Movie Man Jackson looks at: 2017 Music in Movies (Part 5)


Where words fail, music speaks. Part 5 of the yearly Music in Movies series continues. If you missed parts one, two, three, and four, they’re available here , here, here,  and here. Dive in.

IT (composed by Benjamin Wallfisch)

Every 27 Years

Georgie, Meet Pennywise



Blood Oath

Makes perfect sense that a good chunk of the score of IT is appropriately child-like. This can be heard in its nursery-like chants and what-not, but also in its piano keys and moderately sized orchestra. Songs like Derry and Blood Oath evoke true senses of childlike wonder and exploration, absent of fear and dread. IT is just as much of a coming of age story as it is a full-on horror.

But the horror cues and sounds are present, none creepier than Slideshow, perhaps the most unnerving sequence of the entire movie. The overall sound of IT is reminiscent in a way to the score of the Dead Space games, those games dealing a lot with isolation in space. While IT has nothing to do with space and it is obviously much more ensemble-driven narrative-wise than Dead Space, there is an element of isolation and the fear each youngster has that can only be confronted when in a group. It’s a great score.

Stronger (composed by Michael Brook)



Part of the reason Stronger is so great is because it doesn’t fall into the overly sappy and forced emotion and narrative script so many other similar films do. The score composed by Michael Brook is an extension of this, never feeling too in-your-ear bombarding the eardrums and saying how the viewer should feel. It makes for an understated score, one that doesn’t necessarily make for a great listen outside of the movie, but still worth some recognition.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle (composed by Henry Jackman and Matthew Margeson)

Eggsy is Back



The Gondola Experience 

No Time for Emotion

Kingsman Hoedown

Henry Jackson and Matthew Margeson come back to helm the music that fills the circle that is Kingsman: The Golden Circle. Once again, their main motif, beginning with Eggsy is Back and continuing throughout, comes to define the series in its regal yet chaotic feeling. This time however, there’s a mashup with the more western, county-folk like aspect featuring the Statesman in a few cues. But the best musical moments are that of No Time for Emotion and Poppy, the former garnering the most emotion in the movie, and the latter playing as a cute yet dark introduction to the one-note lead villain.

Blade Runner 2049 (composed by Benjamin Wallfisch and Hans Zimmer)


Who does a director go to to recreate a score when one of the best—if not the best—composer today isn’t cutting it? Hans Zimmer, with substantial help from up-and-comer Benjamin Wallfisch, of course. The pair were tagged to replace the excellent Jóhann Jóhannsson and keep the legacy of the original’s music that was laid by Vangelis.

They’ve done a great job. Starting immediately with the apt 2049, filling the screen with immense moodiness and spectacle. It’s impossible not to get sucked in.

Flight to LAPD



Sea Wall

Tears in the Rain

I strongly believe that a Jóhannsson-helmed Blade Runner 2049 score would outdo what Zimmer and Wallfisch managed to do here (re-listen to Sicario and Arrival for proof). There’s another layer of atmosphere that the duo lack, but still, cuts such as Sea Wall and Furnace and the rest of the above paint a wonderful sonic picture of a future maybe not completely far off from ours, a future with potential but rife with mystery and fear of the unknown. Tears in the Rain leaves us with a little hope though, that as long has humanity has purpose, we’re on the right track.

Marshall (composed by Marcus Miller, contributions by various artists)

YMCA Swing

Marshall Meets Sam

Marshall V. Friedman

More background filler than true story aid, still the score for Marshall is a solid accompaniment to the on-screen court matters and builds the time period it takes place in. The jazz-heavy score, sometimes light swing, occasionally bebop, and every now and then blues and more classical tracks, isn’t an listen that is unforgettable but it is a chill, smooth one.

Thor: Ragnarok (composed by Mark Mothersbaugh)

Thor: Ragnarok

Where Am I?

No One Escapes

Arena Fight

Planet Sakaar

A new approach to the God of Thunder demanded a different sound. Granted, the score to Thor: Ragnarok isn’t a complete step in a bold new direction, but it is amazing what some 80’s synths and wah-wahs can do to accentuate a movie. It’s a fairly fun and irreverent movie with a score that doesn’t ask its audience to think much beyond that.

Murder on the Orient Express (composed by Patrick Doyle)

The Wailing Wall

Jaffa to Stamboul

Twelve Stab Wounds 


Murder on the Orient Express is a movie I’ll remember more for the throwback style and production values than anything else. The score crafted by Patrick Doyle is lush and beautiful in its traditional orchestral sounds mimicking the events on screen in lockstep. Justice in particular is one of the best standalone score of the entire movie year. Kind of does sound like a Clue movie come to life (which I know was actually made in 1985).

Hero’s Theme


Batman on the Roof

I like character themes. It’s a little bit of a shame, though, that we don’t get real definitive, standout ones in Justice League for the new heroes in Cyborg, Flash, and Aquaman, but perhaps those will come during their own solo outings. Danny Elfman replaces the talented Junkie XL in this DC outing, and he’s probably a better fit, honestly. That’s no indictment of Holkenborg, who makes great epic music, but here and there, it can go into noise noise noise mode. What Elfman does here isn’t legendary, but, some rich, moody tracks and textures are built. I wonder if with a little more central focus on one character in the next go-rounds will make for more memorable scores.

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Only one (possibly two) more installments to go!

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Movie Man Jackson looks at: 2016 Music in Movies (Part 6)



Welcome back to another entry that deals with the music behind the feature films. If you missed Parts 1 2, 3, 4, and 5, you can find those herehereherehere, and here. Let’s do it.

The Birth of a Nation (composed by Henry Jackman)


On to Jerusalem

The sounds of Africa are heard throughout The Birth of a Nation via congo drums and somewhat subdued strings. Vocals drive home the religious, aspect the movie trumpets.

On to Jerusalem accompanies the movie’s iconic moment in the uprising. The piece itself isn’t something that one would necessarily think would accompany such a particularly violent incident, but Henry Jackson explains it best:

I think it’s really important in the third act of this film that the nature of the uprising has to feel spiritual … it’s almost sacrificial. They’ve already lost. It’s not really a battle scene, it’s a scene about the triumph of enough brave people to stand up against something that is so oppressive that there’s no other means.”

Narrative issues aside, the power of this moment isn’t lost on anyone, and the particular piece of music does reflect not so much a desire for victory, but a desire to stand up against injustice, even if it will get you killed.

The Girl on the Train (composed by Danny Elfman)


Riding the Train



Really Creepy

Many adult oriented thrillers as of late seem to go all electronic with their scores, for reasons unknown. Maybe it is the distortion aspect, as using a digital approach does allow for a few different creative motifs. Danny Elfman’s The Girl on the Train is the latest to go predominately electronic.

Starting with Riding the Train, Elfman paints the picture of a woman who’s at a distant place in her life and extremely fragile as a result. It’s a very cold and even frightening at times score (befitting for a cold, somewhat dull movie) as well, getting into tracks such as Rachel and Really Creepy. Wah-wah guitar and one-note piano keys stand out on some of the better pieces of the score.

The Accountant (composed by Mark Isham)


Rice Farm

Famous Mathematicians 

The Trial of Solomon Grundy

With a main character such as The Accountant’s, one that is extremely meticulous yet layered at the same time, it makes sense that much of the movie score would follow much of the same inspiration. Sometimes it’s super bold, other times it is hardly nonexistent but noticeable enough to be felt. Rice Farm is explosive, like someone turned a switch onto a sleeping volcano. Tracks like Famous Mathematicians and The Trial of Solomon Grundy (the latter possibly the single best track I’ve heard of any musical number in 2016) are extremely precise in their musical detail and time signatures.

Doctor Strange (composed by Michael Giacchino)


The Hands Dealt

A Long Strange Trip

For as beautiful and mesmerizing as Doctor Strange can look, its score is a little of a letdown to be honest, often sounding like a third-rate Star Trek score. I feel like I’ve already heard some of this this year…oh wait, I did! The busy Michael Giacchino, who in 2016 has done Zootopia, Star Trek Beyond, and Rogue One, sometimes feels like he’s going through the motions here, most not that discernible from his space franchise work. The Doctor Strange motif isn’t bad;

I just don’t want to be reminded of Star Trek when I see Stephen Strange, and I feel like I might now. The best tracks are those that largely exist outside of the main motif, such as The Hands Dealt, a somber sounding track in which is mainly dominated by piano (the only song on the score done almost entirely by piano—being the instrument most associated with working hands). The best moment, however, is easily A Long Strange Trip, accompanying the moment in the film where Stephen truly gets his mind opened. Sounds are played frontwards and backwards, soaring and subdued. In two minutes and twenty-eight seconds one feels like they’ve journeyed across the vastness of the universe. At least twice.

Hacksaw Ridge (composed by Rupert-Gregson Williams)


Hacksaw Ridge

Japanese Retake The Ridge

One Man At A Time

Rescue Continues

Hacksaw Ridge isn’t just a great war film, it’s a great film, period, telling an interesting story about an individual and his convictions that is extremely moving and inspiring. But with that said, Hacksaw Ridge has been mentioned as the best war film since Saving Private Ryan for a reason. Its final third is absolutely brutal and visceral with tension at almost every step.

Part of that can be attributed to the score Rupert-Gregson Williams crafts in the later stages of the movie. The title track is especially harrowing, and evokes a sound of impending doom with its oriental sounds and drawn out crescendos. This segues right into Japanese Retake The Ridge, a straight-out take-no-prisoners song.

The heroic tracks are uplifting and full of determination. Damn near impossible not to smile and cheer when One Man At A Time and Rescue Continues play. Whereas some scores can sometimes seemed forced with trying to inject emotion into the on-screen events, Gregson-Williams seems to strike the right balance between enhancing them and letting them stand on their own.

Arrival (composed by Jóhann Jóhannsson)



Heptapod B


One of Twelve

When it comes to scores and creating an actual atmosphere for the respective film, no one may be better right now than Jóhann Jóhannsson. The score for Arrival sounds foreign, but not just in a “different country way.” No, the sounds that make up the score of Arrival are completely–well—alien, stuff I’ve never heard before.

At times it sounds ominous, and other times, welcoming and even warm. But it is always mysterious and engaging. I don’t think I’ve heard vocals injected into a score so uniquely like they are injected here. Jóhannsson’s doesn’t appear to be a composer who concerns himself with melody, though there is a motif here and there that pops up. Rather, he’s all about immersion, and regardless of how one may feel about the actual film, it is undoubtedly immersive. Eager to see what he does with his longtime collaborator, director Denis Villeneuve, on Blade Runner 2049.

Moonlight (composed by Nicholas Britell)


Little’s Theme

Chiron’s Theme

Black’s Theme

You Don’t Even Know

Chef’s Special

The Middle of the World

“What’s the musical sound of poetry?”

Moonlight probably is 2016’s truest depiction of a film in poetic form. I close my eyes and hear the score composed by Nicholas Britell, and it has the vibe of something one would hear at a late night open mic poetry event downtown. The three themes in Little’s, Chiron’s, and finally Black’s, are all the same but tweaked ever so slightly either in tempo or octave to reflect the progression/change in Chiron’s life.

Moonlight‘s raw, and even the usage of a pretty classical instrument in the violin doesn’t change that on a track like The Middle of the World, for example. Another observation: I thought I wanted Moonlight’s score to be longer, as most of the pieces don’t last over two minutes. But upon further review, Britell does the best thing in a movie as moving as this. Sometimes, the lack of lengthy tracks allows the storytelling and the images to stand out more, and it can actually help the score itself to be more memorable.

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Movie Man Jackson Looks at: 2016 Music in Movies (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.

Hardcore Henry (composed by Dasha Charusha)


Charlie Bronson


Akan’s Last Stand

1 vs 100

Hardcore Henry, for my money, is awfully shallow, and I guess I shouldn’t be all that surprised, thoughI think the setup was there to be more than it was. Still, shallow or not, it’s got a vision. It’s a film that I could see being shown in many a film class, with its dedication to POV.

It’s also a film I could see being shown, if such a thing exists, in a rave/concert setting like a DayGlow or a UltraSound. The score is very industrial, steampunk sounding, kind of surreal, and a little trippy. These are all words I’d use to describe Hardcore Henry.

Midnight Special (composed by David Wingo)


Midnight Special Theme

Truck Stop

I Think They’re Like Me

David Wingo’s Midnight Special score is not of this world in sound. Not to say it is filled with tons of zany timbres or patterns, but one listen of a few tracks, especially the eponymous title track to the film, immediately paints a picture of the oddity the viewer is about to see with its hovering piano keys and underlying synth. However, as dark and as uneasy as the title can sound, there’s always an element of safety and calm present as well.

 The Jungle Book (composed by John Debney)


Sher Khan Attacks

Cold Lair Chase

Elephant Waterfall

One would hope that a score for something called The Jungle Book would be lush and colorful, like a jungle typically is. John Debney’s work here, while surely inspired by the original, feels more modern. Everyone thinks about the sung music numbers when The Jungle Book springs to mind, but the real highlights are the tracks that accompany the few action moments. They’re melodic, but also appropriately intense.

Captain America: Civil War (composed by Henry Jackman)


Siberian Overture

Henry Jackman’s opening track to Civil War (at least for the first 2:25) sounds “Frankenstein-ish” in nature, very deliberate (the Mission Report December 16th, 1991 is very deliberate) and the nightmare motif that signaled the Winter Soldier’s arrival from the prior film makes its way back here, ensuring continuity.

The Tunnel

Civil War

Cap’s Promise

Compared to his work on The Winter Soldier, Henry Jackman’s score in Civil War is a little of a slight disappointment. Much of its sound isn’t all that memorable or worth remembering, in comparison to the cuts on its predecessor that gave that movie a more thrilling feel along the lines of a spy feature. Still, there are some very good cuts, like The Tunnel and Civil War that are self-explanatory in context of the film and do a great job of giving a feeling of raised stakes, even if some of these changes and intra-squad battles may be forgotten by the time Infinity War rolls around (I actually don’t think they will be). Cap’s Promise ends the movie on an introspective, yet hopeful, note right before the main theme kicks in around 1:43.

Money Monster (composed by Dominic Lewis, co-produced by Henry Jackman)


Opening Bell

Triple Buy

High Frequency Fraud

Happens more often than you think. Yours truly having great admiration for a score but indifference to the actual movie the score appears in. There’s something about Money Monster’s modular music that adds to the overall aesthetic. Opening Bell is an attention-grabbing opening musical piece, encompassing all of the nonstop permutations, formulas, and money transactions Wall Street fields every daily second. It makes sense that this core theme is held throughout, with the only additions sometimes being a piano, a slowed pace, or some strings for the desired effect.

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Movie Man Jackson looks at: 2014 Music in Movies (Part 5)


Continuing with the series, today comes Part 5, which will, in all likelihood, conclude the series. Again, this is not a comprehensive list, just of things I have seen. Let me know what I have missed or need to hear below! For parts 1, 2, 3, and 4, click herehere, here, and here.

Full soundtrack from Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Had to go with the full soundtrack as opposed to the usual singling out of tracks, for two reasons. 1) It was extremely hard to find these tracks standalone on YouTube, and 2) Like the cinematography found in the movie, the score is pretty continuous. Listen/look closely and breaks may been heard/seen in each, but it is a masterful job done by drummer Antonio Sanchez to convey a multitude of feelings all through a pair of sticks and a foot pedal. Perhaps more than any other track or soundtrack that appears in this series, this goes best with actually hearing in context. Still, if time is had, it is great listening to throw this on in some headphones and find the groove.

A Game of Croquet, from The Theory of Everything

Forces of Attraction, from The Theory of Everything

At the end of the day, The Theory of Everything is less of a life story and more of just a love story. While it is a little more miss in places than it should be for yours truly at least, some of the moments hit as intended thanks to a moving score composed by Johann Johannson (Prisoners) that covers a swath of feelings, from optimism to despair. The sound is very traditional, simplistic, and old-school, almost as if it was composed by Beethoven or Mozart himself.

Immortals, from Big Hero 6

Fall Out Boy pens this one, made exclusively for the movie. The lyrics may not say a ton, but thought from the perspective of Hiro Hamada and to an extent Baymax, they make a little sense. Above all, it, like Everything is Awesome, is just a catchy song that goes along with the scene it appears in well.

Nerd School, from Big Hero 6

Hiro Hamada, from Big Hero 6

The interesting thing about so many of the tracks that appear in the score of Big Hero 6 is also the odd thing. Within the tracks themselves, they don’t really feel all that cohesive. This approach may be a problem for another movies, but composer Henry Jackman makes it a positive here. In many of these pieces, many different “ideas” can be heard. These ideas give a brief look into the futuristic world of San Fransokyo, as well as capturing the ever-evolving, flip-on-a-dime adolescent temperament of Hiro Hamada.

Huggable Detective, from Big Hero 6

One of the Family, from Big Hero 6 

Streets of San Fransokyo, from Big Hero 6

It is nice to see that even though Big Hero 6 has those similar sounds one may expect to hear when watching a superhero action movie (yours truly hears a lot of Spider-Man and Iron Man vibes throughout the score), it really commits itself to its distinctive setting and world. Blending traditional orchestral work with techno/electronica bits creates a unique sound that pays homage to superhero movies and anime. Even the more emotional moments are accentuated with a sound not heard too often in not just animated films, but non-animated films as well.

The Imitation Game, from The Imitation Game

Alan, from The Imitation Game

Alan Turing is a gifted man. He is also a very troubled man for some reasons beyond his control. Alexandre Desplat again lends his talents to create an amazing score (Godzilla, I feel ashamed in saying I still have yet to see The Grand Budapest Hotel), this one full of equal parts elegance and darkness as well. It is also a really nice touch to see a great amount of focus on the piano, which exists in most, if not all of the pieces and adds a nice level of underlying mystery.

U Boats, from The Imitation Game

The Machine Christopher, from The Imitation Game

Even though Turing and company may not be on the frontlines of the war, their task is just as stressful. Tracks like the ones above showcase what it must have felt like to have so much riding on whether this code was cracked. They are”subtly intense” pieces, not hitting you over the head with a high volume of sound, but still being effective by getting under the skin.


And with that folks, that concludes my series! Going forward, I am sure the structure of the series will change, from different postings to contributors to perhaps not saving it for just the end of the year. Again, there are a few things I was unable to see, and without viewing them before listening to their respective scores struck me as being a futile attempt, especially as I like to include a little bit of context (specific scene or the entirety of the film) when posting a track.

Hopefully you guys had as much enjoyment I had in hearing these scores/soundtracks. Please, continue to let me know what I have missed! It has been a hell of a 2014 (started late January) and an inaugural year of From reading and interacting with so many of you, I’ve learned a lot.

Here’s to 2015 and more great analysis.


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All music credits go to the men and women who composed them, and YouTube for acquiring the license to make them available.

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Movie Man Jackson looks at: 2014 Music in Movies (Part 1)


It is December, which means it is the end of the year. Which means that people are rolling out or are getting ready to roll out their year end list of their favorite flicks. I love reading and seeing the trends on the lists, but I thought I would do something different, or something at the very least not seen as much.

Many films by themselves can be great, but sometimes it is the brilliance of a visionary composer or the superb usage of licensed music that carries a piece of cinema to legendary heights. Even an average scene can be more memorable or important than it really is because of perfectly aligned music. I’ve always been enamored with the melding of music and films.

So, yours truly has decided to look at some of the standout score tracks and licensed tracks that made their way into 2014 movies. For every release I have seen this year, I have listened extensively to every full length OST I have been able to get my hands ears on. However, there are surely magnificent pieces of music I am missing simply because I haven’t had the time to look at every noteworthy movie in the year. Let me know what you liked, and what I still need to listen to.

With that said, I’ve been able to catch a good deal. This isn’t a ranking, but rather just a series to spotlight some really solid tracks, both of original score and licensed music, that have appeared throughout the year in film. And dealing with score tracks, sometimes the titles of them do give away specific moments in the film. Not always, but occasionally, so there may inadvertently be slight spoilers. Make sense? Let’s begin…

Everything is Awesome, from The Lego Movie

What more can be said about this one? It sounds so simplistic and harmless and inspiring, and in many ways it is. But seeing it in the context of the film alludes to the dangers of being too team-centric. It is really a clever song if you think about it. I originally disliked it, but the more and more it came on I fell into its infectious charm and wittiness. Too hard to resist.

Lemurian Star, from Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Hearing the swelling begin in this immediately makes the fact known that TWS is a different Marvel movie, one that is more grounded and serious in its nature. The feeling is evident that the stakes, even without knowing what they particularly are yet, are raised. Awesome opening music.

Fury, from Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Aptly described track here. Not only does it refer to Agent Nick Fury, but the specific moment in the movie where the entire Marvel Universe is changed forever. And this moment itself is furious, filled with intensity and uncertainty punctuated by the jagged electronic noises and energetic strings.

The Winter Soldier, from Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Talk about build in a track. The Winter Soldier track does a brilliant job of utilizing some off-kilter sounds with minimal production at the beginning of it to build a sense of awe and wonder when you-know-who makes finally makes his long-awaited arrival into the film. It is almost horror-ish and frightening in its tone. Once the real meat comes in the song, it hits like a ton of bricks.

Godzilla!, from Godzilla (2014)

Appearing right at the start over the opening credits, this theme sets the tone for the latest iteration of “The King of Monsters” by taking a nod from the past. It is by no means a carbon copy of the 1954 theme, but listen closely and similarities can be heard:

The new theme feels exactly how Godzilla should be: bold, processional-like, full of strength, and I don’t like to use this word often, but epicness. Also, another nice nod when this theme was playing? Taking an interesting, historical look at the origins of the big guy.

The Power Plant, from Godzilla

Godzilla’s soundtrack was composed by Alexandre Desplat, a man not known for lending his talents to blockbusters (Argo, Zero Dark Thirty, The Queen). Never would have guessed it, as throughout the score, he really seems to have a feel for what is needed in the movie. After a few listens to just the first few tracks, it is quite evident that Desplat has a soft spot for robust strings and horns of all varieties. This one is no different, fitting perfectly into the critical scene it arrives in with tons of fortissimo, driven not just by the punctuating horns but the relenting Japanese drums. But when the scene mellows out, so does the back end of The Power Plant, taking on a more somber feel.

Raise Those Hands, from Neighbors

A movie based around not growing up and endless partying needs a killer party scene, accompanied by equally killer electronic/dubstep. This does the job here, literally making the viewer feel like we’re right there in the party with the glow sticks, dance battles, endless supply of alcohol, and sex going on in the other room.

 Hope (Xavier’s Theme), from X-Men: Days of Future Past

Yours truly may not have adored Days of Future Past like others (and that is of course fine), but this singular track may be up there with the best I’ve heard all year in anything. Aided by layers of strings, a deliberate piano, and with what I’d describe as a restrained brass section, it all comes together to create a theme that invokes uncertainty, sadness, but most importantly, hope and belief that things can change for Professor X in his time of self-doubt. Really poignant and touching.

Stay tuned for Part 2…


Photo credit goes to

All music credits go to the men and women who composed them, and YouTube for acquiring the license to make them available.

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