Scoring Photo

Scoring Photo

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Quick Review: Jurassic World

Jurassic World
Music composed by Michael Giacchino
Jurassic Park Theme by John Williams
Music conducted by Tim Simonec
Music orchestrated by Tim Simonec, Marshall Bowen, Peter Boyer, Brad Dechter, Mark Gasbarro, Jeff Kryka, Norman Ludwin, Cameron Patrick, Chad Seiter, Chris Tilton
Music performed by The Hollywood Studio Symphony
Music recorded at Streisand Scoring Stage - Sony
Album running time: 76 minutes
Available on Back Lot Music

Michael Giacchino is now coming full circle - one of his first composing gigs was the score to the video game The Lost World: Jurassic Park in 1997.  So here we have the newest follow-up in the Jurassic franchise, last seen in Jurassic Park III (2001) with a solid score by Don Davis.

In this film, we see the park finally open years later and of course it doesn’t go as planned with the breakout of its newest “attraction”. 

For the score, we get a main World theme for Jurassic World, a family theme, action motif for Owen & raptors, InGen theme, Indominus Rex motif and several recalls to John Williams’ main Jurassic Park theme. 

Here’s the rundown!:

Bury the Hatchling echoes the John Williams style horn call and an ominous buildup with choir.  We also get our first glimpse of the Indominus Rex motif.  The sweeter side of the score is represented in The Family That Strays Together, giving us the family theme.  Welcome to Jurassic Park is the Williams original, with a slightly different orchestration.  Still a great theme and blends nicely with the new material when used throughout the score.

As the Jurassic World Turns starts off with the Indominus Rex motif on horn.  We get a brass fanfare and a large statement of the new main theme.  The orchestration really shows off the orchestra and makes this the stand out Giacchino track on the album.  After a calm section, it returns to the playful woodwinds and another statement of the Jurassic Park theme to finish off the cue.  Clearly His First Rodeo starts off with some action material and suspense involving the InGen theme before switching tone to the main World theme in a light variation.  Woodwinds and pizzicato strings dominate the short track Owen You Nothing featuring a flirty motif for Owen and Claire.  Indominus Wrecks starts out with the flirty motif, matching the previous track.  Things get more mysterious, with hints of the Indominus motif over gentle flutes and celeste.  The action picks up with charging and swirling strings and jungle drums.    

Gyrosphere of Influence returns us to the World theme, and as the kids explore in the Gyrosphere, the music gets darker and mysterious.  Pavane for a Dead Apatosaurus gives the film (and score) a break for a tender moment led by piano.  We get a reprise of the family theme and a horn solo over a long-held low string part.  Giacchino has had simple piano moments since Lost, and they are effective each time.  The World theme works with different harmonies as a piano solo, before the motif for the militaristic InGen enters with a little suspense added. 

Fits and Jumpstarts has the family theme returning with a piano solo as the cue gets more lively.  The woodwinds start to take off in The Dimorphodon Shuffle, matching the flying dinos of the same name.  There is a cheerful rendition of World theme snuck in near the end.  Love in the Time of Pterosauria starts with the string glissandos that Giacchino often uses, with trilling strings and brass stabs taking over.  The action music in this cue is great, and expands the orchestra in range and style.  A variation of the family theme appears at the end of the cue.

Chasing the Dragons is a great action cue with a strong brass moment and strong statements of Owen's raptors theme - making this another album highlight.  Raptor Your Heart Out keeps the action charging along with a reference to the World theme among the raptor material.  Among the quick action, we are treated to a lovely callback (cameo?) of one of his themes from his Lost World video game.  Costa Rican Standoff combines more past themes into the action – recalling the Indominus Rex and Owen’s raptors themes.  The brass has some strong hits among the pounding tribal percussion.  The choir enters with a statement of the original Island theme (by Williams) that makes the moment really shine. 

Our Rex Is Bigger Than Yours pits dino vs. dino with a glorious World theme reprise with choir.  This leads to the rough chanting and choir, which really stand out in this track.  At a climactic moment, Williams’ theme from The Lost World: Jurassic Park shows up as film score fans all cheer. 

Growl and Make Up deals with the aftermath of the island’s incidents by utilizing a solemn version of the World theme.  Nine to Survival Job returns us to the family theme, slowly transforming into the World theme which crescendos to the end of the Jurassic Park theme.  The JP theme returns on piano in The Park Is Closed and is mixed with the World theme, creatively written to almost become one theme. 

Jurassic World Suite gives us all the themes in more expanded forms starting with the Indominus Rex theme, theme for InGen, the family theme, and Owen and the raptors music rounding out the track. 

The last four short tracks are all source music from the park, the proud march for It's a Small Jurassic World, the lively Hammond Lab Overture and The Brockway Monorail (a Simpsons reference, I hope!)  Sunrise O’er Jurassic World was composed by Mick Giacchino, Michael’s son.  You may remember another of his sons composing music for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014).  While these short cues seem odd to tack on at the end of the album (and hardly heard in the film), they don’t stop the album flow by being in chronological order.     

Giacchino proudly displays his fondness and inspiration of John Williams on his sleeve.  Giacchino’s music interpolates Williams well (and even more than on the album) without unnecessary comparisons between the two.  In fact, it’s impressive that some of the most memorable musical moments are by Giacchino.  In an action film with a trained raptor gang and big dinosaur versus a bigger dinosaur versus a bigger dinosaur, Giacchino keeps it extremely straight.  In an insanely busy year for Giacchino, he has come up with strong themes that work alongside each other and fresh action cues that expand his musical and orchestral techniques.  You can’t top Williams’ original themes and scores, but Giacchino has added a worthy addition to the Jurassic franchise.    

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Remembering James

James Horner (1953-2015)  It is hard to put to words what James Horner has meant to me as a film score listener.  His scores were always something to look forward to in a new film and his past scores were always a joy to return to.  Upon ranking his best scores, I always find myself adding more films onto the short list I originally started with.

For so much of the 1980's and 90's, he defined the sounds of films - he put his heart into all genres and made the film stand out.  

And to think of the audiences he reached with his music.  He became a household name with Titanic with millions buying a score album that probably wouldn't otherwise.  His music brought out the best in a film, holding some spectacular moments from Resolution and Hyperspace of Aliens, The Launch in Apollo 13, the Charging of Fort Wagner in Glory, the zip of The Rocketeer and Zorro, the Execution from Braveheart or Leaving Port in Titanic.   

Those dramatic moments are memorable beyond the film - the emotions always stay with you.  After the blockbuster successes of Titanic and Avatar, he was more selective of his films, wanting a real collaboration.  He even recently wrote concert music, which he hadn't done in years.  I was so invigorated with his "return" with The Amazing Spider-Man, but his smaller films like Wolf Totem and For Greater Glory still stood out.  This year, we are lucky to hear his last two films: The 33 and Southpaw.  It is sad to think that will be the last of the scores of this talented man.  

So, let's honor James Horner: pop in your favorite score and enjoy.  

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Screen Credit Quiz! (Round John & John & John)

It's time for a Screen Credit Quiz!  Since the round of Alan & Alexandre and James & James was so much fun, let's add a new trio to the mix!  Here's Round John & John & John.  All the screen credits are by John Powell, John Debney or John Barry.  Enjoy! 

Put your guesses in the comments! And have fun!!













Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Composer Cameos #3

Another treasure trove of Composer Cameos!  Just like the previous editions here and here, here's even more composers spotted in film and television!  (Hopefully a few old and obscure ones too!)  Enjoy!

Badalamenti isn't pleased with his espresso in Mulholland Drive (2001)

Bernstein (m) and Alan Bergman (l) pitch a song in From Noon Till Three (1976)

Carmine Coppola plays piano in The Godfather (1972)

John Debney (l) in The Strongest Man in the World (1975)

Desplat plays a speaking (!) Frenchman alongside Matt Damon in The Monuments Men (2014)

Korngold portrays and conducts as Hans Richter in Magic Fire (1955)

Mancini in the Pink Panther short Pink, Plunk, Plink (1966)

Morricone conducts in Everybody's Fine [Stanno tutti bene] (1990)

Newman plays piano on a s2 episode of 3rd Rock from the Sun (1997)

Rozsa plays piano in Knight Without Armor (1937) (and one of his first film scores)

Rozsa conducts The Story of Three Loves (1953)

Talent Agents from left: Shaiman, director Adam Shankman, Ricki Lake, lyricist Scott Wittman in Hairspray (2007)

Steiner conducts Gershwin in Girl Crazy (1932)

Steiner conducts as things go wrong in The Half Naked Truth (1932)

Trapanese (l) on trombone, series composer Daniel Licht on keyboard on s3 episode of Dexter (2008)

Young passes by in Drag Me To Hell (2009)

The Buggles music video Video Killed the Radio Star (1979)

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Quick Review: Avengers: Age of Ultron

Avengers: Age of Ultron
Music composed by Brian Tyler
Music conducted by Brian Tyler, Allan Wilson
Music recorded by Philharmonia Orchestra

Music composed by Danny Elfman
Music conducted by Rick Wentworth
Music orchestrated by Steve Bartek, Peter Bateman, Edgardo Simone, David Slonaker, Ed Trybek
Album running time: 78 minutes
Available on Hollywood Records

The score history for this newest Marvel installment is a tricky one. With Alan Silvestri the original go-to of Marvel scores (composing both Captain America and The Avengers), the mantle was handed to Brian Tyler (who in turn composed Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World). Even with other films and composers in between, these two blockbuster composers have had their work featured in the most of the Cinematic Universe. Along came Danny Elfman (with his own superhero film resume) tasked to compose an hour of music to Avengers: Age of Ultron a few months before the film's release. So now Tyler and Elfman share "music by" billing. Such last minute large replacements can be a disaster for score fans and sometimes hurt the film rather than help. The resulting album is a combination of both composer's work, almost alternating (compared to the split album like Last of the Mohicans (1992)). For convenience in the rundown below, I've color coded Tyler's tracks blue and Elfman's tracks red.

The album begins with Avengers: Age Of Ultron Titles, which overlays the recent Marvel Fanfare. In the brief dark cue, we're introduced to Ultron's theme, which surfaces later in full. Heroes is where the blending of the composers begins. It mainly introduces the New Avengers theme (Elfman) with Tyler-style percussion clanging and string ostinatos while mixing in the Avengers theme (Silvestri). It's nice to hear such a big opening cue for the film and possibly more Avengers theme references than Silvestri used. Rise Together starts right off with a bombastic sound and choir with Tyler showing off his orchestral chops. Listen for the Iron Man theme (Tyler) is referenced near the end. Breaking and Entering is a strong action cue, which lets up for an interesting and mysterious theme on piano. It Begins, which starts the film, contains another Avengers theme reference and the New Avengers theme as our heroes leap onto the screen for the first time. Woodwinds flutter with the strings in a few moments that definitely sound Elfman-esque.

Birth of Ultron seems to teeter between a major and minor key, featuring Iron Man’s theme on piano as things shift to a more ominous sound. Ultron’s theme also makes a more full appearance here. Ultron-Twins features a plaintive cello representing Scarlet Witch among the booming effects before the dark low choir voices enter for most of the cue.

Hulkbuster is a straightforward action cue, with all the Tyler-trappings and even a bold statement of the Iron Man theme. The action is loud and kept up throughout, except for an action reprieve near the end. Can You Stop This Thing? has a short burst of action and tense drama. Sacrifice is a somber track for mainly strings. The quiet moment suits Tyler and the eventual crescendo works quite nicely. Farmhouse is another relatively quiet track, with a New Avengers reference at the beginning. The acoustic guitar, piano and solo clarinet adds to the down-home feel for the most human/character-driven section of the film even if it feels completely separate from the rest of the score.

The Vault is a generic action cue with some added African-style drumming and some quick string and percussion licks at the end. The Mission simmers with an electronic beat, while feeling a bit aimless. Seoul Searching picks the action up, with the brass ripping ahead. We also get a few heroic fanfare moments mixed in. Inevitability/One Good Eye brings the cello solo back with more urgency as the action starts. It’s an over the top action cue, exploring new sounds and textures in the orchestra. The Avengers theme makes two brief appearances.

Ultron Wakes utilizes some interesting orchestral techniques and a hidden Avengers theme in this short cue. Vision is almost ethereal and offers some nice writing to balance the forthcoming action cues. The Battle pulls more orchestral tricks out of the bag and features cameo appearances of the Avengers theme and the Thor theme with some other standout action moments.  Wish You Were Here features the pseudo love theme heard earlier in the album with a strong build to the end. The Farm reprises the tender guitar and strings heard earlier before building his New Avengers theme around the Avengers theme.    

Darkest of Intentions contains a lot of racing string patterns, with the low brass powering through most of it. As it relaxes near the end, the love theme appears in the strings. Fighting Back has a snippet of Iron Man built into the action cue, as well as Ultron's theme as the track charges forward. Avengers Unite brings the main statement of the New Avengers/Avengers themes with a little dose of Spider-Man-style swirling strings and choir. Shame the track is so short, but it's a great moment.  
Ultron's theme is featured heavily in Keys to the Past, keeping a moody and atmospheric sound throughout. Uprising is a grim track with pounding percussion and almost in Silvestri-mode near the end. Outlook combines the Tyler/Silvestri mix, with a heroic statement of the Helicarrier material.

The Last One is one of the quieter tracks and uses the love theme prominently. Nothing Lasts Forever starts in a somber mood with a horn solo reprising the Iron Man theme, but the track is chock full of Silvestri and the New Avengers theme. New Avengers – Avengers: Age of Ultron reprises the titular theme in the most rousing rendition on the album. In a wonderful full orchestral arrangement of the Elfman and Silvestri main themes, we send our characters off to their next Marvel Cinematic Universe film.      

What will the musical future of Marvel be in the coming films? For not scoring more than his Marvel films in 2011 and 2012, Silvestri is still the prominent voice with his themes appearing in 3 other MCU films. Elfman was wise to intertwine his theme with Silvestri's; both showing up at the prominent heroic moments of the film. While Tyler composed new themes for the film (love theme, Vision and Ultron), most are buried and require a few good listens to even pick them up. It is easy to identify each composer's track, especially knowing their specific tendencies. But thankfully their tracks don't clash with each other and provide a decent listening experience. Unfortunately, most of the score is pretty forgettable on album and often lost in the film mix. After all, who wants to hear music when there are almost 2 hours’ worth of CGI creations loudly fighting each other?  

The album is a whole other story. I'm glad to get a representation by both composers, with Tyler at 49 minutes and Elfman at 30 minutes. Two of Elfman's tracks are labeled as unused, and most seem to be in non-chronological score and aren't the film versions. Not to mention more direct quotes of Silvestri's music from The Avengers not on the album.

For me, while strong and providing some good cues, it's Tyler's weakest MCU score, but I'm glad Elfman stepped in with some excellent action and non-action music for the series. Multi-film continuity is tricky with so many composers involved.  I would be great to hear more Elfman, Tyler and Silvestri.  But it could be worse, we could be hearing a lot more Henry Jackman on the horizon.