Thursday, November 27, 2014

What Christmas Music Would Be In Star-Lord's Walkman?

This is the first of many attempts to add some holiday cheer to this scene from Guardians of the Galaxy. It's safe to say that people who succeeded in making Li'l Groots for Christmas will add an ornament and a Santa hat. Besides, When part two rolls around in 30 months or so, he'll be Rockefeller Center Christmas tree-size.

The movie shows Peter Quill, aka Star-Lord or maybe Skye's Distant Cousin, owning two cassettes of music that his mom made him. The first became a big seller, while fans got a taste of the second one.
However, what if Mrs. Quill made him a mixtape of Christmas Classics?
If so, I have an idea of what she'd put on that cassette. If the tape was the Phil Spector Christmas album, it would be a winner right there. Still, I've come up with my idea of what the tape could have. As with the other tapes, it must be music before 1980. It does include some songs from holiday specials, also likely from his past.

Little Saint Nick Beach Boys
Santa Claus is Coming to Town  Jackson 5
Rockin Around the Christmas Tree  Brenda Lee
You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch  Thurl Ravenscroft
Run Rudolph Run Chuck Berry
Santa Baby Eartha Kitt
Holly Jolly Christmas Burl Ives
The Little Drummer Boy  Harry Simone Chorus
This Christmas Donny Hathaway
Step Into Christmas  Elton John
Christmas Time Is Here  Vince Guaraldi Trio
White Christmas  Bing Crosby
Feliz Navidad  Jose Feliciano
I Want to Come Home For Christmas  Marvin Gaye
Blue Christmas  Elvis Presley
The Christmas Song  Nat King Cole
Christmas (Please Come Home) Darlene Love
Happy Christmas (War is Over)  John Lennon

This is much bigger than the GoG soundtrack, which has eleven songs. I'll bet Mrs. Quill had a 90-minute Maxell tape that she wanted to use for a special occasion.It's a mix of holiday standards, some Motown, and songs from TV classics.

Of course, iPods and smartphones have made Walkmen a relic of the past, but Quill doesn't know this. If he ever was given an mp3 player, he'd have to take a hard look at his Walkman before giving it up. He'd also have a mixtape that could last for most of us.

Anyone who wants to come up with a better GoG holiday mixtape, please do.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Rifftrax Has Fun in Balloonland With Its Sharp Needling

In the words of Tom Servo, "the Hell?"

That's all you can say about Fun in Balloonland, Rifftrax's new holiday offering whose cheesiness exceeds Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny and Magic Christmas Tree combined. For those who have attended holiday parades and didn't enjoy them, this is your chance at revenge.
It takes the daring move of combining a holiday pageant that takes place in a warehouse instead of PS 134 outside of Philadelphia with footage of the 1964 Gimbels Christmas Parade. (Note: for those who only know Wal-Mart, Gimbels was a department store that was a rival of Macy's in retail and parades),

Here are some clips:

It starts with a song with lyrics that almost make you appreciate One Direction. It's followed by a mom reading a story to a kid. She falls asleep, and he walks over and stands in front of a "Fairy Tales Book". That somehow gets him to Balloonland, where he "interacts" with the balloons, a guy who claims he's Neptune, and some mermaids. Also, a ballet spontaneously appears while kids lie on the ground, and there's a square dance where the kids sort of forget the song. What's really disturbing is at one point the kid wears gold lame shorts, something he shouldn't wear until he grows up to be Channing Tatum.

Someone thought adding balloon people to a third-grade Christmas play would produce something that would rival A Christmas Carol or Miracle on 34th Street,
Just in case, they decided to add footage from the Gimbels Parade, with a narrator who's had too much of a liquid version of turkey.
It's basically a home movie, but an interesting look at holiday parades before they went all show biz (Macy's being a big example, thanks to NBC). It also features the strangest looking balloon floats around, as the Rifftrax crew point out quite often.

The movie seems to end with the kid finally falling asleep, while Mom is also sleeping, but then they use outtakes to create  a "guessing game". Afterwards, you will, like Bill Corbett, wonder what the heck that was.

Now, time for the riffs:

A ballet breaks out with three kids, followed by a Good Fairy

Bill Corbett:  All right, Cindy Williams, let's start wrapping this thing up

The kid is in a square dance

Mike Nelson:  This is a little dance they call "See whose kneecap breaks first"

A balloon float featuring Scrooge and Tiny Tim appears

Kevin Murphy:  It's John D. Rockefeller and his son Dax Shepard, wearing Dad's hat

One of the bands appearing for the parade gets identified as:

Mike:  Please welcome the Didn't-Get-Invited-To-The-Macy's-Parade-In-Fact-Macy's-Called-Just-to-Laugh-At-Us Marching Band

Narrator:  I salute you, Grenadier Guard

Bill:  Just a brand of cheap gin she's drinking

There's also riffs on Game of Thrones, They Shoot Horses, Don't They, North Korea, 1984 (the book), Stratego, The Twilight Zone, and the owner of the NFL team in Washington DC, Daniel Snyder. There's also a callback to a riff Kevin made in the Christmas Shorts Extravaganza in 2009.

You've never seen anything like Fun in Balloonland, and it's unlikely you'd find anything like that today...except the opening would be a rap by Pitbull with much better lyrics.

The short is available now at Rifftrax's website, and there is a special section for the other holiday offerings it's created over the years.
The next big offering will be the re-riffing of Santa Claus in theaters nationwide on December 4th. Here's an updated trailer and a message from Kevin...

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Do You Own The Role, Or Does It Own You? Review of Birdman

While most people decided to go see Interstellar and Big Hero 6, I went to see a movie that's been called the comeback of the original Joel Schumacher Batman, Michael Keaton. After seeing TV ads for Birdman for weeks, I wondered if this is really an anti-super hero movie, and a cautionary tale about what happens when an actor's iconic role that he has tried to shake just won't let go.

Birdman is that, and more. It's a bizarre and touching tale of Riggan Thomson, who was known for playing the iconic Birdman three times...but not much after that. He's hoping a Broadway play based on Raymond Carter will change his luck. However, he's plagued by accidents, a pompous replacement, disasterous previews, and a critic that vows to destroy his play because she can.
All the while, he hears a familiar voice. It's Birdman, urging Riggan to bring him back.

The story is done as one long take, even though the story covers several days. You can tell where the cuts are, but the way it's shot by cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki is just amazing. It wouldn't a surprise to those who remember he won an Oscar last year for Gravity. More praise should be given to director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, who has put together a tale that's part theater backstage politics, part pressure, and part fantasy. It could almost be an re-origin story not for a super hero, but a guy who wants to remind people he's still an actor, and a good one.

He pins his hopes on a play that he's written and directed, with himself as the star. When a falling light hits one of the actors, he gets Mike Shiner (Edward Norton) to replace him. He's a good actor, but also pompous. He makes moves on his co-star Leslie (Naomi Watts) and Riggan's daughter Sam (Emma Stone), and ruins the first two previews. In the third preview, Riggan accidentally locks himself out of the theater, and has to get back in only wearing his briefs.That gives him the kind of attention he wasn't seeking.

While Riggan hopes to be recognized for the right reasons, it's interesting the movie shows people still know him and like him for what he did as Birdman. The attention can be a double-edged sword, due to people taking pictures of him in his briefs with their smartphones. At least one fans asks for his autograph.

The movie also asks if an actor can own the role, or the role can own him. When we first meet him, he's levitating, as if he was Birdman. He also seems to use telepathy, which may may be one of Birdman's powers, to cause major damage to his dressing room. Then there's what he does on the morning of the opening of his play. Is it real, or in his mind? The answer may be obvious, but is it?
There's also a question of what is more important: making zillions in a comic book movie franchise, or having a career that is respected. These days, some actors have managed both, from Daniel Radcliffe to Jennifer Lawrence. That even includes Norton and Stone, who have been part of comic book franchises.

Speaking of which, Norton is really good as Shiner, who can be charming but also difficult. Still, you can't help but like him. Stone was also great as Sam, Riggan's daughter and personal assistant. She loves her dad, but she is still angry at him for his neglect.

This movie should get some attention when award season starts in January. It's a longshot for Best Picture except for the Spirit Awards, but Keaton is a lock for Best Actor, while Norton has a chance for Supporting Actor. Inarritu should be considered for directing and writing too. Can you imagine Keaton swooping in to get an Oscar? It's early, but some just might.

The movie has had a slow but steady expansion, doubling its screens to more than 460 this weekend, and raising more than six million dollars so far. It may not be a billion dollar blockbuster, but Birdman will get both prestige and popularity as a movie that says a lot about art, Hollywood, popularity, identity and eventually self-respect.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Joel's Serving Real Turkeys Online Again This Year

Last year, Joel Hodgson, the man who invented the show that justified cable TV, served up a very special Thanksgiving meal online: five classic episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000. It ended with the bots, Tom Servo and Crow, about to share the Thanksgiving meal. People wept.

It was done to commemorate the 25th anniversary of MST3K, the show that created extreme movie criticism which is recognized as one of America's best industries. Just ask Rikk Wolf, Josh Way, Mary Jo Pehl, J. Elvis Weinstein, Bill Corbett, TV's Frank and Trace Beaulieu.

Actually, the 25th anniversary is still going on, since the show premiered nationally on the Comedy Channel around Thanksgiving of 1989. Shout Factory's newest MST3K set features classic Turkey Day bumpers, the story of how it started, and great movies (to riff, natch) including The Painted Hills, Jungle Goddess, Squirm and The Screaming Skull (with the Gumby short that really upset the bots).

This year, on November 27th, Joel will be serving up turkeys again, This time, according to the Nerdist, people are encouraged to choose the menu. You can tweet Joel at @JoelGHodgson to make your suggestions. I suggested It Conquered The World, one of the movies that haven't made a DVD set yet. However, you could suggest either of the two Godzilla movies the show has riffed (Godzilla vs. Megalon and Godzilla vs, The Sea Monster), or maybe any of the Hercules movies. It's the price those characters should pay for attempting a comeback this year (one more successfully than the other).
The article says special guests may drop by, maybe some of the crew from Cinematic Titanic or an aging Mr,. B Natural. Knew your father he (?) did.
One person who should show up is Michael J. Nelson, the Modern Warrior Against Bad Movies. It would also be the first meeting between the two since Comic-Con five years ago. I still have the special pass from that panel.

Anyway, the show will be found at Expect this site to be more popular than football, parades, your aunt's famous rye bread dressing, and camping out overnight for Black Friday sales.

Of course, Rifftrax will have its own Thanksgiving event, Fun In Balloonland. This has been talked about previously in this site, but it's just as cheesy as you've heard. You can pre-order it before it arrives in three weeks.

So prepare for Thanksgiving the way your parents, or at least your strange uncle, did 25 years ago, and enjoy the kind of turkey you can't use for leftovers for the next month.