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: The Princess Bride (1987)

There are very few movies that I would consider to be truly perfect. Films being of such varying quality as they are, it’s nearly impossible to find a film that has no flaws whatsoever and can be watched numerous times without getting old or stale. I truly believe that The Princess Bride is one such film.

For a long time I actually didn’t know what the name of this film was, or I wasn’t able to remember it. This is a movie that I would inevitably catch in the middle, often enough that I would recognize the characters, but so far in that I had no chance of finding out what it was called. Finally, I don’t remember when, I got to see the film all the way through, and I’ve been in love with it ever since. The story is based on William Goldman’s 1973 novel of the same name (an entertaining read that I highly recommend by the way), and follows the twisting love story of Buttercup (Robin Wright) and her true love Westley (Cary Elwes). The film is actually a story within a story, as the tale is presented to us as a story a grandfather is reading to his sick grandson in the present day.

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I can’t emphasize enough how amazing this movie is. I need to call particular attention to   “the World’s Greatest Sword Fight” aka the duel between Inigo and Westley (disguised at the time as the Dread Pirate Roberts). This sword fight is epic in no small part because Mandy Patinkin and Cary Elwes did the vast majority of the scene themselves (in fact I think the only time with a stunt double is when they jump down from a ledge using that rod and Westley does a couple flips on the way down). (Side note, Elwes and Patinkin took fencing lessons from Bob Anderson, the same sword master who worked with Mark Hamill on the Star Wars films among many, MANY other films). To this day I don’t understand any of the fencing language spoken during the fight, but it’s a lot of fun to listen to. I equally enjoy the subsequent Battle of Wits between Westley and Vizzini (Wallace Shawn, who cracks me up every time he talks). The battle is over who will walk away with Buttercup, and who will die. Westley has seemingly hidden a deadly poison in one of two cups of wine, and Vizzini must figure out which one is safe to drink. What makes this funny is that he dances around the correct answer for almost the entire time (since BOTH cups are poisoned he can’t choose either one), but never quite makes the leap to that conclusion.

Even the “scary” part of the film in the Fire Swamp really isn’t all that bad, though I do admit the R.O.U.S’s (Rodents Of an Unusual Size) scared me a little the first time I saw the film (they look pretty realistic considering it’s a little person in a suit and this was made in the 1980s). Although the scene where Buttercup gets sucked into the sand catches me off guard every, single, time! That, by the way, is the one moment of the film where I think Westley is genuinely caught off guard. Every other instance he’s able to keep the “I can handle anything” mask (no pun intended) in place, but that moment is the one time it slips and he goes into total “Oh sh*t this is bad” mode.

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Forgive the repetition, but everything in this film is enjoyable. It’s not an exaggeration, ask anyone and they will tell you the same thing. From the opening scene to the final confrontation between Westley and Prince Humperdinck (I snicker every time I hear that name, because who names their son HUMPERDINCK?) every part of this film just comes together is is simply beautiful.

Now, I do have a small piece of head canon regarding this film that I want to share before I wrap up this review (for those who don’t know, head canon is your personal interpretation of something in a story that is never explicitly stated to be true and yet you believe it anyway). My head canon for The Princess Bride is the belief that the story of The Princess Bride is the story of the grandfather and grandson’s distant ancestors; simply put the story of Westley and Buttercup really happened and they are descended from them. My belief for this comes from the beginning of the film when the grandfather refers to the book containing the story as a “very special book” one that his father read to him and his grandfather before that. I reasoned that for a story to be passed down for so long, it must be based on something real, because this is how their family line started. It’s something I refuse to let go of, because it just makes sense to me.

Long story short: The Princess Bride is a perfect movie. Practically every scene is quotable, and I literally have nothing bad to say about this film. I know reviews shouldn’t be like this, but The Princess Bride is literally that good. If you somehow haven’t seen it, go see it, it’s worth it.

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

See also:

Film Reviews

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Soundtrack Review: Countdown (2019)

The original motion picture soundtrack for Countdown is available now, with music composed by Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans (Ozark, Chef’s Table, Fear The Walking Dead). Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans are two award-winning film composers. They have been playing music together for over twenty years. In the last eight years, they have completed well over 100 acclaimed film and TV scores. As a duo, they are known for bold unpredictability, uniqueness, and their ability to interpret a wide range of genres for their scores. Drawing from an array of modern classical styles and beyond, their compositions are filled with atypical orchestrations, sensuous melodies, and visceral soundscapes.

Regarding the film, which features a seemingly deadly app, the composers had this to say:

“We had a great time scoring Countdown full of moody analog synths, atonal string orchestras and piercing jump scares.  We tried to stay true to a traditional horror score but added some of our own unique twists and unpredictability!”

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In Countdown, when a nurse downloads an app that claims to predict the moment a person will die, it tells her she only has three days to live. With the clock ticking and a figure haunting her, she must find a way to save her life before time runs out.

This soundtrack, in a nutshell, is terrifying. I haven’t been this freaked out by a film score since I listened to the soundtrack for It: Chapter Two. There’s just something about horror soundtracks that pushes all of my anxiety buttons, and the soundtrack for Countdown is no exception. Bensi and Jurriaan make sure that you now where each and every jump scare is located, which makes sense since music is integral to making these jump scares work. Even though I expected this, it still scared me every time one leapt out of the music.

That being said, there’s a bit of range in this soundtrack. Here and there the music slips into a more relaxed mode, though these moments never last long and are usually just a precursor to another jump scare. One moment in particular jumped out at me: late in the soundtrack, the composers included what sounds like an old music box, and it’s sudden appearance sent chills down my spine. I don’t know why the music box sound can feel so terrifying in the setting of a horror film, but it does.

If the actual film is as scary as the soundtrack, then Countdown will surely be a film to watch out for (I personally have no plans to watch it as I am a bona fide scaredy cat when it comes to this genre). However, as much as it scared me, I did enjoy listening to the soundtrack.

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

See also:

Film Soundtracks A-W

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Soundtrack Review: Motherless Brooklyn (2019)

The soundtrack for Motherless Brooklyn, a film written, directed, and produced by Edward Norton, is available now. The first part of the soundtrack album features, among other things, arrangements of the song “Daily Battles” by Thom Yorke and Wynton Marsalis respectively.

Edward Norton discussed these musical icons. Regarding Yorke, he proclaimed, “No writer of songs from my generation has ever equaled Thom’s capacity for expressing the longing in the heart and the terror in the head at the same time; or for creating gorgeous melody within fracture and dissonance.” When describing Marsalis, he asserted, “A long essay would be needed to encompass the breadth of this man’s musical prowess, let alone what he has done to solidify jazz as America’s classical music.”

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The score album (the second album of the soundtrack) features 20 tracks of new music from highly respected Golden Globe-nominated composer Daniel Pemberton (Steve Jobs, All the Money in the World, Ocean’s 8), who Norton hand-picked to compose the Motherless Brooklyn score.

The director heaped tremendous praise on Pemberton, “If there’s a more exuberantly protean talent than Daniel Pemberton working in film music today, I haven’t heard their stuff.” The director further enthusiastically described Pemberton’s capacity, output, and abilities.  “With a quarter of the time he should have had for a score this big, he wrote like a possessed savant and then turned into an absolute boss and produced, in one week of recording, not only what I’ll declare one of the best film scores of the last decade but within it pieces that all the players who recorded them called ‘straight up classics.” 

Norton further described how the film’s music came together. “There’s a certain risk entailed in working with people you love and admire because, let’s face it, collaboration can get messy for all kinds of reasons” explained the Motherless Brooklyn director/writer/producer/star. “The safer choice is to stay a fan or a friend, protect the mystery of your favorite artists and keep marveling at the magic they make from a seat in the audience.  But if you’re lucky enough to get to direct your own film, the allure of ringing up people whose work thrills you, well…. it’s irresistible. And if you’re really lucky…it all goes brilliantly, and you make some magic together. This is the bet I made when it came to dreaming up the music for Motherless Brooklyn. And what you’ll hear on these records is a mashup of the geniuses I rang up: Thom Yorke, Wynton Marsalis and Daniel Pemberton.”

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For my review, I focused on Daniel Pemberton’s score album, and a few things jumped out to me right away. The first thing I noticed is that many of the tracks are composed in a jazz-style, which is fitting given the setting is 1950s Brooklyn. The jazz portions are very easy to listen to, and immediately put me back in that time and place. In fact, these tracks reminded me very much of the jazz scores found in older films from the 1950s and early 60s. And I enjoyed listening to it, even though jazz isn’t something I listen to all that often.

The other main portion of the score is what really caught my attention though. The best way to describe this portion, which recurs several times among a number of instruments, is that it just oozes menace. This portion is centered around a five note motif (I’m not sure of the specific tempo being used, but I worked out the pitches) that I partially recreated below:

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It’s very simple, but quite effective. Given the many times this motif recurs in the soundtrack, I think that this represents whatever threat is facing Edward Norton’s character in the film. Or it could be symbolic of the situation in general, I’m honestly not sure. But I do know it’s important in some way. If you listen carefully, this motif does appear in a lot of places, but sometimes it’s disguised with different instruments (a technique that I really like in film soundtracks).

Motherless Brooklyn has an interesting soundtrack for sure; Daniel Pemberton left his unique mark on every piece. I hadn’t planned on seeing this film, but after listening to the soundtrack, I might have to put it on my “to watch” list in the future. You don’t often hear jazz-based scores anymore, so that’s a big reason why I’m recommending you check out this soundtrack.

Once it comes out, let me know what you think about Motherless Brooklyn (and its soundtrack) in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Film Soundtracks A-W

Become a Patron of the blog at patreon.com/musicgamer460

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

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook 🙂

My Thoughts on: The Witches (1990)

I think it’s fair to say I grew up surrounded by the works of Roald Dahl, the major ones anyway. I devoured Matilda as a first-grader, and it didn’t take much prompting to read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (and its sequel), Danny the Champion of the World, and James and the Giant Peach. But one of my favorite books growing up was The Witches, a story that (if I remember correctly) positively terrified me the first time I read it, and small wonder. It was set in a world where child-eating witches were not only real but an ever-present danger. Quite exhilarating material for a six-year old.

All that being said, somehow, after all this time, I completely missed the fact that The Witches had long since been adapted to film, by Jim Henson no less! And last night I finally got to watch that film, and was completely blown away by how much fun it is! The story, in brief, follows a young boy, Luke, who stumbles across a plot by the Grand High Witch and all the witches of England to turn all of that country’s children into mice, right before being turned into a mouse himself along with his friend Bruno.

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Watching this movie last night brought back a part of my childhood that I’d all but forgotten. Watching Anjelica Huston (who gives a brilliant performance) transform into the gruesome Grand High Witch sent shivers down my spine, as it was like seeing one of the book’s illustrations come to life. And the mice puppets are adorably cute. True, you can tell they’re puppets (it’s Jim Henson so that goes without saying), but that somehow doesn’t take away from the believability that Lucas and Bruno really have been turned into mice.

As much as I enjoyed watching this movie, there were several scenes that reminded me why it was a good idea I never found out about this film until I was grown. The mouse-transformation scenes are…disturbing, to say the least, especially when Bruno is changed into a mouse. Also, I’m fairly certain the reveal of what the Grand High Witch really looks like would have given five-year old me nightmares had I seen the film at that age. So while I’m inclined to kick myself for not seeing this film sooner, part of me doesn’t regret it that much.

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The last thing I need to talk about is the ending of this film. On the one hand, the purist in me would prefer that film adaptations of books stay true to the ending. However, this is one of the few stories I would make an exception to, as I find the original ending (Luke stays a mouse and probably has 9 years to live) to be depressing, even as a child this part always got me down. So, while I understand why Dahl objected to the change, I actually prefer how the movie ends the story.

If you ever enjoyed Roald Dahl’s works, then you need to watch The Witches, I think you will love it. Let me know what you think of the film in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Film Reviews

Become a Patron of the blog at patreon.com/musicgamer460

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

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook

The Nightmare Before Christmas “Jack’s Obsession” (1993)

I found “Jack’s Obsession” to be delightfully charming. It’s set after the Town Hall Meeting, when Jack has locked himself away to puzzle over Christmas in solitude. While Sally and the other inhabitants wait expectantly outside, the Pumpkin King turns the idea of Christmas over and over inside his head, hilariously missing the point all the while.

 Something’s up with Jack, something’s up with Jack
Don’t know if we’re ever going to get him back
He’s all alone up there locked away inside
Never says a word
Hope he hasn’t died
Something’s up with Jack, something’s up with Jack

Christmas time is buzzing in my skull
Will it let me be? I cannot tell
There are some many things I cannot grasp
When I think I’ve got, and then at last
Through my bony fingers, it does slip
Like a snowflake in a fiery grip

Something here I’m not quite getting
Though I try, I keep forgetting
Like a memory long since past
Here in an instant gone in a flash
What does it mean?
What does it mean?

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In these little bric-a-brac
A secret’s waiting to be cracked
These dolls and toys confuse me so
Confound it all, I love it though

Simple objects, nothing more
Bout something’s hidden through a door
Though I do not have the key
Something’s there I cannot see
What does it mean?
What does it mean?
What does it mean?

Hmm… hmm…

I’ve read these Christmas books so many times
I know the stories and I know the rhymes
I know the Christmas carols all by heart
My skull’s so full, it’s tearing me apart

As often as I’ve read them, something’s wrong
So hard to put my bony finger on
Or perhaps it’s really not as deep as I’ve been led to think
Am I trying much too hard?

Of course! I’ve been too close to see
The answer’s right in front of me
Right in front of me

It’s simple really, very clear
Like music drifting in the air
Invisible, but everywhere
Just because I cannot see it doesn’t mean I can’t believe it

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You know, I think this Christmas thing is not as tricky as it seems
And why should they have all the fun?
It should belong to anyone

Not anyone, in fact, but me
Why, I could make a Christmas tree
And there’s no reason I can find
I couldn’t handle Christmas time

I bet I could improve it too
And that’s exactly what I’ll do!

Hee, hee, hee

Eureka! This year, Christmas will be ours!

As I said before, Jack is completely missing the point at the beginning, during, and throughout this entire song. He’s hit the point (correctly) that there’s something not quite right about this situation. However, he’s not understanding that the problem is that he (Jack Skellington) was not made to work with Christmas. His task is, and always has been, Halloween and all things spooky. But Jack simply doesn’t get that yet, and so he’s happily plunging headlong toward taking over Christmas, despite all the signs indicating that this will go catastrophically wrong.

It’s also, as I mentioned, a charming song. Compared to the horror of “Kidnap the Sandy Claws” “Jack’s Obsession” is almost gentle in comparison. It’s a nice change of pace from some of the more hectic songs I’ve seen thus far in making my way through this film’s soundtrack.

Let me know what you think about “Jack’s Obsession” in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

The Nightmare Before Christmas “This is Halloween” (1993)

The Nightmare Before Christmas “What’s This?” (1993)

The Nightmare Before Christmas “Town Meeting Song” (1993)

The Nightmare Before Christmas “Kidnap the Sandy Claws” (1993)

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

Become a patron of the blog at: patreon.com/musicgamer460

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

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook

The Nightmare Before Christmas “Kidnap the Sandy Claws” (1993)

I have to imagine that when Jack Skellington finished summarizing Christmas Town and “Sandy Claws” to his fellow residents of Halloween Town, that he never imagined it would come to this, and yet, here we are. Having whipped the citizens into a frenzy over Christmas, Jack comes up with the idea of replacing Santa and taking over his job in a few months time. To that end, he tasks Lock, Shock, and Barrel with kidnapping “Sandy Claws” so Jack can take his place. With Jack’s reaction to Christmas Town in mind, just listening to “Kidnap the Sandy Claws” leads me to believe that the trio are taking this plan in a completely different direction from what Jack intended.

Kidnap Mr. Sandy Claws?
 I wanna do it!
Let’s draw straws!
Jack said we should work together

Three of a kind
Birds of a feather
Now and forever!

La, la, la, la, la, la
La-la-la-la-la
La, la, la, la, la, la
La-la-la-la-la

Kidnap the Sandy Claws, lock him up real tight
Throw away the key and then turn off all the lights

First, we’re going to set some bait inside a nasty trap and wait
When he comes a-sniffing, we will snap the trap and close the gate
Wait! I’ve got a better plan to catch this big red lobster man
Let’s pop him in a boiling pot
And when he’s done, we’ll butter him up!

Kidnap the Sandy Claws, throw him in a box
Bury him for 90 years, then see if he talks
Then Mr. Oogie Boogie Man…
can take the whole thing over then
He’ll be so pleased, I do declare
That he will cook him rare
Wheeee!

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I say that we take a cannon, aim it at his door and then
Knock three times and when he answers, Sandy Claws will be no more!
You’re so stupid! Think now
If we blow him up to smithereens, we may lose some pieces
And then Jack will beat us black and green

Kidnap the Sandy Claws, tie him in a bag
Throw him in the ocean, then see if he is sad
Because Mr. Oogie Boogie is the meanest guy around
If I were on his boogie list, I’d get out of town

 He’ll be so pleased by our success
That he’ll reward us too, I bet
Perhaps he’ll make his special brew
Of snake and spider stew (Mmmm!)

We’re his little henchmen and we take our job with pride
We do our best to please him and stay on his good side

I wish my cohorts weren’t so dumb
I’m not the dumb one
You’re no fun
Shut up!
Make me!

I’ve got something, listen now! This one is real good, you’ll see
We’ll send a present to his door
Upon there’ll be a note to read
Now, in the box we’ll wait and hide until his curiosity
Entices him to look inside
And then we’ll have him! One, two, three!

Kidnap the Sandy Claws, beat him with a stick
Lock him up for 90 years, see what makes him tick
Kidnap the Sandy Claws, chop him into bits
Mr. Oogie Boogie is sure to get his kicks
Kidnap the Sandy Claws, see what we will see
Lock him in a cage and then throw away the key…!

Ahhhhh, there IS something amiss here, isn’t there? While it was Jack who ordered the kidnapping, note that Lock, Shock, and Barrel seem more interested in pleasing Oogie-Boogie, something that foreshadows the plot that is to come. I have to say, Lock, Shock, and Barrel creep me out quite a bit. Of all the characters I’ve seen thus far, I think I like them the least (and I’m quite aware I haven’t seen Oogie-Boogie yet). At this point, given how these three look, I admit to feeling a bit scared about being properly introduced to Oogie-Boogie.

I found “Kidnap the Sandy Claws” to be a very creepy song, and clear evidence that Jack’s plans to take over Christmas are already spiraling out of control. Let me know what you think about “Kidnap the Sandy Claws” in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

The Nightmare Before Christmas “This is Halloween” (1993)

The Nightmare Before Christmas “What’s This?” (1993)

The Nightmare Before Christmas “Town Meeting Song” (1993)

The Nightmare Before Christmas “Jack’s Obsession” (1993)

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

Become a patron of the blog at: patreon.com/musicgamer460

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

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook

The Nightmare Before Christmas “Town Meeting Song” (1993)

“Town Meeting Song” comes after Jack Skellington returns to Halloween Town, full to bursting with what he’s seen in Christmas Town (and echoes of “What’s This?” in the background as he returns). Eager to share what he’s seen, he has the Mayor call a town meeting, and the song follows Jack’s attempts to share what he has seen, though it doesn’t exactly go over well with the residents of Halloween Town, at least not until Jack resignedly puts a Halloween-spin on his description of Santa Claus:

There were objects so peculiar
They were not to be believed
All around, things to tantalize my brain

It’s a world unlike anything I’ve ever seen
And as hard as I try, I can’t seem to describe
Like a most improbable dream

But you must believe when I tell you this: it’s as real as my skull and it does exist…

(spoken) Here, let me show you!
This is a thing called a present – the whole thing starts with a box…

A box?
Is it steel?
Are there locks?
Is it filled with a pox?
A pox. How delightful, a pox..,

(spoken) If you please…
Just a box with bright-colored paper – and the whole thing’s topped with a bow

A bow?
But why?
How ugly!
What’s in it? What’s in it?

That’s the point of the thing, not to know!

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It’s a bat!
Will it bend?
It’s a rat!
Will it break?
Perhaps, it’s the head that I found in the lake…

Listen now, you don’t understand. That’s not the point of Christmas Land!

(spoken) Now, pay attention.
We pick up an over-sized sock, and hang it like this on the wall

Oh, yes! Does it still have a foot?
Let me see, let me look!
Is it rotted and covered with gook?

(spoken) Um, let me explain.
There’s no foot inside, but there’s candy. Or sometimes, it’s filled with small toys,,,

Small toys? Do they bite?
Do they snap?
Or explode in a sack?
Or perhaps they just spring out and scare girls and boys!
What a splendid idea – this Christmas sounds fun
Why, I fully endorse it, let’s try it at once!

Everyone, please now, not so fast!
There’s something here that you don’t quite grasp

(spoken) Well, I may as well give them what they want.

And the best, I must confess
I have saved for the last for the ruler of this Christmas Land
Is a fearsome king with a deep mighty voice
Least, that’s what I’ve come to understand…

And I’ve also heard it told that he’s something to behold
Like a lobster, huge and red…
And he sets out to slay with his rain gear on
Carting bulging sacks with his big great arms
That is, so I’ve heard it said

And on a dark, cold night under full moonlight
He flies into a fog like a vulture in the sky…
And they call him “Sandy Claws”…!

Poor Jack…he wants to much for everyone to understand what he likes about Christmas Town, but as he himself said, he’s not very good at describing what he saw, and since all anyone knows in Halloween Town is all things spooky and scary, everything Jack shows them, no matter how innocent (like presents), is warped through that lens. I think it would’ve been easier if Jack had just taken everyone to Christmas Town and shown them in person, but then the ensuing story likely wouldn’t have developed. Still, even knowing that, it’s just so sad to see Jack try so hard and the others just don’t understand (except for Sally, I think she got it, because she looked sad when Jack got all scary at the end).

Let me know what you think about “Town Meeting Song” in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

The Nightmare Before Christmas “This is Halloween” (1993)

The Nightmare Before Christmas “What’s This?” (1993)

The Nightmare Before Christmas “Jack’s Obsession” (1993)

The Nightmare Before Christmas “Kidnap the Sandy Claws” (1993)

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

Become a patron of the blog at: patreon.com/musicgamer460

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

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook