Final Musings: Escape From Tomorrow showcases Korzeniowski’s knack for overachieving compositional efforts. The score presents musical diversity from the Golden Age style string writing to electronic ambiance with great success. And although the length of the album and lack of a thematic core will disappoint some, the outstanding highlights makes this more than worthwhile.
Disney’s long established reputation as the “Happiest Place on Earth” was threatened by one particular film that seemed to be hogging all the spotlight this year at the Sundance Film Festival. Randy Moore’s Escape From Tomorrow follows a typical American family’s vacation to Walt Disney World, where every child’s dream turns out to be their disturbing nightmare. Almost satirical in nature, the film quickly rose to fame not only because of its strange content, but the strange nature in which it was filmed. Described by some as the ‘ultimate guerrilla film’, the project was filmed entirely on the amusement park grounds of Disney World and Disneyland without the permission and knowledge of the corporate giant. There was a lot of sneaking around, scripts being passed through iPhones and filming done largely on handheld digital cameras. Moore’s daring take on Disneyland and ambitious guerrilla techniques didn’t exactly produce a unanimously acclaimed film, it did rile up interest among critics. It won’t be long before Disney decides to sue, but in the meantime, the crew is enjoying the limelight. Read the rest of this entry »
Well 2012 has long come to an end and the world is still standing, giving listeners plenty of time to catch up with the scores 2012 had to offer. It was a year full of promising projects, ripe with great expectations. And yet, looking back, it’s hard to say that the year lived up to expectations. There were certainly stellar moments in parts, but ultimately, aside from The Hobbit (which in itself didn’t please everyone), there were no real stunners. Deciding on a final top 10 turned out to be an incredibly difficult task. It was hard to rank scores over the other simply because none of them warranted that kind of enthusiasm. Coming straight from the admirable strength of 2011’s out, 2012 ended up a disappointment. Having said that, there is still plenty to remember fondly. Let’s take a look back at the year when it was all supposed to end. Read the rest of this entry »
A decade ago, Peter Jackson’s phenomenal The Lord of the Rings trilogy secured its spot amongst the greatest of filmmaking achievements in cinema. Its epic scope, incredible attention to detail and many technical merits (not excluding Howard Shore’s stirring music of course) became the benchmark for not only the fantasy genre, but also great filmmaking in general. Satisfied with the success of his magnum opus, Jackson for some time has been avoiding the director’s chair for the inevitable adaptation of Tolkien’s other fantasy adventure, The Hobbit. But after years of production delays, and changes in management, fate made sure the project ended up in his hands regardless. It was a bold undertaking to say the least, and Jackson was certainly not leaving any stones unturned by experimenting with new 48 fps technology. Understandably, fans were a little nervous, and the decision to adapt such a small children’s tale into a trilogy sure wasn’t helping. Whether Jackson ultimately ended up extinguishing such fears however is up for debate.
The first film, entitled An Unexpected Journey, would present the beginning of modest Bilbo Baggins’ great adventure as he joins a company of 13 dwarves led by the vengeful Thorin Oakenshield to reclaim their homeland, Erebor, currently occupied by the vehement dragon Smaug. To say there were great expectations would be a massive understatement indeed, and considering the light-hearted nature of the source material, disappointment was inevitable. Despite success with audiences, critics were not so kind with this new trilogy, and perhaps with good reason. The film impresses visually, with its same high standard of acting, dazzling action sequences and impressive New Zealand vistas. But the final product is far from perfect. The bloated nature of the film owes itself to the poor pacing (the real adventure doesn’t get started till the second half), needless Tolkien fan-fiction and the strangely conflicting nature of the juxtaposition of both the comedy of the source material and the darker atmosphere of The Lord of the Rings. It’s an enjoyable feature, but a flawed one at that. Read the rest of this entry »
Final Musings: Anna Karenina offers a colourful array of Slavonic elements that once again display Marianelli’s usual degree of technical precision. Largely consisting of a series of waltzes and other forms of chamber music, the score requires time to take in and appreciate. And while it can be a rewarding experience in the end, it would have been nice to have heard some larger scale material from the ever talented composer. As it is, its a masterfully crafted work that you might not find yourself returning to very often.
Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina has often been considered one of the greatest literary works of realist fiction. Accordingly, the classic tale has seen countless adaptations on the big screen and after having earned great financial and critical success with period pieces like Atonement and Pride and Prejudice, director Joe Wright moves on to place his mark on the beloved Russian novel. Bringing back much of the crew that heralded his earlier triumphs, Wright sought to deviate away from the atypical nature of such costume dramas and dazzle viewers with his new interpretation. The result expectedly impressed critics although left some of the more traditionalists cold as they found the production to prefer style to heart. Regardless, the film will certainly garner a fair amount of attention during awards season.
And a Wright period piece would of course not be complete without composer Dario Marianelli waving his baton behind the screens. Marianelli’s music has often played a key, indispensable role in the director’s previous films, and to nobody’s surprise, the trend continues with Anna Karenina. The Italian composer is one of the most intelligent and admirable composers working in the industry today. His European sensibilities and elegant classicism offered a refreshing voice amidst tiring Hollywood conventions. Although his true gems lie in his darker fantasy material, Marianeli’s career lifted off the success of period pieces like Pride and Prejudice. With Anna Karenina being yet another one of those ventures, expectations were rather high for this score. Read the rest of this entry »
Final Musings: Much of how you feel towards Horner’s self-borrowing tendencies will determine how you feel towards this score. Pulling pages directly from past works like The Four Feathers, Avatar, The Missing, Braveheart and Titanic, it will be tempting for some to throw the score out the window. But despite its lack of originality, Horner shows once again how capable the composer is of putting together great music. With an intelligent execution of musical colours, thematic development and emotional resonance that is expected of the man when it comes to projects like this, listeners may find it hard to not enjoy this work. For what this score lacks in originality, it makes up for in sheer gratification.
Old fashioned Hollywood style epics like El Cid and Lawrence of Arabia are just not made anymore. They had to back down to make way for the heights of today’s CGI giants. But every now and then, some foreign production will try to relive the glory days of the once beloved genre of film, sometimes with great success. For Greater Glory is such an attempt, although perhaps without the success it aspired to achieve. The film is the directorial debut of veteran visual effects supervisor Dean Wright, a man whose name is attached to gargantuan blockbusters like Titanic and The Lord of the Rings. Set it in Mexico, the narrative sheds light on the unsung rebellion that came of the Mexican government’s persecution of the Catholic Church; also known as the Cristero War. Having signed on stars like Peter O’Toole and Andy Garcia, Wright certainly hoped to have quite a lavish production laid before him. And while the picture was praised for its ambitious scope, it was ultimately bogged down by paper-thin characters, a poorly written screenplay and overbearing pro-Catholic overtones, consequently passing into relative obscurity without making much of a splash.
On the bright side, the film gave composer James Horner the chance to score yet another grand scale ethnic drama, which is always a welcomed affair. Now, anyone who’s rather familiar with Horner’s body of work should be aware of his aggravating “self-borrowing” tendencies. One can’t help but wonder how the composer thinks he can get away with so many rip-offs of his classics over the years, but he seems to be fine with it. Accordingly, there seems to be two major schools of thought that Horner fans have assembled themselves into. One consists of those who have become tired of Horner’s recycling and seeing no end in sight, they’ve dismissed him as a talentless hack who’s trying to relive the glory days of his career. On the other hand, we have those who have chosen to accept the man’s flaws and embrace his reuse habits as if his selective group of motifs and themes are being developed throughout his career as an ever evolving symphony. Where you lie in the matter more or less dictates how you’ll feel about this score.
Final Musings: Zimmer’s score for the long awaited finale presents the same problematic issues of its predecessors while introducing some new ones. Consequently, much of your opinion of the score will be based on what you thought of the franchise’s sound. But with a lack of any keen sense of musician direction, little attention to thematic development and direct passages lifted from past scores, this work has very little going for it. And to top it off, its contextual merits are rather questionable. Zimmer once again leaves much of his work’s potential untapped.
The world held its breath in anticipation of the epic conclusion to Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. Riding on the incredible success of the impressive feat that was The Dark Knight, the successful director took it upon himself to finish what he had started and write out an end for the caped crusader. Fans salivated at the reports of the grand scale of what was to be Nolan’s most ambitious project. Hollywood knew a storm was coming, one that was ready to break all sorts of records. Unfortunately, the ill-fated morning was greeted by yet another psychopathic serial killer on the scene of the Colorado showing of the film. The tragic incident notably went on to hinder the film’s opening weekend performance despite its success. And although it fared well with critics, it wasn’t quite on par with its predecessors.
Regardless, the hype generated for this film was undeniably massive, making it one of the most anticipated films of the decade. And drawn into the media frenzy is of course veteran composer Hans Zimmer. The composer has become quite the celebrity in the last couple of months, appearing in numerous interviews as a media favourite. And while Zimmer’s humorous yet modest personality is quite suitable for the limelight, the man has a tendency to make statements that are rather hard to make much sense of. To hear him speak in front of the camera about The Dark Knight Rises is truly the most sensational thing. Listeners have heard him describe the extraordinarily epic scope of the new score, the entirely unique direction the music has taken and the revolutionary genius of his work. Even the harshest of Zimmer’s critics found themselves on the edge of their seats in curiosity for what he had in store for the world. But alas, living up to his reputation of gross exaggeration and false promises, Zimmer continues to be more talk than show. As discussed further in this review, the final product unsurprisingly brings the fictitious nature of his bloated claims to light. Read the rest of this entry »
Final Musings: Horner delivers big time with his masterfully crafted web of musical ideas. A bold theme, enticing action and a creative musical atmosphere are tightly woven together by the meticulous spider that is Horner. The product? One of the best super-hero scores to come out in a while. Prepare to be taken on a fun adventure back to old-school comic book film scoring.
With nearly every successful franchise receiving either a reboot or an endless course of needless sequels, it seems like Hollywood might be running out ideas for their usual cash-in blockbuster flicks. Marvel’s latest, The Amazing Spider-man might just be the most pointless of them all. Having only been released 5 years after the conclusion Sam Raimi’s own successful Spider-man trilogy, the need to reboot a remarkably recent, well-appreciated franchise was baffling. The film ended up being an enjoyable effort however. Critics praised director Marc Webb’s capable directing and the gratifying ensemble cast. Although even in its success, the film couldn’t escape its inevitable complaints of redundancy in its already-done origin concept. Now, with the path that film music in the comic book universe has taken, James Horner was certainly the last person anyone would have expected to get this assignment. So it shouldn’t be too surprising to hear that it took some begging from the director to get the famed titan of industry to sign on. The veteran composer has only made one venture into the superhero genre with his exuberantly heroic score for The Rocketeer. But with a career like his, expectations were pretty high for this score. On the other hand, fans were also worried and waited in fear to see if Horner too had fallen victim to the modern scoring methodology; a contagion that seems to have caught the best of composers in the genre.
So what do we get in the end? One word is all you need to describe the score. Refreshing. That’s it. This score, in every sense of the word is refreshing. It’s a wonderful breath of fresh air after a tiring line of texture-based, ostinato-driven, Zimmer-style scores for our beloved heroes in their ever colourful tights. Horner’s score is explicitly old-fashioned in its nature. With a helluva bold main theme (something you don’t hear much these days in summer movies), the composer guarantees his score a prominent presence in film. And contrary to the naysayers of the striking scores of yesteryear, Horner’s music works remarkably well to aid the film (to the point where even film critics found themselves in admiration of the music). There is a lot to like here. Read the rest of this entry »