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Filmtracks On Cue

On Cue for April, 2003:

4/29/03 - Nowhere in Africa: (Niki Reiser) "Winning the 2002 Academy Award for "Best Foreign Language Film," Nowhere in Africa is a true love story that depicts the 20-year tale of a Jewish family who flees the Nazi's in 1938 and takes refuge on a farm in Kenya. The film's beauty blossoms out of the relationships that the parents and their daughter establish with the people and land of Kenya during their long stay. Directed by Caroline Link, the acclaimed German film continues her collaboration with composer Niki Reiser, with whom she has worked on multiple, popular arthouse projects in the past two decades. American film music fans will likely be unfamiliar with Reiser, a Swiss composer and flute performer whose formal musical education includes study with several contemporary stars of the field. His dozen or so film scores of note are accompanied by his flute recordings with other well known European artists. The score for Nowhere in Africa would require a merging of two distinctly different world sounds; the classical, orchestral lyricism of a European orchestra, and the ethnic vocal chants and songs of the local Kenyans. Such scores aren't a new concept, and Reiser produces an enormously effective combination of Western and African styles..." **** Read the entire review.

4/27/03 - Ghost: (Maurice Jarre) --All New Review-- "It's hard to associate anything related to the movie Ghost without thinking of Demi Moore, sensual pottery, or the "Unchained Melody." Moore and the pottery aside, the tale of promised love and protection became a hit in 1990 partly because of the use of the "Unchained Melody" during prominent scenes in the film. As a story, Ghost is not the typical romantic comedy, hindered by death, melancholy, and remorse. And yet, the mysticism of Sam and Molly's love story is elevated to cult status by the film's music. The score is from the depths of Maurice Jarre's long and storied career, and film music fans will be able to recognize the Jarre theme along with the major song adaptation. Many people forget that "Unchained Melody" was written for the film Unchained by composer Alex North, and the offshoot of that original instrumental writing was the Righteous Brothers performance that became famous for decades to follow. The use of the Righteous Brothers song in the film, while definitely the reason why the masses of population rushed to the stores for ten years to buy the album, is even overshadowed by Alex North's own instrumental version of the "Unchained Melody" theme..." *** Read the entire review.

4/25/03 - E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial: (John Williams) --Updated Review-- "...Because of its immense popularity, the score for E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial has been released many times. From about 1988 through 1996 the only recording of the E.T. score available --on LP or CD-- was a 40 minute collection of recordings that weren't those that originally appeared in the film. Williams recorded those eight tracks himself at the time of the original recording as well, but meant for the second recordings to be a concert version of a large portion of the score. The original albums, which were reprinted several times by MCA, had many of the cues in the wrong order. Nearly the entire E.T. score, as it was originally heard in the film, was finally released by MCA in 1996. For the 20th Anniversary release of the film in 2002, MCA/Universal released the score again, this time with the complete score of almost 76 minutes. The added three cues are definitely not necessary, and the 2002 album is not remastered any better than the 1996 one was. The true benefit of the 2002 album is finally the appearance of the original end titles ("Over the Moon") performance. An identical SACD version of the 2002 album was also released concurrently...." ***** Read the entire review.

4/24/03 - Winged Migration: (Bruno Coulais) "Among the contenders for an Academy Award for "Best Documentary Feature" in 2003 was Winged Migration, a film of several years in the making about the migration habits of several bird species around the world. The French film used several pilots and cinematographers, as well as state of the art technology, to achieve breathtaking visuals and sounds of the birds during four years of their north/south flights. Following countless species of birds, the film shifts to each continent during the journey, creating a truly international flavor for French composer Bruno Coulais to emphasize in his music for the project. Prolific in Europe, Coulais is likely an unknown for many American film score fans. His work for Winged Migration, however, may change that. He has assembled for the project an ensemble of vocal and instrumental performers greater than those of most other scores, akin to the kind of collaborative efforts put forth by Hans Zimmer in the same time period. Coulais' performers include a moderately-sized orchestra, specialized quartets of strings and woodwind instruments, an Orthodox chorus, several solo and group vocalists, and an array of sound effects that often feature bird calls and ocean waves...." *** Read the entire review.

4/23/03 - Nicholas Nickleby: (Rachel Portman) "Like Charles Dickens' writing, Rachel Portman's music is usually highly predictable. Their pairing in this endeavor exists for the newest adaptation of the Nicholas Nickleby tale of a young man attempting to cross the boundaries of social classes in storied London to reunite his family (despite, of course, the interference from a number of colorful characters). The film serves up a star-studded cast of names from yesteryear and tomorrow, and it was touted as an Oscar contender by its studio, which released the film to coincide with the Academy Awards season. In the end, however, Nicholas Nickleby didn't gain the widespread praise in America that was hoped for, and the film sank to the sidelines relatively quickly. For a project that would seem to be a perfect fit for composer Stephen Warbeck (Shakespeare in Love, A Christmas Carol), an equally logical choice is Rachel Portman, whose period piece comedy and drama scores are best known for Academy Award-winning Emma and The Cider House Rules. With a touch of comedic flair and lavish costumes, Nicholas Nickleby would require little new from Portman, with the bulk of the material needing a pleasant tone, playful demeanor, and melodic heart...." *** Read the entire review.

4/21/03 - Filmtracks has renovated its Composer Tribute section in anticipation of new tributes over the next year. The three different, traditional styles of tributes have been condensed into two types: expanded and regular. The Hans Zimmer and Danny Elfman tributes have been expanded to the size of those for John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith, James Horner, and John Barry, and new quotes have been added to many of them ("Guinness is a hell of a drink!"). The other, regular sized tributes have been updated as well. All composer tributes contain career summaries, filmographies, biographies, quotes, pictures, links to Filmtracks reviews, and notes about awards and album availability. Finally, the Filmtracks Composer Photo Album has been expanded from 56 black and white photos to 100 color photos, including nearly every popular, active composer today. These photos exist on most of Filmtracks' review pages as well. See if they look anything like you thought they would!

4/14/03 - Unfaithful: (Jan A. P. Kaczmarek) "The scenario isn't new by any means of the imagination. The director of Fatal Attraction and 9 1/2 Weeks offers yet another tale of marital infidelity, obsession, and mental anguish. The plot of Unfaithful is your typical story of the upper-class, middle-aged couple living the American Dream until the day that the wife decides to succumb to the mystery, spontaneity, and charm of a younger man she met on the streets. Alas, unholy acts transpire. The ensuing investigation and troubling discovery by the husband is followed by the couple's attempt to reconcile and move on. With a formula so simple, it's difficult to imagine what the music for the film could accomplish that hasn't been heard before. The film has lengthy moments of silence, during which the score would be required to convey the body language of love and guilt. Polish composer Jan A. P. Kaczmarek was tasked with providing another lurid layer to the picture, extending the basic, romantic emotions that dominate the film. Kaczmarek has proven capable of classically inclined works in a handful of films that have gained attention in America since 1999, and is especially known for the piano performances within his compositions...." *** Read the entire review.

4/11/03 - THX 1138 (Limited Edition): (Lalo Schifrin) "Known if only for the fact that it was director George Lucas' first large scale film, the 1971 sci-fi thriller THX 1138 is a reasonably interesting film about future oppression in 25th Century human culture. It is a film often hailed as being from the future rather than about the future, because of Lucas' use of stark dialogue and sets, as well as the juxtaposed elements of emotional and mechanical operation. The film was received with a mixed greeting by viewers and critics (perhaps due in part to an anti-drug message that flew in the face of popular norms at the time), but was elevated to cult status immediately upon the popularity of Star Wars in 1977. As sci-fi fans will be quick to point out, there are several aspects of THX 1138, ranging from costumes and sound effects to the humanization of machines, that would be addressed to a much greater extent in Star Wars. Thus, THX 1138 has become a film to study rather than enjoy, and the same could be said of Lalo Schifrin's music for the project, too. Schifrin had been known mostly at the time (and still is) for his well received jazz scores, but the late 1960's and early 1970's had become a time of musical experimentation for the composer...." ** Read the entire review.

4/9/03 - Men in Black II: (Danny Elfman) "Following the mandatory formula that has come to be expected in Hollywood's last twenty years, Men in Black II hauls most of the same elements from the first film in 1997 for this (somewhat tardy) sequel. The second adventures of K and J didn't do as well as the first, perhaps due to the formula of the second film being too close to that of the first. Part of that feeling of continuation is perpetuated by the result of Danny Elfman's involvement with the project. Elfman is familiar with sequel scoring; his best known such project was Batman Returns a decade earlier, a score which fans of the first Batman film criticized as being too dissimilar to the original. In the case of Men in Black II, Elfman does exactly the opposite, composing and recording a score that is remarkably identical to that of the original Men in Black film. The popularity of the goofy music for Men in Black II would hinge on the talents of the songs written for Frank the Pug (the take-off of "I Will Survive") and the lounging group of disgusting worm-like creatures. If not for these specialty cues, which, along with the obligatory rap song, bookend the album, Elfman's score would be an entirely uninteresting extension of his first score...." ** Read the entire review.

4/7/03 - Jaws: (John Williams) "When composer John Williams first invited director Steven Spielberg to his studio and played on a piano the two-note theme he had conjured up to represent the Jaws shark, Spielberg responded by saying something along the lines of "you're kidding, right?" Fortunately for both, Williams wasn't kidding, and thus was born a film music and silver screen legend. Spielberg was still an up and coming director, with only a few small, successful films under his belt, but Williams was already an Academy Award winner and the composer of choice for large-scale disaster films. His popular early 1970's scores for The Poseidon Adventure, Earthquake, and most notably, The Towering Inferno had offered a glimpse of the symphonic rebirth that Williams was initiating in Hollywood at the time. He would go on to earn Academy Award wins for both Jaws and Star Wars, elevating him to the status of "top composer of the 1970's." Jaws itself was a near disaster in production --mostly due to "Bruce," the mechanical shark that was useless 90% of the time-- and Spielberg was counting on a strong score with a dark and sweeping theme to help save the production. Such was the reason for Spielberg's surprise when Williams produced a title theme consisting of two notes...." ***** Read the entire review.

4/4/03 - The One: (Trevor Rabin) "Why do people go to movies starring Jet Li? Because, as evidence to what some people would call the spiraling decay of human morality, we love to see Jet Li kick ass. The same applies to Jackie Chan, but with Jet Li, you get a sense of sophisticated malice that serves to entertain the malevolent corners of all our personalities. And what better than to witness a movie in which Li not only kicks bystanders in the head, but himself as well? The concept of The One is a unique one, both in its theories about multiple universes, and in its brilliant scheme to place multiple Li copies in every scene of the film... proving the best motorcycle-busting, head-smashing Jet Li experience of them all. Proven rock composer Trevor Rabin was hired for the project with the anticipation of a heavy touch of electric guitars for Li's ruthless killing on screen. Coming off of several big-name scores involving the interpolation of orchestral and rock band elements, Rabin's fast-paced, authentic rock edge was a sound perfect for The One. He assembled a rock band with the string section of an orchestra and the usual array of synthesizers and editing tools. The result of his efforts for the film is a score that Rabin's rock fans will be much more inclined to enjoy..." *** Read the entire review.

4/2/03 - Prince Valiant (Prinz Eisenherz) - 1997: (David Bergeaud) "Harold R. Foster's Arthurian comic strip has remained popular for more than half a century, and has inspired both live-action and animated adaptations onto the screen. The 1954 Fox film, with an impressive cast and budget, was for a long time the only Prince Valiant representation on film. The 1990's brought new life to the comic with the animated series that became a staple of The Family Channel. As could be predicted, the renewed attention to the series caused more interest to rise for the prospect of another live-action film. In 1997, director Anthony Hickox, who had envisioned a Valiant-gone-James-Bond kind of twist on the story, ended up producing in Germany a more traditional rendering of the tale. In English, the film was quick in production, short on money, and creative in its special effects solutions. The task was just as fluid for composer David Bergeaud. Known best for his work on the television shows Earth 2 and The Outer Limits, Bergeaud was originally challenged to produce a Prince Valiant score that melded traditional orchestral elements with modern rock instrumentation. Yet, as the production of the film focused more on a straight, non-Bond portrayal of Valiant..." **** Read the entire review.

Page created 4/23/03, updated 5/4/03. Version 2.1 (Filmtracks Publishing). Copyright © 2003, Christian Clemmensen. All rights reserved. "Real Audio" logo and .ra are Copyright © 1996, Real Audio ( "Academy Awards" and the Oscar statue are ® AMPAS, 1996.