Saturday, August 20, 2011

M2E Digital Exposed



In which the continuing escapades of a shameless, self-promoting swindler are laid bare.

It has been five fruitless years since Murali K. Thalluri's cinema debut. It now seems clear that his film-making career has stalled. With his film projects continuing to be grounded in development hell, Thalluri has sought new means of revenue for himself and his production company, M2 Entertainment (M2E).

Thalluri's first attempt to diversify was in 2010, with a “film-financing” service called M2E Pictures. This development was first pointed out to us by one of our sharp-eyed readers, however at the time, we at Energiser Bunny felt that any commentary by us would be superfluous, the main thrust of the service already reading like some bad joke. However, for completeness, here is our take:

M2E Pictures, in brief

For the princely sum of $795, somebody at M2E will read your screenplay and write 7-10 pages about it. Is this person in any way experienced or qualified to judge screenplays and evaluate them proficiently? Who knows? If the stars align, and the M2E minion likes your screenplay, it may then be subjected to a completely opaque and unaccountable process called "does MKT like it?" If your screenplay manages to mount that hurdle, it may then be submitted to another completely opaque and unaccountable process called " does the M2E Board like it?" Even if the M2E Board does approve, do realise that M2E is having enough difficulty launching its own film projects - let alone yours!

But, either way, thanks for your $795, here's some script advice of questionable value. Badum-tish!

Thalluri later confessed he had received "feedback" (read: complaints) from writers who had balked at the price. In response, M2E offered a budget option, minus commentary, for a mere $50.

Oddly enough, the exorbitant $795 option still remains!

Investigating M2E Digital

But we digress. Earlier this year, a reader informed us of another dubious attempt by Thalluri to raise revenue: a concern called M2E Digital. After a bit of digging, it became clear that this particular enterprise is more than enough to warrant our signature style of critique.

We stress we have nothing against (and, in fact, support) entrepreneurship if it is assiduous and honest. If Thalluri & Co. were to operate in such a manner, we would have no cause for contention, and would wish a legitimate business well.

However, since, after careful analysis, this does not appear to be the case, we have an obligation to publish our findings.

To introduce M2E Digital in its own words:

M2E DIGITAL is a multifaceted digital media and software development company founded by Murali K. Thalluri and Solomon Paul. The digital media arm of M2E Digital is a service based company that specializes in:

* Website Design & Development
* App Design and Development
* Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
* Domain & Web Hosting
* E-Mail Solutions

The software development arm of M2E Digital is focussed on building great apps across mobile devices, tablets, desktop computers and gaming consoles.

And:

At M2E Digital we have a team of over twenty highly specialized technicians, programmers, designers and developers based between Australia and Los Angeles. This allows us to ensure that we are bringing the highest level of quality to any projects we choose work on and bring your vision to fruition.

For a technology startup, there is striking disparity in the experience and focus between the management and the development team.

Take M2E Digital's CEO Murali K. Thalluri, whose sole technical credential, according to his biography, is that "he built his first computer at 8 years old" (an all-in-one Mac Classic, perhaps?).

The rest of his bio, by far the longest listed, is otherwise filled with irrelevant information. It even parrots the falsehood that Thalluri was "[at 22] the youngest director to ever get into Official Selection at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival".

For the record, that distinction actually goes to Samira Makmalbaf, who was 18 when her film The Apple screened at Cannes in 1998, and 20 when her Jury-Prize winning second film Blackboards screened in 2000. Deal with it, Thalluri.

In a similar fashion, M2E Digital's other two managing staff, Solomon Paul and Sam Kennedy, are also evidently preoccupied with film-making. Paul is apparently slated to direct a short film for M2E later this year. He also blogs about learning photography. Kennedy is apparently developing a screenplay with Thalluri and blogs about screen-writing. Only Paul has some alleged experience making websites for "architectural modelling and film companies" (which ones, we aren’t told). But not, conspicuously, for actual web development firms.

[Editor's note: Thalluri received an advance copy of this entry in early August 2011, and was invited to respond to any points he considered incorrect and in need of amending. No reply. However the incriminating page mentioned below was swiftly yanked without explanation or apology. A copy can still be viewed here.

Please note that despite being caught, let's face it, quite red-handed, M2E Digital still has the chutzpah to continue to say it's a company with over 20 employees; M2E Pictures still wants to pretend that Thalluri was the youngest director to ever enter official selection at the Cannes film festival.]


(Click to enlarge)

Contrast this with the crack team of developers M2E Digital lists in its employ: currently thirteen-strong, based between Australia and Los Angeles, many of them seasoned professionals with up to 18 years experience, with great expertise in numerous programming languages. While tech startups typically comprise of a small group of savvy, ambitious youths hoping to expand, here we have a medium-sized company filled with top-notch coders spontaneously assembling out of nowhere. One must wonder how Thalluri and his flunkies, a pair of wannabe film-makers, could lure a team of senior developers to work for them.

Adding to the mystery, M2E Digital's developer bios are very light on details. Sure, we have a glowing description of their skills and the regular platitudes about how well they think outside the box. Yet we don't have any past projects they've worked on, or even their surnames. Their profile pictures aren't even real photos, but caricatures ripped off from South Park!

And, just to pique our suspicions further, consider the M2E Digital blog, which copies tech articles from other sites and tacks on a brief comment called "the M2E Digital take". Despite the sizable pool of tech experience at their disposal, the generally prosaic commentary reads as though the author is digitally naïve rather than a digital native, certainly not a geek. Given the blog's fierce Apple bias, we'd tip Thalluri as the sole author, although contributions by Paul and Kennedy are conceivable.

With things not adding up, we put the M2E Digital's app team bios under the microscope. The result was jaw-dropping.

We discovered many of the M2E Digital bios are in fact fakes, largely copied verbatim from other developers, with minimal rewording to conceal the fact.

Identical sentence fragments are in bold:


"Leslie", M2E Digital

LESLIE is a 15 year veteran when it comes to desktop and mobile software architecture and development. Through his long career, he has served clients in a variety of different fields from transport, healthcare, e-commerce and telecommunications. Leslie's previous work includes projects on enhanced voicemail systems and video applications, along with developing data delivery systems for clinical trials

Compare with Rob Bonner, Director of Mobile Development, Cronk Software, USA

Over 25 years in desktop and mobile software architecture and development serving clients in aviation, healthcare, e-commerce and telecommunications

Lead development teams in creation of TTY enhanced voicemail systems and ISDN-based video applications; architected and developed data delivery systems for clinical trials.

Aviation is, of course, a form of transportation.


"Charles", M2E Digital

CHARLES has a Bachelor Degree in Information Technology and is a software development specialist with over 7 years experience in web development technologies. Charles' primary strengths lie in Image Processing / Recognition algorithm development, software development process and system architecture. He is experienced in the following programs and languages; C++, Objective-C, OpenGL, OpneCV, boostC++, PHP, mySQL, JavaScript, jQuery, ActionScript, VisualStudio,XCode, iOS/Android/WebOS/Blackberry & WP7 SDK's, Dreamweaber, Flash & Photoshop."

Naoya Ruike, CellCity, Singapore

"A software development specialist with over 5 year's commerce experience in the electric device company and Web development. Especially, have strengths in Image Processing / Recognition algorithm development, software development process and system architecture. As a result, contributed to a new product and rapid development.

Specialties

C++, Objective-C, OpenGL, OpneCV, boostC++

PHP, mySQL, JavaScript, jQuery, ActionScript

VisualStudio,XCode, Dreamweaber, Flash, Photoshop, Illustrator

Quartus2, Rhapsody, AutoBox, Matlab/Simulink"

Naoya Ruike's Education

...

Bachelor, Information Technology

1998 – 2002

Note the identical misspellings of "Dreamweaver", "Boost C++", "OpenCV" and "MySQL"; the same omitted space between the comma and "XCode". A sloppy copy and paste job by people who quite likely don't fully understand what they're copying. Tacking on Android development without adding experience in Java? Puh-lease.


"Laurel", M2E Digital

LAUREL has worked as a freelance iPhone, iPad and iOS consultant before joining the M2E Digital team. With over 12 years experience in developing applications for both web, desktop and mobile platforms, Laurel has serviced clients from all over world. She is an integral part of M2E's process, overseeing quality ocntrol of all projects the company is involved with.

Nick Kuh, Osmosis Apps, UK

I'm a Freelance iPhone, iPad, iOS Consultant and Developer based in Brighton, UK with an 12 years experience developing applications for web, desktop and mobile. I freelance directly for UK and US clients such as the BBC, ESPN, Channel 4, Pearson and numerous others.

Working for UK and US clients surely qualifies as "clients from all over the world", no? And "overseeing quality ocntrol" [sic]? Priceless.


"Yograj", M2E Digital

"Yograj is another former freelance developer and consultant who after working for many years in the industry joined the M2E Digital family. Yograj's career began in the mid-90's, in the early days of the internet when things were much simpler. As things began to change and evolve Yograj made a point stay at the head of the pack. In recent years Yograj as been involved with a number of larger projects. His expertise in programming include Apple's XCode compiler iPhone, Mac, Games, iPhone SDK, OpenGL, CGDirectDisplay, cinematic, sprite kernel extensions (drivers) and Objective C (Cocoa)."

Vishnu B, Freelance Programmer and Developer based in Bangalore, India:

"Expert: Apple's XCode compiler iPhone, Mac, Games, iPhone SDK, OpenGL, CGDirectDisplay, cinematic, sprite kernel extensions (drivers) Objective C (Cocoa)"

Cute backstory there. Notice the inclusion of meaningless terms like like "cinematic" and "sprite kernel extensions" in both, another example of very sloppy copy and pasting. Also, Vishnu charges $33/hour for his services, M2E Digital charges $95/hour.


"Nienke", M2E Digital

NIENKE has worked extensively throughout Europe where she's served as a software architect and engineer on a variety of projects in many different industries from banking, to aerospace to transport. Despite her love for developing apps for the iPhone, Nienke is still a big believer in Open Source as she has been involved with a variety of different OSS projects.

Peter Friese, head of mobile development at Itemis, Germany

As a software engineer and software architect, Peter has worked on a variety of industry projects in different domains such as banking, aerospace and transport. Despite developing apps for the "walled garden" (aka iPhone), Peter is an Open Source enthusiast and has been a committer on various OSS projects, including APPlause, Xtext, Eclipse Modeling, openArchitectureWare, FindBugs and AndroMDA.


"Jennifer", M2E Digital

JENNIFER has spent the past 6 years leading development teams as well as creating web-based systems and applications. The majority of Jennifer's programming experience lies in Java and Objective-C. Prior to joining M2E, Jennifer worked as a Systems & Software Engineer where she was involved with designing portal architectures and developing JEE web applications.

Jeff Kunkle, CTO of Near Infinity, USA

He has spent the past ten years leading Agile-focused development teams and creating web-based systems and applications. The majority of his programming experience lies in Java/JEE, Groovy/Grails, and Ruby/Rails, with Objective-C and iPhone development being a personal spare-time learning pursuit.

Prior to joining Near Infinity, Jeff worked for Lockheed Martin and held several Systems and Software Engineering positions during his participation in the Engineering Leadership Development Program. Much of his time spent at Lockheed involved designing portal architectures and developing JEE web applications.


"Jorge", M2E Digital

JORGE is a relative new comer to the field with two years of experience, however the quality of his work using technologies like PHP, AJAX & Jquery would not suggest this. Jorge also specializes in web application architecture and relational database design. He also has a sound understanding, and a strong ability to implement web technologies such as HTML, HTML5, Javascript, PHP, JSP and Servlet. He can also program in PHP, C, C++ & Java.

PHP, PHP, PHP. While we haven't been able to find a source for this one, with all these mentions of PHP, perhaps this is the result of several bios mixed together.

Thalluri appears to be up to his old tricks once again, plagiarism and fabrication of individuals and credentials in order to dishonestly promote his commercial enterprises.

The members of M2E Digital's dev team do not have the credentials they advertise (isn't that unlawful?).


In fact, as best we can tell, these people don't exist at all. M2E Digital's social networks are missing people with rare names like Laurel, Nienke, Jorge, Percy and Yograj, and we cannot find any external sources showing people with these names having any affiliation with M2E Digital.

Nonetheless, the company has a portfolio of websites, a few announced mobile projects, and offers a range of other services. So what's going on here?

Here is a clue: buried in M2E Digital's guide to website development and design process is this strange note, obviously left in by accident.

Show four different versions of the M2E Digital site. We'll need to get these of Josh, just so we can show the evolution of our site. Cool?

There is no "Josh" listed as an employee of M2E Digital. It seems extremely odd that a web development company would have to get an outsider to develop graphics illustrating the evolution of its own site. Especially one the size M2E Digital claims to be, yet that's where evidence points.

We believe that M2E Digital may be in essence a shell corporation. By this we mean that it doesn't have any significant assets or salaried employees of its own. Instead, it acts as a middle man, hiring other companies or independent contractors to do its work for it. This is inefficient for the end customer, who has to pay both for the service - and M2E Digital's cut.

For further evidence of this, let's break down M2E Digital’s other services.

Domains and web hosting

M2E Digital claims that it:

... offers very competitive hosting packages. ... We guarantee 99.99% uptime on our dedicated hosting servers.

Actually, it doesn't seem to own any servers. M2E Digital is on Lizzy Hosting, and its hosting plans are identical to Lizzy's - save for the fact that M2E Digital charges approximately twice as much as Lizzy. M2E Digital is simply a Lizzy hosting reseller. Since Lizzy already has comprehensive support, what value is M2E Digital adding that justifies doubling the price?

Lizzy Hosting doesn't appear to make any guarantees of 99.99% uptime, and at least
one site reports its actual uptime is slightly below that. Surely M2E Digital shouldn't be offering guarantees about hardware that it doesn't have physical access to?

Additionally, M2E Digital will let you optionally register a domain for $40 per year. But a standard .com domain can be had for less than $10, even a .au domain can be had for less than $20. Rip off!

Email Solutions

M2E Digital bewilderingly offers six different email services, but it apparently only manages one of them directly, if that.

M2E Digital will sell you ten free Gmail accounts for $250(!) or a Google Business account for 60% markup. These are, naturally, managed by Google.

M2E Digital also sells three expensive managed Microsoft Exchange servers, and another Microsoft Exchange server called the "M2E Solution".

On the first feature comparison table, the M2E Solution is labelled as the "cheapest", with fewer features to reflect that. But on the pricing table, it's revealed to be the most expensive per year, even after inflating the prices of the other services. Huh?

Although the most expensive, the M2E Solution doesn't have phone support like the other three Exchange server packages. We suspect the reason for this is because those Exchange packages are run by another firm (whose services M2E Digital resells). M2E Digital doesn't want to run phone support so it doesn't offer it on the M2E Solution.

Further evidence that M2E Digital probably don't actually run its own mail servers: its own corporate mail system is run by Google. If M2E Digital refuses to use its own email service, who should? Ever heard of eating your own dog food?

Search Engine Optimisation

According to the M2E Digital website, $999 will get you 300 hours worth of SEO work per month. Assuming this is true, that works out to a mere $3.33 per hour.

M2E Digital touts itself as having "a team ... based between Australia and Los Angeles". Its meta keywords include both "Adelaide" and "Australia". The management staff, Thalluri, Paul and Kennedy, are all listed as being Adelaide based – so we are lead to think this is an Australian-American company.

The minimum wage in Australia is AUD$15.51 per hour.

The minimum wage in California is USD$8.00 per hour.

How then, does this company offer a service that costs AUD$3.33 per hour?

Answer: Off-shoring, probably to India.

There is a bunch of Indian firms that offer SEO services that are nigh on identical to M2E Digital's offerings. Exact same table of features, exact same price tiers, everything. Except the Indian firms tend to be even cheaper, presumably because they don't have M2E Digital taking a cut as a middleman.

While we're on the subject, let's take a closer look M2E Digital's use of SEO.

An M2E Digital blog post states:

A lot of people under estimate [sic] the value of search engine optimisation. We have seen website hits for clients go from hundreds into the thousands as a direct result of a strong Search Engine Optimisation campaign.

Just who are these clients? None of the listed portfolio websites show much evidence of using M2E Digital's SEO services and this includes M2E Digital itself!

These sites are missing basic features, such as:

  1. meta keywords
  2. Google analytics installed
  3. URL rewriting, using ugly URLs such as /?page=this_crap&237 rather than /search-engine-friendly-hyphens/

However, M2E Pictures has undergone SEO treatment. Not only the good type that makes your site easier for search engines to crawl and index, but the scammy, spammy type as well.

M2E Pictures has set up a fake blog to promote itself and provide links to M2E.net in the hopes of boosting its PageRank. Under the persona "Vladimir Voyka", the site fraudulently uses a photo of Vladimir M. Shalaev, Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Purdue University.

M2E Pictures has also been spamming film-making message boards. The comments are a ruse, their contents insipid yet innocuous enough to avoid being deleted by inattentive moderators. The real payload is the link to M2E.net in the comment signature and user profile, again trying to boost PageRank. Examples of this can be seen on Rogue Cinema, Bloody Disgusting, Kung Fu Cinema, Indie Film Chat, Filmmakers Network, DVX User, DV-Forums and Total Film.

The user responsible for these messages is "Brianna Talore" [briannatalore]. All of Ms Talore's forum accounts were created around 19 October 2010, all left between 6-9 messages, and all stopped posting on 10 November 2011. During the same period, briannatalore left comments on blogs promoting M2E Pictures like this and added M2E.net to social bookmarking sites like this and this.

Ms Talore went on to submit a short article titled How to Get Film Finance for your Movie Idea with a link to M2E.net to a sleazy content farm. Then she did it again, to another content farm. And again. And again and again. And then, just to be sure, again and again and again and again and again.

There is no sign of a Brianna Talore ("Did you mean: Brianna Taylor ?") existing anywhere else, apart from this blatant shill-work. Chalk her up as yet another fake person promoting M2E - there might still be more.

Plagiarism

If the previous discoveries weren't bad enough, we discovered that large chunks of M2E Digital are a bizarre mishmash of content ripped off from other sites, cobbled together with its company name inserted and passed off as its own.

The list of plagiarised content includes M2E Digital's material about:

  1. How Web Hosting Works
  2. The Phases of Web Design
  3. What Content Management Is
  4. The Benefits of Social Integration
  5. SEO and How It Works
  1. Website Analysis
  2. Competitive Analysis
  3. Initial Ranking Report
  4. Content Optimization
  5. HTML Code Optmization
  6. Meta Tag Creation & Optimization
  7. HTML Sitemap Creation
  8. Google Analytics Setup & Monitoring
  9. Google Webmaster Tools Setup
  10. RSS Feed Generation
  11. WWW Redirection
  12. Canonicalization
  13. URL Rewriting
  14. Off Page Optimization
  15. Manual Search Engine Submission
  16. Local Business Submission
  17. Reciprocal Link Exchange
  18. Social Media Marketing
  19. Social Bookmarking
  20. Article Submission
  21. Press Release Creation
  22. Blog Creation
  23. Forum Posting
  24. Classified Ad Creation
  25. Video Promotion

However, the absolute topper is the plagiarised description of its article creation service:

"Our team consists of experts on topics that are as diverse as our clients. Whether it is a simple article for schoolchildren to complicated scientific articles, our research and writing capabilities are able to cover it. We have content writing professionals who will create unique articles for you."

Ri-i-ight.

Clientele

Given M2E Digital's utterly distasteful business practices, we were concerned whether anybody had been unfortunate enough to be deceived by it. Thankfully, it would appear the damage to the wider public has, so far, been limited.

M2E Digital has acquired its clients by good old-fashioned nepotism. To date, M2E Digital has created websites for M2E co-founder Nick Matthews and his sister Marisha, along with James Anderson, Jayne West and John Khammash who appear to be friends of Murali K. Thalluri.

More recently, M2E Digital has announced the development of a mobile application for MedEntry, a company that prepares students for the medical entrance exam. MedEntry, no stranger to controversy itself, is a family company directed by Ed Boyapati, Thalluri's uncle.

We would urge any prospective clients of M2E Digital to investigate our claims, and to shop around. We believe you can find equivalent, if not better services for a lower price by dealing with freelance contractors directly.

Conclusion

After the screed of allegations against Thalluri, detailed both on this blog as well in the media at large - the MJJ Forum, the IMDb Boards, a dodgy victims of crime payout, 2:37's dedication to Kelly, etc - upon discovering all this, one can only feel that plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

And that, readers, is saddening.

Despite being grilled by the media spotlight and burning all sorts of industry bridges, Murali K. Thalluri hasn't, apparently, learned a damned thing. Once the media lost interest, he resumed his deceitful behaviour, trying to claw back the only way he knew how. Thalluri has not even learned to become more cunning. His latest tactics have been clumsy, sloppy and, frankly, almost offensively easy to uncover.

This dog, it would seem, cannot be taught new tricks.

Bunny out.

Monday, January 25, 2010

This Is [sh]It




Nearly three years have passed since this blog was last updated.

2:37 came and went. The reviews were middling-to-bad; the box-office receipts, meagre.

The project seemed to curse many of those who were involved. Much of its young cast swiftly, embarrassingly, slid into obscurity, or, worse still, ended up with the kind of a career in which the highlight is a bit part in an Adam Sandler movie.

And, of course, there's the man himself, the Bunny's old bugaboo, Mr Murali K. Thalluri.

At the height of the controversy, Thalluri was on the cusp of big things - or, so he'd have us believe.



Even if one has talent and is willing to work hard, a career as a filmmaker is a rare thing. Many try. Few succeed. Some are lucky enough to catch the kind of break that leads to a real career - such as having one's first film accepted into the Cannes Film Festival.

Inexplicably, Thalluri was given this gift.

Even more inexplicably, he squandered it.

How many feature films has Thalluri made since 2:37?

None.

How many short films has Thalluri made since 2:37?

None. (Unless you include this 2m 37s masterpiece of nuance and wit, featuring 'Writer/producer', Stealthy Selthy - or, maybe this dazzling, single unbroken take in which Thalluri bullies directs a bucktoothed little girl and her brother from behind the camera - apparently in order to try to impress Teresa Palmer).

What has he done since he made 2:37?

Well, there was the stint as Che Guevaraesque fashion icon. And then there was the 'celebrity' endorsement.

Understandably, Thalluri may have been smarting from all of the accusations that 2:37 was nothing but an inferior, muddled rehash of Gus Van Sant's Elephant. When barely a review of 2:37 was published that didn't note the obvious, blatant similarities between the two films, even Thalluri himself was forced to acknowledge he'd gone waaaay beyond homage.

Even Geoffrey Rush got in on the act, dubbing Thalluri 'Milli Vanilli' in the press - a byword for being a phony.

In order to rid himself of any further association with plagiarism (which, to this day, still earns him derision), Thalluri would have of course aggressively pursued unique, fresh projects. No?

No.

In the wake of the hit film, Slumdog Millionaire, Thalluri was peddling Jewel - the tale of two Indian boys who escape from a cruel, Fagin-esque slavemaster, seeking salvation from a game show their Bollywood idol. Understandably, people were wary of sinking any money into the project - to the extent that a desperate Thalluri had to travel as far as Hong Kong to try hawking the thing before it finally died.

Following that, in an even more desperate move, came World War 3, a nakedly derivative ripoff of the Tomorrow, When the War Began series of novels by John Marsden. The project appeared to get as far as clumsily photoshopped promo artwork on Thalluri's website until, thank God, Paramount (with its own adaptation of Tomorrow, When the War Began in the works) apparently nipped it in the bud, forcing Thalluri to retract, tail between his legs.

[Editors' note - an advance copy of this entry was provided to Thalluri in November 2009 to provide him with an opportunity to identify anything that he considered was incorrect, prior to publication. Thalluri's only specific objection was to the preceding two paragraphs with an assertion that the Jewel and World War 3 projects were, apparently, still active. However, he declined to elaborate on his position, to provide any supporting material or, notably, to respond to the allegation that both projects appeared to be plagiarised.]

And then... nothing.

Until now.

Thalluri (who, apparently, still lives with his long-suffering parents) has now popped back up into the spotlight (albeit, on cut-rate movie website with a history of Thalluri obsequy) with a 'review' of the Michael Jackson documentary, This Is It.

Trying to refashion himself as a film critic, of all things, would seem to be an infelicitous move for Thalluri. Firstly, there is his vocal ignorance of/antipathy towards film criticism/history/culture. Secondly, there is his apparent inability to string together a coherent sentence.

Still, you might think, more than three and a half years have passed since the 2:37 hoopla - perhaps Thalluri has taken some basic writing classes since then? Maybe he's read a few film reviews and has acquired something of a sense of the process of critical evaluation?

The evidence, unfortunately, indicates otherwise.

Just when Thalluri thought it was safe to dip his toe back into the public domain, herewith, then, is a blow-by-blow dissection of his 'review'. It would be churlish, perhaps, to dwell on Thalluri's scattershot approach to punctuation, so the focus will be, primarily, on the review's structure and content.

1) Long before the world turned on Michael Jackson through tabloid sensationalism, long before the pigment crippling skin disease - Vitiligo - turned his color to a porcelain doll white, and long before the Peter Pan of Pop was accused and acquitted of child molestation, he was and remained to the end one thing, the greatest entertainer who ever lived.

STRUCTURE

The cumbersome, over-elaborate, illogical opening sentence sets the tone of what is to come.
Let's break it down. The point that Thalluri seems to be trying to make is that Jackson's talent was unfairly overshadowed by the notoriety resulting from his bizarre appearance and alleged child molestation. Fine, but the way sentence is structured just doesn't make sense. Thalluri sets out three negative events that happened in Jackson's life:
  1. the world turned on him;
  2. his skin turned white; and
  3. he was accused and acquitted of child molestation.

He next establishes a period of time during which Jackson 'was and remained to the end the greatest entertainer who ever lived'. This period of time occurs 'long before' the events listed above.

Let's say Michael Jackson's status as 'the greatest entertainer who ever lived' kicked off in 1971.

Following Thalluri's description as it is written, a timeline of events would look something like this:



This sequence is, of course, patently absurd and grossly inaccurate. By mentioning an ongoing time period with language meant to describe a discrete event in the past, Thalluri completely mangles his words. No stranger to corrupted chronologies, the only logically consistent way to interpret Thalluri's wording is to presume Jackson died years ago, (a theory that Thalluri already tried, and failed, to propagate on the internet), and must have somehow suffered these humiliations posthumously! For the interests of clarity, the sequence of events that Thalluri was likely striving for, with Jackson's vitiligo diagnosis in 1986 and first (public) accusations of child abuse in 1993, was meant to look like this:


CONTENT

'Long before the world turned on Michael Jackson through tabloid sensationalism...'

This does not make sense. The fact of your 'turning on someone' may be reflected by 'tabloid sensationalism' (whatever that means, in and of itself), but you can't 'turn on someone' through 'tabloid sensationalism' - you either turn on them or you don't.

'long before the pigment crippling skin disease - Vitiligo - turned his color to a porcelain doll white...'

How can a pigment be crippled? Surely he means 'the crippling skin disease, Vitiligo'? And why refer to it as 'porcelain doll white' - why not just 'porcelain white'?

'long before the Peter Pan of Pop was accused and acquitted of child molestation...'

Yes, Jackson compared himself to Peter Pan, and, yes - he named his ranch 'Neverland', but isn't the nickname 'the Peter Pan of Pop' usually reserved for Cliff Richard? Jackson's own nicknames, based on actual public usage, would include 'the King of Pop' and 'Wacko Jacko'.

Additionally, Thalluri's reference to Jackson being 'accused and acquitted of child molestation' is misleadingly suggestive that the accusation and acquittal was a one-off event - when, as Thalluri knows, it was anything but.

'he was and remained to the end one thing, the greatest entertainer who ever lived.'

Wait a second, Jackson was one thing? Only one thing, an entertainer? That seems like a horribly reductive way of weighing up a life, and one entirely consistent with the blinkered way that Jackson's abusive father apparently viewed his son.

2) The new documentary THIS IS IT shows us that despite what we were reading about him in the press, this was a gentle genius who just wanted to help the world through his art, it shows us the man still had talent, that when he sang, he sang with the voice of angels, and when he danced he did so with the grace of god, and though he is no longer with us, the man’s legend will live on through the legacy piece, THIS IS IT.

STRUCTURE

The sentence opens with the words '... THIS IS IT shows us that...'.

On this basis, the ostensible purpose of the sentence is to describe some of the things that This Is It shows its audience, namely:

    1. '... that despite ... the press, [Jackson] was a gentle genius... ';
    2. '... that [Jackson] had talent... when he sang... and when he danced'; and
    3. '[that] though [Jackson] is no longer with us... [his] legend will live on through the legacy piece, THIS IS IT.'
Yes, that's correct, reader. Thalluri just wrote that This Is It shows us that Jackson's legend will live on through This is It.

CONTENT

'[Jackson] just wanted to help the world through his art...'

This is sycophantic hyperbole at its worst. Does a man on the verge of bankruptcy set up a 50-concert tour that would have, apparently, netted him hundreds of millions of dollars in order to 'help the world through his art'?

'he sang with the voice of angels...'

Angels, plural? What, in harmony with himself? Like a barbershop quartet?

'he danced... with the grace of god'

While God is known for his grace, he is not known for his dancing ability. Thalluri seems not to realise that the word 'grace' has a specific meaning in the theological context - namely, forgiveness or benefaction. Not graceful, in the swan sense.

(Anyway, here is a video of a dancing God for your viewing pleasure!)

3) The film chronicles the final few months of Michael Jackson’s life from the moment he announced his eagerly awaited comeback right down to the night before he died.

STRUCTURE

Bear this sentence in mind later on and note, for now, Thalluri's suggestion that the film chronicles 'the final few months of... Jackson's life', beginning with the announcement of the concert tour and ending on the night before Jackson's death.

CONTENT

'... right down to the night before [Jackson] died.'

Right down to the night before he died or right up to the night before he died?

4) It is a mixture of performance as well as an in-depth behind the scenes look at the man at work. Together with the director of the show Kenny Ortega, Michael goes about directing his crew and team of dancer with grace and humility but also with a sternness that was not not expected from the softly spoken pop star.

Okay, just a couple of cheap shots:

    1. a 'team of dancer' - just the one?
    2. '[A] sternness that was not not expected'? Not not expected - so, what, a double negative? It was expected?

Still, though - things like this are just lazy, especially if:

    1. something you are writing is going to be available on the internet for all to see, forever, and picked up by aggregators such as Google News;
    2. the piece of writing is your own 'comeback';
    3. you purport to be a professional writer;
    4. you are writing on a topic that is particularly close to your heart; and
    5. you have a history of being publicly mocked for your poor writing skills.
Irrespective of the fundamental structural flaws with the piece, surely a quick read-through once it had been drafted would have eliminated glitches like these?

5) This was not a man who was eight hours away from dying, here was a man who was excited to bring his latest creation to the world, a man who despite his thin frame, moved better than the dancers half his age and despite four decades on stage still had the voice that thrilled the world.

STRUCTURE

Thalluri is, apparently, a Michael-Jackson-was-murdered conspiracy theorist. He seems to be trying, at the outset of this sentence, to make the point that, by the end of the film, notwithstanding Jackson's impending death, he appeared to be healthy, spry and in a positive frame of mind: therefore, his death must have been caused by something other than natural causes.

However, again, Thalluri's clunky, hamfisted sentence starts to make a point, but then branches out tangentially, without resolution.

Really, the way that the sentence should be structured as follows:

    1. The film closes with footage shot eight hours prior to Jackson's death. However, Jackson could not have died from natural causes, given that:
      1. he was excited to bring his latest creation to the world;
      2. he danced well; and
      3. he sang well.
By the second half of the sentence, however, Thalluri jettisons the original point and then abruptly shifts to making a separate point about how good a performer Jackson supposedly was!

CONTENT

'[Jackson, by the end of the film, did not appear to be] a man who was eight hours away from dying'

The 'away' is redundant. And 'dying' should be 'death'.

'This was not a man... here was a man'

If you are going to open the sentence with 'this was not a man', why then go on to write 'here was a man'? These kinds of inconsistencies disrupt what little flow there is in the piece.

'a man who despite his thin frame, moved better than the dancers half his age and despite four decades on stage still had the voice that thrilled the world'

The points that Thalluri wants to make are clear, but he consistently flubs them as he manufactures imaginary setbacks for Jackson to transcend:

    1. Jackson dances well despite his thin frame? Surely, being thin is a good thing if you're a dancer?
    2. Jackson still sings well despite four decades on stage? Again - what? Wouldn't those decades of experience be an asset for a singer?

Separately, Thalluri claims that Jackson had 'the voice that thrilled the world'. We get the point that Thalluri has some serious man-love going on for Jackson, but to say that Jackson had 'the', rather than 'a' voice that thrilled the world is excessive by anyone's standards.

6) The rehearsals were filmed for Michael Jackson’s personal archives and were never meant to be a movie, but despite that, this documentary proves to be one of the most revealing insight into Jackson’s persona.

Nonsense on all counts.

Point: 'the rehearsals were filmed for... Jackson's personal archives and were never meant to be a movie'.
Counterpoint: 'this documentary proves to be one of the most revealing insight (sic) into [Jackson]'.

Surely if the footage was shot for Jackson's personal archives and not for public consumption, it would be exactly that: candid, frank - revealing?

Separately, the second half of the sentence is contradictory. The point that Thalluri seems to be trying to make is that the documentary is a 'revealing insight' into Jackson's true personality, his psyche - as distinct from his 'persona', ie, the facade that Jackson presented to the public.

7) Starting with the explosive 1983 hit ‘Wanna Be Startin Something’ Jackson glides across the stage mesmerizing those watching in awe as the man moves with the some graceful aggression that defined him as the King of Rock, Pop and Soul.

STRUCTURE

Refer to the commentary on sentence #3 above. Thalluri has already clearly stated that the film begins with Jackson's announcement of the concert tour.

Now, it supposedly beings with, either, footage from 1983, or with contemporary footage of a performance of a 1983 song?

CONTENT

'... mesmerizing those watching in awe...'

If the audience is already mesmerised, the 'in awe' is redundant and excessive.

'... the man moves with the some (sic) graceful aggression that defined him as the King of Rock, Pop and Soul.'

Graceful aggression? Either oxymoronic or just plain moronic.

And Jackson wasn't defined as being the 'King of Rock, Pop and Soul' by his 'graceful aggression' - we can thank this renowned music critic and cultural commentator for that.

Also, this is the third - count 'em - time that Thalluri has used the word 'grace' in the 'review'. He seems to have a habit of fixating on particular words and using them over and over and over again...

8) From here the film jumps back to the announcement of the concerts, before splicing live performance with behind the scenes footage.

Again, refer back to the commentary on #3 and #7. Apparently, the chronology of the film does not move in a linear fashion after all and, rather, has flashbacks and flashforwards.

This is not a difficult point to make. Why has Thalluri muddied it in this way, to no apparent end?

9) At the concert announcement it was said that he would be doing the songs the fans want to hear, and the film delivers them all from ‘Billie Jean’ to the lesser known but beautiful ‘Human Nature’, from the highly political ‘They Don’t Care About Us’, to the plea for world consciousness in ‘Earth Song’.

'At the concert announcement it was said that he would be doing the songs the fans want to hear...' (emphasis added)

Thalluri has already said that that the film shows Jackson's announcement of the concert tour. Why then use passive voice and past tense? Why not just say that 'At the concert announcement, Jackson says that he will do the songs the fans want to hear'?

Thalluri then seems to try to set up two spectra in order to demonstrate the breadth of the Jackson back-catalogue. The first works - from Billie Jean, one of Jackson's biggest hits, to the lesser-known Human Nature.

However, in the second, for some reason, Thalluri then chooses two explicitly political songs. Why?

10) The entire stage was to be backed with a 130 foot 3D screen so the audience could watch Michael interact with 3D elements, something that was developed specifically for this show and would have been a world first.

An official press release from 3D Eye Solutions, Inc the company hired to perform the 3D conversion for the concert tour, states that the screen was a '90 foot by 30 foot LED screen'.

So, where did Thalluri pull the "130 foot 3D screen" from?

From deep within his own imagination, apparently.

11) We see the recreation of ‘Thriller’ in 3D, Michael Jackson’s army of love all dancing in unison to ‘They Don’t Care About Us’, and in perhaps one of the most stunning sequences of the film, he uses digital technology to insert himself as a character into an old black and white Rita Hayworth and Edward G. Robison movie before allowing it to transition into ‘Smooth Criminal’. I’ll say this, when I walked into that theatre I did not expect MJ to be shot at by a 1940s gangster in a variation of a film classic! Epic!

Edward G. Robinson and Rita Hayworth only acted in one film together, 1942's Tales of Manhattan.

Tales of Manhattan does not feature in This Is It.

Rather, clips from a number of films noir do, including those which feature Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame, along with Robinson and Hayworth.

However, Thalluri - bless him - appears to have thought that the black and white footage all came from one film! A 'film classic', to boot.

'I have no film knowledge,' Thalluri once confessed.

Um, yeah.

12) As he glides through an extended ‘Billie Jean’, caresses his way through the sublime ‘Human Nature’, roars his way through ‘Jam’ and fights his way through ‘Beat It’ we see Jackson as he’s never been seen before - unguarded doing what he does best.

'... glides ... caresses ... roars ... fights'

Thalluri seems to have pulled the ol' Roget's for this one. Too bad he's used 'glides' already - see #7 above. And, how, exactly, does one 'caress' or 'fight' one's way through a song?

'we see Jackson as he’s never been seen before - unguarded doing what he does best.'

What, we've never seen Jackson 'doing what he does best' before? Presumably, by 'doing what he does best', Thalluri means singing and dancing? Or, does he mean that we've never seen Jackson 'doing what he does best' in an 'unguarded' manner? Very confusing.

13) The only issue I had with this film was that the Michael Jackson we see in the film was such a perfectionist that I’m sure he would turn in his grave if he knew that the world was seeing him in rehearsals and not the full blown show where he is putting in 100% of his effort.

If anything gets Jackson's corpse spinning, it is more likely to be something like this. Or, maybe these...

14) Whatever you want to think about Michael Jackson, there is one thing that can not be denied, the man was the best that ever did it and this film shows it. Even when not putting in a film effort, he still completely outshines today’s stars like Usher, Justin Timberlake and Chris Brown. This Is It is a beautiful film that will remind the world that Michael Jackson was far from all of the things that the tabloid media painted him out to be, he was a gentle genius. It is just tragic that it took his death for us to see that. I for one was looking for Michael-Mania to sweep the world once again through what would have been one of the biggest comebacks in music history, instead we get this emotive, thrilling and heartbreaking tribute to him, this shouldn’t be it, but unfortunately it is!


Again, more awkward purple prose that reads like a primary school assignment. In that vein, please discuss the following questions:

    1. What is a 'film' effort?
    2. Why does Thalluri, in his 'review', alternate between using, respectively, capitalisation, quotation marks and nothing to identify proper nouns?
    3. Why does Thalluri use the phrase 'gentle genius' twice in the same 'review'

One can't help but wonder if this 'review' would be yet another cause of chagrin to Thalluri's old high-school English teacher...

In sum, then - one piece of advice for Thalluri: he shouldn't quit his day job.

Oh, whoops, that's right. Almost forgot.

He doesn't have one.