Just forget the words and sing along

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Fishing in the Discount Bin - The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Here we go again, on Fishing in the Discount Bin.  I watch a movie and blog about it.  It's just that simple.  It's time to start plowing through one of the bigger trilogies of the past few years.  It's part I of The Hobbit trilogy, An Unexpected Journey.  This is in my notes at April 11, 2015.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Tusk

Here we go again on Fishing in the Discount Bin, my weekly ramble about one of the movies I own.  We get to one of my favourite directors, and his most recent opus, Tusk.  This is originally in my notes at March 8, 2015.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Let's Listen to the Star Wars Christmas Album

At the start of the month, I was perusing some of those "geek gift guides" that many websites put together, I discovered that Amazon was releasing an exclusive limited edition version of Christmas in the Stars, aka the Star Wars Christmas album.  I immediately thought to myself, "I must have this."  A couple of mouse clicks, and a week later, I had my copy.

The Christmas in the Star album cover...drawn by legendary Star Wars artist Ralph McQuarrie!

Christmas in the Stars: Star Wars Christmas Album isn't viewed with as much revulsion as its television counterpart.  The album is viewed more as a curio of its time, and celebrated for its kitsch value.  Whereas the TV special gets all the heat, the album was allowed to exist mostly unnoticed.  I first heard about it in the mid-1990s.  I read an article in the paper listing some of the more unusual Christmas albums ever produced, and it was near the top of the list.

Here's a great article I discovered last year detailing how it came to be.  The short version is this.  There once was a record producer called Meco, who had great success with a disco cover of the Star Wars theme.  Naturally, he approached George Lucas about doing another Star Wars album.  Since one of the quickest and easiest cash grabs is the Christmas album, Meco pitched a Christmas album.  Lucas signed off, and they got to work.  Pretty much the only cast member they could afford was Anthony Daniels as C-3PO, so the album revolves around droids.  It hit stores in time for the holiday season of 1980 and sold quite well, but sadly, the record label went bankrupt before they could do a second run, and it quickly faded into obscurity.  It was re-discovered in the mid-1990s when legendary record label Rhino released it on CD as part of the Special Editions hype.

Needless to say, this has been my holiday jam this year, so I thought I'd just take a moment to go through it track-by-track.

1.  Christmas in the Stars

Our kick-off to the album.  It's our standard "rushing around, getting ready for Christmas" kind of song, as C-3PO rattles off his Christmas list.  It also sets up the loose plot for the album, as R2-D2 and C-3PO introduce us to a group of toy-making droids (whom I'll refer to from here on out as "The Droid Choir") frantically making toys for the mysterious "S. Claus."   It's big and broad and evocative of TV specials of the era.

2.  Bells, Bells, Bells

In this one, R2-D2 hears some Christmas bells, and beeps that he's unfamiliar with this thing known as a "bell."  So, C-3PO bounces into this little ditty describing all the different bells of the world.  It's kind of funny as we learn how many simple concepts are alien to R2.

3.  The Odds Against Christmas

As we all know, C-3PO loves to calculate the odds, so here he calculates the odds of Christmas being Christmas.  It's full of silly rhymes and is kind of mellow.  I find it rather "meh."

4.  What Do You Get a Wookie for Christmas (When He Already Owns a Comb?)

This is the one track I remember being specifically mentioned in that article where I first learned of the Star Wars Christmas album.  That title alone raises eyebrows.  This one is sung by the Droid Choir, as they try to figure out what to get our beloved Star Wars characters, but are stumped when it comes to Chewbacca.  If there's one thing I learned from the songs on this album -- this one in particular -- the only thing that rhymes with "Wookie" is "Cookie."  This is a classic, cash-in kids song, full of silly voices and silly rhymes and general silliness.

5.  R2-D2 We Wish You a Merry Christmas

And here's where the album gets its biggest claim to fame.  C-3PO presents his Christmas presents to R2-D2, which is a choir singing Christmas wishes to R2.  And the soloist in that choir is a young man named John Bongiovi, now better known by his stage name Jon Bon Jovi.  As the legend goes, his cousin actually owned the recording studio where they cut this album, so his cousin pulled some strings to get the young Bon Jovi on the album, in the hopes it would lead to his big break.  It's officially Jon Bon Jovi's first professional recording.  It's a fun song, as the kids sing about how much they love R2.  I wonder...has any late-night talk show host reunited Jon Bon Jovi with R2 and 3PO to preform it live?  Sounds like something Jimmy Fallon would do.

6.  Sleigh Ride

After hearing his song from the children, R2 is intrigued by this concept of "singing."  So, with some new lyrics to Sleigh Ride, 3PO tries to teach R2 how to sing.  Hands down, this is my favourite one in the album.  I don't know how much involvement Ben Burtt -- the sound effects guru of Star Wars -- had to do with this album, but they sure get R2 beeping in time with the music just perfectly.  I loved watching the Droids cartoon when I was a kid, and I can't help but imagine this a segment in a never-produced Droids holiday special.  It just captures the characters of R2-D2 and C-3PO so perfectly, and in a Christmas song, and it's so bouncy and fun.

7.  Merry, Merry Christmas

Another one by the Droid Choir, as they sing about some of the toys they're building for kids all across the galaxy.  Ya know, it's cute things like a baseball that throws itself, and a toy robot that falls asleep.  And even though it's about 17 years before it's time, even Harry Potter's invisibility cloak gets a mention.  Much like track #4, it's pure kids album fodder, with silly rhymes and silly voices.  Oh, and as a callback to track #4, we find out that you get a Wookie a brush.

8.  A Christmas Sighting ('Twas the Night Before Christmas)

Seeing as to how S. Claus always come when the Droid Choir is in low-power mode for the night, the Droid Choir begins to doubt the existence of S. Claus.  But, C-3PO restores their faith with the tale of how he saw S. Claus one year, and 3PO reads his own rendition of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas.  The classic poem isn't drastically re-written to make it Star Wars friendly, and makes me curious to hear Anthony Daniels do a straight version of the poem.  It doesn't reinvent the wheel too much, which is nice.

9.  The Meaning of Christmas

Oh!  It's time for Linus to call for the spotlight and tell us the true meaning of Christmas.  But instead of Linus, the mysterious S. Claus finally shows up.  And in our big twist, it turns out that S. Claus is actually the son of Santa Claus.  (He explains that there's far too many children in all the galaxies for his father, so he helps out.)  Of course, this is a rare opportunity, so 3PO asks S. Claus to explain the true meaning of Christmas.  It's funny...reading that article that I linked to up above, the producer's original concept was to have Yoda read the story of the birth of Christ.  Two things happened that nixed that idea:  Frank Oz couldn't do it, because he was deep in production on the next Muppet movie, and George Lucas vetoed the idea, because he wanted the main religion in Star Wars to be the Force, not Christianity.  So, S. Claus tells us the true meaning of Christmas is your standard Christmas special stuff:  generosity, kindness, peace on Earth, stuff like that.  The longest track on the album at 9 minutes, this could have easily been cut down.  But, with its huge orchestral backing, it almost sounds like a rejected Disney renaissance power ballad.  

All in all, like most Christmas albums, it's fun, but mostly forgettable.  But let's just focus on the fun.

Hey, look!  Someone posted it on YouTube, so here it is for your enjoyment.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

So. Star Wars.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Well, the day has come.  Three short years ago, our collective jaws dropped when it was announced that Disney bought Lucasfilm and they'd be giving us Episode VII in 2015.  It's been three manic years of Internet rumours and speculation, and the it is finally here.

Even though it's only been out for two days, I feel like the last person on Earth who's finally gotten around to seeing it.  I've gotten tweets and texts from people who were there at the midnight shows, sending me gushing reviews.  But the only ones I was looking forward to were from my two best friends.

One currently lives in France, where it premiered on Wednesday, and she's already seen it twice.  I saw all the prequels with her.  Her succinct review:  "I liked it...but it was no Jupiter Ascending."

The other is spending his Christmas vacation in Japan.  I really wanted to know his opinion, because during the prequels, he was the biggest Star Wars fan going.  His thoughts?  "It feels like the first half of a movie...but it's a great first half."  I was a little stunned when he said he actually preferred the prequels a little bit.  What he loved the most about the prequels was the world-building.  He was inspired by those films to read all the novels and comic books and play all the video games because he wanted to know more about this gigantic world that had been created.  He was dying to know the back story of every cool-looking background character with just two lines of dialogue.  But Force Awakens...not so much.

So I bought my ticket online a few months ago for the Scotiabank Theatre in West Edmonton Mall...the same theatre where I saw all the prequels.  What can I say?  I'm old and set in my ways.  It's just not a Star Wars movie unless that 30 foot tall Yoda hanging from the ceiling is watching over me.

Because of the Disney buyout of Lucasfilm, I was wondering what we'd get to start it off instead of the 20th Century Fox fanfare.  I was surprised that it was just the Lucasfilm logo and silence.  And then...the classic John Williams music.  The title.  The opening crawl.  And I felt the same giddiness I had in 1999 when I first saw The Phantom Menace:  "Holy crap.  It's a new Star Wars movie."

I was surprised at how much more emotional this film was.  I never really noticed the wooden acting in the prequels that much.  But in the Force Awakens, are new characters are so loose and they're talking like real people and the have real struggles and desires...the characters feel real.

I love our new characters.  Rey, who's searching for her place.  Finn, who has a crisis of conscience.  And even our villain, Kylo Ren, who has the struggle that he's not really as evil as he wants to be.  How crazy is that?  A bad guy who's upset that he's not completely bad.  

I felt the same joy I did with Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull:  the joy that Harrison Ford showed up.  He's not Mr. Sleepy-Mumbles, as he is in all his film these days.  He is Han Solo again, and it's magical.  And when Carrie Fisher comes back again as General Leia.  The nostalgia goes up to overdrive to see them again.

Do I have quibbles?  Yeah...the plot is very reminiscent of Star Wars, or A New Hope to some.  Same problem I had with the prequels, and even The Hobbit when compared to Lord of the Rings.  In franchises like this, there seems to be that desire to match up the story beats with the corresponding film in the previous trilogy.  And this matches just a little too closely.  And it's great to hear John Williams do new Star Wars music again, but there's no catchy new theme that I find myself humming.  (But to be fair, people had that complaint with Return of the Jedi and the prequels...save for Duel of the Fates.)

But when we got that traditional iris out at the end and the end credits start rolling, I did something that I did not expect.  Something that the prequels never did to me.  I started crying.  I started crying, you guys, from a Star Wars movie.  I did not expect to get that invested in this film.

It's just so good you guys.  So good.  Star Wars is back.

4 nibs.  My more traditional review is up on my website.

What follows is the traditional rambling BS I blog when I get home from a day in the city, so feel free to check out now.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Robin Hood (the 1973 Disney Animated one)

Here we go again on Fishing in the Discount Bin, my weekly ramble about one of the (too) many movies I own.  We return to the realm of Disney animation with their 1973 talking animal version of Robin Hood.  This pops up in my notes at March 7, 2015.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Star Trek Beyond Trailer

Wowie wow!  There have been so many great new movie trailers released over the past few weeks, as they all jockey for a slot in front of The Force Awakens.  Every time I think, "I'm going to sit and blog about this one!" another one comes along and I think, "OK, I'll wait until they're all released and just blog about all of them!"

Here's my brief thoughts on all of them:
But one finally came along where I have to put fingers to keyboard and blog about it.  And that's Star Trek Beyond.

Even though I'm all obsessed with the new Star Wars coming out this Friday, my first fandom is still Star Trek.  In fact, it's because of Star Trek that my hopes for The Force Awakens are somewhat...tempered.  "I have faith in J.J. Abrams!" one of my friends commented.  My response to that was, "Yeah, last time I did that I got Star Trek Into Darkness."

OK, here's my thoughts on the Star Trek reboot.  I love, love love the 2009 reboot.  I swear, there's more raw emotion in that pre-credits sequence than in all of the Next Generation films.  When I saw it in the theatre, and Michael Giacchino's score swelled, and we saw the Starfleet logo filling the whole of the screen, I got goosebumps.  Finally, my beloved Trek was getting the grand, epic big screen treatment I knew it deserved.

And a lot of that is thanks to J.J. Abrams.  He admits, he knew nothing about Star Trek when Paramount gave him the project.  All he knew was it was the thing with Kirk and Spock.  So when Paramount asked him what he'd do, he said, "Kirk and Spock...and how they met?"  Brilliant!  That's a story that's never been told, and a fresh perspective on the material.

But, I loathe Star Trek Into Darkness.  I was willing to forgive it.  I was willing to go along with it.  But then...one moment happened that pulled me out of the film completely.  You know the one I'm talking about, right?

Yup.  The death of Kirk and Spock yelling out, "Khan!"  What could have been a clever twist on a classic scene from The Wrath of Khan was executed horribly.  What happened was they took one of the most poignant death scenes in Star Trek, mashed it up with one of its cheeziest moments, and dropped it into the film with all the subtlety of a Family Guy cutaway gag.

What we discovered about J.J. Abrams was, like a lot of directors who don't know what to do with Star Trek, all he did was give us a half-assed rehash of Wrath of Khan.

So he got wooed away by Lucasfilm to work on that other franchise with "Star" in the name.  Good.  After the Into Darkness debacle, some new blood was needed.  And we found a new director in Justin Lin, who gave us The Fast and the Furious 3, 4, 5, and 6.  OK...not the typical director we were hoping for.  But hey...he's got blockbuster experience.  And they got Idris Elba to play the villain!  He's good in everything!  Simon Pegg, Scotty himself, and a bonafide super-fan in real life, got drafted to write the screenplay!  He's got geek-friendly writer cred.  He's one of the creators of Spaced, after all.

Cautious optimism was winning the day!  But then, it dropped.  The first trailer for Star Trek Beyond.

No. No. No. No. No.

This is not Star Trek.  Where's the Kirk struggling with rigors of middle age, like in Wrath of Khan?  Where's Picard, struggling to not get consumed with vengeance, like in First Contact?

There's none of that.  Instead we get...dirt bikes?  DIRT BIKES?  A dirt bike race in a Star Trek movie?  Witty one liners?  Random guys punching random aliens? 

This is not Star Trek.  This is Big Dumb Science Fiction Action Movie #378.

Star Trek Beyond rapes my childhood on July 22.  

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

News from Markworld: 2015 Edition

As always, here is my annual Christmas newsletter that I send out with my Christmas cards, lest those friends whom I've drifted apart from may be googling my name one night, wondering whatever happened to me.

News from Markworld: The Chaos in a Box Newsletter

Good day,

Mark Cappis here, with his annual holiday form letter letting you know all the exciting things that happened to me in the year just ended, 2015!  An ancient curse says, “May you lead an interesting life.”  In that case, I must be blessed, for my life in 2015 was quite uninteresting.

You’ll still find me up in Westlock, Alberta, as the afternoon host for 97.9 the Range.  That’s just half of my job, as the other half is the music director for the Range and our sister station 93.5 Prairie-FM in High Prairie.  (“Music director,” for those who don’t know the radio biz, is the guy who actually picks the music a station plays.)  The job still throws the occasional challenge at me.  For example, we’re getting ready to switch to a new computer system, so I’ve spent the past few months starting to pave the way and get everything ready for it. 

In other news, I finally got my car paid off, and with that, am finally debt free.  The question now is whether to start building up that debt again by taking on a mortgage and buying a house, or just continue enjoying my little ol’ 2-bedroom apartment. 

Did manage to get in a bit of a summer vacation, as I accompanied my parents to the Whitehorse Wildland Provincial Park south of Hinton.  Did some hiking, enjoyed the Rocky Mountains, and just enjoyed being in the wilderness.

Perhaps my greatest personal triumph, though, was finally rebuilding my website, chaosinabox.com.  While it was originally made with the finest HTML that 2003 had to offer, it was starting to get rather dated.  So, with the help of a friend, I installed WordPress (the Internet’s favourite DIY web design software), and burned off two weeks of unused vacation time rebuilding chaosinabox.com.  You can actually listen to my podcast streaming at the website now.  I recovered and re-posted all of my movie reviews, extending back to 1998, and you can now search and re-read my original blog, which ran from 1999 to 2006.
All in all, it was a quiet year, spent in manic anticipation of the new Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens.  It’s in theatres now, and by the time you read this, I’ll probably have seen it three times. 

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and May the Force be With You!


Me on vacation

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Begin the Blitz

Well, that's become the tradition for me, hasn't it?  Spend a day in the city, and sit to blog about it.  I'm not really sure I need to get into it that much, because I'm sure that your days in the city are pretty much the same these days:  time to do the Christmas shopping.  I'm not as far along as I'd like to be.  It seems like my past few Saturdays have been filled with Christmas functions I needed to attend on behalf of the station.  What's this?  Another thing where I have to look pretty and sit at a table that the station got through one of its sponsorship deals and eat free food all in the name of the Company?  My job is so hard, you guys. 

Well, as fun as those are and as good as the free food is, they do eat up a lot of the Saturdays I'd spend Christmas shopping.  However, I have been lucky this year in that I've been able to take care of a lot of my Christmas shopping locally.  It's always those one or two things for those hard-to-shop-for people that task me, though.  So, off to the city for me, and as always, straight to West Edmonton Mall.  As Mom figured out when I was younger, if you can't find it at the Mall, you probably can't find it at all. 

As I roamed the Mall, growing more and more crowded in these days leading up to Christmas, I was almost at peace.  Whenever I went to the Mall this past year, it was always with an infinite sadness.  I'd see so many nice things I wanted, but I know I couldn't afford because of my circumstances, but not this time.  Maybe it was because I was so focused on Christmas shopping that I didn't have time to fret.  Maybe I have a yuletide faith that things will work out in the end.  Maybe I was able to relax because, as I went down my list, I realized I'm further along than I actually thought I was.  Either way, this particular round of Christmas shopping was almost relaxing. 

Anyway, Christmas shopping is mostly done.  Just two items left, and if I can't find them in Westlock, I can snatch them up next week when I'm back in for The Force Awakens

But before Star Wars, an appetizer.  I do so love the animated films of Pixar, and this year we've been blessed with two Pixar films!  After Inside Out came out this summer and had us all going, "Pixar is back!" would they be able to continue the streak with The Good Dinosaur?

In an alternate timeline where dinosaurs and humans co-existed, we're introduced to a family of farmers...who are apatosauruses.  The youngest one on the farm is Arlo, who's nervous and jittery and afraid of everything.  While endearing at first, it starts to get annoying as Arlo gets older.  His dad takes him out hunting one day to hep Arlo get over his fears, but Arlo falls into a swift-moving river and is swept miles and miles downstream.  Now, it's up to Arlo to make his way home.  Joining him is a caveboy he names Spot, and they embark on an odyssey that takes them through many natural disasters, some fanatical pterodactyls, assisting some T-Rex ranchers, and even overcoming their personal losses.  Will Arlo finally conquer his fears and make it home?

There's a lot of clever ideas at play.  At its core, this film is a Western, and there's a lot of Western tropes at play.  I mean, typically in films like this, they make the herbivores the good guys, and the carnivores the bad guys.  But the fact that they make herbivores just humble farmers and turn the usually villainous T-Rexes into kindly cowboys is just nice.  This is also easily Pixar's most photorealistic film.  It takes place in mountainous terrain, and I swear, it looks just like pictures of the Rocky Mountains. 

That being said, everything about the film is so basic.  It's a fairly basic plot, Arlo goes through a fairly basic character arc.  While Inside Out was criticized for being a little too complicated for kids, this goes completely in the opposite direction, and winds up being too simple.  It's almost like a bunch of fun Arlo and Spot vignettes that they strung together into a film. 

Yeah...at the end, I had the same problem with Brave.  It had a lot of great ideas, but they didn't gel into a great movie.  3 Nibs.  Complete review on the website. 

Well, the requisite blog about the city is done.  Time to get back to the Christmas preparation.  A Sunday of Christmas cards and Christmas movies on Netflix is in order!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Big Hero 6

Here we go again with Fishing in the Discount Bin, my weekly blog about one of the movies I own.  Time for Disney's lovely animated superhero flick Big Hero 6.  This is in my notes at March 1, 2015.

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Independence Day

Holy moly, I've hit my 200th installment on Fishing in the Discount Bin!  My DVD/Blu-Ray database program tells me I have 800 films, so I guess this means I'm 25% done.  And for the big 2-00, what better than one of my favourite films, Independence Day.  This is in my notes at February 28, 2015.