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.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

If money is the root of all evil, why is nothing free?

Monday, December 26, 2016

The Manitou (Lalo Schifrin)

An evil and powerful medicine man is reincarnated as a fetus on the neck of Karen Tandy (Susan Strasberg) and her boyfriend, Harry Erskine (Tony Curtis) will do whatever it takes to save her. An out-there premise like this demands a similarly out-there treatment. The overqualified cast is admirably straight-faced given the silliness of the project, making for an engaging slice of cheese.

Lalo Schifrin provides a terrific score, with a beautiful love theme, effective suspense music and some neat Native American touches.

The Manitou
composed & conducted
Lalo Schifrin

1. Main Titles 3.16
2. The Birth Chart 0.38
3. Mrs. Winconis' Reading 3.35
4. Funky Source 1.01
5. Harry and Karen 2.22
6. Fisherman's Wharf/Late Date 1.55
7. Bad Hand/"Pana...witchi...salatu." 1.16
8. Botched Surgery 0.50
9. Mrs. Herz/Karen in Bed 3.10
10. Karen Wakes Up 1.17
11. The Seance 2.40
12. Recovery 0.26
13. What's the Connection 0.58
14. Drive to Sausalito 0.56
15. Fight Fire With Fire 1.08
16. Laser Aftermath 0.44
17. Hughes' Analysis/John Singing Rock 2.30
18. John Agrees 0.56
19. John Goes to Work 1.25
20. Misquamacus Identified 1.18
21. Looking in on Karen 1.32
22. Misquamacus Reborn 3.28
23. March of the Skinless Intern 2.15
24. Breaking the Circle/Hungry Lizard 3.06
25. Winter Wonderland 2.06
26. Misquamacus Takes a Letter 0.28
27. Power Struggle 3.51
28. Karen Fights Back/It's Not Over/End Credits 7.52


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

"I would much rather walk in the street and risk getting creamed by a car than walk in the snow and risk getting my pants and shoes dirty!"

"Hmmm. This road is slick and slippery. I think I'll ride my bicycle!"

Sweet Jesus, what is with people intentionally (and stupidly) putting themselves in harm's way during the winter?

Saturday, December 17, 2016

No one will be seated when the robot goes topless.

A year ago today, the site Topless Robot (its name having been changed to The Robot's Voice in the year prior) printed its last article. It was a bittersweet thing, as I'd visited and posted at that site several times.

One of the features of the long-ago site was its weekly contests, where one could enter to win a Topless Robot t-shirt or some kind of prize.

Oftentimes, I thought that I would never win a shirt; other people's entries were better than mine.

Then came one day - April 9, 2011 (thank you, Internet Wayback Machine!). The weekend contest was 'Future Casualties of American Imperialism'. Basically, the people had to take a foreign property and re-package it for American dumbed down as you could imagine.

My entry went a little something like this (taken from memory because the Wayback Machine can't do everything):

"He made you laugh in Little Nicky. He made you cry in Click. And now, Adam Sandler (and where has he been in this contest?) takes on his greatest role to date: Adam Sandler is...Blackadder. Eddie Blackadder, with the help of his sidekick and whipping boy Baldrick (Rob Schneider), must endure many trials (and groin hits) to win the heart of the bratty-yet-beloved Queen Liz (Emily Blunt, too good for this cowpie, but then, most of the actresses in his movies are). He is undermined at every turn by the pious, double-dealing Lorry Melchett (played by Ashton Kutcher, because at this point, why not?). Another of Eddie's pals is Percy Percy (Nick Swardson), who has to put up with a lot of jokes about his name. Can Eddie concoct a cunning plan to get the girl? It's a Sandler movie. What do you think? The auteur behind Just Go with It and Grown Ups delivers his finest work yet, this fall. Now, excuse me whilst I cry in the shower."

So, how did I do? Witness:

It would be the only shirt I would win, despite several more attempts. I remember trying to wear it at New York Comic Con in 2011. I wore it off the plane Friday morning and poured sweat into it while searching for my hotel. I was forced to change into another shirt by the time I found my hotel.

Subsequent attempts to wear it at Cons (C2E2 in 2013, Fan Expo Canada in 2014) have gone unnoticed. I long for the day when I get to wear it to a future convention and someone comes up to me and says, 'Man, I remember that website!' or 'What is a Topless Robot?' 

It's likely the only use I can get out of the shirt before I grow out of it. I doubt it's worth a lot of money.

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Thursday, December 15, 2016

What I wouldn't give to be the kind of person who does things right all the time.

Monday, December 12, 2016

My Favorite Scores: Yellowbeard (John Morris)

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 I have no qualms about calling my favorites.

For some reason, comedy is one of the hardest genres to get just right. What may be funny to you can be disgusting, annoying or just plain off-putting to others. Even when you do get it right (i.e. make the majority laugh), there's always that lingering pressure to get it right again and again. Sometimes, we need to face facts: even the greatest talents don't bat 1.000 every time.

Having escaped prison after twenty years, pirate Yellowbeard (Graham Chapman) is on a quest to reclaim the treasure he plundered, but he is without a ship, a crew and a clue. Half of Monty Python. Half the cast of Young Frankenstein. Cheech & Chong. One of "The Young Ones". Comic luminaries like Peter Cook and Spike Milligan. A cameo from a recently departed musical icon. Quite a cast for any movie. Sadly, the film never really reaches the heights that such a grouping of talent would merit, though there are some funny moments along the way.

By this time, thanks to his many collaborations with Mel Brooks (resulting in two Oscar nominations), composer John Morris had found great success, mainly in the realm of comedy. While this film isn't a match for anything that Brooks had made, Morris still provided a spirited musical accompaniment.

The "Overture" hearkens back to the works of Erich Wolfgang Korngold, beginning with a rich brass fanfare that sets us up for high adventure. Following this are the score's two principal themes: (0:36) a nautical sounding melody of blaring horns over an ostinato of churning strings representative of seafaring and (1:24) an upbeat, almost incongruously heroic (seriously, he does very little in this film that could be considered heroic) theme for Yellowbeard, all rising brass and chopping strings.

The initial retrieval of the treasure ("Assault on El Nebuloso") is classic Mickey-Mousing, horn work and string runs accompanying every dispatch of henchmen. With "Yellowbeard's First Appearance", he takes command of the ship, his theme blaring away. The music changes character, becoming something of a grim dirge as a scroll explains that, despite the buccaneer's dastardly deeds, tax evasion was his ultimate downfall, landing him "In Prison".

When you're as nasty and vicious as Yellowbeard, you're bound to make enemies, such as a second-in-command whose hand the pirate cut off or the Royal Navy (represented by - of course - "Rule Brittania"). Their plan is to tack on another 140 years to Yellowbeard's sentence, compelling him to "Escape from the Prison" (a frantic horn take on the Yellowbeard theme leading to a churning string melody that's almost like a read of "Swan Lake" that can't quite stick the landing) ...and lead them to the treasure.

There's also a stately motif of horns and harpsichord for British Royalty, introduced in "Court of Queen Anne", as we meet Yellowbeard's son, Dan, who was raised far away from cutthroats. The Royalty theme gets a darker treatment as "Captain Hughes" (James Mason!) introduces his captives to his crew, with rising horns for each declaration of 'discipline'.

As Dan and company look for a boat, "Portsmouth" makes for a jaunty scene-setting cue with its syncopated harpsichord and winds. Unfortunately, "Dan's Kidnapped" along with his entourage, the "Portsmouth" melody returning on halting winds accented with harpsichord. "Later That Night" provides a racing motif on staccato horns and fast-paced harpsichord as Yellowbeard races to catch up with Dan (the map to the treasure tattooed on the lad's head at birth), leading to a worried-sounding version of the Yellowbeard theme.

The Royal Navy is on the hunt for Yellowbeard, so they seek out the informing skills of the "Blind Pew", introduced with sneaky oboe. His heightened other senses make his hearing sensitive to the intentionally off-key bugle that pops up halfway through the cue. "Commander Clement's Royal Naval Frigate vs. The Lady Edith" shows the crew adjusting to their captive situation as stowaway Yellowbeard tries to remember how to best uncover his loot. The cue is a fascinating hodge-podge of material: "Rule Britannia", the nautical theme and (principally) a lightly galloping rendition of the Yellowbeard theme.

With the ship's mutiny a success, "Captain Dan" takes the helm to a buoyant harpsichord tune. This same cue sees Morris having a lot of fun with his thematic material, treating us to an awe-inspiring version of the nautical theme (1:01), then a pensive string variation of the Yellowbeard theme (1:25), before capping the track off with a resolute rendition of the latter (2:03) as he takes the wheel. Even a pirate movie as silly as this is likely to have some fighting in it and the rousing "Battle at Sea" gives us chopping strings interspersed with the Yellowbeard theme as the two ships fire on each other.

The crew makes its way to "The Island" of El Nebuloso, the Royalty theme returning on high strings and castanets. They soon traverse through "The Jungle" of creepy percussion, leading to "The Ambush" by the conquistador's men to furious horn work with tambourine accents. There's even time for some romance as Dan catches the eye of El Nebuloso's lovely daughter, Triola. "Love and Torture" gives weight to this new pairing with lush string work and harp glissandos.

A brooding motif of horns and xylophone lurks underneath the "Attack on Nebuloso's Fortress", leading to a peppy treatment of the Yellowbeard theme as El Nebuloso's men feign defeat to allow the crew easy passage to their master's death trap. El Segundo doesn't get away so easily, leading to a musical climax as drawn out as the character's death.

While El Nebuloso may be slain, there's still the double-crossing Mr. Moon (the one-handed second-in-command I mentioned earlier) to deal with. "Duel With Mr. Moon" alternates the Yellowbeard theme with martial fluttering horns as father and son take on the last obstacles to the treasure. "Treasure Hunters" is a lighter cue of wafting harpsichord and winds as the exact route to the treasure is charted out.

The spoils are found, but Dan's errant blade leads to the "Death of Captain Yellowbeard", a somber take on his theme playing as he finally acknowledges the young man as the 'prawn of his loins'. However, "Yellowbeards are never more dangerous than when we're dead!" and the treasure is retrieved, true love wins out and there's more pirating to be done, the "Overture" reprising for the "End Credits".

In addition, there are some bonus tracks, notably the faux-Gregorian chant of "El Nebuloso's Song" and the alternate "End Credits", done in the style of a hearty sailing tune. As one of the forgotten scores in John Morris's career, it is worthy of rediscovery.

Availability: This was released by Quartet Records back in 2010, but it has been out of print for many years. I would say that some label might re-release it in the future, but since it's taking half past forever for other Morris scores to get any kind of release (High Anxiety, Silent Movie, Young Frankenstein), I wouldn't hold my breath. could help you out, though.

Quartet Records QRSCE016

Track Listing:
1. Overture (2:20)
2. Assault on El Nebuloso/Yellowbeard's First Appearance/In Prison (2:52)
3. Court of Queen Anne (0:35)
4. Escape from the Prison (1:27)
5. They're All Dead, Mr. Moon (0:48)
6. Blind Pew (1:20)
7. Portsmouth (1:41)
8. Dan's Kidnapped/Later That Night (1:25)
9. Into the Sea (0:57)
10. Captain Hughes (0:37)
11. Commander Clement's Royal Naval Frigate vs. The Lady Edith (4:06)
12. The Mutiny (1:34)
13. Captain Dan (2:24)
14. Battle at Sea (2:57)
15. Happy Life Aboard (0:40)
16. The Island (2:01)
17. The Jungle/The Ambush (2:18)
18. Dan Trapped Again/Fight on the Beach (0:43)
19. Love and Torture (1:42)
20. Attack on El Nebuloso's Fortress (2:23)
21. Duel With Mr. Moon (2:53)
22. Treasure Hunters (0:57)
23. Death of Captain Yellowbeard (0:48)
24. Prisoners Again/Yellowbeard Returns/End Credits (3:06)
Bonus Tracks:
25. End Credits (alternate version, vocal) (2:33)
26. End Credits (alternate version, instrumental) (2:33)
27. The Evil Mr. Moon (outtake) (2:38)
28. El Nebuloso's Song (0:52)
29. Fanfare I (0:09)
30. Fanfare II (0:08)
31. Fanfare III (0:31)


Wednesday, December 07, 2016

"We're bad guys. It's what we do."

Suicide Squad. Long story short, the fascinating cast of characters helped to paper over its many, many, many flaws.

A long time ago (and now, in a way), I fancied myself a pretty decent editor. If I had high-end editing software and the exact know-how, I'd get to work on a fanedit. Wouldn't magically turn it into a masterpiece, but it would make the film more digestible.

Maybe, reshuffle some scenes, delete the superfluous introductions and (even more superfluous) soundtrack choices and (first and foremost) replace the anonymous score by Steven Price. It's, so far, the best underscore of any movie in the DCEU...and I still couldn't hum a note at gunpoint.

What would I replace the score with? Found music by Elliot Goldenthal. Sure, the obvious reason being that his music has a way of putting a silver lining on a DC Comics mess, but the main reason is because of this cue:

Extended from the opening cue on the official score album, listening to this just flipped a switch in me. How cool would it be to create a movie out of whole cloth and put an awesome soundtrack under it, to boot?

Yeah. This is definitely on my to-do list for 2017...or, maybe, 2018.

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Sunday, December 04, 2016

I would much rather be dead than old.

Saturday, December 03, 2016

On Deadly Ground (Basil Poledouris)

Forrest Taft (Steven Seagal) has made a good living for Aegis Oil, but a vision quest makes him realize that he's helping to destroy the environment. The only way to make things right (apparently) is with an act of eco-terrorism. Another Seagal bonecruncher, but with the pretense of saving the Earth. Ridiculous, but entertaining. If nothing else, the overqualified supporting cast of villains (Michael Caine, John C. McGinley, R. Lee Ermey, Billy Bob Thornton, Mike Starr) makes it watchable.

Basil Poledouris's score is an evocative work, with a surging main theme, Inuit throat singing and some exciting action cues.

On Deadly Ground
composed & conducted
Basil Poledouris

1. Main Titles/Rig on Fire 3.48
2. Aegis Flameout 0.47
3. What Did He Say? 0.55
4. Not Worth It 0.18
5. "What does it take...?" 0.54
6. Aegis Oil Commercial 0.47
7. Get Rid of Problems/Checking the Preventers/Torturing Hugh 7.45
8. Minor Oil Spill/Forrest Figures it Out 2.10
9. Forrest Fired 1.04
10. The Rescue 1.31
11. Bear Among Mice/The Search 3.07
12. The Journey 8.06
13. Chief Killed/Forrest Returns 4.54
14. Into the Woods 1.51
15. Storming Hugh's Place 1.31
16. Preferably Dead 0.19
17. Forrest Decides 2.16
18. Preparing for War 1.16
19. Explosive Surprise 1.22
20. Get Out of Here 1.33
21. Springing Traps 0.22
22. Horse Chase 1.40
23. The Silencer 1.27
24. Wasting Mercenaries 2.10
25. Special Number 0.24
26. More Casualties 4.44
27. Elevator Trap 1.30
28. Stone Cold 1.23
29. Jennings Goes Down 5.46
30. The Warning/End Credits 6.24
31. Seagal-Nasso Logo 0.11