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.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

The film music of 2015.

This was quite a year for film music; a number of impressive scores and a staggering amount of specialty releases being put out faster than I could keep track. Little wonder that this post is butting up against the beginning of February.

My favorite scores of 2015:

(Christophe Beck - Hollywood)
Engaging score for the Marvel smash is one of Beck's finest.
Best tracks: "Theme from 'Ant-Man', "San Francisco, 1987", "A Center for Ants!"

(Thomas Newman - Hollywood)
Newman's first collaboration with Steven Spielberg (!) makes for a nicely moody affair.
Best tracks: "Sunlit Silence", "The Article", "Bridge of Spies (End Title)"

(Patrick Doyle - Disney)
Sprightly, tuneful...just what a fairy tale should sound like.
Best tracks: "A Golden Childhood", "Who is She?", "Shattered Dreams"

(Fernando Velazquez - Quartet)
Velazquez provided an appealingly lush score for the ghost story.
Best tracks: "Return to Your Ghost", "Allerdale Hall", "Lucille & Showdown"

(Alexandre Desplat - Decca)
Desplat provided a score that is sensitive and heartbreaking.
Best tracks: "Lili's Dream", "The Mirror", "Schizophrenia"

(Mychael and Jeff Danna - Disney)
The brothers Danna bring the story to life through odd orchestrations and a Western vibe.
Best tracks: "Homestead", "Swimming Lessons", "Goodbye Spot"

(Ennio Morricone - Verve)
One more chance to hear the Maestro stretch his legs on a Western.
Best tracks: "L'Ultima Diligenza di Red Rock" (long version), "L'Inferno Bianco", "Sangue e Neve"

(Michael Giacchino - Disney)
The Pixar film is perfectly matched by Giacchino's richly varied score.
Best tracks: "Bundle of Joy", "Rainbow Flyer", "Joy Turns to Sadness/A Growing Personality"

(Michael Giacchino - WaterTower/Varese Sarabande)
Exciting, inventive, enjoyable...pretty much everything the film isn't.
Best tracks: "Jupiter Ascending - 1st Movement", "The Abrasax Family Tree", "It's a Hellava Chase"

(Douglas Pipes - La La Land/Backlot)
In spite of the composer's typecasting, another marvelous holiday horror score.
Best tracks: "Bells, Bones and Chains", "Elegy", "End Credits"

(Joe Kraemer - La La Land)
Wonderfully intense music, with a particularly droll employment of Schifrin's "The Plot".
Best tracks: "The A400", "A Foggy Night in London", "Finale and Curtain Call"

(Marco Beltrami - Varese Sarabande)
Beltrami's rousing score greatly energized the guilty pleasure fantasy.
Best tracks: "Prologue", "Master Sergei", "Battle of Pendle Mountain"

(Thomas Newman - Decca)
A bit sedate at times, but another effective Bond score from Newman.
Best tracks: "Donna Lucia", "Madeleine", "Detonation"

(Theodore Shapiro - Milan)
As good an imitation of Arnold's Bond scores as one could ask for.
Best tracks: "Agent Bradley Fine", "To Rome", "Vespa Chase"

(John Williams - Disney)
Williams returns to the series with great style.
Best tracks: "Rey's Theme", "Maz's Counsel", "March of the Resistance"

(James Horner - WaterTower)
One of Horner's last scores is rich in Spanish flavor.
Best tracks: "The Collapse", "We are all well in the refuge, The 33", "Celebrations"

(Michael Giacchino - Disney)
Yep, this guy again; a wondrous score for the flawed but entertaining fantasy.
Best tracks: "You've Piqued My Pin-trist", "Pin-Ultimate Experience", "Pins of a Feather"

(Craig Armstrong - La La Land)
Armstrong's forceful score is, by far, the revisionist tale's strongest aspect.
Best tracks: "Dark Red Theme 2", "Basement Raid", "Prometheus Ascending"

More good scores:

Concussion (James Newton Howard), DragonHeart 3: the Sorcerer's Curse (Mark McKenzie), Fifty Shades of Grey (Danny Elfman), Goosebumps (Danny Elfman), Jurassic World (Michael Giacchino), The Lady in the Van (George Fenton), The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (Daniel Pemberton), Mortdecai (Geoff Zanelli and Mark Ronson), Mr. Holmes (Carter Burwell), My All-American (John Paesano), The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water (John Debney), The Walk (Alan Silvestri) and Wolf Totem (James Horner)

Some great unreleased scores:

Hotel Transylvania 2 - Mark Mothersbaugh

Yeah, pretty skimpy. Much to my surprise, the other scores that were on this list at varying points of the year (American Ultra, Crimson Peak, 5 Flights Up, Paper Towns, Seventh Son) all received some sort of release. Kind of bunk that Mothersbaugh gets the short end of the stick, but I thought this three years ago when his fantastic scores for Safe and 21 Jump Street were languishing without releases, so, perhaps this is just a waiting game. I can wait.

My favorite new CDs of 2015:

Candleshoe (Ron Goodwin - Intrada) - Goodwin's score for the Disney comedy is engaging, highlighted by an effervescent main theme.

Going Ape! (Elmer Bernstein - Intrada) - Bernstein's music for the orangutan comedy is just delightful, from the laid-back main theme to the circus motif to those silly songs.

The House on Sorority Row (Richard Band - La La Land) - Band's finest score has it all: drama, emotion and exciting horror music.

Jaws/Jaws 2 (John Williams - Intrada) - A thrilling, career-making pair of Williams scores that demonstrated how unsafe it was to go into the water.

Obsession (Bernard Herrmann - Tadlow/Music Box) - The score so nice, they released it twice; while I'm sure the original tracks are smashing, the re-recording is beyond reproach.

Outbreak (James Newton Howard - Varese Club) - Howard wrote a terrific score for the underrated not-Ebola chiller, with rousing passages and effective percussion.

The Return of a Man Called Horse/Inherit the Wind (Laurence Rosenthal - Intrada) - The headlining score is truly sweeping, paired with a minor but still stirring effort.

The River Wild (Jerry Goldsmith/Maurice Jarre - Intrada) - This may be a minority opinion, but Goldsmith's perfectly competent replacement is no match for Jarre's lively (and rejected) work.

Something Wicked This Way Comes (Georges Delerue - Intrada) - Delerue's rejected score for the Disney fantasy is likely one of his darkest and, certainly, one of his best.

Warlock (Jerry Goldsmith - Intrada) - Even with the added electronics, this atypical Goldsmith score deserves more respect, buoyed by a pair of fantastic melodies.

So much money, so few CDs...strike that, reverse it:

Adventures in Babysitting (Michael Kamen - Intrada)
Agent Cody Banks (John Powell - Intrada)
A.I. - Artificial Intelligence (John Williams - La La Land)
Beneath the 12-Mile Reef (Bernard Herrmann - Kritzerland)
Bride of Re-Animator (Richard Band - Dragon's Domain)
Chain Reaction (Jerry Goldsmith - Varese Club)
(The) Ghost and the Darkness (Jerry Goldsmith - Intrada)
Hangover Square/5 Fingers (Bernard Herrmann - Kritzerland)
Indecent Proposal (John Barry - Intrada)
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Carmen Dragon - La La Land)
Kiss the Girls (Mark Isham/Carter Burwell - Quartet)
(The) Last Boy Scout (Michael Kamen - La La Land)
North and South (Bill Conti - Varese Club)
Puppet Master X: Axis Rising/(The) Evil Clergyman (Richard Band - La La Land)
Reindeer Games (Alan Silvestri - Music Box)
Spies Like Us (Elmer Bernstein - Varese Club)
3:10 to Yuma (Marco Beltrami - La La Land)
Tinkerbell and the Great Fairy Rescue (Joel McNeely - Intrada)
Tinkerbell and the Lost Treasure (Joel McNeely - Intrada)
White Witch Doctor (Bernard Herrmann - Kritzerland)

A few spare notes:

- Intrada released The Secret of N.I.M.H. this year. It is one of my favorite scores and I greatly cherish the Varese Sarabande release of it...all the more so considering that the new release was expanded by one score track. If the Varese album didn't flow so beautifully, I'd be way more upset about this.

- Philip Glass's "Prelude" from Fantastic Four may well be my favorite cue of the year. One can't help but wish he scored the whole movie. (Put this against the listenable-but-generic work that Marco Beltrami did for most of the score and you're sure to feel the same; much like how Glass's work on Secret Window outshined the overbearing supplemental cues by Geoff Zanelli.)

- And speaking of tag-team feature scores, which the past year saw quite a few of, they ranged from decent (Fantastic Four) to decent-if-noisy (Avengers: Age of Ultron) to 'what is this shit?' (The Boy Next Door). It's telling that The Good Dinosaur is the best of the bunch, if only for the novelty that its composers actually wrote this music together.

- 'What about Texas Rising?', you might be asking. I said 'feature scores', earlier. Texas Rising was produced for television. It is marvelous, sparkling with the Bruce Broughton sound of old and with hints of John Debney's 90s work. Who could ask for anything more?

- Much as I liked Giacchino's Inside Out, I could've done without the initial 'wah-wah' tuba treatment of the motif for Sadness. It struck me as heavy-handed, an adjective one would never dare to associate with Pixar or the composer, yet here we are. (In fairness, the theme gets better as it's passed to other instruments; cf. "Overcoming Sadness".)

- I beamed at hearing the Ondes martenot in Jonny Greenwood's Inherent Vice last year, so you can imagine my glee at hearing it in The Revenant. It wasn't enough to get it into the upper tier of the year's scores, though, but still, what a joy to hear this instrument on the comeback trail.

- Run All Night was the first of three major releases (all from Warner Bros.) to be scored by Tom Holkenborg (the artist formerly known as Junkie XL). Surprisingly, it wasn't always this way. The Liam Neeson thriller was set to be scored by Alan Silvestri. Based on a viewing of the trailer, I was sure that this score would've called for one of his G.I. Joe/A-Team/RED 2 electro-orchestral hybrids that pale in comparison to Silvestri's fully orchestral writing. Much to my surprise, a fully orchestral score is just what Silvestri why is it rotting away in a studio vault instead of being listened to by fans around the world?! Fuckin' Hollyweird, man...


Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The movies of 2015.

Saw only 44 movies this year. I'm slippin'.

10. The Hateful Eight - Though it could've used more time in the editing room, an evocative (and bloody) Western.

9. Trumbo - Fascinating look at McCarthyism and its effect on mid-century Hollywood, brought to life by a top-notch cast.

8. Focus - Lively yarn of con artistry, with attractive leads and a twisty script.

7. Star Wars: the Force Awakens - For my first dip into the universe of Star Wars, very exciting and well-drawn.

6. Kingsman: the Secret Service - As over-the-top as any of the more ridiculous Bond movies and a good deal of fun.

5. The Martian - Entertaining interstellar drama, helped by an infectious sense of humor.

4. Ant-Man - The stronger of the year's Marvel movies; a thoroughly engaging mix of comic book and heist movie.

3. Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation - The series continues to impress, with some hair-raising stuntwork and exotic locales.

2. When Marnie Was There - Animated feature from Studio Ghibli speaks to me as no other film did this year.

1. Inside Out - This concoction from Pixar is as colorful (in every sense) and emotionally rich as anything they've ever done.


Avengers: Age of Ultron - Action-packed and quippy; not as strong as the first movie (what could've been?), but still delivers the goods.

Cinderella - Disney's desire to bring its animated features to live-action may well succeed if they're as unpretentious as this adaptation.

The Good Dinosaur - Pixar's second effort of the year doesn't score as well as the first, but is quite entertaining in its own right.

Jurassic World - Dinosaurs run amok (again) in this uneven but entertaining follow-up in the series.

Mad Max: Fury Road - Exciting and well-wrought, this is less a movie than an experience.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. - Exceptional revamp of the 60s TV series; Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer make a good team.

Mr. Holmes - Ian McKellen's fantastic performance buoys this sedate though engaging look at an elderly Sherlock.

The Peanuts Movie - Even with the sheen of CGI, beautifully captures the style and spirit of the comic.

Spectre - This latest Bond movie has style to spare and a pair of terrific adversaries.

Spy - With a good script and a strong supporting cast, this is one of the better Melissa McCarthy vehicles.

Underrated: Crimson Peak, Project Almanac and Tomorrowland

Overrated: Dope and Paper Towns (A pair of youth-oriented sleepers; well-acted, esp. in the case of the former, but...Dope lost its way with its sloppy writing - if you were on your way to Harvard, would you let some drugged-out broad drive you to an all-important meeting? - and Paper Towns substituted the heart of The Fault in Our Stars with unbridled quirk.)

Guilty pleasures: San Andreas, Seventh Son and The Transporter: Refueled

Didn't think this was so bad: Hot Tub Time Machine 2, Ted 2

Kind of a letdown: Hitman: Agent 47

My favorite things in movies - 2015:

Britt Robertson pays a visit to George Clooney's house in Tomorrowland

Colin Firth in Kingsman: the Secret Service, especially his church greeting

The escape from the airport in The Transporter: Refueled

The evocation of turn-of-the-century Western New York in Crimson Peak; who knows what inspired Guillermo del Toro to set the first third of this movie in my neck of the woods, but it certainly blew my mind

The flashback to Minnie's Haberdashery in The Hateful Eight

Grandma Omi treats the family to a story in Krampus

Henry Cavill enjoys a picnic on the water in The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

"I name him, I keep him." - The Good Dinosaur

"It would seem my story's ended. Now, tell me yours." - Cinderella

Jason Statham and Peter Serafinowicz in Spy

John Goodman goes to bat in Trumbo

The long-take opening of Spectre

Michael Pena's storytelling technique in Ant-Man

The New York Comic Con brawl in Ted 2

"Nice jacket." - Focus

Nicholas Hoult in Mad Max: Fury Road

Paul Bettany in Mortdecai

Paul Giamatti in San Andreas

The prologue in Ant-Man

The scenes between Liam Neeson and Ed Harris in Run All Night

Will Ferrell requests a do-over in Daddy's Home

Holy shit, was that...?

Adewale and Alan Tudyk in Trumbo
Rick Fox in Dope
Burn Gorman and Jonathan Hyde in Crimson Peak
Greg Grunberg in Star Wars: the Force Awakens
Wallace Langham in Taken 3
Nick Nolte in Run All Night

What a tragic waste... (Sometimes, you see a movie and you wonder why someone doesn't get to do more in it. Maybe, the part was underwritten or the meat of the role was left on the cutting room floor. In any event, these people should've had more to work with.)

Monica Bellucci in Spectre
Judy Greer in Ant-Man...and Jurassic World...and Tomorrowland (oh, for fuck's sakes!)
Laura Linney in Mr. Holmes
Bruce McGill and Genesis Rodriguez in Run All Night
Max von Sydow in Star Wars: the Force Awakens
Sigourney Weaver in Chappie

Random thoughts:

- At one point, I thought about that Kevin Hart movie where he helps a dorky white guy by pretending to be something he's not, thereby forging a bromance and freeing him from his ball-busting lady love (played by an actress on a break from her sitcom that flourished on Thursday nights) and how different it was from the other Kevin Hart movie where he helps a dorky white guy by pretending to be something he's not, thereby forging a bromance and freeing him from his ball-busting lady love (played by an actress on a break from her sitcom that flourished on Thursday nights). And who says Hollywood is running out of ideas?

- A Minion in a thong? There is not a punishment violent enough for the person who signed off on that. (And why am I the only person to notice that (however accidentally) the Minions will eventually kill Gru? Seriously. Watch the trailer again. Then watch the Honest Trailer. Notice a pattern developing?)

- Badass Digest described Hot Tub Time Machine 2 as Back to the Future if Biff Tannen were the protagonist. While I liked the film (in spite of universally toxic reviews; seriously, dude at Entertainment Weekly, if this is the worst movie you saw in 2015, you had a charmed year, period), that description still cracks me up.

- Hardly the biggest problem with the sequels, but it still burns my toast that Famke Janssen got to do a grand total of fucking nothing across three Taken movies

- And while I'm venting my spleen about the Taken movies, I know they're not known for their brains, but it truly feels like 3 went out of its way to be moronic. The freeway chase that most certainly resulted in the deaths of innocent motorists was bad enough, but, in the biggest twist for the sake of a twist since Smokin' Aces, it turns out that [SPOILERS, but - like I said around this time last year - who cares?] Stuart masterminded Lenore's murder and the frame-up on Bryan...even though he knew full well what Bryan was willing to do to save Kim not two movies ago. (Also, he takes Kim hostage...yeah.) You see, this is the sort of crap that makes Joe Anybody believe that they can write a movie...and Lord knows I have enough competition.

- Still not sure why Mortdecai needed to be rated R. That bit in the trailer where Mortdecai insisted he didn't need someone to carry his bags because 'I have a bloody manservant.', then makes a 'What's the matter with you?' face at the hotelier cracked me up. In the movie, the line is 'I have a fucking manservant', which would've made a great PG-13 F-bomb moment if it were the only one.

- Speaking of those, the pickings were rather slim compared to those in 2014. Seventh Son had the best one, though there were some decent ones in The MartianSan Andreas and Krampus.

- I'd never been to a drive-in before. There was one close to my house until 2007. Quite a pity that I got my license in 2010. The only drive-in theater in town (a euphemism; it was quite far from my town) was, fortunately, playing Mad Max: Fury Road. I'm sure I'd have enjoyed the film just as much in a traditional theater, but seeing it at a drive-in made for a perfect viewing experience.

- I'm pretty sure this was copyrighted in the mid-2000s by "At the Movies", but still, a Wagging Finger of Shame to Universal Pictures. They've had an almost-unprecedented run of successes this year, some fairly deserved (Jurassic World, Straight Outta Compton) and some far less so (Fifty Shades of Grey, Minions). Sadly, that success did not extend to a wide release for their gangster biopic Legend. Seriously, what is the logic behind this thinking? Moreover, what is the logic behind spending money on a movie, then short-sheeting the promotional push (*coughCrimsonPeakcough*)?

- American Ultra and Victor Frankenstein. A pair of competent-yet-unremarkable genre entries penned by Max Landis. If two movies released in the same year that I wrote went belly up, sure, I'd be upset about it. I'd probably yell, scream, punch a wall, but I sure wouldn't be ignorant enough to vent my spleen online. It's one thing to complain that people ignored your 'stoner Jason Bourne' movie because it wasn't original (enough?), but to build up your other movie while tearing down another (more prestigious) movie from the same studio that released your movie...seriously, is hubris a hereditary trait in the Landis family?

- I said it all over the net, but it still holds true: turning Rusty Griswold into a carbon copy of Clark may have fit Ed Helms like a speedo, but it pisses in the face of everything we know about the character; who wouldn't fight like hell to avoid becoming their father if he was like Clark?

- Briefly about Jem and the Holograms: didn't see the "film" and (even without the toxic reviews or paucity of imagination) I probably wouldn't have anyway (seriously, the current comic is so much better, it's mindblowing), but, in this "movie's" favor, Juliette Lewis. I guess I'm not the only one who thinks that she'd have crushed the role of Pizzazz, once upon a time.

- This doesn't really have anything to do with a specific movie from last year, but since it came from last year and concerns the movies, I think it's fair game. The new Cartoon Network series "We Bare Bears" had an episode called "Shush Ninjas". In it, the bears are hired by a movie theater to keep the moviegoing patrons quiet, but they take it too far. At the end, Grizz gives a stirring speech that speaks to why so many (myself included) endure all the talky, cell phone nonsense of seeing a movie in theaters. Here it is:
"Movies. 'Why movies?', you ask. Why are we here in this dark and kind of smelly room with total strangers? We go to the movies to be a part of something together. Just think of all the memories we've shared; all the times we've spread our imagination wings and allowed ourselves to soar! We've opened our arms to new adventures filled with moments that warmed our hearts. Moments that are windows to our past and help us shape our future. We are these characters. We understand all their imperfections; they love like we love. There's no telling what mysteries will unfold, or who we'll meet along the way. But life is never boring when you go to the movies! In conclusion, who needs a telescope to look at the stars when the stars shine the movies?" Indeed.


Thursday, January 14, 2016

Oh ess see ay are.

- Only saw two of the year's eight Best Picture nominees. Would've been four if I hadn't ran out of money.

- Carter Burwell's first Academy Award nomination (for Carol)...and it's about motherfucking time! (Seriously, where were his nominations for Fargo and In Bruges? Lost in the mail?)

- Trumbo was just about snubbed completely (so much for the 'Hollywood loves movies about itself' theory), but Bryan Cranston scored a Best Actor nod. Good enough for me.

- Fifty Shades of Grey earning a nomination for Best Song? Now, history's gonna remember that piece of shit as an Academy Award-nominated movie? Smooth move, dumbtards.

- When Marnie Was There received a Best Animated Feature nomination. I implore everyone reading this, or, at the very least, anyone who's ever felt like they didn't belong, to see this movie. (Any of the other nominees would be worthy - by simple dint of the fact that none of them are fucking Minions - but a win for this movie would be a great personal victory.)

- Getting back to Original Score, the Academy must be getting loose with the rules, as one of the nominees is a sequel score, rich with thematic material from the previous films and another uses (unused) material from the composer's previous works. Probably comes down to percentages (i.e. that same bullshit that considers the Alvin and the Chipmunks movies animated features and, as such, possible nominees for the Animated Feature category). Fuckin' Hollyweird, man...

- In addition to Mr. Cranston, first nominations all around for Tom Hardy, Brie Larson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Rachel McAdams, Charlotte Rampling, Mark Rylance and Alicia Vikander.

- Nothing for Mr. Holmes, Concussion, Black Mass, Legend, Suffragette or Truth.

- Much like last year (and the year before), Roger Deakins is nominated for cinematography and - much like last year (and the year before) - Emmanuel Lubezki is the odds-on favorite to win. After three consecutive awards, he's likely due a vacation, especially if you've heard about the shooting conditions on The Revenant.

- That's new: all the nominees for Visual Effects were nominated in other categories; usually, it's a nomination in that category for some summer blockbuster.

- Seriously, when's the last time a Costume Design nomination went to a movie set in the present day?

- Whoa, whoa, whoa? Ex Machina, with its ridiculous downer ending, got an Original Screenplay nomination?! Okay, now I have to make it in films.


Sunday, January 10, 2016

A few days ago, I got curious about an old AV Club Q&A column, "The Worst Foods We Love".

The search function at the site was uncooperative, never mind that it's a three-year-old article. Thankfully, Google was more forthright...allowing me to locate it through another article that linked to it.

Despite the caloric nightmares posited in the comments, I could think of very few dishes I wouldn't eat. Ah, the stuff you'll put yourself through when you're hungry.