Category Archives: Films

My Thoughts on: Wish Dragon (2021)

After finally sitting down and watching Wish Dragon on Netflix, I have to confess I have (once again) learned a powerful lesson: one should never judge a movie by its first 20 minutes alone. Because while Wish Dragon does get off to a rather slow start, it does eventually come into its own with a beautiful story to tell.

The story of Wish Dragon is set in modern Shanghai and follows a capable (but poor) young man named Din, who unexpectedly finds himself in possession of a magic teapot containing a “wish dragon” named Long who can grant him three wishes. If that sounds suspiciously familiar to the plot of Aladdin, well, it is, and on that basis alone I almost gave up on the film because, let’s be honest, Disney did that story years ago and did it very well.

But there’s a key difference between these two films and that is the titular wish dragon Long. This pink dragon is no Genie, and the film is well-written to make sure we don’t think of him that way. Long is an unexpectedly complex character; he started off irritating but slowly grew to become one of my favorite characters in the film. Long isn’t just a magical dragon, he has his own motivations that color the story and that creates a completely different relationship between Din and Long than what exists between Aladdin and the Genie. It’s a brilliant twist on this kind of story actually, and I’m glad I stuck with the film to see how this story arc played out.

Another thing I love about Wish Dragon is how this story puts a platonic twist on the “boy wants girl” story trope. When I first heard of this film and realized there was a young man and young woman involved, I rolled my eyes and thought “here we go, another YA animated romance film. Next!” And then I saw the part in the trailer where Din admits that he does NOT want Lina to fall in love with him, he just wants her back as his best friend. And that made my jaw DROP. That….you don’t see that in stories, or at least you didn’t until now. It was so refreshing to see a story where romance is NOT the ultimate goal of these magic wishes (another key difference from Aladdin).

And then there’s the film’s themes about telling the truth and friendship. Of course the most important theme in this film is friendship and how it is one of the most important things you can have, even more than money or fame. But…at the same time there’s an almost equal emphasis on telling the truth, be it about what you really want in life or being honest about who you really are. You need to be honest with yourself and the world about what you really want, at least that’s what I gathered after watching this film.

As a quick side note, I might also say that Wish Dragon also has a smaller lesson embedded in it, that being “be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.” It’s a lesson you don’t see implemented consistently with magical wish-granting stories, but Wish Dragon does make good use of it in this film, and Long even snarks about how one should “be careful what you DON’T wish for” in reference to this idea.

Now, as much as I ended up loving Wish Dragon, it does take a little while to get going. I beg you to be patient with the film’s first act because once things are properly set into motion, the story is a lot of fun. Other than that, I have no real complaints about this film. The animation is smartly done and the music, as I learned from talking to the film’s composer, is indeed a perfect blending of East and West.

Despite some minor flaws and a slow start, Wish Dragon proved itself to be everything I was promised and more. It proves a story like this doesn’t need romance to work and it also rams the lesson home that money is NOT everything nor is being rich everything it’s cracked up to be. As the credits rolled, I found myself more than happy with what I’d seen and I happily recommend checking this film out on Netflix.

Let me know what you think of Wish Dragon on Netflix in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Music, Magic, and Dragons: Talking With Composer Philip Klein About Wish Dragon (2021)

Animated Film Reviews

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My Thoughts on: Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

So as I was booking movie tickets last week, I was delighted to see that my local Regal Cinema was showing the 40th anniversary screening of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Hard as it is to believe that this film is 40 years old, I couldn’t say no to the chance to see this film in theaters, as the only other opportunity I had to see this film on the big screen was five years ago when I got to see Raiders of the Lost Ark in concert (a fun experience, but not quite the same as seeing it in a theater).

I‘ll start off by saying that Raiders of the Lost Ark is just as good as I remembered. I grew up watching this film, seen it more times than I can count, and oh my goodness was it fun to see it play out in a movie theater. If you’re not familiar with this film, this is the first movie to feature Harrison Ford as archaeologist/adventurer Indiana Jones. A lot of the movie collections will actually retitle this film “Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark” but Raiders of the Lost Ark is in fact the proper title. And as the title implies, Indiana Jones is in search of the fabled Ark of the Covenant….but so are the Nazis (because this film is set in 1936 so of COURSE the Nazis are the bad guys).

Half of what makes Raiders of the Lost Ark so amazing is John Williams’ phenomenal score. Williams has never done a bad film score, but I feel like this point in time was particularly good for him, as Raiders of the Lost Ark came out the year after Empire Strikes Back (and we all know how good THAT score is). My favorite musical moment in this film remains ‘The Map Room’ when Jones has to deduce where the Well of the Souls REALLY is (after learning that his rival doesn’t know after all). This is a perfectly shot scene and what makes it memorable is that the music does 90% of the work. From the moment the cue starts until the end, Harrison Ford doesn’t say a word because the music is telling the story for you.

And then there’s, of course, the story of the film itself. It’s classic good guy vs bad guy storytelling and even though I can quote most of the film from memory, it never ever gets old, that’s how good this film is. Something I’ve grown to appreciate over the rewatches is how this film subverts the adventure tropes that it claims to emulate. Examples include (but are not limited to): Indiana Jones is initially presented as a tough explorer, but he’s TERRIFIED of snakes; Jones steals a uniform from a Nazi guard but it doesn’t fit him when he tries to put it on (subverting the idea that the enemy uniform you steal will ALWAYS fit); Jones is also not as smart as he thinks he is, for proof I cite the opening scene when he tries to trick the booby trap into letting him remove the golden idol without setting it off.

I’m also a big fan of Paul Freeman’s Belloq, the French archaeologist who is Jones’ primary rival throughout the film. On the initial viewing, you might be inclined to just hate Belloq because he works with the Nazis, but the more you watch this film, the more you realize it’s not quite that simple. Sure, Belloq is on the wrong side of history (and he pays for it dearly), but his interest in the Ark is 100% genuine. Also, I think his feelings for Marion are real too, as he seems genuinely upset when Marion is thrown into the snake-filled Well of the Souls. Really, I just like that Belloq is a nuanced villain, in contrast to the Nazis who are just out and out evil.

One thing that’s always bothered me though is the ending. I can still remember watching this film as a kid and being absolutely bewildered that the last thing we see is the Ark getting shut up into a box and taken deep into a packed warehouse. It frustrated the heck out of me as a kid, and even though I sort of understand why the film ends this way, it still frustrates me now if I’m honest. I can’t help but agree with Jones’ final assessment “Fools…..bureaucratic fools. They don’t know what they’ve got there.”

Raiders of the Lost Ark may be 40 years old, but it’s only improved with age. If you get the chance to see this anniversary screening, please go watch, it’s an experience everyone should have at least once.

Let me know what you think about Raiders of the Lost Ark in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Film Reviews

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Going ‘On My Way’: A Brief Talk with Alex Lahey About ‘On My Way’ and The Mitchells vs The Machines (2021)

To my surprise and delight, I was given the opportunity to speak with Alex Lahey about their work on the song ‘On My Way’ and its inclusion in the hit Netflix movie The Mitchells vs The Machines.

Born in Melbourne, Australia, Alex started playing both guitar and saxophone when she was 13 years old, and studied art and jazz when she first enrolled in university. She broke through in 2016 with her song “You Don’t Think You Like People Like Me”, with her first full-length album ‘I Love You Like a Brother’ following in 2017.

How did you get started as a musician?

I’ve been playing music my whole life, but I really got serious about it when I was in high school and fell in love with playing the saxophone in the school big band. As I was getting into learning the sax, I was teaching myself guitar on the side just as a way to play the punk, rock and pop music I was actually listening to in my spare time. After leaving school and playing in a few bands with mates, I came to realise that I’m a better songwriter than saxophone player and I’ve never looked back.

How did you get connected with The Mitchells vs The Machines?

I was really lucky that my song ‘Every Day’s The Weekend’ got included in The Mitchells quite early on in the production process. So early on that they didn’t have a song for the end credits of the movie! So I got sent a brief of what the director and music supervisor were looking to fill that space with and that’s how ‘On My Way’ came to be.

What did you think of the film’s story?

I loved the story of the film and especially loved the character of Katie. Growing up as a queer kid, it would’ve meant the world to me to have seen a character like Katie on screen and I’m so glad she exists now for all the young people who need someone like her. The themes of family, growing up and being yourself that are so central to the story really resonate with me too.

Tell me about how ‘On My Way’ was developed for the film, what was the process for that song coming together?

As I mentioned before, the song was prompted by a brief the creative team provided me with. Between lockdowns in Melbourne, I took the brief to two artists I’m very close with, Gab Strum (Japanese Wallpaper) and Sophie Payten (Gordi), just as something to do while hanging out for the first time in ages and ‘On My Way’ was born. I guess we had a lot of good creative vibes waiting to be unleashed after so much time without face to face collaboration. Gab and I ended up finishing the recording virtually as Melbourne went back into lockdown. A big shout out must go out to Scott Horscroft who tracked all the drums and mixed the tune for us at The Grove while we were beamed in via Zoom during Stage 4 lockdown!

Aside from ‘On My Way’ were you involved in any other aspects of the music for The Mitchells vs The Machines?

To have both ‘On My Way’ and ‘Every Day’s The Weekend’ included in the film was really awesome. It was so great to be a part of this project in a really meaningful way. I’d never written a song intentionally for screen before and it was so wonderful to be part of the process of bringing this film together, even just in a small way. I hope it’s not the last time I get to be involved in a project like this. 

I want to give a big thank you to Alex Lahey for taking the time to talk with me!

See also:

Soundtrack Review: The Mitchells vs The Machines (2021)

Composer Interviews

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

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Music, Magic, and Dragons: Talking With Composer Philip Klein About Wish Dragon (2021)

I was recently blessed with the opportunity to speak with composer Philip Klein about his work on the upcoming Netflix film Wish Dragon (which comes out on June 11th). Klein’s music has been heard in film and television projects for Sony, Disney, Pixar, Lionsgate, ABC and CBS. As a writer, Philip has collaborated with some of the finest composers working in film and TV, including Harry Gregson-Williams, Carter Burwell, Alex Heffes and Fil Eisler. He’s has had the honor of orchestrating for James Newton Howard, Alexandre Desplat, Ludwig Göransson, Richard Harvey, Steve Jablonsky, David Buckley, Stewart Copeland, Peter Golub, John Frizzell and several other amazing artists.

After a steady diet of drum corps and classical music throughout his childhood, Philip’s formal music education took him to Chicago where he studied trumpet and composition at Northwestern University. This classical foundation combined with a deep understanding of modern scoring techniques allow him to seamlessly compliment every project he works on. Selected as one of six fellows for the 2011 Sundance Institute’s Film Composing Lab in Utah, Philip has always had a deep love for the interaction of music and film. He owes much of his success to his mentors in Hollywood, Harry Gregson-Williams, Alan Silvestri, Penka Kouneva and Peter Golub. 

“Wish Dragon” is the story of Din, a 19-yr old college student living in a working-class neighborhood of modern-day Shanghai, who has big dreams but small means. Din’s life changes overnight when he finds an old teapot containing a Wish Dragon named Long – a magical dragon able to grant wishes – and he is given the chance to reconnect with his childhood best friend, Li-Na.

Please enjoy my conversation with Philip Klein about Wish Dragon!

How Did You Get Started as a Composer?

I was a trumpet player for most of my young musical life but I eventually found myself being drawn more to orchestration and composition.  I had a soft spot for film scores at a very young age and would spend hours picking out notes to my favorite themes, so it felt natural to fall into that world when I went to college and beyond.  Once I had scored a few student films I was hooked and moving to Los Angeles was the logical next step.  I’ve had the great fortune of working with some of the most skilled artists in film and music.

How did You Get Involved with Wish Dragon? Was there anything in particular that drew you to the story?

Producer Aron Warner is a dear friend and we’ve both always wanted to work on a project together. One of Aron’s superpowers is curating a team of creatives that all compliment each other.  He felt that director Chris Appelhans and I would mesh well so he reached out and I saw a very early cut of mostly stick figure drawing and early animatics.  Even in its most basic form the story was beautifully conceived and it was clear from conversations with Chris and Aron that the film was going to be special. I did all that I could to convince them that I was the right composer for the film and luckily they agreed.  Chris’ passion for storytelling, the characters and the culture is what drew me in early on; it wasn’t long before I was happily escaping into this world on a daily basis.  

I saw that you also worked on Raya and the Last Dragon as an orchestrator. Given that both of these films are about dragons, would you say there are musical similarities between the two or did you go out of your way to avoid any overt musical comparisons to Raya?

James Newton Howard wrote a beautiful score for Raya. I lucked out a bit in that I actually finished recording the score for Wish Dragon several months before we began orchestration work on Raya, so my window for being influenced (and intimidated) by James’ writing had passed. James’ score took advantage of musical colors from different areas of Mongolia and Southeast Asia, whereas Chris and I wanted to stick very close to Chinese culture for the color of the score.  Raya has a bit more fantasy whereas Wish Dragon is a bit more comedic. So in that sense, the scores were always going to sound different.

What was your starting point in putting the music for Wish Dragon together? Was there a lot of collaboration with the director during this process?

I don’t think I’ve ever been part of a project where the director was as much a collaborator as Chris was on this film.  The first 3-4 months of the process was just sharing music, videos and thoughts back and forth.  We sent each other any kind of Chinese instrument, folk song, vocal, opera percussion; basically any sound we could find.  Eventually, we started to hone in on the overall palette and approach we thought may work and then I started to experiment with those boundaries in place.  Chris was intimately involved with the music from conception through recording and mixing.  Chris had such a strong vision of what he wanted and needed out of the score, I loved every minute of working through this film with him. 

Were you inspired by any earlier films when putting the music together since this is a reworking of the “genie in a bottle” type of story? Or did you try to put an original twist on it as far as the music went?

While on its surface this film may seem like a “genie in the bottle” kind of story, the film is much more about friendship and redemption than anything.  The spectacle and theatricality of Long’s character sits somewhat behind the genuine connections we follow throughout the film.  While it is important to give a voice to Long’s over-the-top character, we never went too far in making him seem like more of a being than he is.  I think previous iterations of that kind of story maybe put more emphasis on the genie type character and their performance.  So musically, you have to match that kind of energy.  In Wish Dragon, we always wanted more weight to go towards the relationships and arcs of the characters so it naturally kept me away from drawing too much inspiration on other films or scores.  I’ll always be proud of how Chris and I blended these beautiful instruments of Chinese culture with a more Western orchestral palette.  We didn’t want either to ever overshadow the other.

Did you assign themes to the major characters? Or if not all of the characters, did you give a musical theme to Long the dragon?

I’m a huge believer that thematic writing is one of the most effective ways to create memorable emotional moments in a film.  Long has a theme we hear in the first cue of the film.  It’s broad and sweeping, almost always played with the orchestra to give his character scale and drama.  Din’s theme probably recurs most often but is played much more simply and with less fanfare than Long’s.  Much of Din’s scenes take full advantage of the energy from the Chinese instruments we used.  For most of the film Din is full of optimism so his theme is orchestrated with lovely and light, plucked textures.  There are two secondary themes; the first for our baddies and the other for Din and Li Na’s relationship.  For the goons in the film, I used a lot of darker bowed sounds from the Chinese instruments and mixed them into more modern, synth heavy orchestration.  For Din and Li Na, it’s a very simple fluttering synth with a three note motive that echoes their “day by day” mantra.

How did you decide on which traditional Chinese instruments to include in the score? And was it hard blending those instruments with a traditional Western orchestra?

It can be overwhelming at the start of a score like this because my brain and ears want to explore every new color out there.  Unfortunately, I’d still be working on the score today if I didn’t put a bit of a cap on what instruments we should focus on.  Honestly, we spent months early on just listening and me having video calls with players all over the world.  I’d ask them to show me the basics of their instruments, what it can do, and what it shouldn’t do.  Eventually I boiled down my core palette to around 8-10 Chinese instruments that would represent that side of the score.  The orchestra was always in place as it’s difficult to replace the sheer power of that vehicle, but the Chinese instruments became our color and our energy throughout the film.  We never wanted the score to sound like an orchestra blasting away with some Chinese soloists playing on top of them.  Rather, we wanted the two to become more homogenized so that the Chinese world melted into the orchestral.  Blending them together was one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had because it opened my ears to brand new textures and colors.  It allowed me to explore a new musical world I had never heard before.  That’s always the most exciting part of working on a film. 

How much time did you have to score Wish Dragon?

I had the great fortune of working on this score for nearly a year.  This gave us plenty of time to truly flesh out all of our wildest ideas, themes and orchestrations.

Do you have a favorite track or moment in the score?

I will always love the scene and cue titled “Everything That Matters.”  It’s such a beautiful, honest moment between Din and his mother and their relationship’s arc in the film.  It was also one of those moments where Din’s theme just seemed to line up perfectly without me having to do much.  That doesn’t always happen, but it’s a pleasant surprise when the notes just seem to fit the film without much ado.  

I hope you enjoyed my conversation with Philip Klein about his work on Wish Dragon. You’ll be able to check out the film when it releases on Netflix on June 11th, 2021.

Have a great day!

See also:

Composer Interviews

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

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Soundrack News: ‘The Water Man’ Original Soundtrack Available Now

Last month, Lakeshore Records released the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack for the RLJE Films family adventure film The Water Man—acclaimed actor David Oyelowo’s directorial debut. The album is comprised of an ethereal original score from Belgian composer Peter Baert, also making a debut with his first composition for a major Hollywood feature. The soundtrack also features two original songs written and performed by Jessica Oyelowo, including the end credits song “My Son.” The Water Man soundtrack is available digitally alongside the film’s U.S. theatrical release.

 The music of The Water Man is a mix of classical orchestra, piano, percussion, and electronics. Peter felt the score should follow the journey of the main character Gunner, going on quest into the woods to save his ill mother. He processed the Water Man’s screams and sighs through long delays, modular tools, and tape echoes to create “The Water Man Synth.” When David proposed a motherly energy to be present in the music, Peter worked with a vocalist, who has a similar timbre of the mother (Rosario Dawson), and created “The Mother Synth.” 

David Oyelowo says, “Music and sound in film has always been important to me, which is why I consider myself lucky to have met composer Peter Baert when I did. We first crossed paths when he was the sound engineer on another project I was working on in Belgium, and he had previously shared a music demo of his compositions that I just couldn’t shake. While in post-production on The Water Man, I was working with another composer and had initially cut Peter’s music in as an experiment, and it all just worked perfectly. Within a week, he flew over, sat next to me in the edit, and that’s how he became my composer. He’d never done an English-speaking film before, and he totally nailed the tone. We recorded and mixed at Galaxy, and did all the sound design and mixing at Sony and re-recording at Deluxe Hollywood.” 

Peter Baert on his collaboration experience: “David Oyelowo is such a wonderful human being and a gifted storyteller. He took a giant leap in choosing me as a composer and I felt his trust and guidance throughout the time we worked together. Being present for a short time in the editing room with David and editor Blu Murray was such a wonderful experience—I felt part of something bigger.” 

Of his musical inspirations, Baert says: “The heartfelt story of The Water Man took me back to two periods in my life. The first reminded me of being in my early teens, always playing in the neighborhood with my friends and going on adventures in a nearby forest. The second transported me back to a day in 2008 when my mom and I found out the diagnosis of her pancreatic cancer. She would be gone in 6 months. At some moment during the composing process the music found me, and it glued to the screen. This beautiful story reflects what I experienced in real life—that it is sometimes better to let go and cherish the time we have, than to hold on at all costs.”

TRACK LIST

  1. Gunner’s Theme
  2. Mary’s Lullaby
  3. Mother’s Medicine
  4. Finding Jo
  5. Question
  6. The Water Man Story
  7. Runaway
  8. Come into My Office
  9. Enter the Forest
  10. First Night
  11. Night Watch
  12. Candy
  13. The Howling Wild Horses
  14. Snow in July
  15. Second Night
  16. A Lot of Beetles
  17. Morning
  18. Amos’s Search
  19. Crossing the River
  20. A Bunch of Crap
  21. Coming Closer – “The Water Man Rhyme” (feat. Amiah Miller)
  22. The Hut
  23. Hope is a Powerful Force
  24. Getting Out
  25. Prayer
  26. My Son – Jessica Oyelowo
  27. What Love Does – Jessica Oyelowo

See also:

Heartfelt Music for a Heartfelt Story: Talking with Composer Peter Baert About ‘The Water Man’ (2021)

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My Thoughts on: Cruella (2021)

*warning minor plot spoilers for Cruella can be found below

I still have no idea how we got an origin story for Cruella DeVil, and I maintain that nobody actually asked for this film to be made. But since it was made and looked like a lot of fun, I decided to go ahead and see what it was all about.

And, to my delight, I actually enjoyed Cruella for the most part, though the film is far from perfect. Emma Stone absolutely KILLS it as the titular character, which isn’t something I thought I’d say at first, but by the end of the film I was completely invested in her as Cruella. And speaking of Emmas, I’m also a big fan of Emma Thompson’s work as the Baroness. She is, for plot reasons, my new favorite villainous character and I absolutely love to hate her due to her work in this film. She is the quintessential “you hate her guts but you can’t stop watching” type of character and by the end of the story you’re just itching to see her taken down.

Also have to give a shout out to John McCrea who plays Artie. Outside of Emma Stone as Cruella, he is my favorite part of this film. I love how he plays the character, and I wish there was more of Artie in this film because he is a delight to watch! And I also have to mention how much I enjoyed Joel Fry and Paul Walter Hauser as Jasper and Horace respectively. The verbal interplay between the two is so very funny at times, I loved to watch it.

All of that being said….Cruella does have its fair share of flaws. For one, this film is too long for the story it’s trying to tell. I feel like if about twenty minutes were shaved off and the plot subsequently tightened up, it would’ve done the film a huge favor. It’s not that any part of the story is bad, it just takes too long to get where it’s going. This is especially true in the opening of the film, which takes way too long to get to the point. In fact, the opening is so meandering that I almost lost interest in the film at the very beginning.

The other big flaw comes late in the film right before the last act gets going. This is where the story almost goes off the rails but thankfully it gets everything together for a good finish. Also, I’m not entirely sure if all of the narration from Cruella was necessary, it sometimes took me out of the moment.

One final flaw I have to highlight is the CGI. Maybe it was just me, but during the film it was blindingly obvious when certain canine characters were being CGI-generated. I get why it has to be done, but it’s distracting when you’re watching a scene and suddenly your brain registers that the dog (or dogs in several scenes) is not real. The point I’m trying to make is that if you’re going to CGI a dog, don’t make it obvious.

Fortunately, once the story finally gets going, it’s a good story. My favorite parts are all the scenes where Cruella appears in her trendy outfits. I swear the costumes in this film had better get recognized at the Oscars next year because I could look at Cruella’s costumes all day long and never get bored. I love the contrast between the Baroness’ idea of fashion and Cruella’s, you can tell immediately how they differ and why the latter’s is so popular. I also like the way that the main character is pulled between her competing personalities of Estella and Cruella. It’s an interesting take on the character because not only does it set up that this version of Cruella is different from the animated character, it also insinuates that she does have the capacity to become that character if she so wished. For what it’s worth, I’m happy this version of Cruella is different. Her story has layers now, and she’s a borderline sympathetic character now (though I wouldn’t go so far as to call her one of the “good guys” she’s more of an in-between character by film’s end).

The other thing I really liked about Cruella? If you read between the lines, this film is simultaneously an origin story for Cruella deVil AND a set up for an all-new live-action 101 Dalmatians with a new Roger and Anita. Seriously, I will be shocked if there is not a new 101 Dalmatians movie announced in the near future, all the pieces have been laid for it to happen. And based on how Cruella ends, I could see THIS version of 101 Dalmatians playing out with a significant twist, though I won’t say what it is lest I spoil the plot of Cruella. I will say that there is a viable opening for a sequel and I wouldn’t be surprised if Disney makes one happen in the next few years.

In the end, I’m glad I went to see Cruella, it’s flaws don’t overshadow the good and it’s a fairly interesting take on a character that honestly I didn’t think could be expanded upon, but I’m glad they did.

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

See also:

Film Reviews

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Soundtrack Review: Chaos Walking (2021)

Back in April, Milan Records released Chaos Walking (Original Score) with music by Marco Beltrami and Brandon Roberts. Available everywhere now, the album features score music from Lionsgate’s new film starring Daisy Ridley and Tom Holland from the director of The Bourne Identity and Edge of Tomorrow. The score continues a long tradition of collaborations between the two-time Academy Award®-nominated composers Beltrami and Roberts, who also garnered an Emmy® Award together for their work on Free Solo.

Of the soundtrack, Beltrami and Roberts had the following to say:

“The score for Chaos Walking provided a unique opportunity for us to create a musical language for a fictitious world that was simultaneously both familiar and alien, and in so doing, explore crossing genres that are rarely combined. There are otherworldly sci-fi elements, as well as classic gritty western themes. We had a lot of fun implementing new instruments that would define this cross pollination. It was an adventure to live in this new musical world.”

The music for Chaos Walking is indeed a blend of the familiar and the alien and it is so much fun to listen to. Marco Beltrami has yet to let me down in any film score he has worked on, and that remains true here. It’s somewhat mind-bending to hear sci-fi music blended with classic western music, because off the top of my head that strikes me as a musical combination that should NOT work. But you know what? It works! Somehow, it all comes together and creates a sound world that is strange and new but oh so enticing for the ears.

While I appreciate that the composers have blended together music from the sci-fi and western genres, I’m still more drawn to the sci-fi elements in the score (it is my favorite genre for a reason), particularly ‘Chaos in Space’, I really like how that one track is practically vibrating with tension. Any time strings can be made to make me feel tense or uncomfortable, it’s a good day because that’s one of my favorite ways to hear those instruments being used in a score.

I’m glad I finally sat down to listen to the music for Chaos Walking. I can’t speak for the film itself, but the music is definitely worth it!

Track List

1. Main Title (2:03)
2. Love That Knife (1:41)
3. Friendship Theme (1:58)
4. Lost in the Woods (1:25)
5. Chaos in Space (1:09)
6. Thief / Gotta Tell (2:35)
7. First Encounter (1:14)
8. Motor Horse Chase (2:11)
9. Posse on the Move / Exploring the Ship (4:41)
10. Spackle Tackle (2:05)
11. Farbranch (2:02)
12. Letter From Mom (3:01)
13. Town Attack (6:52)
14. Lonely (2:09)
15. Riverbank Chase / Rapids (3:32)
16. You’re a Good Man, Todd Hewitt (1:35)
17. Preacher Attack / Antenna Climb (3:14)
18. Showdown (3:42)
19. Women Unite (2:11)
20. I Am Todd Hewitt (2:20)

Let me know what you think about Chaos Walking 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: Candyman (1992)

I’m going to be honest right at the start and just admit that the only reason this film came on my radar at all is because I saw the trailer for the upcoming Candyman film when I went to see Spiral. That trailer intrigued me so much, I got curious and asked the Internet if I needed to see the original Candyman film first. As most of them said yes, I picked up a copy of the film, have just finished watching it and let me tell you that film is an experience I will not soon forget.

Honestly, I’m not sure where to start with Candyman, there’s so many parts of it that are incredible. I might as well start with Philip Glass’ score for the film. Had I known that Philip Glass composed the music for Candyman, I probably would’ve attempted this film years ago, as I have the highest respect for his work. This won’t surprise many of you who’ve been following my work, but the music was undoubtedly one of my favorite things about this film. It gives the story of Candyman an almost sacred feeling in some places, which is fitting given the titular character is a supernatural being and the hapless Helen is forced to join that realm by the film’s end. The thing is, I can’t imagine this film being scored any other way, that’s how good the music is! The air of solemnity it gives to the story in just the right moments, that’s what you want in film music, something that elevates the story.

Apart from the music, the story itself is equal parts enthralling and horrifying. Like, this is the stuff of my nightmares horrifying. After invoking Candyman and then attempting to disprove his legend, Helen is literally forced to watch as her life is systematically torn apart and destroyed beyond all hope of repair. The emotional angst and trauma in this film is so palpable that it will be a long time before I can watch this film again. You can feel Helen’s pain as she tries to comprehend what is happening to her. You can definitely feel Ann Marie’s pain in a scene that I found so distressing I’m scared to see what the unrated version of the scene looks like. If the goal of this film was to make me deeply uncomfortable, it worked. My mind was taken places it didn’t want to go, but the story was so compelling I literally could not look away.

And then there’s Candyman himself. I was completely mesmerized by Tony Todd’s performance as the titular character. Once he properly arrives in the film after being teased several times, you literally can’t look away whenever he’s on the screen. Between his deep voice and the sheer presence with which he plays the role of Candyman…I don’t know what to say other than I was enthralled. What really drew me in were the hints at Candyman’s hidden depths. He’s not just some random killing being, there’s a purpose to what he does and it makes a twisted amount of sense if you think about it long enough. And that scene with the bees, yes THAT scene, that pretty much put me over the edge (and that’s all I can say about that).

Was there anything I didn’t like in this film? Well, not exactly. I was uncomfortable with some of the more bloody moments, but that’s because I’m a generally squeamish person. It can’t be a complaint against the film because if I’m watching a rated R horror film, I know I’m going to be in for something messy. However, I do think that sub-plot with Helen’s husband was almost unnecessary. I kind of get why it’s in there, since it provides the final push Helen needs to realize she needs to give in to the Candyman (and it helps set up a fantastic closing sequence to the film), but it still feels like almost an afterthought given everything else going on. That’s really nitpicking though, as I loved pretty much everything else in this film.

Now that I’ve made it through the original Candyman film, I’m more excited than ever to see Nia DaCosta’s take on the story (especially since I’ve seen that Tony Todd will be in that film as well). I am also definitely adding Candyman to my list of must-see Halloween films that has slowly been growing since I managed to watch Halloween (1978) last year.

Let me know what you think about Candyman (1992) in the comments below and have a great day!

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My Thoughts on: The New Mutants (2020)

So when I announced that I was finally watching The New Mutants, the reaction was so mixed that I was genuinely nervous when I put the blu-ray in to watch it, even though I’d promised to go in with as open a mind as possible.

As it turns out, I shouldn’t have worried because, believe it or not, I liked The New Mutants!

Now, to be sure, the film does have its flaws (and I’ll be getting to them) but they don’t negate the fact that I found The New Mutants to be an overall enjoyable experience. The film is based on the Marvel comics team of the same name and focuses on Dani Moonstar, Rahne, Ilyana, Roberto and Sam, five young mutants who are allegedly being treated at a hospital until they can control their powers. The truth proves to be slightly more complicated, and Dani’s arrival at the facility brings events to a head.

First of all, I love all of the mutant powers featured in this movie, especially Ilyana’s. The idea that you can visit a magic dimension that you made real….I just love that. She’s also a total badass with that sword. I really hate that I know that there aren’t any plans to make a sequel of this film, because I want/need to see more of Ilyana and what her powers can do. Also, no surprise since I’m still a big fan of Game of Thrones, Maisie Williams as Rahne was one of my favorite parts of the movie (though am I the only one who finds it ironic what her mutant power is given Arya Stark’s connection to wolves in Game of Thrones?). Her chemistry with Blu Hunt (who played Dani) was so much fun to watch and is the exact kind of friendship/relationship I like to see form in movies between characters.

There are however, as I said, some flaws in this film that keep it from being a truly great film. The biggest issue for me is that Dani’s connection to the demon bear isn’t explained to my satisfaction. I kind of get what the film is trying to tell me about how it works, but a more straightforward explanation would have helped. Don’t get me wrong though, I ultimately love that demon bear for what it does to a certain character. At the same time, Dani’s powers in general could have used a slightly better explanation. I’m also a little confused by Ilyana’s past trauma; like, I initially thought she’d been kidnapped by aliens and it wasn’t until later that it dawned on me that they might’ve been a symbol for something much, much worse.

I also feel like the film could’ve gone into the horror part of the story a little more (though it’s my understanding that was due to events outside of the director’s control). The horror elements that ARE there are fantastic, I just want more of it! The overall tone is also uneven in places. One minute it’s a semi-serious story, the next I’m vividly reminded of a 90s flick where the teens are all goofing off (complete with peppy rock music). It’s almost like the story can’t make up its mind what genre it’s in.

The one character I actually don’t like at all is Dr. Reyes (and not just because she’s an antagonist). For most of the film she came off as very one note. At least towards the end she finally begins to show some emotion, if she’d been that way earlier in the story I might have liked the character better.

Even with those flaws, I still love The New Mutants. It’s the very definition of a fun popcorn film, whose flaws don’t (or at least shouldn’t) get in the way of enjoying it. I’m glad I finally sat down to watch it and I can’t wait to see it again in the future.

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

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Soundtrack Review: The Mitchells vs The Machines (2021)

Sony Music Masterworks has released The Mitchells vs. The Machines (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) with music by prolific composer, singer, multi-instrumentalist and co-founder of DEVO Mark Mothersbaugh. Now available everywhere, the album includes score music written by Mothersbaugh for the animated film, which follows an eccentric family in the middle of the robot apocalypse.  The soundtrack is the latest in a longstanding creative partnership between Mothersbaugh and film producers Phil Lord and Chris Miller, having previously worked together on titles like The LEGO Movie, 21 Jump Street, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and more.

Of the soundtrack, composer Mark Mothersbaugh had the following to say:

“Just thinking about working on this film during a once-in-a-century, world-wide pandemic makes you want to draw correlations between the story of the film and what was happening in this world (the so-called real world). Doing so really gave everything more meaning and added gravitas to an already amazing project to begin with. I will always remember this film for the added attention the pandemic allowed the directors and producers to bring to it, as we were able to work on an extended schedule. It gave us the rare chance to play with the parts, to get them just the way we wanted them and to make a dang-near perfect film!”

“’On My Way’ is a song about new beginnings. I really wanted to capture Katie’s sense of urgency to grow up and expand her horizons while still being grateful of where she has come from and the people that have gotten her where she is. It’s that push and pull of being on a path towards something new and exciting while remembering and celebrating what you’re leaving behind. I think that is something we can all relate to. ‘On My Way’ is one of my favorite songs I have ever worked on and I am so happy it has found a home in the wild world of the Mitchells,” adds singer-songwriter Alex Lahey of her inclusion on the soundtrack.

This soundtrack is a lot of fun to listen to. Mothersbaugh has created a delightful blend of several musical genres that make for a great experience. As near as I can make out, the music for The Mitchells vs The Machines is a blend of action music, sci-fi music, and family music. It’s really mind-blowing when the music switches over from the quiet-ish family music opening to the sci-fi music that enters when the robot apocalypse begins. That’s not the easiest transition to make given the wide disparity between those two styles, but Mothersbaugh makes it feel easy and the music pulls you along for the ride without hardly missing a beat.

The sci-fi music portion of the soundtrack is easily the best part (though it’s all good if I’m honest). It’s wild, it’s zany, you can almost picture what’s going on, it’s exactly what an animated robot apocalypse should sound like. What really surprised me though, is how quiet the soundtrack can be when the music isn’t focused on the robots. I won’t say if this is good or bad, but sometimes it feels like all of the energy is devoted to the music for the robot apocalypse, and the rest is just…quiet, soft, not as important (though I may be overthinking it).

All that being said, I can’t get over how much I love the way Mothersbaugh can switch between musical styles. There’s traditional instruments in there, there’s electronic music, there’s music that blends BOTH. This is a complex musical score, one that grows on you the more you listen to it. I certainly recommend listening to the soundtrack apart from the film if you get the opportunity.

Track List

  1. Columbia Opening / Apocalypse (1:15)
  2. Katie’s Life / Good Cop Dog Cop (3:17)
  3. Laptop Breaks / Home Movies (3:43)
  4. Rise of the Robots (1:30)
  5. Robots Falling from the Sky (1:25)
  6. Eat Laser Robots (1:15)
  7. Robots Capture Humans (1:36)
  8. On the Roof H (1:53)
  9. Two Dumb Robots (0:55)
  10. We Could Get Our Lives Back (0:13)
  11. Katie’s Speech (1:28)
  12. Drive Drive ! (2:07)
  13. Robots March on PAL (0:45)
  14. Foolish Human Air (0:53)
  15. Abandoned Mall ! (1:35)
  16. Mall Robots Attack (1:56)
  17. Furbies Attack_Router Knocked Out (3:29)
  18. Rick’s Pep Talk (2:21)
  19. The Stealthbots (1:21)
  20. Katie and Linda (1:56)
  21. Entering Robot City (3:05)
  22. The Pod Falls (0:51)
  23. They Capture Linda and Rick (0:57)
  24. Hiding in the Woods (2:36)
  25. Katie’s Video (1:52)
  26. Katie to the Rescue (2:03)
  27. Screwdriver Escape (1:47)
  28. Yub Tub (2:00)
  29. Linda Kicks Ass (1:35)
  30. Katie Explains (1:45)
  31. Katie and Rick Work Together (2:17)
  32. I’m a Mitchell! (0:44)
  33. Humanity Is Saved (1:17)
  34. Katie’s Dead (0:56)
  35. Arriving at College (2:32)
  36. On My Way – Alex Lahey (3:05)

Let me know what you think about The Mitchells vs The Machines 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

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