Soundtrack News / misc.

Please Note: from Thursday June 3 to Friday June 4th the sites www.kqek.com and alternate blog site www.mondomark.com will be offline to allow an important server switch. In an ideal world the switchover should be done by Saturday, and the sites will be up & running by Sunday. Blogs are other sundries will still be up & running at www.mondomark.blogspot.com.

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Additional soundtrack releases were announced at the end of this week, including today’s latest offering from Varese Sarabande’s CD Club:

DigitMovies (Italy):

Il medaglione insanguinato + Voci dal profondo + Malacchio (Stelvio Cipriani)

Intrada (USA):

The Beast Within (Les Baxter) – Limited To 1000 copies

99 and 44/100% Dead (Henry Mancini) – Limited To 1200 copies

Rocky IV (Vince DiCola)

Kritzerland (USA):

Boy and the Pirates, The / Attack of the Puppet People suite (Albert Glasser) – Limited To 1000 copies

Lionsgate (USA):

Killers (Rolfe Kent)

Prometheus (Belgium):

Epic 3-disc set featuring digital re-recording of Dimitri Tiomkin’s The Alamo (1960)

Varese Sarabande (USA):

Oscar: The Color of Destiny (Diego Navarro) – Limited To 1000 copies

Passchendale (Jan A.P. Kaczmarek) – Limited To 1000 copies

Star Trek (Michael Giacchino) – 2-CD set. Limited To 5000 copies

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And wholly unrelated to soundtracks are a series of articles that just seemed too intriguing to miss:

One enterprising photographer felt the images of Iceland’s Eya-whatever volcano wasn’t being properly covered by photographers. (From a film standpoint, I beg to differ only because of those shots of massive ash clouds belching up from Eya, not to mention the geysers of lava, ice, and rock seen behind a helicopter that didn’t get ensnared.) His solution was to head over to the volcano, set up his camera, and shoot enough stills to create this time-lapse short.

Christopher Bird at Torontoist.com wrote a piece not so much about MuchMusic’s continuing disintegration as a music station (if not the pioneering music video station in Canada) but of it’s destruction at the hands of corporations wanting it’s brand recognition for other purposes. It’s kind of like the fate of MGM (which is back up for sale because the value of its assets – including the Bond franchise – has plummeted): MM was part of Moses Znaimer’s CHUM City corporation, which was sold and bough and sold and re-bought, and its current owners (CTV) want changes to their broadcast licence which will effectively turn it into a dumping ground of reality and non-music materials. MM’s mandate changed when it lost its music content, and apparently what’s left is being shown after hours.

Lastly, two urban explorers were arrested by police for sneaking into Toronto’s sewer system to take photographs. One half of the team, Montrealer Andrew Emond, wrote a personal account of the day that started normal and went a bit scary when the pair was surrounded by police after a resident figured the two men entering the street through a manhole might be up to no good. The sewers are dangerous and off-limits, but man, those photos… Emond’s site, Under Montreal, showcases his own photography, as does co-explorer Michael Cook’s The Vanishing Point. Haunting, striking, and wholly filmic. Those finding the pair’s endeavours a bit mad might also want to remember David Lynch’s own fascination with giant boiler rooms in his 1994 collection Images (Hyperion Books), as well as this equally striking video of massive industrial complexes abandoned by the rest of the world. One of the reasons Session 9 (2001) was so damned creepy was its use of a massive abandoned loony bin.

Mark R. Hasan, Editor


Ruminations on Faith

Please Note: before I get into the Editor’s Blog, please be aware that from Thursday June 3 to Friday June 4th the sites www.kqek.com and alternate blog site www.mondomark.com will be offline to allow an important server switch.

This switchover will yield improved service, and permit the alternate blog to function with images, as well as the creation of a mobile edition of KQEK.com, which will feature new and selected archival reviews, interviews, and articles for mobile gizmos. In an ideal world the switchover should be done by Saturday, and the sites will be up & running by Sunday.

During the down time, I may post new review material here. Additionally, as much as I look forward to the more robust server features, I regret to inform readers that the changes will not yield free issuance of chocolate fudge. This feature is simply not available within our budget. Please accept my apologies, as I am equally disappointed.

On to today’s blather:

Within the past 7 days, two shows I regularly watch came to a close, one for good (gee, guess which one), and one that should’ve ended a while ago but will go on due to (assumedly) steady ad revenue.

What’s intriguing about the two is their how their respective characters handle faith – in humankind, a higher power, whatever.

Each episode of Grey’s Anatomy [GA] always begins and ends with faux faith ‘mental diary’ statements from titular character Meredith Grey about hoping, trusting, believing, and not questioning things that are baffling to rational and twitchy human brains, respectively:

“Surgeons use something called a scalpel, a very sharp knife that’s used to cut deep, but sometimes we have to cut deeper in order to get at the truth, even if that truth hurts us, or some of the people we care for so deeply. It’s a necessary evil we surgeons know: to get to the root of a problem, you sometimes have to go deep in order to find the truth that will ultimately heal our souls, making us better, and strong again – sometimes even proud of our scar tissue, like a badge of courage.”

Present since the series' pilot, it’s become a laughable method in which the writers are already mocking the characters that viewers are supposed to trust, hang on to, and follow through whatever plotline’s been devised for this week.

That statement could easily be reworked as follows:

‘The lessons of life are like partially digesting chili. Sometimes the beans just sit there, and fester in the tummy. Something that tasted so good and gave us such pleasure can suddenly cause us pain, and our instinct is to avoid that sharpness which seems to expand inside of us with no mercy. It’s a lesson we all have to learn, but few of us are willing to face pain head-on.

‘We try and stop it by tensing our muscles, pretending the intensity within our tummy just isn’t there, hiding in a slender room with the door locked shut. And then comes a point where to acknowledge our flaws and face our pain is the best choice. That decision can leave marks – some of them abstract, tactile, and reactive with our bottom senses - but the release is honorable, and for some, it may also be pleasurable, because that rippling cloud of invisible pain evaporating around us means a growing anguish is now gone. The physical stains are like scars, and even though we can scrub them away, to remember them gives them meaning, something we can build upon.’

The other flaw within GA’s world order is the gimmick of characters or pairs representing facets of singular life hurdles, as with a recent episode about marriage/relationships/couples:

After 50 years apart, two septuagenarians rekindle their romance, while one set of doctors are on the verge of breaking up, and another are swallowing compromises to keep their marriage and working relationship stable. Another couple doubt their relationship will survive because one half dislikes kids. The septuagenarians seem to split before the commercial break, but in the end the old folks get together when their respective surgeries teach them it’s best to be honest, and take a leap of faith, because time will rob one of joy, while the other couples either break up, destroy strained trust, or swallow pride and work towards keeping a marriage solid.

Characters also have to repeat keywords and phrases – ‘I’m your person’ or ‘You don’t get to feel sad now’ – and somehow the bullshit narration will tie together an episodic structure that’s become a parody of itself.

Just replace ‘relationship’ with chili, and see how the show’s formula is so ridiculous:

One septuagenarian has an agreeable stomach, but her forcing her partner to eat more chili has caused her severe, painful indigestion. Among the couples at Seattle Grace, the facets of chili consumption are threefold: one person refused to eat the chili because the resulting flatulence would make him seem weak and unmanly, given his predilection for frequently fluttering leguminous methane gas with breezy ease; the explosive nature of digested chili was used by a second couple to create an atmosphere so utterly toxic that their relationship was irreparable; the third couple knew the chili would yield some after-effects, but with a balanced exchange of measured exhalations, the results were akin to an open window, fielding fresh ideas into the fertile atmosphere, and transforming potentially noxious chemistry into a warm amber halo of faith, trust, and devotion.

Characters would have to use keywords and phrases – ‘I can take the pressure’ or ‘We can both go through this dim cloud together’ – and somehow the bullshit narration would still tie together the episodic structure of presenting reflections of a primary conflict through different characters.

GA’s writers have had to basically take a concept – like marriage (er, chili) – and fashion contrived events to maintain bullshit poetry in each episode. Sometimes it works, but its repetition has become lethal and clumsy, with the massive cast of veteran and ‘ghost characters’ (the pale versions of the veteran interns the writers packed into the last season to spice up the drama).

The focus is no longer on developing core characters, but integrating clichéd conflicts because there’s less screen time for the veteran cast; the easy solution is to dig into the well of soap opera clichés and interpolate GA’s characters into the familiar scenarios, while major storylines, actor indulgences, and contract disputes are adding further pressure to the show’s dramatic originally and weakening the writers’ integrity.

Ergo, GA ended much like Season 5 characters were left in doomed scenarios, but with all those ghost characters, the victims of budgetary economy were two-fold in last week’s season closer: two ghosts died (one a complainer, the other a slut), and two were left in critical care – just the right dose of plotted, dramatic ‘grey matter’ to let the actors work out their grievances with the production chiefs, and decide whether to come back for a full season, die in next season’s premiere episode, or hang around like Katherine Heigl did until the decision to formally leave is signed in blood.

Not a great way to handle a series that began with a fresh take on the tired and aging serial medical drama. GA’s become a victim of stale writing, limited characterizations, and desperate attempts to create excitement by settling for clichés, whereas that other show, Lost went out on a high note.

Now, Lost is a different animal: its plots were brutally fractured over 6 years, characters weren’t wholly drawn out, and the writers constantly tested audiences with new gimmicks, like flashbacks, flash-forwards, and flash-sideways, muddying up audiences’ efforts to figure out what was real, a dream, or a crackhead show headed for an incoherent conclusion.

In Jimmy Kimmel’s post-Lost special that aired at 12am early Monday morning, the host asked his first guest, Matthew Fox (Jack Shephard) if the show was basically about faith, and the finale showed the time Jack required in order to realize it was time to move on after accomplishing his Big Test in Life.

I think what most fans liked was the emotional intensity of the series closer, which literally brought all the favourite characters back for a final reunion, and allowed composer Michael Giacchino to beat us into tears with his effective, piercing ‘friendship’ theme that never failed to extract a swelling of sadness. (He deserves an Emmy for crafting such a precision strike.)

The show’s first season really pushed characters up front, keeping the weirdness at bay until ad breaks or the inetivable cliffhanger at the end of an episode. Most scenes dealt with characters testing themselves, discussing past painful events, and dealing with the shrapnel from traumatic events that still governed the behaviour of some characters. The puzzles offered by the writers were brutal teases, and while the resolution for characters were well-received by fans, it’s the puzzle bits that are dividing fans because so little of them were explained in the final season.

I think a few things affected the show’s structure: they had a beginning, an end, and a plan, but there was a stretch where it seemed ABC wanted more mileage, and the writers knew the worst thing they could do was a Chris Carter: take the network’s money, and start contradicting and violating the integrity of created characters the way Carter fudged up the X Files when he listened to Fox and cuddled the network’s stacks of greenbacks for extending the show into another crap season.

It’s the same situation that affected Heroes, which was cancelled this year by NBC due to its massive suckage. The creators listened to the network’s grand ideas – a spinoff series, bringing back popular characters whose arcs were over and done with in Year One – and within months of its second season, Heroes was garbage. It wasn’t the writers’ strike that killed the show; it was stupidity, and no consistent showrunner at the helm to maintain quality control and filter only the best network suggestions to a ongoing troupe of writers.

Lost has loose ends, and some may be due to that prior period when the writers were still negotiating a firm End Date with ABC, as well as mapping out the show’s denouement. It was a balancing act: keep fans intrigued, keep them watching, keep the show high in the ratings, avoid as much filler material as possible, and make use of every primary and secondary character, because that show’s cast was big and expensive (aided by those driving-while-intoxicated tickets in Hawaii).

What viewers are able to determine – and I’m now talking SPOILERS, so shoot down to the END OF SPOILERS if you have to – is as follows:

The crash on the island that started the series, introduced the characters, the island’s weirdness, and the freakin’ polar bear were al real.

The island’s mythos seems tied to a pair of Romulus and Remus brothers, one good (Jacob) and one temperamental (Smokey) who use anyone that crashes on the island as pawns in their personal power plays. They want to kill each other, but the island’s gift – immortality and weird powers – are also curses. Jacob can leave and see into the future and visit the outside world using a gizmo in an old lighthouse, whereas Smokey has no constant human form, but can shape-shift, and through that deception, he can influence others to kill Jacob.

The eventual death of Jacob means Smokey need only hop on a boat or plane and he’s free, but he must kill the so-called chosen among the plane crash survivors that Jacob knows have the wits and conviction to assume his role as island protector, and therefore keep Smokey trapped on the isle.

These chosen few have to die because the island also has ancient machinations that enable people to travel through time and place, and killing the chose few as well as those humans aware of the island’s power, and wanting to harness it – like Charles Widmore, Inc. – will ensure no one will be able to suddenly appear or return, and stop Smokey from leaving. If he were to be free to roam the world, many would die, because he’s a vengeful homicidal entity, and has never touched a booby.

There are three groups of people that are presumably being used by Jacob and Smokey as chess pieces, both to win the pair’s elaborate chess game, as well as kill time, since they’ve all eternity to putter around the isle.

The Dharma Initiative is Jacob’s original group of pawns. Tree-huggers and hippies with medical degrees recruited by Richard Alpert – Jacob’s immortal emissary to the outside world – whose ersatz ‘initiative’ is just a game to keep humans in just enough darkness not to learn about the island’s power, but use them as provincial or federal park wardens, making sure no one messes it up.

Why? Because the island is the product of ancient, unknown, and who-knows-what, four-toed culture who managed at some point in their own antique evolution to harness its electro-magnetic power and make it move. In its chilly core they built a donkey wheel that allowed it to disappear from maps, and re-emerge elsewhere. That’s the power that the more technologically advanced Dharminians are protecting using more modern day (seventies) gear.

Smokey, however, exploited the frictions and power struggles within the Dharminians, and coaxed a putsch, which destroyed the hippies and created two groups of new chess pieces Jacob and Smokey could play with: the post-Dharminians, led by Alpert, and disguised as ‘the Others,’ a bunch of feral scruffigans; and another group that superficially appeared to be more civilized that the Others, but were in fact schemers themselves, headed by a grand Poobah named Ben.

Whereas the Others had a submarine and could leave the island, returning to civilization for further recruits and supplies, the Bennites were stuck with picking off plane or ship survivors for supplies, knowledge, and vehicles to escape. Ben had used the island’s other gift – a window through which he could travel through time – to visit the outside world, which kept him evil but somewhat vaguely, potentially good, since his motivations were apparently anchored around a need to feel important, special, and valued (which he never got from his father).

The island at one point was found and used by the U.S. Army for potential atomic bomb testing during WWII, and when the isle was ‘moved’ and disappeared, one of the marines, now grown-up as wealthy industrialist Charles Widmore, used his resources to find it, which he eventually did, and made sure any opposition – namely the Bennites and the Others (of which he was allegedly a member at one time) – were eradicated.

The flea in his ointment was his daughter falling in love with a man named Desmond, who was later revealed to possess a freakish ability to survive massive electro-magnetic exposure. That trait is what Widmore eventually needed to wrestle control of the island, because each time the donkey wheel was turned, the user was sent to some place in the outside world (a desert location). Widmore had designed his own high-tech version of the donkey wheel, but the electro-blast was so dangerous it would kill the user/traveler, except Desmond.

While that might move the isle, it wouldn’t kill Smokey. At best, Smokey would just be disoriented, and after some reconnoitering, he would return to the chess game. To Widmore, Smokey was just a malevolent entity, and none of the humans may have been aware of his relationship and private war with Jacob.

That war was begun by their mother. She was the isle’s jealous and over-zealous protector, but had no one to help (or trusted anyone to) bear kids that would follow in her mamma ranger footsteps.

When a pregnant woman washed ashore from a shipwreck, she killed the mother after the twins’ birth, and raised them as her own, testing them out until she chose the best to become the next isle ranger. What she failed to consider was division, jealousy, and vengeance, and that begat Smokey’s efforts to kill his brother. That action led to a fight, and him being sent into the isle’s bright and glowing core, where he became Smokey, the Cloud of Death.

(This pivotal mythology was dramatized in the series’ most dramatically flat episode, which seemed to have been written fast, shot cheap with felt clothing, and acted out by two dreadful child actors spouting dialogue with contemporary accents. Maybe Jacob and Smokey should’ve been cast from kid-to-adult by Brits?)

One point a friend observed: Smokey isn’t Jacob’s brother but an evil entity released from the isle’s nuclear bowels. I don’t buy it because if the water is what ‘spiritually’ transformed Jacob (and Jack, for that matter) into an immortal island ranger, then making contact with the electro-nuclear core could take the bad electro juju of a person (like a jealous brother) and reconfigure him differently. Ergo, Smokey, the ex-ranger who wants to start forest fires.

Jacob’s tactic in selecting candidates in the event of his death was to avoid his mother’s mistake and make the choice to become a ranger voluntary, which is why he picked candidates among the plane’s survivors, and through a group’s agreement, the one wouldn’t be subject or cause the kind of rivalry that’s decimated so many island humans.

Ergo, the series finale actually shows Jack being the one who stayed, helped defeat Smokey, restart the island’s electro-magnetic core (preventing the isle from sinking into the ocean), and showing Jack dying just as he sees the plane of survivors from the Widmore troupe and original plane crash survivors fly back to civilization, where they managed to live out their natural lives.

The only side storylines that the writers over-indulged in were a fourth group of ex-Dharminians headed by an Asian schemer named Hanso; and Widmore’s son Daniel, who travelled back and forth in time to refine his father’s plan to not only wrestle control of the island’s power, but understand its nuances. That, and end up into the arms of ginger hottie Charlotte.

The only time-angle in the series that wasn’t based in reality was the flash-sideways, in which the plane never crashed, and everyone landed in Los Angels. That world was a kind of purgatory where lost souls wandered around, remembering bits of their past lives only as much as coping mechanisms, enabling them to function, live and work among other ‘lost souls.’

Some apparently chose to stay and live in purgatory, whereas others – perhaps those with intense emotional connections – remember their past lives when they touch someone of significance. That contact causes a rush of memories, and allows them to make a choice to stay, or move on to another life – a life that’s left up to the viewers to be reincarnation, Heaven, or life as a molecule in the great wide goo of the universe.

Now do you understand?

And as for the polar bears, the explanation I got from a learned colleague – which is insane, and as far-fetched as a moving island – is that the Dharminians or Others brought polar bears to the isle, kept them in cages where they were rewarded by fish pellets if they hit the big disc. That action was reconfigured, where a trained polar bear could turn the donkey wheel at the isle’s frozen core, and move the island. Since the bears would end up in the desert someplace and die, they needed a few of ‘em.

My big question aside from the real/unreal/dead/undead/whatever material: beer brewed in the 1970s and sitting for decades in the back of an old VW van in a tropical environment CANNOT be drunk. Sawyer would’ve spat out the beer, if not had a serious case of tummy bug. Maybe Doc Jensen can postulate an explanation for non-aging beer, now that he has nothing to obsess over at Entertainment Weekly, and is likely going into severe Lost withdrawal.


So back to the original point: whereas GA’s dramatizations of faith in mankind have become parody and bathos, Lost’s writers never lost sight of their own characters because the show had an endpoint. GA is reliant on ratings and audience interest, so it drags on and the writers regurgitate whole plots as happened in ER, or nighttime soaps like Dallas. Lost had a confirmed conclusion, and I’d say with a few wobbles and walks a bit close to the cliff’s edge, the writers managed to stay true and stick with the characters they made audiences love.

Those who ‘lost’ patience with the shoe aren’t morons or idiots; they simply found the convoluted series frustrating, and would’ve preferred a few bones in this year’s final season, which frankly, isn’t wrong to ask. That fans who are still hashing out theories must be immensely amusing to the show’s creators and cast, but I’d cut the show’s detractors some slack.

The test I’m game for is to re-watch the series in the fall of 2010, and see where the writers’ organization played out correctly, and where the seams of indulgence and potential self-destruction started to appear, but where largely fixed.

As for Jimmy Kimmel’s special, it was a fun and fitting ‘aloha’ to the series, and the best parts had composer Michael Giacchino guiding the band in completely atypical theme and song renditions between ad breaks. If time permits this weekend, I’d like to do an overview of all 5 soundtrack CDs, since Varese Sarabande just released the music from Season 5.

Lost is slated for an August 24 release on Blu-ray as individual season boxes or a full series set. Grey’s Anatomy’s next DVD and BR release is due September 14, but I just don’t care anymore. There’s just no more faith.

Mark R. Hasan, Editor


Battling Nature

Among the little-seen films in TCM’s Classic Film Festival were Elia Kazan’s Wild River (1960), and Frank Capra’s Dirigible (1931), where man’s stubbornness to conquer Nature and win came yielded more than a few sacrifices.

Kazan’s film depicts the story of a matriarch’s unwavering decision to remain on her island farm in spite of dire warnings by the Tennessee Valley Authority that everything on her isle will be underwater once the giant dam project is completed.

Montgomery Clift plays the TVA rep determined to ease Jo van Fleet into a mainland home, and Lee Remick is the love interest that fuzzes up Clift’s judgment. On the one hand, the dam will provide electricity to rural communities still living a few feet from electrified civilization, but the costs are loss of wildlife, landscape, and a way of life that’s been constant for generations of farmers. In the end, progress wins the battle (no big surprise, really), but not everyone emerges unscathed from the massive project that upsets a community for the sake of progress.

Wild River has been available on DVD for a while now in Europe, and I’ve reviewed a lovely Spanish R2 release since Fox has no interest in releasing back catalogue ‘scope films anymore in North America. Their presumption seems to be that the market for physical media is only sustainable for popular classics and top 100 critical favourites, and blockbusters; everything is for the graying crowd of film fans.

For Americans, it’s less of an issue because many classics are available digitally online via Amazon.com and Fox’ on HD channel & website, but in Canada, quite frankly, we’re getting screwed, because neither digital nor cable venue is available here (yet), which leaves Europe as the only source to see films that have evaporated from regular TV airings.

Not a great situation for Canuck movie lovers wanting to own classic Fox films.

Capra’s Dirigible is a strange blend of creaky love triangle, aeronautical spectacle, and the conquest of Nature, and it mostly works because of the stellar cinematography, montages, and solid direction of action scenes involving planes and airships (otherwise known as dirigibles, and zeppelins).

Dirigible’s secondary plot involves reaching the South Pole by air, but it’s also an amazing document of airship technology that was once poised to give transcontinental travel by plane some competition.

Although the film has aired on TCM, Columbia’s film really, REALLY deserves a special edition, with dual commentary tracks (airship historian + Capra biographer), a making of doc on the film as a blockbuster production as Capra was reaching the apex of his industry prominence, and a doc on airship travel – an integral component of the story.

Chances are that’ll never happen, but there are some fascinating chunks of ephemera out there which the film’s fans can read to place the airship’s prominence and decline in perspective.

This site features vintage issues of Modern Mechanix regarding the heady, dreamy ideas for large-scale dirigible travel, including a docking via a roving boat, and the loony idea of mooring a zeppelin to the Empire State Building.

The history of that last concept – apparently tried twice, on a much smaller scale – began with the erection of a docking mast on the building, and the idea of big ships mooring at the building, people climbing down a gangplank to what’s now the building’s observation platform, and descending down to street level by elevator with breezy ease.

There are images online of some drawings and tweaked photos of what hopeful designers thought the docking scenario would resemble, but my favourite is this postcard with displays exaggerated ease: there’s no ground traffic, no surrounding building clutter, and there’s the very wrong assumption that passengers would never have to worry about wind as they and their luggage are ferried to and from the big balloon.

Someone was sufficiently fascinated by the concept that he created a CGI animation short, accessible on YouTube, whereas a photo of what’s extant is HERE.

Perhaps the best-known airship is the Hindenburg, which burned up in 1937. Besides newsreel footage, there’s also a rare home movie shot of the ship’s interior in 1936 by a passenger, which is part of the 2000 Treasures from American Film Archives set.

The tragic flame-up was also dramatized in Robert Wise’s elegant but dull film The Hindenburg (1975). The conspiracy theories regarding sabotage were the fodder for the 1971 international production of Zeppelin, and in addition to several TV documentaries, there’s also a new retelling of the Hindenburg disaster in the works, starring Stacey Keach.

Mark R. Hasan, Editor

Soundtrack Reviews & New Releases

Before Chris Pine became Captain James T. Kirk in 2009’s Star Trek reboot, the actor appeared in the small suspense drama Confession (MTI Home Video). This 2005 film marked the feature film debut of Jonathan Meyers, and featured a fine score by Ryan Shore.

Shore’s approach is more low key than expected; in place of heavy liturgical doom and gloom or adding to Meyers’ sometimes overly grave approach, Shore largely addresses subtext, inner conflicts, and fills in some of the rough dramatic spots that begin to hamper the film’s denouement. Both the film and the soundtrack CD (via La-La Land Records) are worth checking out, as Shore’s music is impressive again, and the film makes it obvious why Pine managed to snag the attention of Star Trek’s producers.

La-La Land also offers up a pair of Alan Silvestri scores from the nineties when the composer was balancing his output between hard action films like Eraser (1996) and light comedies such as Dutch (1991). Both discs are limited releases.

Also reviewed is Perseverance’s limited promo CD of Craig Safan’s Fade to Black (1980), featuring the entire score; and from Silva Screen is a digital release of the 1995 compilation album Classic Greek Film Music.

Newly announced releases this week include:

Beat Records (Italy):

Emanuelle Around the World (Nico Fidenco)

DigitMovies (Italy):

Il giudice e il suo boia / End of the Game (Ennio Morricone)

GDM (Italy):

La bellissima estate / Summer to Remember (Alberto Pomeranz)

Una pistola per Ringo / A Pistol for Ringo + Il Ritorno di Ringo / The Return of Ringo (Ennio Morricone)

Zorro la maschera dekka vendetta / Zorro the Invincible (Gianni Marchetti)

Kritzerland Records (USA):

Earth vs. the Spider (Albert Glasser)

Legend of the Lost (Angelo Francesco Lavagnino)

MovieScore Media (Sweden):

Centurion (Ilan Eshkeri)

Flicka 2 (Mark Thomas)

Quartet Records (Spain):

El aullido del diablo / Howling of the Devil (Ferndando Garcia Morcillo)

Hills Run Red, The (Ennio Morricone)

Historia de una chica sola (Angelo Francesco Lavagnino)

Saimel (Spain):

Cuori solitari + Il corsaro (Luis Bacalov)

Eloise (Carles Cases)

La herencia Valdemar (Arnau Bataller)

Sony (EU):

Nightmare on Elm Street, A (2010) (Steve Jablonsky) --- also available via Water Tower Music as a digital download in North America)

Varese Sarabande (USA):

Robin Hood (Mark Streitenfeld)

Lost: Season 5 (Michael Giacchino)

Mother and Child (Edward Shearmur)

Nanny McPhee & the Big Bang

Unknown (Italy):

La via e’una cosa meravigliosa / Life is a Wonderful Thing (Armando Trovaioli)

- - 30 - -

Mark R. Hasan, Editor


Library Music, Part 2

In Part 1, I reviewed the new 3-disc release of The Prisoner: The Complete Chappell Recorded Music Library Cues, which, as the title suggests, assembles all the tracks from one library used by the original late sixties production.

This time the focus is on the unofficial B-side of The Blob (and other creepy sounds) CD, where Monstrous Movie Music's co-founder/producer David Schecter gathered specific cues from the Valentino library that were used in three specific films of venerable cult movie status: Terror from the Year 5000 (1958), The Brain That Wouldn't Die (1962), and Green Slime, The / Gamma Sango Uchu Daisakusen (1968) - each magnificently awful, with some of the vintage badness enhanced by the use of inappropriate or overstated stock music.

In the case of Slime, MMM's CD features one cue, as is the same for Terror, whereas the major cues used in Brain are in fact on the CD. I could say that it was necessary to view and assess these films on the basis of how non-diatectical music was interpolated into the dramatic quellen of genre-fused narratives in a post-nuclear, pre-Vietnam era under the auspices of trammellation physio-pseuchiatry, but that would be utter crap.

Only Brain exists on DVD (via Synapse), whereas Terror was apparently given the MST2000 treatment, and Slime is restricted to the old VHS release and occational airings on TCM (in an old full-screen version). No matter, because the films are valid examples of stock/library music used in place of a complete original score. (Slime is the exception, as the original score by Toshiaki Tsushima was largely replaced by stock cues and Charles' Fox vocal theme.)

To add extra context to the use of stock music in B-films, I've uploaded the last part of an interview with MMM's David Schecter, conducted in 2008, edited in 2010, and improved with Vitamin C, Polysorbate 90, and Guar Gum.

Mark R. Hasan, Editor

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The trip to Ottawa was an excellent break, and it provided fresh air, a relaxing train ride, German cooking (bacon & sausages GOOD), German schnapps (40% or more GOOD), tulips in Ottawa, and a visit to the Candian War Museum. (The last two I'll likely cover via some photos.)

While I'd hoped to try out Via Rail's Wi-Fi service, it was a non-starter. Last October, the service was available for a fee (aorund $9) but it's currently free because, well, it doesn't really work. The Asus EEE did pick up the signal, but it was weak, and attempts to connect to the internet en route and at certain stations (Fallowfield, for example) failed.

I didn't use it inside the lobby at Union Station because I wanted to conserve battery power, just in case the AC socket in the train was dead (as happened last October to a traveller on the opposite side), and in case too much Wi-Fi might drain battery time I might need.

As it happened, it was a good move to fully charge the battery before the trip home because a train derailment at Smith Falls meant all travel along the Ottawa-Toronto corridor was frozen through Wednesday and Thursday last week.

Much like the TTC's use of shuttle buses when a subway station is shut down, VIA's bussing scheme wasn't a big deal, and their team handled the situation fairly smoothly (most likely since Friday was the second day of service interruptions). Passengers were grouped into three lines for unique destination points, and within 70 mins. the last bus headed for Toronto pulled out of the railway station.

The trip was initially slow due to stops at Fallowfield and Kingston, but afterwards it was a direct route, with the driver keeping a steady speed to ensure the bus arrived at Union Station within 5 hours. The were no AC sockets, so the fully juiced Asus had no problem playing a movie (which isn't a big deal, anyways. On the way to Ottawa, I used it to transcribe a 25 min. audio interview, and there wasn't any undue battery drain from typing and replaying chunks of audio using Sound Forge).

VIA had sandwiches and drinks for the passengers, and the reps did an excellent job keeping passengers relaxed, and tempering ire from the lone outraged customer. A credit on the next trip for the equivalent distance travelled was offered in liew of the bus trip, although the credit's only good for 6 months. (Those who make infrequent use of the train might have trouble with the credit, but it is transferable - you just need to hold onto the original ticket receipt.)

Word of advice: build a second rail line. The regular riders mentioned derailments happen far too often.

In any event, now with the backlog at KQEK.com.

Just uploaded is a film review of Legion (2010) on Blu-ray, a well as an interview with composer John Frizzell, and the discussion is more about the aesthetics and technological changes of electronic gear for film composers rather than the score itself (even though it's also covered).

Coming next: Library Music Part 2, featuring the last part of our interview with Monstrous Movie Music's David Schecter, regarding the release of stock music from the Valentino library on the CD The Blob (and other creepy sounds). Those extra creepy sounds represent samples of the patchwork scores from The Brain That Wouldn't Die (1962), Terror from the Year 5000 (1958), and Green Slime, The / Gamma Sango Uchu Daisakusen (1968), and to place the music in context (or just because it was fun), there'll be reviews of these three terribly bad, amazingly funny movies.


Mark R. Hasan, Editor

Slick Subway Stories

This is sometimes the way my brain works. A filmmaker with a background in tight, well-directed films makes a new movie, and that peaks a curioisty in his first effort, which in the case of Nimrod Antal (Armored) is a Hungarian film called Kontroll.

Made in 2003, the film did the festival rounds until it quietly debuted on DVD, and arguably remains a small gem waiting to be discovered because of what it isn't: a slick action film about a money heist or serial killer with dour gore and dreary characters.

Antal's film is partly set in an absurd version of Budapest's subway system, and focuses on a transit cop and his goofball compatriots who scour the lines for tricksters, noisemakers, purse snatchers, and a girl in a dirty rabbit suit who doesn't like it when young snots don't offer their seats to seniors.

There have been suspense/thrillers/action-comedies set in subway systems, and perhaps the granddaddy is The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974), which dealt with a band of ruthless crooks holding a train of passengers hostage in the NYC subway system until a hefty ransom is delivered in under and hour. The film was subsequently remade as a 1998 TV movie (shot in Toronto), and in 2009 with a bloated John Travolta as the lead baddie.

One could argue Luc Besson's own breakthrough film wasn't the dialogue-free, post-apocalyptic sci-fi flick Le dernier combat / The Last Battle (1983), but Subway, which properly introduced Christophe Lambert to the globe in 1985 as a yellow-haired Belmondo type who steals and hides out in the utility tunnels of the Paris subway from the police, the mob, and Isabelle Adjani. Part caper, comedy, cartoon, and puff pastry, Subway probably influenced Kontroll in terms of Antal centering his story around a charming vagabond lead.

The other link in this quartet of subway tales is Money Train, which in no way is a good movie, but its writers borrowed the concept of a heist from Pelham and placed it in the hands of two moronic transit cops. Wormed into the story is a serial killer subplot, and with those three elements one can sense Antal took the best three - Pelham's firm direction, Subway's lead rebel hero, and Money Train's misfit transit cops - and made a hybrid that worked.

This is all an assumption based on similar elements, but it's worth taking a peek at the reviews and see where one can trace the dots into lines that converge on Kontroll.

Coming soon will be a series of film reviews related to an interview regarding stock music in schlocky horror films, as well as a review of the new Legion (2010) Blu-ray, and an interview with composer John Frizzell, whose music was a lot more uniform than the film.

Coming next: soundtrack reviews, which will be posted later in the week, as I'll be en route to Ottawa for a few days for some R&R, German cooking, and schnapps. I may also spring for some WiFi on Via Rail, and test the service to see of one can update a website en route using the Asus EEE.


Mark R. Hasan, Editor KQEK.com

Big Trouble in Chinatown: The Toronto Underground Cinema Prepares Its Debut

Friday May 14th marks the grand opening of the Toronto Underground Cinema [TUC], and owners Nigel Agnew, Charlie Lawton, and Alex Woodside plan to treat audiences to a free first come, first served double-bill screening of Jonathan Lynn's 's Clue (7pm) and John Carpenter’s Big Trouble in Little China (9pm), which pretty much clarifies the cinema’s mandate of offering theatrical screenings of classics, cult, and rep material in the trio's 700 seat theatre.

Located at 186 Spadina Road, the cinema was formerly known as The Golden Classics Cinema, which showcased Asian films for about a year until it was shuttered in 1995, and pretty much sat unused for 15 years.

The cinema's disuse seemed a natural outcome of the film exhibition climate during the nineties and early oo's when the Festival Cinemas chain was struggling to maintain cinemagoers who were getting accustomed to catching rep, foreign and cult material on cable TV and home video.

If first-run houses weren't boosting admission and concession stand prices, the parent companies were phasing out single and dual screem cinemas in favour of mega-screen complexes designed to be The entertainment hub for urban and outlying suburban communities.

What's surreal is that instead of the shuttered Golden Classics being converted into a health club, furniture store, office supply shop, clearance outlet, or building storage, it apparently just sat there, frozen in time for 14 years. It's last tenant was the Acacia Centre, which made use of the cinema a handful of times before it too folded, leaving the vintage cinema intact.

To some extent, vintage is the key word in describing the theatre's decor: there's mauve tiling at the street level doors that lie at the end of the main entrance hallway of the building. Stucco walls follow the the descending steps into the theatre complex, and curved walls and ceilings guide patrons towards the concession stand and doors to the theatre auditorium.

From the projector's maintenance records and cinema ephemera, the theatre may have been built during the late seventies/early eighties, but the original mono audio system will be upgraded to stereo for the cinema's opening (all the better to hear Big Trouble's bass-friendly music) and Dolby Digital 5.1 as soon as possible, according to Lawton.

As in the photos taken of the cinema (see Facebook link), everything is in excellent condition, from the seats to the wall-to-wall soundproofing, and the screen, which can handle 'scope and 3D films (depending on the type of film and 3D process).

Prior to the cinema's grand opening this week, I asked Lawton and his partners a handful of questions regarding the city's newest and most intriguing rep theatre.

Mark R. Hasan: Has your experience in theatrical film exhibition at the Bloor Cinema helped in setting up the Underground Cinema, or are there aspects of the venture that are still pretty intimidating?

Charlie Lawton: I wasn't a manager at the Bloor, that was Alex and Nigel, I was a friend of theirs as well as a fan of the theatre and the events it put on. So for me most of this is pretty intimidating at times, but so far I'm loving it and finding it to be a fun challenge.

Alex Woodside and Nigel Agnew : It helped us a lot, though that was working in a operational theatre, so opening up a new business is a new challenge.
MRH: What have been the three biggest challenges in setting up the theatre for its May 14th opening?

CL: Getting people to know about the space and where we are, getting all the details set up within the limited time frame, dealing with the unexpected, such as the harmonized sales tax. How does one open a business right before a while new tax system rolls out?

MRH: Partnerships benefit from each person's skills set, interests, and quirks, and I'm curious as to what you find are the group's strongest qualities?
CL: Our friendship, as well as our love of movies. We work well together because we each have different personalities, and each one fits better to a different job, so we work well together as a team. Charlie works well with people, so we made him the public relations manager, Nigel is a details man so he oversees the operations, and Alex has works well with numbers so he's in charge of financing, and Alex also has the most experience with theatre management.
MRH: The atmosphere of moviegoing has changed in the past decade to where films fans have to travel to multiplexes in urban hubs, be surrounded by masses of people, and deal with more lobby noise and an unavoidable bombardment of ads before each film. Do you feel neighbourhood cinemas are part of a quiet resurgence, in terms of offering a purer moviegoing experience, as well as a greater variety of material?
CL: Yes, I feel people like going to rep cinema's because it's a different vibe then a multiplex, it's more of a cinema experience then just seeing a movie. You get to see more and varied films, as well as it has a different feel then going to a big box theatre and seeing Armageddon 2: Electric Bugaboo. For me an integral part of any theatre going experience is the audience you see the film with, I can go see Armageddon 2 in a multiplex with 400 people and feel like I'm sitting home alone watching a DVD, but I can watch a Puppet Master in a single screen rep house with 50 people and be blown away by the buzz of the crowd.
MRH: Lastly, without giving away any secrets, does the Underground Cinema plan to offer more special events such as the oft-cited Edgar Wright and Kevin Smith guest series, given Toronto is home to permanent and visiting filmmakers year-round?
CL: YES! We are 100% planning more events of that nature, hosting events like that is why we wanted to open the theatre in the first place. We hope to host many more events of that type, and plan to announce one similar to them soon.
After the grand opening May 14th, TUC will begin daily screenings Friday May 28. A website is currently in development, but astute patrons of the classic, the weird, foreign, and contemporary flicks can find up to date details at the cinema's Facebook page.

Mark R. Hasan, Editor

Unexpected Threads

Three specific films screened at the Toronto Jewish Film Festival last week had segments covering the anti-Nazi efforts within the Hollywood community during WWII.

In Cinema’s Exiles: From Hitler to Hollywood, writer/director Karen Thomas provides a broad but densely packed chronology of the pre-WWII events that forced the massive German-Jewish talent pool to flee into parts of Europe, and for most, eventually settle in the U.S. where many had to virtually start their careers and lives from scratch, having no money, valuables, and a working knowledge of English.

The outbreak of WWII as well as the persecution of European Jews eventually manifested itself in studio films, with Warner Bros. breaking the silence with Confessions of a Nazi Spy (1939). Casablanca (1943) was a more elegant, romantic drama of the refugees seeking safety while passing through the exotic no man’s land of Morocco, but few films actually acknowledged the mass extermination of Jews in Europe.

In Not Idly By: Peter Bergson, America and the Holocaust (2009), director Pierre Sauvage uses Bergson’s voice and images to make the case that the mass media was aware of the slaughter but subjugated its importance within the United States.

One can argue that the lack of front page coverage or massive outrage towards the Nazi regime ensured the movies, the music, and the radio shows coming from Hollywood were evenly tempered, leaving extremists to make the call for action. Among the most aggressive was screenwriter Ben Hecht (His Girl Friday, Nothing Sacred ), a top talent who wrote plays and a choral pageant in 1943 to agitate and provoke Jewish Americans into a reactionary political force. Hecht’s efforts aren’t the focus of Not Idly By, but the archival extracts in Sauvage’s documentary show a group essentially screaming in print and on stage ‘shame on you’ to audiences, in place of the star-studded dramas that, perhaps with the exception of Casablanca, were trite, clichéd, and kitschy.

If Sauvage’s film captures the outrage as filtered through the views of Bergson alone, Thomas’ doc uses anecdotes and recollections from diverse levels of the ex-German film community as they struggled with the issues Bergson likely felt were inconsequential compared to an ongoing Holocaust; economic uncertainty, career changes, culture shock, fractured families, and the process of rebuilding lives after the end of WWII were everyday struggles for the refugees, in addition to the loss of loved ones in Europe.

That sense of helplessness is apparent in Thomas’ film, and the only support network for the refugees came from a small section of the Hollywood community (included newly settled refugees Like Marlene Dietrcht, Erich Pommer, and Paul Kohner) who offered food, funds, small work, and emotional support while the industry town cranked out propaganda designed to support the national troops and allies rather than deal with mass extermination.

Cass Warner’s documentary, The Brothers Warner (2008), is a personal discovery of the brothers who built the family business – Warner Bros. – but the chapter on WWII indirectly shows brother Harry’s struggle to ‘sneak in’ social messages in the films from an otherwise commercial business. Confessions of a Nazi Spy was an overt anti-Nazi statement by a corporation who refused to do business in Nazi Germany during the war, but it’s also a hot-button film with a teasingly provocative title that infers pulp magazine thrills to lure the broadest possible audience.

There are major tonal differences in each of three documentaries (no to mention their distinctive primary subjects – exiles, a Revisionist Zionist, and the founders of a Hollywood studio), but collectively they provide glimpses into the corporate, social, and political forces in Hollywood as the Nazis rose to power, forced some of their best filmmakers to flee Europe, and the industry town of Hollywood, whose mandate was to entertain, but was confronted with conflicts abroad, and at home.

Mark R. Hasan, Editor

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