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Sunday, December 28, 2008

Yuki Show Diary: 12/27/08 Radio Radio

By the week of the show, I think all of us were regretting taking it. There were a number of factors, mostly dealing with the time of year and that most of would just be back from holiday traveling and just want to relax. For me, this was compounded by a party we'd hosted the prior night and that I was feeling so much the shattered man.

Regardless, we continued on and I didn't follow through on my threat to bring an old Rhythm Ace instead of my drums. The night started on a bad note for me as I discovered I'd lost one of my fitted earplugs. Luckily, I happened to have another pair where I'd lost the opposite one, so I still have a matched pair. It's just that they were halfway across the city.

The show itself was better than I'd expected all the way around. We had a very good turnout, which was really surprising given this hadn't been one of our finest promotional pushes and it was two days after Christmas and bad weather was looming.

It took me a while to get my footing though. Tempos have been creeping up in practice and I've been trying to pull them back a bit, but between that and feeling like a chewed piece of gum, I overcompensated the first half of the set. Had a few minor mishaps, but as long as I didn't think about what was going on, I was fine.

The combination of the humidity outside and the club not being ready for 60+ degree weather in December made for a very sweaty night. I think I lost a gallon of fluid on the stage. That was the worst part. Well, that and loading out in the pouring rain. That really sucked.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny (1972)

I love bad movies. If you've been reading this blog, it's a given. And, I love weird kiddie matinee movies from the 60s and 70s. If they're Christmas kiddie matinee movies, even more so. But Santa and the Ice Cream

I'm going to start out by saying, this is easily the worst Christmas film I've ever seen. Really, calling it a Christmas film at all is stretching it, as I'll explain later, but for now let's just leave it at that. It's also probably the worst kid's film I've ever seen as well. (Yes, it's even worse than The Magic Land of Mother Goose, another kid's film with a tacked on Christmas tie in.) I'm going to go so far and say it's on the top 10 worst films I've ever seen. (Now there's a list I need to compile some day.)

If you want to read a recap of the film almost as long as the movie itself, block off an hour and click here. If you'd like a more sensible length recap, try this one. But, since you are here, let me give you my quick run down of what goes on in this movie.

First up, we have Santa's sleigh stuck on a beach in Florida. Why? Who knows? Santa magically summons a motley crew of kids to help unstick him, and they try...for nearly fifteen minutes. When they run out of random farm animals to try to hitch to the sleigh, they hunker down for Santa to tell them a story. And by tell them a story, I mean unspool an entirely unrelated movie, complete with opening titles, within this movie.

For the next hour, we are treated to schlockmeister Barry Mahon's take on Thumbelina, apparently filmed two years earlier. The only connection this Thumbelina has to the Santa bits is that they both have parts filmed at the Pirate's World amusement park. I mention this because it is the only thread connecting these two things.

Thumbelina doesn't have squat to do with Christmas and doesn't even try to. The acting is horrible, the songs excruciatingly long and the animal costumes aren't even detailed enough to be nightmare fuel. One thing Thumbelina has is plenty forced cross species romance. My favorite bit is when Thumbelina reels off a list of why she can't marry Mr. Digger, a rich mole, and the fact that he is not human comes in last by a long stretch.

Anyway, eventually, though not soon enough, Thumbelina ends and we're returned to our Santa stuck in the sand already in progress. I'd like to remind you, we're about an hour and fifteen minutes in and we've barely seen Santa and have seen neither hide nor hair of the Ice Cream Bunny. But wait, we're not done yet. Since someone was nice enough to YouTube it, I'd like to present to you the last ten minutes of the film.

If you're worried that you didn't understand what just happened because you came in at the end, let me assure you, I saw the entire thing and I still have no idea what just happened. You will note, as everyone who has seen this movie does, a distinct lack of ice cream. I guess he was in such a hurry slowly driving to save Santa, he completely forgot about his namesake dessert item. Maybe he was made of ice cream, though that would be highly impractical in Florida.

You should also note someone either pushing the fire truck or a kid who has fallen off the back and is attempting to catch up. My guess is the former, as the truck is moving so slowly you'd have to be dead to let it pass you.

There is one detail you missed from the front half of the film. The two kids in the straw hats? Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. Why? No clue. They don't figure into this film at all except for a scene establishing who they are and showing them spying on the Santa scene. When they popped back out at the end, I'd completely forgotten they were ever there, that's how little they added to the movie.

By putting that clip up, I'm afraid I've oversold the film. See, that is literally the best ten minutes in this ninety minute film. It goes downhill from there. All of the stuff I'd read about this movie didn't prepare me for the tedium that sets in quickly while watching.

Other classics in this genre of bad kiddie Christmas movies, like Santa Claus Conquers the Martians or the Mexican Santa Claus, may be inept, but they are never less than entertaining, even if for all the wrong reasons. Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny is just plan boring. The only reason the ending is worth seeing is it's about the only time in the movie anything at all worth watching happens.

Prior to this, I'd have said two of the worst kiddie flick I'd seen were The Magic Land of Mother Goose and Jimmy, The Boy Wonder, two films the great Herschell Gordon Lewis did for other people in between gore and sexploitation films. Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny shares many traits with those two movies (tacked on Christmas theme, nonsensical film with in a film, grade school play production values, terrible songs) but it truly takes them to another level. Jimmy and Mother Goose may be slow in spots, but they're mind blowing in others. The Ice Cream Bunny is just dull.

I sought this one out because it has a bit of a reputation among connoisseurs of crap cinema. After seeing it, I really can't understand the appeal. There's good crap and bad crap and this is definitely bad, boring crap. Unless you are up to an endurance challenge, a completest or a masochist, I'd recommend staying far away from this one.

Friday, December 05, 2008

MST3K Redux

As much as I love Mystery Science Theater 3000, somehow I've resisted buying any of the Cinematic Titanic releases...until now. Yes, they broke me down with Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. Not only do I love this movie (it's sooo bad,) I found this a surprising and gutsy choice for the CT crew, considering this movie was riffed on MST3K back in the day.

Well, I'm happy to report this disc is a winner. Amazingly enough, despite the fact that most of these folks worked on the MST3K episode, the riffing is all new. And it's really funny stuff here. Check the trailer:

So, as I'm sure a million other MST3K fans have done, I have to contrast this to Rifftrax. It's not entirely fair, as I have more Rifftrax stuff than Cinematic Titanic, but here goes anyway:

Rifftrax was first, so they have that going for them. Since most of what they do is just an mp3 commentary track to be played along with a commercial DVD, their releases are cheaper and quicker to download. They have also done shorts, like MST3K used to, which are the whole deal.

However, most of the Rifftrax are for modern movies that I really don't care about. Since they're just mp3s, I'd have to acquire the movies as well. Aside from the shorts, I haven't really been interested in any Rifftrax in a while, though bringing guest riffers (like Fred Willard) on board has made me interested in checking out some of them eventually.

And speaking of the riffers, here's the big difference: the CT crew, is not only greater in number, but it's pretty much all my favorite people from MST3K. While I have nothing against the Rifftrax crew, there's just something about Joel, Trace and Frank (and the underrated J. Elvis, his riffing was the highlight of MST3K Season 1) that I find funnier.

So that's my two cents. I look forward to checking out some more Cinematic Titanic in the future. And I'll enjoy firing up the Rifftrax take on the Star Wars Christmas Special again this year and hope that they'll do more shorts in the next year.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

What If They Held a Chinese Democracy and No One Cared?

And speaking of hype, the much hyped, in the works even longer than the Beatles on iTunes, Chinese Democracy finally released and...bombed. After all the leaks, the jokes, the money thrown at this, first week sales were only in the area of 250,000-260,000. Ouch.

To anyone who has really been paying attention, I don't think this is much of a surprise, but I'll bet there are some executives at Best Buy who green lighted the huge bonus for making the album a Best Buy exclusive who are trying to figure out what happened. Seems like they already threw in the towel on this one, as Axl Rose was no where to been seen in their most recent circular, after dominating the release week one (and was it really only two weeks ago?)

The record company people are already starting the blame game, pointing the finger at Rose's lack of publicity appearances or talking to the press as what killed it. Seriously, UMG? Who didn't know about this album? For that matter, who really wanted to hear it, but hadn't prior to release? To say Axl's avoidance of the promotional circuit killed the album is just absurd (and if they were shocked by it, they haven't been paying any attention.)

This album cover still looks like a crappy mock up to me,
even after seeing it in the store.

Here's what I think happened: The suits in the entertainment world are still trying to come to terms with this Internet thing. For too many years, they ignored anything from the web, which was very unwise. Now, I think they are going too far in the opposite direction and taking every bit of Internet hype too seriously.

As I'm sure you know, there's a lot of sarcasm on the web. There are also tons of here today, meh tomorrow memes out there. And most of those memes make little sense to the outside world. For instance, how many people had to explain Rickrolling to relatives after watching the Macy's Parade this year?

Chinese Democracy was talked about a lot on the web, but context is king, and the context here was much more gawking at a freak show than genuine interest in this album. Unfortunately for UMG, Best Buy and everyone else, I don't think they got that. I think they saw everyone talking about that album and interpreted it as "it's going to be a smash" rather than realizing the majority of the people saw it as a joke.

Of course, we can also factor in that no one is buying music these days and even when they do, expecting the same level of sales as the Use Your Illusion days is completely unrealistic. It's not a giant leap to imagine the suits seeing the Guns N Roses name and becoming nostalgic for the sales figures of those heady days. Given the kind of logic that seems to prevail in this industry, I'm sure more than a few people thought the GnR name alone would have that magic to sell at that level again.

Well, it didn't and yes, you can blame the economy, blame downloading, etc., etc. That's part of the big picture, to be sure. By comparison, Kanye West fell just under half a million this same chart, which is pretty pathetic for him too. (Of course 808s and Heartbreak isn't exactly his normal thing, so that's a factor there.) But, what I think this comes down to is the suits misinterpreted the Internet hype surrounding Chinese Democracy for real world people actually wanting to buy this album. Other than the theory that they were throwing good money after bad (how many millions did this album cost UMG anyway?) that's the only possible explanation I can think of.

Chinese Democracy is the first Snakes on a Plane album. If you'll recall, Snakes on a Plane had this huge mocking Internet hype surrounding it, which it seems led many of the money people to believe it would be a box office smash. It wasn't and Chinese Democracy won't be either. But, at least some people got a free Dr. Pepper out of the deal and now the Internet can move on to laughing about possible release dates for Dr. Dre's Detox and the next My Bloody Valentine album.

(Sidenote: along this same theme, I'm amazed no one has offered Rick Astley a truckload of cash for a comeback album yet. After the Macy's appearance, I'm going to be even more shocked if this doesn't happen. And yes, it too will bomb.)

More Amazon mp3 Goodness

Remember how I said iTunes was going to have to step it up to stay competitive with Amazon? Well, I think Amazon raised the bar again with their Black Friday Specials, which are still running, apparently. Not only that, but they are doing a spend $25 in "qualifying purchases," get $5 at the mp3 store free promotion until December. The range of purchases is pretty wide. I managed to get a credit before I even knew of the promotion, for instance.

On the Apple front, I mentioned before Apple's attempt to meet Amazon's Friday deals, which is still pretty underwhelming in my eyes. Scuttlebutt is, the talks to make iTunes DRM free rage on with WMG dipping a toe in the water. It's a start, but, again, it's ironic (and suspicious) that so long after Steve Jobs gave his anti-DRM speech, EMI is still the only major to have totally embraced iTunes Plus.

EDIT: Interesting article at Hypebot on what the hold up is. Did Amazon make these same concessions (other than the one for BMG)? Interesting that one of the main issues is an explicitly stated fear that competition will drive prices lower. Regardless, I can't see a control freak like Steve Jobs bending much.

Then there's the oft rumored, would you please get it over with already, Beatles on iTunes talks which have apparently stalled again. I guess they need another dump truck full of money for that one. But, I'm still unconvinced that it's really that big a deal. Sure it'll be good for impulse purchases but are there really that many people waiting for the Beatles music to be available on iTunes to buy it? I have to wonder, with the availability of the Beatles catalog on CD, the ease at which one can find dozens of fan remasterings and "needledrops" of every Beatles record ever made on the web and the looming end of the 50 year copyright protection period in the EU, what exactly is the value of this catalog for a digital retailer like Apple.

Regardless of what sales will be, I just wish they'd get it over with and do it already.