Category Archives: Films

My Thoughts on: Who Are You, Charlie Brown? (2021)

I was delighted to receive the opportunity to screen Who Are You, Charlie Brown? ahead of its June 25th release on Apple TV+. This is a documentary that takes a fresh look at the life and legacy of Charles Schulz, the creator of Peanuts and everyone’s favorite lovable loser, Charlie Brown.

One detail that really drew me into Who Are You, Charlie Brown? is that this isn’t a straight up documentary. While we spend plenty of time listening to well-known figures recounting their love and recollections of iconic Peanuts moments and characters, as well as numerous archival clips of Schulz recounting his own experiences, the entire thing is woven around a newly made Peanuts cartoon, where Charlie Brown has to deal with the seemingly monumental task of writing a 500 word essay about who he is. As the documentary takes us through Peanuts history, Charlie Brown revisits some of the most iconic characters and locations seen throughout the history of the comic strip: the baseball field, Lucy’s psychiatric help desk, Schroeder and his piano, Linus standing by the brick wall, Snoopy and his fight with the Red Baron, and so on. As Charlie Brown comes to understand who he is, we also come to a better understanding of who Charles Schulz was, and gain a greater appreciation for Peanuts at the same time.

As a lifelong fan of Peanuts, I already knew a lot of the information presented in this documentary, but I didn’t know a lot about the cartoonist’s early years, and this period was covered in touching detail. With added input from the artist’s widow, you really get a feel for how Charles Schulz grew into the man who gave us some of the most iconic cartoon characters to ever exist. We actually get to hear quite a lot from the man himself from clips taken from over the years of his life. It was quite touching to see so much of Schulz, given that he’s been gone for 21 years (a day I’ll always remember because that was the day the last Peanuts strip was published).

On top of all this, what really brings this documentary together for me is the great music from Jeff Morrow. It to be extremely difficult to write music for a series that features some iconic pieces from Vince Guaraldi, but Morrow really pulls it off. The music throughout sounds like it came straight out of the world of Peanuts and he makes sure to cite some of Guaraldi’s greatest hits along the way.

While not nearly as long, Who Are You, Charlie Brown? reminded me in all the best ways of the 2018 Fred Rogers documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor? because it gives insight into a beloved creator (in this case Charles Schulz) and we get to hear from a number of people who talk about Schulz and his work on Peanuts.

Who Are You, Charlie Brown? is available exclusively on Apple TV+ as of June 25, 2021 and I highly recommend checking it out, it was a lot of fun to watch.

Let me know what you think about Who Are You, Charlie Brown? in the comments below and have a great day!

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Soundtrack News: Milan Records to Release Original Motion Picture Soundtrack for ‘I Carry You With Me’ on June 25

Milan Records is excited to announce the June 25 release of the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack from the Sony Picture Classics and Stage 6 Films’ drama I Carry You With Me composed by Jay Wadley (I’m Thinking of Ending ThingsDriveways). The soundtrack is composed of 19 lush tracks, which Entertainment Weekly calls, “a wrenching score that swells and fades to the rhythms of these men’s lives.” Making their debut today exclusively via Vehlinggo ahead of Friday’s wide release are two tracks from the soundtrack – listen to “One Year” and “Ivan’s Chance” HERE. Coinciding with the film’s theatrical debut, the soundtrack will release on June 25, 2021.

A two-time winner of the Charles Ives Award from the American Academy of Arts and letters and featured in IndieWire’s 2020 and 2016’s 10 Best Scores of the Year, Jay Wadley is a NY-based composer and music producer. He recently scored Charlie Kaufman’s phycological drama/thriller I’m Thinking of Ending Things, featuring an original ballet. Other recent projects include Heidi Ewing’s I Carry You With Me, Emma Tammi’s Blood Moon (from Hulu/Blumhouse’s Into The Dark Horror Anthology Series), and Season 2 of Amazon’s Emmy®-nominated series Modern Love

“In the score for ‘I Carry You With Me,’ I aimed to create a vibrant sense of nostalgia and longing using a combination of textural electronics and piano, string orchestra and some familiar sourced sounds from the streets of Mexico,” says composer Jay Wadley.  “[Director] Heidi [Ewing] sent me a collection of sounds she recorded in the streets to inspire the sound world and make unique connections to the specific sense of time and place. One of the most prominent sounds you can hear woven into the score is the sound of the Camotero whistle from the food trucks in Mexico. I tuned and stretched out the whistle to use as a musical punctuation and thematic device to help call back to Ivan’s childhood memories working the streets with his father.”

Premiering at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, and based on true love, I Carry You With Me is a decades spanning romance that begins in Mexico between an aspiring chef (Armando Espitia) and a teacher (Christian Vázquez). Their lives restart in incredible ways as societal pressure propels them to embark on a treacherous journey to NYC with dreams, hopes, and memories in tow.

I CARRY YOU WITH ME (ORIGINAL MOTION PICTURE SOUNDTRACK)TRACKLISTING – 

  1. I Carry You With Me
  2. Bar Franco
  3. Chiles En Nogada
  4. Sandra
  5. Complicated Boyfriend
  6. Gerardo’s Flashback
  7. You Can’t Take Him From Me
  8. Take That Off
  9. One Year
  10. We Are Not Going To Die
  11. The Letter / New York
  12. I’m Proud of You
  13. He Should Come Back
  14. Reunited
  15. Ivan’s Chance
  16. You Came To Me
  17. I Just Can’t See It
  18. Dad’s In the Hospital
  19. There’s No Path

The soundtrack album for I Carry You With Me will be released on June 25, 2021.

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Soundtrack News: ‘Wish Dragon’ Original Motion Picture Soundtrack is Available Now

Earlier this month Milan Records released Sony Picture Animations Wish Dragon Original Motion Picture Soundtrack by Philip Klein. The 25 tracks feature a number of traditional Chinese instruments – the Pipa, the Sheng, Ruan – but run through synthesizers and given a modern touch.

Speaking about working on the score, Philip Klein said, “The journey of scoring Wish Dragon began with hours of creative discussions, a fair amount of geeking out and the trial and error of musical experiments with director Chris Appelhans.”

He went on to explain, “Our mutual love of exploring lesser known music and sound guided us through generations of Chinese folk songs, instruments, artists and expression. What we ended up with over a year later was a deeply layered, thematic score; richly colored by beautiful traditional instruments, wistful textures and the might of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. Chris’ deep love and respect for this story and all of the brilliant filmmakers and artists behind it made my job seem like I was the one being granted a wish.”

Following an inspiring trip to China in 2006, director Chris Appelhans returned fascinated by the country’s vibrant culture and overnight modernization. He realized it was the perfect setting for a story about wishes; in a world changing so fast, the big questions about life and values were impossible to ignore. Compelled to share this unique yet universal story with audiences around the world, he knew animation was the best way to express the story’s authenticity, humor and heart. He even learned Mandarin.

Chris Appelhans had this to say about the score, “[Philip Klein] has created the kind of score that not only elevates the film, but stands on its own — iconic melodies, true soul and a timeless mix of modern and traditional elements. Every time I listen, I’m moved — and to me that’s the highest praise any music can earn.”

Track List

1. Endless Sky – Kenton Chen, Katherine Ho & Weilim Lin
2. Free Smiles – Tia Ray
3. Prologue – Philip Klein
4. Li Na Says Goodbye – Philip Klein
5. I Gotta Go – Philip Klein
6. The Goons – Philip Klein
7. All Dressed Up – Philip Klein
8. The Tea Is Ready – Philip Klein
9. Finders Keepers – Philip Klein
10. City Walk – Philip Klein
11. Aerial Acrobatics – Philip Klein
12. Din and Li Na – Philip Klein
13. Long Admits – Philip Klein
14. Din and Mom Argue – Philip Klein
15. Shanghai Showdown – Philip Klein
16. That Same Old Shikumen – Philip Klein
17. Certain Expectations – Philip Klein
18. The Wish Dragon – Philip Klein
19. Teapot Battle – Philip Klein
20. True Sacrifice – Philip Klein
21. My Last Wish – Philip Klein
22. Everything That Matters / The End – Philip Klein
23. A Tale As Old As Time (Suite I) – Philip Klein
24. A Tale as Old as Time (Suite II) – Philip Klein
25. Din’s Piano – Philip Klein

See also:

My Thoughts on: Wish Dragon (2021)

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

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My Thoughts on: The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard (2021)

I knew going in that there was a decent chance I wouldn’t like The Hitman’ Wife’s Bodyguard. For one, I hadn’t seen the first film, The Hitman’s Bodyguard, and going to see the sequel without seeing the first film can be quite problematic depending on the film. However, despite going in completely blind I was willing to give the film a chance, the previews had certainly looked funny enough.

I should’ve known better.

Rule #1 of being a movie blogger: NEVER trust the previews.

The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard picks up, ostensibly, where the first film leaves off, with Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds) attempting to pick up the pieces of his life. Of course, Sonia (Salma Hayek) drags him back into the fray and he’s soon on the run with Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson) whether he likes it or not. It sounds coherent enough, and there’s actually a decent premise buried deep down with a pretty good villain, but it’s executed so badly that no inducement on Earth could get me to watch this mess again.

I was about halfway through the film when it dawned on me that I was watching a terrible movie. Make no mistake about it, The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard is not a good film by any stretch of the imagination. If I had to sum up the film’s biggest problem, it’s that I feel like the writers flung three different film plots together, connected them with the three main characters, and prayed that it would make a roughly coherent story. That’s the only explanation I can come up with for the fractured story that comprises so many different moods and plot elements that it quickly loses any semblance to a rational story (though it’s entirely possible that that’s the point).

The one bright spot in this film is the spine-chilling performance turned in by Antonio Banderas as the film’s villain. I wish we could’ve gotten more of him in this film, because every time he was on the screen I visibly brightened up.

I also can’t get over how jarring the mood of this film was. The story flips from a weird humor to deadly serious and back at the drop of a hat and it was hard to get into the story and stay invested (about 3/4 of the way through I just gave up). Many of the emotional story twists felt completely unnecessary. There’s an entire story arc with Bryce’s dad that amused me, confused me, and finally infuriated me with how it was executed.

There’s only so many ways to put this so I’ll say it one last time: The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard is not a good movie, I’m honestly surprised I made it all the way through without leaving. The minor bright spots aren’t enough weren’t enough to save it, and it’s 90+ minutes of my life I can never get back (yes, it was that bad).

Whether you agree or disagree, let me know what you think of The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard in the comments below and have a good day!

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My Thoughts on: In the Heights (2021)

I originally learned about In the Heights while reading the behind the scenes book about the making of Hamilton that I bought last summer. If you weren’t aware, it was while In the Heights was running on Broadway that Lin-Manuel Miranda got the idea for what would eventually become Hamilton, but I digress…because this review isn’t about Hamilton but In the Heights. And after seeing this film, I have to say that this story should NOT be known as “the musical Lin-Manuel Miranda did before Hamilton” because oh my GOD the story of In the Heights is just as good!

The story of In the Heights takes place over a span of 3 days, before, during, and after a blackout that paralyzes New York City (while it is similar to the infamous 2003 Blackout, most of the show was actually written in 1999). Our narrator throughout the story is Usnavi (Anthony Ramos), the owner of a corner bodega who dreams of returning to the Dominican Republic. Through Usnavi, we meet the varied characters who live and dream in Washington Heights. These include Vanessa, an aspiring fashion designer, Abuela, who has adopted the entire block as her family, Nina, who’s back in town from attending Stanford, Benny the cab dispatcher (and Nina’s would-be boyfriend), and Sonny, Usnavi’s younger cousin who helps him run the bodega. It’s a colorful cast of characters and I was quickly drawn into the story. I was actually worried going in that I would have a hard time connecting to the story but I should have known that Lin-Manuel Miranda’s music would make it easy to dive right in.

To put it simply: if you loved the music of Hamilton, you will love the music of In the Heights. Like Hamilton, In the Heights is full of rap and freestyle melodies, though there’s obviously a Latin twist that doesn’t exist in Hamilton for obvious reasons. The music brings an entire culture to life throughout the story, and it’s so beautiful because this is a culture that’s full of life, passion, faith, and courage to go on in spite of facing huge obstacles in every direction. In fact, the community shown is so vibrant and so full of life, that it feels like you could just step right through the screen and be there with all of it, and I love a story where the world is this fully realized.

And oh yes, this story does not shy away from mentioning the obstacles people of color face on a daily basis. It’s mentioned several times by a number of characters that chasing dreams isn’t always easy, in fact it can be quite painful at times. And I like that the film makes it clear that sometimes you DON’T get your dream, even if you try. It’s a hard thing to hear of course, but it’s honest and I really like that because we’re still encouraged to go after our dreams, even if it hurts at times. And also, there’s a hint in the film that sometimes your “dream” isn’t what you think it is. That’s something I’m seeing more of in movies, but In the Heights does it really well.

IN THE HEIGHTS Copyright: © 2021 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved. Photo Credit: Macall Polay Caption: (L -r) NOAH CATALA as Graffiti Pete, GREGORY DIAZ IV as Sonny, COREY HAWKINS as Benny and ANTHONY RAMOS as Usnavi in Warner Bros. Pictures’ “IN THE HEIGHTS,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

What I wasn’t expecting was for In the Heights to make me cry but there’s one portion of this story that absolutely wrecked me. It all centers on “Paciencia y Fe” and “Alabanza” and the character of Abuela. I’m not the kind to readily cry in a movie theater, but the scenes with those two songs ripped at my heartstrings in a way that I didn’t expect going in.

I think my two favorite songs (that didn’t make me cry) were “In the Heights” and “96,000.” I like the opening song because it throws you in headfirst to the colorful world of Washington Heights and it was a really fun song to bop my head in rhythm with the music too. And I love “96,000” because it brought me back to my own childhood when I would go swim at the community rec center pool and everyone would be there.

I also love that Lin-Manuel Miranda appears in the film as the piragua vendor and there’s also a blink and you might miss it cameo from Christopher Jackson too.

What I’m trying to say is that In the Heights is absolutely the summer movie we’ve been waiting for. I laughed, I cried, it felt like an entire summer squeezed into a single film, all the good and bad. I know In the Heights is currently available on HBO Max but if your local movie theater is open, I highly recommend going to see this in theaters instead. It’s such a good experience and it deserves to be seen on the biggest screen possible.

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

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Soundtrack News: Varese Sarabande Releasing ‘The Matrix’ (The Complete Edition) on CD

Varèse Sarabande Records is thrilled to announce one of its June 2021 CD Club titles: The Matrix (The Complete Edition) by Don Davis. This title is available as of June 11, exclusively on VareseSarabande.com and internationally on Intl.VareseSarabande.com.

Few blockbusters can claim to be as influential as The Matrix (1999), written and directed by the Wachowskis. From its super high concept that has wormed its way into the public’s imagination (what if we’re all just living in a computer simulation?), to Keanu Reeves’ iconic hero Neo, to the brilliant, jaw-dropping and story-based visual effects, The Matrix delivered on all fronts. Its three films grossed over $1.6 billion worldwide, and a fourth is on the way.

The Matrix demanded a score that was as unique, sophisticated and imaginative as its concept and action—and that’s exactly what composer Don Davis delivered. Davis, who scored the Wachowskis’ Bound (1996), reinvented the symphonic language of the action blockbuster by drawing on cutting-edge concert-hall minimalism and his own background as an avant-garde composer, while maintaining the energy, pace and density required of a studio action film.

From the clashing-brass “reflections,” to the racing strings, pounding percussion and flittering, repeating musical “cells,” the Matrix score fits hand-in-glove with the film’s concept of a computer-controlled reality—and offers a unique musical thumbprint that is recognizable sometimes only from a single note or chord. It is the rare commercial triumph that is also an artistic landmark.

“One thing the Wachowskis did want was something new and different. Every director will tell you they want that something new and different until they actually hear it. But I took that to heart, and it was clear that a unique approach really was right for that film. I’ve kept my hand in composing concert music from the beginning, so I was aware of what was going on in that arena. [We] were working in a style that some were calling ‘postmodern,’ which seemed to be fitting for a postmodern film like The Matrix. And I saw this as an opportunity to take it in a stylistic direction that wouldn’t work in other films but specifically did work in this film,” says composer Don Davis.

The Matrix was released by Varèse Sarabande at the time of the film, and then in a Deluxe Edition that fit as much of the score as possible on one CD. By popular demand, this new 2-CD set presents the complete score. This version is also available through Record Store Day 2021 as a 3-LP set releasing on July 17. Visit RecordStoreDay.com to find a participating retailer. Liner notes feature a new interview with Don Davis conducted by Kaya Savas.

*Standard CD limited to 2,000 copies *SACD limited to 1,000 copiesPURCHASE

U.S. 2-CD – https://www.varesesarabande.com/products/don-davis-the-matrix-the-complete-score-2-cd 

U.S. 2-SACD – https://www.varesesarabande.com/products/don-davis-matrix-the-the-complete-score-2-sacd 

Int’l 2-CD – https://intl.varesesarabande.com/products/don-davis-the-matrix-the-complete-score-2-cd?currency=USD 

Int’l 2-SACD – https://intl.varesesarabande.com/products/don-davis-matrix-the-the-complete-score-2-sacd

The Matrix: The Complete Edition (Regular and SACD): Original Motion Picture Score Music Composed, Orchestrated & Conducted by Don Davis

Disc One:
Logos / The Matrix Main Title (0:55)
Trinity Infinity (6:00)
Neo Con Brio (0:32)
Follow The White Rabbit (0:15)
Neo On The Edge (3:24)
Through The Surveillance Monitor (0:59)
Unable To Speak (1:14)
Bait And Switch (3:16)
Switched For Life (3:36)
Switched At Birth (2:43)
Switches Brew (2:27)
Cold Hearted Switch (1:40)
Nascent Nauseous Neo (4:00)
A Morpheus Moment (1:39)
Bow Whisk Orchestra (1:23)
Domo Showdown (1:13)
Switch Or Break Show (1:05)
Shake, Borrow, Switch (0:39)
Switch Works Her Boa (0:56)
Bring Me Dinner (0:39)
The System (0:37)
Freeze Face (1:52)
Switch Woks Her Boar (2:07)
Cypher Cybernetic (0:59)
Ignorance Is Bliss / Cyber Cyphernetic (1:51)
See Who? (0:26)

Disc Two:
Switch Out (3:01)
Boon Spoy (1:08)
Oracle Cookies (1:30)
Threat Mix (6:05)
Exit Mr. Hat (2:57)
On Your Knees, Switch (4:43)
Mix The Art (2:10)
Whoa, Switch Brokers (4:01)
The Cure (1:35)
It’s The Smell (1:57)
The Lobby (0:27)
No More Spoons (1:02)
Dodge This (1:08)
Fast Learning (0:44)
Ontological Shock (4:16)
That’s Gotta Hurt (5:17)
Surprise (4:06)
He’s The One Alright (6:56)

Enjoy experiencing the complete score of The Matrix courtesy of Varese Sarabande Records!

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Soundtrack News: ‘Occupation Rainfall’ Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Now Available on iTunes

Kaleido Sound is excited to announce the release of the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack for the Lionsgate action sci-fi film, Occupation Rainfall, composed by Frederik Wiedmann (The Dragon Prince, Acts of Vengeance).

Wiedmann has been inspired by film composition since he first heard John Barry’s score to Dances With Wolves at the age of 12. Wiedmann is the composer behind the hit Disney Junior show Miles from Tomorrowland, as well as the critically acclaimed Netflix animated fantasy series The Dragon Prince, which is from the writers of the popular series: Avatar: The Last Airbender. Wiedmann has been a main stay in the DC cinematic universe, starting with his work on Green Lantern: The Animated Series, for which he earned two consecutive Annie Awards nominations. His success on the series led to further popular Warner Bros’ DC projects such as, Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, Son of BatmanDeath of SupermanJustice League: Gods and MonstersBatman: Gotham by Gaslight among others.

Directed by Luke Sparke, Occupation Rainfall takes place two years into an intergalactic invasion of earth. Survivors in Sydney, Australia, fight back in a desperate ground war. As casualties mount by the day, the resistance and their unexpected allies, uncover a plot that could see the war come to a decisive end. With the Alien invaders hell-bent on making earth their new home, the race is on to save mankind.

Regarding the soundtrack for Occupation Rainfall, composer Frederik Wiedmann had the following to say:

“This project was a huge musical canvas with a lot of room for creativity left for the composer, which made my heart race with excitement. From the first moment I saw a few snippets of it, I knew that this was going to be one epic ride. 

Luke Sparke, the director, and I spotted about 117 minutes for this 2-hour Sci-fi film, for which we both agreed that we’d need a big orchestra. It wasn’t an easy task to organize an orchestra of this scale due to COVID-19, but we managed to record in London at AIR studios, as well as in Macedonia at the FAMES scoring stage to create the sound we both wanted. 

The movie is certainly action-packed, with stunning visual effects and performances by the actors. But underneath the blood-pumping, adrenalin-spewing blockbuster facade of the film, lies a bigger, more philosophical question of “how far would you go for the greater good?”. I did my musical best to accompany the depth of this theme, using an array of thematic material, to underline the difficult choices that our characters inevitably face, as well as their emotional journey throughout the film.”

TRACK LISTING

  1. The Worst Is Yet To Come (2:10)
  2. Taking Fire (2:13)
  3. You’re Our Last Chance (2:42)
  4. Freed (2:09)
  5. Sydney (3:19)
  6. Gearing Up (2:46)
  7. Hail Of Fire (4:07)
  8. Ambushed (3:04)
  9. Sydney Destroyed (1:21)
  10. In The Outback (2:31)
  11. Hit Them With The Crossfire (2:16)
  12. Alien Pursuit (3:25)
  13. Red Sky (3:01)
  14. Apex Predator (4:18)
  15. The Village (1:53)
  16. Restricted Area (4:32)
  17. The Mob (3:15)
  18. The Command Ships (2:37)
  19. They Are Here (3:02)
  20. An Evolutionary Accident (4:19)
  21. Project Rainfall (2:09)
  22. Overrun (2:47)
  23. Avoiding Disaster (2:50)
  24. Guns And Blades (2:05)
  25. Kal’i Attack (1:35)
  26. The Standoff (1:38)
  27. Wing Commander Heyes (2:56)
  28. Behind Closed Doors (2:11)
  29. The Ascend (2:24)
  30. For Humanity (2:27)
  31. Reunited (3:10)

Check out the soundtrack for Occupation Rainfall, available on iTunes, and have a great day!

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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!

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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

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