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Zimmer, team, alums rundown Pt 5 - RC intro + 2005-07: (B)atmosphere Man Begins (5h)
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• Posted by: JBlough   <Send E-Mail>
• Date: Friday, May 13, 2022, at 6:30 a.m.
• IP Address: 155.201.38.24

This is part of a series. Part 5g is here: https://www.filmtracks.com/scoreboard/forum.cgi?read=109517

———————-

The Holiday (2006) - ***½
Hans Zimmer; also arranged & programmed by Ryeland Allison, Lorne Balfe, Henry Jackman, Atli Örvarsson & Heitor Pereira;
guitar and vocals by Heitor Pereira; vocals by Imogen Heap & Suzanne Zimmer; orchestrated by B Fowler/Moriarty; conducted by RGW;
Herb Alpert on trumpet; thank you’s to Ramin Djawadi, Jim Dooley, Clay Duncan, Walter Fowler, Nick Glennie-Smith, Bart Hendrickson,
HGW, JNH, Steve Jablonsky, James S. Levine, Michael Levine, Trevor Morris, Geoff Zanelli, Ennio Morricone…and Vangelis???

Despite mixed reviews, a screenplay that crammed two festive love stories together in a fashion that suggested someone wanted to duplicate the success of Love Actually, and an early scene where Kate Winslett almost shoves her head in an oven, Nancy Meyers’ movie about two frustrated women who do a transatlantic house swap and find love in each others’ countries pulled in tons of cash, become appointment holiday rewatch viewing for plenty of women, and affirmed the director’s talent for featuring immaculate houses in her films. Meyers re-teamed with Zimmer and his gang, who had executed a last-minute replacement effort on Something’s Gotta Give after Alan Silvestri’s music was tossed (yes, it didn’t just happen on Pirates that year) - and had even helped serve as inspiration for Jack Black’s character in this movie. “Jack Black does play a film composer. Nancy got the idea while she was watching Ramin [Djwadi].” Zimmer wrote conceptual suites for all the main melodies in late 2005 before Meyers started filming, though he would claim he had to redo all the supporting style and orchestration when he and his team scored the picture.

This score is basically 50% a more acoustic / orchestral take on Zimmer’s tuneful character works of the late 80s and early 90s and 50% Henry Mancini romance music filtered through the Europop lens of Matchstick Men and the playfulness of Spanglish. It’s not exactly a coherent work, as those Europop moments may seem a bit odd on the album. But they really add a spark to their scenes, and the whole thing has a playful easy-listening charm to it. Five other collaborators were needed to execute the work, and there were other vocal parts by British singer Imogen Heap as well as Zimmer’s then-wife Suzanne (those are actually pretty fun). One could say this was just Zimmer’s methodology at the time, although one also gets the sense he may not have found it as easy to work with Nancy as with, say, James L. Brooks - their next collaboration It’s Complicated would barely have any music released, while Meyers would turn to Theodore Shapiro for her last movie.

Zimmer would use the album booklet to tip his hat to two of his icons.

Atli Örvarsson, another Berklee College of Music graduate, would get his first significant additional music credit here. “There’s this inevitability of music in my life. My dad was a musician. My mom was an amateur musician. I’ve been involved since I was 5. I’ve tried to quit a few times and failed. It’s just what I do.

I found myself, at the age of 22 in a rock’n’roll band with gold and platinum records, having played classical music and jazz with some of the finest musicians in [Iceland] and decided that I needed a new challenge. So I went to Berklee without really knowing what I was going to study but happened to try out a course in film music. My first assignment, a 45 second main title, took me 3 weeks to write, but I had an epiphany and knew that this was my path! After Berklee I went to North Carolina to study film music. It was one of the only [such] masters programs in the country, maybe the world. I ended up winning [a] fellowship from BMI mentored by [Law and Order and NYPD Blue composer] Mike Post.

You don’t really know much when you get out of school, and some things you learn are already outdated. It’s from my time with him that everything else has stemmed. While I was working for Mike I got the opportunity to do Stuart Little 3. It was direct-to-DVD, [Alan] Silvestri wasn’t going to do it, [so] they needed a young, cheap composer. I listened to Silvestri’s music and I was terrified, like I had no idea what I was doing.

I met Hans through our mutual agent Sam Schwartz, and Sam and Mike are good friends. Sam [said] ‘you’ll fit in right with the rest of the Eurotrash down there.’”


The Number 23 (2007) - ***
Harry Gregson-Williams; additional programming by David Buckley, Halli Cauthery &
Stephen Barton; electric cello Martin Tillman; electric violin Hugh Marsh;
orchestrated by Ladd McIntosh; synth recordings by Meri Gavin & Costa

RC discovery #27. It was #23 for a good long while, but too many 2006 discoveries made that impossible. Womp womp.

Part of a brief surge of “the numbers are bad!” paranoia entertainment (along with the film Knowing and parts of the television show Lost), The Number 23 would see another attempt by funnyman Jim Carrey to do a non-comedic role. This one would be decidedly less successful than the actor’s earlier The Truman Show, with the film showing up on numerous lists of the year’s worst films, and it would be the last film by director Joel Schumacher to be given a wide release. Schumacher had used Harry Gregson-Williams on two of his prior three films (Veronica Guerin and Phone Booth, though obviously not on his misbegotten adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera musical), and the two would collaborate here for the third time. In fact, Schumacher would use either Harry or his then-assistant David Buckley for the music on the three films he made after this one - Blood Creek, Twelve, and Trespass, none of which have seen a commercially released album. But this score did!

The opening titles very clearly sets this in the sonic universe of Gregson-Williams’ works for Tony Scott - a mix of nervy strings and electric instruments, plus some Middle Eastern elements, set over thumping beats, all creating an intriguing atmosphere of unease. As the score goes on it would keep adding more and more layers to the mix - the industrial sounds, piano, and ethereal voices of Suicide Blonde, for example, or the Batman Begins-style rhythms that lead into the score’s first use of brass and low winds in Finding the Book. One gets a sense of hazy, gradually unfurling mystery and tension. There are a few outliers - the opening of Fingerling’s Childhood does feature another one of those lovely woodwind solos Harry was so fond of writing, and the conclusive Atonement does morph into a sad ensemble elegy.

Listeners who are put off by electronic thumps or demand obvious recurring themes may avoid the album. But I found it an interesting enough musical tapestry worth hearing at least once. This type of stuff usually isn’t my cup of tea, but Harry was really good at synthesizing a wide variety of elements together without having the score feel all over the place, and I can at least appreciate the craftsmanship.


Shooter (2007) - **
Mark Mancina; orchestrations by Dave Metzger; conducted by Don Harper;
additional synth programming by Steffan Fantini & Scott Gordon

RC discovery #28.

The Mark Wahlberg-starring Shooter came and went, really only surprising people with the appearance of Ned Beatty, and it mainly exists now to make people wonder why producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura was involved, given that his output would soon be defined by the Transformers and G.I. Joe film franchises. Director Antoine Fuqua would reteam with composer Mark Mancina, with whom he’d done two prior films. Mancina had been somewhat out of the limelight since both his 2003 Disney films flopped, with entries in the interim including a Japanese anime series, a direct-to-video Tarzan sequel, episodes of the hit CBS television series Criminal Minds (thanks to a producer who had also worked on Speed), and a score for of all things Scary Movie 4 that was ultimately rejected less than a month before the film came out.

For most of its runtime, the album for Shooter is a drab, dull experience, as if Mancina was asked by Fuqua to emulate the less engaging parts of Batman Begins and Bourne to maintain a muted sense of suspense. The flair and personality of Mancina’s action classics of the 90s were seemingly suffocated out of existence. Some string sustains and understated brass parts lurk around, letting you know that there’s an orchestra being wasted. The last four score tracks are somewhat redemptive, with some noticeably edgy action (not too far removed from what Brian Tyler might have done) occasionally flaring up, a solo trumpet doing something close to how Jerry Goldsmith scored isolated masculinity, and one track of warm acoustic guitar solos that seems to find Mancina in a comfort zone.

Was there a recurring theme? Maybe. Not worth trying to figure that out a second time. Given the reviews for Harry Gregson-Williams’ more recent scores for Fuqua films, this seems to just be the type of music the director wants in his modern thrillers.

“Interestingly I’ve never really heard from [Fuqua] again. It’s just a strange business, you just don’t know when things are going to happen and how they’ll happen.”


Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars (2007) - *½
Steve Jablonsky & Trevor Morris; add’l music by T.J. Lindgren & Todd Haberman

RC discovery #29.

If the extension of the Media Ventures / Remote Control sound into video games hadn’t quite reached a saturation point yet, it was definitely trending in that direction by 2007. First Harry with stealth games, then Jim and Rupert with tactical shooter games, then Paul and Trevor with racing games, and now Trevor and Steve with this third entry in the real-time strategy franchise Command and Conquer. I get the sense that someone liked the music Steve had done for Michael Bay’s action movies and asked the guys to translate that material to the gaming world along with some of the imitation Trevor Rabin content from the prior year’s Need for Speed: Carbon. Mission accomplished. This is the brand at its most industrial. Various electronic sounds flicker in the background. Synthetic strings chop furiously. Pulses beep in and out, almost like alarms at times. Guitars shred. You get the idea.

As with Need for Speed: Carbon, this music exists for a genre of games that don’t usually have the same musical requirements that films have. There isn’t a character journey to support. There’s no subtext. There aren’t frequent synchronization points. The music rarely has to do more than sustain a mood, subsist in the background, and loop. There are a bunch of albums in this genre that are far worse and have nothing to do with the legacy Media Ventures sound. And it is hard to convert such music to a solid listening experience when almost every piece is basically a standalone track that was never designed to flow into something else.

Still, Morris’ derivative NFS: C was sufficiently entertaining in a guilty pleasure sense. This album is decidedly less engaging as a standalone listen (unless you loved Jablonsky’s earlier Bay efforts, or perhaps something like Gone in 60 Seconds), and also just horribly redundant. The lesser parts of The Rock seem to be resurrected a few times. There are even duduk sounds! Being over an hour long doesn’t help it either.

One short power anthem track in the middle of the album is called Guilty Pleasure. It is not one.

Later solo efforts this year by both composers would be much better, including my thirtieth discovery of this era.


The Tudors Season 1 (2007) - ***
Trevor Morris; add’l music by T.J. Lindgren & Kaz Boyle

RC discovery #30.

“When I first got to Media Ventures] Hans walks in a circle around me, smoking a cigarette, never making eye contact, [and] says, ‘so you are the kid with the good skills.’ He walks out the door and I say to my buddy Jim, ‘what just happened?’ ‘You just got hired.’ ‘Ok, when do I start?’ ‘You just got started.’ I went in the door and didn’t leave for four and a half years.”

Years before Game of Thrones introduced the world to the term “sexposition”, Showtime’s The Tudors was already doing its own titillating spin on the costume drama. When the series about the reign of a young Henry VIII debuted it pulled in the most viewers the network had seen in years, and Showtime would end up keeping it on the air for another three years.

Geoff Zanelli took Remote Control into television miniseries a few years later with Into The West. Now Trevor Morris would represent the gang’s first significant foray into episodic television. “I was brought in late in the game. I won’t lie, it was really tough on me at first. So my approach was both playing catch up to the rest of the production, and at the same time embracing that we were reinventing costume drama. I always start by writing melodies. I wrote 6 or 8 themes before I started in hardcore. Some lived, some died, but it was my setting of the tone for my approach to the show. [What] Showtime and I were collectively going for, and I think achieved, is a modern updated story-telling point of view. My goal was never to be historically correct with the music ever. My knowledge of the instruments of the period is pretty good, but I use them my way.”

A lot of it is atmospheric, but it’s rarely boring - Morris is usually doing something in the background so that even if the album simmers for a good while it doesn’t lull you to sleep. The period winds are a nice touch, as are the solo vocals. The passages of solo violin are lovely, if a tad austere. It’s not a work that really reaches out and grabs you with its themes (unlike, say, Bear McCreary’s Outlander), so you may not honestly remember that much of it, but you will appreciate the fairly consistent tone it maintains over 45ish minutes. The best track is probably An Historic Love, which plays like a flowing extension of the new age material from King Arthur.

A lot of the music is sampled, though the album manages to avoid sounding “cheap”. “Originally [it was] all samples with a solo violin on the tune. We later re-recorded the strings and choir live. You can really hear the difference from season 1 to season 4 if you listen to them back to back.” It’s enjoyable in spite of its limitations, even if it may really only be for fans of the series. And it barely betrays its composer’s Remote Control heritage - heck, the music for Wolsey’s arrest (with its puffing flutes, ticking percussion, and somewhat synthetic soundscape) could’ve gone from a Horner score in the 90s, while the finale track suggests someone had Trevor Jones’ music on their mind (Last of the Mohicans in particular).


Transformers (2007) - ***
Steve Jablonsky; add’l music by Lorne Balfe & Clay Duncan; ambient music design Mel Wesson;
Martin Tillman on cello; George Doering & Michael Brook on guitar; conducted by Nick Glennie-Smith;
orchestrated by B & W Fowler/Moriarty, Liz Finch, Rick Giovinazzo, Penka Kouneva & Ken Kugler;
choir conducted by James Brett; Jacob Shea as technical assistant; album compiled by Jablonsky & Alan Meyerson;
thank you to Hans Zimmer, HGW, T.J. Lindgren, Trevor Morris, Blake Neely & Alastair King

“When Michael says, ‘Get that to my cutting room,’ I know he really likes something.”

A collaboration between Steven Spielberg and Michael Bay on anything probably felt like an “apples and bowling balls”-type pairing in 2007, though Spielberg wanted Bay to direct the Transformers film he had been developing for a few years and Bay, even though he thought it was about “stupid toys”, signed on so he could work with Spielberg. As a result, you get both a “boy and his car” story (which in Spielberg’s hands alone might’ve ended up more like E.T.) and a large dose of Bay’s fascination with the military. The film was released to staggering commercial success, and even mostly acceptable reviews from critics (a rarity for a Bay film), though Bay would end up being somewhat trapped into directing four more sequels over the next decade. Jablonsky, now Bay’s composer of choice, was along for all of those.

“I think [Michael Bay] called me one day and was acting like he’d given me the job. Michael would say ‘Steven is going to be listening to these themes, we need majestic.'”

There’s a good amount of King Arthur in here, unsurprising as Jablonsky was an additional composer on that one (listen to the Cybertron suite or the opening of Soccent Attack). There’s also a good amount of Batman Begins - of course the crescendos built around short ascending brass motifs as well as the chopping string and synth rhythms, but also much of the action material, including the mid-film Scorponok which takes the “play similar rhythms over and over and over” approach of that earlier film’s Batmobile car chase music and simplifies it even further to mainly focus on a relentlessly pulsing bass line. The Optimus theme suite has melodic progressions and instrumental usage that hew incredibly close to Zimmer’s style of the 90s (are those pan pipes?), complete with some supporting ideas straight out of Journey to the Line. And you get pulses and propulsive electronics that Jablonsky likely contributed to Bad Boys II, plus a few moments of easygoing chord shifts that recall his work on Bay’s prior film The Island. The score doesn’t do much new stylistically, and as it came on the heels of Zimmer & team’s Batman Begins and Pirates trilogy it led to some fatigue with film score reviewers and fans when it came out - “gosh, is every summer action blockbuster going to sound like this now?”

But, at least for me, it puts a fun spin on an obviously derivative style. There are a lot of heroic themes, maybe too many - like King Arthur, it seems the composer came up with a bunch of above average ideas and decided to use all of them - but they entertain effortlessly, especially the simplistic guilty pleasure Arrival to Earth. The chanting Deceptions material adds some creepy menace. It’s rarely obnoxious. And the score actually sounds like real instruments being performed (solo trumpet at times instead of just unison brass, for example). Transformers basically averages out to agreeable large-scale musical comfort food, but it’s still remarkable that Bay wanted something like this in his film, given what he had previously asked of Jablonsky and other composers in his prior two movies.

“I wrote a ton of themes for that, I just started writing and writing as much as I could. I really wanted to, and I always had in the back of my mind [that] Spielberg was involved. I wanted to give them options. I think most of it ended up in the film. I wrote this piece that is now considered the main Autobot theme. I just wrote it, it came out and I didn't really know what I was going to do with it. And Michael picked up on that and Hans came into my room one day saying ‘that is good.’ Everybody told me that, that part was good. I didn't realize…I didn't think it was any better than anything else in the score so far. That’s my favorite part; melodies are what got me into this, even if some of my scores have been less melodic. There was a lot more room for thematic material [on that film].”

You have to wonder if Trevor Rabin and Steve have ever connected on what it was like to be forced to follow American Beauty in the temp track - Rabin had to deal with that on National Treasure, while Jablonsky clearly did as well with this work’s material for the human family (especially in Sam at the Lake).

“The choir piece for the Decepticons, which we kind of got away from [in later movies] - I took all the Decepticon names that I could get my hands on, split them up by syllable, and then threw all the syllables up in the air and mished and mashed them. Occasionally there were unintentionally funny sounding words in there.”

There was no score CD issued around the time of the film’s release in theaters, perhaps because (as with Bad Boys II) the studios didn’t want to conflict with the sales of the song album. Bootleg versions of the score would start to appear online later in the summer right around the time that fan petitions were created to push for a legitimate release of the music. Eventually an hour-long CD got released the same month the DVD of the film was, but that item was pressed in absurdly limited quantities and quickly sold out. It would start a weird trend where physical and digital releases of Transformers film music would usually have puzzlingly low license counts and disappear almost as soon as they emerged.


Shrek the Third (2007) - ***½
Harry Gregson-Williams; add’l arrangements by Stephen Barton, David Buckley, Halli Cauthery & James McKee Smith;
orchestrated by Ladd McIntosh, Jennifer Hammond & Geoff Stradling; album compiled by by Stephen Barton & Meri Gavin

The third Shrek film made boatloads of cash, seemingly based on audience goodwill from the prior two films, but it was the first one to be poorly reviewed, and today it’s generally seen an inessential entry and the point where the franchise (which Dreamworks boss Jeffrey Katzenberg said at one point would run for five films) would start to slide into obsolescence. Maybe Andrew Adamson, who was busy with the Narnia films at the time and only served as a producer checking in monthly, had more to do with the success of the first two films than he’s generally credited for. Even without Adamson, his usual composer Harry Gregson-Williams would return to the series.

There’s a lot of very funny material here - an early arrangement of the Fairy Tale theme on medieval instruments almost plays like a parody of William Walton’s Shakespeare music, and there’s also a waltz-like take on the Shrek theme, a goofy theremin for Merlin, and (best of all) a short-but-sweet statement of the Fairy Tale theme arranged like Tomoyasu Hotei’s rocking Battle Without Honor Or Humanity from the 2000 film Another Battle (which was in vogue at the time after having been reused in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill).

A good portion of the material is Imbued with some of the symphonic and choral grandeur of Harry’s earlier Narnia score. He manages to still get a lot of mileage out of the Fairy Tale and Shrek themes without resorting to copy-paste from the prior films’ music. And the new young Arthur theme is a real winner - almost like a folk melody that HGW manages to weave into more action-packed and regal modes as the character realizes his destiny (a late contrapuntal usage with the Shrek theme is a nice touch).

It’s less inspired and less consistent than the music from Shrek 2, and it doesn’t have anything close to that score’s sensational arrangement of I Need A Hero, but it’s much better than I remembered.

—------------------------------------

Next time - The work Alan Meyerson called “totally insane.”




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