Soundtrack Review: The Walking Dead (2010-present)

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Unbelievably, in over seven years, there has never been a soundtrack release from The Walking Dead…until now. Composer Bear McCreary chose his personal favorites from the innumerable themes he has written for the series, along with tracks the fans begged to have included. Selections from the soundtrack include:

  • The Walking Dead “Main Theme”
  • “Sophia”
  • “Carl”
  • “Farm Invasion”
  • “Welcome to the Tombs”
  • “Negan”

This is just a sampling of what’s available, as there are 23 tracks in total. The “Main Theme” is probably one of the most iconic pieces from the series. The quickly moving strings that turn dark as the credits show how civilization has completely broken down (time winding to a stop, buildings decomposing, etc.), it just sucks you in to this (thankfully) fictional world where the dead walk and life as we know it will never be “normal” again (I haven’t watched in years but I AM curious as to what the endgame of this series will be, because nothing lasts forever).

And then there’s “Sophia.” Oh Sophia Sophia…the fate of that little girl came in one of the last episodes I remember watching and this theme fits her so perfectly. This young girl who had to live through the worst kind of apocalypse and (spoiler alert) ultimately didn’t make it deserves a theme that highlights her nature and this theme delivers. It is unexpectedly rich, warm at times, but there is always a hint of sadness, almost like McCreary was foreshadowing her fate (and he likely was). The detail I like the best is, in the middle of the theme, there is a hint of what sounds like a music box, something that is often associated with young girls. I liked that little touch to “Sophia.”

“Carl” is very different from some of the others because, until the last 30 seconds, it is entirely piano. It reminds me very much of this scene where Carl “rescues” a can of chocolate pudding from a ruined house and eats it while sitting on the roof contemplating his surroundings. Now in the last 30 seconds some relatively ominous strings come in, but the piano simply repeats its theme. It’s simple, but beautiful in its simplicity.

“Farm Invasion” actually reminded me very strongly of his theme for Constantine (the short-lived TV show) and that’s because it’s a perfect blend of classical and rock elements. There are strings, yes, but there is also drums, modern percussion, I do believe there is an electric guitar mixed in as well. The snapped strings (a technique where you hold up the violin/viola/cello/bass string and let it snap back against the fingerboard) create the effect of gunshots and given the title of the theme, that seems very appropriate. You can almost follow the action that this scene accompanied: any time the group directly confronts walkers, the music is in your face, up-tempo, heavy string snaps. When they’re running or there’s some emotional drama, it pulls back a bit (but not by much). There’s an awesome guitar moment around 4:28 as well. What makes McCreary’s music so good is that it pulls you in by constantly keeping the pace moving, there’s no way to lose interest. I also hear fragments of the main theme mixed in, or at least something reminiscent of it. But when I say fragments I mean that literally; it sounds “broken”, like he took the theme and smashed it apart. This is a much longer track (almost 9 full minutes) but it is definitely worth listening to.

The last track I will highlight is “Negan” and boy oh boy, based on everything I’ve heard, this theme describes him perfectly. The opening note is this long synthetic “whine” that immediately puts you on edge. And what’s interesting is, you’re not confronted with the “idea” of Negan right away in the music. It’s not until the electric guitar comes in that you realize HERE is the essence of Negan, and it’s nothing good. It’s dark, ominous and I’m kind of glad I left the series before he was introduced because some of the things he’s done would’ve completely broken me.

And that’s my look into the soundtrack of The Walking Dead. I highly recommend this soundtrack, not just for fans of the show, but also if you’re a fan of really good television music. Bear McCreary is one of the best in the business and it definitely shows here. Enjoy!

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Brace yourselves: A Lord of the Rings prequel TV series is coming…

Well, by now I’m sure you’ve heard the news, but just in case I’ll recap: Amazon just spent a LOT of money to acquire the rights to produce a multi-season prequel television series set in the fantastical realm of Middle-Earth. In other words, they’re going to make a prequel of some kind to The Lord of the Rings.

I’m so happy they clarified that this was going to be a prequel because I originally thought they were just going to tell the main story over again which is the LAST thing we need. Peter Jackson’s trilogy did the job so well that I think (and hope) that the film trilogy is one that will never be remade.

So now that we know it’s a prequel series, what could it possibly be about? Well, I have a few ideas on that subject…

The one thing I do NOT want this to be is a rehash of The Hobbit. While I know The Hobbit trilogy wasn’t the best, there’s still no need to cover that ground over again. So if Amazon knows what’s good for them they won’t cover that ground (at least not right away).

While I’m not sure they’d go this far back, I would be interested in seeing the series start back in the early history of Middle-Earth, say around The War of the Jewels? I’m talking Beleriand, Luthien and Beren, Morgoth is on the loose, fun stuff like that. If you’ve ever read that section of The Silmarillion, then you know that would make for some epic storytelling.

But the story I’d like to see most of all is the complete story of Numenor. If you haven’t read all the appendixes of The Lord of the Rings, Numenor was this beautiful island in the middle of the Western Sea, a hair closer to the Undying Lands than Middle Earth (Tolkien said that on a clear day one could just glimpse Tol Eressea on the horizon). Elrond’s brother Elros was the first King of Numenor and Aragorn is his distant descendant (which makes him and Arwen 1st cousins MANY times removed). The island (spoiler alert) was eventually destroyed by the Valar (the gods of Middle-Earth for lack of a better word) when Sauron tempted the last King of Numenor to make war on the Elves and the Valar and claim the Undying Lands for himself. The island has never been depicted and I would love to visit that place in all its glory.

And speaking of the Undying Lands, let’s have a few episodes set in that locale shall we? I was so mad when The Return of the King (the film) ended and we didn’t get to see Frodo’s glimpse of that place. So I really want to see the Undying Lands, with Mt. Taniquetil, the Pelori Mountains and all those wonderful places Tolkien described.

If the series covers any of this, then I think I could get behind it. But I swear, if this turns out to be another excuse to cover The Hobbit, I will rip this series apart!!!

But for now, we can only speculate.

There’ll be a soundtrack review up later tonight. I’m finally looking at The Walking Dead soundtrack! Can’t wait to share my thoughts on it!

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Film Music Central turns 2!!

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Happy Bloggiversary!! Today Film Music Central is officially TWO years old! And how this blog has grown in the last year! This time last year, I took stock and noted that the blog had 261 followers. Well, as of today, Film Music Central has 423 followers and I’m confident of hitting 500 within a few months if not sooner.

I continue to be overwhelmed by all the support and feedback I’ve received in the past two years. Launching this blog was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. In the past year, I’ve gotten to interview film composers, listen to exclusive soundtracks, and my audience has expanded to new heights!

Year 3 is going to be interesting. Right now I’m on track to graduate at the beginning of May, but I’m not sure where I will be in terms of employment. Rest assured the blog isn’t going anywhere, but it is possible (depending on where I am after graduation) that I will be blogging less, but I hope that is not the case.

At any rate, right now I’m happy to celebrate that the blog is still going strong after 2 years and here’s to many more! Cheers!!

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Out of town for conference

Hey everyone!

This is just a reminder to let everyone know that I will be out of town the rest of the week, so there will be no blogging while I’m gone. But there is a LOT to look forward to when I get back: I’m reviewing the soundtracks for The Walking Dead, Murder on the Orient Express, and more! Also, Film Music Central will be celebrating its second anniversary!!

See you when I get back!

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Soundtrack Review: Stranger Things 2

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First off, I have a shocking confession to make. I have not seen a single episode of Stranger Things. It’s not that I don’t WANT to, but when it came down to subscribing to Netflix or Hulu…Hulu won. But I’ve heard amazing things about it (most of my friends are in love with the series) especially that the music soundtrack is very good. So when the opportunity came to review the soundtrack for the second season of Stranger Things, naturally I leaped at the opportunity.

The album became available for digital download on October 20th, and a physical CD release will be coming later (along with an LP version).

The first thing I have to say about this soundtrack…it is huge! There are 34 track listings which is a lot of music to find in a soundtrack. The average soundtrack album has around 12-14 tracks (more if it’s a “deluxe edition” or something of that ilk).

The second thing I noticed straight away: none of the tracks are particularly long. I don’t mean this in a negative way, it’s actually refreshing to have a list of tracks that aren’t all ten minutes or more in length. Most of the tracks are between two and three minutes in length, which is more than enough time to get a feel for the music. And speaking of the music…

The music for the second season of Stranger Things sounds amazing! Since the series is set in the 1980s, the music has a distinct 80s sound, which means a lot of synthesizers in the mix. Particular favorites I’d like to highlight include: “Home”, “She wants me to find her”, “The First Lie” and “Connect the Dots.” This last one is particularly interesting to me because the title refers to “dots” and the music itself is full of “dots”, that is to say, there are many plunking sounds that create an aural image of dots in the imagination.

I do have one small criticism of the overall soundtrack. Because so many of the tracks use synthesizers, some of the tracks have the tendency to sound very similar to one another.

Bottom line: if you love Stranger Things, you will definitely love this soundtrack. And if you’re like me and you haven’t seen Stranger Things yet, then this soundtrack will make you want to go see it as soon as possible.

The digital album of Strangers Things 2 is available now, keep an eye out for the physical CD release in the near future. My thanks to The Krakower Group for making the soundtrack available for review.

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New TV spot for The Last Jedi

So I got a big surprise last night. Here I am watching Game 7 of the World Series (it’s the only time I pay attention to baseball) and suddenly I hear Star Wars music…and then there’s this new footage playing and I’m like “Oh my gosh, what is this?”

Star Wars: The Last Jedi TV Spot

The sneaky people at Disney decided to spring a new TV trailer on us without any warning (and I love it!) The biggest parts that are new include: footage of Luke walking into the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon and flipping on the lights (with a very emotional look on his face); additional footage that indicates a fight between Luke and Rey; a badass look at Snoke’s “throne room”(? I’m just going to call it a throne room because truthfully I don’t know what it is) and this awesome line “Darkness rises, and light to meet it.”

It seems relatively clear to me that this is going to come down to a clash between Kylo and Rey, the former represents the dark and the latter the light (at least I hope so). I’m so excited that I can finally say that The Last Jedi comes out NEXT MONTH!

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10 films that are remakes of 70s films

If you talk to me long enough, it will come out that one of my biggest pet peeves is Hollywood’s current obsession with remaking every film they can think of, simply because they can (and not for a good reason, like making a remake of a silent film). I think it’s the height of creative laziness and it also makes me wonder if the Hollywood writers think the audience is stupid. Just because a certain movie was made 40 years ago doesn’t mean it’s been forgotten (or that a remake will be better). And when I saw the news on Twitter that Death Wish was being remade into a Bruce Willis film due to come out next year, I decided it was time to start making lists to point out just how many films are actually remakes. I chose remakes of films from the 1970s for this list because Death Wish originally came out in 1974 and there have been a LOT of remakes from that decade. So, to that end, I present a list of ten films that are actually remakes of films from the 70s.

1.The Mechanic (2011)

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I have a confession: watching Jason Statham onscreen is one of my guilty pleasures and I was initially excited when I saw previews of the 2011 film The Mechanic, a story about a professional assassin who makes his hits look like anything but an assassination. I was going to see the film until I went to the internet and found out that this film is actually….a remake.

Remake of: The Mechanic (1972)

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That’s right. The Mechanic is a remake of a 1972 film starring Charles Bronson. The plot is largely the same, though the latter has more explosions. But knowing it was a remake..I just couldn’t watch it, and it’s my understanding that the unwanted sequel, The Mechanic: Resurrection (2016) largely bombed at the box office.

2. I Am Legend (2007)

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I love to point to I Am Legend as the perfect example of how prevalent remakes are in Hollywood. This film isn’t just a remake, it’s a remake OF a remake. The compelling tale of the last man on Earth fighting the infected was previously told in the 1971 film The Omega Man, starring Charlton Heston (and it’s not a bad film, I’ve seen it). But this film was also a remake, of a 1964 Vincent Price film entitled (appropriately enough) The Last Man on Earth. Notice how the title of the original film becomes the tagline of the remakes.

Remake of: The Omega Man (1971) which is a remake of The Last Man on Earth (1964)

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The biggest difference between the remakes and the original is that, in the original, the infected humans are straight-up vampires (the kind you kill with stakes to the heart).

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3. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005)

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I hate this movie. With a burning passion. From the moment a remake starring Johnny Depp (of all people) was announced, I knew I would HATE this movie. I don’t care who is in it, nothing could ever match the wonder of the original film starring Gene Wilder. And, let’s just face it, the remake was downright creepy, and not even a little creepy, it was a LOT creepy.

Remake of: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)

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4. Assault on Precinct 13 (2005)

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I remember the previews for this film and ignoring the film altogether because it wasn’t my kind of movie. As a result, I didn’t learn until much later that this is actually a remake of a 1976 film of the same title. Once I learned of the original film, that’s when I really started Googling film titles to see which ones were remakes (answer: a lot of them).

Remake of: Assault on Precinct 13 (1976)

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5. Death Wish (2018)

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As I said at the beginning, this is the film that pushed me over the edge into making this list, because I see it as totally unnecessary. I also fear it will start yet another franchise that nobody really wants, because the original Death Wish film spawned FOUR additional sequels (with Death Wish V: The Face of Death coming out in 1994).

Remake of: Death Wish (1974)

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6. The Taking of Pelham 123 (2009)

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The Taking of Pelham 123 actually didn’t sound like a bad film: guy takes a train full of passengers hostage and demands a huge ransom while the good guys work to stop the train. Sounds pretty good right? It is, it was, and it was also first done in 1974 with the original film. A minor difference is that in the original film, they want $1 million dollars in ransom. In the remake, this is bumped up to $10 million dollars (wow, talk about inflation!).

Remake of: The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974)

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7. Poseidon (2006)

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People have told me that Poseidon isn’t actually THAT bad, but I’ll have to agree to disagree, because however good it may be, The Poseidon Adventure (1972) was better. I will take an older film with practical effects over a modern film loaded with CGI any day (not to mention the flipping scene in the remake is so realistic it actually gave me nightmares for a few days). I’m still waiting for a remake of The Towering Inferno (1974) (since they seem to like remaking disaster films).

Remake of: The Poseidon Adventure (1972)

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8. The Crazies (2010)

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I have discovered that Hollywood loves to remake horror films, that’s why the last three on this list come from that genre. It makes sense in a way, there’s always new ways of terrifying people that can be included in a film remake. But I still think it’s lazy to do the same story over again (though I suppose that’s a matter of opinion).

Remake of: The Crazies (1973)

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9. The Hills Have Eyes (2006)

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When I was fresh out of high school, I made a terrible mistake: I accidentally watched a big chunk of this film and didn’t realize what it was until it was too late. To this day, I refuse to go anywhere near this film (or any sequels). I wasn’t completely surprised to hear that this film was actually a remake, it just seemed like one of those films that’d been made before, only they updated the setting for the new version.

Remake of: The Hills Have Eyes (1977)

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10. Carrie (2013)

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I’ve toyed with the idea of watching the original Carrie (1976) for a while now, but I think the reason I’ll never be able to is because it’ll bring back too many memories of when I was brutally teased in school (not even close to the extent that Carrie was in the film, but still…) I felt resigned when the remake was announced. I’m sure these actors do a marvelous job, but they’re still just retelling a story we’ve all seen (or at least heard of) before.

Remake of: Carrie (1976)

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And that’s the end of my list, I hope you enjoyed going through it. There are more soundtrack reviews coming up this week, including a very special one (if I can get my hands on it in time). One note: next week is the annual musicology conference, so I will be out of town and not blogging at that time.

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