John Debney talks The Scorpion King (2002)

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John Debney talks The Scorpion King (2002)

Let’s face it: you either love The Scorpion King or you absolutely hate it, there is no middle ground.

This spin-off of The Mummy Returns is set 5,000 years before the original Mummy films and tells the story of how Mathayus (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in his first film as a leading man) rose to power as the “Scorpion King.”

The orchestral score for this film was composed by John Debney; this music was mixed in with various rock songs (the latter are what appear on the soundtrack album for the film). In the extended “making of the score” video which you can access in the link above, there are numerous shots of the orchestra in the recording studio with the in-progress film playing on a large screen for the conductor’s reference. As I’ve said before, this is the stage of film music production that I love the best, and I hope to witness it in person one day.

Debney (and the film’s director) discuss how various parts of the score came together, including the overall sound of the music. Since this is meant to take place long before any recorded history, Debney did not want to invoke one culture above another, but instead wanted to create a sense of something new and unfamiliar. The director also discussed including a touch of rock music, and thus giving the film something of a more contemporary feel in certain places. This is really one of the better interviews I’ve found for the making of a film score and even if you’ve never seen The Scorpion King, I really think you will enjoy it.

If you’d like to learn more about the film scores of John Debney, see here

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John Debney talks The Passion of the Christ (2004)

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John Debney talks The Passion of the Christ (2004)

The Passion of the Christ (2004) is a film that is not easily forgotten once you’ve seen it. This was the first R-rated film I ever saw in theaters (the youth group I was in went to see it one weekend, we all had to get our parents to sign waivers since we were under 18) and it’s a film that physically impacted me for weeks afterward.

For those who haven’t seen it, The Passion of the Christ details the final twelve hours of the life of Jesus, from his arrest to his crucifixion (with a short epilogue on the day of his resurrection). The entire film is subtitled, with the primary languages being Aramaic, Hebrew and Latin (to make the story feel more authentic). The film was directed by Mel Gibson and was a huge hit upon release, although many criticized the extreme graphic violence in certain scenes (I personally have only been able to see this film three times since 2004).

The  score that accompanies this film was composed by John Debney (The Jungle Book) and it is widely regarded as a masterpiece of film music. In the extended video which you can reach via the link above, Debney (and Mel Gibson) discuss how various themes came together, primarily Satan’s theme and the theme for Mary, the mother of Jesus. Interestingly, instead of using a traditional ensemble, or using only instruments that might have been heard in ancient Jerusalem, Debney opted to use a more global sound (Satan’s theme, for instance, is created with a traditional Chinese instrument), as this is a story that Gibson wanted to be accessible to everyone.

The music for The Passion of the Christ really is beautiful, and I do recommend this film as well, but with one major caveat: if graphic violence disturbs you, do NOT watch this film. The torture segments (particularly the flogging scene) are very bloody, and could easily be traumatizing.

Have you seen The Passion of the Christ? What did you think of it, or the music? Let me know in the comments 🙂

If you’d like to learn more about the film scores of John Debney, see here

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

Patrick Doyle Talks Cinderella (2015)

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Patrick Doyle talks Cinderella (2015)

In 2015 Cinderella became the latest Disney animated film to undergo the live-action remake treatment and the results were….okay (depending on who you ask). The biggest change between the 1950 original and this version is that the latter is not a musical (which I think is a real shame).

Unlike Maleficent, which told the Sleeping Beauty story from the perspective of the titular character, Cinderella basically retold the story straight (with various changes here and there, but nothing too extreme). And as beautiful as it looked in the previews, I couldn’t bring myself to watch it, as I grew up watching the animated film. Also, no offense, but Cate Blanchett has NOTHING on Eleanor Audley when it comes to playing Lady Tremaine (I watched a few clips to get an idea of the film).

One bright spot is Patrick Doyle’s score, created with an emphasis on romance. Doyle frequently collaborates with director Kenneth Branagh (including Hamlet and Thor) and the resulting music was well-received by critics. Doyle briefly mentions the score in a red carpet interview I was able to find for the film’s premiere (available in the link above). Doyle enjoyed creating the music for this film and described it as being “very eclectic.”

Unfortunately it is a very short interview, but I hope you enjoy it (if anyone can point me to a longer interview regarding this film, I will happily add it) 🙂

I’m glad everyone is enjoying Disturbing Disney so far; I just wanted to let you know that the next installment will come next week. Right now the university is on spring break and I’m working extra hours so I don’t have a lot of time to work on that series right now (that’s why I’ve been doing smaller posts thus far).

If you’d like to learn more about the film scores of Patrick Doyle, see here

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

Cancelled Too Soon #6: Birds of Prey (2002)

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Birds of Prey is a superhero show that I sadly did not learn about until it was long over. The show premiered in October of 2002 and followed Helena Kyle, aka Huntress, the daughter of Bruce Wayne (Batman) and Selena Kyle (Catwoman). When Batman disappears from New Gotham City, Helena takes over as the city’s protector along with Oracle (Barbara Gordon) and Dinah (daughter of the original Black Canary) as the “Birds of Prey.” They are aided by Alfred Pennyworth and Det. Jesse Reese. The group frequently runs into schemes masterminded by Dr. Harleen Quinzel, aka Harley Quinn (assistant and sometime girlfriend of the Joker).

The show’s concept is intriguing, not to mention rare; how many all female groups of superheros on television can you name apart from Supergirl? For that reason I am especially sad that this show did not go beyond its first season, as what I’ve seen looks amazing.

As for why Birds of Prey was cancelled after only thirteen episodes, it looks like this show was another victim of ratings. While the show did premiere with excellent ratings (7.6 million viewers to be exact), the ratings began to sharply fall and the WB (now the CW Network) subsequently axed the show once the finale aired. I know that television networks need to make money and I understand why ratings play a big part in that, but I feel like it’s unfair to stop a great concept like this after only thirteen episodes. It is my personal belief that a television show should be given two seasons to prove themselves before they can be cancelled. After all, some of the greatest tv shows had abysmal first season ratings (MASH and Star Trek come to mind) and yet when they were given a second chance with another season, they rebounded. Who knows what might have happened if Birds of Prey had been given this chance.

Did you get the chance to watch Birds of Prey? What did you think about it? Should it have continued past season 1? Let me know in the comments!

For more of this series, see also:

Cancelled Too Soon #1: Constantine (2014-2015)

Cancelled Too Soon #2: Terra Nova (2011)

Cancelled Too Soon #3: Dracula (2013-2014)

Cancelled Too Soon #4: Moonlight (2007-2008)

Cancelled Too Soon #5: Firefly (2002)

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The King and I “The March of the Siamese Children” (1956)

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The King and I “The March of the Siamese Children” (1956)

Rodgers and Hammerstein’s classic musical The King and I is one of my favorite Broadway musicals. The story is based in part on the memoirs of Anna Leonowens, a widow who served as a governess to the children of King Mongkut of Siam (now Thailand) in the early 1860s. The 1951 musical was adapted into a film in 1956, both starring Yul Brynner as the titular King (he’s one of my favorite characters).

The King and I has many wonderful musical moments; one of my favorites is “The March of the Siamese Children” which takes place relatively early in the story. Anna (Deborah Kerr) is upset that she must stay in the royal palace next to the harem (instead of in a little house as she’d been promised) and is on the verge of returning to England straight away. However, before she goes, the King insists that Anna meet his children first. If she still wants to leave after meeting them, he won’t stop her.

The march then begins with children being led in one by one by their nurses. Each child comes forward, bows to their father, greets Anna by touching their forehead to her hands and then backs away to sit with the royal wives (their respective mothers).

The music is a beautiful theme and variations that repeats over and over, altering slightly for certain children. The most notable change is when Crown Prince Chulalongkorn, the King’s heir marches in; the music here changes to a stirring brass fanfare as befits the heir to the throne. Unlike the other children, Chulalongkorn and the King bow to each other and Anna is told to curtsy to the Crown Prince.

There are some other humorous moments, some of my favorites being:

  • The twins: The two boys (not surprisingly) are dressed identically and the King seems quite pleased with them.
  • The forgetful princess: one of the younger daughters accidentally turns her back on her father and when he reminds her with a mock gasp of shock/horror, she quickly turns around with a look of surprise (the King isn’t all that angry with her, as she is still young)
  • The curious prince: one prince comes out looking very curiously at Anna the entire time and it quickly becomes clear why: he’s never seen someone with Anna’s huge skirts before. He’s curious to see exactly what’s under there…but the King quickly stops that idea.
  • “I want a hug!”: One daughter forgets where she is and runs to the King for a hug, only to be stopped with a stern look. When the dejected princess begins to back away, she is reassured by the King with a warm smile (which she returns).
  • The littlest princess: Possibly the most adorable moment comes at the very end when the youngest daughter comes out. She is so small that the King doesn’t see her until she tugs on his pant leg for attention. He then guides her through what she needs to do (it’s adorable!)

Once all the children are assembled, Anna realizes she can’t possibly leave them to return to England (which is what the King thought would happen) and she agrees to stay after all, to the delight of the royal children.

“The March of the Siamese Children” is a delightful moment from a wonderful film and I hope you enjoy it.

For more live action film soundtracks, see here: Live Action Soundtracks F-Z

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Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale (2017)

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*warning: a variety of spoilers follow*

I have been waiting months for this film to arrive and once it did, oh my gosh, it was absolutely worth the wait!!

Ordinal Scale is the first full length film set in the world of Sword Art Online, an anime that begins with the tale of 10,000 gamers trapped in a virtual reality “death game” called Sword Art Online (SAO). Of the original 10,000, only 4,000 made it out alive, among them Kirito, his girlfriend Asuna, Klein, Silica, Liz and Agil. Four years after the original death game concluded, in the year 2026, Japan is entranced with a new Augmented Reality (AR) device called the Augma that lets you fight epic battles (among many other functions, think of it has a futuristic version of Google Glass) in the real world. But curiously, monsters from the old SAO game are showing up, which shouldn’t be possible because server for SAO was shut down when the game ended. Or WAS it??

There are many things I loved about this film, the mystery behind the Augma was intriguing, as was the revelation of who Yuna, the beautiful AI  girl who serves as a “host” for Ordinal Scale really is (she has connections to the original SAO game).

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Yuna is a mysterious figure

And then there’s the ongoing relationship between Kirito and Asuna. To my surprise, Kirito is initially reluctant to engage in Ordinal Scale, which is unusual for him, he’s usually jumping in headfirst to a new game. According to Kirito, he doesn’t like Ordinal Scale because it doesn’t feel the same as a VR (Virtual Reality) game. Unlike VR, in AR your actual physical body is moving, meaning you have to be in great shape to move and engage quickly enough to win (there’s an embarrassing moment when Kirito runs to attack and ends up falling flat on his face after tripping on a curb). But soon Kirito has no choice but to engage in the game when something weird begins happening to the players who survived SAO…

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Kirito’s new look for Ordinal Scale

It starts with Kirito’s friend Klein: during one AR battle, the #2 Ordinal Scale player, Eiji, attacks Klein and his friends. At a certain point in the battle, a node on their Augma devices glows and pops out , being sucked up into nearby drones used to project the game all over the city. Not only is Klein’s arm broken, but his memories of SAO (two year’s worth) are missing. And then the same thing happens to Asuna: while protecting Silica from an attack, Asuna’s Augma node is taken and HER memories of SAO (as well as two years worth of memories of her boyfriend) are taken away, devastating her and briefly casting doubt on her relationship with Kirito.

To get Asuna’s memories back, Kirito must become the top player in Ordinal Scale and along the way discover the truth behind this latest game (I won’t spoil it, but it’s really good).

My favorite part of the film comes at the height of the final battle when we’re finally shown something I thought we’d never see: Floor 100 of Sword Art Online (the original game was based on a castle made of 100 floors. The original game ended early on the 75th floor when Kirito realized that the leader of a powerful guild was actually the creator of the SAO game.) For this final battle, Kirito and company are transported to the Ruby Palace on Floor 100 and, even more, are changed back into the forms they possessed in the original game (which brought shouts of joy from the audience).The Ruby Palace is simply beautiful (and huge!!) with wonderful gardens around the entire structure. Inside the castle resembles a giant cathedral as it seems to be one very large room. The boss they have to fight on Floor 100 is insanely powerful and it ultimately takes every ally Kirito and Asuna have ever made to defeat it.

The story ends with something that’s been a long time coming: after getting “married” in the original SAO game, Kirito finally keeps a promise he made in-game and gets engaged to Asuna in the real world (they were 15 going on 16 in the original game, so they’re at least 19 going on 20 now).

But that wasn’t all….after the credits finished, we got a short peek at the upcoming Season 3 of Sword Art Online!!! It’s maybe 90 seconds long, but at the end, we get a glimpse of the latest VR world: Rath, the setting of the recently concluded Alicization Arc. No date was given but it is confirmed now that SAO WILL return!!!

While the movie last night was a one night only event, I hope that eventually the film will be released on one of the streaming services so everyone can see it (I know the English dub is in progress). I’m not sure if the movie will be released on DVD here in the US, but if it is I will let you know.

Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale was an awesome experience, worth the wait and I sincerely hope there are more films to come!

For more of my thoughts on films, see here

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Disturbing Disney #2: The truth of Pleasure Island in Pinocchio (1940)

Before we get to what makes this scene so disturbing, we need a little context first:

So as you might expect, Pinocchio is talked into taking a little trip to Pleasure Island (despite Jiminy’s best efforts to stop him). They join a carriage full to the brim of rowdy boys pulled by eight donkeys (remember that detail). It’s so crowded in fact, that Pinocchio is sitting up front by the Coachman with an older boy named Lampwick. They bond as kids tend to do when they’re traveling together and after a long ferry ride to Pleasure Island, the pair stick together once they get inside.

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Pleasure Island looks like the world’s biggest amusement park. There’s the typical rides, a Ferris Wheel, and lots of deliciouis food to eat (pies, ice cream, popcorn, etc.) along with other attractions you wouldn’t normally find: a tent devoted to fistfighting, a model house that the boys are free to rip apart, even “Tobacco Row” where the boys can have all the cigars they want (remember, this is 1940). And above all the clamor is the repeated sound of voices saying “Help yourselves boys, it’s all FREE, everything is FREE!” Jiminy Cricket smells a rat from the start though, but he’s lost Pinocchio in the crowd, so there’s really nothing he can do at the moment. In all the chaos, nobody notices when the Coachman orders the gates to be shut, remarking ominously “give a boy enough rope, and he’ll make a jackass of himself before long.” It’s an odd comment, but it’s meaning becomes too clear in a few minutes

Pinocchio “Pleasure Island part 1” (1940)

After a short scene break, we see that Pleasure Island is now deserted. All the rides are dark, the place is a mess, but there’s no boys, anywhere! We know they haven’t gone home because even Jiminy is wondering where the boys are. Actually, the place isn’t entirely empty, Pinocchio and Lampwick are busy playing pool while drinking and smoking cigars, but we’ll get back to them in a moment. After Jiminy gets into an argument with the pair, finally telling them to go ahead and “make jackasses” of themselves, he heads to the gate to leave, but on the other side, he hears the sound of donkeys….a LOT of donkeys.

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It’s horrifying to hear this little donkey cry “I want to go home to my mama!” When you know that’s NEVER going to happen!

Through a crack, Jiminy emerges to find the Coachman and his minions loading crate after crate of donkeys back onto the ferry used to take the boys to the island. What happens next is the first disturbing part of this scene:

Pinocchio “The Donkeys/Lampwick’s Fate” (1940)

As you see, the Coachman is screening the donkeys to see if they’re still capable of speech. If they bray in response, they’re stripped of their clothing and sent into an available crate (labeled for the salt mines and the circus, among other places). But in the case of others, like Alexander, who CAN still talk, they’re sent back to a waiting area, until presumably they lose their ability to speak. This is the moment that disturbs me and breaks my heart: when Alexander is thrown back, you can hear him and the others begging to go home, they don’t WANT to be donkeys, and then the Coachman snaps “QUIET!! You boys have had your fun, now PAY for it!” Remember earlier when the carnival promised the boys that “everything is free?” Of course it wasn’t free, that’s one of the first lessons we learn in life, but now these boys have to learn it the hard way.

Now back to Pinocchio and Lampwick (this is the REALLY disturbing part): Lampwick is still making fun of Jiminy, when suddenly his ears turn into donkey ears (to Pinocchio’s surprise).

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The oblivious Lampwick continues to mock, and then a donkey tail sprouts out!

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“What does he think I look like, a jackass?” Lampwick doesn’t realize it, but his face IS that of a donkey’s now.

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Based on Lampwick’s reaction, I think he’d heard stories about Pleasure Island, but had never believed them (hence his cry “I’ve been double crossed (betrayed)”, I bet the Coachman assured him those stories were lies.)

Pinocchio laughingly tells him he does until his laugh changes into a donkey bray. Lampwick finds that funny until HE brays too. Then, Lampwick realizes that something is wrong with HIM! “What…what’s going on?” he asks desperately as he feels his changed face and discovers he has long donkey ears. And then…he sees his face in the mirror and screams “I’ve been double crossed!! Help! Help!! Somebody help!!” Lampwick is running through the pool hall desperately but there’s nothing anyone can do. Pinocchio can only watch in horror as the rest of Lampwick’s body begins to change (an especially horrifying part is when Lampwick’s hands, clawing at Pinocchio for ANY kind of help, turn into hooves before the puppet’s terrified eyes).

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Lampwick’s final change is a disturbing moment, especially since you can hear him fighting against losing the power to speak as a human

And then, like a scene straight out of a horror movie, we see Lampwick’s final change in silhouette. With a final cry of “Mama, MAMA!!!” Lampwick is forced down to all fours and begins frantically braying, kicking and smashing everything in sight. It’s a horrifying fate for anyone to experience, but these are all young kids that are now condemned to a lifetime of cruel torture and servitude. There’s no happy ending for these boys, not even a glimmer of hope. And the same fate nearly comes to Pinocchio as well as HE begins to change also (though noticeably he’s changing into a GRAY donkey, everyone else turned brown.) Fortunately, Jiminy finds Pinocchio in time and the pair flee the cursed island quickly enough that Pinocchio only has donkey ears and a tail.

What a horrifying, disturbing fate for all those little boys. And just imagine all the families who are waiting for children that will never come home? The more you think about the situation, the more disturbing it becomes. And remember at the beginning when I pointed out the coach was drawn by donkeys? I have no doubt that the Coachman uses boys-turned-int0-donkeys to help carry more boys to Pleasure Island for the same fate. Oh the disturbing irony of it all. Without a doubt, THIS is one of the most disturbing moments in all of Disney animation, not just because of Lampwick’s terrified reaction to his transformation, but also because these hundreds of boys are left to their fate, with no hope of rescue.

Next time will be one more example from Pinocchio; see, even though he’s escaped Pleasure Island, Pinocchio isn’t out of danger yet. That’s because his father Geppetto has been swallowed by a whale…

See also:

Disturbing Disney #1: The Coachman in Pinocchio (1940)

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