Pop culture from Southern California and beyond.

Kevin Smith skips traditional theatrical release for horror thriller 'Red State'

I've been intrigued for a while at the innovative distribution model cult movie director Kevin Smith has been using to promote his latest film, horror flick "Red State."

He kicked things off by forgoing an initial theatrical release, taking the film on tour and charging 50 bucks to see the film and get a Q&A with Smith. Smith's well known as a raconteur, doing sold out Q&A's for years. He went on to launch an online podcast network, then an online radio network with daily shows he personally hosts.

Now he's trying something else with "Red State" – skipping theaters altogether. It's a fascinating move for someone with nine theatrical releases to his name, eight which he wrote himself. His previous releases all made millions, with his last movie earning the most at $45 million.

He's offering "Red State" via video-on-demand beginning Labor Day weekend for 10 bucks. He's following that up with a one-night-only screening in theaters with a live stream of a Q&A and a podcast taping to the theaters that show it.


'Green Lantern' media blitz: Onion parody, Muppets movie trailer, NASA finds Green Lantern planet and more

"Green Lantern" is permeating pop culture as the Ryan Reynolds movie based on the DC Comics character comes out. Here are a few of my favorite pieces of "Green Lantern" ephemera.

Green Lantern isn't as well known as your Supermans, your Batmans, your Spider-Mans. That might not be true anymore, particularly if "Green Lantern" turns out to be a hit, but The Onion captured the lack of awareness perfectly.

'Green Lantern' To Fulfill America's Wish To See Lantern-Based Characters On Big Screen

If you want some more Green Lantern comedy from the Onion, you can also check out this 2002 article on the character: "When You Are Ready To Have A Serious Conversation About Green Lantern, You Have My E-Mail Address." In a bit of corporate synergy, Mad Magazine, published by the same corporation behind Green Lantern, has a new issue with a cover story spoofing Green Lantern.


Virtual tours of British things - Buckingham Palace, St. Paul's Cathedral, Wembley Stadium...

The United Kingdom's Guardian newspaper launched a series of interactive panoramas of major British landmarks last week. They're not at the Google Street View level of being able to move through the space, but you can zoom in and out and pan in all directions.

So far, they've done St. Paul's Cathedral, the Glasgow School of Art and Wembley Stadium.

Seeing this got me looking for virtual tours of other British landmarks. There are some great interactive rooms from Buckingham Palace, which they call "Virtual Rooms." You can see the Grand Staircase, the Throne Room, the Blue Drawing Room and the White Drawing Room.

So, for those of you who couldn't attend the Royal Wedding, feel free to Photoshop yourself in where you deem appropriate.

What other virtual tours have you seen that you like? Let us know in the comments.


Google Guitar: Homepage logo celebrates Les Paul while letting you play guitar

Google traditionally produces what they call "Doodles" to celebrate different historical dates, transforming the Google logo into everything from a Charlie Chaplin tribute video to a playable Pac-Man game.

Today they've got a virtual stylized guitar to celebrate the 96th birthday of Les Paul. If you click on it, it will conduct a search for Les.

However, the fun part is that if you move your mouse across the strings, it strums them. You can also click the black record button at the lower right to record your musical stylings. It records 30 seconds of you playing and gives you a link to share with friends.

Here's a quick recording I made after messing around with it for a bit. Les Paul is surely rolling over in his grave.

Record one and share your recordings in the comments. You can play it here today, or find it in the archives after it's gone from the Google homepage here.


New Batman film 'The Dark Knight Rises' begins social media viral campaign

The folks behind the last Batman film, "The Dark Knight," conducted an extensive viral marketing campaign to promote the movie. They're back at it in the hype leading to the final part of the trilogy being released next year, "The Dark Knight Rises."

Through backwards audio files and a secret Twitter account, clues led to this image of villain Bane, played by actor Tom Hardy:

The latest in the puzzle could be this grainy video footage of a breakout from Gotham City's home for the criminally insane, Arkham Asylum. Rumor is that they're fan-made videos and not official, but DC Comics' official Twitter account sent out the link, helping to fuel the possibility that they're legitimate.

In the most famous DC Comics storyline involving the villain Bane, Bane broke out all of the other supervillains from Arkham Asylum to wear Batman down before breaking his back and putting him in a wheelchair. (Since it's comics, this was, of course, temporary.) Whether that remains to be how things play out in the movie is yet to be seen, but you can get a peak at a potential future in these videos.