Tag Archives: Pixar
Note: This film was the main topic of discussion on Episode 2 of my podcast, The Cinescope Podcast. Give it a listen for a more in-depth discussion!
My experience with Star Trek is limited, especially in regards to Classic Trek. In fact, JJ Abrams’ 2009 reboot was my introduction to the franchise in any way, and it wasn’t until a few years later that I saw any Classic Trek at all. So when my friend TJ told me that he wanted to talk about Wrath of Khan when I asked him to be on my podcast, I did a tiny bit of research and preparation, but my goal was to view this as a non-Trekkie to see if it was not only a great Trek film but also, and more importantly, a great film as well, and whaddya know? It certainly is.
Following the events of the 1967 Star Trek: The Original Series episode “Space Seed”, in which Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner) maroons Khan Noonien Singh (Ricardo Montalbán) and the remainder of his people on a planet as punishment for the attempted takeover of the USS Enterprise, Wrath of Khan features an older, dissatisfied Kirk – now Admiral – joining his former crew on the Enterprise once again for a routine training mission. However, things become anything but routine when Khan is revealed to have returned, angrier than ever and prepared to do whatever it takes to seek vengeance against Admiral Kirk. Faced with a new adventure and tasked with protecting the lives of his crew, Kirk and company must find a way to defeat Khan before he unleashes a technology with the capability of destroying all life on any planet he chooses.
*mild spoilers ahead*
Even with my limited experience in the classic Trek universe, what I’ve found that I love about it most is that the sci-fi/adventure aspect is almost an afterthought; yes, there are cool spaceships and futuristic technologies, but the main focus in everything I’ve seen so far has been humans (or aliens) having human moments with each other while going through human experiences. The setting is merely a setting – the situations are universal. This movie deals with themes such as mortality, youth, sacrifice, and love vs. hate, and it deals with these themes better than many non-sci-fi movies.
That being said, the character with whom we identify the most is Admiral Kirk himself. He is profoundly human in that he is flawed. He features strong charisma and leadership capabilities, and his love and duty for his friends and crew are apparent, but he, like all of us, is often emotional and reactionary, which leads to mistakes. Thankfully, he learns from his mistakes throughout the course of the film through self-evaluation and through listening to the advice of his friends, and by the end he is a better man because of it. Spock, played by the iconic Leonard Nimoy, is merely the other side of the coin. To contrast with Kirk’s emotions, Spock makes decisions through logic and necessity, but he shows by the end of the film that logic is not always the antithesis of emotion – that sometimes the two go hand in hand because the logical thing to do is to make sacrifices for the ones you love.
Khan, on the other hand, features a personality similar to Kirk’s in that he is driven by emotion, but his emotions blind and deafen him to the warnings of his crew. Montalbán gives a great performance here – you can see the calculating look in his eyes as he decides what his next course of action will be, and his fits of passion are just as powerful as the moments when he menacingly whispers, showing his ability to control a situation when he has the advantage. He’s a fantastic villain in the sense that you know why he is doing what he’s doing, which is what you want when it comes to the antagonist – believable motivation.
Storytelling and characters aside, this is a sci-fi film, and those elements are done extremely well. For a film made in 1982, the graphics hold up surprisingly well, with a particular CGI sequence made by an early iteration of Pixar being a definite highlight. Another element of note is the space combat, with the idea by director Nicholas Meyer to approach it like a submarine battle proving to be an effective action sequence. And I can’t praise the score enough; composed by a young James Horner, the music switches from horror to sci-fi/adventure to drama with apparent ease, and the main theme is such an earworm (pun intended if you’ve seen the film) that I was whistling it for 20 minutes after watching for the first time because I couldn’t get it out of my head.
I could go on and on about this movie because it really is so much more than just a sci-fi flick, and the whole crew gives outstanding performances – including a young Kirstie Alley in her first feature film role. There are moments of pure joy as well as scenes that are sure to guarantee tears, and all the while it feels firmly like Star Trek. With strong themes and solid characters, The Wrath of Khan is a prime example of how prioritizing story and characters is the key to success in filmmaking, no matter the subject material at hand.
MPAA: PG – for violence and language
1 Comment | tags: bones, chad hopkins, chadadada, chadlikesmovies, cinescope, deforest kelley, gene roddenberry, george takei, james doohan, James Horner, james t. kirk, jim kirk, jj abrams, John Williams, khan, kirstie alley, leonard nimoy, nichelle nichols, nicholas meyer, pavel chekov, Pixar, podcast, ricardo montalban, scotty, spock, Star Trek, sulu, uhura, walter koenig, william shatner, wrath of khan | posted in Entertainment, Film, Film Reviews, Movies, Music, Recommended, Scores, The Cinescope Podcast
I was born and grew up in the 1990s, which means that I was a child during the time period when Disney produced its most successful animated musicals, often referred to as the “Disney Renaissance” and featuring such renowned films as The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast (my review), Aladdin, and The Lion King. While Disney has released a few more animated musicals over the years, the quality has generally not been up to the same standards as those set in the 1990s (though I’m certainly partial to their 2010 offering, Tangled – my review), but with Frozen they finally hark back to those animated films that I grew up with, making it quite an enjoyable experience.
Inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s tale of The Snow Queen, Frozen tells the tale of Elsa, princess of Arendelle, and her younger sister Anna. Elsa was born with the power to control and create snow and ice, and an accident as children almost kills Anna. To protect Elsa and others from her powers, their parents (the king and queen) consult with magical trolls who remove Anna’s memories of Elsa’s powers and subsequently lock themselves away in their castle, with Elsa distancing herself from Anna to protect her. The king and queen are killed ten years later in a storm at sea, and, three years after, the now-21-year-old Elsa (Idina Menzel) must attend the coronation that will make her queen. When things go wrong and her powers are revealed to the kingdom and to Anna (Kristen Bell), Elsa flees Arendelle, leaving it trapped in an eternal winter…in the middle of the summer. Anna seeks Elsa out to get her to thaw out the kingdom, meeting friends Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), his reindeer pal Sven, and a talking snowman named Olaf (Josh Gad).
The voice cast in this film is excellent across the board. Idina Menzel brings out the conflicted nature of Elsa nicely, and, as expected, her singing voice (especially in the track “Let It Go”) is outstanding. Kristen Bell also provides an admirable performance as Anna, bringing quite a bit of variety to the character both in terms of quirkiness and seriousness, and her singing voice also sounds great…I didn’t even know Kristen Bell could sing! A different kind of performance comes from Josh Gad as Olaf the snowman; though the trailers made the character seem goofy in a bad way, I really enjoyed his presence in the film, and most of his lines left me laughing. I liked Jonathan Groff’s Kristoff and his relationship with his friend Sven the reindeer as well.
The film explores a few mature themes, which I really appreciated. The main one was the idea of too much control/containment leading to just the opposite, as evidenced by Elsa’s departure from Arendelle and solo “Let It Go,” in which she talks about letting loose and seeing what she’s capable of, a luxury not afforded to her while she kept her powers secret from the world. In that song as well, it’s suggested that her “kingdom of isolation” (of which “[she’s] the queen”) allows her to drop the good girl act that has been forced on her for so long, toying with the idea of her having a bit of evil in her, which actually begins to show just a bit in the film. It’s deep stuff! Another powerful theme is the idea of love, but, in what is sure to be a rarity in Disney films, love that is not necessarily of the romantic variety. No, the focus here is love between family, or, more specifically, between siblings, and its this love that is the focus during the climax of the film. It’s a twist on the usual Disney formula, though there’s certainly a bit of romantic love to be seen as well.
I did have just a couple of issues with this film, the first being with the character of The Duke of Weselton, voiced by Alan Tudyk. We know that his ultimate goal is to exploit the kingdom for profit – he tells us so with his very first line – but that idea is dropped as soon as Elsa’s powers are revealed, at which point his concern becomes to kill Elsa and…do what, exactly? Anna would be successor to the throne, and, if she were to die as well, she has placed Hans, a prince of a neighboring kingdom who Anna falls in love with upon their first meeting, in charge of the kingdom in her absence. So the Duke’s plans of exploitation as stated – again, LITERALLY in his first line – seem to simply be stated for the sake of making him an immediate antagonist. Sure, you could argue that it keeps focus on him in order to set up the twist that comes towards the end of the film, which, yes, sure, I agree with, but I don’t think that having him be an antagonist for the sake of having an obvious antagonist is the best solution. My one other complaint would be that every action by every character seems to be an overreaction, from the removal of Anna’s memories, to the royal family completely locking themselves away from the rest of the kingdom, to Elsa’s leaving the kingdom upon the reveal of her powers, among others. In all of these circumstances, I think that there might have been less severe paths to be taken to combat the situation rather than make everything a HUGE deal like they did.
But both of these complaints are altogether really minor when you look at the film as a whole. Frozen accomplishes what it set out to do, which is to provide good, clean family entertainment, and it even manages to ask some good questions and explore familial love better than Disney/Pixar’s 2012 film Brave did (my review). The voice cast is great, the animation is beautiful, and you might even walk out of the theater with some good music stuck in your head.
Rating: 4 (out of 5)
MPAA: PG – for some action and mild rude humor
P.S. – I should briefly mention the animated short that appears before the film, titled Get a Horse. It starts off as a sort of flashback to simpler times, with it first appearing to be a black-and-white cartoon in the style of older Disney cartoons, such as 1928 Mickey Mouse short Steamboat Willie, before incorporating today’s more standard 3D, colorful animation as well, providing a fun back-and-forth between the two animation styles. It’s a fun short film despite a couple of awkward moments (Clarabelle Cow is…strange, to say the least). Not as great as other Disney shorts, but it’s still pretty enjoyable, especially the juxtaposition of the two polar opposites of animation.
2 Comments | tags: 1990s, Aladdin, alan tudyk, anna, arendelle, Beauty and the Beast, brave, conceal don't feel, Disney, disney animation, disney pixar, disney renaissance, duke of weselton, elsa, frozen, get a horse, hans christian andersen, idina menzel, jonathan groff, josh gad, kristen bell, kristoff, olaf the snowman, Pixar, sven the reindeer, Tangled, the lion king, The Little Mermaid, the snow queen | posted in 4, Entertainment, Film, Film Reviews, Movies, Music, Scores
Note: This review is a short version of a more detailed look conducted in a post on my companion site, ChadTalksMovies, titled “My Adventures on Barsoom.” Check it out!
I’ve made it clear in the past that Michael Giacchino is one of my favorite composers, and I might have even called him the best composer out there today; his ability to so effortlessly switch between genres is impressive, with him composing excellent scores for such contrasting films as Star Trek (my review), Up, and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (my review). My recent obsession with all things John Carter/Barsoom-related has introduced me to Giacchino’s score for the 2012 Disney film for the first time. As expected, it’s wonderful.
The soundtrack opens with Giacchino’s beautiful, sweeping theme representing the world of Barsoom; after listening to it for the first time, I walked away whistling it. In the theme, he has managed to capture the majesty and splendor of the planet, both as described by Edgar Rice Burroughs in the original A Princess of Mars novel (my review) and as shown in the film adaptation, but it also embodies both the adventure at hand and the romance between Carter and Dejah Thoris. This quickly fades into something more ethereal and otherworldly, led by a solo voice and eerie strings, serving as a backdrop to the opening scene that describes the plight of the dying planet.
There is a lot of diversity found in this score, with Giacchino switching between a larger, more triumphant sound (“Carter They Come, Carter They Fall,” “The Prize is Barsoom”) and something that is more mysterious and appropriately unearthly (“The Temple of Issus,” “A Thern Warning”). He also makes heavy use of voice, with either the choir or a single voice making an appearance in just about every track. The dexterity of the human voice gives it the ability to fit right in with the “unearthly” style of music mentioned as well as with the more tender, intimate moments of the score, such as at the start of the track “A Change of Heart.” They even fit in perfectly during the more aggressive, war-like bits of music, such as in the latter half of the track “The Prize is Barsoom.”
The Tharks are an indigenous species on Barsoom, not human-like in appearance, and they are represented well here by heavy percussion with a sort of tribal, primitive sound to it. It’s appropriately aggressive, just like the Tharks themselves. Giacchino uses strings to great effect, with the bowed instruments often acting as the driving force beneath the rest of the orchestra, usually playing an ostinato eighth note line, occasionally interjecting with a quieter version of theme heard in the other instruments. The strings also have many beautiful moments on their own, playing soft, warm melodies that emphasize the beauty of the world and the tenderness shown between Carter and Dejah Thoris.
The original John Carter stories as written by Edgar Rice Burroughs inspired many generations of scientists, writers, and even filmmakers. Among those was George Lucas, whose Star Wars saga borrows many elements of story and character from Burroughs’ work. It’s an ironic twist, then, for me to point out that there are parts of Giacchino’s score here that are reminiscent of John Williams’ score to Star Wars. No, nothing is ripped off, but there are certain points in the score when I can definitely hear the nod to Williams’ work, which is a nice touch that familiarizes the film a bit. You can even hear some of Giacchino’s Star Trek in here, though there’s nothing blatant enough to upset me. These three films all take place on foreign planets/in space, so the feel of them is similar (though Star Trek is definitely more sci-fi than the other two) and the music shares common elements of the genre.
Despite the fact that the film was not received very well, Giacchino’s score has received universal acclaim because, well, he’s awesome. With his score to John Carter, Giacchino has ventured into yet another new territory for him – that is, the territory of space fantasy – and has emerged victorious. His interpretation of John Carter’s Barsoom is on as grand a scale as the original book, but he also captures the more personal moments between our hero and Dejah Thoris. His ability to switch styles so quickly, from a majestic main theme to an aggressive percussion rhythm for the Tharks to ethereal strings/voices for the planet of Barsoom itself, makes the soundtrack just as epic as the film itself.
Rating: 5 (out of 5)
1. “A Thern for the Worse” 7:38
2. “Get Carter” 4:25
3. “Gravity of the Situation” 1:20
4. “Thark Side of Barsoom” 2:55
5. “Sab Than Pursues Princess” 5:33
6. “The Temple of Issus” 3:24
7. “Zodanga Happened” 4:01
8. “The Blue Light Special” 4:11
9. “Carter They Come, Carter They Fall” 3:55
10. “A Change of Heart” 3:04
11. “A Thern Warning” 4:04
12. “The Second Biggest Apes I’ve Seen This Month” 2:35
13. “The Right of Challenge” 2:22
14. “The Prize Is Barsoom” 4:29
15. “The Fight for Helium” 4:22
16. “Not Quite Finished” 2:06
17. “Thernabout” 1:18
18. “Ten Bitter Years” 3:12
19. “John Carter of Mars” 8:53
Total Length: app. 75 min.
iTunes Album Link
P.S. – Read my review of the film here!
2 Comments | tags: a princess of mars, barsoom, dejah thoris, Disney, disney pixar, Disney/Pixar, edgar rice burroughs, ghost protocol, john carter, John Williams, Michael Giacchino, mission impossible, mission impossible: ghost protocol, Pixar, Star Trek, Star Wars, up | posted in 5, Entertainment, Film, Movies, Music, Scores, Soundtrack Reviews
Note: This review is a short version of a more detailed look conducted in a post on my companion site, ChadTalksMovies, titled “My Adventures on Barsoom.” Check it out!
Directed by Andrew Stanton (of Pixar fame) and released by Disney, I became quite excited to see this film upon seeing the trailers, but I faltered when it was received poorly by critics and didn’t do well at the box office. Recently, however, I read Michael D. Sellers’ book John Carter and the Gods of Hollywood (my review), which talks about why the film failed the way it did, getting me re-interested in John Carter and leading me to read author Edgar Rice Burroughs’ original book, A Princess of Mars (my review). All the while, I became more and more excited to see the film despite its negative reception – I wanted to see this world come to life! – and, now that I’ve seen it…what’s wrong with everyone? What is there to dislike about this film?
Here is Disney’s official plot synopsis:
The film tells the story of war-weary, former military captain John Carter (Taylor Kitsch), who is inexplicably transported to Mars where he becomes reluctantly embroiled in a conflict of epic proportions amongst the inhabitants of the planet, including Tars Tarkas (Willem Dafoe) and the captivating Princess Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins).
In a world on the brink of collapse, Carter rediscovers his humanity when he realizes that the survival of Barsoom and its people rests in his hands.
For the first half hour or so of the film, I was pretty skeptical. A confusing, not-from-the-book opening scene raises many questions right off the bat, and the first few minutes of the actual film are not much better. I began writing out a mental list of complaints, but I shoved that aside the farther I got into the film. Does it have its problems? Well, yeah, but every movie does. Does it deserve all of the negativity that it has received? Not by any stretch of the imagination.
Stanton takes plenty of liberties with Burroughs’ world and characters, but, looking back, I understand the reasoning behind every single one of them. While the John Carter of A Princess of Mars is a good guy just because he is a good guy and there’s no questioning it (it works great in the book), the John Carter of the film has issues; he’s stubborn, he’s selfish, and even disrespectful at times. However, all of this builds and builds to give Carter the opportunity to be the good guy, bringing a character arc that is needed for film. It is a pleasure to watch Taylor Kitsch as John Carter of Earth discover the part of him that is actually John Carter of Mars, willing to fight and die for the good beings of Barsoom. The Dejah Thoris of the book is not a warrior, nor is she a scientist, but she is both in the film, giving her a more active role in the story and letting her be more than just the romantic damsel in distress (which, again, worked really well in the book). Lynn Collins plays the character with an appropriate amount of spirit and energy, capturing both the romantic side of the character that would be required of a Princess of Mars, but she also brings the new feisty side of the character necessitated by the script. The addition of the mysterious Therns to the film is a bit confusing at first, and certain story elements and characters are removed, but all of it comes out okay, working for the film’s good.
The scope of the film is just as large as that of the book, with the choice of filming in real locations rather than using a green screen being something that I think humanizes it a bit, making it more accessible to the viewers. Sure, the original story is meant to be “out there,” but it’s more the characters who inhabit the world and how they interact with each other that create the scope of the story, not the world itself. That being said, the visuals in the film are fantastic, from the look of the Tharks to the design of the airships to the wide expanses of desert mountains. Composer Michael Giacchino’s score to the film is appropriately reminiscent of John Williams’ original score to Star Wars without being a copy, and you can even hear a bit of his score to Star Trek (my review) every now and again, though I’m not holding that against him by any means. Giacchino keeps a perfect balance between bringing out the largeness and epicness of the adventure and capturing the intimate moments between characters, and his main theme is one of my favorites by him.
There are certainly aspects from the book that I think would have worked well for the film, namely the story being told from Carter’s perspective or the more episodic style of storytelling, but the absence of these elements didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the film. In fact, the absence of these and other characters or story elements seen in the book helped to set the film apart as its own entity to be enjoyed. The important thing about this film is that it captures the heart of the source material without photocopying it from page to screen, and it does it in a way that is incredibly fun; the last half of the film, especially the few minutes just before the credits roll, are definitely my favorites. I should also mention that I liked Kitsch and Collins in the lead roles, but I also really liked Tars Tarkas as played by Willem Dafoe; he plays the character with a resolve that fits a character of his authority, but the compassionate side of the character also rings through, making him one of the best characters of the film. John Carter is not a perfect piece of cinema, but it’s good, old-fashioned storytelling at its best, with plenty of good humor, great action scenes, incredible special effects, and likable characters…and it’s certainly not deserving of all the negative criticism heaped upon it. If you haven’t seen it, give it a chance! I beg you!
Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)
MPAA: PG-13 – for intense sequences of violence and action
P.S. – Read my review of this film’s score, composed by Michael Giacchino, here!
4 Comments | tags: a princess of mars, andrew stanton, barsoom, calot, dejah thoris, Disney, edgar rice burroughs, erb, finding nemo, john carter, john carter and the gods of hollywood, john carter of mars, John Williams, lynn collins, mars, michael d. sellers, Michael Giacchino, Pixar, Star Trek, Star Wars, tars tarkas, taylor kitsch, tharks, thern, thoats, wall-e, willem dafoe, woola | posted in 4.5, Books, Entertainment, Film, Film Reviews, Movies, Music, Scores
I must preface this review by saying that I had decided this film was going to be awful before I ever saw it, based on the trailers alone. While watching, however, I did my very best to remain objective and to base my opinion of the film entirely on the film itself rather than on my preconceived notions. Of course, this is impossible unless the film had strongly convinced me to think contrarily to my initial thoughts, which it didn’t. So here’s my review of Turbo.
The trailers for this film told this story: a snail (Ryan Reynolds) dreams of being fast, but, alas, he’s a snail, which means he’s slow. However, upon accidentally getting sucked into a car engine in the middle of a street race, the snail swallows some nitrous oxide, causing his DNA to alter, making him super fast. What better to do with his newfound speed than to enter the Indianapolis 500?
Rest assured, everyone…the film tells that exact same story promised by the trailers, albeit with a few added characters along the way. Once he becomes fast, the snail (named Theo before adopting the name “Turbo”) is captured along with his brother, Chet (Paul Giamatti), by half of a taco shop-owning brother duo, Tito, voiced by Michael Peña, who takes the two of them to participate in what appears to be a serious underground snail race with snails owned by other local down-on-their-luck shop owners. When Theo surprises all with his super-speed, Tito thinks up the idea to bring in business by introducing the world to his snail via the Indy 500.
The characters are uninspired, including and especially Turbo as the lead character. I didn’t care that he wanted to be fast, and I didn’t care when he became fast and (spoiler alert) wins the Indy 500. I didn’t care that his brother thought he was crazy to go race in the Indy 500 because, hey, I agreed with him. If I strapped rockets to a pair of roller blades, would that qualify me to race in the Indy 500 as well? The script doesn’t convince me that this is an absolutely necessary path to take for either Turbo to fulfill his dream or for Tito and his brother/friends to bring customers to their businesses. Speaking of Tito, his personality is so obnoxious that I didn’t care whether he succeeded in helping his brother realize his dream either. Character building is kept to a minimum, with the turnarounds of both Tito’s brother Angelo (Luis Guzmán) and Turbo’s brother Chet feeling incredibly uninspired. None of the voice acting talent stands out either, with voices from Ryan Reynolds, Paul Giamatti, Snoop Dawg/Lion, Samuel L. Jackson, Maya Rudolph, and others all falling short.
Probably my biggest problems with this film are the inconsistencies and moments of outstanding ridiculousness. For starters, the beginning of the movie features a scene of Theo (not yet fast) pushing a TV off a shelf, but when he’s “trapped” under a plastic cup later on he is powerless to do anything. The idea of a sort of tomato harvesting factory run by snails existing in a residential tomato garden, complete with tomato-rolling rails, is ludicrous. The biggest inconsistency for me is the whole issue of “speed.” Let’s do the math here: one scene prominently featured in the trailers shows Theo traveling about one foot (twelve inches) in seventeen minutes (“a new record!”). The accident where he gains his speed takes place over a highway. Even if this highway is only 1/10 of a mile away (528 feet), that would be approximately 150 hours of travel time at the “record” speed, but it takes place over a single night. That issue aside, here’s another: I’ll accept the fact that NOS gives Theo super speed, but why oh why does it give him characteristics of a car too? Headlights, a stereo system, etc. It makes no sense to me.
All in all, the best I can say about this film is that I didn’t hate it and the worst I can say is that it’s flat-out stupid. I have to admit that the ending did have my smiling a little bit, but the overall film just isn’t worth smiling at. The awful premise and the logical inconsistencies/stupid character decisions combine to make this Dreamworks title one of the company’s worst. “But it’s a kid’s movie!” I hear someone shouting at me over the Internet. “So are the Pixar films!” I say in return.
Rating: 2 (out of 5)
MPAA: PG – for some mild action and thematic elements
2 Comments | tags: disney pixar, Disney/Pixar, Dreamworks, indianapolis 500, indianopolis 500, indy 500, luis guzmán, maya rudolph, michael pena, nitrous oxide, nos, paul giamatti, Pixar, ryan reynolds, samuel l. jackson, snail, snail race, snoop dawg, snoop lion, turbo | posted in 2, Entertainment, Film, Film Reviews, Movies
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
If I saw Disney/Pixar’s Monsters, Inc. in theaters when it first came out back in 2001, I don’t remember it. To make up for it, I made sure to catch a showing when it was re-released in theaters in 3D back in December 2012…and it was fantastic. Oh, sure, I had seen it dozens of times at home on the DVD player, but nothing beats seeing a film on the big screen. The magic of the world that Pixar created is incredible; the colors are bright, the characters are lovable, and the story is both entertaining and valuable. That’s what I wanted to walk away with when seeing Monsters University on the big screen, and I’m happy to say that I did.
Monsters University opens with first-grader Michael Wazowski’s (voiced by Noah Johnston) class field trip to Monsters, Inc., where an encounter with scarer Frank McCay (John Krasinski) convinces Mike then and there that he wants to be a scarer too. He studies and works hard until he finally arrives at Monsters University, where he (now voiced by Billy Crystal) plans to study to be a top scarer. We are re-introduced to younger versions of familiar characters, such as the nerdy Randy Boggs (Steve Buscemi), Mike’s new roomate, and, of course, Jimmy Sullivan (John Goodman), who comes to class thinking that he can coast through on the reputation of his well-known scaring family. Mike and Sulley begin to compete with each other, both trying to prove to Dean Hardscrabble (Helen Mirren) that they have what it takes to be top scarers. Along the way, they make new friends, including Don Carlton (Joel Murray), Terri and Terry Perry (Sean Hayes and Dave Foley, respectively), Squishy Squibbles (Peter Sohn), and Art (Charlie Day).
Watching this film brings me right back to my childhood in the best way possible. The world is familiar, the characters are familiar, and the overall feel of the movie is like stepping into a pair of comfortable shoes. The movie manages to make plenty of references and homages to the original film without being a slave to it; it stands alone excellently, but it also adds to the world of Monsters, Inc. without forcing it. The voice actors are great, especially Crystal and Goodman, of course. Their comedic timing is perfect, and they bring laughs to the table just as skillfully as they did twelve years ago. The relationship between these two characters builds appropriately, with the twist of them being “enemies” rather than best buds adding a lot to their characterization. Helen Mirren plays a memorable Dean Hardscrabble, a record-breaking former scarer (perhaps the record that Mike and Sulley are trying to beat in the future?) who now uses her tactics to intimidate her students.
One of the aspects of the film that I thought was particularly done well was the idea of college life, something that, as a current college student, I can relate to. From the awkward interactions of the upperclassmen with the freshmen on move-in day, to the extreme measures taken to be prepared for an exam (i.e. excess coffee), to the social stigmas attached to being a member of certain on-campus organizations, to the pressures of adult expectations, everything feels like a reflection of life at a human university. Sure, certain aspects are exaggerated, sometimes even extremely so, but the atmosphere is close enough to be familiar.
Another part of college that is represented well is the need to take chances, something that Mike does quite a bit; he breaks rules, he stands up to authority, and he throws himself head first into a field of study where he has a natural disadvantage. But taking chances is important in life, no matter what the result, and Mike’s willingness to do that in this movie shows his strength as a character. Pixar also took a chance in making this film in the first place; it’s their first prequel, and it arrived after two less-than-stellar Pixar films (Cars 2 and Brave; my review). But, like Mike, their leap of faith seems to have paid off. It’s certainly not a perfect film (though the amazing commitment to lame jokes is admirable – the late-for-class slug in the film is painful), but Monsters University does a great job of both honoring its predecessor and bringing charm and heart back to Pixar films, something that has been sorely missed since Toy Story 3.
Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)
P.S. – The Pixar short shown before the film, titled The Blue Umbrella, is maybe the first Pixar short that I just didn’t like. While I enjoyed the interactions and facial expressions of the random inanimate objects in the environment, the umbrellas as the main characters just felt strange. The story of the short itself is also familiar, but not in a good way…it’s just a lame rehash of the awesome Disney Animated Short Paperman, attached to last year’s Wreck-It Ralph (my review), which won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film. Where Paperman is touching and sweet, The Blue Umbrella is stiff and bland. Thankfully, the movie following the short was great!
P.P.S. – Read my review of this film’s score, composed by Randy Newman, here!
1 Comment | tags: 3D, animated short, billy crystal, brave, cars 2, charlie day, dave foley, dean hardscrabble, Disney, disney animation, disney pixar, Disney/Pixar, don carlton, frank mccay, helen mirren, james p. sullivan, james sullivan, jimmy sullivan, joel murray, john goodman, john krasinski, michael wazowski, mike wazowski, Monsters Inc., monsters incorporated, monsters university, noah johnston, paperman, peter sohn, Pixar, pixar animated short film, randall boggs, randy boggs, sean hayes, squishy squibbles, terri and terry perry, terri perry, terry and terri perry, terry perry, the blue umbrella, Toy Story 3, wreck it ralph | posted in 4.5, Entertainment, Film, Film Reviews, Movies, Music, Scores
Joseph Kosinski’s first directorial effort was 2010’s TRON: Legacy, a film that, despite how much I enjoyed it, was only decent. His second directorial effort, as well as his first to write and produce, is Oblivion, which, due to my enjoyment of TRON: Legacy, I was actually looking forward to quite a bit, especially since I have been enlightened to the acting talent of Tom Cruise in the last year. I listened to the soundtrack for the film by M83 and Joseph Trapanese for a full week and a half in anticipation. I must admit that I still only expected this to be a decent film, but, thankfully, this was a rare instance in which my expectations were exceeded.
Oblivion tells the story of Jack Harper (Cruise) and his partner Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) as they live on a post-apocalyptic Earth. We are told that aliens invaded sixty years prior to the events of the film, but the humans won in nuclear war, leaving the Earth ravaged and forcing the humans to evacuate to Titan, one of Saturn’s moons. Jack is a repair technician who repairs drones that protect hydrorigs, which are sucking up Earth’s water to transport to Saturn, acting on orders rather than memory; he was forced to have his mind wiped fifteen years previously, though he still has vague recollections of a past that he doesn’t remember. He collects books that he finds and imagines what the world was like before all of this, but his partner is content to follow orders – two more weeks until the two of them get to join the rest of the human population on Titan. But when a space module crash lands and Jack pulls a survivor (Olga Kurylenko) from the wreckage before the “scavs” (remaining aliens from the war who sabotage the drones and hydrorigs) can get to her, he asks more questions than ever, throwing his and Victoria’s world into even further disarray.
Sound complicated? It is, a bit, but I never found the film’s complexities to be a burden. In fact, I sat on the edge of my seat the whole time, eagerly asking myself, “What’s going to happen next? How are they going to resolve this? Why did that just happen? What does this mean?” Cruise is the obvious highlight of this film, bringing his usual talent for action along with appropriate drama and a refreshing humanity that we don’t always see from him. Andrea Riseborough as Victoria, Harper’s partner and lover, gives a powerfully emotional performance as the sort of voice of reason, the one who is only interested in doing what she’s told rather than asking questions. Morgan Freeman’s brief but incredibly important role as Malcolm Beech, leader of an underground resistance, plays into Freeman’s typical “father figure” sort of role, but it doesn’t feel canned, and Olga Kurylenko as Julia, the survivor from the space module, gives a decent performance as well.
The story is somewhat reminiscent of Pixar’s Wall•E, though I won’t explain all the similarities here lest I spoil the film for you. The themes of asking questions/searching for answers and thirsting for knowledge vs. the fear of knowledge are powerful and well-represented here, with symbolism running rampant. For example, Jack Harper has a secret cabin on a plot of green earth near a pond that he found; this is where he stores the books that he finds, from medical dictionaries to Horatius to A Tale of Two Cities. This area is the obvious representation of the previously mentioned thirst for knowledge. There is also one moment where Harper presents Victoria with a can containing a flower that he has cared for, but she promptly tosses it out the window, citing regulation and contamination (there’s an obvious Wall•E parallel), which is representative of her fear of knowledge.
Ever since I walked out of the theater, I’ve been debating what rating to give this film. I knew it was at least a 4/5, though I thought it could easily be a 4.5 as well. I wanted to give it 5/5, though I know it’s certainly not a perfect movie. However, given my enjoyment of it, I think that a 5 is a perfectly reasonable rating; it’s got a smart script, a capable and talented cast, an appropriate score by M83 (assisted by Joseph Trapanese), and it asks questions that we can all learn from. Despite its flaws, Oblivion is a fantastic film, proving that 1) Cruise is not only a wonderful action star but also a capable dramatic actor and that 2) Kosinksi has a lot of future potential as a great film director.
Rating: 5 (out of 5)
MPAA: PG-13 – for sci-fi action violence, brief strong language, and some sensuality/nudity
P.S. – Read my review of this film’s score, composed by M83, here!
5 Comments | tags: a tale of two cities, andrea riseborough, horatius, hydrorig, jack harper, joseph kosinski, joseph trapanese, m83, moon, morgan freeman, nuclear war, oblivion, olga kurylenko, Pixar, post-apocalypic, saturn, titan, tom cruise, tron, tron legacy, wall-e | posted in 5, Entertainment, Film, Film Reviews, Movies, Music, Scores
From the people who made Wallace & Gromit and Chicken Run, The Pirates! Band of Misfits is one of the five animated films nominated for Best Animated Feature at this year’s Academy Awards.
This film tells the story of Pirate Captain (Hugh Grant), the leader of a group of the strangest “pirates” you’ll ever see. He yearns to be named “Pirate of the Year” in the annual awards ceremony, but he just doesn’t quite measure up to the other booty-gathering pirates he competes against. Setting sail with his crew and his trusted bird Polly, Pirate Captain attempts to plunder ships for gold with no luck, succeeding only in capturing Charles Darwin (David Tennant). Darwin, recognizing that Polly is in fact the last living dodo, convinces Pirate Captain to travel to England, where a science competition will bring him the treasure he needs to win the Pirate of the Year award.
Pirates is filled with references to modern-day items or situations, such as the idea of reversing a boat into a dock like a car, Pirate Captain sipping out of a “World’s Best Captain” mug, or even the cannonballs being treated like a classic arcade skee-ball game. There is even a scene that involves elevator music and references to The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (or the film that borrowed it from that, The Shining) with “Heeeeeere’s Polly!” In fact, it’s the humor found in this film that makes it so much fun; the only moral message that I can derive is that you don’t need to be adored by everyone when you have the love of your friends, an idea that isn’t even hugely stressed.
There isn’t much else to say about this movie. It’s funny, it’s enjoyable, the incredibly unorthodox Pirate Captain and his crew are incredibly amusing, and it simply tells a good story, with entertaining twists on historical figures such as Charles Darwin (who is called “Chuck” once or twice and has a pet chimpanzee wearing a tuxedo) and Queen Victoria (voiced by Imelda Staunton; called “Vicky” by Pirate Captain). None of the humor feels forced or uninspired, which is refreshing among so many of the so-called “comedy” films released nowadays. I don’t think it’ll win Best Animated Feature, but The Pirates! Band of Misfits is certainly better than Disney/Pixar’s Brave was (read my review here), making it one of the top four animated films of 2012.
Rating: 4 (out of 5)
MPAA: PG – for mild action, rude humor and some language
Leave a comment | tags: Academy Awards, best animated feature, brave, charles darwin, chicken run, david tennant, Disney, disney pixar, Disney/Pixar, dodo bird, here's johnny, here's polly, hugh grant, imelda staunton, johnny carson, pirate captain, pirate of the year, pirates band of misfits, Pixar, polly, queen victoria, skee-ball, skeeball, the pirates! band of misfits, the shining, the tonight show, the tonight show starring johnny carson, wallace & gromit, world's best captain | posted in 4, Entertainment, Film, Film Reviews, Movies
Much like the Mission Impossible films starring Tom Cruise are almost spoofs of themselves, Michael Giacchino’s score to the latest installment, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, spoofs both itself and every other action movie score…and it’s fantastic.
The album is as over-the-top as you can get, transitioning from eerie background music, such as in the opening track, “Give Her My Budapest,” into long, sweeping melodies, as heard in “A Man, a Plan, a Code, Dubai,” to exciting action music, such as in “World’s Worst Parking Valet.” All the while, we hear the iconic Mission Impossible theme song interspersed throughout, brilliantly blended into new music that manages to sometimes disguise it and at other times enhance it. Giacchino gives us music that is as loud and rambunctious as the action in the film itself, helping to form a sort of caricature of the action genre of film and the stereotypical action score.
Despite his ability to deliver these moments of almost obnoxious (in a good way), rowdy music, Giacchino sticks to his guns and manages to give us plenty of brilliant, quiet moments as well, such as in the tracks “Moreau Trouble Than She’s Worth” and “Putting the Miss in Mission.” Additionally, “Ghost Protocol” provides us with some chillingly dissonant music that slowly builds into a theme that I would describe as angsty and conflicted – a perfect embodiment of what is going on in the film at the time.
Giacchino, known for his scores to Disney/Pixar’s The Incredibles and Up, as well as his score to the J. J. Abrams Star Trek reboot, continues to show his diversity across genres with this score to Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, a score that is just as smart as it is fun. With the traditional wit found in the track titles (e.g. “In Russia, Phone Dials You,” “From Russia With Shove,” “Mumbai’s the Word,” etc.), this score is yet another testament to the fact that Giacchino is one of the best in the business.
Rating: 4 (out of 5)
- Give Her My Budapest (1:57)
- Light The Fuse (2:01)
- Knife To A Gun Fight (3:42)
- In Russia, Phone Dials You (1:40)
- Kremlin With Anticipation (4:12)
- From Russia With Shove (3:37)
- Ghost Protocol (4:58)
- Railcar Rundown (1:11)
- Hendricks’ Manifesto (3:17)
- A Man, A Plan, A Code, Dubai (2:44)
- Love The Glove (3:44)
- The Express Elevator (2:31)
- Mission Impersonatable (3:55)
- Moreau Trouble Than She’s Worth (6:44)
- Out For A Run (3:54)
- Eye Of The Wistrom (1:05)
- Mood India (4:28)
- Mumbai’s The Word (7:14)
- Launch Is On Hendricks (2:22)
- World’s Worst Parking Valet (5:03)
- Putting The Miss In Mission (5:19)
- Mission: Impossible Theme (Out With A Bang Version) (0:53)
Total Length: app. 77 min.
iTunes Album Link
P.S. – Read my review of the film here!
2 Comments | tags: caricature, Disney, ghost protocol, incredibles, j. j. abrams, jj abrams, Michael Giacchino, mission impossible, mission impossible: ghost protocol, Pixar, spoof, Star Trek, tom cruise, up | posted in 4, Entertainment, Film, Movies, Music, Scores, Soundtrack Reviews