Tag Archives: soundtrack

Soundtrack Review: Peppermint (2018)

Peppermint is a 2018 American vigilante action film directed by Pierre Morel and stars Jennifer Garner who plays Riley North, a woman who sets out on a path of revenge after her family is gunned down in a drive-by shooting. The score for Peppermint was composed by Simon Franglen.

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Simon Franglen is a Grammy-winning and Golden Globe-nominated composer and producer. He received a Grammy Award for Record of the Year as producer of “My Heart Will Go On” from James Cameron’s “Titanic,” and received Golden Globe, Grammy Award and World Soundtrack Award nominations for his work on Cameron’s “Avatar.” His recent work includes composing music for two films with Terrence Malick, including his stunning “Voyage of Time,” multiple projects with Jean-Jacques Annaud and Antoine Fuqua, including “The Magnificent Seven” and working with Pink Floyd, producing 3D mixes for “Their Mortal Remains” which was recently experienced by 400,000 people in London.

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The first thing that comes to mind when I listen to the soundtrack for Peppermint is…emotion. Raw, visceral emotion bleeds out of this score and it’s not surprising given what the plot is about. Franglen has dutifully assembled a collection of strings and electronic instruments to create a score filled with tension, angst and a heavy dose of brooding (brought to glorious fruition by the cello section of the orchestra).

One track that stands out in particular is ‘Drive By Shooting.’ Just from the title you can guess that this will have some particularly dark musical moments, but I’m impressed with how Franglen brought the tension out in this piece. In the first sixty seconds, you are literally put on edge by a screeching, grinding sound which is then replaced by a misleading cello melody. I say misleading because I feel it’s designed to put the audience at ease before the shooting happens, to make the event more shocking.

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Another track I want to highlight is ‘Justice for the Judge.’ This piece is brought to life with synthesizers and strings which climax in a moment of pure angst before abruptly (and tellingly) cutting off.

These strings are what help to make the score of Peppermint special, in my opinion. With only the synthesizer portion of the soundtrack, you have a generic score that’s been heard in hundreds of action films over the last several decades (going back at least to the 1980s when synthesized music became a serious ‘thing’ in the film industry). But Franglen doesn’t stick to just synthesizers, no, he mixes them in with strings both high and low (there is also a piano and possibly some woodwinds mixed in but I’ve yet to hear any brass in the soundtrack). It’s an effective combination to be sure; I’m not against wholly electronic film scores but there is something to be said for old-fashioned instruments being included.

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There are also moments where the score takes a moment to breathe and moves in a sentimental direction. The clearest case in point is the track ‘You Have to Wake up Now.’ Unlike many of the pieces in this soundtrack, this one doesn’t start with a bass line laid down by the synthesizer (though it does appear about halfway through). Instead, the audience is treated to a soft piano melody mixed in with the strings. Given the rawness of most of the score prior to this moment, it’s refreshing to hear something so light, even if the moment is brief (about sixty seconds in length).

I know Peppermint has received mixed reviews, but I urge you to give the soundtrack a chance, there are some truly good moments in it. If it has one weakness it’s that it does rely a little too much on the synthesizer, but as I said, this is compensated for somewhat by the presence of the strings and the piano.

Let me know what you think of the soundtrack to Peppermint (or the film itself) in the comments below and have a great day!

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Soundtrack Review: The Predator (2018)

The Predator (2018) is the latest entry in the Predator franchise, serving as a direct sequel to Predator 2 (the film ignores Predators (2010)). The score for this film was composed by Henry Jackman, who has established himself as one of today’s top composers by fusing his classical training and his experience as a successful record producer and creator of electronic music. His work includes Captain PhillipsX-Men: First Class and Captain America: Winter Soldier; Kingsman: The Golden Circle; Wreck-It-Ralph, and Oscar-winner Big Hero 6. His most recent work can be heard in Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, Captain America: Civil War, and Kong; Skull Island.

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Given that this is a Predator film, some of the musical elements are predictable. There is a notable martial quality to a lot of the music, exemplified by heavy brass and fast, driving rhythms (not quite to the level that Hans Zimmer has been known to employ, but similar) during the action sequences. However next to this is a level of delicacy that you would not expect to find. Jackman makes a healthy use of the strings and woodwinds throughout the score and it provides for some refreshing musical ‘breathers’ in between the bombastic moments.

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Two examples include ‘Arrival’ (the opening cue) and ‘Rory’ (the theme for McKenna’s son). I remember it surprised me greatly, sitting in the theater, when the film started with the sound of strings (I was expecting a musical ‘bang’ right from the start). To be sure, the music quickly moves into more energetic territory, but I do feel that it says something that the score started with a quieter melody (somewhat fitting as the film opens with a view of space). And ‘Rory’ might just be the cue I like best out of the entire soundtrack. Beginning with the piano and moving into strings and woodwinds, ‘Rory’ is a perfect theme for McKenna’s autistic son. It begins hesitantly (as Rory as just been tormented by some bullies) but then grows with confidence as the young kid demonstrates his abilities by resetting multiple chess boards.

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Two more cues that I’d like to highlight briefly are ‘Project Stargazer’ and ‘Beautiful Specimen.’ Both cues take place when Dr. Bracket  (Olivia Munn) is taken to see the captured Predator and contain that martial quality I referred to earlier. My favorite moment from these two comes in ‘Project Stargazer’; the music notably peaks at the moment when Bracket views the captured alien for the first time (a nice example of how the music can reflect plot developments).

Listening to the soundtrack apart from the film has reaffirmed one thing for me: Henry Jackman’s score makes The Predator a better film than it would have been without it. Of course good music can only take a film so far, but Jackman certain put in a very good effort.

What do you think of the score for The Predator? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

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Soundtrack Review: Hotel Artemis (2018)

Released on June 8th, 2018, Hotel Artemis is a near-future dystopian film that takes place in a secret hospital for criminals (the titular hotel). The hotel is run by The Nurse (Jodie Foster) and Everest (Dave Bautista), an orderly. Services offered include 3D-printed organs and top of the line care, provided you follow the rules of the establishment. This status quo is upended one night during a riot when a notorious kingpin (Jeff Goldblum) is rushed to the hotel with serious injuries.

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The score for Hotel Artemis was composed by Cliff Martinez, whose approach to scoring is nontraditional.  His scores tend towards being stark and sparse, utilizing a modern tonal palette to paint the backdrop for films that are often dark, psychological stories like Pump Up the Volume (1990), The Limey (2009) Wonderland (2003), Wicker Park (2004), and Drive (2011).  Martinez has been nominated for a Grammy Award (Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic), a Cesar Award (Xavier Giannoli’s A L’origine), and a Broadcast Film Critics Award (Drive).  His score for The Neon Demon was awarded Best Soundtrack at the 2016 Cannes International Film Festival.

Not only is the soundtrack of Hotel Artemis sparse, it also suffers greatly from being overly homogeneous. I thought I was imagining it at first, but as I listened to track after track, I realized that most of the music sounded exactly the same: deep synthesized bass tones mixed in with a synthesized drone. There are minor variations to be sure, but the elements are the same throughout. No wonder this score hasn’t stuck in my mind, there was nothing memorable about it.

Synthesizers can be great for film scores when they’re utilized properly (Blade Runner and Blade Runner 2049 are excellent cases in point), but that is not the case here. The drones don’t lead anywhere, there’s no musical development. This can make a potentially great film average and in this case, it makes an average film mediocre.

In conclusion: the score of Hotel Artemis is mostly forgettable, just like the film, which is a real shame. I do my best to find the positives in any score I listen to, but I just couldn’t find them here. What did you think of the score for Hotel Artemis? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

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Moana “I am Moana” (2016)

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Moana “I am Moana” (2016)

Like many animated Disney films, there comes a point in Moana when it seems like all hope is lost. The first encounter with Te Ka ended in near catastrophe; the boat is badly damaged; worst of all, Maui has abandoned Moana and the quest to restore the Heart of Te Fiti entirely. However unlike earlier films, where the hero/heroine simply steels themselves and keeps on going, Moana has a heart to heart with the spirit of her grandmother and admits that she can’t do this, the ocean needs to choose someone else. And her grandmother agrees! The Heart is given back to the ocean and Moana is told that she can leave for home whenever she wants. This moment is huge because how often do you see a Disney heroine saying “I can’t do it” in this way? Oh granted other Disney heroines have had their down moments, but none of them have so thoroughly set up the idea that the quest won’t be completed like this one has.

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But of course, since this IS Disney, Moana hesitates to return home, though she doesn’t understand why. Wanting to help her granddaughter, Grandma Tala has a song to help her discover, at long last, who she really is:

I know a girl from an island
She stands apart from the crowd
She loves the sea and her people
She makes her whole family proud

Sometimes, the world seems against you
The journey may leave a scar
But scars can heal and reveal just
Where you are

The people you love will change you
The things you have learned will guide you
And nothing on Earth can silence
The quiet voice still inside you

And when that voice starts to whisper,
“Moana, you’ve come so far”
“Moana, listen”
“Do you know who you are?”

This is it, the pivotal moment for our heroine: Moana must reach down inside herself and discover who she really is.

Who am I?
I am a girl who loves my island
I’m the girl who loves the sea
It calls me

I am the daughter of the village chief
We are descended from voyagers
Who found their way across the world
They call me

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As Moana acknowledges her lineage and her continuing connection to the ocean, suddenly on the horizon she sees dozens of ships approaching. It’s her ancestors who used to sail the oceans, including the one we saw in “We Know the Way.” They acknowledge each other and Moana finally understands that she is a wayfinder like her ancestors before her, this is who she is and always has been!

I’ve delivered us to where we are
I have journeyed farther
I am everything I’ve learned and more
Still it calls me

And the call isn’t out there at all
It’s inside me
It’s like the tide
Always falling and rising
I will carry you here in my heart
You remind me
That come what may
I know the way
I am Moana!

Now completely encouraged, Moana dives after the Heart of Te Fiti, repairs her boat and heads back to the island to face off with Te Ka one more time.

I love “I am Moana” it literally makes me cry every time I listen to it. Discovering your identity is such an important moment and it’s stirring to hear Moana fully embrace who she is. In this song are echoes of two earlier pieces: “Where You Are” and “How Far I’ll Go.” It’s great to hear portions of earlier melodies come together into something new. But please let me know what you think about “I am Moana” in the comments below and have a great day!

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See also:

Moana “Where You Are” (2016)

Moana “How Far I’ll Go” (2016)

Moana “How Far I’ll Go (reprise)” (2016)

Moana “We Know the Way” (2016)

Moana “You’re Welcome” (2016)

Moana “Shiny” (2016)

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

The Aristocats “Scales and Arpeggios” (1970)

While Edgar is plotting how to get rid of Madame’s cats so he can be the sole inheritor of her fortune, Duchess (Eva Gabor) is making sure her three children; Marie (Liz English), Toulouse (Gary Dubin) and Berlioz (Dean Clark) focus on their lessons. Specifically, Toulouse works on his painting while Marie and Berlioz study the piano and singing (Marie sings, Berlioz plays). Duchess is determined to see her children grow up into refined aristocats and is horrified at the idea of them behaving like common alley-cats (Toulouse idolizes them).

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The Aristocats “Scales and Arpeggios” (1970)

“Scales and Arpeggios” is a simple song that genuinely sounds like something a music student would be asked to perform. It begins with solfege syllables (do re mi fa so la ti) and evolves into a lesson on why students should focus on scales and arpeggios, some of the basic building blocks of music:

Do mi so do do so mi do
Every truly cultured music student knows
You must learn your scales and your arpeggios
Bring the music ringing from your chest
And not your nose
While you sing your scales and your arpeggios

If you’re faithful to your daily practicing
You will find your progress is encouraging
Do mi so mi do me so mi fa la so it goes
When you do your scales and your arpeggios

Do mi so do do so mi do (Repeat)
Though at first it seems as though it doesn’t show
Like a tree ability will bloom and grow

If you’re smart you’ll learn by heart what every artist knows:

You must sing your scales and your arpeggios!!

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During the song, Toulouse decides to get in on the act (having finished with his painting) and jumps down to the piano much to Berlioz’s annoyance (since his brother’s paws are still covered in paint). While Marie and Duchess sing a duet, the brothers quickly begin a musical ‘argument’ that ends with each insistently pounding out their own melody on the piano.

I freely admit, as a kid I loved to sing along with this particular song (I fancied myself to be just like Marie) and I enjoyed trying to hit the high notes at the very end. It’s a short and sweet song that shows Duchess and her children in their element as cultured felines, and is also the last normal activity they experience before Edgar arrives with their specially prepared supper (which has been thoroughly laced with sleeping pills. I’m still not sure if Edgar planned to overdose them so they never woke up or just wanted them to sleep long enough that they could be dumped in the middle of nowhere).

Do you like “Scales and Arpeggios”? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

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

The Aristocats “The Aristocats” (1970)

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The Aristocats “The Aristocats” (1970)

I often feel like the animated Disney films made during the 1970s get overlooked far too often as they’re made after the passing of Walt Disney and before the Disney Renaissance began. However, there were several animated gems made during this era and The Aristocats is one of them (it also has the distinction of being the last film project approved by Disney himself before his death in 1966). Set in Paris in the year 1910, The Aristocats follows a family of high-class felines that live with Madame, a retired opera singer. When Edgar, the family butler, learns that the cats will inherit the estate before he does, the disgruntled servant kidnaps the cats and abandons them in the French countryside, leading the cats into an adventure to get back to Paris and their home.

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The Aristocats “The Aristocats” (1970)

The titular song was performed by Maurice Chevalier, a legendary French singer and performer, who was actually talked out of retirement to do the song (his final contribution to the film industry as he died in 1972). The song describes all the advantages “aristocats” possess (‘aristocat’ being an obvious play on aristocrat) over ‘common’ cats and ends with the cats out with Madame on a carriage ride.

Which pet’s address
Is the finest in Paris?
Which pets possess
The longest pedigree?
Which pets get
To sleep on velvet mats?
Naturellement! The aristocats!

Which pets are blessed
With the fairest forms and faces?
Which pets know best
All the gentle social graces?
Which pets live
On cream and loving fats?
Naturellement! The aristocats!

The song plays out while we’re treated to the opening credits, as well as animations of the cats that will appear later in the film.

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They show aristocratic bearing
When they’re seen
Upon an airing
And aristocratic flair
In what they do
And what they say!
Aristocats are never found
In alleyways or hanging around
The garbage cans where
Common kitties play, oh no!
Which pets are known
To never show their claws?
Which pets are prone
To hardly any flaws?
To which pets
Do the others tip their hats?
Naturellement! The aristocats!

I’ve always found it interesting that the film points out the year as 1910, as there aren’t many Disney films that specify a year. Perhaps I’m being morbid, but every time I see that date, I always remember that it was only a few years before the start of World War I, when the glitz and glamour of the 19th century disappeared. The year is also a reminder that this is a time of great change (even before the war began). For instance, while Madame is riding in a carriage, her lawyer drives up in a car (albeit a primitive one).

Also, fun piece of trivia: Hermione Baddeley, the voice of Madame, is also the voice of Auntie Shrew in The Secret of NIMH (1982) (another Disney credit includes Ellen in Mary Poppins (1964)).

I like “The Aristocats,” it’s a fun little song that provides a good opening to the film and I hope you enjoy listening to it. Let me know what you think of this song in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

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)

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The Hunchback of Notre Dame “Topsy Turvy” (1996)

I have mixed feelings about “Topsy Turvy.” While it’s a funny song to be sure, I can’t really get into it because I know what’s going to happen to Quasimodo at the end. Nevertheless, I should still look it over.

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The Hunchback of Notre Dame “Topsy Turvy” (1996)

The song takes place during the Feast of Fools, based on a real-life yearly celebration held once a year during the Middle Ages (particularly in France). The Feast of Fools was held on around the Feast of the Circumcision (January 1st) and in fact the song lyrics even mention that the day of the feast is January 6th (“On the 6th of January”). Quasimodo has wanted to attend this event for years but of course Frollo, being the cruel man he is, won’t let him as he’s raised his ward to believe he’s nothing more than a monster who doesn’t belong among people (and letting him attend the celebration might reveal the lie). Now 20 years old, Quasimodo lets his gargoyle friends talk him into sneaking out to attend anyway just as the celebration is getting underway.

The festival starts with a seemingly solemn procession inviting all to attend:

Come one, come all
Leave your looms and milking stools, 
Coop the hens and pen the mules
Come one, come all
Close the churches and the schools 
It’s the day for breaking rules
Come and join the Feast of…FOOLS!!!

With the arrival of Clopin (the same Clopin we meet at the start of the film), the song goes from semi-serious to very silly and stays there for the rest of the song. Having never been around so many people in all his life, Quasimodo is immediately overwhelmed and unfortunately his discomfort draws the mischievous attention of Clopin (I don’t think there’s anything malicious in his behavior, he just wants to have some fun at Quasimodo’s expense).

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Once a year, we throw a party here in town
Once a year, we turn all Paris upside down
Every man’s a king and every king’s a clown 
Once again it’s Topsy Turvy Day

It’s the day the devil in us gets released (Good is bad and best is worst and west is east)
It’s the day we mock the prig and shock the priest (On the day we think the most of those with least)
Everything is topsy turvy
At the Feast of Fools

Topsy Turvy; Everything is upsy-daisy

Topsy Turvy; Everyone is acting crazy

Dross is gold and weeds are a bouquet
That’s the way on Topsy Turvy Day!

It’s while trying to get away from Clopin’s unwanted attention that Quasimodo accidentally stumbles into Esmeralda’s tent while she’s getting ready for her dance. Expecting to be reviled, Quasimodo is stunned when the beautiful gypsy simply shoos him away with a “No harm done” and a smile (and also complimenting his “mask” as she doesn’t realize that’s how he really looks).

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Just before Esmeralda begins her dance, Frollo arrives in the most ominous looking carriage I’ve ever seen. Up until this point, you can almost enjoy the song but once he arrives that’s when you remember, oh yea, Quasimodo isn’t supposed to be out here, if Frollo catches him there’s going to be big trouble! But for now, Quasimodo is safely hidden and Clopin draws attention to the stage:

Come one, come all
Hurry, hurry; here’s your chance
See the mystery and romance 
Come one, come all
See the finest girl in France 
Make an entrance to entrance
Dance la Esmeralda…
Dance!

I have always loved this part of the scene when Esmeralda appears to dance in her beautiful red dress. Everyone is entranced with her, especially Quasimodo, Phoebus (who answers with an enthusiastic “Yes sir!” when Frollo mutters “Look at that disgusting display) and, though he hides it well, Frollo himself (ewwwww).

Technically the song continues after Esmeralda’s dance into the search for the new King of Fools but I’ve always regarded that scene as separate from the rest of the song (and I’ve already covered what happens in Disturbing Disney #20).

In conclusion, “Topsy Turvy” is a fun little song that serves to relax the audience before things get really twisted with the King of Fools incident. What do you think about this song? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

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

The Hunchback of Notre Dame “The Bells of Notre Dame” (1996)

The Hunchback of Notre Dame “Heaven’s Light/Hellfire” (1996)

The Hunchback of Notre Dame “The Court of Miracles” (1996)

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