Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Angels & Demons by Hans Zimmer (Review)

Well, here it is. Hans' long awaited follow up to his amazing score to The Da Vinci Code. Now, The Da Vinci Code was a flawed film adaptation but it wasn't all bad. I can honestly say it would have been a terrible bore without Hans' score. The motifs carrying through that lead up to the wonderful CheValiers De Sangreal segment were breathtaking. It had a very classic feel in a modern way.

Hans takes the themes and atmospheres from The Da Vinci Code and turns them on their side a bit for Angels & Demons. We still have this angelical religious atmosphere but you can feel the darkness biting on its heels every step of the way. Some of the tracks are incredibly intense. The choral arrangements are breathtaking and the score has a pulsing life to it. There are some percussion segments that felt uncharacteristic of Hans and more along the lines of Harry Gregson-Williams, but they keep the pace moving. Zimmer fans will find some arrangements similar to his score for Hannibal, which I guess not coincidently was a score to a film that took place in Florence.

Hans has a few soloists featured on the score. Most notably is Joshua Bell on the violin, which I'm sure was recommended by James Newton Howard after he used him for Defiance. Longtime collaborators Heitor Pereira is the featured guitarist and Martin Tillman on the cello. Each of them providing personal performances to their instruments as they accent Hans' music.

The album finishes off with a variation on the popular CheValiers piece that closed The Da Vinci Code. You can also get a bonus non-album track titled "H20" by going to angelsanddemons.com/soundtrack. You have to sign up for updates, but once you do you immediately get the bonus track. Overall, this is a great score by Hans. It doesn't feel like a rehash of The Da Vinci Code, which I think some people were expecting. It's a great continuation on the themes, moods and atmospheres he built with the first score. It's definitely more aggressive and bleeds of the Zimmer style. Bravo.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Star Trek by Michael Giacchino (Review)

J.J. Abrams and Michael Giacchino continue their longtime collaboration and Giacchino takes on one helluva task with scoring Star Trek. Let me state that I am not nor have ever been a Star Trek fan. I have not seen any prior films or show in the series, but I am fully aware of the music that Alexander Courage, James Horner and the great Jerry Goldsmith have all contributed to this legacy at one time or another.

Giacchino tosses everything out the window and provides his own take. His theme is nothing grand but it's a motif used a lot in the film and works extremely well. As you know gone are the days of the "theme". Hans' style has caught on and almost every franchise reboot is completely void of any heroic thematic material minus Bryan Singer's Superman, which holds onto John Williams' theme for dear life. Star Trek is full Giacchino style and any fan of his will pick up on all the great easter eggs. The overall sound of the score can be summed up by saying that it's Cloverfield toned down and combined with Medal Of Honor. In fact there are pretty much some exact copy and paste moments in the score from his Medal Of Honor scores, which I love. He uses a chorus to enhance the epic feel of it and let me tell you that it will get the hairs to stand up on the back of your neck. In the beginning there is a scene, which J.J. Abrams loves to do with Giacchino. He'll let the sound drown out and let the score take center stage. I like to call these "Sad Giacchino Moments" because it's his tear jerker music. People who watch LOST and have seen M:I:3 will know what I'm talking about.

The only real complaint I have here is the outrageously short release this score got. It's only 44 min when the complete score was 100 min. So we barely get half of the music represented on this release, which is a crying shame. At least we got something, right? Anyway, the score is a blast and I enjoyed it immensely. Giacchino pays homage to Alexander Courage by using his theme in the end credits, which is a hearty 9-minute suite. J.J. Abrams and Giacchino continue to be one of the top Director/Composer teams in the business. His score for Star Trek is as grand as can be without getting bogged down with campy thematic material. Great job, Giacchino!

X-Men Origins: Wolverine by Harry Gregson-Williams (Review)

So, I was looking forward to this movie for one major reason. That reason was Harry Gregson-Williams. His last score release was nearly 1 year ago with Prince Caspian, which was an amazing score. John Powell was the last composer to leave his mark on this franchise, and when I heard Harry was taking the helm I got super excited.

I'll stop dancing around and get right to the point. This score is okay. It has it's moments and plenty of Harry's signatures layered throughout. He carries some percussion over from Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare and some vocals that remind me of Kingdom Of Heaven. It's a symphonic score layered with his signature electronics. I think the biggest thing I was disappointed about was that the score never really took off. It reaches a level and pretty much stays at it during the entire film. Surprisingly the film also lacks any major thematic or melodic material. There isn't a tune in the score that you can put your finger on and associate it to this score. So in that sense this score is floating around without a real identity. The best stuff here in my opinion is the music for Kayla, who is Wolverine's love interest who ends up getting killed. There are hints at some touching music there, but again the story leaves no room for it to blossom.

I can't really blame Harry for this one because honestly the movie was just plain awful. There wasn't anything in the film worth remembering and the writing is laughably bad. Everything seems rushed and the story is an utter mess. Harry composed this score knowing well that they would probably continue the franchise, but most likely with a different director and a different composer. In the end there a few pieces that are fun to listen to, but as a huge Gregson-Williams fan it didn't meet my expectations. The score never rises to stand on its own and it's lost within the picture. Looking forward to his score for The Taking Of Pelham 123, because when Harry and Tony Scott team up it never disappoints. Wolverine is a standard score for a less than stellar movie. The film was lucky enough to get this much effort out of Harry.