Category Archives: television

Soundtrack Review: Stranger Things 3 (2019)

Stranger Things 3 features music by Emmy-winning and two-time Grammy-nominated composers Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein, digitally on June 28. Half of the Austin band      S U R V I V E, Dixon and Stein have been on board with the series since the first season, creating strikingly dynamic music that has become a trademark of the show.  In Season 3 evil has not ended, it has evolved, and the duo has evolved with it as they continue to explore new sonic territory and instrumentation, such as the pop sensibilities and melancholic undertones of 50’s doo-wop, that go beyond the 80’s & 90’s R&B inflections of past seasons. They also return to familiar themes that are elevated by bold stylized reworkings that reflect the growth of the characters and intensity of the new storyline.

With the Season 3 soundtrack, we’ve made an album that doesn’t feel like a ‘score’ necessarily, but one that feels more like a stand-alone record than a collection of brief cues. We’ve incorporated the main narrative elements of the series and stayed true to the original sound while at the same time expanding on our musical palette—we often pushed it to the limit. We’ve really made an effort to curate this album to showcase the moments we think are really special.

stranger-things-season-3-kids-eleven-scrunchie.jpg

The soundtrack for Stranger Things 3 has indeed evolved from where it was two years ago for Stranger Things 2. While the 80s vibe is definitely constant (not a surprise considering the show has reached 1985), there are also tracks that are much, MUCH darker than anything heard before. For example, “The Week is Long” has a very dark undertone to it, while “Rats” sounds like something out of a 1950s sci-fi film.

In terms of the general 80s vibe though, my favorite track has to be “Starcourt” since the entire piece SCREAMS “this is the 1980s and don’t you forget it.” The synth beats are in full effect, it’s peppy, it’s upbeat, it sounds like it was extracted straight out of that decade and brought to the present. I can also hear the resemblance to a stand-alone record that the composers were going for. The soundtrack does indeed sound like a record or tape from the 1980s that would sit down and listen to (well, for the most part anyway).

If you’ve been a fan of Stranger Things all this time, then you will definitely like the soundtrack for Stranger Things 3. Let me know what you think about Stranger Things 3 and its soundtrack in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Soundtrack Review: Stranger Things 2 (2017)

Film Soundtracks A-W

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 🙂

Advertisements

Soundtrack Review: Lost in Space (2018)

Lost in Space is a Netflix Original dramatic and modern reimagining of the classic 1960’s science fiction series. Set 30 years in the future, colonization in space is now a reality, and the Robinson family is among those tested and selected to make a new life for themselves in a better world. But when the new colonists find themselves abruptly torn off course en route to their new home they must forge new alliances and work together to survive in a dangerous alien environment, lightyears from their original destination. 

Given the impact of the original series, it was very important to approach the musical score in the right way, according to executive producer Zack Estrin:

When we were approaching the score for Lost In Space we knew there was a certain feeling we wanted to create for the viewers,” said Executive Producer Zack Estrin. “Following in the footsteps of the magnificent John Williams, who composed the original iconic series theme, Christopher Lennertz brought to us a vision that fit perfectly. It is full of triumphant brass and soaring strings, where orchestral melody and percussion dance seamlessly from edge of your seat thrills to simple moments of raw emotion.

18-16-4218-1014x570.jpg

Christopher Lennertz was very excited to be a part of this reimagining of the Lost in Space story.

Zack and all the producers wanted the musical language of the title sequence to set up the score for the rest of the story, and hopefully we did just that,” Lennertz explained.  “It’s a big story with family and adventure at the very heart. I tried to be grand and heroic, with a nod to exploration, and a hint of nostalgia. I hope it resonates with fans of the show, both old and new!

The soundtrack itself is a breath of fresh air. It is definitely cast in the mould of John Williams’ style of music, with soaring themes and racing melodies. To me, it genuinely sounds like a callback to a bygone age of composition, and I’m happy to hear that television music like this still exists. The “Main Title,” “Will Exploring” and “Danger Will Robinson” are some of my favorite pieces in the soundtrack. I love how the music feels like it’s literally flying, only to suddenly stop and “skitter” into scary territory with the violins. It’s easy to tell, listening to this music, when something has happened.

I had a lot of fun listening to this soundtrack, and I look forward to hearing more of Christopher Lennertz’s work in the future. I’m also considering checking out Lost in Space, since I’m curious to see a series that has such good music to go with it.

Let me know what you think about Lost in Space (and the 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

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

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook 🙂

Daniel Pemberton talks The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance (2019)

If you weren’t already excited about the imminent release of The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance on Netflix next week, then this news about the soundtrack should do the trick. The soundtrack, which is being released on August 30th, was composed by Daniel Pemberton (with help from fellow composer Samuel Sim).

For those who may have forgotten, the 10-episode show is a prequel to the groundbreaking 1982 fan favorite The Dark Crystal, and takes place many years before the events of the film. Leading the voice cast in the series will be Kingsman star Taron Egerton, The Witch actress Anya Taylor-Joy and Game of Thrones’ Nathalie Emmanuel, as ‘Gelfling’ heroes Rian, Brea and Deet. Star Wars’ Mark Hamill, Harry Potter’s Helena Bonham-Carter, Tomb Raider star Alicia Vikander and Outlander’s Caitriona Balfe provide additional voice performances in the new fantasy epic.

Dark-Crystal-Age-of-Resistance-Banner.jpg

For director Louis Leterrier, Pemberton was the natural choice:

I approached the music the same way I approached the filming and the puppetry. I wanted somebody to come on this journey that would be willing to take big risks. I wanted something that was almost tribal. I wanted to hear the strings being plucked and the skin wrapped over the drum. At the same time, I wanted somebody who could write beautiful melodies, understood music, and was a lover of beautiful music. I wanted someone who would approach it in a very organic way and who would tell the story through the score. My search led me to Daniel.

Daniel Pemberton is rapidly becoming one of my favorite composers, as he has previously scored The Man from U.N.C.L.E, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, and Ocean’s 8, just to name a few. Hearing his thoughts on how he approached the score for The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, makes me even more excited to experience the prequel series (and I don’t often say that about prequels).

dark-crystal-netflix-dc-unit-25687-r

Daniel had this to say about scoring The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance:

I wanted the music to be as magical as Thra itself – organic, imperfect, strange, mystical, otherworldly and wonderful. I wanted to create new sounds that felt like they came from the world itself, as well as using thematic large scale orchestral elements to bring an emotion to the journey of the characters. I wanted music and sounds that would fill you with wonder, but also terrify you. It was very important to me that all the sounds felt like they could only be from Thra itself – no grand pianos or overtly electronic elements. Every sound had to feel organic and visceral, from the dark detuned glissando cello sounds made for the Skeksis, to the upbeat flutes from the Podling’s bar. We created noises out of wine glasses, metal chains, wooden drums, metal sculptures on a snow covered mountain and old creaky medieval instruments to try and make a sonic world as unique as the visual one.

The soundtrack will be released in two volumes; volume 1 will have tracks composed only by Pemberton, while volume 2 will have tracks composed by Pemberton and Sim. Both volumes will be available on August 30th, the same day the series becomes available on Netflix.

Let me know if you’re just as excited to see The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Daniel Pemberton talks The Man from U.N.C.L.E (2015)

Daniel Pemberton talks Steve Jobs (2015)

Daniel Pemberton talks Gold (2016)

Daniel Pemberton talks King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017)

Film Composer Interviews A-H

Film Composer Interviews K-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

The Twilight Zone S2 E4: A Thing About Machines

When I started reviewing episodes of The Twilight Zone, I mentioned that my favorite episodes were those that showed some rotten person getting their comeuppance. The season 2 episode “A Thing About Machines” is a prime example of this trope, as well as being a really fun episode to watch.

The premise is simple: Bartlett Finchley is a snobby critic with a peculiar eccentricity, that being he hates, despises, and loathes any and all types of machinery. More than that, Finchley is convinced that the machines in his home are out to get him. It sounds crazy, but this is The Twilight Zone, so we know better. I should also say that Richard Haydn does a great job as the arrogant Finchley, proclaiming his dominance over machines until almost the end of the story.

Machines 2.jpg

It’s interesting how Rod Serling and company chose to play this episode out. Given the premise involves machines “rising up” against a human, it would have been easy to present this story in more of a horror style, playing up the victim’s increasing fear and terror. Instead, the story first makes Finchley so unlikable, that you feel inclined to cheer when the machine revolution begins in force.

And really, the way Finchley acts, he brought it all on himself. His hatred of machines is so extreme it borders on the absurd. For example, note Finchley’s reaction at the end of the introductory scene when his clock begins chiming the hour. The clock isn’t doing anything wrong, clocks are supposed to chime the hour, but Finchley’s reaction is to command it to stop, and then SMASH it when it continues to chime. That reaction is not only unreasonable, it’s practically insane, and it makes you wonder just how “together” Finchley was before this episode takes place.

THE_TWILIGHT_ZONE_SEASON_2_DISC1-31.jpg

The plot device of the machines rising up one by one is pretty well done: the phone rings when it’s not connected, the television randomly switches on, the clock rings when it’s not supposed to, the typewriter types with nobody at the table, and those machines that are capable of sound have one message in common: Get out of here Finchley! As if that weren’t enough, things step up a notch further when other, more random objects come in for the attack. My particular favorite is when Finchley’s electric razor literally comes snaking down the stairs and rises up to attack (if you look close, you can se the wire manipulating the razor). As with all of The Twilight Zone episodes of this type, things build to a climax where Finchley does indeed “get out”…permanently.

I don’t say this often, but given the subject matter this is one episode of The Twilight Zone that I wouldn’t mind seeing a modern remake of. Given how the technology all around us has increased tenfold from fifty years ago, it would be most interesting to see a retelling of this story by someone who’s surrounded by iPhones, smart TVs, computers everywhere. Hopefully the rebooted series that’s on CBS All-Access will run with this idea in a future episode.

Overall, “A Thing About Machines” is a good example of what makes The Twilight Zone so enjoyable to watch. Let me know your thoughts regarding “A Thing About Machines” in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

TV Reviews

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

The Twilight Zone S1 E28: A Nice Place to Visit

When it comes to the original run of The Twilight Zone, I have many episodes that I consider to be my favorites. But if I had to pick just one episode to go back and watch for the first time all over again, it would have to be the season 1 episode “A Nice Place to Visit.” Not only is it a well done episode, I also feel like it has the most memorable “wham” line in the entire series (feel free to correct me if you feel otherwise). But I suppose I’m getting ahead of myself, so let’s take a look at the episode.

“A Nice Place to Visit” is notable for starting off with a bang, literally, as the lead character, a hardened thief named Rocky Valentine gets shot and killed while fleeing a robbery. Soon after, Rocky meets Pip (Sebastian Cabot), who introduces himself as Rocky’s “guide” to this strange, new world he finds himself in. Larry Blyden is quite convincing as the hardened-beyond-redemption Rocky, playing the character in just such a way that you can’t feel any sympathy for him.

10.png

And where exactly is Rocky? Well, it takes the gangster some time to work it out, but he eventually does realize he’s not on Earth anymore (though you’d think being accompanied by a mysterious figure dressed in white would’ve been a big clue, but then again Rocky’s not that smart). Rocky then decides that since he’s dead and not burning up in flames, well then he must be in Heaven! You really can’t blame Rocky for jumping to this conclusion, as the gangster has found himself in very plush surroundings: he’s in the penthouse of a posh hotel and casino, he has beautiful girls waiting on him hand and foot, a brand new car to drive whenever he wants, and he always has the best luck at the gaming tables. It’s an absolute Paradise for someone like Rocky…or is it?

See, if you pay attention, there are clues seeded from the beginning that indicate Rocky isn’t where he thinks he is. For example, observe how Pip interacts with Rocky, particularly when he’s trying on his new clothes. While his “guide” is full of flattery, he’s not exactly sincere in his compliments. And then there’s the fact that no one else is in “Heaven” with Rocky. You don’t need a Masters in Theology to know that Heaven isn’t meant to be an empty place. There’s also the telling look at Rocky’s “file” in the Hall of Records (during the gangster’s brief doubts that he’s ended up in the correct place), where it’s revealed that Rocky had quite the sinful life, with no redeeming moments whatsoever. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how wonderful Sebastian Cabot is in his role as Pip throughout the episode. The way he plays the character, you can tell he’s more than happy to guide Rocky throughout his “domain” but he’s also visibly holding quite a deal back (as we’ll see shortly).

Twilight-Zone-A-Nice-Place-to-Visit-3.jpg

The biggest clue of all to what’s going on can be found in Rocky’s unnatural luck. What seemed to be a heavenly blessing is actually a curse, because try as he might Rocky can’t stop winning, no matter what game he plays! That might not sound so bad, but think about it: imagine you’re playing a game and all you do is win, time after time for DAYS at a time. That would get boring wouldn’t it? Well, after a month in “Heaven” that’s exactly what happens to Rocky; the gangster is bored out of his skull because he’s getting everything he ever wanted with absolutely no risk involved, an intolerable situation for someone like Rocky, who’s thrived on risk his whole life. Rocky can’t stand being in a place, no matter how nice, where there isn’t any risk to him.

As a result of this boredom, while Rocky still believes he’s in Heaven, he finally decides he’s in the wrong place after all, and asks to go to “the other place (Hell).” And that’s when it happens, that’s when Pip delivers the immortal line that turns everything you thought you knew about this story on its head:

“Heaven? Whatever gave you the idea you were in Heaven, Mr. Valentine? This is the other place!

How I wish I could go back and relive the first time I heard that line over again, because it really is a game changer. The idea that such a nice place could really be “the other place,” it really blew my mind. I think of all the series’ twists, this is the one that hides itself the best, right until the end anyway. Of course, in hindsight, given The Twilight Zone’s known history of unexpected twists, maybe a lot of people saw it coming after all. Regardless of whether you expected it or not, Rocky’s reaction to finding out where he’s been all this time is priceless. It’s amazing how quickly you want to leave when you find out your “Paradise” is actually a gilded cage in the middle of Hell itself.

Let me know what you think of “A Nice Place to Visit” in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

TV Reviews

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

The Twilight Zone S5 E25: The Masks

The Twilight Zone is noted for telling stories about a wide variety of characters, many of whom end up suffering a twisted punishment through bizarre means. “The Masks,” another 5th season episode, is an exemplar of this particular story-type. The story is set in New Orleans in the home of Jason Foster, a ridiculously wealthy, and notably blunt old man who is also dying. In any other story, you might think Jason was the one fixing to get what’s coming to him, but that thought disappears the moment you meet his relatives, who are all the very definition of “pieces of work.”

Let’s see now, there’s Emily, Jason’s daughter, who is an eternal hypochondriac (and unwitting hypocrite), always believing she is on death’s door suffering from some malady. There’s Wilfred, Emily’s husband, who only cares about money. And next to those two are the grown children Wilfred Jr., who apparently used to like torturing small animals if Jason is to be believed, and then there’s Paula. Paula is an interesting case because at first her only “sin” appears to be that she’s obsessed with her own appearance. Don’t let her fool you; later in the story she goes into a tirade about the miserable time she’s having waiting for her grandfather to die. In short, there’s little to no redeeming value in any of Jason’s kin, and the dying millionaire knows it.

MV5BNjJmMjcwOWEtOWRlYy00YTVkLWJhOGYtMjExYWM1MDBjOWM5XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMDgyNjA5MA@@._V1_.jpg

Instead of simply cutting them out of the will, however, Jason decides to inflict his own punishment, perfect for the Twilight Zone. Since it is the night of Mardi Gras, everyone in the family must wear masks. But these aren’t any ordinary party masks. These are grotesque, disturbing things to look at. I often find myself wondering what color those masks were (since the episode was filmed in black and white it’s impossible to say for certain), since the colors might have added to their disturbing nature. But I digress…

You’ll also note Jason says they were made “by an old Cajun” which should be a big clue to the audience that something supernatural will happen eventually if you put them on. But Jason includes a fool-proof catch: if anyone in the family refuses to wear the masks, then all any of them will get from his estate is train fare back home. Jason knows full well his relatives are far too greedy to pass up on his fortune. So they all put the masks on (even Jason, he wears a death’s head), and they wait for midnight, when Jason says the masks can come off.

CBS_TWILIGHT_ZONE_128_IMAGE_CIAN_1280x720_1202662467540.jpg

This next part is, for me, the saddest part of the episode, because as midnight approaches all of Jason’s family beg him to let them take the masks off, saying how stupid this is and how they can’t bear it. Jason then turns to them all and says:

“Have you all had your say?….is there nothing else you have to say to me?”

Having read between the lines, I’m convinced that Jason is giving his family one final chance to show him that they have at least one redeeming quality about them. If just one of them had shown some spark of caring, I really think Jason would have called it all off and let them take the masks off. But the chance is wasted on these people, and as midnight strikes, Jason finally passes away. And I don’t think it’s a coincidence he died at the stroke of midnight either. Earlier in the episode, Jason mentions that there’s a “ritual” to the wearing of the masks. While he describes it in some detail, I think he leaves a crucial detail out. I suspect, that for the ritual to take full effect, someone has to wear the death’s head and sacrifice their life at midnight. It makes sense if you think about it, most stories involving magic will tell you that powerful magic requires some form of sacrifice. And since Jason was dying anyway, it follows that he would choose a relatively quick death over suffering who knows how much longer. And if he can punish his relatives at the same time…so much the better.

And what a punishment! The reveal of what the masks have done make this one of my favorite episodes to this very day. And to those who might say “Well can’t they just get plastic surgery to fix their faces?” That’s just it, they can’t! You see, going for surgery would mean revealing their problems and flaws for all the world to see. And you saw how they all act, they’d never be able to do that. So they’re stuck with their punishment for the rest of their lives.

Let me know what you think about “The Masks” in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

TV Reviews

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

 

The Twilight Zone S5 E27: Sounds and Silences

The Twilight Zone is memorable, and rightly so, for creating an anthology full of memorable stories, nearly of which have a shocking twist at the end. For me personally, the reason I love this series so much is because Rod Serling proved to be a master of “watch this obnoxious individual get what’s coming to him.”

“Sounds and Silences,” produced late in the 5th and final season, is one such episode. The episode details the demise of Roswell G. Flemington, owner of a model ship company, and described by Serling himself as “two hundred and twenty pounds of gristle, lung tissue and sound decibels.” He’s not the worst character to get his comeuppance on this show, but he comes awfully close through sheer obnoxiousness.

C8g8SDQWsAAhL0F.jpg

Flemington is a man obsessed with the Navy, to the point that his company office is modeled after the interior of a ship’s cabin. That, in and of itself, wouldn’t be so bad, except Flemington is also obsessed with noise. I’m not just talking about blaring records as loud as he can (which he does throughout the episode), I’m talking about slamming doors, stamping feet, and yelling whenever he talks. One harried staff member mutters aloud that “someday all of that noise is going to come back and bite him” and boy does it ever!

The downward spiral begins when Flemington’s wife of 20 years finally has enough and decides to leave him. The one part of this episode that I find difficult to accept is that a man like Flemington was able to find a wife at all! I absolutely love the scene where she tells Roswell off and proceeds to inform him, in no uncertain terms, that their marriage is over. This is also the scene that completely destroys any final scrap of sympathy you might have for this character, as Flemington describes, in sneering detail, how he had to put up with a hypochondriac mother and THAT is why he’s so obsessed with noise. You might feel bad for him, were it not for the fact that the man is clearly talking down to his soon-to-be-ex-wife. It’s made plain that this guy deserves everything he’s about to get.

Marital Woes.png

It’s after Flemington’s wife leaves that the fun really starts. I have to imagine the sound people had a lot of fun with this episode, when they had to simulate Flemington hearing noises louder than they actually are. It’s slightly surreal, hearing all of the sound effects, but it goes a long way toward showing how Flemington is rapidly losing his grip on reality. In fact, the conclusion comes not long afterward, when Flemington, having convinced himself that all of this is “mind over matter” finds he cannot hear at all.

Now, I have two thoughts on the ending of this episode. On the one hand, it’s implied that Roswell simply took “mind over matter” too far and accidentally made himself deaf. On the other hand, when you spend day after day listening to records at ear-splitting decibel levels…really, he was bound to lose his hearing sooner or later. In either case, this is one of the most suitable punishments presented in the show. Flemington, a man obsessed with noise, is now forced to live in a world with none at all.

Let me know what you think about “Sounds and Silences” in the comments below and have a great day! From now on, I’ll be working in reviews of my favorite Twilight Zone episodes, so I really hope you enjoy them.

See also:

TV Reviews

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