Tag Archives: MCU

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 News: ‘The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’ Soundtrack Vol. 1 Available Now!

On April 9th, Marvel Music/Hollywood Records released The Falcon and the Winter Soldier: Volume 1 (Episodes 1-3) with music composed by Henry Jackman on digital. Marvel Studios’ The Falcon and The Winter Soldier stars Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson aka The Falcon, and Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes aka The Winter Soldier. The pair, who came together in the final moments of “Avengers: Endgame,” team up on a global adventure that tests their abilities—and their patience. Directed by Kari Skogland with Malcolm Spellman serving as head writer, the six-episode series also stars Daniel Brühl as Zemo, Emily VanCamp as Sharon Carter, and Wyatt Russell as John Walker.

Though broken up into separate episodes, Jackman’s score for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is quintessential MCU film music (and I’ll call it that despite the streaming format). It has that perfect blend of suspense and action that I’ve come to love in these movies. This music, as with most scores in the MCU, is good at getting you to hold your breath and lean in to hold more, only to knock you back with a sudden burst of sound. The synthetic elements in the music are something of a surprise, but given that this series is set in (pretty much) the present day (time skip notwithstanding), it makes sense that The Falcon and the Winter Soldier would need as modern-sounding a soundtrack as possible. This show is meant to be something of a thriller after all, and the music definitely creates that idea.

If this is how good the music is for just the first three episodes, I can’t wait to hear Volume 2, which is due to be released on April 30th.

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier: Volume 1 Track List

  1. Louisiana Hero (2:14)
  2. Tough Act to Follow (1:16)
  3. Airborne Operation (5:56)
  4. Smithsonian Tribute (0:53)
  5. Nightmares (1:22)
  6. What Do You Want? (1:22)
  7. Pluck Up the Nerve (1:53)
  8. New Agitators (1:13)
  9. The Wrong Guy (1:38)
  10. America’s Sweetheart (1:05)
  11. No Parachute (1:29)
  12. Stakeout (1:39)
  13. Outmatched (2:46)
  14. Safe House (2:41)
  15. Someone You Should Meet (1:09)
  16. Overlooked For Promotion (1:20)
  17. Warranted Attention (1:03)
  18. Fraying Edges (2:04)
  19. Take One For the Team (2:21)
  20. Unnecessary Use of Force (1:48)
  21. Prison Break (4:41)
  22. A Marriage of Convenience (0:32)
  23. A Pure Heart (1:48)
  24. Low Town (1:24)
  25. Attack, Soldier! (1:47)
  26. Breaking Character (2:29)
  27. Bad Science (3:30)
  28. Masked Man (1:20)
  29. Dissent and Disillusionment (1:08)
  30. Radicalized (1:19)
  31. Star Spangled Man – The Captain America Drum Corps (1:44)

Be sure to check out The Falcon and the Winter Soldier: Volume 1 as soon as you can!

Have a great day!

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My Thoughts on: Blade (1998)

Some of the people who knew me growing up might be surprised to hear this, but I was a HUGE fan of Blade back in the day (around my early teens). I have vague memories of stumbling across this film on TV (along with Blade II) and being spellbound by what I saw. Didn’t understand half of it, didn’t even know that Blade came from Marvel comics, but I did know I was watching something amazing!

As I understand it, Blade was the first Marvel movie to be successful, setting the stage for the X-Men films, the Fantastic Four films, and, many years later one could argue, the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It all started with Blade. For those not familiar, Blade is a Daywalker, a half-vampire who spends his nights hunting down and killing every vampire he can find. Unlike regular vampires, Blade can move about in daylight, and he has some nasty weapons in his arsenal. The movie sees Blade come up against Deacon Frost (Stephen Dorff) who has plans of his own for the vampire world. Along the way, Blade is forced to take Dr. Karen Jenson (N’Bushe Wright) under his wing (so to speak) and teach her the basics of vampire fighting after she’s assaulted and bitten by a vampire herself.

When I sat down to watch Blade again, it had easily been fifteen or sixteen years since I’d last seen it, so I’d completely forgotten how badass this film is. Despite being 22 years old, the film doesn’t feel dated in the slightest, though I will concede some of the CGI effects haven’t aged that well. Even then, it’s a “blink and it’s over” sort of issue, and I feel like I’m nitpicking by even mentioning it. Seriously, the CGI for the most part looks pretty good for being created in the late 1990s, which is a testament to how hard the filmmakers worked on this film at the time. As good as it must have looked then, it looks so much better upgraded to Blu-Ray (and I can only imagine how it looks in 4K).

Wesley Snipes OWNS every scene he’s in. As soon as he appeared in full Daywalker mode, I instantly realized why everyone had been campaigning to have Snipes reprise his role in the MCU somehow. I mean, my God….the presence he has as Blade is unreal. You don’t see his fangs until very late in the film (unless I missed it), but there’s no mistaking that Blade is something more than human from the moment he’s introduced. He’s also such a badass with that sword, I loved watching every single fight scene. Also, while I have no doubt Mahershala Ali will make an AMAZING Blade, I sincerely hope that Wesley Snipes appears in the MCU Blade film in some way, shape, form or fashion. This is something I NEED to happen.

I love that the “everyman” role in the film is taken up by a woman. I think that’s why I found it so easy to watch this film as a teenager, I could identity with Karen, and that fear of confronting a world that is suddenly nothing like what you expected it to be. N’Bushe Wright turns Karen into a complete and total badass by the end of the film, even when she’s taken captive, she doesn’t lay down and take it. She fights back, and for that reason alone I will defend Blade as one of the best comic book movies ever made forever.

I also have to praise Blade for creating a vampire society that feels frighteningly plausible. The gist is that vampires have permeated every layer of human society imaginable. In fact, it’s quietly implied that vampires are well on their way to running human society as a whole, albeit from the shadows. Once this fact is laid bare in the film, you start to look twice at every person our heroes pass, and it’s actually enough to make you slightly paranoid.

And again, I have to go back to the intensity that permeates this film. This might come out wrong, but there’s a rawness about Blade that isn’t present in the MCU, and it sets Blade apart in a good way. What I mean to say is, because they were still sussing out how to turn Marvel stories into good films, there’s a raw, immense crudeness about Blade that leaves one with the impression of something much larger lurking in the shadows (the MCU by comparison is much more finely tuned). It was just so refreshing to see a film like this again, and I hope the new Blade film carries over some of this intensity and rawness (which is possible since this is the film that’s introducing vampires to the MCU, assuming Morbius doesn’t count).

Having seen Blade upgraded to blu-ray, all I can do now is hope and pray that a similar upgrade is being done for Blade II and, yes, even Blade Trinity (I’m a completionist, it’ll bug me if I don’t upgrade the whole trilogy).

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

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Film Reviews

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My Thoughts on: Captain Marvel (2019)

I know I’m 7 months late to the party but damn Captain Marvel was awesome!

Due to watching Avengers: Endgame earlier this year, I was already somewhat acquainted with Captain Marvel and her awesome powers, but I’d yet to see her origins explained. Now that I’ve finally seen it, I feel like a bit of a goof for avoiding the film for so long, because it really is a brilliant film.

Normally, I avoid origin films like the plague, because most of them have that “awkward phase” when the hero is just learning how to deal with their powers or situation (or a combination of both) and I find it all very difficult to watch. However, Captain Marvel takes the same road that Black Panther did last year: the awkward phase is skipped over entirely, with Carol’s origins explained in flashback form. This is a format I really like for origin films, because the awkward moment I was afraid of never arrived.

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And then there was the humor, which I didn’t see coming at all! Brie Larson and Samuel L. Jackson are incredibly funny when put together, and it makes me want to see more. All throughout the film are little funny moments that make you want to smile, and it’s yet another reason why I love this film. The other pairing that I found fascinating to watch was the interplay between Carol/Vers and Yon-Rogg. First of all, Jude Law is brilliant in that role. Second, I’m still trying to figure that guy out. I’ve been jumping back and forth in my opinion of Yon-Rogg since last night. While I initially thought he was just Carol’s well-meaning mentor, I quickly thought he was her mortal enemy the whole time. But then I thought about it, I mean really thought about it, and now I think it’s a lot more complicated than that. I think, on some level, Yon-Rogg does genuinely care about Vers/Carol, because at times he seemed genuinely conflicted. Considering he leaves the film very much alive, I imagine that situation will be resolved in Captain Marvel 2.

Also, on a quick side note, that little plot twist regarding the Kree and the Skrulls (and which ones are the bad guys) just about blew my mind. I did not see that coming, I really didn’t.

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But I think what I loved most in Captain Marvel was the evolution of Carol throughout the story. She started as a would-be Kree warrior struggling to fit in, and grows into this absolute badass who realizes she doesn’t have to justify her existence to anyone and the moment she came to that realization had me in tears because it was just so beautiful.

I’m so happy I finally made the decision to watch Captain Marvel, it is by far one of the best films in the MCU, and in my mind it also firmly cements Captain Marvel as one of my favorite Marvel superheroes. I can’t wait to see Carol’s story continue in the sequel (whenever it arrives). Let me know what you thought about Captain Marvel in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

My thoughts on: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

My thoughts on: Black Panther (2018)

Avengers: Infinity War-Review (no spoilers)

My (spoiler-free) Thoughts on: Avengers: Endgame (2019)

Film Reviews

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My (spoiler-free) Thoughts on: Avengers: Endgame (2019)

Wow.

Wow, wow, wow, and once again, wow.

That was BEAUTIFUL.

Avengers: Endgame is the culmination of a story that began all the way back in 2008 with the first Iron Man. The MCU has since grown to consist of 22 films (including Endgame) and has redefined how comic books can be brought to life. While covering the rise of various heroes (and villains), the MCU had also told, piece by piece, the story of Thanos the Mad Titan. Endgame is the final result of EVERYTHING that has happened in the MCU, even more than Infinity War. There were so many plot threads that went into making this story that it could have easily become overwhelming or confusing.

But it didn’t.

Endgame does an admirable job of setting up the stakes for this final battle. It is made clear what needs to be done and WHY it needs to be done. There is some beautiful cinematography along the way, I would even dare to say that some of my favorite shots in the entire MCU belong to this film. The last act alone is a dream come true. If the film has one flaw, it’s that you need to have seen most of the MCU prior to seeing Endgame, or certain little moments in the film aren’t going to make sense.

Musically, Alan Silvestri knocks it out of the park once again. If you listen carefully, you can hear musical callbacks to multiple past MCU films, reprises of certain themes, all building to the perfect climax in the last act. Just like Infinity War, the music of Endgame takes you on an emotional roller-coaster ride, but in a good way.

I said at the beginning that Endgame is a culmination of everything that’s come before, which also means it’s, in many ways, an ending. The film does an excellent job of resolving all of those plot threads. And yet, at the same time, the door is left slightly open for several stories to continue. The MCU will definitely continue (it makes way too much money to end now) but it will never be like it was before. That story has come to an end.

But what a story it was. I’m not sure we’ll ever see anything like it again.

And that’s my spoiler-free review of Avengers: Endgame. I hope you enjoyed it, and I hope you had just as much fun watching the film as I did. Let me know your spoiler-free thoughts in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Avengers: Infinity War-Review (no spoilers)

My thoughts on: Black Panther (2018)

Film Reviews

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My thoughts on: Black Panther (2018)

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*caution, spoilers ahead*

It has been a very long time since I went to see a film set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Due to burn-out and other situations, I believe the last film I went to see was Avengers: Age of Ultron all the way back in 2015. I truly thought I was permanently burned out on the MCU until I saw the first teasers for Black Panther late last year. Something about the film kept drawing me in, as much as I tried to ignore it. Then, when the first reviews came out critically praising the film as a masterpiece, I knew that I would have to go and see for myself.

The critics are right. Black Panther IS a masterpiece. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that this is the best film in the MCU to date (though Avengers: Infinity War might claim that title once it releases in May).

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As far as I can tell (my knowledge of the MCU timeline isn’t the best), Black Panther picks up about a week after the events of Civil War, during which time T’Chaka, the king of Wakanda, was assassinated in an explosion at the United Nations. His son T’Challa is set to be crowned king and fully come into his rights as the Black Panther that protects Wakanda from the outside world. A beautiful prologue explains that Wakanda was built over a huge meteorite of vibranium that crashed into the Earth. Because the vibranium allowed Wakanda to build and work with technology that far outstripped the rest of the world, the nation hides in plain sight, posing as a Third World country while it is actually the most advanced on Earth.

I think my favorite scene in the whole film is when T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) is returning to Wakanda with Nakia (an ex-girlfriend) for his coronation. The ship they’re flying on appears to be heading straight into a mountain when at the last second it’s revealed to be a hologram! The facade melts away to reveal this beautiful city full of flying ships, mag-lev trains and of course the enormous vibranium mine (overseen by a huge panther statue). The entire city is a perfect example of Afro-Futurism, combining traditional African designs with futuristic technology (it’s sheer perfection to watch).

blackpanther-enter-wakanda

Enter Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), my new favorite villain in the MCU (sorry Loki). Erik is introduced as an associate of Ulysses Klaue (whose vibranium stealing exploits have been a thorn in Wakanda’s side for thirty years). It turns out that Killmonger is actually the son of T’Chaka’s brother. When Eric was a young boy, T’Chaka confronted his brother over helping Klaue steal vibranium and was forced to kill him. But the real tragedy of the situation emerges when it is revealed that T’Chaka chose to leave his nephew behind, rather than take him back to Wakanda. Is it any wonder that Erik is bitter and seeks to rule Wakanda as its rightful king?

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Killmonger fascinates me because his motives are so complex. He genuinely believes that he knows what’s best for Wakanda. The young king, knowing who Erik is, doesn’t want the truth coming out in front of his council, but it does anyway. Aside from being stunned to learn that there’s a royal cousin that nobody in Wakanda knew about, they agree that Erik is fully within his rights as a royal prince to challenge for the throne by ritual combat. And this led to my other favorite scene: as Erik and T’Challa fight, Erik spells out why he is the better king for Wakanda, revealing that he has killed many, many times (and for each kill there’s a self-inflicted scar on his body).

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I found the clash between Erik, who grew up in America, and the culture of Wakanda to be enthralling. Now I understand the article titles I saw that mentioned the conflict between African-Americans and Africans. Even though they have a common origin (in Africa), the way they grew up almost guarantees they’ll be nothing like each other, and so it is with T’Challa and Erik.

Another part of the film that I absolutely loved are the Dora Milaje; an all-female squad of elite warriors that protect the king of Wakanda at all times. They’re led by Okoye (Danai Gurira, aka Michonne on The Walking Dead!), an absolutely bad-ass warrior who will not hesitate to attack her enemies with a spear. Their fighting style is thrilling to watch; they move with such precision and grace that you can’t doubt their lethal abilities.

Aside from T’Challa himself, I absolutely loved his little sister Shuri (Letitia Wright). Though only 16, she’s in charge of Wakanda’s technological developments, which also include providing updates to the Black Panther’s suit and weapons. It’s hinted that she can fight as well, but it doesn’t come out until the big fight at the end when she emerges with Nakia in fighting armor and wreaks havoc on the enemy. I definitely want to see more of Shuri (and Wakanda in general) in the MCU.

Final thoughts: Black Panther is without a doubt the best film produced for the MCU yet. It’s a compelling story, without any flaws that I could find. Definitely go see it!

What did you think of Black Panther? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below 🙂 As always, thank you for coming by and checking out the blog, your support means everything to me!

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