and forget why she came, I.e. to fetch/do something specific, she may be developing some memory loss. I respond by saying, what we were we talking about again?
via Facebook
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Running around the neighborhood with the iPad in tow to prove to my Aunt that the range of her Verizon FiOS signal is not infinite - and thus she is NOT supplying access for the whole county.
via Facebook
... ... ...

So I find out from my Mom why it's so hard to build the family tree. Laotians didn't have/use last names prior to WW2. So had I been traveling the country at that time and people asked me who I was I would have had to say, "I'm Monirom, son of Sopsaisana, of the tribe that has indoor plumbing and electricity. We come in peace."  
via Facebook
... ... ...

She comes across the Atlantic...to buy an iPad.
via Twitter
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... ... ...

Why my Mom got stopped by the TSA: because she insisted on bringing an 833g Box of "After 8" Mints across the Atlantic. (833g is the size wholesalers sell to catering companies) Apparently when they melt inside the box, the density is close to peanut butter, or plastic explosives.
via Facebook
... ... ...

My mom remarks Wow you look great. Have you lost weight - if you don't visit your aunt before she dies - you'll be sorry. that's 1 sentence. 
via Facebook
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So I call my Mom, who was up until 4am, to get the initial call/guilt over with. And she goes, "Don't call me on the cell, it costs a fortune." and hangs up. This is why I have great powers of deduction.
via Facebook
... ... ...

My aunt tells me I should be grateful my mother gave up a night of cards with the Lao women because she loves me. So guess where we are? I'm surrounded by cackling Lao women who believe the louder you yell the more powerful your message. Cards are flying, babies shrieking, toddlers playing fisher price slam dunk, preteens inhaling helium etc. Even my cousin Tray had the good sense to cut and run.

According to Dante I'm in the first ring.
via Facebook
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Countdown to my first (ever) road trip with my Mother (no kidding). Be glad I wont be drexting.
via Facebook
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First know I love my mother before reading this missive: I'm at the intersection of BFE and Where the F Are We — being given driving tips by a woman who has never operated a motor vehicle in her life — who is being assisted by a woman who knows the city of NYC but speaks no English.
via Facebook
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She stops me before I leave to have me clarify my itinerary and purpose. I ask if she would like to accompany me to visit my friend Anne in Pearl River, NY. I'm ready to go! she exaults. Then when informed my friend Anne is neither my girlfriend nor fiancé — and thus we are not likely to get married. My mother declines in favor of the Hall of Science in Queens.
via Facebook
... ... ... 

I love you too, Mom.


"You think this can last? There's a storm coming, Mr. Wayne. You and your friends better batten down the hatches, because when it hits, you're all gonna wonder how you ever thought you could live so large and leave so little for the rest of us."

Observations On All Things Dark Knight (Again)



When an audience claps in appreciation at a movie, not just at the end but also during key parts of the movie, you know the director has done his job well. This is especially true if there is no one associated with the movie present at the screening and the audience is sober. In many cases, it is a reaction to building tension that is finally alleviated or when a character so disliked in the movie — gets their comeuppance. Sitting in a packed theater last night, where many remained seated through the credits, you would be right to assume that Christopher Nolan has a crowd pleaser on his hands.

One can surmise that Nolan, having filled the coffers of Warner Bros. many times over, was given carte blanche to fulfill his vision of the Batman mythos. Though at times it seemed like the movie was getting too big to be contained, Nolan does an expert job of wrapping up the trilogy, answering open questions and tying up loose ends in a satisfying way for Batman fanboys and the casual viewer alike. This is a feat that is more daunting than we realize because when the first movie in the trilogy Batman Begins debuted, Nolan had yet to map out the story arc for all three films.

There will be many who will dissect The Dark Knight Rises, much like they did its predecessor, nit-picking at details and lamenting in extended anti-TDK/Nolan diatribes. Some of these reviews are so scathing, one has to think that the authors just might revel in the negative comments generated by their contrarian views. They of course are not entirely wrong. But, no matter, most of us do not take notes or dissect a movie as we are watching it. We do as was intended and we allow it to wash over us. We experience the film as a whole. Only after the experience will we giddily turn to ask our fellow movie goers and ask, “What did think?!!” In the case of this movie, we most likely did not bother to listen before we blurted out our own opinion laced with superlatives. Nolan has gone the full distance and brought us a final installment of the Dark Knight Trilogy that informs us about our own state as a people, connects us in shared emotions and entertains the “muther-effing” heck out of us. It’s also the first movie this summer that I knew I wanted to pay to see twice. (Which I’m secretly hoping to do right now. Even as I type this review on an iPad having ditched church for the matinee showing — God forgive me.)


(No Spoilers I Promise, Just Set-Up) Christopher Nolan has developed a narrative strung so tight, even fanboys will be caught off guard when all the twists, turns and pieces click into place. This is not because we all aren’t familiar with the details from decades of Batman comics but, because you really do experience The Dark Knight Rises as a movie and not just another “superhero” movie. (BTW You don’t need to see Parts 1 and 2 to enjoy this movie but, it might be wise lest the person you’re sitting next to threaten bodily harm if you ask one more question about a character or incident from the previous movies.)

We pick-up the story in The Dark Knight Rises eight years after the last film. Gotham is prosperous and almost crime-free due to lies built upon the legacy of  the late District Attorney, Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart). It is a lie kept in place by the silence of police Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) who knows it was Harvey Dent and not the Batman who perpetrated the murders at the end of the previous movie. Portrayed as a martyr, Harvey Dent has his name tacked onto a bill, legislation that put thousands of criminals behind bars without the possibility of parole. In an increasingly safe Gotham, Commissioner Gordon and Batman are considered relics, veterans in a war long over. Gotham, having no further use for a masked vigilante, pushes Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) into a Howard Hughes-like seclusion. The bat signal gathers dust.

But it’s always most calm before the storm. In the shadows lurks a new villain, Bane (Tom Hardy) with ties to Bruce Wayne’s past, who intends to fulfill the dreams of his mentor and destroy Gotham City — long seen as a corrupt modern-day Sodom and Gomorrah, worthy of obliteration. Because of Bane’s plans, which preaches revolution under the guise of political reform and cleansing, some people start clamoring for the return of the Dark Knight. Out of shape, out of practice and out of the loop, Bruce Wayne has a long way to go before he do justice to the cape and cowl. Does Batman’s presence matter in a world that has moved on without him? To tell you anymore would be criminal, as giving away key details would ruin your enjoyment of the film.



Anne Hathaway, who plays Selena Kyle aka CatWoman, turns in a heroic performance. Her version of CatWoman embodies all the qualities that would be appealing to a man used to roaming the city in black body armor and a cowl. Hathaway’s performance transcends Michele Pfeiffers turn in the Tim Burton helmed original and obliterates Halle Berry’s turn in the Razzie winning movie. Selena Kyle is a renowned master thief. Hathaway plays her as an independent and resourceful woman with no need to be rescued nor desire to play the damsel in distress. Those distressed by early PR photos of the CatWoman costume will be glad to know that her outfit, despite the four-inch heels, looks the way it does because of function. In action sequences within The Dark Knight Rises it becomes clear why production designers took this tact — after all CatWoman spends more time kicking-ass and no time playing sexual dominatrix. Hathaway truly becomes her character, convincingly slipping in between the villain/anti-hero enigma that is Selena Kyle.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt, is an inspired choice to play John Blake. Blake is a young police officer with instincts beyond his years and an intelligence to see the dichotomy of Bruce Wayne and Batman. Levitt plays the character with all the necessary conviction to illustrate the idealism that was once a cornerstone of Batman’s crime-fighting mantra. It is Blake in contrast with Wayne that we begin to understand just how much Batman has strayed from his original mission. This leads us to wonder if the future of Gotham belongs in the hands and hope of a younger generation.

As Bane, Tom Hardy turns in an understated but, effective performance. This is remarkable because his emoting must be done primarily though his eyes and his actions. At times he is hard to understand because his character wears a respirator that feeds him pain killers but, Hardy’s performance gets across the gist of his intentions even if the dialogue is muffled.

Nolan brings back a host of old friends, family, bit-players and nemesis in flashbacks and present day interactions. Comfortable in their roles, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman and Christian Bale focus on moving the story forward and pulling on our heartstrings. Even Bale’s “Batman Voice” has become less gruff and is a bit more understated.


Equal parts detective story, action-movie spectacle and noir-enhanced superhero narrative, Nolan injects us in a world fully formed and realized with enough realism that we suspend disbelief for a few hours and indulge in the fantasy of what we could do to fight crime — had we billions of dollars, extensive training and all those fabulous gadgets.



title quote attribution: Wired Magazine

Watch your back Christopher Nolan, Joss Whedon's coming up your six. The Avengers, the latest live-action offering from Marvel shows us it's possible to make a decent ensemble movie — we just need to STFU and work as a team.


I was looking forward to the Avengers movie as I was reading through the reviews on Letterboxd.com. Most of these reviews were from the rest of the world and I hoped I would not be disappointed — it just premiered in the US today.

It should be noted that no other studio, outside of Marvel, could have pulled off this feat. I'm talking less about the Avengers movie itself and more about Marvel starting their own studio and taking control of their  intellectual property. Who better than a comics publishing giant could understand the needs of their own fans?

With premiere properties like Spiderman licensed to Sony, X-men and the Fantastic Four to Fox (and a host of other characters licensed to Lionsgate, New Line and Columbia) it seemed like the right time to venture out on their own. Marvel wanted to do this before making a movie, like The Avengers, would be hampered by lawyers and licensing deals. So Avi Arad and company bet the farm, staking their survival on the success or failure of the first Iron Man movie and the reboot of the Hulk. The latter being the version with Edward Norton. Lucky for us, that bet payed off. 

Which brings us to Joss Whedon, the man entrusted with the mythos of The Avengers. I'm sure the Hollywood suits had their doubts but, found Whedon uniquely qualified to do the one thing that has plagued many failed super-hero movies - tell a good narrative without giving in to excessive exposition, back-story or cramming in too many heroes and villains. It doesn't hurt that Whedon's street cred includes a stint writing the Eisner Award winning X-Men series for Marvel.

We assume with millions to be made in licensing, the studio execs would insist Whedon to do things their way - the better to sell the myriad of merchandise that accompanies such spandex-wearing spectacle. Yet what we see on screen is quite the contrary. Joss Whedon has pulled off a masterpiece of summertime goodness that will appeal to the kid in all of us. For someone who grew up on the comic book rations Marvel,  it is immensely satisfying to see what used to exist as drawings by Jack Kirby, John Buscema and George Perez (among others) come to life  in a live-action movie that is respectful of the source material.

Whedon does more than make these characters come alive, he embodies them in the Walt Kelly (Pogo) catch phrase, "We have met the enemy and he is us." 

Because what is the Avengers but, a story about a dysfunctional family? This is how we are able to relate to the characters.  We all have dysfunctional families with different members playing the roles of (Avengers roll call!) the father figure (Samuel Jackson as Nick Fury), the self-righteous hero (Chris Evans as Captain America), the egotistical brother (Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/ Iron Man), the mediator/peacekeeper (Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/Hulk), the outgoing and responsible sister (Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow),  the entitled 'holier than thou' brother (Chris Hemsworth as Thor) and the enforcer (Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye).

So off we go on a cross-country road trip, dysfunctions and all, crammed into the family station wagon (the S.H.E.I.L.D flying fortress) bickering about who has to sit in the middle. Only when we are united against a single and common enemy (Tom Hiddelston as Loki) do we get our act together, repress our respective egos and begin to act like a family.

Don't worry if some of the arcane fan-boy musings in this review have you scratching your head - all will be explained in the movie. Just sit back in the cool darkness, feed yourself that delicious 'movie' popcorn and let this blockbuster wash over you. You'll not only have a good time, you'll leave the theater thinking, "I must own this on DVD when it comes out." 

Because surely there will be a directors cut as well as loads of extras...


Be sure to sit through the end credits to see not one but two media stingers (extra scenes).


Trailers get a bad rap for misleading audiences, making them think an inferior movie is better than it actually is. Once you've bought the ticket and you're in the seats there is no recourse. Opening titles on the other hand, are innocuous. They get ignored and are mostly forgettable —serving as extra time afforded you while you lumber in late from the concession stand. You're safe,  you haven't missed any of the movie. That is, until you do.

image credits: ©2012 Warner Bros. Studios

A good director is one who realizes that the time "wasted" on the film title sequence (often used to satisfy legal, ego and studio requirements) can be used to set the mood, further the story line, or fill in back story.

A great director is one who realizes he can't do it himself and collaborates with acclaimed and sometimes obscure design houses.

Here's a list of my current favorite movie title sequences and hopefully some of yours. (in no particular order)


01. The Dark Knight Rises

As of this writing, the movie isnt even out yet so how could the official title sequence be out for public viewing? No its not an internet scoop, its a film school project by Doğan Can Gündoğdu and it's quite good.


02. Seven

David Fincher's thriller masterpiece augmented by the work of Kyle Cooper now at Prologue.


03. Stranger Than Fiction

Will Ferrell playing a character outside of his comfort zone. The title sequence/opening credits by MK12 who, at the time, were also playing outside of their comfort zone. If I remember correctly, they also did the end credits.


04. Catch Me If You Can

"The title sequence for Catch Me If You Can from 2002 by french duo Kuntzel+Deygas is often credited as being the most influential animated title sequence of the 2000-2010 decade. It certainly reopened the path for lavishly animated movie titles." ~submarine channel

  • Deborah Allison wrote an informed article about this subject. Be patient if the servers down.


05. Thank You for Smoking

If you've ever smoked, or lived with people who smoked, this title sequence is a nostalgic trip through come iconic packaging. So iconic, just the juxtaposition of color and typography is enough to recall the brand name. It is the work of Shadow Play Studio, which was disbanded in 2011. Former Shadowplay designers Gareth Smith and Jenny Lee started Smith & Lee Design in 2011.


06. The Number 23

Even if you don't believe the premise of this movie, you can't deny that facts communicated in this backstory are more than a little bit eerie. Michelle Dougherty directed the work by Imaginary Forces.


07. The Final Destination

For The Final Destination, PIC (the design shop behind the opening title sequence) wanted to do something that was fast, in-your-face and aimed for maximum impact. If you pay close attention, some of the plot point are hidden in the titles. Embedding was disabled by the request of the studios so follow this link to see the video. Final destination 4 opening animation and ending. (probably not a good idea to view this at work)


08. The Girl With the Dragon Tatoo

Another David Fincher film that sports a very magnetic opening title sequence. You're sucked into the animation without knowing what to make of it. According to Fincher, the title sequence represents the type of dreams, or rather nightmares, that the main character (Lisbeth Salander) might be having. Onur Senturk's work on the opening titles with design animation and creative direction at Blur Studios.

  • Onur's own BTS video on his design process.


09. Johnny Quest

OK. OK. So there's no Johnny Quest motion picture coming out any time soon. But...I and other like me love me some Johnny Quest. In the words of John, um I mean Roger D. Evans, "In 1964, Jonny Quest aired to rave reviews as the first, adult action/adventure cartoon in prime time. It had cool jazz music by Hoyt Curtin and terrific, high contrast pen and ink design work by Doug Wildey...Here is my Valentine to one of the coolest, if not THE coolest, cartoons ever to spin up the imagination of a 53 year old man now going on six." Maybe this will light a fire under the studios' 


10. Tron Legacy

The opening titles for Tron Legacy are visually stunning — and for good reason. Bradley G. Munkowitz, a protoege of Kyle Cooper, led "a black-ops team into the darkness of Digital Domain creating over 12 minutes of holographic content for the film." (For the entire year of 2010!) As part of that process Joseph Kosinski awarded them the Opening Titles.

  • Also see the gmunk.com documentation of that process. Videos, notes, photos.
  • Good quality videos of the official title sequence are hard to find online. To view the actual quality of the CGI work you can peruse the Tron legacy work on the Digital Domain website.


    Hollywood has a lot of ground to make up for when it comes to righting the wrongs perpetuated with it's portrayal of seizures, epilepsy and what type of first aid should be administered to a person who has just suffered a seizure.

    Read through the beginning of this post or at the very least view the first two minute video and you'll know exactly what to do — should you happen on an individual who is having a seizure. Unlike CPR its easily remembered and doesn't require special training.

    • DO Stay calm
    • DO Help the person lie on their side
    • DO Keep their head inclined, so they don't choke.
    • DO Time the "shaking" portion of their seizure
    • DO Make them comfortable
    • DO NOT Hold the person down or restrain them
    • DO NOT Put anything in their mouth
    • DO NOT Give them water, pills, or food until they are alert

    WHEN TO CALL 911:
    It is not necessary to call the paramedics for every seizure if you know the individual is someone who has epilepsy.

    CALL 911 IF:
    • Its the person's first seizure, or you're not sure if its their first seizure.
    • The seizure last more than 5 minutes.
    • The person injures themselves during the seizure or vomits.

    • Stay with the person and keep them safe
    • Do not restrain them.
    • Be sensitive and use a calm, reassuring voice
    • As they recover, ask them simple questions (their name, who is president, what year is it) to see if/when the become reoriented
    • Make sure they're not hurt.

    If this has piqued your curiosity and you'd like to learn more about the causes, history, research and treatment of epilepsy — the Epilepsy Therapy Project has a comprehensive Video Series.