Movie Man Jackson looks at: 2017 Music in Movies (Part 3)

And the beat goes on. Part 3 of the Music in Movies series continues. If you missed parts 1 and two, they’re available here and here. Let’s do it.

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (composed by Daniel Pemberton)

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

Growing Up Londonium

The Legend of Excalibur

The Darklands

The Devil and The Huntsman

This isn’t your father’s, grandfather’s, or great-grandfather’s King Arthur. Legend of the Sword is covered with Guy Ritchie-ness, a stylized re-imagining of the titular hero in an unkempt, street-wise, roughened way. Composer Daniel Pemberton goes a little against expectations sonically here. Powerful drums and breath patterns create one of the more lively musical tracks of the entire year in Growing Up Londinium, a montage of King Arthur growing up in 2:42. The Darklands sees our hero face his inner demons all while fighting sinister mythical beings.

There’s a noticeable epic, rustic, fantastical, Viking/Celtic feel with much of the music that works as an infinitely replayable standalone listen (or accompaniment to a workout, I can attest with experience firsthand), and within the movie itself. Honestly, it’s everything I could want from a King Arthur musical score without realizing it. King Arthur isn’t a movie I expected to enjoy, but count me in the minority of the few who did, and Daniel Pemberton played a part in making it so.

 Wonder Woman (composed by Rupert Gregson-Williams)

No Man’s Land

Wonder Woman’s Wrath

Since she was introduced in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, I’ve been infatuated with Wonder Woman‘s theme. With the wailing electric guitar, powerful bass drum and powerful bass drum, it gets across Diana’s impressive strength both internally and externally. But, what’s great about it is that the theme also carries a sense of beauty, compassion, and honesty. All themes found throughout the movie and put in nicely into this lush score by Rupert Gregson-Williams.

The Mummy (composed by Brian Tyler)


It’s very fitting that the best track on The Mummy’s score is attached to the best moments of the film itself. Brian Tyler’s Prodigium is everything The Mummy should have been. Mysterious, classical, full of intrigue. Most importantly, the piece sounds dark and otherworldly. If we get more of this in any Dr. Jekkyl/Mr. Hyde film, I’ll be happy.

It Comes At Night (composed by Brian McOmber)

Close Your Eyes


The Triumph of Death

Paul’s Regret

Coming in at a brief 41 minutes, the score for It Comes At Night by Brian McOmber doesn’t stand out as much as it sits under the surface, lingers on the walls, in the air, etc. Paranoia is the name of the game in the film, and when is paranoia ever loud and blaring? The score mimics this, the presence felt but never overbearing.

Baby Driver (soundtrack by various artists)

Harlem Shuffle

Smokey Joe’s La La


Unsquare Dance


Chase Me

I probably can’t say anything more about the way music is used in Baby Driver that hasn’t been said already. Every now and then it gets to the point of feeling gimmicky, but by and large, Baby Driver is a unique viewing experience fueled by a eclectic and diverse soundtrack that runs the entire gamut of musical genres. It’s as much of an auditory experience as it is a visual one.

Spider-Man: Homecoming (composed by Michael Giacchino)

The World is Changing

Academic Decommitment

A Stark Contrast

Despite having tinges of The Avengers‘ theme, Michael Giacchino’s Spidey: Homecoming score is decidedly more low-scale and even whimsical at times. Take Academic Decommitment for example (Michael G always one with the track puns). It’s breezy and kind of quirky. The approach taken doesn’t really make for a memorable score, but I’m sure it’s not supposed to be.

War for the Planet of the Apes (composed by Michael Giacchino)

Apes Past is Prologue

Assault of the Earth

The work Giacchino puts into War for the Planet of the Apes couldn’t be more different than the tracks he made for Homecoming, and those movies were released a week apart from each other! Large parts of War for Apes are told with minimal dialogue, if any. As such, Giacchino’s beautiful music plays a massive part in the feature.

His approach starts early with Apes Past is Prologue and Assault of the Earth, painting the picture early of the high level of stakes this war between humans and apes carries.

Exodus Wounds

The Posse Polonaise

These tracks segue way into the two above. Giacchino makes War for Apes something of a processional with its main motif. There’s grace in this score…

A Tide in the Affair of Apes

The Ecstasy of the Bold 

but also a ton of loss and despair.

Apes Together Strong


Paradise Found

Michael G closes the trilogy of apes with two emotional sledgehammers of tracks. Paradise Found is the perfect wrap up to everything we’ve witnessed as an audience through the three movies. It was a long and emotional ride, but one that won’t be forgotten anytime soon. Here’s to hoping Giacchino’s work gets some rightful appreciation come awards season.

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Movie Man Jackson looks at: 2017 Music in Movies (Part 2)


Part 2 already? Part 2. Welcome back to another entry that deals with the music behind the feature films. If you missed Part 1, you can find that here. Part 2? Let’s do it.

Beauty and the Beast (soundtrack by various artists, score composed by Alan Menken)\



Beauty and the Beast

The Beast


If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. That’s the feeling when hearing Alan Menken on 2017’s Beauty and the Beast live-action movie. With just a handful of new tracks, this largely qualifies as a remastering along with a few slight tweaks of his previous work found the 1991 animated offering, which happened to win Best Original Score and Best Original Song in its respective year. The Beast and Transformations still carry the same richness as before.

Even the live songs are surprisingly good-quality (with a tad of technology help, but still), especially for actors and actresses not known for singing voices. Props are given to Emma Watson, Luke Evans, Dan Stevens, and Josh Gad (Josh Gad!) for making the musical numbers very listenable in and outside of the movie.

Power Rangers (composed by Brian Tyler)

Power Rangers Theme



Let’s Ride

Go Go Power Rangers

Outside of Michael Giacchino and Hans Zimmer, there may not be a bigger name composer than Brian Tyler, lending his talents to many blockbuster franchises including many Marvel films, the Fast franchise, Now You See Me, and more.

Tasked with providing the music to the rebooted Power Rangers franchise, Tyler opts for a slightly grounded approach in this department. And it makes sense in the movie; the characters take center stage for quite a bit before any real action setpieces come to fruition. Tracks like United and Confessions hit at this idea of responsibility and everyday heroism.

But Tyler does deliver on a standout theme heard first in the plainly titled Power Rangers Theme and intersperses that throughout. It’s a theme befitting of characters uniting for something bigger than themselves. He rightfully holds off on the iconic “Go Go Power Rangers” sound until a brief snippet is heard in Let’s Ride and finally at the end in full.

Life (composed by Jon Ekstrand)

Welcome to the ISS

Life isn’t a wholly unique space movie, but what is when it comes to space movies nowadays? Composer Jon Ekstrand plays with two ideas here The 1st idea is that of wonder, exploration, and stumbling upon something no one person truly knows about. The rich and full sounds in Welcome to the ISS and It’s Alive invoke a feeling of bold discovery, not unlike something one may find in Star Trek, or better yet, 2001: A Space Odyssey.


Godspeed, Doctor

I Thought They Came to Rescue Us

The 2nd idea is manifested through the above tracks. It’s the idea that humans are so captivated by finding extraterrestrial life that we could lose ours in the process. In other words, it plays our like pure vicious horror with bellowing brass and stalker-like electric sounds. Feels in line with something out of that old Ridley Scott classic and the video game series Dead Space.

Godspeed, Doctor

A Long Way Back

Life ends with Godspeed, Doctor, a heroic track inspiring sacrifice for the greater good, and A Long Way Back, a twisted, uncomfortable listen that drives home the sinister denouement. It’s got a lot in common with Johann Johannson’s Sicario track of The Beast: 

But if you’re ripping, rip from the best! Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

The Fate of the Furious (composed by Brian Tyler)

Nobody’s Intel



From small-scaled street racing matters to global escapades, The Fast and the Furious universe has obviously transformed itself in 16 years. And the same can be said for the music, once reliant more on licensed music than actual score tracks. Since The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, composer Brian Tyler has been just as much a part of the transformation as say, Vin Diesel or Justin Lin, scoring every film except for Fast and Furious 6.

Since Fast & Furious 2009, Tyler’s been able to craft elaborate songs for the series’ biggest set-pieces. But I’ve always found myself most pleased with his smaller, sometimes character specific numbers, such as Letty from 2009, The Perfect Crew , Hobbs, Tapping Inand Full Circle from Fast Five, and Vow for Revenge and Farewell from Furious 7. The same goes for F8 tracks like the above.

Welcome to the Club

But it’s the theme melding in Tyler’s Welcome to the Club that stands out as the movie’s best musical moment. Played when Hobbs is entering his cell the first time and becomes reacquainted with Deckard, it serves as perfect representations of each character. Hobbs being brash and tank-like, Deckard being more minimalist and subdued but no less dangerous. Let’s hope we hear this again in their spinoff.

How to be a Latin Lover (soundtrack by various artists)

Los Felegreses (performed by Jungle Fire)

The group Jungle Fire contributes a couple of pieces that are merely meant to accompany How to Be a Latin Lover in a toe-tapping, head-nodding fashion. The music is nothing to provoke any emotion (most music in comedies rarely do), but the piece above does have a nice, sunny, tropical vibe.

Free Fire (composed by Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury)

Money Count

Crawl Chase

The Phone Rings

The talented duo, who came into popularity by providing the musical accompaniment to the thought-provoking Ex Machina and Black Mirror, join forces again for Free Fire. 

Free Fire is far less ambitious than the prior two works Barrow and Salisbury contributed to. But, they do a nice job of accompanying the various moments in this prolonged setpiece. The eccentric music cuts are fitting for an eccentric movie, and are not unlike something one would hear on the radio during the time period in which the events of the movie take place.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 (composed by Tyler Bates)

Space Chase

Space Chase is the track that feels so Guardians, a manic trip through the entire galaxy by this fivesome of antiheroes with danger on their tails. It’s one of the few “big tracks” in the score by Tyler Bates. Vol 2 does go more for the emotional feels than the superficial ones.

Family History


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Movie Man Jackson looks at: 2016 Music in Movies (Part 3)

Welcome back to another entry that deals with the music behind the feature films. If you missed Parts 1 and 2, you can find those here and here. Let’s do it.

The Nice Guys (soundtrack by Various Artists, score by John Ottman)

Papa Was a Rolling Stone (The Temptations)


September (Earth, Wind, and Fire)

Dazz (Brick)

Boogie Wonderland (Earth, Wind, and Fire)

Escape/The Pina Colada Song (Rupert Holmes)

 Theme from The Nice Guys

All due respect to John Ottman who is a solid composer (his theme for the movie hearkens to classic 1970’s cop TV), but his work is overshadowed by the brilliant licensed song selections that make up The Nice Guys.

This is one of those rare cases where the soundtrack absolutely does more for the movie than any score. Starting with The Temptations classic, the music just works at setting the audience into the 1970’s. But the real highlight is the house party around the middle of the movie that features the two Earth, Wind, and Fire songs along with the Brick song. Just pure fun escapism.

X-Men: Apocalypse (composed by John Ottman)


Ahh, there he is again! Apocalypse’s big entrance is treated with all of the horrific grandeur he deserves in X-Men: Apocalypse. The vocals (Latin, maybe?) add a layer of scale and “giganticness” that is fitting for someone such as Apocalypse. This track announces that stuff is about to go down whenever this mutant is on screen. This track would be right at home in say something such as God of War. 

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (soundtrack by The Lonely Island)

I’m So Humble

Equal Rights

Bin Laden

Mona Lisa

Things in My Jeep


Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping is a comedy that might end up being more appreciated years down the line when it is played on VH1 than it is now. While it can be debated if its premise is stretched (I actually don’t think it is), Popstar’s shining light is its soundtrack done by The Lonely Island trio, which satirizes today’s vapidness, stupidity, and obliviousness that comprises a good chunk of the most popular acts, to amazing hilarity. The crazy thing, though? As bad as the songs are intentionally supposed to be, they are quite good and could easily be played on radio.

The Lobster (soundtrack by Various Artists)

String Quartet No.4 (Beethoven)

Apo Mesa Pethamenos (Danai)

Three Pieces for String Quartet (Igor Stravinsky)

There’s a little bit of beauty and tranquility that exists in The Lobster, but much more coldness and bleakness. The classical music fits the color palette and the bizarre events that take place, especially in the hotel. It’s a perfect musical choice (most of the songs chosen are covered by modern orchestras surely due to the price tag needed to secure the originals for this move). I’m sure I could be wrong, but I play The Lobster back in my head and I don’t know if it can be scored with traditional music.

Now You See Me 2 (composed by Brian Tyler)


Main Titles

Diversion Tactics

See You in 3 to 5

Brian Tyler, to me at least, has always been a steady hand as a composer, making many notable contributions to big time movies and franchises like Iron Man 3, Age of Ultron, and many installments in the Fast and Furious saga. I like to think that sometimes it takes a second movie for a theme to truly stick, and he’s made a good one that accompanies Now You See Me 1 and 2. The magic and overall movies have sort of been a letdown, but the main theme is exciting and adventurous. I just wish the entire movies were like it. His score is easily the best part of a otherwise magic-less movie.

 The Neon Demon (composed by Cliff Martinez)


The Neon Demon

Demon Dance

Gold Paint Shoot

A Messenger Walks Among Us

Are We Having a Party

I love doing this yearly look at scores/soundtracks to the movies I watched, but there are obviously a few that I am more interested to revisit compared to others. Once the title track to Refn’s latest started the movie, I knew this was going to be an entertaining-sounding composition.

Nicolas Winding Refn is an interesting director, no doubt, often choosing to tell stories with visuals and sounds than actual dialogue or completely cohesive plots. He may not always make sense, but you can’t take your eyes off of the product. Like Refn’s many scenes in The Neon Demon, Cliff Martinez’s score (also composed Drive and Only God Forgives) is mesmerizing throughout with the moody synths, and it is actually a score that works well as a standalone listen. You can’t take your eyes off of The Neon Demon, and you can’t turn your ears away, either.

The Shallows (composed by Marco Beltrami)

Ambient MIE 1/100@f/4 - Key Profoto D 1 500 MIE, 1/60@f/14 camera right 55°, 4’ from subject and 6’6” feet high with a beauty dish.  Fill Profoto D 1 500 MIE,1/60@f/8 camera left 45° 5’6” away from subject and 9’6”’ high with a Westcott 7’ parabolic umbrella.  Shot at 1/60@f/14 with a Canon 5D Mark III, 85mm f/1.2, 13’ from subject 4’4”’ high.

Pulled Down Deep

Shark Crashes Whale

Contrast The Neon Demon’s score with that of The Shallows. Beltrami’s work here isn’t that memorable listening standalone, but best listened in immersion, surround sound, in a theater. The two tracks posted above are shark-like, not in your face, but constantly present and frightening. No, nothing from The Shallows is going to be iconic sound-wise as Jaws‘ classic theme, but within the move it sits nicely.

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Movie Man Jackson looks at: 2015 Music in Movies (Part 2)

Back with Part 2 of the year-end series. If you missed Part 1, you can see that here. Now, onto the selections!

Ex Machina (composed by Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury)



Ava is truly complex; the world’s first true artificial intelligence housed inside a shapely body that looks to be real. Can she pass as a human? Is the very fact that we’re asking that question means that she does pass as one? There’s something very deep and unsettling about Ava, but there’ also something very innocent and child-like, and this early musical piece highlights that aspect of Ava. The sounds (perhaps a xylophone?), are something one would expect to hear in a crib, a nursery, or somewhere similar, playing on that child theme and wonder of just getting introduced to the world and others for the first time, which Ava is exposed to in her “test.”


The Test Worked

Bunsen Burner

There comes a point in Ex Machina where the subject(s) (and that is plural for a reason) become fully aware, though maybe not exactly in the preferred way. The tracks above sound very much like an Eureka! effect, a moment in which some type of test or problem is solved and realized. Maybe it’s the growing electric guitars riff paired with the synths (Bunsen Burner/The Test Worked), which kind of makes for a mindblowing effect. Where this piece is played is very fitting for how Nathan feels in that particular moment. He is not so much scared as he is blown away in shock and marvel at what he’s created.

Get Down Saturday Night (written by Oliver Cheatham)

No real reason why this is included. The song just appears in one of the more humorous, random, and memorable scenes of the year.

Avengers: Age of Ultron (composed by Brian Tyler and Danny Elfman)


The Mission

To yours truly at least, Brian Tyler is a composer who has kind of come out of relative obscurity. Not that he hasn’t had much work, but now, the man in the last few years has scored some of Hollywood’s biggest franchises in The Fast and Furious movies and Marvel’s recent installments. The one criticism is that some of his stuff can sound similar to each other. His stuff is Age of Ultron is underwhelming, perhaps due to the fact that he was likely working on Furious 7 around the same time, maybe stretching himself too thin, which could explain why Elfman is credited with the score as well. But, The Mission is an excellent track, full of weight and importance, very stirring and “Let’s get the troops ready!” sounding.


Interesting that one of the scenes director Joss Wheeden had to fight to keep in that the studio absolutely did not want produced one of the better musical tracks in the entire movie. AoU can feel very bloated at times, so it is times like during the farmhouse scene where things aren’t so loud and what not that are appreciated. And, surprisingly, the scene added a nice layer to some characters that were previously unknown. The music is so tranquil, so reflective.

Mad Max: Fury Road (composed by Junkie XL)



Though the extended version isn’t played in the film, all that is needed of it is snippets to get its point across. This is an introduction into the world that Max inhabits is, a world of fire. And blood. All that matters is survival, by any means necessary. It’s a fitting, simplistic, no frills track, punctuated by the robust cello.

 Blood Bag

Spikey Cars

Brothers in Arms

This really should not have been mindblowing, but seeing an actual band come in and play along during the most hectic scenes of Fury Road is not something seen often, if ever. Fury Road has a few quiet moments during its runtime, but primarily, this is a non-stop, balls-to-the-wall, relentless thrill ride. The score is madness, featuring war-like bass drums, wah-wah guitars, vibrant brass, and intense strings. And, points for having such an unforgettable character who never loses his cool in the face of madness. The man. The myth. The legend. Doof Warrior.

Chapter Doof

 San Andreas (composed by Andrew Lockington)


Hoover Dam

I liked San Andreas for what is was in my opinion: Dumb summer fun. By far, the best moment is the absolute destruction of the Hoover Dam, signaling the beginning of what is to come. The track is a little over the top, the moment certainly very predictable when it appears in the movie, but the swelling effects at the end are a nice touch. It feels like complete chaos.

Spy (various artists)

Who Can You Trust

Bad Seed Rising

Spy is bookended by a strong opening and ending song. Clearly meant to parody the openings that James Bond features always have, this song, sung by Ivy Levan, manages to be a great parody from but also, just a great opening song. The vocals are powerful and sung with a lot of feeling, and though the lyrics in the verses are a little weak, the chorus is written well and makes sense within the movie. It wouldn’t be a shock to see Levan one day perform a song for 007. Put that in your pipe, Sam Smith! As for the ending track, it sums up the evolution of Melissa McCarthy’s character, from a timid and unsure of herself individual to a fully confident and heady agent, with an edge when needed.

Jurassic World (composed by Michael Giacchino)


Welcome to Jurassic World

Say what you will about Jurassic World, but it is tough not to get the feels once the doors open to Jurassic World and the legendary theme done by John Williams is played along with it. We’re Ty Simpkin’s character, who is blown away with what his eyes are seeing, an actual Jurassic World (movie). At that precise moment, many people were taken back to 1993 and felt like youngsters again, taking everything in like joyous little kids again.

Dope (various artists)


Can’t Bring Me Down

Don’t Get Deleted

Dope and it’s main characters take inspiration from the 90’s and old-school rap, but the best tracks are performed by Awreeoh, the in-movie fictional musical group that is a cross between grunge rock and hip hop. I couldn’t tell you exactly what these songs mean, and I think they’re meant to be taken on the surface, nothing more than teens jamming out and expressing themselves. But they further highlight the chemistry between the characters and the actors. They feel like a legitimate musical group!

It’s My Turn Now


Unlike the other songs, It’s My Turn Now is easy to decipher. Coming at the end, this is the announcement of Malcolm’s arrival, using everything in his unconventional and troubling environment to his advantage. It’s defiant, but self-assured and in control. Absolutely nothing will get in the way of the dreams of Americana.

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Avengers: Age of Ultron: Movie Man Jackson


“How is humanity saved if it isn’t allowed to evolve?”

How is it that striving for peace almost always seems to make things worse than they are? There is no assembling The Avengers this time around, the group is already comprised. In Age of Ultron, the good guys are back and a cohesive super unit. Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Black Widow, and Hawkeye are doing their best to keep the world and humanity running smoothly. They are doing a great job, but as Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) states, they should be fighting in the hope that one day, they will no longer have to.

Enter the Ultron program, which Tony Stark is not able to build in a cave…with a box of scraps. Designed to be a global artificial intelligence defense that keeps unwanted intruders from entering Earth, Stark and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), decide to give another go. Unfortunately, the Ultron AI goes haywire, and “peace” in its mind involves the eradication of The Avengers and humanity.


At this point, Marvel cannot lose, from a revenue sense at least. Maybe one day a huge loss will come that ends up changing the terrain of comic book feature presentations, but not yet. From a quality sense, Avengers: Age of Ultron is still a winner, but not to the extent that the The Avengers was. Don’t take that as AoU being a failure, take it as AoU being a functional blockbuster.

Director Joss Whedon has the job of once again bringing these popular comic book characters together, and he possesses a real talent in doing so. He wastes no time in reintroducing the audience to the gang in a frenetic, fun, and maybe too comic-book-ish (it probably is stupid to complain about this given the origins, but whatever) opening sequence. Whereas maybe one or two characters from the first movie had less total impact and screentime, this go around, everyone’s contributions do feel as equal as could possibly be.

There’s even some notable depth given to a few of them that is totally unforeseen. Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) is more than the human archer, and yet he isn’t at the same time. Sounds confusing, but it makes sense when seen. But the real development occurs with the arrogant Tony Stark. Downey, in yours truly’s opinion, hasn’t been this good since the first Iron Man. What is being done with his character is a nice, long, slow burn heel turn, reminiscent of a wrestler who shows bad guy tendencies for months but never officially turns until way down the line. It should be great to see it culminate in next year’s Civil War.


Not everything is handled expertly, however. It could just be a personal preference, but I’d prefer my Avengers films to be love-free. Not to spoil anything, but anytime two specific characters get doe-eyed and spout double entendres around each other, it is hard to stomach and the movie truly bogs down in pace. This is one of a few moments/side plots that are odd in their presence, adding to a story that at its base is somewhat coherent yet fragmented; not as complete as the predecessor. For what has come out with Whedon and the creative differences pertaining to AoU in various scenes, it will be interesting to see how things appear in the rumored extended cut once a home media release rolls out.

With a group this large and egos this sizable, you have got to have a villain to be formidable. Ultron (James Spader) is…just good. Visually, he looks menacing, and Spader gives a distinct voice to the character, but a belief exists that he could be so much more. His inclusion comes off as a tad rushed, as in it doesn’t even take a minute for the program to become corrupt. And, he falls short of being the badass he could be. The trailers painted him as a ruthless, sentient being, and he gets to about 75-80% of that. The other 20-25% is filled with hit or miss one-liners, which can be said for most of the film, and underdeveloped motivations.


Avengers: Age of Ultron is still the definitive christening of the summer blockbuster season, and it is hard to be completely dissatisfied with what is present here. If a hunger for comic book heroes and villains exists, one will get their fill with this one. But instead of feeling like a unique event all in of itself like the original did, AoU ends up feeling like another cog in the Marvel machine.

Grade: B-

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