My Thoughts on: The Predator (2018)

I scratched another goal off my list today: I finally saw a Predator film in theaters. I think director Shane Black meant well when he put together this follow-up to the original 1987 film, but the end result falls short in so many ways. The plot is far too predictable, relying on story beats established by the earlier films, and aside from a few interesting encounters with the Predators, really does nothing substantial.

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First let me address the few positives:

-The Predators look amazing, using physical suits really helped portray them as realistically as possible. There were also some nice callbacks to the earlier films provided by examples of different Predator masks. The fight scenes with the Predators are delightfully bloody. I particularly enjoyed the scene where the smaller Predator broke out of the government facility. It was also really cool to see humans using the Predator cloaking technology, I think that might be a first. And finally, Henry Jackman’s score fits into the action perfectly, I have no complaints regarding the music.

As for the rest of the film…..

So much of the crass humor in this film was completely unnecessary. I especially did not appreciate the more…sexual jokes (I don’t even want to repeat the word used). This film would be so much better if there had been less bad jokes and more action.

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Also, while I appreciate that Olivia Munn’s character had no problem picking up a gun and joining in the fight (minus the scene where she accidentally shot herself with a tranquilizer gun), I am sick to death of action films having one token female in the group (Rory’s mother barely appears so she doesn’t really count). And that opening scene in the government laboratory was downright creepy. Considering Munn’s character is supposed to be an expert in her field, it felt to me like all the men were treating her as something of a joke (I despise misogyny in film, especially films made in 2018)

And that ending…I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more blatant set-up for a sequel in my life. I’m not saying it couldn’t be good, it’s just the set-up feels like it came out of nowhere. Also, are we ever going to see the Predator’s home planet? I feel like so much of what we know (or think we know) about these aliens comes from speculation on the part of various human characters.

At any rate, The Predator provided a bit of dumb fun (with the emphasis on dumb), but I won’t be revisiting it any time soon. What did you think of The Predator? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day!

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Film/TV Reviews

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My Thoughts on: Operation Finale (2018)

It feels like an eternity since I last went to the theater but yesterday I finally managed to go see Operation Finale, a dramatized account of how Mossad agents captured Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann in 1960. The film is partially sourced from Eichmann in My Hands, a memoir by Peter Malkin (played by Oscar Isaac in the film) and primarily takes place in 1960 (with a prologue in 1954 and an epilogue in 1961).

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First let me say, if you come into this film expecting a lot of action (fighting, shootouts, etc.) then you are going to be disappointed. While there is an air of tension throughout the story (especially in the latter half of the film when the agents are trying to smuggle Eichmann out of Argentina), it doesn’t really express itself with direct violence.

Oscar Isaac does a passable job as Mossad agent Peter Malkin though I’m not entirely satisfied with his performance. In my opinion Isaac makes too many wisecracks throughout the film and they feel out of character. However, I have no complaints for the scenes Isaac shares with Ben Kingsley, they are some of the best moments in the film. And speaking of Kingsley…

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Ben Kingsley as Adolf Eichmann is by far the best part of Operation Finale (as I suspected he would be). Eichmann (as Kingsley portrays him), is a man who has thoroughly convinced himself of how things ‘actually’ happened during the Nazi regime. He worked at a desk, nothing more. The truth, however, is revealed by what we see. Even as Eichmann peddles this falsehood, we the audience see him traveling into the woods to oversee hundreds of Jews being murdered in a ditch. And despite his age, Eichmann remains very dangerous, as seen in a moment when he stops his son Klaus (Joe Alwyn) from manhandling Sylvia (Haley Lu Richardson), a girl he’d met a movie theater. In one swift motion he goes from being an affable father to an angry figure that has no trouble pinning Klaus against the wall.

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Before the credits start, the audience is shown footage from Eichmann’s actual trial in Israel (including footage of the man himself) and explains how the trial helped to share eyewitness accounts of the Holocaust with a global audience, concluding with a note that the real Peter Malkin died in 2005.

I enjoyed Alexandre Desplat’s score for this film, it wasn’t too overbearing and it helped to keep the tension in the story going.

Anyone who really loves WWII history should enjoy Operation Finale, but casual fans might not enjoy it so much as the film does take a while to really get going.

What did you think of Operation Finale? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day!

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Film/TV Reviews

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Moana “I am Moana” (2016)

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Moana “I am Moana” (2016)

Like many animated Disney films, there comes a point in Moana when it seems like all hope is lost. The first encounter with Te Ka ended in near catastrophe; the boat is badly damaged; worst of all, Maui has abandoned Moana and the quest to restore the Heart of Te Fiti entirely. However unlike earlier films, where the hero/heroine simply steels themselves and keeps on going, Moana has a heart to heart with the spirit of her grandmother and admits that she can’t do this, the ocean needs to choose someone else. And her grandmother agrees! The Heart is given back to the ocean and Moana is told that she can leave for home whenever she wants. This moment is huge because how often do you see a Disney heroine saying “I can’t do it” in this way? Oh granted other Disney heroines have had their down moments, but none of them have so thoroughly set up the idea that the quest won’t be completed like this one has.

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But of course, since this IS Disney, Moana hesitates to return home, though she doesn’t understand why. Wanting to help her granddaughter, Grandma Tala has a song to help her discover, at long last, who she really is:

I know a girl from an island
She stands apart from the crowd
She loves the sea and her people
She makes her whole family proud

Sometimes, the world seems against you
The journey may leave a scar
But scars can heal and reveal just
Where you are

The people you love will change you
The things you have learned will guide you
And nothing on Earth can silence
The quiet voice still inside you

And when that voice starts to whisper,
“Moana, you’ve come so far”
“Moana, listen”
“Do you know who you are?”

This is it, the pivotal moment for our heroine: Moana must reach down inside herself and discover who she really is.

Who am I?
I am a girl who loves my island
I’m the girl who loves the sea
It calls me

I am the daughter of the village chief
We are descended from voyagers
Who found their way across the world
They call me

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As Moana acknowledges her lineage and her continuing connection to the ocean, suddenly on the horizon she sees dozens of ships approaching. It’s her ancestors who used to sail the oceans, including the one we saw in “We Know the Way.” They acknowledge each other and Moana finally understands that she is a wayfinder like her ancestors before her, this is who she is and always has been!

I’ve delivered us to where we are
I have journeyed farther
I am everything I’ve learned and more
Still it calls me

And the call isn’t out there at all
It’s inside me
It’s like the tide
Always falling and rising
I will carry you here in my heart
You remind me
That come what may
I know the way
I am Moana!

Now completely encouraged, Moana dives after the Heart of Te Fiti, repairs her boat and heads back to the island to face off with Te Ka one more time.

I love “I am Moana” it literally makes me cry every time I listen to it. Discovering your identity is such an important moment and it’s stirring to hear Moana fully embrace who she is. In this song are echoes of two earlier pieces: “Where You Are” and “How Far I’ll Go.” It’s great to hear portions of earlier melodies come together into something new. But please let me know what you think about “I am Moana” in the comments below and have a great day!

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See also:

Moana “Where You Are” (2016)

Moana “How Far I’ll Go” (2016)

Moana “How Far I’ll Go (reprise)” (2016)

Moana “We Know the Way” (2016)

Moana “You’re Welcome” (2016)

Moana “Shiny” (2016)

Disney/Dreamworks/Pixar/etc. Soundtracks A-Z

The Aristocats “Scales and Arpeggios” (1970)

While Edgar is plotting how to get rid of Madame’s cats so he can be the sole inheritor of her fortune, Duchess (Eva Gabor) is making sure her three children; Marie (Liz English), Toulouse (Gary Dubin) and Berlioz (Dean Clark) focus on their lessons. Specifically, Toulouse works on his painting while Marie and Berlioz study the piano and singing (Marie sings, Berlioz plays). Duchess is determined to see her children grow up into refined aristocats and is horrified at the idea of them behaving like common alley-cats (Toulouse idolizes them).

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The Aristocats “Scales and Arpeggios” (1970)

“Scales and Arpeggios” is a simple song that genuinely sounds like something a music student would be asked to perform. It begins with solfege syllables (do re mi fa so la ti) and evolves into a lesson on why students should focus on scales and arpeggios, some of the basic building blocks of music:

Do mi so do do so mi do
Every truly cultured music student knows
You must learn your scales and your arpeggios
Bring the music ringing from your chest
And not your nose
While you sing your scales and your arpeggios

If you’re faithful to your daily practicing
You will find your progress is encouraging
Do mi so mi do me so mi fa la so it goes
When you do your scales and your arpeggios

Do mi so do do so mi do (Repeat)
Though at first it seems as though it doesn’t show
Like a tree ability will bloom and grow

If you’re smart you’ll learn by heart what every artist knows:

You must sing your scales and your arpeggios!!

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During the song, Toulouse decides to get in on the act (having finished with his painting) and jumps down to the piano much to Berlioz’s annoyance (since his brother’s paws are still covered in paint). While Marie and Duchess sing a duet, the brothers quickly begin a musical ‘argument’ that ends with each insistently pounding out their own melody on the piano.

I freely admit, as a kid I loved to sing along with this particular song (I fancied myself to be just like Marie) and I enjoyed trying to hit the high notes at the very end. It’s a short and sweet song that shows Duchess and her children in their element as cultured felines, and is also the last normal activity they experience before Edgar arrives with their specially prepared supper (which has been thoroughly laced with sleeping pills. I’m still not sure if Edgar planned to overdose them so they never woke up or just wanted them to sleep long enough that they could be dumped in the middle of nowhere).

Do you like “Scales and Arpeggios”? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Disney/Dreamworks/Pixar/etc. Soundtracks A-Z

The Aristocats “The Aristocats” (1970)

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The Aristocats “The Aristocats” (1970)

I often feel like the animated Disney films made during the 1970s get overlooked far too often as they’re made after the passing of Walt Disney and before the Disney Renaissance began. However, there were several animated gems made during this era and The Aristocats is one of them (it also has the distinction of being the last film project approved by Disney himself before his death in 1966). Set in Paris in the year 1910, The Aristocats follows a family of high-class felines that live with Madame, a retired opera singer. When Edgar, the family butler, learns that the cats will inherit the estate before he does, the disgruntled servant kidnaps the cats and abandons them in the French countryside, leading the cats into an adventure to get back to Paris and their home.

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The Aristocats “The Aristocats” (1970)

The titular song was performed by Maurice Chevalier, a legendary French singer and performer, who was actually talked out of retirement to do the song (his final contribution to the film industry as he died in 1972). The song describes all the advantages “aristocats” possess (‘aristocat’ being an obvious play on aristocrat) over ‘common’ cats and ends with the cats out with Madame on a carriage ride.

Which pet’s address
Is the finest in Paris?
Which pets possess
The longest pedigree?
Which pets get
To sleep on velvet mats?
Naturellement! The aristocats!

Which pets are blessed
With the fairest forms and faces?
Which pets know best
All the gentle social graces?
Which pets live
On cream and loving fats?
Naturellement! The aristocats!

The song plays out while we’re treated to the opening credits, as well as animations of the cats that will appear later in the film.

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They show aristocratic bearing
When they’re seen
Upon an airing
And aristocratic flair
In what they do
And what they say!
Aristocats are never found
In alleyways or hanging around
The garbage cans where
Common kitties play, oh no!
Which pets are known
To never show their claws?
Which pets are prone
To hardly any flaws?
To which pets
Do the others tip their hats?
Naturellement! The aristocats!

I’ve always found it interesting that the film points out the year as 1910, as there aren’t many Disney films that specify a year. Perhaps I’m being morbid, but every time I see that date, I always remember that it was only a few years before the start of World War I, when the glitz and glamour of the 19th century disappeared. The year is also a reminder that this is a time of great change (even before the war began). For instance, while Madame is riding in a carriage, her lawyer drives up in a car (albeit a primitive one).

Also, fun piece of trivia: Hermione Baddeley, the voice of Madame, is also the voice of Auntie Shrew in The Secret of NIMH (1982) (another Disney credit includes Ellen in Mary Poppins (1964)).

I like “The Aristocats,” it’s a fun little song that provides a good opening to the film and I hope you enjoy listening to it. Let me know what you think of this song in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Disney/Dreamworks/Pixar/etc. Soundtracks A-Z

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Check out the YouTube channel (and consider hitting the subscribe button)

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Disturbing Bluth #6: Meeting Brutus in The Secret of NIMH (1982)

I couldn’t leave The Secret of NIMH without talking about this one moment in particular. To this day it never fails to make me jump in surprise (though thankfully not in fear like it used to), and that is the moment when Mrs. Brisby encounters Brutus the rat.

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The Secret of NIMH (1982)- Into the Rosebush/Brutus

Up until this point, Brisby’s journey through the rose bush has only been mildly scary, but nothing close to disturbing (no mouse eating spiders this time). I’m still surprised that she got as far as she did without encountering any rats, but given we later learn that the rats are in a special meeting, it makes sense.

What makes the run-in with Brutus even more disturbing is, right before it happens, Mrs. Brisby discovers a beautiful garden (with awestruck music to highlight the moment). There are flowers everywhere and what looks like a jeweled brooch leading into the next part of the bush. But here is where Mrs. Brisby’s luck finally runs out. Just as she’s leaving this area, all the flowers around her close up and I’ve always taken this as a clue that something is about to happen because out of nowhere (literally, it’s a textbook jump scare) comes Brutus, a huge rat with a scary looking pike (that emits electricity when banged against the ground).

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It doesn’t help any that the moment Brutus appears the background turns dark and red. Even worse, Brutus doesn’t say a word to the terrified mouse, even when she plainly states her purpose is to see Nicodemus and that the Great Owl sent her. If anything, the words seem to provoke Brutus into striking out with the pike again. It’s terrifying, disturbing, and for many years I did not watch this film because of this moment. The house sinking couldn’t keep me away, Jenner or the Great Owl couldn’t either, but Brutus? Oh yes, he scared me plenty, even though a closer examination of the scene reveals that the rat is only chasing her away and not actually trying to kill her.

The one thing about this scene that has always bothered me (besides its disturbing nature) is, why did Brutus stop chasing Mrs. Brisby? If he really wanted to make sure she was leaving, he should have chased her all the way back to the entrance. Instead he just…stopped. It just feels weird to me, especially since on the way back in with Mr. Ages, the pair of mice don’t encounter Brutus again (or if they do it’s not shown, but you’d think there’d be a scene where the older mouse would tell the rat “She’s with me.”)

That issue aside, what do you think of the scene where Mrs. Brisby encounters Brutus? Did it disturb you? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

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Disturbing Bluth #1: The Secret of NIMH (Overview and Trivia)

Disturbing Bluth #2: The Secret of NIMH: Dragon the (Demon) Cat

Disturbing Bluth #3: The Great Owl in The Secret of NIMH (1982)

Disturbing Bluth #4: Jenner in The Secret of NIMH (1982)

Disturbing Bluth #5: The House is Sinking in The Secret of NIMH (1982)

Disturbing Bluth #5: The House is Sinking in The Secret of NIMH (1982)

*If you know anything about The Secret of NIMH then you KNEW this scene was going to be talked about eventually*

By far the most disturbing moment in The Secret of NIMH comes at the end of the film, though you don’t see it coming at first. This is because it appears that the big climax of the film has already happened: Jenner and Justin have just fought a huge duel that ended with Jenner dead (along with his associate Sullivan). With the rats now warned that NIMH is coming, Mrs. Brisby naturally heads back to the fallen house (which smacked into the ground rather hard when the machinery collapsed). The children are alright (WHY the rats didn’t take them out of the house before they started moving it I don’t know) and it seems like we’ve dodged a massive bullet….and then the music starts. This scene is a grade A example of why I study film music: even before the house starts sinking into the mud, the ominous suspenseful tone should tell you that something very bad is about to happen. Jerry Goldsmith, the composer for this film, put all his talents to work here and he did not disappoint.

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The Secret of NIMH (1982): The House Sinking Scene

I should note, this was actually foreshadowed earlier in the film. When the rats and Mrs. Brisby are traveling on the boat, it’s revealed that much of the ground under the farm is hollow, with Justin muttering that it’s all going to collapse someday. The implication then, is that the force of the Brisby home smacking into the ground caused a partial collapse underground which is why the house is now sinking.

As the realization dawns that the house (with the children inside!!!) is sinking into the mud, the music rises quickly into a turmoil that reflects the panic of Mrs. Brisby and the surviving rats. After all, given the esteem they have for Jonathan Brisby, they couldn’t live with themselves if they let his children die. There’s a frantic race on to attach the house (built into a cement block) to any number of lines and stop it from sinking completely. Meanwhile, we actually get a look inside the house as it’s filling up with mud. There’s no sign of Timothy (who, I remind you, is bedridden) and the other children are shrieking “Get us out of here!!” This in itself is disturbing as you don’t normally see children (in animation or live-action) put into such direct peril. Oh it’s been implied before (such as the huntsman nearly stabbing Snow White) but it’s never been so immediate a danger as what we see now.

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The worst moment of the scene comes when the final line keeping the block up snaps and the home is pulled down into a whirlpool of mud while Mrs. Brisby is hauled to safety by Justin. The implications are downright macabre: according to what we just saw, all the children (and Auntie Shrew she’s still inside remember) are dead and Mrs. Brisby has now lost her entire family. It’s heart-wrenching, disturbing and once I fully grasped what was going on, this scene screwed me up in the head for years. Now, even though this is set right less than a minute later (in a spectacular piece of animation I might add), that doesn’t change the fact that we the audience had to go through this first.

This scene is the perfect example of Bluth’s belief that children can take just about anything so long as there is a happy ending afterward. Given my experience however, I don’t think this is true. But what do you think? Is the scene any less disturbing with the happy ending that follows? Please let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Disturbing Bluth #1: The Secret of NIMH (Overview and Trivia)

Disturbing Bluth #2: The Secret of NIMH: Dragon the (Demon) Cat

Disturbing Bluth #3: The Great Owl in The Secret of NIMH (1982)

Disturbing Bluth #4: Jenner in The Secret of NIMH (1982)

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