Category Archives: Films

Frozen’s Totally Frigid Score

I just got the Frozen soundtrack…like three months after I saw the film and actually had the songs stuck in my head.  Now, I finally got over those catchy, almost-annoying rhythms  out of my head (I finally stopped singing “Do You Want to Build a Snowman,” and “Let it Go” was finding it’s way on to less playlists), and I decide to play back all those songs.  So, basically, I have the whole soundtrack stuck in my head…yet again.

While I do think Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez did a phenomenal job writing the songs that the characters sang and I believe the deserved the Academy Award for Best Original Song they won for “Let it Go,” I just wanted to take this time to applaud Christophe Beck who composed the score to the movie.  He did an incredible job incorporating elements from Lopez and Anderson-Lopez’s songs, and really injecting such emotion and action into his orchestral arrangements.  I’m primarily speaking of “Epilogue” when I say he incorporated elements of the Lopez songs.  If you pay special attention towards the end, you can hear the melodies of “For the First Time in Forever” and “Do You Want to Build a Snowman.”  This is just an incredible way to remind us of what the characters went through and unite all the music.

Listen to “Epilogue,” composed by Christophe Beck:

I am also floored by “Vuelie” and “The Great Thaw (Vuelie Reprise).”  If you’ve seen the film, “Vuelie” is the melody that is played during the opening credits.  The choir chanting/singing really pulls at your heartstrings and evokes so much emotion.  It’s fantastic.  It makes me want to tear up and cry when I hear it….but I don’t, because I’m a guy and we don’t emote in that way… I also like the fact that Beck brought this theme back in “The Great Thaw,” when Elsa melts all the snow in Arendelle at the end (spoil alert…sorry).  Again, it is uniting all the music and really provides a solid foundation for us.

Listen to Beck’s score, you won’t be sorry:

Pure Genius: Lana Del Rey’s Cover of “Once Upon a Dream”

Whoever decided to have Lana Del Rey cover “Once Upon a Dream” for the upcoming film Maleficent, starring Angelina Jolie, is a genius.  Del Rey’s spooky performance is a perfect match to echo the darker themes of Maleficent.

Maleficent tells the story of the villainess, Maleficent, from the classic Disney film, Sleeping Beauty.  In the original story of Sleeping Beauty, Maleficent places a curse on Princess Aurora because she was not invited to her christening or something, and says that Aurora will die on her sixteenth birthday.  In all honesty, I know the gist of the story, but I’ve never seen Sleeping Beauty.  Seriously.  I was doing some quick research to understand the plot so I could sound informed when I wrote this, but it got so complicated that I was like “gosh, it’s just easier to watch the dang movie,” then I realize I don’t have a copy of Sleepy Beauty handy, which means I would need to go to the library even though tomorrow is my day off (I work at a library), then I rounded the whole fiasco out by just thinking “eh, who’s got the time. ”

Anyway, I digress.  My understanding is that Maleficent is like Sleeping Beauty as it involves the same characters and setting, but it is more focused on the dark villainess, not the bright, cheery heroine.  The original version of “Once Upon a Dream” is rather optimistic and, well, darling.  Take a listen:

The original version of “Once Upon a Dream” from Sleeping Beauty:

Now, Lana Del Rey’s version, like Maleficent, takes a new spin on the old classic, making it darker and more suspicious.  When I first heard Del Rey’s version, I thought “Once Upon a Dream” was originally intended to be this brooding, haunting song; the production and performance in Del Rey’s version is so striking that it colors the song to have a different meaning.  It’s exquisite.  Take a listen to Lana Del Rey’s version:

“Once Upon a Dream” performed by Lana Del Rey:

Disney made the right choice in picking Lana Del Rey to cover “Once Upon a Dream” because it’s such an iconic song that needed to be transformed to fit this new, darker telling of Sleeping Beauty.  Lana Del Rey’s music has the subtle, nuanced way about it that makes it appear to be dark and somewhat depressing.  Even by the deep timbre that Del Rey sang “Once Upon a Dream” with gives me the chills.  I don’t think Disney could have found a better person to give a classic a dark twist, and do it so well.

 

P.S.
If you're on the struggle bus this week, here's a clip that you may relate to (I know I did):

 

Gravity: One Hell of a Ride

I just saw Gravity and…I actually enjoyed it.

I had a friend who saw it in theaters, and she absolutely hated it.  She said basically it was a movie about how there’s nothing in space, and that it’s Sandra Bullock floating around gasping for air.  Even the trailer did nothing more than  give you the impression that it was about Sandy B struggling in zero gravity.  Then I saw this “Honest Trailer” about it, and I started to think that Gravity was in fact the stupidest movie ever:

But I still wanted to see it because I’m a huge Sandy B fan.  Every movie she does I think is just #brill.  I love Miss Congeniality (both the original and the sequel), Two Weeks NoticeThe Blind SideSpeedThe NetThe HeatThe Proposal, etc.  She’s one of the few actors who I can trust will do an incredible job whatever movie she’s in, and I will at least enjoy her character if not the whole film.  Since she got a lot of nominations for Gravity, including an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress in a Leading Role, I decided to at least borrow Gravity from the library to watch Sandy’s performance.  And what a performance it was.

The first half of the movie is really meant, in my opinion, to showcase Director Alfonso Cuarón’s graphics.  Basically the honest trailer summarized this part of the movie: they crash into things, they scream, people die, nothing to meaningful happens.  However, I think there comes a real turning point towards the end when Bullock’s character, Dr. Ryan Stone, is about to give up and essentially kill herself.  As she’s dying, she has a vision/dream of her fellow astronaut, Matt Kowalski (George Clooney), who previously sacrificed himself for her, coming in to help her steer the space craft she was on.  In this dream sequence, he tells her she can either give up like she was planning or she can fight for her life and continue to live.  He emphasizes to her that if she chooses to live, she has to move on with her life (you find out earlier that her daughter had died, so she pretty much grieves for her daughter and goes to work…she doesn’t have much of a life on Earth).  When Kowalski, in Stone’s dream, is about to take the wheel of the space craft from her and drive it to the Chinese space station, he says to her:

“I get it. It’s nice up here. You can just shut down all the systems, turn out all the lights, and just close your eyes and tune out everyone. There’s nobody up here that can hurt you. It’s safe. I mean, what’s the point of going on? What’s the point of living? Your kid died. Doesn’t get any rougher than that. But still, it’s a matter of what you do now. If you decide to go, then you gotta just get on with it. Sit back, enjoy the ride. You gotta plant both your feet on the ground and start livin’ life.”

I found that inspiring for my own personal life: you can let problems no matter the size bog you down, or you can enjoy the life you have and not waste a second of it.  Because he’s right, what’s the point of living if you’re going to hate life?

I also found this scene to be the point that creates a change in Stone in that she starts to view life differently and she actually fights to get back home; she’s not going to give up.  In fact, when Stone is on her way back down to Earth [SPOILER ALERT], she says to “Houston in the Blind:”

“The way I see it, there’s only two possible outcomes.  Either I make it down there in one piece and I have one hell of a story to tell, or I burn up in the next ten minutes.  Either way, which ever way, no harm no foul!  Because either way, it will be one hell of a ride.  I’m ready.”

This was my favorite part.  The spirit that Sandra Bullock embodies, her whole demeanor, is just breath taking.  I feel like her character had so much growth from an almost depressed scientist who was grieving her daughter to a woman who was going to live life to the fullest and not give up.  She wasn’t going to let everything that happened to her knock her down; she was going to live in spite of it all.

So Gravity isn’t about Sandy B floating/screaming/failing in space.  It’s not even meant to scare people about space travel.  It’s meant to tell people to never to give up on life.  No matter what.  Even when the odds seem to be against you.  Never.  Give. Up.

Frozen: Olaf vs. Sven

If you haven’t seen Frozen, you really need to.  It’s adorable, hilarious, and heartwarming.  I mean, I’m a twenty-one year old guy and I’ve seen it twice, I know/sing all the songs from the soundtrack (one of them, “Let it Go” was even a #PhillipsSongOfTheDay), and I can’t stop talking about it.

Anyway, I ran across this clip that they released prior to the release of Frozen as a promotional campaign, but I think it’s so adorable that I thought I’d share:

The snowman’s name is Olaf and he “enjoys warm hugs,” and the reindeer is Sven…he likes carrots

JLaw’s Dance Number

I finally got the American Hustle soundtrack, and I’m pumped because it features today’s #PhillipsSongOfTheDays: “Live and Let Die” by Wings/Paul McCartney.

Over my winter break, I had decided to go see American Hustle with my siblings.  As a broke college student, I probably go to the movies like once or twice a year; it’s just easier and cheaper for me to wait for the DVD release and borrow it from the library to watch.  I was so pumped to see American Hustle because it was filmed around the Boston area – basically my backyard.  I remember when they were filming it, there was a breaking news on the local news stations saying they spotted Jennifer Lawrence and Christian Bale dressed in ’70s attire; as it turns out, they were filming the final scene of American Hustle where they are picking up their son at school.  Also, I had seen this clip on youtube where Jennifer Lawrence blew up a microwave (or as they call it, a “science oven”):

But then my friend tweeted that American Hustle was a big disappointment and “JLaw” was the only good part.  This shocked me.  Do I go see this movie? Or do I save my money?  What to do?!  I asked her to clarify, and she said JLaw had a dance/singalong number that was worth the ten bucks (if this sounds familiar, I wrote a similar post reviewing American Hustle that you can read here).  That dance/singalong was set to “Live and Let Die” by Wings, and since seeing American HustleI’ve just been obsessed with this song.

I find “Live and Let Die” to be infectious and rather frantic.  The energy makes you want to get up and dance or run or something.  The intense level of energy that comes from that orchestral/horn melody is unrivaled; I have yet to hear such a frantic/panicked/intense song.   Take a listen to this panicked-feeling melody (e.g. 0:46):

Anyway, “Live and Let Die” has been on repeat today and has inspired me as a musician/songwriter, plus it was motivating to listen whilst running on the treadmill.  In honor of that, and the fact American Hustle is coming out on DVD in six days (March 18th!), “Live and Let Die” by Paul McCartney is #PhillipsSongOfTheDay.

 

UPDATE!!!:

I found the clip of JLaw’s dance/singalong, enjoy!:

 

The Most Beautiful 12 Seconds of My Life

Last week, Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez won the Academy Award for Best Original Song for “Let it Go,” from Frozen.  When I saw Idina Mezel perform the song live during the Academy Awards, I was taken with her incredible vocal ability and the power of the song.  And naturally I had the chorus of “let it go, let it go” stuck in my head.  I then decided to download the song, and what a good decision that was.  “Let it Go” performed by Idina Menzel is #PhillipsSongOfTheDay.

After downloading “Let it Go” from iTunes and it started playing, I got shivers from the opening music.  The piano is just beautiful.  So beautiful that I actually put a loop on it just to listen to that piano.  It’s just…ah, take a listen:

These twelve seconds suck you into listening to the rest of the song, which isn’t a bad thing.  I know what you guys may be thinking right now, “Phillip, really?  A disney show tune?  You need to man up, dude.”  Well, I think this song is pretty catchy, but more important, it’s empowering.  It doesn’t matter if you male/female, masculine/feminine, young/old, these lyrics emphasize that you can get through any struggle and all your problems/mistakes in the past are just that, the past.  For example:

“Let it go, let it go
Can’t hold it back anymore
Let it go, let it go
Turn away and slam the door

I don’t care
What they’re going to say
Let the storm rage on,
The cold never bothered me anyway

It’s funny how some distance
Makes everything seem small
And the fears that once controlled me
Can’t get to me at all

It’s time to see what I can do
To test the limits and break through
No right, no wrong, no rules for me
I’m free

Let it go, let it go
I am one with the wind and sky
Let it go, let it go
You’ll never see me cry

Here I stand
And here I’ll stay
Let the storm rage on”

“I’m never going back,
The past is in the past”

Perhaps I just enjoy songs whose narrators overcome some obstacle or hold a high level of confidence, but I find this song truly inspiring and uplifting.  Even after a stressful week of midterms and craziness, it feels good just to get lost in such a song that makes you realize that everything will be alright, things will work out….eventually…

Side Note: If you get a chance to look up Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez's acceptance speech after winning their Oscar, I would totally suggest it, it was so adorable!  They rhymed/sang their speech and dedicated it to their daughters (they're married!).  I just thought their speech was one of the highlights of the Oscars… I tried to find a clip of that and a clip of Idina Menzel performing at the Oscars, but YouTube is taking down such clips down so fast that even if I found one, it'd be gone by tomorrow...

Everybody Hustles to Survive: The Power Struggle of American Hustle

I probably enjoyed American Hustle more than I thought I would, and apparently I’ve been obsessed with it because I can’t stop talking about it.  The thing is, the story line is a bit confusing as it is told in flashbacks and in a non-sequential order.  There were periods when I was watching it and didn’t understand how something was legal or what was going on.  But at the end, it all makes sense and clicks, which perhaps is why I liked it.  Or perhaps it was because they filmed the movie in locations around where I live, so I got a kick seeing my home on the big screen.
The film tells the story of two con artists, played by Christian Bale and Amy Adams, who are forced by an FBI agent, played by Bradley Cooper, to basically con or set up to arrest corrupt politicians and mobsters, notably a mayor played by Jeremy Renner.  Bale, Adams, and Cooper’s characters create a rather elaborate and difficult-to-manage sting operation to catch Renner’s character, among other politicians, that almost comes to a crashing end when Bale’s character’s crazy wife, played by Jennifer Lawrence, unknowingly starts telling the mobsters and politicians about the sting operation.

The thing that really enthralls me about this movie is the fact that the tag line is “everybody hustles to survive,” and when you watch the movie, you realize everyone really is hustling each other; you really don’t know who is the one who has the power.  At some points you feel Bradley Cooper’s character is controlling everyone, then it seems Amy Adam’s character is in charge, other times you think it really is Christian Bale, or perhaps Jennifer Lawrence.  I’ve been dying to discuss this with people, but everyone I’ve talked to hasn’t seen the film!  So I made a poll  to see  who you think had the power in American Hustle.

Personally, I feel Amy Adams’ character is the one who holds all the cards.  She holds two identities, and flawlessly slides between her usual American accent to a perfect British accent (which is why I think she deserves the Academy Award, but she’ll probably lose to Cate Blanchett because Blanchett has been winning all the other major film awards).  Because she slides in between the two accents and identities, some confusion is caused because you’re not sure if she’s the British woman or the American.  This isn’t done to annoy the audience, it’s done to show how complex a person/con artist Adams’ character really is.  You find out at the end (SPOILER ALERT) that she’s really an American pretending to be British as part of her con with Bale.  However, she keeps up the British act to convince Cooper to like her/fall in love with her.  While Cooper was intending to put Bale and Adams away in jail after using them (I assume, he made it appear like he’d let them go free, but I got the feeling he wasn’t so altruistic), you could tell he was becoming hooked on Adams.  I don’t think the sting operation could’ve ended the way it did if Adams’ character wasn’t in the lead as I think she was; there was a scene towards the beginning where Adams wanted Bale to hustle Cooper and not trust him with the sting (which he didn’t seem too keen on), so Adams said she do it by herself.

If you haven’t seen American Hustle, you really should (it comes out on dvd March 18th!).  I had a friend who saw this movie in theaters before I did and she seemed not to like it as much.  As I was planning on seeing it, I asked her if I should’ve waited until the dvd release and not waste the extra money on the movie ticket.  Her response was simply and effective, “No, there’s a JLaw singalong/dance along number that’s worth the $10,” and she could not be more right.

But it’s not just the JLaw singalong/dance along number that makes the movie.  This is a movie that makes you think about the characters and their situations, and really forces you to make some of your own conclusions.  You have to get involved in the sting operation and hang in when things don’t make sense because they will at the end.  While this movie is categorized as a comedy, it’s kind of like David O. Russell’s last movie, Silver Linings Playbook: while it held some funny moments, it wasn’t roll around on the floor crying type of comedy (although, I felt American Hustle was funnier than Silver Linings Playbook).  All the main actors did incredible work, each deserving an Oscar (especially Adams and Lawrence).  Personally, I felt Jennifer Lawrence stole the show; I couldn’t wait for another one of her scenes because she just left me laughing (honestly, if she doesn’t get the Academy Award for this performance…I won’t be happy).  There was one scene in particular where Lawrence’s “boyfriend” attempts to kill Bale (her character’s husband) and after Bale confronts Lawrence, she ends the scene saying “honestly, why can’t you be happy for me?”

If none of this interests you, you should still see American Hustle just to experience the fact that in one movie all the characters are really and truly hustling each other (and half the time you don’t realize it).