Wednesday, July 21, 2010

F.M.M Has Gone To A Better Place . . . . .

Yes, that’s right! Film, Music & Media at BlogSpot is dead. Don’t worry though because F.M.M is doing just fine now with its own domain! So please make a note of this.

New reviews/articles/interviews will no longer be posted here!!!

Please bookmark!!! will continue to run and act as an archive for all the current reviews here. It just seems pointless to re-enter them into the new site.

So again, thank you to everyone and hopefully you’ll all follow the new F.M.M at!

This will be the last post on the BlogSpot site.


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Alan Wake by Petri Alanko (Review)

Alan Wake is a complex score to approach. When it first starts off it stays pretty low profile. While I was listening I actually started to get aggravated at the fact that all I was hearing was dark ominous tones with no structure. However, patience pays off as this is a very slow developing score. Once it does fully develop and take off this score becomes an amazing noir filled dreary weaving of motifs that transports your mind into a cloud of mystery.

While strings and piano make up most of the score Alanko does add some percussion into the mix to give it the action side. Electronics are utilized to great rhythmic effect. The strings in the score are quite breathtaking at times. There is true heartache felt within the score and that can easily turn into adrenaline pumping action, which can easily turn into intriguing mystery. So, this score does have many faces indeed.

The album itself is packed to the brim with a 75 minute running time, which can lead to some “track fatigue”. Since the score has a very distinct style and slow played out melodies it can feel like it drags a bit. It’s very hard to pick tracks apart from the pack based off sound, but one has to remember this is a video game score. No matter how close the line between film scoring and game scoring is becoming one can’t forget how different of an approach game scoring is.

You will get the occasional long drawn out tracks, but the album itself does a nice job of giving the listener some sort of progression. I’ve heard game score releases that were just loops and loops, which thankfully this is not. Alan Wake is a very cinematic game so the score itself does become a journey in itself. I recommend the score. It’s definitely above what most video games scores are. Towards the end the score transcends into beauty with lush orchestrations. Is this score worth it? Absolutely. It’s a very unique experience that will take a little patience, but in the end the journey is a rewarding one.

Dinner For Schmucks by Theodore Shapiro (Review)

Comedy scoring. It’s something that can make me smile or cringe. It’s such a hard thing to achieve, but luckily Theodore Shapiro does it superbly. Dinner For Schmucks is a rare heartfelt comedic score with a soul and it truly will captivate you. Since Shapiro is from Washington, DC I feel like he’s my local composer. I too am from the DC area so in a way I feel like I’m seeing my home team play when he’s up to score.

It’s not fair to call Shapiro a comedy composer, but that’s where his specialty lies. If you’ve heard his score to Tropic Thunder then you’re aware of his awesome Hans Zimmer impersonation and how capable he is of action scoring (even though it was done for comedic effect). If you’ve seen Marley & Me you know he’s capable of making you cry as well.

What’s different about Shapiro? Well, this score embodies what makes him stand out. This score is so uniquely heartfelt and emotional yet still manages to be a comedy score. Imagine taking all the best quirky elements of John Powell’s score to Rat Race, making the offbeat element a little less aggressive and then adding a huge “human” element to it. Don’t get me wrong, there is a good deal of “quirk” to this score yet it’s never over the top, and it’s done with such class that it never feels beneath you.

The thing is that good comedy comes from the script. If the the script is well written and the actors successfully execute the script with their timing then comedy is already born. Now, a composer’s job differs a bit pending whether or not the film is satire, character based or slapstick. Yes, you can have a combination of all three of those, but Dinner For Schmucks is definitely a character based comedy.

So what this score effectively does is bring the characters to life. The score doesn’t try to be funny. The score doesn’t have any punchlines. You won’t laugh at this score. The score has a “waltzy” structure to it and you feel the characters within it. “Mouse World” is a fantastic track utilizing some vocals. Tracks like “Barry’s Photos” and “Don’t Stop Asking” contain that central motif and the true heart of the score. When the score gets goofy it does get goofy. I felt a little bit of “pretending to be a spy” element. “Brain Control” has a bit of a Morricone western vibe to it. However, to me the essence of the score is to project a misunderstood loneliness in the Barry character. I feel like”Mouse World” is the track that sealed the deal for me. It allows us into Barry’s misunderstood world.

Shapiro has done something special here. At least for me. It was a score I could truly feel, and in the end those are the ones you remember. Something that can project your emotions and bring them out. The most notable thing for me was that I felt the characters within the score, and that’s pretty amazing. I really urge you to give it a listen, and I hope Shapiro does more work like this in the future.

Countdown To Zero by Peter Golub (Review)

Peter Golub is a composer whose made a name for himself by doing lower profile films. He’s not exactly a household name, but he’s been composing films since the late 90’s. Highlights include The Laramie Project, American Gun, Frozen River and probably the more known The Great Debaters directed by Denzel Washington. For that score he co-composed with the great James Newton Howard.

Countdown To Zero is a documentary about the nuclear arms race and pretty much looking at how at any moment our entire existence could be ended by the amount of nuclear weapons currently existing in the world. Looking at that subject from a storytelling aspect I can only imagine how difficult it could be to score something like this. I’ve talked briefly with another composer about composing documentaries and he pretty much told me he approached it just like it was a fictional film. He had main characters with goals and he treated it as such. However I feel a documentary of this kind of subject isn’t really aimed at telling a story, but more or less shining a light on information.

So, I guess with that in mind the score for Countdown To Zero is as expected. The melodies are subtle and they carry the tone of the film effectively. They don’t overpower and they don’t stand out for a good reason. Documentary scoring isn’t really a place for a composer to go nuts with lush and grand orchestrations. The score is an electronic based weaving of simple melodies that function as underscore. With that being said there isn’t that much emotion that is evoked from this score, and I truly believe the subject matter doesn’t lend itself to it. While it’s obvious Golub is scoring information and not emotion I do kind of wish the tracks had some emotional structure to them.

Through the listening experience you feel a bit distanced from the score. I think the most emotion gets evoked through the last 2 tracks. So, in the end the experience for me doesn’t truly make me feel like I experienced anything at all. The last track is definitely the highlight because I actually felt something while listening to it. I just feel the entire score overall is more informational than emotional and in the end that just doesn’t resonate with me as an audience. It never tells you how to feel, but I just don’t think it has its feet placed firmly enough on the ground.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Inception by Hans Zimmer (Review)

As I opened my CD and popped it into my Mac I was completely unaware as to what to expect from Inception. I naturally look forward to every Zimmer score since it’s his music that I grew up on and it’s his music that made me want to be a filmmaker. So, I hit play on iTunes, took a deep breath and closed my eyes.

I really don’t know how to describe what I experienced in those next 50 minutes, but I can say that it left such an emotional impact on me that I was still shaking after it finished. The score swells and boils and builds to an eruption that washes over you like a wave. The wave then pulls back and then washes over you again and again. The score feels uniquely personal especially by being able to isolate and pick out the solo instrumentation. While this is a very electronic heavy score it never feels synthetic and is organic in every sense of the word.

Emotionally it can be aggressive and at times extremely harsh, but it has a gentle side of incredible beauty. What Zimmer does best is that every cue builds like a separate story on its own. Almost like a writer writing a screenplay. You could easily apply the three-act story structure to every cue in this score. The cues each have an introduction, building, climax and then resolution. It’s something I’ve always admired about his score writing and here with Inception it’s extremely evident.

Most of the score stays extremely melodic. Exceptions would be tracks like “Old Souls” and “Waiting For A Train”, which still have identifiable melodies but act more like dreamlike transition periods. “Mombasa” is an intense assault on the senses that will get your heart racing and probably leave you gasping for air. The track actually reminded me of “Fire” from Angels & Demons.

The album finishes with “Time”, which is such an extraordinarily beautiful track that reintroduces the central theme we heard in the first track. If I had to pick one track that defined this score and its composer it would probably be “Time”. This is Zimmer stripped down to the bone. It builds for 3.5 minutes then comes to its climax. It then dies down to strings and piano. Soon the strings disappear and we are left with a piano that plays the extremely simple theme. A haunting echo of what we just experienced. The feeling you have when it’s all over is comparable to waking up in a cold sweat after an incredibly intense and vivid dream you just had.

I can’t say yet if this is the best thing Hans Zimmer has done, but it very well may be. I’ve always maintained that The Thin Red Line was his masterpiece, but after experiencing Inception and the rush of emotions I felt with it I can honestly say this may be my new #1 in the book of Zimmer. As Christopher Nolan said in the liner notes of the CD “That’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever heard.”

Knight And Day by John Powell (Review)

John Powell’s style is unmistakable. When I heard he signed on for Knight And Day I immediately got excited. It’s a genre that he’s accustomed to. If you recall Mr. & Mrs. Smith you’ll remember the tango infused score he did for that film.

With Knight And Day he approaches it with mix of French and hispanic influences. It has a “cool” element to it and it’s definitely enhanced by electronics. The score in the film was unfortunately mixed incredibly low in my opinion. Here on CD though the score truly shines.

The most interesting part is the incorporation of Mexican guitarists Rodrigo y Gabriela. Easily the most talented guitarists working today. Now, when I say this I am being completely honest. When I got their debut album 4 years ago the first thing I said was “Man, I wish I could introduce these two to John Powell”. Their styles were extremely similar, and lo and behold. John Powell having them as featured performers on his score.

The music is pretty standard when you look at it as a John Powell score. This is probably a score he could compose in his sleep, and I say that in the most flattering way possible. Percussive action scores are Powell’s speciality and this is a truly fun percussive action score. The standout track here is definitely “Bull Run” which has Powell written all over it.

Knight And Day is a pretty standard movie with nothing that makes it stand out except for Powell’s score. While John Powell doesn’t really give us anything new here he does give us an extremely entertaining summer action score in the best way he can. The incorporation of Rodrigo y Gabriela only adds to the greatness.

Prince Of Persia: The Forgotten Sands by Steve Jablonsky & Penka Kouneva (Review)

Prince Of Persia: The Sands Of Time opened earlier this summer and featured an immensly entertaining score from Harry Gregson-Williams. I was surprised to find out that Steve Jablonsky would be doing the next installment in the video game series titled Prince Of Persia: The Forgotten Sands.

Now, Steve Jablonsky’s style is widely known and his video game work is as well. With Prince Of Persia Jablonsky gives us a fantastic epic score. Don’t expect anything similar to what Harry did with the film. While both scores have cultural influences this score definitely sounds like Jablonsky. It’s really interesting to listen to them one after the other because you get to experience two different takes on similar source material.

Jablonsky shared scoring duties with Penka Kouneva who has been Jablonsky’s orchestrator for quite some time. In fact she’s quite a well known orchestrator working on films like Transformers, Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World’s End, and Angels & Demons.

The score is lush and thematic and brings a grand feel to the game. While it can get one dimensional at times it still manages to maintain your interest in the story and within the music.

The Sorcerer's Apprentice by Trevor Rabin (Review)

Trevor Rabin’s scores are unmistakable and are incredibly fun. With The Sorcerer’s Apprentice I honestly believe Rabin has delivered his best score in quite some time. With Jerry Bruckheimer producing and John Turteltaub directing I’m sure he felt right at home.

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice lets Rabin flex his action muscles like we haven’t heard in a while. He is able to balance some light fun cues with some incredibly grand and intense ones. The album opens with an appropriate homage to the Dukas piece from Fantasia and then a pretty big homage to Hans Zimmer. I don’t know exactly why Jack Sparrow’s theme is blatantly in the first track, but it is and I loved it. Rabin’s familiar arrangements flourish with stunning thematic material and get backed with a chorus on occasion. The main theme echoes in almost every cue giving this score its identity. Percussion, riffing guitars and pulsing strings keep the adrenaline level high. Yes, there were moments in this score that got the hairs on the back of my neck standing on end, which I didn’t expect. “The Urn” and “Car Chase” are two standout cues that bleed Trevor Rabin and are incredible.

Think what you want about the movie and all, but the score itself is a true delight and will please Rabin fans immensely. Toss this one up with Armageddon as one of his most memorable action scores. Like Armageddon it is heavy on the action cues with an epic quality, but has a fair amount of emotion laced into it. I think you’ll be surprised as to how invested you will become with this score as you listen through it.

One thing that I notice about the film composers I love is how they strive in simplicity, and Trevor Rabin is no exception. The melodies and tunes are simple and if that composer is talented then those simple tunes will have an enormous emotional effect. The score will also take the film it’s accompanying and make it soar.

Friday, July 9, 2010

The 62nd Annual Emmy Nominations: Score Categories (Plus Commentary)

Outstanding Music Composition For A Series (Original Dramatic Score)

Batman: The Brave And The Bold • Mayhem Of The Music Meister • Cartoon Network • Warner Bros. Animation

Music By: Michael McCuistion, Lolita Ritmanis & Kristopher Carter; Lyrics By: Michael Jelenic & James Tucker

FlashForward • No More Good Days • ABC • ABC Studios

Music By: Ramin Djawadi

Lost • The End • ABC • Grass Skirts Productions, LLC in association with ABC Network and Studios

Music By: Michael Giacchino

Psych • Mr. Yin Presents • USA • Universal Cable Productions in association with Tagline Pictures

Music By: Adam Cohen & John Robert Wood

24 • 3:00 PM - 4:00 PM • FOX • Imagine Television and 20th Century Fox TV in association w/Teakwood Lane Productions

Music By: Sean P. Callery

Outstanding Music Composition For A Miniseries, Movie Or A Special (Original Dramatic Score)

Blessed Is The Match • PBS • Katahdin Productions and Balcony Releasing Presents

Music By: Todd Boekelheide

Georgia O'Keeffe • Lifetime • Sony Pictures Television for Lifetime Television

Music By: Jeff Beal

The Pacific • Part Ten • HBO • Playtone and Dreamworks in association with HBO Miniseries

Music By: Blake Neely, Geoff Zanelli & Hans Zimmer

Temple Grandin • HBO • A Ruby Films, Gerson Saines Production in association with HBO Films

Music By: Alex Wurman

When Love Is Not Enough: The Lois Wilson Story (Hallmark Hall Of Fame Presentation) • CBS • Hallmark Hall of Fame Productions, Inc. in association with E1 Entertainment

Music By: Lawrence Shragge

You Don't Know Jack • HBO • Bee Holder, Cine Mosaic and Levinson/Fontana Productions in association with HBO Films

Music By: Marcelo Zarvos

I'm really happy to see the terrific trio nominated for the excellent score to The Pacific as well as Giacchino's brilliant finale to Lost. Those are my two picks to win in the music categories. I'm also extremely happy to see Ramin Djawadi and Marcelo Zarvos getting some recognition for their excellent work. Two favorites of mine.

Other highlights in the nominations list? Lost is back, baby and is nominated for Best Drama. Matthew Fox, Terry O'Quinn and Michael Emerson all got nominated in the acting categories as well, which is amazing. Family Guy was nominated for best song with "That Down Syndrome Girl", which to me is hilarious. However, it didn't get nominated in anything else which was dissapointing because this season it has some of the series' best highlights. South Park garnered its 10th nomination for best Animated Series. That's 10/14 seasons being nominated. Not bad. The best surprise to me though is The Tonight Show With Conan O'Brien was nominated in the Best Variety Show category. If I were Conan I'd have a smile from ear to ear right now as the Iron Giant continues to steamroll forward and is just showing the world what a bunch of brainless douches run NBC. In fact, this is even a bigger blow to NBC and Leno since this is not Conan giving the middle finger, it's the entire television Academy. What's even better? NBC is broadcasting the Emmy's, which means if he wins and takes the stage it may go down as one of the best moments in TV history.

Looking forward to this telecast immensely. Best and most competitive nominations I've seen in a while.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Gangster's Paradise: Jerusalema by Alan Lazar (Review)

Jerusalema (or the Americanized title Gangster’s Paradise) is a very familiar story about youth growing up in the slums and finding a life of crime as a way to rise to the top. It’s Goodfellas mixed with City Of God. The score was done by South African native Alan Lazar whose score is a simple tapestry of cultural flavors that pulse life into the story.

Percussion makes up the majority of the score and its structure. Almost all the cues are percussion based. Usually percussion is associated with aggression and action based cues, but here it’s not the case. Lazar successfully creates arrangements that cover a wide array of emotions beyond typical rhythmic thumping.

There is some beauty that emerges from this score and emotion flows from the solo instruments and vocals used, however most of the immediate impact is lost due to the incredibly short cue times. Most of the tracks fall between the 1 and 2 minute range so the score never has a chance to fully take off. The score is worth a venture and is a small undiscovered treat. It lacks thematic structure and any lasting impact, but makes up for it with the overall character and identity of the score.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

100 Greatest Film Themes: Take 2 (Review)

Silva Screen is set to release their second installment in their 100 Greatest Film Themes series. The release includes 6 discs of some of the best film themes out there. The discs are organized in chronological order by year of release of the themes.

Now, when it comes to these compilation sets I’m not a fan honestly. To me these sets are for the casual film fans or the extremely casual score fans. The way I look at these kinds of sets is pretty much the same as if they released a DVD of the best action scenes, or romantic scenes, etc. Taking a theme out of context of its score just doesn’t appeal to me, but then again some people love to have them all in one place. If you’re one of those people then this set is a great place to start. You’d be better off listening to these respective scores in their entirety, but I can’t deny that it’s a great compilation.