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December 28, 2006

"Hearty fare breeds hearty people, haute cuisine breeds degenerates."

Today's update is a very short one, as there's little DVD release activity this week and I'm on vacation in SD. So, before I get back to fixing my family's computer issues, here's what we have coming out (or out already) this week:

Airwolf - Season Two

The Black Dahlia

Dane Cook's Tourgasm

The Descent Ah, a cave-based horror film....fun!



Jackass Number Two Gee, why wasn't this one released before Christmas???

The Last Kiss

Magma: Volcanic Disaster All I can think of here is the line by Dr. Evil: "Molton MAGMAAAA!"

Mi Amigo Starring that guy from Lost.

Sir! No Sir!

The Simple Life 4 - 'Til Death Do Us Part See, I told you there wasn't much out this week!

December 19, 2006

Don't Eat The Entertainment

Let's continue on to the HHK&C content I've been going over now; continuing my previous post on this.

Encounters of Our Kind

I consider this one to be the first fully-formed title and as a concept, it's probably the most complete. We did things just as funny or funnier after this, but this one still has the best-executed flow and consistency. So let's get to the tracks:

1. "If You Thought..." This little introduction is a hold-over from our previous project, "The Making of Burger Wars." "Burger Wars" (BW) was a tape that Lee and I did by ourselves. I plan to revisit this one at a later date. The "Making Of" was a partially completed mock-umentary that was the first to feature Phil. Even though this track makes little sense if you hadn't heard the prior stuff, it's still an amusing way to get into the tape. Note the use of "Also Sprach" which we will use again as well as the clipped voice of Mandy Kelts near the end.

2. "Rock Influences." Doesn't it seem odd to have this piece of classical music introducing a show about rock music? I can't remember why we used this cue really, though maybe it matches up with the stuffy-sounding host. Clearly this was a good excuse for Phil to do his John Lennon imitation, though it's really a device to get us into...

3. "We Interrupt..." We now meet one of Lee's major characters, Jeffrey Scott. This guy pops up quite a bit, bad accent and all. Now he's apparently dead (lost in space, what's up with that?!) so we get to hear his funeral. This scene has me standing off to the side reading the eulogy while Lee and Phil act as the grieving friends/family. I forgot that Lee plays three characters here (or four?) including Dirty Fairy. This scene is a bit on the long side, in retrospect. The track ends with the cut-back to the end of the "Influences" interview; very funny. "Who are we next week?" "I don't know, I think either Jesus Christ or the Bee Gees."

4. "Eye in the Sky" Lee does his EZ-Listening announcer voice and we're into a midnight traffic reporters, which is a fun concept. Around this time, Phil was a DJ for an elevator music station so we had a limitless supply of bad music, which we made ample use of. The funny thing here is the comment about the news of the UFO landing pre-empting The Cosby Show; in the middle of the night?

5. "On the Ground" Phil and I run in place next to the mics for that oh-so-authentic sound. 'Elllloooo! My main question about this track is, why don't John & Phil ask, aren't you dead?

6. "Pounded Puppies" This is one of those dated jokes, pound puppies. The song is multiple layers of us singing (Lee sings too, can you tell?) along with music from the "Tron" soundtrack!

7. "Hospital" So the traffic reporters take Jeffrey to the psych ward...where he's pumped full of drugs so he can get us all into...

8-10. "Star Trek" I've always considered this to be one of our more successful bits. The portrayal of Kirk that Lee does is very funny, though it doesn't really sound at all like Shatner (how many times does he say, "My GOD!" anyway?). Phil's Scotty voice is a combination of Scotty and a leprechaun. Our guest star Jeff does a great Spock whose rattling off decimals of pi which sends the bridge into a tailspin. The two things that struck me as funniest this time around were the scene in sick bay with Spock's canoe-sized ears and the end where they go back in time right before the ship explodes...again. That sequence was aided by the recording gear's ability to run at different speeds and the music that changes pitch was done with a malfunctioning cassette deck we had in the house. This machine ran at half speed unless you held down the play button (a lever-mechanical control). By taking your finger on and off the button, you could make the queasy pitch change happen. The ad in the middle here is obviously making fun of all those awful multi-record sets sold on TV (we revisit that ad satire later on), but you may ask, why Don Pardo and Grimace?! My Grimace voice is a holdover from the Burger Wars tape and Don? Well, besides thinking it would be amusing and warped to have them singing duets (preceding the trend of Duets albums methinks!).

Phil was famous for his Don Pardo voice when we were in high school (that and for getting thrown out of government class for saying everything in a Scottish accent!). I don't remember why we paired them up. As often happens on our projects, the ad is longer than whole scenes in the tape. And Grimace isn't really rapping...but it's still fun to hear multiple "Duh" along with music from Devo.

11. "The Hypnotists" This scene took a number of takes for us to get down, while the Star Trek stuff was done in very few takes, even though this scene is pretty simple by comparison. I think the real difficulty lies with the fact that both Phil and I were doing goofy voices. Phil's voice changed a lot from take to take and the gibberish I was speaking was quite random. Listen to the outtakes of this scene and you'll know why it took as long as it did--funny stuff even today.

12. "On the Ship" As Jeffrey rides on the alien ship, he gets to hear our version of TV shows on an alien ship...or is it them watching our shows? We made interesting use of multiple tape recorders for background sound effects here. Some dated 80s references here ("it's all the fault of my trusted advisors") , but at least we get another snippet of Dirty Fairy (DF). And speaking of DF, we get the whole "stand up" routine which still cracks me up. But not before Phil gets to do the most nasal-sounding lounge singer ever. Another thing that still amuses me is the way Lee plays both DF and the heckler ("what is it?!").

13. "Jeffrey Loses His Mindk" Back to the hypnotists where he falls into his "deepest/darkest fears." So who is supposed to be saying, "goodbye Jeffrey Scott?" It doesn't sound at all like the hypnotists...

14. "The Toilet Zone" More scifi fun which turns into a strange game show. Holy crap there's a lot of copyrighted music in this section! I just love the part here where he gets to the door where he has to be locked up with all the people he can't stand...FOR ETERNITY!!! I've gotta say that there's a surprising amount of menace in Phil and my voices where Jeffrey has to face his doom. At the end where he runs away from the hospital and Phil and I talk in our normal voices, there's this exchange:

Phil: What was his problem?
John: I don't know, must have been the drugs we gave him.
Phil: Yeah those drugs, oh well.

Just the way that last line is delivered makes me laugh; great stuff.

15. "Jeffrey Escapes" Like the Star Trek sketch, this whole thing comes full circle. That's one of the things I like about this tape; it has, to use the overused term, closure. And I am SO glad I thought to use the "disco" Close Encounters music at the end where Phil gets to spaz out doing Don Pardo: "Captain Don Kirk....ahhhhhhhhh!"

16. "Credits" Well, what can I say about this except that we like movies and if they can have long credits, why not us? As has become a long-running joke, I had a cold/larangitis so I could barely talk by the time we did this. I suppose it made this section more memorable. We thought that we deserved some self-congratulatory time at the end after all the work we put into it.

17. "Previews" More movie-style stuff. Amazingly, we actually made one of the tapes we did a preview for (not that we had any clue what it would be at the time). And a sequel to Burger Wars...uh. yeah!

18-27. Outtakes. This stuff is downright hilarious, particularly for those of us who were there. There's something universally funny about performers cracking up while delivering lines.

Encounters has always been a favorite of mine. It's pretty much all silly, some of it dated, some of it not quite so good as we thought it was 20 years ago (but what is?). With a single exception, these projects are pretty much profanity-free. It's not that we didn't swear, but felt that we could be funny without it.

So that will do it for this one. I'll be back with another post for the epic, B.O.B."

December 18, 2006

"I can say what I want - I still got Nazi bullets in my ass."

The movie companies are making their last real video push of the season this week. After all, those people who got gift cards need something to blow them on!

So let's see what they dug up this week:

All the King's Men (2006)

Dreamland (2006)

ER - The Complete Sixth Season

Gene Simmons: Family Jewels - The Complete Season One

Hogan's Heroes - The Complete Fifth Season

The Illustrated Man (1969)

Invincible (2006)

Jet Li's Fearless

Lady in the Water

The Librarian: Return to King Solomon's Mines Missed this classic on TV? Now you can own it!

Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

Married… with Children - The Complete Sixth Season

Police Story (1985) DVD Savant reviews this one here.

A Scanner Darkly

The Simpsons - The Complete Ninth Season

Step Up

There Was a Crooked Man... (1970)

Walt Disney Treasures: The Complete Pluto Vol. 2 (1947-1951) Another year, another set of Disney tins.

Walt Disney Treasures: Your Host, Walt Disney Collected "Disneyland" TV shows.

Walt Disney Treasures: More Silly Symphonies - Volume 2 (1929-1938)

Walt Disney Treasures: The Mickey Mouse Club Featuring The Hardy Boys

When the Levees Broke

The Wicker Man (1973) The original....check out the DVD Savant review here for an interesting read on this one.

The Wicker Man (2006) And the remake.

December 15, 2006

Let's Listen To It!

For those of you who don't have a long history with me, I'm going to devote this post to some serious navel-gazing into the musty sections of yore. Feel free to move along; I'll be back to the subject at hand soon enough.

Still with me? Good! As I've come to the end of another calendar year and semester (project paper done!), I had a moment to reflect a bit like so many others do and thought it high time to comment on something I've spent some time on during the past few weeks: the HHK (and C) tapes. OK, so I was also spending time with this stuff after cleaning them up on the computer for CD burning. This stuff was recorded in the late 1980s, starting in 1986 or so, by myself, Lee, Phil, and myself. Mr. Shawn C. joined us in late 1987. The tapes I've been going over were done around the time we graduated from high school, but I'd been doing stuff like that for years prior. As my family/friends can tell you, I've always been into electronic gear, particularly A/V equipment. When I was a kid, one of the coolest (OK, cool is a relative term, no?) devices available to me was the tape recorder. I have memories of recording the sound of A Charlie Brown Christmas on a portable recorder stuck next to the TV's speaker. It was a kick just to be able to listen to the show played back like that (needless to say, I was all over the VCR when my Dad brought home our first Betamax!). I and my brother were recording our own original tapes before long; they were crude, even compared to the ones I'm going to talk about here. But we had a great time.

Another thing to keep in mind: my older brothers are Firesign Theatre fans and got me listening to their LPs at an early age (warped sense of humor formed early). I managed to spread this appreciation to some friends and this undoubtedly had some influence on the tapes. Fellow (kids?) taping veterans, perhaps you will correct me, but one of the reasons we were driven to do these things in the relatively elaborate manner in which we did them was because of those Firesign LPs (oh yes, we also were geeky high school guys with no girlfriends...well maybe Phil had one). I was always impressed at the level of detail that those guys put into their albums and we tried to do that in our own small way. We spent a lot of time on these tapes and considering the fact that we had very crude technology at our disposal, I think we did rather well. On that note, let's get into what we were working with:

And now, some old tech!

These recordings were the product of purely analog technology. Digital audio recording was around then, but not at all accessible to your average teenager. Yes, this was the 1980s and we were cookin' with tape; analog 1/4" tape. Here's a picture of the model of recorder we primarily used:


No, that isn't the machine we actually used, but the same model (I guess I'm too lazy to dust off the old beast--yes, I still own the thing!--for a picture). It's a two track stereo deck. The real feature that made this kind of deck so useful for us was the fact that it could record on a channel by itself and would mix the microphone and the line inputs together. What this meant was that we could use background music/effects and do the old Beatles "track bounce" trick where you re-record a track and keep combining it until you get a multitrack recording on the cheap. We made ample use of this feature as well as the variable echo feature.

We had a pair of cheap Sony mics that we borrowed from our old friend Jeff (and, IIRC never gave back!). We had a pair of homemade small stands for them that sat atop a music stand (no shortage of them in my house growing up!). The mic setup was not unlike an old time radio program setup where the performers come and go to the mics, sound effects and everything. I had all sorts of sources for music and other noises; pretty much whatever I could get my hands on. After we'd done a take of a scene, someone would have to say, "let's listen to it!" My only technical regret is that I didn't get adventurous and do some real razorblade editing. Then again, tape was expensive and not easy to find, so...

So, that's the background and I'll end it there for now. I'll be back with another installment where I'll get into the actual tapes. Bye!!!

December 11, 2006

"The details of your incompetence do not interest me."

Monday rolls around once again and since we're in the midst of the frenzied buying season, we get more big new releases and box sets. The studios are really going gangbusters with box sets this year. Just wandering through Costco's limited DVD selection reveals a number of tempting sets, including the Astaire & Rogers Ultimate Collector's Edition, which I got for my birthday recently. This megaset includes 10 films with good bonuses and some really fun lobby card/press kit reproductions. I have yet to sample the movies, but the presentation of this material is really classy. Not all the DVD box sets go to this length, but some real effort is going into these sets on classic film, which is great to see. And now on to this week's DVDs:

The Andy Griffith Show - The Complete Final Season And if you're an ultimate Griffith fan, you can get the whole run of the show in one box set.

Barnyard Yes, yet another talking animal CG celebrity-voiced movie. One amusing quote from a review: "Barnyard is nothing so much as The Lion King chewed in a cud and digitally regurgitated."

Bugsy: Extended Edition The 1991 Beatty/Levinson film gets an extra 15 minutes of footage and some new bonus features.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - Four-Disc Extended Edition Disney takes a cue from New Line/Peter Jackson and issues a 4 DVD Extended Edition. More effects scenes and a lot of bonuses tempt the repeat buyer. Like other franchises, I would expect this stuff to be reissued again in HD formats as well as part of future larger box sets when the series is complete.

Dean Martin Double Feature Sony issues two of Dino's films on one DVD: : Who Was That Lady? and How To Save A Marriage (and Ruin Your Life). DVD Savant reviews this set here.

The Devil Wears Prada I thought this was actually pretty good; worth seeing once for Streep's performance alone, even if the ending bugged me a bit.

The Doors: 15th Anniversary Edition This mediocre film gets a DVD upgrade.

The Fox and the Hound 2 Another Disney direct-to-DVD movie...

Full House - The Complete Fifth Season You know, I was contemplating canceling my Netflix subscription to justify playing World of Warcraft, but if I did that, I'd miss classics like this!

Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. - The Complete First Season I know a lot of you've been waiting for this!

The James Bond Ultimate Edition Volume 3 and Volume 4 Sony/MGM concludes the Bond box sets with the good and bad films mixed together in each set (yes, you have to buy all four boxes to get all the Connery films).

Law & Order: Criminal Intent - The Second Year

Stacked - The Complete Series
Now here's a family classic!

Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby Will Ferrell haters beware!!! This one is also being released in both Blu Ray and HD-DVD so you can loathe Will in high definition.

Will Rogers Collection, Volume 2 This set includes: Ambassador Bill (1931), Too Busy to Work (1932), Mr. Skitch (1933), and David Harum (1934).

World Trade Center.

OK, a couple of notes:

First, we watched Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964) the other night, not having seen it in a while. I'd forgotten how subversive this show actually is! The themes, accepting those who are different (red nose, gay dentist elf), material wealth not being the key to happiness (the socialist snowman), and even the worst in society can be reformed (with some dental work) aren't exactly standard "family values" material. And why is the doll on the Island of Misfit Toys, anyway? Pretty fun.

Also, DVD Savant has two new reviews of stuff that came out recently: Forbidden Hollywood Collection Volume One and Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut. Both are quite interesting and worth a read.

December 4, 2006

"Is the jar of dirt going to help? "

Welcome to another December, DVD hounds. I haven't gotten any flack about linking movies to Netflix, so I'll continue to do that for the time being. By the way, for those of you who are interested, there is a tentative release timeframe for Twin Peaks Season 2 (never been on DVD in North America): April 2007. There is a lot of stuff coming out these days so let's see what we have on deck this week (at least the stuff I feel like writing about):

1900: Two-Disc Collector's Edition The Bertolucci epic gets its first DVD release with the full 315 minute running time (gulp!).

24 - Season Five

Animaniacs - Volume 2

Anna Boleyn (1920) The early Lubitsch film arrives on DVD.

The Beales of Grey Gardens (1976)


Black Christmas (1975) "yuletide cheer into fear" From the director of A Christmas Story!

Charlie Chan: Volume Two Another round of Chan films: Charlie Chan at the Opera (1936), Charlie Chan at the Race Track (1936), Charlie Chan at the Circus (1936), and Charlie Chan at the Olympics (1937). Wow, they really cranked them out...

The Conformist: Extended Edition (1970 Another new-to-DVD Bertolucci film.

The Dukes of Hazzard: Season 7

Dungeons & Dragons - The Complete Animated Series (1983) I attack the darkness!!!!

Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton Film Collection The fiery couple get their own box set...Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?: 2-Disc Special Edition (1966, this is a new version with bonuses and is the only title in this box available separately), The V.I.P.s (1963), The Sandpiper (1965), and The Comedians (1967)

Holiday (1938) This Grant/Hepburn classic is coming to DVD for first time, if memory serves.


Miami Vice (2006)

Mission: Impossible - The Complete First Season The 1960s series comes to DVD and I'm amazed it took them this long to tie this show into the movie francise.

Pinky and the Brain: Vol. 2

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest The big hit of the year comes out this week as a 2 DVD set. At first I thought it was odd that DIsney wasn't shoving multiple versions of this title, but then again when the third film comes out, there's sure to be a mega set that follows.

Pulse (2006)

Rocky Anthology Yes, another round of Rocky reissues...this box has the whole series. You know, the original film is OK (gee, do you think some people will disagree with me?!), but was awfully formulaic, even in the 1970s. And the less said about the 1980s films, the better.

Saturday Night Live - The Complete First Season Yes, the whole thing for the first time, not "best of" shows. I think it would be interesting to see how the show got going over the course of its first season since so many of the cast members and skits became TV history.

Symbiopsychotaxiplasm Take One (1968)

TCM Archives - Forbidden Hollywood Collection, Volume 1 Warners digs into the old film catalog for a box set focusing on three pre-production code films from the early 1930s (before tighter controls were placed on sex/violence); these should be interesting to check out and have never been on DVD before: Waterloo Bridge (1931, twas James Whale's breakthrough film before doing Frankenstein), Red Headed Woman (1932), and Baby Face (1933). Let's hope they do more of these.

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