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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War for the Planet of the Apes: Movie Man Jackson

The night is darkest just after the dawn. Years after Koba’s betrayal, the ape leader Caesar (Andy Serkis) and his nation of apes remain taking residence in the woods. Trying to live peacefully away from conflict, conflict finds them by way of The Colonel (Woody Harrelson). His assault on the apes’ home leaves massive casualties.

Now out for revenge, Caesar, along with Maurice (Karin Konoval), Luca (Michael Adamthwaite), found hermit Bad Ape (Steve Zahn), and a young mute female straggler (Amiah Miller) embark on a journey to locate and eliminate The Colonel. The woods are no longer safe for apes, but a new location has been scouted and deemed livable. But, the war between apes and humans must reach a conclusion before the next chapter in ape evolution can begin.

Who knew that in 2011 the dawn of the next great trilogy was beginning with Rise of the Planet of the Apes? Considered a middling IP at best after Tim Burton’s 2001 spin on things, Rise and Rupert Wyatt invigorated new life into the franchise. But, director Matt Reeves pushed it in places it’s never been before, both visually and thematically, with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. He officially ties the bow neatly on this trilogy with War for the Planet of the Apes.

Of course, it should go without saying at this point that the CGI, motion capture, rendering, and whatever else I’m probably forgetting on the technical side of this feature is absolutely impeccable. I’m saying it again because as spectacular Dawn was on that front, War takes it up multiple levels, proving that in three years technology evolves at an exponential rate. There are shots—extreme close up shots—of Caesar and his mains-in-command that are mind-blowing, and full of weight.

Fear and loss play a huge part in this movie; the consternation is seen on many of the lead characters’ faces. The character arc of Caesar goes very deep, and Serkis does it all as the ape leader. His delivery of dialogue, as well as sign language and facials, is moving. Not to be shortchanged either are newcomer Steve Zahn, Michael Adamthwaite, and Karen Konoval. Woody Harrelson stands as the best human character the reboot has seen, his style being perfect for the military leader. Some of the best moments are devoid of any dialogue or even subtitles. Reeves opts to tell some of War for Apes completely visually. The sounds of composer Michael Giacchino go a long way in making this endeavor a success.

In a cinema world in which seemingly every big studio is on the hunt for the next universe starter or continuation, War for the Planet of the Apes has no real aspirations to do so. One would be doing themselves a massive disservice by not watching the predecessors, but, it is cool that Reeves commences War with two-sentence recaps for newbies that summarizes everything newcomers need to know before seguieng into an impressive opening action sequence. War for Apes is a mostly cold and bleak affair, befitting of a predominately cool grey and blue color palette. That doesn’t make it any less of a technical masterpiece, though.

War for Apes, like Dawn before it, uses its primates to hold a mirror to our own society. However, where Dawn was subtler in its approach, War goes a little more overt and obvious, lessening the impact and the thought-provoking themes ever so slightly. The war aspect of the title is present, but the war itself seems to be more metaphorical than literal. Do not go in expecting a prolonged blitzkrieg; War for Apes is emotional-drama first, action-blockbuster second.

The last stand for Caesar and company caps off an amazing epic that will rank up there with the best trilogies in film history. This war closes the chapter between humans and apes, but won’t quickly be forgotten.


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Spider-Man: Homecoming-Movie Man Jackson

Welcome back. After the events of the Great Civil War and fighting alongside Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr), Peter Parker (Tom Holland) returns to Queens and his uneventful high school sophomore life with best friend, Ned (Jacob Batalon). Pete longs for the attraction of senior hottie, Liz (Laura Harrier), but also wants ever so desperately to be a full-time Avenger.

Meanwhile, trouble is brewing. The alien attack some odd years ago in New York left behind some mysterious alien artifacts. These artifacts have been mined, harnessed, and cultivated by Adrian Toombs (Michael Keaton), a man who’s providing for his family but in questionable ways. As much as Pete wants to leave the borough for the big time, his home is going to need the protection of a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.

There’s the old saying that goes something like “what’s old is new again.” I never thought that saying could apply to Spider-Man’s latest standalone reintroduction to cinemas in Spider-Man: Homecoming. It was only three years ago when he was last seen doing battle against the Green Goblin, Electro, and mass amounts of CGI. What could really be done to spin a unique web for the longstanding webslinger?

Sharing more in common with The Edge of Seventeen and John Hughes offerings than most of the MCU’s films, Homecoming certainly has elements of a superhero origins story, but it is more akin to “a day in the life” than full-blown beginnings. That means going back to high school and all of its pitfalls, extracurriculars, awkwardness, popularity and the like.

This is a deep dive back into the teen years, certainly not a cursory one. Homecoming spends as much time in the classroom and the hallways as it does along the New York skyline and under the iconic Spidey suit. It’s very relatable—almost everyone can remember back to those days as a teen craving more responsibility while being told to enjoy being young—and surprisingly fresh, even though it honestly should not be.

Part of that freshness can directly be attributed to the writers and director of Spider-Man: Homecoming. Writer/director Jon Watts (Cop Car) and contributing writers Jonathan Goldstein, John Frances Daley, Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, and Christopher Ford are more known for their comedy and animated contributions than anything in the superhero realm. As such, Homecoming comes, thankfully, without any forced contrivances or common expectations as to what a superhero movie needs to have or do. One could even call it a central character study before a superhero actioner.

The action is firmly solid, though it’s where Watts shows a little bit of inexperience. Nowhere near the best action Marvel’s ever put on screen; then again, this film isn’t action-centric. As for the humor, it sticks on just about all levels in a very organic, free-flowing way, perhaps the benefit of having comedy writers. It may stand as the MCU’s funniest and breeziest movie to date, and Michael Giacchino’s score seems to reflect that.

There is a huge cast in Spider-Man’s latest outing, but obviously, the bulk of the work belongs to Tom Holland as Tiger—err—Peter Parker. The baby-faced youngster carries the requisite wit, duty, athleticism, and likability that has come to define Pete. What’s great about this iteration of Parker is that he truly is “nerfed” and vulnerable. He doesn’t grasp all of his powers quickly or the full capabilities of his suit. Despite clashing face-to-face against Captain America, Tony Stark makes it clear that he’s nowhere near his level, nor is he supposed to be. RDJ’s father/mentor role, screentime limited, is fascinating. He’s in Homecoming just enough to connect to the larger universe, yet is dialed back appropriately to reinforce the focus on Parker and Spider-Man.

To spoil any significant details about Michael Keaton’s Toombs character to those who have still yet to see Homecoming would rob the surprise and layers this anti-antagonist possesses. But he stands as one of the best big baddies of any comic book movie in recent memory, and there’s a way that Keaton goes about this role in his delivery and general persona that makes you want to see him succeed in his goals. Homecoming showcases many characters found in the comics, but served in unfamiliar ways. While it takes a little time to buy into the new Flash Thompson (particularly), Liz Allen, Michelle, and Aunt May, by the end of the film, Tony Revolori, Laura Harrier, Zendaya, and Marisa Tomei all add something to Peter’s story and should continue to do so in the future.

No spidey sense tingling happening here. Spider-Man: Homecoming brings the wall-crawler back where he belongs in extremely successful and never-before seen fashion. Excelsior!


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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 4)


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

Finding Dory (composed by Thomas Newman)


Jewel of Morrow Bay


Quite a View

Despite being completely different movies, I’m convinced that Thomas Newman was influenced a little by the score he put forth in Bridge of Spies and used that for a little direction towards the score to Finding Dory. Listen to Hank and Jewel of Morrow Bay and then to these select tracks from BoS:

Similar sounding just a tad, right? And if one thinks about it, you could draw similarities in plot between Dory and Bridge…right? Not two movies I’d ever mention in the same sentence, yet I can’t go without thinking of the other movie now whenever I listen to the score.

The Infiltrator (composed by Chris Haijan)


The Stakeout

Don’t F*** This Up

So Who Is She? 

The Wedding

It’s a strong likelihood that if a movie takes place in the 80’s and/or cocaine factors heavily into the plot, its score will be 80’s style synth-heavy. The Infiltrator, composed by Chris Haijan, is no different. The score, though not rhythmic or featuring a particular motif, is moody and somber. Like the movie itself which builds and builds, the score, while not exactly building upon itself, sort of does and by the end, punctuated by The Wedding track, the weight of what Robert Mazur has done and how it affects everyone around him is felt.

 The Legend of Tarzan (composed by Rupert Gregson-Williams)

Akut Fight

Jane Escapes


There’s half of an entertaining Tarzan movie in The Legend of Tarzan, and not coindidentally, there’s half (give or take) of a good score in The Legend of Tarzan. Generally, when the movie allows Tarzan to be, Tarzan, King of the Jungle, the score is fun to listen to, a perfect melding of natural/jungle sounds and orchestral beats.

Star Trek Beyond (composed by Michael Giacchino)


 The Dance of the Nebula

A Swarm Reception

Mocking Jaylah

Aside from Hans Zimmer himself, I’m not sure if there’s a bigger composer today than Michael Giacchino, the man behind the music of Jurassic World, Up, Inside Out, and Zootopia, not to mention the upcoming films in Rogue One and Doctor Strange (really excited for what the latter will sound like) to name a few.

Honestly, it is a little hard to step into franchises that already have established sounds and motifs, like the Jurassic and Star Trek franchises have. Under Giacchino, the Star Trek theme sounds as noble and rich as it always does, but it is the tracks for the action sequences that are the real winners here in my opinion, getting the benefit of a full orchestra and vocals to create harrowing sounds in the vastness of space.

Lights Out (composed by Benjamin Wallfisch)


Keep The Lights Out

Rebecca’s Theme

Sophie’s Mind

No You Without Me


“(Director) Sandberg was keen I write a score with very strong themes and emotion at its core, which is pretty unusual for horror films.”

It isn’t everyday where you see a horror film have such a pretty good family dysfunction dynamic. As many have said, this is really a story about a dysfunctional family more than some ghostly apparition. Of course, one does get some musical tracks during the runtime that set the scare tone, notably, the opener Keep The Lights Out, which accompanies one of the best opening horror scenes in recent memory. But pieces like Rebecca’s Theme, No You Without Me, and Sophie’s Mind are more emotionally stirring than one would anticipate in a horror movie.

Nerve (composed by Rob Simonsen)


Game On

Night Drive

New York F****** City


Vote Yes or No

I can’t believe how good Nerve’s score is, and if I’m being honest, this isn’t the belief I held when I originally posted my thoughts. Maybe not good in the sense that it helps me understand the movie more and draws emotion out of me good. But good in that this really is a stylish score for yes, a stylish movie. Shocking really.

It’s 80’s sounding, not in the way The Infiltrator sounds, but more like a TRON or old school 80’s video game. I close my eyes and I hear a lot of Mac Quayle (of Mr. Robot fame) mixed with some poor man’s Daft Punk (Random Access Memories to be specific). In particular, the track Verrazano is probably one of the best things I’ve heard all year.

Jason Bourne (composed by David Buckley and John Powell)


Converging in Athens

Las Vegas

Jason Bourne is more or less a retread of the movies that came before it in the series in just about every facet, score included. It is what it is. There’s still some good, though. The tracks above feel apt for a Bourne movie, spy-like but also in possession of just enough grit. But there’s only one song/cue that I equate Bourne with, and even with the disappointment the new Bourne carries, I couldn’t help but smile when this came on at the end after Bourne of course outsmarts another corporate puppet.

Suicide Squad (composed by Steven Price)


Task Force X

That’s How I Cut and Run

The Squad

The Worst of the Worst

Nah, Suicide Squad ain’t perfect. But, it has its moments. Even in the “dark, dimly lit slog” (taken from Mark Hobin at, one can see that there is an extremely fun (and dark) film just waiting to be mined.

I really enjoy some cuts from this score done by Steven Price. Some of the best cuts, posted above, effectively get across the psyche of this collective group. They’re bad people scarred figuratively and literally beyond belief, but many are looking for redemption and actually do have a soul. Across a couple of tracks, Price creates some motifs that could be summarized as “dark heroism.” I’d love to see Price get the opportunity to score the sequel.

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Star Trek Beyond: Movie Man Jackson


Everything becomes old at some point. Even space. It has been about three years into a five-year exploration trek for Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) and his crew on the USS Enterprise. To be honest, Kirk doesn’t know if captaincy is right for him anymore, and he starts to think about what else may be out there beyond the vast reaches of space. Spock (Zachary Quinto) is in the same mindset as well, as his efforts may be needed back on his home world.

But in the present, their full attention is needed as the Enterprise is bombarded and ransacked by the villainous Krall (Idris Elba) and his “swarm,” looking for a piece of technology that is vital for his ultimate mission. The destruction caused by the swarm has left the crew stranded and separated from each other on an unknown planet, with no working communication. Escape from this planet appears impossible, but there’s always hope in the impossible.


50 years is a long time for anything to be around and and active, be it a man, woman, automobile, whatever. In 2016, Star Trek Beyond arrives to punctuate the 50th anniversary of Gene Rodenberry’s original series. Kind of a big deal? Absolutely. Adding to the pressure is the simple fact that the blockbuster season of 2016 has been terribly lean on action thrills since Captain America: Civil War hit cinemas two and a half months ago, or technically, before summer truly began. May have come a little late, but Star Trek Beyond honors what came before it, while bringing the big budget summer fun.

With an obligation to direct another popular space opera franchise, J.J. Abrams couldn’t make the return to the captain’s seat (more of a co-pilot as a producer). This time, that honor falls to Justin Lin, Fast & Furious franchise savior. After seeing what he did with the latter half of the Fast franchise, there was never any doubt in my eyes as to whether his skills could translate to a different universe. Do scenes get a little cut-happy sometimes? Sure, but at least there’s not as much lens flare, right? His destruction scenes are every bit what Independence Day: Resurgence by all accounts should have been and then some, with awesome cinematography and the sounds of Michael Giacchino accompanying them. Rest assured, this isn’t Dom Torreto and Brian O’Conner in space; this is very much Star Trek.


And not just Star Trek—revisiting cool but well-worn species, foes, and locales—but Star Trek—introducing new species, foes, and locales. Video gamers may notice some similarities to Mass Effect 2 in a few places (the bee swarm looks a lot like the Collectors), and the object in question that pushes the adequate plot is more or less an MacGuffin, but still, kudos goes to Lin and writers Simon Pegg and Doug Jung for including a few touching callbacks to the original series but also choosing to go forth into new terrain. Specifically, the two new characters are welcome additions.

Idris Elba is unrecognizable, but even under a bevvy of makeup and costume, he’s got presence. He carries a level of menace that hasn’t been seen in the new reboots by any previous baddies. While he isn’t as mysterious or developed as, say John Harrison, was, he does have a thread that gives him some depth in the final act. The real star of the feature, though, is undoubtedly Jaylah, played by Sofia Boutella. She’s unique visually and can hold her own with intellect or in battle. The thing is, there is much to be uncovered into her backstory. But this is a great introduction, and let’s hope that future installments continue with more Boutella in this role.

As for the returning cast, there’s not much more to be said for them except for that they are strong in their roles. Better yet, none look to be tired with what they are doing. Some, like Saldana’s Uhura and Cho’s Sulu are pushed to the backburner this time, but others like Pegg’s Scotty, Urban’s Bones, and the late Yelchin’s Chekov have many pivotal scenes and more importance to the plot than before. Pine and Quinto are still the stars, but Beyond truly feels like an ensemble effort this go-around, and that isn’t a bad thing.


Star Trek Beyond was not sabotaged by its first trailer, or by its latest director. With three quality films into the reboot, yours truly is very excited and even eager to see where the next journey takes Captain Kirk and company.


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Movie Man Jackson Looks at: 2016 Music in Movies (Part 1)

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

 Engage Direct

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!

No Dames!

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.

Maximum Effort

12 Bullets

Watership Down

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)


Ticking Glock

Heist #2

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)

Beautiful Lie

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,,,,, and

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Movie Man Jackson looks at: 2015 Music in Movies (Part 3)

Back with Part 3 of the year-end series. If you missed Parts 1 and 2, you can see that here and here .Now, onto the selections!

Inside Out (composed by Michael Giacchino)


Bundle of Joy

Rainbow Flyer

Joy Turns to Sadness

We Can Still Stop Her

Michael Giacchino may have scored the third highest-grossing movie of the year in Jurassic World, but the score he will get the praise for (and perhaps another gold man) is that of Inside Out. Like most scores, Inside Out features a dominant motif, but what’s so amazing about this one is that there are multiple ones that run each gamut of emotion at the right time in the movie. Want bubbly joy? Got it. Brooding fear? That exists. Moving sadness? Right in the feels. Inside Out is a superb movie, and with it being so emotional, it’s no surprise that the score is as such.

Self/less (composed by Antônio Pinto and Dudu Aram)



There’s not much right with Self/less, sadly. The potential it has for its thought-provoking premise is wasted, and rather quickly. by the first 30 minutes. But, in between the nearly two-hour runtime, there is a fairly unique, “India-sounding” score composed by Pinto and Aram, one that seems to hint at what Self/less could have been with at its peak with more fully developed ideas. The track above is the perfect track for an end of a movie where you’re reflecting on what you’ve just watched and asking questions (not about the movie, but about life), being fairly moved by what was just watched. This is a beautiful track.

Ant-Man (composed by Christophe Beck)


Scott Surfs on Ants

I’ll Call Him Antony

CrossTech Break-In

Ant-Man is, shockingly, a Marvel movie, which can make it harder to differentiate among the better, and bigger, installments. But, it does sit nicely with the rest because it is more “radically” different, bringing thrills and action, and even different genres like comedy and crime, into its installment. Take The Theme from Ant-Man for example,

This sounds like something you would hear to epitomize a Marvel hero, all bold and full of strength, but it, like the other tracks posted, have much more than that. I believe Christophe Beck says it best in describing what he wanted to do with Ant-Man‘s score, Pink-Panther-esque in spots with some Bourne thrown in there along with the usual Marvel OST work:

“What makes this score stand out among other Marvel movies, though, is a sneaky sense of fun since it is, after all, not only a superhero movie, but also a heist comedy.”

Southpaw (composed by James Horner, soundtrack by various artists)


Phenomenal (performed by Eminem)


Rap and boxing careers are mirror images in some ways, with many of the more popular individuals in the respective areas rising from rags to riches. There’s a hunger, a rawness, an intensity that fuels the best fighters and rappers, and Eminem is one of the best rappers there is and ever will be. Southpaw was originally made to feature Eminem in the title role, with the movie being an unofficial follow up to 8 Mile, and a reflection of his life. Though he doesn’t make an appearance, his presence is felt in the movie through the soundtrack with songs like Kings Never Die and Phenomenal. The latter represents the mindfrane of Billy Hope in comeback training, desperate, but razor-focused in determination to re-scale the mountain.

The Preparations

A Fatal Tragedy

Hope vs Escobar

Southpaw is one of the last movies that the late James Horner lent his composing talents. A man usually known for big orchestral pieces, with Southpaw, he elects for a little more simplicity, often times only using a piano with some electronic sounds. The effect is subtle, almost the opposite of what is come to be expected from a boxing movie. I almost wish that volume in the theater weren’t turned up so high. Could have just been my screen, but the music seemed to be turned up to 11 when more subtley would have worked equally well. I actually think this is a score that sounds better on its own. Rest in piece, James Horner.

 The Gift (composed by Saunder Jurrians and Danny Bensi)


What Did You Do

Time Heals

Passing Out

I am not a Shakespeare guy, but after watching The Gift a few times, does it not feel like a Shakespearian tragedy (or triumph, depending on how you look at it)? Maybe it is the music, really melodic, kind of romantic and beautiful, but all injected with a strong layer of unease and tragedy. Many times, most of the tracks just linger and linger, starting off like an initial thought—a rumor if you will—that festers into something stronger, and in this case, more darker. What Did You Do and Passing Out, in particular, are these types of pieces. If the dark recesses of one’s mind had theme music, I think many of The Gift‘s score pieces could work!

Straight Outta Compton (composed by Joseph Trapanese, soundtrack by multiple artists)


For the time being, this space will be empty where tracks from Straight Outta Compton‘s underrated score would be. For some reason, the score (and the soundtrack, honestly) will not be released until January! This part will be revised in the future.

Gangsta Gangsta

We Want Eazy

F*** Tha Police

No Vaseline

Still, the music that most, if not all, are going to associate Straight Outta Compton with are the actual songs written and performed by the members of the group, and luckily, those have been around for a while. Like Get On Up a year prior, it is one thing to hear these songs, but they really do come to life on the silver screen, creating one of the more electric (for my theater, at least, but seemed to happen at other theaters as well), viewing experiences in quite some time.

The track sounds as volatile as the actual situation.

Photo credits go to,,,, and

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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Movie Man Jackson looks at: 2014 Music in Movies (Part 2)


Continuing with the series, today comes Part 2. 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 Part 1, click here:

No Courage Without Fear/Navigating the Beach, from Edge of Tomorrow

Even though it still sounds great now, honestly, listening to it now doesn’t do this justice. In the theater, it truly sounded ominous, like something that can’t be stopped. It is also used again, in a bit more of a majestic, “take-no-prisoners” like tone later in the movie. Both are wonderful versions of the same idea, but No Courage Without Fear basically leads to this…

D-Day, from Edge of Tomorrow

Where all efforts are futile for the humans against the alien horde. Hear it, it literally sounds like the end of mankind, no matter how hard we fight. The crescendos and the sirens linger and linger in a systematic fashion, accentuated by the force of the bass drum. If the previous track was ominous, this is downright frightening.

They Know We’re Coming, from Edge of Tomorrow

This music comes at a time in the movie in which our opposition is hiding no secrets or battle plans. It is a straight collision course to the end, to get that one thing that changes the balance of power, to rally the troops for that final push. The vibe of this piece reflects that, giving off the feeling of a confrontation both sides have prepared ages for, and now are deadlocked in a race against time to end this once and for all. Anyone else get a Gears of War/Mass Effect feeling with this one?

Freak, from 22 Jump Street

Done by Steve Aoki, this electric track snaps perfectly into the madness at the end of the Jenko and Schmidt journey. Obviously, it has the house beat designed to pump one’s fist in the air in a harmless manner, but also an air of aggression and chaos along with it, the type of chaos and aggression that gets people crazy and physical in the right setting. Where this is used in the film covers both ends of the spectrum.

22 Jump Street (Theme from the Motion Picture), from 22 Jump Street

Take 10 people who have seen 22 Jump Street, ask them what they remember most about the movie, and I’d wager that at least seven would say the totally-not-subtle and gut-busting end credits. Playing in the background of them is this remake of the old theme of the TV show, remixed for a younger generation. It’s light, infectious, idiotic a tad in its lyrics, and a fitting end to the sequel.

The Great Ape Processional, from Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Something about this just conjures feelings of peace, and ethereal tranquility. Seeing the nation of apes live as they do, with really more structure and togetherness than their human counterparts is astonishing, and a true marvel towards what they have built and become. And yet, it is sort of sad as well, only because this state of accord won’t last much longer. But it is a very heartfelt track, utilizing the heavenly harp strings to pull at the heart strings. Wonderfully composed, and a perfect scene to which this is played in.

Close Encounters of the Furred Kind,  from Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

In my opinion, there is nothing that sounds more “ape-like” than this in the score. Very primitive and animalistic, especially when 3:13 rolls around. Anytime I think of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, I think of this tune, as the apes march and pound their way through many different locales. While maybe not as easily clear as the Godzilla theme comparison:

it’s clear that composer Michael Giacchino (Star Trek reboot, Cloverfield) had some inspiration from the 1968 masterpiece. Nice homage to the vintage stuff while still putting an original spin on things.

Commencement, from The Purge: Anarchy

I was, and still am, legitimately surprised at how much I appreciate this OST. It might not amount to much hearing it out of context through some earbuds (though I still find it entertaining to listen to), but so many of these tracks appearing as part of the score build on a similar sound or riff, moving at a continuous methodical pace while subtly adding more synth effects to eventually create a disharmonious and jagged sound. Alone, this and others, such as

Unlock the Car


all contribute to establishing the uneasiness of being outside during this horrific time known as The Purge.

Every single licensed song from Get on Up

The film itself isn’t flawless (still very good though), but the performance of Chadwick Boseman certainly is, as are the energetic songs written and once performed by The Godfather of Soul. Every song that appears is worth hearing, but I’ll end this with a few of my personal favorites:

Until Part 3…


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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