Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Black Dynamite score kung-fus its way onto A Fistful of Soundtracks' "Assorted Fistful" playlist

'Wherever he walks he withers the grass/King Kong steps aside when his bad ass pass.'
I finally got around to buying the Black Dynamite score CD, which Wax Poetics magazine's record label released in October. Every single funkdafied, old-school-style track on the album is a banger. The title theme, one of eight original Black Dynamite tracks I've added to "Assorted Fistful" rotation on the Fistful of Soundtracks channel, contains one of my favorite lyrics that never made it to an actual '70s blaxploitation soundtrack and should have ("This nigga took out Nixon/So you know he's dynamite"). Had I listened to the album sooner, I would have named the score my favorite of 2009.

Black Dynamite score composer Adrian Younge--who, in addition to being the movie's editor, was serving as a law professor when he wasn't toiling over the movie--painstakingly recreated a typical '70s blaxploitation score. All the recording equipment Younge used was analog instead of digital, and all the instruments he and his musicians played were built before 1979. "Our movie takes place between '73 and '74, so I wanted to position myself where I was a composer in 1973," said the Morricone and Goblin-loving L.A. composer and vintage R&B aficionado in Wax Poetics' recent special issue about African American cinema and funky film music.

Enjoy these illustrations of Black Dynamite (which plays briefly here in the Bay Area this week before it drops on DVD and Blu-ray in mid-February) by one of the illest Korean American artists around, David Choe.

Black Dynamite by Korean Badass
Black Dynamite discovers the only good thing about a cold stethoscope.
'Whether you're Korean or not Korean, whether you're a boy or a girl, if you're smart you'll listen to me and never date a Korean. You can fuck but don't marry; it'll be much easier on your constitution. Just mark us off your dating pool.'--David Choe

Monday, January 18, 2010

Memorable quotes from commentary tracks #6

'Is this it? This is what I got all those ass-whuppings for?!'
"There's a rumor going around that Al Sharpton was holding two pieces of chicken right before King said 'nigger,' and I can't say what happened, but paramedics were called."

--Boondocks co-executive producer Rodney Barnes, joking about Rev. Sharpton, who protested the show's "Return of the King" MLK holiday episode in 2006, from the crew commentary for "Return of the King," which later won a Peabody Award

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Shows I Miss: Keen Eddie

This photo makes it look like Keen Eddie was an all-blonde show and Hugh Hefner was the casting director.
Tonight, prime-time takes another stab at adapting the DC comic Human Target when Fox premieres a much-hyped, Bear McCreary-scored series loosely based on Peter Milligan's Vertigo version, one of my favorite comics during its too-brief run. In a previous TV version of Human Target that was produced by Flash TV series showrunners Danny Bilson and Paul DeMeo, Rick Springfield starred as bodyguard Christopher Chance, who disguised himself as his victimized clients to throw off the bad guys and flew around in a pimpin' stealth bomber/bachelor pad that's the only thing I remember about the show. This time, Jericho co-creator Jon Steinberg is the showrunner, the master-of-disguise gimmick has been ditched, the stealth bomber has been left to rot in a hangar somewhere and Chance is played by Mark Valley, who will always be Keen Eddie to me.

Human Target reunites Valley with Con Air director Simon West, who also worked on the much-missed, Guy Ritchie-esque Keen Eddie, which first aired on Fox in the summer of 2003. Early reviews have said Human Target is less like the gritty Vertigo comic--which put Chance through one hell of a psychological wringer by having him suffer from an identity crisis--and more along the lines of lighter fare like The A-Team, MacGyver and Keen Eddie.

We've got a really big shoe tonight.I doubt the new show will be as offbeat or raunchy as Keen Eddie, which premiered (and then died) a few months before Janet Jackson's Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime wardrobe malfunction caused the major networks to overreact and kill some of the fun out of prime-time by overpolicing their raunchier shows. There are certain storylines and bits of dialogue during Keen Eddie that teleplay writers probably can't get away with in today's post-Janetgate prime-time landscape--they're more likely to be able to get away with them on FX. Cable was where Keen Eddie belonged.

In fact, cable was where most of Keen Eddie's cult following first discovered the series. After Fox's top exec at the time--who was as impatient with Keen Eddie as the shit-for-brains NBC execs have been with The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien--defied the wishes of other Fox execs who loved Keen Eddie and abruptly cancelled it, Bravo picked it up and debuted its unaired episodes.

The series, which last popped up on Sleuth a couple of years ago, is a lost comedic gem from creator J.H. Wyman, who currently co-produces Fringe, where Valley was briefly a regular before he moved on to Human Target. The Desert Storm vet-turned-actor was terrific as NYPD detective Eddie Arlette, who travels to London to track down an elusive drug dealer and winds up joining Scotland Yard. Eddie doesn't quite find his drug dealer (Crockett and Tubbs had far better luck with their nemesis Calderon on Miami Vice), but the fish-out-of-water falls in love with the city and takes a liking to both the British crooks he locks up (they're more like the not-so-dangerous oddball criminals from Barney Miller than the mustachio-twirling villains from Miami Vice) and his hot but snooty and argumentative flatmate Fiona Bickerton (a then-unknown Sienna Miller). The series was a love letter to London, where it was filmed on location on what was clearly a ginormous budget. Wyman's creation was too foreign, anarchic and weird for mainstream America (it wasn't dour and moralistic enough for them--the original CSI, the #1 prime-time hit that year, was more up their conservative-leaning, bodybag-filled alley). But it won the hearts of some TV critics (Marvin Kitman called it "a show that could have started something new, like how Miami Vice took police shows out of L.A.") and whoever were the three or four viewers who watched it on Fox. I was one of them.

'What's your position, Miss Moneypenny?' 'On all fours.'
Eddie is a roguish, down-on-his-luck crime show hero in the mold of Jim Rockford and Black Tie Affair's Dave Brodsky. If Rockford's Achilles heel was having knuckles made of Kleenex, Eddie's Achilles heel is thinking with his boner too much--one reason why this show wouldn't fly on prime-time today. Eddie's crush on his gorgeous informant, the mysterious gangster's moll who tricks him and the NYPD into busting down the wrong door, is the whole reason for his banishment to London. The series' most enjoyable running joke involves Carol (Rachael Buckley, who's even hotter than Miller but seems to have disappeared from the face of the earth), a Scotland Yard secretary Eddie nicknames "Miss Moneypenny," and the never-answered mystery over whether her flirtatious exchanges with Eddie about her tastes for crotchless panties or being on all fours are real or the figment of Eddie's oversexed imagination. But Eddie's a prude in comparison to his floppy-haired partner Monty Pippin (Julian Rhind-Tutt), whose off-duty sexcapades make Jimmy McNulty from The Wire look like a monk (even though because this isn't HBO, we never see Monty in the middle of one of his swingers club orgies).

'I'm Eddie. How d'ya like me so far?'Another highlight of Keen Eddie is its awesome, pitch-perfect soundtrack. The pilot episode underscored a drug bust sequence with the Archies' "Sugar Sugar"--an early indication that Keen Eddie was no ordinary cop show. For the carelessly compiled DVD release, which should be avoided at all costs, Paramount Home Entertainment removed many of the songs that helped make Keen Eddie such a memorable show, due to clearance fees Paramount refused to pony up for ("Keeping Up Appearances," an episode in which Eddie inherits Jimi Hendrix's Bentley, is utter shit without "Crosstown Traffic"). But the studio didn't lay a finger on the songs in the reruns, so whenever Keen Eddie turns up on cable, fire up the DVR.

Because of the arrival of Valley's first star vehicle since Keen Eddie, I'll soon be adding to the Fistful of Soundtracks channel's "F Zone" playlist some of the tunes that were cut out of the Keen Eddie DVDs: Madness' "One Step Beyond," New Order's "Crystal" and of course, "Crosstown Traffic."

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

AFOS: "We Want Sleazy" playlist

Airing this week in the Wednesday Fistful of Soundtracks: The Series rerun time slots is the episode "We Want Sleazy" (WEB86) from February 19-25, 2007.

The Kelly Affair sings 'Find It' at a prom full of 35-year-old high-schoolers.
1. Franco De Gemini, "Cheops and Nefertiti" (from Si Può Fare Molto Con 7 Donne), She Had a Taste for Music, Dagored
2. Piero Umiliani, "Mah-Na-Mah-Na," Sweden, Heaven and Hell, Ariel
3. Shirley Bassey, "The Liquidator," The Liquidator, Film Score Monthly
4. Maury Laws, "Mad Monster Party (Instrumental)," Mad Monster Party, Retrograde
5. Bulldog, "Man Before Your Time" (from Napoli Violenta), Beretta 70: Roaring Themes from Thrilling Italian Policefilms 1971-80, Crippled Dick Hot Wax!
6. Lynn Carey & Barbara Robison, "Find It," Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, Soundtrack Classics
7. Luis Bacalov, "Summertime Killer" (from Summertime Killer), Kill Bill Vol. 2, A Band Apart/Maverick/WMG Soundtracks
8. Bullet, "Hanged Man," The Hanged Man, DC Recordings
9. Franco Micalizzi, "Italia a Mano Armata" (from Italia a Mano Armata), Beretta 70: Roaring Themes from Thrilling Italian Policefilms 1971-80, Crippled Dick Hot Wax!
10. Jerry Goldsmith, "Ladies Will Kindly Remove Their Hats" (from In Like Flint), In Like Flint/Our Man Flint, Varèse Sarabande
11. Lalo Schifrin, "Bikini Waltz," The Liquidator, Film Score Monthly
12. Roy Ayers, "Exotic Dance," Coffy, Polydor
13. Nico Fidenco, "La Via Della Prostituzione M9" (from La Via Della Prostituzione), She Had a Taste for Music, Dagored
14. David Holmes, "7/28/04 the Day Of," Ocean's Twelve, Warner Sunset/Warner Bros.
15. Stefano Torossi, "Omicidio Per Vocazione" (from Omicidio Per Vocazione), Barry 7's Connectors 2, CAM
16. Guido and Maurizio De Angelis, "New Special Squad" (from Roma Violenta), Beretta 70: Roaring Themes from Thrilling Italian Policefilms 1971-80, Crippled Dick Hot Wax!
17. Guido and Maurizio De Angelis, "Gangster Story" (from La Polizia incrimina, la legge assolve), Easy Tempo Vol. 1: A Cinematic Easy Listening Experience, Right Tempo

(Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, In Like Flint, Coffy and Ocean's Twelve are the only movies on this playlist I've seen. I wonder if The Liquidator, which MGM released in 1966 and I assume Warner Bros. now owns, will be part of the Warner Archive Collection DVD imprint. The enjoyable Lalo Schifrin score and the premise--an accidental war hero goes to spy school and doesn't like his new government assassin job one bit--make it sound interesting.)

Reruns of AFOS: The Series air Wednesdays at 10am and 3pm.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Mighty love: A look back at Ralph Bakshi's adventurous and long-lost Terrytoons reboot, now on DVD

The flower-sniffing scene is included on the DVD. All you right-wingers who hated on the show because of the flower scene can suck it.
This is a revised version of a June 5, 2009 post--updated to include mentions of the Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures complete series DVD that came out yesterday.

I never thought I'd see the day. Ralph Bakshi and John Kricfalusi's hilarious late '80s Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures reboot of Terrytoons' opera-singing rodent superhero finally got an extras-filled DVD release from CBS/Paramount, delighting animation fans and '80s kids like me who, back in '87 or '88, thought, "There's gotta be a better cartoon than Transformers, G.I. Joe and all the other lamer ones starring toys," and then caught Mighty Mouse: TNA one Saturday morning and said, "Hey man, we just found it."

Bat-Bat and Tick the Bug Wonder by Jeffrey Pidgeon
The amusingly over-the-top and off-kilter Bakshi Animation fanfare that opened every 11-minute Mighty Mouse: TNA story signaled this was not another saccharine and sanctimonious cartoon kingdom like the ones inhabited by the Care Bears, Teddy Ruxpin, My Little Pony and the Little Clowns of Happytown. The Bakshi/John K. Mighty Mouse brought back some characters from the Terrytoons shorts (Pearl Pureheart, a less prominent Oil Can Harry) and introduced several new ones, like MM's lonely orphan buddy Scrappy Mouse, a bald villain named Petey Pate, the Batman spoof Bat-Bat--a precursor to both the Tick and Die Fledermaus--and the Cow, Bat-Bat's bovine nemesis.

The Cow by Jim Smith
The show also ditched the obnoxious opera singing from the old shorts and gave MM a secret identity for the first time. When MM wasn't busy rescuing Pearl, Scrappy or the other citizens of Mouseville, he disguised himself as a plain-voiced construction worker named Mike the Mouse, a new conceit that actually made MM a more relatable character. In the show's much more anarchic and absurdist second season, the writers apparently lost interest in the Mike persona and had MM appear as his caped self all the time, even when he got married to Pearl at a ceremony that was attended by all the other Terrytoons characters.

'You've got me? Who's got you?'Nineties cartoons like Tiny Toon Adventures and Animaniacs jumpstarted the whole meta-toon trend of poking fun at rival cartoons. But Mighty Mouse: TNA actually went meta years before--and with funnier and wilder results--in the classic "Don't Touch That Dial" episode, which launched an unprecedented attack on cookie-cutter '80s cartoons and viewers' short attention spans. The show's writers and animators admired the '40s and '50s Looney Tunes shorts (the Termite Terrace crew was in their comedic prime during those decades, but several of their shorts were also pretty racist-ass, to borrow a word from a recent tweet by Geo of Blue Scholars about Looney Tunes marathons). Throughout the series run, the Mighty Mouse: TNA staff succeeded in recapturing the irreverent spirit of those '40s and '50s cartoons, and in "Don't Touch That Dial" and an earlier ep, "Mighty's Benefit Plan," they couldn't resist expressing their hatred for the shabby state of mainstream animation at the time.

In the first-season ep "Mighty's Benefit Plan," the writers skewered one particular '80s cartoon, NBC's Alvin and the Chipmunks revival. They reimagined the Chipmunks as "Elwy and the Tree Weasels" (the band's biggest hit was called "Twitch and Writhe"), and in a series of gags they somehow Jedi mind-tricked CBS censors into ignoring, they turned David Seville into a disgusting-looking, Cheerios-craving pseudo-pedophile--an eerie foretelling of creepy teen pop Svengalis like Lou Pearlman and Joe Simpson.

Mr. E from Mighty Mouse: TNA's 'Don't Touch That Dial' ep
Mr. E (Photo source: Jeffrey Pidgeon)
In season two, instead of targeting just one show, the writers decided to go after a whole bunch of shows with "Don't Touch That Dial." The ep follows a Sgt. Bilko's Cereal-eating, diaper-clad kid viewer as he channel-surfs after MM's latest adventure bores him. Evicted from his own show by the impatient kid's remote, MM gets zapped into lame cartoons that resemble The Flintstones, The Jetsons, The Real Ghostbusters, Rocky and Bullwinkle (with Rocky Balboa instead of Rocky the Flying Squirrel) and Scooby-Doo (complete with canned laughter and a Scrappy-Doo-esque sidekick named "Mr. E," a mash-up of Mr. T and Ed Sullivan who tells MM to get away from his "really big shoe" and stop taunting his "ethnically mixed buddies"). Long before the writers of The Simpsons, Futurama, Arrested Development and 30 Rock were inserting gags that viewers have to freeze-frame, "Don't Touch That Dial" snuck in a great split-second shot of MM getting zapped into a nameless cartoon starring a mash-up of Popeye and a Smurf ("Popeye Smurf").

Not everything in Mighty Mouse: TNA worked. Scrappy, voiced by the late Dana Hill, the Patrick Troughton of Audrey Griswolds, was an annoying audience surrogate who became even more annoying when a cost-cutting Bakshi would string together clips of old Terrytoons shorts and have an offscreen Scrappy snark at the footage for the entire 11-minute segment. Mighty Mouse invented MST3King about a year before MST3K did! (When he was asked in a 1988 interview about the 11-minute montages of old Terrytoons clips, John K. said, "Why waste money on those things? Nobody's going to watch them anyway.") Though these segments weren't very funny--and listening to Scrappy's voice for 11 minutes straight is like being treated to a concerto by the Nails on Chalkboards Philharmonic Orchestra--they showed how much of an improvement the Bakshi/John K. reboot was over the original MM cartoons, which were rather sucky. No wonder the show's writers and animators turned to Looney Tunes instead of Terrytoons for comedic inspiration.

Marvel Comics' Mighty Mouse #1It's a shame this little-seen show has been remembered mostly for the uproar caused by the religious right--they thought they saw MM snort coke from a flower--and not often enough for moments like the ep that pitted MM against a giant, evil and nameless parade balloon that was clearly Pee-wee Herman (a funny reference to another CBS Saturday morning show at the time), the Elwy show and "Don't Touch That Dial," the most entertaining 11 minutes of small-screen animation from the '80s. Though it lasted only two seasons, Mighty Mouse: TNA was popular enough to spawn an early '90s Marvel comic that brought Bat-Bat, his sidekick Tick the Bug Wonder, the Cow and the show's other new characters to the funny pages.

For a while, a Mighty Mouse: TNA DVD seemed unlikely because according to Jeffrey Pidgeon, an artist who worked on the show, "the rights are owned by five different people who don't exactly like each other." I don't know who sorted out the legal mess, but I like to think a mouse in yellow tights was somehow involved.

AFOS: "Damn It Feels Good to Be a Gangster" playlist

Airing this week in the Wednesday Fistful of Soundtracks: The Series rerun time slots is the episode "Damn It Feels Good to Be a Gangster" (WEB85) from February 19-25, 2007.

Don opening titles
1. James Brown, "The Boss," Black Caesar, Polydor
2. Nino Rota, "Main Title (The Godfather Waltz)," The Godfather, MCA
3. David Schwartz, "Theme from Deadwood," Deadwood, Lost Highway/Universal
4. The Police & Henry Mancini, "Every Breath You Take/Theme from Peter Gunn (Mr. Ruggerio's Remix)," The Sopranos: Peppers & Eggs, Play-Tone/Columbia/Sony Music Soundtrax
5. Giorgio Moroder, "Tony's Theme," Scarface, MCA
6. Elmer Bernstein, "Prologue," Hoodlum: Original Score Soundtrack, RCA Victor
7. Ennio Morricone with Gheorghe Zamfir and Edda Dell'Orso, "Cockeye's Song" (from Once Upon a Time in America), The Ennio Morricone Anthology: A Fistful of Film Music, Rhino
8. Ennio Morricone, "The Die Is Cast," Bugsy, Epic Soundtrax
9. Howard Shore featuring G.E. Smith and Larry Saltzman, "Cops or Criminals," The Departed: Original Score, New Line
10. Richie Buckley, "Arcade Getaway," The General, Milan
11. Kalyanji Anandji, "Theme from Don," Bombay the Hard Way: Guns, Cars & Sitars, Motel
12. Shaan, "Main Hoon Don," Don: The Chase Begins Again, T-Series
13. Ennio Morricone, "Al Capone," The Untouchables, A&M
14. Ennio Morricone, "The Sicilian Clan--Main Titles" (from The Sicilian Clan), Ennio Morricone: The Gangster Collection, DRG
15. Ice-T, "New Jack Hustler (Nino's Theme)" (from New Jack City), A Rap Collection, Giant
16. Sammy Davis, Jr., "The Ballad of Johnny Cool," Johnny Cool, Rykodisc

Reruns of AFOS: The Series air Wednesdays at 10am and 3pm. To listen to the station during either of those time slots (or right now), press the play icon on the blue widget below the "About me" mini-bio on this blog.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Shows I Miss (Already): Better Off Ted

Better Off Ted retells The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman.

I know Better Off Ted's not officially cancelled yet, but the fact that ABC burnt off an episode on New Year's Day and is burning off two more eps on the same night--this Tuesday night, to be exact--indicates the hilarious but little-watched series is being taken out back and shot.

Ted, which is narrated by the title character (Jay Harrington), who's like a kinder, gentler, health-conscious Don Draper, is about the research and development department Ted runs at the morally dubious conglomerate Veridian Dynamics. His neurotic scientist underlings Phil (Jonathan Slavin) and Lem (Malcolm Barrett) toil over inventions like vegetables full of anti-depressants, "weaponized pumpkins," "Hushaboom technology" ("War just keeps getting better") and a motion-detection system that throws Ted and his team into panic mode when they discover that its sensors are unable to recognize black people (an eerie foretelling of HP's racist face-tracking software!).

It took me a while to warm up to showrunner Victor Fresco's latest corporate satire--his signature creation is another corporate satire, Andy Richter Controls the Universe, which also co-starred Slavin--but now I consider Ted one of the most consistently funny single-camera sitcoms currently on prime-time. I can always count on Ted to contain five or six strange and absurdist lines that crack me up (the sexual harassment-themed ep that ABC burnt off on New Year's, "The Great Repression," rattled off way more than five or six and was endlessly quotable, with great lines like a reference to a lengthy hug as a "Midwestern handshake"). Community, Parks and Recreation, The Office, 30 Rock, The Venture Bros., How I Met Your Mother and even Modern Family--which I like despite its occasionally sappy concluding voiceovers--have the same batting average as Ted's.

I've never seen former Arrested Development ditz Portia de Rossi play an ice queen before. (Did she play one on Ally McBeal? I wouldn't know. I'm a guy. I wasn't into Ally McBeal.) She pulls off the ice-queen act incredibly well as Ted's boss Veronica, whose callousness towards lesser human beings like her little sister never fails to amuse ("When my little sister came along, I was very jealous. That feeling never went away, even when she was older and I put testosterone in her orange juice, so she became hairy and unlovable and got kicked off the gymnastics team for doping"). Mrs. DeGeneres is the scene-stealing MVP on this show, much like Alec Baldwin on 30 Rock and William Shatner on Boston Legal, although on some weeks, she's been edged out by Andrea Anders as Linda the eccentric product tester.

Linda: Warrior Princess

When Ted premiered last spring, I felt at first like Fresco was just rehashing material from Andy Richter. But then I got onboard when I realized that "Whoa, Veridian's a pretty evil corporation, and the show's not going to sugarcoat Veridian's evilness or make this workplace one big happy surrogate family" and that the main female love interest, who's often boringly written on these sitcoms, is kind of nutso--a nice change of pace from "idealized, humorless girl-next-door" or "shrill, stick-in-the-mud female foil." Anders is a riot as Linda, a misfit and audience surrogate who hates the corporate world and continually finds ways to rebel against it, whether it's secretly writing a children's book that she hopes will be her ticket out of Veridian or responding to the craziness of Veridian by being even crazier than the company itself. Linda is the source of many of the show's most absurdist lines, like her random nickname for Ted at the beginning of the aforementioned kids' book ep ("Bloopity-bloo"). She's like a Midwestern working class version of the original Manic Pixie Dream Girl, Katharine Hepburn in Bringing Up Baby, except more attractive (peep the Xena outfit) and not as scatterbrained. This enjoyably written character and the loony, "Hushaboom technology"-worshiping universe that surrounds her and the level-headed Ted are some of the many reasons why I already miss Better Off Ted. Thanks a lot, According to Jim-loving Nielsen family dipshits.