star wars

Sunday Chuckle: Careful With that Lightsaber, Eugene

I’m really, really glad that toys come with warnings such as this.  If they didn’t I’d probably be in a lot of trouble.

REVIEW: Star Wars – The Rise of Skywalker soundtrack (2019)

STAR WARS: The Rise of Skywalker original motion picture soundtrack (2019 Lucasfilm/Disney)
Music by JOHN WILLIAMS

There are very few film series with soundtracks that can do what The Rise of Skywalker does.  John Williams has now built up such an expansive list of familiar themes, that it takes just one note to anticipate which one is coming next.  Whether it be Leia’s, Rey’s, or Emperor Palpatine’s himself, The Rise of Skywalker is loaded with music you already hold deep in your heart.

Let us all be grateful that John Williams scored the complete nine-movie saga.  If inconsistent writers and directors make the series as a whole a bumpy ride, then John Williams’ steady hand is the glue that holds it all together.  Something like the movie itself, the soundtrack to The Rise of Skywalker attempts to conclude more than just a trilogy, but the Skywalker Saga.  In the liner notes, Williams says that he hopes the nine movie scores will be seen as a “singular, organic whole”.  Because of his consistent but always evolving vision, this is exactly what has happened.  The Rise of Skywalker is the finale.

Rey’s theme, as heard in “The Force is With You”, stands out as the strongest of the sequel trilogy.  What is interesting about that is how different it is from previous Star Wars motifs.  It is light and delicate, but part of the new universe.  It is difficult not to get emotional when you hear everything coming together in the end.  There are surprises and an ample number of weighty moments.  Of course, there are also new things to enjoy, and old things put together in new ways.

I like that the people who designed the packaging avoided the boneheaded spoilers of the past by putting the track listing inside.  It’s unfortunate this final trilogy had the most boring cover art of the entire saga, but be forewarned:  a deluxe Rise of Skywalker soundtrack has been announced for March.  We can hope for a better sleeve on that edition.

John Williams has been an integral part of Star Wars since the beginning, and this time he was rewarded with [SPOILER] his very first cameo on screen.  The circle is truly now complete.  This thoroughly enjoyable score should be universally beloved even if the film is not.

5/5 stars

 

 

LeBrain’s Top List of 2019 n’ More

GETTING MORE TALE #805(.5):  LeBrain’s Top List of 2019 n’ More

Preamble:  The Year in Review (and Reviewing)

2019 was the seventh year of life for this site, and we do thank you for that!  Getting tired with the same old way of doing things, I became bored.   The solution was throwing some new content into the mix and seeing what happened!

The first thing I planned was an informal new series called Just Listening.  Though people confused these writings with reviews, it’s essentially just my thoughts as I listened to an album.  Sometimes I would revisit an old record I already reviewed and see if I felt any different.  There were 10 instalments of Just Listening in 2019.  I intend to continue doing this, as sometimes I just have a few ideas to jot down after playing an album.  Reviews will remain as in-depth and intense as you’ve come to expect.  I love writing reviews, and there are a few lined up for early January that I hope you’ll enjoy too.  At the same time, it’s increasingly important for me to just listen to music.  My collection has dusty corners that miss my attention.

Second, in 2019 I bought a bunch of new tech.  Why not, right?  It’s kind of funny.  I grew up in the 70s and 80s; back when you debated for months or years over in which home video system to invest .  Tech is far more disposable today.  The worst thing that can happen is a relatively painless, postage-paid Amazon return.

So a waterproof camera was added to my arsenal.  This enabled me to make a bunch of cool videos this past summer, including what I think is the best Sausagefest video yet.  One of the immense joys of that summer gathering is the fresh, cool water of the Beaver river.  For the first time this was captured for you up close and personal.

It’s easy to sit here tootin’ my own horn but I feel the 2019 video gets you closer to the feeling of actually attending a Sausagefest yourself.  You can imagine sitting in the river with us, drinking or smoking whatever you fancy.

A new dashcam enabled me to start another video “series” called Dashcam Idiots.  I honestly thought, living in Kitchener Ontario, that I’d have a lot more content to post by now.  (I did get a cool late-night video of a deer on a country road that I thankfully didn’t hit.)  I suppose it’s a good thing that I don’t have a multitude of dashcam videos to upload.


The biggest and most important new series was a long time wish of mine:  my VHS Archives.

The new tech this time was a cheap USB video capture device.  This enabled me, after many years of promises, to share my personal Pepsi Power Hour videos with you from the late 80s and early 90s.  It has been a culmination of a decades-long dream:  taking this rather large VHS library and getting the rarest and most valuable content online.  As of writing this, I’m 82 instalments deep.

And because this is supposed to be a list of lists, here are what I consider to be the Top Five Best/Most Significant of the 2019 VHS Archives.  You’d be remiss not to play these.

1. Blackie Lawless (W.A.S.P.) interviewed by Erica Ehm – 1989
The best interview with Blackie that I’ve ever seen.

2. Bruce Dickinson and Dave Murray (Iron Maiden) interviewed by Erica Ehm – 1988

3. Bruce Kuclick and Gene Simmons (Kiss) interviewed by MuchMusic – 1992
Reposted by Bruce!

4. Rik Emmett of Triumph co-hosting the Pepsi Power Hour with Erica Ehm including two musical performances – 1988

5. MuchMusic Hear N’ Aid special featuring Ronnie James Dio (1986)

And of course the VHS Archives allowed me to finally present my own music video for Poison’s “Nothing But A Good Time” that we made in highschool in 1989!  A long time I have waited and in 2019 I scratched it off the list.

There’s lots left on these tapes so the VHS Archives will continue into 2020!  I’ve left some “big guns” in reserve for future posts.  As long as none of these tapes break!  One or two of them are in very, very rough shape now.  Others are still pristine.

Want a taste of what’s still to come?  Here’s a preview.

Which of these interviews would you like to see first?  Vote below!

 


2019 LISTS

 

The Movies I Saw Don’t expect a comprehensive list!

1. The Avengers: Endgame

2. Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker

3. El Camino

4. Captain Marvel

5. Spider-Man: Far From Home

Nothing but sequels and spinoffs!

 

Top TV Shows of 2019:  I don’t watch a lot of shows.

1. Stranger Things 3

2. Star Trek: Discovery season 2

3. American Dad! season 16

4. Rick and Morty season 4 (part one)

5. The Mandalorian season 1

I’ve been talking The Mandalorian on social media quite a bit, and I’ve been quite critical of the show.  It’s #5 by default.

 


Top Five Albums of 2019 (and more)

1. Tom Keifer Band – Rise

2. Whitesnake – Flesh & Blood

3. Marillion – With Friends From the Orchestra

4. Tool – Fear Inoculum

5. Jim Crean – The London Fog

The new Tom Keifer Band is really remarkable.  With soul, roots n’ blues yet also a foot in classic Cinderella rock.  The heart of the Keifer Band made it an easy #1.  Whitesnake put out a strong effort; probably their best since Slip of the Tongue or even 1987.  Marillion may have re-recorded old songs with an orchestra, but in doing so it’s possible that they have recorded the definitive versions.  Tool is Tool is Tool is Tool.  And Jim Crean deserves a shout-out for his guest-laden original album The London Fog, better than a lot of well known releases in 2019.

 

 

Best Japanese import of 2019:

Hollywood Vampires – Rise
A three CD set with a bonus double live album!
Unprecedented value in terms of extras.

 

Best Boxed Set of 2019:

Def Leppard – Volume Two
Some guy gave them some cool live tracks to release.

 

 

Best Improvised:

Kathryn Ladano – Masked
Don’t just take it from me.

 

 

 

Most Baffling Album of 2019:

The Darkness – Easter is Cancelled
I have not been able to wrap my head around this album. I’ve steadfastly stood by this band through five albums, often in quick succession, but this time they’ve thrown a curve. Perhaps it’ll grow on me in 2020.

 

Worst thing to happen in music in 2019:

Motley Crue – The Dirt

 

 

…And I haven’t even seen The Dirt.  I just feel that strongly about it.

I hate the look of the guys playing The Crue, I hate the idea of a biopic, and I hope to make it through another year without seeing it.  I’m happy with my copy of the book — the only Dirt you really need.

 


…A Look Ahead at 2020

Motley Crue will be a towering part of the 2020 tour scene, as they look ahead to their big “Stadium Tour” with Def Leppard, Poison, and Joan Jett.  Meanwhile the Robinson brothers Chris and Rich have formed a new version of The Black Crowes, who will be playing all of Shake Your Money Maker live.  Far more interestingly, Mr. Bungle (now featuring Scott Ian and Dave Lombardo) will be reuniting and playing only three shows, featuring their cassette demo The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny played in full for the first time.  Even the original BulletBoys have reunited.

The big news, so they say, is still to be announcd.  Keep your ears to the ground for a full-on 2020 AC/DC tour with Brian Johnson, Cliff Williams and Phil Rudd back in the fold.  Reliable sources have stated that the band are finishing up old Malcolm Young song ideas for album release.

Stay safe this New Year’s Eve and we’ll chat in 2020!

 

Select Sausagefester’s Lists of 2019

You can always trust a Sausagefester to recommend good music. Today I bring you two lists, from Frank the Tank and from Max the Axe’s Stunt Double (also known as “Michael”). Frank listens to more new music than I do, and MTASD sees way more concerts. Enjoy these lists!


 

FRANK THE TANK

 

FRANK THE TANK’S FAVOURITE SONGS OF 2019

“Sorry Mike!  Not sure what happened to the list of songs I was keeping.  I tried to recreate it, but it is a sad attempt at this point.”


FRANK THE TANK’S FAVOURITE MOVIES OF 2019

“I did miss a lot and the list would change, for example I havn’t seen the new Star Wars yet but i feel confident it would be on the list.”

  • Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker
  • Avengers: Endgame
  • John Wick 3
  • Once Upon a time in Hollywood
  • Knives Out
  • Yesterday

 

 


 

MAX THE AXE’S STUNT DOUBLE

 

MAX THE AXE’S STUNT DOUBLE’S TOP TEN CONCERTS OF 2019

VIDEO: LeBrain Christmas 2019

#804: Freestylin’

GETTING MORE TALE #804:  Freestylin’

I thought I’d try something different, and just sit down at the keyboard and write.  I have a warm coffee next to me (I drink large regular now) and some music in my speakers.  I’m listening to a Japanese import of Quiet Riot’s new album Hollywood Cowboys.  Just listening; not reviewing.  You have to spend time just listening.

I do most of my listening at my keyboard these days.  My main room music setup is seldom used anymore.  Only when I’m spinning something in 5.1 surround do I usually roll out the big guns.  Otherwise I’m content to just listen at my desk or on a pair of headphones.  It’s a nice comfortable spot for me, right by a window.  Outside the ground is dusted in a shallow layer of white.  It is December 20th, 2019.

I dared go to the mall today.  Long story short, a bunch of stuff I ordered for Jen for Christmas got cancelled (out of stock).  Not having much choice this late in the game, I went to the mall where I accomplished my mission.  It wasn’t what I’d call “fun” but it was also pretty painless.  I stopped at Sunrise records where I inquired about The Rise of Skywalker soundtrack.  I would have taken CD or vinyl, but their stock had not yet arrived.

I do know this.  A “deluxe edition” of the soundtrack is coming in March.  Then, later in 2020, a 27 Blu-ray (!) Skywalker Saga boxed set.  I don’t know how far that will put me back, and I actually don’t care!  I’ve been enjoying speculating what could be in that box.  The press release specified it was being billed as a complete Skywalker Saga.  That’s 9 films.  Let’s guesstimate that each movie will be a 2-disc set.  That’s 22 discs, plus 5 extra Blu-rays?  That’s one possibility.  With George Lucas out of the picture, we could be getting an “original” original trilogy and a Holiday Special.  Sky’s the limit, so let’s make some wishes.

This Quiet Riot album is decent.  I liked Jamed Durbin with that band.  You simply cannot hear that Frankie Banali was ill.  I hope Frankie fights a hard battle against that bitch named cancer, and many more albums are still to come.  You can do this, Frankie.  The Japanese bonus track this time out is an acoustic version of the bluesy “Roll On”.

I’ve been listening to a lot of Ozzy Osbourne over the last few weeks.  You’ll see some of that in future content I’ve written.  I played a few of his more recent albums, Scream and Black Rain in addition to all the classics.  Those two are not bad.  They hold up better than I thought they would.  It’s refreshing when you get to Scream, with Gus G on guitar.  Too much Zakk Wylde can lead to ear fatigue.  The Randy Rhoads era stands out absolutely as the pinnacle.  The way he wrote and played guitar is unlike anyone else, and there just isn’t enough Randy music in the world.

In case you’re curious, there’s one Ozzy album I never bought, and that’s Down to Earth (2001).  I’ve heard it and I’m just not interested.  Too many outside writers and too much influence from the producer, would be my nutshell review.  I have no plans to add it to my collection, though I did buy the CD singles.  I like having B-sides.

I think I’ve rambled long enough.  Christmas is coming and I still have one special post to go, as a gift to a reader.  Thanks for hanging in — and stay tuned for the annual year-end lists!

And may the Force be with you, always.

 

MOVIE REVIEW: Star Wars – The Rise of Skywalker [Spoiler free] 2019

STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER (2019)

Directed by JJ Abrams

The greatest saga of a lifetime; the story that began in 1977 when I was 4 years old has finally come to its end.  And what a satisfying end it is.

JJ Abrams had an unenviable task: fix the mess that Rian Johnson created with 2017’s Episode VIII: The Last Jedi.  Instead of winding towards a logical conclusion, the Johnson film steered the story into strange new directions poorly suited to the second-last film in a nine movie saga.  The death of Carrie Fisher the same year threw a giant wrench into the whole thing.  How was JJ to wind up a massive story like this, finishing not only his trilogy but the other two as well?

I’m not going to tell you, except that he managed to do it.  It’s not perfect, but no Star Wars movie has been perfect since 1980.  Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker is the best movie of this final trilogy, and is certainly better than 66% of the prequels.  He managed to pick up the ball that Johnson shat out, weave it tighter, and make lemonade from lemons.

The Carrie Fisher scenes are somewhat difficult to watch.  You know the actors are not reacting to her, but performing to pre-recorded scenes.  Her dialogue is necessarily vague and cloudy.  It’s unfortunate because Episode IX was supposed to be her film.  Nothing can be done about that.  But wisely, JJ recruited Billy Dee Williams back into the fold as the debonair rogue, Lando Calrissian.  Lando’s role is larger than expected which will please many fans.  The film is also bolstered by cameos from just about every living Star Wars actor (no, not Jake Lloyd) in ways that brought nothing but smiles.  Look for Hobbits and late-night talk show hosts too.

The villain this time, as you know from the trailers, is Ian McDiarmid’s Emperor Palpatine.  How did he survive the events of Episode VI: Return of the Jedi?  It only takes one line of dialogue to sell it.

With the stakes higher than ever before, the Sith and the Jedi meet one last time.  If you’re looking for an inkling of the plot, read the old Dark Horse comic series Dark Empire.  Not only did that series feature a resurrected Palpatine, but also Luke Skywalker doing Force projections.  It’s highly likely that JJ Abrams took inspiration from Dark Empire, though The Rise of Skywalker is far superior to that old book.

Suffice to say, our heroes once again must face incredible odds with little on their side except friendship and heart.  The movie stumbles after we are told repeatedly that they must succeed, or all of this – everything – has been for nothing.  Then they go on a silly rescue, instead of completing their mission.  There are also, perhaps, too many meetings between Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and Rey (Daisy Ridley) which blunts their overall effect.  At least the heroes, Rey, Finn (John Boyega) and Poe (Oscar Isaac) bond like the classic trio.  You’re aware that you are watching a knockoff Luke-Leia-Han trio, but don’t forget, that’s the kind of stuff fans used to say they wanted.  “No more wooden crap like the prequels,” they moaned.  Now they moan when it’s what they said they wanted before.  Sceptics will not be won over by The Rise of Skywalker.

Another possible weakness that fans might resist is a tenuous connection to the Disney+ TV series The Mandalorian.  Rey and Kylo Ren can do something that a Mandalorian character can do.  Some will accept it as fitting in with classic Star Wars lore.  Others will baulk and call it “Disney ruining Star Wars again.”

The cutesy stuff is kept to a minimum (though there is a new droid called D-O introduced for no reason) and emotions run high.  Nostalgia is heavy.  Action is fast, though JJ unwisely resorted to slow motion techniques again, which breaks visual style from the six Lucas-guided movies.  He would have insisted on the movies being consistent.  Lens flare, though, is gladly reduced.

Hindsight is always 20/20, and The Rise of Skywalker must stand up to repeated viewings and further analysis.  It does drag at various times in the middle, but when it drops bombs, it goes nuclear.  Special mention to Keri Russell for a fine performance as spice runner Zorri Bliss, and again to Billy Dee Williams.  He never abandoned Star Wars, you know.  He returned in the animated series Star Wars: Rebels as suave as ever.  And of course, John Williams.  His score contained some really cool motifs, like a re-imagined Emperor’s theme that fit like a glove.

The Rise of Skywalker is probably the best ending to a saga we could have expected (and certainly better than what Lucas had planned).  If you want to live your life as a person who only has six Star Wars movies in their head-canon, that is absolutely fine.  (I know people who to this day consider Star Wars to be three movies.)  It can easily be argued that this entire trilogy was just tacked on.  But JJ did his best for it not to feel that way; for it to appear like this was always the ending.  Did he succeed?  That’s up to you.

4/5 stars

REVIEW – Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire soundtrack (1996)

STAR WARS: Shadows of the Empire soundtrack (1996 Varese Sarabande)

by Joel McNeely

Things were starting to heat up!  As Lucasfilm toiled away at the Star Wars special editions behind the scenes (and Episode I even further behind the scenes), they also launched a huge new multi-media story.  It was called Shadows of the Empire, and it was meant to represent a movie between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.  Just as Star Wars was re-entering the public consciousness again, out came this massive, sprawling thing that was meant to make you feel like you did when a new Star Wars movie was released.  It included:

  • A comic miniseries by Dark Horse
  • A novel by Steve Perry (not the singer)
  • A new Kenner toyline
  • Topps trading cards
  • Nintendo 64 first-person shooter game
  • A soundtrack composed by Joel McNeely

The catch?  You had to get everything in order to get the complete story of Shadows of the Empire.  Scenes in the game were not in the comics or novel, scenes from the comics were not in the game, and so on.

McNeely had done a bit of soundtrack work, but had also crossed paths with Lucasfilm when he scored The Young Indiana Jones chronicles for television.  He was facing a losing battle by being the first composer besides John Williams to score a Star Wars soundtrack.  McNeely provides ample liner notes for each track of his score, explaining the scenes they represent from the fiction and how it translates into music.  These valuable notes are a terrific example of why listening to physical product is always the best way to listen to music.

The audio journey begins with the Star Wars theme, as if it were a full-fledged film score.  Differences can be heard, but not deviating far from course.  “Leia’s Nightmare” begins quiet and prequel-esque, with hints of “The Imperial March” and other classic Williams themes.  And even in retrospect, it is thrilling hearing them in the context of something new.

“The Battle of Gall” is an early attempt to rescue Han Solo from Boba Fett.  Fett has stopped at the Imperial moon of Gall on his way to Jabba the Hutt, with Solo frozen in carbonite.  Why?  No reason, except to milk the Boba Fett character even further.  Military drums can be heard as Luke and friends prepare their daring mission…doomed to fail, of course, since we have all seen Return of the Jedi.  A bouncy new theme in this piece sounds out of character, but memorable.  “Imperial City” is our first glimpse of the Galactic capitol world of Coruscant.  Much like it is described in The Phantom Menace, it is a planetary city.  Ideally, you’d be leafing through the Ralph MacQuarrie paintings of the planet while listening to the imposing horns and drums.  A  choir welcomes you to the city amidst fanfares and trumpets.  None of this sounds like Star Wars, but much of it is good.

An action scene on Tattooine follows, as Luke is chased by goons on speeder bikes.  He is rescued by new character Dash Rendar, a poor man’s Han Solo.  Dash has his own swashbuckling theme.  He was a huge part of the Shadows of the Empire campaign.  His ship, the Outrider, was saucer shaped with a side cockpit like the Millenium Falcon.  Lucas added it to the Star Wars special edition in ’97, making it screen canon forever.

Leia’s mission follows, as she searches the lowest levels of Coruscant looking for a crime organisation known as Black Sun.  She wishes to forge an alliance.  Their leader, the tall green Prince Xizor (shee-zor), is the main villain of Shadows.  Not nearly as terrifying as Vader or the Emperor, but he has his own scary theme.  The music paints a picture of an evil entity with refined, extravagant tastes.  He has one advantage over Leia when they meet:  alien pheromones that make him irresistible to women.  But Leia loves Han.  This battle of wills is composed as a dramatic ballet called “The Seduction of Princess Leia”.

We learn Xizor failed to seduce Leia on “Night Skies”, a piece of music he shares with Darth Vader, as he attempts to contact Luke through the Force.  The dark side of the Force is palpable in the air, then Vader’s theme returns.  Next, Luke rescues Leia from Xizor’s palace on “Into the Sewers”, which are the only way to sneak in undetected.  Xizor is defeated on “The Destruction of Xizor’s Palace”, when a massive space battle ensues.  A choir heightens the tension while exciting action music animates what’s happening.  Grab your action figures and play along.

The only serious flaw is that the soundtrack should really end like a Star Wars movie ends — with the credits theme music.  That aside, Shadows of the Empire is an enjoyable piece of music when you want to hear something just a little different and contemplative in the galaxy far, far away.

3.5/5 stars

STAR WARS: The Mandalorian – new trailer

“New The Mandalorian trailer looks like the Star Wars we’re used to,” says the media.

“What the fuck are you on?” says I.

The Mandalorian is Jon Favreau’s new Star Wars bounty hunter series starring Pedro Pascal, Carl Weathers and Werner Herzog.  And it looks nothing — nothing at all — like “the Star Wars we’re used to”, so ignore the hype.

No Jedi.  No Skywalkers.  An unexplored timeline (just after Endor).  No, this looks like something entirely new.  Which is good.  Don’t believe the hype.  Tell the hype to fuck off.

“Is the world more peaceful since the revolution?” asks Herzog.

One thing that is exactly the same as old Star Wars:  Nobody knows what a parsec is.

The Mandalorian arrives November 12.

STAR WARS: The Rise of Skywalker – Final Trailer

Did you sit through Monday Night Football to watch this?  The final trailer from the final film in the Saga has arrived.  This is the last time we will analyze a Saga trailer for clues.

 

Some thoughts:

  • John Williams is going to outdo himself with the score, if this trailer is any indication.
  • I can’t believe they’re giving away so much about C-3PO.  I know what happens to him and it’s basically in the trailer.
  • The Ghost, from Rebels, is apparently still flying.
  • The Emperor’s throne is badass and exactly as described by the leaks at Making Star Wars.

Otherwise at first glance, not much in the way of new spoilers with this trailer.  Lots of our heroes, a little of Kylo, and a little of Lando Calrissian.

What was the black figure that Rey and Kylo (with original mask) shattered?  The old-school Star Destroyer emerging from the water?

Get ready for December 20.