Saturday, August 10, 2019

Anime Juke Box - Princess Nine - Princess Nine

Been a while since we popped in a quarter into the anime jukebox, so I figured it was time. We are in the middle of summer and that means - baseball! And what does baseball mean to me? ANIME of course. One specific anime, Princess Nine. Oddly this little show actually helped me appreciate baseball as a sport. I didn't know until watching this how much strategy and tactics are used in the game and how much talent you actually need to have. Being the bookish nerd, I just figured sports are sports are sports.

Princess Nine tells the story of a girl's prep school creating an actual baseball (not softball) team and all the trials the players, coaches and school administrators go through to make the dream a reality. Of course it has the usual high school drama mixed in, and the team is composed of an unusual group of misfits. It is very entertaining and something we will pull out every few summers to enjoy. The ADV dub is solid (if a little squeaky) and while you can predict how some of the sports story tropes are going to play out, we always have a good time with it.

The music was composed by Masamichi Amano who managed to secure the Warsaw Philharmonic for the score! Princess Nine has a lush score with some wonderfully bombastic moments and drama. Very entertaining stuff. He also was able to work the opening theme song as a theme in the score to the series. That means you've got the full power of the philharmonic playing during the opening credits. I couldn't find the full version of the song, but here is the opening credits version of Princess Nine from Princess Nine.


Saturday, July 27, 2019

Score Sample: Spiderman: Far From Home (2019)

Back in 2013, I wrote about how Michael Giacchino is one of my favorite composers working today. He still hasn't lost that place on my list. I try to pick up each of his scores almost as soon as they come out, and his work tends to entertain and engage me each time. The exceptions may be his scores for the two Jurassic World films. Still haven't warmed up to those.

Giacchino was pulled into the world of superheroes early on with his amazing score to The Incredibles. That is still one of my favorite scores by the man, and the sequel score is a blast. It is little wonder that he was asked to score some of the Marvel films, including Doctor Strange and Spiderman: Homecoming.

For the later, Giacchino was stepping into some big shoes. Previous Spiderman films were scored by the likes of Danny Elfman, Christopher Young, James Horner and Hans Zimmer. Each creating memorable takes on the character. Giacchino didn't shrink back, but went for it, crafting a new theme for Spidey and really giving it a workout in the score. His music for the villainous Vulture was also pretty darn cool.

I think Giacchino pushed himself a little harder when it comes to Far From Home. The Spidey theme is back, and gets plenty of time to shine in this score. He also brings back the love theme from the previous score (which I'll admit isn't one of his strongest). But the new material for Mysterio is top notch. He works in some excellent electronics, gives Mysterio an almost heroic but intense theme. We get some great tracks on the score where the Spidey and Mysterio theme work together and then later in counterpoint - something you rarely hear these days, but was something classic composers like Goldsmith and Williams would do all the time. Best of all, the score is a lot of fun, full of action, thrills and excitement. I am actually hoping we get another Spiderman movie, just so I can hear Giacchino round out a trilogy of scores. Yeah that is a total film nerd thing to write.

So here is Giacchino's end credit suite from Spiderman: Far From Home given the humorous title Far From Home Suite Home. It kicks off with Spidey's heroic theme, moves into the love theme, and shifts into a new theme for Nick Fury (and possibly the SWORD organization).Then those synths kick in and you know Mysterio's theme comes out to play. It builds and builds until Spidey's theme puts a stop to it and that hurtles into the conclusion of the track. Enjoy!




Monday, July 8, 2019

Neon Genesis Evangelion on Netflix


Looking for something interesting to watch this summer? Well you could check out Neon Genesis Evangelion on Netflix. This is one of my favorite anime series, and has been cleaned up a bit for the release over to Netflix. Sure you've probably seen people complaining about the new dub, but you can watch the subtitled version just as easily.

Now, it has been nearly a decade since I revisited the series. But I pulled out my old Platinum edition DVDs and started watching the show again. Some things have held up pretty well, other times I'm seeing some of the seams where the limited budget was peaking through. The show was unique for its time, and these days so many shows have been inspired by it, that many of the fresh elements are tropes.

Still, the characters are handled well, the robot and monster design is unique as hell, and all the philosophical, psychological and religious explorations are still worth delving into. The show doesn't really dive into those elements until we reach the second half, but man does it get nuts. Netflix has also gotten the rights to the End of Evangelion which was the feature film that provided an alternate ending (or the correct ending if you listen to some folks) to the series.

All told, this show is worth watching, and after I finish my revisit I'll delve into a bit more on this blog.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

A Little Break

Wanted to post a quick update here. I'm taking a little break from this blog. I've actually got another project brewing right now and it is taking up a bit of my time. I'm also watching fewer films because of it, so that just means less stuff to review.

I will be able to post more about my new project over at my sister blog all about storytelling. So check that out if you are interested.

That said, I'm sure I'll come back to this blog at some point in the future. I enjoy writing about movies, MST3K and movie music too much to let that go.

Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Score Sample: The Incredibles 2 (2018)

I've got to say that I really love The Incredibles. The animation, the story, the characters are all some of my favorite from the Pixar animation studios. That said, it also is the first time I heard the music of Michael Giacchino. This composer would go on to be one of my favorites of the current crop of movie composers, and The Incredibles is where he really captured my ear. That first score is an homage to the big brassy spy scores of the 1960s, with a healthy dose of John Barry and Henry Mancini all wrapped around some top notch theme work.

So when they announced that there was sequel in the works, there was no doubt in my mind that they had to bring Giacchino back. He has a great working relationship with the studio and it just made sense. The Incredibles 2 sports Giacchino bringing that sassy brassy feel back, and then cranking it up a notch (or two). It's got more saxophone, more blaring trumpets and is having fun. The old themes return, a new theme for the villain is introduced, and even a theme for Elastigirl as she takes one some solo adventures. Great stuff all the way around. Giacchino wraps it all up with a wonderful end credits suite (always a highlight in his scores) giving you a taste of everything. So here are The Incredits 2 from The Incredibles 2 composed by Michael Giacchino.


Thursday, January 31, 2019

Before I Wake (2016)

We decided to watch a horror double feature over the weekend. One film, The Open House was… well it was not very good. So we were hoping that this film would be a bit better. We had reason to hope, because we have enjoyed the work of director Mike Flanagan in the past (check out Hush or his version of The Haunting of Hill House). 

Summary:

Jessie (Kate Bosworth) and Mark (Thomas Jane) are finally able to become foster parents. It was a tough road for them after the death of their son Sean (Antonio Romero). But Cody (Jacob Tremblay) is a sweet boy who seems eager to fit in. He also has had some rough events in his life. His previous two foster families met with tragedy, including abandoning him.

At first Cody seems to be adjusting well, but one night Jessie and Mark witness butterflies in their house. Cody is obsessed with the insects, and becomes apparent that when Cody dreams, elements of those dreams manifest. Jessie wonders if she can see her dead child again, if Cody dreams about him. But they have something else to worry about: Cody’s nightmares. Because one vivid horror is going to become very very real.

Good Points:
  • Creates and sustains an atmosphere of dread and the uncanny
  • Very good performances by the whole cast
  • Manages to get under your skin with its eerie moments

Bad Points:
  • If you can’t buy into the overall premise of the film, you won’t get pulled in
  • The ending will leave some viewers conflicted
  • Looking for fast pace or gore, you’ll be disappointed

Overall:

Flanagan delivers a solid creepy film. He uses the couple’s grief as a jumping off point for how they deal with the powers Cody seems to have. It turns into an interesting character study, while building up some really good dread and scares. The finale may leave some viewers conflicted by the ambiguity, but overall, the film was well worth seeking out. Reminded me a bit of The Babadook, and in a good way.

Scores(out of 5)
Visuals:  4
Sound: 4
Acting:  4
Script:  4
Music: 4
Direction: 4
Entertainment: 4
Total:  4

Curious about a full review, sent me an email and I’ll make additional thoughts to this review.

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Tuesday, January 29, 2019

The Open House (2018)

So we decided to have a double feature horror film viewing this weekend. We had two flicks in our Netflix cue. One was this movie that sounded like a fun thriller by the description. But in the back of my mind, I remembered seeing that Chris Stuckmann had worked on a riff track for the film. I figured that just means this could be a “so bad its funny” movie, right?

Summary:

After Logan’s (Dylan Minnette) father is killed right in front of him in a freak accident, he finds himself struggling with grief. His mother Naomi (Piercey Dalton) decides to move the two of them to her sister’s massive house in the mountains. She hopes that it will help them work through their sadness.

Unfortunately the house is up for sale, and the pair has to keep leaving the building because of the numerous open house events. Soon enough, strange things start happening around the place. The water heater is tampered with. Logan’s phone vanishes. Other lost items end up in different rooms. Could it be the odd neighbor Martha (Patricia Bethune) messing with them… or did someone stay inside the giant home after The Open House?

Good Points:
  • Lovely location shooting in and around Big Bear in California
  • Solid acting for most of the film
  • Martha was an entertaining character 

Bad Points:
  • Confusing editing drains all tension from the film
  • The score overplays its hand over and over again
  • The ending was very unsatisfying

Overall:

This movie is a bit of a mess. There are elements of an entertaining and thrilling film at the heart of this, but the senseless editing, horribly overloud and obvious score and an ending that just leaves you exasperated add up to a bad film. But if you are in the mood for a movie for riffing, there are plenty of laughs to be mined. Want a good thriller from Netflix, check out Hush instead.

Scores(out of 5)
Visuals:  2
Sound: 3
Acting:  3
Script:  1
Music: 1
Direction: 2
Entertainment: 2
Total:  2

Curious about a full review, sent me an email and I’ll make additional thoughts to this review.

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Saturday, January 12, 2019

Score Sample: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)

So John Williams has composed music for films since the 1960s. His familiar sound really entered the public mind in the late 70s with Jaws, Close Encounters of a Third Kind, Superman and of course Star Wars. But if you listen to his material from before those milestones you can hear his distinctive voice in those scores too. Over the years Williams has evolved as a composer, adding more and more complexity to his music, but still managing to capture that Williams sound and the knack for crafting memorable themes.

All this to say that when someone asks me what my favorite John Williams score is, I get overwhelmed for a moment. So much music to pick from, and from so many decades and styles. With Jerry Goldsmith, I don't hesitate. But with Williams... And then I smile and say, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

Now with it comes to the films, I'm in the "Raiders is the best one, don't even question me on this" camp. But Williams did the remarkable with his followup score. He took his main theme, because you had to have that, and then made sure to use it quite a bit. Compared to Last Crusade, which goes easy on using the main theme, Temple of Doom doesn't shy away.  It gives the whole score (and film) a more pulpy feel. I also love all the new themes introduced in the film. Sure Willie and Short Round are obnoxious characters, but they have some really great themes. Willie's theme is full of that old school Hollywood glamor. Williams uses both themes in counterpoint to Indy's theme on a number of occasions and to wonderful effect.

Then there are is the bold adventure theme used in the final third of the film, as Indy and his pals save the slave children. I love this theme, and it gets some great moments to shine in the score. Not to mention a myriad of minor motifs that pop up and play around in the score to add even more color. They are all distinct, they are all well stated (and restated so you recognize them) and they are all fun.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is the John Williams score with everything I love about John Williams. It is in the middle of his late 70s to mid 80s style before he really started to add the layers and layers of complexity to his action music. I love it each time I listen to it, and you can't really go wrong with the End Credits which I'll present here. Enjoy!