Pop culture from Southern California and beyond.

Does Zack Snyder's 'Sucker Punch' work?

I went to see Zack Snyder's "Sucker Punch" Saturday night. I've been curious about the movie for almost two years now. I first heard about it in July 2009, when, after a screening of the director's cut of "Watchmen," Snyder gave out Sucker Punch T-shirts to everyone in attendance.

Snyder's made a name for himself by directing material created by others. His first major film was 2007's "Dawn of the Dead," a remake of the George A. Romero zombie classic. Snyder followed that with "300" in 2007 and "Watchmen" in 2009, both adaptations of critically acclaimed comic books. He most recently took on an animated movie, "Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole," based on a children's book.

For the first time, Snyder took his own original story and brought it to life in "Sucker Punch." How did it turn out? If you're to believe scores from review aggregators Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic, not too well - 21% and 35%, respectively. It also underperformed at the box office, making just over $19 million its first weekend and coming in second to "Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules."


Elizabeth Taylor's New York Times obituary written by reporter who's also dead

Showing you how prepared major media organizations are in the event of the death of a major newsmaker, Elizabeth Taylor's New York Times obituary was written by someone who's also dead. For almost six years.

It reminded me of my first exposure to this practice, which came when I toured NPR's Washington, D.C. headquarters in 2001. One of the stops on the tour was a room filled with racks of stories on audio reels (perhaps digitized since?), including shelves of obituaries ready to run on-air once important names have passed.

Saturday Night Live also did an excellent parody of preparing for the death of notable figures, with Dana Carvey as Tom Brokaw reading different versions of an obituary intro:


Interviewees walking off '60 Minutes' from the '70s to today

I wrote a couple of months ago about comedian Gallagher getting angry and storming out on podcaster Marc Maron. There was a media walkout on a larger platform this week – CBS's "60 Minutes."

After Iraqi defector "Curveball" walked out on a recent episode, "60 Minutes" put together a video of the walkouts from their show over the years. They go back to the '70s and include such luminaries as French President Nicolas Sarkozy, then-Russian president Boris Yeltsin, late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan and former presidential contender Ross Perot.

Hosts Leslie Stahl and Steve Kroft speak about their favorite walkout moments. Kroft says that it depends on when someone walks out whether it's going to lead to a great story or it's a failure. "If they walk out in the first 10 minutes of the interview, you don't have a piece. If they walk out towards the end of the interview, then you've got a lot of material and you know you've got a piece. And you don't have to write the ending."


Challenge Watson, IBM's Jeopardy-playing computer

Is mankind lost to the machine? Some have jumped to this conclusion after the recent defeat of Jeopardy champions by Watson the supercomputer.

The New York Times has a new interactive game letting you test your mettle against the metal of the machine.

Unlike Jeopardy, you don't have to worry about buzzing in faster, and it's limited to one set of questions. However, you get the chance to see what Watson would have answered, as well as the alternative possibilities he would have considered for each question.

Photo: Ben Hider/Getty Images


Science explains how we can tell when someone's looking at us

Ever feel like someone's watching you? Do you find out you're right, and you don't know how you knew?

Psychology Today has an article on what accounts for the closest we have to Spider-Man's spider-sense. The information is at the edges of our awareness, but we can still detect when we're being looked at.

There's a system in our brains that detects where others are looking, and can tell the difference between when someone is looking directly at you or is just looking over your shoulder. According to Psychology Today, "Studies that record the activity of single brain cells find that particular cells fire when someone is staring right at you, but—amazingly—not when the observer's gaze is averted just a few degrees to the left or right of you (then different cells fire instead)."

This system gives power to the way we use our eyes, with eye contact being a powerful part of our communication with one another. It can make us feel intimate with someone else, or intimidated.