Tag Archives: soundtrack

The Hunger Games (2012) – James Newton Howard

When I first read the Hunger Games books by Suzanne Collins, I was thinking to myself the whole time, “man, these books were written to be made into movies!” With that mindset, I was imagining a film score for the book while I was reading, and, though I’m not a composer, I was pretty satisfied with how it sounded in my head.

I haven’t listened to many film scores by James Newton Howard, but I was familiar enough with his work to be excited when he was announced as composer for The Hunger Games. I counted down the days until the score was released and bought it as soon as it was posted on iTunes. For the most part, I was pretty satisfied.

My favorite part about this score is how minimal it is most of the time. Panem is a post-apocalyptic country some time in the future, so why would you have a big, fully-stocked orchestra recording music for it? You wouldn’t, and Newton Howard does that perfectly. The main motif for District 12, as heard in the opening track, “The Hunger Games”, is uniquely soloistic and simple, making it profound when it is placed later in the score during the actual Hunger Games themselves in the track “We Could Go Home”.

However, there are a few moments when the full orchestra is appropriate, and Newton Howard scores these equally as beautifully, as heard in “Horn of Plenty” (the Panem national anthem, composed by the band Arcade Fire and orchestrated by Newton Howard) and “Searching for Peeta”, as well as in another track or two. Generally, the Capital is given these larger orchestrations, representing the prosperity found in the city. The contrast between the minimal themes for District 12 and the big moments for the Capital is striking, sort of embodying the class/quality of life shift between the two areas.

As much as I enjoy the majority of the score, I have one HUGE complaint: “Rue’s Farewell”. Is it pretty? Yeah, sure. Is it all that it could have been? NO! Where’s the five-note whistle that we heard in every single TV spot for the film? I had hoped that this track would be a memorial to the character based around that motif, but we don’t get that. Why, Newton Howard? WHY?!

Aside from that, and the fact that it’s WAY too short, James Newton Howard’s score for The Hunger Games is a score that works on multiple levels, despite the criticism I’ve heard from others who didn’t care for it. Give it a shot! It’s a great score for a great film.

Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)

1. “The Hunger Games”   1:10

2. “Katniss Afoot”   1:49

3. “Reaping Day”   1:35

4. “The Train”   1:27

5. “Entering the Capitol”   1:28

6. “Preparing the Chariots”   1:05

7. “Horn of Plenty”   1:59

8. “Penthouse/Training”   3:36

9. “Learning the Skills”   1:41

10. “The Countdown”   1:58

11. “Booby Trap”   2:37

12. “Healing Katniss”   3:04

13. “Rue’s Farewell”   5:00

14. “We Could Go Home”   1:15

15. “Searching for Peeta”   1:27

16. “The Cave”   3:13

17. “Muttations”   4:45

18. “Tenuous Winners/Returning Home”   3:25

Total Length: app. 44 min.

iTunes Album Link

-Chad

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


The Chronicles of Narnia – The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (2005) – Harry Gregson-Williams

I’ll be completely honest with you all…I’m not a huge fan of Harry Gregson-Williams. His film scores just generally seem pretty lackluster to me. That being said, I’ve owned this score for a long time and never paid much attention to it, expecting myself to dislike it. But guess what? I really enjoyed it!

The first two tracks aren’t anything special, though “Evacuating London” has a wonderfully mellow piano solo, a nice groove with orchestral accompaniment, and a few cool small hints to the upcoming main theme (listen to “To Aslan’s Camp”). Gregson-Williams’ score really starts to get interesting around the third track, “The Wardrobe”, which first introduces us to Narnia. Everything is completely different now: this new world is represented with a score that is truly other-worldly, and I don’t mean in an extra-terrestrial way. The primary instruments switch from strings to flute-like and stringed instruments with unique timbres that really help you to envision the strangeness and wonder of this new place.

One of the things that HGW does really well in this score is integrate choral elements, especially in “A Narnia Lullaby”, “From Western Woods to Beaversdam”, and “Only the Beginning of the Adventure”. The voices fit in really well this idea of harmony between the creatures (discounting the White Witch and her gang, of course) and with a unity between the children and the other members of Aslan’s forces.

I do have a few issues with this score. Though “The White Witch” is malicious enough, I think that HGW could have better embodied the cold nature of the witch. For example, the usage of eerie high strings and using the dissonance in a different way could have really made it better, in my opinion. Also, several of the themes, though awesome alone, were WAY overused, like the melody heard in “Lucy Meets Mr. Tumnus”. This line of music is incredibly beautiful, but it’s repeated forever and ever (amen) throughout the entirety of the track’s four minutes, and this isn’t the only melody that repeats like this; the main theme heard in “To Aslan’s Camp” is used over and over again throughout the entire score, albeit sometimes with different instrumentation or in a different mode or rhythm.

And I have to point it out: while listening, I heard what I swear was the main theme from Gregson-Williams’ later score, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, but I can’t for the life of me find it at the moment…you’ll just have to take my word for it.

Despite its faults, Harry Gregson-Williams’ to this first installment in the Chronicles of Narnia film series is pretty excellent…a pleasant surprise to me, since I wanted so badly to dislike it. Instead, tracks like the mysterious “The Wardrobe”, “To Aslan’s Camp”, and “The Battle” left me wishing that the soundtrack wasn’t so short. The short length doesn’t take away from the fantasy presented in this score, though, so check it out!

Rating: 4 (out of 5)

  1. “The Blitz, 1940” – 2:32
  2. “Evacuating London” – 3:38
  3. “The Wardrobe” – 2:54
  4. “Lucy Meets Mr. Tumnus” – 4:10
  5. “A Narnia Lullaby” – 1:12
  6. “The White Witch” – 5:30
  7. “From Western Woods to Beaversdam” – 3:34
  8. “Father Christmas” – 3:20
  9. “To Aslan’s Camp” – 3:12
  10. “Knighting Peter” – 3:48
  11. “The Stone Table” – 8:06
  12. “The Battle” – 7:08
  13. “Only the Beginning of the Adventure” – 5:32
  14. “Can’t Take It In” (Imogen Heap) – 4:42
  15. “Wunderkind” (Alanis Morissette) – 5:19
  16. “Winter Light” (Tim Finn) – 4:13
  17. “Where” (Lisbeth Scott) – 1:54

Total Length – app. 71 min.

iTunes Album Link

-Chad


Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001) – John Williams

This soundtrack is near and dear to my heart for multiple reasons. For starters, it’s the first film soundtrack I ever owned. Also, Harry Potter played a very large part in my childhood and shaping me to be the person I am today, so John Williams’ score to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone occasionally leaves me emotional.

John Williams is phenomenal. He has composed the most iconic film themes of all time, including (but not limited to) JawsSupermanStar Wars, and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. His score to this film is not an exception: “Hedwig’s Theme” is the maintheme that everyone associates with Harry Potter, forcing the three composers who followed Williams in scoring the Harry Potter films to utilize it in their own scores.

The best way I can possibly describe this score is “magical”…I’m sorry, but it just is.It’s one of the few scores that I can sit down and listen to from start to finish and be able to play through the film in my head, from “The Arrival of Baby Harry” all the way to “Leaving Hogwarts”. This is especially easy to do since much of the score is timed with specific key moments in the film itself. A prime example of this is the track “The Quidditch Match”, in which you are able to hear the exact moment when the quaffle is tossed into the air to start the game, or when Quirrell starts cursing Harry’s broom, or when Harry nearly swallows the golden snitch. Williams is a master of this.

I have zero criticism for this score, possibly because I’m biased, but that’s okay with me. “Entry Into the Great Hall and The Banquet” will always present a magical moment to me, “The Face of Voldemort” will always bring a chill down my spine, and “Leaving Hogwarts” still brings tears to my eyes…especially when it was used in the closing moments of the final film of the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Pt. 2 (Williams’ score for this first movie was sampled throughout the final one…a nice touch by composer Alexandre Desplat).

Overall, this score is the best and I love John Williams.

Rating: 5 (out of 5)

1. “Prologue”  2:12

2. “Harry’s Wondrous World”  5:21

3. “The Arrival of Baby Harry”  4:25

4. “Visit to the Zoo and Letters from Hogwarts”  3:23

5. “Diagon Alley and the Gringotts Vault”  4:06

6. “Platform Nine-and-Three-Quarters and the Journey to Hogwarts”  3 3:14

7. “Entry into the Great Hall and the Banquet”  3:42

8. “Mr. Longbottom Flies”  3:35

9.” Hogwarts Forever! and the Moving Stairs”  3:47

10. “The Norwegian Ridgeback and a Change of Season”  2:47

11. “The Quidditch Match”  8:29

12. “Christmas at Hogwarts”  2:56

13. “The Invisibility Cloak and the Library Scene”  3:16

14. “Fluffy’s Harp”  2:39

15. “In the Devil’s Snare and the Flying Keys”  2:21

16. “The Chess Game”  3:49

17. “The Face of Voldemort”  6:10

18. “Leaving Hogwarts”  2:14

19. “Hedwig’s Theme”  5:11

Total Length: app. 74 min.

iTunes Album Link

-Chad


Captain America: The First Avenger (2010) – Alan Silvestri

Really, if I chose any soundtrack other than Alan Silvestri’s Captain America: The First Avenger for today, I don’t know if I could call myself an American.

The score to Captain America is one of my favorites of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, helped along by the fact that Alan Silvestri (Back to the FutureWho Framed Roger Rabbit, Forrest Gump) is also one of my favorite film composers, and nothing quite says “America” like the Cap’s main theme (as far as film themes go, that is).

Most of the Captain America score is pretty excellent, but I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t hear lots of Back to the Future and Night at the Museum throughout. For example, compare the opening seconds of “Hydra Lab” with “George to the Rescue – Pt. 1” from Back to the Future (click titles for YouTube links). Captain America’s “Farewell to Bucky” is the track that sounds especially like some bits of Night at the Museum. Sure, it’s a little disappointing, but the theme itself takes away a lot of that disappointment for me…it’s just too darned American/fun.

I really don’t have too much to say about this one; it is what it is and it does it well. Sure, it borrows freely from Silvestri’s other scores, but it still manages to be one of the better superhero soundtracks that I’ve ever heard…certainly not the best, though. But with a main theme like this and a song composed by famed Disney composer Alan Menken (Beauty and the BeastAladdinTangled), called “Star Spangled Man”, how can you go wrong?

Rating: 3.5 (out of 5)

1. “Captain America Main Titles”    0:56

2. “Frozen Wasteland”    1:53

3. “Schmidt’s Treasure”    3:01

4. “Farewell to Bucky”    2:50

5. “Hydra Lab”    1:54

6. “Training the Supersoldier”    1:08

7. “Schmidt’s Story”    1:59

8. “Vitarays”    4:25

9. “Captain America “We Did It””    1:59

10. “Kruger Chase”    2:55

11. “Hostage On the Pier”    2:46

12. “General’s Resign”    2:18

13. “Unauthorized Night Flight”    3:13

14. “Troop Liberation”    5:06

15. “Factory Inferno”    5:06

16. “Triumphant Return”    2:16

17. “Invader’s Montage”    2:16

18. “Hydra Train”    3:27

19. “Rain Fire Upon Them”    1:39

20. “Motorcycle Mayhem”    3:05

21. “Invasion”    5:09

22. “Fight on the Flight Deck”    3:30

23. “This is My Choice”    3:26

24. “Passage of Time”    1:35

25. “Captain America”    1:08

26. “Star Spangled Man”  2:53

27. “Captain America March”    2:36

Total Length: app. 74 min.

iTunes Album Link

-Chad


The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) – James Horner

I bought this soundtrack last night before the midnight premiere but didn’t start listening to it until I got home after the movie had ended, and I’ve been listening to it on and off throughout today.

You’ll recall that last week I bought and listened to Danny Elfman’s scores for the first two Spider-Manfilms and was slightly disappointed with their lack of originality and similarities to Elfman’s previous Batmanscores, minus the Main Theme, of course, which is fantastic. I was hoping that James Horner’s score to the newly-released reboot film The Amazing Spider-Man would be much better, more original, and just overall better than Elfman’s, and, for the most part, it is.

I have to be honest right off the bat: Elfman’s Spider-Man theme is the better of the two. That’s not to say that Horner’s isn’t great, but it just doesn’t have the same sort of underlying excitement to it. However, in almost every other respect, Horner’s score runs laps around Elfman’s.

****EDIT****

I’ve been listening to the soundtrack as I’ve typed this…Horner’s theme is growing on me more and more. I’m not sure if I like one more than the other, but I’m starting to see the two on a more even level now, and Horner’s may soon become my favorite of the two…give them both a listen and see what you think!

************

You might have realized by now that it bothers me when a composer’s score to one film sounds too similar to another score that he composed. I listened intently to Horner’s score, listening for hints of Titanic or Avatar…admittedly, those are the only two previous James Horner scores that I have exposure to. Fortunately, I didn’t hear either of those in The Amazing Spider-Man…with the exception of one or two moments. For example, about 31 seconds in to “The Ganali Device” sounds a bit similar to excerpts from Horner’s score to Avatar, but it’s not as similar as a Zimmer or Elfman score would be, so it’s forgivable.

I read somewhere online where Marc Webb chose Horner to compose for The Amazing Spider-Man because he wanted something with “both grandeur and intimacy” [found here]. The more I listen, the more I feel that that is the perfect description for this soundtrack. There are plenty of big moment that are fitting of the character, such as in “Saving New York” and “Oscorp Tower”, but there are also the smaller, more personal moments between Peter and family/Gwen/himself, as heard in “Secrets”, “Rooftop Kiss”, and “I Can’t See You Anymore”. Whereas Elfman’s score would often go for excitement over emotion, Horner’s has a pleasant mix of both that better captures the darker, more relationship-based world that director Marc Webb has envisioned for The Amazing Spider-Man.

Overall, Horner’s score is a score more appropriate for a Spider-Man film than Elfman’s. It enhances the world that Marc Webb created for our webbed hero in blue and red, and it does this all while sounding distinctly original and independent, something that is always refreshing in this market dominated by composers like Hans Zimmer and Danny Elfman. For something different and exciting, check out James Horner’s score to The Amazing Spider-Man.

Rating: 4 (out of 5)

1.”Main Title – Young Peter”  4:54

2. “Becoming Spider-Man”  4:16

3. “Playing Basketball”  1:22

4. “Hunting for Information”  2:07

5. “The Briefcase”  3:14

6. “The Spider Room – Rumble in the Subway”  3:20

7. “Secrets”  2:30

8. “The Equation”  4:22

9. “The Ganali Device”  2:28

10. “Ben’s Death”  5:41

11. “Metamorphosis”  3:04

12. “Rooftop Kiss”  2:34

13. “The Bridge”  5:15

14. “Peter’s Suspicions”  3:01

15. “Making a Silk Trap”  2:52

16. “Lizard at School!”  2:57

17. “Saving New York”  7:52

18. “Oscorp Tower”  3:22

19. “I Can’t See You Anymore”  6:50

20. ”Promises – End Titles” 4:52

Total Length – app. 78 min.

iTunes Album Link

-Chad

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


The Social Network (2010) – Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross

The hype for director David Fincher’s 2010 film The Social Network was strong and, in my opinion, deservingly so; I seem to like it more and more every time I watch it. However, I didn’t expect to like the soundtrack, composed by Trent Reznor (of Nine Inch Nails fame) and Atticus Ross. Being a big fan of Alexandre Desplat’s score for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1, I was rooting for (and expecting) his score for The King’s Speech to win. At the time, though, I hadn’t heard the scores to either The Social Network or The King’s Speech, so, when The Social Network took the Academy Award for Best Original Score at the 83rd Academy Awards, I decided to buy both and decide for myself which I liked more, expecting the Desplat to win.

To my surprise, I liked The Social Network’s score more.

Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ score to this movie is, to say the least, unconventional. Most of the time you hear an orchestra in the background of a film, not a bunch of electronics and guitar, but that’s exactly what you get in The Social Network…and it’s delightful.

From the haunting piano melody of “Hand Covers Bruise” (which acts as the theme for the film) to the underlying excitement of “Intriguing Possibilities” to a sort of experimental electronic rock in “Eventually We Find Our Way”, Reznor/Ross’ score delivers in every way I can think of: excitement, atmosphere, tension, emotion, etc.

My favorite tracks are “In Motion”, “Intriguing Possibilities”, “Pieces Form the Whole”, and “Carbon Prevails”, and the arrangement of the classic “In the Hall of the Mountain King” is reminiscent of the work of composer Wendy Carlos (TRONThe Shining).

The score for The Social Network has something in it for everyone, whether you are a fan of the film or not. Check it out!

Rating: 5 (out of 5)

1.”Hand Covers Bruise”  4:18

2.”In Motion”4:56

3.”A Familiar Taste”  3:35

4.”It Catches Up with You”  1:39

5.”Intriguing Possibilities”  4:24

6.”Painted Sun in Abstract”  3:29

7.”3:14 Every Night”  4:03

8.”Pieces Form the Whole”  4:16

9.”Carbon Prevails”  3:53

10.”Eventually We Find Our Way”  4:17

11.”Penetration”  1:14

12.”In the Hall of the Mountain King” (Edvard Grieg)  2:21

13.”On We March”  4:14

14.”Magnetic”  2:10

15.”Almost Home”  3:33

16.”Hand Covers Bruise, Reprise”  1:52

17.”Complication with Optimistic Outcome”  3:19

18.”The Gentle Hum of Anxiety”  3:53

19.”Soft Trees Break the Fall”  4:44

Total length: app. 67 min.

iTunes Album Link

-Chad


Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) – Alan Silvestri

Who Framed Roger Rabbit, directed by Robert Zemeckis (my favorite film director), has been one of my favorite movies since I first saw it as a child several years ago. A technical breakthrough as well as a critical success, the score by regular Zemeckis collaborator Alan Silvestri also ranks among my favorites.

Since the film takes place in the year 1947, Silvestri was faced with the challenge of composing music that fit well with the period. He succeeds beautifully, delivering laid-back tracks such as “Valiant & Valiant” and “Eddie’s Theme”. He also manages to capture the sort of fun and wackiness found in the classic cartoons of the period, such as the Tom & Jerry cartoons of the early ’40s. This wackiness can be heard in the tracks “Maroon Cartoon”, and “Toontown”, as well as in a few other spots throughout the score.

Perhaps the most appealing part of Silvestri’s score is the smooth jazziness of it, which, for me, feels typical of the classic film noir genre, a category that the movie (roughly) falls into.

However, the score for Who Framed Roger Rabbit is not without its faults. My main complaint is that there are chunks here and there that are hugely reminiscent of Silvestri’s earlier score to Back to the Future, another Zemeckis film (and my personal favorite). The similarities between these two film scores are particularly evident in the more suspenseful moments. The themes, obviously, are completely different, but it is in these moments when Silvestri is illustrating the unfortunate predicaments of the characters onscreen that it becomes harder to distinguish the two.

Despite its faults, Alan Silvestri’s score to Who Framed Roger Rabbit is hugely fun, whimsical, and relaxing at times, with one of the best “End Credits” tracks out there. Silvestri is a wonderful composer who succeeds in drawing his audience further into the world of the movie.

Rating: 4 (out of 5)

1. “Maroon Logo” 0:192. “Maroon Cartoon” 3:25

3. “Valiant & Valiant” 4:22

4. “The Weasels” 2:08

5. “Hungarian Rhapsody (Dueling Pianos)” Tony Anselmo, Mel Blanc 1:53

6. “Judge Doom” 3:47

7. “Why Don’t You Do Right?” Amy Irving, Charles Fleischer 3:07

8. “No Justice for Toons” 2:45

9. “The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down (Roger’s Song)” Fleischer 0:47

10. “Jessica’s Theme” 2:03

11. “Toontown” 1:57

12. “Eddie’s Theme” 5:22

13. “The Gag Factory” 3:48

14. “The Will” 1:10

15. “Smile, Darn Ya, Smile!/That’s All Folks” Toon Chorus 1:17

16. “End Title (Who Framed Roger Rabbit)” 4:56

Total Length: app. 47 min.

iTunes Album Link

-Chad