Just forget the words and sing along

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Welcome back to Fishing in the Discount Bin!  I've been taking a journey through the Indiana Jones franchise, and today we get to the much-reviled Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.  This shows up in my notes at November 2, 2013.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull Poster

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Good Ol' Days of Weird Al Videos

With Mandatory Fun being his first #1 album on the Billboard charts, and his recent "8 Videos in 8 Days" campaign causing a viral sensation, there's no doubt that it's a good time to be a Weird Al fan.  And the good news just keeps coming, with the news this morning that UHF is finally getting a Blu-Ray release this November!

It's kind of funny...a year ago, I read an interview with Weird Al where he'd been told by the studio that owns UHF that they had no plans to release it on Blu-Ray because everything's going to streaming video now.  What a difference a #1 album on the Billboard charts makes!  Well, to be fair, the studio that owns UHF -- MGM -- isn't putting out the Blu-Ray.  It's being put out by Shout! Factory, which has really done a good job putting out cult classic films on Blu-Ray recently.  And they are Weird Al friendly, having put out The Weird Al Show: The Complete Series a few years ago.

But that's not all!  Shout! Factory also announced they'll be releasing The Compleat Al on DVD at the same time.  The Compleat Al was a TV movie that Weird Al starred in in the mid-80s.  It was a mockumentary, chronicling his rise to fame.  Weird Al has used clips of it in his Al Music specials, and I've seen bits and pieces on YouTube, but I've never seen the whole thing.  So the Weird Al completest in me is glad that this is finally coming to DVD.  It was released on VHS back in the day, but it's been out of print since the early 1990s. 

But all this Weird Al video goodness has me spoiled.  Thanks to YouTube and other streaming video services, every "Weird Al" Yankovic music video ever made is now at my fingertips.  Not like the good ol' days, when you'd have to watch Much Music for hours on end, just praying that they might show one of his videos.  But if you were lucky, one of Weird Al's TV specials might come along, and you could tape it, and finally have all the Weird Al videos for your very own.  Going through my old shoebox of VHS tapes, I see that I have several such specials recorded.

The first one I find is The "Weird Al" Yankovic Music Video Collection.  This was a 1-hour TV special that Weird Al did for MuchMusic in 1999, to promote the release of Running With Scissors.  For this hour, they played nothing but Weird Al's videos, and new comedy sketches of him making mischief in and around Toronto.  At his official website at the time, Weird Al explained why he did this instead of another Al Music special.  Turns out MuchMusic was starting to get nervous about the Al Music specials.  With Weird Al's trademark fake interviews, and mocking commentaries of music videos, MuchMusic started worrying that they'd get in trouble with one of the artists.  So, the "Weird Al" Yankovic Music Video Collection was the compromise that Weird Al and MuchMusic came up with.

But then, there were the Al Music specials.  Those were pure gold.  Weird Al did three in the 1990s:  in 1992 to promote Off the Deep End, in '93 for Alapaloza, and '96 with Bad Hair Day.  It was pure magic when I saw that first one.  It was the spring of 1992.  It was Track & Field Day at school, so, the gym-hating, nonathletic kid that I was, I was "sick at home."  I was flipping around the channels, stumbled upon Much, and there was Weird Al!  And...he was like a VJ!  And...he was making fun of the videos!  Of course I wound up watching the whole thing.  I wish I still had that one on VHS.  He did a bit on the differences between the USA and Canada.  Back in the 1990s, the exchange rate between Canadian and American money was pretty consistent:  $1 CAD = $0.70 USD.  So, while outlining the differences, he holds up a loonie and says, "In the USA, a loonie is only worth 70 cents.  But here in Canada, it's a whole dollar!" 

I do, however, have the second one, Al Music 2.  A co-worker gave a copy a few years ago.  With Jurassic Park being Weird Al's lead single, and the Dinosaur World Tour having just stopped in Toronto, about the last half-hour of the special was Weird Al messing about at the Dinosaur World Tour.  For those who don't remember, the Dinosaur World Tour was this massive traveling dinosaur museum that showcased a bunch of new fossil finds from China and the Canadian Arctic.  It opened in the summer of 1993, and Edmonton was its first stop.  I went.  I loved it.  And that was the extra fun of Al Music 2, as I watched Weird Al mess around with exhibits that I myself had seen just a few months earlier!

And then a fun little blip was, in the late-1990s, MuchMusic did a couple of specials called Laff-a-Thon.  As we know, it's become custom for a stand-up comic to add a song to their comedy albums to get some airplay, and then a music video to get some exposure on the music video shows.  So, MuchMusic did the Laff-a-Thon where they had a marathon of all these comedic music videos.  For the first one, there was controversy.  They kept hyping that they were going to play a Weird Al video.  Weird Al came on to introduce it, but the bit was, they then did not play a Weird Al video.  Annoyed, Weird Al introduced a second video, promising that this time it would be one of his.  But it wasn't.  For the third time, a very angry Weird Al introduced the video, and it was finally one of his.  However, the fans weren't happy with this.  And later in the special, a very downbeat VJ came on and said, "Because of all the complaints just got over playing just one Weird Al video, here now are 3 Weird Al videos back-to-back."  When they did the second Laff-a-Thon a year later, they dedicated an hour in the middle of it to nothin' but Weird Al.

But for me, it all began way before any of this.  For those who may not recall, back when MuchMusic still played music videos, one of their daily programs was called Spotlight, where, for a half-hour straight, they'd play nothing but Weird Al videos.  When my family first got cable, it seemed to be on everyday just as I got home from school.  One snowy spring day in 1990, I came home from school, flopped down on the couch, started leafing through the TV guide, and I thought I'd died and gone to heaven.  Today's Spotlight artist was..."Weird Al" Yankovic.  But damn it!  I missed the first 10 minutes!  But that was OK.  Back then, I quickly discovered that MuchMusic repeated a lot of their programming 4 hours later.  So, 4 hours later, after supper and my homework was done, I took control of the TV, popped a blank tape in the VCR, and hit "record" when Spotlight began.

I'll never forget the first line of VJ Dan Gallagher's introduction:  "'Weird Al' Yankovic!  The man has made a living...looking like George Fox."  For those who don't know, George Fox is a Canadian country music singer who was big in the late-1980s.  At around this time, he had just done a big TV special on CBC and...yeah.  When George Fox wore glasses, he was the spitting image of 1980s Weird Al.  I remember seeing George Fox's picture on the cover of TV Guide and thinking, "Is George Fox Weird Al's real name?"

Anyway, I taped that episode of Spotlight and damn near wore out the tape watching it over and over and over again.  And now, for you, I will recreate the line-up of that episode Spotlight.  After Mr. Gallagher's introduction, we got...

I Love Rocky Road

Eat It

Like a Surgeon

Living With a Hernia


An old interview clip of Weird Al in the MuchMusic studios plugging UHF, thus ending the show with....


"Tomorrow on Spotlight...10,000 Maniacs."  

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Time once again to go Fishing in the Discount Bin!  I've been working my way through the Indiana Jones franchise, and today we get to Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.  This appears in my notes at October 27, 2013.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade poster

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

Here we go again, with Fishing in the Discount Bin, as I blog about a movie I happen to own.  I'm marching through the Indiana Jones franchise right now, which brings us to the second the series (but first chronologically), Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.  This is originally in my notes at October 20, 2013.  

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom Teaser Poster

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Another Birthday Shopping Spree

Well, it was my birthday about a week ago.  And, much like I did last year, I decided to celebrate by going to iTunes and spending five whole dollars on some of the movie themes I'd always adored, but could never find the soundtrack albums for.  And, going back to my college radio days when I just couldn't wait to play a new album on my college radio show, I think music is the best when you share it.  Hence, this blog entry today.  So what did I blow my $5 on this year?

Theme from Astro Boy - Composed by John Ottman

The CGI movie version of Astro Boy from a few years ago was such a mishmash.  They strayed too far from the source material, and instead wound up just cramming in every popular idea about robots from Saturday morning cartoons over the past 30 years.  However, John Ottman's score wound up being a true highlight of the film.  As I said when I did the film on Fishing in the Discount Bin, it's a far, far better score than the movie deserved.

Welcome Back - End Titles from X-Men: Days of Future Past - Composed by John Ottman

And speaking of Mr. Ottman, he is director Bryan Singer's composer of choice.  A friend recently remarked that the X-Men films seem to be cursed with bland scores, but I don't feel that way about Ottman's music for X2.  That's the only X-Men theme that sounds like an honest to God superhero theme that you'll find yourself humming.  Needless to say, I geeked out hard when I discovered that Ottman returned to the franchise with Days of Future Past, and I was grinning like an idiot when I heard the opening bars of his X-Men theme during the opening titles.  The theme in question kicks in at about the 1 minute mark in this end credit suite. 

Overture from It Could Happen to You - Composed by Carter Burwell

When I first saw this romantic comedy way back in 1994, I remember thinking, "Wow.  The music in this film is perfect fairy tale music."  It's something I was reminded of when I caught it on TV a few months ago.  For those who don't remember this film.  Nicholas Cage is a hard-working, New York city beat cop.  Bridgette Fonda is a waitress with a heart of gold who's fallen on hard times.   When Cage has lunch in Fonda's diner one day, he discovers he doesn't have enough money for a tip, so he shows his lottery ticket to Fonda and promises to split the winnings with her, 50/50.  When he winds up winning the $4 million jackpot, he stays true to his word and splits the winnings with her...much to the chagrin of his wife, Rosie Perez.  As the money begins to turn Perez into a materialistic harpy, Cage and Fonda begin to fall in love, as they both enjoy using their winnings to spread random acts of kindness about the city.  It's just a sweet movie.  There's just two tracks of the score on the soundtrack album...I really should just buy them both.

Ringo's Theme (This Boy) from A Hard Days Night - Composed by Lennon/McCartney; Performed by the George Martin Orchestra

It doesn't matter what your opinion of the Beatles is, A Hard Day's Night is just a good movie.  And what little score it has is amazing instrumental versions of Beatles songs, courtesy the Beatles' longtime producer George Martin and his orchestra.  The most famous piece from the movie is the instrumental version of the Beatles song This Boy, which plays as Ringo temporarily ditches the band to go for a walk, think things through, and winds up having a conversation about life, the universe, and everything with a kid ditching school.

The Simpsons Theme from The Simpsons Movie - Composed by Danny Elfman; Performed by Green Day

Because.  That's why.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Time for Mandatory Fun!

That magical day when I met "Weird Al" Yankovic at the Capital X in 2007.

It's that wonderful time that comes around every 3 or 4  years...the time when those three little words are uttered that bring me so much joy.

Mark's getting laid!  New Weird Al!

"Weird Al" Yankovic is out today with his brand new album, Mandatory Fun.  There's already been a lot of pre-release hype around this album, mainly due to the fact that this marks the end of Weird Al's record contract.  Some interpreted that to mean that Weird Al is retiring, but he's disputed that in many interviews already.  If anything, he's one of the artists who think that the end of the traditional record contract is right around the corner, and everything's going digital from here on out.  Weird Al has been grumbling for a while now that he'll be going to an all-digital distribution model.  It'll allow him to be more timely and topical with his parodies.  And besides, his main competition these days are the billions of parodies that pop up on YouTube shortly after a song becomes a hit, while he's sitting around, twiddling his thumbs, amassing an album's worth of material.

Of course I pre-ordered the album on Amazon.  I rarely pre-order stuff months in advance, but a new Weird Al album is one of those exceptions.  I even paid the extra shipping to have it delivered the day it comes out.  So, since it comes out today, you'll understand my confusion when I got the alert from Amazon last Wednesday that it had shipped.  "I'm not going to get it early, am I?"

And sure enough, look what the friendly UPS guy delivered on Friday.

Needless to say, I was excited.  I texted my friends right away to share the good news.  "Dude!  Now rip it and leak it to the Internet!" one of my friends joked.  Although, as I started going through the tracks and sharing some of the lyrics with my friend, he changed his tune to, "Umm...I was just kidding.  But if you do want to rip it and send it to me...."  But nope.  I decided not to ruin the surprise for the world.

That being said, I did have the entire weekend to sit down, listen to it, and pick it apart.  So now that it's the official release date, time to share my thoughts on Mandatory Fun!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Oh, Yeah. There's A World Out There

See?  What did I say?  The day job got busy, and the whole going out to movies and having adventures on weekends started taking a back seat.  But I'm kind of in the eye of the hurricane right now, so while I have this brief moment of calm, may as well take a moment to celebrate the little things.

Like my birthday.  37.  In a row.

It was a my birthday a week ago.  Didn't do anything spectacular, just a little family get together with my folks.  And, as has been the traditional way to celebrate my birthday ever since I turned 11, we went to see a movie.  This year, I dragged my parents to see Transformers: Age of Extinction.

Transformers Age of Extincion poster

It's been five years since the Battle of Chicago (aka the last movie), and thanks to the devestation caused by the Decepticon invasion, humanity has decided they want the Transformers off of Earth.  The friendly military team NEST, that helped the Autobots fight the Decepticons, has been replaced with Cemetery Wind, a CIA black ops team dedicated to hunting down and exterminating all remaining Transformers.  And they're led by a very evil Dr. Fraiser Crane.

Enter Cade Yeager, a struggling inventor living in rural Texas.  One day, he purchases an old beat-up semi with the intent of stripping it for parts, but soon discovers it's actually a badly wounded Optimus Prime.  Cemetery Wind descends on Yeader's farm, and now Optimus Prime, Yeager, Yeager's daughter and her boyfriend, are on the run.  Before long, Yeager is swept up in a war that he (and the audience) barely understands, including a Transformer bounty hunter named Lockdown working for the mysterious "Creators," and a robotics firm looking to build their own Transformers, with their star project being a robot known as "Galvatron." 

I'm not ashamed to say I loved this movie.  After the steaming pile that was Revenge of the Fallen, and the "yeah, we're out of ideas" that was Dark of the Moon, it's like for Age of Extinction, Michael Bay finally got my checklist of everything I hated about the last two.  Stupid-goofy comic relief from the humans?  Toned down considerably.  Straying away from the Autobots just as things are getting interesting to focus on the stupid human subplot?  Gone.  Focusing more on the Autobots and allowing them to breathe more as characters?  Yes.

That's what really got me about the character of Optimus Prime.  We've never seen Optimus Prime like this.  He's angry at how humanity has turned on him.  He's pissed off that his kind is being hunted down like dogs in the streets.  When he growls that he's going to find the human who's been slaughtering Transformers and kill them, it's shocking.  But, it gives Optimus Prime a character arc, something I don't think he's had in the past few films.

And yes, I got my geek on hard when they started dropping names like "Galvatron."

It does have its flaws, though.  Damn, it's a long movie.  When what felt like the end happened, I realized we hadn't seen the "all over the ads" Dinobots yet.  There was about another hour after that point.  And while we don't have the stupid-goofy human subplots anymore, they make up for it in quantity.  Lots of people doing stuff, it's easy to get confused.

I give it a very entertaining three Nibs.  Complete review is over at the main website

Jump forward a week, and I decide to hit the city again, flush with birthday money.  I'd been saving my dollars to make this my birthday present anyway, and with some birthday cash to push it over the top, I figured it was time to buy the one thing I wanted to complete my home entertainment system.

I bought myself an Apple TV.

For those who don't know, Apple TV is Apple's streaming media device.  Plug it into your TV, and now all your iTunes downloads can run off your TV.  But that's not all.  It's got your various streaming video services like Netflix built in. While it doesn't have as many apps that other streaming video players have, it more than makes up for it by playing stuff streaming off my computer, meaning I can watch things I've downloaded from other services.  And if the app's not on the Apple TV, it's on my iPhone, so AirPlay to the rescue! 

Granted, such a thing is a "want" and not a "need" because I've got a Smart TV with those apps built in, but playing with it last night, watching Netflix on the Apple TV just looked better.  Probably because the Apple TV can put out 5.1 channel surround sound, and because it's an external device, I can turn off the damn soap opera effect

But even with such wonderful new technology, I'm still hooked on buying new Blu-Rays.  I stopped in at HMV because I was growing frustrated with Amazon.  The classic Beatles film A Hard Day's Night just got a spiffy new Criterion edition.  Even though I pre-ordered it in May and it came out in June, Amazon was telling me they weren't going to be shipping it until August.  So with that bugging me, I went into HMV, and there it was, sitting on the shelf.  And for $10 cheaper, too.  So I canceled my Amazon order on my iPhone and bought it then and there.

After some browsing in the mall, there was just one last thing to do my my city trip checklist.  I'm sure you know by now of my love of fast food.  And I've noticed over the past few months that the American burger chain Carl's Jr has begun making inroads into Canada.  Apparently, they began their Canadian expansion a few years ago, and they've finally begun popping up in the Edmonton area.  So before heading home, I knew I had to give Carl's Jr a try. 

The only problem was, I had lunch at lunch time, and I was heading home at 3PM, so I was still pretty full from lunch.  Sadly, my first meal at Carl's Jr was going to be a light one.

I settled for their Famous Star, which looks to be their basic cheeseburger.  I skipped the combo, so no fries, and just a small Coke to wash it down.  Being a flame-broiled burger, I found it tasted very similar to other fast food burgers that boast that claim, such as Harvey's or Burger King.  In fact, if I closed my eyes and tuned out my surroundings, I could have sworn I was eating a Whopper.  I'll have to try them again, and when I'm not so full, so that way I can have one of their bigger signature burgers, fries, and the whole deal. 

And with that, it was time to get home.  I was eager to get home.  What, with the Apple TV, I was eager to fire it up and start testing it out.  All in all, a nice break.  I think my eye of the hurricane analogy was appropriate, because if what they said at Friday's staff meeting pans out, things are about to get crazy again. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Raiders of the Lost Ark

It's time for Fishing in the Discount Bin, where I watch something in my library and blog about it, because I don't have a life.  I never know what to write when it comes to these truly legendary, much-beloved classics.  Books have been written on them, many another critic has heaped praise on them...so what more can I add?  But yet, I try once again as we look at Raiders of the Lost Ark.  This shows up in my notes at October 19, 2013.  

Raiders of the Lost Ark poster

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Sherlock Holmes

Fishing in the Discount Bin is upon us once again, where I watch one of the many films I own, and the blog about it, because I'm o so lonely.  Today, we have the film that signaled pop culture's recent return to a love of Sherlock Holmes, 2009's Sherlock Holmes.  This pops up in my notes at October 6, 2013.

Sherlock Holmes Poster