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.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The saga of Comic-Con 2010.

For the last couple of years, I would post the schedule for Comic-Con and generally bitch about not being able to go. Then, last December, my sister - a huge "True Blood" fan - apparently heard that there would be a "True Blood" panel at 2010's Comic-Con. She asked me if I'd like to go with her. Of course, I said yes.

As the Con approached, I was surprisingly mellow about the whole thing. Usually, I'm on pins and needles about such a thing. I can't explain it.

Not wishing to get bogged down in dishwater-dull details (like how part of the connecting flight to San Diego took an hour before finally taking off or how moronic safety procedures nearly kept me from missing my flight back), I'll just jump into it.

If you've never been to Comic-Con, let me tell you: the San Diego Convention Center is huge. Something like Comic-Con could only be held in a place like this.

I arrived late the first day (more dullness, like my inability to find the trolley station that would take me there), forcing me to miss the first 15 minutes of the Danny Elfman panel. This guy remembers it better than I do, but one of my favorite lines came when someone asked about the shortest amount of time Elfman's ever had to write a score (no more than 12 weeks and no less than 5): "If it wasn't for deadlines, I'd still be working on Pee-Wee's Big Adventure." Someone else asked my question (Is there a project you really regret not doing?), so I was forced to rephrase it (What director, living or dead, would you have loved working with? Answer: Hitchcock.).

Then, it was off to Sails Pavilion to snap pictures of visiting celebrities. Apparently, most of them charged for photos. Not being made of money, I had to do it on the fly. I managed to get shots of Mindy Sterling, Stephen Tobolowsky and Morgan Fairchild. Didn't get a shot of Short Circuit co-writer S.S. Wilson, but he offered me some words of encouragement in my (hopefully successful) writing career.

Sadly, getting caught up and overwhelmed (just what they tell you not to do at the Con) caused me to miss the Stan and Hunter Freberg panel. I retreated to the Exhibit Hall, which was chock-a-block with vendors selling everything from art books to movies to posters to apparel and overpriced food (which I sampled on Friday; I was hungry).

I stopped by the La La Land Records booth. MV Gerhard (the guy who runs the label) was there. He'd recognized my name from the many, many purchases I made from his fine company. I picked up some pretty nice titles: Batman: the Deluxe Edition (with some spectacular unreleased tracks), Predators, Speechless, Tango and Cash, Office Space/Idiocracy and Big Trouble in Little China. I also got a cute red bag to put the CDs in as well as a flyer advertising upcoming titles, such as John Morris' Clue (effin' finally!), and complete versions of Alien: Resurrection and Batman Returns (the latter of which I might pick up on principle; the packing of the existing version is a joke).

Then, I figured that I'd stop by Hall H and check out the Red panel. Simple, right? Wrong! You have to get there super-early to even have a chance to be turned away at the front door. Needless to say, despite the many awesome panels that were there, I never got into Hall H...which is, perhaps, just as well.

I decided to visit the neighboring Marriott Hotel, where they were holding screenings of various anime. After catching the tail end of an episode of "Mobile Suit Gundam 00", I waited for the real attraction: an episode of "Vandread". I discovered it some years ago. All you had to do was say ensemble cast of hot chicks and that would've been it, but it's a pretty engaging series.

Continuing with the (almost certainly coincidental) "Film music! OMG!" vibe, I headed for the Behind the Music: Composing for Sci-Fi, Horror and Fantasy Film & TV panel. The main attraction for me was that John Ottman and Michael Giacchino were on the panel. Even at panel's end, when they were trying to sweep everyone out for the next one, Ottman was nice enough to sign my copy of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Just before that, I asked Giacchino about the ice cream truck jingle in the surprisingly hilarious Land of the Lost. Two things: he was glad that someone asked about LotL and he confirmed that the jingle was, indeed, the theme from Up. Just one more reason to like that movie and its talented composer.

Adventures in Voice Acting Workshop was the last panel I attended on Thursday. It spelled out the challenges of dubbing an anime. Some of the people asked to give it a try seemed to take to it pretty well, though.

Friday seemed to be all about animation (with a couple of exceptions), starting with the "Ugly Americans" panel. It took a while to warm up to the show, but I think it now ties with "Adventure Time" as my favorite new animated show of the year. There was a preview reel for the next season as well as an animatic, both of which were entertaining. The panel was hilarious and surprisingly informative; would you believe that the peeping Randall scene in "Demon Baby" was based on an actual incident?

Then, I went to the "Neighbors from Hell" panel. Again, I didn't warm up to this show right off, but, in spite of its occasional tendency to get so carried away with shocking people that it forgets to be funny (cf. "Drawn Together"), it does deliver the laughs, particularly in the episode previewed (and which just aired Monday night on TBS).

Next stop: Nickelodeon: Penguins, Lemurs and Pandas, Oh My!. The table read for "The Penguins of Madagascar" centered around the penguins finding a comic book. Skipper (John DiMaggio, filling in quite well for Tom McGrath) considers the comic contraband, but the others can't resist playing hero. There was also a preview of an amusing, Johnny Cash-like number about a haunted bus. We also got to see a sneak peek of "Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness". The preview extolled the lush animation on a par with the movie. I can't describe what I saw (and I don't think anyone got it on video; more's the pity), but Po was played by a sock puppet, Shifu was a wind-up toy from a Happy Meal and Tigress was represented by a Pez dispenser. It was hilarious. Then, they showed us the real footage. It looked quite entertaining, topped off by a triple dose of the title sequence. I can't wait until it airs.

I'd heard that Thom Zahler, the creator of "Love and Capes", was in the Exhibit Hall. I searched the 2000 block several times over (and must've looked moronic to the people I kept passing)...only to find that there was another 2000 block (so very convenient). I met the man (very nice guy) and managed to fill in the missing issues I'd bought.

I also ran across a booth where this guy was selling bootleg DVDs of shows that were lost in the ether of apathy. I didn't purchase any, but two of them stuck out for me: a) "Jem: the Complete Series". I remember searching for the set last Christmas for my other sister, but, sadly, it was out-of-print and insanely expensive and b) "The Angry Beavers: the Complete Series". As a fan of the show, I'd been waiting for an official release with all the bells and whistles it deserves...but my mind drifted to the inexcusable hatchet job done by Nickelodeon and and for a glimmer of a fraction of a second, I considered buying it. It's not that I'm above seeking...shall we say, alternate means of enjoying the things I love (I owe a fraction of my music collection to this very line of thinking), but it'd feel weird having it in my collection.

I went to the Center for Cartoon Studies panel, but much like a slacker who picks up a college course because they like the name and not because they know jack about it, I was bored. Bored at Comic-Con. Who knew that could happen?

I'd hoped to get into the "Roger Corman" panel (and getting to hear from him and Joe Dante ought to be a treat for any fan of cult film), but it was sold out. However, there was a silver lining: I got into the panel for RiffTrax Live - Michael J. Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett. Let me say this: if you go to only one panel at Comic-Con, make damn sure it's this one. Kevin, Mike and Bill were always on, and I mean always. From riffing on the educational short film (about buying food, if you can believe it) to responding to questions and suggestions for future Riffs. Among the suggestions: The Last Airbender (*coughunoriginalcough*), Zardoz ('Sean Connery in a diaper' was a clincher, but the film isn't widely available on DVD) and 2012 (Hell yes!).

Though fighting the effects of sleep, I soldiered on through the Worst Cartoons Ever, moderated by the estimable Jerry Beck. (Funny how he was responsible for bringing to the Con masses information of some of the worst cartoons ever and some of the best cartoons ever ("The 100 Greatest Looney Tunes Ever"). The cartoons, themselves ranged from unremarkable (something about a dog detective and his guitar-strumming chihuahua pal clearing a stork mailman's name) to WTF?! ("Mighty Mister Titan"; like Beck said, "Running in place never looked so stupid.") I would've stayed for "Spike and Mike" but who knows how long I could've stayed awake?

Saturday rolled around and wouldn't you know it? I nodded off more than once during the Writing Feature Animated Films panel. Still, the assembled talent had some good advice to least, once people started asking intelligent questions.

After chatting with Scott Thompson (one-fifth of "The Kids in the Hall"!) about his upcoming comic, I trekked over to the line for Ballroom 20. With luck, maybe I could get in to see part of the "Futurama" panel. To my elation, the line moved quite rapidly (making me wish I brought my CD player; "Success Montage" from Wanted would've fit so perfectly).

I managed to get a good seat and catch the last few minutes of the "Family Guy" panel, with Seth MacFarlane performing the song "Down's Syndrome Girl" (which he also wrote, apparently). Then, "The Cleveland Show" panel began. It featured an uproarious preview reel of the second season (Long ago, I wondered how it could get a second season when the first hadn't even premiered. I can wonder no more) and a table read of the show's second-season finale, set at Comic-Con. All I'll say is that it involves Cleveland's crappy comic, a dark secret from Donna's past and Robert Rodriguez.

Continuing in the 'pandering to the Comic-Con crowd' vein, the "Futurama" panel was next with an episode set at the Con. Fry's ridiculous comic "Deliveryboyman" (a copy of which I was lucky enough to obtain) was set to be previewed. Hopefully, this wasn't an exclusive and that the episode will be available to watch. The question I didn't get to ask was pretty much the same one I sat on at the "Ugly Americans" panel: Is it hard coming up with so many different types of characters for the show's universe?

As far as panels went, last on the list was Cartoon Voices. The highlight of the panel was the reading of "Cinderella" and I hope against hope that someone - anyone - got this on tape. Candi Milo puts on a tremendously thick Spanish accent for Cinderella. As the narrator, Tom Kane is told to read each of his lines in a different way, treating us to his takes on Morgan Freeman (awesome!), William Shatner and Paul Lynde (who knew?). The stepsisters are voiced by Fred Tatasciore (who, I swear, could be John DiMaggio's spiritual twin) and Jason Marsden (who sounded quite convincing; I'm a little surprised that he isn't pursued for more young women roles). April Winchell (seriously, where has she been?) brought Cruella's aristocracy and Peg's screaming to the role of the stepmother. Chuck McCann's take on the fairy godmother was gruffer (and funnier) than one would expect from the role.

Following that, I retreated to the Exhibit Hall. Not only could you pick up all kinds of stuff, but there's also people-watching. I was amazed at the commitment to cosplay. Sure, there were a bunch of superhero characters milling about, but there was also Nacho Libre (who I managed to snap a picture of), Gizmo (from Gremlins and I'd have gotten a shot of, too if I was faster with my camera) and Pacha and Kuzco from The Emperor's New Groove (see previous excuse). And then there was Finn (from "Adventure Time"). Whether it was just the hat or the full costume, there were more people dressed as Finn than I've even met.

All in all, it was a dizzying, overwhelming, frustrating experience...and I cannot wait to go back next year.

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Monday, July 26, 2010

Super Mario Bros. (Alan Silvestri)

Another space-filling post courtesy of me.

Like a lot of kids, I played the "Super Mario Bros." video game. At the time, I was jazzed to see the movie. Looking back, even with its many flaws, I can't bring myself to hate it. It's so endearingly cheesy.

The cast has been fairly vocal about their distaste for this film (John Leguizamo's chapter in his book "Pimps, Hos, Playa Haters and Other Hollywood Friends" is especially entertaining). Then again, there's been a princess named Daisy tromping around Mario games for roughly the last decade. Like it or not, this movie's made something of an impact.

One of its strongest elements, by far, is Alan Silvestri's score. The bouncy main theme is temped in a little too much, with little variety in the orchestration (sort of like the love theme from Silvestri's The Mexican, but there's some fine action scoring, especially in the big climactic scenes.

Super Mario Bros.
composed & conducted
Alan Silvestri

1. Main Titles 4:01
2. Navigational Instincts 0:53
3. Iggy and Spike 0:18
4. "There she is!" 0:10
5. After Daisy 0:22
6. Invitation to Dinner 1:18
7. Another Kidnapping 0:17
8. Strange Fossils 0:58
9. Sabotage! 1:08
10. Knocked Out 0:37
11. To the Other Side 1:27
12. "What is this place?" 1:02
13. King Koopa/"Where's the rock?" 2:09
14. "Plumber alert." 0:19
15. Losing the Rock 1:11
16. Under Arrest 0:20
17. The Missing Girls/Police Station 0:29
18. Booking the Brothers 0:41
19. Firing Squad? 0:18
20. The De-Evo Chamber 0:35
21. The Escape 0:38
22. Prison Swing 0:58
23. Wild Car Ride 3:47
24. "Come with me." 1:12
25. Koopa's Command/Lena's Story/Wandering the Desert 1:31
26. Yoshi/Daisy Meets Koopa 2:30
27. "Plumbers!" 0:27
28. Imprisoned/Hitching a Ride 2:08
29. Escaping the Goombas 1:19
30. Koopa Chats with the King 0:45
31. Koopa Tower 0:08
32. The Super Mario Brothers 0:06
33. Lena Makes a Decision 0:18
34. "Am I interrupting?" 0:11
35. Lena Attacks Daisy 0:55
36. Iggy and Spike Help Daisy 1:09
37. Family Reunion 0:43
38. Flying Lesson/"My father." 2:03
39. "Lena has the rock." 0:49
40. Luigi and Daisy Caught 0:37
41. Lena Arrested 0:10
42. Escape from Goomba Barracks 1:12
43. Mario vs. Koopa/After Lena 4:11
44. Return to New York 0:37
45. "We're merging!" 1:09
46. Scapelli De-Evolved 0:17
47. Back to Koopa City 1:16
48. De-Evolving Koopa 0:51
49. The End of Koopa 1:55
50. Farewells 2:02
51. "I believe." 0:18

Disney's grip on their film scores has grown refreshingly loose over the last couple years, so don't count this one out.


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Tomorrow afternoon, I embark on my journey to Comic-Con. A while ago, I got it in my head that I might meet some fine ladies there...then, this morning, I run across this article at Topless Robot:

10 Tips for Getting Some Action at Comic-Con

I can't prove it, but I think they freaking Inceptioned me! (Do see it, BTW. It really lives up to the hype.)

Wish me luck. I'll have the full rundown of my trek Tuesday night-ish.


Sunday, July 18, 2010

Tech support is fucking retarded!

That is all.


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

I had an accident.

They teach you everything in driving school except how to deal with a, wait, they teach that.

In all seriousness, I scraped against this woman's car in one of my rare, not-paying-attention-to-the-road moments. I called the police and the woman and I exchanged information, a huge load developing in my briefs. There is so much to worry about: will the woman be all right, how much will I have to pay in fines and insurance premiums, is jail an option for my punishment (and I'm still naive enough to believe that it isn't for a first - and minor - offense)?

Pray for me.

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Sunday, July 11, 2010

The second weekend of July.

In spite of having to endure work on both days, I was dead set on going to the Taste of Buffalo. Here's my rating system and what I partook of:

**** - I need to go to the restaurant and order 10 of!
*** - A damn fine meal.
** - It's okay.
* - Yeah...what's in the fridge?

Bruschetta (Bings) - The bread was okay, but the topping could've seriously benefitted from some spices. **

Bleu Burger Slider (Cecelia's Ristorante) - Blue cheese on a burger. Not too original, but I savored it. ***

Italian Style Burritos (Cup of Joe's Restaurant) - A bit messy, but enjoyable and different. ***

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cream Pie (Dannys Restaurant) - Just a great dessert. ***

Crabcake Slider (Encore Restaurant) - Spicy and terrific. ***

Blue Crab Sushi (Encore Restaurant) - I've long been wary of sushi and this was good. If only I hadn't smothered it in soy sauce; it was all I could taste. **1/2

Crab and Shrimp Bisque (Giacobbi's Pasta and Pizza) - I was expecting something a little creamier and less...soup-like, but it was good. ***

Junkyard Dog (Ms. Goodies) - One of the musts of any ToB. ***1/2

Banana Surprise (Ms. Goodies) - Still not digging the pineapple, but it's banana pudding. **1/2

Crab Spring Roll (Papaya Restaurant) - A fine appetizer with a delicious dipping sauce. ***

Cheese Pierogi (Polish Villa) - Good, but bordered on pastry. **1/2

French Maid Fries (Torches) - Like a cooked version of Andy Capp fries. ***

Corned Beef Sliders (WJ Morrissey Irish Pub) - Tasty, but there was, how do I put this...a little too much Corned Beef. **1/2

Double Chocolate Brownie (Zebb's Deluxe Grill and Bar) - Two this year and still delicious. ****

Between this and Comic-Con (which I'll be attending this year!), July's shaping up pretty well.


Wednesday, July 07, 2010

It's not that bad.

What a surprise. People on the Internet were wrong about The Last Airbender.

A couple of important things before I proceed: a) I am, by no means, an M. Night Shyamalan apologist, nor am I a fan. I've seen bits and pieces of all of his films. His filmmaking craft is impressive even when the stories themselves are less so. In fact, more often than not, I end up thinking of the mockery he gets on "Robot Chicken" ("What a tweest!"). Also, b) I know of the show, but, except for a brief recap, I have never seen an episode of "Avatar: the Last Airbender". To this day, I find it rather incongruous that this show even aired on Nickelodeon, and, as such, I've avoided it. Don't get me wrong: the show doesn't look bad. It's just...well, take a look at what airs on the network on any given day and tell me that "Avatar" fits in there somewhere. I dare you.

Then I heard about the backlash developing against the film because of the casting. People were up in arms about White actors playing the young protagonists. When I stated my opinion on the matter in the comments section of a Cinematical story - that people were conveniently ignoring the fact that the majority of the cartoon's voice cast was White - people blasted me, with one disturbed soul stating that I was the worst person in the world. I'm sure that, for all the murderers, pedophiles, dictators and rapists out there, that was a real load off.

As the release date approached, there seemed to be a brand-new backlash brewing: that this film allegedly sucks. People love to kick a guy when he's down. Don't believe me? Ask O.J. Simpson. Given the response to Shyamalan's last couple of films, I couldn't help but think that people already had their reviews of The Last Airbender written before they even entered the theater ("Killer plants?! Fuck your mother, M. Night Shyamalan!"). The A.V. Club graded it an 'F'. The reviewer of my local paper gave it one star out of four (bear in mind, he also gave that Hulk movie where he fought the dogs four stars). Roger Ebert gave it half-a-star, but we all know how unimpeachable his tastes are.

I went to see the film today, believing that I had seen far worse movies and that this one would be of little consequence.

For the most part, I was right.

The film has its problems: too much narration communicating what could easily be seen on screen, awkward staging and framing (like those shots of Aang taking up part of the screen with other characters in the background; this kind of thing can work in animation, but looks kind of silly in live-action) and a bit too much expository dialogue. Also, a minor complaint, but I thought that Aasif Mandvi and Cliff Curtis looked too similar, to the point that it looked like Zuko's father was trying to kill him in some scenes.

Still, there are moments where one can see the film that "Avatar" fans were hoping for, mainly in the fight scenes. The effects for the element bending were impressive, as one would expect from ILM. I've heard complaints about the acting from the younger principals, but I didn't notice anything too objectionable. The standouts for me were Dev Patel as Zuko and Shaun Toub (Yinsen in Iron Man) as Iroh. As per usual for a Shyamalan film, James Newton Howard's score was terrific, shining in the action scenes.

Overall, there are way worse films out there. For people to single out this one is more than a little ridiculous. As if it needed to be said enough...grow up, Internet.

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Friday, July 02, 2010

Welp, Jonah Hex is out of regular theatres, thus killing my chances of seeing it for free. Two things about that: a) free passes to movies really add up and b) I have never paid to see any movie with Megan Fox in it. A man without principles is a man with nothing.

On the can, I got the brilliant idea to do a double feature with The Last Airbender, which seems to be picking up the nastily negative reviewing slack left behind by Jonah Hex. Next week, I'll see for myself just how hyperbolic people are acting. I paid to see 40 Days and 40 Nights and Year One. How much worse could this movie be?