Hellboy (2004)

Image result for hellboy soundtrackHellboy: The Deluxe Edition

Composed by: Marco Beltrami

In 2004 one of the lesser known, but still popular superheroes got his own film adaptation. Hellboy is perhaps my favorite comic book franchise, mixing elements of early 20th Century pulp elements (particularly Lovecraft and Nazis) and mythology and folklore. In both the comics and film Hellboy is the son of a demon, summoned to earth by historical character-turned super-villain Rasputin for nefarious apocalyptic purposes. Fortunately, the demonic child is picked up by supernatural expert Professor Bruttenholm and raised to be a good guy in the government organization known as the BPRD (Bureau for Paranormal Research & Defense). On Hellboy’s side are other misfits and freaks such as the fire wielding Liz Sherman and amphibious Abe Sapien and against him are Rasputin, a collection of Nazis, and other odd terrors determined to unleash elder gods of chaos and usher in a new world.

The film is pretty good, though as a Guillermo del Toro film its visuals tend to be a little stronger than the actual story. The film was scored by Marco Beltrami. Beltrami is well liked today by film music fans, but at the time most of his works were for dumb horror flicks and comedies. Hellboy provided him with a rich and varied source of characters and ideas to work with and he delivers, creating an eclectic but thematically driven score with bits of wackiness. The amount of themes and motifs is impressive and many are remarkably effective despite their simplicity. Continue reading

Soundtrack Review: The Dark Knight

Composed by: Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard

Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight is still considered by many to the not just the greatest Batman movie but the greatest superhero movie of all time. For me the film does live up to the hype, and was certainly better than Batman Begins with stronger villains (especially the deceased Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker), clearer action scenes, a heavily intense story, and great performances by Gary Oldman as James Gordon and Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent.

One area that did not  necessarily improve from Batman Begins is the music. Once again collaborating with James Newton Howard, Hans Zimmer and Media Ventures was now in even more control, with Howard only rarely showing his style. When deciding who would get what of the two new main character themes (Joker and Harvey Dent/Two-Face), Zimmer got the big main villain. Continue reading

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Composed by: Michael Giacchino

Since everything has to have a cinematic universe now, Star Wars has been getting standalone movies alongside the main trilogies. The first of these, Rogue One, tells the story of how the Rebels got the Death Star plans. It’s an okay movie. Most of the characters are one-dimensional and it takes a while for things to get going. There’s little moments of horrible fanservice as well. Do we really need to see those two a-holes from the Mos Eisley cantina? And was it necessary to have a creepy CGI Tarkin? It wouldn’t be sacrilegious to just find a look-a-like actor and cast him. But the final battle is probably the best the franchise has ever offered and pretty much elevates the entire movie on its own.

Along with being a standalone movie, Rogue One is also notable for being the first Star Wars film scored by someone other than John Williams. Originally, director Gareth Edwards had Alexandre Desplat hired on. But thanks to a ridiculous amount of last-minute reshoots and re-editing, his score didn’t fit and he was too preoccupied with another project to rework it. Michael Giacchino was brought in to produce a full Star Wars score in under a month. Giacchino has often been associated with John Williams, with his Medal of Honor music being reminiscent of the Indiana Jones scores and his work on Jurassic World. So does his score stand up to Willliams’ standards? First the themes. Continue reading

Soundtrack Review: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

IndianaJonesAndTheKingdomOfTheChrystalSkullSoundtrack2008.JPG

Composed and Conducted by: John Williams

Nearly two decades after Indiana Jones literally rode into the sunset with Last Crusade, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas decided to revisit the franchise, a move with its fair share of controversy since Harrison Ford was noticeably much, much older. Kingdom of the Crystal Skull has gotten mixed reviews, and is often cited as the worst movie in series. I have to agree that it’s the worst, but despite some serious flaws, especially its underwhelming last act, I think it’s an okay movie with some genuinely great scenes.

One of the most exciting aspects of Indiana Jones coming back was the return of John Williams, who at this point had just started to take it easier with his movie scoring schedule. As with his return to Star Wars, much time had elapsed since he scored Indiana Jones. Would his changed style of scoring affect how fun the score would be? Continue reading

Soundtrack Review: Spectre

Composed and Conducted by: Thomas Newman

Spectre, as the title suggests, reintroduced the evil organization led by the cat-stroking Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Daniel Craig’s performance as 007 is even better, but the film is a mixed bag. It’s great for the first two-thirds, but gets mired by an attempt to link all of the Craig films together, as well as tying his origins to Blofeld and Spectre’s creation, an unnecessary move that wastes time and adds nothing. It’s not a terrible film, just an underwhelming one.

With Sam Mendes staying on for this film, it was inevitable that Thomas Newman would return too, making him only the third recurring composer after John Barry and David Arnold. Unfortunately, entire passages of music are recycled from Skyfall, though the album does focus on the more original material. For the third time the title song is not included on the soundtrack! This time it’s Sam Smith’s “Writing’s on the Wall”, which has good lyrics and fantastic music. Its main downfall is Smith’s singing voice, which just didn’t do it for me. I feel he gets way too high-pitched at points. Also, as with Adele’s “Skyfall”, Newman only uses the song once in his score, in an instrumental version that doesn’t even make full use of the melody. Perhaps there were production issues as with Skyfall that hindered him from utilizing it more. Continue reading

Soundtrack Review: Skyfall

Composed and Conducted by: Thomas Newman

The 50th anniversary for the James Bond film was marked by Skyfall, a rather good film that successfully meshed some of the old school tropes of the franchise with more recent sensibilities. It’s probably the most artistic entry in the franchise, especially when it comes to the lighting work. As it’s a Sam Mendes film, David Arnold was replaced by Mendes’ choice composer, Thomas Newman, a move which irked a few fans who had really been enjoying Arnold’s run.

Skyfall’s soundtrack has its fair share of difficulties regarding the song of the same name by Adele. First of all, it’s not on the actual soundtrack thanks to contractual issues, as was the case with “You Know My Name” from Casino Royale. Also, it was not completed in time for Newman to incorporate it into his score, which is a real shame because it’s one of the best songs, and features a strong, powerful tune. Newman did hold off on scoring one scene, just so there could be at least one reference. The track is “Komodo Dragon”, which plays the theme wonderfully before atmospheric material and some Asian string music. It’s one of the best tracks and shows what could have been if there was more coordination in the music department. Continue reading

Soundtrack Review: Casino Royale

Composed by: David Arnold

Conducted by: Nicholas Dodd

After numerous complaints from James Bond fans regarding Die Another Day, the producers spent a couple extra years on the next film, ultimately deciding to go with a reboot that toned down the camp elements. Martin Campbell, director of the well-loved Goldeneye, came on to create this more realistic take on 007. Pierce Brosnan’s suave character was replaced with a more hard-edged and less quippy performance by Daniel Craig. Casino Royale is probably my favorite James Bond movie. I didn’t think I could ever be so engrossed by watching people play cards.

Coming over from the Brosnan years was David Arnold. His score for Casino Royale proves to be noticeably different from his previous scores, especially Die Another Day. For the third time he was allowed to help create the title song, and the result is one of the best Bond songs yet, and my favorite. Sung by Chris Cornell, “You Know My Name” is relentlessly energetic with awesome bad-ass lyrics. Unlike most of the previous songs, it doesn’t talk about romance or sleaze, but focuses on the dangerous life of a secret agent. Unfortunately, some legal issues prevented this wonderful piece of music from getting on album, and its absence is very frustrating since the CD now lacks its appropriate opener. Continue reading