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Behind the Music of Action and Comedy: Talking with Atli Örvarsson about ‘The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard’

Recently I had the chance to speak with Atli Örvarsson about his work on The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard. Atli’s credits include composing and orchestrating music for some of Hollywood’s biggest projects, including the Pirates of the Caribbean series, Angels & Demons, The Holiday, The Eagle, Vantage Point, Babylon A.D., Thick as Thieves, The Fourth Kind, and Season of the Witch.

Atli’s accolades include winning the HARPA Nordic Film Composer Award for his acclaimed score to Rams, several ASCAP and BMI Film and TV Music Awards, a “Breakthrough of the Year” nomination with the IFMCA Awards in 2009, plus he was nominated for the prestigious World Soundtrack Academy’s “Discovery of the Year Award” for his score for Babylon A.D in 2009 and his score for Ploey: You Never Fly Alone was nominated for a “Public Choice Award” in 2018.

I hope you enjoy the discussion we had about this film!

Thank you for taking the time to speak with me! My first question is, how did you get started as a composer?
I have been writing music since childhood but got “serious” about composition when I was attending Berklee College of Music and found out they had a film music program. I had always been interested in film music, as far back as the first Star Wars film when I was just a little kid, so this field of study really appealed to me and has been my path ever since.

I know you previously composed the music for The Hitman’s Bodyguard in 2017, was it always assumed that you would return to score the music for the sequel?
Yes. Patrick Hughes, the director of these films, started discussing a possible sequel with me right after the first film came out.

Speaking of, what did you think of getting to return to the world of The Hitman’s Bodyguard to create more music for it? Was it easier scoring this film because you’d also written the music for the first film?
I don´t know if easier is the right word but perhaps it was a bit of a luxury to have a lot of themes from the original film to work with and it just made sense to reuse these.

On a similar note, what was the discussion with the director like when it came to putting the score together? Were you building on the first film’s musical themes in the sequel or did you create something wholly new?
A bit of both. There is a new bad guy in this film who needed a new theme, obviously along with some other new characters and storylines. Salma Hayek’s character also plays a bigger role here so that called for some new music. At the same time the two main characters are the same so there is a lot of reusing and reinventing themes from the original film.

Speaking of themes, are there musical themes for specific characters?
Yes.


I know this film is considered an action-comedy. How did you balance the music in the score between action and comedy?
It’s usually pretty clear cut whether a scene is primarily an action scene or a comedy scene but there are certainly scenes in this movie that combine both. In these cases, I usually choose to score the scenes very much like serious action scenes as the comedy sort of speaks for itself but to be honest, there’s no hard and fast rule. It just depends on the scene and what feels right.

How much time did you have to score The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard?
I had quite a bit of time as the Covid pandemic kept interrupting the schedule, but once we got started “for real” it went quite fast. I’d say about 2 months from the start of scoring to recording with the orchestra.

How much did the previous score for The Hitman’s Bodyguard influence the music for the sequel?
Quite a bit! As I mentioned earlier, I did reuse themes from the first movie but perhaps the biggest difference between the two is that there’s more score and less songs in the sequel.

Do you have a favorite musical moment in the score?
It’s hard to say… I really enjoyed writing some of the comedy cues around Bryce’s personal backstory where the music plays very serious over the comedy, e.g. when we first meet his step father and for the flashback about his mom.

Finally, is there any musical detail you hope viewers notice when they go to see this movie in theaters?
There are many places where I geeked out and tried to sneak in my themes in disguises. Hopefully someone picks up on that!

I hope you enjoyed this interview about the music of The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard.

See also:

My Thoughts on: The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard (2021)

Composer Interviews

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Soundtrack News: ‘The Green Knight’ Original Soundtrack to be Released July 30, lead single “One Year Hence” Available Now

Milan Records announces the July 30 release of THE GREEN KNIGHT (ORIGINAL MOTION PICTURE SOUNDTRACK) with music by composer and performer Daniel Hart. Available for preorder now, the album features music written by Hart for director David Lowery’s latest fantasy adventure film based on the classic Arthurian tale of Sir Gawain and The Green Knight. The resulting 29-track collection is both as epic and unique as the film itself, a sweepingly dramatic and expansive body of music that straddles the divide between medieval and modern.

Making its debut alongside album preorder is soundtrack lead single “One Year Hence,” a darkly foreboding number underscored by a haunting, heavy synth and punctuated with jittery recorders and dissonant choral bursts – listen here. The soundtrack is the latest in a longstanding creative partnership between Lowery and Hart, the duo having worked together previously on Ain’t Them Bodies SaintsPete’s DragonA Ghost Story and The Old Man & the Gun. Starring Dev Patel as Sir Gawain, The Green Knight makes its theatrical debut Friday, July 30 from A24. 

An epic fantasy adventure based on the timeless Arthurian legend, The Green Knight tells the story of Sir Gawain (Dev Patel), King Arthur’s reckless and headstrong nephew, who embarks on a daring quest to confront the eponymous Green Knight, a gigantic emerald-skinned stranger and tester of men. Gawain contends with ghosts, giants, thieves, and schemers in what becomes a deeper journey to define his character and prove his worth in the eyes of his family and kingdom by facing the ultimate challenger. From visionary filmmaker David Lowery comes a fresh and bold spin on a classic tale from the knights of the round table.

Of the soundtrack, composer Daniel Hart says:

“Making this music was somehow both like running from a pack of hyenas and wading through a river of chocolate mud. It has never taken David [Lowery] and I this long to find what we were looking for musically on any of his films, so to listen back now and actually love what we made is all the more satisfying, especially when I think about how many late nights and hair pullings went into it. Much like Gawain himself, I was stumbling through the wilderness most of the time and found little moments of good fortune here and there, often through stubborn dumb luck. I hope that when you listen to the soundtrack, you’ll think about things other than me sitting in my studio, endlessly fretting. But if you do, then your imagination is very accurate.”

THE GREEN KNIGHT (ORIGINAL MOTION PICTURE SOUNDTRACK)
TRACKLISTING –

1. In Stori Stif And Stronge
2. Christ Is Born Indeed
3. You Do Smell Like You’ve Been At Mass All Night
4. Tell Me A Tale Of Yourself, So That I Might Know Thee
5. Shaped By Your Hands
6. O Greatest Of Kings
7. Remember It Is Only A Game
8. One Year Hence
9. I Promise You Will Not Come To Harm
10. Child Thou Ert A Pilgrim
11. Rest Them Bones My Brave Little Knight
12. A Meeting With St. Winifred
13. Your Head Is On Your Neck, My Lady
14. Are You Real, Or Are You A Spirit?
15. I Will Strike Thee Down With Every Care That I Have For Thee
16. Aiganz O Kulzphazur (feat. Emma Tring)
17. The Giant’s Call
18. Brave Sir Gawain Come To Face The Green Knight
19. Should Not A Knight Offer A Lady A Kiss In Thanks?
20. Hold Very Still
21. Do You Believe In Witchcraft?
22. You Are No Knight
23. I Never Asked For Your Help Anyway
24. Gawain Runs And Runs (feat. Bobak Lotfipour and Katinka Vindelev)
25. Blome Swete Lilie Flour
26. Excalibur
27. O Nyghtegale (feat. Atheena Frizzell)
28. Now I’m Ready, I’m Ready Now
29. Be Merry, Swete Lorde (feat. Katinka Vindelev)

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Soundtrack Review: Gunpowder Milkshake (2021)

Milan Records today releases GUNPOWDER MILKSHAKE (ORIGINAL MOTION PICTURE SOUNDTRACK) by composer Frank Ilfman (Big Bad WolvesThe OperativeRory’s Way ). Available everywhere now, the album features music written by Ilfman for Navot Papushado’s Gunpowder Milkshake. The film is a female-driven, high-concept thriller with a rich mythology and multi-generational narrative that give it a fresh, 21st century perspective on the traditional assassin film. Directed and co-written by Navot Papushado (Big Bad Wolves), Gunpowder Milkshake debuts on Netflix in the US, Canada and Nordics today, with theatrical releases rolling out everywhere else worldwide from July 15.

In Gunpowder Milkshake, Sam (Karen Gillan) was only 12 years old when her mother Scarlet (Lena Headey), an elite assassin, was forced to abandon her. Sam was raised by The Firm, the ruthless crime syndicate her mother worked for. Now, 15 years later, Sam has followed in her mother’s footsteps and grown into a fierce hit-woman. She uses her “talents” to clean up The Firm’s most dangerous messes. She’s as efficient as she is loyal. But when a high-risk job goes wrong, Sam must choose between serving The Firm and protecting the life of an innocent 8-year-old girl – Emily (Chloe Coleman). With a target on her back, Sam has only one chance to survive: Reunite with her mother and her lethal associates, The Librarians (Michelle Yeoh, Angela Bassett and Carla Gugino). These three generations of women must now learn to trust each other, stand up to The Firm and their army of henchmen, and raise hell against those who could take everything from them. 

Of the soundtrack, Gunpowder Milkshake director Navot Papushado says:

“Because this movie mixes so many different genres and so many ideas, the music was always going to be the glue. When I started talking to composer Frankie (Haim Frank Ilfman), I said I had the Western vibe of Ennio Morricone, the Italian chic of Stelvio Cipriani, and the violent suspense of Bernard Herrmann in mind. The end result is Western mixed with Italian retro chic and the suspense of Bernard Hermann with an electronic vibe that came from Frankie. The soundtrack is retro but modern, it could be played on vinyl or Spotify.”

Due to a busy schedule, I’ve not yet had the chance to watch Gunpowder Milkshake on Netflix (though I plan on fixing that in the next few days) but when I saw the soundtrack had arrived in my inbox, I couldn’t wait to check it out and get a hint of what I was in for.

Oh my goodness this music is so good!

The director really does sum it up perfectly by describing this music as Western mixed with Italian retro chic with the suspense of Bernard Hermann thrown in for good measure. The music for Gunpowder Milkshake is a delightful mish-mash of all of those things and more, it’s the kind of soundtrack you can sink your teeth into and find something different every time. In fact, I would go so far as to call this a “neo-classical” film score, in that it appears to be a modern take on a classical film score. Or, put another way, imagine if someone took a classic film score from the 1930s or 40s and redid it for the modern era, that’s what this music reminds me of.

This may be one of the best movie soundtracks I’ve heard in 2021, as I can hear influences all over the place. Even without the director mentioning it, I can hear the influence of Ennio Morricone the most, especially in “Goonfight at Gutterball Corral.” There’s also, as I said before, definitely a decent sampling of Bernard Hermann in this score too. But there’s also a lot in this music, and it may be coincidental, that reminds me of Daniel Pemberton’s score for The Man From UNCLE. I can’t put my finger on a specific cue, but more than once I found myself thinking of that film while listening to this soundtrack. That’s not a bad thing by the way, Pemberton’s scores are among my favorite, and if Frank Ilfman’s score for Gunpowder Milkshake reminds me of that style of film music, so much the better.

I can also say that the soundtrack for Gunpowder Milkshake is very easy to listen to, as many of the tracks are relatively short and therefore you can go through them at a relatively quick pace. I like how “bite-sized” some of these themes are. You get a feel for the music rather quickly and it didn’t take me a lot of time to take the measure of this film’s score.

Listening to the music for Gunpowder Milkshake has me more eager than ever to watch the movie itself, and I can only hope that the film is just as good as the music that was written for it.

GUNPOWDER MILKSHAKE (ORIGINAL MOTION PICTURE SOUNDTRACK)
TRACKLISTING –

  1. Opening Titles
  2. Home Sweet Home?
  3. Scarlet’s Theme
  4. Gunpowder Milkshake
  5. Big Bad Mommy
  6. New Books and Clean Guns
  7. Dressed To Kill
  8. Le Bonbon
  9. A Careless Whisper
  10. The Firm
  11. The Rollin Roars
  12. Goonfight at Gutterball Corral
  13. The Monsters
  14. Rock Monster
  15. Yankee and the Goons
  16. Redemption Is For The Careless
  17. 13:8 In 60 Seconds
  18. La Balada de los Charros
  19. Are You a Serial Killer?
  20. 944 Bullets
  21. The Sam and Emily Story
  22. Escape Route
  23. Fudge you!
  24. Bare Knuckles and Gold Bars
  25. The Library Fight
  26. The Big Gundown
  27. To The Death
  28. Madeleine’s Adagio
  29. McAlester’s Theme
  30. The Standoff
  31. Red Dot Marks The Spot
  32. Sam’s Theme
  33. Ensemble pour toujours

See also:

Film Soundtracks A-W

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Soundtrack Review: The Tomorrow War (2021)

Milan Records has released THE TOMORROW WAR (AMAZON ORIGINAL MOTION PICTURE SOUNDTRACK) with music by GRAMMY Award®-winning and Emmy®- and BAFTA-nominated producer and composer Lorne Balfe.  Available everywhere now, the album features music written by Balfe for the futuristic action film directed by Chris McKay and marks the second collaboration between the composer and director, who previously worked together on McKay’s directorial debut The Lego Batman Movie

In The Tomorrow War, the world is stunned when a group of time travelers arrive from the year 2051 to deliver an urgent message: Thirty years in the future mankind is losing a global war against a deadly alien species. The only hope for survival is for soldiers and civilians from the present to be transported to the future and join the fight. Among those recruited is high school teacher and family man Dan Forester (Chris Pratt). Determined to save the world for his young daughter, Dan teams up with a brilliant scientist (Yvonne Strahovski) and his estranged father (J.K. Simmons) in a desperate quest to rewrite the fate of the planet.

Of the soundtrack, composer Lorne Balfe says:

“On the surface this is an action movie, but what stood out for me when writing the score was the family dynamics between the main characters. Being able to write themes and music around these relationships and people, both as their future and present-day selves was a unique experience. It was a delight to be able to work with Chris [McKay] again having previously worked with him on the Lego Batman movies, his creativity and versatility as a director is exceptional.”

After listening to Lorne Balfe’s work on Black Widow yesterday, I felt in the mood for more of his work and I decided to check out his score for The Tomorrow War. And after listening to his music for this recently released film, I’m so glad I did.

Balfe’s score for The Tomorrow War is beautiful! Predictably, there is a lot of synthesized music, which I would expect for a science-fiction film that revolves around time traveling 30 years into the future to fight aliens that are destroying planet Earth. But what really gets my attention is how Balfe contrasts the synthesized music with the orchestra, giving you a full range of music that is never once boring.

Another detail I liked? Balfe mixes in a range of sound effects: whooshes, vocalizations and what almost sounds like moaning in “Multiply.” This, combined with the music, creates a very unsettling effect and I really liked it. Given that this film deals with jumping 30 years into the future, the music makes you feel like you’re now in a time and place where you don’t belong, where you don’t fit, and that’s what you’d expect to feel if you’re suddenly pushed forward into the future.

Finally, I have to mention “The Tomorrow War” my favorite piece in the entire score. This gorgeous piece features an uplifting theme that recurs throughout the score, giving the music a big blockbuster feeling that I confess I did not expect given this film was released as an Amazon Original. I say “The Tomorrow War” is uplifting but there’s also hints of danger mixed in the latter half, reminding you that there’s a lot at stake in this unique conflict.

Whether you see the actual film or not, you need to take the time to listen to the music of The Tomorrow War, it is definitely worth it.

Track List

  1. Multiply (2:54)
  2. Spikes Attack (1:57)
  3. Who’s With Us? (4:04)
  4. Reunited (3:07)
  5. Back to the Past (4:03)
  6. The Tomorrow War (5:33)
  7. The Whitespikes (4:01)
  8. The Draft (4:41)
  9. Goodbye (4:15)
  10. So It Begins (8:21)
  11. Fight (2:47)
  12. Message From the Future (2:28)
  13. The Nest (2:08)
  14. Test Tubes (3:19)
  15. The Cube (2:51)
  16. Pushing (6:24)
  17. Miami Dolphins Still Suck (1:52)
  18. Colonel Forester (5:09)
  19. Dan Forester (3:16)
  20. Homecoming (2:17)

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Film Soundtracks A-W

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My Thoughts on: Black Widow (2021)

It feels like an eternity since I watched Avengers: Endgame in the waning days of 2019. So much has happened since then that I genuinely forgot what it felt like to experience a Marvel movie in the theater. And then I sat down to watch Black Widow (after waiting more than a year to see it) and it all came rushing back to me, that thrill that can only come from seeing a Marvel film on the big screen.

Let me start off by saying that Black Widow was absolutely worth the extended wait. Sure, it would’ve been ideal if we’d gotten this story several years ago, or at least before Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, but it’s made clear multiple times that this film takes place immediately after Captain America: Civil War, so I’m willing to let it go. At least we finally got a standalone story about Black Widow that takes us deep into her past, and gives us a tantalizing look at how she (and other “widows”) were trained.

If I have one gripe with Black Widow it’s that I really wanted to see more of the Red Room training that goes into creating assassins like Natasha and Yelena. We’re given, as I said, a tantalizing glimpse, but no more. Given what’s implied about this training process, that might be for the best, but I still found myself wanting more.

Other than that, I found myself loving pretty much everything about Black Widow. The chemistry between Scarlett Johansson and Florence Pugh is off the charts and is by far one of my favorite parts of this movie. Believe the hype about Pugh’s performance as Yelena Belova, it’s all true. I’m not sure if Yelena is going to be the new Black Widow moving forward, but I could certainly see her stepping into that role in future Marvel films and I wouldn’t complain if that indeed happened. Speaking of chemistry, I really enjoyed the interplay between David Harbour (Red Guardian) and Rachel Weisz. I would happily watch a film that explored the background of these two characters, especially anything that focused more on Red Guardian. I think we all want to see a film that explores THAT story.

Another detail I liked and one that surprised me is how many funny moments there are in this film. Given the serious topics involved, I wasn’t expecting this at all, but I really liked it, it helped to break up the tension, which is always an important element that some movies neglect. After all, if you keep things too fast or too serious all the way through, it can really grate on an audience.

And make no mistake, there are some serious issues touched on in Black Widow, particularly in regards to the treatment of women. I know what I said earlier about wishing this film had come out several years earlier, but given everything that’s happened in recent years (especially the Me Too movement) I think maybe Black Widow came out at the right time after all. The film’s main villain is one of the most disturbing and revolting to appear in the entire MCU and long before he meets his demise you’ll be begging Natasha to finish him off. Speaking of villains, for what it’s worth, I really like Taskmaster’s appearance in this film. I admit I’m not familiar with the character’s comic book origins, but I like how the character was updated for this film.

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t briefly mention the film’s score. Lorne Balfe has constructed some gorgeous music to go with Black Widow and what I heard intrigued me enough that a full-on soundtrack review will be forthcoming. My favorite part has to be the music associated with Taskmaster and if you’ve seen the movie you probably know what I’m talking about (my soundtrack review will provide details). And one final note: I like that the movie leaves some plot threads unresolved, because it practically guarantees that we will see some of these characters again.

In conclusion, I loved Black Widow. Marvel has returned to the big screen in style and I urge everyone who hasn’t seen it yet to go see Black Widow in theaters if at all possible, this is a movie that needs to be seen on the big screen.

Let me know what you think about Black Widow in the comments below and have a great day!

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My Thoughts on: The Loneliest Whale: The Search for 52 (2021)

I recently had the opportunity to check out a screener for the upcoming documentary The Loneliest Whale: The Search for 52 (due to release on July 9th), which follows director Joshua Zeman’s journey to locate the so-called “52-Hertz whale”, a near-legendary creature due to the fact that it appears to be the only whale in existence to call out at a frequency of 52 Hertz, giving it the nickname “the loneliest whale” because no other whales can seemingly communicate back with it.

I’d never heard of the loneliest whale before seeing this documentary, so I found the entire story fascinating. It also helped that I’ve always been interested in whales, and I’ll always take the opportunity to learn more about them if I can. This documentary will certainly teach you quite a bit about whales, particularly about blue whales (the largest whale on Earth), fin whales (the second-largest) and humpback whales. I knew of course that humpback whales could sing, but I never knew that blue whales and fin whales had their own vocalizations as well, and the documentary covers this in a way that makes it easy to understand.

The bulk of the documentary, as the title implies, follows Zeman and a crew as they embark on a seven-day expedition to look for this mysterious 52-Hertz whale, which at the time of filming in 2015 hadn’t been documented for nearly 11 years. In between tracking the expedition however, there are segments inserted that explain the history of humanity’s fascination with whales for better and for worse. The history of humans hunting whales is touched upon, along with the subsequent “Save the Whales” movement that started in the 1970s. It’s a nice way to cut up the action and prevents what could be relatively boring story about hunting for one lone whale into a story that not only follows that hunt, but tells you about humanity’s relationship with whales along the way.

That being said, while I do appreciate learning about the history of whaling and the devastating effect it had on whale populations worldwide, I did find some of those scenes to be rather distressing. I’m sure that was the idea, but if you are uncomfortable with the sight of blood and seeing carcasses cut up, some of that footage might bother you.

Now, on the side of the story that followed the hunt for the whale, I liked how they explained each step of what they were doing to try and hunt for the whale. They even included some amazing underwater footage of the sonar buoys deploying, which I found fascinating because I had no idea that’s what one looked like and it was really helpful that the documentary showed that process. But my favorite part has to be when the crew went around “tagging” blue whales and fin whales in an effort to locate the loneliest whale. And I liked it because these tags had cameras attached, so once they managed the rhythm of getting the tag attached, one minute you (the viewer) are in the air, the next…you’re suddenly riding on the back of a blue whale, the largest animal on Earth. It’s a thrilling moment, one that took my breath away and I definitely have a new appreciation for whales after seeing them up close like that.

But aside from the whales, The Loneliest Whale also touches on why we are so fascinated by this mysterious whale. There’s an interesting commentary on the nature of human relationships and how they’ve changed. The documentary could have touched on this a bit more, but it definitely provides some food for thought on the nature of human relationships and why they’re so important (and necessary) for us.

Now, the one thing that frustrates me about The Loneliest Whale is that it ends with less resolution than I would like. I know documentaries like this aren’t guaranteed to have conclusive endings, but this one’s ending definitely left me wanting more. Hopefully there will be a follow up documentary down the line, because I definitely want to hear more about this mysterious whale.

In the end, I’m very glad I got to see The Loneliest Whale. I learned a lot about whales, about our history of interacting with them, and I gained a deeper appreciation for the issues facing whales in the 21st century. This is a really fun documentary and I highly recommend checking it out.

Let me know what you think about The Loneliest Whale in the comments below and have a great day!

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Soundtrack News: ‘Till Death’ Original Soundtrack Available Now

Now available to purchase and stream from Millennium Media is the chilling score by compsoer Walter Mair for the newly released horror thriller Till Death. The film stars Megan Fox is now in theaters (limited release) as well as available On Demand.

Walter Mair is an Ivor Novello-nominated and Telly Award-winning composer known for his captivating scores ranging from epic orchestrations recorded with 80-piece choirs to intimate, small ensemble and hybrid electronic pieces that have graced a diverse mix of feature films, documentaries, television dramas, narrative-driven interactive entertainment and video games. Walter scored the 2021 survival thriller Till Death, directed by S.K. Dale and starring Megan Fox, as well as the psychological horror film The Unfamiliar, which won the 2021 Telly Award for Best Original Music and an Award for Best Music Score at the 2020 NOLAHFF, and was described by the press as “the Babadook meets Pet Sematary”. Other recent projects include the coming-of-age drama Iceland is Best and the action-thriller Knuckledust, directed by James Kermack and starring Moe Dunford (Vikings), which won the 2021 Telly Award for Best Original Music.

The soundtrack features 16 tracks by Mair who elevated the score and heightened tension in the film with some unique instrumentations. A total sucker for unique instruments, Mair enjoys finding sounds that no one else has. Paired with a selection of hydrophones – instruments which in his own words “resemble the frozen world” of Till Death’s story, he commissioned the build of a bespoke instrument he calls a Contra-Hurdy. The unique Contra-Hurdy he uses in the score is a “Frankenstein instrument” combining the mechanics of a hurdy gurdy, that add pulsating and propelling movement to resonate strings, and the corpus and strings of a large contrabass, more akin to a cello or double bass, that can twist and distort sounds depending on how fast one moves the mechanical parts.

Additionally, Mair employed a foley team to record snow and ice sounds: breaks, cold pressure creaks, and freezing water – which he then pitched and detuned or even slowed down 600% to add extra layers of tension to his score using the very cold itself.

Till Death tells the story of Emma (Fox), who is left handcuffed to her dead husband as part of a sickening revenge plot and must survive two hired killers on their way to finish the job.

Track List

1. Truth Be Told
2. The Cabin
3. Wedding Dress
4. The Necklace
5. Dark Room Pictures
6. Fuel Line
7. Call the Police
8. Bobby Ray
9. Boat House
10. Don’t Be Seen
11. Emma
12. Brothers
13. No Way Out
14. Knife Fight
15. Hold Your Breath
16. Finale

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My Thoughts on: F9 (2021)

After being delayed for about a year, I finally got to go and watch F9 in theaters. This is the first mainline installment of the Fast & Furious series that I’ve seen in theaters since Fast Five in 2011 (Hobbs & Shaw is a spin-off and therefore doesn’t count). After the epic display that was Fate of the Furious, I was very excited to see F9, especially as it revealed two earth-shattering bombshells. One: Dom has had a younger brother this entire time and we’re only just now meeting him and two: Han is still alive! With these two twists alone I was more than eager to see how the film would go about explaining them.

Well….I have good news and bad news. The good news is, the film DOES do a pretty adequate job of explaining how Dom has had a younger brother this entire time AND how Han didn’t die like we thought he did. The bad news is how the film goes about it. A decent chunk of this 2 1/2 hour film is devoted to lengthy flashbacks explaining both of these stories. It’s not that the flashbacks aren’t well done, they’re actually quite good. The thing is, if a film has to jump through this many hoops to explain its current plot…then something has gone sideways somewhere along the way. Perhaps I can explain the issue best if I say that F9 has to try way too hard to explain the existence of Jakob Toretto and Han’s not-being-dead. It doesn’t help that we’re meant to believe that John Cena is Vin Diesel’s younger brother. I tried to believe it, I really did, but it doesn’t quite work, though I will give everyone involved credit for trying.

That’s not the film’s only issue either. After five straight installments of upping the action to another level, F9 finally went too far by going to space. The entire submarine sequence in Fate of the Furious was more believable than this. There is now literally no way for the tenth and eleventh installments (more on those later) to raise the action to another level now without looking absolutely ridiculous. I mean how can you possibly top going to space?? You can’t and that’s going to be a problem down the line.

Also, there’s something about how the whole story is put together that bothered me. And after thinking about it for a while, I think I know what it is. See, at this point I’m used to the Fast & Furious movies jumping around to exotic locales, which F9 does plenty of. But there’s so much jumping around that it dawned on me that the film overall feels very disjointed. So even if most of the individual sections are good (or at least okay), taken together as a whole, it’s rather uneven in many places. I will say I loved the scene with Helen Mirren and Vin Diesel, it was delightful from beginning to end.

One more thing that bothered me: your experience of this film will most definitely suffer if you haven’t seen the early installments of this series. In particular, if you (like me) have yet to see The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, then one whole section of this film is going to make little to no sense to you. I get that they wanted to do a callback, but this one goes so far back it might go over a lot of people’s heads.

Now, with all that being said, I still can’t say the film was terrible because I did enjoy quite a few moments in it. Cipher (Charlize Theron) in particular was a delight to watch, though I do wish her character had gotten more screen time given her current importance to the story. There’s a lot of really good funny spots scattered throughout and the car chases, as always, were the best part of the movie (that stuff with magnets that gets teased in the trailers is just as good as it looks, trust me). This definitely isn’t the worst film I’ve ever seen, though it probably is the weakest entry in the Fast & Furious franchise to date (yes, even weaker than Hobbs & Shaw).

The thing that really gets me is, I don’t see how they can keep the story going for another two entries, I really don’t. This film had the perfect opportunity to kill Cipher off once and for all, wrap everything up in a neat little bow and give our heroes their happily ever after. And I don’t know how it will be in other theaters, but when it was revealed that, spoiler alert, Cipher wasn’t dead, I swear I heard a soft groan in the theater as we all realized the same thing: the ultimate villain lives, this story will continue. Of course I want to see Cipher get what’s coming to her after everything she’s done, but really what more can they do?? As much as I love the Fast & Furious films, they’re getting dangerously close to wearing out their welcome by dragging the story on for too long. No franchise, however good, can last forever, and F9 is proof that you can drag a story too far and make it not as good as it might have been.

Again, I can’t say I hated F9, but it was not as good as I thought it might be. John Cena is an adequate addition to the story, but he’s not the Rock and I hate that he and Vin Diesel had a falling out because Hobbs’ presence was sorely missed in this story, at least by me. If you’ve stuck it out this far with this franchise, then you’ll likely find stuff to enjoy in F9, just don’t raise your expectations too high.

Let me know what you think about F9 in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

My Thoughts on: Fast Five (2011)

My Thoughts on: Furious 7 (2015)

My Thoughts on: The Fate of the Furious (2017)

My Thoughts on: Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw (2019)

Film Reviews

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Soundtrack News: Milan Records to Release Original Motion Picture Soundtrack for ‘I Carry You With Me’ on June 25

Milan Records is excited to announce the June 25 release of the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack from the Sony Picture Classics and Stage 6 Films’ drama I Carry You With Me composed by Jay Wadley (I’m Thinking of Ending ThingsDriveways). The soundtrack is composed of 19 lush tracks, which Entertainment Weekly calls, “a wrenching score that swells and fades to the rhythms of these men’s lives.” Making their debut today exclusively via Vehlinggo ahead of Friday’s wide release are two tracks from the soundtrack – listen to “One Year” and “Ivan’s Chance” HERE. Coinciding with the film’s theatrical debut, the soundtrack will release on June 25, 2021.

A two-time winner of the Charles Ives Award from the American Academy of Arts and letters and featured in IndieWire’s 2020 and 2016’s 10 Best Scores of the Year, Jay Wadley is a NY-based composer and music producer. He recently scored Charlie Kaufman’s phycological drama/thriller I’m Thinking of Ending Things, featuring an original ballet. Other recent projects include Heidi Ewing’s I Carry You With Me, Emma Tammi’s Blood Moon (from Hulu/Blumhouse’s Into The Dark Horror Anthology Series), and Season 2 of Amazon’s Emmy®-nominated series Modern Love

“In the score for ‘I Carry You With Me,’ I aimed to create a vibrant sense of nostalgia and longing using a combination of textural electronics and piano, string orchestra and some familiar sourced sounds from the streets of Mexico,” says composer Jay Wadley.  “[Director] Heidi [Ewing] sent me a collection of sounds she recorded in the streets to inspire the sound world and make unique connections to the specific sense of time and place. One of the most prominent sounds you can hear woven into the score is the sound of the Camotero whistle from the food trucks in Mexico. I tuned and stretched out the whistle to use as a musical punctuation and thematic device to help call back to Ivan’s childhood memories working the streets with his father.”

Premiering at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, and based on true love, I Carry You With Me is a decades spanning romance that begins in Mexico between an aspiring chef (Armando Espitia) and a teacher (Christian Vázquez). Their lives restart in incredible ways as societal pressure propels them to embark on a treacherous journey to NYC with dreams, hopes, and memories in tow.

I CARRY YOU WITH ME (ORIGINAL MOTION PICTURE SOUNDTRACK)TRACKLISTING – 

  1. I Carry You With Me
  2. Bar Franco
  3. Chiles En Nogada
  4. Sandra
  5. Complicated Boyfriend
  6. Gerardo’s Flashback
  7. You Can’t Take Him From Me
  8. Take That Off
  9. One Year
  10. We Are Not Going To Die
  11. The Letter / New York
  12. I’m Proud of You
  13. He Should Come Back
  14. Reunited
  15. Ivan’s Chance
  16. You Came To Me
  17. I Just Can’t See It
  18. Dad’s In the Hospital
  19. There’s No Path

The soundtrack album for I Carry You With Me will be released on June 25, 2021.

See also:

Become a Patron of the blog at patreon.com/musicgamer460

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Remembering the Human Element in an Alien Invasion: Talking with Composer Frederik Wiedmann About ‘Occupation Rainfall’ (2021)

I recently had the chance to speak with composer Frederik Wiedmann about his work on the film Occupation Rainfall. Wiedmann has been inspired by film composition since he first heard John Barry’s score to Dances With Wolves at the age of 12. Wiedmann is the composer behind the hit Disney Junior show Miles from Tomorrowland, as well as the critically acclaimed Netflix animated fantasy series The Dragon Prince, which is from the writers of the popular series: Avatar: The Last Airbender. In 2016, he won a Daytime Emmy Award in the category of “Outstanding Original Song” alongside lyricist Mitch Watson, for the song “True Bromance” from Dreamworks Animation’s Madagascar spinoff All Hail King Julien

Recently, Wiedmann composed music for the thriller Hangman (directed by Johnny Martin, starring Al Pacino, Karl Urban, Brittany Snow), and two projects for Millennium Films, Acts of Vengeance (featuring Antonio Banderas, Paz Vega and Karl Urban), and Day of the Dead: Bloodline (starring Sophie Skelton and Jonahon Schaech). His credits also include Universal’s “Doom – Annihilation” as well as the epic civil war drama Field of Lost Shoes (directed by Sean McNamara), Paul Schrader’s feature Dying of the Light, The Damned, and Intruders

In Occupation Rainfall:

 This film takes place two years into an intergalactic invasion of earth. Survivors in Sydney, Australia, fight back in a desperate ground war. As casualties mount by the day, the resistance and their unexpected allies, uncover a plot that could see the war come to a decisive end. With the Alien invaders hell-bent on making earth their new home, the race is on to save mankind.

I hope you enjoy my conversation with Frederik Wiedmann about Operation Rainfall!

Thanks for taking the time to speak with me! My first question is, how did you get started as a composer?
Ever since I heard John Barry’s score for “Dances with Wolves” in 1990, I couldn’t stop fantasizing about becoming a composer myself. This slowly transformed into reality when my studies in Jazz helped me to become a proper composer. And once I completed my BA in FIlm scoring at Berklee College of Music  in 2004, I was ready to go to Hollywood and dive into the industry. After having worked for a handful of busy and established composers in LA, I started my own journey as a film composer, and have since been writing cues every single day. My first film was the Warner Brothers direct to video horror  film “Return to House on Haunted Hill”, which opened the doors to several more feature films of the same genre, as well as many other fantastic projects. 

How did you get involved with Occupation Rainfall?

This happened through a rather unusual way for me. Generally I get work from either my agents, or previous collaborators, or by recommendation. In this case, I got an email through my website from the director Luke Sparke himself, inquiring about my availability. He said he’s heard a lot of my DC scores and has been appreciating them for a while now. So we started talking and he showed me some of the film’s incredible footage.  I signed on to this amazing and hugely ambitious project almost immediately and we were off to the races. I think in my excitement i scored all of reel 1 in just a matter of days, and the rest is history. 

I read that you and the director spotted about 117 minutes of music for this film, which is almost wall-to-wall music. How did you and the director decide on having a score that long, because that is a lot of music to write for one movie.
We both are a big fan of huge, adventurous blockbusters, and some movies we discussed as a musical concept were “Transformers”, “Independence Day”, and even older films like “The Rock” and even “Star Wars”. We both agreed that music can  become a driving force in this film, and almost another character, an element to guide us through this rather intense, and emotional story. It is a lot of music to write, no doubt, and I am sure this amount of music can be intimating for composers. But to be honest, it seems that I generally attracted music-heavy movies with a lot of score, and after having scored so many of these type of films, it sort of becomes second nature and simply a fun and exciting process for me. There are some moments of course where we decided to pull music out., but not that many. 

Was there a lot of collaboration on this score between you and the director on this
score?
Absolutely. Luke is incredibly knowledgeable in film music. He knows a lot about it and therefore could tell me exactly what he envisioned for his film. It almost felt like I’d known him for many years, since we had really great synergy and our ideas complemented each other really well. It is every composer’s dream to work for filmmakers that not only appreciate what you bring to the table, and give you the necessary creative  freedom to “do your thing”, but also know how to guide you and “direct” you in a way that is nothing but inspiring. 


What sets the music for Occupation Rainfall apart from earlier alien invasion films like Independence Day or Skyline to name a few examples?

Good question. I’ve seen all of them, and I am total sucker for this genre (anything with Aliens, sign me up!). What I liked in particular about Occupation: Rainfall was the human component in the story. The script had such wonderfully nuanced characters, that are constantly conflicted with their beliefs and values, and have to decide more than on one occasion how far they will go for the greater good. And this very human and personal dilemma plays a roll not only for our heroes, but also villains (the human ones). I think this is a very interesting topic to focus on in an alien invasion film, something that goes far beyond the Sci-fi and Action/Adventure element. So in terms of the music, I think this becomes very apparent, as there are lots of very emotional pieces, and even our “hero theme” is more about “human sacrifice” than an actual  “superhero”. 

How did working on Occupation Rainfall compare to working on earlier projects like The Dragon Prince, Doom: Annihilation, and the DC animated films, just to name a few examples?
Like I mentioned above, the amount of music was very similar (given the projects mentioned here are a lot shorter generally), all of them have a lot of complex orchestral music. The big difference from let’s say “The Dragon Prince”, which is a mostly “in the box’ score with the exceptions of soloists,  to “Occupation” was that we planned on recording a rather large live orchestra, and during the peak of a pandemic no less (Summer 2020). So besides writing a lot of music and getting it approved in time, I had to account for a lot of time for recordings in London and Macedonia, and for orchestration (done by my partner in crime Hyesu Wiedmann). So suddenly you have 3-4 weeks less for writing since you need a lot of time to get 2 hours + orchestrated and prepared for the individual players, and at least 1 week of recording, and mixing. So that changes things a little in the process, but if you know what you are going to do in advance, and you have people behind you that full support you, it becomes an easy process. 

How much time did you have to score this film?
I had close to 3 months from start to finish, which felt very comfortable. 

Did you create specific musical themes for different characters or ideas?
Yes. One of the first cues I wrote for this film was the hero theme I mentioned above. A theme mostly used for our protagonist heroes, that selflessly try to save humanity, while sacrificing quite a bit themselves. The female lead, Amelia, had a theme which introduces her screen presence, the aliens had a dark and ominous, almost leaning into horror, type theme, and we had a theme for “humanity”, which is also not quite uplifting so to speak, but a nice mix of darkness and optimism that gives the situation humankind finds itself in a nice and authentic color. 

Is there any musical detail that you hope stands out to viewers who watch this film?

I hope the audience will appreciate the thematic treatment throughout, the absolutely fantastic performances of my London Orchestra record at the famous AIR studios, the gorgeous string melodies performed by my orchestra in Macedonia, and the more unique instruments I layered in throughout, like the haunting Armenian Duduk, Japanese Shakuhachi, several layers of solo violins and cellos and dark female vocals, representing the rather scary alien queen.

I want to give a big thank you to Frederik Wiedmann for taking the time to talk with me about Occupation Rainfall and I hope you enjoyed the discussion!

See also:

Composer Interviews

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