THE LAST WARRIOR.

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It is rare these days in film music, to hear a score that one can refer to as being epic in its proportions and its overall sound. It is also a rare occurrence for a composer to be able to score such a project, and when the two opportunities do arise a wonderous thing happens, we hope. The last time a score of this like came to my notice was when the movie STARDUST hit cinema screens, back in 2007. The score I am about to review is for a movie that is yet to be released, but by the looks of things this is going to be a rip-roaring adventure filled with mystical matters, magical moments and filled with fantasy and action of the swashbuckling variety. The music is composed by George Kallis, who’s scores for movies such as THE BLACK PRINCE, GAGARIN and ALBION THE ENCHANTED STALLION caused something of a stir in the ranks of film music collectors all over the world. His scores for these movies contained real themes, as in the tradition of vintage movie scores from both the Golden and Silver age, and were hailed as highly creative and as a refreshing breathe of air within the film scoring arena. I notice that he is up for several new scores in 2018, so I look forward to those, his latest work is for Disney production, which has been a co-production between Disney USA and Disney Russia. THE LAST WARRIOR is an epic tale which also contains romance, magic and comedy, based upon stories from Russian mythology and folklore. The art work certainly looks impressive, and the score well, where do I start? POWERFUL, EPIC, COMMANDING, ROMANTIC, ADVENTUREROUS, yes all of those. Symphonic, a yes again, so what more could we as collectors of film music possibly want? What’s that? emotion, poignancy, action, yes all of those too. But with a movie such as this I think the music is key to the success of the film, it has so many scenarios and situations, which all change so quickly, it is also a movie that could be so easily swamped in music, and the composer has in my opinion delivered a score that enhances, accentuates, underlines and supports without being over the top or indeed detracting attention away from the scenes unfolding on screen. The soundtrack is highly melodic, stirring and simply overflows with proud themes and motifs that seem to be never ending. As a youngster I remember going to the cinema and seeing a Russian movie that was dubbed into English, it had many of the Russian folklore and mythology that raises its head within THE LAST WARRIOR, the film was entitled THE SWORD AND THE DRAGON, it also had a witch, a dragon with three heads and so many fairy tale like characters, so maybe this is a modern day version of this story, or at least deals with some of the same characters, obviously because film making has come a long way since the 1950,s the effects etc will be far superior.

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But let me attempt to give you a better idea of what the film is about, and hopefully a review of its haunting and addictive score.
From what I can deduce, THE LAST WARRIOR, Begins In the present, with a young man who is the star of a very popular TV show called, THE PSYCHIC CHALLENGE. Ivan, who is basically an ordinary guy, relies on others to make him look good on screen and on the show, it fools many of the audience into thinking he does have real powers that are magical, but one day Ivan is caught paying one of the technicians who has made him look incredible by an old woman who is also a contestant on the show, she tells Ivan that he will die very soon and meet his end in a world that is quite different from his, a world that is filled with magic and also numerous dangers. Ivan does not believe the woman, but soon realises that her prediction is correct, when he is transported to this other world and time. I am not going to go into any more detail about the movie, because it is one that you should go and see, and take the kids too, after all it is a Disney production, filled with adventure and comedy lots of weird wonderful characters and even though it is subtitled I am sure they will enjoy immensely. The parts I have seen via mainly trailers the movie does look very interesting, and if you like fantasy movies and tales filled with daring do, with characters that are literally out of this world, then this is for you. Magical, mysterious and overflowing with adventure and more twists than a rollercoaster. THE LAST WARRIOR, I hope will get a release outside of Russia, but this looks unlikely, due to the subtitles issue, after all children won’t want to be reading those whilst all the action is taking place, it is a pity, because this could be a hit. It is pure escapism with so many different characters, plots and sub plots. The soundtrack is an epic work and if this at least does not get a release it will be a tragedy. The score opens with a robust and up-tempo theme, performed by brass, strings, thundering percussion and choral support. Driving strings set the pace and rounded and rich sounding brass keep the momentum, whilst percussion adds a pounding and rhythmic underscore to the proceedings, what one thinks is a fairly brief introduction to the score becomes a cue of nearly 4 minutes, as the grand and driving theme melts away into a more dramatic, apprehensive and mystical sounding piece, but this section of the composition is also short lived, with strings building in the background and finally returning to accompany, enhance and carry the choir and brass along before, returning to a rousing and martial sounding musical persona, which includes flyaway sounding woods that are wispy and filled with energy and give the impression of speed as the theme thunders along.

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Track number 2, THE BOY AND THE ORPHANAGE, is more of a subtle affair, with delicate piano, underlined by cello, and then both are incorporated into a full version of the six-note motif, which turns from a fragile sounding piece into a rich and fully romantic cue, performed by the string section. The style of the music alters towards the end of the brief but haunting theme, becoming slightly more urgent, but all the time maintains a highly melodic and lush sound. Track number, 3, THE LAND OF BELOGORYE, opens with an almost comedic fashion, racing strings act as an introduction, with brass adding depth and giving the opening statement more power, this then curtails and slips into a subtle but at the same time luscious theme for choir, and strings, purveying a sense of wonder or even calm, again the sound alters and becomes more threatening, and unsettling. Track number 4, KOSCHEI THE UNDEAD. Again, an apprehensive sound is achieved via the use of low strings, which are brooding as well as dark and unnerving. Track 5, BABA YAGA THE WITCH, is a fusion of dramatic, comedic and jaunty, again the composer relaying the atmospherics and creating the mood with strings and brass in the main. Track number 6. Is a variation of the scores central theme, or at least has elements of the theme that we hear at the beginning of the score, THE LEGEND OF THE MAGIC SWORD, is performed by many elements of the orchestra, with strings, choir and brass forming the foundation to the piece, as the composer expands and adds to his theme, filling it with dramatic emotion. Track number 7, VASILISSA THE FROG PRINCESS, opens in a somewhat dark mood, but this soon evaporates and gives way to cheeky sounding pizzicato and choral support, that creates an air of mystery, trumpet is introduced briefly over a more up-tempo composition, which is performed by strings and subtle use of percussion and brass, the composer then introduces a ghostly sounding solo Female voice, which creates shivers, the cue then moves up a gear and brass, percussion and choir are utilised, to fashion a more urgent sounding mood. Track number 8, BATTLE WITH THE GUARDS, is an entertaining musical jaunt, filled with brass flourishes, dramatic strings and percussive support, that together conjure up a stop start piece that makes it easy to imagine a fight with swordplay involved. This is a wonderfully powerful and lyrical score, it is a reminder for me at least about what good movie music is about, I have no doubt it enhances, supports, underlines and adds the musical commas and full stops to the proceedings and maybe even the odd question or exclamation mark during its duration. The thing is although I have not seen the movie in its full version, I feel I have via listening to George Kallis’s highly thematic, romantic and commanding score, please let this have a soundtrack release. Recommended, yes of course.     Album should be available digitally today. November 17th. 2017.

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JUSTICE LEAGUE.

 

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Lots of discussion and lots of opinions were flying around recently about the quality of music in super hero movies that have been produced over the last five years or so, I have to say I do agree to a certain extent, especially the efforts of Hans Zimmer but that’s is another story, I think the THOR scores by Doyle and Tyler were very good and had what a good superhero scores needs, THEMES. The latest offering in the superhero film department is  JUSTICE LEAGUE and this has a score by Danny Elfman, in my humble opinion this has got to be the best score for a film of this kind in many a year, it is a return to thundering themes, superb secondary themes and numerous motifs for the many characters involved. Elfman has always been a composer who has delivered and with every assignment just seems to become more polished and creative. Yes, the score for  JUSTICE LEAGUE can at times sound predictable and maybe a little cliched, but I think in these days of mediocre music for the cinema it is what film music fans need and want. This is a large-scale work, with vibrant and strident strings, jagged, proud and at times rasping brass passages, powerful percussive interludes and support, ominous sounding choir brings at times a darker sound to the proceedings and enhances and embellishes this already commanding work. Driving, sinister and melodic go hand in hand within this score, each of them complimenting the other and fusing together to achieve a style and sound that is appealing and alluring, it is a work that I know will be a big hit with collectors, there is something here for everyone, action, adventure, romance, melancholy and memorable themeatic material. The sound that Elfman has created for this project is certainly a little different from his somewhat impish and tongue in cheek style and approach on other movies within this genre, it is a return to the days of BATMAN, with powerful dark and near operatic musical moments. A return to the commanding and haunting thematic approach that he employed within films such as DARKMAN, NIGHT BREED and has little nuances and references which could be out of BEETLEJUICE, but with a higher degree of tension and a richly dark and shadowy persona underlying, Elfman does pay homage to himself in a way, as he weaves into the fabric of the new music hints of the original BATMAN theme, which is instantly recognisable, but we can also hear the SUPERMAN theme or at least little hints of it. The composer also employs a style within the quieter moments of the score, that is melodious but at the same time has to it a menacing and foreboding aura.  We are treated to some wonderfully emotive writing aswel in the cue, A NEW HOPE in which the composer employs strings, woods, piano and solo trumpet before it launches intoa momentous and powerful crescendo, but the inventiveness of the composer shines through in each track, where else would you hear a Balalika in a superhero score, well there is one here. The cue AQUAMAN IN ATLANTIS, is a composition that displays the versatility of the composer, because it has so many musical guises within its running time, robust and forceful to begin with and then moving into full on action mode, until finally coming to rest with slow and poignant woods that bring the cue to its close.

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This is Danny Elfman at his best, it is the Danny Elfman we all know and love, a Danny Elfman who has managed I think to rescue the superhero score with this work. I recommend that you get this soundtrack, it is a score that you will never tire of and will return to many times. Buckle up for the ride of a lifetime, this is awesome stuff.

JEEPERS CREEPERS,3.

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I have spoken to a few composers and many of them have stated that the two genres of film that are hardest to work on are probably, Comedy and Horror. Which I would probably have to agree with, comedy because of the timing and delivering the musical punchline as it were and Horror because it’s probably difficult to determine the best time to either provide music or leave the soundtrack silent, both genres require a discipline and a certain amount of restraint from the composer because going too far or even overwriting for scenes can be unproductive for the project. One of the latest releases from Movie Score Media on their SCREAMWORKS label is JEEPERS CREEPERS 3, which has a suitably ominous and frenzied sounding score by composer Andrew Morgan Smith, like with most sequels fans of the original movie or movies in this case are always eager and quick to compare, often saying well the original was better, etc. JEEPERS CREEPERS 3, contains a soundtrack that is not all bangs, bumps and crashes, yes, it is certainly a wholesome and vibrant horror soundtrack, and contains a lot of the sinewy sounds, Icey nuances and unsettling jolts, jars and jagged stabs that we associate with the genre as a whole. But, this is a score that also has to it a side that is lighter, if that is the correct way to describe it, maybe not lighter then, but certainly less atonal, the composer at times providing softer and melodic interludes that not only are a welcome respite, from the darkness and apprehensive main score, but are a lull before the storm or a brief and welcoming harmonious break that fools the listener into a false sense of security, the work is as far as I can make out mainly symphonic with the composer employing, strings, that seem to hiss and sear their way through the work, and booming and turbulent percussion and percussive elements that are drawn together and enhanced by the use of fearsome, growling and jagged brass stabs and flourishes, and underlined and punctuated by piano, the work is for 90 percent of the time a wonderful action/horror score, with driving strings carrying it along at pace. Listening to the score, I suppose one could compare it in style and sound to the work of Joseph Bashira, or even Christopher Young, when he has scored horror pictures, it has to it an almost ferocious presence, that is chilling and un-nerving, yet at the same time attractive and compelling, and even when it is at its darkest, the composer always manages to pluck a fragment of a theme or throw the listener a hint of a motif.  There also at times hints of the style of James Horner, which are evident in the cue, HIGHWAY CHASE, which reminded me of Horner’s action music for ALIENS. Available digitally via Movie score Media and will be released on CD later in November. Recommended.

BLUE PLANET, 2.

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Again we see the name of Hans Zimmer on the credits for a David Attenborough series. BLUE PLANET ll, contains a wonderfully lyrical and emotively rich soundtrack, BUT and you know with me there is always a BUT where Hans Zimmer is concerned, is this really the music of Zimmer, or is it the music of the other two composers who are credited, Jacob Shea and David Fleming, with Zimmer just securing the assignment and then once again giving the composing duties to composers who he has taken under his wing or has selected to do the job. It’s a difficult call as the music does obviously contain some distinct Zimmer trademarks, but is this Zimmer as a composer/producer or is it Zimmer as a supervisor, well I don’t know. All I do know is that whilst watching the series thus far, which itself is stunning, it is difficult not to notice the music and become caught up with the lilting melodies, the exciting rushes of energy and the ever present apprehensive undercurrents, that are all held together by some beautiful choral work and romantic sounding themes. Although the music is evident and noticeable throughout the programmes, it still does not encroach upon the subject matter to the point where the viewer is distracted, in fact the music is a compelling and integral component and a vital piece of the filmmaking. The richness of the thematic material is outstanding and also immensely alluring, the combination of symphonic, synthetic and chorale is indeed a great creative achievement, the score itself could be in parts the work of the late James Horner, this is prominent initially in the cue MOBULAR RAYS, which employs a delicate opening of chimes underlined by strings and enhanced by harp and woodwind, this is further embellished by shimmering effects and the introduction of Female voice, the Soprano performance becoming more pronounced and also supported by stirring strings, percussion and then driving string support, the strings build and rise into a crescendo of sorts to almost carry the Soprano performance along, gathering pace and momentum as they together then melt away. The choral sections of the score are almost celestial sounding, the orchestration is wonderful, and the overall sound achieved is phenomenal. Percussion and percussive elements also feature large within the work, gathering together a power and a commanding sound that is inspiring and satisfying. I have for many years listened and collected music from TV documentaries and pas series by David Attenborough, most being the work of composer George Fenton, but BLUE PLANET ll, stands out above the majority of these, and for me is probably the best of Zimmer in recent years, if indeed he has written the music, there is a richness and vitality to this work that I have not heard in a while, and a poignancy that can easily bring a tear to the eye.

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The image of the Walrus Mother with her cub on the ice, accompanied by the fragile and delicate tone poem entitled WALRUS-THE RIGHT PIECE OF ICE, is mesmerising and beautiful. This touching composition which comes towards the end of the cue, is what good film music is all about, it works with the image and gives it a greater emotion, more depth and stuns the viewer into silence as they watch the magical moment and hear the music which is purveying and enhancing the tender moment. BLUE PLANET ll, contains a score that is filled with haunting themes and cleverly painted musical colours that will be returned to so many times, and on each listen we will discover new wonders and magical musical moments. It is an exhilarating listening experience that is, Highly recommended.

ARTIFICIAL.

Sleeve notes for the Kronos records soundtrack release.

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As a genre of film and indeed as a genre, whether it is in book form or even a comic book, Science Fiction can either appeal to many or be either loved or loathed but the public at large, yes of course blockbusters from Hollywood as in Star Wars and Close Encounters of the third kind, are examples within the genre that obviously sat well in the eyes of the cinema going public. But, examples such as these are or were few and far between and many SCI-FI films as in shorts or low budget productions do tend to attract something of a niche following. The production values and standards of many being a little shaky to say the least, which is probably due to the budget the film manged to scrape together. The Sci Fi movie when produced correctly and written well is in most cases an enjoyable experience, both visually and cerebrally, often thought provoking and engaging and at times is a journey of discovery, escapism and enthrallment. It is a genre that can create moments of true brilliance within cinema and literature. ARTIFICIAL, is a short film which runs for less than thirty minutes, produced in Spain in 2015 and directed by filmmaker David Perez Sanudo, it is a tale of a man who arrives at a job interview full of hope that he might get the position, but what he does not realise is that he has already been selected and his potential employers make him an offer of 80, thousand Euros to agree to take part in an experiment where he will be cloned. The musical score is by Spanish born composer, Jorge Granda, who has created a highly atmospheric soundtrack via the utilisation of an entirely electronic score, synthetic sounds are at times grating and non-musical when not handled with care and expertise, I am happy to say that this is certainly not the case with this score, the music is pleasing and also very melodic and filled with delicate notations and motifs that trickle along at a steady pace to relay a sense of calm initially, but after a while these calming sounds become a little more tense and begin to alter and transform into something that is slightly more dark and uneasy, let us remember this is a short film which has a duration of just 20 minutes, so the composer had very little time to establish his score and also to expand it into themes or something that remotely resembled thematic material. In a feature length motion picture, the composer has sometimes nearly two hours to enhance the proceedings and is able to introduce more than just one central theme having the luxury of a longer running time in which he create themes for certain characters, in the world of the short film, the composer has an infinitely more difficult job as he must enhance, support and underline the storyline but has very little time in which to do it in, and invariably a smaller budget. For ARTIFICIAL, composer Granda, has worked a little bit of musical magic, he has fashioned a score that is contemporary, synthetic and one that works well with the images and scenarios on screen, but he has also managed to infuse emotion and fragility into the work, which is as we all know rare in electronic soundtracks.

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Composer, musician and producer Jorge Granda was born on December 14th, 1985, since the early part of 2010 he has focused upon the composition of music for films and media. He has been involved in the writing of over 30 scores for short films, and has also worked on documentaries and other visual projects. His sound or style is not dissimilar to that of the combined styles of Vangelis and British musician and composer Mike Oldfield, where he combines both synthetic colours and musical textures with conventional instrumentation such as, Guitar, piano and percussive elements alongside samples, fusing these effectively to produce attractive and effecting musical moods and atmospheres. Many of his albums are available on various music sites and he has in a short space of time built up a wonderfully diverse and original sounding body of work. Thanks to Kronos records, we can hear the alluring and haunting sounds that the composer created for ARTIFICIAL.

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