Category Archives: Films

Michael Giacchino talks Super 8 (2011)

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Michael Giacchino talks Super 8 (2011)

What do you get when J.J. Abrams and Steven Spielberg collaborate together on a film? In the case of Super 8, we got a science-fiction thriller film about a strange alien invading a town in Ohio while a group of kids are shooting a movie on Super 8 film. The film did well (despite some comparisons to E.T.), though I didn’t watch it myself (I was distracted by graduating from college at the time). As with all J.J. Abrams films (except for The Force Awakens), the score was composed by Michael Giacchino, who talks with us in the behind-the-scenes clip for the making of the score of Super 8.

What’s cool about this clip is that we get to hear Giacchino talking about his memories of shooting home movies on Super 8 film back in the day, and we even get to see a few clips from said films.

It’s always great to listen to Michael Giacchino discussing his work, and I hope you enjoy his talk about Super 8.

I know this is shorter than what I usually do, but I’m still recovering from a really busy weekend and I really wanted to give you something to enjoy until tomorrow ๐Ÿ™‚

And speaking of…Disturbing Disney returns tomorrow with my first entry from Bambi (1942), a film that pioneered the “horrifying death of a parent” decades before The Lion King ripped our hearts out with the death of Mufasa.

Also, I wanted to share that Film Music Central has gained 2,000+ hits in a month for the first time ever and I wanted to say thank you to everyone who comes to visit the blog, this is a milestone I’ve been hoping to hit for a long time ๐Ÿ™‚

Alright, that’s enough from me for today, I’ll see ya’ll tomorrow with Disturbing Disney #5

If you’d like to learn more about the film scores of Michael Giacchino, see here

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Hans Zimmer talks Hannibal (2001)

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Hans Zimmer talks Hannibal (2001)

Sequels are always a risky business; no matter how successful the original, there’s always the chance that a follow-up story will fall totally flat and ruin the story forever. Thankfully, such was not the case with Hannibal (2001), the follow-up to The Silence of the Lambs (1991). Set ten years after the original story, Clarice Starling (now played by Julianne Moore) must locate Hannibal Lecter before a surviving victim (played brilliantly by Gary Oldman) tracks down the serial killer to exact his gruesome revenge. While it’s true that this film was met with mixed reviews by the critics, I found Hannibal to be a very thrilling story, especially the last third. Anthony Hopkins is such a compelling presence when he’s onscreen, and he plays the role with so many layers that you can watch the film multiple times and see a new interpretation each time.

Of course the film wouldn’t be nearly as good without its musical score, which was composed by Hans Zimmer. In this wonderful interview, both Zimmer and director Ridley Scott talk about the music and how it came together. Scott believes that the music is just as important as the dialogue and so the score is crafted accordingly. Hannibal marked the fourth time that the director and composer collaborated on the same project, and you can tell that they’ve developed a good working relationship with each other.

Zimmer describes Hannibal as a “haunting story” and that the music must be haunting as well to match it, and I believe he totally succeeded in accomplishing this. One thing about Hannibal (the character) that always fascinated me is his love of the classical, be it art, poetry or music. The score reflects this to a large degree, as Hans Zimmer wrote several choral pieces in an early classical style for certain scenes involving the titular character. It was amazing to learn about the score for this haunting film, and I hope you enjoy it as well.

If you’d like to learn more about the film scores of Hans Zimmer, see here

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Have a good weekend!

Disturbing Disney #4: Dumbo loses his mother (1941)

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When I was compiling a list of ‘disturbing’ moments in Disney films, a particular scene in Dumbo (1941) immediately jumped up to almost the top of the list.

The film tells the story of a baby elephant named Dumbo who is born with overly large ears, a feature which earns mocking and scorn from the other circus elephants. Despite this, Dumbo is relatively happy because he has his mother, Mrs. Jumbo, with him.

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But this happy pair isn’t going to be together for long, and that is why the following scene is on the list of ‘disturbing’ Disney moments.

Mrs. Jumbo is taken away (Dumbo, 1941)

The circus has come to a new town, and after taking part in a big parade, the circus animals are on display in a big tent for the curious public, including Mrs. Jumbo and Dumbo. Everything is fine until a goofy kid comes by and takes special interest in Dumbo’s big ears. The baby elephant doesn’t quite understand what’s going on, but his mother certainly does, so she pushes Dumbo away and turns her back to the crowd. From here things only go downhill.

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Dumb kid

Against all reason, the kid goes into the enclosure and begins pulling Dumbo out by his tail, further messing with his ears in the process. Now Mrs. Jumbo is getting upset; she takes Dumbo away again, but the kid just won’t let it be (he clearly hasn’t heard the rule that says you must NEVER come between a mother animal and her young). He grabs Dumbo again and THIS time Mrs. Jumbo has had enough. He picks up the kid with her trunk and gives him a good shake and that’s when everything goes to pieces.

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The crowd reacts with panic and there are cries of “mad elephant!!!” Instead of the kid getting punished for riling up Mrs. Jumbo in the first place, the circus workers move to tie up Mrs. Jumbo for doing what any mother would do: protecting her baby!! I find this scene so heartwrenching and so horrifying, I eventually found myself unable to watch, because I would get so upset. There’s so much happening at once: Mrs. Jumbo is being tied with ropes from all sides; the ringmaster is WHIPPING her, and worst of all, Dumbo is grabbed by a couple of workers and carried away from his panicked mother. She only wants her baby, but now the ropes are replaced with chains, and it will be a long time before Dumbo sees his mother again.

I find this scene disturbing because of the unfairness of it all. Mrs. Jumbo didn’t do anything wrong, she was simply defending her baby from a dumb kid who was trying to hurt him. If anything, it’s the kid who should’ve been punished, what right did he have to go in the enclosure with the elephants in the first place?? And the whole scene with Mrs. Jumbo being forcibly tied up while her baby is being taken away, it just rips my heart to pieces. It’s a messed up, disturbing moment, and one that is hard to forget.

What do you think of this scene from Dumbo? Let me know in the comments below, have a good rest of the day ๐Ÿ™‚

For more Disturbing Disney see also:

Disturbing Disney #1: The Coachman in Pinocchio (1940)

Disturbing Disney #2: The truth of Pleasure Island in Pinocchio (1940)

Disturbing Disney #3: Escaping Monstro from Pinocchio (1940)

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook ๐Ÿ™‚

Michael Giacchino talks Zootopia (2016)

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Michael Giacchino talks Zootopia (2016)

While I am still profoundly irked that Zootopia beat out Kubo and the Two Strings for Best Animated Feature at the Oscars, I cannot deny that the film has a pretty good musical score. Composed by the talented Michael Giacchino, the music of Zootopia features a world-music vibe to cover the vast array of species (and ways of life) highlighted in the story.

If you haven’t seen Zootopia, the film follows bunny Judy Hopps as she becomes the first rabbit on the Zootopia police force, in a city where (in theory) any animal can become anything they want to be, regardless of whether they are considered “hunter” or “prey” species. This notion is tested when Judy is put on a (seemingly hopeless) case that she must solve in a very short time or lose her job, and to complicate matters, she must work with a fox.

In this behind the scenes clip, Giacchino takes us to the recording studio and introduces five percussionists who helped create Zootopia’s unique sound. While the main orchestra is best recognized in any film score, often the percussion is overlooked (or worse, lost in the sound mix), so it’s great to see not only how they used percussion instruments in the score, but also how the percussion ties everything together at key moments.

My thanks to Michael Giacchino for giving us this inside look into part of the scoring process for Zootopia, which really is a great film despite my grumblings. I hope you enjoy the video and if you haven’t tried Zootopia before, please take a chance and check it out ๐Ÿ™‚

Disturbing Disney will return tomorrow with a scene from Dumbo (1941) that I found deeply traumatizing as a child (not to mention profoundly cruel). Until then, enjoy the day!!

If you’d like to learn more about the film scores of Michael Giacchino, see here

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Disturbing Disney #3: Escaping Monstro from Pinocchio (1940)

This will be the final entry for Pinocchioย and it involves a moment that deeply disturbed me the older I got. But before I get there, I need to tell you how Pinocchio and company get into this mess in the first place.

Searching for (and escaping from) Monstro, Pinocchio (1940)

So….while Pinocchio is off getting into all kinds of trouble (i.e. Stromboli and Pleasure Island), poor Geppetto has been waiting and waiting (along with Figaro the cat and Cleo the goldfish). Finally, he packs up and goes looking for his wayward son, eventually ending up far out at sea, where his ship is swallowed by Monstro the whale (all of this is relayed to Pinocchio by a message from the Blue Fairy).

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Yup…that’s Monstro (I had to be reassured as a kid that most whales weren’t like this)

Monstro IS a pretty disturbing character if you think about it. He’s a cross between a sperm whale (hence the teeth) and a blue whale (overall size) and possesses a vile temper to boot. Even little Jiminy Cricket has heard of this monster and it’s all bad news: Monstro swallows “entire ships” and is not to be trifled with. Nevertheless, Pinocchio wants his father back, so off the pair goes to take a stroll on the ocean floor in search of Monstro (the very mention of the name sends any and all sea life fleeing for their lives). Since Pinocchio is made of wood, he doesn’t have to worry about breathing underwater (as to why Jiminy can do it, being a cricket and all, well, it IS a Disney movie, so anything is possible).

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Side note: the animator who created these fish is still alive at the ripe old age of 103

After much searching, Pinocchio is reunited with Geppetto when Monstro pursues a school of tuna for a meal, bringing along Pinocchio in the process (but not Jiminy, he’s stuck outside!). It’s a happy reunion, except for the awkward moment when Geppetto finds his son has grown donkey ears and a tail, but since they’re together again, all is forgiven. Pinocchio wants to escape, but even when Geppetto patiently explains that “nothings comes out” once Monstro has eaten, that determined puppet isn’t giving up. He plans to make the whale sneeze by creating lots of smoke, and the sneeze should force out the small raft that Geppetto built a while back.

The plan works!!! Monstro lets out a mighty sneeze and the raft is sent way out into the ocean, but now the great whale is furious (and I do mean FURIOUS!!) that prey has managed to escape him, so he sets off in hot pursuit. The only hope Geppetto, Pinocchio and company have now is to reach the safety of the rocks on shore before Monstro smashes them all to pieces. They nearly make it, but Monstro smashes the raft, forcing Pinocchio to frantically swim the rest of the way, dragging Geppetto along so he doesn’t drown.

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Giant whale incoming: AHHHHHHH!!!!!!

This is the first disturbing moment: in the last part of the chase, Monstro becomes truly frightening (even more so than before), and when you see this shot up above, how can anyone not be terrified, especially if you’re a little kid?

At any rate, Pinocchio makes it to the edge of the rocks mere moments before Monstro comes barrelling in like a freight train, smashing the rocks to pieces and sending everyone flying in separate directions.

Geppetto, Figaro, Cleo and even Jiminy are all shown on the beach, but where is Pinocchio? Well…the answer is what made me add this to the Disturbing list. Jiminy is searching for Pinocchio when suddenly we hear this terrible gasp and see THIS:

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Now I know technically Pinocchio hasn’t drowned (he’s made of wood and all that) and it was the force of Monstro’s impact that likely killed him but COME ON DISNEY!!! This is a disturbing, horrifying image. Granted it only lasts for a moment, but this image has been permanently burned into my brain. It is messed up that they would show a kid (wooden or not) dead like this. And it’s a pretty major shift considering in the previous animated film, when Snow White falls “dead” we only see her arm as she collapses to the floor.

Of course I should mention that we do get our happy ending shortly thereafter. The Blue Fairy determines that Pinocchio has done very well and brings him back to life, but this time as a real flesh and blood human boy, to the overwhelming joy of Geppetto, Jiminy and everyone else.

Despite the happy ending, the entire encounter with Monstro is very disturbing and rightly deserves to be included on this list. Let me know what you think about this scene in the comments below, did you find it disturbing as well?

For more Disturbing Disney, see also:

Disturbing Disney #1: The Coachman in Pinocchio (1940)

Disturbing Disney #2: The truth of Pleasure Island in Pinocchio (1940)

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Kong: Skull Island (2017), my thoughts

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Well…I liked that a lot more than I thought I might. *various spoilers follow from this point*

This past Saturday afternoon I finally got to see Kong: Skull Island, the second installment in the giant monsters universe established by Godzilla (2014). Set in 1973 at the end of the Vietnam War, Kong follows an expedition led by Bill Randa (John Goodman) to the titular Skull Island, a previously unknown land mass that was only recently discovered by satellites. Randa claims the group (which is being escorted by a section of soldiers led by Col. Packard (Samuel L. Jackson) is there to study the geology of the island, but in truth, they’re also there to flush something out. That something being Kong…King Kong.

Kong destroys most of the expedition after they drop a series of “seismic charges” (i.e. bombs) on the island, unwittingly awakening a number of nasty monsters dubbed “skull-crawlers” by a character we meet later on. The survivors are initially separated over a wide area, but they are soon joined into two groups: one led by Col. Packard, the other led by James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston), a former captain in the SAS. The goal is to make it to the north side of the island where they can signal their ship for a rescue. Naturally thingsย don’t do according to plan.

A large section of the film is devoted to watching numerous characters get picked off one by one by the various oversized creatures that inhabit the island (one of the most terrifying incidents involving a giant spider with legs that resemble bamboo trees), as well as the skull-crawlers (which are rapidly growing in size). Conrad’s group encounters the Iwi, a tribe that have been living on the island since time immemorial. Among them is a surprise: Lt. Hank Marlow (John C. Reilly), an American pilot shot down in 1944 by a Japanese pilot (who also crashed along with him). For the last 28 years he’s been living with the Iwi, and now he has a chance to leave with Conrad’s group (even though he’s pretty sure the skull-crawlers (the name he gave them because it sounded scary) will get them first). Marlow and Conrad’s group (which includes female photographer Mason Weaver) depart on a boat Marlow and his former Japanese enemy cobbled together from their wrecked planes before a skull-crawler nabbed the latter and head upriver towards their destination. But once they meet up with Col. Packard’s group, Conrad and company realize that something is seriously wrong.

Col. Packard is a very interesting character, and a great case study in how war can change a man for better or worse. Packard has been a soldier for a very long time now, and has earned multiple decorations, but with the end of the Vietnam War, he is struggling to find his place in the world (that’s why he happily accepted the order to escort the group to Skull Island, as it gave him something to do). Seeing Kong wipe out a large portion of the men he’s commanded for several years has given Packard an unbreakable fixation: to kill Kong by whatever means necessary, even if it means they all die in the process. I believe that, in Packard’s eyes, Kong is the living embodiment of the war in Vietnam that never got finished. Against the warnings of Conrad and Marlow (the latter attempting to explain that Kong is the only thing keeping the skull-crawlers at bay), Packard comes up with a plan to trap Kong in a lake filled with napalm while Conrad leads his group to the north. At the last minute, Conrad returns and convinces most of the soldiers to stand down, but not Packard, he simply can’t let go of what happened to his men. As a result, he is the latest victim of Kong’s rage.

The flight to the northern coast is dominated by a massive fight between Kong and the largest of the skull-crawlers (which was awakened by the large napalm explosion). It’s a titanic battle, and very well executed (the CGI doesn’t look fake at all). Ultimately, Kong is successful, the skull-crawler is killed and Conrad and the others rendezvous with their ship, while Kong watches from a distance.

There’s so much more to the story that I’m leaving out, but I don’t want to completely spoil everything. There is a loose connection to Godzilla where M.U.T.O’s are mentioned (the same term is used in the earlier film) and a post-credit scene (that I completely missed) sees two characters informed of the existence of other giant monsters besides King Kong (which is apparently the lead in to Kong and Godzilla squaring off in three years time, still not sure how I feel about that by the way).

My one complaint with the film is that there were a few too many characters to keep track of. I understand why this is (as most of these side characters end up dead), but as a result most of the people we meet aren’t as fleshed out as they might have been with a slightly smaller ensemble.

Favorite moments include:

Any and all scenes including Tom Hiddleston, especially a scene in the second half of the film where, in the midst of poison gas, he dons a gas mask, grabs a samurai sword (long story) and goes completely medieval on a bunch of monsters

The fight between Kong and the giant octopus

Kong’s backstory, as explained by Marlow, which really explains a lot about what Kong is doing on the island (it doesn’t explain EVERYTHING, but it does help)

Kong: Skull Island really is a good movie, especially if you’re looking for a fun two hours filled with action (and the slightest HINT of romance), so I recommend it to anyone who hasn’t seen it yet.

Disturbing Disney will return tomorrow!! Until then!! To see more of my random thoughts on film, see here

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John Debney scoring Predators (2010)

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John Debney scoring Predators (2010)

In an age where sequels are being made left and right, it surprised no one when, after a gap of 20 years, a third installment of the Predator franchise was released. Predators (unlike the previous two installments) takes place on an alien planet and follows a group of mercenaries and other “undesirables” that have been abducted and taken to this planet, which we learn serves as a game preserveย for the Predator civilization. The group, including Royce (Adrien Brody) and Isabelle (Alice Braga) must evade a group of hunters while also trying to find a way off the planet to get home.

The film was released with mixed to positive reviews, with some saying the sequel finally hit the mark set by the original film and others saying it still lacks the quiet suspense that made the first film so good.

The score was composed by John Debney, although it was briefly speculated that Alan Silvestri would return to the franchise (having scored Predator and Predator 2). The clip I found is from a scoring session for the film and provides a tantalizing glimpse of the recording process. The one thing that will always amaze me about film music is how many details you can hear when the dialogue and sound effects are removed from the mix. Hearing this brief excerpt of music makes me wish I’d seen this film when it was released (it’s been on my “to watch” list for the last seven years).

Have you seen Predators? Did you think it was worth seeing? Let me know in the comments below, and I hope you enjoy watching this brief excerpt from the scoring session for the film.

If you’d like to learn more about the film scores of John Debney, see here

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