My Thoughts on: Men (2022)

*Note: this review was originally published for subscribers on Patreon in May

*minor spoilers below*

Well, it was bound to happen sometime. After seeing over ten movies in theaters (so far) this year, I’ve finally seen a movie that completely disappointed me and that is Alex Garland’s Men

What really hurts about this is I was genuinely excited, if slightly nervous, about seeing this movie. I’ve been a fan of Garland’s directorial work since his debut with Ex Machina. I also saw Annihilation in theaters and I liked that film quite a bit (though Ex Machina remains his best work). Based on that history, it seemed reasonable to assume that I would enjoy Men to some degree as well.

Well….that didn’t happen.

The biggest issue is, I sat through the entire movie and I still can’t tell you what Men is supposed to be about. This didn’t bother me for most of the runtime, because I figured a last act twist was coming that would explain everything. Well, there were some last act twists all right, but they did absolutely nothing to explain what the BLEEP was going on in that movie. I don’t mind when movies don’t completely spell everything out for you (Garland’s first film Ex Machina is a prime example) but Men doesn’t come close to explaining what is happening or why.

An equally grievous fault is that Men is trying way too hard to be clever about its subject matter (whatever that is). It’s almost like Garland thought that by filling the movie with lewd, disgusting men who are *minor spoiler alert* ultimately defeated by a woman, that he would find a receptive audience. But, if anything, the male characters in this film were a complete turnoff for me. Perhaps if Garland had done a better job explaining what was going on in the story, it might have been more palatable. But as it is, we were subjected to a litany of offensive comments that at times had the audience commenting out loud about how offensive they were (especially when the priest character tried to justify the spousal abuse that the main character suffered). That moment disgusted me and in hindsight I probably should’ve walked out at that point.

For a time, it almost seemed like the film had an interesting premise going. It seemed to me that our heroine was encountering the manifestation of an ancient pagan god (depicted on an ancient basin used as a baptismal font in the village church) who was interested in acquiring a mate because, well, that’s what fertility gods do. But then, as I alluded to earlier, there was a last act twist that not only blew that theory to ribbons, it also completely confused me because it seemed to come completely out of left field.

I will say this much for the film: Rory Kinnear puts on the performance of a lifetime in this movie. I lost count of all the characters he played, but there’s such a wide variety it’s stunning to think that he pulled them all off himself. I also enjoyed Jesse Buckley’s performance as Harper, especially in the latter half of the film when the action starts ramping up.

The only other detail of this film that I thoroughly enjoyed was the music. As with Garland’s previous films, the music was composed by Ben Salisbury and Geoff Barrow and it is superbly done. Indeed, had the music been not so good I don’t think I could’ve made it through the film.

I can’t in good conscience recommend going to see Men. It was overall a complete disappointment for me and it is far from Alex Garland’s best work.

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Music for the Female Gaze: Talking with Composer Karl Frid about ‘Pleasure’

Just recently I had the opportunity to speak with composer Karl Frid about his work on the movie Pleasure. Karl Frid studied classical music at the Royal College of Music in London with trombone as his main instrument, before making a musical U-turn. He went to study Afro-Cuban music at the CNSEA in Havana, Cuba before finishing his studies in Afro-American music at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm. Since then, he has worked as a full-time freelance musician, composer, arranger, and producer. His vast knowledge in music ranges from classical and jazz to Latin, hip-hop, and pop music.

Since 2011 Karl has been working closely with his brother, Pär Frid under the name Frid & Frid. They primarily write music for film and TV and have scored several features and TV series of different genres. In 2018 they were nominated in the Best Music category at the Swedish Film Institute “Guldbaggen” Awards for their score for the documentary Citizen Schein

Karl’s latest work for film is the feature Pleasure, by Ninja Thyberg, which was in the official selection of the Cannes Film Festival 2020 and later premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2021, where it received outstanding reviews with special mentions of the score. At the Gothenburg Film Festival, the film was awarded the FIPRESCA Award by the international critic’s jury. The score is a mixture of sacred choral opera and hip-hop. 

I hope you enjoy our conversation about the movie Pleasure!

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  • How did you get started as a film composer?

I’ve always had an interest in film and film music. During my last year of my studies at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm, I took some extracurricular classes in many different fields and one of them was scoring for film and games. I found it very fun, creative, and exciting to be able to create tension and different emotions to picture. But it wasn’t until a few years later when I teamed up with my brother Pär and started Frid & Frid that I really got started with scoring for film. At first, we did some commissions for children’s television and ads, and then we got to do more extensive and challenging projects.

  • How did you get connected with working on this movie? What drew you to it once you saw it?

Pär and I were approached pretty late in the process, about a month from the intended final cut. We had worked with the producers Erik Hemmendorf, Eliza Jones, and Markus Waltå before and they asked us for a meeting with Ninja and sent us a rough cut of the film without any temp music. I remember I was just knocked out by the strength of the film and the fresh and raw look into this special universe. It was so liberating with this obvious and genius take on the female gaze. At the time, Pär was tied up in another project, working on commission for a symphony orchestra, but I was so taken by the film that we decided that I would do the score by myself.

  • How did you come up with the idea to juxtapose sacred opera and hip-hop in the score for Pleasure, that’s not a genre pairing you usually encounter in a soundtrack. What’s the story behind this, I really like how it all turned out.

I had such a great collaboration with Ninja. It was a collective process of problematizing, analyzing, discussing and testing different angles and ideas. We had many long discussions about the patriarchal structures being displayed in the film, about female empowerment, and about our own preconceptions about the porn industry. The idea of mixing sacred choral opera with hip-hop beats came quite early in the process. We talked a lot about finding the inner voice of Bella, and about how she pictures herself, opposed to how the patriarchal society perceives her. This became the musical manifestation of the Harlot vs the Madonna. Heaven or hell. The hip-hop also represents the self-image of the female porn actresses as “bad ass,” with full control over themselves and their surroundings, and we found the clash between the hip-hop and the sacred opera very interesting.

The film has so many layers, and I was constantly reminded and enlightened by Ninja about all the different meanings and details. The film is also changing between many different storytelling techniques – social realism, dark comedy, and elevated scenes in slow motion almost seductive like a music video. We wanted to explore the sounds of the female body and the orgasm, and found this correlation between the fake orgasm and opera, as it’s not a ”normal” way of singing, rather a theatrical, constructed expression. There was also a reference to Hildegard von Bingen, a German nun in the 12th century who composed choral works for nuns. She was also pretty cool since she was pretty outspoken about female sexuality and actually is supposedly the first person to have written the first description of the female orgasm, with her text ”Causae et Curae.” She’s also been known to have had a positive and relaxed view of sex and often opposed to the church’s tendencies to demonize female sexuality.

  • On a related note, are there any themes in the music for specific characters? Or does the music not go in a thematic direction?

Yes, there are. The ”Confutatis” theme, along with “Voca Me Cum Benedictus,” and ”Oro Supplex” are all Bella’s themes – symbolizing her journey in the porn industry and manifesting her innocence and self-image. “Fata Viam Invenient,” is the theme of her antagonist Ava, and “Una Gioia Sempre Viva,” is written as the friendship theme of Bella & Joy, and also works as Joy’s theme.

  • Were you given any specific directions on what to include in the film’s soundtrack?

Not from the start. Ninja wanted an epic score and a unique and special sonic universe for the film. The music should be a statement and a character in itself. It was also very important that the score wasn’t generic or tried to push emotions or judgment on the characters. Music that shouldn’t always go with the emotions but rather be a juxtaposition on what we see on the screen.

  • Were there any musical ideas you tried for the score but ultimately abandoned because they weren’t working out?

Oh yes. The first sketches I made, featuring cello, all turned out too generic. Haha, so I had to restart and find a different angle. But that was great. I think it’s often better to try something out and realize that it doesn’t work, to help you find what does. If you don’t eliminate different options, you’ll have a much harder time finding what you’re looking for. 

  • Did the pandemic affect the recording of the score at all?

Yes, but not necessarily in a bad way. For one, it gave me more time to work on the score. It also limited my resources, which I often find, from a creative perspective, can be really inspiring and force you to explore and push the limitations rather than if you had all the choices in the world. Since so many concerts and events were cancelled during this period, it also meant that Caroline had a lot of time and could be at my disposal in a way that would have been unlikely under normal circumstances as she is often very busy. Which was great for me and the score. It created space for us to go into this creative bubble. Of course, at the same time things were really rough for so many of my fellow colleagues and musicians and times were really uncertain.

  • How much time did you have to work on the music?

At first, not that long, but because of the pandemic, with cancelled festivals etcetera, I got more time to work on the score. I would say that in total I was working on it for about four months.

  • Excluding the voices, is any type of traditional orchestra used in this soundtrack or is it all synthesized?

No, for this score there are no traditional orchestral instruments involved. I basically created the score around the voices of Caroline Gentele and Sofia Kappel. Then, I used those recordings as samples from which I built different voice synthesizers and drums. Apart from that, I basically worked with different 808 samples and drums as well as the Moog Grandmother synthesizer which I find myself returning to for every new project I’ve done since I bought it.

  • Do you have a favorite piece in the score?

I think my favorite piece is “Una Gioia Sempre Viva,” because of its warmth and meaning. But I also like the other pieces a lot. Then, of course, I LOVE the rap tracks I created together with Mapei and Ludvig Klint – “Una Gioia,” “Hard to the Core,” and ”Good Girl/Bad Girl.”

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I wanted to say thank you to Karl Frid for taking the time to speak with me about his work on Pleasure. I hope you enjoyed this interview, and have a great rest of the day!

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Soundtrack News: ‘Mr. Malcolm’s List’ Original Motion Picture Soundtrack to be Released July 1st

 Lakeshore Records is set to release Mr. Malcolm’s List—Original Motion Picture Soundtrack featuring music by award-winning neo-classical composer Amelia Warner (Wild Mountain Thyme), digitally on July 1.  Warner is adept at creating timeless sounding scores for films with expansive stories and for this historical drama, she balances gravitas and grandeur with playful, energetic cues.  The Bleecker Street film directed by Emma Holly Jones and starring Freida Pinto Ṣọpẹ́ Dìrísù and Zawe Ashton exclusively in theaters on July 1st.

Says Warner about Mr. Malcolm’s List:

“I had an incredible time working on Mr. Malcom’s List and was so inspired and excited by Emma’s vision for the film. We wanted the music to feel classic and timeless. We hoped that it would ground the story and give the film weight and grandeur. I really enjoyed playing around with textures, using shimmering harmonics and woodwind trills to create a fizziness and energy. I wanted there to be a fun playfulness and mischief to the score which was achieved with characterful and expressive woodwind. I also wanted the score to feel romantic and sweeping and have hopefully achieved that with the main love theme for Malcom and Selina. I wanted this theme to feel like it was glowing and sparkling surrounding it with magical glittering harmonics and flute trills.”

Breakthrough neo-classical composer Amelia Warner is best known for her stunning soundtrack for the 2018 Irish-American film ‘Mary Shelley’, directed by Haifaa al-Mansour and starring Elle Fanning. It won Amelia the ‘Breakthrough Composer of The Year’ at the International Film Music Critics Association (IFMCA) Awards in 2019, and a nomination in the ‘Discovery of the Year’ category at the World Soundtrack Awards.

Mr. Malcolm’s List is summarized as follows:

When she fails to meet an item on his list of requirements for a bride, Julia Thistlewaite (Zawe Ashton) is jilted by London’s most eligible bachelor, Mr. Malcolm (Ṣọpẹ́ Dìrísù). Feeling humiliated and determined to exact revenge, she convinces her friend Selina Dalton (Freida Pinto) to play the role of his ideal match. Soon, Mr. Malcolm wonders whether he’s found the perfect woman…or the perfect hoax.

TRACK LIST

01. Overture

02. Quite The Reputation

03. Selina

04. Malcolm and Selina

05. A Plan is Hatched

06. Arriving at Hadley Hall

07. A Gift of Friendship?

08. A Trustworthy Gentleman

09. Selina Arrives in London

10. Julia Discovered

11. Croquet

12. The First Meeting

13. A Forgiving Nature

14. Proposal

15. Oh Henry

16. Heartbreak

17. Julia and Selena Make Up

18. The Chase

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Soundtrack News: ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ Original Soundtrack Available Now

The Obi-Wan Kenobi soundtrack composed by Natalie Holt and John Williams is available now. Obi-Wan Kenobi begins 10 years after the dramatic events of Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith where Obi-Wan Kenobi faced his greatest defeat—the downfall and corruption of his best friend and Jedi apprentice, Anakin Skywalker, who turned to the dark side as evil Sith Lord Darth Vader.

Commenting on the score, Holt had the following to say:

“Like many children, the iconic music of John Williams underscored my childhood in all the classic movies I watched. It was his music in E.T. that first made me realise that film music existed so to have scored a project that has his musical heritage embedded in it is something very special to me. Although when I told John that he was the reason I’d become a film composer, he laughed and said, ‘Oh dear, I’m so sorry about that!’”

“As a violinist with a classically trained background, I wanted to create something on an epic scale which was both an homage to the musical palette of Star Wars, while having a contemporary flavour. Because the story of the show involved heritage characters, in some way one has to show awareness of and respect for the heritage of the music. At the same time, there were new characters and elements that are not so familiar to many people – such as the Inquisitors – and finding an original sound and theme for those was part of the pleasure and challenge of this project. So that process of working with my hero John Williams and also bringing my own voice to the show has been glorious.” 

“There are some Latin influences in the score, some sounds that are more Eastern, and  some dark brooding synthesisers. Ultimately though it’s an emotional score. I watched the original Star Wars trilogy with my dad when I was five years old, and that powerful memory has taken on additional meaning for me in recent times because he is now very ill and losing his own memory. I hope the score is something that he would be proud of, that John Williams feels is harmonic with his own incredible work, and that Star Wars fans across the world embrace the continuing journey of this incredible story world and its rich musical heritage.”

TRACK LIST

  1. Obi-Wan – Theme by John Williams
  2. Order 66
  3. Inquisitor’s Hunt
  4. Young Leia
  5. Days of Alderaan
  6. The Journey Begins
  7. Bail and Leia
  8. Nari’s Shadow
  9. Ready to Go
  10. Daiyu
  11. Cat and Mouse
  12. Spice Den
  13. First Rescue
  14. Mapuzo
  15. The Path
  16. Sensing Vader
  17. Parallel Lines
  18. Some Things Can’t Be Forgotten
  19. Stormtrooper Patrol
  20. Hangar Escape
  21. Hold Hands
  22. Empire Arrival
  23. Dark Side Assault
  24. I Will Do What I Must
  25. Sacrifice
  26. No Further Use
  27. Overcoming the Past
  28. Tatooine Desert Chase
  29. Who You Become
  30. Saying Goodbye
  31. End Credit

Will you be checking out the soundtrack to Obi-Wan Kenobi? It’s got some gorgeous music in it and of course John Williams theme for Obi-Wan is perfection.

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Soundtrack News: ‘Hustle’ Soundtrack Coming to Vinyl, Available for Pre-Order Now

Netflix and Diggers Factory are excited to announce the release of the Hustle (Soundtrack from the Netflix Film) LP with music by composer Dan Deacon. The soundtrack is available now for pre-order on Diggers Factory and comes pressed on blue vinyl, with an exclusive red version live on Netflix Shop. Adam Sandler’s Hustle debuted on Netflix’s English Films list at #1 with 84.58M hours viewed and climbing. With a Rotten Tomatoes score of 92% from critics and 92% with audiences, the film has been getting rave reviews.

Stanley Sugerman’s (Adam Sandler) love for basketball is unparalleled, but the travel weary Philadelphia 76ers scout who has higher ambitions of being a coach remains stuck on the road looking for the next unknown talent. His search around the world leads him to Spain, when he discovers Bo Cruz (NBA player Juancho Hernangómez), an incredible streetball player with a troubled past. Stanley and Bo connect on and off the court, with their passion for the game and as loving family men who want to prove they can win, in basketball and in life. With the support of Stanley’s wife, Teresa (Queen Latifah), can the underdogs come out on top?

HUSTLE, an inspirational drama, co-stars Ben Foster, Kenny Smith, Anthony Edwards, and Tobias Harris, is directed by Jeremiah Zagar and is produced by Sandler, Allen Covert, Joe Roth, Jeffrey Kirschenbaum, Zack Roth, LeBron James and Maverick Carter.

TRACKLIST
SIDE A

  1. Combine
  2. Streetball
  3. Oak Tree
  4. Best Month
  5. Bo Vs Kermit Pt 1
  6. Run Up Hill Win
  7. Streetball One on One
  8. Drive To Combine
  9. Kermit First Contact
  10. Like I Was Not Even Here

SIDE B

  1. Court Walk
  2. Already Dead
  3. Bo Boards Bus
  4. Coaching Debut Pt 1 & Pt 2
  5. The Chase
  6. Run Up Hill Fail
  7. Are You Obsessed
  8. Coaching Moment
  9. Never Back Down

Will you be pre-ordering the Hustle soundtrack on vinyl?

Have a great day!

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My Thoughts on: Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022)

*warning: minor spoilers for the movie can be found below, highly recommend watching the movie before reading this review

After the hype-fest that was Avengers Infinity War and Avengers Endgame, I admit to being slightly burnt out on Marvel movies for some time afterward (the pandemic didn’t help matters). Regardless of the reasons, the only Marvel movie I’d seen recently was Black Widow and I almost passed on seeing Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, as I’ve still yet to see the first Doctor Strange movie.

And then the trailer came out.

To put it bluntly: I was hooked from the start. I’m quite familiar with the work of director Sam Raimi and the thought of seeing him tackle a Marvel film sent chills down my spine (in the best way possible). And the tease of seeing so many iconic characters finally appearing in the MCU, well….I couldn’t pass that up either. Being a longtime fan of the X-Men movies, I simply had to see Patrick Stewart reprise his role as Charles Xavier (I’ll speak more on the cameos later on). 

Finally, the day came, and I got to see Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (while dodging almost all spoilers). And….to be honest, I’m still processing exactly what I saw. Because you better believe there’s a LOT happening in this movie.

Let me start at the beginning and see if I can make sense of what happens. The crux of the story revolves around young America Chavez, a girl who literally tumbles into Doctor Strange’s world with a unique power: she can travel the multiverse. This power makes her very desirable to many people, well, to one in particular.

I debated long and hard about whether or not I would directly mention this plot detail in my review, but I have so many thoughts on it, I’ve decided it’s worth it. So here is one final SPOILER WARNING before I continue:

Still here? Okay, you were warned….

The revelation that the Scarlet Witch is the big villain of the story hit me like a punch in the gut. I know Wanda has been through a LOT of trauma over the course of the MCU, but it still struck me as a surprise that she would go to this extreme in order to be reunited with the children she created in the first place. It just goes to show that love, real or imagined, can drive a person to do terrible things all in the name of keeping that love. There’s a frightening parallel between Wanda’s actions in this film and the evil Doctor Strange in the What If? episode “What if Doctor Strange lost his heart instead of his hands?” Like that Doctor Strange, Wanda is so focused on her goal, i.e. being reunited with her children no matter the cost, that she becomes almost completely blind to what her quest is costing her until the emotional climax of the film. And the moment it DOES hit her, it had me almost in tears, the depth of pain Wanda was feeling. 

Here’s the thing, while Wanda is set up as the villain, she’s clearly a tragic villain, one forced into this position because of what’s happened to her. Everything has built up to this outcome and Wanda simply couldn’t take it anymore. In hindsight, it’s almost not a surprise that this happened, because if you lost everything in one universe and suddenly discovered someone had the power to take you to another world where you had NOT lost everything…wouldn’t you be tempted to try and use it?

The one part I disagree with in Scarlet Witch’s story is the ending. I have waited for so many movies for the Scarlet Witch to be fully introduced, and I hate the idea that she was killed off just as we got her. Now, that being said, I don’t THINK that Wanda is actually dead. We’re meant to think she is, obviously, but there was no body seen, so you know there’s every chance she was just sucked into an alternate dimension. I refuse to believe that we lose the Scarlet Witch just as she fully develops.

Then there’s America Chavez. I really like this character, especially the way she interacts with Doctor Strange throughout the story. Based on her interactions with an alternate version of the sorcerer, it takes quite a while for America to develop a connection with “our” Doctor Strange, but once it does develop, it’s very touching. I’m hoping that we see these two pair up in future films, there’s definitely potential for this relationship to be expanded upon.

Now, on to the juicy parts, most notably THAT scene with the Illuminati. This is by far one of the best scenes I’ve seen since Avengers Endgame. The sheer number of cameos and information dropped in that scene had me enthralled, not least because we finally, FINALLY, had an onscreen appearance from a member of the Fantastic Four, something I have been longing to see ever since Marvel re-acquired the rights to that group of superheroes. I don’t know what connection, if any, this appearance will have with the upcoming Fantastic Four movie, but for now this cameo was more than enough. The only thing that could’ve made this better would’ve been an appearance from some of the X-men (besides Xavier) but I’m confident we’ll be getting that eventually. It was also thrilling to see Captain Carter putting in an appearance, she’s one of my favorite parts of the What If? series and this appearance only strengthens my desire to see a full-fledged Captain Carter movie.

If I have one complaint about this movie, it’s that we didn’t visit more dimensions in the multiverse. Watching the trailers, it seemed like we’d be visiting a lot more worlds than we ultimately did. That doesn’t mean that what we got wasn’t enjoyable, I just was left feeling like we could’ve gotten more.

Oh, and before I forget, I really want to talk for a minute about the horror element in this film. If anyone could pull this off it’s Sam Raimi and he did so beautifully. I honestly wasn’t sure if horror could work in the MCU but this movie proved it is indeed possible to combine horror and the MCU (which means we definitely need a Marvel Zombies movie now). I know horror isn’t for everyone, but if you give it a chance, you’ll see that this is really the only way this kind of story could go. 

I’m sure as time goes on that I’ll find details about this movie that I didn’t like, but after thinking it over and over, I have to say that I found Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness to be a very enjoyable movie. I like the direction the MCU is headed in and I’m curious to see where the story goes next.

And that’s all I’ve really got to say about the movie. There’s more I could talk about, but I don’t want to spoil the entire movie for you. 

Let me know what you thought about Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness in the comments below and have a great day!

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My Thoughts on: Jurassic World Dominion (2022)

After Jurassic World fell flat with me, I swore I would stay far away from the franchise, a decision that felt justified when Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom didn’t do all that great. And when Jurassic World: Dominion was announced, I didn’t feel particularly inclined to check the film out. But then I saw the news that Sam Neill, Jeff Goldblum and Laura Dern were reprising their roles as Dr. Alan Grant, Dr. Ian Malcolm and Dr. Ellie Sattler and I realized I couldn’t stay away this time.

Even though I hadn’t seen Fallen Kingdom, I simply had to see what happened when the heroes of the original Jurassic Park met up with the protagonists of Jurassic World. The result was completely and utterly glorious. I’m not sure what people are so upset about, I had a complete ball watching this movie.

Jurassic World: Dominion is set several years after the events of Fallen Kingdom and sees Owen and Claire raising Maisie off the grid, having formed a loving, if dysfunctional, family unit. At the same time, the world is trying to come to grips with the reality of humans living side by side with dinosaurs. Their lives are upended when Maisie, as well as Blue’s baby are both kidnapped, forcing our heroes to go on a continent hopping journey to get them both back. Meanwhile, Dr. Ellie Sattler is pursuing her own investigation, one that will eventually lead her to cross paths not only with Ian and Dr. Grant, but also Owen and Claire.

One of my favorite things about this movie is the sheer volume of Easter eggs scattered throughout the film. If you’ve seen all of the Jurassic Park/Jurassic World movies, then you will see call-backs and references everywhere, some bigger than others. There’s even, to my surprise, a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it reference to The Lost World that I didn’t even realize I’d seen until I checked the trivia for the movie. I like all of these callbacks though because it really made this movie feel like the grand conclusion to an epic, if occasionally flawed, saga. Honestly, if they made no more Jurassic World movies, I’d be happy with this being the final entry.

The one criticism of this movie I do agree with has to do with the film’s ultimate antagonist. And the reason I agree with this criticism is because it’s not the dinosaurs that are the big problem, which is what all the trailers led us to believe. No, it turns out the problem is something ELSE that humans created. Now, while I thoroughly believed this other thing was a viable threat, the fact is, if you watch a Jurassic World movie, you’re watching for the dinosaurs, bugs just aren’t going to cut it. I’m also really not a fan of when trailers make it seem that Thing A will be the big threat, only to introduce Thing B out of nowhere once you actually go to see the movie.

Back to what I loved about this movie: another thing I loved was the film’s frequent, and I mean FREQUENT citing of Jurassic Park’s iconic theme as created by John Williams. Just like the “Superman March” has a way of turning up in any story about Superman (excluding Man of Steel), it feels like an absolute requirement for the Jurassic Park theme to show up at some point and Michael Giacchino quotes this theme to great effect throughout the story.

I also, minor spoiler alert here, like how the action is more global in this film. Usually the Jurassic Park/Jurassic World films are largely confined to one specific area outside of the prologue or epilogue. This film though, moves through the United States, Malta, and Italy and it was a really nice change of pace for the story.

I also want to say that I really enjoyed how the various dinosaurs are realized throughout the film. They’ve come a long way since the original Jurassic Park. In line with how our understanding of dinosaurs has changed, we see many feathered dinosaurs throughout the story, though thankfully Rexy (the T-Rex from the original movie, yes she’s in this movie too) retains her original appearance. What I really liked is how not all of the dinosaurs are CGI, there are clearly animatronics being used in several places, though I don’t mean that as a criticism as they’re very well done. I just mean that it’s nice to see the movie used practical effects at times instead of digitally creating everything.

All of this is to say that I really enjoyed Jurassic World: Dominion, which was quite a pleasant experience for me as I really didn’t think I was going to when I went to the movie theater. This was a great way to tie the entire story together and I think if you give this film a chance you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Let me know what you think about Jurassic World: Dominion in the comments below and have a great day!

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My Thoughts on: The Bad Guys (2022)

*note: this review was originally published for subscribers on Patreon

If you’ve followed my writing for any length of time than you know I am a sucker for most animated films (with minor exceptions). Therefore, when I saw the trailer for The Bad Guys, I knew I had to check it out because it looked really cute.

And you know what? It is!!

The Bad Guys is one of my most favorite types of films to see in theaters: a cute family-friendly film that doesn’t require too much thought to understand and enjoy. The story is relatively simple: The Bad Guys are a criminal gang made up of a bunch of stereotypically “evil” animals: Mr. Snake, Ms. Tarantula (“Webs”), Mr. Shark, Mr. Pirahna and their leader the Big Bad Wolf. They pull heists all around the city with ease and seem to have it made….until Mr. Wolf decides to pull one last job that changes everything. Consequently, Mr. Wolf realizes that maybe he doesn’t want to be a “bad guy” for the rest of his life.

Despite being made for kids, there’s a great lesson to be learned in this movie. It’s a fairly obvious lesson: the movie practically screams “Don’t judge by outward appearances” for almost the entire length of the story but it’s a good lesson so I don’t really mind.

Actually, what really impresses me about this movie is the twist it manages to pull off. Fairly early in the story it’s obvious that a twist is coming. After all, since the Bad Guys are shown to be…well, not that bad, it made sense that someone or something else was going to be the big villain of the story. I *thought* I had the twist pegged. but boy was I proven wrong. What’s more, the actual villain of the story is kinda scary once they reveal themselves. Okay, maybe not really scary but….certainly demented.

Of all the members of The Bad Guys gang, I think I liked Ms. Tarantula, also referred to as Webs the best (and not just because she’s the only female member of the gang). She’s a really cool character (she’s a computer hacker) and I just really like her.

There’s not too much more to say about The Bad Guys. The animation is solid, the twists were only somewhat predictable, and there was actually a decent sized opening for a sequel that I wouldn’t mind seeing. 

If you get a chance to see The Bad Guys, I highly recommend it. It’s a fun little movie and a great way to relax for a little while.

That’s all I’ve got about The Bad Guys. Have you seen the film? Did you like it? Let me know what you thought in the comments below and have a great day!

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Animated Film Reviews

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Soundtrack News: Lakeshore Records Releases ‘The Essex Serpent’ Original Series Soundtrack

Lakeshore Records has released The Essex Serpent—Original Series Soundtrack featuring music by Dustin O’Halloran and Herdís Stefánsdóttir digitally June 10.  The composers utilize electro acoustics and strings creating a score that evokes the darker depths of Victorian England. The series starring Claire Danes and Tom Hiddleston, now streaming globally on Apple TV+.

Dustin O’Halloran is an American pianist and composer with four acclaimed solo albums under his own name, and is a member of the band A Winged Victory for the Sullen. Winner of a 2015 Emmy Award for his main title theme to Amazon’s comedy drama Transparent, he was also nominated for an Oscar, a Golden Globe, a BAFTA, and a Critics’ Choice Award for his score to Lion, written in collaboration with Volker Bertelmann (aka Hauschka). Herdís Stefánsdóttir is an Icelandic composer of music for multimedia, a songwriter, and an electronic musician. She graduated with an M.A. degree in film scoring from New York University. Since graduation she has scored two feature films, including the HBO series We’re Here

“The Essex Serpent” follows London widow Cora Seaborne (Danes) who moves to Essex to investigate reports of a mythical serpent. She forms a surprising bond of science and skepticism with the local pastor (Hiddleston), but when tragedy strikes, locals accuse her of attracting the creature.

Says O’Halloran and Stefánsdóttir:

“From our first conversations with director Clio Bernard, we knew we would be creating something layered and multidimensional. This was our first collaboration together as composers and it allowed us to explore subjects like fear of the unknown, the Victorian era where science and religion were in constant conflict, and the complexity of superstition. We got an incredible amount of trust from Clio to experiment! Even though it was a period piece set in late 1800’s, we took a modern approach to the music and how we wrote and recorded it, accentuating the sound of the wood and bow of the strings, and went deep into capturing the sound limits of the cello and electro acoustic manipulation.”

Track List:

01. Estuary

02. The Essex Serpent Main Title

03. I Mended You

04. The Serpent

05. Essex

06. Fata Morgana

07. The Devil Will Come For You

08. Funeral

09. The Morning After

10. Grace

11. Blood On The Boat

12. Matters Of The Heart

13. A Rational Explanation

14. The Gilded Cage

15. Will and Cora

16. If I Am A Sinner

17. He Is Waiting For Me, And I Am Ready

18. Cracknell

19. Back To Essex

20. In Uncertainty, And In Love

21. Stella Is Gone

22. Walk With Me

Will you be picking up the soundtrack for The Essex Serpent?

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Music for a Killer: Talking with Composer Pat Irwin about ‘Dexter: New Blood’

Just a few weeks ago I had the opportunity to speak with composer Pat Irwin about his work on Dexter: New Blood, a follow-up to the popular Dexter series that was released in 2021. Pat Irwin is an American musician and composer whose credits include Nurse Jackie, Bored to Death, and of course Dexter: New Blood just to name a few. He’s also composed the music for a number of cartoons including Pepper Ann and Rocko’s Modern Life.

I had a great time speaking with Pat Irwin about his work on Dexter: New Blood and I hope you enjoy the interview!

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Before you started working on this show, had you seen the original Dexter at all? Were you familiar with it?

Absolutely. Yeah, I was a fan.

So how did you get connected with Dexter New Blood?

Well, it came from a couple different directions. I primarily had worked with the showrunner Clyde Phillips, who had worked on [Nurse Jackie], and I had composed three seasons of Nurse Jackie. And he was the showrunner on that. But I’d also worked with the music supervisor, Michael Hill, whom I’ve known since I first arrived in New York. And I also had some experience working with Showtime. So it was a combination of all those things.

Were you inspired by the themes of the original Dexter series or were there any connections that go back and forth between them? Or is it wholly its own thing?

Oh, I was definitely inspired. First of all, the the original score is fantastic. It sounds great, it’s beautifully written. It’s beautifully played. And it’s an inspiration. It definitely was a presence and had an impact on what I did and what we wanted to do for for New Blood.

We knew we wanted to take [New Blood] in a completely different direction. We knew it was a new show. It was a new character. It wasn’t Dexter anymore. It was Jim Lindsey. It was 10 years later, in a completely different place, it wasn’t Miami anymore.

So when you say the original still had an impact, what did that look like?

Well, you know, first of all, there were fans who are really invested in this character. And it was important to acknowledge [that]. Well, aside from the fans, I needed to allude to that music harmonically.

But I wanted to use a different instrumentation, I wanted to put it in the place for Upstate New York, and I wanted it to be part of Dexter’s past. Without, you know, being explicit about it. I want it to be like a presence.

So, you mentioned instrumentation, so like, are just like, I’m assuming there was like a very different sound mix for the original compared to this one?

Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. I mean, we wanted a more ambient sound. And so I pulled out a handful of synthesizers, some that I used on Pepper Ann by the way, and I went for a very cold sound. And I used a lot of textures. Like, instead of like guitar, playing a melody, I used guitar feedback. I wanted it to be a presence. And I would allude to the melody most of the time with piano, but very sparsely, it was very fragile.

I haven’t seen a whole lot of the original Dexter. So if New Blood has a cold sound, what what did the original have, that makes it so different?

It was more it, it pulls you in, in a really strong melodic way. And it left a huge imprint. It was terrifying. It was bone chilling, it was dark. And by the time we got to New Blood, I knew that the storytelling was going to basically go in one direction. I knew where I was going to go. So to a certain degree instead of pulling you in, we were pushing you away.

We were creating more of a distance. We wanted you to be invested in the storytelling. But we were on a long curve throughout the season, and telling you in so many words that you know it probably is not going to end well. This is not a good guy. He may be likable, he may be your favorite neighbor. He may be the guy you wave to on the street. And there’s some of that in New Blood. But we didn’t want you to get too invested in this character. And I think that might have been hard for a lot of fans.

It reminds me this was always meant to be a limited event.

Right. But I think that even even though it was meant to be a limited, there were a lot of fans who wished it to continue. I wish that we had continued.

I remember when the original Dexter ended, there were a lot of people upset at how it ended and a lot of people felt this [New Blood] was going to correct that.

Yes.

So you said you knew going in exactly where this was going to go? Does that mean you got some very specific directions on where the music needed to go?

Well, let me rephrase that. I didn’t know exactly where it was going to go. To be honest with you. I had gotten a couple of scripts, but not all of the scripts. It was in my heart, I’ll put it that way. And I was making a guess, to a certain degree. I mean, we talked about it. I wasn’t just going off by myself. I spoke with the writers and the producers, I spoke with Michael C. Hall. We all spoke together. Marcus, the director, Scott Reynolds, a writer and Clyde Phillips, a writer. And we all talked about the the way the music was going to be a part of the storytelling.

It must have become obvious that Dexter’s story was not going to have a good ending. So was that foreshadowed from the beginning? Or did that come about later?

Well, I, in a subtle way, tried to foreshadow that from the beginning.

Are there actual specific themes for characters like Dexter and the others? Are there actual themes? Or does the music not go that direction?

Yes. It’s more ambient. For instance, with Deb, there’s some textures that I used, that would return for her presence. There’s a definite theme for when Harrison and Dexter interact. When Dexter pursues Harrison, at the bus stop in that first episode, that’s part of an arc. But when Harrison first appears, he’s more of a shadowy presence. We don’t know who he is. And the music is not a clean, clear theme, it’s more of a texture.

I did the same thing for Kurt. I used a Baroque cello and some pretty dark sounds that I would blend together to create this sort of brooding, fanatic theme. There are, I would say, thematic textures and chord structures, and some melodies, but I wouldn’t describe it as strongly thematic.

Because that would pull the audience too far in?

Well, in a way. I wanted to create tension, but I didn’t want it to be like, oh, here he is. And then, you know, like a light go off. It’s Kurt, the bad guy. You know, often, the writers would say, let the actors act. And I would really take that to heart and not step too hard, but create a simmering presence.

It’s always interesting hearing how different shows have different mixes, and some have themes and some work better without.

Right. And they really wanted to make this a go without the stronger themes. So it was like finding that balance. Yeah. Because, if that doesn’t make sense, it reminds people that, it’s a different guy, but this all happened to him. He’s the same person after all, and that’s part of the story. You know, he’s he’s a killer. He’s a bad guy. He’s a serial killer after all.

Isn’t the whole point of New Blood that he’s tried so hard to get away from that, but it ended up rearing its head anyway.

Yes, I think so.

So we’ve we’ve talked a bit about some of the instruments are used, like you’ve mentioned synthesizers, a cello, what all was used for the sound and instruments?

I used a couple [amplifiers] for the guitar feedback. I use this combination of old amplifiers, small amplifiers, not big amplifiers, but small amplifiers that I could turn up very loud. One was made by Supro, and another by Fender and I would have them face each other and put a guitar in the middle. Then I would just tune it to an open tuning and depending on the key of a cue, I would hit it and then go for some unpredictability. You never really know when or how the feedback is good to generate. That was a lot of fun.

And I would have that ready, because sometimes the deadlines are pretty intense. I used a Moog synthesizer, a Mini Moog. Then I used a new cymbal, you know, some new technology also, like a synthesizer program called Omnisphere. I used quite a bit of that.

Then I used some subtle percussion. I would use synthesizers, but I also had some pieces of metal that I would use and blend into the sound. So you can hear that. I tried to find a blend of some textures that I just thought were appropriate.

Was there anything you tried musically speaking that you ultimately abandoned? Because it wasn’t working for a scene?

Yeah. I mean, when I found out that I was going to get the job, I had made a catalog of every piece of music and every episode that I could refer to. I didn’t want there to be any questions. Sometimes they’ll draw a blank, but I knew what they had done. So I wanted to be able to recall the original, because in a way New Blood is like a coda [to Dexter]. I wanted to be able to refer to the original.

I tried using more guitar. And I tried, instead of strings, I tried using the guitar with a slide or a bottleneck. And I did a fair amount of work with that, this is before I saw any footage or gotten any scripts. I knew he was going to be in rural upstate New York. So I was going for more of a sound that I thought would reflect that place. But it didn’t work. So I abandoned all of it.

How much time did you have the score New Blood? Are we talking weeks, months?

No, I wished it was. I wish there was months. I had done a fair amount of that work and preparing in advance. And thankfully they were also shooting when I was recording my first ideas, and so they didn’t really have the time to focus on the score. So the deadlines got pretty tight. Sometimes I would do one and make a revision, and they would change the picture. So I would have a matter of days.

Oh, wow. So, so this all happened in a pretty short period of time.

Yes, but it was up and down. Like television production, it wasn’t a straight line. There wasn’t a clear production schedule, like Pepper Ann. There was COVID, they were chasing the weather, and we were working remotely. So it was a very different working process for me, for all of us.

Yeah, I was going to ask, so the pandemic did affect the recording process and the scoring process?

There were a couple of pretty big hurdles. If we had pursued having musicians all in the same room playing together, we wouldn’t have been able to do it.

And so that impacted part of how I proceeded. I could have pulled it off by recording separately and would have been able to do it that way. But that wouldn’t have been very efficient.

Was there still a group of musicians besides yourself? Or was it just you recording everything?

It was mostly me.

Did you have the picture to score to? Or did that come after the fact?

I started by compiling ideas that I would send to the editor and the writers and they would just listen and occasionally try them out. It was when I finally got the first rough cut that I could score directly to the picture

Was there a favorite piece of music? Like looking back at all of New Blood in the music? Is there a favorite piece you did? Or do you like it all equally?

I really enjoyed getting a piece of music that works for the creators and when I got the first themes for when Harrison and Dexter meet. I was so happy to be able to follow through on that sound, a very sort of fragile minimal sound. I also enjoyed the dark music for Kurt the bad guy.

One thing I did want to ask because I know there’s this whole aspect of how the serial killer part of Dexter is hidden. Did you make any kind of musical texture to reflect that part of himself?

Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, even on the first first piece of music that you hear on the first episode, he’s sharpening knives in his cabin. And I use that sound throughout the series, the very sort of metallic dark sounds that that create this very sort of internal melody.

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I want to thank Pat Irwin for taking the time to speak with me about his work on Dexter: New Blood. I hope you enjoyed reading this interview and have a great weekend!

See also:

Composer Interviews

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