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: Hidden Figures (2016)

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Directed by: Theodore Melfi
Written by: Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi
Runtime: 2 hrs 7 minutes

Hollywood loves BOAT, that is, films Based On a True Story, and few are as overdue yet timely as Hidden Figures. Based on the nonfiction book of the same name by Margot Lee Shetterly, it tells the story of a team of African-American women who worked at NASA and their integral roles in helping the U.S. advance during the Space Race during the Cold War era. Billed as ‘human computers,’ these women are the quintessential unsung heroes with an inspirational and important story to tell.

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Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe star as Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson respectively. A trifecta of massively talented Black actresses who brought wit, grace and humor to their roles. The film is at times harrowing to watch and it made me sad and angry at the appalling treatments of Black people, especially women, during a time when racial segregation was still legally enforced in the country. The fact that this happened merely 50 some years ago literally gives me chills. Yet the film never descended into somber or depressing territory, but it was brimming with a defiant but hopeful spirit throughout.

Right from the opening scene when their car broke down and they had to deal with the white cop who arrived to question them instead of offering to help, there’s a lighthearted tone to the film. It’s not that the filmmakers are making light of the situation however, in fact, this is a crowd-pleasing film that’s told with equal amusement and gravitas. Even during a key scene where Katherine had to walk half a mile one way just to go to the colored bathrooms, drink from a separate coffee kettle marked ‘colored’ and endure constant belittlement from her colleagues, the film never felt too heavy-handed or overly-sentimental. There’s also the moment Dorothy was kicked out of the Virginia public library for venturing out of the ‘colored’ section. Spencer’s Dorothy remained dignified and defiant as she rode home on the bus with her young boys.

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It’s hard to pick a favorite out of the three female protagonists, as they’re all excellent and given an equally compelling character arc. Henson’s Katharine seemed to have the largest arc of the three and it’s such a joy to watch her in the role. She had to act several scenes writing complex mathematical formula on a board in a single long take, and she managed to do it effortlessly and believably. All three women were convincing in their roles, their portrayals felt real instead of simplistic caricatures. The memorable male characters are Kevin Costner as the director of the Space Task Group, Mahershala Ali as Katharine’s love interest and Glen Powell as John Glenn. None of them ever overshadowed the women, but adds a perspective of the gender/racial issues of the time. On a side note, this movie made me curious to check out The Right Stuff now which chronicles the space race.

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I’m glad I waited to do my top 10 list until January as this film merits a spot on there. Boasting beautiful cinematography by Mandy Walker and rousing music by Benjamin Wallfisch, Pharrell Williams and Hans Zimmer, film also looks AND sounds great. It’s an important film to be sure, but also a well-written and well-acted piece that’s as inspiring as it is entertaining. It made me laugh and cry, with an ending that made me want to get up and cheer. I certainly don’t mind watching this again.

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Have you seen Hidden Figures? What did you think?

Everybody’s Chattin’ + Trailer Spotlight: DUNKIRK (Trailer #1)

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Happy Wednesday! It feels like a sluggish past few weeks… especially when I got barely ANY vacation left through the end of the year. My European friends, you guys are lucky you get at least a month worth of vacation, I mean I’ve worked in the same company for a decade and only got three weeks of vacation :\ But hey, I’m seeing Rogue One tonight, so at least that adds an extra spring in my step in these cold, frigid Winter days!!

It’s been ages since I did some community links… so let’s get to it!

Jordan reviewed the music documentary of Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, One More Time With Feeling

Margaret reviewed the last episode of Westworld (can’t wait to binge on this later this month)

I love it when a fellow blogger reviewed a little-seen indie gem I happen to enjoy. Steven reviewed the Welsh comedy Hunky Dory

Glad someone else thinks this film deserves to be seen. Brittani reviewed Loving 

Vinnie reviewed one of my Blind Spot picks (that I haven’t yet to see), The Big Sleep

Well, it’s that time of the year! Chris asked fellow bloggers ‘What’s their favorite Christmas movies?’

Last but not least… Courtney reviewed critical darling of the year La La Land (and from her headline I think you know full well how she feels)


TRAILER SPOTLIGHT

Well it seems that every movie out of Christopher Nolan is a big event… and DUNKIRK is no different. I’ve been excited for this for a while. I posted the teaser trailer here back in August, but now we finally got the full first trailer. Behold…

Woof, this gives me goosebumps! I don’t think I’ve ever seen a film dedicated to the brutal event in Dunkirk, France. The only one I remember vividly was this scene in Joe Wright’s Atonement, with its stunning tracking shot. But it’s such a pivotal moment in WWII history, and if there’s a director who could do it justice on the big screen, it’d be Chris Nolan!

As always, Nolan’s always assembled top notch cast for his epic films…

  • Tom Hardy
  • Kenneth Branagh
  • Cillian Murphy
  • Mark Rylance
  • James D’Arcy
  • Aneurin Barnard

I love all of those actors, including my recent discovery (read: crush), Welsh actor Aneurin Barnard! Sorry I don’t care for that kid from the famous boy band, but surely it’ll bring a ton of teenyboppers to see this. So Tom Hardy plays a fighter pilot, but I hope he gets to talk in this movie? Yes it seems to be another male-dominated Nolan film, which made me think perhaps Nolan’s next movie should be a female ensemble cast? 😉


Visually this movie just looks epiiiiic! It’s shot in IMAX 65 mm and 65 mm large format film stock by cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema who also worked with Nolan in Interstellar (though my fave work of his is the visually-stunning Her). Does that mean he’s done working with his longtime cinematographer Wally Pfister?? But looks like Nolan regular Hans Zimmer is back scoring this film.

It’d be amazing to behold how Nolan recreated the harrowing chaos of Allied forces who are surrounded by German army. It’s more than just staging a spectacle of aerial bombardments wreaking havoc on the beach and the ocean, destroying troops and sinking Allied ships. It’s also a tale of hope… as the evacuation is also known as the Miracle of Dunkirk. Per Wiki, on the first day of the evacuation, only 7,669 men were evacuated, but by the end of the eighth day, a total of 338,226 soldiers had been rescued by a hastily assembled fleet of over 800 boats.

I’m not usually a huge war movie fan just because I can’t handle the brutality, but yet I’m looking forward to this.


What do you think of the the first DUNKIRK trailer? 

Week In Review: Hunt For the Wilderpeople + Loving + The Little Prince

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How’s your weekend everyone? It’s been a while since I did a roundup post, but I figure it’s a good way for me to ease my way into blogging again. It’s been a particularly gratifying week as I saw two of my highly-anticipated films, Loving and Hunt For the Wilderpeople. As Winter has officially arrived, we pretty much hibernated this weekend so my hubby and I saw The Little Prince on Netflix Saturday night.

Below is my mini reviews of two of the films I saw this past week, plus quick thoughts on the New Zealander adventure comedy…

Hunt for the Wilderpeople

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I became a huge fan of Taika Waititi‘s work since the hilarious vampire mockumentary What We Do In The Shadows. Well, he’s come up with yet another riotously-funny movie that could practically double as a travel video for New Zealand!

I will do a full review of this later in December, but right now all I can say is… RUN, don’t walk to rent this movie!! I’m gutted that I missed this on the big screen, not sure that it even had a theatrical release here in MN. In any case, I enjoyed the heck out of this one. LOVE the unlikely duo of veteran actor Sam Neill with newcomer Julian Dennison, a riotous 14-year-old NZ child actor with an amazing comic timing and screen presence. He’s inspired me to do a top 10 list of great 2016 performances by kid actors, so stay tuned for that!


Loving

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Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple, are sentenced to prison in Virginia in 1958 for getting married.

This film couldn’t have come at a better time, as America is surely in tumultuous times right now. It seems appalling that interracial marriage was still illegal in some states fifty some years ago, but have we really come that far since? The latest film from Jeff Nichols is beautifully-told, graceful and affecting as the filmmaker focused on the couple themselves instead of making a political statement. Yes of course the film has a major political and social implication, as the Supreme Court decision on Loving v. Virginia put an end to all miscegenation laws in 1967. But at the end of the day, the story is about two human beings who loved each other and wanted to raise a family together.

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Both Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton portrayed Mildred and Richard with such quiet grace and sincerity. It’s an understated performance that speaks volumes and conveys the tension as well as poignancy of what they went through. For someone withe the name Loving, Richard surely lives up to that and it’s truly a beautiful marriage built on not just love, but mutual respect. Michael Shannon has a small–but–memorable cameo as a LIFE magazine photographer who took the iconic shots of the couple as they simply hang out in their home, watching tv, playing with their kids, etc. There’s also Marton Csokas as the ‘villain’ of the story, the Virginia sheriff who arrested them.

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The script, direction and performance all work beautifully to bring the Lovings’ story to life. The cinematography and music are beautiful and evocative, it works in transporting us to a certain period of Americana. But it’s the journey of the Lovings that I shall never forget. By making the film about the couple, forgoing court drama theatrics, Nichols made a deeply moving film that connected with me in a refreshingly real way.

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The Little Prince (2015)

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A little girl lives in a very grown-up world with her mother, who tries to prepare her for it. Her neighbor, the Aviator, introduces the girl to an extraordinary world where anything is possible, the world of the Little Prince.

Truth be told, I’m not that familiar with Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince, despite it being the fourth most translated book in the world. This is the first animated feature film adaptation of the book, directed by Mark Osborne (Kung Fu Panda), boasting a terrific cast that includes Jeff Bridges, Rachel McAdams, Marion Cotillard, Ricky Gervais, etc.

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I have a penchant for these kinds of imaginative stories, one that blends in reality and fantasy set in striking visuals. The little girl’s relationship with her overly-ambitious mother is an interesting commentary about the overly-structured life of an adult vs the wide-eyed openness of a child exploring the world. I have to admit it took me a while to get into this one at first, even after the girl (Mackenzie Foy, who was in Interstellar) meets the narrator, an elderly man (Jeff Bridges) who told her the tale about the aviator and the little prince. I’m often lost in the beauty of the visuals, especially the stop-motion scenes in the desert created using paper. It’s absolutely gorgeous with a dreamy quality, but yet for some reason I couldn’t connect to the story nor the characters as much as I wanted to. I wonder if at times there’s a case of ‘lost in translation’ here from the original story.

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There are philosophical quotes that resonated with me however, such as “One sees clearly only with the heart. The essential is invisible to the eye.” I also enjoyed the music by Hans Zimmer and Richard Harvey, which nicely complements the ethereal, watercolor look of the film. It certainly is worth a watch, for sure it’s a technical/visual marvel, even if the film overall isn’t as breathtaking as I had hoped.

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More reviews coming your way…

I’ve written up my full review of Doctor Strange coming later this week. My hubby and I saw Arrival last weekend, right after we’re back from our Zion/Vegas trip, which was truly one of the best, most affecting sci-fi film I’ve seen in a good while.  I plan on writing my review of Arrival and Moonlight (one of the two October Movies of the Month!) later this week. I’ll be seeing the new Brad Pitt/Marion Cotillard spy drama Allied tonight, and if the snow storm doesn’t wreck havoc on traffic, hopefully I’ll be seeing Hidden Figures tomorrow night! Oh and my new blog contributor Laura S. also gave me a review of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, so stay tuned for a slew of new reviews in the next few weeks!

#SlowlyGettingMyBloggingMojoBack 😉


So did you see anything good this weekend? If you’ve seen any of these movies, I’m curious to hear what YOU think. 

Music Break: Top 5 Fave Soundtracks from Henry Jackman

I had been listening to X-Men: First Class during my workout lately, one of my favorite scores of the past few years. Henry Jackman was a protégé of one of my favorite composers, Hans Zimmer, and he’s been churning out great works himself.

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Born in Middlesex, UK, Jackman studied classical music at St. Paul’s Cathedral Choir School, Eton College and Oxford University. He had been building a successful career in the recording industry, even releasing 3 solo albums, when he garnered the attention of Zimmer and John Powell, also a favorite of mine. He went on to work on composing additional music on such films as The Dark Knight, Kung Fu Panda and the Pirates of the Caribbean films.

Here are five of my favorites from his work:

X-Men: First Class (2011)

The music is one of the reasons I love this movie so much, and these two are my absolute faves. It actually made for a great workout music, but I also like listening to it when I need inspiration at work.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

I’m a huge fan of Alan Silvestri’s music work for the first Captain America movie, especially the end credits sequence. It was appropriately optimistic and patriotic. But Henry Jackman made an equally memorable score for the second one. It’s still got that positive, buoyant vibe, but somehow it feels more contemporary and slightly darker to go with the times and challenges Capt. has to face in modern times.

Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014)

One of the things I enjoyed about Kingsman is the fun, almost mischievous score that fits the movie perfectly. It’s got a bit of a James Bond-y vibe to it as well, which made me think he’d be a good fit to score a Bond flick in the future.

Captain Philips (2013)

This is such a beautiful, almost zen-like score but at the same time, it has a reflective, vigilant tone which is perfect given the ordeal the protagonist’s been through. It shows how versatile

Wreck-It-Ralph (2012)

I love that there’s a video game-y sound to this vibrant score. It sounds a bit similar to Big Hero 6 which Jackman also worked on that I quite like. It also sounds a bit retro which works for the story.

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I can’t wait to hear Jackman’s score for the upcoming Captain America: Civil War and Amazon’s original story based on Philip K. Dick’s novel, The Man in the High Castle. Interestingly both projects deal with a common enemy, the Third Reich.


Hope you enjoyed this week’s music break. What’s your favorite score from Henry Jackman?

Music Break: Five favorite scores from sci-fi movies about robots

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As Ted just reviewed Chappie this weekend, he mentioned that the only thing he liked in the movie was Hans Zimmer‘s score. So it made me think of other robot movies that have great, memorable soundtracks. First thing that came to mind is of course Pacific Rim, boy I love that movie and its soundtrack, but I’ve featured that in previous music break here.

So here are five of my favorite movies dealing with robots and/or artificial intelligence. It’s interesting how soulful most of the music of sci-fi movies can be, and Blade Runner in particular, have such an emotionally haunting quality about it. For some reason I didn’t include the A.I. soundtrack as one of my favorite John Williams’ scores which is a glaring omission as it’s just sooo beautiful. I also like the song For Always by Lara Fabian, but the instrumental side is even more gorgeous. So here they are in order of release:

Blade Runner (1982)

By Vangelis

 

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

By Brad Fiedel

 

The Iron Giant (1999)

By Michael Kamen

 

Artificial Intelligence (2001)

By John Williams

 

Big Hero 6 (2014)

By Henry Jackman

 

BONUS:

I simply have to include this one even though it’s a TV series. My hubby is a big fan too, especially from the earlier seasons.

Battlestar Galactica (2004 Series) by Bear McCreary


Hope you enjoy this music break. What are some of YOUR favorite soundtrack from sci-fi movies about robots?

Music Break: 5 Great Themes from 5 Favorite Action Flicks

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As an action movies fanatic, I also love the music that accompanies them. Here’s a list of some great themes from action movies throughout the years.

Black Rain
Chase to the Steel Plant by Hans Zimmer

Hans Zimmer has been the go to guy for composing big Hollywood tent pole pictures within the last 15 years or so. But he started out composing small movies and this was his first gig at composing a budget Hollywood film. It’s also his first collaboration with Ridley Scott. In this underrated buddy cop action thriller, his style really shows and I love this film’s soundtrack. Especially this particular track, it’s from a scene where two of the main characters chasing a suspect that leads to a shootout. The music works perfectly with the scene and I always get goose bumps when I watch this scene and hear the theme.

Heat
Unused Ending score by Elliot Goldenthal

I thought Michael Mann’s Heat is a nearly flawless masterpiece and the music by Elliot Goldenthal is just as good. To me the music in the film is timeless, you can still watch the film today and never thought it’s from the 90s. This track was supposed to be used at the film’s ending scene but apparently Mann wasn’t too thrilled about it and decided to use Moby’s God Moving Over the face of the Waters track instead. This of course angered Goldenthal and he and Mann didn’t work together again until Public Enemies. I love Moby’s theme but I prefer this one over the one that was used in the final fim.

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Song for Jesse by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis

Technically this film isn’t an “action” picture because there’s only one shootout scene but I thought it’s one of the best westerns ever made and quite underrated. The score by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis was just stunning. There are many great tracks from the soundtrack but this one is my absolute favorite. The whole film felt like a dream and this theme enhances the mood.

Sunshine
Surface of the Sun by John Murphy

I wish more Hollywood directors would hire John Murphy to compose their films, he’s one of my favorites, I thought his work in Mann’s Miami Vice was excellent. He and Danny Boyle has collaborated in many films together. This track from Sunshine has been used in many movie trailers and it’s a great one.

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
We Have All the Time In World by John Barry

I can’t leave a James Bond flick out of a list about action pictures. John Barry’s excellent and timeless theme for one of my favorite Bond flicks. I can listen to this theme and the song by Louis Armstrong over and over again. I know for years many so called Bond fans hated this flick, but ever since Christopher Nolan said it’s his favorite Bond film, they have changed their tune about the film now. I’ve always been a fan and had Connery returned as 007 or Timothy Dalton accepted the role, it would have a been perfect Bond film to me. George Lazenby wasn’t bad as Bond but I couldn’t really accept him playing a super spy. But Diana Riggs was an awesome Bond girl.

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These are some of my favorite action themes, feel free to share yours in the comments section.