Tag Archives: film

Soundtrack Review: Motherless Brooklyn (2019)

The soundtrack for Motherless Brooklyn, a film written, directed, and produced by Edward Norton, is available now. The first part of the soundtrack album features, among other things, arrangements of the song “Daily Battles” by Thom Yorke and Wynton Marsalis respectively.

Edward Norton discussed these musical icons. Regarding Yorke, he proclaimed, “No writer of songs from my generation has ever equaled Thom’s capacity for expressing the longing in the heart and the terror in the head at the same time; or for creating gorgeous melody within fracture and dissonance.” When describing Marsalis, he asserted, “A long essay would be needed to encompass the breadth of this man’s musical prowess, let alone what he has done to solidify jazz as America’s classical music.”

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The score album (the second album of the soundtrack) features 20 tracks of new music from highly respected Golden Globe-nominated composer Daniel Pemberton (Steve Jobs, All the Money in the World, Ocean’s 8), who Norton hand-picked to compose the Motherless Brooklyn score.

The director heaped tremendous praise on Pemberton, “If there’s a more exuberantly protean talent than Daniel Pemberton working in film music today, I haven’t heard their stuff.” The director further enthusiastically described Pemberton’s capacity, output, and abilities.  “With a quarter of the time he should have had for a score this big, he wrote like a possessed savant and then turned into an absolute boss and produced, in one week of recording, not only what I’ll declare one of the best film scores of the last decade but within it pieces that all the players who recorded them called ‘straight up classics.” 

Norton further described how the film’s music came together. “There’s a certain risk entailed in working with people you love and admire because, let’s face it, collaboration can get messy for all kinds of reasons” explained the Motherless Brooklyn director/writer/producer/star. “The safer choice is to stay a fan or a friend, protect the mystery of your favorite artists and keep marveling at the magic they make from a seat in the audience.  But if you’re lucky enough to get to direct your own film, the allure of ringing up people whose work thrills you, well…. it’s irresistible. And if you’re really lucky…it all goes brilliantly, and you make some magic together. This is the bet I made when it came to dreaming up the music for Motherless Brooklyn. And what you’ll hear on these records is a mashup of the geniuses I rang up: Thom Yorke, Wynton Marsalis and Daniel Pemberton.”

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For my review, I focused on Daniel Pemberton’s score album, and a few things jumped out to me right away. The first thing I noticed is that many of the tracks are composed in a jazz-style, which is fitting given the setting is 1950s Brooklyn. The jazz portions are very easy to listen to, and immediately put me back in that time and place. In fact, these tracks reminded me very much of the jazz scores found in older films from the 1950s and early 60s. And I enjoyed listening to it, even though jazz isn’t something I listen to all that often.

The other main portion of the score is what really caught my attention though. The best way to describe this portion, which recurs several times among a number of instruments, is that it just oozes menace. This portion is centered around a five note motif (I’m not sure of the specific tempo being used, but I worked out the pitches) that I partially recreated below:

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It’s very simple, but quite effective. Given the many times this motif recurs in the soundtrack, I think that this represents whatever threat is facing Edward Norton’s character in the film. Or it could be symbolic of the situation in general, I’m honestly not sure. But I do know it’s important in some way. If you listen carefully, this motif does appear in a lot of places, but sometimes it’s disguised with different instruments (a technique that I really like in film soundtracks).

Motherless Brooklyn has an interesting soundtrack for sure; Daniel Pemberton left his unique mark on every piece. I hadn’t planned on seeing this film, but after listening to the soundtrack, I might have to put it on my “to watch” list in the future. You don’t often hear jazz-based scores anymore, so that’s a big reason why I’m recommending you check out this soundtrack.

Once it comes out, let me know what you think about Motherless Brooklyn (and its soundtrack) in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Film Soundtracks A-W

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My Thoughts on: The Witches (1990)

I think it’s fair to say I grew up surrounded by the works of Roald Dahl, the major ones anyway. I devoured Matilda as a first-grader, and it didn’t take much prompting to read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (and its sequel), Danny the Champion of the World, and James and the Giant Peach. But one of my favorite books growing up was The Witches, a story that (if I remember correctly) positively terrified me the first time I read it, and small wonder. It was set in a world where child-eating witches were not only real but an ever-present danger. Quite exhilarating material for a six-year old.

All that being said, somehow, after all this time, I completely missed the fact that The Witches had long since been adapted to film, by Jim Henson no less! And last night I finally got to watch that film, and was completely blown away by how much fun it is! The story, in brief, follows a young boy, Luke, who stumbles across a plot by the Grand High Witch and all the witches of England to turn all of that country’s children into mice, right before being turned into a mouse himself along with his friend Bruno.

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Watching this movie last night brought back a part of my childhood that I’d all but forgotten. Watching Anjelica Huston (who gives a brilliant performance) transform into the gruesome Grand High Witch sent shivers down my spine, as it was like seeing one of the book’s illustrations come to life. And the mice puppets are adorably cute. True, you can tell they’re puppets (it’s Jim Henson so that goes without saying), but that somehow doesn’t take away from the believability that Lucas and Bruno really have been turned into mice.

As much as I enjoyed watching this movie, there were several scenes that reminded me why it was a good idea I never found out about this film until I was grown. The mouse-transformation scenes are…disturbing, to say the least, especially when Bruno is changed into a mouse. Also, I’m fairly certain the reveal of what the Grand High Witch really looks like would have given five-year old me nightmares had I seen the film at that age. So while I’m inclined to kick myself for not seeing this film sooner, part of me doesn’t regret it that much.

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The last thing I need to talk about is the ending of this film. On the one hand, the purist in me would prefer that film adaptations of books stay true to the ending. However, this is one of the few stories I would make an exception to, as I find the original ending (Luke stays a mouse and probably has 9 years to live) to be depressing, even as a child this part always got me down. So, while I understand why Dahl objected to the change, I actually prefer how the movie ends the story.

If you ever enjoyed Roald Dahl’s works, then you need to watch The Witches, I think you will love it. Let me know what you think of the film in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Film Reviews

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The Nightmare Before Christmas “Jack’s Obsession” (1993)

I found “Jack’s Obsession” to be delightfully charming. It’s set after the Town Hall Meeting, when Jack has locked himself away to puzzle over Christmas in solitude. While Sally and the other inhabitants wait expectantly outside, the Pumpkin King turns the idea of Christmas over and over inside his head, hilariously missing the point all the while.

 Something’s up with Jack, something’s up with Jack
Don’t know if we’re ever going to get him back
He’s all alone up there locked away inside
Never says a word
Hope he hasn’t died
Something’s up with Jack, something’s up with Jack

Christmas time is buzzing in my skull
Will it let me be? I cannot tell
There are some many things I cannot grasp
When I think I’ve got, and then at last
Through my bony fingers, it does slip
Like a snowflake in a fiery grip

Something here I’m not quite getting
Though I try, I keep forgetting
Like a memory long since past
Here in an instant gone in a flash
What does it mean?
What does it mean?

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In these little bric-a-brac
A secret’s waiting to be cracked
These dolls and toys confuse me so
Confound it all, I love it though

Simple objects, nothing more
Bout something’s hidden through a door
Though I do not have the key
Something’s there I cannot see
What does it mean?
What does it mean?
What does it mean?

Hmm… hmm…

I’ve read these Christmas books so many times
I know the stories and I know the rhymes
I know the Christmas carols all by heart
My skull’s so full, it’s tearing me apart

As often as I’ve read them, something’s wrong
So hard to put my bony finger on
Or perhaps it’s really not as deep as I’ve been led to think
Am I trying much too hard?

Of course! I’ve been too close to see
The answer’s right in front of me
Right in front of me

It’s simple really, very clear
Like music drifting in the air
Invisible, but everywhere
Just because I cannot see it doesn’t mean I can’t believe it

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You know, I think this Christmas thing is not as tricky as it seems
And why should they have all the fun?
It should belong to anyone

Not anyone, in fact, but me
Why, I could make a Christmas tree
And there’s no reason I can find
I couldn’t handle Christmas time

I bet I could improve it too
And that’s exactly what I’ll do!

Hee, hee, hee

Eureka! This year, Christmas will be ours!

As I said before, Jack is completely missing the point at the beginning, during, and throughout this entire song. He’s hit the point (correctly) that there’s something not quite right about this situation. However, he’s not understanding that the problem is that he (Jack Skellington) was not made to work with Christmas. His task is, and always has been, Halloween and all things spooky. But Jack simply doesn’t get that yet, and so he’s happily plunging headlong toward taking over Christmas, despite all the signs indicating that this will go catastrophically wrong.

It’s also, as I mentioned, a charming song. Compared to the horror of “Kidnap the Sandy Claws” “Jack’s Obsession” is almost gentle in comparison. It’s a nice change of pace from some of the more hectic songs I’ve seen thus far in making my way through this film’s soundtrack.

Let me know what you think about “Jack’s Obsession” in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

The Nightmare Before Christmas “This is Halloween” (1993)

The Nightmare Before Christmas “What’s This?” (1993)

The Nightmare Before Christmas “Town Meeting Song” (1993)

The Nightmare Before Christmas “Kidnap the Sandy Claws” (1993)

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

Become a patron of the blog at: patreon.com/musicgamer460

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

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook

The Nightmare Before Christmas “Kidnap the Sandy Claws” (1993)

I have to imagine that when Jack Skellington finished summarizing Christmas Town and “Sandy Claws” to his fellow residents of Halloween Town, that he never imagined it would come to this, and yet, here we are. Having whipped the citizens into a frenzy over Christmas, Jack comes up with the idea of replacing Santa and taking over his job in a few months time. To that end, he tasks Lock, Shock, and Barrel with kidnapping “Sandy Claws” so Jack can take his place. With Jack’s reaction to Christmas Town in mind, just listening to “Kidnap the Sandy Claws” leads me to believe that the trio are taking this plan in a completely different direction from what Jack intended.

Kidnap Mr. Sandy Claws?
 I wanna do it!
Let’s draw straws!
Jack said we should work together

Three of a kind
Birds of a feather
Now and forever!

La, la, la, la, la, la
La-la-la-la-la
La, la, la, la, la, la
La-la-la-la-la

Kidnap the Sandy Claws, lock him up real tight
Throw away the key and then turn off all the lights

First, we’re going to set some bait inside a nasty trap and wait
When he comes a-sniffing, we will snap the trap and close the gate
Wait! I’ve got a better plan to catch this big red lobster man
Let’s pop him in a boiling pot
And when he’s done, we’ll butter him up!

Kidnap the Sandy Claws, throw him in a box
Bury him for 90 years, then see if he talks
Then Mr. Oogie Boogie Man…
can take the whole thing over then
He’ll be so pleased, I do declare
That he will cook him rare
Wheeee!

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I say that we take a cannon, aim it at his door and then
Knock three times and when he answers, Sandy Claws will be no more!
You’re so stupid! Think now
If we blow him up to smithereens, we may lose some pieces
And then Jack will beat us black and green

Kidnap the Sandy Claws, tie him in a bag
Throw him in the ocean, then see if he is sad
Because Mr. Oogie Boogie is the meanest guy around
If I were on his boogie list, I’d get out of town

 He’ll be so pleased by our success
That he’ll reward us too, I bet
Perhaps he’ll make his special brew
Of snake and spider stew (Mmmm!)

We’re his little henchmen and we take our job with pride
We do our best to please him and stay on his good side

I wish my cohorts weren’t so dumb
I’m not the dumb one
You’re no fun
Shut up!
Make me!

I’ve got something, listen now! This one is real good, you’ll see
We’ll send a present to his door
Upon there’ll be a note to read
Now, in the box we’ll wait and hide until his curiosity
Entices him to look inside
And then we’ll have him! One, two, three!

Kidnap the Sandy Claws, beat him with a stick
Lock him up for 90 years, see what makes him tick
Kidnap the Sandy Claws, chop him into bits
Mr. Oogie Boogie is sure to get his kicks
Kidnap the Sandy Claws, see what we will see
Lock him in a cage and then throw away the key…!

Ahhhhh, there IS something amiss here, isn’t there? While it was Jack who ordered the kidnapping, note that Lock, Shock, and Barrel seem more interested in pleasing Oogie-Boogie, something that foreshadows the plot that is to come. I have to say, Lock, Shock, and Barrel creep me out quite a bit. Of all the characters I’ve seen thus far, I think I like them the least (and I’m quite aware I haven’t seen Oogie-Boogie yet). At this point, given how these three look, I admit to feeling a bit scared about being properly introduced to Oogie-Boogie.

I found “Kidnap the Sandy Claws” to be a very creepy song, and clear evidence that Jack’s plans to take over Christmas are already spiraling out of control. Let me know what you think about “Kidnap the Sandy Claws” in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

The Nightmare Before Christmas “This is Halloween” (1993)

The Nightmare Before Christmas “What’s This?” (1993)

The Nightmare Before Christmas “Town Meeting Song” (1993)

The Nightmare Before Christmas “Jack’s Obsession” (1993)

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

Become a patron of the blog at: patreon.com/musicgamer460

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

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook

The Nightmare Before Christmas “Town Meeting Song” (1993)

“Town Meeting Song” comes after Jack Skellington returns to Halloween Town, full to bursting with what he’s seen in Christmas Town (and echoes of “What’s This?” in the background as he returns). Eager to share what he’s seen, he has the Mayor call a town meeting, and the song follows Jack’s attempts to share what he has seen, though it doesn’t exactly go over well with the residents of Halloween Town, at least not until Jack resignedly puts a Halloween-spin on his description of Santa Claus:

There were objects so peculiar
They were not to be believed
All around, things to tantalize my brain

It’s a world unlike anything I’ve ever seen
And as hard as I try, I can’t seem to describe
Like a most improbable dream

But you must believe when I tell you this: it’s as real as my skull and it does exist…

(spoken) Here, let me show you!
This is a thing called a present – the whole thing starts with a box…

A box?
Is it steel?
Are there locks?
Is it filled with a pox?
A pox. How delightful, a pox..,

(spoken) If you please…
Just a box with bright-colored paper – and the whole thing’s topped with a bow

A bow?
But why?
How ugly!
What’s in it? What’s in it?

That’s the point of the thing, not to know!

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It’s a bat!
Will it bend?
It’s a rat!
Will it break?
Perhaps, it’s the head that I found in the lake…

Listen now, you don’t understand. That’s not the point of Christmas Land!

(spoken) Now, pay attention.
We pick up an over-sized sock, and hang it like this on the wall

Oh, yes! Does it still have a foot?
Let me see, let me look!
Is it rotted and covered with gook?

(spoken) Um, let me explain.
There’s no foot inside, but there’s candy. Or sometimes, it’s filled with small toys,,,

Small toys? Do they bite?
Do they snap?
Or explode in a sack?
Or perhaps they just spring out and scare girls and boys!
What a splendid idea – this Christmas sounds fun
Why, I fully endorse it, let’s try it at once!

Everyone, please now, not so fast!
There’s something here that you don’t quite grasp

(spoken) Well, I may as well give them what they want.

And the best, I must confess
I have saved for the last for the ruler of this Christmas Land
Is a fearsome king with a deep mighty voice
Least, that’s what I’ve come to understand…

And I’ve also heard it told that he’s something to behold
Like a lobster, huge and red…
And he sets out to slay with his rain gear on
Carting bulging sacks with his big great arms
That is, so I’ve heard it said

And on a dark, cold night under full moonlight
He flies into a fog like a vulture in the sky…
And they call him “Sandy Claws”…!

Poor Jack…he wants to much for everyone to understand what he likes about Christmas Town, but as he himself said, he’s not very good at describing what he saw, and since all anyone knows in Halloween Town is all things spooky and scary, everything Jack shows them, no matter how innocent (like presents), is warped through that lens. I think it would’ve been easier if Jack had just taken everyone to Christmas Town and shown them in person, but then the ensuing story likely wouldn’t have developed. Still, even knowing that, it’s just so sad to see Jack try so hard and the others just don’t understand (except for Sally, I think she got it, because she looked sad when Jack got all scary at the end).

Let me know what you think about “Town Meeting Song” in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

The Nightmare Before Christmas “This is Halloween” (1993)

The Nightmare Before Christmas “What’s This?” (1993)

The Nightmare Before Christmas “Jack’s Obsession” (1993)

The Nightmare Before Christmas “Kidnap the Sandy Claws” (1993)

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

Become a patron of the blog at: patreon.com/musicgamer460

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

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook

The Nightmare Before Christmas “What’s This?” (1993)

As my exploration of The Nightmare Before Christmas soundtrack continues, I next came to the song “What’s This?” which is the only other song from this film I know about, even though I hadn’t seen it in full until just a few moments ago. A little context in case you didn’t know: Jack Skellington has been rather down as of late since he’s always doing the same thing every year. The day after Halloween, he stumbled upon a group of doors that serve as portals to other realms similar to Halloween Town, but devoted to different holidays. Curious, Jack opens the door that takes him to Christmas Town, “What’s This” is his reaction to everything he finds there:

What’s this? What’s this?
There’s color everywhere
What’s this?
There’s white things in the air
What’s this?
I can’t believe my eyes
I must be dreaming. Wake up, Jack! This isn’t fair! What’s this?

What’s this? What’s this?
There’s something very wrong
What’s this?
There’s people singing songs
What’s this?
The streets are lined with little creatures laughing
Everybody seems so happy. Have I possibly gone daffy? What is this?
What’s this?

There’s children throwing snowballs instead of throwing heads
They’re busy building toys. And absolutely, no one’s dead!

There’s frost on every window. Oh, I can’t believe my eyes
And in my bones, I feel the warmth that’s coming from inside…

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Oh, look!
What’s this?
They’re hanging mistletoe
They kiss… Why, that looks so unique.
Inspired, they’re gathering around to hear a story, roasting chestnuts on a fire. What’s this?

What’s this in here?
They’ve got a little tree
How queer! And who would ever think?
And why?
They’re covering it with tiny little things
They’ve got electric lights on strings. And there’s a smile on everyone. So, now, correct me if I’m wrong!
This looks like fun this looks like fun.
Oh, could it be I got my wish?
What’s this?

Oh my, what now?
The children are asleep
But look, there’s nothing underneath
No ghouls, no witches here to scream and scare them
Or ensnare them, only little cozy things secure inside their dreamland…
What’s this?

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The monsters are all missing and the nightmares can’t be found
And in their place, there seems to be good feeling all around
Instead of screams, I swear
I can hear music in the air
The smell of cakes and pies are absolutely everywhere…

The sights, the sounds
They’re eveywhere and all around
I’ve never felt so good before
This empty place inside of me is filling up
I simply cannot get enough

Oh, I want it. Oh, I want it
Oh, I want it for my own
I’ve got to know, I’ve got to know.
What is this place that I have found?
What is this?

Christmas Town?

I didn’t think it was possible, but I think I like “What’s This” even more than “This is Halloween.” Jack’s reaction to everything Christmas is absolutely adorable and so innocent…seriously, once he’s there, Jack has this overwhelming curiosity about everything he’s seeing. It makes sense, since Jack has been in Halloween Town since, well, forever. There’s also something completely incongruous about seeing a walking, talking skeleton in Christmas Town that I love watching also. And also, I have to say, the stop-motion animation in this sequence is simply amazing, it’s so hard for me to believe that this was made in 1993 (and yet it was!)

I’m definitely going to have to see this movie in the near future. Let me know what you think about “What’s This?” in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

The Nightmare Before Christmas “This is Halloween” (1993)

The Nightmare Before Christmas “Town Meeting Song” (1993)

The Nightmare Before Christmas “Jack’s Obsession” (1993)

The Nightmare Before Christmas “Kidnap the Sandy Claws” (1993)

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

Become a patron of the blog at: patreon.com/musicgamer460

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

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook

Soundtrack Review: Gemini Man (2019)

The soundtrack for Gemini Man is now available digitally on Paramount Music, and a CD release is forthcoming from La-La Land Records. Gemini Man is an innovative action-thriller starring Will Smith as Henry Brogan, an elite assassin, who is suddenly targeted and pursued by a mysterious young operative that seemingly can predict his every move. The soundtrack features a robustly textured original score by Grammy-winning composer Lorne Balfe (Mission: Impossible – Fallout, 12 Strong).

“It was an absolute pleasure getting to collaborate with the masterful dream team – director Ang Lee and producer Jerry Bruckheimer. Ang and I spent 4 days in the studio exploring themes with soloists playing live! He wanted a theme that portrayed the delicate relationship between Henry and Junior, so I did a theme that intertwines both melodically, as their bond grows stronger. Hope you all enjoy the thrill, as we unfold the mask behind Gemini Man.”

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My feelings about this soundtrack are decidedly mixed. While Gemini Man isn’t the worst soundtrack I’ve ever heard, it’s also not the best from this year either. Don’t get me wrong, there are some good action melodies in this soundtrack, and I really like how Balfe uses the strings to create driving rhythms. No, the problem I have with the soundtrack for Gemini Man is that so much of it sounds the same. There are minor variations sure, but by and large it’s all the same and that bothers me. When I listen to a soundtrack, I like hearing a wide range of sounds and melodies. And I just don’t hear that in the music for Gemini Man.

The soundtrack for Gemini Man is adequate and gets the job done, but it’s nothing that will blow you away. Let me know what you think about Gemini Man and its soundtrack in the comments below and have a great day!

Track List:
  1. Last Shot
  2. Burning The Past
  3. Are You DIA?
  4. First Confrontation
  5. Cartagena
  6. Bike Fu
  7. Catacombs
  8. I Know You Inside And Out
  9. Henry and Junior
  10. Fighting Gemini
  11. Teaming Up
  12. Don’t You Feel Pain?
  13. Verris
  14. A Perfect Version Of You
  15. Those Ghosts
  16. Thanks, Brother
  17. Gemini Man

See also:

Film Soundtracks A-W

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

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

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