Soundtrack Review: The Karate Kid

karate kid

After so many years of ranting against, detesting, abhorring, and otherwise loathing James Horner, I found myself in great enjoyment of his score for Avatar.   Sure there were similarities with past works (standard for a Horner score and what I most derided him for), but the pieces came together in a magical and magnificent package.

But could my new-found Horner liking last into another score?   His score for the 2010 remake of The Karate Kid would test that liking.   The verdict?   Yes, another great Horner score.   I must be sick.

James Horner’s score for The Karate Kid is terrific, memorable, and balances light-heartedness, tenderness, and otherwise kick-ass-ness.

Originally, Zimmer-goon Atli Örvarsson was to score the film, and we’d likely end up with some half-baked mishmash of crap like Marc Streitenfeld’s Robin Hood score.    Thankfully, we are treated to a proper score.

“Leaving Detroit” opens the score with a light and fanciful recurring theme:

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“Kung Fu Heaven” wouldn’t be out of place in John Debney’s score for The Passion of the Christ:

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“The Forbidden City” includes some lush string writing:

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In “Journey to the Spiritual Mountain,” Horner gives us some sumptuous travel music:

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I imagine “Hard Training” accompanying a training montage:

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Then we arrive at the ten-and-a-half-minute “From Master to Student to Master” which is undoubtedly the highlight of the album.   Roughly six minutes of the cue is soft, reflective music featuring a lovely solo piano. The rest of the cue is balls-to-the-wall epicness.    Horner lets loose with a magnificent, multi-part theme that repeats with varying instrumentation and arrangements.    I have no intentions of seeing the film, but I’d love to know what is happening during this cue.

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The track concludes with a rousing Horner ending:

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“Dre’s Gift and Apology” slows things down a bit and reprises on solo piano the theme first heard in the opening track:

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“Final Contest” gives us another full dose of the epic multi-part theme in “From Master to Student to Master” and splendidly finishes out the album:

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As the film takes place in China, Horner takes care to include some Eastern instrumentation.   There aren’t any explicitly-Eastern cues, but traditional Chinese instruments are effectively used as texture throughout the score.   And as usual, the Japanese shakuhachi Horner’s favorite ethnic instrument makes an appearance in the score.

Always the question with a Horner score is how much did he plagiarize himself.   I am surely not a Horner expert and am only familiar with his more mainstream works, but I don’t hear much that jumps out and screams, “Hey! I’m the theme from such-and-such movie that Horner ripped off!”   Certainly there are echos of his past works, but this is more likely his writing style coming through (e.g. his crashing pianos make an appearance) rather than a true “Hornerism” of copy-and-pasting himself (surprisingly and thankfully his trademarked four-note danger theme is absent from the album).   Even without the self-quoting, this is definitely a Horner score from start to finish.

The Amazon page for the score says, “A release date has not yet been set for this title,” but you can pre-order the score.   If you’re not willing to wait indefinitely, you can purchase the score via iTunes.

And you should, because with his score for The Karate Kid, James Horner has provided another terrific score and is slowly making me a believer.   His tender, solo piano themes and his epic, full-blown orchestral might leave me wanting more.   James Horner kicks-ass with The Karate Kid.

4.5/5

One Theme Changes Everything, cont.

Continuing my discussion on Lisle Moore’s outstanding theme for ESPN’s coverage of the World Cup, here’s a better recording-session video that showcases the music better.   If you’ve been watching ESPN’s coverage of the World Cup, you’ve heard the music.

Also, the Salt Lake Tribune wrote about the Utah-native Moore:

The theme you will hear during ESPN’s monthlong soccer coverage was written by Highland composer Lisle Moore. Moore, with the assistance of Salt Lake City’s Non-Stop Music, created the grand, inspiring music that melds African voices with a full orchestra.

Moore, a graduate of the Berklee College of Music and a Utah resident since 1994, has written music for TNT’s coverage of the NBA, and has worked with ESPN before on golf and tennis coverage. “This is a bigger deal,” said the sports buff who calls himself a die-hard Jazz fan. “This is worldwide.” […]

When ESPN contacted him about a year ago asking for a proposal for 2010 World Cup music, Moore knew the network was looking for more than a traditional score for the event. It wanted a musical reflection of where the tournament was being held, while enticing ESPN viewers to keep watching throughout an entire month of programming. “I had to do a lot of listening on iTunes to see what I was up against,” Moore said. […]

With the go-ahead from ESPN, Moore composed 16 variations of the theme so the music could be used in multiple ways on TV, such as during the highlights show, promos, and before and after commercial breaks.

Again, outstanding effort from Moore.   Awesome music that captures the excitement and the setting of the games.   Bravo!

LOST in Michael Giacchino’s Musical World

(Before LOST ended, I saved the website and article I discuss below for after the show was over, but I forgot about them.  Fortunately, Instapaper did not, and now they are found again.)

An indelible part of the six seasons of LOST was the musical score provided by Academy-Award-winning composer Michael Giacchino.  With his purposely scant ensemble of strings, trombones, and percussion, he crafted a sometimes subtle, sometimes striking, and often moving musical counterpart to the mysteries and the characters of the island.

The first five seasons of music are available to purchase (hopefully the sixth will be soon, too).  But if you want a closer look at each theme and each motif Giacchino created for characters, events, and specific situations, check out the website Music by Michael Giacchino.

On the site’s special LOST page, each episode is listed with samples of the themes and motifs that episode introduced.  Every theme and motif quite an impressive undertaking by whomever is behind the site.

Some of my favorites:

Giacchino’s Oceanic Six theme is probably the finest theme he wrote for the show.  Beautiful.

Finally, if you’re interested in a little behind-the-scenes action, Maria Elena Fernandez of The Los Angeles Times blog Show Tracker featured exclusive video of a rehearsal for a LOST concert with Giacchino and his ensemble.  Below is one of the videos, but be sure to check out the rest.

Toles

toles

We Need a Hero

Jon Stewart had a pretty good take-down of the president this week (starting around 4:39):

Whether or not there is more that the president can do, he needs to convince the American public that he is doing all that he can. Every classic story has a villain and a hero. We have a villain: BP and Big Oil. Now we need a hero. Especially if the computer models are correct (via Discovery News) or if a hurricane (or two) blow through the Gulf.

Heartbreaking

If you haven’t seen The Big Picture’s post yesterday of birds caught in the oil spill, check them out.   The pictures are as disgusting as they are heartbreaking, and thinking that they’re just the beginning is difficult.   I drive a car everyday.   This is my spill, too.   Below, a bird caked with oil:

oil bird

Jacob’s LOST Ark

One of my coworkers this week (thanks, Steve!) enlightened me to something deliciously interesting about the musical theme Michael Giacchino wrote for Jacob on LOST.  Here’s Jacob’s theme:

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The main construct of the theme is a suspended note followed by two ascending notes.

Now here is John Williams’s theme for the Ark of the Covenant from Raiders of the Lost Ark:

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The main construct of this theme is a suspended note followed by two descending notes.

Very clever.  A theme for a mystical, god-like person paying homage to a theme for a mystical, god-related object.  Nice work, Michael.

Why So Serious, Woody?

The Dark Knight trailer audio + Toy Story video = Awesome.

(Via Ezra Klein)

A World of Paint Chips, Part 2

Buck recently released their second Sherwin Williams paint chip spot.   Another beauty, just like their first.   (And a third is on its way.)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hWUrM0IZaDQ

(Via: Motionographer)

New Rule

News reports must stop referring to the Gulf oil gusher as a “leak.”   Drippy faucets leak.   THIS is not a leak:

Socialism!!!

top tax rate

(Via Chart Porn)

Who You Gonna Call?

Improv Everywhere takes over the New York Public Library.   Back off, man.   I’m a scientist.

(Via /Film)

The End?

i'm lost

I don’t have anything profound to say, but I’ve been kicking some thoughts around in my head since Lost ended last night.  If you’ll excuse me, the show really Lost me last night.

Lost was most successful combining character-driven stories with supernatural, mythological stories—character drama coupled with science fiction.  People who grew an attachment to the series largely because of the mystery of the island and the happenings on it, though, were summarily dismissed last night.

The series finale was overflowing with character drama and great drama at that.  The reunions all throughout the show and the flashbacks to the characters’ good times and bad were poignant reminders of how great the show was.

But Lost built itself on the magic of the island, and that magic was all but forgotten in favor of the lousy and confusing final 15 minutes.

I’m a details person, and I feel like Lost often was, too.  How many times did the numbers, either together or separate, come up?  From the car odometer to the 108-minutes (the sum of the numbers) between Desmond entering them to the table number the Losties sat at for the concert benefit in last night’s episode (table 23, Jack’s number), the numbers were woven into the details of many episodes.  What will bug me for as long as I think about this show is how many little things will never be explained.  The Hurley bird?  The outrigger shootout?  The Egyptian hieroglyphics?  Why did the light cave release the smoke monster when He Who Shall Never Get A Name went in but when Jack, Desmond, and Locke went in nothing happened?

But more importantly, what about all the things we were led to believe were important?  How about the numbers?  How did the guy at Hurley’s institution know about the numbers?  How did they end up on the hatch?  Why were they in Rousseau’s radio transmission?  What about the statue?  Why was it important?  Why was Walt special?  And what really happened to him?  Were these and other never-to-be-explained things not really important at all?

And what about the battle between good and evil?  The entire sixth season was setting up for an epic showdown.  Where was it?  So this wasn’t about good and evil?  Light and dark?  White and black?  What made Jacob “good” and Man in Black “bad”?  What would really happen if Man in Black got off the island?

But then there were those last 15 minutes.  What we learned last night was that the flash-sidewayses didn’t matter for anything.  Nothing that happened in them mattered at all—what happened, didn’t happen—which begs the question, what was the point of them?  Were they just to fill air-time?

The Lost series as a whole made me think and made me ask questions.  But last night, the Lost finale tossed out thinking and relied solely on feeling.  “The End” definitely made me feel feel like I was cheated out of closure.  If Lost is to be viewed as a story, I’m still waiting for a real ending.

Here, though, is what I did like about “The End”:

  • The opening sequence cutting back and forth between on-island and off-island characters accompanied solely by Michael Giacchino score.
  • All the rest of Giacchino’s score in this episode was hands-down the best of the season, if not the last two or three seasons.  The music of this episode deserves an album release by itself.
  • The nostalgia factor with the various character returns and the reunions.
  • Sawyer calling Man in Black “Smokey.”
  • The Target smoke detector commercial.
  • The camera pull-back with Locke and Jack looking down the waterfall just like they looked down the hatch early on in the series.
  • The look on Ben’s face when Jack told Hurley he would be his replacement.
  • The look on Ben’s face when Hurley asked him to be his number two.
  • Frank finally having a purpose.

And finally, here are some of my favorite lines from the episode:

  • Frank: “In case you haven’t noticed, I’m a pilot.”
  • Smokey to Jack: “You’re sort of the obvious choice, don’t you think?”
  • Jack to Smokey: “You’re not John Locke.  You disrespect his memory by wearing his face.”
  • Jack: “What happened, happened.”
  • Kate: “I saved you a bullet.”
  • Juliette: “We should get coffee sometime.”
  • Jack to Desmond: “I’ll see you in another life, brother.”

So here’s to a Lost movie?

GET OUT OF THERE!

(Via /Film)

This Is CNN (Or What It Could Be)

I flagged this a while ago but forgot to post it.   Jay Rosen imagines how CNN can transform and save itself from sinking.   His ideas:

  • 7 pm: Leave Jon King in prime time and rename his show Politics is Broken. It should be an outside-in show. Make it entirely about bringing into the conversation dominated by Beltway culture and Big Media people who are outsiders to Beltway culture and Big Media and who think the system is broken. No Bill Bennett, no Gloria Borger, no “Democratic strategists,” no Tucker Carlson. Do it in the name of balance. But in this case voices from the sphere of deviance balance the Washington consensus.
  • 8 pm: Thunder on the Right. A news show hosted by an extremely well informed, free-thinking and rational liberal that mostly covers the conservative movement and Republican coalition… and where the majority of the guests (but not all) are right leaning. The television equivalent of the reporting Dave Wiegel does.
  • 9 pm: Left Brained. Flip it. A news show hosted by an extremely well informed, free-thinking and rational conservative that mostly covers liberal thought and the tensions in the Democratic party…. and where the majority of the guests (but not all) are left leaning.
  • 10 pm: Fact Check An accountability show with major crowdsourcing elements to find the dissemblers and cheaters. The week’s most outrageous lies, gimme-a-break distortions and significant misstatements with no requirement whatsoever to make it come out equal between the two parties on any given day, week, month, season, year or era. CNN’s answer to Jon Stewart.
  • 11 pm: Liberty or death: World’s first news program from a libertarian perspective, with all the unpredictablity and mix-it-up moxie that libertarians at their best provide. Co-produced with Reason magazine.

This would be a network actually worth watching.

(Via The Daily Dish)

Soundtrack Review: Robin Hood

From the Robin Hood trailer, the end goal of Ridley Scott and Russel Crowe seems pretty obvious: make another Gladiator.   While they may have matched the look and perhaps the feel, they certainly didn’t match the sound.   Marc Streitenfeld’s score for Robin Hood is only slightly better than five hours of non-stop, out-of-tune bagpipes accompanying baby cries and cat wails.

Back in January when I discussed 2010 film scores, I wrote this of Streitenfeld composing Robin Hood:

This is a Ridley Scott film, so I assumed Hans Zimmer would be composing.   Officially, he’s not, but since Marc is one of Hans’s goons, no doubt this will sound as if Zimmer composed it.   And I’m sure I’ll be very pleased.   Will this be in the vein of Zimmer’s masterful Gladiator or the less-serious-but-still-exciting King Arthur?   Here’s hoping for the former.

Unfortunately, Robin Hood is in the vein of neither maybe the lower gastrointestinal track of one of the two, but certainly not in the vein.   The music is uninspiring, unexciting, and utterly devoid of any apparent effort.

Marc Streitenfeld comes from the Hans Zimmer school of composing   or, as I usually say, Marc Streitenfeld is a Zimmer goon.   Zimmer’s studio, Remote Control (formerly Media Ventures), churns out similar sounding music for almost every film they touch.   For most films, the main, credited composer has a band of merry men to supply additional music, so in most cases you cannot be entirely sure who actually composed the score.   With this many composers collaborating together, you might think the goons should output some great stuff.   You would be mistaken.

Usually for films that are solely credited to Zimmer, I rather enjoy the scores Gladiator, Angels and Demons, The Last Samurai, and Pirates of the Caribbean 3 to name a few.   But when his goons step up, I set myself up for extreme letdown when I expect something more than their last effort.

To be fair, not everything that has ever come from Media-Ventures/Remote-Control is terrible.   The first Transformers score, while unoriginal, was still exciting and afforded repeated listens.   And of course, Media Ventures produced John Powell who is easily one of the top composers in the business today.

Streitenfeld’s Robin Hood, though, fails to provide anything worth praising, just like Ramin Djawadi’s Clash of the Titans score.   (I didn’t write a review of it, but I wrote on Twitter, “Ramin Djawadi’s Clash of the Titans score is a miserably generic, sub-par heap of mediocrity. Is the film this uninspiring?”)   There is barely any thematic content in Robin Hood.   The only passable theme is a warmed-over theme from every other goon score:

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Then there’s this “action” music:

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Yes, I feel and see the intensity of battle in my mind   so intense I thought cutting my toenails might be more interesting.

And then there’s whatever the hell this is:

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The only track that’s worth anything is the last track, “Merry Men,” which combines the warmed-over theme with some much-needed and desired jauntiness:

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Shameful that the last track finally offers something to draw you in to the score but then ends leaving you feeling more cheated than these salmon.

What’s amazing to me is that music this uninspiring whether it be this specific score or any other mediocre effort makes it past the approval process.   Do no film directors or producers stop and say, “Hey, that’s some pretty shitty music.   Shouldn’t we hire someone better?”   Or do these directors and producers not notice the stench of awful music because the rest of the film reeks even more?

A film this big deserved a better score a decent score at least.   Marc Streitenfeld’s score is not a decent score   not even close.   If you liked Zimmer’s Gladiator or even Jablonsky’s Transformers, stay away from Streitenfeld’s Robin Hood.   This isn’t music; it’s cobbling together some notes in a subpar effort to get a job done.   And what a terrible job it was.

1/5

The End

Via /Film, here’s a holy-shit, fan-made trailer for the series finale of LOST tonight.

Sunspots of a Different Kind

Via Discovery News, French astrophotographer (how’s that for a job title) Thierry Legault snapped a photo of Space Shuttle Atlantis just before it docked with the International Space Station while they both traversed the sun.   Check out the full version here.

sun

A World of Paint Chips

I saw this Sherwin Williams yesterday for the first time.   Very well done.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pJOH2KOVe_I

One Theme Changes Everything

At work, I recently heard the theme music for ESPN’s coverage of the 2010 FIFA World Cup.   After listening to the music a few times, I’ve not been so impressed and so in love with a singular piece of music in a long time.   Composer Lisle Moore has created a remarkable piece of music which terrifically marries traditional Western orchestration with African-inspired rhythms and vocals to achieve a stunning and even uplifting result.

You can hear a tiny bit of the music toward the end of this video.   Although these few seconds don’t do any justice to the amazing music, it’s at least something until you can hear the full theme in a few weeks:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=23dyADwACH0

On a related note, here’s a very well done ESPN promo narrated by Bono for the World Cup.   One game changes everything.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sXlBSlyU8xY

Dude, That’s One Son of a Bitch, Brotha

Signature phrases by LOST characters.

Hurley:

Sawyer:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=myEJta49jOM

Desmond:

Betty White is Awesome, cont.

Betty White was terrific last night on Saturday Night Live. Her “Delicious Dish” segment was on par with Alec Baldwin’s. “If it’s one thing I’m known for, it’s my muffin.”

http://www.hulu.com/embed/VN72YB24mQR__R-HsSqpWg

And the Emmy Goes to…

Last Monday (26 April), I had the honor of attending the 31st Annual Sports Emmy Awards in New York City for the first time since I started working at ESPN two years ago.   I was nominated for two Emmys along with the graphics team for the SportsNation show.   As the phrase goes, it was an honor just to be nominated.

emmy awards

The awards were held in the Frederick P. Rose Theater. Our pre- and post-show receptions were held in the Time Warner Center overlooking Columbus Circle and Central Park:

emmy awards

The reception room:

emmy awards

For the category “Outstanding Graphic Design,” MLB Tonight won. But so did SportsNation (and the post-announcement video clip featured “Walk the Plank,” one of my touchscreen games!):

emmy awards

So now I’m an Emmy winner!

emmy awards

A terrific honor, for sure, and I’m proud to share the award with the rest of the SportsNation graphics team. I work with some very talented people.

Post-show reception over, waiting for the buses to return us to ESPN:

emmy awards

Congratulations to the entire SportsNation graphics team on the Emmy win!   And congratulations to all the other winners!

emmy awards

emmy awards

Sir Michael Caine on The Daily Show

I just watched Jon Stewart’s Sir Michael Caine interview from last Friday’s The Daily Show, and I thought the whole interview was delightful.   Michael Caine seems like a great person to have a conversation with, and the way and the length of time he directly talked with the audience was something very refreshing.   The interview is a nice, little end-of-the-day wind-down.   Enjoy:

http://media.mtvnservices.com/mgid:cms:item:comedycentral.com:307968

A Galactic Odyssey Against Oppression

The original trailer for The Empire Strikes Back, featuring a voice-over from everyone’s favorite scruffy-looking nerf herder. What a treat. I want to see this movie now!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R6bvuhPyq8Q