Category: Columns

Ed Catto: Trick or Treat For Comics


img_6145For the umpteenth year in a row, we’ll be giving out comics instead of candy for Halloween today. We’re typically met with a mixture of surprise and delight… by both kids and their parents. Returning families call us “the comic book house” and tell us that they remember this tradition from last year.

The occasional parent confides in me that “this is the kids’ favorite house.” They probably say that at all the houses, but it’s still nice to hear.

When I was kid, the standard Halloween traditions were often modified. “Trick Or Treat for UNICEF” was designed for kids to collect small donations from neighbors as they’d go from house-to-house with a specially designed orange UNICEF container. I fondly recall TV ads that basically taught young trick-or-treaters to scream “Trick or Treat for UNICEF” when they knocked on doors. The program still continues today.

img_6138Another modified tradition, which must have been either a local one or an Italian one, was that one the night before Halloween we’d put on our costumes and my parents would drive us around town to several relatives’ homes. We had a big Italian family in town and getting to their houses to hold them up for the yearly candy ransom clearly mandated a car and driver. My brother and I would gleefully don our costumes for this pseudo “dress rehearsal” and of course, enjoy collecting the extra candy in that insatiable way that all trick-or-treaters do.

So it’s natural that by giving away comics instead of candy, we’d put our own twist on the annual candy tradition. But I’ve heard about many other comics fans giving away comics for Halloween.

For the past few years, we’ve been setting up two tables: one filled with “All Ages” comics that are appropriate for the youngest kids and another with comics more suited for older kids. We label each table. In the early hours we only need the younger kids table, and in the later hours we just leave the older kids table out.

img_6140The kids never seem to pick out the comics you’d expect them to choose. It’s fascinating to see the selection process when kids are presented with a table full of choices. Sometimes they choose by character or just by an interesting cover.

Some kids know just what they want and quickly sift through the choices. Too many kids are unfamiliar with comics are amazed to see media properties in comics form. “Scooby Doo? Cool!”

In this age where a hero like Iron Man who used to be a B-lister has hundreds of kids dressing like him, the impact of comic heroes at Halloween is palpable. Every kid now knows Iron Man and Thor, but few of them have read, or even seen, an Iron Man or Thor comic.

I love the kids that struggle to make a choice between two comics. If we have enough comics, we typically let them get both.

img_4750But traditions change. We’re empty nesters and we’ve just moved after 26 years to a town called Auburn, nestled in the Finger Lakes region of New York State. It’s a great town with a rich nerd history.

Auburn was blessed with one of the pioneering comic shops back in the 70s and several after. There was also a back issue dealer who was selling in Auburn before the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide was established. He’d use the Passiac Book Guide to establish pricing. On the other hand, Auburn NY was the site of one of those comic book burnings in the 50s.

It will be fascinating to see how our new neighbors react to comics on Halloween. I’ll let you know next year how it all went.

img_4760One More Halloween Thought

Orson Welles’ Mercury Radio Theater was an old time radio program that adapted classic books as radio dramas. But on Halloween in 1938, they tried something a little different with their H.G. Wells’ War of The Worlds adaptation. Orson Welles cast himself as a reporter broadcasting live from the horrific scene of the Martian invasion. Some listeners who tuned in midway through the broadcast thought it was real.

Last year, a podcast on the Panoply Network tried the same trick with a drama called The Message. It’s a spooky thriller, with clever twists and turns. And they played it straight – just like Orson Welles did all those years ago. If you need one more Halloween fright this year, give it a try!

Emily S. Whitten Talks With Christy Carlson Romano

christy-lingerieIn my recent Dragon Con Round-Up, I mentioned that at the con I’d gotten to sit down for a super-cool interview with award-winning actress, voice actress, and singer Christy Carlson Romano; and I’m happy to be able to share that with you all now.

If for some reason you don’t immediately know Christy, you will once I mention that she was Ren Stevens in Even Stevens; or that she voiced Kim Possible in the excellent cartoon of the same name . I loved watching both of those shows; and, in fact, despite being occupied with oh-so-important things like college classes at the time, when it came out in 2002 Kim Possible was the one show that my college roomie and I tried our darndest never to miss, and always watched together. D’aw.

Of course, Christy has done all kinds of other cool things in her career as well; and is, in fact, something of a Renaissance Woman – having not only been an on-screen actress and voice actress in many, many properties, but also a singer, recording, among other things, songs for Disney soundtracks; a Broadway performer, playing Belle in Beauty and the Beast and Kate Monster in Avenue Q; a novelist who wrote a YA novel titled Grace’s Turn; and a director and co-producer of short films and dramatic features. Whew! Add to that the fact that Christy teaches and does outreach to child actors in need of counseling, and one wonders how she has time to sleep!

That question may never be answered; but many others were in our interview, where we touched on all of the subjects above while having a really great chat. You can watch and enjoy the whole interview here, and I highly recommend it, because Christy is a delight to talk with.

So enjoy! And until next time, Servo Lectio!



John Ostrander: And Be A Villain

suicide-squad-and-be-a-villainMy friend Brian Skelley recently e-mailed me a question that gave me some pause: what is the difference between an anti-hero and a villain? Having trafficked in anti-heroes for some time, you’d think I know but I had to parse it out.

As I postulated it to Brian the basic answer was that the anti-hero is the protagonist of a given story; the villain is often the antagonist which makes him a support character. The main purpose of any supporting character is to bring out some side or aspect of the main character, the protagonist. A villain can be the protagonist; I’ve written stories where the Joker is the main character, for example, or with Captain Boomerang, neither of whom could be called a hero in the conventional sense.

cumberbatch-hamletThe anti-hero doesn’t display the usual heroic attributes such as courage, empathy, decency, integrity and so on. They don’t care about the common good; they care about #1. Some, like John Gaunt (GrimJack) may have their own code but one of the questions I put to myself when I began writing GrimJack was “how do you make a moral choice in an amoral world?” I once had Gaunt shoot a guy in the back and that alienated some readers. My response, then and now, was that Gaunt was never intended to be a role-model.

Whatever the anti-hero’s deficiencies, he or she are usually better than those surrounding him/her. Why are we rooting for the anti-hero to succeed? If we feel nothing for them, what is the point? At the very least, we need to be rooting for them to get away with whatever it is they are doing. We want Danny Ocean’s plan to rip off the casino to work, in part because (in the later movies) he’s played by George Clooney at his most charming.

wastelandFor myself, I like working with anti-heroes more than the conventional heroes. I don’t know what it says about me to say that they seem to resonate more within me. I can more easily find something to identify with in the anti-hero than with the conventional hero. Writing Martian Manhunter was far more difficult for me than writing The Spectre. J’Onn J’Onzz was a far more decent being than Jim Corrigan. No doubt it points to some deficiency in me.

I guess I like my heroes more morally ambiguous. Certainly none of them have been more morally ambiguous than Amanda Waller not to mention the Squad as a concept. However, I’ve never considered Amanda to be an outright villain. Some folks who have written her took that tack, but I think she’s more interesting as an anti-hero. She has a conscience; she knows the difference between right and wrong. It doesn’t stop her from doing the bad things but she knows what she’s doing and does what she does deliberately. She hocks her soul for an ostensible greater good. What she does marks her as a villain; the reason she does it makes her a hero.

And then, of course, there’s Wasteland. Chock full of anti-heroes. We have a father who dissects his son’s biology teacher for traumatizing the boy. (Actually, by the end it’s a heart-warming tale… in a way.) I asked the reader to step inside the mind of a serial killer and, however briefly, identify with him. There have been occasions when I almost told a person, “You don’t want to mess with me. I wrote Wasteland.” That should scare most people.

Some times it scares me.

Marc Alan Fishman: Danger – Driving While Plotting!


I often receive puzzled looks when I tell folks that Unshaven Comics makes the trek from the southern burbs of Chicago to the New York Comic Con by car. I reassure them that if we could afford to ship an entire booth setup and merchandise to the Javits, convince ComicMix’s own Glenn Hauman to pick us up from La Guardia (a hell I wouldn’t wish on anyone, let alone our most gracious host), and then be beholden to said Haumans for most of our transportation needs, we would. But, rest assured, we’ve made the trip enough for me to admit I actually look forward to the nearly 14-hour jaunt across Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey.

In those middle-hours of driving, somewhere between lunch and arriving in New York, we found ourselves unpacking The Samurnauts as a concept. You ever want a first-class ride on the creative-process express? Buckle-up, Sally.

When we finally complete Curse of the Dreadnuts (which by my estimation will occur before it’s 2017), Unshaven Comics decided that the next course of action would be to test each of our mettles to be the best creators we could be – individually. With The Samurnauts, we afforded ourselves an immortal mentor. This allows us to spin off the series into a bevy of period pieces that allow Unshaven to explore literally every genre and art style that tickles our fancy. Cool, no?

Over the course of the car ride, we came to a few conclusions. Matt Wright will plot and draw the entirety of a Samurnaut tale set in a sleepy Mexican village in the 1920s. There, Luchanauts will save humanity from the threat of an inter-dimensional demon with the power of their lucha libre. Kyle Gnepper will pen (and art chores will be a still-undetermined new deputy Unshaven lad) a tale of an early Samurnaut team waging war against Repsimian – the monkey-dinosaur hybrid bent on destruction.

And me? Well… I’m headed for a completely different direction. One that requires a bit of an odd digression. Follow me. It’s worth it.

Every year for the past two years, I’ve lent my artistic hand to my friend Nina Rose and her “Speak To Me: A Pole Event for Autism” fundraiser show. The evening is a raucous blast where hobbyist and professional pole dancers perform marvelous numbers all to raise money and awareness for Autism. I provide the posters, programs, and last year… collectible trading cards. The theme was the 1980s. It was the excuse to let my inner Patrick Nagle freak flag fly. And while sitting in the front row during the performances would render most with a carnal reaction to whoop and holler? I was left slack-jawed. I saw comic book stars in waiting. The spark of an idea for The Samurnauts was born in between twirling loops on a ten-foot pole.

Smash cut back to my Dodge Caravan, midway through Ohio.

My 2017 Samurnauts project? Well, it’ll be an all-female team fighting a Communist-Mutant-Hive-Mind of femme fatales… all set in the 1980s. We make no bones about it: Samurnauts is homage to the tropes we grew up with, recast in a modern light. What better tropes to mine than those directly from our time growing up amidst Sailor Moon, Battle of the Planets, M.A.S.K., and Jem and the Holograms? There are none better, and I won’t listen to you if you try to disagree.

Matt rides shotgun with notebook in hand, and Kyle leans far forward from the middle row of our packed conveyance… I start the ball rolling. As often is the case, I am the most lofty of the Unshavens. I immediately blather about girl power and passing the Bechdel test. Matt – the gear-head of the gang – is immediately drawn to discuss costumes, weapons, and accentuating my clean-line style. Kyle, the stalwart left-brain, cracks the whip on setting up an outline.

Exits whiz past as we bounce ideas from one bearded ne’er-do-well to the next. “We need to have a roller derby fight scene.” “Al (the immortal monkey leader…) needs to have a dojo in need of saving.” “They should all pilot attack ships.” “The Commie-Chics needs to have a spy, a close combat expert, a ballistics expert, and the strategist.” “We absolutely need the bitch on wheels business chick…” And so on.

By the time we needed to gas up the van, a scrawl of pages lay on the Caravan floor. A complete outline spanning two 36-page issues lay amidst character notes, weapon choices, set pieces, and big reveal plot points. And underneath it all, a personal challenge to myself to stretch my boundaries as an artist and a writer. To keep my tongue in cheek with the obvious choices, in lieu of smarter ones. To keep my designs clean and memorable. To ensure that the Samurnauts of this story are heroes, regardless of their gender. That the final book be fun, clever, and full of monkey-fighting. And this time? With way more Hammer pants and day-glo makeup.

And with that, the pages were tossed into the cashbox. Energy drinks were popped open. New fresh sheets were exhumed from the notebook. With five hours left to go, we had plenty more to plan for the future.

Emily S. Whitten, Brian Henson, Puppets, and Muppets!


In my recent Dragon Con Round-Up I shared that this year’s Dragon Con kick-started a new fascination with puppetry for me (which, if you can imagine, may someday even rival my obsession with voice actors!).

This was due to two panels I attended, Brian Henson’s Evolution of Puppetry, and The Puppetry of Star Wars’ BB-8. Both were fantastic; and I found it just fascinating to watch the magical way in which the puppeteers, behind the scenes, bring the puppets to life. I was also fortunate to be able to ask Brian Henson some questions at a small press conference; and now, of course, I get to share all of that with you!

First we have a few clips from the Evolution of Puppetry panel which are just super fun. In one, Brian Henson demonstrates the Henson method of puppeteering with an actual puppet. It was delightful to be able to see both what Brian was doing “behind the scenes” and camera; and what the puppet’s actions actually looked like on screen. I tried to capture a little bit of that for all of you as well, so check out the video clip linked above to take a look. The second clip is another fun demonstration, this time of dual puppeteering. In this clip, Dave Chapman (one of the BB-8 puppeteers of the aforementioned Puppetry of BB-8 panel, along with Brian Herring) joined Brian Henson from the audience to help him demonstrate how two puppeteers can work the head and hands of a puppet in synch (or sometimes not so much in synch!). It’s really funny, so check it out here. And finally, we have a bit of the audience Q & A that Brian Henson did at the end of his panel, with some cool insights into what it’s like to be a puppeteer.

Next, I asked Brian some questions during his Dragon Con press conference; and it was awesome. He talked about adapting Terry Pratchett’s The Wee Free Men; the challenges of puppetry; the improv show Puppet Up; animatronics and puppetry; Fraggle Rock; Labyrinth and its fandom; the heart and goals of the Henson Company; previous and upcoming Henson Company projects; the interactions of the Muppets with real people and celebrities; adapting classic literature using The Muppets; and much, much more!

You can watch the whole press conference here; and it’s well worth it. What an amazing, talented guy!

So check that out, enjoy, and stay tuned for more cool stuff coming soon. And until then, Servo Lectio!

Martha Thomases: The Importance of Fleeting Contact


The casual serendipity of random intimacy is one of the wonders of adulthood. I don’t mean the kind of groping that hides in crowds so that its perpetrators can perform a criminal act. I mean the temporary companionship we discover with people we don’t know when circumstances cause us to spend a few hours together.

When I first moved to New York I’d talk to strangers on the bus, surprised at how easy and pleasant it was. I made friends for life (whom I haven’t seen in 30 years) when my son was born prematurely, and I spent a few weeks in the Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit with parents of other premies. At the playground, I enjoyed getting tips from other parents and caregivers.

So it is with comic book conventions.

It tends to be my role at these events to staff the booth and make sure the talent is comfortable and free to interact with the fans who have paid to be there. I fetch water and snacks, if possible. I stand a lot because fans are more comfortable when they can talk with me eye-to-eye. I keep a smile on my face even though I’ve been asked the same question a couple hundred times, because it’s the first time for the person who is asking.

Just as at the playground, the conversation is both deep and fleeting, subject to easy distractions and the call of duty. We’ll talk about good places to eat, the future of the industry, and which bathrooms have the shortest lines. We’ll get judge-y about cosplayers. We’ll gossip. We’ll speculate with no basis in fact.

For the six to eight hours each day, my booth mates are my best friends ever. It doesn’t matter where they come from, what kind of work they do, or what political views they hold. We have a lived through the fires of hell together, and we all deserve to go the a bar for a drink.

This is why I am so sad about the loss of Steve Dillon. I don’t claim that I knew him well. I never met his family, or even saw a picture of his home. I only spoke with him a few times away from a convention, and one of those times, I interrupted him with a phone call at a pub when there was an important football game happening.

There were hours and hours when I stood behind him at the DC booth as he signed one autograph after another. Sometimes, he’d doodle a little profile of Jesse Custer of Preacher, the book most fans wanted him to sign. I must have watched him draw that image hundreds of times. He could do it with just a few lines, and each sketch had the emotional intensity he brought to so much of his work.

My first comics editor, Larry Hama, would tell me that one of the advantages of working in the graphic story medium was that we had an unlimited special effects budget. It cost just as much to create a page with an intergalactic battle as a page of two people talking in a coffee shop. His point was that I should consider taking advantage of this freedom to write stories that would be incredibly expensive to film. He wasn’t saying that scenes with people talking were bad, but rather that I should have really good reasons for writing them that way.

Steve Dillon could make scenes of people talking in a diner the most intense, emotionally involving possible story-telling choice. When I read his work, I projected deep and volatile emotions into the faces of the characters. Maybe it was his pacing. Maybe it was the way he laid out the panels. Maybe I just had an affinity for his work.

I hadn’t seen Steve in more than 15 years when I heard that he died. My first thought was to wonder what Garth Ennis would do, which is more than a little bit ridiculous. Both of them had other collaborators, and both of them did magnificent work on those projects.

To me, though, they will always be sitting side by side, signing work, making snarky remarks, and otherwise making their fans feel special.

Tweeks: PowerPuff Girls Interviews

At San Diego Comic Con, we were so lucky to interview the Powderpuff Girls cast & writers.  Cartoon Network rebooted the series this year with new writes & voices and while change is hard (PPG was one of the defining cartoons of our childhood) we really warmed up to Amanda Leighton (Blossom), Kristen Li (Bubbles) and Natalie Palamides (Buttercup).  We also got to talk to some of the writers Jake Goldman &  Hayley Mancini (also the voice of Princess Morebucks) and the producers Nick Jennings  & Bob Boyle.  We talked a lot about how the Powerpuff brand of feminism has been updated for 2016 and what it’s like to be voice actors and what kind of choices go into voicing such iconic characters.  There’s so much to talk about!


Dennis O’Neil: Mayor Green Arrow? Really?


What’s the pothole situation in Starling City? And the re-zoning hassle – that still a headache? And the business with the access lanes to the bridge – was that ever settled?

Since Oliver Queen’s been elected mayor, it’s reasonable to think that this kind of mayoral busyness is the better part of his days. At night, of course, he puts on a mask and hood and grabs his bow and arrows and kicks (or maybe punctures) miscreant ass. Oh, and his also training a bunch of wannabe vigilantes to help with the kicking/puncturing – and not always being Mr. Nice Guy while he’s doing it. (Maybe he’s got some marine drill sergeant DNA?)

The question is, who is better for Starling City, the politician or the archer? If you’ve been paying attention to the news, you’d probably choose the archer because obviously anybody would be better than a politician.

But that can of worms will be left unopened. Tell you what: let’s reframe the question. Who’s more useful to a storyteller, archer or pol? I guess it depends on the kind of tale being told. A story by…oh, say, Aaron Sorkin or Robert Penn Warren or Allen Drury would perhaps fare best as political drama. The kind of fantasy/melodrama/action tale we’re considering here is better with an ass-kicker as its protagonist. Which leaves our man Ollie where?

mayor-green-arrowA kind of hybrid, one who favors the arrow shooting part of his persona, is where. That’s pretty much how it has to be. Nobody with a taste for adventures – that is, nobody who’s Arrow’s natural audience – is going to tune in to watch a guy in a three-piece suit behind a desk reading policy papers. We want to see some arrows shot and some of that good martial arts action! Leave that other stuff to CNN.

Casting a superhero as a civic leader, it seems to me, strains the genre. Part of the appeal of costumed superdoers is that they can do what duly constituted authorities can’t. Where a mayor’s job ends, theirs begins. One explanation for adopting a second persona – and it’s not a bad one – is that the disguise keeps the bad guys from knowing who to wreak revenge on. The other reason for a civic leader hiding behind a costume and fighting crime is that he couldn’t do as mayor what he does as vigilante because the vigilante must break the law to do his deeds. But whoa! Don’t mayors swear to uphold the law? We got us some hypocrite mojo working here?

Another deep appeal of double-identited heroes might require some psyche excavation. The idea is, we all have more than one identity lurking within us – we behave differently in different situations – and we might feel that the real us is one of those unseen lurkers. Costumed heroes manifest this idea and also give us a hook into identifying with the good guy.

I think part pf the storyteller’s task is to make the two identities distinct and that’s often a failure. I tried and pretty much failed to convince my Batman writers that Bruce Wayne should present himself as a tough-as-nails businessman, but as a good-natured bumbler. And I never liked Clark Kent as the best reporter in town. (Didn’t he win a Pulitzer?)

Of course, as always, the secret is in the recipe, not the ingredients. If the story entertains, the creators have done their jobs and they’re free to go watch tv. Wonder what’s on the CW?

Molly Jackson’s Creepy Confessions


With a loaded title like that, I guess I just need to cut to the chase. Ok, so here it is. I don’t like zombies. The genre doesn’t do it for me. Seeing the struggle of humans retaining their humanity is always a good read but fighting brainless zombies is just boring. The last (and probably only) zombie movie I really liked was Shaun of the Dead and that’s only because I liked how they spoofed on zombies while keeping the essence of the genre.

So why am I taking the time to sorta bash on a beloved genre? Well, Halloween is right around the corner and I’m feeling topical. Let’s give Halloween its time to shine, especially since Christmas decorations are already in malls.

Ok, that’s not the only reason. Everyone is making a big deal about The Walking Dead premiere as well so it’s on my mind. I gave up after season two but it is one of those shows that everyone knows about it, whether you want to or not. So quick segue for the people complaining about the premiere, even I know that the comics are way bloodier than the show. Everyone’s favorite character dies in those books. Move on. And for the weird fringe group complaining it isn’t a family friendly show; seriously? Get a reality check, a parental channel blocker, and find a new cause.

Segue over. Moving on.

The real reason for my confession is that it’s time for the yearly celebration of horror in prose and comics. That’s right, this time of year is more than haunted houses and scary movies. Readers have their own events to celebrate the scariest time of the year.

All Hallow’s Read is a personal favorite of mine. Starting with Neil Gaiman, it promotes reading scary literature for all ages. But just because it is pushing prose doesn’t mean you stop there! Take this time to read something scary in comics. Just to get you started off, I can always recommend American Vampire from Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque. You already know that zombies aren’t something I read much of, but if you want werewolves in the wild west, check out High Moon by David Gallaher and Steve Ellis.

But maybe you don’t have the cash to spend on new books right now. I get it, but the comics world has you covered. Halloween ComicsFest is happening this Saturday! It is a mini Free Comic Book Day but all scary comics! Mostly all-ages, in an effort to bring new readers to local shops, it also can fill that void for reading something scary this year. I won’t mention how this is the closest I come to trick or treating.

These are both important events because they get you reading. Also, they get you directed towards a particular genre. Now you might be a regular horror reader, but I’m not. This flexes my brain muscles by changing it up from my usual science fiction fair.

Exploring different types of stories is good for your imagination. So tell your friends, your boss, and the creepy guy down the hall to check out some scary comics this year. You never know what suggestions they might have for you.

Box Office Democracy: Keeping Up with the Joneses

Keeping Up with the Joneses is a comedy that isn’t very funny. It isn’t bad, or offensive, or sloppy, nor does it suffer from a lack of effort or energy. It just doesn’t hit with enough punchlines to be worth spending money and sitting still for most of two hours. Most of the jokes seem to have started with the premise “wouldn’t it be funny if people actually lived in the suburbs” without any twist or an examination of why such a thing might be funny. It is actually funny when Jon Hamm has to save Zach Galifianakis from the venomous bite of a disembodied snake head, it is not funny to keep hearing the word “grillbot” over and over again. This movie has too much of the latter and not nearly enough of the former.

It’s not a problem of chemistry, it’s a delight seeing these actors share the screen. Hamm and Galafianakis are very good together. Honestly, Jon Hamm is good in everything, I don’t understand why he isn’t constantly working; he’s a gifted comic actor and has leading man looks. What does Chris Pratt have that Jon Hamm doesn’t? Nothing. But I digress. Isla Fisher does a fine job meshing with the cast although I want more from her than “fussy, carping, suburban housewife” but if these are the roles she’s being offered she’s doing good work. Gal Godot is somewhat less charming and doesn’t appear to be as good a fit but I’m more than willing to write that off as a more businesslike character not meshing well with the stable of wacky characters the rest of the movie offers. The actors don’t fail this movie; the movie fails the actors.

There’s just no spark to the plot in Keeping Up with the Jonses. They spend the first half of the movie alternating between showing how pathetic Jeff and Karen’s (Galifianakis and Fisher) lives are and the detective game about figuring out the Joneses are spies— of which all the funny moments are in the trailer. The second half is a bland spy comedy, which probably would have worked for me at some point, but the genre has fleshed out well in the last decade or so and it’s hard to see Joneses as anything less than a feeble shadow of Spy. The plot is limp, and the jokes fail to connect time and again until you get the cinematic equivalent of flop sweat, and the audience is sort of nervously chuckling trying to push the whole thing forward. I’m not saying there are no genuine laughs in here, but they’re embarrassingly too few.

The secret joy of reviewing movies is seeing bad movies and getting to dunk on them. Good movies are boring to write about unless they’re sublimely terrific at one thing or another, but bad movies are an endless font of fun negative adjectives. I don’t want to slam Keeping Up with the Joneses because I feel like everyone involved suffered enough by just having to show up for work and deliver lines they knew weren’t funny.   This isn’t some cosmic malfeasance against the art of cinema, this is just a bunch of talented people (and I should include director Greg Mottola in here as well) working off a script that has a crummy premise and misses way more than it hits when it comes to being funny, the prime directive of any comedy. The worst part is it’s a pleasant enough movie when you don’t realize you haven’t laughed in a while and the stakes of the movie feel meaningless. It would be a great cinematic white noise machine or something, but it isn’t a successful movie.