Category Archives: Films

My Thoughts on: A Christmas Carol (1984)

Earlier, during the holidays, I sat down and watched the 1984 version of A Christmas Carol, with George C. Scott starring as Ebenezer Scrooge. As near as I can remember, this is the first time I’ve ever seen this particular version of the story, which is by far the most complete version of “A Christmas Carol” that I’ve seen to date. For context, I should mention that the version I’m most familiar with are Mickey’s Christmas Carol and The Muppet Christmas Carol, both of which are good but they also leave out quite a bit of material as I’ve now discovered.

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A Christmas Carol includes sequences and details I never knew about before, including Ebenezer’s beloved sister Fan, and the fact that her untimely death is why Scrooge isn’t particularly fond of his nephew Fred (most versions I’ve seen omit that detail). And then when Scrooge is spending time with the Ghost of Christmas Present, I never knew he visited his nephew Fred’s home and watched them play games. All of these details have really expanded the story for me and made me love it that much more. This film also, in my opinion, has the scariest incarnation of The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come that I’ve seen in a long time. To be sure, I haven’t seen a version yet that doesn’t have a scary version of this character, but this one is particularly dark.

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I also really enjoy George C. Scott’s interpretation of Ebenezer Scrooge. I know many famous actors have taken on the role, and given that I only know Scott best for his work in Patton, I wasn’t sure how he would do playing Scrooge. But after watching this film, I found myself really enjoying his performance. Scott’s version of Scrooge is particularly cold and nasty in the beginning, and even after being visited by the first two Ghosts, Scrooge doesn’t seem particularly close to being redeemed. It’s only after being visited by the terrifying Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come (who can only communicate with terrifying metallic shrieks), that Scrooge finally sees the error of his ways.

If you’re looking for a version of “A Christmas Carol” that is particularly faithful to the original story, then you can’t go wrong by watching this one. Let me know what you think about it in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Film Reviews

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My Thoughts on: Tarzan Escapes (1936)

The next Tarzan film I decided to see is Tarzan Escapes from 1936. Like Tarzan and His Mate, this film once again sees outside forces attempting to return Jane to civilization, this time in the form of her cousins Eric and Rita. These two mean well, but their actions sure do cause a lot of grief for Jane and Tarzan, especially when a certain revelation is made at the end of the film (but I’ll get to that in a little bit).

Tarzan Escapes has two primary conflicts: one centers on whether or not Jane will return to civilization to sign some financial papers that will help her cousins, and the other involves Captain Fry, a big game hunter who has nefarious designs on Tarzan. The latter plays out as exactly the way you think it will (Tarzan does get caught but it doesn’t last for long and revenge is exacted). The big heart wrenching element in this film comes when Jane has to explain to Tarzan why she needs to go away for a few months to help her cousins. The only part of it that Tarzan understands is that Jane is going away, and it clearly breaks his heart. It’s enough to make me want to cry, even though I’ve rewatched the scene several times by now. Weissmuller’s Tarzan is so in love with Jane, even a temporary separation feels like the end of the world.

But what really bugs me about all of this, as I mentioned earlier, is that none of it had to happen. You see, early in the film Eric and Rita make it plain that Jane needs to come with them to provide her signature on some documents. However, once the status quo has been restored, it comes out that Eric and Rita were lying through their teeth: Jane never needed to come with them, she could’ve just signed a paper in the jungle and that would’ve been that. Maybe I’m overthinking it, but this revelation makes me more than a little angry on Jane and Tarzan’s behalf. Essentially, Tarzan’s heart was ripped out and stomped on (when he thought Jane was leaving) for no reason.

And I can’t leave a review of Tarzan Escapes without talking about Captain Fry, or more specifically what happens to him at the end of the story. After racing to safety through a treacherous swamp, Tarzan turns and forces Fry to go back the way they just came. He doesn’t say much, but he doesn’t have to, after everything that’s happened, it’s clear that Tarzan consider’s Fry’s actions to be unforgivable and nobody, not even Jane, can convince him otherwise. It’s a spine-chilling moment and a reminder that Tarzan is not one to mess with, for any reason.

Tarzan Escapes is another enjoyable entry in the series of Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan films, and one that everyone should see if they get the chance.

Let me know what you think about Tarzan Escapes in the comments below and have a happy New Year!!

See also:

My Thoughts on: Tarzan the Ape Man (1932)

My Thoughts on: Tarzan and His Mate (1934)

Film Reviews

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My Thoughts on: Tarzan and His Mate (1934)

Some time ago I was very excited to finally get my hands on the first six Tarzan films starring Johnny Weissmuller. Having never seen any of these films before (but having heard about them since I was little), I decided to start with Tarzan and His Mate, the second Tarzan film starring Weissmuller and Maureen O’Sullivan as Tarzan and Jane respectively. This is a direct sequel to Tarzan the Ape Man (1932), as it sees the return not only of Harry Holt (Neil Hamilton) as Jane’s would-be suitor, but also the return of the elephant graveyard that was being sought in the previous film. Like most, if not all of the Tarzan films I’ve seen to date, the plot is familiar: someone wants to plunder the treasures of Tarzan’s jungle and Tarzan does everything in his power to stop it while complications inevitably ensue.

As I’ve quickly discovered with these films, Tarzan and His Mate is pure adventure of the best kind. Even at its darkest point, it never feels like Tarzan or Jane are in serious danger, because even when they are you just can’t believe that anything bad is going to happen to them (mostly because Tarzan is bound to swing in to the rescue).

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One thing that delighted me about Tarzan and His Mate was learning that Jane had her own unique “Tarzan yell.” Of course I knew about Weissmuller’s yell, it’s been the template for all Tarzan yells for over 50 years (with The Legend of Tarzan admittedly being an exception), but I had no idea that Jane (and later Boy) had their own unique yells.

Johnny Weissmuller is, for obvious reasons, one of my favorite parts of this movie. While he’s nothing like his animated counterpart, and definitely not much like his literary predecessor (in terms of vocabulary), I have no trouble believing that Weissmuller is Tarzan. He just fits the role so well.

It was also really cool seeing Neil Hamilton star in something other than Batman. For years all I knew the actor for was his work as Commissioner Gordon in the Batman television series and I really liked his work in this film and the previous installment.

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Also, you can really tell that Tarzan and His Mate is a pre-Code film. Not only is Jane’s costume extremely revealing (there’s little left to the imagination), there’s also an underwater sequence where Jane (played by a body double) is completely naked! My eyes popped out when I saw that scene for the first time. I mean, I knew pre-Code films took risks like that, but I didn’t know they did that! I’m really glad the copy I have restored that scene, because I read that it was cut out of the film for the longest time.

If you want to start watching the Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan films, I highly recommend starting with Tarzan and His Mate. Let me know what you think about this film in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

My Thoughts on: Tarzan the Ape Man (1932)

My Thoughts on: Tarzan Escapes (1936)

Film Reviews

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My Thoughts on: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019)

(author’s note: I’m BACK everyone!!)

2019 will definitely be remembered as a time of endings in cinema. Not only did this year see the 11 year Infinity Saga come to an end with Avengers: Endgame, it also saw the Skywalker Saga come to a close with the release of Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker.

And what an ending it is! This is a movie that I’ve been looking forward to for two years and after the teaser trailer revealed that the Emperor would be returning (a moment that completely blew my mind I assure you), I was more eager than ever to see how the final installment would play out. And while my many theories all proved to be woefully incorrect, that didn’t change the fact that I loved this film. Don’t let the critics turn you off from seeing The Rise of Skywalker, it IS a good story and a great conclusion…provided you go in with a completely open mind as to how the story can end.

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Now, I will admit that The Rise of Skywalker isn’t a perfect film by any means. Could the film have done better in explaining how the Emperor returned? Yes, it could’ve. Could a certain plot point with a certain First Order spy (name withheld because spoilers) have been expanded upon? Oh most definitely. And could we have had a lot more Force ghosts? Yup, no doubt. But really these are minor nitpicks and not gaping plot holes. Of course no movie is going to be completely perfect, and I wish people would remember that more often.

One thing this film gets completely right is its treatment of Carrie Fisher’s final appearance. As you’ve probably heard, all of her footage (minus one scene) was taken from deleted footage created for Episode VII. I wasn’t sure what that would look like going in but it works. It doesn’t feel awkward, but it does make certain scenes very emotional when you remember that Carrie isn’t here anymore. Well done to J.J Abrams and company for getting this right.

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The lightsaber battles were everything I hoped for and more. My favorite is the fight between Rey and Kylo Ren among the ruins of the second Death Star. It’s full of such raw emotion, as all the fights in the sequel trilogy have been, and the ending of this particular fight had me in tears. I have to say that it will be hard not seeing Adam Driver in Star Wars movies anymore (note: I’m not spoiling anything, Driver has said he’s moved on from the character), he’s quickly become one of my favorite parts of the sequel trilogy, and his style of lightsaber combat is a lot of fun to watch. I will admit I didn’t see his character arc going where it did, but Abrams did a really good job with it, so I’m okay with it too.

Another thing I liked about The Rise of Skywalker are the many surprises littered throughout the film. Some you’ll know about from the previews, and some you will not see coming. Of course there is one BIG spoiler that is likely dividing fans as I write this, but I for one am okay with it, even though it did torpedo my “Rey is a Skywalker clone” theory into oblivion. If you take a moment and think about it, this particular reveal is entirely plausible, and it does make a lot more sense than some of the theories I heard. Also, on a random note: D-O is my new favorite Star Wars droid.

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And it wouldn’t be a Star Wars review if I didn’t take a minute to talk about the music. For one final time, John Williams knocks it out of the park with a fantastic score that ties everything together. Since this is the final entry in the Skywalker Saga, there are a lot of musical callbacks, especially to the original trilogy. There isn’t nearly as much prequel trilogy music as I would’ve liked, but it’s also entirely possible that Williams tried to incorporate some of those themes and it just didn’t work out.

I will close by stating again that The Rise of Skywalker is a good film and a good conclusion to the nine film saga. Having rewatched Episodes I-VIII before seeing this film, I can say that this film fits in perfectly with all the rest. I’m still a little sad that there won’t be any further adventures with Rey or Poe or Finn, but at least now I can go back and watch the complete saga whenever I want. Bravo to everyone who worked over the last 42 years to bring not only The Rise of Skywalker, but all the Star Wars saga films to life.

Let me know what you think about The Rise of Skywalker in the comments below (keep it civil please) and have a great day! I’m happy to be back blogging once more!

See also:

My Thoughts on: Solo: A Star Wars Story (with spoilers!) (2018)

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016), My Thoughts!!

My Thoughts on: Star Wars (1977)

My Thoughts on: Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

Film Reviews

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Frozen II “Into the Unknown” (2019)

*warning: spoilers for Frozen II below

The other song that I really liked the most in Frozen II is “Into the Unknown”, Elsa’s first big solo in the story. In this song, Elsa addresses the mysterious voice that has been calling her in a voice that only she can hear. The song takes place late at night when everyone is asleep, everyone except Elsa, who can’t sleep due to the voice’s incessant calling.

Ah ah, ah ah
Ah ah, ah ah
Ah ah, ah ah ah ah

I can hear you but I won’t
Some look for trouble
While others don’t
There’s a thousand reasons
I should go about my day
And ignore your whispers
Which I wish would go away, oh oh

Ah ah, ah ah

Oh

Ah ah ah ah, ah

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Now what’s interesting about this song is that Elsa is turning the conventions of this song-type onto its head. Most Disney characters would simply sing about how they’re curious about this voice and want to go on an adventure. But Elsa openly defies this idea, saying “I’ve HAD my adventure (i.e. the first Frozen), go bother somebody else.” And yet, at the same time, Elsa also verges into traditional territory, admitting that she wants to follow the voice, but she’s afraid of the consequences. And this fear is understandable, since Elsa is queen and she has an entire country to think about.

You’re not a voice
You’re just a ringing in my ear
And if I heard you, which I don’t
I’m spoken for, I fear
Everyone I’ve ever loved is here within these walls
I’m sorry, secret siren, but I’m blocking out your calls
I’ve had my adventure, I don’t need something new
I’m afraid of what I’m risking if I follow you

Into the unknown
Into the unknown
Into the unknown

Ah, ah, ah, ah, ah

Ah

Ah ah ah ah, ah, ah

What do you want? ‘Cause you’ve been keeping me awake
Are you here to distract me so I make a big mistake?
Or are you someone out there who’s a little bit like me?
Who knows deep down I’m not where I’m meant to be?
Every day’s a little harder as I feel my power grow
Don’t you know there’s part of me that longs to go

Into the unknown?
Into the unknown
Into the unknown

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Another detail I like about this song is how Elsa imitates the voice at the end of each verse (the third time she sings “Into the Unknown” her voice ululates like the voice, showing how it’s slowly but surely influencing her).

Ah ah ah ah
Ah ah ah ah

Whoa oh oh
Are you out there?
Do you know me?
Can you feel me?
Can you show me?
Ah ah ah ah

Ah ah ah ah

Ah ah ah ah

Ah ah ah ah

I also really like the sequence where Elsa…for lack of a better description enters the magic world where her ice magic seems to come alive around her. Apparently this somehow grabs the attention of the spirits (according to Elsa’s own explanation moments after this song ends) but I still don’t entirely understand how that happened. Storytelling issues aside, the “magic world” is beautifully rendered, and provides a brilliant example of how Elsa is literally getting lost in her magical abilities.

Ah ah ah ah
Ah ah ah ah
Ah ah ah ah
Ah ah ah ah

Where are you going?
Don’t leave me alone
How do I follow you (Ah ah ah ah, ah ah ah ah)
Into the unknown? (Ah, ah, ah!)

Having listened to this song a number of times, I can see why people are comparing it to “Let it Go” from the first film. It’s definitely a similar song in style, but the tone, to me, is different. “Let it Go” was about Elsa proclaiming her new identity and letting go of the past. “Into the Unknown” is about Elsa hesitating to follow a destiny that might take her away from all that she knows and loves, quite a different story than the first song. But while different, I don’t love it any less, and in fact I really enjoy the back and forth that Elsa has with the voice by the end of the song.

Let me know what you think about “Into the Unknown” and Frozen II in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Frozen II “All is Found” (2019)

Frozen II “Show Yourself” (2019)

My Thoughts on: Frozen II (2019)

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

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

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

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook

 

Frozen II “Show Yourself” (2019)

*WARNING: major plot spoilers for Frozen II. DO NOT continue if you haven’t seen the film yet!

Of all the songs featured in Frozen II, one of my immediate favorites was “Show Yourself”, a song that comes late in the film as Elsa sets off to discover just who has been calling her and upending her life as the queen of Arendelle. After (literally) harnessing the Nokk, the water spirit, Elsa rides across the Dark Sea to Ahtohallan, a river of memory preserved in the form of a glacier.

Every inch of me is trembling
But not from the cold
Something is familiar
Like a dream I can reach
But not quite hold

I can sense you there
Like a friend I’ve always known
I’m arriving, it feels like I am home
I have always been a fortress
Cold secrets deep inside
You have secrets too
But you don’t have to hide

Show yourself
I’m dying to meet you
Show yourself
It’s your turn

Are you then one I’ve been looking for all of my life?!
Show yourself!
I’m ready to learn…
Ah-ah-ah-ah

Ah-ah-ah-ah-ah

So far so good. This feels like we’re finally reaching the true climax of the story and rightly so. This voice has haunted Elsa since the beginning of the story, and now it appears that we’re finally going to see who this voice belongs to. And it appears that the owner of the voice is close at hand as Elsa chases it farther into the ice.

I’ve never felt so certain
All my life I’ve been torn
But I’m here for a reason
Could it be the reason I was born?
I have always been so different
Normal rules did not apply
Is this the day?
Are you the way
I finally find out why!!?

Show yourself!
I’m no longer trembling!
Here I am
I’ve come so far!
You are the answer I’ve waited for
All of my life!

Oh, show yourself
Let me see who you are…
Come to me now
Open your door
Don’t make me wait
One moment more!

Right about now, however, is where things began to go slightly sideways for me. On its own, I absolutely love every moment of this song. However, taken in context with the film, this part doesn’t make too much sense. Of course I see the revelation they’re going for, that Elsa is the 5th spirit, but at this point in the story I have no idea how we’ve gotten to that point. And the fact that I’m aware of this during the song made it lose just a little something for me (beautiful moment though it is).

Oh, come to me now
Open your door
Don’t make me wait
One moment more!

Where the northwind meets the sea

(Ah-ah-ah-ah)

There’s a river

(Ah-ah-ah-ah)

full of memory

And of course this is the moment where I (temporarily) put aside my confusion and just completely teared up. This moment is beautiful, with the song coming in, and Elsa somehow coming face to face with the spirit of her mother. I don’t understand how this is possible (and it could have been slightly better explained), but it is.

Come my darling, homeward bound

I am found!

Show yourself!
Step into your power
Grow yourself
Into something new

You are the one you’ve been waiting for

All of my life

All of your life

Oh, show yourself

You

Ah-ah-ah-ah!
Ah-ah-ah-ah
Ah-ah-ah-ah
Ah-ah-ah-ah
Ah-ah-ah-ah!!!

Despite a few storytelling flaws, “Show Yourself” remains a powerful song and one of my favorite moments in the entire film. Let me know what you think about “Show Yourself” in Frozen II and have a great day!

See also:

My Thoughts on: Frozen II (2019)

Frozen II “All is Found” (2019)

Frozen II “Into the Unknown” (2019)

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

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

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

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook

An Interview with Paul Mills, Composer of Overcomer (2019)

Last month, I had the honor of interviewing film composer Paul Mills, a composer who has worked on a number of films, including War Room (2015), Still Breathing (1997), and Sweet Sweet Summertime (2017).  This interview had to do with one of Paul’s most recent works, his score for Overcomer (2019), a film directed by the Kendrick brothers, Alex and Stephen Kendrick, the same minds behind War Room four years earlier.

The plot of Overcomer follows several characters, including John Harrison (Alex Kendrick), who is a basketball coach at a high school. Due to the closure of businesses in the city and the departure of several families, he agrees to be the running coach for Hannah Scott (Aryn Wright-Thompson) who is an asthmatic. Hannah’s sporting journey will be accompanied by a self-discovery that will answer a question that has been a concern for her for a long time.

I hope you enjoy this short interview with Paul Mills, composer of Overcomer.

How did you get started with composing for films?

It was a long journey, I always loved music growing up. My dad had some films that had music he loved, he had some Henry Mancini scores, Jerry Goldsmith, Ennio Morricone; I became fascinated with what the music in a film could do. And then through school I was involved in music; I went to the University of Houston to get a degree in composition, and while I was there I started working at a recording studio. I started learning more about how to arrange strings for pop music, and how to work with artists and record companies. And there was a guy there who worked with documentaries and short films who ended up going to Los Angeles with a script he’d written, and ultimately arranged for me to score the project. That experience is what hooked me [into film composing], even though it was 12 years between that score and my next composing project.

How did you become connected with Overcomer, and what did you think of the film’s story?

After War Room, I’d been throwing hints around [about working with the Kendrick brothers again]. Finally, I was in a Publix grocery store, and I got a call and it was Stephen Kendrick on the phone. He said “We want you to do the movie, and here’s what it’s about.” And it was like a twenty minute space where he told me the whole story arc of the movie. By the time he described a critical scene at the end of the film to me, I was jumping up and down I was so excited to score it, it was such an awesome sounding scene. That’s how it happened, [the Kendrick brothers] were happy with War Room so they wanted me for Overcomer.

Was it easier working on Overcomer because you’d worked with the Kendrick brothers before for War Room?

It was. We already had a shorthand, and we had this program where I can upload scenes from the movie-in-progress with my music embedded into it. And with a set of earbuds [the Kendrick brothers] can watch the scene with music on their iPhones, and comment on it in real time. It was really easy then, because we didn’t have to try to figure each other out. For example, I know that the brothers love films with “hummable” themes, they want the audience to be humming those themes as they leave the theater, and as a composer I love that! My job was made easier because I already knew that.

On a related note, how is that story reflected in the film’s score? Is it?

Well, the way the music came about, you see there’s a long race scene at the end. And I sat down with the director’s to watch a rough cut of the movie (that’s called the spotting session). Long story short, once we got to the end of that, we thought “this scene is so critical, maybe we should start here.” I spent a couple of weeks trying to put things together and then I realized “I CAN’T do this scene yet, because I don’t know what the other thematic material is going to be.” I already knew in my head that I wanted to have an “Overcomer” theme, because the movie is basically about finding your identity in Christ, and overcoming the obstacles along the way. So…once I realized I needed thematic material, I went back to the beginning of the story and wrote the Overcomer theme. After that, I jumped to Hannah’s theme, and went on from there.

I haven’t seen many film score tracks that are 11 minutes long, what was it like putting such a lengthy track together?

It was actually way easier [to write] once I had my thematic material, because a lot of stuff happens during that scene. Having the thematic material definitely made it easier, because this is Hannah’s big race. And there are big areas in the track, and slow areas, and the slow areas happen when there’s a lot of dialogue. That is a scene where people are actually yelling at the screen in theaters. And there was just nowhere that the music could break because it was one long race. The music had to go all the way through it. I was really happy with the way it came out, with the ebbs and flows and the climax at the end. It really works with the scene, and it stays out of the way of the dialogue when it needs to.

What do you want audiences to take away with them when they hear this music?

When people see this movie I want them to realize that they can find their identity and their meaning in something more important than a number of things that we normally attach meaning to, whether it’s a career, or worrying about our finances, or having family problems. This movie talks about finding your identity in Christ, and I think the Kendrick brothers have done a really great job showing people that there are answers that you can find. So I want people to be uplifted by the music, so that they’re lighter walking out of the theater than when they came in.

I’d like to say thanks to Paul Mills for taking some time out of his day to speak with me about his work on Overcomer.

See also:

Composer Interviews

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