ModiFace: Better Living Through Photoplasty

This was an article I did for Asylum back in 2010. I don’t think it ever ran. These folks had developed software that would paste your photo on celebrities’ skulls, without any regard for how giant your face was. And then they sent a stunning redhead to demonstrate it to me because someone told them what my kryptonite was. 

So if you ever wanted to know what 18 varieties of douchebag you would look like if they suffered from hypocephalus, there’s an app for that.  

ModiFace makes facial-recognition software that tinkers with a person’s appearance. Originally developed for plastic surgeons, and now in use throughout the fashion & magazine industries, they’ve made, a website where you can play with your own facial features. If a man does it, it’s not technically a makeover, though, so for the purposes of this article I’m going to call this process a “Face/Off,” after the ludicrous 1997 Nic Cage/John Travolta film that put two celebrities’ faces on one other.

Click that pretty “Keep Reading” button before we modify its cheekbones beyond all recognition.

Often, as I work at my computer, my gaze will rise to the 11′ x 8′ mirror bracketed to the wall so that wherever I am, I can admire my own majestically sculpted features.

“Self,” I ask myself, “Could myself be any more self-beautiful?”

“No,” I whisper back adoringly, lovingly, perhaps even erotically. But probably just lovingly.

Then…I hesitantly admit, “But you could use an entirely new face.”

Perfidy! I’ve worked years to perfect my “cockeyed deer in headlights” image. I make looking bad look good. And now, to throw it all away? Thankfully, we live in the future, which means if I want to know what I’d look like with my face Photoshopped onto Tom Cruise’s skull, the internet will do that for me, free and instantaneously. And if I like what I see and want to actually steal his face, well, that’s why there are websites where I can hire Balkan mercenaries. But one step at a time.

I send a straight-on headshot to ModiFace, then await the havoc struck upon my delicate Blue Steel. The next day I meet with Jen and Parham, two fresh-faced employees in no need of a makeover or Face/Off. Dammit, they sent beautiful people to show me how horrible I look. This is exactly like the time Willy Wonka took that kid around his chocolate factory to show off how much better he lived than anyone else. The only difference is I can’t hope for the happy ending of turning into a giant blueberry. Unless…is there a ModiFace feature for that?

Sadly, no. But I can turn into several celebrities almost as smart and charming as produce, since Parham and Jen stuck my visage onto some famous gentlemen to model possible haircuts. If I’ve learned anything, it’s how to give myself a haircut over a toilet. But if I’ve learned two things, it’s that I should never style that haircut after Tom Cruise. Like so:

The software also skews, pinches, and blurs my face into presentable appearance, so I can find out whether I should get a nose job to look my best, or something less dramatic, like bathing my skin in the blood of virgins. If that sounds more dramatic, remember that in the case of the nose job, you’re paying someone thousands of dollars to break your face with a hammer and chisel. At least the virgins get a fresh orange and a doughnut after their donation.

Going back to celebrities, I do slightly better as Brad Pitt. At least there I look like the kind of slightly sketchy guy women only hook up with on tropical vacations so they can leave their guilt on foreign sands.

Of course, this isn’t supposed to be a perfect photo touch-up. Rather, it’s a way to see how new features look in the context of your face. Nowhere is this more evident than the hairstyles, where the angles or size of your face might not fully line up to the one in the photo. For example, Pierce Brosnan’s hair and chin redeem any man’s pug-ugly mug…

…whereas this Matthew McConaughey picture answers all your questions about how a muppet would look if made flesh by vengeful gods.

Plainly, that would work better in real life, but it gives you a decent idea as well as a laugh.

I go home and log into (sadly, no one has registered yet) to try this out for myself. Doing the only scientifically acceptable thing, I push nearly every element to its extreme. I pout my lips, tan my skin, raise my eyebrows…

…and I’m all set for The Jersey Shore. Now that’s fame.

We Bought a Zoo(ey Deschanel)

I do more Photoshop at 5 a.m. than most armies do all day. Like this Zooey Deschanel riff on a movie which I haven’t heard of but know everyone else hates.

We Bought a Zooey

Nick Nadel gave it a nice synopsis to go along with it (the article was his idea. I was fully a hired gun on this one). My original tagline prior to their edits was “Raise some Deschanel,” because the increasing laziness of movie posters makes my job easy. I think I have a knack for writing the banal, meaningless movie taglines that earned their authors 40-100,000 dollars. Seriously, that’s what you make for unanchored garbage like “Smurf happens” or “What the Shrek?” Just fart out a vaguely offensive pun that has nothing to do with anything in the movie, and humanity scarfs it up like cheez whiz. I mean, at least in my effort to be that bad, they probably have to raise her now that they adopted her.

Design-wise, too. If it’s a comedy, it’s all Arial fonts, which you might remember from every bake sale flyer or library notice you’ve ever written in your life. Shoot, half the time it’s an all-white background with some Arial Black font and a picture of Eddie Murphy looking smug.

Movie posters used to have great designs. The best one I’ve seen lately was Ghost Rider, and even that was ultimately just grey-blue gritty texture and some orange fire, same as everything else ever. Great composition, though, considering this was probably originally a random stunt guy on a stationary bike.

Ghost Rider

Don’t get me wrong, my Photoshop isn’t comparable to pros like this, but THAT’S WHY I’M NOT ONE OF THOSE PROS. I do goofy five-hour turnaround stuff for the internet. Whoever dictates that all movie posters follow the same few rules by genre is riding a money train. You could nab 100% of major feature release assignments and still do all your work for the year in about three weeks.

One more that particularly irked me. Who knows what this flick is even about?

The Dilemma

Besides photoshopping Kevin James into a wax-polished apple, I mean.

…why am I cranking about this? I’m going to go watch something wonderful.

With the holiday moviegoing season in full swing, there are many flicks to choose from. Do you go with heartwarming family fare or the quirky indie gem? Luckily, we found one movie that you can take both your mom and your trendy sister to. Check out the poster for a new holiday classic below.

(Click on the image to expand.)

zooey deschanel

From acclaimed director Cameron Crowe (‘Vanilla Sky,’ ‘Elizabethtown’) comes a charming dramedy that will melt your heart and punch you in the face with cuteness. Benjamin Mee (Matt Damon) was an ordinary man just trying to keep his family together. But after a random visit to his local indie record store, Mee comes back with more than a rare Bon Iver vinyl — he buys the bubbly, free-spirited clerk (Zooey Deschanel) behind the counter.

Pretty soon she’s entertaining the family with her many adorable voices that quickly turn grating and doing kooky things like staging a mock wedding for the salt and pepper shakers. This holiday season, see the movie that Pitchfork dubbed, “New Girl…Same Old Schtick” and the Cleveland Plain Dealer said, “feels like it takes ’500 Days of Summer’ to sit through.” Featuring a soundtrack by that band that Zooey Deschanel is in. You know, the one they play on NPR all the time. What’s it called? His & Hers?

Text and idea by Nick Nadel

Poster by Brendan McGinley

See the original poster here

What’s in that tub of Cool Whip?

Cool Whip: The very name conjures up images of tasty summer treats that even those lame lactose-intolerant (or as we like to call them, lactose bigoted) kids can eat. But really, do you know what you’re putting in your body? No? Well for crying out loud, man, that’s what Asylum’s here for. Read on to see our pretty chart of everything that goes into the Cool Whip.

7 Advertising Mascot Movies We’d Like To See

Nick Nadel and I co-plotted this off his idea for the article, then I did the Photoshop while he wrote the text below. We had a lot of fun, and I’ll tell you a secret: I fought so hard for the Burger King Fellini film I think I came down to “I’m doing it no matter what, so you might as well run it.”

We’ve finally calmed down after learning that the E-Trade babies — those sassy talking tots who understand the global stock market for no apparent reason — could be starring in their own movie. And no longer brimming with furious anger, we thought we’d help remake-happy Hollywood’s current creative bankruptcy. It’s only a matter of time before they give up and just start pumping out feature-length advertisements.

Here’s where they got it wrong: Instead of forcing a “Look Who’s Talking” rip-off down our collective throats, Tinseltown should have looked to other (i.e., better) advertising mascots for inspiration.

Here are seven movies based on famous commercials that we’d actually like to see.

(All posters below designed by Brendan McGinley)

“The Noid”
The beloved Domino’s Pizza mascot comes to the big screen at last!

When the nation’s pizzas are threatened by nefarious super-prankster The Noid (played by Tracy Morgan), it’s up to one diligent Domino’s employee (Jesse Eisenberg) and his impossibly hot girlfriend (Olivia Wilde) to stop the costumed imp before it’s too late.

It’s the movie that guarantees at least 30 minutes of laughs … or your ticket is free!

“National Treasure: Where’s the Beef?
It’s a race around the world as Nicolas Cage helps former Wendy’s spokeswoman Clara Peller (deliciously brought back to life by the special effects wizards behind “Avatar”) finally uncover the location of the beef.

Will they find a patty large enough to satisfy Peller’s ravenous hunger before it’s too late? And what secrets lie in Ronald Reagan’s tomb?

Co-starring Rich Little as the voice of robot Reagan!

“Exorbitant Charges”
Two cops, one city terrorized by overages and dead spots.

From the guy who brought you “Date Night” and “Night at the Museum: Battle for the Smithsonian” comes the one action-comedy you won’t need to silence your cell phone for.

“Exorbitant Charges” stars both Luke Wilson (as AT&T spokesman Luke Wilson) and the Verizon “Can You Hear Me Now?” guy.

“Six Flags Over da Streets
From the studio that brought you “Dangerous Minds” and “Freedom Writers” comes a tale of believing in yourself when the chips are down.

They were a street-wise group of inner-city teens. He was a mysterious, creepy old guy who taught them the power of dance. Together, their love for roller coasters, overpriced funnel cakes, and cheesy ’90s dance music would change the world. This winter, more flags means more hugs.

The soundtrack is entirely made up of the Vengaboys’ song “We Like to Party” (aka “The Six Flags Theme”) as remixed by the Black Eyed Peas, Ke$ha, 3Oh!3, All-American Rejects and other terrible bands.

“Burger Satyricon”
Sex, violence and an ungodly amount of Whopper Jrs. all factor into this bizarre, Fellini-esque tale of the rise and fall of the Burger King “King.”

How did he get to be the King? Why is he so irresistible to women? How can he appear in random places offering strangers a bacon, egg and cheese biscuit like it’s no big thing?

This summer, audiences will find out why it’s good to be the King — if they can even figure out what’s going on.

It’s old-school thrills when the Geico money stack stars in the Hitchcockian thriller “Paranoia.”

Who’s watching you? A pile of cash with googly eyes. Bet you didn’t see that coming!

Directed by whoever made “Saw VI.”

“The Outlast”
The director of “The Road” returns to post-apocalyptic horror with this tale of a toy bunny that keeps “going and going and going” — even after a nuclear holocaust turns the population into roving, cannibalistic gangs.

It’s nearly three hours of the Energizer Bunny banging his drum through beautifully shot barren wastelands. Just give this one the Best Picture Oscar now, folks.

This Christmas, Energizer outlasts the competition … until the end of time.

Oscar Fever is making me sick

New piece up at Asylum: If the Oscars Were Honest, starring gobs of Photoshopped movie posters.

Sunday is Oscar night, and while that means nothing to anyone who doesn’t read gossip magazines, we still can’t escape their buzz. So we know that the categories and winners aren’t exactly straightforward. As the film industry dislocates its shoulder patting itself on the back, we have some suggestions to bring honesty and awesometicity to the Academy Awards:

First, we have Best Actor. Deserving nominees can’t compete with the tabula rasa that christens itself Nicolas Cage. An ordinary Best Actor statuette doesn’t capture the undiluted dramatic power of Cagedom. We propose a new category: Best Overwrought Nicolas Cage Performance.

Keep reading for more of our own awards and posters.

Milla Jovovich also throws herself into every role she takes, be it terrible action movie, terrible horror film, or terrible indie comedy. Did you know she trained three hours a day for months prior to Resident Evil: Apocalypse? Why? There are Taco Bell commercials with better plotlines than that train wreck. There needs to be an award for Best Milla Jovovich Performance in a Movie That Didn’t Deserve Her Commitment.


Then there are the supporting roles. We all know the winner’s never judged on just the role that he’s nominated for, and these categories are where Hollywood likes to reward the larger context. That’s why the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor Dead or Near Death goes to…

Actresses as a whole face a tougher challenge than actors; there’s an entire industry devoted to tracking their body fat. The rule of thumb is if a beautiful woman does something, it’s pop, but if an unattractive woman does it, it’s art. Therefore we’re creating the Best Artificially Dowdy Actress Drawing Attention to Her Acting Ability.

Look, we’re not saying most action films are transcendent statements of human suffering. We’re just saying if 90 percent of everything is crap, then so are most films that only college professors own on Blu-ray. The award for Most Pretentious Film People Are Afraid Not to Admire goes to…

On a similar note, there’s a category for Best Foreign Language Film. The winner’s usually pretty good, even though the category implies an inferior English-language flick wins Best Picture every time. The fact is, American audiences just don’t have the mental software to enjoy a lot of stories outside our frame of reference, so why not re-brand this Most Incomprehensible Foreign Film?


Speaking of foreign films, how come a remake of one is the only time Martin Scorsese gets his due? Let’s be frank, this category should be Best Director Who Isn’t Martin Scorsese Even Though Martin Scorsese Is The Best Director.

They’ve never explained what makes the Best Animated Film separate. Is it the quality of animation? Or is it just a great film that would get its butt kicked in the other categories because cartoons are perceived as kid stuff? The best stories of the century have all come from one studio, so let’s just re-name this one Best Pixar Film and Live-Action Is Lucky It’s Stuck in This Category.

It’s easier to make an audience cry than it is to laugh, but there’s still no respect for the clowns in the Academy’s hall of heroes. It’s time to come clean and recognize Best Picture That Should Have Won Best Picture but It’s a Comedy.

And, of course, a special award must go to the people who walk the red carpet. Let’s have a Best Performance by an Actor Pretending Not to Be Disgusted With Melissa & Joan Rivers.

Six celebrity tattoos we’d like to see

Hey. It’s 5:30 a.m. and I’m going to bed after Photoshopping tattoos onto half a dozen celebrities. I kinda wedged Community into this one because that show is fantastic, and the youth of today don’t know what’s good for them. Because that’s what I do — inform, educate, entertain, and get out of town with the money before the cracks show up. I expect edits since I never curb my feelings on The Jersey Shore, so the real deal is pasted below.

Also, will have a new Cracked column up for you by end of the day.

Danny Pudi with an Alison Brie tattoo


The less I know about The Jersey Shore, the happier I remain

Snooki as the Mona Lisa. God forgive me.

Let’s pretend I didn’t just Photoshop the Jersey Shore cast into the Renaissance’s greatest works of art to draw attention to their ill-advised trip to Italy. Let’s pretend I didn’t have to learn their stupid nicknames. Let’s pretend I’m not buying your silence with some bonus material: a free picture of J-Woww as the Venus de Milo, which didn’t make the cut, not being a Renaissance work or stored in Italy.

And since I know there’s no way my original text will make it to MTV’s page, it’s below the cut.