Friday, January 31, 2014

Spotlight On...Jack Ryan

The newest Spotlight On takes a look back at the films starring Jack Ryan.

Based on the classic Tom Clancy character, CIA Analyst Jack Ryan has appeared in a handful of films.  With the reboot Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, Patrick Doyle gets added to the list of composers that include Basil Poledouris, James Horner and Jerry Goldsmith.

Until then, here's a look back on the Jack Ryan films score by score. 

The Hunt for Red October (1990)
Music by Basil Poledouris
Poledouris creatively blended the orchestra with electronics in some great suspense and action cues.  Most familiar is the great Russian choir Hymn.  Easily the top score of the bunch.  (Just listen to: Hymn to Red October, Nuclear Scam, Ancestral Aid, Kaboom!!!) 

Patriot Games (1992)
Music by James Horner
With a large cast and crew change, James Horner stepped in with a large orchestral and electronic score.  We get Irish-inspired parts, with no main theme for Ryan or his family.  (Just listen to: Attempt on the Royals, Electronic Battlefield, Boat Chase, Closing Credits)

Clear and Present Danger (1994)
Music by James Horner
Horner returned, this time with a rousing patriotic theme (a little Goldsmith and Copland-esque).  Plenty of classic Horner-isms, and nice moments of tension and action.   (Just listen to: Main Title, Operation Reciprocity, Ambush)

The Sum of All Fears (2002)
Music by Jerry Goldsmith
With the prequel, Jerry Goldsmith took over, adding a strong vocal performance of the main theme, a heroic CIA theme, a theme for the villain's bomb, and enough orchestral action.  (Just listen to: The Mission, Clear the Stadium, Real Time The Same Air)

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014)
Music by Patrick Doyle
For the reboot directed by Kenneth Branagh, it was not a surprise Doyle would join.  Adjusting his style, he crafted a workable spy thriller, complete with string ostinatos and electronics.  Some of the strong material includes the main patriotic theme and the Russian choir, reminiscent of the Poledouris score.  (Just listen to: Faith of Our Fathers, Stealing the Data, Ryan Mr. President, Shadow Recruit)  

Check out the others!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Brian Tyler: The Action


Born in 1972 in Southern California, Brian Tyler grew up around musical instruments playing the drums as well as piano.  His grandfather Walter Tyler worked as an art director for several major films (including Shane, The Ten Commandments, The Odd Couple) with many Oscar nominations and 1 win.  While beginning to write music, and knowing the behind-the-scenes of film making, it was a future calling.

He later attended UCLA, overloading on credits Tyler had to drop many music credits to graduate.  He ended up with a double major in history and music.  After graduating UCLA, Tyler attended Harvard before deciding to pursue a career in music.  Returning to LA, he continued composing music and performing in a band and recording albums.  He worked his way in with independent films, such as Bartender (1997).  He continued with a variety of projects such as the short-lived sitcom Jenny (1997) and Six-String Samurai (1998).


Tyler continued with a variety of projects across many genres in the early 2000s, including the stinker Simon Sez (1999), Frailty (2001) and Bubba Ho-Tep (2002).  Tyler received an Emmy nomination for the TV special Last Call (2002).  It was 2003 that Tyler made his biggest impact and entrance into Hollywood scoring.  First there was the horror score Darkness Falls (2003) and composing two episodes of Star Trek: Enterprise, both airing in 2003.  Another highlight is the action score to Timeline (2003), in which Tyler composed the score after Jerry Goldsmith's score was rejected.  It was his score to the Mini-Series adaption of Children of Dune (2003) that remains one of biggest achievements.  


He continued with smaller and suspenseful scores, like Paparazzi (2004) and Godsend (2004).  With The Greatest Game Ever Played (2005), Tyler was able to use a lush orchestral sound.  For Constantine (2005), upon studio suggestion, composer Klaus Badelt was brought in to overlay his own music over Tyler's instead of composing a new score - another one of Hollywood's odd scoring stories.  He also scored military drama Annapolis (2006) with director Justin Lin.  2006 was also the year Tyler jumped into an action franchise with The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006), returning with director Justin Lin.  Following the work of BT and David Arnold, Tyler used a lot of rock guitar and electronics.                   


Departing from his norm, Tyler scored Partition (2007), a haunting score with a slight Eastern flavor.  This remains another one of Tyler's top scores.  Around this time, Tyler became the go-to for large scale action scoring with films like War (2007) and Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem (2007), with the latter utilizing styles from the past films.  He composed his score to Rambo (2008) in the same way, this time using Jerry Goldsmith's theme from the first Rambo film.  He continued with many intense action scores (despite the highs and lows of the films themselves) like Eagle Eye (2008), Bangkok Dangerous (2008), Dragonball: Evolution (2009), The Final Destination (2009) and Law Abiding Citizen (2009).  He also scored the next installment with Fast & Furious (2009).  


Returning with Sylvester Stallone after Rambo, Tyler scored the mega-action film The Expendables (2010) and ventured into video game scoring with Lego Universe (2010).  He also ventured the television front, scoring the main titles and a chunk of episodes of Transformers Prime (2010-2013).  For the reboot of the series Hawaii Five-0 (2010-), Tyler arranged the original series theme and composed episode scores.


2011 saw a bigger expansion of his work, going between films like Fast Five (2011), Final Destination 5 (2011), sci-fi action Battle: Los Angeles (2011), short lived television series Terra Nova (2011) and video games Need For Speed: The Run (2011), and the ever popular Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (2011).  Tyler scored a handful of projects in 2012, like thriller Columbus Circle (2012), back to the action grind with The Expendables 2 (2012) and video game Far Cry 3 (2012).  2012 was also the year of the unveiling of the updated anniversary of Universal Studios logo, with Tyler's arrangement of the Jerry Goldsmith tune.    


Tyler hit new heights in the film world by scoring a Marvel superhero film, first being blockbuster Iron Man 3 (2013).  He also scored Thor: The Dark World (2013) for Marvel, both films adding to the franchise and making Tyler an even more well-known name.  Attached to 'Thor 2', he composed a Marvel Studios Fanfare that will be used in subsequent projects.  He also scored several episodes of the TV series Sleepy Hollow (2013-) and video game Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag (2013).

Remaining busy with all types of films and other scoring projects, Tyler has Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014) coming out, as well as Fast & Furious 7 (2015) somewhere down the pipeline.  As the new hit composer for Marvel films, he most likely will have plenty of comic book films to score.  No doubt he will also continue with other high profile blockbuster and franchise films.  He's also notable for his conducting, orchestrating and even performing on most of his scores.  Tyler's penchant for action films makes him one of the go-to's, and one of the fastest growing scoring careers these days.  


Sunday, January 12, 2014

2013 Original Score Awards Roundup


Here's the Roundup of Original Score nominations and winners from various associations. Winners will be marked in red as they happen!


ACADEMY AWARD
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

The Book Thief (John Williams)
*Gravity (Steven Price)
Her (Arcade Fire)
Philomena (Alexandre Desplat)
Saving Mr. Banks (Thomas Newman)

GOLDEN GLOBE
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE 

*All Is Lost (Alexander Ebert)
The Book Thief (John Williams)
Gravity (Steven Price)
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (Alex Heffes)
12 Years a Slave (Hans Zimmer)

BRITISH ACADEMY FILM AWARDS (BAFTA)

The Book Thief (John Williams)
Captain Phillips (Henry Jackman)
*Gravity (Steven Price)
Saving Mr. Banks (Thomas Newman)
12 Years a Slave (Hans Zimmer)


ANNIE AWARDS
BEST MUSIC IN A FEATURE PRODUCTION

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 (Mark Mothersbaugh)
The Croods (Alan Silvestri)
Despicable Me 2 (Heitor Pereira/Pharrell Williams)
Epic (Danny Elfman)
Free Birds (Dominic Lewis)
*Frozen (Christophe Beck/Kristen Anderson-Lopez/Robert Lopez)
Monsters University (Randy Newman)
Turbo (Henry Jackman)

SATELLITE AWARDS (INTERNATIONAL PRESS ACADEMY)
ORIGINAL SCORE

The Book Thief (John Williams)
*Gravity (Steven Price)
Her (Arcade Fire)
Philomena (Alexandre Desplat)
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (Theodore Shapiro)
12 Years a Slave (Hans Zimmer)

LOS ANGELES FILM CRITICS ASSOCIATION
BEST MUSIC SCORE

*Inside Llewyn Davis (T-Bone Burnett)

Her (Arcade Fire and Owen Pallett)

SAN DIEGO FILM CRITICS SOCIETY
BEST SCORE

Broken Circle Breakdown (Bjorn Eriksson)
Gravity (Steven Price)
*Her (Arcade Fire)
Rush (Hans Zimmer)
12 Years a Slave (Hans Zimmer)

WASHINGTON DC AREA FILM CRITICS ASSOCIATION
BEST SCORE

Frozen (Christophe Beck)
Gravity (Steven Price)
Her (Arcade Fire)
Saving Mr. Banks (Thomas Newman)
*12 Years a Slave (Hans Zimmer)

BOSTON SOCIETY OF FILM CRITICS
BEST USE OF MUSIC IN A FILM

*Inside Llewyn Davis (T-Bone Burnett)

CHICAGO FILM CRITICS AWARDS
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

Blancanieves (Alfonso de Vilallonga)

Gravity (Steven Price)
*Her (Arcade Fire)
Spring Breakers (Cliff Martinez)
12 Years a Slave (Hans Zimmer)

DALLAS-FORT WORTH FILM CRITICS ASSOCIATION
BEST MUSICAL SCORE

*Gravity (Steven Price)

HOUSTON FILM CRITICS SOCIETY
BEST SCORE

*Gravity (Steven Price)
Her (Arcade Fire)
Man of Steel (Hans Zimmer)
Saving Mr. Banks (Thomas Newman)
12 Years a Slave (Hans Zimmer)

LAS VEGAS FILM CRITICS SOCIETY
BEST SCORE

*12 Years a Slave (Hans Zimmer)

LONDON CRITICS CIRCLE FILM AWARDS
TECHNICAL ACHIEVEMENT (FOR MUSIC)

*Inside Llewyn Davis (T-Bone Burnett)

CRITICS CHOICE AWARDS
BEST SCORE

*Gravity (Steven Price)
Her (Arcade Fire)
Saving Mr. Banks (Thomas Newman)
12 Years a Slave (Hans Zimmer)

SATURN AWARDS
BEST MUSIC

*Big Bad Wolves (Frank Ilfman)
The Book Thief (John Williams)
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (Howard Shore)
Iron Man 3 (Brian Tyler)
Now You See Me (Brian Tyler)
Oz The Great and Powerful (Danny Elfman)

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Quick Review: Saving Mr. Banks

Saving Mr. Banks
Music composed by Thomas Newman
Conducted by: Thomas Newman
Orchestrated by: J.A.C. Redford
Score Recorded at: Newman Scoring Stage - Fox Studios, Village Studios - Los Angeles
Album time: 46 minutes
Available on Walt Disney Records

This film was a great mix of the sweet spot I have for both Disney films and "classic sound" of Thomas Newman.  Making my Anticipated Scores of the Year list, I was intrigued by the thought of the film before seeing a trailer or hearing a note. 

The movie takes place in really two worlds - the world of P.L. Travers and Walt Disney trying to obtain the rights to her beloved Mary Poppins and the world of Mrs. Travers through flashbacks to her childhood.  The film's score also relies on two main themes - an emotional string-led theme [family theme for these purposes] and the light piano-led upbeat theme (reminiscent of Newman's second season theme to The Newsroom) [childhood theme for this review].  While the film features plenty of music by Richard and Robert Sherman, the score never quotes their music and doesn't blend the two musical identities. 

The album (and film) begin with a bare-bones piano rendition of Chim Chim Cher-ee (East Wind), performed by Randy Kerber on a piano owned by Walt Disney with the lyrics spoken by Colin Farrell.  Right from the beginning of Travers Goff we get the warm strings and light childhood theme with typical Newman flourishes and instrumentation.  Walking Bus is a bouncy track with nice emphasis on piano and woodwinds.  Uncle Albert features the emotional family theme, which feels like a warm hug for Newman fans.  Jollification is pure Newman, starting with pizzicato strings before adding more quirky instruments.  The Mouse is a short and somewhat melancholy track with strings and piano at the forefront.  Leisurely Stroll features the rolling strings, harp and woodwind solos.  Mr. Disney is an upbeat track showing off the American-ness of Disney (the Americana ends up sounding similar to Randy Newman's music for Toy Story).  

Celtic Soul is a beautiful arrangement of the family theme.  A Foul Fowl features more unique instruments and touching moments with piano and violin solo.  Mrs P.L. Travers is an introduction to the beginning fish-out-of-water story of Travers coming to Hollywood using trombone solo and jazz combo.  Laying Eggs follows a lullaby waltz style, but almost hints at something else darker.  Worn to Tissue uses a sparce piano over long held notes in the strings.  

Whiskey hangs between a minor key and major key, never quite pinning down the exact emotion.  Impertinent Man uses more pizzicato and interesting instruments and percussion.  To My Mother begins with a spare but beautiful version of the family theme but grows into something more dramatic with a ticking synth over rising scale patterns in the strings.  It is effective in one of the most dramatic parts of the film.  Westerly Weather features more of the family theme.  Spit Spot! uses more celeste and clarinet before turning to another waltz style.

Beverly Hills Hotel returns us to the 'Travers Goff' light childhood theme.  Penguins features more of sparce piano chords over long strings and synthesizers.  Pears has the strings rising and falling under the woodwind textures.  Maypole uses the pulsing synth with harps and guitars in a repeating ostinato.  Forgiveness begins with a sweet oboe solo before a harp joining in.  The track is calm and almost wave-like.  The Magic Kingdom features more of the Americana Disney motif heard earlier.  

Ginty My Love is really a full version of the childhood theme, expanded and with slightly different orchestration.  Saving Mr. Banks (End Title) serves as the full version of the family theme, the lush orchestral strings really showing off.  There is a bit of variation (child carnival-like) with the theme near the end.  Both these cues are stunning and definite highlights of the score.                         

Also included are source songs Ray Charles' One Mint Julep (as Mrs. Travers enters Los Angeles), and Dave Brubeck's jazz version of Heigh-Ho.  There are a few interjections of dialogue and snippets of Sherman Brothers tunes that can be easily skipped or ignored if you dislike that sort of thing.  Those are: Chim Chim Cher-ee (Responstible), Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, and Let’s Go Fly a Kite.         

In the Deluxe Edition, we get a second disc of full song demos of Sherman Brothers songs performed by the Sherman Brothers as well as original soundtrack selections performed by the film cast.  For an even better "bonus disc", turn to the Mary Poppins Expanded Soundtrack from 2004, which features segments from the recorded script conversations between Travers and the Shermans as heard in the film.  

Being a Thomas Newman album, the album is full of short tracks - short music cues that make up the mosaic of the score.  It has never bothered me, and makes it easier to listen to the whole thing straight through.  The score fits both the whimsy of the making of Mary Poppins, and the drama that surrounds Travers' childhood.  As usual, Newman is a master storyteller, finding the right mood and emotion for the film through the characters.  This score works well on both levels and is a highly recommended listening experience. 


Richard Sherman (l) with Newman (r)

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2014: Top Anticipated Scores

2014 has lots of scores I can't wait to listen to.  There are a good handfuls of reboots and sequels and new takes on old characters.  Here are the scores I am looking forward to the most.


The Music Behind the Screen's 
Top Anticipated Scores of 2014


1. THE HOBBIT: THERE AND BACK AGAIN (Howard Shore)
Finally, the last part of The Hobbit trilogy we didn't know we were waiting for.  Any fan of Shore's previous Middle-Earth works will be waiting in line to hear this as well.  

2. HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2 (John Powell)
Possibly my favorite score of 2010, I'm eagerly anticipating Powell's follow-up score to the hit animated film.

3. X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST (John Ottman)
Ottman returns with director Bryan Singer for the newest X-Men film.  If X2 is any indication of what this score could be like, I'd love to hear it.

4. THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL (Alexandre Desplat)
Desplat has provided some great moments in the quirky Wes Anderson movies Fantastic Mr Fox and Moonrise Kingdom.  While Desplat won't fill up the soundtrack, his contribution hopefully will be good.

5. JUPITER ASCENDING (Michael Giacchino)
Giacchino's score to this Wachowski film is unique in two ways - it was recorded in London instead of his usual Hollywood studio musicians, and it was written and scored before the movie was filmed.  I'm intrigued to hear the results.

OTHER SCORES TO HEAR IN 2014
Guardians of the Galaxy (Tyler Bates)
Monuments Men (Alexandre Desplat)
Godzilla (Alexandre Desplat)
Edge of Tomorrow (Ramin Djawadi)
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (Patrick Doyle)

Mr. Peabody & Sherman (Danny Elfman)
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (Michael Giacchino)
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 (James Newton Howard)
Maleficent (James Newton Howard)
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (Henry Jackman)
Noah (Clint Mansell)
A Million Ways to Die in the West (Joel McNeely)
The LEGO Movie (Mark Mothersbaugh)
Belle (Rachel Portman)
Rio 2 (John Powell)
Million Dollar Arm (AR Rahman)
Interstellar (Hans Zimmer)
Amazing Spider-Man 2 (Hans Zimmer, Pharrell Williams, et al)
Winter's Tale (Hans Zimmer)