Wednesday, October 22, 2014

WTF Hollywood: Slapstick of Another Kind

How could a movie based on a Kurt Vonnegut novel starring Jerry Lewis, Madeline Kahn and Marty Feldman possibly be bad?

NOTE: Apologies in advance for the editing error that misplaces the joke "editing stuff out of context is fun" - I have no idea how it got there and attempts to restore it to its original context were unsuccessful. I hope you'll enjoy this video regardless of its flaws.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Blog: Horndog Videos Back Online!

Hey, folks, just writing to let you know that the videos section of the site is back up. I'd taken it down due to the fact that, for some reason, Dailymotion's publisher dashboard was not showing revenue. I checked the dashboard again, and it's functioning correctly once more, so I've decided to put the videos back on the site.

Now you can once again watch episodes of Horndog Studios' original web series such as PunkinHed Reviews, WTF Hollywood and Comix Scrutinizer, as well as listen to the highly experimental Funny Aminals demos (which are really solid, though not as well composed as my new music), and feature early versions of compositions which were later fully developed on my solo albums. For example, the piece "The Devil in Miss Jones" from my album BEHIND THE GREEN DOOR combined several earlier pieces, including "I'm Way Too Stoned To Drive to the Devil's House" and "Stampeding Cattle Through The Vatican".

The Comix Scrutinizer videos feature me playing a comic book reviewer, loosely parodying other web reviewers but focusing on underground, independent, alternative, hardcore pornographic, horror and cult comic books, including the underground debut issue of TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES, the underrated MR. A, and Joshua Quagmire's CUTEY BUNNY.

The PumpkinHed videos take a look at cult, horror and exploitation films, recalling early MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000, but with an edgy touch, and a floating disembodied talking pumpkin with a weird accent. Some of the highlights focus on PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE, and the cult classic BLACK SHAMPOO, in which the African-American stand-in for Warren Beatty takes on gangsters with a chainsaw!

WTF Hollywood featured only the second Internet review of the misguided biopic WIRED: THE SHORT LIFE AND FAST TIMES OF JOHN BELUSHI, and one of the funniest. I essentially play myself in this series, unlike in the other shows, but the humor was very MST3K-esque, though the aspect I personally find hilarious/embarrassing is the fact that I was looking off camera during the entire filming, due to the fact that I was actually reading all my lines off cue cards.

Also featured on the site are my original rescores of the silent classics NOSFERATU and THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI. These new scores combine experimental and progressive rock with influences from John Carpenter and Goblin. Horndog Studios is also the only place where you can find THE LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS in widescreen. And coming this Halloween, we will be featuring NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD in widescreen as well!

So feel free to explore the Horndog Videos section - it's an extremely fun way to kill some time when you're not buying our great underground comics and highly innovative pulp novels or our unique and experimental albums from Horndog Records!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Blog: Introducing HORNDOG RECORDS

Horndog Records has already released two slept-on LPs through Bandcamp, Isaac Baranoff's out-of-this-world BEHIND THE GREEN DOOR and the new release NONE MORE BLACK. Horndog Records will penetrate your earbuds, mind-fuck your brain and splooge inside your cranium with chord combinations the likes of which you've never heard.

If you're a fan, head on over to Isaac Baranoff's Bandcamp page and place your order. You will receive each track in high-end formats and each order of NONE MORE BLACK contains a FREE PDF of Isaac Baranoff's new novel A CLAW FULL OF BLOOD!

If you want to help grow Horndog Records, please send an email to horndogrecords [at] and offer us a proposal. Hopefully one that involves money. If you want Horndog to promote your album, please remember that there's only so much we can do for you as an artist, and even if your music is incredible, we can't pay for studio sessions unless your album makes a truckload of money FOR US. So, if you end up signing with Horndog Records, the best offer we can give to unproven artists is that you can record the album in your home, with your own equipment funded by you and we can give you promotion, 30% of each album sold, help with digital sales, and if your album does well enough, we can push forward to physical distribution. And if the album does well enough, we might be able to pay for professional studio time if you choose.

We're not a mega-conglomerate like Virgin-Mobile, Sony, Time Warner, NBC Universal or other corporations which own the major labels. We can't offer you the things that Bruno Mars or Eminem get. We're an independent company. We rely on sales to grow our business. At worst, you'll have people out promoting your album for very little pay. We're offering a higher percentage of albums sold than the majors. The major labels pay their artists peanuts for their albums in exchange for the heavier promotion. If you sell as many albums as the Beatles, Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, Madonna, Elton John, Led Zeppelin, or Pink Floyd, the major label deal is the better way to go and you can work your way to owning your own label, but chances are that you're not going to sell as many albums as Elvis. Or Mariah Carey, Celine Dion, Whitney Huston, AC/DC, Queen, the Rolling Stones, ABBA...the list goes on.

These artists are zillionaires because they have commercial potential. We cater to the crowd that listens to music with NO COMMERCIAL POTENTIAL, and it's harder to get attention if you don't have an independent label backing you. If your music sounds like Taylor Swift, you'd be better off on a major label because we can't help you and signing with us would be a really shitty deal. If your music caters to more specialized audiences instead of the masses, you should probably start with us instead of Mega Conglomerate Records. 

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Blog: "Cheech & Chong's Animated Movie", "Jay and Silent Bob's Super Groovy Cartoon Movie", "Shinbone Alley", "Don gato y su pandilla" Reviews

I like animation a lot. Here are a handful of cartoons I've seen recently.

Cheech & Chong's Animated Movie is not quite as bad as I expected it to be, but it's still the worst film the duo has ever made. It is funny, though, and holds entertainment value on the strength of its source material: A series of sketches from the duo's comedy albums, digitally re-edited and rearranged to fit new animation. The directors of this film play off the original recordings well and manage to transition between the various sketches in the anthology somewhat decently enough, until Alice Bowie randomly crashes Sister Mary Elephant's classroom and we are thrown jarringly into an animated music video of "Earache My Eye" ("my momma talkin' to me tryin' to tell me how to live, but I don't listen to her 'cause my head is like a sieve"). The film ultimately has no ending. Cheech & Chong were available to provide a slight amount of new material in the form of a couple of new lines and a handful of new songs for the soundtrack album, but they couldn't have worked out an ending with some cohesion? For that matter, as Cheech & Chong's humor is well suited for cartoons, why couldn't this film have had an original script, instead of just making cartoons out of a bunch of album-sourced sketches? As perfectly matched for cartoons as Cheech & Chong are, this missed the mark greatly. Though the animation's pretty decent, the concert film Hey Watch This is much funnier and more entertaining than this is. I will say that, for the record, I enjoyed the assorted visual references to their classic Up in Smoke greatly: In the "Trippin' in Court" sketch, the judge and baliff's character designs are modeled after the actors from a similar scene in Up in Smoke, and during the "Sister Mary Elephant" sketch, the appearance of Sgt. Stedenko is modeled after actor Stacy Keach, who played this character in not only Up in Smoke and Nice Dreams, but in a few recent Cheech & Chong concerts as well!

Jay & Silent Bob's Super Groovy Cartoon Movie closely follows the plot of Kevin Smith's Bluntman & Chronic comics, and though the animation quality is lower than anything seen on Family Guy, roughly the same quality as some of the flash cartoons you can find on the Internet, this one's pretty funny in its unashamed vulgarity. Peppered with Smith's clever pop culture references and assorted comic book spoofs, this feature sees the pot-dealing duo (voiced by Jason Mewes and Smith) deciding to become superheroes after they win the lottery, and accidentally creating the absurd villains Dickhead, Cocknocker, Lipstick Lesbian, the Diddler and Newsgroup. Appropriately scoring this mix of geeky references and weed, dick and fart jokes is the music of rapper mc chris. Not perfect, but there's some big laughs in this. The 64 minute cartoon essentially plays like a pilot for a cartoon series, and with the low budget of the animation, Smith and Mewes might make more of these if they sell enough downloads of this. Check it out for the humor, not the animation.

Shinbone Alley was part of a wave of independent animated films aimed at adult audiences, which included Yellow Submarine and the films of Ralph Bakshi. The difference is, this one's a musical. If you like those kinds of films, you might find this one more fun. I found it kind of slow. The basis for this film was a 1957 Broadway musical co-scripted by a then-unknown Mel Brooks, who would later become known for classics The Producers, Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein. Some of Brooks' humor comes out in this film in certain slapstick scenes, but it's not funny enough to really hold my attention. The musical was based on a series of New York Tribune columns by Don Marquis which were illustrated by Krazy Kat creator George Herriman. The animated film takes the origins of the musical even further by basing its animation style on Herriman's drawings, giving it a look similar in spots to Bakshi's animated films which were also influenced by Herriman. Though the animation is well done, it's a really underwhelming movie.

I was fascinated when I first saw the trailers, in 2011, for Don gato y su pandilla, a Mexican animation studios' feature film adaptation of Hanna-Barbera's Top Cat, for the new film's stylistic and beautiful looking mix of 2D and 3D animation - 2D cartoon characters interacting with each other against 3D backgrounds. The movie was produced by a Mexican animation studio because, while Top Cat is only mildly popular in the U.S., it is hugely successful and beloved in Mexico.  Anticipation for the movie continued as the Mexican release received rave reviews and became one of the most successful animated movies made by a Mexican studio, leading the U.K. and American subsidiaries of Warner Bros. to schedule English language versions for release. Things went sour from that point. The English version of the film received overwhelmingly negative reviews and bombed in theaters.

I was finally able to get ahold of the original Mexican, Spanish-language version of the film and somewhat poorly translated English subtitles, and I loved the movie. It's one of the best animated features of the decade, and it's even better than the T.V. series. I enjoyed the movie for the same reason that I love Spaghetti Westerns - foreign filmmakers took something from a completely different culture and made it their own. I enjoyed the culturally specific in-jokes, and although the subtitle translation was somewhat off, something like what happens when you take a foreign text and input it into Babelfish or some other web translator and the automatic translation doesn't exactly get every line correctly, I could understand enough of the shakily-translated dialogue to enjoy the movie. The Mexican screenwriters wrote this flick in loving awe and admiration of the original series, and they also retained the original Mexican voice actors from the Spanish dub of the series.

It's clear from the overwhelmingly negative reviews of the English version of this film and the overwhelmingly positive reviews from Mexican reviewers that the Spanish version is the way to go. Get a copy of the Mexican Blu-Ray/DVD and download a fan translated subtitle file off the Internet. To make sure that you have the right subtitles, Top Cat should be saying "Thank you, my thanks to the Academy" around 1 minute, 43 seconds into the movie. If the subtitles say something else, they're taken from the English dub and you've downloaded the wrong subtitles.

Comparing the subtitles for the English dub and the Spanish version, it's clear that the English language version has been butchered. For example, the Mexican version had Benny saying that the violinist's instrument was made with the guts of his grandfather, which is hilarious, and then in the English version, it says that the violinist used to be a janitor - which is not funny at all. If you happened to have seen the English dub of the movie already and hated it, go back and watch the Spanish version - it's great.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Blog: "My Dinner with Jimi" Review

Quentin Tarantino wrote a scene in Pulp Fiction, prior to the Jackrabbit Slim's sequence, in which John Travolta was interviewed by Uma Thurman, who stated that there are only two kinds of people, Elvis fans and Beatles fans, and she would not ask Travolta which he was, as it was clear that he was an Elvis man. Tarantino ultimately cut the scene out of the iconic film, despite filming it, because in execution, it failed compared to how it played out in the screenplay, and Tarantino felt the audience needed to get to the dance contest quicker. He was right. The scene didn't work. It was a good idea, but it could have been executed better by someone else. And it was, kind of. In the 2003 film My Dinner with Jimi, nearly identical dialogue appears between members of the '60s rock group the Turtles and a music journalist, who declares that there are only two types of people, Beatles people and Rolling Stones people. Ironically, Tarantino doesn't like the Rolling Stones, but if he ever saw My Dinner with Jimi, I'm sure he'd be pleased that this scene was executed well by someone else, considering his disappointment in trying to execute the scene in his own movie, even if Elvis Presley, one of Tarantino's personal heroes, is swapped for the Rolling Stones, a band Tarantino doesn't care for (though he might laugh at the description of the Rolling Stones as being "not well dressed").

My Dinner with Jimi is a funny, engaging, though little seen music film written by Turtles singer Howard Kaylan and directed by Bill Fishman, the director of one of my favorite rock and roll films, Tapeheads, which showed that Fishman had the potential to make further artistically exciting, entertaining films, but Fishman ultimately stumbled with his follow-up, the box office bomb Car 54 Where Are You? which was torn apart by critics and ignored by audiences. My Dinner with Jimi is the best film Fishman has made since his debut. The film tells the story of a brief moment in the 1960s from Howard Kaylan's perspective. Kaylan's band, the Turtles, isn't yet famous despite a few hits, but they'll soon become mega-stars thanks to the bubblegum pop smash "Happy Together". They also hang out in an L.A. diner with rock stars like Frank Zappa (whose band Kaylan later joined, along with fellow Turtles Mark Volman and Jim Pons), Jim Morrison and Cass Elliot.

Not-so-subtly hinted at in their songs, both with the Turtles and in the raunchier comedy outfit Flo & Eddie, Kaylan and Mark Volman were stoners and several of Kaylan's memories involve marijuana to some degree, from a photographer handing the Turtles marijuana brownies to offset the redeye effect of the flash photography to Herb Cohen, Zappa's manager and Kaylan's cousin, advising Kaylan to get high before the draft review to avoid serving in Vietnam, and Kaylan expressing surprise when Jimi Hendrix hands him a joint in a English pub; Hendrix insists that "everyone's high" there and that nobody cares about their public pot smoking. (Kaylan and Volman also slipped in a reference to "holding your joint" in Zappa's "Call Any Vegetable" despite Zappa being strongly anti-drug use and disliking marijuana.)

Justin Henry, Jason Boggs, Brett Gilbert, Sean Maysonet, Kevin Cotteleer and George Stanchev are excellent as the Turtles, as is Royale Watkins as Hendrix, and most of the other actors playing musicians. However, Adam Tomei doesn't quite get Frank Zappa's mannerisms and speech right, though his dialogue discussing the on-screen Zappa's theory that the 1966 film The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming was made as a distraction to benefit the U.S. government is funny, though who knows if Zappa actually said this or if this was a fiction invented by Kaylan as part of the film's humor.

In addition to Hendrix, the Beatles play a huge part in the film's plot, which involves the Turtles' first tour of England in the beginning of their success. Turtles guitarist Jim "Tucko" Tucker idolizes John Lennon and patterns his more conservative appearance, in a suit and tie and a Beatles-style haircut, after Lennon's early appearance, much to the derision of the other Turtles band members, who wish that Tucko would dress more loosely, in something other than a business suit; Kaylan and Volman in particular insist on ultra-casual appearances, which Tucko blames for the band not getting the cover of a teen magazine (while the reporter counters that the band members aren't attractive enough for the cover, which ultimately goes to the Monkees). When Tucko ultimately meets John Lennon, though, Lennon mocks Tucko's appearance and is extremely condescending towards Tucko, leaving him with a tarnished view of his idol.

With the rest of the band members returning to their hotel room, Kaylan ends up being introduced to Jimi Hendrix, who is not yet known in the United States, and has just released his debut album with the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Are You Experienced? in the UK. Hendrix explains that he does not consider himself to be a good singer and that his guitar playing technique was designed to play the way he wishes he could sing. After a night of drinking and dinner with Hendrix, Howard Kaylan pukes on Jimi's red velvet suit, but ultimately when Kaylan hears Hendrix' music for the first time, it changes his life.

The film leaves the Turtles as hippiedom and psychedelia takes over the United States immediately upon the Turtles' return to America, with the pre-credits wrapup explaining that Tucko left the music industry following his meeting with John Lennon, that Kaylan and Volman would ultimately join the Mothers of Invention after the Turtles' breakup and that many of the people depicted in the film died, though the film jokes that Jim Morrison may still be alive.

Though thoroughly entertaining, the frequent introductions of dramatized depictions of '60s rock and pop stars reminded me a little too much of the running gag in Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, in which an ill-suited actor is introduced as a famous rock musician, though the performances in My Dinner with Jimi are not that far off, except for Tomei's portrayal of Zappa. Watkins delivers the best portrayal of Jimi Hendrix that I've seen on film, though Bret Roberts' portrayal of Jim Morrison is not as good as Val Kilmer's portrayal in Oliver Stone's The Doors. Brian Groh is likely as good as any actor to portray John Lennon.

Also solid is the portrayals of behind-the-scenes people, with George Wendt (best known as Norm from Cheers) playing the Turtles manager, and Curtis Armstrong (best known for playing "Booger" in Revenge of the Nerds) as Herb Cohen, manager of Frank Zappa, and the older cousin of Howard Kaylan. Armstrong is fun to watch in anything he does - and later played another major music industry figure, Ahmet Erteg√ľn in the following year's Ray (for which Jamie Foxx won well deserved acclaim for his portrayal of Ray Charles).

Unlike Ray or most other music industry films, My Dinner with Jimi was not widely released. It was a very low budget film, using practically no licensed music - Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is referenced, but faked substitutes for the opening and closing of the album are featured, due to the difficulty in licensing the Beatles' music, and none of Jimi Hendrix' music is featured, due to the fact, as explained by Terry Gilliam in his Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas commentary, that Hendrix' family refuses to license Hendrix songs to films depicting drug use, because of Hendrix' drug-related death. However, the film does feature much of the original Turtles recordings, due to the fact that Kaylan and Volman control the rights to the band's music through their company, Flo & Eddie, Inc.

I'd recommend My Dinner with Jimi to fans of Tapeheads, the Turtles, Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa or the Beatles or people who are interested in the music industry or the 1960s in general. It's an engaging character-based comedy told from the perspective of a member of one of the less well-acknowledged and underrated '60s pop/rock bands (in this film, a waitress confuses them for the Beach Boys), discussing an interesting point in time in music and history, with engaging and entertaining performances. The film is fun to watch throughout, especially in its reenactments of the Turtles' stage presence and the hilarious draft board sequence.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Blog: Isaac Baranoff's Top 5 Progressive Metal Albums

With my new album, None More Black, being sold for only $1 through Bandcamp, I thought I'd take a look at one of the lesser-acknowledged musical genres, progressive metal, and list my personal favorites from that unique combination of aggressive guitars, and the technicality and composition structure of jazz and orchestral music, accompanied by videos from each album listed. For those of you who are slightly insane, try playing all the videos at once and listening to all the songs simultaneously until the voices in your head tell you to look for the hatchet.

Opeth's best album is a unique blend of '60s-style psychedelic rock, jazz fusion and old school heavy metal. This is an album that merits repeated listening from start to finish.

Their label pressured them to release a more metal-oriented album for the purpose of commercial viability, and the song-oriented approach of the album works for Dream Theater, especially in tracks like "6:00" and "Lie", making this the band's best album.

A sci-fi/horror concept album about human evolution pushed forward by the consumption of psychedelic mushrooms, in which Mudvayne derives its imagery from "2001: A Space Odyssey" ("Internal Primates Forever"), Ed Gein ("Nothing to Gein") and H.P. Lovecraft ("Severed").

Jazz and metal meet in an iconic fusion album. Cynic's first major tour was as an ill-suited opening act for the death metal band Cannibal Corpse, and as a result, Cynic's debut, Focus, was met with largely confused or disdainful responses from metalheads at the time, but has since gone on to become a huge influence on modern metal/jazz fusion bands.

Voivod combined the tenacity and fury of thrash metal with the bass guitar-driven arrangements and technicality of progressive rock, creating the appropriate sound for an ill-fated future on a series of sci-fi metal classics, including "Nothingface", which includes a cover of Syd Barrett's "Astronomy Domine". The alternative metal band Nothingface is named after this album.