Monday, December 9, 2013
JohnnyTwoToes revisits the masterpiece from the late Jerry Goldsmith
When Alien first came out in 1979, it redefined the science fiction/horror genre of film making. Ridley Scott had made a relatively low budget film but one that was simply terrifying. Even today, after I have watched it numerous times, it still scares the crap out of me, part of the reason is the direction and the stellar cinematography. Knowing where to place the cameras and how a scene flows and very few films have gotten in right the way Ridley Scott has. You never really see the Alien completely and Scott is smart to let people's imagination do the terrifying.
In the first 45 minutes of the film virtually nothing happens, but the mood of this film is already set creepy and ghastly from the opening credits sequence thanks to Scott's choosing of the late Jerry Goldsmith (1929 – 2004) to score Alien. When the score was originally released, it was only available on cassettes and vinyl. Since the technology was such that they could only hold, record and release about 30-45 minutes of music on cassettes and vinyl consumers were left with a minute amount of music. The actual released running time of the score's original release was 35:44, hardly enough to do it justice. Until Intrada Records released the complete 2 disc score in 2007.
The entire score is simply one of the very best in the history of film scoring. Goldsmith and Scott had many go arounds about what Goldsmith wanted to do (a heroically brave sounding score) as opposed to Scott's desire for an abrasively scary score. Most of the time I would side with the composer, however in this case I am so glad the film makers opted for a creepy and terrifying score. The Intrada version has its share of the heroic side of Goldsmith's score but it has restored a great deal, if not all, of the terror inducing music that makes Alien such a treat.
Disc 1 features the complete original score and the Main Title track is the heroic theme Goldsmith was going for. Hyper Sleep is a track that features a lone trumpet with some strings and backup horns and it is a beautiful track of a ship coming to life. The next few tracks, The Landing, The Terrain (very effectively chilling), The Craft, The Passage and The Skeleton all set up the horror that befalls the spaceship, Nostromo and her crew. The Passage features some very ominous wind like instruments coupled with some straining strings which will give you chills (at least, they did for me). There are a couple of pretty tracks like Nothing To Say, a mournfully light track.
Most of Alien, though is wonderful array of screeching strings, belching brass and punctuating percussion. The remainder of the tracks are racingly terrifying as the battle for survival begins to take shape. Goldsmith has an entire orchestra (The National Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Lionel Newman) at his disposal and he uses sounds from every section. As I said, brass, strings, percussion and surprisingly some pretty scary elements from the woodwinds. There are a few elements which also employed the use of electronics, something which Goldsmith incorporated in many of his action scores in the years following Alien, most notably in the Rambo scores.
The last seven tracks on disc 1, 'the rescored alternate cues' are my favorite. Starting with the original opening theme that only appeared in its entirety on the re release of the director's cut which is PERFECT for what follows in the film. It should have been in the original cut to begin with, but Scott let Goldsmith insert his own choice. Both are great tracks, but the restored, rescored alternate cue is much better; perfection.
Disc 2 features the original released soundtrack album which is decent but incomplete, however they have restored some more alternate bonus tracks like a film version of the Main Title which is a great track. Virtually all of the extra tracks on this 2 disc masterpiece are alternate, unused inserts and versions that are as hair raising as the complete score itself.
Intrada Records has done a phenomenal job going back to the original masters and digitally remastering this score from start to finish. With 2 discs, 47 tracks and over two hours of music nothing, to my knowledge has been left out. Alien is a classic horror film that terrifies me 34 years later. Now, the music will do that, too. Enjoy!
Monday, December 2, 2013
JohnnyTwoToes pays tribute to Paul Walker and reviews his very best!
By now, most of the world knows of the tragic death of actor Paul Walker (Sept 12, 1973 - Nov 30, 2013) and his friend Roger Rodas on Saturday in Valencia, California as a result of a horrific car crash. The two had just left a fundraiser for Mr. Walker's charity that was assisting people all over the world who had been the victims of natural disasters. The organization is called Reach Out Worldwide if you are interested in contacting them.
Walker had been friends with Rodas for the last ten years and Rodas owned a car company called Always Evolving which dealt with high end car mechanics and such. What I heard from a lot of people over the years was that Paul Walker was not a good actor. I have had many fierce disagreements with people who know films and they maintain although he was in some good films, he was very limited in any range and did not have much to go one with what he DID have. Now that he is gone all I hear is how The Fast and the Furious franchise will not be the same without him.
I have maintained and will always maintain that Paul Walker was a great actor and aside from his movie star good looks he was a rare breed in Hollywood. A man, who over the years became spiritual, thought of his fellow man as equals and did immeasurable good for thousands of nameless faces marred by natural disasters. So when people ask me what was my favorite Paul Walker film The Fast and the Furious franchise, as good as it has been, is not it. 2006's Running Scared (not to be confused with the buddy comedy of the same name from 1987 with Billy Crystal and Gregory Hines) was written and directed by Wayne Kramer and it is such a great film that I found it to be the best film of 2006 and Paul Walker's finest performance.
Running Scared stars Walker as Joey Gazelle, a low level member of the local mob whose sole purpose is to dispose of guns used by his cohorts in crimes so the guns can't be tied to the criminals who used them. When one of the guns turns up missing Gazelle frantically tries to find it before it falls into the cops hands. One of the people that might know where the gun is, is a local boy who is friends with Gazelle's son. Once the cat is out of the bag, so to speak , there is nowhere to hide for Joey and his family, until he makes things right.
Kramer's script is based on the graphic novel and this film has packed EVERYTHING into it. There were twists and turns I never saw coming and Vera Farmiga who plays Joey's wife is a revelation. Strong and sexy, she is the best thing to happen to Joey, ever. But this is Walker's movie. His acting his a tour de force. Frantically searching, Walker's Gazelle is smart and knows how to play both sides against the middle and Kramer's script is deliciously saucy and profane as Gazelle has to stay one step ahead of the good cops, the corrupt cops and his own criminal family, all of whom are gunning for Gazelle, they just don't know it.......yet.
Walker is solid in this film from start to finish and his range goes from lovable father and husband to a cold, calculating criminal trying to survive. It is a star making performance but because of the lurid subject matter the film did not do much business and kind of went unnoticed. However, Kramer's film is a masterpiece! A perfectly constructed thriller that literally throws so many plot twists you will never see them coming and it respects the intelligence to follow the plot lines never talks down to the audience.
Running Scared is not family viewing for its subject matter but it is a sharp, crisp and electrifying thriller and a true showcase for the acting of Paul Walker, in particular. Walker went on to work with Kramer in 2013's Pawn Shop Chronicles. I have not seen it but intend to and have heard it is a wild ride, as well.
Paul Walker was taken too early for people to really enjoy what he could do in front of the camera. But one thing is for sure, when I think of Paul Walker's best films, Running Scared is at the top of my list. As for the latest The Fast and the Furious film which was scheduled to be released in July of 2014, there is no word on what and how will affect the film. Obviously, with Paul Walker gone that definitely will effect the film, but in which is unsure. The makers and the studio have already invested tens of millions of dollars into the 7th film and so it is too late to turn back now. Paul Walker would not have wanted that, anyway. The filmmakers will figure it out somehow, and hopefully it will be a fitting tribute to a fine actor taken too early. The show must go on. Running Scared-**** out of 4
Thursday, November 28, 2013
Thanks for all the love
Sometimes, you forget to thank the nice people who make your life so happy in so many ways. Sometimes, you forget to tell them how much you really appreciate them for being an important part of your life.
Sometimes, you forget your generous, large hearted fans, followers, readers, fellow bloggers, friends and family who spare their time and money for your blog and keep it alive!! So on Thanksgiving, here is a BIG THANK YOU to all the shiny, happy folks who keep fueling this blog to greater heights! You are a spark plug for good. Thanks for igniting something amazing. Thank you!!!
Sunday, November 24, 2013
JohhnyTwoToes loves this 2nd installment of the Star Trek Reboot
The long awaited sequel to the rebooted Star Trek franchise makes its way to Earth and this time it is called Star Trek Into Darkness (2013) directed by the in-demand director of the moment - J.J.Abrams who is also set to direct the new Star Wars movie.
Star Trek Into Darkness (STID) features all of the cast returning with Chris Pine as Kirk, this time battling Benedict Cumberbatch's John Harrison (aka Kahn) as Harrison tears Starfleet a new one to exact his revenge. This one literally starts out with a bang from the first frame of film to the last and it is even better than its predecessor (though some fans disagree)
The film asks questions of loyalty, honesty and integrity and it does them justice with a fine script by Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof that is intelligent, clever and witty. STID is not so much a retooled version of the 1982 Star Trek The Wrath of Kahn film as much as it is re imagined. Cumberbatch is a formidable foe and he is well written and acted; cold, calculating and unmerciful even when it comes to women he fights.
I have avoided much of the intricacies of the plot because director J. J. Abrams and the writers have changed this version quite a bit from the 1982 version and I don't want to ruin any of this great film. All of the actors have been perfectly cast from the main ones down to the secondary performances including the absolutely stunningly, voluptuous Alice Eve playing Dr. Carol Marcus (remember her?). Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, John Cho, Simon Pegg and Anton Yelchin as the lead characters are just perfect. They could not have cast these films any better. Spock is probably the most difficult character to play and Quinto does it with quiet grace. Spock will always wrestle with his emotions and his ideas of what human emotions should be, as a Vulcan. It is a joy to see a character so well played by Quinto and it causes the audience to think, as well.
Michael Giacchino's score is terrific, as well. The full orchestra just blasting away with beautiful melodies and harmonies with the action perfectly timed into the score. I did not think they could do another Star Trek film that outdo the first film, but they have. STID is masterfully directed; exciting, fun, funny, intelligent and one of the very best films of the year. Since we are in the holiday season for most people, if you are looking for a great family film, Star Trek Into Darkness is perfect fun. Star Trek Into Darkness-**** out of 4
Saturday, November 23, 2013
Great Country Rock with a Gospel Touch
For truly beautiful gospel country rock that breaks stereotypes of contemporary christian music, you must checkout JIM VIERRA & FRIENDS, the No. 1 band on the ReverbNation Christian - Gospel -Country charts for Tracy, CA.
With inspiring lyrics, stellar musical workmanship, memorable tunes and great vocals like those found on "You're So Beautiful" and "We All Fall Down", this is high caliber country rock music with a divine gospel touch spearheaded by the multifaceted Jim Vierra, well known songwriter and producer for both Christian Contemporary and Country Music.
Thursday, November 21, 2013
JohnnyTwoToes critiques this bombastic but fun re-imagining of Superman
The latest reboot of another superhero series has made its way through the theaters and is now on DVD and On Demand; Zack Snyder's long awaited Man of Steel (2013). As a fan of the Christopher Reeve version of Superman, I was dubious of how good the remake (if you can call it that) could possibly be. I was surprised; somewhat.
Man of Steel is not your daddy's Superman. The film opens on Krypton, Superman or Kal-El is being born amidst a dying planet. Natural resources gone and an imploding core have left Jor-El (Russel Crowe), Supeman's father little time to convince the planet's elders to seek life in the outer posts and start anew. Zod, a one time friend of Jor-El wants to take over the planet and rule with an iron fist, but Jor-El wants no part of Zod's blood lust for power. The two were once friends but, now, have nothing to say to one another. I loved that the first thirty minutes or so stayed on Krypton and we see a once glorious planet in its last days in a vivid display of visuals.
Crowe is very good as Jor-El and I could see his point of survival. Zod is played with ruthless zeal by the terrific Michael Shannon and he tears up the screen with his rage and thirst for power. After the attempted coup d'etat fails, Zod and his minions are banished to the outer limits for all eternity. Once on planet Earth Kale-El knows he is different, knows what his powers are but not much else about his past. A kind couple (Kevin Costner and Diane Lane) pick him up after he crash lands as an infant in a corn field. They raise and love him as their own, but Clark as he is now called does not seem to fit in. After a series of odd jobs from all over, he finally gets a line on a mysterious site that has been discovered and travels there to get a job and find answers. It is there he meets the lovely Lois Lane (Amy Adams). Once Zod and his gang of thugs have found Earth and demand the turning over of Kal-El or else, the action begins.
Man of Steel is nothing like the originals. The originals were fun, lighthearted and Christopher Reeve was terrific as the title character. He was super enough to be accepted as Superman and bumbling enough to be Clark Kent. The whole while his performance willfully acknowledged to the viewer to not take these TOO seriously. Man of Steel, wants to be taken more seriously and it is a much darker and bleaker look for the franchise. That is not entirely a bad thing.
The film was written by David S. Goyer and with some help on the story by Christopher Nolan and the script is intelligent however, the humor is sparse throughout the film. I particularly liked Kevin Costner's performance as Kal-El's Earthly father. It has a quiet peacefulness to it and, although he is not in the film that much his character stayed with me. Diane Lane is also solid as Kal_El's Earthly mother, as is the beautiful Amy Adams as Lois Lane.
We don't get to meet Jimmy, yet but I think that will come in the upcoming sequels.Henry Cavill is a decent actor and he does do what is required of his character, but he does come across a little flat. But there is a strong supporting cast with Laurence Fishburne as Perry White, Richard Schiff as the kindly doctor who helps analyze what the discovery is, Harry Lennix as the lead General that wants to protect Earth at all costs, and the sexy Antje Traue, a cold hearted snake and Zod's right hand, so to speak.
Much of the first half of the film is told in a series of flashbacks and some of the best moments in Man of Steel are the quieter ones with Henry and Costner, surprisingly. Man of Steel is a good film and I am going to recommend it. It has a compelling story, terrific visuals and is well acted. It is also a stark and bleak look at the man from Krypton, still there has been a lot of thought into how to make this film different.
Director Zack Snyder has delivered a bold and adventurous film that is a lot of fun. Snyder has re imagined this franchise and, for the most part it is a good film. I guess if I had any problems with it, they were the fact that the visuals tend to overshadow the story and the final climactic fight scene is a little too much over the top. But if you get a little weary of skyscrapers falling and trains being cast about like toys, just hone in on Hans Zimmer's wonderful score. I have been critical of his music for films recently, and thought he was scoring too much and not letting his creativeness regenerate between films,but he has composed a majestically gorgeous score that is worthy of a nod from Oscar. At almost two and half hours in length, Man of Steel might seem a little long but it is time well spent, mistakes or not. Man of Steel-*** out of 4
Monday, November 18, 2013
The Canadian Rockers Best Album!
When the Toronto alternative indie rock band Barenaked Ladies splendid U.S. breakthrough album, Stunt, released in 1998 to criticial acclaim, it sold over 3 million copies and spawned the verbose hit One Week, which threatened to strip Barenaked Ladies of substance and staying power.
Rather than trade on the frisky charms of that fluke novelty, the Canadian rockers gamble on sophistication, serious life issues and a shameless wallow in classic ska-rap-indie pop in the marvelous Maroon. While Barenaked Ladies' fifth studio album, produced by Don Was, contains ample schoolyard mischief, it also grapples with mature subjects and distinctly unfunny themes, especially in the harrowing and graphic car-crash epic Tonight Is the Night I Fell Asleep at the Wheel.
The 12 tracks nimbly fuse bright jangly guitars and peppy melodies with often disturbing or fretful lyrics. In first single Pinch Me, the dreary tale of a man mired in tedium unfolds over a shimmering slice of upbeat pop. The tug of war between the silly and the serious gets literal in Never Do Anything, where a cheeky remark counters every pained confession. Remove the strident and overwrought Sell Sell Sell and Maroon suggests itself as a worthy disc. In fact, their best!