Soundtrack September: Heavenly Movie Soundtracks & More

We’re coming to the home stretch of Soundtrack September but don’t worry there’s still plenty left!

The Reverend Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and the Orange County and Long Beach Blade, contributed a wonderful piece entitled “Heavenly Movie Soundtracks”. Here’s an excerpt with a link to the full article:

While the first soundtrack recording I recall buying was the inescapable STAR WARS by modern movie music maestro John Williams, it was Williams’ follow-up score for SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE that really struck a chord (no pun intended) with me. I will never forget the dramatic impact Superman’s main title march had on me, accompanied as it was by the film’s literally soaring opening credits. Williams brilliantly utilized a variety of styles to underscore the superhero’s story, from his origin on the doomed planet Krypton to his climactic showdown with arch-nemesis Lex Luthor. The score also includes the song “Can You Read My Mind?”, although it is performed in the film by Margot Kidder as more of a spoken word recitation, with lyrics by Leslie Bricusse.

The SUPERMAN score was nominated for a 1978 Academy Award but lost to Giorgio Moroder’s innovative electronic score for MIDNIGHT EXPRESS. Moroder would go on to score a number of successful 80’s movies, including FLASHDANCE. In my opinion, however, Moroder’s best work is his alternately lyrical, intense and sexy score for the 1982 remake of the horror classic CAT PEOPLE. David Bowie co-wrote and performed the film’s title song, which was recently resurrected to awesome effect in Quentin Tarantino’s INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS.”

Read the rest of Reverend’s Reviews: Heavenly Movie Soundtracks at Movie Dearest.

Next up, Fletch from the brilliant Blog Cabins, billed as: “Movie reviews and commentary made fun”, pointed out a piece he wrote last year about his 5 favorite soundtracks and here are a few of his choices and a link to the rest:

PULP FICTION (1994) People give a ton of credit to Quentin Tarantino for kick-starting or re-starting careers, but they’re usually talking about actors. However, the man has probably been a bigger force (dollar-wise) when it comes to rejuvenating the careers of soul, R & B, pop and surf musicians from the 60s and 70s. His breakout film featured songs from artists as diverse as Dick Dale, Al Green and Urge Overkill, no doubt selling millions of albums for them in addition to the sales of this film’s soundtrack.

Favorite Track: “Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon” by Urge Overkill.

RUSHMORE (1998) If any director has rivaled Tarantino in terms of quality and diverseness when it comes to his films’ soundtracks, it’s Wes Anderson. This one is all over the place, with great tracks from classic rock starts like John Lennon and The Who to folk star Cat Stevens to jazz to Mark Mothersbaugh’s brilliant scored tracks. Brilliant all around.

Favorite Track: “A Quick One While He’s Away” by The Who.

Read the rest of Fletch’s Favored Five: Movies Worth Listening To at Blog Cabins.

More later

10 Movie Characters Revived Via SNL By Their Original Actors

For no other reason than to take a break from reviews of the all the prestige Oscar bait out there I decided it was time for another patented Film Babble Blog list. Enjoy!

It’s interesting that some actors stay away from reprising their best known roles when Saturday Night Live comes a-calling. In the 2 times Robert De Niro hosted there were no appearances by Travis Bickle (TAXI DRIVER), Jake La Motta (RAGING BULL), Max Cady (CAPE FEAR) or even deluded comedian Rupert Pupkin (THE KING OF COMEDY) who actually would lend himself nicely to a follow-up sketch. Sally Field even stressed in her monologue on her one time hosting gig that she would not be playing any past parts to the comical disappointment of Flying Nun, Gidget, and SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT fans (actually just one – Burt Reynolds as played by Phil Hartman). Many movie stars though have fearlessly stepped back into old shoes and reclaimed their iconic characters even if it’s just for the sake of satire. Here’s some of the best:

1. Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates from PSYCHO (March 13th, 1976) Perkins was the first actor to take on the role that made his name for a SNL sketch. It was a gutsy move because the part had him typecasted him for years but he slips back beautifully into Bates in a commercial parody entitled “The Norman Bates School Of Motel Management.” In his direct to the camera address he stutters, imitates (or channels) the voice of his mother, and gives us a quiz to see if we’re motel material: “Question One – A guest loses the key to her room. Would you: A: Give her a duplicate key. B: Let her in with your passkey. C: Hack her to death with a kitchen knife.” Silly, yes but Perkins playing Bates again later in 2 80’s sequels and a 90’s TV movie (yep, 3 more times) is much sillier.

2. Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia from STAR WARS * (Nov. 18th , 1978) Fisher, who also did the opening monologue in Leia garb, joined the cast as her most famous character in a Frankie Avalon/Annette Funicello beach movie parody entitled “Beach Blanket Bingo from Outer Space.” Frankie (Bill Murray) hits on the visiting Princess to Annette’s (Gilda Radner) chagrin while celebs such as Vincent Price (Dan Aykroyd) and Chubby Checker (Garrett Morris) make obligatory cameos. Her appearance is actually light years less embarrassing than on “The Star Wars Holiday Special” (broadcast just one day earlier by the way) in which she also insisted on singing a song for us. Most notable however is the sight of Leia in a gold bikini a full 5 years before RETURN OF THE JEDI.

* Still not calling it A NEW HOPE, damnit!

3. Val Kilmer as Jim Morrison from THE DOORS (Dec. 9th, 2000) Donning a wig, 60’s threads, and a perpetually stoned expression, Kilmer embodied the Lizard King one more time in a Behind The Music satire that centered on “Rock And Roll Heaven.” Morrison forms a band with other dead musical icons such as Jimi Hendrix (Jimmy Minor), Janis Joplin (Molly Shannon), Keith Moon (Horatio Sanz), Billy Holly (Jimmy Fallon), and as the announcer (real Behind The Music narrator Jim Forbes) reveals: “a Wild Card – Louis Armstrong (Tracy Morgan) on trumpet.” Morrison’s afterlife band called The Great Frog Society is soon the talk of Heaven, but offstage things were falling apart (Forbes stresses: “‘offstage things were falling apart”, is a registered trademark of VH1 and Behind the Music’”).

4. Glenn Close as Alex Forrest from FATAL ATTRACTION (Feb. 25th, 1989) This support group sketch actually takes place during the events of the 1987 infidelity suspense thriller. Close’s murderous stalker character shares her stories with her group members (Dana Carvey, Nora Dunn, Victoria Jackson, and Jon Lovitz) and therapist (Kevin Nealon) who of course are supremely disturbed by them. Portraying Alex as merely the victum of a one-night stand is an especially nice funny touch here considering, well, you know.

5. Elijah Wood as Frodo from THE LORD OF THE RINGS series (Dec. 13th, 2003) st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) }
Gollum (Chris Kattan) interrupts Wood’s monologue to plug their new sitcom pilot featuring an Odd Couple (or more like Perfect Strangers) premise. As Wood describes it: “Basically, the idea is that, before they make it to Mordor, Frodo and Gollum decide to move to Denver and share an apartment together.” Of course, wackiness ensues.

6. Dennis Hopper as Billy from EASY RIDER * (May 23rd, 1987) Using actual footage of the ending to the New Hollywood classic, we see Billy and Wyatt’s (Peter Fonda) ultimate demise (that can’t possibly be a Spolier! at this point, can it?). Not so fast, with a “later that day” caption this sketch shows that Billy and Wyatt (now played by Dana Carvey) survived to get treated by a local Doc (Jon Lovitz) and even run into their lawyer friend George Hanson (Phil Hartman doing his best Jack Nicholson). Billy: “George, man, I thought you were dead, man!” George: Nah… just a bad hangover. I felt like I’d been whopped on the head with an ax handle. [ holds up bottle ] This stuff’ll ruin ya!” Billy: Yeah, man. I’ll take that [grabs and opens bottle].

* Incidentally on the same episode Hopper also played Frank Booth from BLUE VELVET in a game show parody called “What’s That Smell?”

7. Steve Buscemi as Mr. Pink from RESERVOIR DOGS (Oct. 15th 1994) In definitely one of the best sketches of a dreary season, John Travolta revisited his Sweathog roots in “Quentin Tarantino’s Welcome Back Kotter”. The sketch was overpopulated as an SNL sketch can be with all of the cast (including Chris Farley, Adam Sandler, Chris Elliot, Mike Myers, Janeane Garafolo, you get the picture) hamming it up but the finale involving a cameo from David Lander (Squiggy!) joining old Laverne And Shirley partner Michael McKean was greatly upstaged by Buscemi bursting in the doorway, gun raised and fitting sophomoric put-down ready: “Up your hole with a mellow roll!”

8. Richard Dreyfuss as Roy Neary from CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (May 13th, 1978) One of the first to mock his own character and film while it still played in theaters, Dreyfuss again put on the worn bathrobe of the alien obsessed Neary who now comes to believe the Coneheads are the source of his implanted visions. The sketch (“Clone Encounters Of The Third Kind”) ends, like the film did, with Neary leaving earth with his new intergalactic friends.

9. Tim Robbins as Bob Roberts from BOB ROBERTS (Oct. 3rd, 1992) Another appearance that occurred when the character in question was still on the big screen, Robbins’ conservative folk singing candidate was on hand for a sketch entitled: “Bob Roberts Book Burning.” It was a funny premise – Roberts burning books while singing about free expression but its place on the program was incredibly overshadowed by that week’s musical guest Sinead O’Connor who had free expression thoughts of her own * that night.

* For those of you who don’t know what I’m referring to – O’Connor, after an acapella version of Bob Marley’s “War”, tore up a photo of Pope John Paul II and yelled: “Fight the real power!” Audience silence and the prospect of the segment never being re-run was the result.

10. Robert Mitchum as Phillip Marlowe from THE BIG SLEEP (1978) and FAREWELL, MY LOVELY (1975) (Nov. 14th, 1987) This film noir satire called “Death Be Not Deadly” appropriately filmed in black and white gave the great Mitchum the chance to spoof his Private eye character and one of the conventions of the genre. Seemingly mistaken that his comments/narration is in voice-over when actually it’s Marlowe speaking aloud, he confuses and annoys his clients (Kevin Nealon, Jan Hooks). As funny as it is a fond tribute.

Okay! Of course there are others – both Mel Gibson and Danny Glover did their cop buddy characters in “Lethal Weapon 6” in 1987 (before there was even a LETHAL WEAPON 2) and Margot Kidder reprised Lois Lane while SUPERMAN was still flying high in 1979 so I’m sure there are many I’ve neglected but that’s what the comments below is for.

More later…

NORBIT #1 – Okay People, Everybody Stay Calm…

I mentioned to a co-worker over the weekend that I read an article about how NORBIT (#1 in the USA right now) may hurt Eddie Murphy’s chance at an best supporting Oscar for DREAMGIRLS. She said “it’s bigger than that. NORBIT is hurting America.”

I went with some friends yesterday to my favorite home town theater to see :

PAN’S LABYRINTH (Dir. Guillermo del Toro, 2006) At the end of this film (don’t worry – no spoilers) I heard someone in the audience say “WTF?” – that’s right they said the initials as the kids today are known to do – and yeah I could see where they’re coming from. This dark grotesque gothic tale is exhausting and weirded me out to the edge of my seat many times. Seen through the eyes of a young girl – Ofeila (Ivana Baquero) in Fascist Spain in 1944 we witness the violent cruel realities mostly via an evil Captain Vidal’s (Sergi López) that she and her sick pregnant mother (Ariadna Gil) suffer daily after relocating in a remote hideout in the wooded hillside under Vidal’s rule. Ofeila slowly discovers and gets drawn into a netherworld with a faun, a few fairies and one large disgusting toad. In this world she may be a Princess and may be able to find the key to open the portal to…oh jeez – this is a bit much with the over-simplified plot description! So I admired this movie more than I actually enjoyed it. While it’s freaky and fantastical to at times exhilarating extremes it could have done with a little more fun.

Now some DVD reviews :

JESUS CAMP (Dir. Heidi Ewing, Rachel Grady, 2006)

“There’s a new church like this every 2 days in America. It’s got enough growth to essentially sway every election. If the evengelists vote they determine the election. It’s a fabulous life!” – Pastor Ted Haggard

The trailers with shots of churches full of children speaking in tongues with tears in their eyes may imply an in-your-face liberal expose a-brewing, but the Best Documentary Oscar nominated JESUS CAMP simply showcases several participants and their stories with an absorbing lack of slant. No voice-over narration is provided but there are bits featuring Christian Air American talk show host Mike Papantonio criticizing the movement and confronting Pentecostal children’s pastor Becky Fischer on-air that serve as book-ends. Also giving the film a time period frame are radio sound-bites of the stepping down of Sandra Day O’Connor and subsequent appointment of Samuel Alito.

The bulk of the film however follows a few kids (Levi, Rachael, and Victoria) on their pilgrimage to Devil’s Lake, North Dakota for Christ camp fun! Believing they are part of “the key generation” (as Levy stresses in one of his sermons) they learn to bash science, engage in a weird coffee cup breaking ritual, fondle tiny fetus dolls while swearing to end abortion and pray for (not to – as Becky claims) a card-board cut-out of George W. Bush. The soundtrack is a bit spooky and judgmental sounding at times (though Ewing and Grady say that’s exactly what they didn’t want it to be in the commentary) but there’s a strong and sincere attempt here to put a face on a culture that may be more statistically scary than anything else.

SUPERMAN II – THE RICHARD DONNER CUT (2006 – From footage filmed 1977-1980) The basic back-story – Donner was to make SUPERMAN : THE MOVIE and SUPERMAN 2 concurrently. He filmed material for both films then the producers (Alexander & son Ilya Salkind) replaced him with Richard Lester (A HARD DAY’S NIGHT) who took Donner’s material and interjected broad slapstick humor and a smattering of narrative contrivances that fanboys have griped about for years. Still though the released Lester-only credited movie was pretty solid, did good business and is a favorite of many. Some questions lingered though – like – why did Marlon Brando not return? Was it really just because of his wanting more money? How did Superman get his powers back? What’s the deal with the memory erasing kiss Superman gives to Lois Lane? Can he really do that? Yep, silly geeky questions – but hey I was 11 when I first saw the movie.

All those questions are answered and more in SUPERMAN 2 – THE RICHARD DONNER CUT though it really doesn’t work as a real movie on it’s own. It’s more like a glorified DVD bonus extra. The seams show like crazy – Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder screen tests fill in the gaps that look like 70’s TV soap opera and boy do they clash next to the big action sequences, CGI cleansing, with rampant inconsistencies riddled throughout. Still it’s an immensely watchable curio with the restored Brando footage taking the cake. The scene where Jor El (Brando) appears and places his hand on his son’s (Reeve) shoulder granting all and then passes on is one of the most powerful moments in the entire SUPERMAN canon. So glad I finally got to see it.

More later…

Superman Reboots

Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth) : But millions will die!
Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey) : Billions! Once again, the press underestimates me.
(Dir. Bryan Singer 2006)

SUPERMAN RETURNS is one of the only Summer blockbusters I was interested in seeing (don’t really care as much for PIRATES or X-MEN) and I’m happy to say it didn’t disappoint. Its no SPIDERMAN by any means but its a highly enjoyable piece of pop art that stands up with the first 2 movies. When I originally heard that this project over a decade in the making was going to be based in the world of the 1978 SUPERMAN : THE MOVIE right down to the resemblance of Brandon Routh to Christopher Reeve and the appearance of Marlon Brando in old outtake footage needless to say I was a bit worried – I mean the recent TV shows LOIS AND CLARK and SMALLVILLE (both of which I’ve never regularly watched) created new modern premises and styles to house the Superman legend so why wasn’t this return going to be its own new thing?

It turns out that the retro-lets-pick-up-the-story-as-if-SUPERMAN 3 & 4 (no need to link to these attrocities) never happened is the best thing about SUPERMAN RETURNS. The John Williams theme still has majestic power and the epic tone is fully revived. Kevin Spacey is a suitable replacement for Gene Hackman as Luther though his new land scheme plan is a bit silly. Nice casting abounds – Kate Bosworth, Parker Posey, and Frank Lagella are all spot on. The film is dedicated to both Reeve and his wife Dana which like just about everything else I’ve mentioned is a nice touch.

More later…