Category Archives: Films

The Nightmare Before Christmas “This is Halloween” (1993)

Here’s something I’m slightly ashamed to admit: to date, I have still not seen The Nightmare Before Christmas. I know it’s a classic, I know I should have seen it long since, but somehow I’ve just never gotten around to it, and I admit at this point I have no excuse. However, to somewhat make up for it, I thought I would start looking into the songs that appear in that film, some of which I am quite familiar with.

“This is Halloween” is the first major song that appears in the film, and as of right now is the song I’m most familiar with. It serves as our proper introduction to Halloween Town and its spooky denizens, where Jack Skellington rules as the Pumpkin King (it’s like Santa Claus and the North Pole, only everything is based around Halloween).

Boys and girls of every age
Wouldn’t you like to see something strange?
Come with us and you will see
This, our town of Halloween

This is Halloween, this is Halloween
Pumpkins scream in the dead of night
This is Halloween, everybody make a scene
Trick or treat till the neighbors gonna die of fright
It’s our town, everybody scream
In this town of Halloween

I am the one hiding under your bed
Teeth ground sharp and eyes glowing red
I am the one hiding under your stairs
Fingers like snakes and spiders in my hair

This is Halloween, this is Halloween
Halloween! Halloween! Halloween! Halloween!

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In typical Tim Burton fashion, the characters in Halloween town are all really creepy, but in an almost charming type of way. Even so, it’s probably for the best that I didn’t see this movie when it was new, because I can only imagine what younger-me would’ve thought of it all (I scared so easily at that age).

In this town, we call home
Everyone hail to the pumpkin song
In this town, don’t we love it now?
Everybody’s waiting for the next surprise

Round that cornerman hiding in the trash can
Something’s waiting now to pounce, and how you’ll…
Scream! This is Halloween
Red ‘n’ black, and slimy green

Aren’t you scared?

Well, that’s just fine
Say it once, say it twice
Take a chance and roll the dice
Ride with the moon in the dead of night

Everybody scream, everybody scream

In our town of Halloween…

I am the clown with the tear-away face
(deeper voice) Here in a flash and gone without a trace
I am the “who” when you call, “Who’s there?”
I am the wind blowing through your hair…
I am the shadow on the moon at night
Filling your dreams to the brim with fright!

This is Halloween, this is Halloween
Halloween! Halloween! Halloween! Halloween!

Tender lumplings everywhere
Life’s no fun without a good scare

That’s our job, but we’re not mean
In our town of Halloween

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In this town, don’t we love it now?
Everyone’s waiting for the next surprise!

Skeleton Jack might catch you in the back and scream like a banshee, make you jump out of your skin
This is Halloween, everyone scream
Won’t ya please make way for a very special guy?
Our man Jack is king of the pumpkin patch
Everyone hail to the Pumpkin King now

This is Halloween, this is Halloween
Halloween! Halloween! Halloween! Halloween!

In this town, we call home
Everyone hail to the pumpkin song

La-la-la-la-la-la-la-la, Halloween, Halloween! [Repeat two more times]
La-la-la-la-la-la-la-la…
Whee!

This song has to be one of the coolest introductions of a place and character (Halloween Town and Jack Skellington) that I’ve ever seen. Any time I listen to it, I’m instantly in the mood for Halloween (pity I’m too old to go trick or treating). And I have to say, for being made in 1993, the stop-motion animation in this scene holds up spectacularly well.

Let me know what you think about “This is Halloween in the comments below and have a great day! I’ll try to share more songs from The Nightmare Before Christmas this weekend.

See also:

Disney/Dreamworks/Pixar/etc. Soundtracks A-Z

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My Thoughts on: It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966)

One of the great things about October is that it’s now time for one of my favorite Peanuts animated specials, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. I grew up watching the Peanuts holiday specials (this one, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, and A Charlie Brown Christmas), and as a result I hold them all very close to my heart. While many think of A Charlie Brown Christmas as the Peanuts special, I think it could be argued that It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is just as good as its Christmas counterpart.

As you might guess from the title card, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is set on Halloween, as everyone gets ready to celebrate in their own way. One of the things I love best about this special is that Charlie Brown actually gets invited and goes to Violet’s Halloween party; just seeing his happiness at getting the invitation warms my heart every single time (being a victim of bullying, I’ve always taken issue with how Charlie Brown gets treated by the other kids). And, as usual, Linus is preparing to meet the Great Pumpkin, a Halloween entity similar to Santa Claus that only he believes in, much to Lucy’s embarrassment (and the amusement of everyone else).

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Part of what makes It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown so endearing is how much fun it is to watch. From the moment Linus and Lucy set out to choose a pumpkin, to the end when Linus vows to see the Great Pumpkin “this time, next year” the jokes and animated mayhem never really stop. The humor is innocent, pure, and a reminder of what it was like to celebrate Halloween as a kid, which is a big part of why I love it so much.

Of course, I can’t leave a review about It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown without discussing what happens with Sally and Linus. I can’t tell you how many years I felt terrible on Sally’s behalf: she ends up spending the entire night in the pumpkin patch, only for Linus to mistake Snoopy for the Great Pumpkin. Upon realizing that she’s missed Halloween for nothing, Sally lets loose on Linus in a tirade for the ages:

I was robbed! I spent the whole night waiting for the Great Pumpkin, when I could’ve been out for tricks-or-treats! Halloween is over and I missed it! You blockhead! You kept me up all night waiting for the Great Pumpkin, and all that came was a beagle! I didn’t get a chance to go out for tricks-or-treats, and it was all your fault! I’ll sue! What a fool I was! I could’ve had candy, apples, and gum! And cookies and money and all sorts of things, but no! I had to listen to you. You blockhead. What a fool I was. Trick-or-treats come only once a year. And I miss it by sitting in a pumpkin patch with a blockhead.

YOU OWE ME RESTITUTION!!!

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(quick side note: Sally’s voice actress actually couldn’t pronounce “restitution” no matter how much she tried, so the sound people had her pronounce each individual syllable and then strung it together to make it sound like she says the word)

I can almost quote Sally’s diatribe from memory, but it never gets old. And the look on Linus’ face after Sally gets through with him has me in stitches every single time. There’s also the subplot of Snoopy pretending to be a World War I flying ace that is as brilliant as it sounds.

If you’ve never seen any of the Peanuts specials before, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown provides the perfect jumping off point. Despite being 53 years old, the special feels as fresh and funny as ever.

Let me know what you think about It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Animated Film Reviews

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My Thoughts on: Captain Marvel (2019)

I know I’m 7 months late to the party but damn Captain Marvel was awesome!

Due to watching Avengers: Endgame earlier this year, I was already somewhat acquainted with Captain Marvel and her awesome powers, but I’d yet to see her origins explained. Now that I’ve finally seen it, I feel like a bit of a goof for avoiding the film for so long, because it really is a brilliant film.

Normally, I avoid origin films like the plague, because most of them have that “awkward phase” when the hero is just learning how to deal with their powers or situation (or a combination of both) and I find it all very difficult to watch. However, Captain Marvel takes the same road that Black Panther did last year: the awkward phase is skipped over entirely, with Carol’s origins explained in flashback form. This is a format I really like for origin films, because the awkward moment I was afraid of never arrived.

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And then there was the humor, which I didn’t see coming at all! Brie Larson and Samuel L. Jackson are incredibly funny when put together, and it makes me want to see more. All throughout the film are little funny moments that make you want to smile, and it’s yet another reason why I love this film. The other pairing that I found fascinating to watch was the interplay between Carol/Vers and Yon-Rogg. First of all, Jude Law is brilliant in that role. Second, I’m still trying to figure that guy out. I’ve been jumping back and forth in my opinion of Yon-Rogg since last night. While I initially thought he was just Carol’s well-meaning mentor, I quickly thought he was her mortal enemy the whole time. But then I thought about it, I mean really thought about it, and now I think it’s a lot more complicated than that. I think, on some level, Yon-Rogg does genuinely care about Vers/Carol, because at times he seemed genuinely conflicted. Considering he leaves the film very much alive, I imagine that situation will be resolved in Captain Marvel 2.

Also, on a quick side note, that little plot twist regarding the Kree and the Skrulls (and which ones are the bad guys) just about blew my mind. I did not see that coming, I really didn’t.

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But I think what I loved most in Captain Marvel was the evolution of Carol throughout the story. She started as a would-be Kree warrior struggling to fit in, and grows into this absolute badass who realizes she doesn’t have to justify her existence to anyone and the moment she came to that realization had me in tears because it was just so beautiful.

I’m so happy I finally made the decision to watch Captain Marvel, it is by far one of the best films in the MCU, and in my mind it also firmly cements Captain Marvel as one of my favorite Marvel superheroes. I can’t wait to see Carol’s story continue in the sequel (whenever it arrives). Let me know what you thought about Captain Marvel in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

My thoughts on: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

My thoughts on: Black Panther (2018)

Avengers: Infinity War-Review (no spoilers)

My (spoiler-free) Thoughts on: Avengers: Endgame (2019)

Film Reviews

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Soundtrack Review: Joker (2019)

The soundtrack for the recently released film Joker (starring Joaquin Phoenix) is now available via WaterTower Music. The Joker soundtrack album features an original score by Emmy Award-winning composer Hildur Guðnadóttir (Chernobyl, Sicario: Day of the Soldado), whose composition features the cello as the centerpiece of the score, leading string-based melodies played by a symphony orchestra of 90 musicians.

To interpret the many themes explored throughout the film, director Todd Phillips very early on turned to the composer. “Hildur was writing music as far back as pre-production. I was sending her script pages and she was writing music before we even shot, and what she did for the film is so unique,” says Phillips.

Regarding the soundtrack, composer Hildur Guðnadóttir had this to say:

Todd asked me to write some music based on my feelings from reading the script, which I was inspired to do because it truly resonated with me.” She sent him a sample and recalls, “The film is a gritty character study, which to me translated to melodies that are very simple and monotonic, because that’s kind of the way Joaquin’s character Arthur is seeing things.  Then I tried to expand within that simplicity the orchestration around Joker’s evolution not with chords or any complicated music, but with texture that I felt resonated with the melancholia of this character.

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Having listened to the soundtrack, I found myself slowly but surely drawn in by those monotonic melodies. The music feels so simple at first, but the more you listen, like in “Defeated Clown” the more you begin to get a sense of nuance. The cello really was a great choice, it’s an instrument with an incredibly wide range, and when it’s paired with the pounding drums, you can just feel the tension pouring out of the music. In one blow the music can leap from melancholy to a burning rage (“Following Sophie” contains a great example of rage in music). In fact, the music intrigues me so much, I’m nearly tempted to see the film to hear this music in context (though I think I’ll wait for the DVD release, I don’t think I can handle this film in theaters).

The point I’m trying to make is, I think Hildur Guðnadóttir has done something brilliant with the soundtrack for Joker. She’s taken very simple melodies and used them to slowly build up a musical impression of how Arthur, the man who becomes the Joker, views the world, and how he feels deep inside. And that’s the key here, you need to remember that the music, in many ways, IS Arthur. It’s mood matches Arthur’s moods (that’s my impression). And it’s so brilliant because, given that this is the Joker, you would think the character would have bombastic and swirling melodies to match. But no, that’s not it at all. Hildur hit on the reality that the Joker’s frame of mind is actually very simple (to him), and the music reflects that. This is definitely one of my favorite soundtracks of the year, and a must-listen for anyone who enjoys movie soundtracks.

Track List:
  1. Hoyt’s Office
  2. Defeated Clown
  3. Following Sophie
  4. Penny in the Hospital
  5. Young Penny
  6. Meeting Bruce Wayne
  7. Hiding in the Fridge
  8. A Bad Comedian
  9. Arthur Comes to Sophie
  10. Looking For Answers
  11. Penny Taken to the Hospital
  12. Subway
  13. Bathroom Dance
  14. Learning How to Act Normal
  15. Confession
  16. Escape from the Train
  17. Call Me Joker

Let me know what you think of the soundtrack for Joker, and the film itself, in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Film Soundtracks A-W

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My Thoughts on: Ad Astra (2019)

*minor spoilers may follow for Ad Astra*

Well that was…different.

There is no doubt that 2019 has been a really good year for science-fiction films. There was Alita: Battle Angel waaaaay back in the first part of the year; then there was High Life and Aniara, both amazing films in their own right. And now as the year begins to turn towards the end, we have Ad Astra, a film that’s been in the pipeline for quite some time. Having seen a wide variety of science-fiction films, both this year and in years past, I wasn’t sure what to expect with Ad Astra. But I think I’ve been spoiled by all the action flicks I’ve been watching as of late, because I definitely wasn’t expecting what I saw.

First, let me make one thing crystal clear: Ad Astra is a good film, it really is. The visuals are stunning, the cinematography is on point, and I actually like the voice-over from Brad Pitt’s character. That being said, this film is a lot more…cerebral…than what I was expecting. There are a few beats of action here and there, but most of the story is devoted to much deeper issues. This is a film designed to make you think about what exactly it is you’re being told (maybe not as much as Annihilation, but headed in that same direction).

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And what exactly are we meant to think of Ad Astra? What story is being given to us? Honestly, I’m still piecing that together, but I have managed to work out a few of the pieces. First of all, on the most simple level, Ad Astra looks at how humans affect outer space. The commercialization of the Moon, for example, was nailed so perfectly it physically hurt. There’s also the recurring trope, one I see in most science-fiction films, that points out in several ways that no matter how advanced our technology becomes, the lowest aspects of human nature (greed and a base desire for violence) will out in the end. But on that deeper level I alluded to before, Ad Astra looks at what outer space does to humans, in both good ways and bad. On the one hand, it’s not so bad to spend some time in the near infinite void, because it really gives you a sense of perspective for what matters (and this is what I believe happens to Brad Pitt’s character by the end). But on the other hand, there’s the opposite end of that spectrum, where humans become so wrapped up in exploring space that they forget where they came from, and are in fact driven to insanity after being in space for so long.

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Those thinking points aside, I should mention that Ad Astra is not without its flaws, most notably in the realm of physics. After all these years, it astounds me that films are still being made that lean on long since debunked film tropes (the one that annoys me the most involves explosions in space creating shockwaves, which is impossible in a vacuum). I understand films need moments of action now and then, but surely there are ways to create these moments while still obeying the laws of physics. Also, I feel like one section of the plot was almost completely unnecessary (I mean that little side trip to the Vesta en route to Mars). The rest of the film can be neatly compartmentalized into my mind, all except that part. That part feels like a relic from an earlier draft of the script when the film was meant to go in an entirely different direction. Seriously, cut it out and I don’t think you’d have noticed the difference.

Even with those issues, Ad Astra is a good film. I get the sense that this is a film that will reveal different messages and ideas each time you watch it. Do be sure to see this on the big screen if you can, these visuals were meant to be seen in the theater. There’s so much more I could say, but I think I need further viewings first.

Let me know what you think about Ad Astra in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Film Reviews

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My Thoughts on: The Cannonball Run (1981)

Thanks to my parents, I grew up watching a lot of older films, including a lot of comedies of the screwball variety. One of these is a film that I enjoy to this very day, and that is The Cannonball Run, a film that is fantastic not just because it’s hysterically funny, but also because it’s based on something that actually existed. The Cannonball Baker Sea-To-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash was an actual (unsanctioned) race run five times between 1971 and 1979, and just as in the film, one team actually used an ambulance as their race vehicle.

Let’s start from the beginning: The Cannonball Run is based on the aforementioned real-life race and follows a gaggle of racers as they all seek to reach the finish line first by whatever means necessary. Aside from the comedic hijinks, this film is also notable for having an all-star cast, including such names as Burt Reynolds, Dom DeLuise, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Jackie Chan (in his second Hollywood appearance), Roger Moore, Jamie Farr, and Farrah Fawcett, just to name a few. It’s not often you see so many stars in the same film at the same time, and it makes for hysterically funny comedy more often than not.

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An additional comedic factor is how poorly thought out some of the racer’s plans to win are. For example, the team of JJ McClure and Victor Prinzi (Reynolds and DeLuise) light on the seemingly brilliant idea of racing in a souped-up ambulance (reasoning that no one would want to stop an ambulance running with lights and sirens on). However, the drawback is that wherever they go, people assume they’re the real thing and want them to stop and help people who’ve gotten hurt. Similarly, the team of Blake and Fenderbaum (Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr.) get the brilliant idea to disguise themselves as priests, not realizing that 1) priests typically aren’t seen driving in a Ferrari and 2) Blake is an incurable womanizer and…well, I don’t really need to explain why that’s a problem for their cover now do I?

The film jumps back and forth between a number of the racers as they make their way across the country, but the story largely focuses on McClure’s team (and their various misadventures). Several teams even have their own unique musical themes to let you know who’s who in a hurry. For example, Jamie Farr’s character (a ridiculously wealthy sheik), is made known by an almost obnoxious Arabian-like theme. And Roger Moore’s theme, funnily enough, is a riff on the James Bond theme (the filmmakers really couldn’t mention Bond by name so they spoofed the character in every way without actually uttering the Bond name).

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Some trivia to keep in mind during the film:

-The ambulance driven in the film is the actual ambulance that appeared in the 1979 real-life Cannonball race (it didn’t make it however, as the transmission blew in Palm Springs, CA).

-Every time we revisit Roger Moore’s character, there’s a different woman in the car with him.

I really enjoy The Cannonball Run, and if you haven’t seen it before, you definitely need to check it out, it’s really funny (and they just don’t make movies like this anymore).

Let me know what you think about The Cannonball Run in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Film Reviews

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My Thoughts on: Transporter 3 (2008)

*warning, minor spoilers for Transporter 3

All too quickly I reached the end of the original Transporter trilogy with Transporter 3. Unlike the other two, I went into this one with a warning. I’d been told by more than a few people that I should avoid this film since it was a step down from Transporter 2. With that thought in mind, I dove in to the film…and was pleasantly surprised.

Perhaps I please far too easily, but I enjoyed Transporter 3. The action has moved back to Europe, Statham is on point as always, and this third entry presents a dangerous wrinkle to the “transport the package from point A to point B” premise that has defined the series. Namely, our favorite transporter has to deal with getting the job done with a powerful explosive strapped to his wrist (a matching one on the package as well), one that will detonate if he gets too far away from the car. It’s already been established that being a transporter is a dangerous occupation, but now Frank Martin has to do his job while being conscious at all times of his proximity to the car, because if he’s not careful he can go BOOM. It’s an ingenious plot device, because it’s easy to forget it until it becomes relevant and then you’re like “Oh sh*t the bomb!”

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Another thing I liked about Transporter 3 is watching Frank deal with his latest “package” i.e. Valentina (Natalya Rudakova). In some ways, the interaction reminds me of  the interplay between Frank and Lai in the original film (just with more conversation), as Valentina strains Frank’s patience to the absolute limit (a notable example being when she gets high right before a car chase ensues). But one part of the interaction between Frank and Valentina that bothers me is how quickly they appear to develop a relationship. Ever since I was clued in to how unrealistic this is, seeing this in a film has always bothered me. However, even though it does bother me, it doesn’t stop me from enjoying the film, which is otherwise really good.

One last thing that bothers me in this film is some of the things that Frank does with the car. Now, I admit I don’t know too much about cars, but to me it seems highly unlikely that a car could be made to run again (just like that) after falling into a lake. And the odds of a vehicle being able to land on top of a moving train…I know it’s a movie and all, but something about that scene bothered me, so I just wanted to mention it.

Even though this film is 11 years old, I would be more than happy to see Jason Statham play the role of Frank Martin again (let’s just forget the reboot ever happened). Let me know what you think about Transporter 3 in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

My Thoughts on: Transporter 2 (2005)

My Thoughts on: The Transporter (2002)

Film Reviews

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