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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Clever satire
'Popcorn' seems to have attracted astoundingly mixed reviews here, mostly due to people's insistence on reading it as a slur against Tarantino. It is not, and we only have to consider the character of Bruce Delamitri to realise that he is hardly Quentin with a different name. Rather, Bruce seems to reflect any director that has become more noted for the tone of his...
Published on July 1, 2000 by S Davies

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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars funny even if you don't agree with it, but a bit pontifical
Elton dispatches Tarantino with dead-on accuracy. I'm not even sure I agree with Elton's message, but it's certainly worth reading, and makes America reflect on its culture of violence.
But now that this book is going to be made into a movie, doesn't Elton necessarily have to turn the focus on HIS contribution to our culture of violence? When this book is made...
Published on December 30, 1999 by Mj


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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Clever satire, July 1, 2000
This review is from: Popcorn: A Novel (Paperback)
'Popcorn' seems to have attracted astoundingly mixed reviews here, mostly due to people's insistence on reading it as a slur against Tarantino. It is not, and we only have to consider the character of Bruce Delamitri to realise that he is hardly Quentin with a different name. Rather, Bruce seems to reflect any director that has become more noted for the tone of his films rather than their artistic content. 'Popcorn' is a valid, yet even handed critique of the American culture of celebrity and violence, but does not in the end seek to blame any one person or group. That, in essence, is really the point of the whole book. Culpability cannot be dispensed with, because to a certain extent everyone is partly to blame for perpetuating this bizarre situation. Elton, as always, makes his point articulately and with style, and part of the strength of his books is the fact that he never rams his own point of view down the reader's throat, but allows them to make up their own mind. A brilliant read, with broader social significance that we should all ponder upon.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars SOMEONE TO TAKE THE BLAME, August 14, 2005
By 
DAVID BRYSON (Glossop Derbyshire England) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Popcorn (Paperback)
This novel was first published in 1996. Whether there has been any updating of the text beyond one reference to the 21st century in this new paperback edition I simply have no idea.

Ben Elton is a caricaturist and satirist. He was scriptwriter for the Blackadder series, he used to do a standup comic routine on television that I thought brilliant, and he has several other novels to his name that will give you some idea of what to expect from this one. As with all the best satirists, the humour comes from his sharp eye for the way people behave and think and from his willingness to be near the bone and explicit about issues that are normally thought to require some delicacy. This particular book is hung around the theme of extreme violence, and I'm quite sure that Quentin Tarantino was its inspiration, but any resemblance between the film-director hero and Tarantino himself is really neither here nor there, and the book is not really concerned either with resolving the question whether violence on the media does or doesn't cause violence in real life - we are no nearer an answer to that on the last page than we are on the first. What it is about is the mentality that refuses to accept personal responsibility in the traditional sense.

The setting is America and the satire is a particularly English kind of satire, but Popcorn is not about comparing cultures. There are references to certain notorious American trials where the author is left rubbing his eyes with disbelief at the outcome, but I dare say he would have thought the same about the trial of Jeremy Thorpe back at home as he does about the O J Simpson and Lorana Bobbitt cases. Ben Elton's politics are a matter of public record, and they are leftish in much the way my own are. It is not a left-wing stance that finds much time or sympathy for any view that can shuffle off plain guilt on to an individual's background or circumstances, relevant though those may be by way of understanding some aspects of the matter. Elton also throws up his hands in seeming despair at what he sees as a triumph for sheer illogicality and irrelevance in the way issues of criminal guilt are in practice decided on a basis of ethnicity or gender-politics. And whatever influence the media may or may not have in creating or contributing to a culture of violence, he seems in no doubt that the forces of law have to, or at least choose to, trim their sails to the way the media will present issues and the way the public will be swayed by such presentation.

Popcorn is, as I say, satire and caricature, not straight reportage or academic analysis. It focuses its spotlight on absurdity, unreasonableness, perversity and a sheer childish immaturity in people's attitudes. The two psychotic villains of the piece are partly depicted as human beings, but partly also as talking heads - mouthpieces for stating an argument. Nobody at all in the book comes out of it particularly well, and Ben Elton takes some sideswipes, in his usual way, at various incidental targets like goody-goody attitudes and the more brainless kinds of patriotism, while not sparing liberal maundering of the `we are all partly guilty' variety. The money culture comes under heavy fire as you might expect too, and some of the most painful insights relate to that, although the epilogue, with everyone suing everyone else, is extremely funny in a sad sort of way. As for the ostensible theme of the real or supposed effect of media violence on the way people behave, he settles for a simple summation of that in the mouth of the female murderer - it can hardly help.

I have no problem with giving this novel five stars. The author is outstandingly bright and lively-minded, with real independence and originality. Where he stands in some great stately tradition of satirists and social critics - Juvenal, Voltaire, Swift and similar turgid giants - I neither know nor care. I'm pleased to see the tradition of English satire still flourishing, and I stay hopeful that the final Armageddon, which is really a battle between sense on the one hand and cant, doctrine, piety and herd-mentalities on the other, may not actually be lost.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, mean fun, March 3, 2007
By 
This review is from: Popcorn (Paperback)
Bruce Delamitri, director of the ultra-violent movie Ordinary Americans, is on top of the world. He's just won an Oscar for Best Director, and is returning to his palatial mansion with a Playboy centerfold on his arm. What happens next is by turns tragic, humorous, moving, and pathetic, as Bruce's home is invaded by Wayne Hudson and his girlfriend Scout -- ruthless killers whose media profile has risen in step with their skyrocketing body count. Wayne has a plan, and he needs Bruce's help to carry it out. Wayne's scheme ultimately results in murder, mayhem, and the highest ratings in television history.

A satire of television, Hollywood and hot shot autuers like Quentin Tarantino, Popcorn combines elements of movies like Pulp Fiction and Natural Born Killers and novels such as A. M. Wellman's S.F.W. and Joseph Hayes' The Desperate Hours. Elton has no profound insights about the media or on violence, but he does present all points of view in the debate in an engrossing and deceptively informative manner. He also effectively blurs the edges of reality, often segueing from a screenplay format to more straightforward prose. At times laugh out loud funny, the book makes its points without being heavy-handed. A terrific book, which would probably make a great movie, except for the fact that it skewers the very people most likely to make it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Impressive as satire and as thriller, July 29, 2003
This review is from: Popcorn: A Novel (Paperback)
Elton comprehensively condemns the Tarantino phenomenon: it's not art, it's nasty and exploitative, pornographic and promotes violence. But he's not just too old these days to get it: he writes chapters perfectly ripping off the style. It could have merely been a thinly veiled essay (and is at times), but in satirising, Elton has written a very decent thriller - ironically at times by introducing the very archetypical characters he's condemning.
Add to this his usual sharp comic stand-up perspectives, and you've got a powerful read. It should date given its very specific pop-culture context, but it may even be good enough not to. This book is well put together, underpinned by a dry and incisive wit, has some very impressive satire, and makes some penetrating criticisms in an enormously enjoyable and compelling form.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good novel, but not Dostoyevsky, January 2, 2000
By 
Tom Gillis (Kensington, MD USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Popcorn (Hardcover)
I was surprised to see so many reviews posted for this novel, and particularly surprised to see the intensity (pro and con) of some of the reviews. Prior to reading the book, I'd never heard of the author -- I bought it on the strength of a recommendation of a trusted bookstore. My general impression is that this is a well-written novel, but nothing to get excited about.
"Popcorn" is an entertaining, non-serious novel addressing a very serious subject -- the effect of violent media images on human behavior. The tone of the book seems a little strange, but I think the author pulled it off - it is a very entertaining book.
I ripped through this book in two days (i.e., much less than my average 7 days per book), and recommended it to my wife. She also finished it in 2 days, without comment. This means that, despite my recommendation, it was actually good enough to finish (! ), but not good enough to elicit comment. I guess I agree -- this is an OK book, but I wouldn't even consider it for a "best of 1999" list.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great thriller but not many laughs., October 19, 1997
By A Customer
This review is from: Popcorn (Hardcover)
This is Ben Elton's 4th book and is the first without an environmental message . This instead concentrates on the violence in society as portrayed by movies and asks some important questions about personal responsibility. It works on three levels; as a straight thriller, as a satire and as a moral arguement. It never however provides any answers but just leaves you to think about whether films reflect or lead the mood of society. As a thriller it is excellent with some real heart stopping scenes. I would imagine the play currently running in London would be great as all the action takes place in one room. It did not however make me laugh and for a comedy writer as good as he is that disappointed me. if you have never read an Elton book before then can I recommend Gridlock which deals with car pollution and also disability awareness as well as providing more belly laughs than this.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars funny even if you don't agree with it, but a bit pontifical, December 30, 1999
This review is from: Popcorn: A Novel (Paperback)
Elton dispatches Tarantino with dead-on accuracy. I'm not even sure I agree with Elton's message, but it's certainly worth reading, and makes America reflect on its culture of violence.
But now that this book is going to be made into a movie, doesn't Elton necessarily have to turn the focus on HIS contribution to our culture of violence? When this book is made into a movie, it promises to be one of the most violent and gore-filled works of all time. Despite Elton's message, you can bet there'll be hordes of violence-loving audiences going to see it strictly for that.
A worthwhile read, but I'm somewhat turned off by Elton's holier-than-thou attitude, which quickly reveals itself to be as hypocritical as his targets by his acceptance of a movie offer (and, I'm sure, the accompanying millions).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Head-on-a-Lava-Lamp, October 26, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Popcorn (Hardcover)
I read this book through the night sometime last year. Saw the morning in whilst coming to the book's climax. It's just one of those books that can get away with such insomniac mischief.
And a superb book with a superb (though possibly cliched) message. Elton himself is clearly torn between the whole "is-violence-on-TV-a-cause-of-it-on-the-street?" thing and debates within himself. Superb dialogue, superb situation, superb plot. Hmmmm. Here i sound like some critic and i am merely a sad little fifteen year old with nothing better to do than review books for Amazon. Deary me.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Popped Out, May 23, 2012
This review is from: Popcorn (Paperback)
I loved Elton's "Blind Faith" and thought that "Chart Throb" was pretty good too. Other reader friends had recommended "Popcorn" to me, so I was looking forward to another humorous read. Sorry to say, but I just didn't get into this one. I was very annoyed by the blatant Tarrantino-like over-the-top violence and endless film references. Not remotely entertaining or funny.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Compelling satire, August 2, 1999
This review is from: Popcorn (Hardcover)
While I found this an entertaining and amusing book, I couldn't help but think what a great movie it would make. Ironic that I felt this way? I suppose but then I read in the back of the book that Elton was working on the screenplay. I can't wait to see the film.
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Popcorn
Popcorn by S. M. Stirling (Paperback - May 5, 1997)
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