Author Archives: Film Music Central

About Film Music Central

I'm a 30 year old musicologist and blogger and I've had a lifelong obsession with film music, cartoon music, just about any kind of music!

Soundtrack Review: Alita: Battle Angel (2019)

We’re over halfway through 2019 and Alita: Battle Angel still remains one of the best films I’ve seen this year, and it’s soundtrack is firmly in my top 5 for the year as well. If you didn’t have the chance to see the film in theaters, Alita: Battle Angel hits Blu-Ray/DVD on July 23rd, and I highly recommend picking it up. However, the soundtrack has been available for quite some time and that’s what I’m going to be reviewing for you today.

The soundtrack for Alita: Battle Angel was composed by Tom Holkenborg (otherwise known as Junkie XL), and as I said before, it is by far one of the best soundtracks I’ve heard this year. Regarding the soundtrack, Holkenborg had this to say:

“…it was very important to feel the heart of the film. Movies like this about a dystopian future with monsters, robots, action figures might fall too quickly into something very electronic in nature or very noisy. And it was very important because of the music we stay with Alita the main character throughout the movie. It was very important that it was a pretty, soaring melody that could be easily bent into something emotional, but also into something positive and heroic. She is a person who is constantly wondering what is out there, and that is very important in the music and the instrumentation. And because she is a CGI character with motion capture from [Rosa Salazar], it was very important that it feel very organic. That’s why for her I went for very organic instrumentation, a flute or a clarinet or strings or a Glockenspiel. It needed to feel organic and natural.”

(full credit to Nerdist.com for this interview with Tom Holkenborg)

 

The soundtrack for Alita: Battle Angel does indeed feel very organic and natural, which surprised me when I listened to the soundtrack without any distractions from the film (which can cover over many musical details). It really doesn’t sound like the music for a film set centuries in the future, in a world populated by cyborgs, but I agree that this is a good thing. After all, at her core, Alita is a human (remember her brain is very much real), and the music should reflect her humanity in a world where this quality is in increasingly short supply.

The soundtrack is full of traditional action beats, as you might expect, but the actual spectrum of emotions covered by the music is quite large. There’s triumph and challenge in “Raising the Sword” (the music that ends the film before the credits start), despair in “In the Clouds,” and mystery in “Double Identity,” just to name a few examples.

Holkenborg crafts the music in a way that keeps you engaged and grounded in the story. I agree with what he says in the interview; it would have been far too easy to create a generic sci-fi electronic score for Alita: Battle Angel. While it would have been the expected thing to do, I also think it would have ruined the film as a whole.

I highly recommend checking out the soundtrack for Alita: Battle Angel, it’s a beautiful piece of work, and it can keep you occupied until the film hits Blu-Ray/DVD next month. Hopefully we’ll get to hear Holkenborg work on the score to a sequel film, since he’s established some character themes that I would like to see expanded.

Let me know what you think about Alita: Battle Angel and its soundtrack in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

My Thoughts on: Alita: Battle Angel (2019)

Film Soundtracks A-W

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Soundtrack Review: First to the Moon: The Journey of Apollo 8 (2018)

For the past year, there have been several films and documentaries released, and several upcoming, that are looking back at the Apollo 11 Moon landing in 1969 and the events that led up to it. To that end, First to the Moon: The Journey of Apollo 8, looks at the important journey of Apollo 8, which orbited the moon and captured the famous “Earthrise” photo.

I was excited to have the opportunity to review the soundtrack for this documentary which was composed by Alexander Bornstein. To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I popped the soundtrack in to listen to it. Documentary soundtracks, in my experience, can be very hit or miss, and sometimes documentaries don’t have much in the way of music at all. To be honest, I love this soundtrack. This may come out wrong, but it was lot more “cinematic” than I thought it would be. There was a sense of drama, a sense of excitement, and even tension that I just wasn’t expecting, but that made me really love the soundtrack even more than I thought I would at first.

 

I haven’t seen the documentary that goes with this soundtrack, but I can tell the music is meant to highlight the risks that were involved in launching Apollo 8 and how high-stakes everything was since this was one of the last Apollo missions before the all-important Apollo 11. I was actually reminded a bit of Hans Zimmer’s music, with some of the timpani drum riffs (and I mean that in a good way).

Alexander Bornstein did a great job with this soundtrack. My favorite track on the entire disc is “The Good Earth.” It was catchy, it just drove along and I loved listening to it. As I said earlier, I wasn’t expecting the music to be so orchestral and beautiful, and I’m so happy to be so pleasantly surprised by what I listened to. The soundtrack is available now and I definitely recommend checking it out. I look forward to hearing more from Alexander Bornstein, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to listen to this soundtrack.

If you’ve seen First to the Moon: The Journey of Apollo 8 or listened to the soundtrack, let me know what you think about it in the comments below and have a great day!

You Can Buy the soundtrack HERE: https://bit.ly/2EjfCd6

See also:

Film Soundtracks A-W

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My Thoughts on: Dodgeball-A True Underdog Story (2004)

*note: this review was requested by Patreon subscriber @reaperofdarkn3s

At the start I would like to say that I did my absolute best to watch this movie with an open mind. Movies like Dodgeball aren’t normally my cup of tea, but since it was requested I watch this movie, I did my best to give it a fair shake.

With all due respect…I do not like this film. At all.

The premise itself is not objectionable: likable Peter (Vince Vaughn) sets out to save his failing gym by competing in a dodgeball tournament with enough prize money to settle his debts. Competing against him is White Goodman (Ben Stiller), the obnoxious, sexist, disgustingly misogynist owner of Globo Gym.

Goodman feels suspiciously similar to Tony Perkis, Stiller’s character in Heavyweights (1995), except Perkis was a lot more fun to watch. White Goodman is just…disgusting, and for me not funny in the slightest. To be completely honest, he’s the type of character I would be perfectly happy to punch in the nose for being an obnoxious jerk. Honestly, this character completely turned me off from the film, any time he appeared I was like “ugh, him again…”

The other biggest problem I have with the film is, Dodgeball‘s style of humor doesn’t appeal to me. Maybe I’m overly picky or thinking about it too hard, but I just don’t find any of it funny. And the “sexy female” parts turned me off even more.

I really did try to watch Dodgeball with an open mind, I really did. But there’s no getting around the fact that this just isn’t the kind of film I like.

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

See also:

Film/TV Reviews

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My Thoughts on: The Secret of NIMH (1982)

*I’m really sorry I’ve been slow with blog posts in recent days, life has been crazy this past week but I’m going to work hard to get back on track this week, that includes reviewing Dodgeball no matter what. Thanks for being so understanding!

Animated films were practically my entire world when I was growing up. I have fond memories of most of them, but The Secret of NIMH (along with most of Don Bluth’s animated films) holds a distinct place in my memory. I must have been pretty young the first time I saw this film, since it’s in my memory as far back as I can remember.

The story is based on the book Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH (the name was changed to prevent any possible disputes with the makers of Frisbees) and follows Mrs. Brisby, a mouse, as she tries to keep her home safe from a farmer’s plow. Normally she’d just pack the family up and move, but her youngest son is sick with pneumonia and can’t leave the house. That’s the motivation for this dark fantasy story, and it quickly gets darker from there.

The word “dark” to describe this film a lot, because that’s exactly what The Secret of NIMH is: dark! Even the anthropomorphic rats and mice are drawn with a…a sharp grittiness that you just don’t see in Disney (observe the less than welcoming mouth of Auntie Shrew for a case in point, and she’s mean to be a GOOD character). Jenner, the primary villain, is an even bigger example, since he practically oozes menace, even when he’s pretending to be nice. Don’t misunderstand, the animation is exquisite throughout, but there’s no way you’ll mistake this for a Disney film, it’s far too dark (even the colors seem to come from an overall darker color palette).

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Don Bluth, as I’ve said several times before, had a unique viewpoint when it came to animated films. He believed that children could take just about anything in a story so long as there was ultimately a happy ending. That explains why The Secret of NIMH has creatures being brutally squashed underfoot (like the Great Owl killing the spider), stabbed in the back, and even a gruesome example of a throat being cut (that’s what I’m sure the animators were going for, even though the cut looks like it’s in the chest, it feels like it’s meant to be a throat slash). All of these things were burned into my brain from a very young age, but it took me years to understand that what I was feeling was a mild form of trauma, since I was seeing things I shouldn’t have known about for a number of years.

I could honestly go on forever about how traumatizing The Secret of NIMH is (that’s why I created the Disturbing Bluth series), though thankfully the trauma doesn’t stop me from continuing to enjoy it today. However, for the rest of my life, I will always wonder how a film like this was able to be made and marketed for children, containing the dark visuals that it does (only Disney’s The Black Cauldron is darker in my opinion).

If you endured The Secret of NIMH as a child, what did you think about it? Let me know your thoughts about the film in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Disturbing Bluth

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My Thoughts on: The Hateful Eight (2015)

Ohhhhhhhh boy.

This is only the second Quentin Tarantino film I’ve actually seen (Inglourious Basterds was the first) and I still don’t know exactly what to think about it. I knew from Inglourious Basterds that I was in for a bloody and violent experience, but that still didn’t prepare me for what I saw.

The Hateful Eight is set in the Old West, at a stagecoach lodge during the height of a blizzard. Eight characters are holed up in the lodge until the storm breaks, and the story gets more complex from there. There’s a killer loose, and one by one characters start dying.

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Putting aside all of the graphic bloodshed and swearing, there’s one thing in this film that really bothers me. Call me old fashioned, call me missing the point, but I’m really bothered by how John Ruth (Kurt Russell) treats Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh). I get that Daisy is a wanted outlaw and dangerous in her own right, but sometimes she gets punched for no reason and that really, REALLY bothers me.

I suppose I enjoyed this film in the end, but it was almost too violent for my tastes. I especially didn’t like the reveal of what happened to Minnie and her family, that almost made me turn the movie off on the spot. And the reveal of a hidden character who’s actually been present the whole time…I want to like it, but it’s so out of nowhere. Literally, there’s no sign this character exists until the reveal, and when it comes I was more like “Huh?” then “Oh my gosh!”

I really tried to keep an open mind while I watched this film, but the simple truth is I didn’t like The Hateful Eight as much as I liked Inglourious Basterds. It’s not a terrible film by any means, it just doesn’t mesh with my personal tastes.

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

See also:

My thoughts on: Inglorious Basterds (2009)

Film/TV Reviews

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My Thoughts on: The Most Dangerous Game (1932)

Remember all those books and short stories we had to read in our high school English classes? I remember some of them, naturally a few stories stuck in my memory better than others. One I never quite forgot was “The Most Dangerous Game” (also known as “The Hounds of Zaroff.”) The reason I remember this story so much is, the teacher showed us a movie version of the story after we read it, to better reinforce the story I suppose. I hadn’t seen the movie version since, but when I had the opportunity to pick a copy up during a sale, a bunch of memories came flooding back. The 1932 film adaptation of The Most Dangerous Game is probably the version that follows the original story the best. It was filmed on many of the same sets used for King Kong and even includes Fay Wray as the leading lady (and the ONLY lady) of the story.

The story follows a big-game hunter, Robert Rainsford, who ends up stranded by a shipwreck on a small island inhabited by Count Zaroff, a man completely obsessed with hunting. Zaroff is already playing host to two survivors of a prior shipwreck, Eve (Fay Wray) and her brother Martin (Robert Armstrong). When Martin disappears, Eve enlists Robert to help find her brother and together they discover the Count’s terrible secret: he hunts humans for sport! The Count had earlier hinted at discovering “the most dangerous game” in the world, but had refused to say what it was.

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This revelation horrified me, both when I read the original story and when I first saw this film. It’s the stuff of nightmares, if you think about it. Imagine being turned loose into the jungle, knowing that eventually someone will be hunting you and trying to kill you. It’s like something out of a horror film, and has been seen again and again in various films and television episodes. Of course, the question we’re meant to think about is, is this murder as Rainsford claims it to be, or is it just sport with lethal consequences, as Zaroff claims? Allow me to play Devil’s Advocate for a moment and point out that Zaroff does give his victims a sporting chance, giving them a head start and a knife to defend themselves or use as they wish. On the other hand, these “advantages” are hardly helpful since most of Zaroff’s victims, one would assume, are not trained hunters and would quickly lose their heads no matter how many advantages they are given.

I for one am on Rainsford’s side in this argument. No matter what Zaroff claims, what he does is tantamount to murder. It would be one thing if these people had committed a terrible crime, and this was their punishment. But these people’s only misfortune, so far as we know, is to be shipwrecked on Zaroff’s island.

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Plot details aside, I love Max Steiner’s score for this film. Steiner composed a “hunting horn” motif that is introduced in the opening credits of the film and recurs throughout the hour long story. In fact, the motif is replicated exactly by Zaroff’s hunting horn when it’s blown late in the film, and it could be argued this motif is a strong hint of what’s to come in the story.

Even if pre-Code films aren’t your usual cup of tea, I recommend giving The Most Dangerous Game a try. It’s an excellent example of early 1930s cinema and contains lessons that resonate even today. I really think you will like it. If you have seen The Most Dangerous Game, let me know what you think about it in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Film/TV Reviews

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My Thoughts on: Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985)

*note: This review was requested by Patreon subscriber @AlienPizzareia as part of his reward tier.

Believe it or not, all this time I’ve never seen a Mad Max film before. I’m not sure if Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome was the best place to start but for better or worse this was my introduction to the Mad Max series and I have…thoughts.

The one thing I did know about this film going in is that it’s set in a post-apocalyptic time, after nuclear conflict devastates the world. As a result, the land (Australia in this case) is crawling with insane gangs that ride around in souped-up ramshackle vehicles and dressed all kinds of crazy. As crazy as it all looks, it also feels scarily believable, like, if the world did exist past an apocalypse I could almost believe that it would be full of people like this, that dress and act like this.

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I love Tina Turner as Aunty Entity. She comes across as something of a b*tch, but if you think about it, as sadistic and harsh as her “laws” are, they DO preserve some semblance of law and order in Bartertown (though I do use the words “law and order” extremely loosely). She is such a badass though, I liked watching her do her stuff. (And am I crazy or was she wearing an outfit made out of chainmail?)

My favorite part in the whole film was the fight in the titular Thunderdome. I didn’t think I would like this scene at all but I found myself getting into it, especially when the combatants started springing up into the rafters to get weapons and fight. That fight shouldn’t have been as good as it was, but I liked it and it just worked. Also, the reveal of Blaster as being mentally handicapped came as quite the surprise, since it made me re-evaluate everything the character had done up until the reveal (he’s not really evil, he’s just doing what he’s told and I have a feeling he doesn’t really understand the ramifications of what he’s doing).

I have mixed feelings however, about the plot with the children. It’s not a bad subplot, it’s just, compared to everything you seen Bartertown before this, the sequences with the children and their tribal way of life feels like it comes from a completely separate film. I did like though, how the “tell” narrated for the audience (and Max) how the children got into this situation without making it boring. One wonders how long they’ve been waiting for someone to rescue them. I initially thought these were the children of the adults who left but given how they talk with such mangled English, it’s entirely possible these are the children of the children that were left behind. I just think this plot would’ve worked better as its own film.

I’m glad I finally watched a Mad Max film, I get now why many people like them (those car chases are insane!). I think I’ll have to watch more Mad Max films in the future just to see how they stack up to this one.

What do you think about Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Film/TV Reviews

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