Mr. Cellophane

In a location adjacent to a place in a city of some significance, what comes out of my head is plastered on the walls of this blog.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

My Favorite Themes - Part XIV

Score: Stay Tuned by Bruce Broughton (Tombstone)

About the film: TV lover Roy Knable (John Ritter) gets the surprise of a lifetime when he and wife Helen (Pam Dawber) are sucked into a hellish television universe and must find a way out. From director Peter Hyams (A Sound of Thunder, End of Days and, incredulously, Capricorn One) comes this attempt at television parodies. The cast, especially Jeffrey Jones, tries, but the material lets them down, only occasionally hitting an inspired note (the animated sequence, "Where have you been?"). It's something of a guilty pleasure, but, overall, the idea was done better in later years (notably a "Teen Titans" episode).

Title: "Main Theme". Quite surprisingly, Broughton lent the proceedings a very heroic main melody. Heard over the opening credits, there seems to be a theremin in the mix. The composer gets to stretch in a number of different styles, but perhaps my favorite musical moment comes in the "Star Trek" sequence; an ingenious melding of the main theme and an imitation of Goldsmith's "Next Generation" music.

Other themes of interest: The only other theme to speak of is a motif for Hellvision on low woodwinds, augmented by two unsettling piano notes.

Availability: A soundtrack was released on Morgan Creek records at the time of the film's release. Unfortunately, it contained only two tracks: the "Main Titles" and "Darryl's Dad" (a slapsticky version of the main theme). However, I hold out hope that a longer, better release will appear...someday.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Thanks for (almost) nothing.

I wanted to say that I was recovering from Thanksgiving dinner and its bountiful leftovers...but the thing of it is I'm lazy. There. I said it.

I also wanted - hoped, really - to post something in the spirit of the holiday. Maybe the classic cartoons "Tom Turk and Daffy" or "Jerky Turkey" or perhaps the Marathon Rent-a-Car scene from Planes, Trains and Automobiles. Sadly, YouTube let me down in each regard.

Okay. Enough whining. Here's the latest 30-second movie from the mad geniuses at, Christmas Vacation.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Cartoons: the retrospective.

Over the last week or so, I waxed nostalgic on cartoons of my youth and blasted the ills of cartoons today. What's left to do?

Well, I did mention that there are some truly worthwhile cartoons on today:

From "Weekenders" creator Doug Langdale came the grab-your-sides hilarity of "Dave the Barbarian". I use the past tense of 'come' as the show enjoyed a healthy run on The Disney Channel, then Toon Disney, before disappearing. However, rumor has it that reruns can be found in the jungles of weekend late night programming on the former network.

Based on the Italian comic, "W.I.T.C.H." is an entertaining program, blessed with exciting storytelling and a strong sense of humor. It can be found weekend mornings on Toon Disney.

While not as dynamic as his "Rocko's Modern Life", Joe Murray's "Camp Lazlo" (airing on Cartoon Network) features the same kind of absurd humor and laughs of that great show. Though it has been relegated to weekend mornings, Nickelodeon's "Catscratch" is a delightful show.

Speaking of Nickelodeon, they briefly acquired the Canadian (you have no idea how lucky you lot are, eh?) series "6teen", one of the funniest and freshest shows I've ever seen. Whether it was because of poor ratings or the fact that it kicked the crap out of the net's original programming (sad, but true), no one knows for sure.

"Shin-Chan" was acquired by Funimation (the dub studio behind "Dragonball Z" and, more encouragingly, "Yu Yu Hakusho") and even if you didn't blink, you most likely missed its Adult Swim run. Achingly hilarious, it merits re-discovery. (Hint: *coughYouTubecough*)

Speaking of anime, it's kind of nice when a show sneaks up on you and takes you by surprise. "Vandread", formerly of EncoreWAM, is such a show. An exceptional series with exciting action and a broad cast of interesting characters. Thank God it's on DVD.

Two more shows that I hope nothing but good things for are Disney's "The Replacements" and Cartoon Network's "Class of 3000". Both make the most of their talented voice casts with bright animation and unconventional humor. These shows feel like they could have been produced during my golden age.

And what of the shows mentioned in the first column? Well, "Looney Tunes" (the pre-1948 ones, anyway) can be found on Boomerang, which my cable system has recently acquired (to which I say, 'freakin' finally!'). "Garfield and Friends", albeit in that silly, half-hour syndicated format, can be found on the same channel, and the whole series is on DVD (one reason to be grateful for the live-action movies).

"Ren and Stimpy" is now on DVD, or, if you prefer, Nicktoons Network, as is "Rugrats". "The Angry Beavers" was gone from that channel for a time, but it returned, though there are episodes missing from the rotation (what I wouldn't give to see "Utter Nonsense" again). "Animaniacs" and "Pinky and the Brain" recently hit DVD (again, I say, 'freakin' finally!'). The complete runs of "Clone High" and "Undergrads" are also on the medium (the benefits of Canadian blood; would that the same be done for "6teen"...). The shows I mentioned in the primetime boom (save "The PJs" and "Baby Blues") are all on DVD. Reruns of same can be found periodically on Adult Swim. "X-Men: Evolution" was released and "Tenchi Muyo" had box sets before I'd even discovered it.

There are several programs I'd love to see again. Whether on DVD or television hardly matters. Quality shows can't be kept down for very long.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Nothing lasts forever.

...or, 'the second part of cartoons and stuff'...or something.

To answer the previous statement, I'm not sure why my golden age stopped, but it did. In its place were a number of cartoons that...well, were nowhere near as entertaining. I've found that a number of shows have their moments, but suffer from quite a few common shared traits:

1) Shipping. For the uninitiated, this is the act of supporting the romantic coupling of two characters in a program. For the most part, this had not been done too often. Then came "Hey Arnold!", which gladly sacrificed a diverse cast of characters (kids and adults, alike) and good writing to focus on Helga and her obsession with Arnold. By itself, it was plenty irritating (She pretends to hate him, but secretly loves him. Yeah, she ain't nuts.), but that the writers genuinely believed in it enough to create an episode that, for all intents and purposes, plays like a bad fanfic ("Married") just stunned me.

Sadly, this was not the end of the trend, but the unholy beginning. Other shows decided to pick up on this like it was the only reason to watch cartoons (and, alarmingly, many stories at confirm this). Pairings to result from this utterly misguided act of creativity include an adventurous boy genius and his classmate who constantly insults him and turns everything they do into a competition ("Jimmy Neutron"), a sweet-natured girl and her iracsible, dim-witted companion ("Kids Next Door"), a ghost boy and his gothy friend ("Danny Phantom") and a can-do cheerleader and her clumsy cohort ("Kim Possible"). Okay, these last two pairings are all right, but what's not all right is the annoying way the ships are shoved in my face. (A specific example is the "Danny Phantom" episode, "Flirting with Disaster" which, while well-plotted, was just that: a disaster. The side characters - and even the villain! - commenting on Danny and Sam's ignorance of their feelings for each other as if they were a bunch of no-life-having online fanatics. To be perfectly frank, I'd sooner drink battery acid out of an unflushed toilet in a Mexican restaurant than have to sit through those appallingly constructed and executed moments again.)

By having the pairs shoved down one's throat as opposed to letting the viewer judge if they're right for each other, the writers have given birth to a generation of barely literate neo-animation Nazis, convinced that theirs is the only way to be followed. I don't know about them, but I like thinking for myself. It's served me pretty well all these years, and I don't wish to change.

2) Inconsistency. There are quite a few shows that, to me, have a good episode, then another, and then a moment (or episode) that's so ridiculously unbelievable or unacceptable, you're shoved right back to arm's length, yet you end up jumping into the soup again and again. Even worse are shows that seem to espouse the 'comedy of embarrassment' style of writing*, humiliating its (likable) characters in the name of humor. Examples of both debits include "Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends", "Ed, Edd and Eddy", "Codename: Kids Next Door" and "Danny Phantom". (* - to present and future cartoon writers, just because it barely works for Ben Stiller on the big screen doesn't mean it will work on the small screen.)

3) Laziness. Now, a show like "The Fairly Oddparents" was well worth mentioning in the same breath as the shows in the first column. Note my use of the word 'was'. In its first season, it was sharp and funny. Apparently unhappy with such a state, its makers bled all the fun out of it with lame (and endlessly repeated) jokes, poor scripts and disastrous character actions until, by its end, it was the same show, by only in name. Remarkably, FOP creator Butch Hartman likened this show to "The Simpsons".

Now, "The Simpsons" was required viewing in my home growing up (and still is to my folks). I generally gave up on the show years ago because of the same reasons already mentioned, but it seemed that, with eighth season episodes like "My Sister, My Sitter" and especially "Homer's Enemy", serpents were infesting Eden long before God declared it uninhabitable (BTW, if you think that that metaphor was too flowery, I suggest turning back, because things are only going to get more arboreal. You see?)

And what's left on the dial? Nothing but these shows with their glaring flaws as well as a bunch of guilty pleasures ("Totally Spies", "Bratz", "Trollz" and maybe some other shows not ending in 'z'), those programs that struggle their little hearts out to entertain ("The X's", "American Dragon: Jake Long", "The Emperor's New School", "Squirrel Boy", "The Batman") and one no-hoper after another ("Viva Pinata", "My Gym Partner's a Monkey").

But wait. Maybe I'm being a mite too cynical. You're probably asking yourself, "Aren't there any truly entertaining shows out there now?" as well as "Whatever became of the shows you mentioned the first time out?"

These questions will more than likely be answered in the third and final column. See you then.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The last test I'll ever have to take.

Took my road test today. I took a preliminary lesson and all the old hang-ups reared their heads once more: going too slow, tapping the gas a little too much, failure to look in all directions while turning and so on.

Unsurprisingly, these things manifested on the road exam...which took less time than a lesson. I tried to be confident, but it was at about the halfway point of the test that I realized that success isn't happening today. All things considered, I took my failure pretty well.

Other than keep practicing, what more can I do?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Gonna have myself a time...

Last week's conclusion to the two-part "South Park", while an improvement over part one, was significantly 'meh'.

However, I became a little curious about the opening titles, which a) seemed like a parody of something and b) had music that sounded like it had been used before.

Lo and behold...

And dare to compare with the "South Park" version:

Never seen the original show, but, if only for the fact that I laughed myself stupid when I played them back to back, I thought it was worth a mention.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

How Harry Got to the Party

My second installment of the...cartoon thing will be up in a couple days. For now, though, I just feel like posting an early draft of Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang. It's very much the movie that got made (and it reads pretty damn good), though the ending is significantly different. It's not as good as the film's ending, I must say.

My golden age of cartoons.

I want to let you in on something: I love cartoons. A little strange coming from a 25-year-old man and college grad (twice over!), I know, but it's true. And looking at the shows currently airing, it makes me feel...glad. Glad that I grew up in a time where cartoons were consistently entertaining, allowing me to be a little more discerning in my old age. I'll get to that later, but let me start off with my upbringing.

Like a lot of people, I was reared on "Looney Tunes". Less distinguished were the likes of "Care Bears" and, well, a number of Saturday morning toons from the '80s. The '90s rolled around and, in addition to the greatly entertaining "Garfield and Friends", there were the shows of the Disney Afternoon. I haven't seen many of the shows in years, so who knows if "DuckTales" and "Chip and Dale Rescue Rangers" will still hold up or if, like Super Fuzz or that Fat Boys movie, they'll be something that passes muster in childhood, but is impossible to sit through now.

Also, the turn of the decade brought the enjoyable "Tiny Toon Adventures", the first of several fine programs from Warner Bros. Television Animation. The humor, music and voice work kept me watching, even when the uneven animation and stories disrupted the fun. And, thankfully, it still holds up, esp. the later episodes when the writers pretty much bypassed the kids and injected more mature humor.

Little did I know at the time that this would be the first in a long line of shows that would entertain me. Over the next couple of years, I still watched cartoons, mainly on the burgeoning Fox Kids Network, as well as Disney's "Raw Toonage" (CBS) and "Bump in the Night (ABC). Also, Nickelodeon has started airing original cartoons: "Doug", "Rugrats" and "Ren and Stimpy".

However, I think it was my high school years when my golden age of cartoons occured. Let's see...there was "Rocko's Modern Life" on Nick and "Animaniacs" on Fox. "Freakazoid!" on Kids' WB and "Eek! the Cat" on Fox, both of which it took time to get into, and "Pinky and the Brain" had been spun-off into prime-time.

Airing on USA was the irreverent and uproarious "Duckman". With its pointed social commentary and bawdy humor, it was the must-watch-without-parental-knowledge show of my formative years.

MTV got into the act with "Daria", spun from "Beavis and Butt-head" (as amusing as it was at times, I never really got into B&B).

As I headed for upperclassmanship, I stumbled onto Nickelodeon's "The Angry Beavers", still the net's finest animated series. "Student Bodies" was an odd bird, but a hugely enjoyable one: the show revolved around a high school newspaper and the comics from a new student, enacted in crudely designed but funny animated sequences. As a Savage Steve Holland (Better Off Dead, the aforementioned "Eek!") devotee, this show was a pleasant surprise.

As I head to college, the good cartoon times were over, right? Wrong! Fox Kids delivered "Sam and Max: Freelance Police", "Ned's Newt" and "Toonsylvania". MTV stepped up the entertainment level with the funny and inventive "Downtown", "Undergrads", "3-South" and "Clone High". Among Cartoon Network's myriad of original shows, "Cow and Chicken" and especially "Sheep in the Big City" stood out for their humor. Nickelodeon's "KaBlam!" was maddeningly uneven (then again, for a show compiling several different recurring shorts, how could it not be?), but "Sniz and Fondue" and "Action League NOW!" were sure-fire in the laughter department.

With the primetime boom of the late '90s came a number of shows: "Futurama", "The PJs", "Family Guy", "Clerks" and "Home Movies" (which I admit to discovering years later on Cartoon Network's "Adult Swim").

Meanwhile, during the day - Saturday, mainly, there was "The Weekenders", "X-Men: Evolution", "Detention" (which was derided as a rip-off of "Recess", but, personally, I like this show better), "Pelswick" and "Fillmore". And while I'd caught a few episodes of "Sailor Moon", I've long considered "Tenchi Muyo" (airing on Cartoon Network's "Toonami", likewise its spin-offs) my first true anime experience.

So...what happened? Why did this golden age not last forever like I hoped it would?

Find out in the next column.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

"Please see my film. If it not success, I will be execute."

Yep. Went to see Borat.

There were a few laugh-out-loud moments (like the hotel room brawl), but, personally, I found it more amusing than hilarious. I suppose that there may be some deeper subtext; the various people reacting to Borat, but I was just there to laugh. Mission accomplished.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

"Your teacher's full of snot!"

Looking back, attending driving school this morning kinda, sorta reminded me of that "Rocko's Modern Life" episode (the title escapes me; I'll find and post it later). Learning what to do and not do, watching films about what to do and like that. I just need to pass the road test and the next step to independence is complete.

And I even got the fat guy.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

My Favorite Themes - Part XIII

Score:The Final Conflict by Jerry Goldsmith

About the film: A now-grown Damien Thorn (Sam Neill) fears the Second Coming, arranges for the murder of several infants and comes under attack from a group of priests. (In a talkback about the remake of The Omen, Ain’t It Cool News poster Alonzo Boden’s description of this plot thread compared it to a Road Runner cartoon. Looking at the end result, you can’t argue too strongly.) Spectacular murders commingle with rather dry stretches involving prophecies and disciples. Neill and director Graham Baker try to make this interesting, but it’s an uphill climb.

Title: “The Second Coming”. This theme for the monks’ plan to vanquish the Anti-Christ is based in low horns, making it a noble-sounding melody. However, it can provide some stunning choirgasms, as in “The Second Coming” and “The Final Conflict”. (Interestingly, this melody sounds a lot like a sub-theme later used in The Challenge.)

Other themes of interest: This score is markedly different from the composer’s previous Omen works (no “Ave Satani” here, folks). Instead, there’s a powerful main theme for horns and choir. It even becomes something of an adventure cue in “The Hunt”. There’s also a lesser heard theme in “The Ambassador” and “Trial Run”. (Structurally, the latter cue bears a striking resemblance to the main titles of the following year’s The Secret of N.I.M.H. and I could swear that a downscaled version of the main theme was borrowed for The Vanishing.)

Availability: From what I’ve heard, there was a shorter version of this score released with poor sound. Be sure to pick up the ‘Deluxe Edition’ (with the yellow cover) to get the full experience of this, one of Goldsmith’s finest. Incidentally, both versions were released by the indefatigable Varese Sarabande.