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My Thoughts on: Trick r Treat (2007)

I honestly don’t remember how I first learned about Trick r Treat. But somehow, a few years back, I found a copy of the film online and watched it out of curiosity, not sure what to expect (and you know my general feelings on scary horror films if you’ve been following this blog for a while).

To my complete and utter surprise, I was HOOKED! Enough that the film remained in the back of my mind for years, until I finally decided to watch it for a second time this month to set down my thoughts on it.

If you haven’t seen it, Trick r Treat takes place over the course of a single Halloween night in Warren Valley, Ohio, and features four separate stories that overlap in a number of ways. The four stories in a nutshell are: Principal Wilkins carves a jack o lantern with his son; Rhonda and a group of bullies revisit the Halloween School Bus Massacre at a rock quarry; Laurie loses her “virginity” at a bonfire party; and old Mr. Kreeg learns the true meaning of Halloween.

That’s a big part of the film’s appeal for me. Because the stories intersect at numerous points, every time you watch the film you’re going to notice a new background detail that connects one story to another. And of course I have to mention Sam, the most pivotal character of the story. Sam is, for lack of a better word, the personification of Halloween. He is there to enforce the rules of Halloween, those including: Wear a costume, give out candy, and NEVER blow out your jack o lantern before midnight. Throughout the night those who disregard the rules of Halloween are punished in a horrifyingly brutal fashion.

And yet….that is also part of the film’s appeal. The victims, for the most part, are all assholes who deserved what they got (Principal Wilkins is by far the most notable example). There are naturally exceptions, but I don’t find myself feeling particularly bad for the victims at any given point (not even the asshole kids in the rock quarry, as far as that goes I identify with Rhonda all the way). My second favorite moment in this film is the climax of the rock quarry sequence when the bullies get what’s coming to them. I wasn’t pranked as badly as Rhonda was at that age, but I know exactly how she felt at times, so I was in full sympathy with her actions at the climax of that story.

My favorite moment, and the one I’d like to discuss in detail is the segment with Laurie and the bonfire party. This is the part that’s always stuck in my brain. From the start, you know that something is up with Laurie, her sister, and her friends. My initial guess was that they were all secretly vampires (and based on how their transformation starts can you blame me for thinking so?) but the truth was so much better. Watching Laurie and the others transform into werewolves to the tune of Marilyn Manson singing “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” is just spine-chilling and mesmerizing. The fact that their last victim, Principal Wilkins, is alive to watch this happen (and clearly about to die) just makes the payoff all the sweeter to experience.

And then there’s Sam, who I will keep coming back to given enough time to talk about this film. For most of the film Sam is a mostly adorable figure (in a creepy sort of way), who is clearly dangerous based on his actions in the prologue, but you don’t really see how until the last segment. Seeing what Sam really is underneath his burlap mask is, quite frankly, terrifying. I’d almost prefer the mask to stay on and preserve the illusion that Sam is this cute (but terrifying) Halloween creature, but I also kinda get why Sam would get unmasked (for that extra scare).

In conclusion, Trick r Treat is one of the best films to watch for Halloween. I guarantee by the time it’s over that you’ll never look at this holiday the same way ever again. (And you’ll definitely think twice about destroying jack o lanterns).

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

See also:

Film Reviews

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The 5th Annual Remembering James Horner Blogathon Recap!

At long last the time has come for the 5th Annual Remembering James Horner Blogathon, where we come together and talk about the films scored by the late, great James Horner and why we love them so much.

This is the official recap post where I’ll be listing this year’s entries. My entry may be slightly delayed as I’m currently under the weather, but I look forward to seeing the articles from everyone who signed up for this year. I’ll update the page as I can, but make sure you tag my blog in your article so I know it’s up.

Thanks again for taking part! Enjoy the blogathon!

Day 1

Plain Simple Tom kicks off the blogathon this year with his look at Glory (1989)

Day 2

MovieRob submits his first entry for this year with his look at The New World (2005)

Day 3

Tranquil Dreams joins in with a look at the incredible film that is The Land Before Time (1988)

MovieRob adds his second entry for the year with his look at Apocalypto (2006)

And finally, MovieRob adds his final entry for the year with The Journey of Natty Gann (1985)

6 Tips for Building a Career as a Violist

Building a career as a violist takes a lot of practice and passion. Thus, aiming to be successful in this career path doesn’t just happen overnight. Here are the best six (6) tips and advice that you can take from the experts in having a prosperous career as a violist.

Tip #1: Always take your mentors’ advice

The mentors you are with or you’ll be with have been on the same journey as yours. Always listen to their advice no matter how it may seem irrelevant or insignificant to you. The piece of advice they are sharing with you in every viola lesson was the advice they wish they have known when they were just your age. And besides, it wouldn’t hurt to take advice from someone who has been in the industry for quite some time. 

Tip #2: Always take your concerts seriously – whether big or small

One thing that most musicians take for granted is the opportunity to perform in small and big concerts. Just because it is not the place you imagine you’ll be performing or the kind of audience you want to perform to, you would just waste the chance to give the best version of yourself. Always showcase the promising musician in you. You may not know who would just turn up at that small concert.

Tip #3: Always use technology to your advantage

Technology has made our lives easier, especially on the aspect of being heard. Now, you can use various social media platforms to showcase your music, may it be a cover or an original composition, globally. Moreover, through the internet, you may be able to browse through some of your favorite violists on the tips and hacks they do to be the best at their craft. You can also purchase your instrument by checking violas online and have it delivered to your doorstep. 

Tip #4: Always practice

Probably the most important tip of all – do not stop practicing. Similar to what scientists do, they never stop learning and exploring. Just because you’ve been performing a piece over and over again doesn’t mean that you are already a good violist. It might take years to get out of the amateur status, but constant practicing would get you to places you’ve never been to and will help you learn more about your personal style of playing the viola.

Tip #5: Be your own teacher

While it is not advised to be too hard and critical of yourself, it wouldn’t be so bad if you’ll also become your own teacher. In a way, you’ll be objective of providing yourself points on aspects that you can work on as a performer. Always learn from your mistakes and see things on a positive note. Musicians, as beginners, commit a lot of mistakes and I wish I hadn’t done that memory, but if it weren’t for those misfortunes, they wouldn’t be where they are today. 

Tip #6: Build your stamina

Definitely the least, always keep a steady stamina in your practice and performances. Even during practice where it’s just you and your instructor, imagine as if you’re playing for several people. It helps you to play through the whole piece without stopping and keeping the motivation and concentration at bay.  

Bonus Tip: Always believe in yourself

Probably another takeaway as someone eager to start a career as a violist – always trust in your capability. Sure, there are already well-established violists, and there are better violists at your current level, but at the end of the day, you won’t have to compete with them – you create your own room for success. You build that door of success for yourself no matter how much you’ve been rejected.  As they always say, every closed door leads to a bigger and worthwhile one.

See also:

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 4th Annual Remembering James Horner Blogathon-Recap!

Welcome to the 4th Annual Remembering James Horner Blogathon, where we celebrate the life of legendary film composer James Horner (taken from us too soon). This whole weekend will see posts looking at films scored by James Horner (thank you to everyone who signed up, I can’t believe this is the fourth year already!)

This page will be a running recap of everyone’s posts (including a link to my own when I publish it). Thank you again for participating and I can’t wait to read everyone’s posts!

Recap:

MovieRob: Avatar -For his first review, MovieRob reviews Avatar (2009)

Plain, Simple Tom: Commando-For this year’s contribution, Plain, Simple Tom reviews Commando, a film Horner scored in the 1980s.

Realweegiemidget Reviews: Brainstorm-This year, Realweegiemidget Reviews looks at Brainstorm from 1983, another film from Horner’s earlier works.

Film Music Central (ME!): The Magnificent Seven– For my contribution this year, I looked at James Horner’s final film score, which was written for The Magnificent Seven (2016)

The Stop Button: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan-The Stop Button looked at Horner’s iconic score for The Wrath of Khan (arguably one of the best scores Horner ever created).

MovieRob: Deep Impact-MovieRob returns with a review of Deep Impact.

MovieRob: Unlawful Entry-For his final contribution this year, MovieRob reviews Unlawful Entry.

Tranquil Dreams: The Perfect Storm-For their contribution this year, Tranquil Dreams reviewed The Perfect Storm.

Thank you so much to everyone who participated this year and the blogathon will return next June!

My Thoughts on: Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985)

*note: This review was requested by Patreon subscriber @AlienPizzareia as part of his reward tier.

Believe it or not, all this time I’ve never seen a Mad Max film before. I’m not sure if Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome was the best place to start but for better or worse this was my introduction to the Mad Max series and I have…thoughts.

The one thing I did know about this film going in is that it’s set in a post-apocalyptic time, after nuclear conflict devastates the world. As a result, the land (Australia in this case) is crawling with insane gangs that ride around in souped-up ramshackle vehicles and dressed all kinds of crazy. As crazy as it all looks, it also feels scarily believable, like, if the world did exist past an apocalypse I could almost believe that it would be full of people like this, that dress and act like this.

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I love Tina Turner as Aunty Entity. She comes across as something of a b*tch, but if you think about it, as sadistic and harsh as her “laws” are, they DO preserve some semblance of law and order in Bartertown (though I do use the words “law and order” extremely loosely). She is such a badass though, I liked watching her do her stuff. (And am I crazy or was she wearing an outfit made out of chainmail?)

My favorite part in the whole film was the fight in the titular Thunderdome. I didn’t think I would like this scene at all but I found myself getting into it, especially when the combatants started springing up into the rafters to get weapons and fight. That fight shouldn’t have been as good as it was, but I liked it and it just worked. Also, the reveal of Blaster as being mentally handicapped came as quite the surprise, since it made me re-evaluate everything the character had done up until the reveal (he’s not really evil, he’s just doing what he’s told and I have a feeling he doesn’t really understand the ramifications of what he’s doing).

I have mixed feelings however, about the plot with the children. It’s not a bad subplot, it’s just, compared to everything you seen Bartertown before this, the sequences with the children and their tribal way of life feels like it comes from a completely separate film. I did like though, how the “tell” narrated for the audience (and Max) how the children got into this situation without making it boring. One wonders how long they’ve been waiting for someone to rescue them. I initially thought these were the children of the adults who left but given how they talk with such mangled English, it’s entirely possible these are the children of the children that were left behind. I just think this plot would’ve worked better as its own film.

I’m glad I finally watched a Mad Max film, I get now why many people like them (those car chases are insane!). I think I’ll have to watch more Mad Max films in the future just to see how they stack up to this one.

What do you think about Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Film Reviews

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The Fox and the Hound “Lack of Education” (1981)

Unfortunately, I end up saying this about a lot of older Disney films, but The Fox and the Hound is yet another example of a Disney film that is all but forgotten. Loosely based on Daniel Mannix’s 1967 book of the same name, The Fox and the Hound follow a young fox named Tod (Keith Mitchell/Mickey Rooney) and a bloodhound pup named Copper (Corey Feldman/Kurt Russell) as they strike up an unlikely friendship. Tod’s other friends, including an owl named Big Mama (Pearl Bailey), attempt to convince Tod that being friends with a bloodhound (especially when you’re a fox) can only lead to trouble. This is the point of “Lack of Education” where Big Mama and the rest of Tod’s friends attempt to spell things out for the young fox: that if he continues trying to be friends with Copper he’s going to wind up dead.

You listen good Tod, because it’s either education or elimination!

Now, if you’re so foxy and old Chief is so dumb
Then why does that hound get the fox on the run?
‘Cause he’s got the hunter –
and the hunter’s got the gun
Ka-blam, elimination!
Lack of education!

If you pal around with that Copper hound
You’ll wind up hanging on the wall
Keep you nose to the wind –
and you keep your skin
‘Cause you won’t be home –
when the hunter comes to call

Oh, Big Mama, I know Copper would never track me down.
Well, Copper, he’s my best friend.

Ho ho, your best friend!

Now, Copper’s gonna do what he’s been told.
Suppose he won’t chase no fox in no fox hole?
Along comes the hunter with a buck shot load.

Ka-ka-blam!

Elimination.

Lack of education!

Tod seemingly makes a good point when he says Copper would never track his best friend down, but while this is true now, Big Mama knows all too well that with enough time and training, Copper will hunt anything down. She doesn’t want to upset the young fox, but in her mind it’s better if he’s made aware of the facts of life now. Of course, this being a Disney film, Tod doesn’t take the lesson to heart and tries to maintain his friendship with Copper, with increasingly disastrous consequences.

Unlike many Disney songs, “Lack of Education” is performed in more of a “speak-sing” style (meaning the performers are half-talking and half-singing) and Tod doesn’t sing at all. It’s a short, blunt moment that goes completely over Tod’s head, which makes sense, after all who wants to believe their newfound best friend will one day hunt them down and kill them?

I hope you enjoyed this look at an underrated Disney classic. Let me know what you think about “Lack of Education” in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

The Fox and the Hound “A Hunting Man” (1981)

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

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My Thoughts on: Frozen (2013)

Six years after the fact, I finally managed to watch Disney’s Frozen, loosely based on The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Anderson. And, this should surprise nobody, I loved it. The story is set in the kingdom of Arendelle and follows the two princesses Elsa (Idina Menzel) and Anna. Elsa (for reasons never explained) is born with ice powers that she fights to control as she grows up. It’s very sad to watch Elsa go from loving her powers as a young child to being terrified of them as she gets older, refusing to let anyone in to help her.

Another part of what makes Frozen so great is the way it completely subverts the traditional Disney princess story. Anna, at the start of the film, is in so many ways the traditional princess we’ve grown up with: she believes in love at first sight, she’s perpetually optimistic, and she’s incredibly naive. Enter Prince Hans and after Elsa is crowned queen we have the typical courting/romantic song between Hans and Anna that quickly leads to a marriage proposal (that Anna immediately accepts). It feels perfect…until Elsa actually reminds her sister that “you can’t marry someone you just met.” It feels like a slap in the face but Elsa is absolutely right. That’s been the critical flaw in the classic Disney films (and even in the Disney Renaissance; think about how long Ariel knew Eric, or how long Belle actually stayed with the Beast). And I love that Disney finally put this out there in one of their films, the truth that real love doesn’t work that way!

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Another interesting part of Frozen is how Elsa is unintentionally setting herself up as the villain (at first). For example, when her ice powers are revealed at the party after the coronation, everyone’s reacting as if she’s doing it on purpose. People are screaming and running as if Elsa is trying to hurt people but she’s not. We can see that she’s actually just scared and acting on instinct. And speaking of villains, I love how transparent the Duke of Weselton (“Weaseltown”) is about wanting to take over and/or exploit Arendelle. It’s perfect for keeping us distracted from the true villain of the film…Hans!! Seriously, the revelation that Hans has been using Anna all this time is one of the best villain reveals that Disney has ever done. It genuinely made me gasp because I did not see it coming.

Now that I’ve finally seen Frozen, I’m very excited to see Frozen 2 later this year. I’m still hoping that we’ll get an explanation as to where Elsa’s ice powers come from, since the film’s only explanation is that Elsa was born with them. But there has to be more to it than that, ice powers don’t just arrive out of the blue.

Frozen is definitely one of the best Disney films to be released in the past decade and I’m glad I finally watched it. Let me know what you think about Frozen in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Animated Film Reviews

Frozen “Let it Go” (2013)

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My Thoughts on: Alita: Battle Angel (2019)

*note: spoilers for Alita: Battle Angel can be found below

After being forced to delay my trip to the movie theater for a week (blame my sinuses), I finally got to see Alita: Battle Angel last night and all I can say is wow! This might be the best Western adaptation of a manga I’ve ever seen. For those not in the know, this film is based on Yukito Kishiro’s manga series Gunnm (better known to Western audiences as Battle Angel Alita). The film was in development for close to 20 years (it was originally announced in 2003) and while the film isn’t perfect, honestly I feel like it was worth the long wait. Alita: Battle Angel is directed by Robert Rodriguez and produced by James Cameron.

First, an overview. Alita: Battle Angel is set in the year 2563, 300 years after a devastating war known only as “the Fall.” Alita (Rosa Salazar) is salvaged from a junk pile by Dr. Ido (Christoph Waltz who for once isn’t playing a villain) and awakens with no memory of who she used to be. The story is set in Iron City, a cyberpunk metropolis located directly underneath Zalem, a floating sky city. Under Ido’s watchful (and protective) eye, Alita sets out to discover who or what she used to be. Along the way, she discovers the insane sport of Motorball (imagine roller derby, NASCAR racing, and pro wrestling combined into a single sport where you fight to the death) and falls in love with a human named Hugo (Keean Johnson) who in turn is entangled with the dangerous Vector (Mahershala Ali).

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While this film is incredibly beautiful, it is, as I said, flawed. The biggest problem is the story makes a hundred times more sense IF you read the manga first (or at least the first two volumes). While the broad strokes of the film are largely faithful to the original story, there are a myriad of background details that you’ll miss or otherwise not understand without the manga’s explanations. To be fair though, I feel like Alita: Battle Angel tries very hard to explain as much as it can without being too exposition heavy. Another issue I noticed right away is how the story begins. The discovery of Alita and her reawakening literally takes place in the first five minutes of the film. This is more of a personal preference on my part, but I feel like the film should have started with some of the flashback material we get throughout the film playing at the beginning instead as a sort of prologue.

And speaking of the flashbacks…I loved watching them, but they almost create more questions than answers. This is largely due to the fact that Alita: Battle Angel is blatantly setting up for a sequel that we may or may not get. I’m not against sequel hooks per se (Battle Angel Alita is hardly the kind of story you can tell in one film) but to leave several story threads hanging in the hopes that a sequel will finish the job…that I have a problem with. This leads to the biggest problem in the film: Nova (Edward Norton in a non-speaking role). While the film implies that Nova is the “big villain” of the story, we learn next to nothing about him (aside from the fact that he’s apparently immortal). This is very frustrating especially if a sequel never comes.

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Aside from these problems, the film really blew me away at times (in a good way). The setting of Iron City and Zalem looks like it came straight out of the manga. While I do agree that Alita’s over-large “anime eyes” look a little peculiar, for me I was able to adjust to them fairly quickly. I also love the motion capture that was used to bring Alita to life, she looks very real (no sense of the uncanny valley at all). I was also pleasantly surprised to not be bothered by the romantic sub-plot between Alita and Hugo, which comes across as incredibly sweet (if somewhat rushed). I did roll my eyes a little when the film included a stereotypical kiss in the rain, but it felt like a good kind of cheesy at the same time.

If you’re on the fence about seeing this film, I highly recommend checking it out. Despite the flaws, it IS a good story and one that deserves to be continued. Let me know what you think about Alita: Battle Angel in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Soundtrack Review: Alita: Battle Angel (2019)

Film Reviews

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Justin Hurwitz talks La La Land (2016)

While Justin Hurwitz (whose recent works include First Man) does talk about the scory of La La Land, this is less of a one-on-one interview and more of a group discussion where cast (like Ryan Gosling), crew, directors and etc. talk about the qualities of the La La Land score.

As stated in the video, the music for La La Land does call back to an earlier time in Hollywood when film music focused on melody most or all of the time. That’s not to say that today’s film scores don’t have melody, but it’s not nearly to the same extent (and many action scores don’t feature proper melody at all).

 

Seeing the depth of music in La La Land‘s score really drives home just how talented Justin Hurwitz is (I can see now why the film took home the Oscar for Best Original score).

I hope you enjoy this behind the scenes look at the score for La La Land. Let me know what you think of the score in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Film Composer Interviews A-H

Film Composer Interviews K-Z

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Reviewing Looney Tunes: Ali Baba Bunny (1957)

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Released: February 9th, 1957

Directed by: Chuck Jones

Of the many achievements Chuck Jones accomplished during his lengthy career, one of them was raising the pairing of Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck into a comedic art form that has yet to be truly matched in animation. Ali Baba Bunny is a famous example of this pairing and one of my many personal favorite cartoons.

Ali Baba Bunny (6)

In Ali Baba Bunny, Bugs and Daffy are en route to Pismo Beach (California) and somehow end up tunneling through the Arabian desert, where a wealthy sultan has just finished sealing his treasure inside a magic cave. Having set the burly Hassan to guard the treasure (“Or the jackal shall grow fat on thy carcass!”) the sultan departs, shortly before Bugs and Daffy unwittingly break into the cave by tunneling under the entrance. This cartoon features Daffy during his “greedy beyond all reason” phase and it is used to great comedic effect. For example, when the pair emerge from the burrow and realize this is NOT Pismo Beach, Daffy is almost instantly mesmerized by the giant pile of treasure in front of him, while Bugs is completely oblivious. This leads to one of my favorite Daffy Duck lines:

Daffy: It’s mine you understand? Mine, mine, ALL MINE! Get back in there! Down! Down! Down! Go! Go! Go! Mine! Mine! Mine! Mwahahahahahahaha!! *zooms off to the treasure*

Bugs (still oblivious): Ehhhhh, what’s up Duck?

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Only Bugs would be oblivious to all THIS

Of course there is the small matter of Hassan who is quite angry that someone is trying to take his master’s treasure. Despite Bugs’ best efforts to keep Daffy out of trouble (which include masquerading as a genie who “gives” Hassan the treasure for HIS own), Daffy keeps getting on the guard’s bad side, especially when he makes a run for it with a giant diamond! This leads Bugs to finally corner Daffy and demand to know (“What is it with you anyway?” to which Daffy replies “I can’t help it, I’m a greedy slob, it’s my hobby.”) This is probably one of the most honest answers Daffy has ever given regarding his greed (a fit of honesty likely brought on by the fact that Hassan wants to chop him to pieces).

I also love this cartoon because it has one of the greatest twist endings ever seen in a cartoon: Daffy appears to have it made. Hassan is gone, the treasure is loaded up ready to go, when the greedy duck finds a mysterious lamp in the back of the cave. For some reason, when a genie appears (and even calls Daffy “Master”!!) The duck explodes with rage and accuses the genie of wanting his treasure. This is why I say Daffy is greedy beyond all reason, because wouldn’t you think the duck would be happy to have a magic genie at his disposal? I suppose not, and boy does the duck pay for it!

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“I’m rich! I’m a happy miser!”

Ali Baba Bunny, as I’ve said before, is one of my favorite Chuck Jones cartoons, and I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about it. Let me know what you think about this cartoon in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Reviewing Looney Tunes

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