Remembering the Human Element in an Alien Invasion: Talking with Composer Frederik Wiedmann About ‘Occupation Rainfall’ (2021)

I recently had the chance to speak with composer Frederik Wiedmann about his work on the film Occupation Rainfall. Wiedmann has been inspired by film composition since he first heard John Barry’s score to Dances With Wolves at the age of 12. Wiedmann is the composer behind the hit Disney Junior show Miles from Tomorrowland, as well as the critically acclaimed Netflix animated fantasy series The Dragon Prince, which is from the writers of the popular series: Avatar: The Last Airbender. In 2016, he won a Daytime Emmy Award in the category of “Outstanding Original Song” alongside lyricist Mitch Watson, for the song “True Bromance” from Dreamworks Animation’s Madagascar spinoff All Hail King Julien

Recently, Wiedmann composed music for the thriller Hangman (directed by Johnny Martin, starring Al Pacino, Karl Urban, Brittany Snow), and two projects for Millennium Films, Acts of Vengeance (featuring Antonio Banderas, Paz Vega and Karl Urban), and Day of the Dead: Bloodline (starring Sophie Skelton and Jonahon Schaech). His credits also include Universal’s “Doom – Annihilation” as well as the epic civil war drama Field of Lost Shoes (directed by Sean McNamara), Paul Schrader’s feature Dying of the Light, The Damned, and Intruders

In Occupation Rainfall:

 This film takes place two years into an intergalactic invasion of earth. Survivors in Sydney, Australia, fight back in a desperate ground war. As casualties mount by the day, the resistance and their unexpected allies, uncover a plot that could see the war come to a decisive end. With the Alien invaders hell-bent on making earth their new home, the race is on to save mankind.

I hope you enjoy my conversation with Frederik Wiedmann about Operation Rainfall!

Thanks for taking the time to speak with me! My first question is, how did you get started as a composer?
Ever since I heard John Barry’s score for “Dances with Wolves” in 1990, I couldn’t stop fantasizing about becoming a composer myself. This slowly transformed into reality when my studies in Jazz helped me to become a proper composer. And once I completed my BA in FIlm scoring at Berklee College of Music  in 2004, I was ready to go to Hollywood and dive into the industry. After having worked for a handful of busy and established composers in LA, I started my own journey as a film composer, and have since been writing cues every single day. My first film was the Warner Brothers direct to video horror  film “Return to House on Haunted Hill”, which opened the doors to several more feature films of the same genre, as well as many other fantastic projects. 

How did you get involved with Occupation Rainfall?

This happened through a rather unusual way for me. Generally I get work from either my agents, or previous collaborators, or by recommendation. In this case, I got an email through my website from the director Luke Sparke himself, inquiring about my availability. He said he’s heard a lot of my DC scores and has been appreciating them for a while now. So we started talking and he showed me some of the film’s incredible footage.  I signed on to this amazing and hugely ambitious project almost immediately and we were off to the races. I think in my excitement i scored all of reel 1 in just a matter of days, and the rest is history. 

I read that you and the director spotted about 117 minutes of music for this film, which is almost wall-to-wall music. How did you and the director decide on having a score that long, because that is a lot of music to write for one movie.
We both are a big fan of huge, adventurous blockbusters, and some movies we discussed as a musical concept were “Transformers”, “Independence Day”, and even older films like “The Rock” and even “Star Wars”. We both agreed that music can  become a driving force in this film, and almost another character, an element to guide us through this rather intense, and emotional story. It is a lot of music to write, no doubt, and I am sure this amount of music can be intimating for composers. But to be honest, it seems that I generally attracted music-heavy movies with a lot of score, and after having scored so many of these type of films, it sort of becomes second nature and simply a fun and exciting process for me. There are some moments of course where we decided to pull music out., but not that many. 

Was there a lot of collaboration on this score between you and the director on this
score?
Absolutely. Luke is incredibly knowledgeable in film music. He knows a lot about it and therefore could tell me exactly what he envisioned for his film. It almost felt like I’d known him for many years, since we had really great synergy and our ideas complemented each other really well. It is every composer’s dream to work for filmmakers that not only appreciate what you bring to the table, and give you the necessary creative  freedom to “do your thing”, but also know how to guide you and “direct” you in a way that is nothing but inspiring. 


What sets the music for Occupation Rainfall apart from earlier alien invasion films like Independence Day or Skyline to name a few examples?

Good question. I’ve seen all of them, and I am total sucker for this genre (anything with Aliens, sign me up!). What I liked in particular about Occupation: Rainfall was the human component in the story. The script had such wonderfully nuanced characters, that are constantly conflicted with their beliefs and values, and have to decide more than on one occasion how far they will go for the greater good. And this very human and personal dilemma plays a roll not only for our heroes, but also villains (the human ones). I think this is a very interesting topic to focus on in an alien invasion film, something that goes far beyond the Sci-fi and Action/Adventure element. So in terms of the music, I think this becomes very apparent, as there are lots of very emotional pieces, and even our “hero theme” is more about “human sacrifice” than an actual  “superhero”. 

How did working on Occupation Rainfall compare to working on earlier projects like The Dragon Prince, Doom: Annihilation, and the DC animated films, just to name a few examples?
Like I mentioned above, the amount of music was very similar (given the projects mentioned here are a lot shorter generally), all of them have a lot of complex orchestral music. The big difference from let’s say “The Dragon Prince”, which is a mostly “in the box’ score with the exceptions of soloists,  to “Occupation” was that we planned on recording a rather large live orchestra, and during the peak of a pandemic no less (Summer 2020). So besides writing a lot of music and getting it approved in time, I had to account for a lot of time for recordings in London and Macedonia, and for orchestration (done by my partner in crime Hyesu Wiedmann). So suddenly you have 3-4 weeks less for writing since you need a lot of time to get 2 hours + orchestrated and prepared for the individual players, and at least 1 week of recording, and mixing. So that changes things a little in the process, but if you know what you are going to do in advance, and you have people behind you that full support you, it becomes an easy process. 

How much time did you have to score this film?
I had close to 3 months from start to finish, which felt very comfortable. 

Did you create specific musical themes for different characters or ideas?
Yes. One of the first cues I wrote for this film was the hero theme I mentioned above. A theme mostly used for our protagonist heroes, that selflessly try to save humanity, while sacrificing quite a bit themselves. The female lead, Amelia, had a theme which introduces her screen presence, the aliens had a dark and ominous, almost leaning into horror, type theme, and we had a theme for “humanity”, which is also not quite uplifting so to speak, but a nice mix of darkness and optimism that gives the situation humankind finds itself in a nice and authentic color. 

Is there any musical detail that you hope stands out to viewers who watch this film?

I hope the audience will appreciate the thematic treatment throughout, the absolutely fantastic performances of my London Orchestra record at the famous AIR studios, the gorgeous string melodies performed by my orchestra in Macedonia, and the more unique instruments I layered in throughout, like the haunting Armenian Duduk, Japanese Shakuhachi, several layers of solo violins and cellos and dark female vocals, representing the rather scary alien queen.

I want to give a big thank you to Frederik Wiedmann for taking the time to talk with me about Occupation Rainfall and I hope you enjoyed the discussion!

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My Thoughts on: The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard (2021)

I knew going in that there was a decent chance I wouldn’t like The Hitman’ Wife’s Bodyguard. For one, I hadn’t seen the first film, The Hitman’s Bodyguard, and going to see the sequel without seeing the first film can be quite problematic depending on the film. However, despite going in completely blind I was willing to give the film a chance, the previews had certainly looked funny enough.

I should’ve known better.

Rule #1 of being a movie blogger: NEVER trust the previews.

The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard picks up, ostensibly, where the first film leaves off, with Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds) attempting to pick up the pieces of his life. Of course, Sonia (Salma Hayek) drags him back into the fray and he’s soon on the run with Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson) whether he likes it or not. It sounds coherent enough, and there’s actually a decent premise buried deep down with a pretty good villain, but it’s executed so badly that no inducement on Earth could get me to watch this mess again.

I was about halfway through the film when it dawned on me that I was watching a terrible movie. Make no mistake about it, The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard is not a good film by any stretch of the imagination. If I had to sum up the film’s biggest problem, it’s that I feel like the writers flung three different film plots together, connected them with the three main characters, and prayed that it would make a roughly coherent story. That’s the only explanation I can come up with for the fractured story that comprises so many different moods and plot elements that it quickly loses any semblance to a rational story (though it’s entirely possible that that’s the point).

The one bright spot in this film is the spine-chilling performance turned in by Antonio Banderas as the film’s villain. I wish we could’ve gotten more of him in this film, because every time he was on the screen I visibly brightened up.

I also can’t get over how jarring the mood of this film was. The story flips from a weird humor to deadly serious and back at the drop of a hat and it was hard to get into the story and stay invested (about 3/4 of the way through I just gave up). Many of the emotional story twists felt completely unnecessary. There’s an entire story arc with Bryce’s dad that amused me, confused me, and finally infuriated me with how it was executed.

There’s only so many ways to put this so I’ll say it one last time: The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard is not a good movie, I’m honestly surprised I made it all the way through without leaving. The minor bright spots aren’t enough weren’t enough to save it, and it’s 90+ minutes of my life I can never get back (yes, it was that bad).

Whether you agree or disagree, let me know what you think of The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard in the comments below and have a good day!

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Soundtrack News: Luca (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) by Dan Romer is Available Now!

Walt Disney Records releases Disney and Pixar’s Luca Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, available today. The score is composed and produced by Dan Romer (“Beasts of the Southern Wild”). A story about two teenage sea monsters who experience a life-changing summer, Disney and Pixar’s “Luca” is now streaming exclusively on Disney+ (where Disney+ is available).

The score was recorded with an 82-piece orchestra at the Newman Recording Stage, and was orchestrated and conducted by Mark Graham. Romer performed on accordion and acoustic guitar.

Dan Romer is an award-winning composer, songwriter and music producer based in Los Angeles. Romer’s scores include Disney and Pixar’s feature, Luca (Disney+) coming out Summer 2021, four-time Oscar®-nominated Beasts of the Southern Wild (Searchlight),” “Maniac” (Netflix), “The Good Doctor” (ABC), “Beasts of No Nation” (Netflix), “Atypical” (Netflix), “Ski” (A24) Wendy (Searchlight) and Emmy® award-winning series “Ramy” (Hulu). In 2018, Romer composed the music for Ubisoft’s flagship video game Far Cry 5.

Luca director Enrico Casarosa turned to Romer to help set the stage and convey the youthful point of view of the main character, Luca. “I love his style—his accordion skills—and his ability to blend his style with the nuances of Italian music for this score,” said Casarosa.

The film is set on the Italian Riviera during the late 1950s, early 1960s. However, said Romer, “Enrico wanted something that felt like more of a nod, or a memory, than something that felt historically accurate. He told me what he really wanted was a more Italian-sounding version of the style of music I already make, which was very exciting and freeing!”

The composer especially liked working on the film’s dream sequences where Luca soars to great heights—feeling the freedom he craves. “They called for the most lush instrumentation, and usually the most wild rhythms,” he says.

Romer added, “It was an absolute joy getting to make such a melodically driven score and I’m excited for everyone to see the film.”

Track List

1. Meet Luca (4:08)
2. Did You Hide? (1:04)
3. The Curious Fish (1:39)
4. You Forgot Your Harpoon (0:39)
5. Phantom Tail (2:09)
6. Walking Is Just Like Swimming (2:02)
7. Vespa è Libertà (1:42)
8. You Hold the Ramp (0:59)
9. Silenzio Bruno (0:41)
10. That’s the Dream (2:05)
11. The Bottom of the Ocean (1:52)
12. Take Me, Gravity (1:44)
13. Portorosso (1:36)
14. Signor Vespa (1:17)
15. This Isn’t Any Old Race (2:55)
16. Buonanotte, Boys (1:27)
17. Land Monsters Everywhere (0:55)
18. Buongiorno Massimo (3:03)
19. The Out of Town Weirdo Tax (1:48)
20. Rules Are for Rule People (1:08)
21. How Humans Swim (1:03)
22. Not Our Kid (0:49)
23. Telescope (2:46)
24. Beyond the Solar System (1:02)
25. We Don’t Need Anybody (1:54)
26. The Sea Monster (3:33)
27. I Wish I Could Take It Back (4:01)
28. The Portorosso Cup (7:34)
29. How to Find the Good Ones (5:14)
30. Go Find Out for Me (1:39)

You can digitally download the soundtrack for Luca through any major digital music service. Enjoy!

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My Thoughts on: Murder on the Orient Express (2017)

I’m so ashamed that it’s taken me 4 years to finally sit down and watch Murder on the Orient Express. Don’t ask me why it took so long, I honestly have no idea why I skipped out on seeing this film in theaters (though I imagine my school work played a major role in the decision). The good news is, I finally sat down and watched it tonight at the suggestion of my friends on YouTube and I’m so glad I did.

Murder on the Orient Express is adapted from the Agatha Christie novel of the same name and sees the famed detective Hercule Poirot tasked with solving the murder of a passenger on the titular Orient Express while he is en route to another case in London. Given the circumstances, it initially seems like an impossible crime, but Poirot soon discovers that all is not as it seems with this case and his longstanding notion of justice will be strongly challenged by the time it is all over.

First of all, I’m blown away by the all-star cast in this film. This is an ensemble cast loaded with talent. There’s the legendary Kenneth Branagh playing Poirot (and playing him brilliantly), as well as Daisy Ridley, Leslie Odom, Jr., Josh Gad, Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench AND Derek Jacobi, to name a few. And everyone turns in an eye-catching performance, even Depp, who I admit isn’t my favorite actor to watch. Branagh as Poirot is far and away my favorite part of the film. I’m almost completely unfamiliar with the character of Poirot, so the character’s eccentricities were completely new to me, and I delighted in all of them, particularly his fascination with getting two boiled eggs that were exactly the same size.

Then there’s the setting of the film itself. From 1930s Jerusalem to Istanbul to the train itself, I love all of the visual details in this film. This is a sensual film in the best sense of the word: I can practically smell the bread in an Istanbul kitchen, I can feel the rumbling of the train, feel the textures of all these wonderful surfaces and fabrics, what more can I say to indicate how visually delightful this film is to me? Everything about this film captures a glimpse of a bygone era, when train travel was still luxurious in a way that it just isn’t anymore. That’s not to say that there isn’t luxury in train travel anymore, but it’s not the same thing. This was a luxury you could touch and feel in every detail, and I couldn’t get enough of it. This will be a film I rewatch just to enjoy those little details, I know it.

And then there’s the plot, which slowly but surely drew me in. For years I’ve been a staunch fan of fictional detective Sherlock Holmes, but after seeing this film I’m starting to believe I was wrong for ignoring Poirot all of these years (nothing personal, I just never had a reason to check it out). I know the film has changed some details around from Christie’s original novel, but I know the solution of the case is more or less the same. If most of Christie’s Poirot stories are like this, or at least similar, then I think Hercule Poirot may soon become one of my favorite fictional detectives, or at least one I like just as much as Holmes.

But I digress, the murder plot that’s central to this story is very complex, and in a million years I would’ve never guessed the ultimate solution. This is a sign of good writing, because if the audience can deduce the culprit early on, that’s going to make the rest of the story boring. But what makes Murder on the Orient Express fascinating is that the plot twists and pivots to make you believe that a number of people can be the killer, leaving you no closer to the truth than Poirot until the very end of the film when everything comes together. Speaking of, the scene where Poirot spells out exactly what happened is very powerful, and I was mesmerized by Branagh’s performance. The solution will strongly challenge your notions of what “justice” entails, and I can imagine that some unfamiliar with Christie’s work may have been unsatisfied with how the story ends. But I loved it, it was the perfect conclusion to a gripping story and it serves as a reminder that not all criminal cases are black and white (in fact I believe a few Sherlock Holmes stories deal with justice in a similar way, though I can’t name the case off the top of my head).

I initially picked up this film to prepare for Death on the Nile (this is before the film was rescheduled to 2022). Now that I’ve finally seen Murder on the Orient Express, I’m more excited than ever to see Branagh’s Poirot return in Death on the Nile and I dearly hope this leads to a string of Poirot films, because I would happily watch all of them.

Let me know what you think about Murder on the Orient Express in the comments below and have a great day!

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Soundtrack News: Varese Sarabande Releasing ‘Paycheck’ (The Deluxe Edition) on CD

John Powell burst into film scoring with a magnificent, emotional and modern soundtrack to John Woo’s iconic hit, Face/Off (1997). Six years later, Woo and Powell reunited for Paycheck (2003), a sci-fi techno-thriller based on a 1953 short story by Philip K. Dick (Blade Runner, Total Recall).

Ben Affleck stars as a programming engineer who undergoes a voluntary memory wipe to protect his client’s secrets—but upon going to collect his paycheck, he is given an envelope of seemingly random trinkets and items. He must use these clues to unearth the terrible secrets of his own project.

By 2003, John Powell had already scored The Bourne Identity and had his finger on the pulse of the modern action-thriller score. Paycheck blends synth and pop-rhythms with orchestral scope and, most importantly, Powell’s impeccable sense of taste. Despite almost non-stop action and suspense, he focuses on emotion and utilizes melody to elevate the proceedings.

“I’ve always wanted to do a ballet, so I had been fascinated by choreographers and dance for quite some time. I utilized that conversation with John [Woo] as an inspiration to create the drama of a danced story,” says John Powell.

He explains, “This album has everything on it. It gives me a slight panic attack looking at how much music there is on this album. It all sounds very good to me and at the same time like utter nonsense. I’ve always tried to be better at harmony. A lot of composers I admire have this incredible sense of harmonic flow and flexibility. When I achieve that on occasion, it makes me happy.”

Paycheck was released by Varèse Sarabande at the time of the film. This 2-CD set Deluxe Edition greatly expands the playing time to over 95 minutes, and features new liner notes by Daniel Schweiger, incorporating new interview comments with Powell.

PURCHASEU.S. – https://www.varesesarabande.com/products/john-powell-paycheck-the-deluxe-edition-2-cd 

Int’l – https://intl.varesesarabande.com/products/john-powell-paycheck-the-deluxe-edition-2-cd

Paycheck (The Deluxe Edition): Original Motion Picture SoundtrackMusic Composed by John PowellDisc One:

  1. Paycheck: Main Title From The Motion Picture (3:29)
  2. A Kiss Of Flexible Morality (1:10)
  3. Memory Wipe (0:54)
  4. A Good Life (1:05)
  5. Party Of Two (0:32)
  6. Portents Of Crystal Balls (2:11)
  7. Injection (0:32)
  8. A Second Chance (1:54)
  9. You’re Done (1:16)
  10. Freeze Frames (1:59)
  11. Hot Seat (7:39)
  12. The Ring (0:42)
  13. That’s You (0:31)
  14. Twenty Items (5:39)
  15. Lucky Number (2:01)
  16. Wolfe Pack (4:01)
  17. The Third Rail (3:28)
  18. Reservations (3:25)
  19. Mirror Message / Imposter (8:43)

Disc Two:

  1. Hog Chase, Part 1 (3:18)
  2. Hog Chase, Part 2 (4:06)
  3. I Don’t Remember (1:33)
  4. I Don’t Remember (Alternate Version) (1:35)
  5. Tomorrow’s Headlines (4:27)
  6. Return to Allcom (3:13)
  7. Future Tense (7:58)
  8. Bio Lab Bash (3:08)
  9. Fait Accompli (6:39)
  10. One Big Payback (5:37)
  11. Uma’s Tune (Bonus Track) (2:55)

You can check out (and purchase) the deluxe edition soundtrack for Paycheck now!

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Soundtrack News: Quinceañero Original Motion Short Film Soundtrack Out Now

PHX Music has digitally released the Original Motion Short Film Soundtrack to Justin Floyd’s vision come to life, in the musical Quinceañero. The music is composed by Max Aruj and Steffen Thum, with lyrics by Antonio Sol, and songs performed by cast of the film. The album comprised of eight richly melodic Latin songs, including the film’s focus track “Ve El Momento” (“See the Moment”). The film recently premiered at Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival (LALIFF), as part of its Latinx Inclusion Series, in partnership with Netflix.

Max Aruj is a composer born and raised in Los Angeles. His latest feature release is Crawl, produced by Sam Raimi, and directed by Alexandre Aja. Aruj joined the Assassin’s Creed universe for the recently released Wrath of the Druids. Other upcoming releases this year include Eytan Rockaway’s Lansky, starring Harvey Keitel, and Jonathan Hensleigh’s The Ice Road, starring Liam Neeson. Aruj co-produced Gryffin’s Deluxe orchestral album (2020). He composed additional music on Mission: Impossible – Fallout for Lorne Balfe, and on The Crown, for Hans Zimmer and Rupert Gregson-Williams. This past year he wrote additional music on HBO’s His Dark Materials.

Steffen Thum is a composer for film, TV, games, commercials and mixed media, based in Berlin. He wrote the scores for feature films Crawl (Paramount) and iBoy (Netflix), as well as TV series This Is Football (Amazon) and Story of God (National Geographic), among others. Steffen’s music can be heard in over 60 international productions, including Mission Impossible: Fallout, Bad Boys for Life, Ad Astra, The Lego Batman Movie, The Crown, and His Dark Materials.

In the 20-minute whimsical musical, Gabriel is on the verge of his 15th birthday and dreams of having his own quinceañera, a tradition reserved for girls. When his father – steeped in tradition – sets himself against the quinceañero, the timid boy will have to rally his family to make his dream come true.

Composer Max Aruj had the following to say:

“Having director Justin Floyd entrust us to bring his vision to life in a new style was both exciting and horrifying. But having an amazing team in Steffen and Antonio, made the process a blast. Additionally, writing a song like ‘Ve El Momento’ was a first – I never thought I’d get to do that, but here we are!”

Steffen Thum added:

“Writing a musical is a particular kind of challenge, going beyond just scoring to picture, as we’ve done before, so it was a bit of a daunting task. It was Justin’s vision and strong ambition that pulled us in, while Antonio’s expertise was crucial in getting the lyrics right. It all grew from there, and our actors and dancers brought the songs to life beautifully.”

Track List: 

  1. Ve El Momento
  2. The Magic of Youth
  3. La Quinceañera
  4. Can I Be
  5. Brother My Brother
  6. Symphony in Q
  7. I’m Proud of You
  8. El Quinceañero

You can find the soundtrack album for Quinceañero on iTunes here.

Let me know what you think about Quinceañero and its music in the comments below and have a great day!

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My Thoughts on: In the Heights (2021)

I originally learned about In the Heights while reading the behind the scenes book about the making of Hamilton that I bought last summer. If you weren’t aware, it was while In the Heights was running on Broadway that Lin-Manuel Miranda got the idea for what would eventually become Hamilton, but I digress…because this review isn’t about Hamilton but In the Heights. And after seeing this film, I have to say that this story should NOT be known as “the musical Lin-Manuel Miranda did before Hamilton” because oh my GOD the story of In the Heights is just as good!

The story of In the Heights takes place over a span of 3 days, before, during, and after a blackout that paralyzes New York City (while it is similar to the infamous 2003 Blackout, most of the show was actually written in 1999). Our narrator throughout the story is Usnavi (Anthony Ramos), the owner of a corner bodega who dreams of returning to the Dominican Republic. Through Usnavi, we meet the varied characters who live and dream in Washington Heights. These include Vanessa, an aspiring fashion designer, Abuela, who has adopted the entire block as her family, Nina, who’s back in town from attending Stanford, Benny the cab dispatcher (and Nina’s would-be boyfriend), and Sonny, Usnavi’s younger cousin who helps him run the bodega. It’s a colorful cast of characters and I was quickly drawn into the story. I was actually worried going in that I would have a hard time connecting to the story but I should have known that Lin-Manuel Miranda’s music would make it easy to dive right in.

To put it simply: if you loved the music of Hamilton, you will love the music of In the Heights. Like Hamilton, In the Heights is full of rap and freestyle melodies, though there’s obviously a Latin twist that doesn’t exist in Hamilton for obvious reasons. The music brings an entire culture to life throughout the story, and it’s so beautiful because this is a culture that’s full of life, passion, faith, and courage to go on in spite of facing huge obstacles in every direction. In fact, the community shown is so vibrant and so full of life, that it feels like you could just step right through the screen and be there with all of it, and I love a story where the world is this fully realized.

And oh yes, this story does not shy away from mentioning the obstacles people of color face on a daily basis. It’s mentioned several times by a number of characters that chasing dreams isn’t always easy, in fact it can be quite painful at times. And I like that the film makes it clear that sometimes you DON’T get your dream, even if you try. It’s a hard thing to hear of course, but it’s honest and I really like that because we’re still encouraged to go after our dreams, even if it hurts at times. And also, there’s a hint in the film that sometimes your “dream” isn’t what you think it is. That’s something I’m seeing more of in movies, but In the Heights does it really well.

IN THE HEIGHTS Copyright: © 2021 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved. Photo Credit: Macall Polay Caption: (L -r) NOAH CATALA as Graffiti Pete, GREGORY DIAZ IV as Sonny, COREY HAWKINS as Benny and ANTHONY RAMOS as Usnavi in Warner Bros. Pictures’ “IN THE HEIGHTS,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

What I wasn’t expecting was for In the Heights to make me cry but there’s one portion of this story that absolutely wrecked me. It all centers on “Paciencia y Fe” and “Alabanza” and the character of Abuela. I’m not the kind to readily cry in a movie theater, but the scenes with those two songs ripped at my heartstrings in a way that I didn’t expect going in.

I think my two favorite songs (that didn’t make me cry) were “In the Heights” and “96,000.” I like the opening song because it throws you in headfirst to the colorful world of Washington Heights and it was a really fun song to bop my head in rhythm with the music too. And I love “96,000” because it brought me back to my own childhood when I would go swim at the community rec center pool and everyone would be there.

I also love that Lin-Manuel Miranda appears in the film as the piragua vendor and there’s also a blink and you might miss it cameo from Christopher Jackson too.

What I’m trying to say is that In the Heights is absolutely the summer movie we’ve been waiting for. I laughed, I cried, it felt like an entire summer squeezed into a single film, all the good and bad. I know In the Heights is currently available on HBO Max but if your local movie theater is open, I highly recommend going to see this in theaters instead. It’s such a good experience and it deserves to be seen on the biggest screen possible.

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

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Soundtrack News: Varese Sarabande Releasing ‘The Matrix’ (The Complete Edition) on CD

Varèse Sarabande Records is thrilled to announce one of its June 2021 CD Club titles: The Matrix (The Complete Edition) by Don Davis. This title is available as of June 11, exclusively on VareseSarabande.com and internationally on Intl.VareseSarabande.com.

Few blockbusters can claim to be as influential as The Matrix (1999), written and directed by the Wachowskis. From its super high concept that has wormed its way into the public’s imagination (what if we’re all just living in a computer simulation?), to Keanu Reeves’ iconic hero Neo, to the brilliant, jaw-dropping and story-based visual effects, The Matrix delivered on all fronts. Its three films grossed over $1.6 billion worldwide, and a fourth is on the way.

The Matrix demanded a score that was as unique, sophisticated and imaginative as its concept and action—and that’s exactly what composer Don Davis delivered. Davis, who scored the Wachowskis’ Bound (1996), reinvented the symphonic language of the action blockbuster by drawing on cutting-edge concert-hall minimalism and his own background as an avant-garde composer, while maintaining the energy, pace and density required of a studio action film.

From the clashing-brass “reflections,” to the racing strings, pounding percussion and flittering, repeating musical “cells,” the Matrix score fits hand-in-glove with the film’s concept of a computer-controlled reality—and offers a unique musical thumbprint that is recognizable sometimes only from a single note or chord. It is the rare commercial triumph that is also an artistic landmark.

“One thing the Wachowskis did want was something new and different. Every director will tell you they want that something new and different until they actually hear it. But I took that to heart, and it was clear that a unique approach really was right for that film. I’ve kept my hand in composing concert music from the beginning, so I was aware of what was going on in that arena. [We] were working in a style that some were calling ‘postmodern,’ which seemed to be fitting for a postmodern film like The Matrix. And I saw this as an opportunity to take it in a stylistic direction that wouldn’t work in other films but specifically did work in this film,” says composer Don Davis.

The Matrix was released by Varèse Sarabande at the time of the film, and then in a Deluxe Edition that fit as much of the score as possible on one CD. By popular demand, this new 2-CD set presents the complete score. This version is also available through Record Store Day 2021 as a 3-LP set releasing on July 17. Visit RecordStoreDay.com to find a participating retailer. Liner notes feature a new interview with Don Davis conducted by Kaya Savas.

*Standard CD limited to 2,000 copies *SACD limited to 1,000 copiesPURCHASE

U.S. 2-CD – https://www.varesesarabande.com/products/don-davis-the-matrix-the-complete-score-2-cd 

U.S. 2-SACD – https://www.varesesarabande.com/products/don-davis-matrix-the-the-complete-score-2-sacd 

Int’l 2-CD – https://intl.varesesarabande.com/products/don-davis-the-matrix-the-complete-score-2-cd?currency=USD 

Int’l 2-SACD – https://intl.varesesarabande.com/products/don-davis-matrix-the-the-complete-score-2-sacd

The Matrix: The Complete Edition (Regular and SACD): Original Motion Picture Score Music Composed, Orchestrated & Conducted by Don Davis

Disc One:
Logos / The Matrix Main Title (0:55)
Trinity Infinity (6:00)
Neo Con Brio (0:32)
Follow The White Rabbit (0:15)
Neo On The Edge (3:24)
Through The Surveillance Monitor (0:59)
Unable To Speak (1:14)
Bait And Switch (3:16)
Switched For Life (3:36)
Switched At Birth (2:43)
Switches Brew (2:27)
Cold Hearted Switch (1:40)
Nascent Nauseous Neo (4:00)
A Morpheus Moment (1:39)
Bow Whisk Orchestra (1:23)
Domo Showdown (1:13)
Switch Or Break Show (1:05)
Shake, Borrow, Switch (0:39)
Switch Works Her Boa (0:56)
Bring Me Dinner (0:39)
The System (0:37)
Freeze Face (1:52)
Switch Woks Her Boar (2:07)
Cypher Cybernetic (0:59)
Ignorance Is Bliss / Cyber Cyphernetic (1:51)
See Who? (0:26)

Disc Two:
Switch Out (3:01)
Boon Spoy (1:08)
Oracle Cookies (1:30)
Threat Mix (6:05)
Exit Mr. Hat (2:57)
On Your Knees, Switch (4:43)
Mix The Art (2:10)
Whoa, Switch Brokers (4:01)
The Cure (1:35)
It’s The Smell (1:57)
The Lobby (0:27)
No More Spoons (1:02)
Dodge This (1:08)
Fast Learning (0:44)
Ontological Shock (4:16)
That’s Gotta Hurt (5:17)
Surprise (4:06)
He’s The One Alright (6:56)

Enjoy experiencing the complete score of The Matrix courtesy of Varese Sarabande Records!

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Soundtrack News: ‘Occupation Rainfall’ Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Now Available on iTunes

Kaleido Sound is excited to announce the release of the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack for the Lionsgate action sci-fi film, Occupation Rainfall, composed by Frederik Wiedmann (The Dragon Prince, Acts of Vengeance).

Wiedmann has been inspired by film composition since he first heard John Barry’s score to Dances With Wolves at the age of 12. Wiedmann is the composer behind the hit Disney Junior show Miles from Tomorrowland, as well as the critically acclaimed Netflix animated fantasy series The Dragon Prince, which is from the writers of the popular series: Avatar: The Last Airbender. Wiedmann has been a main stay in the DC cinematic universe, starting with his work on Green Lantern: The Animated Series, for which he earned two consecutive Annie Awards nominations. His success on the series led to further popular Warner Bros’ DC projects such as, Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, Son of BatmanDeath of SupermanJustice League: Gods and MonstersBatman: Gotham by Gaslight among others.

Directed by Luke Sparke, Occupation Rainfall takes place two years into an intergalactic invasion of earth. Survivors in Sydney, Australia, fight back in a desperate ground war. As casualties mount by the day, the resistance and their unexpected allies, uncover a plot that could see the war come to a decisive end. With the Alien invaders hell-bent on making earth their new home, the race is on to save mankind.

Regarding the soundtrack for Occupation Rainfall, composer Frederik Wiedmann had the following to say:

“This project was a huge musical canvas with a lot of room for creativity left for the composer, which made my heart race with excitement. From the first moment I saw a few snippets of it, I knew that this was going to be one epic ride. 

Luke Sparke, the director, and I spotted about 117 minutes for this 2-hour Sci-fi film, for which we both agreed that we’d need a big orchestra. It wasn’t an easy task to organize an orchestra of this scale due to COVID-19, but we managed to record in London at AIR studios, as well as in Macedonia at the FAMES scoring stage to create the sound we both wanted. 

The movie is certainly action-packed, with stunning visual effects and performances by the actors. But underneath the blood-pumping, adrenalin-spewing blockbuster facade of the film, lies a bigger, more philosophical question of “how far would you go for the greater good?”. I did my musical best to accompany the depth of this theme, using an array of thematic material, to underline the difficult choices that our characters inevitably face, as well as their emotional journey throughout the film.”

TRACK LISTING

  1. The Worst Is Yet To Come (2:10)
  2. Taking Fire (2:13)
  3. You’re Our Last Chance (2:42)
  4. Freed (2:09)
  5. Sydney (3:19)
  6. Gearing Up (2:46)
  7. Hail Of Fire (4:07)
  8. Ambushed (3:04)
  9. Sydney Destroyed (1:21)
  10. In The Outback (2:31)
  11. Hit Them With The Crossfire (2:16)
  12. Alien Pursuit (3:25)
  13. Red Sky (3:01)
  14. Apex Predator (4:18)
  15. The Village (1:53)
  16. Restricted Area (4:32)
  17. The Mob (3:15)
  18. The Command Ships (2:37)
  19. They Are Here (3:02)
  20. An Evolutionary Accident (4:19)
  21. Project Rainfall (2:09)
  22. Overrun (2:47)
  23. Avoiding Disaster (2:50)
  24. Guns And Blades (2:05)
  25. Kal’i Attack (1:35)
  26. The Standoff (1:38)
  27. Wing Commander Heyes (2:56)
  28. Behind Closed Doors (2:11)
  29. The Ascend (2:24)
  30. For Humanity (2:27)
  31. Reunited (3:10)

Check out the soundtrack for Occupation Rainfall, available on iTunes, and have a great day!

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Soundtrack Review: Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart (2021)

Milan Records has released Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart (Original Soundtrack) with music by Mark Mothersbaugh and Wataru Hokoyama.  Available everywhere now, the album features music written by Mothersbaugh and Hokoyama for the latest installment in the PlayStation® video game franchise that released on June 11, 2021.

Of the soundtrack, composer Mark Mothersbaugh says:

“It takes an army to create a soundtrack for a video game these days, and there are a number of writers, arrangers, orchestrators, players, synth programmers that were involved.  For games in general, you have to be aware that a particular level and the music embedded in it will sometimes be around for a long time, so you want to make sure your themes and melodies are iconic.  The video game genre is very satisfying because of the craftsmanship involved and the attention to detail. Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is probably the best game score I ever got to work on.”

Of the soundtrack, composer Wataru Hokoyama says:

“It was just so much fun working on such an epic game like Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart.  The depth of the worlds that the game took place in allowed us to write in so many varieties of style.  Working with the teams at Insomniac Games and Sony Interactive Entertainment was so amazing.  They’re full of great people who love and enjoy what they do, and they welcomed us as members of their big family throughout the project.  The feeling of ‘Let’s have so much fun co-creating the world of Ratchet & Clanksound together’ felt so special, and it became one of the most memorable video game projects for me.  It’s important for me to mention that it was Mark Mothersbaugh who brought me on board with this game project.  Mark has been like a fatherly figure to me in my music career.  We’ve done multiple blockbuster films together, and it’s such an honor to have my name credited next to the DEVO legend.  I look forward to our future collaborations.”

Built from the ground up for the PS5™ console by acclaimed studio Insomniac Games, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is a brand new, interdimensional adventure.  Go dimension-hopping with Ratchet and Clank and help them stop a robotic emperor intent on conquering cross-dimensional worlds, with their own universe next in the firing line. Jump between action-packed worlds and beyond at mind-blowing speeds – complete with dazzling visuals and an insane arsenal as the intergalactic adventurers blast onto the PS5™ console.  Join a cast of familiar faces and some new allies – including Rivet, a mysterious new playable female Lombax resistance fighter who is just as determined to take out the robotic scourge.

After listening to this soundtrack, I think I owe the Ratchet & Clank video game series a big apology. Now, to be fair, I don’t know what the earlier games sound like, but I do know I wasn’t expecting anything as epic and glorious as what I hear in Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart. Mothersbaugh and Hokoyama have created some genuinely special music that instantly grabs your attention and pulls you into the story. And it must be quite the story, because this music really does feel epic, perhaps not to the same degree as, say, God of War or Horizon Zero Dawn, but it’s definitely attempting to push the boundaries of where the story can go.

One thing I really like in the music for Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is the musical continuity. There’s a distinctive main theme that recurs throughout the soundtrack, and it’s used to pull everything together. In that way, the music for this game is almost like a symphony in some places, as this main theme opens the soundtrack, appears throughout, and comes back in at the end in climactic fashion. For those reasons, I have to call out “Rift Apart” and “Culmination at Corson V” as two of my favorite tracks on the entire soundtrack. Both feature what is unquestionably the score’s main theme and they’re a lot of fun to sit and listen to (I can only imagine what hearing this music in the game will be like, as the game is a PS5 exclusive and I only have a PS4).

But it’s not all grand and epic sounds in this score either, which is another detail I like. For instance, in “Cascading Enropic Fissure” there’s a musical moment in there that sounds very retro, in fact it almost sounds like the composers are quoting music from an older Ratchet & Clank game (which may very well be the case). I like how this particular track seems to highlight the past. It’s a nice change of pace from the rest of the soundtrack.

And then, I absolutely have to highlight “Join Me At the Top”, the final track on this soundtrack. I’m not sure who all is participating in this piece but it sounds like a musical number that is being sung by the game’s villain and it is absolutely DELIGHTFUL. This is seriously like something out of a Broadway musical. I don’t know why this song is part of the soundtrack or how it fits into the game but after listening to it, I could honestly listen to a whole album of songs just like this one. What a fantastic way to bring the soundtrack album to a close.

I highly recommend checking out the soundtrack to Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart. It’s beautiful and one of the best video game soundtracks I’ve heard so far this year.

RATCHET & CLANK: RIFT APART (ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK)
TRACKLISTING –

  1. Rift Apart
  2. Festival of Heroes
  3. A Most Nefarious City
  4. Sweet Home Sargasso
  5. Ride Through the Omniverse
  6. Ode to Nefarious
  7. Meet me at Zurkie’s
  8. Urfdah Mesa Major
  9. Blizar Prime’d and Ready
  10. Molonoth Means Paradise
  11. Cascading Entropic Fissure
  12. A Tale of Two Cordelions
  13. Glitch in the System
  14. A Late Arrival
  15. The Battle for Sargasso
  16. Urfdah Mesa Minor
  17. Y’Ardolis
  18. Zordoom and Gloom
  19. Culmination at Corson V
  20. Join Me at the Top

Let me know what you think of Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart and its soundtrack in the comments below and have a great day!

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Video Game Soundtracks

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