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!

My Thoughts on: Transformers: War for Cybertron: Siege (2020)

*very minor spoilers for Transformers: War for Cybertron: Siege below

When I was offered the chance to view a screener of Transformers: War for Cybertron: Siege on Netflix, I immediately leapt at the chance. Few know this about me, but I was actually a pretty big Transformers fan when I was a kid (watched all the G1 cartoons growing up), enough of one that I sat through the first few Transformer movies when I was older. Thus, when I learned of a Transformers prequel series that was set entirely on Cybertron, I just had to check it out.

Divided into six episodes, War for Cybertron: Siege details the closing days of the war between the Autobots and Decepticons that traditionally ends with the Autobots crash landing on Earth in the Ark. That being said…if you go into Siege expecting a familiar story then I’ve got news for you: this is not quite the story you thought you knew. Sure, all of the recognizable figures are there: Optimus Prime, Megatron, Bumblebee, Starscream and yet…they’re not quite the same.

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It’s hard to explain, but it’s done so well that I need to try. As an example, Megatron is, as expected, the tyrannical ruler of the Decepticons and he practically rules what’s left of Cybertron. And yet, despite his tyranny, Megatron’s motives for starting the fight were pure: he wanted to liberate himself and his brethren from pre-programmed oppression. On the flip side, Optimus Prime is recast in a way that makes him seem like Megatron’s mirror image. Both are driven towards an identical goal, to the extent that the code phrase for ultimate victory “Till all are one” is used on both sides (but obviously with VERY different implications). The Autobots, for their part, are described as having lived “above it all” before the war started, something that really makes you reconsider what you think you know about the Autobot/Decepticon war.

Please don’t think that these differences take away from enjoying the story of War for Cybertron: Siege, because they don’t. In fact, the episodes flow together very seamlessly and I found myself surprised several times that I’d reached the end credits already. What I enjoyed the most about this story is how it takes the story elements that longtime fans know (the Autobots fleeing Cybertron on the Ark) and explaining in detail how they got to that point. Newcomers to the Transformers story should have no trouble following along, as plenty of backstory is dropped throughout to give context to certain developments.

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There are a number of Easter Eggs harkening back to Transformers over the years. The classic “transforming” sound appears throughout, the Ark is practically identical to its G1 appearance (and includes Teletraan 1), and there are even references to Alpha Trion, another character from the G1 series, just to name a few examples. Even with the differences, War for Cybertron: Siege definitely feels like part of the Transformers universe. And the best part of all of this? It’s set entirely on Cybertron!

Cybertron is a place I felt we didn’t get to see enough of in earlier incarnations of the Transformers story, so I was very excited to see the planet partially explored in this series. Having gone through a planetary war, much of the architecture is in ruins, but there’s just enough left to give you an idea of what Cybertron was like in all its glory.

I was also pleased to see Elita-1 given such a prominent role in the story. I don’t remember that much of Elita-1 in the original G1 cartoon, but I do know I absolutely love her design in this series. Considering most of the Transformers characters are male, it’s nice to see a female character be relatively prominent.

As an introduction to the origin of Transformers, War for Cybertron: Siege gets the story off to a rousing start, but it ends in a way I didn’t expect. There’s a surprise waiting for anyone who thinks they knows how Siege ends, which isn’t a bad thing. It’s good to leave the audience guessing as to what will happen next, and that’s what this ending certainly does.

I highly recommend Transformers: War for Cybertron: Siege, which premieres on Netflix on July 30th, 2020.

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My Thoughts on: Empire of Passion (1978)

I decided to jump into an untouched corner of my Criterion collection by watching Empire of Passion, a film directed by Nagisa Ōshima that I purchased earlier this summer based solely on reading the film’s summary and being intrigued by it. This is one of the most relatively recent Japanese films in my collection, and I don’t think going in that I was completely prepared for how different Empire of Passion would look from a Japanese film that was made, say, in the early 1960s. Because it is certainly different from other period films that I’ve seen before.

To start with, Empire of Passion is set in 19th-century Japan (the story begins in 1895) and tells the story of a wife named Seki and a former Army soldier named Toyoji and how their illicit love affair slowly tears their lives apart. The lynchpin to all of this is the foul murder of Gisaburo, Seki’s husband. From then on, it’s a slow but steady decline into tragedy as the consequences of Seki and Toyoji’s actions ultimately catch up with them.

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It’s fascinating watching the start of the affair between Seki and Toyoji. Even though Toyoji is clearly taking advantage of Seki (including raping her several times in rather disturbing scenes), Seki herself doesn’t seem at all inclined to fight back or reassert control (her denials are half-hearted at best). Indeed, Seki, as far as I could make out, seemed ultimately content for the first half of the film to just let things happen to her. When Toyoji states that Gisaburo must die, Seki doesn’t even blink an eye at the suggestion. It’s unsettling, and that was probably the intention of the director.

If you’re watching Empire of Passion for the ghost story elements, be patient, it does take a while to get there. But once it gets going…oh boy, does it ever. The ghost segments are unnerving, often coming out of nowhere, and one scene (Seki takes a ghostly ride in a rickshaw) had the hair on the back of my neck standing on end. You literally feel pulled into the growing madness surrounding Seki and Toyoji as the story pushes on towards its inevitable conclusion. One of my favorite elements in this whole story is the old well, which has a much larger role in this story than I ever suspected. I liked the shots of snow and leaves falling in from the top of the well, they’re beautiful and more than a little ominous at the same time.

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There’s one moment I didn’t like at all, and that’s late in the film when Seki is unexpectedly blinded. The instant before it happens there’s a split-second take where you see pine needles pressing into Seki’s eyes (but it cuts away before any damage is done). The moment is so unsettling, and for me a little out of left field. I get that Seki is being punished for her part in the murder, but being blinded?? Also, speaking of punishment, I can’t quite wrap my head around the fact that most of these ghostly occurrences happen to Seki. She didn’t act alone, shouldn’t Toyoji be tormented just as much? The retribution seems somewhat lopsided to me.

Ultimately, I think I liked watching Empire of Passion, even if the ending did seem somewhat abrupt. I didn’t like it as much as earlier Japanese films in my collection, but I’m still glad I saw it because it’s important to watch a range of films to better understand the genre.

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

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Film Reviews

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My Thoughts on: The Great Escape (1963)

I’ve been a fan of movies about World War II for a number of years, and The Great Escape has almost always been at the top of my list of favorites. When it was announced earlier this year that The Great Escape would be added to the Criterion Collection, picking up a copy seemed like a no-brainer. Today was the first day I sat down to watch this newly restored version of the film and I definitely have some thoughts about it.

First, some context. If you’re not familiar with this film, The Great Escape is based on the incredible true story of how Allied prisoners of war tunneled their way out of a German Luft Stalag in the latter part of World War II. The all-star cast includes Steve McQueen, Richard Attenborough, James Coburn, James Garner, and Charles Bronson, just to name a few. It’s an amazing story to sit through and watch, and it becomes even more incredible when you remember that all of this more or less happened.

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The Criterion edition of The Great Escape is certainly an improvement over the previous DVD copy that I owned (and subsequently gave away because of its issues). A glaring problem with THAT copy was that when the film was restored for widescreen, the process was botched, pulling the picture back so far that at times the edges of the sets were clearly visible and, most embarrassingly, in one seen you can clearly see crew members pushing extras along (during the July 4th sequence). I was very curious to see if Criterion had corrected these issues and I’m pleased to report they have. Everything has been restored to its proper aspect ratio, which is good because those errors in the old DVD version drove me crazy.

One thing I was slightly disappointed by was the quality of the picture itself. Considering I bought the blu-ray version of the film, part of me was expecting the image to be…crisper? This could be something to do with the quality of the master print itself (after all, a film can only be restored so far), but I am sad that the image quality wasn’t better than I remembered (I’m not too upset though, this may have been something out of Criterion’s control).

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As for the story itself, watching this film brought back all the memories of sitting down to watch this film while I was growing up. One of the things that makes The Great Escape so awesome is its perfect blend of tones. One minute you have a comedy when the three American POWs (McQueen, Garner, and Jud Taylor) “declare Independence” on the 4th of July, the very next it’s a tragedy when (on the same day), a fellow prisoner commits suicide by guard out of despair when one of the escape tunnels is discovered. It’s emotional whiplash for sure, but it’s done so effectively. Rest assured, you never forget that this is a story set in Nazi Germany, a place where terrible, TERRIBLE things happened.

I also must point out Elmer Bernstein’s fantastic score for The Great Escape. The score has actually become so iconic that many people recognize the music (or at least the film’s main theme) without actually having seen the film itself. Bernstein uses music effectively throughout the film. There’s an ominous strings motif for the prison camp itself (first heard when Ives walks up to the barbed wire barrier at the start of the film), that motif returns throughout the first part of the film, and most tellingly returns when the one escape tunnel is discovered. But I think the musical moment that sticks with me the most out of this entire film comes at the very end when the 50 prisoners are unwittingly being taken away to be shot. Bernstein accompanies the procession of trucks with a downright funereal theme that leaves no question as to what’s about to happen. It’s somewhat heavy-handed, but no doubt Bernstein wanted to avoid any false hope regarding the fates of Roger, Mac, and everyone else who was recaptured.

I highly recommend checking out The Great Escape for anyone who hasn’t seen it before, and you should definitely consider checking out the new Criterion edition.

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

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Soundtrack Review: Ghost of Tsushima (2020)

Today I had the chance to check out the soundtrack for the upcoming video game Ghost of Tsushima, which will be available (as will the soundtrack) on July 17, 2020. The music for Ghost of Tsushima was composed by Ilan Eshkeri and Shigeru Umebayashi.

 

Ilan Eshkeri is an award winning composer, artist, songwriter, producer and creator. Eshkeri’s work is performed in concert halls, theatres, galleries, on film & television and video games; his eclectic body of work is linked by his love of narrative. Recently, Ilan and Ralph Fiennes completed their third film together -a biopic about Rudolf Nureyev, ‘The White Crow’. This followed the creation of a ballet ‘Narcissus and Echo’, choreographed by famed dancer Sergei Polunin with set designs by David LaChapelle and a ballet commission from Rambert Dance Company.

Shigeru Umebayashi is an internationally renowned composer best known for creating “Yumeji’s Theme” in Wong KarWai’s film “In The Mood For Love”. In addition to also collaborating with Wong KarWai on “2046”, Umebayashi was the music producer and composer for Zhang Yimous’ films “House of Flying Daggers” and “Curse of The Golden Flower”. In “House of Flying Daggers”, he composed the song “Lovers” with soprano Kathleen Battle.

Of the soundtrack, composer ILAN ESHKERI says:

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

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

Having listened to most of this soundtrack, I have to say that the words of both composers do not do this soundtrack justice. This is, by far, one of the greatest soundtracks I’ve listened to this year. It doesn’t even sound like something you’d hear in a video game, this feels like pure cinema through and through, something I’ve noticed more and more often in video game soundtracks as gameplay in new video games has lately felt more like “it’s a movie but one you participate in.”

What’s really drawn me to the music for Ghost of Tsushima, aside from its cinematic qualities, are how it perfectly blends the traditional sounds of Japanese music with a full-blown symphony orchestra. I thought I knew what to expect when I downloaded this soundtrack to check it out, but I had no clue. This is a perfect marriage of musical styles, and both Eshkeri and Umebayashi should be congratulated for creating something so beautiful.

Two tracks that I must highlight are “The Way of the Ghost” and “The Fate of Tsushima.” The former serves as the introductory piece in the soundtrack, and is ideally suited for that task. While the melody frequently flirts with a melancholy identity, it is otherwise full to bursting with tension, promising lots of adventures to come as the game is just beginning. The latter track, “The Fate of Tsushima”, to me it feels like the fulfillment of everything “The Way of the Ghost” promised. It’s full of action, melodies that continually hop and leap without pausing for rest. Out of the entire soundtrack, this sounded like the climax of the story, with everything coming together in one glorious moment of musical perfection.

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

I know 2020 is far from over, but I’m going to be hard pressed to find a better soundtrack to listen to than what I’ve heard for Ghost of Tsushima.

You can get the soundtrack for Ghost of Tsushima (along with the game) on July 17, 2020.

See also:

Video Game Soundtracks

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Soundtrack News: ‘No. 7 Cherry Lane’ Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Available Now

Milan Records has release the original motion picture soundtrack for No. 7 Cherry Lane, an album of music from iconic director & writer Yonfan’s new animated film composed by Yonfan himself, Yu Yat-Yiu and Chapavich Temnitikul. Set in 1967 Hong Kong, No.7 Cherry Lane originally debuted at the 76th Venice Film Festival in 2019, where it was awarded Best Screenplay, and has since toured film festivals around the world in advance of its opening in Hong Kong later this summer.

 

Described by the director as “my love letter to Hong Kong and cinema”, No.7 Cherry Lane is Yonfan’s 14th motion picture – all of which he has written, directed and produced – and his first since 2009. It is also his first animated feature.  The eclectic score of lush orchestral music was composed by artists including Yonfan himself, Yu Yat-Yiu and Chapavich Temnitikul and recorded live in Prague.

YONFAN states that his motion pictures share an underlying theme of passion. A true auteur, his films are entirely self-produced, directed, written, and distributed. Yonfan began directing features in 1984, often for his own production company Far Sun Film, and has worked in Hong Kong, Singapore, China and Japan. He has made a total of fourteen movies, set in various periods and locales, first receiving international notice at the Berlin International Film Festival with the gay-themed drama Bishonen. His subsequent film, the Chinese opera-based Peony Pavilion, was named one of the year’s ten best by Time magazine in 2002, and garnered Rie Miyazawa the Best Actress award at the Moscow International Film Festival. His previous feature, Prince of Tears, was Hong Kong’s selection to compete in the Oscar race for Best Foreign Language Film, and was selected for competition at the 2009 Venice Film Festival

The theme song “Southern Cross” was composed by Yonfan and the rapper BOYoung, fusing together a 1940s, Shanghai-style melody sung by legendary Taiwanese singer CHYI YU, with a contemporary style performed by BOYoung and ZOE YU. This bold juxtaposition represents the collision of yesterday, today and tomorrow at the heart of the movie.

No.7 Cherry Lane tells the tale of Ziming, a Hong Kong University undergraduate, entangled between his amorous feelings for a self-exiled mother, Mrs Yu from Taiwan in the White Terror period, and her beautiful daughter Meiling. He takes them to different movies and through a series of magical moments on the big screen, forbidden passions are revealed. And the era coincides with Hong Kong’s turbulent times of 1967.

NO.7 CHERRY LANE (ORIGINAL MOTION PICTURE SOUNDTRACK)

TRACKLISTING –

1.          Behind the Cherry Lane

2.          Rhythm of the Breeze

3.          Sunset Whispers

4.          Room at the Top

5.          Into the Red Chamber Featuring Wang Fang, Zhao Wenlin

6.          Night Rider

7.          A Love Story

8.          Southern Cross Featuring Chyi Yu, BOYoung, Zoe Yu, Kenneth Tsang, Zhao Wei

9.          Descending the Stairs

10.       A Dream Charade Featuring Sylvia Chang

11.       Winter Cometh

12.       Last Romance Featuring Chyi Yu

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

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

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

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

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

Track Listing

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

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

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

See also:

Video Game Soundtracks

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My Thoughts on: Trolls World Tour (2020)

*warning: mild plot spoilers for Trolls World Tour follow

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

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

Trolls World Tour

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

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

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

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

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

See also:

My Thoughts on: Trolls (2016)

Animated Film Reviews

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE LAST OF US PART II (ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK)

TRACKLISTING –

1. The Last of Us Part II

2. Unbound

3. Longing

4. Eye for an Eye

5. It Can’t Last

6. The Cycle of Violence

7. Reclaimed Memories

8. Cordyceps

9. Longing (Redemptions)

10. Restless Spirits

11. Chasing a Rumor

12. They’re Still Out There

13. Unbroken

14. The Rattlers

15. The Obsession

16. Soft Descent

17. The WLF

18. A Wolf’s Ghost

19. Masks On

20. It Can’t Last (Home)

21. Inextinguishable Flames

22. Allowed to be Happy

23. Collateral

24. The Cycle Continues

25. All Gone (The Promise)

26. Grieving

27. The Island

28. Beyond Desolation

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

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Video Game Soundtracks

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My Thoughts on: Double Suicide (1969)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Film Reviews

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RIP Ennio Morricone (1928-2020)

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

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

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

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

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

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