Tag Archives: Lorne Balfe

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)

See also:

Film Soundtracks A-W

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Soundtrack Review: Black Widow (2021)

Marvel Music/Hollywood Records has released the digital soundtrack from Marvel Studios’ Black Widow.  The album, featuring an original score composed and produced by Lorne Balfe (“Mission: Impossible – Fallout,” “The Crown”), is available here.  Executive Soundtrack Producers are Cate Shortland, Kevin Feige and Dave Jordan.  Directed by Cate Shortland and produced by Kevin Feige, Black Widow—the first film in Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe— launches simultaneously in theaters and on Disney+ with Premier Access in most Disney+ markets.

Commenting on Balfe’s score in her liner notes from the vinyl album, Shortland said, “The score is fragile at times, embodying Natasha’s fears and her longing for connection. Her tenuous bond to the earth. But then it is completely powerful and I get cold shivers at how fun and epic it is. Lorne takes us on a spectacular ride.”

According to Balfe, from the moment he first watched the reels he felt Natasha needed a musical heritage. “I wanted to introduce the soundtrack of her story,” he said. “I listened to a lot of Russian folk music—it’s a very particular sound. This music is the ghost of the past that is always with her.” Balfe wrote folk music that helped define Natasha from a musical point of view. “The instrumental DNA includes balalaikas, duduks, dombras and hurdy-gurdies,” he said. “In addition to these instruments of that geographical place, we also needed it to have a female voice.” Balfe achieved this with a 20-piece female choir, singing in Russian. “The Russian language sounds a bit hard or aggressive, but there’s something very magical about it—something beautiful and rustic.”

Led by conductor Gavin Greenaway, the score was recorded at Abbey Road Studios with 118 musicians and a 60-piece choir, consisting of both classical and gospel, featuring 40 men and 20 women.  Balfe said, “Abbey Road has been the musical home to the Avengers Family for many years. With ‘Black Widow,’ there was only one studio in the world that could match the epic-ness of her story, and the largest orchestra ever recorded at Abbey Road seemed fit for the occasion.”

I’ve been listening and re-listening to Lorne Balfe’s soundtrack for Black Widow for a few hours and I’m continually blown away by how amazing this music is. Of course I could hear snippets of this during the actual film, but once you can listen to the soundtrack without the dialogue and other sound effects getting in the way, everything comes out that much clearer.

I admit I didn’t realize during the movie that there was this much of a choral presence in the score, but now that I can hear the choir, I love it. I normally wouldn’t think of using a choir in a superhero movie but for a character like Natasha Romanoff it absolutely works. One of Balfe’s goals was to create a Russian folk music sound and he definitely succeeded. Again, I really love how “Russian” this score sounds. Even when the story isn’t in Russia itself, the influence of the former Soviet Union can be heard through most of the story and that’s a brilliant way to use film music, by subtly reminding the viewer that Black Widow was originally a Russian asset. I can especially hear this sound in “Natasha’s Lullaby” and “Yelena Belova”. Speaking of “Yelena Belova” I really like this track because, as a theme for Yelena, I swear I hear an echo of “Natasha’s Lullaby” within it, which would make so much sense given the connection Natasha and Yelena have with each other.

And then there’s “From the Shadows”, the cue that prompted me to do a soundtrack review in the first place. This is the music that is most closely associated with Taskmaster. I’m not sure if it’s the proper theme for the character or not, but you do hear it most often when Taskmaster is on the screen. This is my favorite theme/cue in the entire film and I love how twisted it sounds. I’m referring to that melodic turn on what sounds like a cello. That’s the sound that I hear whenever Taskmaster is hunting down an opponent (or is on the move in general). Given what we learn about that character, it fits perfectly and I like how it reaches out to grab your ear despite everything happening on screen at the same time.

One other thing I liked is the contrast Lorne Balfe creates between his action cues. There’s plenty of action, of course, but there’s also slower moments in the music, particularly during the family moments between Natasha, Yelena, Red Guardian and Milena, and I really liked them. Moments like that give the audience a chance to breathe and there are plenty of moments like this in Lorne Balfe’s score.

This soundtrack really belongs up there with the best Marvel movie scores, it’s the perfect musical fit for Black Widow and it reminded me how good Marvel film scores can be.

Track listing
1. Natasha’s Lullaby (3:24)
2. Latrodectus (2:40)
3. Fireflies (3:13)
4. The Pursuit (2:53)
5. The First Bite Is the Deepest (3:05)
6. Last Glimmer (4:19)
7. Dreykov (3:34)
8. You Don’t Know Me (2:01)
9. Yelena Belova (3:36)
10. From the Shadows (3:44)
11. Hand in Hand (2:46)
12. Blood Ties (2:54)
13. Whirlwind (3:28)
14. Arise (2:13)
15. Natasha’s Fragments (1:55)
16. A Sister Says Goodbye (4:14)
17. I Can’t Save Us (1:51)
18. Red Rising (3:57)
19. The Betrayed (5:38)
20. The Descent (2:05)
21. Faces to the Sun (1:51)
22. Natasha Soars (2:19)
23. Last Love (1:59)
24. Into the Past (4:55)
25. Broken Free (3:09)
26. A Calling (2:10)

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

See also:

My Thoughts on: Black Widow (2021)

Film Soundtracks A-W

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Soundtrack Review: The Musical Anthology of His Dark Materials (2019)

*apologies for taking so long to get this one out, I meant to publish this one weeks ago but November has been a very busy month for me, I hope you enjoy it!

In The Musical Anthology of His Dark Materials, an introduction to the music from the television series, composer Lorne Balfe delves into the story and character themes from His Dark Materials, the new adaptation of Philip Pullman’s trilogy. Lorne Balfe (Mission Impossible: Fallout, The Lego Batman Movie, Churchill) is a Grammy Award-winning, EMMY and BAFTA nominated composer. Whether on an impossible mission, the heartbreak of the Queen, the perils of the cape crusade or the soul of a genius, Lorne Balfe creates a musical voice that reflects the characters and the stories that embody them.

Available on digital as of November 2019, this collection features a number of key musical themes that appear throughout the HBO series. Presented on this soundtrack album are the opening title theme, together with key character themes for the young protagonists Lyra, Roger and Will and the adults Mrs. Coulter, Lord Asriel and Lee Scoresby. Other themes present the majestic locations of Oxford and Svalbard, the people that Lyra encounters on her epic journey, the Gyptians, the Witches of Lake Enara, the machinations of The Magisterium, and The Alethiometer, the device that helps set all the events in motion.

“Since the beginning, myself and the rest of the music team knew we wanted a mixture and a hybrid,” says Lorne. “What I wanted people to feel when listening to the music is they don’t necessarily know if it’s real or not or whether it’s in the present or in the past. There are no rules and musically, it’s constantly evolving. Another crucial element we strived to accomplish was to always have a clear journey of each character’s theme. I wrote their themes separately as a journey, so that we knew musically what would happen throughout the series.”

The timeless nature of the music is evident right away. You literally can’t tell what time period this is taking place in. Sometimes the music sounds contemporaneous, other times it seems to snap back to the Renaissance (or what sounds like the Renaissance). This does a great job of muddling the senses and creating a musical environment for the alternative world that His Dark Materials takes place in. If the show is half as good as this  soundtrack, then this is an amazing show indeed.

Let me know what you think about His Dark Materials (and the soundtrack) in the comments below and have a great day!

Tracklisting:
1. His Dark Materials
2. The Alethiometer
3. Lyra: The Child of Prophecy
4. The Settling of a Daemon
5. Scholastic Sanctuary
6. The General Oblation Board
7. The Life of Roger Parslow
8. The Machinations of Lord Boreal
9. A Gilded Cage
10. The Strength of Gyptians
11. A Plea to Fate
12. The Legacy of Svalbard
13. Mrs. M. Coulter
14. The Magisterium
15. The Path Foretold
16. Release the Spy-Fly
17. The Tales of Lee Scoresby
18. The Compass Points North
19. The Witches of Lake Enara

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TV Soundtracks

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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

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My thoughts on: Mission Impossible: Fallout (2018)

Where to even begin on a film like this? Let’s start with something simple: Mission Impossible: Fallout definitely lives up to the hype surrounding it. While it is the sixth installment in the Mission Impossible franchise, it feels as fresh as the first, with twists and turns around every corner and a climax that left me wide-eyed until the very end.

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Fallout is a direct sequel to Rogue Nation and sees Ethan Hunts dealing with the consequences of capturing Solomon Lane alive at the end of that film. Similar to Ghost Protocol (the fourth film), Ethan must again stop nuclear weapons from being unleashed on the world, but this time the enemy is everywhere. One thing I really loved about this film is how it keeps you guessing as to what’s really going on. Most of the characters seem to have their own hidden agendas and just when you think you understand the status quo, the story gets turned on its head (in fact this happens several times throughout the story, my favorite instance coming just before the final act of the film).

Due to commitments to the MCU, Jeremy Renner’s character Will Brandt is absent from the story, but is hardly missed due to the awesome work done by Henry Cavill playing August Walker (more on him in a minute), a CIA agent assigned to work with Hunt. Simon Pegg returns as Benji Dunn and I think this is the most we’ve seen of Luther (Ving Rhames) since MI:2 but I could be wrong. Rebecca Ferguson also returns as Ilsa Faust and she is quickly becoming one of my favorite characters in the series. Sean Harris returns as Solomon Lane and is brilliant throughout. He actually doesn’t say that much compared to his appearance in Rogue Nation, but his words are never wasted.

*WARNING MAJOR SPOILERS FOLLOW FROM THIS POINT*

As I mentioned, the story is full of twists, one of the biggest involves the true identity of a rogue agent known only as “John Lark.” The moment August Walker begins convincing his CIA boss that Ethan is this rogue agent, something in me just knew that it was actually Walker the entire time. It’s an old trope, but a good one: the true villain sets up the hero by ascribing his own actions to someone else. The scary thing is, while I knew Ethan was innocent, there was a still a small voice in the back of my head that whispered “but it really could be him.” And that voice is right, Ethan could have easily done these things, as Walker says, he’s been disavowed and betrayed so many times, it’s a wonder he hasn’t snapped yet. And that makes me wonder if the dialogue was meant to serve as a set up for a future film where Ethan finally does go completely rogue. He’s almost crossed the line several times and it would be interesting to see what would push him over the line.

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Another scene that I loved was Ethan (posing as Lark) meeting an arms dealer known as the White Widow (Vanessa Kirby). She was holding a gala in honor of her mother and I bolted upright when she referred to her mother as “Max.” If you don’t know, Max was the name given to an arms dealer/terrorist that Ethan worked with all the way back in the first Mission Impossible film in 1996. According to the trivia, it is indeed the same Max being referred to, making this one giant Easter Egg (and you don’t see that many that reference the first film). It’s also slightly mind-boggling that we’ve now gotten to working with the grown children of characters introduced in earlier films (sometimes it’s easy to forget that this franchise is 22 years old). Assuming the series continues, I have a feeling the White Widow will be returning; she was set up as one of those enigmatic figures that can pop in and out when necessary to the plot.

As for the ending…I won’t spell it out but for a split second, when the screen went white, I really thought the filmmakers had pulled an Infinity War on us. Luckily it turned out to be a colossal fake-out but for a minute I was completely wide-eyed thinking they’d actually gone and done the unthinkable. And speaking of the climax, once it gets going, you will not be able to look away until its over.

The score for Fallout was composed by Lorne Balfe (Penguins of Madagascar; Pacific Rim: Uprising), who does an excellent job with creating and maintaining tension throughout the film. There’s an especially powerful moment that comes at the conclusion of a long chase through London when Ethan is standing on top of a tower.

So in conclusion, where does Fallout fall in the ranking of Mission Impossible films? Well, based on what I saw, the new ranking is as follows:

  1. Mission Impossible: Fallout
  2. Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol
  3. Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation
  4. Mission Impossible
  5. MI:3
  6. MI:2

What do you think of my new ranking? What do you think of Mission Impossible: Fallout? Did it live up to the hype? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Film/TV Reviews

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