Tag Archives: James Horner

My Thoughts on: Aliens (1986)

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There is, based on my experience, a long-running argument as to whether Alien or Aliens is the superior film. I’ve heard valid arguments for both films, but the fact is, you can’t compare them to each other. At the end of the day, Alien is first and foremost a horror film (albeit one set in space) while Aliens is firmly set in the action genre.

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I have a confession to make about Aliens: I can’t watch the beginning of the film. Learning that Ripley has been in stasis for 57 years and no one believes her story about the alien is just too painful, for lack of a better word, to watch. I don’t know if it’s just subconscious frustration on my part (because we know Ripley’s telling the truth) but I just can’t watch the opening; I usually just skip to Burke’s visit to Ripley’s home.

Issues with the opening aside, I love Aliens; I love the set up, I love the characters and I love the various plot twists. In summary, Ripley unwillingly returns to LV-426 after a colony established there goes radio silent. She’s accompanied by a squad of colonial marines, Bishop (another android, but one more advanced than Ash) and Burke, an executive who is definitely as slimy as you think he is. In predictable fashion, everyone except Ripley completely underestimates the gravity of the situation, resulting in the marines walking straight into an alien nest (though granted they don’t realize that’s what it is at first). This is one of my favorite scenes in any science fiction film because you just know from the start that most of these characters are going to die, and since it’s an Alien movie, it’s not going to be pretty. After the initial massacre, the plot focuses on Ripley working with the survivors to escape back to their ship, while also bonding with Newt, the lone colony survivor.

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The biggest difference between this film and the original is that the first film only had ONE Alien on the loose; Aliens has several hundred and it’s also responsible for introducing the Alien Queen to the story. And speaking of the queen….what a terrifying creature she is! Until Jurassic Park, the Alien Queen was the largest animatronic/puppet of its kind, requiring over a dozen people to operate at any given time. Technical details aside, the scene introducing the queen is terrifying, I love how the camera only shows bits and pieces before suddenly pulling back and showing the creature in all her scary glory.

Another sub-plot I want to highlight is Ripley’s relationship with Bishop. Given that the last android she knew tried to kill her, Ripley understandably wants nothing to do with Bishop at first. But as time goes on and Bishop proves himself time and again, Ripley comes to respect the android and the feeling is mutual.

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James Horner’s score is a big part of why Aliens is so great: there are hints of the horror/suspense that Goldsmith created in the original film, but also moments of full blown action (notable example: when Ripley charges in to rescue the surviving marines, the score goes into overdrive).

Few more random thoughts:

-Burke’s comeuppance is one of the greatest things you will ever see. My only regret is we don’t get to see more (a lot of it is left to the imagination).

-Since it is the 80s, if you look carefully you can see the wires manipulating some of the Alien puppets (the most obvious one comes when an Alien surfaces out of the water right behind Newt, you can see it attached to the tail).

-That scene where the facehuggers are loose in the medical lab is downright terrifying, but they move so realistically you can’t really tell they’re puppets.

At the end of the day I highly recommend both Alien and Aliens as they’re both great films (just for their own reasons). Let me know what you think of Aliens in the comments below and have a great day!

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My Thoughts on: A Beautiful Mind (2001)

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* This review was requested by Patreon subscriber @AlienPizzareia 🙂

A Beautiful Mind is a biographical film based on the life of American mathematician John Nash (1928-2015). It was directed by Ron Howard and stars Russell Crowe as Nash and Jennifer Connelly as his wife Alicia.

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The film starts as many biopics do: the young Nash arrives at Princeton to study mathematics and eventually publishes an original idea that earns him a position at MIT. While at school, he becomes friends with his roommate Charles Herman (Paul Bettany). Everything seems to be going great: not only is Nash’s career taking him places, he also falls in love with and marries Alicia with the support of his former roommate. So far it’s typical of what you find in films of this sort. But then something happens that turns everything you thought you knew on its head.

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Midway through the film, Nash is diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and it turns out that his roommate, his roommate’s niece and several other characters we’ve already met, were not real. This bombshell changes everything about the beginning of the film when you take into account that in every scene where Nash is talking to his roommate…there isn’t anyone actually there!! The result of this revelation (for me at least), is that for the rest of the film you can’t help but wonder how many of the people Nash talks to are real or hallucinations (Ron Howard does a good job of blurring the lines between reality and hallucination throughout the film).

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I admit I have a hard time with the latter half of the film: there’s a disturbing sequence where Nash is given electroshock therapy to try and cure his schizophrenia (a disorder that was not well understood at the time), not to mention an equally disturbing scene where his infant son nearly drowns in a bathtub. Despite these scenes, I can deeply appreciate how the film follows Nash as he struggles to rebuild his life to something resembling ‘normal.’

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The late James Horner turned in a fantastic score for this film. It shifts and turns, very much as Nash’s mind does when considering a mathematical problem. And before the revelation of schizophrenia, the music goes down a suspenseful path, especially once Nash starts doing ‘secret government work’ and believes he’s being followed.

A Beautiful Mind is one of those films that everyone should see at least once, because it is a masterpiece and it most definitely deserved to win the Oscar for Best Picture. A big thank you to @AlienPizzareia for requesting this review, it’s been a long time since I watched this one. Let me know what you think of A Beautiful Mind in the comments below and have a great day!

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Remembering James Horner: Troy (2004)

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Troy is a 2004 epic film that is a (greatly abbreviated) adaptation of the Illiad (which tells the story of the Trojan War). The film features a star-studded cast:

  • Brad Pitt: Achilles
  • Sean Bean: Odysseus
  • Brian Cox: Agamemnon
  • Peter O’Toole: King Priam
  • Eric Bana: Hector
  • Orlando Bloom: Paris
  • Diane Kruger: Helen

While not perfect, Troy is a good film with a remarkable score by James Horner. The music is even more remarkable when you consider that Horner put it together in the space of four weeks after Gabriel Yared’s score for the film was rejected.

For the score, Horner employed singer Tanja Carovska (who had also provided vocals for Yared’s rejected score) as well as using Eastern Mediterranean music and brass instruments to create a feeling of ancient Greece.

Troy Movie

Horner created several motifs throughout the score, a few of which I’d like to point out:

-The Greeks: The theme for the Greek army really emerges in full when they approach Troy in their thousand ships. It’s distinguished by a driving trumpet theme, highlighting the relentlessness of the Greek soldiers led by the egomaniacal Agamemnon. Most tellingly, it also re-emerges (briefly) just before the Trojan Horse is revealed onscreen for the first time, a musical hint that there are Greeks hidden inside.

The Greeks arrive at Troy

-Achilles: The theme for the legendary hero is also based on brass instruments, but it has a nobler tone than the theme assigned to the Greeks. Most notable appearance would have to be when Achilles storms the beach leading the Myrmidons. There’s also a reprise when Achilles heads off to find Briseis during the sacking of Troy.

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Achilles on the beach (theme starts when Achilles jumps off the ship)

-Achilles and Briseis: The love motif for Achilles and Briseis (a Trojan princess turned priestess turned captive) forms the basis of the end credits song “Remember” as performed by Josh Groban. No matter what Achilles claims, I think throughout the story he remembers what his mother said, that if he goes to Troy he will never come home. So his love for Briseis is tempered by this knowledge, that’s why the theme is relatively sad for a love theme. A good example of hearing this theme is at the end right before Achilles dies and he tells Briseis to leave with Paris.

Troy “The Trojan Horse”

-The Trojan Horse: I’ve covered the music for the Trojan Horse in depth before, but I have to talk about it again because it really is my favorite musical moment in the film. Even if you’re not familiar with the story of the Trojan Horse, the sheer ominousness of the music tells you that there’s something fishy with this horse. But of course no one listens to Paris’ suggestion to just burn the horse where it stands (the one time he makes a good decision in the entire film) and the horse is brought into the city. The music is triumphant and tragic all at once, because the Trojans think they’ve won but in fact they’re doomed.

Horner’s score for Troy remains one of my favorites and I highly recommend it to any fans of James Horner’s music. It’s hard to believe he’s been gone for three years already, but as long as we keep listening to his music, he’ll never really be forgotten.

This is my contribution to the Remembering James Horner Blogathon, hope you enjoy it.

See also:

3rd Annual Remembering James Horner Blogathon: Day 1

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An American Tail: Fievel Goes West “The Girl You Left Behind” (1991)

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An American Tail: Fievel Goes West “The Girl You Left Behind” (1991)

The first sequel to Don Bluth’s beloved-if-somewhat-disturbing An American Tail is an underrated gem of a story that follows Russian immigrant mouse Fievel Mouskewitz and his family as they immigrate to the wild West to make a better life than the one they have in New York City. Predictably, Fievel is separated from his family during the journey and he must race to catch up to their new home in Green River before the nefarious Cat R. Waul (John Cleese) fulfills his dream of turning all the mice into mouse burgers via a giant mouse trap.

One of my favorite sub-plots in this story is that of Tanya, Fievel’s older sister. With a gorgeous singing voice, Tanya is filled with dreams of becoming a great actress or a singer (or both) but her mother won’t hear of it. It’s not until Cat R. Waul happens to hear her singing to herself one day (“Dreams to Dream”) that Tanya is given a chance to realize her dream of becoming a performer. She’s taken to the local saloon and made up into a show girl by Miss Kitty (Tiger’s on-again off-again girlfriend) and is then thrust onto the stage where she has to perform for a saloon full of cats! Tanya’s nerves almost get the better of her, but with a little encouragement from Miss Kitty, she lets out a glass-breaking note that leaves the entire room staring at her in awe, and then the real fun begins!

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“The Girl You Left Behind” is one of my favorite animated songs that doesn’t come from a Disney film. It was created by the late James Horner and features the vocals of Cathy Cavadini (aka Blossom from The Powerpuff Girls). In this song, Tanya entertains the cats by singing about “the girl you left behind” and how they shouldn’t let her go.

Do you… do you ever miss…

Do you ever miss the girl…you left behind?

Is the girl you left behind out there tonight romancin’?

Makin’ eyes at someone else and singin’, is she dancin’?

Only the girl you left behind is real when you’re sleepin’

Puts the teardrops in your eyes from secrets she is keepin’

Happy just playin’ a tune and dance the whole night away

Hope the girl you left behind will be there for you someday

Lonely is the wind that blows, you know you’ll always miss her

Lonely is a lover’s heart, if only you could

Kiss her, kiss her, kiss her

Tanya’s debut takes place while Chula (Cat R. Waul’s tarantula henchman) is hunting Fievel to eliminate him as a loose end (he knows about the cats’ plan to kill all the mice). The poor mouse tries time and time again to get his sister’s attention but she’s so caught up in her performance that she doesn’t notice.

Chula is a sadistic tarantula with a high aversion to pain (just listen to his dialogue during the scene where he gets sprayed with Miss Kitty’s perfume). At one point, he corners Fievel and sings a demented version of “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” that goes like this: The itsy bitsy spider caught a mouse in his web/The itsy bitsy spider BIT OFF THE MOUSE’S HEAD!

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All the girls you left behind could fill up California

Please don’t leave them too darn long, I think I oughta warn ya

Absence makes the heart go cold and makes a heart to wander

If you stay there by their sides, you’ll feel their hearts grow fonder

Cats:

Hope you see her someday

Hope I find my way

Back to the girl I left behind

Tanya:

So tell me you will never roam

Cats:

(We swear we won’t go roaming)

Tanya:

You’ll be by your fireside

Cats:

(We’ll all be home sweet home and kiss her, kiss her, kiss her)

Tanya:
So where’s the girl you left behind?

Cats:
She’s waitin’ for her sister

We won’t stop until we’re home we’ll hug and hug and kiss her

I’ll find the girl

I’ll find the girl

I’ll find the girl

I’ll find the girl

All:
You’ll (I’ll) find the girl

You’ll (I’ll) find the girl you (I) left behind

Tonight! Tonight! Tonight!

That’s right

Alright!

I can’t lie, as a little kid, I used to pretend I was Tanya putting on the performance of a lifetime. I wanted to put a big feather in my hair and dress up too (*sighs* good times…) What do you think of “The Girl You Left Behind”? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day 🙂

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See also: Disney Soundtracks A-Z

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The magic of James Horner: Casper (1995)

Thanks to everyone who has participated in the blogathon so far. Today is the last day and here is my contribution. Enjoy!

It’s been two years since James Horner was ripped away from us, his passing left a void that may never be filled. He had a gift for creating magical themes that stuck in the head for hours after the movie was over. And one of my favorite examples from the mid-90s was the main theme from Casper (1995).

Loosely based on the comics character Casper the Friendly Ghost, Casper follows a paranormal therapist, Dr. James Harvey (Bill Pullman) and his daughter “Kat” as they travel from state to state in an attempt to make contact with the spirit of Harvey’s deceased wife Amelia. The pair come to Casper’s former home when the spoiled heiress who inherited the home wants the ghosts (Casper and his uncles) removed so she can claim the “treasure” hidden inside.

Casper’s Lullaby

Casper’s theme, listed on the soundtrack as “Casper’s Lullaby”, is a haunting piano melody that comes to the forefront particularly when Casper remembers the events of his death, and also during the Halloween dance when Kat realizes she’s dancing with Casper (who’s alive for one night).

How Casper Died

It’s such a haunting melody, one that highlights the tragedy of Casper’s short life, and the fact that he “didn’t go where he was supposed to” but stayed behind instead. Actually, ever since Horner passed away, I’ve had a hard time listening to this theme, as it reminds me that one of the greatest film composers is gone before his time. I hope you enjoy listening to Casper’s Lullaby, and I hope you enjoy the rest of the blogathon today.

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See also:

2nd Annual Remembering James Horner Blogathon Day 1!!

2nd Annual Remembering James Horner Blogathon Day 2!!

Remembering James Horner Blogathon Day 3

2nd Annual Remembering James Horner Blogathon Recap!

It’s finally here, the 2nd Annual Remembering James Horner Blogathon is here! Even before I woke up this morning day 1 is off to a good start with two amazing entries already. As I see new entries come up, I will add them to this list below. Enjoy!!

Day 1

Plain, Simple Tom Reviews: The Land Before Time (1988)

Movierob: The Pelican Brief (1993)

Listening to Film: “Nautical but Nice”: James Horner and the Music for Wrath of Khan

Listening to Film: “The Underappreciated” (Star Trek III)

Reelweegiemidget: Willow (1988)

Day 2

Sean Munger: Postmodern patriotism: Howard’s “Apollo 13” as history and mythology

MovieRob: Clear and Present Danger (1994)

Day 3

MovieRob: The Karate Kid (2010)

The magic of James Horner: Casper (1995)

Christina Wehner: Sneakers (1992)

Listening to Film: The Rocketeer (1991)

Tranquil Dreams: The Spiderwick Chronicles (2008)

Old School Evil: The Land Before Time (1988)

Thank you to everyone who participated!

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Star Trek II: “Inside Regula I” (1982)

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One doesn’t normally associate the horror genre with Star Trek in any way, shape or form (though the infamous “Genesis” episode in Star Trek: The Next Generation comes awfully close in my opinion), and yet there is a scene midway through Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan that could be straight out of a horror film.

“Aboard Regula One” (beginning to 1:35)

The Enterprise is diverted from a routine training mission by an emergency call from space station Regula One and along the way are ambushed by Khan Noonien Singh, who seeks revenge against Admiral Kirk for stranding him and his followers on Ceti Alpha V fifteen years previously. Barely surviving this attack, the Enterprise limps to the space station, knowing Khan has been there and gone, not sure what they’ll find. Kirk, McCoy and Lieutenant Saavik beam over to see what, if anything, remains on the space station.

From the moment they transport down, the music is like something straight out of a horror film. The space station appears totally abandoned, and the music is dark and ominous. Even though Khan has left, there’s still no way of knowing if he’s left any “surprises” for Kirk and his crew.

Kirk, Saavik and McCoy walk through the empty corridors of the station, and the air is thick with tension. But it isn’t until we go back to a last shot of McCoy that we get the big “horror film” moment. He’s about to cross into a new section when he’s suddenly startled by a rat (because of course there are rats on space stations). And just when he thinks it is safe to keep going….WHAM!! He walks headfirst into the arms of a dead crew member, hanging upside down from a balcony.

It’s a truly horrifying moment, and one that I think is slightly underrated, due to the space battle that happens before and after this segment of the film. But this music is beautiful foretaste of what will come when Horner scores Aliens a few years after this film. I hope you enjoy a look at the scene “Inside Regula One.”

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