animation

GUEST REVIEW: Rock and Rule (1983) by Robert Daniels

Please welcome guest writer Robert Daniels, from radio’s Visions In Sound 

ROCK AND RULE (1983 Nelvana)

“Oh what will the signal be for your eyes to see me…”

Back in about 1984 or 85 I remember watching TV one afternoon and stumbling on an animated movie. Interested, I stopped to watch. It had weird, trippy images and some scantily clad cartoon woman singing and a strange creature growling. My 14 year old mind was intrigued and then was completely blown when one of the animated characters said “Shit!” Cartoon characters were not supposed to swear!! Clearly this was a mistake. No, it was not a mistake, it was Rock and Rule. Although at the time I didn’t know the title and didn’t see the movie on TV again for a while.
Rock and Rule was set in a post apocalyptic future where the street animals evolved into a human like society. MOK is an aging rock star trying to find a specific voice in the guise of a worldwide talent search. MOK hopes to unleash a powerful demon from another dimension, his dwindling popularity driving him to destroy the world in vengeance and immortalize himself in the process. After returning to Ohmtown he finds the voice he’s looking for in Angel, a singer in a local band along with friends Omar, Dizzy and Stretch. MOK invites her to join him and when she refuses he kidnaps Angel and forces her to sing to raise the demon.

This was the era of the edgy “adult” cartoon, Heavy Metal, American Pop, Wizards, Starchaser: The Legend Of Orin and others. I do remember getting into an argument with my Mom back in 1981 about not being able to see Heavy Metal. “It’s a Cartoon…it HAS to be for kids!!!”.

It would be several years later when I was in high school that I described the ending scene to someone and they said “Oh yeah, that’s Rock and Rule…” Bingo, I had a title and looked high and low for a copy on VHS. Nothing. I was obsessed to find Rock and Rule. Of course, in the late 80s early 90s there was no internet so the only thing I could do was continue to bug the people at Steve’s TV to try and find a copy. Again, nothing. Then one day out of the blue I got a call from Steve’s. They said they found a copy and would order it for me. “Great” I said, “How much.” “$129.99”. My heart sank, that was far too expensive for my blood. So the film continued to sit in the back of my mind for years.

“My Name Is MOK, thanks a lot”

Then one day in (about) 2003, I heard of a showing at the former Hyland theatre. A local Anime expert and film buff rented the then-empty theatre to show the a cut of the film.

Also Don Francks, the voice of MOK, was going to be there. I jumped at the opportunity.

The film was nothing like I thought it was going to be. First, it was produced by Nelvana Studios that I only knew for Care Bears, Strawberry Shortcake, Droids and Ewoks, etc. All kids’ cartoons. It was also one of the first films I ever saw that listed “Songs by…” first above the main cast. This list included Cheap Trick, Debbie Harry, Lou Reed and Iggy Pop, with a special performance by Earth, Wind and Fire. After the movie there was a Q & A with Don Francks, who I later found out provided the voices for such characters as Dr. Claw from Inspector Gadget, Lackki from Captain Power and the un-credited voice of Boba Fett from the Star Wars: Holiday Special. I asked him if he based his performance of MOK on David Bowie. He said that he didn’t have any particular person in mind when he voiced MOK. I later found out that MOK’s full name was MOK SWAGGER a spin on Mick Jagger. However, the talent representation of The Rolling Stones’ lead singer objected and forced the producers to drop the character’s surname. It’s also interesting to note that David Bowie, Tim Curry, Michael Jackson, Mick Jagger and Sting were all considered for MOK but the budget of the film couldn’t afford them.

“I dunno about this, nobody seems to be buying these ‘I survived the MOK concert’ T-shirts.”

This year (2018) is the 35th anniversary of this masterpiece of Canadian animation. Rock and Rule is the first English speaking Canadian animated feature film entirely produced in Canada itself. Unfortunately the film sat in near obscurity for years after being shelved by distributor MGM and never got released in North America. The film did develop a cult following after being shown on CBC (who held the Canadian TV Rights), HBO and Showtime. Bootleg copies would show up at comic book conventions oddly enough with Ralph Bakshi being credited as director.

“She can sing, or she can scream!!!”

Much like Heavy Metal from 1981 music was a huge part of the film and also much like Heavy Metal the music got tied up in rights issues.

Back in about 2005 just before the release of the Rock and Rule DVD, I was actually in contact with someone from Nelvana Studios who told me that director Clive A. Smith, whose wife Patricia Cullen had also written the score, had the tape masters for the soundtrack in his garage and that he might be willing to let me have them for mastering. Unfortunately nothing came of this as I lost contact but it was the closest I came to producing a soundtrack release. In 2010 the film was released on Blu-ray and unfortunately has become quite expensive on the used market.
It was previously believed that no official soundtrack album had ever been issued for Rock and Rule. In fact, Deborah Harry mentions on a “Making Of…” documentary that she hopes the music gets a soundtrack release.  However, as it turns out, a handful of film critics received a cassette tape featuring nine songs (“Hot Dogs and Sushi” and “Send Love Through” were omitted). All songs are extended from how they appear in the film and in familiar copies. “Born to Raise Hell,” “I’m the Man,” “Dance Dance Dance,” and “Ohm Sweet Ohm” have been officially issued on CD, along with an alternate version of “Pain and Suffering,” and “Maybe For Sure” (an alternate version of “Angel’s Song”).

Though a deliberate Google search will turn up a couple of versions of the soundtrack, this is the most common track list:

[2:46] 01. Born To Raise Hell (Cheap Trick – Album Version)
[5:14] 02 Angel’s Song (Deborah Harry)
[4:22] 03 My Name Is Mok (Lou Reed)
[2:11] 04. I’m The Man (Cheap Trick – Album Version)
[3:12] 05. Earth Wind And Fire – Dance Dance Dance
[2:49] 06. Ohm Sweet Ohm (Cheap Trick – Album Version)
[3:15] 07. Triumph (Lou Reed)
[1:28] 08. Hot Dogs & Sushi (Melleny Brown)
[3:28] 09. Invocation Song (Deborah Harry)
[3:41] 10. Pain & Suffering (Iggy Pop)
[5:56] 11. Send Love Through (Deborah Harry and Robin Zander)
[4:30] 12. Maybe For Sure (Deborah Harry)
[5:22] 13. Angel’s Song (Cassette Mix)
[3:29] 14. Invocation Song (Mono Cassette Mix)
[4:35] 15. My Name is Mok (Cassette Mix)
[3:42] 16. Pain And Suffering (Iggy Pop)
[0:52] 17. Triumph (Movie Mix)
[2:35] 18. Angel’s Song (Movie Mix)
[1:38] 19. Invocation Song (Movie Mix)
[1:49] 20. Pain & Suffering (Movie Mix)
[2:06] 21. My Name is Mok (Movie Mix)
[3:36] 22. Triumph (Mono Cassette Mix)

Rock and Rule falls into the category of “…what could have been”. Had MGM had more faith in the project and released it in North America it may have been a hit rather than the cult classic it would eventually become. If you haven’t seen it or are interested in a look at a piece of Canadian animation history check it out, you will not be disappointed.

A solid 4/5 stars.  Dark, and yet at the same time fun.

 

 

Robert Daniels

 

 

Blu-ray REVIEW: Ted 2 (2015)

TED 2 (2015 Universal)

Directed by Seth McFarlane

What happens when you let a bunch of now-grown Star Trek nerds from the 80’s make a movie? Apparently, they make Ted.  If you let ’em do it twice, you get Ted 2.

I really don’t know how this works, but Ted 2 provides ample proof of its own Trek-nerdiness.  Forget the fact that the climax takes place at New York Comic-Con.  Do you realize how many Trek actors appear in Ted 2?

  • Patrick Stewart (Jean-Luc Picard), as he was in the first Ted, is the narrator.  (Don’t forget he is also currently CIA Deputy Director Bulloch on Seth McFarlane’s American Dad! )
  • Nana Visitor, better known as Major Kira Nerys on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, is an underrated performer with a good role here.  She still looks amazing.
  • LeVar Burton (Geordie LaForge) appears in a brief clip from Roots as Kunta Kinte, but I’m still counting it.
  • Pushing it here, but Ron Canada (from Canada!), who plays the judge in Ted 2, did guest shots on three different Star Trek series.
  • Best of all is Michael Dorn (Lt. Worf) as Rick; gay lover to Patrick Warburton’s Guy.  Took me a while to pick up on the fact that it was Michael Dorn.  Only when he showed up in uniform at Comic-Con did it sink in!
Dorn and Warburton as...well, you know who.

Dorn and Warburton as…well, you know who.

So: McFarlane likes Star Trek.  That’s obvious.  He likes a lot of stuff, and Ted 2 is less a story than a running series of references to other movies.  From Jurassic Park to the cheesy ending to Contact, these characters walk and talk quoting movies all the friggin’ time.  It’s all they do!  One thing you will see and hear less of going forward:  Star Wars in any McFarlane production.  According to the audio commentary, the friendly relationship that Seth used to have with Lucasfilm has vanished since they were sold, and Disney have made it pretty clear that further collaborations will not be happening.  So you can kiss the idea of a Family Guy: The Force Awakens goodbye.

Unfortunately, characters that quote stuff is as deep as it gets.  Mark Wahlberg’s Johnny has divorced Mila Kunis, because she was trying to change him too much.  Well, yeah…that was the whole plot of Ted 1.  Wahlberg wanted to grow up and marry Mila.  Now he decides that’s actually not what he wanted, after fighting for it so hard in the first movie.  In Ted 2, we see Marky Mark hanging around with Ted a lot, and we see him getting into plenty of hijacks, but Mark Wahlberg is little more than a non-character sidekick in this one.  Ted is Ted; a foul-mouthed Peter Griffin who gets away with it by being a teddy bear.  Newcomer Amanda Seyfried steals the movie with her likeable lawyer character, Sam L. Jackson.  And yes, she has not heard of the actor Samuel L. Jackson, nor does she pick up on any of Ted and Johnny’s movie quotes, and that’s the driving force of the trio’s interactions.  Seyfried is a wonderfully talented actress with a very expressive face, and she easily outclasses everyone she’s in a scene with (except obviously Morgan Freeman).  To her credit she’s a good sport about her famous large blue eyes.  They are the butt of a few jokes in the movie — the best ones actually.  Seyfried is obviously a good shit and I bet she’s fun to have a beer with.  She also gets to sing, and that award-winning voice performs the original theme song “Mean Ol’ Moon”.

The plot, such as it is, was inspired by the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “The Measure of a Man”; I shit you not.  This is even acknowledged by McFarlane in the commentary.  Ted and Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth) have been married a while but it’s not working out.  So, they do what every struggling couple in America does to heal their relationship:  have a kid.  At first, you think the movie will be about Ted and Marky Mark getting into hijinks and capers, trying to steal donor sperm from demigods like Tom Brady.   Then it awkwardly shifts to a legal slant, with Ted having to prove he is a person and not property in a court, just like Lt. Data did in Star Trek.  Data had Captain Picard to defend him, and McFarlane says that Amanda Seyfriend’s opening comments in the courtroom scene were inspired by Picard’s.

In Star Trek, if Data were declared to be property, then Starfleet could have cut him open to mass produce intelligent androids to serve as a working class.  In Ted 2, Giovanni Ribisi’s evil Donny wants to do something similar.  He convinces Hasbro that they can take Ted, and cut him open to see what makes him tick, and repeat the magic.  Billions of dollars would be made.  All this hinges on him being declared property in court.  There would be few repercussions for Hasbro to steal a teddy bear, compared to a person, to dissect it!

You have to give McFarlane credit for a great Mel Brooks-inspired opening musical number, and a brawl finale.  You have to admire Amanda Seyfried’s abilities, and Pantene Pro V-perfect hair.  Otherwise Ted 2 is a lazy retread.  I don’t mean “lazy” in the sense that it wasn’t hard work.  It clearly was hard work making this movie, doing the perfect CG bear and motion capture.  The reason we don’t talk about the bear much is that he seems perfectly real at all times.  No, I mean “lazy” in the writing.  There are plenty of funny jokes, situations, and lines.  There are no characters we care or even know much about.  How did Seyfried’s Sam, age 26, become a lawyer who can play guitar and sing better than 95% of the ladies currently in the top 40, all while suffering debilitating migraines that require her to constantly smoke marijuana?  How???  It’s hard to get involved in the characters when they’re so obviously not human, and I’m not referring to Ted!  How does Marky Mark support himself?  Does he still have a job?  We never see him at work.

Best gag:  A Liam Neeson cameo.  Stay tuned for the post credit scene.

Special features:  Unrated version of the movie, audio commentary, gag real, deleted scenes (mostly alternate lines from scenes in the movie), and plenty of making-of featurettes.  The “Creating Comic-Con” feature was interesting, from a Trek nerd point of view.  Check out how they made that giant starship Enterprise that hangs from the ceiling.  It’s just based on a model that McFarlane had on his desk!

Blu-ray annoyance:  These text info-boxes advertising other movies pop up on every menu, unless you specifically look for the setting that turns them off.  That’s…mildly vexatious.

Stupid infobox.

Stupid infobox.

Joke tagline: Ted 2 – more of the same, but now with Seyfried!  Whose last name I can now pronounce correctly, thanks to the commentary.

3/5 stars

Scan_20151231 (2)

 

VAN HALEN rocks SOUTH PARK

This week’s episode of South Park  “Ginger Cow”

VAN SOUTH HALEN PARK

MOVIE REVIEW: Ted (2012 blu-ray)

“Death to Ming!” – Sam Jones

TED FRONTTED (Universal, 2012, directed by Seth MacFarlane)

I don’t often go out to the store to buy a movie on the first day of release anymore, but I did for Ted.  I grabbed it at the local Best Buy and immediately popped it in, since I missed its theatrical run.  I’m a Seth MacFarlane fan, see?  I like Family Guy and recently American Dad too.  If you don’t like those shows, chances are, you probably won’t like Ted either.  May as well stop reading now.

Still with me?  Good.  Because this is a fuckin’ funny movie!  Once you get past the concept of the walking talking driving tweeting teddy bear who loves coke and prostitutes.

Patrick Stewart narrarates our intro, as we meet John Bennett, a little Star Wars loving boy who gets a teddy bear for Christmas.  He doesn’t have many friends, so one night he wishes that Teddy was alive.  Connect the dots from here.

Ted becomes a world famous superstar phenomenon (Johnny Carson show and all), only to crash and burn hard by the 1990’s.  Now today, he sits on John’s couch drinking beer, smoking pot, watching Flash Gordon; the 1980 bomb that starred Sam J. Jones as the titular Flash.  And once again, the lush strains of “Flash”, by Queen, fills the room.  This is all fine and dandy until Mila Kunis (insert hot girlfriend way too good for immature boyfriend here) says enough is enough.  If Marky Mark and Mila are to stay together, Ted’s gotta move out and get his own place.

Their lives pretty much go down hill from there.  Ted gets a job at the local grocer and starts banging a checkout girl on top of the lettuce.  But John just can’t separate himself from his best bud, especially when Sam J. Jones himself turns up to party with the boys.   Can John achieve the balance between friendship and domestic bliss that eludes him?

Throw in an evil, creepy stalker played perfectly by Giovanni Ribisi, and cameos by Norah Jones and Ted Danson as themselves, and you have a movie.

I’m not going to sit here and lie to you by saying that this is substantially different from any other bro-mances you’ve seen out there.  There’s the girl who’s fed up, the jerky male romantic rival, and the two dudes, one of whom wants to get his life together while the other seemingly holds him back.  If you’ve watched Paul Rudd, Jason Segel, or Seth Rogen films, you know where I’m going.

What makes Ted so much better than any of those movies (which I already like anyway) is MacFarlane himself.  Yes, Ted does sound like Peter Griffin (even acknowledged in the film) but that voice just works for this bear!  Ted is easily one of the sickest, yet lovable characters in cinema history.  A horny drug using teddy bear has never been depicted on film before, as far as I know.  Of course, Ted needs Johnny as much as Johnny needs Ted.  They are a movie pair, and they can never be happy apart.

The blu-ray gives you the “unrated” (boobs) and theatrical versions.  There’s a DVD, a digital copy, all that extra crap that I never use.  Deleted scenes, gag reels, commentary, all that good stuff.   Still, there’s no point buying a movie unless you plan on watching it more than once.  I’ve watched Ted five times so far, and I still love it.

I guess I have a thing for f-bomb dropping teddy bears that sound like Peter Griffin.  What does that make me?  Ahh, who cares.

4.5/5 stars

VIDEO REVIEW: Transformers Encore 21 Soundblaster / Wingthing / Enemy (Soundwave)

Enjoy this 7 minute video review including stop-motion animation.