Blade Runner 2049

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As I start to write this I am not sure if it’s a soundtrack review or just my reaction to the movie but as I have been thinking about it since I saw it 2 days ago, I feel compelled to just type.

The original movie is special to a lot of people. I saw it when it opened, I was motionless and in awe all the way through. Afterward I remember repeating ‘how come no-one knows about this movie?’ Then there was no internet and it hadn’t received a lot of reviews. We all know that it had a slow start but has come to be regarded a classic and changed future science fiction films for ever. Applause to Mr Ridley Scott! So from then on the movie was embedded in my psyche, a constant referall when others talked about other sci-fi films.

It’s an audacious thing to do, venture into that unique world 35 years later but then the theme of ‘skin jobs’ opens a whirlpool of morality issues more relevant than ever as we have now cloned a sheep, have robots building cars plus there is huge investment being put into synthetics of the bodily type. Why would we not want to look into the world of the future? Especially as it’s set 30 years from the first film and 2049 is only 32 years away.

We know what we are doing to the planet but feel little is being done. The digital age when newborn was exciting. We could email each other which was exciting and life changing. But we gave little thought to it’s immense power. And so when K or Joe [the name given to him so as to humanise his relationship with his hologram girlfriend] is seen climbing a hill of metal waste, we nervously smile to ourselves out of recognition. It’s the same when K travels to the eternal redness [almost orange] of Las Vegas.  Is this what we are facing we ask? All this gives us an attachment to the film we didn’t necessarily have when the first film came out.

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There are so many nods to the first film and if you haven’t seen the original you will miss them all – to misquote Roy Batty “we have seen things…”. They are beautifully placed. In fact if you haven’t seen the original and haven’t bothered to do some homework you may not get to grips with this amazing sequel at all and this is a good thing as both films are tightly seamed together and with an insert saying “30 Year On” could be watched as one.

It’s got a much slower pace that Blade Runner, almost meditative. But to me it wasn’t a good idea to have a running time of 2 hours 43 minutes even though it looks as good as it does which might make it easier for others to deal with the length. In fact I do remember when seeing the original which runs for 1 hour 57 minutes, I wanted to see more of this strange new world. I, like many, rewatched the first film just before going to to see the sequel and realised how the films chapters fitted together like lego, you never loose concentration. With a tightening up of several scenes in this new version it would have flowed much better.

One character didn’t fit quite right for me in 2049. That of Nianda Wallace played by Jared Leto who follows on from Eldon Tyrell. Tyrell built a corporation on genetically engineering replicants. As he was murdered it’s obvious that another character had to replace him. Wallace has taken the replicants far beyond Tyrell’s Nexus 6 range. First off [and probably a daft thought but I’ll go ahead anyway] – why was he blind? It seemed to close to Tyrell’s obvious sight problems which he overcame with impossibly thick spectacles.  Secondly -we know one has to be mad to genetically engineer on such a huge scale but surely Wallace has really lost the plot…reaching the scale of becoming god as he didn’t speak but prophesied in every line he delivered. In the scene where he meets Deckard none of what Wallace said made any sense.

And what of the beleaguered soundtrack? I was exhilertaed to hear that Johan Johansson was originally going to score it. A perfect choice in my mind and he is one the most atmospheric composers. But then he was pulled off the project. The reasons why abound on the web so I won’t repeat them here but I will say that the producers intervened way too late which is just absurd on such a crucial movie. And it shows, the replacement score by Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch is sufficient but not mind blowing.

Nor surisingly it sounds rushed. It’s a sound pallet which creates an atmosphere rather than addresses any specific moments in the film. It’s a good and fitting atmosphere but it doesn’t take any part in building any character cues even though there a couple in there they do not give any insight. The opening track ‘2049’ begins with the same electrifying and mechanical doom as the original soundtrack but none of the score has the rich melodic feel of Vangelis who built a world of varying textures. A beautiful other worldliness.

And there’s the rub – even though the first score was not nominated for an Oscar [oh how that still hurts] it ranks as one of the of the best ever. And it is one of the best ever, it is outstanding. So who was ever going to match that and should it have been similar to the original anyway? Well, I guess not but in my humble opinion why not?

Saying all this I do like the new score but it’s just not special. There was a glimmer of the original soundtrack but you had to wait a while to hear it. In what I hope and surely is a tribute to Vangelis, it’s entitled ‘Tears In The Rain”.  But let’s not dismiss Zimmer & Wallfisch. Let’s not dismiss it just because it hasn’t the playability of the first score. And let’s remember in 2049 the world is more bleak planet than the first film and this new score definitely tells of a stark, terrifying and lost future.

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ALIEN:COVENANT Soundtrack Review

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A sequel to the Aliens Prequel Prometheus, this is the 6th film of the Alien Franchise [hate that word] … well this is what I have gained from my research, which, I am glad to say is ‘tight’. We have had teasers and a Prologue video and the trailer. It’s all been built up slowly to wet our appetites and even now there is scant information on the plot as a whole. This is the way I like it as I want to be surprised rather than spoon fed every morsel so that by the time you are seated in a dark cinema you know what’s coming before it happens.

MTV’s NEWS website says, “[Ridley] Scott has been adamant that while “Prometheus” “carries the DNA” of “Alien,” it is an original piece of science fiction that delves into everything from biotechnology to artificial intelligence to the origins (and possible destruction) of mankind itself.” Whatever Covenant is, I am in! I Being an avid sci-fi fan seeing Alien for the first time changed all future science fiction films, along with Blade Runner, for ever and both had a tremendous impact on me.

The plot is short [again as it should be] ….
Bound for a remote planet on the far side of the galaxy, members of the colony ship Covenant discover what they think to be an uncharted paradise. While there, they meet David (Michael Fassbender), the synthetic survivor of the doomed Prometheus expedition. The mysterious world soon turns dark and dangerous when a hostile alien life-form forces the crew into a deadly fight for survival.

Originally the score was to be done by Harry Gregson Williams but it has now been handed to Australian composer Jed Kurzel. For me his score to Macbeth was one of the best soundtracks of 2015 and last year he scored Assassin’s Creed so it’s going to be interesting to hear what he has done for Covenant.

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                                                                    Jed Kurzel

Opening with Incubation and a reworking of Jerry Goldsmith familiar ‘pulse’ from Alien, is very short but you feel you are in familiar territory. The Pulse also opens  The Covenant with the pulse AND the familiar 7 note brass which branches out into an eerie sound palette – we are definitely in Alien territory. Neutrino Burst is a mixture of strings and electronics, it’s a slowness which works, building tension. The piano led A Cabin On The Lake has a feeling of calm and reminiscence as does Sails.

Planet 4/Main Theme is a strong cue which slowly builds but is then controlled again by the pulse, almost as if beauty had been glimpsed but we are then reminded not to feel safe. Spores is dominated by strange electronic sounds filled with dread which run into the next track, The Med Bay, seamlessly. This cue is brimming with terror! Payload Deployment is even more terrifying, almost like a bad dream session complete with a sound which resembles a muted scream, glad it was short!

The next 2 cues have titles which bring much expectation – Face Hugger being the first. A low start it may have but when – after a few seconds silence – the coarse sound of a metal like screech is launched, I jumped out of my skin! On screen this is going to do it’s job. This is followed by Chestburster which is eerily calm and dreamlike. Only Bring It To My Turf and Terraforming Bay could be classed as standard action cues but even these has electronic tones which elevate them above standard.

This soundtrack never goes over the top, there is no reaching where the composer wants to make his score stand out from all others. Kurzel has totally embraced what went before and embellished it with slices of electronic scariness. I applaud his loyalty. Whilst sticking closely to the Aliens ‘sound’ [and I would have been disappointed  if he hadn’t of] there are distinct swathes of his own smoothly intertwined.

I’m glad I don’t rate my reviews with points or stars as in reality the majority of the soundtrack is a re-placing of elements from the original and that would negate marks of originality. I was hoping for the Alien ‘feel’ with a little twist here and there and this is what this compact, clever score does.

Track Listing:

  1. Incubation
  2. The Covenant
  3. Neutrino Burst
  4. A Cabin On The Lake
  5. Sails
  6. Planet 4 / Main Theme
  7. Launcher Landing
  8. Wheat Field
  9. Spores
  10. The Med Bay
  11. Grass Attack
  12. Dead Civilization
  13. Survivors
  14. Payload Deployment
  15. Command Override
  16. Face Hugger
  17. Chest Burster
  18. Lonely Perfection
  19. Cargo Lift
  20. Bring It To My Turf
  21. Terraforming Bay
  22. Alien Covenant Theme

Milan Music

KONG SKULL ISLAND, LIFE & THE COMEDIAN – Pocket Reviews

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Composed by Henry Jackson

As lively as you would imagine but with a little thought behind it. The very short [0:36] opening track South Pacific has a slight throwback style to those awful 40’s & 50’s movies. Not that the track is awful, it’s not. It’s a scene setter as they say, an old fashioned prelude. Packard’s Blues has a a displacing, distortion on what I can only describe as a rusty piano, very effective and ‘wired’ sound. Assembling The Team gives us a little electric guitar, obviously their are some hot shots in said team. Kong The Destroyer has really mean brass and anxious violins. Things hot up with Spider Attack, the cue starts with a deep [I think electronic] buzz and you can just sense that the spiders are watching somewhere, it’s followed by rapid percussion. Another strange noise appears in an unsettling cue called The Boneyard. The tracks which cover the main event are never over the top and altogether this is another really strong score by Mr Jackman.

Water Tower Music

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Composed by Jon Ekstrand

The first track Welcome to the ISS, very conveniently tells us about the mission as spoken by a member of the crew Dr. Miranda North [Rebecca Ferguson]. That mission is to get soil samples from Mars. This opening track is like a space meditation, you could imagine floating to this. It continues to sound like a parred down Gravity soundtrack in It’s Alive but ends with a heralding trumpet saying ‘all is not well’. It doesn’t really change over the next couple of tracks and should action be needed it’s somewhat formulaic. Spacewalk cranks up the tension nicely as does Thrusters. It pretty much sticks to this sound palette all the way through until the dynamic A Long Way Back which again doesn’t veer from it’s doom-laden drop note. Swedish composer Ekstrand does say in his bio that he is a composer and film sound designer and this is definitively an outer space mood board. I will say I have not yet seen the film and this soundtrack wouldn’t encourage me to but as a true sci-fi fan I will get to see it and hopefully it will fit the film like a glove.

Milan Music

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Composed by Terence Blanchard

Joy of joys, a JAZZ soundtrack. Jazz soundtracks are one of my passions and this is a welcome score to the list. Composer Blanchard [also trumpeter and bandleader] has composed several jazz scores including Inside Man and Red Tails. A jazz led score is just right for the story of ageing and out of control comedian Jack Burke [Robert De Nero] and to get a sense of how out of control he is you only have to listen to the mighty Blanchard trumpet in the free fall track Electricity On MacDougal. Jackie In the Rain opens with a slow bass line making it easy to imagine the key character, shoulders slumped, ambling along in the rain. Each track is a gem and this score could easily be played anytime – but if you don’t like jazz then it probably will not appeal.

Blue Note Records

CONTRATIEMPO BY FERNANDO VELAZQUEZ -Soundtrack Review

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CONTRATIEMPO [The Invisable Guest] by Fernando Velazquez

From one of the busiest composers around and one of the most diverse. I am now a confirmed fan of this Spanish scorist and accomplished cello payer. This soundtrack colours a dark, intense thriller involving murder and manipulation and and you have no doubt of this as you listen to track upon track of full throttle darkness.

The first track Goodman starts with a low note cello intent on driving you mad as it just keeps going onward in the background as the orchestra dances around it, it’s quite a pull. I try not to compare too often but this is a good comparison – El Inivitado Invisible has those long violin notes which rise and then just hang there just like the classic scores of Bernard Herrmann. In La Pesadillla there is  what I can only describe as a continuous string vibration in the background akin to the sound of swarming bees, it’s very effective and really niggles at your senses. It appears on a more buzzy level in Tu No Quieres Perderlo Todo Verdad is a winding track with wonderful chord changes, there is so much going on in this cue, subtle and compelling. The last track has such gravitas starting with a sombre funereal drone, violins slowly come in and build until the strings can not reach any higher. There is no escaping this track it is really taking you somewhere … and then it doesn’t. It stops and you are left with a drum beat and then it’s back to how it sounded in the first track, jaunty and as if all was ok after all!

There is no motif as such but there is a pattern which journeys you along and there are many long, unswerving notes which just hang there giving a chilling sense of terror. This is a score which definitely gets under your skin!

The score is performed by the Euskadi Symphony Orchestra who do such a brilliant job under the baton of the Velazquez. The album also includes the original song “Nadie va a venir a buscarte,” composed by Velázquez and performed by Zahara.

TRACK LISTING

1. Goodman 2:27
2. El invitado invisible 2:12
3. La pesadilla 5:37
4. Giro a la izquierda 1:28
5. Tú no quieres perderlo todo ¿verdad? 3:19
6. El testigo 2:44
7. El hundimiento 0:51
8. Reencuentro 1:07
9. Un buen hombre 2:03
10. Atrapada 3:19
11. El último error 2:44
12. No me amenaces 5:08
13. Yo sé lo que vi 6:51
14. Chantaje 1:22
15. Tres preguntas 4:16
16. Pensamiento lateral 7:15
17. La sombra de la sombra 11:22
18. El invitado invisible II 7:45
19. Nadie va a venir a buscarte (Zahara)

QUARTET RECORDS

HIDDEN FIGURES BY HANS ZIMMER, PHARRELL WILLIAMS & BENJAMIN WALLFISCH – SOUNDTRACK REVIEW

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“This started off with all of us piling into a room and playing together. I had this idea: How do these women think differently about mathematics? They dance about math. The rhythm shouldn’t be straight, it should swing a little. It really was the three of us. People don’t understand that we really do work well as musicians in bands.
Hans Zimmer

Initially this was a problem for me, I don’t really like it when two composers work on a soundtrack let alone three. Call me a purist but I have heard a few collaborations on scores and they always come across as uneven. So I put some work in and read about how they they put it all together. Williams is one the films producers who was working on some songs with a 60’s vibe, Zimmer said that he would have “the right playbook”. And of course Wallfisch had previously contributed music to Zimmer’s ‘Batman versus Superman: Dawn of Justice’ score. It still didn’t sell the idea to me but I settled sown to listen to the score.

Hidden Figures is the story [not well known before the movie] of African American women working at NASA in the early 60″s.  It opens with Katherine, a plaintive piano that is overtaken by a female voice which accompanies it well. Mission Control gives us the first rush of a ‘spacey’ sound – a short pulse with a driving under bass. This returns in the start of Space Task Group, the piano returns and the low tones telling of the continued failures of the group. Plucked strings and a short base line gives a comedic nuance to Slice of Pie.

Redacted is a joy of a cue with those plucky strings re-apearring and then at 1:01 a bass and a muted trumpet make a delicious sound [I love this cue!] Redstone is another strong cue where  ‘babbling’ voices gives a sense of a puzzled mind working at 100 miles an hour, it’s a clever twist. The babble is reprised in the tense cue Launch. Rocket Peril is not short of a small symphony which soars.

All the rich elements which make this soundtrack follow through in cue after cue, giving the soundtrack a richness of texture. It’s a soundtrack I will return to. To say it has a feel-good factor does not cheapen the overall score, it strives and lifts. I heard the signatures of all three composers albeit that Williams touch only came to my mind a couple of times. Has it changed my mind about collaborations? Well, I will admit that as much as I really enjoyed this score I think I remain cautious.

TRACK LIST

1. Katherine 2:37
2. Mission Control 1:17
3. I’d Already Be One 1:08
4. Space Task Group 2:56
5. Slice Of Pie 1:05
6. Redacted 1:26
7. With All The Angels 1:35
8. Redstone 1:36
9. Call Your Wives 3:23
10. Launch 2:21
11. That’s Just The Way Things Are 2:25
12. Sign 1:11
13. Kitchen Kiss 0:55
14. Mary And The Judge 1:30
15. I Like Her Numbers 2:07
16. Ladies’ March 1:25
17. Mary And Levi 2:12
18. Euler’s Method 1:23
19. Proposal 1:40
20. Pearls 2:41
21. Katherine Calculates 1:32
22. Lift Off 3:11
23. Warning Light 0:59
24. Rocket Peril 3:10
25. Hidden Figures 3:50
26. Epilogue 0:38
Total Album Time: 50:13

Columbia Label

Note that there is also Hidden Figures The Album featuring songs used in the film together with songs composed by Pharrell Williams, also on the Columbia label.

PREVENGE by Toydrum Soundtrack Review

From Lakeshore press release:
“A pitch black, wryly British comedy, PREVENGE follows Ruth, played by Alice Lowe,a pregnant woman on a killing spree that’s as funny as it is vicious. It’s her misanthropic unborn baby dictating Ruth’s actions, holding society responsible for the absence of a father. The child speaks to Ruth from the womb, coaching her to lure and ultimately kill her unsuspecting victims.  PREVENGE marks the directorial debut from Lowe, who is a true triple threat, writing, directing, and acting in the film during her own real-life pregnancy.
PREVENGE is Alice’s directorial feature debut. She wrote, starred in, and directed it whilst 7-8 months pregnant with her first child, who also appears in the film. Alice was one of the BIFA nominees for ‘best debut director’.”

I became an Alice Lowe fan with the film Sightseers [2012] , and as I have just a teeny weeny, ever so so slight ‘connection’ to her as she went to school with a cousin of mine [I said it was slight :-)], it’s only fair that I should review the films soundtrack. Here’s a little bit of info on Toy drum from the press release:

“Toydrum are a duo who sneak into the consciousness. Not for them the full frontal assault but, instead, a drip-feed of classy work that many may know without knowing. Their hugely acclaimed work with the late singer-songwriter Gavin Clark lit up Shane Meadows’ ‘This Is England ‘90’, their rework of John Lennon’s ‘How Do You Sleep’ led Noel Gallagher to have them remix his High Flying Birds hit ‘In The Heat of the Moment’ (which, in turn, soundtracked last year’s epic ad for the latest ‘Assassin’s Creed’ game), and their soundtracks for films such as the recent Tye Sheridan-starring thriller ‘Detour’ and Alice Lowe’s 2016 Venice Film Festival opener, ‘Prevenge’, have broadened their appeal further.”

Intriguing! As is the soundtrack. It starts appropriately with Intro which is as disconnected as you can get with a pulse running through it which perhaps is the baby’s heart. Biological Clockwork (The Train) is where we are introduced to the voice of the unborn baby saying “It’s OK, I’m here”. The rhythm of the synths obviously suggests the motion of the train with a splendid flurry of 80’s style synth. Fury Pt 1 & 2[Rework] is dominated by  deep bass with a flat, synth chime which resonates that ‘something is not quite right” … putting it mildly. Have to say that this a track which will be loaded on to my non-film playlist!

We get to the darkness in Visions Of (Nice Guy Josh)/Killing For Two, the first half is a cold eerie sound palette with a siren sound which is still there but comes in after a childlike toy sound. Climbing The Walls (Pt 1] also has a pulse but this time it sounds like a chilling, muted voice tying to say something. Crazy Bitch/Hormonal Bliss had me laughing at the very start due to the baby voice saying “Do it, do it now” but then it goes into a rich, deep synth riff which I wanted to hear more of but as with quite a few of the tracks ,they have  2 or 3 cues in 1 track. I guess it’s because they would be too short on their own.

Mostly mood tracks with bursts of great synth, all enhanced with the baby voice starting off some tracks. It creates exactly what is required – fear, madness, disconnectedness. I longed for more of the deep synths but’s that just my love of them, this is a solid thriller/horror score which paints only one colour – BLACK!

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TRACK LISTING
1. Intro (1:47)
2. Biological Clockwork (The Train) (1:53)
3. This Is What I Really Look Like (Rework) (3:46)
4. Logical Clock (2:08)
5. Fury Pt 1 & 2 (Rework) (3:46)
6. Visions of (Nice Guy Josh) / Killing for Two (2:27)
7. Always with You (Full Song) (3:12)
8. Be Ruthless Ruth (DJ Dan) / Let’s Get You (To Bed) / Ruth Theme (Bath) / Biological Clockwork (The Window) (5:08)
9. Climbing Up the Walls (Pt 1) (1:15)
10. Crazy Bitch / Hormonal Bliss (3:51)
11. Ruth’s Theme (Cemetery – Yoga) / Visions Of (Pt 2) (4:06)
12. Biological Clockwork (The Walk) (4:41)
13. Climbing Up the Walls (Pt 2) / Baby Knows Best (The Tunnel) (2:34)
14. Always with You (Pt 2) / Ruth’s Theme (The Cliffs) (3:31)
15. Children of Love (End Titles) – Paul Synnott (2:10)

INVADA RECORDS UK

A CURE FOR WELLNESS by BENJAMIN WALLFISCH Soundtrack Review

 

a-cure-for-wellness[Soundtrack Cover]

This is by far one of the most interesting of Wallfisch’s scores. Given the eerie subject matter – a company’s CEO is in an idyllic but mysterious ‘wellness centre’ in the Swiss Alps. An employee, sent to retrieve him, who soon realises that the spa treatments are not what they appear to be – the scope is quite wide. And with cues entitled .. Terrible Darkness, Nobody Ever Leaves and Clearly He’s Lost His Mind, Wallfisch has definitively delivered.

It opens with a young female voice humming a short refrain which we hear throughout the score and which has an old world feel about. Rites is a strong cue, dark and ethereal with chorus and very deep mail voices [such as in Buddhist chants], these seem to rise from another world. Feuerwalzer is a waltz intertwined with a full orchestral dramatic cue. Clearly He’s Lost His Mind starts with music that would have suited the end piece in The Shining. The end cue, Volmer’s Lab has a childlike feel, almost a message after the mayhem trying to assure us that everything is well. Volmer Institut has an unexpected beauty about it whilst Lipstick is almost indescribable and sounds like continued distorted volume!
This is an odd score for a very odd film but it’s totally compelling. The mix of orchestral works with some of the darkness sounds I have ever heard on a soundtrack, give this score a overwhelming sense of fear and madness.

TRACK LIST
1. Hannah And Volmer (4:35)
2. Nobody Ever Leaves (1:49)
3. Bicycle (2:00)
4. The Rite (3:42)
5. Feuerwalzer (3:44)
6. Magnificent, Isn’t It? (2:11)
7. Actually I’m Feeling Much Better (1:59)
8. Clearly He’s Lost His Mind (2:49)
9. Our Thoughts Exactly (1:03)
10. Volmer Institut (3:02)
11. Terrible Darkness (3:18)
12. Lipstick (4:21)
13. Waiting (0:55)
14. Zutritt Verboten (3:38)
15. There’s Nothing Wrong With You People (1:25)
16. Lockhart’s Letter (2:12)
17. Volmer’s Lab (3:32)
18. I Wanna Be Sedated – Mirel Wagner (3:38)

Milan Music