Hey all! Trying something different this year with regards to this series. In staggering it out throughout the year, I hope to not have to rush right near the end of the year (though I actually wanted to get this installment out sooner—go figure!) For those unaware of what this feature is all about, think of it as a spotlight on some of the better musical pieces I personally found in films that I viewed during the year that were released in 2016.
Don’t consider this a ranking, but again, just a series to give some attention to some musical work I found to be compelling, catchy, mesmerizing, etc. in said films.
Don’t consider this a comprehensive list, either. I try to see everything I can, but of course, a big film (or two or three) with a killer score may not always be found here, not because I don’t like its music, but because I simply didn’t watch the film. In my opinion, I cannot honestly blurb about what I liked/felt about the song chosen without watching the actual film—kind of like watching a film! Context is important! Feel free to let me know in the comments sections as to what I need to listen to and what, if anything, I got right!
A few short-ish notes:
- This series isn’t MMJ’s thoughts on movies, though an extremely brief feeling on said movie may be found.
- All of the songs I’ve selected appear in their respected movie. Some movies will have the official motion picture soundtrack as well as the score. The score will (almost) always appear in the movie, whereas the soundtrack may appear here and there. Which leads me to the next point…
- Generally, the songs I have selected are from their respective scores. But, there are a few selections I’ve chosen from the soundtrack, because said song adds to the movie immensely.
- Not always, but some track names from the score directly reference specific points in the movie. So, there may be slight spoilers!
- I will link to every musical piece, but I don’t control if and when the piece gets taken down from YouTube or SoundCloud
- I’m no musical whiz, nor know every exact instrument (though I do still play the trumpet from time to time :)), I just try to highlight what I really enjoy about the featured selection/selections, sometimes grouped and looked at more collectively than individually.
- I’ve tried to start at the beginning of the year and work through it, though there may be the occasional film that I finally got around to listening to (after watching the movie) that makes its appearance later in the series.
Make sense? Let’s get those ears warm!
13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi (composed by Lorne Balfe)
Welcome to Benghazi
I find it refreshing that a Michael Bay direct movie, even one with a war setting, isn’t complete noise, and the same can be said for its score, done by Lorne Balfe (Penguins of Madagascar, Terminator: Genisys). Not to say that some tracks aren’t straight smatterings of sound, but the two posted above are the perfect combination of creating urgency and unease without hitting one over the head. I like these tracks better than some of the ones that accompany the all-out action frenzy in the second half and final third of the movie.
But boy, this track takes the cake as the crown jewel of this score. With its piano and steadily swelling, but not comically so, strings, it manages to be sad, reflective, hopeful, and heroic, all at once. Truly pays tribute to those men who were really done wrong by their higher-ups, yet still did the right thing when no one else was willing to.
Hail, Caesar! (Composed by Carter Burwell)
Hail, Caesar may not be all that entertaining or cohesive in regards from the actual heart/plot of its film, but its best moments occur during those full-on movie within a movie (within a movie?) scenes paying tribute to the 1950’s filmmaking process. The title track is wonderful in its mimicry of similar epics, obviously taking inspiration from Spartacus and Ben-Hur. As for No Dames!, I feel like I’m doing a disservice not posting the clip here, but it is a perfect re-creation of those musicial-heavy films of the 50’s. Even if everything is forgotten about Hail, Caesar, Channing Tatum’s song and dance routine won’t be anytime soon.
Deadpool (composed by Junkie XL)
Shoop (performed by Salt N Pepa)
Hearing Salt N Pepa’s classic irreverent and taboo (for its time) track in Deadpool’s 1st and 2nd trailer immediately put forth the idea that the resulting film was gonna be, well, irreverent and maybe even a little taboo in comparison to most superhero films. It’s nice that it made an appearance early in the feature, too. Hear “I wanna shoop” enough times and it sounds a lot like “I wanna shoot,” which is what Deadpool does a lot of.
I feel like one of the hardest things to do in the first installment of a movie series is finding a theme that really announces the main character, characters, or world. It isn’t necessary, but it can only help, and can be a huge marketing tool if done right. Tom Holkenborg, aka Junkie XL of Mad Max fame, finds a sound that really feels like the bizarre mental psyche that belongs to Wade Wilson. It’s funky, it’s menacing, its disjointing, and chaotic, but it is supposed to be. If you like the sounds that so many of those 80’s movies carried as well as a Michael Jackson influence, the Deadpool score is worth a listen.
Triple 9 (composed by Atticus Ross)
Eleven Fifty Nine
If Atticus Ross could put this good of a score together with what appeared to be some confusion as to the film’s sound and vision of director John Hillcoat, yours truly would love to see how the final product would have turned out if he was allowed more time and a better feel for it. Even with the troubles, I believe Ross gets a lot right in this synth-heavy score, especially the cuts above that play during Triple 9‘s best scenes. The tracks provide grittiness with an efficiency befitting of the crew carrying out the job. He even does a remix of Cypress Hill’s classic anti-police anthem, Pigs, that appears in the red band trailer and the end of the film that personifies nastiness and seediness.
Zootopia (composed by Michael Giacchino)
Ticket to Write
Jumbo Pop Hustle
Hopps Goes After the Weasel
The Nick of Time
Ewe Fell for It
If you’re Michael Giacchino, how do you follow up scoring two the biggest films last year in Jurassic World (meh), and Inside Out (outstanding)? You do it by scoring Zootopia, a film many are hailing just as good, if not more so, than Inside Out. Regardless of what the feeling is, it’s clear that Giacchino has delivered again with more marvelous music. Close your eyes and listen to most of Ewe Fell for It, which sounds like it would be right at home in an Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode. Like his past work, the score is somewhat character-based with notable motifs of its main characters, with tons of unique sounds that feel Hugh Masekala-esque (without the notable horns and a faster pace). It’s high-quality stuff, and if forced to pick between his two most recent scores, I’d have to go with Zootopia’s, only because it sounds more different.
10 Cloverfield Lane (composed by Bear McCreary)
The Concrete Cell
Want mystery and a slow burn? 10 Cloverfield Lane provides that, and its score, composed by TV screen vet Bear McCreary (The Walking Dead, Battlestar Galactia) reflects this. A good amount of it is brooding, foreshadowing as to what is (or isn’t) to come, and most of all, tense (got to love the robust strings), heard most memorably in the tracks Michelle, The Concrete Cell, and Hazmat Suit.
At the Door
But, when matters require that the score go into full-on horror/thriller mode, McCreary is no slouch, either, using tons of dissonance and changes in time signature to ratchet up the scenes. 10 Cloverfield Lane was definitely worth a theater viewing, but possibly not for the reasons immediately thought.
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice (composed by Hans Zimmer & Junkie XL)
Aside from the “war” waged between critics and moviegoers over the polarizing Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, some of the biggest news that really flew under the radar happened to be Hans Zimmer throwing in his towel as it pertains to contributing to future superhero scores, citing it “difficult to stay fresh.” And really, one can sort of hear that the BvS score, co-composed with Junkie XL, isn’t as precise or focused as his other work.
Still, even a 50-60% Zimmer is super-talented, and the opening of Dawn of Justice is probably the most emotional and arresting part of the entire feature, both visually and of course sonically. Some things may be wrong with DoJ, but I believe the opening and reintroduction to Batman’s origins is definitely not one of them. If only the rest of the film could be this great, right?
Is She With You?
Do You Bleed?
To me, the above tracks are where Junkie XL’s influence on the score are heard most clearly. Both carry the really big, almost Greek-epic feel with a lot offorce, what one would expect with a title stating Batman clearing facing off with Superman. They’re loud, they’re titanic, and they need to be.
Photo credits go to cosmicbooknews.com, wired.com, dapsmagic.com, consequencesofsound.net, empireonline.com, and notesfromscotland.co.uk.
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