Saturday, April 16, 2016

John Williams Appreciation Post: Jurassic Park (1993)

The best thing about this is that when I was picking a clip to use, Jamie added in her own brontosaur calls from the other couch at pretty much exactly when they appear against the music in the movie.

It was kind of amazing.

I love me some Jurassic Park, and the theme to the movie is filled with the sense of wonder I think we all felt the first time we saw those dinosaurs rambling into view, sharing in Dr.'s Grant and Sattler sense of awe and amazement.  As impactful as we all found the visuals, Williams soundtrack captured and amplified that sensation, the majesty of nature and science giving birth to astounding life - and whether you mean cloned dinosaurs or what CGI accomplished, either way, it works.

Friday, April 15, 2016

John Williams Appreciation Post: Star Wars - The Force Theme

One of the curious things about watching all 16 hours of Richard Wagner's Ring Cycle of operas was realizing (a) Williams may have had some idea how he could pull this thing off by looking at an old pro dealing with a multi-generational story, magical themes and heroic quests and (b) how themes and motifs can really work to convey story in ways both overt and subliminally.  In short - the music tells the story.

That's not a knock on Williams.  Too few composers have applied this hard won knowledge effectively in the world of film.  In fact, I think we should be quite satisfied with applying the term "Space Opera" when it comes to Star Wars.

"The Force Theme" is not the fanfare of the titles or the finale awards ceremony.  "The Force Theme", to me, rings with a certain melancholy, maybe that same look that's all over Luke's face there at the end of The Force Awakens.  There's greatness there, but it comes with a sense of tragedy, perhaps derived from the weight of responsibility and the gift's inherent "otherness" that will set you apart now.  There's a swelling undercurrent in the music, a ring of promise that comes after the opening bars, but it's muted, expressing something beyond joy or anger or sorrow.

It's a hell of a piece, and it's the tear jerker of the Star Wars music for nostalgic reasons, sure, but there's something there that hits you dead center as it pushes the story along.

Toho Releases "Godzilla Resurgence" Trailer, Life Worth Living Again

(this is the actual, longer trailer from Toho. Sorry about the abbreviated trailer earlier)

Marvel Watch: Daredevil Season 2

If you think my movie watching has slowed to a trickle, you'd be right.  We're still neck deep in TV and baseball right now.  I haven't even watched my BluRay of The Force Awakens quite yet, but I did lose all of last night watching the disk of bonus material (totally great, btw).

We also blitzed our way through Daredevil Season 2, or as close to a blitz as you're going to get out of us.  We basically finished the series in about 2.5 weeks, which is really fast for us, even for a 13-episode series.

Last night's post should give you an idea of the regard in which I hold the source material of Daredevil comics produced by Frank Miller in the early 1980's.  But, to be truthful, I haven't read them in over a decade.  That's all right.  The show only references them loosely, doing what Marvel has done so well so often over the past decade: keeping the origins largely intact, remembering who the characters are at their core (and not in the squishy "well, which canon?  who are you to say this isn't Superman?" way DC has done), and boiling down stories to work better in the medium in which they're appearing.

Daredevil Season 1 carried the burden of the origin and establishing their corner of New York not just for Daredevil, but - as it turned out - for Jessica Jones and Luke Cage.  In all honesty, I thought both Daredevil Season 1 and Jessica Jones Season 1 could have been tighter.  They seemed to be 8 or 9 episode shows spread out over 13, and that meant a lot of filler.

I think those of us who watched Daredevil S2 can agree, if this season had an issue, it wasn't that not that we were hoping it'd pick up the pace a bit.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

John Williams Appreciation Post: Indiana Jones Theme

Today we post the Indiana Jones theme, a rousing tune that, in my book, is what the call to high adventure sounds like.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Frank Miller Takes Over the World

I have an employee who is into geek-culture stuff in a way that doesn't include actual comics.  She likes horror movies, Army of Darkness, and watches the TV shows and movies based on comics.  She just finished watching Daredevil (so say we all), and she was wearing a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles shirt with art from the 90's cartoon while she was talking to me about the show.

"You know," I said, "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a by-product of Daredevil."
She eyed me, somewhat skeptically.
"Frank Miller made ninjas cool in comics via the Daredevil comics run they're adapting for the show.  After that, ninjas were everywhere in comics, but Miller did them best.  It was the 1980's and Eastman and Laird were drinking beer and figuring out what might be popular for a comic and, hey, NINJAS.  The 'Teenage Mutant' part is referring to some X-Men stuff.  New Mutants, I think."
The look of skepticism was giving way to a bit of fear.
"Yes, I think you can argue that Bruce Lee started the craze, but in comics, I point to Frank Miller."
"Yeah," I said, refusing to let it go.  "The crazy turtle uses sai, right?  Elektra!  That's Miller.  What's the name of the bad guys the Shredder works with?"
She felt a trap.  "The Foot?" she ventured.
"Uh huh.  And the name of the ninjas in Daredevil?"
"...the Hand?"
"Right.  Now... let's talk about how Frank Miller is responsible for Batman v. Superman."
She was not impressed.
"Directly or indirectly, Jack Kirby and Frank Miller are responsible for everything in media right now," I concluded.
I don't think she bought a word of it.

In general, I'd argue the conversations the comics kids are having online these days don't seem to talk so much about what's happening in their comics as they do the characters in broad strokes, undergrad 101 media criticism of race and gender (which I welcome) and the creators, like they're following demi-celebrities who might talk back to them.*

John Williams Appreciation Post: Theme to "Superman" - 1978

Yesterday I way overslept and slid into my desk at 9:26 AM.  I was panicky, because Nathan Cone was DJing the Spring telethon for Texas Public Radio out of San Antonio, and he'd promised he'd play the Superman theme just for on my B-Day at 9:30 AM sharp.  I fired up the website, and in a couple of minutes, I got to hear Nathan give me (and the site!) a shout out, and then he played selections from the score to Superman: The Movie (1978).

As much as the movie defines Superman for me in a multitude of ways, I'll never get over the score.  It's got all the drama and adventure and fun of a Superman comic at its best built right in.  And for that, we need to thank John Williams.

We all love John Williams.  He provided the score to our film-going lives and is, arguably, the most important composer of the age.  He's certainly taken up more of my headspace than nearly any other composer, and I've bought more of his work than nearly any other musician.

So, we're going to start posting some of Williams' work here for a bit.  Nothing to overwhelm you, just something to listen to and enjoy yourself.

And, yes, I re-upped my membership with Texas Public Radio.  Nathan is diabolical that way.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Happy Birthday, Ann Miller

Ann Miller and I share a birthday, but she has better legs.

Here she is in Easter Parade, performing "Shakin' the Blues Away".


On the Event of My 41st

Innocent When You Dream
Tom Waits

The bats are in the belfry
The dew is on the moor
Where are the arms that held me?
And pledged her love before?
And pledged her love before?

It's such a sad old feeling
The hills are soft and green
It's memories that I'm stealing
But you're innocent when you dream
When you dream
You're innocent when you dream
When you dream, you're innocent when you dream

I made a golden promise
That we would never part
I gave my love a locket
And then I broke her heart
And then I broke her heart

It's such a sad old feeling
The fields are soft and green
It's memories that I'm stealing
But you're innocent when you dream
When you dream
You're innocent when you dream
Innocent when you dream

Running through the graveyard
We laughed my, friends and I
We swore we'd be together
Until the day we died
Until the day we died

It's such a sad old feeling
The fields are soft and green
It's memories that I'm stealing
But you're innocent when you dream
When you dream
You're innocent when you dream
When you dream

Monday, April 11, 2016

Happy #NationalPetsDay with Krypto and the Super Pets!

Here at The Signal Watch, we have a Super Affinity for pets.  We've got our own two little geniuses at home making our lives more colorful every day.

Back in the Silver Age, National Comics introduced a dog named Krypto to the Superman mythos.  Supposedly sent in advance of a baby Kal-El in a test rocket, Krypto arrived on Earth around when Superboy was making a name for himself in Smallville.  The comics made their usual bends in logic and soon Krypto was appearing in both Superboy and the adventures of grown-up Superman.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Slam Evil Watch: The Phantom (1996)

In 1989, Michael Keaton put on a terrible-looking rubber cowl with ears, got dropped onto fantastic looking sets with Jacks Palance and Nicholson, Jerry Hall and Kim Basinger, and the world went bat-shit.  Warner Bros. made a ton of money off not just the movie, but the merchandising.  Batman, overnight, became America's favorite superhero.

All the studios scrambled to see what else that looked like a comic books that they could exploit, but without spending a ton of money (this was a pre-CGI era).  And for about 10 years, man, there was a lot of stuff coming out.  A lot of stuff of varying quality.

I'm actually a fan of The Shadow from 1994 or so, and I love Disney's The Rocketeer.  Both super fun movies, even if The Shadow kinda hams up, then softens up the whole concept.  Marvel, for their part, laid some eggs in their straight to video Captain America and Punisher films, circa 1990.

During this era, a vision in purple spandex strode onto screens across America.  And, for reasons I cannot put into words, felt compelled to see this movie then and a few times since.  The Phantom (1996)!!!