It’s been more than a month now since the debut of Star Wars: The Clone Wars in theaters and just a week away from its coming out as a series on Cartoon Network. But don’t worry, I’m not going to do a review of the movie and try to convince or dissuade you from watching it on TV. You can go to umpteen number of Star Wars and Scifi forums where you can hear people rant or rave about it. Suffice it to say, IMHO, if you are a Star Wars geek, and you’re not worried about what your friends will think of you if you are over 10, you’ll probably like the movie and have a good time watching the series. In fact, it will probably be more fun if you watch it with a bunch of kids hyped up on “air” lightsaber duels. That way, you can use them as the perfect cover if you have to explain to your friends and co-workers why you watch it.

But on to my real topic. As controversial as the movie and the upcoming series seems to be to Star Wars “purists”, even more contentious to some is the music. The master himself, John Williams, doesn’t compose the music for The Clone Wars (after all, do you think they could have afforded Williams to do a TV series?), instead the job falls to Kevin Kiner, known for his Wing Commander score and music for Star Trek: Enterprise. And man, is he taking a beating by some in the reviews. Too much percussion. Too much synthesizer reverb. Too much use of electric guitars. All culminating in one barb I heard that went something like this: he’s ruining Star Wars music by making it appeal to a younger generation! What? First of all, since when does Star Wars need to attract young people? Kids stick to Star Wars like flies on Bantha Poodoo. Second, how old are these people saying this, anyway? Look, I first met Star Wars in 1977 at the age of 8. I’m probably around the average age, give or take a few years, of the “first generation” of Star Wars fans. To me, the original trilogy reigns. A New Hope is supreme! Now, I wholly admit that I enjoy classical music, mostly thanks to John Williams, but since when does this make me too old for percussion, synthesizer reverb, and an electric guitar? Come on! There are 60 year olds these days listening to the Rolling Stones. Artoo even tweets in “Obi-Wan To The Rescue” amid the electric guitars. Tell me that doesn’t get you old “purist” fans all excited to go download Meco’s Star Wars disco and listen to it like you know you did when you were a kid. I outright reject the argument that Kiner’s Star Wars music is not good because it has some non-traditional elements in it that supposedly only younger kids will like.

“You damn kids get off my lawn with your electric Jabba jive!”

Even Maestro Williams strayed a bit from the classics, and we all continued to loved him. Don‘t deny it. Can you say “Cantina Band”, “Lapti Nek”, “Jedi Rocks“, and “Victory Celebration”? If you listen to the whole saga, you’ll also notice that Williams introduced increasingly more percussion and non-traditional sounds in Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. Aside from the sound differences in Clone Wars, I’ve also heard a lot of complaints that Kiner has abandoned Williams’ themes altogether in his music. To that, I’d say go back and listen. Aside from the recognizable theme music in the Main Title and End Credit, if you listen carefully, you’ll find some more there. I swear I heard a bit of “Lando‘s Palace“, “Use the Force”, “Imperial Attack”, and a lot of musical phrasing that reminded me of Gungans for some reason. I leave it up to you to find more. Sure these aren’t major themes and mostly just musical impression, but they are fun nods here and there to the Maestro’s music.

Ok, If you are still reading this post, then you must really be a Star Wars geek. So I‘ll share with you my favorite song form The Cone Wars: “Landing on Teth” and don’t even complain about the use of voice or you’ll also have to criticize “Duel of the Fates” and Emperor‘s theme music.

Final thought: Whether you enjoy the music for Clone Wars or not, I predict that you, and everyone else who likes Star Wars enough to waste time carping about it, will be tuning in every Friday to watch the series on Cartoon Network anyway. So just admit you really like it and have fun like you were a kid again.

Advertisements

Kung Fu Panda

September 15, 2008

OK, maybe it’s not strictly Sci Fi/Fantasy, and maybe this gushing love-fest is a little late, but when you got little kids, dollar movies are about the only movies you see. 

 I loved Kung Fu Panda.  It reminded me of the old Kung Fu movies on late night television during my childhood mixed with the modern fantasy Martial Arts flicks (Crouching Tiger, Bullet-Proof Monk, etc.) with a little Jackie Chan meets Jack Black thrown in.  It wasn’t deep, it wasn’t epic, it was a cartoon.  And my two-year old spent the next two days saying, “Hiya!” and playing Kung Fu Baby with Daddy.

The Empire Strikes Me Again

September 12, 2008

I dearly love MST3K and sometimes I like to pretend I am Joel. Together with my trusty sidekicks Crow T. Robot and Tom Servo (the lamp and vacuum cleaner filling the roles) I sit down to watch a movie, crack wise, and amuse myself with a running dialog of trivia and observations (hm… come to think of it, I think this is my job description at work),

So this week when I noticed Spike was airing “The Empire Strikes Back” I hurriedly extracted the vacuum cleaner from its long closet slumber, plugged in the lamp and settled on the S.O.L. (Joel had his “Satellite of Love” and I have my “Sofa of Laziness”) to crack wise, harp on all the cheesy lines, and make merry at the expense of one, Mr. Lucas.

Now it has been a number of years since I have watched Empire (I think it was last viewed in its entirety on VHS) and for the first 15 minutes I was able to get off a series of riffs that would have made Joel proud. But then I started watching the movie and the wise cracks became less and less.

It is amazing to me that a 30 year old movie (well almost.. 1980) holds up so well. I have heard people say that this was the weakest of the original trilogy, but watching it the other night reminded me of the first time I saw it. To me, in 1980, this movie was like only one other movie I had seen (that being the original Star Wars). Back then it was the special effects and science fiction that captured my imagination. Even watching today the special effects are cool (yeah, today’s are better and you can tell when green screens were used) and when held in the context of time are still spectacular.

But the thing that I really enjoyed about this viewing was the story. Not the dopey superficial story of Darth Vader extracting his revenge, but the mythological story going on. Joseph Campbell called it the “monomyth”. Loosely the monomyth involves an epic, dream-figure hero who stands in for the entire culture. Campbell wrote, “The hero gives battle to the nursery demons of his local culture, and brings back from his adventure the means for the regeneration of the society as a whole”. He also described three stages to this myth: Departure, Initiation, and Return. Each of these 3 elements are present in the original Star Wars movie, but then they are repeated in the overall trilogy with the Empire installment being another “Initiation” stage. This movie hit home and I enjoyed it because it was a familiar story, one I have read repeatedly in literature. It actually has a deeper meaning beyond dialog and effects.

After a while it didn’t bother me that Yoda sounded a bit like Miss Piggy, or Lando had a funny way of saying Chewbacca, or Princess Lei is scared of Mynoks (yet can single-handedly take on a whole Death Star in a previous installment), or that Imperial ships have no shields that can deflect asteroids; I found the story very entertaining and left me wishing more movie makers would spend time building a credible classic story rather than figuring out how to make cars morph into robots and back again.

So my vacuum cleaning is once again relegated to the closet, the lamp has gone back to being a lamp and I will now cut Mr. Lucas some slack next time Star Wars is shown (but not too much).

Steampunk, of course. What is steampunk, you ask? Well, let’s ask the most reputable source on all matters, wikipedia:

Steampunk is a subgenre of fantasy and speculative fiction that came into prominence in the 1980s and early 1990s. The term denotes works set in an era or world where steam power is still widely used—usually the 19th century, and often set in Victorian era England—but with prominent elements of either science fiction or fantasy, such as fictional technological inventions like those found in the works of H. G. Wells and Jules Verne, or real technological developments like the computer occurring at an earlier date…[read on]”

Here’s where you need to stop imagining Johnny in a corset. But seriously, I like a good steamy tale with a bit of punk in it. Who wouldn’t? Think of it! Feeding punch cards into a steam powered analytical engine. Siding with Sir Rodger Fitzpatrick Rutherford III on Mars while quelling a native rebellion with etheric oscillators. Signing onto an zeppelin crew in search of Her Majesty who has been kidnapped by clockwork steam robots. (All previous ideas copyright (c) 2008 by crodrazine.wordpress.com). The possibilities are only bound by what could be in what once was.

Here’s my top six favorite steampunk odditites (this week anyway):

1. Dr. Grobdbort’s Rayguns: http://www.wetanz.com/holics/index.php?catid=4
2. Steampunk Sith: http://ericpoulton.blogspot.com/2007/02/steampunk-star-wars-lord-vader.html
3. Movie – Steamboy (I even own it): http://www.sonypictures.com/homevideo/steamboy/index.html
4. TV – The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne (when will this series be on DVD? Come on! Maybe you’re lucky and have Space instead of SciFi channel, eh? I might finally give in and pirate it off ebay…): http://www.spacecast.com/shows_3313.aspx
5. Novel – The Time Ships by Steven Baxter: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Time_Ships
6. This cool steampunk desktop. Read about it on http://steampunkworkshop.com/lcd.shtml

Honorable mention – Dr. Who Episode, The Girls in the Fireplace: http://www.bbc.co.uk/doctorwho/episodes/2006/girlinthefireplace.shtml

All in all, though, I like my steampunk to be in a movie, on TV, or in a book. I’m not too sure about steampunk music and fashion. I find it a bit creepy, like adults who trick or treat without kids. There’s a lady where I work who wears black petticoats and corsets and she’s all old an wrinkly. It’s good entertainment from far away, but up close, it gives me the shivers.

Fringe – Edgy or Recycled

September 10, 2008

When I was really young I remember seeing fringe in all the Saturday afternoon westerns and on Daniel Boone. Then it became fashionable and even cool. Sony and Cher had it. Roger Daltry wore it. CCR had it on an album cover. The longer and more of it, the better. Now that I am older fringe is once again becoming fashionable. Only this time it is techno-fringe.

I am not a J.J. Abrams fanboy and have to admit not a big “Lost” fan (in fact I could swear I heard the Fonz revving his motorcycle in last seasons finale) but I decided to give his new show “Fringe” a watch.

While watching the pilot episode I couldn’t help thinking what happens if you cross “The X Files” with “Night Stalker”, sprinkle in a bit of “Twin Peaks” (the cow) and “Twilight Zone” (airplane), and add a dash of “Altered States” (the “tank”). I think you would have “Fringe”

Every few years (decade?) we are treated to a new incarnation of the SciFi-Mystery-Horror genre on mainstream TV and of course I must watch. Kolchak: The Night Stalker and X-Files (and related shows: The Lone Gunmen and Millennium (now on the Chiller network)) being 2 of my favorite TV shows (although I don’t consider the last 2 seasons of the X-Files real X-Files).

This time around Abrams and company have started us on another conspiracy theory laced romp of SciFi, mystery, supernatural and horror in search of the “Pattern”. Future Fringe appears to be giving us a veritable smorgasbord of standard genre elements psychokinesis, bionics, transmogrification and teleportation with some twisted humor thrown in (the cow again :-)).

The production quality feels much like “Lost” and my wife even commented the music is eerily similar. To me it seemed that Scully and Mulder have already been down this path, however, I found myself watching the full 90 minutes and promising to withhold judgment for a couple more episodes.

Also, in typical Abrams fashion there are some websites you should check out: http://massivedynamic.com and http://www.glowingmonkeys.com . Both were part of the pilot episode. Massive Dynamics is the name of the “Spooky Big Business” that will be part of the series and glowingmonkeys appears as a sticker on a light post. And of course the producers have deposited “Easter Eggs” thoughout to keep us hooked and trying to solve the mystery ( http://eastereggs.fringetelevision.com to play along).

And now I remember why I am not a big “Lost” fan. With my short attention span for pop culture it is just tooooo tiring to keep up. I am sure that after a while I will get burned out of the over-exposure (4 episodes seems my max) and need to take a break. The good thing is when I choose to return I can always catch up on