Music Break: Independence Day (1996) patriotic score by David Arnold

Happy Fourth of July, everyone!! Hope you’re all enjoying your weekend, wherever you are.

I went up north for a couple of days for a quick weekend getaway and went kayaking around Apostle Islands near Bayfield, WI. On the drive back we listened to the Art of the Score, one of my favorite music podcasts out of Australia and in this episode, they discussed James Bond soundtracks, particularly the later ones by British composer David Arnold. Well, I have to admit I became familiar with Arnold’s work because of his astounding work in Casino Royale (2006), which stands as one of my all time favorite scores (not just for a Bond movie). But then the two hosts Andrew Pogson & Dan Golding talked about Arnold’s filmography and they mentioned Independence Day as one of his most famous work.

ID4 white house explosion

Serendipitously enough, I had just watched like the last half hour or so of ID4 on TV as it happened to be playing on TV in my hotel!

I actually left the end credits rolled before switching the channel and I forgot just how enjoyable the score was, but I didn’t look up the composer. Well since today happens to be America’s birthday, I thought it’s a perfect time to highlight ID4’s score! Let’s start with this one which is a terrific score that perfectly complements one of the most memorable presidential speech in movie history (spoken by Thomas J. Whitmore (Bill Pullman), one of my top five favorite American presidents in the movies!):

This one is appropriately defiant and patriotic, which has a bit of Superman theme touches in there, another highly patriotic movie involving aliens, ahah.

Independence Day Music Trivia:

  • David Arnold-composerThe score won a Grammy Award in 1997 for Best Instrumental Composition Written for a Motion Picture or for Television. Per Wiki, it was recorded with an orchestra of 90, a choir of 46, “and every last ounce of stereotypical Americana he could muster for the occasion”.

    The film’s producer Dean Devlin commented that “you can leave it up to a Brit to write some of the most rousing and patriotic music in the history of American cinema.” 

  • Per IMDb Trivia, according to the liner notes from the recent La La Land Records limited release of the complete score by David Arnold, the drum rhythm heard during the invasion scenes near the beginning of the film are Morse Code letters D-I-E.

  • Struggling to write the score, David Arnold secluded himself in a Los Angeles hotel room for almost four months to avoid the escalating hype for the film. But from his window he saw helicopters carrying banners with taglines to the film as part of a marketing campaign, which only stressed him out even more.

Here are two more tracks from the movie to make it an even four:

Even 25 years later, I think ID4 remains one of the go-to movie to watch on July 4th, which is crazy the fact that per IMDb trivia, director Roland Emmerich and producer Dean Devlin got the idea for the film while fielding a question about the existence of alien life during promotion for Stargate (1994). A reporter asked Emmerich why he made a film with content like that if he did not believe in aliens. Emmerich stated he was still fascinated by the idea of an alien arrival, and further explained his response by asking the reporter to imagine what it would be like to wake up one morning and discover fifteen mile-wide spaceships were hovering over the world’s largest cities. Emmerich then turned to Devlin and said, “I think I have an idea for our next film.” They penned the script in four weeks. It was sent out on a Thursday, and they started fielding offers the next day. By Monday, they were in pre-production. 

will smith - jeff goldblum

It made a star out of Will Smith and he + Jeff Goldblum made a pretty fun duo! Of course, given its massive success, a sequel was inevitable, but I still have not seen Independence Day: Resurgence and probably never will.


Hope you enjoyed this music break! What’s YOUR favorite patriotic movie?

FlixChatter Review – THOR: Ragnarok (2017)

It’s been almost two weeks since I saw Thor: Ragnarok and I’m still giddy thinking about it. In fact, I had just seen Justice League two nights ago and honestly I’d rather write about the latest Thor movie, and this is one I’d readily watch again.

Let me preface this review with the fact that I’m a huge fan of its director, New Zealander Taika Waititi, ever since I saw What We Do In The Shadows and Hunt for the Wilderpeople a year later. Those two rank as one of my favorite films of all time. In fact, even with an all star cast that includes my personal cinematic heroine Cate Blanchett, I’m most excited about Thor: Ragnarok because of Waititi. And boy did he deliver!!

It opens with our Asgardian hero, sans his Mjölnir hammer, being chained by a creature named Surtur who plans to destroy Thor’s planet by fulfilling the propechy of Ragnarok. Chris Hemsworth is definitely much more comfortable in the role, having played Thor half a dozen times by now. But here he gets to show off his comic chops as well. He manages to escape, gets his Mjölnir and fighting mojo back and he returns to Asgard. It’s always a hoot seeing Tom Hiddleston’s Loki (I actually like him more than Thor from the previous films). I’m not going to spoil it for you but what he discovers there is one of the most comical bits of the movie. Let’s just say Taika made a great use of a famous A-lister that could’ve played like an SNL skit if it wasn’t handled properly. Love seeing Sam Neill making a quick appearance too.

The following scenes takes Thor and his half brother Loki to earth, trying to figure out the wherebouts of his father. The scenes involving them and Dr Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is funny stuff as well, peppered with Taika’s brand of quirky humor. As it turns out, it itsn’t just Loki who wants to take over the rule of Asgard, and this time she wouldn’t stop at that. With a name like Hela, of course she wants to rule the entire universe and unleash hell! Miss Blanchett relish on the opportunity to be a sexy, leather-clad, rockstar-ish goddess from hell, with another easy-on-the-eyes actor from Down Under Karl Urban as her lackey. Yes she seems to be purposely chewing the scenery but it works, and it’s fun to watch.

It’s clear the two brothers are no match for Hela and so Thor gets banished to a planet of scraps where his next crazy adventure begins! The new characters Taika introduced here, Valkyrie (bad-ass Tessa Thompson), the Grandmaster (the eternally amusing Jeff Goldblum), a rock creature Korg (voiced in a hilarious high-pitched voice by Taika himself) are all memorable! Even Rachel House (who was hilarious in Hunt for the Wilderpeople) got some hilarious one liners in the movie. I LOVE Valkyrie and Korg I wouldn’t mind seeing more of both of those characters in future Thor movies or even a spin-off! I also love seeing Idris Elba back as Heimdall, who became the loyal guardians for Asgardians. This is perhaps my favorite ensemble cast of all superhero movies.

I read that Taika has always wanted to make the latest Thor movie more comedic, whilst making some creative updates the character and its universe. Well he certainly’s done the job smashingly well! Yep, the term ‘Hulk Smash’ would apply to this movie and all the scenes with Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), both as Bruce Banner and the big green creature, are massively entertaining. Everyone seems to be having a blast making this and it shows. But just because it’s chock full of hilarious bits, it doesn’t mean there’s no plot here. The story actually holds up and there’s even some nice moments between Thor and Valkyrie that points to her past as Asgard’s defender. There’s a hint there might be something less-than-platonic between these two and you know what, I’d welcome it! It’s certainly more interesting than Thor and Natalie Portman’s Jane.

I’m glad that Marvel once again took a chance on an indie director (following the success of the Russo brothers with the Captain America movies) and Taika Waititi is one of recent filmmakers I discovered who I REALLY want to see making it big. I love that he pushed for more Indigenous representation in his films. Apparently he hired many Aboriginal crew members and the film was shot in Australia. There are quite a few in-jokes for Kiwis and Australians, like the Aboriginal flag colors and the spaceships named after types of Holden, Australian-made cars. My relative actually owned one of those when I was growing up in Indonesia!

SPOILER ALERT! (highlight to read) I don’t know if anyone else noticed this but the plot has a bit of social commentary about how the White people conquered a lot of the Indigenous land. When they’re inside the Asgardian palace, Hela said something about the dark history of Asgard… how Odin used to conquer different planets and wanting to rule the universe, with her by her side. But then Odin gained a conscience and became a benevolent ruler, thus banishing Hela because she didn’t share his vision. She said ‘where do you think we got all of this gold from?’ When I heard that, it sounded like a commentary about colonial privilege, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children being the ‘stolen generation’ and white Australians living on someone else’s land. Even the Grandmaster’s line ‘slaves is such a harsh word, I prefer “prisoners with benefits”’ sounds like a sarcastic jab against people calling an awful thing differently as if that would actually lessen its awfulness.

Well, I’m curious if people notice those things or not. One thing for sure, this has become one of my all time favorite movie, not just my favorite Marvel movie. The actions scenes are definitely fun to watch. There are bombastic fight scenes but they don’t feel overlong or overdone like in some other superhero movies. There’s even an entertaining spaceship chase and of course the Thor vs Hulk battle promised in the trailer is still epic and fun! That ‘friend from work’ line is one of the many quotable quips from Taika Waititi’s movies I’d use again and again.

You would think it’d be tough to live up to the super fun trailer w/the rousing Led Zepellin’s Immigrant Song, but the movie manages to do just that… and then some! So yeah, Thor doesn’t just get a spunky new haircut but Taika gives him a whole new attitude and refreshing new take on his franchise. The funniest bits in the trailer is still hilarious in the movie, there’s so much joy and laughter in the whole theater. Like a joyful, thrilling amusement park ride, you can’t wait to get on it again as soon as it’s over!


Well, what did you think of ‘THOR: RAGNAROK’? Did you enjoy it as much as I did?

Thursday Movie Picks #56: Alien Invasion of Earth

ThursdayMoviePicksHappy Thursday everyone! This is another entry to the weekly Thursday Movie Picks that’s spearheaded by Wandering Through the Shelves Blog. Here’s the gist:

The rules are simple simple: Each week there is a topic for you to create a list of three movies. Your picks can either be favourites/best, worst, hidden gems, or if you’re up to it one of each. This Thursday’s theme is… 

Alien Invasion of Earth

This month’s theme turns out to be pretty easy as there are actually not that many to pick from for me. A lot of the scifis I like are more about humans & robots, not aliens.

So without further ado, here are my picks:

Independence Day (1996)

The aliens are coming and their goal is to invade and destroy Earth. Fighting superior technology, mankind’s best weapon is the will to survive.

When someone says ‘alien invasion movies,’ the first thing that came to mind is this. In fact, I asked my hubby and that’s the first thing that came to his mind as well. It’d also my pick for apocalyptic blockbuster as it’s just so much fun! I remember when I saw it on the big screen for the first time, there’s a sense of awe and intrigue when those big spaceships first appeared hovering above the sky.

ID4

I mean, all the action set pieces like the White House blowing up, Will Smith punching the ugly, slimy alien in the face, and that bombastic aerial battle at the end are still memorably epic to this day! It’s an awesome ensemble cast too, Jeff Goldblum has the snark and swagger to make any role memorable. And of course there’s that rousing, albeit corny, presidential speech from Bill Pullman… “We won’t go quietly into the night!” There’s nothing quiet about this flick and I love it all the better for it!

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SIGNS (2002)

A family living on a farm finds mysterious crop circles in their fields which suggests something more frightening to come.

Let me preface this pick with the fact that despite the atrocity of The Happening, I actually still have hope for M. Night’s career. He’s made two excellent films you could consider a classic (The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable) and the other two in his resume, The Village and Signs, left a lasting impression that I thought about them for days after seeing them. I know his films have their share of ardent fans and equally passionate detractors.

SIGNSmovie

I’m not saying SIGNS is a perfect film, there are some preposterous, even laughable moments. But I like that it’s really not so much about alien invasion, but he took some of the classic elements of that genre and turn it on its head. In the same way that Sixth Sense isn’t your typical ghost story and Unbreakable offers a compelling twist in the crowded superhero genre, Signs deals with a broader theme. It’s an intimate film about a close-knit family, led by a former pastor dealing with a crisis of faith. The mystery and suspense surrounding the aliens themselves was pretty fun to watch the first time around, but it isn’t the heart of the film and it’s not what stuck with me afterwards. I like the emotional and spiritual aspect, and how a dire predicament actually helps restore a man’s soul and brings his family together. It’s been ages since I saw this but I definitely want to see this again. Excellent acting all around too by Mel Gibson and Joaquin Phoenix.

Pacific Rim (2013)

As a war between humankind and monstrous sea creatures wages on, a former pilot and a trainee are paired up to drive a seemingly obsolete special weapon in a desperate effort to save the world from the apocalypse.

I love LOVE this movie! I never thought I’d love a big monster movie THIS much but what can I say, it’s awesome. Or as one character in the movie said, “That’s two-thousand five-hundred tons of awesome!’😀 I don’t think it’d be a major spoiler to say that it’s as much an alien invasion movie as it’s a big monster flick. The Kaijus are obviously not from this world, they’re mammoth biological weapons sent by an alien colony through a portal for a specific mission: wipeout humankind. Guillermo del Toro did an amazing job making these creatures look organic like a dinosaur, but with thick, gunky blue blood that actually looks cool the bloodier the darn thing is.

PacRim

All the fight scenes between the Kaijus and the massive human-powered robots called Jaegers are wonderfully staged. But I love that we constantly see the humans powering these machines and some of the scenes are actually quite emotional. I like the father-daughter dynamic between Idris Elba‘s and Rinku Kikuchi‘s, and a flirty banter between Rinku and hunky Charlie Hunnam, as well as a slew of fun supporting characters that enrich the movie. Just like ID4, this movie doesn’t take itself seriously, there’s something so giddily-amusing about the fight scenes, like when a Jaeger named Gypsy Danger swung a huge, Titanic-sized ship and hurl it at the Kaiju. You just want to get up and cheer when those moments came on!

I saw this movie twice on the big screen and loved every minute of it. I’ve since bought the Bluray and it’s gotten a lot of play in my house.

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What do you think of my alien-invasion movie picks this week? Have you seen any of these films?

FlixChatter Review: The Grand Budapest Hotel

GrandBudapestHotelBnr

I came to appreciate Wes Anderson‘s films through his third feature film The Royal Tennenbaum a few years after its release in 2001. I enjoyed it but I didn’t immediately become a fan right away, his movies are definitely an acquired taste. Since then I have only seen three more from his work, The Darjeeling Limited, The Fantastic Mr Fox and Moonrise Kingdom. I never really quite anticipate Wes’ movies until this one though right from the first time I heard about the premise. I was hooked not only because of the usual stellar cast, but the story just sounds like a joyful romp.

The film centers on the adventures of Gustave H, a legendary concierge at a famous European hotel between the wars, and Zero Moustafa, the lobby boy who becomes his most trusted friend. I’ve always loved stories about unlikely friendship, and it couldn’t be more unlikely than Gustave and Zero, played brilliantly by Ralph Fiennes and newcomer Guatemalan actor Tony Revolori. When you see a Wes Anderson’s movie, you’re invited to an eccentric world where everything is symmetrical and painted in a retro-looking, highly-saturated color palette. It’s within this meticulously-stylized macrocosm that he set kooky scenarios of his equally quirky characters. The film was set in an old hotel in Görlitz [on the Germany-Poland border] and there’s a whimsical cartoon quality about it despite being a live-action film. Apparently Wes did complete the animated version before he started filming this, according to this article.

GrandBudapestHotelCast

It’s a story within a story, starting with an author (Tom Wilkinson) recounting his memoir based on his encounter at the Grand Budapest Hotel, located in the fictional Republic of Zubrowka in Central Europe. We then see the author as a young writer (Jude Law) staying at the hotel and ended up having dinner with the mysterious hotel’s owner Zero Mustafa (F. Murray Abraham). The movie takes place primarily in flashback mode in the early 30s, as Zero recounts the adventure he had thirty years earlier with the renowned Monsieur Gustave (Fiennes). Gustave ran the hotel almost with an iron-like precision, who’s apparently known for wooing the older ladies who frequent the hotel. It turns out most of them came to see him, including the 80-something Madame D. (an unrecognizable Tilda Swinton). It’s when she passed away that the real adventure begins, involving Madame D’s huge family fortune and a priceless Renaissance painting.

It’s fun to see what Wes has in store with each of the cast member, including his BFF Bill Murray who yet again has a cameo in their seventh collaboration. I have to admit that whenever each of these well-known actors show in various scenes, it did take me out of the story a bit, but soon I was caught up in the story again. There’s an underlying dark story about war and the dramatic continental change, after all, the memoir Wes was inspired by (The World of Yesterday by Stefan Zweig), describes Austria at the start of the 20th century as it’s anticipating Nazi persecution. But a lot of the violence as well as sexuality are played for laughs here and they’re shown only briefly on screen. It still made me wince though seeing even a glimpse of an old woman performing fellatio on Gustave, one character losing all his fingers in a rather gruesome way, as well as a display of a severed head.

GrandBudapestHotel_Stills1

The hotel is practically a character in itself, where most of the adventure takes place. The retro-looking saturated color palette feels a bit brighter with the addition of the pink color of the hotel exterior and the box of the old-world pastry of Mendl’s bakery, which plays a pretty big part in the story. I appreciate the visual treat of Wes’ idiosyncratic camera work and the precise symmetry of each shot makes for an amusing contrast to the haphazard and chaotic scenes. There’s a journey theme here that we often seen in Wes’ films (again involving trains). Either the characters are running away from or towards something, sometimes both. This is also perhaps one of the most action-packed of all his movies — part road movie, part heist, complete with a snowy ski/sled chase scene as farcical as in the Roger Moore’s Bond flick For Your Eyes Only. Some of the action scenes, like the shootout at the hotel, felt over the top to me though.

Ultimately, the heart of the film belongs Zero Moustafa, whose loyalty, bravery and selfless-ness saves Gustave time and time again. There’s a sweet romance between him and Agatha (the always excellent Saoirse Ronan), whom the older Zero speaks of as being the love of his life. There’s a scene where Agatha is reciting poetry about her romance with Zero is a welcomed tender moment amongst all the droll and wacky scenarios. Similar to the two newbie actors playing young couple in Moonrise Kingdom, Revolori is quite memorable here even with his zany, deadpan expression. Abraham as the older Zero adds gravitas and emotional resonance to his character even in his brief scenes. I rarely see Fiennes in a comedic roles but that actually adds to the peculiarity of his character. I read that Wes wrote this role for him, which I think is an inspired choice. The rest of the supporting cast did a nice job, with Jeff Goldblum, Ronan and Adrien Brody being my favorite. Ed Norton‘s character seems quite similar to the one he did in Moonrise Kingdom, which reminds me it’s been a while since I saw him in anything but small supporting roles. Harvey Keitel and Willem Dafoe played the kind of tough guy persona I’ve seen in other films, but it’s still amusing to see them here.

GrandBudapestHotel_Stills2

When I look back at previous work of Wes that I’ve seen, this one perhaps rank pretty close to The Fantastic Mr. Fox, which I consider my favorite of his work. I was quite invested in the two lead characters, particularly Zero, more than I’ve ever felt about previous Wes Anderson’s characters. There’s a lot of stuff happening in this movie that it was discombobulating at times, but it was an entertaining ride. I thoroughly enjoyed it and the pace felt swifter than his other films, so there’s not a boring moment for me here. Mischievously whimsy, but with heart. Like a charming hotel, it’s one I wouldn’t mind revisiting again and again.

4.5 out of 5 reels


What did you think of Grand Budapest Hotel?

Conspicuous Trailer of the Week: The Switch

I first heard about this flick when I blogged about Jason Bateman last September when it was still called The Baster. Yeah, no doubt they went with a ‘safer’ title though it sounds so generic now (there are eight other movies with that exact title on IMDb!).
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The plot: An unmarried 40-year-old woman (Kassie) turns to a turkey baster in order to become pregnant. Seven years later, she reunites with her best friend (Wally), who has been living with a secret: he replaced her preferred sperm sample with his own.
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Hmmm, is it just me or this could very well be Jen’s own life story? It’s a terrible thing to say I know, but then again she looks like she’s playing herself here (what else is new). What is it about Jen that she keeps snatching my fave leading men: Clive Owen (
Derailed), Gerry Butler (The Bounty Hunter out tomorrow) and now Bateman. But you know what, the trailer made me laugh, mostly because of Bateman though, who’s probably the saving grace of the movie. In fact it looks more like his movie than Aniston’s.
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The most amusing scenes are between Wally and Kassie’s cute munchkin (Thomas Robinson) who bears an uncanny resemblance to him – and perhaps share his neurotic problems. And check out the supporting cast: Jeff Goldblum (in a Judy Greer-type role as the ‘best friend’), Juliette Lewis, and Patrick Wilson.
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The Switch
is released in theaters on August 20th. What do you think folks? Does this appeal to you in any way, shape or form?