Music Break: 5 Scores To Celebrate JUNETEENTH 2020

Happy Freedom Day! Juneteenth is also known as Emancipation Day, Black Independence Day or Jubilee Day. Per the National Registry, Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. Note that this was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation – which had become official January 1, 1863.

What has began as a Texas holiday in 1980, is now recognized by 47 states and the District of Columbia as a state holiday or observance and is marking its 155th anniversary this year.

So to commemorate this significant day in history, I thought I’d post five scores from films that deals with slavery, the fight against racial inequality and savagery… and ultimately, the triumph of the human spirit.

“God’s time [Emancipation] is always near. He set the North Star in the heavens; He gave me the strength in my limbs; He meant I should be free.” — Harriet Tubman


“Won’t it be wonderful when Black history and Native American history and Jewish history and all of U.S. history is taught from one book. Just U.S. history.” — Maya Angelou


Hope you enjoy today’s Music Break. Which of these scores are your favorite(s)?

FlixChatter Review: Casino Royale (2006)

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This review was part of Mark & Tom’s Decades Blogathon that was published back in mid May. But since July 6 is Eva Green’s birthday, I decided to post it here this week.


I can’t believe it’s been a decade since Casino Royale came out. I just re-watched it this weekend to refresh my memory for the blogathon, though I had probably re-watched it a few times in the last 10 years. It’s still as good as the first time I saw it, and I still would regard it as one of my favorite Bond films… ever. I’ve mentioned Casino Royale so many times here on my blog, in fact it’s one of my fave films of 2000s and one of the 8 films I’d take with me if I were stuck on a desert island.

Like many Bond fans, I too had trepidation about Daniel Craig casting (too blond, too short, etc.) but of course we’re all proven wrong the second he appeared on the pre-credit scene. Craig might not be the most good looking Bond actor (and he is the shortest), but he more than made up for it in charisma AND swagger. Apart from Craig’s brilliant casting, it’s the story that makes this film so re-watchable. It’s not only a great Bond film, it’s a great film, period. An origin story of sort, James Bond goes on his first ever mission as 007, and he didn’t get off on the right foot with M right away. The scene when M berated Bond when he broke into her flat was intense but humorous, a perfect balancing act the film continuously play throughout. It’s not the first time we see the venerable Dame Judi Dench as M, but I must say I LOVE the banter between her and Craig even more.

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A great Bond film has to have an effective adversary and we find that in Mads Mikkelsen‘s Le Chiffre, a cold-looking Scandinavian with a bleeding eye. It would’ve been a silly gimmick if not played carefully, but here Le Chiffre is a cool and ominous villain. The fact that he’s really not a mastermind in the likes of Blofeld or Drax, but the fact that he’s not hellbent in ruling or destroying the entire world is frankly refreshing. He is a banker to the world’s terrorists, and so his only motive is money, like most of real world villains are. And a great Bond film also needs a memorable Bond girl. Well, Eva Green‘s Vesper Lynd is perhaps the hottest cinematic accountant ever. “I’m the money,” she quips the first time she enters the screen and into Bond’s heart. To this day I’m still enamored by the train scene to Montenegro, the way Bond & Vesper banter each other with wit and sexual undercurrents is what Bond movies are all about. Vesper is no Bimbo and that automatically made her a bazillion times more intriguing than bombshells in lesser Bond movies.

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Casino Royale isn’t big on gadgetry, and as a longtime Bond fan, I actually didn’t mind it. It’s got everything else one would expect in a Bond movie – the cars, the exotic locations, the suspense, action and quick wit – it’s all there. Compared to Craig Bond movies, the Roger Moore versions feel more like a drama given how relentless and vigorous all the action sequences are. The opening parkour/free running scene apparently took six weeks to shoot and my goodness, I’m out of breath just watching it! This is one sprightly Bond and Craig did most of his own stunts, so it looks believable that he was the one doing the action in the movie. He reportedly has the injuries to prove it too! The car chase wasn’t overlong, but dayum was it memorable. The scene where Aston Martin missed Vesper by a hair and rolled over multiple times still took my breath away every time I saw it.

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But all of that action stuff wouldn’t have mattered much without a grounding story. I think the last time Bond was genuinely romantic and emotional was On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, which was when Bond fell in love. The scene of Bond tenderly comforting Vesper in the shower is one of my favorite scenes in all of the Bond films. There is nothing erotic or sexual in this scene, instead it packs an emotional wallop that makes Bond/Vesper relationship one of the best and most convincing romances in a Bond movie. The love story in Casino Royale is core to the plot and it was woven perfectly into all the espionage intrigue.

Vesper: You’re not going to let me in there, are you? You’ve got your armour back on. That’s that.

Bond: I have no armour left. You’ve stripped it from me. Whatever is left of me – whatever is left of me – whatever I am – I’m yours.

Bond films are known for being an eye and ear candy, and this probably ranks as one of the most beautifully-shot. The scenery in Venice as Bond stroll in the Grand Canal is especially striking, topped off by the intense fight scene in a crumbling house (shot at Pinewood Studios modeled after Venice’s Hotel Danieli). The soundtrack also ranks as one of the best, done by David Arnold with an homage to the legendary composer John Barry. I can’t get over how much I love the track City of Lovers, which I’ve highlighted for my Music Break here. The theme song You Know My Name by Chris Cornell is also one of my favorite Bond songs, and the cards-themed opening sequence is spectacularly-done.

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Per IMDb, this was the first James Bond movie to be based on a full-length Ian Fleming novel since Moonraker 27 years prior. Goldeneye‘s director Martin Campbell helmed the film from a screenplay from Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and Paul Haggis. I wish Campbell would be back in the director seat again as his previous two Bond films rate as one of my all time favorites. There’s so much style & sophistication in abundance here, but never at the expense of story & character. What I also love is that the quieter moments in the movie is still just as intriguing as the high-octane action scenes. That poker game in Montenegro is brimming with elegance as well as suspense, whilst showcasing the film’s excellent production design and costume design. Vesper’s plunging purple dress is a real head-turner and I don’t think Craig has looked more suave than in his tuxedo that Vesper tailor-made for him.

I really can go on and on about this movie as it’s really a masterpiece in the 50 years of James Bond films we’ve got so far. It also made me even more dismayed that the recent film in which the plot directly followed this one was such a downgrade. Looking back at Casino Royale‘s fantastic finale with Bond introducing himself to Mr. White, I expected SO much more than what they gave us with Spectre.

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What are your thoughts about ‘Casino Royale’? Does it rank amongst your favorite Bond films?

Five Favorite Music of the 2012 Olympics Musical Director David Arnold

In just a matter of hours, the opening ceremony of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London will be underway. So have you been following the Olympics coverage? It’s interesting how a lot of film folks are involved in the ceremony. British directors Danny Boyle (28 Days Later, Slumdog Millionaire)and Stephen Daldry (Billy Elliot, The Reader) have been tasked to conceptualize the Games’ opening ceremony, which reportedly will  be heavily influenced by Shakespeare’s play The Tempest. Now, serving as the musical director is renowned British composer David Arnold.

So I thought it’d be fitting that for this week’s music break, I shine the spotlight on Mr. Arnold and five of my favorite scores from his collection. But before I get to that, here’s some info about the 50-year-old composer:

Arnold made his debut into writing music for film in 1993 with The Young Americans, which was directed by his college friend Danny Cannon. He then went on to working on Stargate, amongst others, which led to him scoring two more films of Roland Emmerich: Independence Day and Godzilla. He’s perhaps known for his work on many James Bond films. As I’ve mentioned on my previous music break post Casino Royale, Barry was impressed with Arnold’s James Bond music album that he recommended him to Barbara Broccoli to work on the music for Tomorrow Never Dies. He has since scored four more Bond movies: The World Is Not Enough, Die Another Day, Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace.

He won’t be scoring the next Bond film Skyfall, but it’s not because of his Olympics 2012 commitment. As quoted in the Cultbox.com interview, Arnold said, “My availability wasn’t an issue. [The film’s director] Sam Mendes wanted to continue his working relationship with Thomas Newman.”  He is however, involved in the super massive James Bond 50th Anniversary movie box set, it might actually take 50 years to watch everything on that monstrous amount of content!

In any case, here’s five favorite David Arnold scores, and it’s no coincidence that his work I LOVE most is from a Bond movie! 🙂

Casino Royale

You’ve perhaps listened to the City of Lovers score which is my favorite of the entire album. But related to that is this Vesper theme:

The Word is Not Enough

Yes, another Bond movie. But I absolutely LOVE this title song performed by Garbage. Arnold co-wrote the song with Don Black, who’s also no stranger to the Bond franchise, having worked on music from Thunderball to Tomorrow Never Dies. The movie is terrible but I can listen to this over and over again. It’s cool, modern but also has a certain emotional feel to it. Too bad the movie itself doesn’t live up to this awesome song.

Here’s the gorgeous score itself which I quite like:

Independence Day

I’m not a big fan of Roland Emmerich’s work but ID4 is undeniably still one of the best alien-invasion disaster movie to date. In fact, it’s become a traditional viewing every 4th of July for a lot of people, and you don’t have to be Americans to cheer to Bill Pulman’s rousing speech as the US president: ‘…today we celebrate Independence Day!” One of the best things about that movie is the equally patriotic and heroic score, it even has that unabashedly defiant tone. Whenever I hear this end title score, I could imagine Will Smith punching the slimy alien with that smug look on his face! 🙂

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

I didn’t like the third movie of the first one [maybe I just miss Mr. Tumnus, ehm] But I LOVE the majestic score. It has that epic, mythical feel to it which is perfect for the film, but yet it’s warm and heartfelt, I like the subtle sound of children choir in the background as well.

BBC Sherlock

One of the things I notice right away when I watched this marvelous BBC series is the lively theme song! It just fits the tone and this contemporary re-imagining of Sherlock of the 21st century. It has a bit of an ethnic feel to it and I love how fabulously whimsical and witty it sounds, just like the dialog. The music is composed by Arnold with his long-time collaborator Michael Price.



So do you enjoy any of these? Now tell me, what’s YOUR favorite work from David Arnold?

Music Break: Casino Royale Score (City of Lovers)

Happy Thursday everyone! It’s been over a month since my last music break, and I definitely could use one today.

As a preview to our monthly Bond post coming next week, I feel like highlighting one of my favorite Bond scores. I’ve posted my top five Bond title songs, but as far as main scores go, this one is definitely on the top of my list. So much so that it’s one of the twelve piece of music I wish I have with me if I were to be stranded on a desert island. I might as well bring the Blu-ray too, it’s not just a great Bond film, it’s a great film, period.

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The whole soundtrack is splendid, but City of Lovers is by far my favorite. It’s a love theme of sort as it’s played during the scene when Bond and Vesper arrives in Venice. It’s an impossibly gorgeous day and Bond has just typed in his resignation. He’s a man in love. But we know that such blissful state is short-lived and there is something hauntingly melancholic in this score… yet the soothing, elegant strings has that buoyant effect that gets me every time.


What I love about this score is that it sounds a lot like the classic John Barry’s Bond themes of the 60s and 70s, but there’s something fresh and edgy about ’em. So it’s no surprise that composer David Arnold is apparently a big fan of the Bond franchise, AND of Barry’s work. In fact, it’s Barry who recommended Arnold to Barbara Broccoli for Tomorrow Never Dies, having been impressed with his Bond-related project called Shaken and Stirred: The David Arnold James Bond Project. (per Wiki) Since then the English composer has worked on the scores for two other Pierce Brosnan’s Bond movies, this one and Quantum of SolaceI do think this is the best and most memorable soundtrack since Barry left the franchise.

I’m looking forward to what Thomas Newman will bring to the table with Skyfall. He’s worked numerous times with director Sam Mendes in American Beauty, Road to Perdition and Revolutionary Road. Meanwhile, Arnold will be working on the score for the opening ceremony for this year’s Summer Olympics in London.


Are you a fan of Casino Royale‘s soundtrack? Please share YOUR favorite Bond score.