Category Archives: Films

Soundtrack Review: Midway (2019)

The soundtrack to Roland Emmerich’s epic film Midway is now available digitally and will be available on CD November 22nd. The highly anticipated action drama, starring Woody Harrelson, Luke Evans, Nick Jonas, and Mandy Moore, premiered in US theaters via Lionsgate, alongside the soundtrack release. The film centers on the Battle of Midway, a clash between the American fleet and the Imperial Japanese Navy, which marked a pivotal turning point in the Pacific Theater during WWII. The film, based on the real-life events of this heroic feat, tells the story of the leaders and soldiers who used their instincts, fortitude and bravery to overcome the odds.

The soundtrack for Midway was composed by Thomas Wander and Harald Kloser. Regarding the soundtrack, they had this to say:

“We agreed that the music for Midway should not be a traditional wall-to-wall orchestral score, with sweeping action cues where every change in mood and sentiment will be followed musically. We also set ourselves the goal that the orchestral pieces should be limited to the emotional moments of the film. Early on we asked our long-time collaborator Tommy Schobel to create some sort of musically driven sound design, using synth-based versions of sounds old war planes would make, but in a way so they make sense within the bigger picture of the score. When you hear these cues in the film, married with all the sound effects, it all becomes — quoting our re-recording mixer Greg P. Russel — ‘A Thing.’”

The soundtrack also features two contributions by singer Annie Trousseau. Here’s what she had to say about working on the soundtrack for Midway:

“I was asked by Harald and Roland if I had any big band songs recorded and would I be interested in performing a song in Midway. This was all happening last minute because they had just added a scene with a singer. Of course, I said yes immediately! Harald had pretty early on decided that “Jersey Bounce” would be the instrumental. “All or Nothing at All” was my top pick for the vocal track because it was the most fitting lyrically and emotionally for the film, and I just fell in love with the melody and Frank Sinatra’s 1939 version with the Harry James orchestra. What an honor to be the one singer asked to do this. We purposely did only two or three live takes of each song so we could keep the live feel. I’m very happy with the outcome. In preparation, I studied the enunciation of the era and did my best to give it that extra 1940s vintage sensibility. I was in heaven in a musical world and setting that allowed me to shine in a genre that I adore and respect so much. It’s been the best experience to work beside such amazing talents. Almost everyone in the film is also a musician! Such a dream come true for me.”

While it’s true, after listening to the score, that this is definitely not a wall-to-wall orchestral score such as what you might normally find for an epic film of this magnitude, I think movie audiences will appreciate the music just as much. It oozes with tension in various places, which makes sense given how pivotal the Battle of Midway proved to be. Everything hinged on this one fight going exactly right, and it feels like that is reflected somewhat in the musical score.

TRACK LISTING
1. Nobody Wants A War
2. Midway Main Theme
3. See You In China
4. Morgue
5. Getting Some Fun Out Of Life – Performed By Annie Trousseau
6. Pearl Harbour
7. This Is It
8. Bombing Six
9. What’s Their Target
10. Attack On Midway
11. Good Luck Sir
12. Jersey Bounce – Performed by Annie Trousseau (Instrumental)
13. They’ll Follow You Anywhere
14. Still Night Submarine
15. Above The Clouds
16. Dogfight
17. The Last Dive
18. This Is For Pearl
19. Victory Lap
20. Best Returns
21. Abandon Ship
22. Midway End Titles
23. All Or Nothing At All – Performed by Annie Trousseau

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

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Film Soundtracks A-W

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My Thoughts on: The Great Dictator (1940)

I’m fairly certain I’ve known about The Great Dictator since before this year, or at the very least I knew it was notable for a certain speech. It was only a few weeks ago that I decided to check out this film after a video of the famous speech at the end came across my Facebook feed. So in a sense, I learned about this film backwards, since I saw the ending before I watched anything else.

Once I saw the entire film though, I couldn’t help but wonder why I’d never seen this film before, since it is amazing, not to mention it’s the ballsiest film I’ve ever encountered. It’s one thing to make a film or a tv show that mocks dictators and evil regimes like Hitler and Nazi Germany, but it’s quite another to make a film while said dictator is very much alive and in charge of that evil regime. The Great Dictator went into production the week after World War II started, and the fate of the world was very much up in the air when it was released in late 1940. That took a lot of guts, since if things had gone differently, Chaplin would have been in huge trouble.

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The film is a pretty straight parody of what was currently happening (or, more accurately, what was known to be happening) in Nazi Germany. Chaplin swore afterward that if he’d known the full extent of what was going on, the film would never have been made. The story is split between two polar opposite characters (both played by Chaplin): a nameless Jewish barber (who bears a suspicious resemblance to the famous Tramp of the silent era) and Adenoid Hynkel, the power-hungry dictator of Tomainia. Chaplin spent hours watching newsreel footage of Hitler giving speeches to nail his impression and it shows in the film’s opening speech. While the words are nonsense, the diction and pacing is straight out of something seen and heard in a Nazi propaganda film.

Of all the Nazi-parody characters, the one that actually scares me the most is Garbitsch (the parody of Joseph Goebbels), brought to terrifying life by Henry Daniell (best known to me as Lord Wolfingham in The Sea Hawk). While Hynkel and Herring are fairly comedic portrayals of Hitler and Goering respectively (with minor exceptions for Hynkel later in the film), Daniell plays the role of Garbitsch completely straight. At no time is there anything funny about this character, and that’s what makes him so scary.

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While I could mention a number of moments in this film that stood out to me, the one I must talk about is the food fight between Hynkel and Benzino Napaloni (a dead-on parody of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini). It almost feels wrong to laugh, but the comedy between Chaplin and Jack Oakie (playing Napaloni) is just so funny, I can’t help but laugh, especially when the two are gesturing and shouting, each caught up in their own individual tirade.

And of course, it all leads to the iconic speech Chaplin gives at the end of the film, dropping both of the characters he’s played to give a rousing address that left me in tears the first time I heard it. If you get the opportunity, you should definitely watch The Great Dictator in its entirety. Let me know what you think of the film in the comments below and have a great day!

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Film Reviews

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My Thoughts on: Invasion of Astro-Monster (1965)

As my quest to see more of King Ghidorah continued, I decided to watch Invasion of Astro-Monster, another film to feature a certain three-headed flying space dragon (I love saying that). This is the second film to feature King Ghidorah and while I did enjoy it, I didn’t like it as much as Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster. The story is set in the near future and sees humanity make first contact with an alien race, the Xiliens, on Planet X (a previously unknown moon of Jupiter). Claiming to be under constant assault from King Ghidorah, the Xiliens beg for the use of Godzilla and Rodan to keep their small planet safe. It seems like a straightforward situation and a reasonable request, but this is a Godzilla film and nothing is quite what it seems.

One of the things that sticks out to me right away are the Xiliens themselves. Even if I hadn’t read the film summary beforehand, I would’ve been immediately suspicious of the Xiliens, simply because of their appearance. From their stiff mannerisms, to the fact that you can’t see their eyes, everything about these aliens screams “Do not trust them!” Therefore, there’s very little surprise when the double-cross occurs. The other giveaway? That first fight between Godzilla, Rodan, and King Ghidorah is over way too quickly.

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Another detail that I found more awkward than anything is the presence of Astronaut Glenn (Nick Adams) in the story. I hope this doesn’t come out wrong, but it was more than a little jarring to look at the movie and suddenly realize there’s a non-Japanese character in the mix (the ONLY such character, I might add). Maybe I just found it awkward because all of Glenn’s lines are dubbed in Japanese, it’s just something I wanted to comment on.

I did find the monster action to be quite satisfying, though I was also sad when Godzilla and Rodan were left behind on Planet X. You could literally feel the monster’s sadness at realizing they’re being left in a strange place. Again, it amazes me that these monsters could wring such feelings out of me considering they’re men in rubber suits (more or less).

As I mentioned before, Invasion of Astro-Monster is an enjoyable film, with plenty of monster action for everyone. However, it’s just not as good as other Godzilla films that I’ve seen. Let me know what you think of Invasion of Astro-Monster in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

My Thoughts on: Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964)

My Thoughts on: Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019)

Film Reviews

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My Thoughts on: Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964)

Ever since I saw King Ghidorah in Godzilla: King of the Monsters earlier this year, I knew that I would have to check out the original Godzilla films (aside from the original, which I’ve already seen), and at the top of my list was Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster, the film that introduced the three-headed flying space dragon to the Godzilla story. For whatever reason, I’m just drawn to this particular monster, even before I knew who he was, pictures of King Ghidorah stood out to me.

That’s just one reason I ran out and picked up the Criterion collection of Showa-era Godzilla films (expect a number of those films to be reviewed in the coming days and weeks). The very first film I saw down to watch was Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster, and I was glued to the screen from start to finish. The film, like many Godzilla films I’m coming to find, features a number of monsters, including Rodan, Mothra (in larval form), and of course, King Ghidorah in his film debut. The story starts when a mysterious meteor shower comes to Earth, dropping a bizarre meteorite deep in the mountains, one that seemingly affects gravity, it later cracks open to reveal the titular monster.

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At the same time, a foreign princess is presumed murdered in a bombing, only to show up in Japan claiming to be from Venus and making dire predictions about the fate of the world. I admittedly had trouble accepting the Venusian storyline part of this movie, but it does make for an interesting plot device.

Of course the most important thing for me in this movie was the monsters themselves and oh my goodness I got all I wanted and more. Before watching this film, the only monster I’d seen in the original Japanese films was Godzilla himself. This was my first time being Rodan, Mothra, and of course King Ghidorah in their original looks and I loved it all! Well, almost, I actually like Rodan’s appearance in Godzilla: King of the Monsters more than I did here, but that’s more of a nitpick than anything else.  King Ghidorah blew my mind with how real he looked as he flew and moved.

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I also really liked the Shobijin, the twin fairies that can summon Mothra with their (beautiful) singing. I really liked that they speak in unison and that they’re so tiny. For some reason, I wasn’t expecting them to be small, but since they are fairies, it does make sense. Their song for Mothra is beautiful.

The point I’m trying to make is that Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster is a really good Godzilla film. It has plenty of monsters, Godzilla gets quite a lot of screen time, and the final battle between Godzilla, Mothra, Rodan, and King Ghidorah is really good given the nature of the special effects being used. I’m continually astounded by how real these creatures look given they’re all portrayed by men in suits! If you want to dive right into the Showa-era films, Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster isn’t a bad place to start!

Let me know what you think about Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

My Thoughts on: Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019)

Film Reviews

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My Thoughts on: The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

After all these years, I finally knocked a long-standing entry off my “to watch” list by sitting down and watching The Nightmare Before Christmas. Please don’t ask me why it took me so long to watch this classic, I honestly think it’s just a case of “I simply never got around to it”  believe me there was nothing personal keeping me from watching this film. And now that I’ve finally seen what all the fuss is about, I’m so glad I did, because The Nightmare Before Christmas is amazing and holds up extremely well for being made in 1993.

To quickly summarize, The Nightmare Before Christmas is a stop-motion animation film set in a world where each holiday resides in their own distinct “land.” Most of the story is set in Halloween Town, where Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King, is lord and master of all things Halloween. However, after overseeing Halloween festivities for more years than he can count, Jack is tired of doing the same old thing and becomes enamored of the Christmas holiday when he accidentally stumbles into Christmas Town. As you might expect, chaos ensues.

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I’ve been a fan of stop-motion animation since almost before I can remember, and this film does it so well it makes the concept look easy (would you believe it took them THREE YEARS to take this film?) The movements are so fluid and lifelike, there’s no trouble believing that characters like Jack and Sally are very much real. I found myself fascinated by Sally in particular, the idea of a living rag doll that can stitch herself back together impressed me. Of all the characters in Halloween Town, she’s the only one that I don’t find “scary” in any sense of the word. Even though Sally is stitched together, the fact that she’s only stuffed with leaves inside makes it completely not scary when her limbs come off.

One sequence that especially impressed me is “Oogie Boogie’s Song” which apparently takes place in a blacklight environment that brings out a slew of colorful details in Oogie Boogie’s lair. And speaking of Oogie Boogie, I absolutely love the moment when the would-be villain comes face to face with a pissed off Jack Skellington at the climax of the film. All of that bravado is OUT the door and it is too funny to see how quickly it happens.

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All told, I love The Nightmare Before Christmas, and I hope with all my heart that the proposed sequel/reboot/remake/whatever Disney is trying to do never, EVER happens. This film is pure magic and it would be a shame to ruin its perfection by creating a sequel or, God forbid, a live-action remake. The soundtrack by Danny Elfman is a lot of fun also, and I loved all of it.

Let me know what you think about The Nightmare Before Christmas in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Animated Film Reviews

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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!

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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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