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: Total Drama Island (2007-2008)

I’m not shy about my love of my guilty pleasures, and the Total Drama series has been one of my favorite guilty pleasures for years. As I remember, I discovered the series in college and I’ve been binging it on and off ever since. The show is split into five seasons: Total Drama Island, Total Drama Action, Total Drama: World Tour, Total Drama: Revenge of the Island, Total Drama All-Stars (Season 5 part 1) and Total Drama: Pakhitew Island (Season 5 part 2). I’ll be going through the seasons one by one, so I’ll be starting with Total Drama Island, where it all started.

For those not familiar, Total Drama Island is a completely and utterly shameless parody/rip-off of every reality show wrapped up in one. Though to be fair the show is primarily a parody of Survivor, as seen by the show’s elimination format and host Chris McLean’s uncanny resemblance to Survivor host Jeff Probst. There’s also a healthy dose of Fear Factor, Master Chef and Big Brother thrown into the mix for good measure. Of the show’s five seasons, this is the most “normal” season there is, though even in season 1 there’s hints of how crazy the story will get in later seasons. For example, the very first episode involves the contestants cliff diving into shark infested waters (yes, really! It only gets crazier from there).

And the show’s format isn’t the only parody/rip-off element of the story: each contestant is a walking, talking stereotype of contestants that always show up in reality TV shows. The 22 contestants in season one are: Beth, Bridgette, Cody, Courtney, DJ, Duncan, Eva, Ezekiel, Geoff, Gwen, Harold, Heather, Izzy, Justin, Katie, Leshawna, Lindsay, Noah, Owen, Sadie, Trent, and Tyler.

Of those contestants we have, just to name a few, the “Type A” girl Courtney, the “Girl you love to Hate” Heather, the “loner Goth girl” Gwen, the “delinquent with a heart of gold” Duncan, the “ditzy blonde” Lindsey, the “chauvinistic one who always gets voted off first” Ezekiel, and “the loud one” LeShawna (this is just a handful of the contestants but you get the idea). You’d think it would be boring with every character being a walking stereotype, but it’s quite the opposite. The show completely embraces this part of the premise and it’s so incredibly funny.

Now, all this being said, there are some moments even in this season where it becomes a little hard to suspend your disbelief that this is an actual reality show (albeit an animated one). For instance, late in the season, there’s an episode centered around horror films where the contestants have to evade a serial killer to win the challenge. Right up until the end we’re shown that the “killer” is Chris’ right hand man Chef in disguise. But then….it turns out there’s a REAL killer loose on the island!! It’s a shocking moment, but one that almost takes me out of the story….almost. Honestly, if you accept from the beginning to just roll with whatever happens, it’s almost impossible to not enjoy it.

If you haven’t tried Total Drama Island, it (and all the other seasons) is currently available on Netflix. I highly recommend it, it’s a really fun series to binge, as it’s the perfect blend of reality fun and mindless entertainment. It also helps that the series goes by really fast ( can easily binge two seasons a day if I start early enough).

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

See also:

My Thoughts on: Total Drama Action (2009-2010)

TV Reviews

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Soundtrack Review: Blood of Zeus: Season 1 (2020)

Milan Records has released the original soundtrack for season 1 of Blood of Zeus, with music composed by Paul Edward-Francis. The album features score music written by Edward-Francis for Netflix’s hugely-popular original anime series set in the world of Greek gods and goddesses.

Paul Edward-Francis is a British composer from Manchester who today lives and works in L.A, California.  Paul started working as a composer back in 2006 when he co-compose the music for an all-star adaptation of Terry Pratchett’s classic novel Hog-father. The two part TV series was a huge hit and Paul went on to score the follow-up, this time being The Color of Magic, which once again featured an all-star cast of greats such as Jeremy Irons, Tim Curry, and Christopher Lee and Brian Cox among others. Paul has worked on numerous productions for film and television with some of Hollywood’s biggest studios including Warner Brothers and Nickelodeon. He has also worked with some of the world’s leading orchestras which include the likes of The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and The City of Prague Philharmonic.

Of the soundtrack for Blood of Zeus, composer Paul Edward-Francis had the following to say:

“Working on Blood of Zeus was an experience I shall always treasure. The moment we sat down to watch the first episode we knew the score would play an important role. Just as we had seen on screen, we wanted to pay homage to Hollywood’s Golden Age within the score, but without losing sight of the world we were creating. The music ultimately had to ensure that Blood of Zeus had its very own unique themes and distinctive sound. As much as the music had to be big grandiose (“A Call to Arms”) or dark and threatening (“Heron Vs the Demon”), it also had to be heartfelt and provoke an emotional response (“Zeus and Hera’s Theme”). I could not be prouder to have worked on Blood of Zeus. It was simply an honor and I hope the music we created brings you as much joy to listen to as I had making it.”

The music for Blood of Zeus certainly does play an important role throughout the season, though I still struggle to describe in words how awesome it is. It feels ancient and modern all at the same time, with pompous fanfares giving way to music that comes straight out of a modern horror film. Edward-Francis. I really like this recurring fanfare motif that puts me in mind of Mt. Olympus every time I hear it. It’s everything that music about gods, goddesses and Ancient Greece should be. I wish I could get more specific, but that is the phrase that describes it best for me: the music just feels right.

One thing is for sure, Blood of Zeus would not be nearly as good as it is without this fantastic music. My favorite track has to be “The Titans.” It starts out like a piece by Ligeti and quickly grows into something bigger (no pun intended). The Titans being the insanely powerful primal forces that they are, Edward-Francis needed to create music to match them and he succeeded. Listening to this track, you get the feeling that you’re staring down something immense and ancient, with more power than you ever dreamed possible. All of that is what I feel while listening to “The Titans.”

I also really like how Edward-Francis was able to inject some humor into the music as well. For example, “Training a Demigod” includes some funny moments where you can almost see Heron’s epic fails in the early stages of his training (you know, when that robot flings him across the arena). I love when composers can replicate those little moments in their music and it’s just one of the details that make up why I love the music of Blood of Zeus so much.

BLOOD OF ZEUS (MUSIC FROM THE NETFLIX ANIME SERIES)
TRACKLISTING –

  1. One of Those Tales
  2. Heron Vs the Demon
  3. The Titans
  4. A Peasants Way of Life
  5. A Call to Arms
  6. A King’s Despair
  7. Heron’s Journey
  8. Past Is Prologue
  9. Hera’s Vengeance
  10. Convert or Die
  11. The Son of Zeus
  12. Electra’s Death
  13. Seraphim’s Theme
  14. Herme’s Run
  15. Seraphim’s Story
  16. Escape or Die
  17. Mount Pelion
  18. Alexia and Chiron
  19. Seraphim’s Quest
  20. Escape
  21. The Power of Zeus
  22. Flight to Olympus
  23. Training a Demigod
  24. Seraphim’s Rage
  25. Seraphim’s Revenge
  26. Journey to the Deep
  27. Apollo Vs Ares
  28. Talos
  29. Preparing for Battle
  30. War for Olympus
  31. Zeus and Hera’s Theme
  32. Gods and Heroes
  33. A Proud Father
  34. Blood of Zeus End Credits

You can enjoy the soundtrack for Blood of Zeus now!

Let me know what you think about Blood of Zeus (and its soundtrack) in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

TV Soundtracks

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Soundtrack News: ‘Saint Maud’ Soundtrack Available Now

Milan Records released the soundtrack for Saint Maud today, with music composed by Adam Janota Bzowski. The album will also be released in vinyl format this spring. From A24, Saint Maud arrives in select theaters and drive-ins January 29 and will be available to stream exclusively on EPIX beginning February 12.

Adam Janota Bzowski is a London based composer, sound designer and visual artist. As a child he was known for his fondness of intermittent static between radio stations, an interest that led him to study Sound Art at the University of Brighton. Whilst living in a disused biscuit factory on the English coast, Adam became heavily influenced by ambient music – performing under the moniker Adam Halogen, he utilized an old 4-track tape recorder and various guitar pedals to create compositions for theatre, short films and animations. Saint Maud marks his first feature-length score, which has already won him Best Original Music at the 2020 Gérardmer Fantasticarts Film Festival.

The debut film from writer-director Rose Glass, Saint Maud is a chilling and boldly original vision of faith, madness, and salvation in a fallen world. Maud, a newly devout hospice nurse, becomes obsessed with saving her dying patient’s soul — but sinister forces, and her own sinful past, threaten to put an end to her holy calling.

Of the soundtrack for Saint Maud, composer Adam Janota Bzowski had the following to say:

“Before coming on board, I initially received only a treatment for Saint Maud containing a short synopsis alongside various macabre pictures of twisted figures and haunting spectres. From this alone I created around 30 minutes of demos inspired by the images and plot outline, much of which ended up in the final film. Rose wanted the audience to feel inside the head of the main character, Maud. As a result we gave the score a very claustrophobic almost creature-like quality to it, often leaning closer to sound design than traditional music. After sending her cues, Rose would frequently feedback ‘go weirder, go stranger’ – words which I had waited my entire career to hear from a collaborator.”

SAINT MAUD (ORIGINAL MOTION PICTURE SOUNDTRACK)
TRACKLISTING –

  1. Opening Title
  2. Maud’s Theme
  3. Khöl / Nosebleed
  4. Pallative Care
  5. God On the Couch
  6. I Think It Went Well
  7. Succubus
  8. Revelation
  9. My Saviour (By the Coast)
  10. Holy Water
  11. Bedside Manor
  12. Scissors
  13. Saint Maud

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My Thoughts on: Fate: The Winx Saga (2021)

When I received the opportunity to check out Fate: The Winx Saga on Netflix I was really excited about it. I love stories about magic and fairies and the fact that this show centers around five female leads was a big plus going in. For those not familiar, Fate: The Winx Saga follows a school full of fairies learning about magic while strange and deadly mysteries unfold later forcing them to save the world (predictable but usually satisfying fantasy fare). I plugged in the first episode, ready for whatever adventures lay ahead.

And almost instantly got bored.

Fate: The Winx Saga has committed the almost unpardonable sin of making magic mundane. Sure, we hear that the show’s central location is located in the “Otherworld” but the Otherworld sure looks a heck of a lot like our world. Add in a regular looking school building (with the exception of a cool Stonehenge like circle), regular looking dorm suites, even regular looking cars! Except for the instances of magic (which are admittedly cool when they happen), the school setting of the show feels like any other teen drama set at an elite boarding school. I missed the fantasy clothing, magic animals, heck, even some pointed ears would’ve helped. Everyone looked normal and in a story set in a fantasy world, that’s not a good thing.

And speaking of drama, my God this entire show is one giant cliche. There’s the predictable love triangle, the entitled “mean girl” student who manipulates everyone around her to get whatever she wants, the adorkable one with one moment of awesomeness, and of course the completely out-of-her-depth new to this world student who we’re supposed to be rooting for. I can’t watch regular teen dramas for a reason, and let me tell you adding magic to the mix does NOT make it better. In fact, the scenes with the “mean girl” were so on the nose that I almost got triggered with my own memories of being bullied as a child and a teen (I really hate shows that trigger me like that).

I also have a major problem with whoever wrote the dialogue for this show. The exposition dumps are….okay, and they do a fairly good job with explaining how the elemental magic works in the show, but the teen to teen dialogue is…oh boy, it’s bad, it’s really bad. A lot of it feels so clumsily written, like they had a great idea and very little idea of how to execute it. For instance, the show blurts out a huge twist in the FIRST episode. And when I say huge, I mean this is the kind of twist that should have come halfway through the season or later, not something you find out in the first 30 minutes. And even before you find out, the dialogue leading up to the reveal is so bad that it’s obvious what’s coming.

I admit, I couldn’t finish the first season, if the first few episodes couldn’t win me over, there’s not much the last few episodes could do to change my mind. Fate: The Winx Saga takes a great premise and utterly ruins it with the execution. I wish it had been otherwise, but I am not a fan of this show.

Let me know what you think about Fate: The Winx Saga in the comments below and have a great day!

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TV Reviews

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Creating Music Good Enough to Eat: Speaking with Composer Enis Rotthoff about ‘Love Sarah’

I recently had the opportunity to talk with composer Enis Rotthoff about his work on Love Sarah, a touching film about a daughter who works to open the bakery her mother always wanted with the help of her grandmother. Rotthoff’s composer credits include “Guns Akimbo” starring Daniel Radcliffe and Samara Weaving, “The Sunlit Night” starring Gillian Anderson, Jenny Slate, and Zach Galifianakis, as well as Sundance’s Grand Jury Prize nominee “Wetlands.” Rotthoff started his musical career working under Academy Award-winning composer Jan A.P. Kaczmarek (Finding Neverland). Rotthoff’s soundtrack album for Love Sarah will be available January 22, 2021.

Enjoy!

First, could you tell me about how you became a film composer?

As a ten-year-old I was fascinated by the music in films. I would memorize the melodies of the film scores in order to try to play them at the piano later. It was an early love for film music in a very playful way. At some point I started improvising on the piano and began journaling my emotions into little piano pieces which turned into my first compositions.

As a teenager I was so passionate about film music that I tried to learn as much as I could about films and their scores. A scholarship for young composers during my high school years is what gave me the foundation to study the works of classical composers and film composers. After high school, I studied Film Scoring at the Film University Babelsberg and Audiovisual Communication at the University of Arts Berlin. What really added to my journey was being an assistant to Academy Award-Winning Composer Jan A.P. Kaczmarek. With all of these experiences I felt ready to start this life-long adventure of composing for films and to enjoy the beauty in that.

How did you get connected to Love Sarah and what did you think of the film’s premise? It actually took me by surprise what the film was about, I misread it first and when I realized what it was about, I was very surprised.

The director Eliza Schroeder and I had met a decade before to work on a short film together. Because of scheduling conflicts, our collaboration did not happen back then. I was amazed to hear from her so many years later and she asked me if I was interested in scoring her debut feature Love Sarah.

The first thing she shared with me was a little teaser trailer about the film with first impressions of some scenes. When I saw the tasty desserts, the beautiful dancing scenes, the deep felt emotions and the uplifting energy of the film I was immediately drawn to it.

The story is about a daughter who wants to realize her deceased mother’s dream of opening a bakery in Notting Hill (London) with the help of her grandmother and her mother’s best friend.

The film has elements of drama, comedy, romance and a sense of presence in the scenes that I found refreshingly positive.

How did the collaboration process with director Eliza Schroeder work? Was it mostly a discussion before scoring began or was it a collaboration throughout, from beginning to end?

Our collaboration was very close and at the same time I had lots of space to experiment and come up with ideas. 

The film is directed in a way that every scene moves towards something. Even in moments of a feeling of emptiness the film moves forward. I was inspired by that.

In our conversations, Eliza gave me many emotional directions for the film but did not tell me how to achieve it with the music. Once I presented my musical ideas in connection with the film’s scenes, we discussed in more detail what to adjust and what to highlight. Eliza is an amazing filmmaker to work with.

How did you approach scoring a film like Love Sarah? Did you start with an over-arching theme, or a musical concept? In general, where did the score start and how did it grow as it came together?

The opening sequence connects all of our main characters, so the complexity of the beginning was high. We took a lot of time to adjust and fine-tune that sequence. Usually the Opening Titles (Album Track: Meet Sarah) would not be the first thing I´d approach on a film but we took the opportunity to create themes for all story lines and characters and incorporated them in the Opening Titles. 

In a way, the first music you hear in the film is like an Overture introducing the many emotional layers of the film. All themes are related to each other and to Sarah, whose passing away is the reason for all these characters to meet. So there is an idea of hope built into the concept.

Interestingly if I think of growing a score I’d think that it might build towards the end of the film. In the case of Love Sarah the music starts very energetically and builds over the course of the film. But the very end is reflective, healing and leaves lots of space. I love that, because for me clarity and healing can happen in calm moments.

On a possibly related note, how was it decided to make the music so whimsical? It sounds like a lot of fun in so many places, something I wasn’t expecting in a film that starts like it does. What was the thought process behind that? (I really like the whimsy, it makes the music a lot of fun to listen to).

I am glad that it transpires. Eliza early on said that she wanted the film to be hopeful. I liked that a lot and could also see it in the performances of the actors. It was a fine line to find the balance between deep felt emotions and a life-affirming sense of positivity. 

Since the film is also about the magic of baking and the adventure of opening up a bakery, this gave room to make the emotional journey fun and inspiring on the musical side. It is a message of the film, to stay positive in the face of painful events and experiences. 

For this one scene where the music is composed to this character who is dancing (instead of the other way around), how did that come about? It’s very rare for film music to be written in that fashion, was that decided from the beginning? Or was it tried the other way (dance moves choreographed to music) and it just wasn’t working out?

This was one of the gifts of the film. The scene of the character dancing did not have any music. It was a free dance performance. Beautifully done by actress Shannon Tarbet. That scene represented a moment of reflection, self expression, healing and the feeling of being in charge of your own destiny. Something very positive.

We decided that I´d compose music to her performances which was truly inspiring. I found myself studying and channeling every move of her dance. Sometimes I was going with the body movement, sometimes with the flow, sometimes with the overarching energy of that movement. I found myself creating a choreography on top of a choreography where the music and the dancer sometimes precisely meet and sometimes divert. It was a wonderful experience for me as a composer which I hope to build on in the future. 

What were the challenges of scoring a film in the midst of a global pandemic? Did this negatively impact the process or were you able to work around it fairly well?

The film was luckily finished before the pandemic. However, the release was delayed because of the pandemic.

Do you have a favorite part of the score?

My favorite parts are the dance sequence (Album track: The Final Dance), the moment where the bakery opens (Album track: Opening The Bakery) and the moment Mimi has an idea for how to create the right desserts. (Album track: A Home Away from Home)

What do you hope listeners take away with them when they hear the music to Love Sarah?

I wish that the music gives them a sense of hope. And that there is beauty both in sad and hopeful moments. That’s how I feel about the film and its music. That all feelings and experiences in the film can be enjoyed. And maybe that’s something to take with us into our lives.

One last thing, thank you so much for taking the time to talk about your work on this film! The music is gorgeous!

Thank you so very much. It was my pleasure and thank you for the great interview.

I hope you enjoyed my interview with composer Enis Rotthoff about his work on Love Sarah. Just as a reminder, the OST for Love Sarah will be coming out tomorrow January 22, 2021.

See also:

Composer Interviews

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Soundtrack Review: All Evolutionz EP (2020)

All Evolutionz aka 全進化 aka Zen Shinka is the latest project by Enso, perhaps best known as the founder of XXX Hong Kong, an underground gallery and nightclub in operation from 2011-2018. This is the fourth music release of 2020 under the new XXX Records imprint, capping off a prolific year for both Enso and the new label.

All tracks on All Evolutionz EP are produced by Enso, and feature an orchestral / film score style that is a natural extension of his Palimpsest EP released earlier this year. All Evolutionz EP comprises a six-chapter story of melancholy, loss and wonder, expertly voiced by studio piano and strings instrumentation. Japanese language vocals are supplied by Yo Zi, while the alternate English vocal versions are produced using Vocaloid, a Japanese synthesized voice software.

Despite his reputation as a bass music club DJ, Enso cites some surprising musical influences:

“I love artists such as James Blake, but I actually listen to a lot of film scores. I am most inspired by the composers Clint Mansell and Max Richter, and have actually made a ritual of listening to Górecki’s third symphony each year on my birthday, since I was a teenager.”

As for the name “All Evolutionz,” Enso explains, “it is inspired by Pokémon and relates to the idea of constant growth, transformation and development.”

I was curious to see what All Evolutionz EP was all about as it’s not every day I get a vinyl record in the mail to check out. Imagine my delight, then, when I opened the record up and found a vinyl record that was bright yellow! This makes the entire record eye-catching and really pretty (it was an added bonus also because I’ve never owned a record that wasn’t black before).

The music itself was very relaxing, it reminded me of several anime soundtracks where there are long stretches filled with vocalizations while the characters contemplate life and existence. Honestly I would happily listen to this music over and over again for relaxation purposes. That being said, I did find the English language portions of the music a little….odd? I think odd is the best word for it, it wasn’t bad but it did sound unusual to my ears.

I also really love that this album had a vinyl release at all. It’s so cool that vinyl has made a comeback. They’re really cool to collect, and it makes for a fun experience to watch the vinyl spin while you listen to it.

All Evolutionz EP turned out to be an enjoyable experience and I’m glad I got the chance to check it out.

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The Curious Case of Apollo 13 (1995) and Art Garfunkel’s “All I Know” (1973)

Of the many film scores that James Horner worked on during his career, Apollo 13 (1995) remains one of my favorites. Horner’s music leaves you on the edge of your seat as you watch the highs and lows of the infamous Apollo 13 mission. A notable example is a cue titled “The Launch”, which covers the scene where Apollo 13 blasts off into space. It’s classic James Horner; a stirring melody that slowly grows until it fairly explodes with the moment of launch. And yet…this particular cue hid a secret that I was unaware of for many years, and that’s what this article will be talking about.

I really should give credit for this to my mother, since she’s the one who made the connection first. Growing up, almost every time we reached the launch scene in Apollo 13 she’d pause and say something to the effect of “I know I’ve heard that melody somewhere else.” But she could never remember where, and so the matter would always drop. Then, a few years ago, when we were on a trip together, it finally hit my mom where she’d heard this particular piece before: it formed the base of an Art Garfunkel song from 1973 titled “All I Know.” I was understandably skeptical of this assertion, until I located the song in question and hit the play button, James Horner’s music fresh in my mind for a comparison.

Almost immediately, my jaw dropped to the floor. The melody of “All I Know” and a particular section of “The Launch” were more than similar, they were practically identical. Here are the respective pieces for comparison:

First, “The Launch” from Apollo 13 (relevant section starts at 6:11)

And now, “All I Know” from Art Garfunkel’s album Angel Clare (relevant section begins at 0:25)

This is undoubtedly the same melody, which begs the question, why did James Horner seemingly appropriate it? That’s what the bulk of this discussion will be about. As it stands, there are several possibilities for why James Horner would have chosen to incorporate the melody of “All I Know” into his score for Apollo 13. These include:

  1. The song was popular at the time the film’s events took place
  2. The lyrics of the song expressed a sentiment appropriate for the film and therefore Horner included it.
  3. Horner simply liked the melody and appropriated it for the film’s score.

The first possibility can be discarded almost immediately. While “All I Know” was released in 1973, the events of Apollo 13 took place in April of 1970. Therefore, this song would’ve been unknown at the time the incident took place. It is, however, plausible that Horner was looking for songs from that general time period to incorporate into the score, and may have included it even though there’s three years separation between the song and the film’s events.

The second possibility shows a little more promise, that being that perhaps James Horner chose to incorporate this song because the lyrics of the song expressed a sentiment appropriate for the film.

I bruise you
You bruise me
We both bruise too easily
Too easily to let it show
I love you and that’s all I know

All my plans
Have fallen through
All my plans depend on you
Depend on you to help them grow
I love you and that’s all I know

When the singer’s gone
Let the song go on

But the ending always comes at last
Endings always come too fast
They come too fast
But they pass too slow
I love you and that’s all I know

When the singer’s gone
Let the song go on
It’s a fine line between the darkness and the dawn

I could almost make the argument that this song bears the tiniest bit of relevance to the plot, that being the unending love between James and Marilyn Lovell. However, I can’t quite make it work because the times the melody shows up in the film doesn’t work.

That leaves the third possibility, and the likely answer: James Horner at some point heard this song, liked what he heard, and wrote it into the film’s score. It’s not unheard of for film composers to do such a thing, it happens way more often than you might think and Horner was particularly notorious for doing it. With that being said, one thing still puzzles me: why wasn’t the song cited in the end credits? I’ve double and triple checked the credits for Apollo 13, just to make sure I wasn’t missing it, and “All I Know” isn’t cited at any point. Unfortunately, fate has conspired to make sure that Horner isn’t here to ask about it, though I’d like to think he left some notes somewhere that would explain how “All I Know” ended up in the score of Apollo 13.

This is only a preliminary look at this interesting example, hopefully someday I’ll have the chance to analyze this example in full and find out the whole story.

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Soundtrack News: ‘Looney Tunes: Back in Action’ and ‘Babe’ Soundtracks Available Exclusively from Varèse Sarabande Records

Varèse Sarabande Records is thrilled to unveil its January 2021 CD Club titles: Looney Tunes: Back in Action (The Deluxe Edition) by Jerry Goldsmith and Babe (The Deluxe Edition) by Nigel Westlake, which are now available exclusively on VareseSarabande.com.

Looney Tunes: Back in Action (The Deluxe Edition):

The final film score of Jerry Goldsmith’s legendary career gets a long-awaited CD Club treatment: Looney Tunes: Back in Action (2003) reunited Goldsmith with director Joe Dante (Gremlins, Innerspace, Matinee) for an insane musical journey befitting Warner Bros.’ classic cartoon characters, with Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck starring in a live-action/animation hybrid alongside human characters played by Brendan Fraser, Jenna Elfman, Timothy Dalton and Steve Martin.

The globetrotting adventure demanded one of Goldsmith’s zaniest scores ever, a sort of indescribable combination of slapstick, action and whimsy that lurches from high-energy symphonic chases to pop-influenced flourishes to Carl Stalling-styled “Mickey Mousing.” All of it has Goldsmith’s effortlessly melodic touch, with the special brand of left-field inspiration that always accompanied his work for Dante.

Previously released by Varèse Sarabande at the time of the movie, this comprehensive 2-CD set features not only Goldsmith’s vastly expanded score, but rewrites and additional music by John Debney, Cameron Patrick and a handful of others—as well as alternates and outtakes by Goldsmith and the complete 2003 album program. Packaging features new liner notes by Daniel Schweiger (incorporating new interviews with Dante, Debney and Patrick) and Goldsmith’s longtime friend and recording engineer, Bruce Botnick.

TRACK LISTING

DISC 1:

  1. Looney Tunes Opening (What’s Up Doc?) / Rabbit Fire (1:09)
  2. What’s Up? (1:25)
  3. Another Take (:48)
  4. Dead Duck Walking (3:14)
  5. She Likes You (:46)
  6. The Shimmy / Out Of The Bag / Save Dad / The Car (3:53)
  7. Not A Billion (:45)
  8. Blue Monkey (:58)
  9. Extra Crispy (:36)
  10. The Shower / Psycho Parody (1:15)
  11. In Style (1:10)
  12. The Bad Guys (2:57)
  13. Hit Me (:30)
  14. Car Trouble / Flying High (3:46)
  15. Hurry Up (:25)
  16. Nice Hair / Burning Tail (:55)
  17. A Visit To Walmart / Free Drinks (:36)
  18. Wrong Turn Coyote (:54)
  19. The Launch (:27)
  20. Thin Air (1:26)
  21. Area 52 (Take 54) (1:29)
  22. You’re Next (:25)
  23. Wacky Marvin In The Jar (:49)
  24. Hot Pursuit (2:26)
  25. We’ve Got Company / Man And A Woman / I’ll Take That (3:21)
  26. The Painting / The Scream / It Is Spring / Bugs with Mandolin (3:20)
  27. The Red Balloon (:26)
  28. Paris Street (1:22)
  29. Free Fall (1:17)
  30. The Hook / Africa (:33)
  31. Tasmanian Devil (1:09)
  32. Jungle Scene (1:42)
  33. Pressed Duck (3:26)
  34. Re-Assembled (:51)
  35. Waiting For A Train (2:49)
  36. A New Puppy (3:06)
  37. To The Rescue (4:24)
  38. Heroes (2:39)
  39. Merry-Go-Round Broke Down (That’s All Folks!) (:16)
  40. End Title Suite (5:17)

DISC 2:

  1. What’s Up? (1:29)
  2. Another Take #9 (:53)
  3. Trumpet Wa-Wa (:07)
  4. The Shimmy (:12)
  5. Out Of The Bag (1:17)
  6. The Car, Part 1 (:15)
  7. The Car, Part 2 (:12)
  8. Psycho (:37)
  9. Car Trouble (3:22)
  10. Wrong Turn, Part 1 (1:14)
  11. Wrong Turn, Part 2 (:25)
  12. Wrong Turn, Part 3 (1:08)
  13. The Launch (:30)
  14. The Blue Danube / The Barber of Seville / Can Can (:36)
    15 Vivaldi Concerto (:15)
  15. The Hook (:29)
  16. Pressed Duck (3:39)
  17. Merry-Go-Round Broke Down (That’s All Folks!) (:23)

The Original 2003 Soundtrack Album:

  1. Life Story (:19)
  2. What’s Up? (1:25)
  3. Another Take (:48)
  4. Dead Duck Walking (3:14)
  5. Out Of The Bag (3:44)
  6. Blue Monkey (:54)
  7. In Style (1:09)
  8. The Bad Guys (2:56)
  9. Car Trouble (3:46)
  10. Thin Air (1:26)
  11. Area 52 (1:29)
  12. Hot Pursuit (2:26)
  13. We’ve Got Company (1:50)
  14. I’ll Take That (1:22)
  15. Paris Street (1:21)
  16. Free Fall (1:15)
  17. Tasmanian Devil (1:09)
  18. Jungle Scene (1:40)
  19. Pressed Duck (3:22)
  20. Re-Assembled (:52)
  21. Merry-Go-Round Broke Down (That’s All Folks!) (:55)

Music Composed and Conducted by Jerry Goldsmith, Additional Music by John Debney • Produced by Jerry Goldsmith • Performed by The Hollywood Studio Symphony

Babe (The Deluxe Edition):

Babe was a massive surprise hit in 1995. A children’s film starring a talking pig seemed to be the last thing anybody expected from visionary filmmaker George Miller (Mad Max). Writer-producer Miller adapted the 1983 book with director and cowriter Chris Noonan, and created a universally praised, moving film about a farm pig (a combination of animatronics and computer graphics) who longs to be a sheepdog. With a memorable lead performance by James Cromwell as Babe’s farmer-owner, Babe received glowing reviews and seven OSCAR® nominations, winning for Best Visual Effects.

A major part of Babe’s exquisite, perfectly pitched storybook tone is the charming, resonant symphonic score by Australian composer Nigel Westlake. Westlake interpolated a tapestry of classical works, most notably the maestoso section of Saint-Saëns’ third (Organ) symphony, to perfectly capture the human emotions of the film’s animal characters, while ironically treating the humans with an animal-like comedy and whimsy. (The Saint-Saëns melody had been adapted into the British reggae pop hit “If I Had Words” by Scott Fitzgerald and Yvonne Keeley; a sped-up version is used in Babe’s end credits.)

Babe was released as a music-and-dialogue album at the time of the film. This CD Club edition features the expanded score as music only, packaged with a new essay by Tim Greiving featuring insights from Miller, Noonan, Cromwell and Westlake.

TRACK LISTING

  1. Opening Titles (From The Motion Picture Babe) – Piggery (4:02)
  2. Fairground (Extended Version) (3:16)
  3. I Want My Mum / The Way Things Are (4:40)
  4. Fly Would Never / Crime And Punishment (3:50)
  5. Anorexic Duck Pizzicati (Extended Version) (3:21)
  6. Repercussions / Into The Knackery (2:23)
  7. Pig, Pig, Piggy / Mother And Son (2:28)
  8. Pork Is A Nice Sweet Meat (3:26)
  9. Christmas Morning (Extended Version) (5:08)
  10. Separate The Chickens / Round Up (2:37)
  11. Babe’s Round Up (Extended Version) (3:59)
  12. Mad Dog Rex (1:14)
  13. The Sheep Pig (Extended Version) (1:47)
  14. Dog Tragedy (1:36)
  15. Hoggett Shows Babe / Maa’s Death (2:58)
  16. Home Pig / Hoggett With Gun (2:48)
  17. Pig Of Destiny / Up To Trouble (3:29)
  18. The Cat / What Are Pigs For (2:26)
  19. Where’s Babe / Hoggett’s Song (3:23)
  20. Babe In The Kitchen / Help For Babe (4:32)
  21. Baa Ram Ewe / Rex On Truck (1:46)
  22. The Gauntlet / Moment Of Truth (Extended Version) (1:45)
  23. Finale – That’ll Do, Pig, That’ll Do (1:39)
  24. If I Had Words (2:54)
  25. Toreador Aria (Excerpt) (:22)
  26. Pork Is A Nice Sweet Meat (With Vocals) (3:51)
  27. Blue Moon (Excerpt) (:40)
  28. Cantique de Jean Racine (Excerpt) (:41)
  29. If I Had Words (Hoggett’s Song) (1:52)

Music Composed and Produced by Nigel Westlake
Performed by the Victorian Philharmonic Orchestra

Let me know if you’ll be picking either of these soundtracks up and have a great day!

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Soundtrack Review: A Perfect Planet (2021)

Sony Music today released A Perfect Planet (SOUNDTRACK FROM THE BBC SERIES) with music by composer Ilan Eshkeri (Stardust, The Young Victoria, Ghost of Tsushima). The album features the music from Eshkeri’s fourth collaboration with Sir David Attenborough, the legendary naturalist who will narrate the BBC series.

Regarding the music for A Perfect Planet, composer Ilan Eshkeri had the following to say:

“Creating the music for A Perfect Planet has been a hugely rewarding experience. The series celebrates the extraordinary world we are a part of as well as showing the delicate balance of the systems that support life, and what we need to do to ensure its future stability. It’s a message that’s very important to me and one that I believe we have a responsibility to engage with – in a way that not only educates but inspires the next generation. This influenced my approach to the music, and set me on an unconventional path. Composing the music for A Perfect Planet has also been enormously challenging – not least because of the unprecedented logistical issues of trying to record an orchestra during the lockdown! I’m grateful to everyone at the BBC and [production company] Silverback who supported me and the ideas I threw at them and I hope my music can play a small part in helping to inspire change.”

The music for A Perfect Planet is gorgeous. As you might expect for a soundtrack accompanying a series highlighting the wide variety of life on Earth, Ilan Eshkeri has created a veritable symphony that serves as the perfect complement to the visual elements of the series. This isn’t like some documentaries where the music is meant to fade into the background as much as possible. Here, in a series like A Perfect Planet, the music and the visuals are equals to each other. In this kind of story, it’s okay if the music stands out, as many times we’re left to watch the animals move about in their environment

One thing about this music that jumped out at me was the concept of balance, a very important concept especially when you think about the climate change currently tearing our planet apart. Eshkeri starts the music off with two tracks titled “A Perfect Planet” and “A Perfect Balance” and in each of these pieces the composer creates a feeling of balance by filling the music with arpeggios, chords broken down and spelled out in upward and downward motion. Repeated uses of arpeggios can create a “seesaw” feeling in the music that gives one the sense of something being carefully balanced. What’s more, these arpeggios return throughout the soundtrack, reinforcing the idea that the music is ultimately about balance in life and nature and that’s something I love very much.

I also enjoy the wide range of instruments featured in this soundtrack. It’s all orchestral, but some sections focus more on the strings, some more on the woodwinds, it all shifts based on which animals (or environments) are being highlighted. Honestly, the music is so soothing I would happily listen to this soundtrack all day long, even without seeing the documentary that goes with it. This is the second soundtrack by Ilan Eshkeri that I’ve listened to, and I’ve loved every minute of it. I can’t wait to see what he creates next.

A PERFECT PLANET (SOUNDTRACK FROM THE BBC SERIES) TRACKLISTING –

  1. A Perfect Planet
  2. A Perfect Balance (Episode 1 – Volcanoes)
  3. Wildebeest (Episode 1 – Volcanoes)
  4. Flamingos (Episode 1 – Volcanoes)
  5. Vampire Finches (Episode 1 – Volcanoes)
  6. Bears (Episode 1 – Volcanoes)
  7. Volcanoes (Episode 1 – Volcanoes)
  8. Sunlight (Episode 2 – Sunlight)
  9. Gibbons (Episode 2 – Sunlight)
  10. Arctic Foxes (Episode 2 – The Sun)
  11. Silver Ants (Episode 2 – The Sun)
  12. Autumn (Episode 2 – The Sun)
  13. Snub-Nosed Monkeys (Episode 2 – The Sun)
  14. Sooty Shearwaters (Episode 2 – The Sun)
  15. Fire Ants (Episode 3 – Weather)
  16. Giant River Turtles (Episode 3 – Weather)
  17. Red Crabs (Episode 3 – Weather)
  18. Summer (Episode 3 – Weather)
  19. Dry Season Pt. 1 (Episode 3 – Weather)
  20. Dry Season Pt. 2 (Episode 3 – Weather)
  21. A Changing Climate (Episode 3 – Weather)
  22. Marine Iguana (Episode 4 – Oceans)
  23. Cuttlefish (Episode 4 – Oceans)
  24. Mangroves (Episode 4 – Oceans)
  25. Manta Rays (Episode 4 – Oceans)
  26. Spring (Episode 4 – Oceans)
  27. Hardyheads (Episode 4 – Oceans)
  28. Rockhopper Penguins (Episode 4 – Oceans)
  29. Eden’s Whales (Episode 4 – Oceans)
  30. Elephant Orphans (Episode 5 – Humans)
  31. Climate Refugees (Episode 5 – Humans)
  32. The Rainforest (Episode 5 – Humans)
  33. Reforestation (Episode 5 – Humans)
  34. A Changing Planet (Episode 5 – Humans)

A Perfect Planet premiered on January 3, 2021 on BBC One, and will consist of five episodes. Let me know what you think about A Perfect Planet (and its music) in the comments below and have a great day!

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TV Soundtracks

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My Thoughts on: First Blood (1982)

I’m a sucker for movie deals, so when the opportunity came up to get all 5 Rambo films on blu-ray (despite never seeing any of them before) I took it. And I decided to kick off 2021 by watching a series of movie franchises that should take me through to the end of May, and I decided to start with the Rambo films, the first of which is First Blood from 1982.

I must’ve read the summary for First Blood a dozen times, but in no way did it prepare me for what I saw. Considering this film is almost 40 years old, the plot feels scarily relevant given how 2020 saw a major reckoning take place regarding police brutality. Seriously, the opening scenes with the deputies roughing up Rambo (especially after it’s hinted in brief flashbacks that the former soldier was tortured in Vietnam) are extremely hard to watch and I came this close to bailing on the film altogether. What really sticks with me though? The fact that not so long ago I would’ve found it hard to believe that police officers could act this way, but after the last few years…now it feels all too real. The people meant to protect us can be monstrous. I know that doesn’t excuse everything Rambo does in retaliation, but come on, have you seen what they did to Rambo? It’s so messed up!

The entire film is a not-so-subtle message about PTSD and what happens when you finely tune a man to be a killing machine for the military only to turn them loose into a civilian life that (seemingly) doesn’t care about them or what they endured during their service. Knowing that, my sympathy was with Rambo from pretty much the beginning, especially since he makes it clear he just wants to move on his way and be left alone. To think, all of the chaos that happens in the climax of the film happens because a smarmy sheriff just couldn’t let Rambo be. I have no sympathy for Teasle, he brought all this upon himself even after receiving numerous warnings to let it go.

And then there’s the character of Col. Trautman, the one who recruited and trained Rambo into what he became. He seems to be the lone voice of reason in this crazy story, but I do think Teasle was right about one thing: Trautman knows he’s partially responsible because he trained Rambo in the first place, so I think subconsciously he is there to cover himself before anything else happens. But at the same time I also think Trautman is sincere in his desire to help Rambo and if you want to see some good acting, watch Trautman’s reactions to Rambo’s breakdown at the end of the film.

I also really liked the scene where Rambo takes out (more or less) the deputies trying to hunt him down in the woods (the ones Rambo filled with booby traps). It’s actually quite scary and intense, with the lightning storm going on and never quite knowing when Rambo is going to pop up or when a trap will be triggered.

First Blood is an intense film, but one I ultimately enjoyed watching. It will be interesting to see where the series goes from here.

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

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Film Reviews

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