Soundtrack Review: The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners (2020)

Recently I got the chance to listen to the soundtrack for The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners. This is a first-person VR game set in the world of The Walking Dead. It was released this year for both Oculus, Steam, and Playstation VR. In the game, you must fight to survive in walker-infested New Orleans, with danger lurking around every corner.

The soundtrack for The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners was composed by Michael David Peter, with vocals provided by Joshua Mosely and Suzanne Waters. Peter has worked on the soundtracks for a number of video games over the years, including: Gears of War 4, Borderlands 2, Lord of the Rings: Conquest, Dragon Age, and Mass Effect.

The music for The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners caught me by surprise and definitely proved that I need to re-evaluate my opinion on VR games. Not only does the music sound like something straight out of the The Walking Dead (from what I remember of the series, I haven’t watched in many years), it’s also really diverse. At first I thought the soundtrack would just be numerous “variations on a theme” where most of the tracks sound vaguely alike (a trait you come across from time to time in soundtracks). This is simply not how this soundtrack is put together though. There are ominous pieces, jazzy pieces, even, and this caught my attention, tracks that are just talking, with voices telling stories. I think this last example might come from things you can find throughout the game, because there’s the sound of a tape recorder starting at the beginning, but I don’t know for certain.

I’m very impressed by how diverse the music is in this soundtrack. If I were playing this VR game, I would definitely be scared out of my mind listening to some of these pieces like “Via Carolla”, that one definitely scared me because there’s an ominous growl that recurs throughout the piece. I also really like the pieces that are clearly influenced by the sounds of New Orleans (brassy melodies, the kind of things you’d expect to hear if you visited the city). I’m also really impressed at the sheer size of this soundtrack, this is easily twice the size of most soundtracks that I come across.

Track Listing

1. Tune In To The Reclaimed (Michael David Peter & Janell Lenfert) 0:33
2. Stir The Herd (Michael David Peter) 2:08
3. Who Are You? (Michael David Peter) 2:19
4. Braining 101 (Michael David 1:47
5. Legend Of The Reserve (Michael David Peter) 3:12
6. Fifty Fifty Still Stands (Michael David Peter) 1:57
7. Charlie Boy ( Michael David Peter & Myk Watford) 4:24
8. Bayou Story Time (Joshua Mosley) 3:11
9. The Resting Place – Morning (Michael David Peter) 2:48
10. Via Carolla (Michael David Peter) 3:10
11. The Tower Will Always Stand (Michael David Peter & Debra Wilson) 0:56
12. The Resting Place – Night (Michael David Peter) 2:45
13. What Is A Beast? (Michael David Peter & Myk Watford) 2:36
14. In The Pines (Joshua Mosley) 3:05
15. Make Contact (Michael David Peter) 0:46
16. Where The Jazz Men Play (Michael David Peter) 2:34
17. The Tomb And The Tower (Michael David Peter & Morla Gorrondona) 1:19
18. Gumbo Groove (Joshua Mosley) 2:52
19. Memorial Lane (Michael David Peter) 1:45
20. May Benoit Is A Traitor (Michael David Peter & Debra Wilson) 1:16
21. My Brother’s Keeper (Michael David Peter) 1:49
22. A Gift From The Reclaimed (Michael David Peter) 1:50
23. The Kindness Of Strangers (Michael David Peter) 2:46
24. Where Is She? (Michael David Peter & Myk Watford) 3:39
25. BBQ & Jam (Joshua Mosley) 3:04
26. The Most Wanted Woman In NOLA (Michael David Peter) 1:34
27. The Blue Palace (Michael David Peter) 3:09
28. Humble Beginnings (Michael David Peter & Debra Wilson) 1:40
29. The Bells (Michael David Peter) 1:08
30. The Most Wonderous Dream (Michael David Peter & Myk Watford) 3:23
31. Bourbon Break (Joshua Mosley) 2:54
32. Halfway There (Joshua Mosley) 2:57
33. Bywater (Michael David Peter) 3:08
34. Forbidden Love (Michael David Peter) 2:21
35. Forty-Five Tall, Forty-Eight Strong (Michael David Peter & Debra Wilson) 2:14
36. The House Of The Rising Sun (Joshua Mosley) 2:41
37. Carriage Ride (Joshua Mosley) 3:17
38. The Tic (Michael David Peter & Myk Watford) 2:43
39. When The Levee Breaks (Joshua Mosley) 2:43
40. Rampart High (Michael David Peter) 1:57
41. Alone Together (Michael David Peter) 1:31
42. Soul Food (Joshua Mosley) 3:09
43. The Climb To A Brighter Future (Michael David Peter & Debra Wilson) 2:06
44. One Of Those NOLA Nights (Michael David Peter) 1:28
45. The Tourist And The Prophet (Michael David Peter & Myk Watford) 2:41
46. When The Saints Go Marching In (Joshua Mosley) 3:04
47. Hills And Valleys (Joshua Mosley) 3:13
48. The Pumps (Michael David Peter) 0:48
49. Lights In The Sky (Michael David Peter) 1:10
50. Our Resident Picasso (Michael David Peter) 1:23
51. Battle For The Reserve (Michael David Peter) 1:00
52. Saint Vincent’s (Michael David Peter) 0:53
53. Waterfall (Michael David Peter) 1:04
54. The Nave (Michael David Peter) 1:05
55. The Reserve (Michael David Peter) 0:59
56. The House Of The Rising Sun (Reprise Version) (Michael David Peter)

I really enjoyed listening to the soundtrack for The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners. It was a completely different experience (and that’s not a bad thing). While I won’t be able to check out the game anytime soon (I don’t have a VR setup), I do have a great appreciation for any game that features a soundtrack this expansive.

Let me know what you think about the music for The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Video Game Soundtracks

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My Thoughts on: Trolls World Tour (2020)

*warning: mild plot spoilers for Trolls World Tour follow

Well, it took a lot longer than I thought it would, but today I finally sat down and saw Trolls World Tour after picking the blu-ray up this morning. While I am disappointed that I never got to see this one in theaters, I was still looking forward to checking the story out.

Set some time after the events of the first Trolls movie, Trolls World Tour literally expands the world of the Trolls to reveal that their world is actually a LOT bigger than the first film led us to believe. It turns out Poppy’s Trolls are only one tribe of Trolls, each tribe devoted to a specific genre of music, those being Pop, Country, Techno, Funk, Classical, and Rock (with numerous sub-genres also being represented). This diversity is threatened when Queen Barb of the Hard Rock Trolls decides to unite all Troll-kind under the banner of rock by stealing a series of magical strings that will give her the power to control music (and by extension the Trolls). Naturally, Queen Poppy sets out to stop this from happening (with Branch in tow).

Trolls World Tour

Given how much I enjoyed watching the first Trolls film earlier this year, I was certain that I would love Trolls World Tour (especially once I saw Queen Barb in the previews) and I was right! This film takes everything that made Trolls fun and multiplies it by a factor of ten. I love how each of the Troll tribes are designed, each perfectly matched for their respective musical genres. Queen Barb is especially awesome (although really ALL of the Trolls are great). I really liked how the film didn’t waste much time in hinting that Barb does have thoughts and feelings beyond merely dominating the world through rock music (it was obvious to me early on that she was fighting loneliness).

There’s also a lot of cool voice cameos in this film, one of which didn’t hit me until I saw the end credits. I knew that Ozzy Osbourne was in this film (as Barb’s father, his voice is pretty hard to miss), and I also know (as a classical musician) that Gustavo Dudamel, a famous composer, was in there as well. What I did NOT know was that Anthony Ramos (one of the original Hamilton cast members) is in this film as King Trollex (seen at the opening of the film). Having recently fallen in love with Hamilton, I thought this was really cool.

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Also, I have to mention that I really enjoyed the film’s message about what it means to be a good leader (it’s important to listen to others, even if they don’t agree with you). And it’s message about the importance of diversity felt particularly relevant to me given the current situation in the world. Speaking of diversity, I like how the film ends with all of the Trolls (seemingly) living together. This looked like so much fun, I would honestly not mind if a third Trolls film was made. I’d like to see how all of the Trolls get along together.

In conclusion, if you enjoyed the first Trolls film, I’m pretty sure you’ll love Trolls World Tour as well. It was definitely a lot of fun to watch and I’m already looking forward to watching it again.

Let me know what you think about Trolls World Tour in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

My Thoughts on: Trolls (2016)

Animated Film Reviews

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Soundtrack Review: The Last of Us Part II (2020)

The original soundtrack for The Last of Us Part II is now available from Sony Music. The music for this soundtrack was composed by Gustavo Santaolalla (who also worked on the original The Last of Us), with additional music composed by Mac Quayle. Gustavo Santaolalla is a musician and film composer from Argentina who has previously won the Oscar for Best Original Score for Brokeback Mountain (2005) and Babel (2006), not to mention his work in other film and video game soundtracks. Santaolalla is also slated to compose the music for the upcoming HBO series based on The Last of Us.

Of the soundtrack for The Last of Us Part II, composer Gustavo Santaolalla had the following to say:

“Composing the music for The Last of Us Part II represented one of the biggest challenges of my career. Diving into the universe of the first game inspired me to come up with sounds, instrumentation and moods that became very closely related to the story and the characters. Fortunately, people found in the music the precise emotional support that a story such as The Last of Us required. The way in which fans related to the score of that first game is something I had never experience before.

In that context, writing new music for Part II demanded from me even more soul searching and more experimenting. So just as in the first game, where the acoustic guitar and the vintage 6 string bass played an important role in the narrative, this time the banjo, a special classical guitar (fitted with strings that are an octave lower) and my ever-present ronroco, became the story tellers of the score. Once again, I could only conceive the emotion that drove me to compose this music thanks to the amazing, multilayered story that is The Last of Us.”

Now while I can’t compare the soundtrack for The Last of Us Part II to the original (since I haven’t really experienced that game), I can say that the music for The Last of Us Part II did surprise me. Coming into this series with little to no knowledge about it, I was startled to find that most of the music on this soundtrack is quiet thoughtful and slower in pace than I thought it might be (I freely admit this reveals I’ve likely missed the point of the series entirely). There are moments of action here and there (notably in “The Cycle of Violence”), but most of the tracks feature the sounds of the banjo and the classical guitar. I was briefly puzzled as to why the guitar features so heavily and then I remembered that a guitar features quite prominently in this game (and I believe in the first game too, though I can’t say for certain), so it makes sense that this would be reflected in the game’s soundtrack.

Listening to the music for The Last of Us Part II reminds me yet again that you should never judge a video game by its cover art. If you think the music for this game is generic and action-y, then you have another thing coming. This soundtrack is sensitive, with only an occasional foray into “action mode” music. That tells me that this game is more retrospective than I thought, as it’s my experience that the music largely reflects what goes on in the game (and you’re not going to get calm music if it’s crazy fighting all the time).

If you want to experience the music in this game without the distraction of playing it through, then I highly recommend picking the soundtrack up.

THE LAST OF US PART II (ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK)

TRACKLISTING –

1. The Last of Us Part II

2. Unbound

3. Longing

4. Eye for an Eye

5. It Can’t Last

6. The Cycle of Violence

7. Reclaimed Memories

8. Cordyceps

9. Longing (Redemptions)

10. Restless Spirits

11. Chasing a Rumor

12. They’re Still Out There

13. Unbroken

14. The Rattlers

15. The Obsession

16. Soft Descent

17. The WLF

18. A Wolf’s Ghost

19. Masks On

20. It Can’t Last (Home)

21. Inextinguishable Flames

22. Allowed to be Happy

23. Collateral

24. The Cycle Continues

25. All Gone (The Promise)

26. Grieving

27. The Island

28. Beyond Desolation

Let me know what you think about the music for The Last of Us Part II in the comments below and have a great day!

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Video Game Soundtracks

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My Thoughts on: Double Suicide (1969)

I’m finally getting back into the swing of watching movies again and just recently I finally sat down to watch Double Suicide, a 1969 film that caught my attention because of the obvious implications of the title, as well as my determination to get my hands on every jidaigeki film I can.

The first thing that comes to mind about Double Suicide is that it is nothing like what I expected. Throughout, there is a motif of puppeteers manipulating the action on stage, almost as if the story is a puppet play brought to life (and indeed, the story starts with puppeteers setting up a show). It’s a little strange at times, to have the masked puppeteers appear out of nowhere or sneak along behind or alongside the characters, but you get used to it after a while. It sort of reinforces the idea that the characters are not entirely in control of their actions, that they’re merely puppets telling a tragic story.

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And speaking of the story….Double Suicide has one of the saddest stories I’ve ever seen. The premise centers around a hapless paper merchant named Jihei (married with two children by the way), who is hopelessly in love with a famous courtesan named Koharu. Jihei is determined to redeem Koharu from her life as a courtesan but can’t possibly hope to raise the amount of money needed to do it. Due to his fixation, his life quickly falls apart until only one course of action is possible.

In a stroke of brilliance, Jihei’s wife Osan is played by the same actress who plays Koharu. I think it’s a great choice because to me it shows that if Jihei would only open his eyes and look at the life he has with his shop, his wife and his children, then he’d see he already has a woman like Koharu in his life (in terms of looks anyway). But while Osan is loyal to an absolute fault, it’s demonstrated several times that Osan will say whatever needs to be said to get out of her situation as a courtesan. But none of this ultimately deters Jihei, he must have Koharu…or life is not worth living.

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It’s also striking to me how honest the film is with how selfish the actions of Jihei and Koharu are. Unlike other tragic love stories, there’s no real attempt made to disguise this love affair as anything close to noble. Jihei and Koharu are unbelievably selfish for abandoning their respective duties to die together and openly state as much several times. And really Jihei is the more selfish of the pair because he’s abandoning his wife and two young children all for a courtesan he can’t possibly afford. His persistence leads to a horrifically sad moment when Osan’s father summarily dissolves her marriage and drags her home (without her children it should be noted). All of that because Jihei wants what he can’t have.

And finally, going back to the title of the story, I almost feel like it’s misleading. Double Suicide implies that the couple willingly kills themselves. But when you watch the scene play out….it’s not like that at all, it’s actually closer to a murder-suicide in my opinion. It just really struck me at the end that it didn’t seem like Koharu really wanted to die.

In the end I think everyone should watch Double Suicide at least once because of the unusual way the story is put together (with puppeteers controlling the story and popping in and out). It’s not my favorite jidaigeki film, but I did enjoy it.

Let me know what you think about Double Suicide in the comments below and have a great day!

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RIP Ennio Morricone (1928-2020)

I normally don’t comment on moments like this, as I normally reserve my blog for film and soundtrack reviews, but the passing of Ennio Morricone, a veritable titan in the world of film music, cannot be passed over without a mention.

I woke up this morning to the news that Ennio Morricone had passed away at the age of 91. He composed over 400 scores for film and television, and to this day might be best known as the composer for The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (you know the piece I’m talking about). But Morricone’s work stretches far beyond that (rightfully acclaimed) film. He composed for spaghetti westerns, comedies, Hollywood films, foreign films, television scores, when you look at the complete list of scores Morricone created, you’ll be amazed that one man could create so much.

But I think the memory that will stick with me the longest about Ennio Morricone is how he won the Oscar for Best Original Score for The Hateful Eight at the age of 87 (making him the oldest person to ever receive a competitive Oscar to date). That he didn’t receive an Oscar until so late in his career is something of a crime in my opinion, but I’m glad he did receive some official recognition of his work from Hollywood (and rightfully so, as the music for The Hateful Eight is incredible).

The world of film music will never be quite the same again now that Ennio Morricone is gone. Rest in peace good sir, and thank you for everything.

Let me know about your favorite score by Ennio Morricone in the comments below.

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My Thoughts on: Hamilton (2020)

Like many, I was beyond excited for the opportunity to check out Hamilton for the first time when it came out on Disney+ yesterday. And why not? It’s been an absolute hit ever since it crashed into our lives in 2015. I knew of the musical pretty much from the start, but never really had the opportunity to check it out, not even to listen to the music….until now that is.

And holy SH*T what music!! I don’t always get into rap or hip-hop and I was briefly worried that this would deter me from getting into or enjoying Hamilton but I was so, so wrong. If anything, the story feels even more relatable when presented in this way. In brief, in case you’re not familiar, Hamilton chronicles the rise (and fall) of Alexander Hamilton in a way I guarantee you’ve ever seen before. What’s released on Disney+ is a filmed production of a show from late June 2016 and features the original Broadway cast.

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I’ve seen filmed stage productions before (Cats from the late 90s, Phantom of the Opera at Royal Albert Hall), but they pale in comparison to this performance of Hamilton (not least because Cats and Phantom are WORLDS apart from this show). As you sit and watch you feel like you’re in the best seat in the house, seeing the show from the perfect angle. There are close-ups in the appropriate places, the overall sound quality is amazing, and oh my god I cannot get over all of that amazing music!

Now, I will say that the first time I watched Hamilton (last night), it did take me about half an hour to get into the flow. As I said before, I don’t listen to a lot of rap and hip-hop so I’m not used to that kind of freestyle, free-flowing music. Once you get the hang of listening to it, however, it’s a lot of fun to listen to, even if a few details do get lost in the shuffle (when Lafayette comes back as a general I still can’t tell you what he says). I think my two favorite pieces (really I love them all) are “The Ten Dueling Commandments” and “The Room Where it Happens.” I especially like the former because it lays out everything you need to know about a duel while still keeping it interesting.

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I also love, love, LOVE the fact that Aaron Burr narrates the overall story, that reminds me so much of how Judas narrates the bulk of Jesus Christ Superstar (and according to my reading may have been done in homage to that very show). Let me tell you, when I found out that THAT was Aaron Burr my first thought was “Oh boy, THIS is going to be interesting.” And it is! Watching Burr and Hamilton interact throughout the whole show, knowing how it’s going to end….let’s just say by the time the climax finally comes the suspense will be almost overwhelming.

Lin-Manuel Miranda found this way to take the life of Alexander Hamilton, a story with all the potential to make for very dry reading/viewing and made it cool (and heartbreaking). To be sure, liberties are taken with the facts, but that’s not uncommon when history is adapted for musical theater. I think in the very broad strokes the story Miranda is trying to get across is correct, that Hamilton was this immigrant who did amazing things during his life, but who was also human and made many, MANY mistakes (my jaw dropped upon learning about the Reynolds pamphlet).

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I also have to say that I love King George III. His part is relatively small but he is FUNNY! Watching him comment on the coming war, the aftermath, and John Adams becoming the next president, all of it had me in stitches. He is one of the best parts of Hamilton and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Before I conclude, I learned something about dueling that made my brain explode. In a duel, “throwing away your shot” refers to firing so that you deliberately miss your opponent in a last ditch effort to end the affair once and for all. So when Alexander sings about not “throwing away my shot”, well….it kind of puts the ending of his story in a whole different light, doesn’t it.

In conclusion, I thoroughly loved watching Hamilton on Disney+ and I feel like everyone should sit down and watch it at least once. Given that Broadway is closed for the rest of 2020 (and possibly longer), this is your best chance to watch one of the hottest shows on Broadway (without paying an arm and a leg). I also think that, given the current political climate, this is also a really good time to watch Hamilton as well, and once you see it, you’ll understand why.

As for me, I’m perfectly happy to proclaim myself a Hamilton fan.

Let me know what you think about Hamilton on Disney+ in the comments below and have a great day!

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Soundtrack News: Ghost of Tsushima Original Soundtrack Available July 17

Milan Records has announced that the original video game soundtrack for Ghost of Tsushima will be available on July 17th, 2020 and can be pre-ordered now. The album features music written by both Ilan Eshkeri and Shigeru Umebayashi for the latest action-adventure game from Sony Interactive Entertainment.  Included in the album are tracks written by Eshkeri that serve as the sonic companion to the game’s narrative, as well as music written by Umebayashi for the exploratory, open world dimension of the game.

Of the soundtrack, composer Ilan Eshkeri says:

“Ghost of Tsushima is such a beautiful game set in a culture that has always fascinated me, with a powerful and compelling story. Everything about it touched me creatively and I learned so much on the journey. The score brings together Japanese music and instruments, with sounds I’ve performed and a symphony orchestra all led by melody. I hope together it creates an emotional world that touches you and draws you into the heart and spirit of Ghost.”

“When I was composing for Ghost of Tsushima, I was inspired by Japan’s nature, climate, traditional lifestyle and classical Japanese music. When players hear the music, I hope that they feel the hearts of the people of Tsushima – those who love the land, living and plowing with the natural bounties it offers, and those of the warriors who take their katanas and follow the way of the samurai,” adds composer Shigeru Umebayashi.

GHOST OF TSUSHIMA (MUSIC FROM THE VIDEO GAME)

TRACKLISTING –

1.       The Way of the Ghost*

2.       Jin Sakai*

3.       Komoda Beach*

4.       The Way of the Samurai*

5.       Lord Shimura*

6.       No Mercy*

7.       Lady Masako*

8.       A Reckoning in Blood*

9.       The Last of Clan Adachi*

10.    Heart of the Jito*

11.    The Tale of Sensei Ishikawa*

12.    Forgotten Song*

13.    Khotun Khan*

14.    Honour to Ash*

15.    The Fate of Tsushima*

16.    Sacrifice of Tradition*

17.    The Way of the Ghost feat. Clare Uchima*

18.    Tsushima Suite: I. Seion**

19.    Tsushima Suite: II. Shurai**

20.    Tsushima Suite III. Bushido**

21.    Tsushima Suite IV: Kodoku**

22.    Tsushima Suite: V. Seiiki**

In the late 13th century, the Mongol empire has laid waste to entire nations along their campaign to conquer the East. Tsushima Island is all that stands between mainland Japan and a massive Mongol invasion fleet led by the ruthless and cunning general, Khotun Khan. As the island burns in the wake of the first wave of the Mongol assault, samurai warrior Jin Sakai stands as one of the last surviving members of his clan. He is resolved to do whatever it takes, at any cost, to protect his people and reclaim his home. He must set aside the traditions that have shaped him as a warrior to forge a new path, the path of the Ghost, and wage an unconventional war for the freedom of Tsushima.

The soundtrack for Ghost of Tsushima is available for preorder now.

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My Thoughts on: Wonder Woman (2017)

It only took three years but I have finally seen Wonder Woman (in my defense, I was neck-deep in my dissertation at the time the movie came out, so I wasn’t exactly in the mood to go to the movies at the time). And the first thought that came to mind is: this is AMAZING!! You see, part of the reason I avoided this film for so long is I have an instinctive dislike of origin films. Even with a character as iconic as Wonder Woman, I have this thing where I don’t like seeing how the character gets started because they have the bad habit of being awkward (I suffer heavily from second-hand embarrassment). Imagine my delight then, when I sat down to watch Wonder Woman and found…practically no awkwardness at all! We do in fact get plenty of Diana’s early years on Themyscira, but it’s all layered in so much badass action that there’s no chance for early awkwardness to develop.

The bulk of the story is set in the closing days of World War I (1918), and sees Diana leave Themyscira with Steve Trevor to confront and kill Ares (which she believes will end the war on the spot). The story goes from London, to the trenches on the Western Front, to deep behind enemy lines. Patty Jenkins does not hold back from showing you the horrors of the “the war to end all wars” and it only serves to drive Diana even more to fulfill her self-proclaimed quest to kill Ares. Diana’s naïveté regarding Ares is almost painful to watch at times (because you know it can’t be THAT easy), but it’s also endearing because it highlights how sincere the princess of the Amazons is with her intentions.

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And speaking of Ares…it’s brilliant how the god of war’s presence is teased throughout the film. For most of the story in fact, it seems patently obvious who the god of war is masquerading as (in hindsight it’s too obvious). In fact, it’s so obvious it makes the actual reveal of Ares’ identity all the more shocking (I did NOT see that coming). Jenkins does a phenomenal job of weaving into the story how Ares has been present all this time and yet is NOT (directly) responsible for all the wars and death that have been going on. Furthermore, his final confrontation with Diana is amazing to watch, it’s everything you could ever want in a clash between a god and an Amazon.

I was also blown away by the revelation of what Diana really is (something teased throughout the film). I’m a little disappointed the story didn’t go with the traditional “made from clay and brought to life” story, but really this works too.

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Steve Trevor is also the perfect complement to Diana by the way. It’s funny how at first he tries to fulfill the stereotypical “alpha male protecting the weak female” role only to very quickly realize Diana does not need ANY help in that regard. And once he realizes it, he just goes with it, which is awesome to see. I love stories that turn the male/female dynamic on its head like this film does.

As far as superhero origin films goes, Wonder Woman is one of the best films I’ve ever seen. I do regret not seeing it sooner, but I’m glad I finally got around to watching it before Wonder Woman 1984 comes out (whenever that happens to be).

There’s so much more I want to say about how amazing Wonder Woman is, but I think this gets the basic point across: Wonder Woman is one of the best films I’ve ever seen, it gives Diana an awesome origin story, and lays the foundation for many stories to come (hopefully).

Let me know what you think about Wonder Woman in the comments below and have a great day!

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My Thoughts on: The Wicker Man (1973)

I’m honestly not sure when The Wicker Man first came to my attention, but the idea of seeing it has been in my head for awhile. While my general aversion to the horror genre is hardly a secret, I heard so many times about how this was one of those films you must see before you die that I finally decided, once I found a copy, that I would sit down and watch it, for better or worse. It also didn’t hurt that Christopher Lee is in this film also (I’ll watch just about anything that has him in it).

If you haven’t seen the original The Wicker Man, the story follows Police Sergeant Neil Howie (Edward Woodward) as he travels to the (fictional) Scottish island of Summerisle to investigate a complaint about a missing child, Rowan Morrison, that’s been sent to him via an anonymous letter. A simple investigation quickly goes sideways when everyone Howie meets protests that Rowan either a) does not exist or b) died six months earlier. Not only that, but the devoutly Christian Howie is horrified to discover the entire island follows a pagan religion with Lord Summerisle (Christopher Lee) happily ruling at the top of it all.

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Right away I could feel major Midsommar-vibes coming off this story and indeed they are similar in broad strokes. You have an outsider encountering a pagan culture they do not understand, there’s pagan symbolism everywhere, and oh yes, there’s human sacrifice at the end. I investigated and found out that both Midsommar and The Wicker Man (the original version anyway) both belong to a sub-genre of horror known as folk horror. This sub-genre contains stories that focus on the “old religion” and ritualistic practices. Given I’ve watched and enjoyed two films from the folk horror genre, it might be I’ve finally found a niche of horror that is for me after all. But I digress, back to The Wicker Man

I find it very interesting how Howie is presented to the audience. Given how prevalent Christianity is all over the world, you might think that at least some of the sympathy would be with Howie as he goes about his investigation on Summerisle. But Howie, as Woodward plays him, is so uptight, and so self-righteous, that he quickly becomes unlikable. He has no tolerance for anything that deviates from the norm, and there’s a lot of things on Summerisle that you don’t normally see. Now, to be fair, the police sergeant does make something of a good point at the end of the film when he points out that sacrificing him is tantamount to murder, but it also reveals how little Howie understands life on the island. Except for that little part about human sacrifice, the villagers on Summerisle aren’t hurting anybody by following the old religion, but Howie can’t stand for it regardless.

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The pivotal moment with the titular “wicker man” was just as amazing as I’d been led to believe. I found out that Edward Woodward insisted on not seeing it until the moment of filming, which makes his scream of “Oh God, oh Jesus Christ!” upon seeing it so utterly believable. Also, I will never look at the song “Sumer is icumen in” in the same way ever again.

One thing I keep turning over and over in my head is the sacrifice at the end of the film and what it’s intended to do. You see, the old religion was established on Summerisle over a hundred years ago to help with the growth of the apple orchards on the island. But the previous year was the first year the harvest failed, hence the sacrifice at the end of the film, the idea being that a human sacrifice will appease the gods and allow the apples to grow again next year. Howie maintains that the apples are going to fail anyway because fruit isn’t meant to grow in this region. And yet…I can’t help but wonder….what if the sacrifice works? Or at least appears to work. Even though the results of the sacrifice are never revealed, I have a feeling Lord Summerisle has nothing to worry about even though Howie implied that he himself would be the next sacrifice should the crops fail again. If that was the first time the fruit didn’t grow in over 100 years, it seems unlikely that they would permanently die off just like that. Even if they are slowly dying, it doesn’t happen that quickly, so it’s more likely the fruit will continue for a while longer. I just hate how certain Howie seems that the fruit trees are never going to bear fruit again. I guess I can’t help but wonder “what if Howie’s wrong and all of this works anyway?”

What I’m trying to say in all of this is that The Wicker Man is an amazing film and one that everyone should definitely see at least once. Christopher Lee steals every scene he’s in. I also really loved all of the songs in this film, if I’d known how musical The Wicker Man is I would’ve watched it years ago.

Let me know what you think about The Wicker Man in the comments below and have a great day!

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Soundtrack News: ‘Driveways’ Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Available Now

The original motion picture soundtrack for Driveways, with music by Jay Wadley, is available now from Milan Records. Nominated for two Independent Spirit Awards, Driveways is out now and available to watch on demand. Director Andrew Ahn’s Driveways tells the story of Kathy (Golden Globe® Nominee Hong Chau), a single mother, who travels with her shy eight-year-old son Cody (newcomer Lucas Jaye) to Kathy’s late sister’s house which they plan to clean and sell. As Kathy realizes how little she knew about her sister, Cody develops an unlikely friendship with Del (Golden Globe®, Tony® winner and acting legend Brian Dennehy), the Korean War vet and widower who lives next door. Over the course of a summer, and with Del’s encouragement, Cody develops the courage to come out of his shell and, along with his mother, finds a new place to call home.

Jay Wadley is a NY based composer and music producer. Upcoming releases include; Charlie Kaufman’s I’m Thinking of Ending Things, The Innocence Files directed by Roger Ross Williams (Life Animated, Apollo), Independent Spirit Award-nominated Driveways directed by Andrew Ahn (Spa Night), and the Sundance NEXT Audience and Innovation award-winning narrative debut, I Carry You with Me (Sony), written and directed by Heidi Ewing (Jesus Camp, Detropia).

Of the soundtrack, composer Jay Wadley says:

“In my score for Andrew Ahn’s Driveways, I took an understated, paired down approach with textured analog production on a felted grand piano and chamber string ensemble.  The film is a delicate and subtle piece, so Andrew and I felt the score needed to take extra care not to step on or get in the way of story and character.  As I began the creative process, my way into Cody and Del’s sound was through an attempt to capture the mood of childhood experiences like tooling around in the yard and on the porch during long, lazy, hot summer afternoons. I find a certain dreaminess, comfort, and melancholy to those days that informed the music’s overall tone and character. To echo the simple yet profound nature of Del and Cody’s friendship, I used equally simple recurring melodic and harmonic material that often plays as intimate duets between strings and piano. These melodies thoughtfully blossom and mature throughout the film, deepening their associations, and help us connect to relationships that have shaped us and remind us of the beauty and tragedy of their impermanence.”

Driveways director Andrew Ahn adds:

“Jay’s score for Driveways is so human, full of character and soul. I loved working with Jay because, like an actor, he took the film on emotionally, letting the story and characters become a part of him. There’s a beautiful nostalgic quality to the score that feels so personal and intimate. For this reason, the score never hits a false note; it feels truthful and genuine in such an emotional way.”

DRIVEWAYS (ORIGINAL MOTION PICTURE SOUNDTRACK)

TRACKLISITNG –

  1. On the Road
  2. Del
  3. Inside the House
  4. Cleaning Up
  5. Mouse Pad
  6. Can I Borrow a Shovel?
  7. Pretty Good
  8. Get Up
  9. Okay Bye!
  10. Shopping
  11. Thanatopsis
  12. Kathy Goes Out
  13. Invitation
  14. Rogers Team
  15. Wait List
  16. Hardwood Floors
  17. Move, Move
  18. Moving to Seattle
  19. This One
  20. Everything is Different

If you’d like to check out the soundtrack for Driveways, it is currently available.

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