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.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Random thoughts - "This is so going in my blog!"

Like a number of sitcoms that I grew to enjoy (cf. "Wings", "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia"), "How I Met Your Mother" was a show I discovered in reruns before catching it first-run. I liked the characters and the central ensemble gelled beautifully.

Tonight is the series finale and I think this is as good a time as any to take a look back in as best a way as I know how.

- While I like Ray Wise (thanks largely to "Reaper"), I've always preferred Eric Braeden as Robin's father. The soap opera-ish line delivery suited the character beautifully.

- Punchy. The "It's Always Sunny" people were incredibly patient (and non-litigious) about this wholesale rip-off of Charlie Kelly, but - cards on the table - I wouldn't have been.

- I never liked Ted and Robin as a couple. In the first episode, she was referred to as Aunt Robin, and yet, a couple times every season, the writers dredged it up, as if sticking their fingers in their ears, yelling 'La-la-la-la!' over and over and believing hard enough was going to make it so. I'm not that keen on Robin and Barney together, either, but this is very much a 'lesser of two evils' situation.

Here are 20 of my favorite episodes:

The Best Burger in New York - Marshall drags the gang around the city looking for the perfect burger.
Highlight: "And you got our wedding vows off the internet?"

Blitzgiving - Joined by an old acquaintance, the gang heads to Zoey's to celebrate Thanksgiving.
Highlight: Barney suffers the curse of the Blitz

The Bro-Mitzvah - Barney expects the best bachelor party ever. Unfortunately, Ted and Marshall deliver the exact opposite.
Highlight: the turning point

46 Minutes - Marshall and Lily set up their new place in the 'burbs, leaving the others free to follow Barney.
Highlight: the revamped title sequence(s)

Girls vs. Suits - MacLaren's hot new bartender can't stand fancy dressed guys, forcing Barney to 'suit down'.
Highlight: "I know what you're thinkin'/What's Barney been drinkin'?/That girl was smokin' hot..."

Hopeless - Barney wants to impress his father, leading to a wild night.
Highlight - The 'Who's on first?' tribute.

I Heart NJ - If Ted hates being in Stella's place in New Jersey for one night, he's really not gonna like her news.
Highlight: (tie) Robin's phone call and the NYC vs. NJ debate

Intervention - The gang confronts each other on a number of flaws.
Highlight: Robin gets 'super-Canadian'

The Naked Man - Robin's new beau illustrates a fascinating way to pick up women.
Highlight: Ted and Barney suggesting various poses

Noretta - Barney won't quit in salvaging his perfect night with Nora.
Highlight: the seduction scenes between "Marshall" and "Lily"

Not a Father's Day - Marshall's work schedule conflicts with Lily's desire to have children.
Highlight: the lineups of the undateable

The Possimpible - Facing deportation, Robin agrees to have Barney produce a video resume to get a new job.
Highlight: Barney's video resume

P.S. I Love You - The gang discovers that 'Robin Sparkles' exhibited a dark side.
Highlight: the Tim Hortons montage

Say Cheese - An uninvited guest casts a pall over Lily's birthday.
Highlight: the running gag of Robin trying to catch Barney off-guard

The Sexless Innkeeper - Lily and Marshall come on too strong on their double date with Robin and Barney.
Highlight: What isn't a highlight, here? The double date, Marshall's videos, the titular poems, the music for the trail of egg timers...

The Stinsons - The gang finds that Barney's been hiding a family from them.
Highlight: Barney's unusual priorities while watching movies

Subway Wars - A wager leads the gang on a mad chase across Manhattan.
Highlight: Barney's trek

Trilogy Time - Every three years, the guys watch the Star Wars trilogy, and every three years, one of their lives is in disarray.
Highlight: Ted's 2015 flash-forward

We're Not from Here - Ted and Barney pretend to be out-of-towners to pick up girls.
Highlight: "We are on the cusp of going from out-of-towners to in-their-pantsers."

Woooo! - Robin hangs out with a group of party girls.
Highlight: The translated 'Woooos!'

The final curtain has fallen and even if what's on stage hasn't met our satisfaction, it's still nice that it happened, right?

BTW, 1000th post (which includes drafts and actual posts)!

Monday, March 24, 2014

We all have movies we grew up watching, mainly whilst watching HBO. For some, it was Super Fuzz. For others, The Beastmaster (inspiring the Johnny Carson gag, 'Hey, Beastmaster's On!'). There are very few details I clearly remember from it, but I do remember watching Saturday the 14th Strikes Back. That I recall, the story revolved around this teenager (Jason Presson, aka the kid from Explorers that didn't have a huge career afterwards) having to ward off all kinds of monsters that emerged from a crack in the basement floor. Living in a house that had a crack in its basement (okay, laundry room) floor, you can imagine the mental havoc this would occasionally play.

Many moons ago, out of curiosity, I decided to look the film up on YouTube, daring myself to watch to see if it holds up (if it ever did in the first place) or if it's just as stupid as every single review ever written about the film makes it sound. Surprisingly, it's nowhere to be found, at least in its complete form. YouTube, Netflix, Epix, Hulu...bupkis! On the former site, all there is is a trailer and video. Not a music video tie-in with the film, but a sequence in the film where one of the characters breaks into song, because why the hell not?

To be honest, though, the song (penned by the film's writer/director Howard R. Cohen and the never-heard-from-before-or-since Norman Sacks) is fairly catchy. Its singer, Pamela Stonebrook, is pretty good...and not bad to look at, either. Which is to say...will someone put this movie on YouTube? It may be bad, but I'm sure I've sat through worse.

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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

My Favorite Scores: Land of the Lost (Michael Giacchino)

I can't say it enough, kids: I love film music. The sounds, the melodies, the emotions it arouses. I've had an interest in film music for roughly two decades and, in that time, I've come across a number of scores that I've no qualms about calling my favorites.

When adapting a television show to the cinematic medium, does one produce a straight-up translation, retaining the seriousness of the original, or does one take a comic approach, having a laugh at (and hopefully with) the source material? In recent years, the trend has fallen more toward the latter, for good or ill (Starsky and Hutch, 21 Jump Street, The Dukes of Hazzard). This is but another example.

Paleontologist Rick Marshall (Will Ferrell) has lost a good deal of credibility because of his theories of traveling sideways through time. Thanks to the efforts of devoted assistant Holly Cantrell (Anna Friel), he just might get it back. If one wishes to call this a soulless bastardization of the 70s adventure series, you are more than welcome to...but if one wishes to call this a bad comedy, you're just being catty. This is one of the funniest films I've seen in recent memory...and, in my mind, far preferable to Ferrell's glorified outtake reels (Step Brothers, The Other Guys).

When this film was released in June of 2009, composer Michael Giacchino had just provided two of his finest scores for, arguably, two of the best films he's ever scored (Star Trek and Up). Film music fans were understandably disconcerted at the composer's involvement here. Giacchino throws out a lot of ideas in this score, and though it never quite coheres as an album, it's still a fun listen.

Anchoring the score are two distinct themes. The first, which kicks the film off ("Swamp and Circumstance") is a creepy seven-note theme on high strings which suggests the mysterious world its protagonists will soon stumble upon. The end of the cue hints at the second theme, which comes into its own in "The Lighter Side of Archaeology", a nine-note melody for Marshall that asserts itself on low-end piano and tribal percussion.

A warmer minor melody for Marshall overcoming his self-doubt appears on trumpet in "Food Coma for Thought" and "A New Marshall in Town". Giacchino provides some ferocious action scoring for horns in cues like "The Ones that Got Away", "Crystal Clear" and "When Piss on Your Head is a Bad Idea" (it's nice to know that the composer will never cease to amuse himself with the track titles).

Remember when I said that it never quite coheres as an album? From track to track, you never know what to expect (especiallly if you listen to the CD on shuffle), like one track could be a cacophonous mish-mash of percussion ("Chaka Chasedown"). Another track could be earmarked by bouncing banjos ("The Cosmic Lost and Found"). Still another can shift from piano and percussion to 70s-style funk within seconds ("In Search of...Holly"). Banjos, low-end piano and horn hits can greet you in yet another cue ("Enik Calls for Marshall"). Theremin and grunting choir? We got that too! ("Sleestak Attack")

There's also surprising emotion to be found. As Holly discovers "The Crystal Cave" and the fate of the Zarn, Giacchino gives the mystery theme its most evocative setting since the first cue, playing it first on strings, then doubling it with female vocals. The effect is just short of heartbreaking. Late in the album, we are treated to a love theme on keening strings (the beginning of "Never Trust a Dude in a Tunic").

On the heels of the composer's work on the previous year's Speed Racer (speaking of high-profile film adaptations of television shows cruelly and unfairly dragged through the mud...), one would expect the classic theme song to be all over the score...and one would be wrong. After all, that film was pretty faithful to its source. Giacchino seemed to understand that this translation would be somewhat looser, so the theme appears sparingly in his music, which strengthens the impact when it does. When the team takes its fateful trek into the unknown (the back half of "The Greatest Earthquake Ever Known"), Giacchino provides a lurching horn and percussion take on the lyric 'Marshall, Will and Holly/on a routine expedition'. (The worried horn quote of 'Marshall, Will and Holly' that begins "Matt Lauer Can Suck It" is also noteworthy.) However, the composer saves the full theme for "Ready and Will", giving it a sweeping orchestral treatment that wouldn't been out of place in a straighter version of the story.

True to the chaotic spirit of the film, "End Credits Can Suck It!" cycles through both main themes on everything from drums, French horns, electric guitars and xylophone to strings, banjos, theremin and choir.

If you're willing to take a chance on one of the mutts in Michael Giacchino's career (and don't mind a bit of musical schizophrenia), you'll enjoy Land of the Lost.

Availability: I'm not sure how or why this happened, but quite a few Varese Sarabande titles from the last decade were palmed off on Family Dollar, this one included. There might still be some copies left for $4.

Varese Sarabande 302 066 975 2 (2009)

Track Listing:
1. Swamp and Circumstance (1:25)
2. The Lighter Side of Archaeology (1:03)
3. Food Coma for Thought (1:01)
4. A Routine Expedition (0:48)
5. The Greatest Earthquake Ever Known (3:12)
6. Matt Lauer Can Suck It (1:22)
7. Chaka Chasedown (0:43)
8. The Ones that Got Away (4:17)
9. Enik Calls for Marshall (1:16)
10. Sleestak Attack (2:01)
11. Enik the Altrusian (3:20)
12. The Cosmic Lost and Found (1:34)
13. When Piss on Your Head is a Bad Idea (3:54)
14. A New Marshall in Town (1:37)
15. Pterodactyl Ptemper Ptantrum (0:42)
16. The Crystal Cave (1:43)
17. In Search of...Holly (1:34)
18. Undercover Sleestak (2:18)
19. Never Trust a Dude in a Tunic (4:17)
20. If You Don't Make It, It's Your Own Damn Vault (2:40)
21. Holly Mad as Sin (0:50)
22. Sleestak Showdown (0:53)
23. Stakbusters (2:33)
25. Crystal Clear (2:31)
26. Mystery Cave Reunion (1:22)
27. Ready and Will (1:36)
28. End Credits Can Suck It! (3:26)
29. Pop Goes the Sleestak (0:16)
Bonus Tracks:
30. A Routine Expedition (Ver. 1) (0:50)
31. The Devil's Canyon Mystery Cave (Ver. 1) (2:04)
32. Crystal Clear (Film Version) (2:19)


Thursday, March 13, 2014

Murder by Death (Dave Grusin)

Some of the greatest detectives in all of fiction have been gathered to solve the murder of their host, Lionel Twain (Truman Capote), but is there more to this than meets the eye? A marvelous cast makes the most of Neil Simon's hilarious screenplay that pays tribute to the sleuths while taking the piss out of them.

The score by Dave Grusin is a delight, anchored by a main theme that beautifully reflects the mystery and comedy aspects of the film. It's been said that the elements for this score are lost, precluding a release. Still, one should not give up hope.

Murder by Death
composed and conducted
Dave Grusin

1. Main Titles/The Invitations 4.54
2. Dick and Dora/The Dark Hand 1.45
3. Sidney Wang 0.28
4. Milo Perrier/Sam Diamond 1.34
5. Across the Bridge 1.07
6. 22-Twain 1.03
7. The Wangs Arrive 0.27
8. Answering the Door 0.24
9. Strange Storm 0.18
10. Sidney's Room 0.35
11. Dusting for Prints 0.10
12. "A Nice Cozy Fire" 0.36
13. The Charlestons Arrive 0.36
14. "The Cheeriest Room" 0.19
15. The Maid Arrives 0.32
16. Yetta's Problems 1.09
17. Sam's Story/Milo's Room 0.48
18. "Kiss Me" 0.51
19. Dressing for Dinner 1.36
20. "Wang is Wrong" 0.21
21. Jessica Marbles 0.51
22. "It's Coming from the Face" 0.19
23. Dickie's Toast 0.53
24. The First Course 1.00
25. The Moose 0.05
26. The Blackout/Lionel Twain 1.10
27. "No One Leaves" 0.12
28. Twain's Proposition 0.54
29. Twain Disappears 0.41
30. Investigation 0.30
31. Bensonmum's Death 0.41
32. The Knife/The Bill 1.05
33. Empty Suit 0.20
34. "Where is Everyone?" 0.07
35. "Gunshots!"/"He's Back" 0:47
36. More Disappearances 0.27
37. Midnight 1.04
38. Twain's Death 0.34
39. The Mannequin 0.19
40. Connections to Twain 0.34
41. A Rough Night 3.23
42. Wang Figures it Out 0.53
43. Marbles' Solution 0.12
44. Dickie's Explanation 0.12
45. Perrier Returns/Eileen Twain 1.05
46. Dinner Plans 0.11
47. "Checkout Time" and End Credits 4.36


Friday, March 07, 2014

While I admit to not being a huge fan of the character design on "Ben 10: Omniverse" (hey, it's not as inept as the design - and demeanor, now that I think about it - of Vicky and Tootie's parents on "The Fairly OddParents"), pointing to it as the main reason for the show's lameness is like complaining about a Ford Pinto being the wrong color...while it's on fire. There's not enough space at the blog to point out why this show is so bad (and blog space is infinite!), so let me single out the method used to break up Ben and Julie at the beginning of "Rules of Engagement". It almost makes Matt Negrete's "Kim Possible" episodes seem competent...and I stress almost.

Which is to say that the show has fans (I don't get it, either) and one of them created a not-bad mash-up of "Omniverse" and the webtoon "Bonus Stage". Would that the former could even aspire to the decentness of the latter.

BONUS 10 from Sandwich And Cereal on Vimeo.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

The Oscars of 2014.

8:31pm - Whole lotta softball jokes, here.

8:34pm - Finally, a good bit. Paraphrased: "The most important things are family, friends and love. If you don't have those things, you go into showbiz."

8:39pm - Either, it was the material or Ellen's been away from the stand-up game for too long, but I couldn't be happier that awards are finally being presented. Anne Hathaway presenting Best Supporting Actor.

8:43pm - The Oscar goes to...Jared Leto! Oscar pooling aside, this is going to surprise "My So-Called Life" fans who thought that Claire Danes would be the first to an Oscar.

8:47pm - Next presenter, Jim Carrey. Not sure what movie he was referencing.

8:49pm - A look at animated heroes.

8:50pm - Kerry Washington introduces Pharrell Williams performing "Happy" from Despicable Me 2.

8:56pm - "No, I don't want to see it." "What's the big deal?" - Ellen and Jonah Hill.

8:57pm - Naomi Watts and Samuel L. Jackson present Best Costume Design.

8:58pm - The Oscar goes to...Catherine Martin for The Great Gatsby.

9:00pm - The Oscar for Hair and Make-Up goes to...Dallas Buyers Club (1/24)! For likely the reasons I cited.

9:02pm - To the slowest-ever rendition of "The Raiders March", Harrison Ford takes the stage, summarizing three of the Best Picture nominees.

9:05pm - Channing Tatum introduces a group of potential filmmakers.

9:11pm - Kim Novak (introduced to "Scene d'Amour" from Vertigo; I wonder what she has to say about that) and Matthew McConaughey present Best Animated Short Subject.

9:12pm - The Oscar goes to..."Mr. Hublot".

9:15pm - And now, Best Animated Feature. The Oscar goes to...Frozen (2/24)!

9:17pm - Sally Field introduces a montage of true story movies.

9:21pm - Emma Watson and Joseph Gordon-Levitt present Best Visual Effects. The Oscar goes to...Gravity (3/24)! There you go.

9:24pm - Zac Efron introduces Karen O.

9:30pm - Kate Hudson and Jason Sudeikis present Best Live-Action Short Subject. The Oscar goes to...Helium (4/24)! I really ought to consider making a short film.

9:33pm - The Oscar for Best Documentary Short Subject goes to..."The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life" (5/24)! Was that Silvestri's Forrest Gump accompanying the filmmakers on their way to the stage?

9:37pm - Bradley Cooper presents Best Documentary Feature, which goes to..."20 Feet from Stardom".

9:40pm - Kevin Spacey tells of the Honorary awards bestowed in a separate ceremony.

9:48pm - Ewan McGregor and Viola Davis present Best Foreign Language Film. The Oscar goes to...The Great Beauty (6/24)! Hooray for blind guessing. (Given some of the 'brutally honest Oscar ballots' I've seen in the last few days, I should fit right in.)

9:50pm - Tyler Perry tells us about Nebraska, Her and Gravity.

9:54pm - Brad Pitt introduces U2.

10:04pm - Michael B. Jordan and Kristen Bell tell of the Scientific and Technical Awards.

10:06pm - Chris Hemsworth and Charlize Theron present Best Sound Mixing. The Oscar goes to...Gravity (7/24)!

10:09pm - The Oscar for Best Sound Editing goes to...Gravity (8/24)!

10:11pm - Christoph Waltz presents Best Supporting Actress.

10:14pm - The Oscar goes to...Lupita Nyong'o (9/24)! This should make up nicely for how wasted she was in Non-Stop.

10:21pm - I'm sorry, are these Oscars interrupting your pizza party?

10:23pm - The first Black female president of the Academy Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Cheryl Boone Isaacs.

10:26pm - Amy Adams and Bill Murray present Best Cinematography. The Oscar goes to...Emmanuel Lubezki for Gravity (10/24)!

10:29pm - Anna Kendrick and Gabourey Sidibe present Best Editing. The Oscar goes to...Alfonso Cuaron and Mark Sanger for Gravity (11/24)!

10:32pm - Whoopi Goldberg, Judy Garland's kids and Pink pay tribute to The Wizard of Oz.

10:43pm - Jennifer Garner and Benedict Cumberbatch present Best Production Design. The Oscar goes to...Catherine Martin for The Great Gatsby (12/24)!

10:46pm - The Amazing Spider-Man theme used to introduce Chris Evans? WTF? Anyway, this next montage looks at heroes.

10:48pm - Oh, now they play the Captain America march. Ai ya!

10:53pm - Glenn Close introduces In Memoriam.

10:58pm - And now, Bette Midler.

11:05pm - Goldie Hawn introduces the last three nominees for Best Picture.

11:08pm - John Travolta introduces Idina Menzel performing "Let it Go".

11:12pm - Jamie Foxx and Jessica Biel present Best Original Score. The Oscar goes to...Steven Price for Gravity. In the back of my mind, I knew this would happen even though I didn't want it to. His music was okay, but not a patch on Newman's Saving Mr. Banks.

11:16pm - The Oscar for Best Song goes to...the Lopezes for "Let it Go" (13/24)!

11:23pm - Robert DeNiro (saying what all writers were thinking) and Penelope Cruz present Best Adapted Screenplay. The Oscar goes to...John Ridley for 12 Years a Slave. This is a long way from Undercover Brother (which was awesome).

11:27pm - The Oscar for Original Screenplay goes to...Spike Jonze for Her.

11:32pm - Angelina Jolie and Sidney Poitier present Best Director. The Oscar goes to...Alfonso Cuaron for Gravity (14/24)!

11:41pm - Daniel Day-Lewis presents Best Actress.

11:44pm - The Oscar goes to...Cate Blanchett for Blue Jasmine.

11:48pm - Jennifer Lawrence presents Best Actor. The Oscar goes to...Matthew McConaughey for Dallas Buyers Club.

11:55pm - Will Smith presents Best Picture. The Oscar goes to...12 Years a Slave. Did not see that coming.

And so ends another Oscar night. 14 picks out of 24. I'm getting better at this.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

My Oscar picks.

Picture: Warts and all, I'd give it to The Wolf of Wall Street. However, it's Gravity's show, all the way.
Actor: Leonardo DiCaprio owned The Wolf of Wall Street. Really hope he wins it.
Actress: If this script is anything to go on, there are few films this year that cry out "Give me a fucking Oscar!" as loudly or as shrill as August: Osage County. It looks like a two-girl race between Adams and Blanchett, though if anyone will upset, it's Bullock. Which is to say...Adams.
Supporting Actor: Cooper and Hill were quite good, but I've heard that Fassbender's slave owner was a nasty son of a bitch (Nope, I didn't see 12 Years a Slave; I'm one of those people who likes to enjoy himself when watching a movie.), so...
Supporting Actress: Again, a two-girl race, this time of Lawrence and Nyong'o. I'll say...Nyong'o.
Director: Somehow, I think Alfonso Cuaron will win this.
Original Screenplay: Much as I enjoyed American Hustle, it'll likely go to either of the auteurs in the category.
Adapted Screenplay: Would really like for The Wolf of Wall Street to win.
Cinematography: For once, I don't want Roger Deakins to win the Oscar, just to keep the hateful, unpleasant-looking movie for which he's nominated - Prisoners - to be known as an Oscar-winning movie. Besides, Emmanuel Lubezki for Gravity is the surest bet of the ceremony.
Editing: I'm going to say Gravity on this.
Production Design: Wait, Gravity was nominated in this category?! I'm going with The Great Gatsby.
Costume Design: The Academy loves period pieces, so definitely look for The Invisible Woman to take it. (Despite the title, it's a story about Charles Dickens and his forbidden mistress.)
Animated Feature: Despite a clumsy story turn, this is definitely going to Frozen.
Original Score: I've only heard Thomas Newman's Saving Mr. Banks. As long as he or Alexandre Desplat (Philomena) wins - or they both do - I'll be happy.
Original Song: I don't care what anyone says: Bruce Broughton will always be a double-Oscar nominee to me. However, since he's not officially one anymore..."Let it Go".
Visual Effects: Shit flying through space and fucking shit up. There's only one choice here.
Make-Up: Dallas Buyers Club. No way that a Johnny Knoxville movie is walking away with an Oscar and people will still find ways to cripple The Lone Ranger.
Sound: Gravity.
Sound Effects Editing: Again, Gravity.
Animated Short Subject: I didn't see the program of Short Subjects this year. I saw "Get a Horse!" before Frozen, but it seemed to be more in love with its gimmick than telling a story. Let's say..."Room on the Broom".
Live-Action Short Subject: Just blind guessing, from this point on..."Helium".
Documentary Feature: "The Act of Killing".
Documentary Short Subject: "The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life".
Foreign Film: The Great Beauty.