Saturday, July 30, 2011

Days Of Heaven

I was lucky enough to see Terence Malick's "Days Of Heaven" in 70mm while visiting Hollywood way back in the '70's. One of the most beautiful movies ever made, it's on Criterion blu-ray and looks amazing. But the incredible soundtrack by Ennio Morricone hasn't been afforded the same respect until now. It was released on vinyl back in the day, then a truncated version was released on an Italian two-fer CD, pairing "Days" with Morricone's "Two Mules For Sister Sara" music (!). I like the Two Mules soundtrack, but the transition from cool Morricone Western music to the lyrical, delicate music for "Days" is, well, jarring. To say the lease.

But no more! The fine folks at Screen Archives have just released a super-swank double CD edition of the soundtrack. One disc is the original release, the second is additional movie done for the movie. I'm no expert but it seems remastered to me, and the sound is impeccable.

Here's their info on the release:

Days of Heaven (1978)
Music Composed and Conducted by Ennio Morricone
With Contributions by Leo Kottke & Doug Kershaw

1978 Soundtrack Album

Aquarium [Le Carnaval des Animaux] (Camille Saint-Saƫns) 2:05
We Used to Do Things (Linda Manz) 0:49
Enderlin (Written & Performed by Leo Kottke) 3:14
Harvest 2:59
Threshing 2:05
Happiness 2:13
The Honeymoon 1:26
Swamp Dance (Performed by Doug Kershaw. Words & Music by Doug Kershaw.) 3:32
The Return 2:31
The Chase 2:00
The Fire 7:48
Ashes & Dust 2:17
Days of Heaven 3:26

Total Time: 36:52

Ennio Morricone Cues Used in Picture

Main Theme (7M1 tk 8) 1:02
The Farmer and the Girl (Theme 18—piano version) 1:53
In the Field (Theme 5 long version, cf. Harvest) 2:59
Bad News (3M1 tk 3) 2:35
Non-Stop Work (2M1 2nd part) 0:36
Main Theme (2M1 1st part) 1:18
Bad News (4M3) 0:36
After Wedding (5M2 2nd part) 0:56
Empty House (5M3, cf. The Honeymoon) 1:24
On the Road (1M2 for 5M4) 1:41
They Should Leave (6M1, cf. Ashes & Dust) 2:16
On the Road (8M1 long version, cf. Happiness) 2:13
Bill Returns (8M2, cf. The Return) 2:30
The Locusts and Fire (9M1, cf. The Fire) 7:29
The Farmer and the Girl (11M3 2nd version) 2:26
His Death (5M2 1st part) 1:27
The Farmer and the Girl (10M3, cf. Days of Heaven) 2:46

Total Time: 36:34
Total Disc Time: 73:33

Extended Score Program

1M1 (Main Title) 2:00
1M2 (Train Ride) 1:44
1M3 (Main Theme) 1:47
Theme 18 (Love Theme, long version) 1:22
2M1 1st part (Main Theme, alternate take) 1:20
2M2 (Main Theme) 0:53
2M3 (Threshing, alternate mix) 2:05
3M1 (Bad News, longer version) 2:42
3M2 (Work Theme) 1:46
3M3 (Love Theme) 1:00
4M1 (Intro to Love Theme, 2 versions) 0:39
5M1 (Love Theme) 1:17
5M2 (Insect Noises With Main Theme) 1:45
5M3 (The Honeymoon, with piano) 1:26
6M1 (Intro to Love Theme/Ashes to Dust) 2:42
6M2/7M2/7M3 (Suspense Theme/Main Theme, 2 versions/Suspense Theme) 2:27
8M1 long version (Happiness) 2:16
8M2 (The Return, piano version) 2:33
Ghost Voices 2:33
9M1 (The Fire) 7:31
10M1 (Pursuit Theme) 1:26
10M2 (The Killing) 1:06
10M3 (Days of Heaven) 2:47
11M1 version 1 (The Chase) 2:01
11M1 version 2 (Love Theme) 2:06
11M2 (Main Theme) 1:03
11M3 version 2 (Main Theme) 2:36
11M3 version 1 (Love Theme) 2:29

Total Time: 57:35

Bonus Tracks

4M2 (Intro to Love Theme) 0:22
5M2 1st track (Insect Noises With Main Theme, alternate) 1:51
5M2 2nd track (Main Theme, 1st mix) 1:23
5M2 2nd track (Main Theme, 2nd mix) 1:22
Theme 18 (Love Theme, short version) 0:49

Time: 5:43
Total Disc Time: 63:26

Needless to say, this is as complete a release as we're probably ever going to see! Ordering info is available at:

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

San Diego, Falling Skies, Etc.

I've been swamped with varied and sundry since returning from this year's San Diego ComicCon, but I had the usual great albeit exhausting time. It actually seemed a little less crowded this year, but probably because I didn't even attempt to make any of the mega panels in the larger halls. Our Falling Skies panel was well received by 2000+ fans and it was great seeing the cast and fellow producers once more.

I did try to get into the Battlestar panel (I was late) but security gave me the heave ho. I guess they were just doing their jobs, but security did seem especially tight this year. I had less trouble touring the classified Nevada Test Site (near area 51!). Oops. Maybe I shouldn't have mentioned that.

Finally, this week's Falling Skies was written by yours truly and explores the enigma that is Will Patton's character, Cap. Dan Weaver. Oh, and there are also skitters, mechs, and a creepy reveal that I will discuss post-airing. 10PM Sunday night on TNT!

Hot Coffee

I love McDonalds coffee, and I guess I'm not alone. Consumer Reports has rated it highly and evidently the Scotsman is giving Starbucks a run for their money. That said, I was always leery at the jokes directed toward the elderly woman who was scalded by a cup of molten Macs joe, sued and won a $2.7 million dollar judgement. Maybe it was the experience of finally serving on a jury myself last year, but there simply had to be more to the story.

And there was. A new documentary called Hot Coffee goes into the case and explains exactly what happened, which evidently isn't quite as funny as the imaginary version invented by comedians and pundits. I haven't see the doc yet but if this review is any indication, it's on my list!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

On Writing and Breaking In...

Had a great time last night at the Paley Television museum discussing Falling Skies along friends from DreamWorks and the members of the cast. After the session, a couple of folks pulled me aside and asked for advice on breaking into the writing business. I'm always happy to offer suggestions and encouragement, but everyone breaks in their own unique way.

That said, here's my short/sweet "breaking in" story.

I knew that I wanted to write stories since I was five years old, and I've always loved science fiction and comics. With that goal in mind, I tried to find venues for my writing work. I was editor of my high school newspaper, created an comics-related apa (amateur press alliance) when I was 14, took every film class I could in college and was always writing scripts. During that time I also made friends with other folks (in my home of Oregon and elsewhere) who were just as determined to make a living in this nutty racket as moi.

I moved to L.A. years ago determined to write and sell screenplays. Instead I spent five years selling classified ads at the Los Angeles Times, but during that time I managed to network my way into writing several feature scripts for very minimal money (like $500), one of which was actually produced. (I was rewritten and the movie sucks -- welcome to Hollywood.)

Some of those friends I made when I was younger continued their own efforts to break in, and two of them formed Dark Horse Comics. They asked me if I would write a book for them and I said yes, and that was my first published comic book (The American, buy the trade reprint!).

Side note: you might think that any writer eager to work in comics would take advantage of an offer like that, but Dark Horse was just an idea back then and a lot of small comics companies came and went without a whimper. I know several writers and artists who refused to work with Dark Horse in the early days, which was great, because it opened the door for new mugs like me.

ANYHOW, the relative success of The American led to other comics work, including spinoffs of the Aliens and Predator movies. My Predator comics led to a fateful meeting with Joel Silver, who intended to use my Predator story as the basis for a Predator 2 movie. During that meeting I was asked if I had anything else and I mentioned The American. Silver and Warner Bros. optioned the book, offering more for the option if I would back off and let someone else write it. I refused (which was high stakes gambling at the time, I was broke!), but fortunately those $500 screenplays I'd written were enough to convince them I could put i before e, and I was hired (for scale) to write the movie.

Then came a very critical moment. I learned later, from someone who has since become a good friend, that Silver's company already had another writer lined up to take my place when I inevitably tanked the script. But when I turned in the first 40 pages or so, they were surprised to discover it was actually pretty good. Getting that first job is one thing, executing is another.

The American never got made, or the next two feature projects I wrote for Silver's company, but the momentum led to selling Timecop and getting the rewrite job on The Mask... and I had officially broken in.

Anyone who cares to emulate that path, be my guest!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


There's a lot I could be posting about, I suppose, but this rises to the top of the heap immediately. I just received my DVD copy of SKIDOO, the truly astounding Otto Preminger movie starring Jackie Gleason, Carol Channing, Groucho Marx and a host o' others. If you haven't seen this, I don't really know how to prepare you. It's sort of flat-affect surrealism, done so ham-handedly it's difficult to know what anyone -- actors, director, writer -- were trying to achieve in any particular moment. I'm no expert on DVD prints, but this does seem sharper and more colorful than the Skidoo that ran on TCM a year or so ago. I eagerly await the blu-ray.

I just watched the scene where Jackie Gleason, in jail, drops acid and sees Groucho Marx's head float by, attached to a metal screw. If you're not tearing a twenty out of your wallet right now for your own copy, you obviously don't understand great cinema...

Monday, July 18, 2011

I Like Zombies As Much As The Next Guy, But...


From Deadline Hollywood:

Ben Silverman's Electus has teamed with BOOM! Studios to publish Fanboys vs. Zombies, a comic book set at Comic-Con, which becomes zombie ground zero and has to be saved by the geeks descending on the city for the convention. The plan is to try and spin off the property into TV series or a movie.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Falling Skies, Carmageddon, Etc.

This week on Falling Skies, "Sanctuary Part 1." Written by Joel Thompson, directed by Sergio Mimica Gezzan, the 2nd Mass finds itself embroiled in conflict when Weaver refuses to raise the camp's debt limit and... wait, sorry, I was momentarily confused. The camp is embroiled in conflict when word arrives that the aliens are coming their way. *Whew*. THAT'S Falling Skies. Guest starring Henry (Mission Impossible!) Czerny. Instead of braving the madness of caramageddon this weekend, all residents of Los Angeles should instead be glued to their TVs at 10PM Sunday night on TNT!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

George C. Scott and Adam Sandler

This trailer is all the internet rage... and one of the funniest things I've seen in awhile. I miss George C. Scott...

Carmageddon Descends... and SHREK!

All sorts of dire predictions are floating about as a result of an impending freeway closure here in lovely Southern California. One of Westside L.A. main traffic arteries, the 405, is going to close between the I-10 and 101 freeways beginning early Saturday AM and theoretically finishing at 5:00 AM on Monday morning. Seems an old bridge needs to be torn down, and now's the time to do (some of) the tearing.

Usually I would be fine hunkering down and watching my backed-up TiVo recordings (just re-watched Seven Days In May and Fail-Safe, both great paranoid 60's political thrillers), but we've got tickets to see the touring version of the musical Shrek, which stars my college/movie making buddy Matt's step-daughter Haven Burton.

Did I digress? Anyhow, I was in Los Angeles for the 1984 Olympics, when similar predictions of traffic hell were bandied about. However, to everyone's surprise (especially mine), traffic was actually better than ever during the games. After employers changed around schedules and lots of people just decided to leave, it was clear sailing on most roads. I was lucky enough to see several Olympic events, but the best part of that event was the de-logjammed roads.

So I wonder what will happen this time. Massive gridlock, causing a Shrek-missing disappointment, traffic bliss, or something in between? I will check in post-Carmageddon with my on-the-spot reporting...

Friday, July 08, 2011

More Falling Skies!

Falling Skies will be the subject of a panel at San Diego Con this year, Friday afternoon at 3:15. Check the convention site for all the details, but I will be there and I was try not to be square. I will also be joining composer Noah Sorota for a composer's panel on Thursday. After those events, I'll be on the floor trying to buy old comic books and check out a few panels myself!

In other news, I chatter up a storm about the show at the WGA's blogsite:

And finally, this Sunday on Falling Skies, "Silent Kill." Written by Joe Weisberg, directed by Fred Toye, the intrepid members of the 2nd Mass learn more about the alien methods and Hal gets up-close and personal with the skitters. Hint: they don't like it. 10PM Sunday night on TNT!

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Falling Skies And Other Aliens

Some odds and ends:

This week on FALLING SKIES: "Grace." Written by Melinda Hsu Taylor and directed by Fred Toye, the aliens up the ante on the 2nd Mass! And the quest to find out how the skitters tick continues. 10PM Sunday on TNT!

Just watched the blu-ray version of James Cameron's Aliens. I must have watched this film a couple dozen times when I was writing the Dark Horse Aliens comics, so it's been awhile since I had a fresh viewing. And wow. The high def version is glorious and I had forgotten just how darn well this movie plays. There isn't a misstep in the entire picture, and even more humor than I recalled. Bill Paxton's whiny Marine is fantastic, and even little Carrie Henn (Newt) gets in a couple of good wisecracks. And then there are the firefights. I'm not all that impressed with pyrotechnics these days, but Aliens gets it exactly right.

Also been watching episodes of All In The Family on TVLand. Some topical sitcoms don't travel so well, but this show is still really, really good. And (like with Aliens) I'd forgotten just how great Carroll O'Connor and Jean Stapleton are as the two leads. I've been watching later post-Meathead episodes, and the balance between humor and humanity is really impressive.