Thomas Newman is a composer who I’m fairly familiar with; I own his soundtracks for Finding Nemo, Wall-E, Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, and The Help, all of which are pretty good. BUT they are all quite outside the action genre, so you can imagine my surprise when I learned that Newman was composing the score to the newest James Bond film. I must admit, I was a bit unimpressed during my first listen, but over time, especially after seeing the film, I’ve grown to really enjoy it and was happy to see it nominated for Best Original Score at the 85th Academy Awards.
The very first track, “Grand Bazaar, Istanbul,” opens with the familiar trumpet notes heard in David Arnold’s arrangement of Monty Norman’s “James Bond Theme” from Casino Royale (2007), called “The Name’s Bond…James Bond.” This transitions into a sort of groove that takes us completely through the opening chase sequence through the bazaar and on top of the train. It perfectly captures the excitement and anxiety of the moment, pushing forward with brass and an energetic percussion beat. There are a lot of these action-packed tracks that match the action-packed film, including tracks such as “Granborough Road,” which uses mainly strings to drive the music forward and closes with a soft rendition of the “James Bond Theme” on guitar, and “Welcome to Scotland,” which relies again on brass and percussion. A wonderful moment in the soundtrack is heard in “Breadcrumbs” when we’re treated to a more complete rendition of the main theme, typical of the James Bond films of old.
The score is not without its light moments though, which is appropriate since this is one of the more thoughtful and contemplative of the film series. “Day Wasted” features a shimmery sort of electric background before the strings come in with gentle interruptions that hint at the main theme. A later track, “Mother,” which almost sounds like it has a couple of featured voices, though it may just be an instrument that emulates the voice. Halfway through the track, warm brass sounds join the mix, helping to emphasize that Bond is home again and is being faced with his past. Other more gentle tracks include “Enjoying Death” and “Close Shave.”
Newman has done a fine job with the music to Skyfall after taking over from David Arnold, who had composed the scores to five previous Bond films. My one disappointment is that, aside from the main theme, the bits of Adele’s “Skyfall,” and a couple of instances of repeated musical ideas, there isn’t another unifying theme heard throughout the soundtrack. I had the same complaint in my review of James Newton Howard’s score for The Bourne Legacy, which lacked the unifying theme heard in John Powell’s scores to the original Bourne trilogy. Despite that disappointment, the score to Skyfall is an excellent action film score, which you don’t often get.
I would be remiss to not say a couple of things about Adele’s “Skyfall,” the title song for the film, though it was not composed by Newman (bits of it can be heard in the soundtrack tracks “Skyfall” and “Komodo Dragon”). It’s probably my favorite Bond title song (that I’ve heard), and I’m certain that it will win Best Original Song at the 85th Academy Awards.
Rating: 4 (out of 5)
1. “Grand Bazaar, Istanbul” 5:14
2. “Voluntary Retirement” 2:22
3. “New Digs” 2:32
4. “Sévérine” 1:20
5. “Brave New World” 1:50
6. “Shanghai Drive” 1:26
7. “Jellyfish” 3:22
8. “Silhouette” 0:56
9. “Modigliani” 1:04
10. “Day Wasted” 1:31
11. “Quartermaster” 4:48
12. “Someone Usually Dies” 2:29
13. “Komodo Dragon” 3:20
14. “The Bloody Shot” 4:46
15. “Enjoying Death” 1:13
16. “The Chimera” 1:58
17. “Close Shave” 1:32
18. “Health & Safety” 1:29
19. “Granborough Road” 2:32
20. “Tennyson” 2:14
21. “Enquiry” 2:49
22. “Breadcrumbs” 2:02
23. “Skyfall” 2:32
24. “Kill Them First” 2:22
25. “Welcome to Scotland” 3:21
26. “She’s Mine” 3:53
27. “The Moors” 2:39
28. “Deep Water” 5:11
29. “Mother” 1:48
30. “Adrenaline” 2:18
31. “Old Dog, New Tricks” 1:48
Total Length: app. 80 min.
iTunes Album Link
P.S. – Read my review of this film here!
2 Comments | tags: Academy Awards, adele, best original score, best original song, Bourne trilogy, casino royale, daniel craig, david arnold, finding nemo, james bond, James Newton Howard, Jason Bourne, lemony snicket, series of unfortunate events, skyfall, The Bourne Legacy, The Help, Thomas Newman, wall-e | posted in 4, Entertainment, Film, Movies, Music, Scores, Soundtrack Reviews
James Bond is a staple of British cinema, a fact that I acknowledge despite my lack of familiarity with the character. Aside from the recent reboot of the franchise starring Daniel Craig, I had only seen one Bond film, Connery’s You Only Live Twice, which I don’t remember much of at all. With the success of Skyfall, the 23rd James Bond film produced by Eon Productions, I thought it appropriate to return to the character’s roots with the very first Bond film, Dr. No, starring Sean Connery. Though this film just celebrated its 50th anniversary this past year, Sean Connery’s portrayal of the classic spy is just as entertaining as Daniel Craig’s…possibly even better, depending on your tastes.
Dr. No follows 007 as he investigates the disappearance of John Strangways, the Secret Intelligence Service Chief in Jamaica. He soon bumps into Felix Leiter of the Central Intelligence Agency, who had been working with Strangways on finding the source of some mysterious radio jams that have been disturbing rocket launches from Cape Canaveral. Bond’s sleuthing eventually leads him to Crab Key, a local island owned by a mysterious man known only as Dr. No, a man who may end up being more than Bond bargained for.
Unlike the modern films featuring the character, this one presents Bond as more of a man of words than of action; he relies on his intellect to gather information and survive, making him a sort of present-day Sherlock Holmes. He shows his intelligence in many ways: he powders the lock of his briefcase and places a hair over the crack of a door in order to know whether they have been tampered with,; he sets a trap by fooling an attacker with pillows placed under bed sheets; and he counts the bullets of the men he fights with so that he has the tactical advantage (this latter example made me quite happy, as many times the bullet count is ignored). That’s not to say, however, that he doesn’t throw a few punches, shoot a few people, or participate in one or two car chases…he certainly does all of these things, but the only action present in the film is that which is necessary to further the story, rather than the films of today that use action scenes to show off a large budget or to add a few extra minutes to the total run time.
Connery’s Bond is also more suave than Craig’s. His initial introduction as the character with the now-classic “Bond, James Bond” appears to be more of a witty response to the woman who just introduced herself as “Trench, Sylvia Trench.” Dr. No is filled with quick quips and clever responses like this, including a joke to a woman he’s about to sleep with (who actually works for Dr. No) about how she “believe[s] in living dangerously…sitting around with wet hair, [she]’ll die of pneumonia” – which is funny because he had just overheard a phone call in which she promised to keep Bond from leaving her house, though she doesn’t know that. His humor certainly helps him with the ladies…of whom there are three in this film. He certainly gets around, doesn’t he?
Connery isn’t the only actor to brag about…Ursula Andress plays the very first “Bond girl,” Honey Ryder, with an air of innocence; instead of throwing herself at Bond as a love interest straightaway, she plays the character as someone who is wary of his charms before eventually falling in love with him after they’ve been through near-death experiences together. Andress’ performance is even more impressive when you consider that she is essentially a puppet; her voice was dubbed over by Nikki van der Zyl, which I only knew by reading – a true testament to the talents of Andress, Zyl, and to the sound crew for lining everything up so well. Of course, the title character, Dr. Julius No, played by Joseph Wiseman, is appropriately sinister in first his disembodied voice (we hear him before we see him) and later in his straight-faced, no-nonsense performance.
As much as I may rave about this film, I certainly had my qualms with it, most of which can be taken for a grain of salt. For starters, what happened to the “Three Blind Mice” murderers who kill two people in the beginning of the film and later try to kill Bond himself? They’re completely forgotten in the hunt for Dr. No. Also, while the idea of having a rumor of the existence of a “dragon” as a scare-away tactic for Crab Key makes sense, the way this rumor is presented is done poorly. Quarrel, a man helping Bond with his mission, identifies “dragon tracks” that are obviously tire tracks, and the “dragon” itself (a fire-spurting tank) looks nothing like something that could even be mistaken for a dragon. My last major complaint is over the ending…Bond is beat up and locked away, but within five minutes he has climbed through a vent, dressed as a worker, overloaded the nuclear reactor, and defeated Dr. No. It’s just a bit too easy for my tastes, and it certainly feels rushed.
Despite those small complaints, my first real experience with Connery’s James Bond is a pretty fantastic one. Sure, his abilities/luck might be a little over-the-top, but I think that M justifies this with a quote early on in the film: “If you carry a double-0 number, it means you’re licensed to kill, not get killed”…a theme that continues to stick with the character of Bond even today. This film introduces characters and concepts that remain prevalent in today’s installments to the franchise, such as Felix Leiter, Miss Moneypenny, M, the Aston Martin sports car, the Walther PPK gun, and SPECTRE as an organization. The musical score and main theme by Monty Norman are well-composed and appropriate to the scope of the story and character, and the classic feel of the film remains timeless. For a more intellectual, polished James Bond than Daniel Craig’s, you need look no further than Sean Connery’s wonderful performance here in Dr. No.
Rating: 4 (out of 5)
Leave a comment | tags: 007, aston martin, bond james bond, british cinema, central intelligence agency, cia, crab key, daniel craig, dr. julius no, dr. no, eon productions, honey ryder, james bond, joseph wiseman, miss moneypenny, moneypenny, nikki van der zyl, sean connery, secret intelligence service, sherlock holmes, sis, skyfall, spectre, sylvia trench, three blind mice, ursula andress, walther ppk, you only live twice | posted in 4, Books, Entertainment, Film, Film Reviews, Movies, Music, Scores
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
A month ago, I had only seen one or two Bond films, one of them being Sean Connery’s You Only Live Twice. However, in preparation for the release of Skyfall, I snagged a couple of copies of the first two Daniel Craig James Bond installments and caught myself up. Casino Royale was a lot of fun, but Quantum of Solace was significantly less so. Nevertheless, I had high hopes for Craig’s third entry into his Bond legacy, and I certainly wasn’t disappointed.
(Though it should be obvious, I would like to point out that 1) I am not a longtime James Bond fan and 2) likewise, I am not a James Bond expert. I am not attempting to appear to be either of these in this review.)
I loved everything about this movie, from the exhilarating opening sequence, to the opening credits featuring the fantastic title song by Adele, to the character development, to the villain, to the final climactic action sequence. Daniel Craig was back in full force, giving us a Bond that was (to me) highly reminiscent of Christian Bale’s performance as Bruce Wayne/Batman earlier this year in The Dark Knight Rises: our hero is growing old and is struggling with physical tasks that were once easy for him, so he considers retirement before realizing that the situation is bigger than him and his wants. (Am I the only one who kept finding this parallel throughout, including lines referring to characters originating in “shadows” and “storms coming?”)
Though I’m sure it was a departure from the typical Bond film formula that has been in place since the first film 50 years ago, I appreciated the fact that romance didn’t play a huge part in this film as it did in the previous two. However, that’s not to say that Skyfall ignored the previous 22 films in the James Bond franchise; in fact, it seemed to me (though, keep in mind, I haven’t seen many Bond films and am merely assuming) that there were plenty of references to the older films, such as the classic car, Q’s quip about “exploding pens,” and several others that I’m sure I missed due to lack of education.
Where Skyfall especially succeeds is in the choice of its villain, Mr. Silva, played by Javier Bardem. He comes across as truly sinister, but he still maintains an air about him that allows for several laughs. What really makes him appear so evil, though, is the fact that he doesn’t make an appearance until the movie is halfway over. The first half of the film is filled with terrorist attacks, random murders, exploitation of sensitive information – and it’s all done by a villain who we haven’t even met yet. Bardem plays the role convincingly, with all of the malicious intent and residual hatred that we expect from a villain of his caliber.
From start to finish, Skyfall had me captivated, not only with its exciting action sequences and impressive character development, but also with the tremendous scope of the landscapes and locations presented throughout…it just looks good. Plus, with a terrific performance from Judi Dench, a nice sort of cameo from Albert Finney, and a promise of more Ralph Fiennes in the future, everyone stepped up to the plate and gave more than their fair share to help knock this film out of the park. Boosted by a wonderful score from Bond newbie Thomas Newman, Skyfall more than redeems the not-nearly-as-good Quantum of Solace and promises more to come…Bond 24 has a lot to live up to.
Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)
MPAA: PG-13 – for intense violent sequences throughout, some sexuality, language, and smoking
P.S. – Read my review of this film’s score, composed by Thomas Newman, here!
2 Comments | tags: 007, adele, albert finney, Batman, casino royale, christian bale, daniel craig, james bond, javier bardem, judi dench, quantum of solace, ralph fiennes, sean connery, skyfall, the dark knight, the dark knight rises, Thomas Newman, you only live twice | posted in 4.5, Entertainment, Film, Film Reviews, Movies, Music, Scores