Tag Archives: Jason Bourne

Skyfall (2012) – Thomas Newman

Thomas Newman is a composer who I’m fairly familiar with; I own his soundtracks for Finding NemoWall-ELemony 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

-Chad

P.S. – Read my review of this film here!

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Jack Reacher (2012)

Though my embargo against Tom Cruise movies was lifted this past summer (I’m not a huge fan of him as a person), Jack Reacher is not a movie that I much cared to see. However, I’m not one to turn down a free movie ticket, so when my family went to the theater today, I was all too happy to give it a chance.

Tom Cruise stars in the title role, Jack Reacher, a former Army Military Police officer – a man who seems to be a mix between Sherlock Holmes and Jason Bourne. His hunches are never wrong, he never loses a fight, and there are no consequences to his actions. The villains in this film are one-dimensional, and, while there is a reason why they do what they do, their motives seem hardly cause for the actions they take.

But I stopped caring about all of the bad parts of this film when I started having too much fun. The character of Jack Reacher is interesting and is made even better by Tom Cruise’s typical charisma. His deadpan delivery of his character in this film provides plenty of laughs, and, despite the fact that he’s 50 years old now, Cruise is still fully capable of playing a convincing action star. Though the action is fun and not overdone, it’s less the action and more the investigative part of the character that made me enjoy this film so much. However improbable it may be, the way Reacher’s mind wraps his mind around everything and draws conclusions is fascinating and is quite enjoyable.

I was prepared to agree with the critics on this one; with a 61% rating over on RottenTomatoes.comJack Reacher isn’t as critically-acclaimed as the filmmakers might have hoped. Plus, with the members of my family who have read several of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher books – on which this film was based (One Shot, to be specific) – complaining about how unlike the book character Tom Cruise is, I didn’t think I’d care for it…and I was happy to be proven wrong. Robert Duvall makes an entertaining appearance, and Rosemund Pike as Helen Rodin does a fine job, but it’s Tom Cruise doing what Tom Cruise does best that makes Jack Reacher lots of fun and worth the watch. Whether it lines up with the book or not, I cannot say, but it has piqued my interest in the books, which is another positive thing that can be said for it.

-Chad

Rating: 4 (out of 5)

MPAA: PG-13 – for violence, language and some drug material


We Bought a Zoo (2011)

The only Matt Damon films I had seen before this one were the Bourne trilogy and 2010’s True Grit, so it was nice to see him as a less aggressive, more father-like figure in We Bought a Zoo. This film wasn’t one that I ever got excited for, which is why I just watched it for the first time on Blu-Ray, and now, even after watching, I have mixed feelings.

Based on the memoir of the same name by Benjamin Mee, We Bought a Zoo follows a father (Damon) and his two children six months after the mother has died. They’re still hurting and trying to move on with their lives, so it just seems too perfect when the opportunity to buy a zoo rolls around to give them a fresh start. The 7-year-old daughter, Rosie, is filled with wisdom beyond her years, and not just in the “kids say the darnedest things” sort of way; her father literally goes to her for advice or for serious adult conversation more than once in the film. The son, Dylan, is the typical 14-year-old teenager: filled with angst, thinks his father hates him, etc. He is also a talented artist who has recently begun drawing disturbing images, such as a head being severed from the body. Why a dead mother would warrant such graphic drawings, I’m not sure, but, then again, I’m no psychology expert.

In the zoo, there is an aging Bengal tiger who is just about at the end of his life, but Damon’s character, despite the pleas by the lead zookeeper (Scarlett Johansson), insists on doing whatever he can to prolong this tiger’s life. I think that this is supposed to be a metaphor for his relationship to his dead wife and his unwillingness to let her go, but it’s a weak comparison. At least, I certainly wouldn’t equate ending a dying tiger’s struggle for life to a widower’s struggle to move on after losing his wife, but that’s just me. But alas, with the decision to put the tiger out of his misery comes a mended relationship between father and son and a possibility at new love for Damon’s character.

The dialogue was particularly irritating to me at times, mainly because it used “man” constantly, as if this was The Big Lebowski or something like that. It starts with Thomas Haden Church’s character, brother to Damon’s, calling him “man” all the time, but it gets so bad that, near the end of the film, Damon’s character has a yell match with his son, calling him “man” at least 15 times, give or take a few. Its usage does nothing but distracts…it just makes no sense to me! The score by Jónsi was distracting at times as well, sometimes not matching the scene even remotely. However, when it did match the scene, the music did a nice job of sounding the whimsy of the story.

Anyway, while I did have a lot of complaints, We Bought a Zoo worked well as a family film, with Damon’s performance carrying the film and Johansson doing a decent job. Church’s performance felt forced to me, with the fact that he’s supposed to be playing the brother to the main character being nearly completely lost to me; there’s absolutely no brotherly connection between the two of them. Maggie Elizabeth Jones as Rosie will make you smile frequently with her sweet comments and adorable smile, and the story is saccharine and predictable enough to please just about anyone who enjoys that kind of thing. I didn’t dislike it, but it’s certainly not a movie that I would like to own for myself.

-Chad

Rating: 2.5 (out of 5)

MPAA: PG – for language and some thematic elements


The Bourne Legacy (2012) – James Newton Howard

When I first learned that James Newton Howard was to be composing the score, I was actually a little bit worried – not because of my lack of faith in Newton Howard as a composer, but because it’s such an opposite film from the kinds he normally composes for. When I think Newton Howard, I think beautiful, flowing melodies, rich orchestra, and perhaps a warm brass fanfare or two…I certainly don’t think “action film”. John Powell composed the scores for the original Bourne trilogy, so I was surprised that he didn’t return. Despite my reservations, however, Newton Howard did a splendid job.

 I have two favorite things about this album: 1) the opening track, “Legacy”, contains the main theme for Bourne as heard in the opening track of The Bourne Identity‘s score, “Main Titles”; 2) the closing track is an updated version of Moby’s “Extreme Ways”, featuring a more orchestral accompaniment and the subtitle “Bourne’s Legacy”. “Extreme Ways” played in the end credits of all three Matt Damon Bourne films, so it’s nice to see it return.

Aside from those two tracks, much of this score is a lot more…”much-ier” than John Powell’s original scores. Newton Howard uses some of the same electronic orchestration, but he combines it with an orchestra in a way that is consistently action-packed and suspenseful. Whereas much of The Bourne Identity‘s score was a bit minimal, The Bourne Legacy‘s score features tracks like “Drone”, “High Powered Rifle”, and “Magsaysay Suite” that are much bigger and decidedly not minimal.

That’s not to say that Newton Howard sacrifices the kind of music I know him for in favor of this new, aggressive style. In fact, his traditional style of music is also featured throughout; in “You Fell in Love”, we hear a somber melody that starts dramatically in the low string part before the high strings take over and just about break your heart. Another track, “Aftermath”, opens with long, sustained strings that seem to emulate great loss or tragedy. This builds into a strong, full string orchestra that hints at a mission unfinished and more to come.

One thing I miss from The Bourne Legacy‘s score, though, is a consistent motif that is heard throughout the film that lets the audience know that something is either happening or about to happen. In Powell’s original score, you can hear what I’m talking about in the track “At the Bank”; this motif is catchy, prominent, and featured throughout, and it trains the audience to know that something awesome is going on when you hear it. There’s nothing like that (that I’ve noticed) in Newton Howard’s score, unfortunately.

Despite that small complaint, I’m overall pretty pleased with The Bourne Legacy‘s score. It keeps you sitting on the edge of your seat – or, if you’re standing, on your toes – throughout, and it supplies plenty of both compelling action and emotion, showing that this job is not just about killing people…it’s about finding who you are and doing something about it. James Newton Howard’s deviation from his normal style is refreshing and opens plenty of doors for both his career and for the continuation of the Bourne film series. This score definitely has me even more excited to see Jeremy Renner in the new film next week!

Rating: 4 (out of 5)

1. “Legacy”   2:40
2. “Drone”   4:15
3. “NRAG”   0:59
4. “You Fell in Love”   1:42
5. “Program Shutdown”   3:00
6. “Over the Mountain”   0:51
7. “High Powered Rifle”   2:50
8. “They’re All Dead”   2:48
9. “Manila Lab”   2:40
10. “Wolves/Sic Ric”   2:19
11. “Doctor of What?”   4:28
12. “Aaron in Chicago”   1:32
13. “Wolf Attack”   2:57
14. “Chem Talk”   1:35
15. “Flight 167”   3:30
16. “Aaron Run!”   1:08
17. “You Belong Here”   1:17
18. “Cognitive Degrade”   2:49
19. “17 Hour Head Start”   3:51
20. “Viralled Out”   0:58
21. “You’re Doing Fine”   1:18
22. “Simon Ross”   1:37
23. “LARX Tarmac”   1:45
24. “Magsaysay Suite”   3:04
25. “Aftermath”   2:49
26. “Extreme Ways (Bourne’s Legacy)” (Moby) 4:51

Total Length: app. 64 min.

iTunes Album Link

-Chad

P.S. – Read my review of the film here!