Saturday, May 08, 2010

Meco: The Complete Star Wars Collection

Meco - The Complete Star Wars Collection - 2000 (not available)

Well, after nearly 20 years, it took another Star Wars movie to get Meco onto another album. And it's all his own production and design.

The title of this collection is pretty accurate; normally I wouldn't mention a compilation, but this does have some new tracks on it that merit its own entry.

The nicest thing about this album, actually, is that it fixes "Themes from Star Wars," from the Ewok Celebration album. That was pretty much a joyless retread of the original 1977 "Star Wars" medley; The Complete Star Wars Collection starts off with a new 2000 remix with more sound effects and vocal snippets that just sounds so much better. If you have to have a truncated version of the '77 version, this just sounds so damn much better than anything else (and it was made for CD).

The next four tracks are the four tracks from The Empire Strikes Back: "The Empire Strikes Back Medley," "Battle in the Snow," "The Force Theme," and "The Asteroid Field/Finale" minus "The Asteroid Field." The first two tracks have been remixed but sound basically the same (although I think there are more sound effects and they end a little earlier). "The Force Theme" sounds a little bolder, but still real cool, except that it cuts about 40 seconds off at the end. "The Asteroid Field/Finale" is cut by four minutes and ten seconds, lopping off the great "Asteroid Field" theme and becoming merely "The Finale." That's just a shame; it has new instrumentation over the Han/Leia theme. Meco's also added a long voiceover of Yoda's speech about the Force, except that whomever is delivering the speech (Meco himself? I don't know for sure) just can't pull off the voice and sounds like an old man trying not to belch.

After this, we revisit Ewok Celebration with "Lapti Nek" and that album's title track. "Lapti Nek" has been remixed; it sounds fuller but is still pointless. "Ewok Celebration" is totally truncated. Something like the first two minutes are lopped off, which is the main theme of the damn song, so that it goes right into the rap. The rap vocals have been spaced out across the remaining three minutes, too, instead of having all at once. The effect is terrible. It just makes the whole thing mindless and incredibly repetitive. It's just kind of cynical. I get it that Meco's unhappy with the original track, but it sounded better than this.

The last three tracks are new, based on themes and characters from The Phantom Menace. That's an important distinction. "The Duel of the Fates/Augie's Municipal Band" is based on themes from the movie, and is a pretty good, if almost totally inconsequential and by now overfamiliar Meco-ization. It's a very techno groove, but very much in flavor like Meco's 80s sound (electric guitars and electric drums). On the one hand, a longer suite would have been nice, on the other hand there's just nothing distinctive here, anyway.

The other two tracks, "Cousin Jar Jar" and "A Jedi Knight," are merely inspired by characters from the movie. Apparently Meco couldn't find any other themes in the movie's score to be inspired by (and to be fair, the prequel scores are a lot less rich than the others). "Cousin Jar Jar" is a nightmare; it's supposed to be a cousin of Jar Jar's walking into an intergalactic disco and being mistaken for Jar Jar. The character talks/raps/sings in the Gungan style through the whole song, and... well, I'm actually a huge fan of Jar Jar Binks, and this song made me hate that George Lucas had ever created the entire Star Wars universe in the first place. It's just not cute anymore.

"Jedi Knight," sung by a lady called Yamira that Meco and Harold Wheeler were working with on her own album, has a nice arrangement but sounds like the end credits song for something based on a video game or a live action version of an anime. It's not terrible, there's just no reason for it to exist.

Grade C
A Side: "Themes from Star Wars (2000 Remix)"
BlindSide: None; everything else worth having was already on The Empire Strikes Back
DownSides: "Cousin Jar Jar," the "Ewok Celebration" remix

Cross-posted from Septenary.

Meco: Ewok Celebration

Meco - Ewok Celebration - 1983 (not available)

Oh, the glory days are over. Just finished. This album is terrible.

I mean, you expect that Meco is going to do an album based on a third Star Wars movie, but it's just so half-hearted. The main spectacle here is "Ewok Celebration," based on the music in the movie, done with Meco's usual style, and a rap by Duke Bootee in character as C-3PO. A rap in Ewokese, name-checking the characters from the film. When I was 7, it was genius. Now, it's just a so-so novelty that reminds me of being a kid. (I think my 45 of this is still floating around somewhere.) It's not up to the brilliance of "Star Wars," The Empire Strikes Back, or Christmas in the Stars. Did Meco just lose interest?

He doesn't do anything with the film's fantastic score; think of what he might have done with Williams' great themes for the Ewoks and the Emperor. Instead, he does a cover of "Lapti Nek," the song from Jabba's throne room, which sounds almost exactly like the one on the original Return of the Jedi soundtrack. There's no joy in it, none of that Meco revelry in cheesiness. "Themes from Star Wars" is basically a re-editing of the original disco hit "Star Wars" with a nod to Vader's theme and a lot chopped out (it only runs half as long as the '77 track). The electronic drumbeats don't help.

The B side has nothing to do with Jedi. It's mostly forgettable (a cover of the theme from "Simon & Simon"?), although the cover of "Maniac" (the song from Flashdance) answers a question that no one ever asked: What would Michael Sembello's song sound like with Kenny G on the sax? "Themes from War Games" is an embarrassment, even for Meco.

The only thing really worth salvaging on the album as good music is "Love Theme from Superman III," which is very pretty and sounds like the old Meco. It's a brief point of light that makes the rest of the album look worse in comparison. And it's already pretty bad.

Grade D
A Side: none ("Ewok Celebration" is a novelty, but you don't have to have it)
BlindSide: "Love Theme from Superman III"
DownSide: "Themes from War Games" is the absolute pits

Cross-posted from Septenary.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Random Thoughts

Bad news for DC fans: Warner Bros. is canceling all future DC animated films because, apparently, Wonder Woman and Green Lantern: First Flight didn't do as well as they hoped (or as well as Justice League: The New Frontier). I am INCREDIBLY disappointed in them for this one. What will we be missing? Well, for starters, there's Wonder Woman II, Batgirl: Year One, Teen Titans: The Judas Contract, and Aquaman. So there go a lot of projects I was looking forward to seeing the results of. With one move, Warner Bros. has just swept away a legacy of animation that began in the 1990s and was consistently excellent.

Thanks for nothing, WB.

:: Joe Liebermann and Scott Brown are pushing a law where US citizens can be stripped of their citizenship if they're deemed to associate with terrorists. No need for a trial or due process or anything: all you have to do is be accused and away goes your citizenship. I wonder if this is being supported in the Arizona state legislature... Heh, they're racists.

Does that mean I can accuse George W. Bush based on his family's connections with Saudi terrorist organizations, or will we be ignoring that?

American politicians proposing un-American, unconstitutional laws. Wondrous. How much further back can we set the progress clock, guys? Let's outlaw witches next, or something really stupid, so that the whole world know what superstitious little idiots we are.

:: BTW: the guy who spotted the bomb in Times Square and alerted the police? Aliou Niasse, street vendor and a Muslim immigrant from Senegal. The media is ignoring this fact. Why can't we monster them into telling us why. I just want to hear it from their dirty, corporate executive shit-infested mouths.

:: The economy went to hell because SEC staffers were too busy masturbating at work to pay attention? Good as any other explanation, I guess. Well, not as good as blaming banks, corporations, and deregulation, but whatever.

:: Speaking of the economy... why is there even a question about auditing the Fed? I mean, I expected resistance from the banking/corporate quarters, but the White House? It just makes me laugh now to remember Obama's empty promises of transparency. Just like Bush, just like Clinton, Obama is a hero of non-accountability. This shit almost makes me miss Reagan.

:: Do you ever wonder how much Big Oil is paying Sarah Palin to shill for them? Her response to the ecological nightmare inflicted on the Gulf of Mexico by BP: "I want our country to be able to trust the oil industry." Um... no.

Here's a list of 7 animals brought closer to extinction by the oil spill.

:: Also, this is not a good time for your opportunistic "clean coal" science fiction commercials. Let's be grownups here: there is no way to harvest energy that is not going to hurt the environment in some way. Let's stop acting like there is, or find something that actually works.

:: So history doesn't forget: BP spent money in court against having to install a $500,000 blowout prevention valve system on their oil rigs. The Bush administration let them off on that Randian "corporations will protect their reputations" bullshit. Hope their victory was worth it.

Just... just don't let this be forgotten, okay?

(And don't ever forget that it was BP who was in charge of being prepared for oil spills in Alaska when the Exxon-Valdez spill happened 20 years ago. Check out their track record of safety violations and cutting corners; typical business in America.)

:: Speaking of something history shouldn't forget: medical interests spent $876 billion lobbying Congress between January 2009 and March 2010 in order to fight against health reform. And for their money, the drug companies got drug re-importation, direct Medicare drug price negotiation, and shorter periods of exclusivity before generics can be made available knocked out of the reform bill. Any ONE of those changes would've saved the government and consumers $100 billion over the next 10 years.

Corporate money is destroying politics, and it's destroying America.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Lost vs. Muppets

Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof try to protect the secrets of Lost from Rizzo the Rat and Bobo the Bear.

(Seriously, Muppet Studios, we need a LOT more of Bobo.)

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

The Fastest and Funniest LEGO Star Wars Story Ever Told

The story of the Star Wars trilogy, in LEGO, in two minutes. Easily the most wonderful thing I've seen all day.

More TV Notes

:: Seriously, at what point did American Idol get so badly produced? I remember a time when having only five singers left meant that each one got two songs. Seriously, you can't do more than 20 minutes of music in an entire hour? And if you're going to keep cutting a judge off, make it Kara instead of Simon. Simon generally has something to say; Kara just loves to hear herself talk and thinks that everyone else is orgasming on stage to get the benefit of her wisdom.

Also, I was a little disappointed in Harry Connick Jr last night for not seriously talking to the remaining singers--well, Crystal and the remaining four contestants--about exactly what makes Frank Sinatra such a timeless singer. To me, it's always been his sincerity; he sang every song, even "Ol' Man River," as if it came from personal experience. Someone's got to tell these kids that it's not enough to sing a great song--it's not even enough to sing a great song well--it's about internalizing the song and singing it with the confidence and sincerity of experience. That's why it's so ridiculous to see Aaron sing "The Long and Winding Road": he doesn't have the experience behind him to sell that song. They're still too focused on technique and not enough on connecting with the song and with the audience. And audiences, on a subconscious level at least, will connect with a singer whose read of a song sounds sincere and confident. If you can't find a way to relate to a song and internalize it, don't bother singing it in a singing competition.

(And no, it doesn't have to have happened to you; a good deal of performing is acting, feeling, and empathy. I'm amazed how many people don't seem to get that. If you can't put yourself in the position of a guy who shot a cop, don't sing "I Shot the Sheriff.")

As far as last night goes, I was especially disappointed in Casey. I didn't care about him before, but he was good the last two weeks, and then his snoozy, pointless rendition of "Fly Me to the Moon" made me wonder why I thought so in the first place.

And judges, stop blowing smoke up Aaron's ass. You know he's awful just as well as I do.

:: I wish the producers of How I Met Your Mother could make it more interesting when people date outside the group. If this thing with Don is "real" for Robin, then we need to see Don interacting with the show more so that it becomes organic. That was, I think, the reason so many fans of the show hated Stella--after she and Ted started dating, she was usually only on the show just so she and Ted could have a fight about something. So she came across like a bitch, because we only ever got to see her when they were disagreeing about something. We didn't see them in love often enough. Same thing with Don; he's a funny character, and the few times we see him with Robin it seems like there's chemistry there, so instead of just letting Robin run off and not be around much anymore just because she's not dating Ted or Barney, let's see more of Don getting to know everyone. The mileage you could get out of watching Marshall and Lily try to do the couples' thing again with Robin would be worth it alone. Besides, it's a good counterpoint to Ted being single and wanting to be married, especially since Marshall and Lily are a given as a couple.

:: I really liked this last episode of The Big Bang Theory for making it about Sheldon's dilemma of whether or not he can keep being friends with Penny since she broke up with Leonard. Part of the problem with Penny was that she suffered--especially in the second season--as being little more than an unobtainable love object for Leonard. So it's nice to see that while this relationship is on hiatus, or whatever, that the writers can find ways to incorporate her without just being Leonard's girlfriend. Promoting her to Sheldon's caretaker is how it should be, because the funniest episodes of this show are the ones where Penny and Sheldon have to deal with each other.

Frankly, Leonard and Penny's relationship always felt forced to me. I'm sure they'll get back together, but I don't really care about it. Sheldon & Penny > Leonard & Penny

And we need a hell of a lot more Bernadette, guys.

:: Oh, man... Lost. Spoilers, etc.

Seriously, what a bloodbath that was. And does this mean we'll never find out why Dogen was so afraid of Sayid or why he wanted Jack to give him the pill? Is it another case of the island letting Sayid survive so that he could do what he did and save Jack?

(As an aside: I'm amazed how much I'm pulled into Jack's character arc right now, considering that Jack has been a character I've despised pretty much since day one. But his sudden changes--finally having faith, finally listening to Locke's advice, finally realizing his desire to fix everything has led to disaster time and again--make him very compelling. I can't wait to see what happens to him now.)

As for Sun and Jin, I saw this coming. There's been too much foreshadowing to be surprised, but that doesn't mean I'm still not incredibly sad. I think the writers lost track of them at some point as separate characters--particularly Sun--and I'm sad to see them go as a couple. I kind of hope Jin didn't live, as many are theorizing, because he's done this twice before already--first on Sawyer's raft, and second on Widmore's ship--that it would just take away from the power of their death scene if he were to live. But still, were you, like me, mentally shouting "Go and live so you can raise your daughter"?

I guess we're going to have to come to terms with some mysteries never being revealed, which I suppose is fine, since not many of the integral ones are left, and many of them--such as the destruction of the statue--have had pretty mundane answers. I assume the bigger mysteries will be dealt with, and we'll have to focus on those instead. We'll never know why Libby was in the mental hospital, but so be it, I guess.

The one lingering thing that's really getting to me, though, involves the flash-sideways: if Anthony Cooper was a loving father in this universe, and had a good relationship with Locke and didn't steal his kidney... who was Sawyer in this one? Was it still Cooper?

I am gripped to this until the finale.

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.

As predicted, the movie basically boiled away most of the satirical, observational-of-the-genre moments from the novel and left us with, mostly, an average coming-of-age high school comedy. It's a shame the movie never finds its tone. I see why it got terrible reviews, but I didn't think it was as bad as I'd heard. The dissonance, I think, comes from the way it was advertised as something of a wild teen comedy, but is actually a movie where we see the illusions of high school life fall away in favor of hard truths: for some people, there is nothing after high school to look forward to; or, the girl you obsessed over and never spoke to in high school isn't your perfect dream crush, she's a person, and sometimes she's a person you may have a hard time respecting. It's an admirable idea for a movie, but it spends too much time trying to be clever and quirky that the genre movie-ish bits just sort of hang there and seem extra silly when, at the same time, the movie feels it's too smart to do them in the first place. So, it's problem, I guess, is that it wants to be a deconstruction of a genre that it also wants to be a part of. It's a shame it doesn't work. The actors are pretty good, especially the leads. Paul Rust has been rightly praised for his performance as Denis Cooverman, the nerdy valedictorian who decides to no longer suffer in silence over his love for the head cheerleader, but I do think Hayden Panettiere deserves more credit for playing Beth Cooper as a person instead of a stereotype, which is part of the point. **1/2 stars.

Another one of those movies I hate where several disparate stories connect as a way of dodging the work of writing one that works. Really bad movie, mainly about a stripper with a son in the hospital, a lost dog, and a father she's never met just out of prison. Ray Liotta is good as the father, and Jessica Biel is better than I expected in the lead, but not a good movie at all. And yes, it is the one where Biel takes her clothes off, but not nearly often enough to recommend it on even that basis. *1/2 stars.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

My 30 Favorite Star Wars Characters

30. Bossk

29. Captain Roos Tarpals

28. Tarfful

27. Sebulba

26. Boba Fett

25. Jaxxon

24. IG-88

23. Wicket

22. General Grievous

21. Princess Leia Organa

20. Kit Fisto

19. Max Rebo

18. Plo Koon

17. Luke Skywalker

16. Mace Windu

15. Cad Bane

14. Jar Jar Binks

13. Ahsoka Tano

12. Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin

11. Aayla Secura

10. C-3PO

9. Obi-Wan Kenobi

8. Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker
(Clone Wars has really managed to turn Anakin into a compelling character.)

7. Chewbacca

6. Plif

5. Yoda

4. Lando Calrissian

3. Han Solo

2. Qui-Gon Jinn

1. R2-D2

May the 4th be with you!

Monday, May 03, 2010

Lynn Redgrave 1943-2010

A shame, this.

Kristen Bell Mondays

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Song of the Week: "Grey Seal"

Elton John, from one of my all time favorite albums, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. This song just makes me feel content and energetic at the same time.

Banjo-Kazooie Theme with Lyrics

More mad genius from Brentalfloss.

Bill Murray Still Unenthused About Ghostbusters 3

Different sources, but all via /Film:

[Ghostbusters 3 is] just a myth [...] like the white alligator in the sewer, you know? Who’s seen it, really?

It’s just really the movie studio. They love the franchise, they’d just like to re-create it again. All this talk is just talk. It drives me nuts, it’s just people talking…Until someone actually creates a great script it’s just hogwash, it doesn’t mean anything. It’s interesting that people are interested in it, they’d like to see it. It was a great thing, it really was fun. Maybe it should. And if it’s such a good idea, then someone will write the screenplay.

[...] it’s really the world of sequels and bringing these things back again, and then some wiseacre said, ‘Hey, we got a couple of new writers who are gonna write something.’ And I thought, ‘Oh, well, maybe there’ll be some writers’ and there was always this joke, sort of a half-true, half-joke thing like, ‘Well, I’ll do it if you kill me off in the first reel.’ That was my joke, you know? So supposedly someone was writing a script where I actually got killed in the first reel and became a ghost, which I thought, ‘Well, that’s kind of clever anyway.’ But then these guys that were supposedly the writers that were going to do it, they wrote a film that came out and people saw the film and went… ‘We’re not going to do it after all, are we?’ So it’s just a kind of a dreamy thing.

I actually thought the other day–it’s just become so irritating–but I actually heard people like, young people that really [heard] of the movie when they were kids and I thought, ‘You know, maybe I should just do it. Maybe it’d be fun to do.’

Now, I don't want to get into a fan discussion about whether Bill Murray should do the film or whatever. He can do whatever he wants. Some of the concepts they've been discussing for Ghostbusters 3 over the past year or two have been pretty cool, though; they sound like they'd make for a great movie--or, hopefully, at least a better movie than Ghostbusters 2.

What I found most interesting in all of this was Murray's assertion that Ghostbusters 3 is just still being talked about and discussed, and not something firm that's definitely going to happen. Sony's been talking for the last year like it's a done deal that's going to happen any minute now, so it's interesting to see that this thing could still be years off, assuming it happens.

If it does, cool. If not, that's cool too. They made a perfect movie in 1984, and you don't ask for more than that.

Happy 20th Birthday, Kay Panabaker!