Randy Newman is back with Pixar for the first time since composing the score for Toy Story 3 back in 2010, which is great since he composed the score for the original film, Monsters, Inc. His score for that film had a jazz-oriented main theme that worked really well for it, and I was hoping for more of the same for Monsters University. While we definitely get “more of the same” here, it’s unfortunately not the “same” that I was hoping for.
The first half of this album or so fails to impress me at all. It sounds like nothing more than another Randy Newman score, which, unfortunately, isn’t much of a compliment. Don’t get me wrong – the sound of Randy Newman’s music very much IS Pixar, but a little variation would have been nice, or at least some more extensive reference to the original film’s score. We certainly do get some reference to the original score in the track “Field Trip,” where we hear the theme from “Enter the Heroes” as well as the chase theme from the first film, which can be heard in the Monsters, Inc. track “Mike’s In Trouble.” Anyways, I digress. I actually do have some good things to say about this score.
Newman did a good job of composing the Monsters University alma mater, which, in its slower instrumental form (as heard in “Goodbyes”), is slightly reminiscent of this theme from John Williams’ score to Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade – in a good way! Both themes have the same warmth to them. Also, despite my complaints regarding the lack of inclusion of themes from the original score, the quotes that were used were used well, bringing a smile to my face as soon as I heard them. Newman also utilizes what sounds like a marching band (specifically a drum line) to really bring the fact that this takes place at a college into focus, and it works wonderfully. As mentioned before, Newman’s music IS Pixar, or, at least, classic Pixar, so watching the film with his score playing in the background was like stepping back into my childhood. Also of note is the track titled “Roar,” credited to Axwell & Sebastian Ingrosso, which is a fun dance tune.
Randy Newman isn’t exactly the most “original” composer out there, as evidenced by the fact that much of this music sounds like his previous work; I can hear bits of Toy Story in “First Day at MU” and bits of A Bug’s Life (my review) in “Rise and Shine,” with several other similar instances popping up here and there. However, all of that is completely, perfectly okay compared to the opening of “Did You Do This?,” when he completely and blatantly rips off his own theme to A Bug’s Life. Make sure you click on both of those links because I want you to be as angry about it as I was when I first heard it…I probably shouldn’t have been driving at the time. Not even Hans Zimmer has been that blatant about borrowing from his previous work! …it frustrates me.
Maybe I’m being overly critical for something like this. Like I said, Newman’s score does a great job of bringing familiarity to the world presented in Monsters University, and despite that one HUGE problem and the score’s general tendency to be pretty forgettable, it’s a decent score overall. I have my qualms with it, but it serves its purpose just fine for the average listener and in the context of the film.
Rating: 3 (out of 5)
1. “Main Title” 0:52
2. “Young Michael” 3:58
3. “First Day at MU” 4:32
4. “Dean Hardscrabble” 3:19
5. “Sulley” 0:48
6. “Scare Pig” 2:00
7. “Wasted Potential” 1:16
8. “Oozma Kappa” 3:16
9. “Stinging Glow Urchin” 2:34
10. “Field Trip” 3:57
11. “Rise and Shine” 3:00
12. “The Library” 3:44
13. “Roar” (performed by Axwell & Sebastian Ingrosso) 2:55
14. “The Scare Games” 6:00
15. “Did You Do This?” 2:00
16. “Human World” 2:07
17. “The Big Scare” 3:02
18. “Goodbyes” 3:11
19. “Mike and Sulley” 1:12
20. “Monsters University” 1:34
Total Length: app. 56 min.
iTunes Album Link
P.S. – Read my review of this film here!
1 Comment | tags: a bug's life suite, axwell, axwell & sebastian ingrosso, axwell and sebastian ingrosso, Disney, disney pixar, Disney/Pixar, enter the heroes, field trip, first day at mu, Hans Zimmer, inc., Indiana Jones, indiana jones and the last crusade, John Williams, monsters, monsters incorporated, monsters university, Pixar, Randy Newman, rise and shine, roar, sebastian ingrosso, the last crusade, Toy Story, Toy Story 3 | posted in 3, Entertainment, Film, Movies, Music, Scores, Soundtrack Reviews
2012 was a good year for movies. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to see everything – films like Moonrise Kingdom, The Master, Argo, Les Misérables, Django Unchained, etc. are all films released in 2012 that I haven’t seen yet – but I DID manage to see quite a few. Here is my personal list of the best films of 2012 (click on the titles to view my full review):
10. Wreck-It Ralph
This was another film that I had been looking forward to for months on end. I’m not as into video games as some other people, but watching this film was still like revisiting my childhood. The heart of this movie is in the right place, with the main message being “accept who you are because you’re a wonderful person just as you are.” A talented voice cast, a sweet story, candy puns out the wazoo, and a fun score by Henry Jackman make this film everything I wanted it to be…and the animated short shown before the film, Paperman, was just as fantastic.
9. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
I was late to the whole “Lord of the Rings/J. R. R. Tolkien” party, having only seen Peter Jackson’s film trilogy in the past two years, but I was keen to read The Hobbit and see the movie as soon as I possibly could. While I was disappointed on my first viewing, mainly due to the cartoony special effects that resulted from the higher frame rate (48fps HFR), this film was a faithful adaptation to Tolkien’s original novel, and the return of familiar faces such as Ian McKellen as Gandalf and Andy Serkis as Gollum is refreshing. The real highlight of the film, though, aside from Howard Shore’s beautiful score, is Martin Freeman, who plays the perfect Bilbo Baggins. While some may find the run time to feel a little stretched, I found it to be justified by the attention to detail to the original novel.
8. The Hunger Games
I read Suzanne Collins’ acclaimed Hunger Games trilogy just a few weeks before I saw the film, and I was hooked from the get-go. The film did a wonderful job of adapting the novel, perfectly capturing the dystopian society introduced in Collins’ literary world. Jennifer Lawrence did a particularly outstanding job as Katniss, and the scenes added by the filmmakers to show the control that the Capitol has over the people of Panem and over the Hunger Games do nothing but add to the story in a great way.
Robert Zemeckis, director of Back to the Future and Who Framed Roger Rabbit, released his first live action film in more than a decade this year. Flight was something I had anticipated for months, and it quite lived up to what I had in mind for it. Denzel Washington gives a powerful performance as a pilot struggling with drug and alcohol addictions, and the film explores topics such as love, recovery, lies, and responsibility. Zemeckis proves that he still has what it takes to direct a top-notch film that focuses on character and story just as much as it does on visual effects.
6. Life of Pi
This is a film that I sort of went to see just on a whim, and I’m glad I did. With gorgeous visuals that looked fantastic in 3D (something I don’t say often), Life of Pi excels the most in its storytelling. While the ambiguity of the ending may not appeal to some people, I found the film to be a thoughtful exploration of faith and of religion in general, leading me to look at my own relationship with God. It sort of melds the biblical Book of Job with Robert Zemeckis’ 2000 film Cast Away, and it definitely sparked my interest in reading the book it was based on.
In anticipation of this film, I first watched Daniel Craig’s Casino Royale, which was entertaining in its more muted kind of way, and Quantum of Solace, which was pretty disappointing. I still had high hopes for Skyfall, though, and it exceeded every expectation I had set for it. The action was fun, Javier Bardem as the villain sent chills up my spine (and also brought a couple of laughs), and Daniel Craig and Judi Dench both gave outstanding performances in their respective roles. The length wasn’t an issue to me because I was too caught up in the entertainment of the film to care.
Does Spielberg make bad films? I’d answer that with a “no” (I have an argument in favor of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull). With 2011’s War Horse and his newest film, Lincoln, he has taken a step back from the typical sci-fi/action/fantasy films he is known for and has focused more on period dramas – both of which were fantastic. If Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln doesn’t win the Academy Award for Best Actor, I won’t know what to think. Sally Field and Tommy Lee Jones also deliver standout performances in a film that is just as engrossing and fascinating in its exploration of politics as a good action film is in its exploration of shooting and blowing things up. Spielberg is a true master.
3. The Dark Knight Rises
Christopher Nolan set the bar high with 2008’s The Dark Knight, and this conclusion to the acclaimed trilogy did not disappoint. Tom Hardy as Bane was sinister and terrifying, Anne Hathaway and Joseph Gordon-Levitt were both welcome new presences, and the return of the familiar faces – i.e. Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Gary Oldman – was satisfying and well-done. The Dark Knight Rises perfectly concluded Nolan’s trilogy.
2. The Avengers
There are so many ways that this film could have gone wrong. I mean, think about it – they took four characters from four separate films and brought them together into one super-film. In the hands of a less-capable director, it could have easily been one of the worst movies of the year, but with Joss Whedon at the helm, it ended up being one of the best. Smart dialogue with exciting action and a great story, The Avengers proved that an ensemble cast like this could work just as well in a film as it does on television.
Well-choreographed action sequences meet a smart script in this film starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis. As a time travel movie, it explores the consequences of our actions and the true cause of evil, and it spends just as much time in contemplation as it does making you sit on the edge of your seat.
Well, there you have it. My top ten films of 2012. What were your favorites of 2012?
7 Comments | tags: 3D, 48fps, Academy Awards, andy serkis, anne hathaway, Back to the Future, bane, bilbo, bilbo baggins, book of job, bruce willis, BTTF, casino royale, cast away, christian bale, Christopher Nolan, daniel craig, daniel day-lewis, denzel washington, flight, gandalf, gandalf the grey, gary oldman, gollum, henry jackman, hfr, Howard Shore, Hunger Games, ian mckellen, Indiana Jones, indiana jones and the kingdom of the crystal skull, j. r. r. tolkien, javier bardem, jennifer lawrence, job, joseph gordon-levitt, joss whedon, jrr tolkien, judi dench, katniss, katniss everdeen, life of pi, Lincoln, looper, Lord of the Rings, lotr, martin freeman, michael caine, morgan freeman, oscar, Panem, paperman, peter jackson, quantum of solace, Robert Zemeckis, Sally Field, skyfall, Suzanne Collins, The Avengers, the dark knight rises, the hobbit, the hobbit: an unexpected journey, The Hunger Games, time travel, Tolkien, tom hardy, tommy lee jones, top 10, top ten, top ten films, War Horse, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, wreck it ralph | posted in Entertainment, Film, Film Reviews, Movies
Unfortunately, Indiana Jones was not a household name in my family. As a child, I might have watched bits and pieces of the original trilogy every now and again, but I did not sit down to watch Raiders of the Lost Ark all the way through until I was a sophomore in high school. From the epic boulder chase scene onward, I was hooked, and I’ve been a fan ever since…I even dressed as him for Halloween a while back, and the brown leather jacket that I own and wear regularly is an homage to this iconic character.
The appeal of Raiders of the Lost Ark isn’t its storytelling, its special effects, or its score. Though all of these aspects are fantastic, the real appeal of the film is Indiana Jones as a character, and, likewise, Harrison Ford’s performance within that character. A cross between James Bond, Han Solo, and the sort of swashbuckling adventure characters portrayed by Errol Flynn, Professor Henry Jones, Jr., is chock-full of surprises, whether it’s his witty one-liners, his narrow escapes, or his ability to keep track of his hat at all times. He’s not an overly compassionate hero, and he may be a bit of a jerk at times, but his heart is in the right place and we can’t help but love him. Perhaps the coolest part of his character is knowing that he’s a college professor and that his archaeological adventures are just a hobby on the side…imagine if you had a college professor travelling the world and punching bad guys in addition to his teaching position!
The sets in this film are particularly spectacular, with the jungle at the beginning of the film and the Well of Souls being two of my favorites. Seeing Indy travel from a university to a tavern in Nepal to the streets of Cairo is a heck of a ride, and it all feels authentic and epic on a large scale. The action is fun and entirely fitting of Indy’s personality; the car chase scene is probably my favorite action scene of the Indiana Jones franchise, and who could forget the scene where an exhausted Indy shoots the scimitar-wielding Egyptian in the streets of Cairo? The characters on the side, especially John Rhys-Davies as Sallah, are lovable and memorable, with the Nazi villain Toht being one of the creepiest I’ve ever seen.
Raiders of the Lost Ark is a classic for a reason. While George Lucas has proven himself to be a nutcase over the years, his talent for creating an original concept and Spielberg’s talent for bringing life to a movie screen join together for this film, backed by John Williams’ fantastic main theme and score, making one of the most iconic characters and films of all time. When I saw it on the IMAX screen a few months ago, it was as magical as if I was seeing it for the first time, so, in that sense, it is timeless and more and more fun every time I watch it.
Rating: 5 (out of 5)
Leave a comment | tags: errol flynn, george lucas, han solo, harrison ford, IMAX, Indiana Jones, james bond, john rhys-davies, John Williams, Raiders of the Lost Ark, sallah, Steven Spielberg | posted in 5, Entertainment, Film, Film Reviews, Movies, Music, Scores
2011 was a great year because, after a four-year wait, we got not one but two new film scores by John Williams. The first of these was The Adventures of Tintin, which, along with Williams’ score to War Horse, was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Score.
While War Horse‘s score was decidedly more dramatic, The Adventures of Tintin‘s score is whimsical and fun, as well as quite reminiscent – in a good way – of Williams’ earlier scores. For example, “The Secret of the Scrolls” features a mysterious theme that reminds me of both “The Map Room” from the original Raiders of the Lost Ark score and the latter portion of “Diagon Alley and the Gringotts Vault” from Williams’ score to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone; all three have a simplicity to them that promotes thought and emanates a sense of wonder and magic.
The title track, “The Adventures of Tintin”, is catchy and sleuthy…at least, that’s the way I hear it. It’s heavily influenced by jazz, which is a bit different from the typical John Williams stuff but entirely welcome and refreshing. In contrast with this new style, Williams returns in full force with his leitmotifs – a musical phrase that represents a specific character/event/place; there are specific themes written for Snowy, the Thompsons, and other characters, including Tintin, but my favorite has to be the leitmotif representing Captain Haddock. First introduced in “Captain Haddock Takes the Oars”, Haddock’s theme begins as a sloppy, drunken low wind melody, but it transforms along with the character into something sturdy and impressive, as heard in “The Clash of the Cranes”.
Williams combines all of these elements – jazz, simplicity, references, and leitmotifs – to create something adventurous in the old-fashioned sense of the word and, overall, truly amazing. Despite the fact that it’s an animated film, The Adventures of Tintin boasts a score that could make just about any action/adventure film jealous. Though its themes may not be as instantly iconic as those now associated with Star Wars, Indiana Jones, or Superman, it takes turns in paying homage to each of these classic film scores in a way that is fresh and new. At 80 years old, John Williams has “still got it”.
Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)
1. “The Adventures of Tintin” 3:07
2. “Snowy’s Theme” 2:09
3. “The Secret of the Scrolls” 3:12
4. “Introducing the Thompsons and Snowy’s Chase” 4:08
5. “Marlinspike Hall” 3:58
6. “Escape from the Karaboudjan” 3:20
7. “Sir Francis and the Unicorn” 5:05
8. “Captain Haddock Takes the Oars” 2:17
9. “Red Rackham’s Curse and the Treasure” 6:10
10. “Capturing Mr. Silk” 2:57
11. “The Flight to Bagghar” 3:33
12. “The Milanese Nightingale” 1:29
13. “Presenting Bianca Castafiore” 3:27
14. “The Pursuit of the Falcon” 5:43
15. “The Captain’s Counsel” 2:10
16. “The Clash of the Cranes” 3:48
17. “The Return to Marlinspike Hall and Finale” 5:51
18. “The Adventure Continues” 2:58
Total Length: app. 66 min.
iTunes Album Link
P.S. – I didn’t want to taint the body of the review with something like this, but I have to mention it: there is a moment in “Presenting Bianca Castafiore/Renee Fleming” when the soprano hits a high sustained note and breaks glass…loudly…ON THE ALBUM. And I absolutely despise it.
Leave a comment | tags: Academy Award, best original score, Diagon Alley, Gringotts, Harry Potter, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Indiana Jones, John Williams, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Star Wars, Superman, The Adventures of Tintin, The Sorcerer's Stone, War Horse | posted in 4.5, Entertainment, Film, Movies, Music, Scores, Soundtrack Reviews
I had debated for a long time whether or not to see the feature-length directorial debut of Seth MacFarlane, creator of Family Guy. I worried that Ted would take things too far now that MacFarlane didn’t have TV censorship rules governing what he could and couldn’t include, but, after hearing how hilarious it was and reading several glowing reviews (including a 3.5/4 star review from my favorite film critic, Roger Ebert), I decided to give it a chance.
Ted had me laughing from the moment narrator Patrick Stewart (Star Trek: The Next Generation, X-Men) first introduced us to the characters. Despite his vulgarity, Ted, the title character (voiced by MacFarlane himself), manages to make you love him, and Mark Wahlberg (The Departed, The Fighter) brings laughs as John Bennett, who, as an 8-year-old boy wishes his new teddy bear was alive so that they could be friends forever. Mila Kunis (Family Guy, Black Swan) plays Lori Collins, John’s girlfriend of four years, who just wants John to finally grow up and marry her, which he can’t do with Ted still around.
The film really does feel like a live-action Family Guy film, complete with flashback cut scenes, cameos from most of the main cast (only Seth Green is absent), jokes about Jews and homosexuals, references to classic films (including an Indiana Jones reference that had me laughing hysterically, though it was widely missed by most audience members in my theater), and an instrumental accompaniment by Walter Murphy, who composes the music for every episode of the animated TV show.
Much of the film relies on the anticipation of seeing what crazy thing Ted does next. In most cases, his antics are hilarious, but there are a couple of instances when the jokes really do go too far.
The musical score by Walter Murphy was actually really enjoyable. It definitely sounded Family Guy-esque, but that is not a bad thing at all. I don’t actually own the soundtrack at the moment, but it fit in well with the film.
Overall, Seth MacFarlane’s Ted made me laugh throughout. Even the scenes that were meant to be more emotional and serious made people laugh because, hey, it’s a movie about a teddy bear who drinks and gets high on a constant basis. However, the curse words are rampant, the drugs and alcohol are found throughout, and there is even brief (and for me, unexpected) nudity/sexual content, so don’t go see this if any of that offends you. Though I knew that all this would be present, it brought down the quality of the film for me. Oh, and two more quick things: 1) Parents, please don’t bring your kids to this movie like the people in my theater did. Not even remotely kid-friendly. 2) It would greatly improve your enjoyment of the film if you were to see Flash Gordon (1980; starring Sam J. Jones) first. Just saying.
Rating: 3.5 (out of 5)
MPAA: R – for crude and sexual content, pervasive language, and some drug use
Leave a comment | tags: alcohol, Black Swan, chad hopkins, chadadada, chadlikesmovies, drugs, Family Guy, Flash Gordon, Indiana Jones, Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, MPAA, Patrick Stewart, Roger Ebert, Sam Jones, Seth Green, Seth MacFarlane, Star Trek, Star Trek: The Next Generation, ted, teddy bear, The Departed, The Fighter, TNG, Walter Murphy | posted in 3.5, Entertainment, Film, Film Reviews, Movies, Music