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: 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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