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4.4 out of 5 stars68
4.4 out of 5 stars
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VINE VOICEon 27 August 2005
If your experience of Ben Elton the novelist is through "Past Mortem", "Dead Famous", "Inconceivable " and others, you may be forgiven for thinking that he is a very British novelist, concerned with british themes, concerns, and media phenomena. "Popcorn" blows that idea out of the water. Its set exclusively in the USA, mostly in Hollywood, and its sharp, streetwise, shocking and funny.
I tend to think of Ben Elton as an issue-concerned novelist , and the issue at the heart of "Popcorn" is gratuitous violence in films, and whether it breeds violent behaviour in the audience for such films. The main character, Bruce Delamitri, is the director of a film called "Ordinary Americans" who seems a certainty for the oscar for best director. The events unfold throughout the day of the actual Oscar presentation, and the hours following it.
I took longer to get into "Popcorn" than into his other whodunits - "Past Mortem" and "Dead Famous". This isn't because its not as good - in some ways its better - but because it's a very different novel to the other two. Predictably, Elton depicts a Hollywood full of neurotic, shallow, self obsessed people whom nobody would ever want to pass the time of day with if they were not famous. Yet the world and the characters which he depicts are compelling not in spite of their awfulness, but because of it. The pace of the narrative accelerates to a remarkable climax, remarkable in as much as you continue reading even though you don't really care what happens to any of the protagonists. Except possibly the murderers.
One thing you can't help doing is matching up the fictional celebrities to their real life counterparts. If I was, lets say, Quentin Tarantino, I'd be pretty angry with this book, and I'd love to know what his reaction was to it.
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on 31 July 2004
The story concerns a hot-shot film director, famed for his violent movies, who finds himself taken hostage in his own home by a young 'trailer-trash' couple who have been travelling around America killing for fun.
The book opens up the debate of how acceptable violence (especially gratuitous violence) is in films, when, in reality it's not that entertaining, especially when it's happening to you.
I was quite shocked at the brutality in the book but it is saturated with irony and is laced with Ben Elton's observant humour.
Be warned though: the ending is grim and if you like nice tidy conclusions then this may not be the book for you. However, if you're after something thought-provoking and enjoy being unnerved by an uncomfortable combination of humour and violence, give it a go.
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on 16 October 2002
This is one of the most balanced books I have ever read. Not only does Popcorn have a genuinely fixating plot with a brilliant storyline, it also has some fantastic humor with dry sarcasm in some places and blatant comedy in others. But the book's by far most impressive aspect is its social commentary. Elton casts an eye over the daytime chat show media and reproduces it in a totally believably, yet intrinsically funny, way.
Of course, however, the most important aspect is the aspect on the 'film violence' debate. Elton presents the views of Bruce Delamitri in such a way that even the most hardened antagonist of violent imagery would surely be drawn about to his views. The minds of two killers are concisely portrayed to the point that their plight, and solution to it, is completely reasonable. This book, then, is a true masterpiece of readability and debate.
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on 3 June 2013
I enjoyed the first half of this book, particularly the satire. Elton provides us with acid edged, humorous observations on the shallowness and banality of the film industry, celebrity world and talk shows. He uses this to present to us a modern moral conundrum: does violence within the media create mass murderers?

The main protagonists he uses to play out this moral question are Bruce, (Oscar winning film director) and Wayne and Scout, two trailer trash hoodlums. These and other characters are eventually brought together within the living room of Bruce's Californian mansion. Before that Elton cleverly has the scenes switching back and forth and with some of the narrative presented in the form of a film script, suggesting that life was imitating the `art' Bruce had created within his films.

Whilst I applaud the clever construction of this book and the moral question posed, I became inured to the violence and bored with the satire because it was simply more of the same.
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on 11 February 2003
In this intelligent thriller from an unexpected source, Ben Elton fuses many different qualities into an excellent book.
Every chapter looks at realistic situations with wit, sarcasm and satire; there were many occassions that caused a quick chuckle. Simultaneously, these situations are unavoidably thought-provoking; however you view the situations, your opinions have to be formed, and parts of modern life are shown in all their absurdity.
Even more brilliantly, while both thought-provoking and incredibly funny, the story continues apace, full of interest and intrigue, with descriptions that while vivid, avoid being gruesome, instead cleverly accentuating both the (thriller) plot and moral issues addressed.
The ending to the book is masterful, the epilogue incredibly funny. I also found the stageshow very enjoyable, but not quite as complete or convincing as the book.
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on 21 May 2009
Having read 'High Society', thought I'd try another Ben Elton book.

By comparison to 'High Society' (which I thoroughly enjoyed), I found 'Popcorn' one-dimensional and rather dull. I didn't empathise or sympathise with any of the characters and just couldn't care what happened to them.

The two poor 'white trash' villains were imbued with intellect and debating skills way beyond what might be reasonably expected of them, which detracted from the book's overall credibility.

It lacked the dark humour, plot twists, sustained interest and compassion for many of the characters which made High Society such a compelling read.

'Popcorn' might have made an interesting short story, but to me it seems (over)stretched at a 300+ page novel.
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on 22 June 2000
Having read his first three books and thoroughly enjoyed them, I was expecting great things from 'Popcorn' how wrong I was.
The book was a very shallow montage of the current vogue Tarrantino movies. It was so obvioulsy written as a play and not a novel and as such seems to have very little depth. A case of jumping on the bandwagon rather than a good story. It lacked all of the things that I had become accustomed to in his earlier works.
I found this book so bad that have not read anything else by the author, which is such a shame, as he obviously has great talent as a writer, but I feel that the prospects to convert his latest work into a movie or a play are fast becoming the motive for his novels.
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on 5 November 2005
I went out in my lunch break to buy something to read on the train that evening and from when I started the daily commute to 3am I didn't put it down once.
Extremely thought provoking, funny, well written and a great, clever read. It looks at the blame culture in our society and takes it to the extreme, showing that if you're guilty, you can still be innocent, you just have to find someone or something to blame it on.
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on 24 October 2000
I'm putting my low level of enjoyment for this book down to the possibility that I missed something very important. I was told this book is a masterpiece, very witty and a must read... but on turning the final page I felt nothing but relief: for finishing what I can only describe as a poorly written pastiche, more like a collage than an original work of fiction. Not one point in this book did I find cleaver or new, and remember not a single snigger throughout.
This was my first and last book by Elton... Ben Elton finds himself very funny and unless you subscribe to this personal fantasy, its almost impossible to find Popcorn titillating.
Read with care, don't expect much, as I did, and maybe it'll be worth it. If you have studied any kind of Media or Communications course however, steer clear, the book is one big convention and genre list. If it came out 5 years before it did then maybe.
I mean not to insult those who liked this book. It just didn't ring my bell.
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VINE VOICEon 10 April 2010
This is provocative and combative but is not the rant that many people familiar with Mr Elton in his early career may have expected. Restrained in style but visceral in message I read it in one sitting with a smile on my face throughout. If you were put off reading this by Mr Elton's 'stand-up' persona -think again.

The whole film/copycat debate is much covered. Equally relevant, and increasingly so, is the role of news media. Very prescient stuff as the News Editor revels in 'being' the news 'while the old forces of authority - the cops and the politicians- could only watch impotently from the sidelines'.
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