Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Extraordinary Measures by Andrea Guerra (Review)

Extraordinary Measures is a film that looks like it should be a Saturday night movie on the Hallmark Channel. Yet somehow it stars Brendan Fraser and Harrison Ford. Italian born composer Andrea Guerra did the score. I was first introduced to his work with some of the amazing stuff he composed for Hotel Rwanda alongside Rupert Gregson-Williams.

With Extraordinary Measures Guerra takes a non intrusive approach. Some of the music borders saccharine and cliche, but there are a few tracks that call back to that style I heard and loved in Hotel Rwanda. This is a piano and strings score that relies on the arrangements. He utilizes electronics occasionally more for percussion and to add some tension and conflict to the sound. Tracks like “Her Eyes”, “The Lake”, “Breakdown” and “On The Road” shine through though because they find a way to step apart from the formulaic material of the film.

The sugar coated part of the score is melodramatic and just rushes in forced emotions. Do not get put off by the first track, which is incredibly cheesy. There is heart and real emotion in this score. It just requires a little digging to get the sweet candy shell off. This score is an honest attempt at lightweight emotional scoring for a PG family drama. The music just never excels, and while there are some genuine cues of real emotion there is also some melodramatic stuff we have to cut through to get to it. Guerra is another recent foreign composer who is starting to get more work in Hollywood and I can't wait to hear more from him.

Armored by John Murphy (Review)

John Murphy is a British composer whose known for his extremely modern scoring techniques. He loves to infuse rock and orchestra to create these synthesized soundscapes. His work on Danny Boyle’s films are the highlights of his work. I absolutely loved his score to Sunshine, it was such a huge part of the film.

Now, Murphy is known for doing some “lesser” quality films too like Basic Instinct 2 and The Last House On The Left. His style was a perfect fit for Armored I must say even if the film itself was a total misfire. The score does stand on its own and those who like Murphy’s style should get good milage out of his work here.

I feel like the first and last tracks (which contain the main theme) embody Murphy and all of his style. I love the synth loop with the strings. As the score progresses though we lose the momentum of that first track. The theme gets revisited in a few tracks like “Warehouse”, but it’s hard to pick out any memorable tracks that really connect. That’s what I look for. I look for music that connects to me emotionally, and it can be any sort of emotion. The problem here is that most of the score here has no depth beyond the surface. As an exercise in style it gets a thumbs up because it’s definitely a decent listen and John Murphy fans should thoroughly enjoy it. All in all I wasn't expecting much here but was actually surprised and delighted by what I found.

Legion by John Frizzell (Review)

Let me start off by saying that Legion was one of the worst movies I’ve seen in recent years. However, I have found many great scores in quite awful films. Legion is not this case. John Frizzell has never composed anything that has ever connected with me. Wait, I take that back. I actually liked the score to Dante’s Peak, but I credit James Newton Howard’s writing on that since the theme is amazing. Frizzell’s music is usually as formulaic as the movies he composes, which aren’t the best projects to begin with. Just to name a few films he’s done: Whiteout, The Reaping, First Born, Primeval, Stay Alive, Cradle 2 The Grave, Ghost Ship, Thir13en Ghosts, Alien Resurrection, I Still Know What You Did Last Summer.

Legion is terrible material to be given as a composer. There is only so much you can do with one of the worst scripts to hit the market since Ultraviolet, but at least Klaus Badelt managed to make it stylish. Here we get nothing out of the ordinary. Pulsing strings and overbearing synth modified vocals at inappropriate times. Some of the structures actually lead me to believe that The Dark Knight may have been used as a temp track, but that’s just my speculation.

The score never stands on its own. I can barely tell you what the main theme is. There are a couple attempts at drawing out some emotion and it’s of course a piano melody. The one glimmer of light I found in the score is the track “Die Like One Of Them”. You can feel the embodiment of thematic structure that you wish somehow found its way into the rest of the score. Then again this is the score to Legion; a film starring Paul Bettany as a rogue angel protecting a trailer trash baby from God's army at a gas station in the desert.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

A Sincere Prospect Now Available On!

In my last semester of school I made a short film. The script is a very personal one and incorporates a lot of themes that I have experienced in my life. I wanted it to be the last thing I made in school because it was sort of a culmination of everything I made beforehand. I was fortunate to have my own World Premiere at the prestigious AFI Silver Theatre in August, 2009. The film is now available for sale or rental on’s Video On Demand service.

Please support the film and take in all of its strengths and weaknesses. Would love to hear any feedback anyone has and thank you in advance if you do decide to purchase it.

On a related note the film features an original score by Daniel Laufer who also wrote an original song for the movie. With film music being a huge part of my life as a person and a filmmaker I found communicating with Daniel the easiest part of the filmmaking process. There was absolutely no guesswork and everything he sent me struck oil the very first time.

Written, Produced & Directed By: Kaya Savas

Starring: Brad Bradley, Mark Spilman, John Wheeler & Christine Carter

Music By: Daniel Laufer

Product Link:

You can download Daniel’s score for free here:

The Hurt Locker by Marco Beltrami & Buck Sanders (Review)

I missed The Hurt Locker in theaters, but ended up buying it on Blu-ray just based off the word of mouth. The film is quite a masterfully crafted piece of tension. However, what is probably the most unnoticed element to that tension that goes way beyond the direction and editing is Marco Beltrami & Buck Sanders’ score.

When Marco Beltrami surfaced as one of Hollywood’s “go to” composers I was never really impressed with his work. To me it just seemed like he would churn out stock scores that followed genre formulas. The first score of his that made me eat my words was his brilliant work for The Three Burials Of Melquiades Estrada. I told myself that if he would compose stuff of this calibre more often I’d be a Beltrami fan. He then went ahead and composed 3:10 To Yuma and ended up getting an Oscar nomination.

Hans is the father of pulling the blanket off of ghost writers. Composers like John Powell, Harry Gregson-Williams, James Dooley and many more have him to credit for their opportunities in this industry. Buck Sanders is to Marco Beltrami as Lorne Balfe is to Hans Zimmer right now. He started doing additional music and producing for Beltrami and now he has an Oscar nomination to his name.

The score itself is a hard stand alone listen. It’s mostly ambience with a slight identifiable structure. The two incorporate synths and some ethnic instruments to create atmosphere and setting, but it’s really hard to get attached to this score without seeing the film. The main theme carries this score. It’s incredibly dreary and pessimistic. It’s most notable in the track “The Way I Am”. That track embodies what I love about the score in that it is incredibly personal towards the characters. This isn’t a “war score” or an “action score”. It’s a nerve wracking journey that speaks uneasiness. The track “There Will Be Bombs” is an homage to Jonny Greenwood’s score to There Will Be Blood. Those who have seen the movie or know the score will get the sound similarities.

All in all if you told me that this score was composed by the same duo who did Max Payne then I probably wouldn’t believe you. However, that is the truth and while the score has a tough time standing on its own it is incredibly effective for the film it was composed for.