Friday, October 29, 2010

The Nonsense Box: Not Just for Silly Adults Now Available on iTunes!

The Nonsense Box: Not Just for Silly Adults is now available on iTunes. The album features the talent of Admiral Plumbtree, Schwartzy and Pagana, Max (our sound designer), and a whole slew of the Cosmic Toast Studios family.
Nonsense Box Front Cover
Nonsense Box Back Cover Art
All 26 tracks are available for preview and purchase on iTunes!
The Nonsense Box: Not Just for Silly Adults - Various Artists

Friday, October 22, 2010

Hidden Gem: The Blue Tooth Virgin

| by Allan Stackhouse |

The Blue Tooth Virgin is a wonderful gem of an indie film released to DVD earlier this year. Director and writer Russell Brown with two handfuls of a production crew created a great character-driven story about what can happen when you criticize a friend's work. Anyone who is in a creative field will enjoy or at least be able to appreciate the screenwriting storyline. Stars Austin Peck and Bryce Johnson truly shine in this charming film.

Russell teamed with the amazing, oft teamed with Gus Van Sant, editor Curtiss Clayton (To Die For, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, and Drugstore Cowboy). At first, I couldn't figure out what made this film so good. Luckily, there is a featurette included on the DVD that explained some of Curtiss Clayton's editing process. To make these dialogue-heavy, non-moving scenes more interesting, Curtiss would limit the focus on each character, not to the point where it would be just a bunch of back and forth boring cutting. The edits were made with regard to the emotion and tone the director was going for.

The characters in this film are so strong and defined in The Blue Tooth Virgin. Sam, played by former Days of Our Lives and As the World Turns actor Austin Peck, is a struggling writer who once saw success and is thirsty for success again. His friend David, played by familiar TV face Bryce Johnson, has always had it easy and lives a cushy life as a writer for a magazine. The conflict that develops between these two characters begins with Sam's request for David to read his recently finished screenplay titled The Blue Tooth Virgin. David HATES Sam's script and, just from the dialogue in the film surrounding it, it sounds horrible. David experiences a desire to be completely honest with Sam and then changes his mind, which of course Sam takes offense to and gets particularly nasty about it. The script proves to be an interesting test of their friendship.

The poor quality of Sam's script leads to even more hilarious characters. There are two confidants, one for David and one for Sam. Sam turns to expensive script doctor Zena, played wonderfully and eccentrically by Karen Black. Their dialogue is actually kind of off-putting at first but through the course of this initial uncomfortableness, it turns out to be all part of the process, a great reveal for both Sam and the audience. David's confidant is Dr. Christopher, played by Roma Mafia, who's just as no nonsense as David if not more. She is inclined to believe what David is telling her and sympathizes with what he is going through. Both of these characters added humor to the film but also an opportunity for David and Sam to develop outside of their conversations with each other.

I'm absolutely thrilled that E1 decided to distribute this, despite its release from 2008, because the film serves as an example of the fruit of independent filmmaking. A small cast of professionals, actors, and locations made a funny, engaging, and emotionally honest film that I am very happy to have come across.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

New on Blu: A Prophet

| by Allan Stackhouse |

Someone raved about this movie some time ago so I admit that my perspective wasn’t completely fresh when I watched French writer/director Jacques Audiard’s A Prophet. The experience for me was a mildly entertained one but that could very well be because I completely lost interest in the film after the first act.

The great thing about A Prophet's script is that its conflict is set up so quickly. Malik El Djebena is sentenced to six years in prison and is almost immediately propositioned to kill someone or be killed. His appearance doesn’t entirely fit the dominating white presence in the prison nor the growing Arab one, allowing him to navigate both worlds. He does not have a choice about it because of the Corsican gang practically running the place, receiving instruction on specifically how to perfrom the kill as well. His attempts to get out of it are met with failure. These consistent and well-crafted raises in stakes were well-directed and enthralling.

This act's end unfortunately proved to be the peak of drama for the entire film. It is just after this incredibly exciting string of scenes that the plot becomes very watery and altogether unimportant. The film seemed to shoot its wad and then expected these slower paced scenes to be able to carry the rest of the film which, for me, was entirely unsuccessful. The end of the film attempts to regain the first act’s momentum with Malik’s sudden decision to improvise upon learning that his final targets are not going to exit their vehicle. This scene is actually quite brilliant stylistically with its choice of angles, slow motion footage, and sound design but even these traits cannot make up for the lack of interest I had when watching the scenes that lead up it.

The suspense built by the scene where Malik kills Reyeb is thick, that is not in question. The scene in which he kills him of course doesn't go to plan, further building the suspense. He earns the protection of Cesar Luciani. Malik’s climb up the gang ladder by turning into a porter for the Corsicans and then running favors for Cesar, his boss, and Jordi, his business associate in drug sales, did not prove to be anywhere near the stakes of his first foray into the prison world.

As the title states, we are made to believe during the film that Malik is a prophet of some sort but even that isn’t completely fleshed out. It as actually only addressed in the scene where he predicts the car accident. The drug dealer is in awe of his "gift" but there’s no other scenes to support the idea built by this one. Why have it at all? Why not have it earlier? Why not more consistently reference it?

As much as I wanted to enjoy this film, I simply could not. If you’re up for a well-crafted gangster movie, you will likely enjoy A Prophet more than I did. The recurring subject of race doesn’t completely translate for me but perhaps there are some nuances in gang-related subject matter that are ultimately foreign to me.


Monday, October 11, 2010

New on Blu: Iron Man 2

| by Allan Stackhouse |

Iron Man 2 is one of the worst movies I've seen all year. I was bored to tears with this, desperately hoping something interesting or exciting would happen but to no avail. The excuse idea that this film was rushed is not acceptable here nor ever, especially to someone who staunchly supports Marvel's many forms of media. X-Men: The Last Stand was given the rush job but it was at least somewhat palatable while this was completely bland, boring, and not even close to even a Michael Dudikoff B-movie. I look forward to these blockbusters every year because they're around my birthday and I couldn't be more glad that I skipped Iron Man 2 when it was in theaters.

The problems, many as they are, root from the script. There is no distinction between acts, the first act running right through the second, providing scene after scene of an unmasked Iron Man doing this an an unmasked Iron Man doing that. Jon Favreau, from his close personal relationship with RDJ, let him do whatever he wanted and the results were annoying and indulgent. It's absolutely bewildering to me as to why the successful fusion of Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby (Children of Men) and Arthur Marcum and Matt Holloway's scripts was discontinued and placed in the untrained and unworthy hands of Justin Theroux. I'm sure some great chemistry happened between RDJ and Justin on the set of Tropic Thunder, which Justin also wrote, but this change of gears did not work.

Sam Rockwell had a completely wasted performance in this film. He is sooooo talented and, similar to Hugo Weaving in The Wolfman, he had absolutely no character to work with. His character, Justin Hammer's, depiction as a rival to Tony Stark has no arc and is one of the many points of erosion in Iron Man 2's armor. A bumbling technological rival who isn't even funny as half of the conflict in the script? No. Sorry. Did not work. Even the scene with Sam's amazing dance moves served little to cover up the film's failure in capturing my interest. Just as ill developed is the conflict of Tony's palladium core keeping him alive and killing him alive at the same time. This was posed so poorly constructed that I couldn't have cared any less about it. And how does the film resolve this conflict? Instantaneously when his new atomic number 118 core is placed, which took all of 2 minutes to create! This notion of having to accept super hero movies as these flashy movies where nothing really happens is so condescending, especially when there is so much source material to work with and ideally improve.

The fight scenes amount to a whopping THREE and all are SO short: one where Iron Man fights War Machine, one where Ivan Vanko (another snoozer villain) attacks Tony in Monaco, and one where both Iron Man and War Machine fight some drones. The first one is so unwarranted. A million reasons or villains could have been used to have a fight scene with Iron Man, the star of the film, but what's the motivation: Rhodey needs to cool Iron Man down. WTF?!?!?!?! This so strongly stinks of machismo and does absolutely nothing for the plot of the story. The second one provided at least some drama, having Tony out of his suit but the battle is over as soon as he suits up. Why can't the drama be created when he's in the suit? The final fight scene, when Iron Man and War Machine get to show off in all of their technologically advanced mechanical glory is shown in a brief three minutes. I have absolutely no investment in the scene because 1. they're machines that don't even look cool and 2. because the film has didn't set up any attachments or feelings for me to feel.

I absolutely hated the portrayal of women as lapdogs for their male counterparts in this film. Gwyneth Paltrow's Pepper Potts was so unbelievably naggy in this film. A woman of education, power, and beauty is still nothing but a blabbermouth in the end according to this film. Even Gwyneth's idle dialogue that opened some scenes sounded very forced and unnatural, which is hard to stomach being a fan of hers. Scarlett Johansson did what she could but the misdirection and poor editing sank whatever potential she had. On paper, Justin Theroux may have thought he was making her a character to be admired: multilingual, well-educated, trained for combat, etc., but the focus of her role is always at tthe whim of men. Even her fight scene left much to be desired. A good edit could have saved her but it was so unbelievably awful. During Black Widow's main fight scene, there are so many cuts for such a small amount action.

Just to let me rant for a sec, Garry Shandling had SO many injectables in his face I was surprised it was moving at all during the panel scene in the beginning of the film. The distance from Tony may have saved him a little bit but the last scene of the film where he smiles between Tony and Rhodey has some frightening closeups. Looking young and good for the camera is one thing but to the point where the result is horrific is not good for the film. Jon Favreau should have seen this.

The only redeeming element to this film was Samuel L. Jackson. His presence is stoic and restrained, with lines to match his presence and body language. Nick Fury's scene time across all of the Marvel films can be counted in seconds yet I found his character here to have the most development and purpose. In retrospect, that's unbelievable since Pepper, Tony, and Rhodey all had a whole - and might I add good - film's worth of development to rely upon.

Even the high resolution of Blu-ray was not enough for me to enjoy this film/piece of garbage. I'm honestly heartbroken by its severely low quality. I can remember some years ago, feeling enthralled and inspired by Jon Favreau's humor and insights when he hosted Dinner for Five but this film let me down at almost every point. Maybe that man still exists somewhere but Iron Man 2 has to be one of his biggest failures in quality to date.

Slangman’s World Kids Program Teaches Foreign Language Skills via iTunes - Songs from the award-winning animated show now online

BURBANK, Calif., October, 2010 – Cosmic Toast Studios (CTS), producer of the acclaimed show Slangman’s World on Georgia Public Broadcasting and the American Forces Network, is proud to offer a collection of the program’s educational songs that teach foreign words, phrases, and language skills to children of all ages.

Now available for purchase on iTunes, Volume I includes 10 songs and additional spoken content for $9.99. Kids are exposed to foreign languages and cultures in an exciting way that makes them eager to learn more -- both in and out of the classroom. Join David Burke as Slangman, a fun-loving wizard/inventor and his best friend, Wordy, a language dictionary, on an around-the-world journey of language, exploration, and song.

"Singing is often the best and fastest way to remember complex information. That’s why jingles work so well on television commercials and why all children learn their alphabet by singing their abc’s, says Burke. "Slangman’s World songs do the same thing, inspiring kids to want to learn more about the people, languages, and cultures of the world. Fun is the key, and with rich music and sounds, kids can’t help but sing along."

Winner of the 2010 Telly Award for best local, regional, and cable television programs in the U.S. and the prestigious Parents Television Council Seal, Slangman’s World is a feast for the senses, offering children an immersive world of color and discovery.

Stay tuned for more educational entertainment, programs, and music from Cosmic Toast Studios.

For educational videos, games, and Slagman’s World episodes, visit

About Cosmic Toast Studios
Cosmic Toast Studios ("CTS"), located in Burbank, California, is a full-service production studio that specializes in animation, music scoring, and sound effects to create remarkable worlds and memorable characters. Every step of the pre-production, production, and post-production process is completed within the studio, including animation (both 2D and CGI), writing, storyboarding, animatics, shooting (CTS has its own green screen facility), editing, sound design, music scoring, and song and voiceover recording.

CTS also boasts a comprehensive portfolio of original intellectual properties for television, film, and print media, including comic books, graphic novels and motion comics. "Slangman’s World," a live-action/animated series currently airing on PBS and the American Forces Network (AFN), teaches children foreign languages and cultures.

Visit Cosmic Toast Studios at for more information.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Month 5 @ Cosmic Toast Studios

| by Allan Stackhouse |

With our largest service project in the can, everyone's been getting more sleep and has been free to work on other very funny and exciting projects for some BIG networks. September saw the departure of Miguel, a great animation intern. He's off to finish his degree at Cal Arts. Rishon, another animation intern, is pursuing other opportunities. We wish them both the best! Joining the team last month was Alonso whose sketches are nothing short of amazing. Check out his blog at: We also formally announced David Kekst's appointment as Cosmic Toast Studios' Chief Executive Officer. He's been with the studio about as long as I have so I've witnessed first hand the directions he's been instrumental in taking us.

Buster, the studio puppy, is growing nicely but is still small enough to hold comfortably with one hand. My apartment is too small for a pet but it's nice to get my pet-fix everyday. Here's Ryan transporting Buster reverse Kangaroo style:
Ryan and Buster

The only feature I was able to catch in theaters this month was Machete, which I enjoyed immensely. My selection in Blu-rays/DVDs started off very well with Black Dynamite and Why Did I Get Married Too?, took a hit with The Book of Eli, and ended nicely with Me & Orson Welles. There's a bunch of movies that I'm really excited to see in October like My Soul to Take and Enter the Void.

The Facebook page reached 400 friends by the end of the month. If you haven't added us yet, please do. We're looking forward to growing our network to 500 and beyond! Getting some videos on that page is a work in progress so stay tuned. Slangman's World's songs are also now available on iTunes for your listening education and pleasure.

Outside of the studio, Ryan, our lead animator, returned from a much-deserved vacation in Hawaii while Marina had a nice vacation in Canada.

The last week of September began with some searing heat. Fortunately for us, the studio is well-air conditioned. Other than that, it's been business as usual with lots of progress being made on many fronts, all of which I'm unfortunately not at liberty to announce but stay tuned!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Review: The Social Network

| by Allan Stackhouse |

Chalk up another marvel by David Fincher. The Social Network is an absolutely captivating tale of the rise of Facebook and the subsequent falls of those allegedly involved in its inception. This is one of the best films I've seen all year, despite the sweltering conditions of the Arclight in Hollywood Friday night. I remember my staunchly negative mindset during the film's promotion, thinking it was ridiculous to make a film about something so seemingly rudimentary as Facebook. How wrong I was. The tale that screenwriter Aaron Sorkin and director David Fincher spin is a gripping one of genius, betrayal, and social networking.

Aaron Sorkin wonderfully adapted Ben Mezrich's The Accidental Billionaires, forming entrancing monologues and witty dialogue for every character. Mark himself had some great lines but the incredulous expressions of Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss really took the cake. The script is driven by dialogue but it doesn't turn into exposition; it actually moves the story along and doesn't serve as patches for the plot. The story is riveting. Mark Zuckerburg is a genius programmer who's on the verge of developing what we know today as Facebook. The film is split between with lawsuit scenes, held in private offices. Each timeline feeds the other, adding drama to one and reason to the other. This is a brilliant and masterfully executed form of storytelling.

The music and score added to the hypnotic nature of the film. Trent Reznor is new to scores but found himself working again with Atticus Ross who produced for Nine Inch Nails albums, for whom Trent Reznor is the lead singer. That particular genre is light in my iPod but the post-industrial and dark ambient sounds for which they are both known could not have worked any better in the film. Under many scenes of dialogue was a piece of music that echoed the figurative darkness of the scenes. This attention to sound made the experience of watching the film so complete.

I particularly enjoyed the restraint in the depiction of Mark Zuckerburg's character. The film didn't demonize him, at least I didn't find that it did. Mark, in the film, is a genius, seemingly getting into Harvard on the merits of his own intelligence rather than the nepotism of the Winklevosses. In a matter of just a year, he coded his way to the top of social networking. His ousting of Eduardo Saverin from Facebook was a really dirty thing to do but the film forces sympathy when Eduardo and Mark address each other at their hearing.

The film is also a marvel technically. I could have sworn Armie Hammer had a twin brother but did not see another actor credited with his last name in the opening credits. After the film, I found out Josh Pence acted as the body double for Tyler Vinklevoss. Armie Hammer's face was then digitally placed over Josh's. The effect is seamless and a marvel in technology. Josh Pence and Armie Hammer expertly mimicked the other's actions, completely pulling the wool over my eyes. This effect is, I'll dare say, perfect. Perhaps I'd be able to point out a mistake after the movie is released on Blu but this act of having a stand in for a twin has come a LONG way since the old days of “double screen.”

The only flaw of the film was in Justin Timberlake's casting. Perhaps the producers felt that they needed a name to sell the film but, as talented as Justin is in everything else he does (singing, song writing, dancing, clothing design, comedic acting), he did not have the dramatic chops to convey the paranoia, seduction, and seriousness of Sean Parker. Sean's character starts off harmlessly enough but I still get the sense that Justin's focus is still too much on the delivery instead of getting into the character, which again, he does with ease for his many appearances on Saturday Night Live. Take for instance one of my favorites, Robin Gibb. His tone is kept timid and his straight face is retained throughout almost the entire sketch. In the scenes with Sean Parker, Justin's tone is always the same when expressing the breadth of his emotions.

In the end, I don't feel the film is either a sob story for Eduardo Saverin nor a witch hunt for Marc Zuckerburg. I believe the film was more about the bitter end of a friendship brought on by success. This theme is a common one in films about bands or musicians but to have the subject matter be about something that half a billion people use was a surprising parallel for me. The film is interestingly framed with Mark Zuckerburg talking with a girl who feels sorry for him. I feel this film is incredibly relevant to the youth of today because it illustrates the cost of losing oneself in a business, relationship, drugs, etc. after forsaking those that helped you get there in the first place.