Sunday, July 28, 2013

Casting Caitlin Star


25% discount on Caitlin Star right now at

What if lightning struck and Caitlin had to be cast in a movie adaption of the book?
Here are Gunner Star Production’s top picks to play CaitlinStar.

Olivia Wilde

At 29, she is the right age. Caitlin Star is 28 in the bulk of the novel. Olivia’s five-foot seven inch statuesque form is a perfect match for the five-eight Caitlin. 

What about physicality? Caitlin is an elite track and field athlete, a master with the sword, and just an all-around bad ass. Could Olivia Wilde pull that off? If you have ever seen “Tron Legacy” then you know the answer is a resounding YES!

Those of us who know Olivia from her days on “The O.C.” see her as a blonde anyway. The only other final touch required would be to add some hard curves—seven to ten pounds of muscle would take care of that. She would have to “Bane” up a bit. Easily done with her genetics.

Athletic, smart, hot, charismatic, fierce, and beautiful—Olivia Wilde is our number one choice at Gunner Star Productions to play Caitlin.

Katee Sackhoff

A gifted athlete and former competitive swimmer, there is no doubt Katee possesses the physical attributes to play Caitlin. Anybody who has ever seen an episode of Battlestar Galactica can attest to her on-screen charisma and bad ass persona. She even had a chance to show off her fiercely competitive personality in a Galactica ship-wide boxing tournament and in game of one on one basketball.

At 33 she is on the high-end of the age range, but still do-able if the film is made sometime in the next couple of years. The acting chops are there. Katee did an outstanding job as Starbuck, creating one of the most memorable characters in the history of genre television. She was also fantastic in season 8 of “24”.

Katee Sackoff is our runner-up choice to play Caitlin Star.

Kate Beckinsale

The only reason Kate is not number one on this list is age. At 39 Kate Beckinsale could play 25 yet alone 28, so it would not be an issue if this were a one shot deal. But we are launching a new franchise here and the age disparity between the actress and the camera could become problematic down the road.

But who cares. We at Gunner Star Productions will tweak the timeline in the screenplay adaption if need be if we ever have a chance at getting this actress, because Kate Beckinsale is worth it!  Have you seen her in the “Underworld” movies for God’s sake?  Did you see her in the “Total Recall” remake?

Beautiful, fierce, sexy, athletic, and wickedly bad ass—Kate Beckinsale is Caitlin Star.

Wild Card Pick: 

Blake Lively

Blake is my personal number one choice tp play Caitlin Star!

But alas, I do not get to call all the shots in the movies like I do in the books. My fellow producers here at Gunner Star Productions are giving me grief on this one. Hey, she is statuesque and does have a body that is closest to the elusive Caitlin combination of voluptuous and athletic.  As an actress she could bring warmth and depth to the character, something I tried to do in the book. I see her handling the the emotional scenes very well. Of course she would need to muscle-up quite a bit and I have no idea what kind of athlete she is or how she would fare in a physically demanding role.

“But I do not see her as a bad ass” is the main objection I keep getting. My counter to that is simple: Did you ever see Linda Hamilton as a bad ass before “T2”? Did Kate Beckinsale strike fear in your heart after seeing her in “Pearl harbor”? How about Sigourney Weaver before “Alien”.

Sometimes you do not know if an actor can play a bad ass, until they actually play a bad ass.

Blake Lively IS Caitlin Star!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

It knows what scares you

1982 was the closest thing to utopia on earth. If you are a genre movie fan of a certain age then you know exactly what I mean. It seemed every week another must see film opened up in theaters promising and delivering, a dramatic escape into imaginative storytelling and innovative commercial film-making of the highest order. 
Many these films have stood the test of time and are now regarded as classics including, "E.T.", "Blade Runner", "Tron", "Star Trek II: The Wrath of of Kahn", and the Steven Spielberg produced Tobe Hooper directed "Poltergeist". 

Of course, Spielberg's  involvement as producer (and co-writer) of "Poltergeist" went far beyond that of the later 80s Spielberg "lite" productions bearing the Amblin Entertainment moniker. Regardless of who was signed in on the daily logs as director on the set, there is no doubt every frame of "Poltergeist" bleeds with the Spielberg auteur stamp of God-light, suburban scares, and wonderment. The only exception to this is the ending. It lacks the upbeat resolution mandate that is present in every post "The Sugarland Express" pre-"Schindler's List" Spielberg directed film with the notable exception of his neglected 1987 masterpiece "Empire of he Sun".  In "Poltergeist" there is no return to the suburban bliss seen in the opening credits. It is a true horror ending and feels very much Tobe Hooper directed.

"Poltergeist" is one the big three of Spielberg's suburban trilogy, along with "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" (1978) and "E.T." (1982). All three films are spot on, realistic, detailed, fetishistic portrayals of consumerism in American suburban life of late 20th century America. It is both a homage and a sly satire.

But it is "Poltergeist", which takes issues with the newly embraced Reagonomics philosophy of "greed is good", where the satiric tone is most acerbic and substantial. Even the endless homages to "Star Wars" feel more like a parody of the absurd level movie merchandising, a brilliant self-swipe at both the bearded one's newly minted mogul status and his best friend George Lucas's empire, the man who invented the modern concept of movie-tie in consumerism.
One aspect of "Poltergeist" that is pure Spielberg by any measure is the use of music. The film music fan/director had John Williams busy creating an operatic masterwork to "E.T.", so for "Poltergeist" he turned to the composer Williams admitted to being a fan of, the legendary Jerry Goldsmith.

The "Poltergeist" soundtrack stands out as one of the most complete, varied, complex, muscular and entertaining works composed by Goldsmith at the peak of his great orchestral might.
It is staggering how effectively the music of "Poltergeist" paints a sonic portrait of the world beyond. It is music the grabs us by the heart and the gut, and like the dark spirit keeping the abducted Carol Anne close by, it calls to us and lures us in. Then it catapults us headlong "into the light", taking us on a dazzling journey of terror and wonder.

This is music that does indeed know how to scare you. 

The most famous piece of music is the beautiful lullaby-like "Carol Anne’s Theme",  the heart of the score heard over the opening and closing credits. The rest of the score (over 70 minutes on the Rhino CD and 90 in the film itself) contains some of the most complex, effective, and aggressive horror music ever composed.
The listener is plunged relentlessly into darkness and suspense with a heart-stopping trio of aggressive cues, "It Knows What Scares You", "Night of the Beast", and "Rebirth". "The Clown" (track 4 on the CD) takes a creepy hold, drawing the listener in as Goldsmith expertly builds into riveting suspense with cues like "Twisted Abduction" and "Contacting the Other Side" before unleashing an orgasmic orchestral explosion of quasi-spiritual beauty in the haunting, ethereal "The Light".

Then there is a brief sigh of relief, and it appears all is well in suburbia; that is until Goldsmith lets loose his explosive, all out, thundering brassy action-horror finale in "Escape from Suburbia", before bringing the shrewdly crafted symphonic roller-coaster to an emotionally satisfying close with a moving rendition "Carol Anne’s Theme" and the "End Credits".

The "Poltergeist" soundtrack is, like the film, an entertaining thrill ride; a rich orchestral journey of scary suspense and otherworldly wonders. It remains more powerful as a stand-alone listening experience today than ever. It is a staggering work of symphonic delight, brilliant in construction and flawless in execution. It is a masterpiece.
In any other year (this was after all 1982, the year of "E.T.") this score would have won Goldsmith his second Oscar, and it stands as one of his top five soundtracks ever.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Before ‘Lincoln’ there was the ‘The Patriot’

John Williams received his 48th Academy Award Nomination for his elegant and restrained score of Americana music for Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln”. But before there was “Lincoln”, John Williams created another Americana infused soundtrack for a very different kind of American legend in an earlier historical era when he scored “The Patriot” in 2000.

Director Roland Emmerich brought the same storytelling sensibilities and crowd pleasing instincts he did to “Stargate” (1994), “Independence Day” (1996), and later “The Day After Tomorrow” (2004), for his first serious film. Although a far cry from the subtle artistry and painstaking historical accuracy of “Lincoln”, “The Patriot” is not a film to be easily dismissed. A slick and entertaining action drama starring a pre-off-his-rocker Mel Gibson, "The Patriot" shares many of the same traits as the star’s Oscar winning epic “Braveheart” (1995). The film also boasts gorgeous (and Oscar nominated) cinematography by the father of “New Girl” Zooey Deschanel, Caleb Deschanel
“The Patriot” arrived at a crucial point just before William’s style began to evolve in a creative explosion that began with “A.I” (2001), “Minority Report” (2002), and “Catch Me If You Can” (2002). “The Patriot” is the last score in the classic William’s blockbuster mode; perhaps not as complex as many of the scores that followed, but always instantly emotionally accessible.The “Patriot” is a fascinating and unique entry in the John William’s canon. It is one of the very few times he has ever stepped in as a composer for hire, especially in the back half of his career. And it marks the last time outside of the “Harry Potter” franchise he has ever composed the soundtrack to a film that did not have Steven Spielberg or George Lucas’s name attached to it. Remember "Memoirs of a Geisha" was a Spielberg/Amblin production.
As is the case with most John Williams’ albums, the soundtrack is expertly sequenced for maximum enjoyment and emotional impact. Track one “The Patriot” introduces us to the two main themes and bold, stirring statements that set the tone for the entire listening experience of the score.

And my god what sensational themes they are; a rousing fully developed, flexible main heroic melody that soars alongside so many other great William’s marches, from “Superman” to “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and especially his vast canon of Olympic music. Serving as the perfect complement to the heroic fanfare of “The Patriot” is an absolutely gorgeous love theme that is often heard first with a heart-breaking violin solo before escalating into an emotional crescendo of glorious sentiment.

There is also plenty of great action music in tracks like “Facing The British Line” and grim, dramatic cues reminiscent of “Born on the Fourth of July” (1989) in “Redcoats At The Farm And The Death Of Thomas” and “The Burning Of The Plantation”.
Perhaps the most beautiful cue on the soundtrack is when the love theme is played with a flute and a guitar in an exquisite arrangement of the love theme in “Susan Speaks” and is combined with a another melody. This track is John Williams at his most sentimental and tear-jerking effective. But before you succumb and need to reach for the hanky, the album moves into the rousing “Martin vs. Tavington”, an absolute knockout dramatic action cue.

The two main themes, the dramatic secondary themes and the action music complement each other in such a seamless synergistic fashion; they always feel part of same movement of a grand symphony. This is John Williams at his operatic best, creating a musical tapestry that weaves a web of irresistible sonic delight taking the listener on an exciting sonic adventure and an emotional journey.
“The Patriot” is an underrated and often overlooked John Williams’ soundtrack, a minor masterpiece and a top 25 Williams’ score. It is beautifully crafted, flawlessly presented, and emotionally engaging from start to finish. Like everything the maestro creates, it is a score with so much heart.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The love lives on

Harry and the Hendersons occupies a unique place in history for Spielberg fans and soundtrack collectors.

Opening on June 5th, 1987 after a mysterious “E.T.” style marketing campaign, it was one of the final big three swan song to the Golden Age of Amblin Entertainment; along with “Innerspace” and “Batteries Not Included”.  Amblin would go on to produce all sorts of other films and television projects, but aside from the SyFy Channel miniseries “Taken”, none would have the specific Spielbergian feel of those films (and the series “Amazing Stories”) from 1982-1987.

The story and setting are pure Spielberg. John Lithgow plays George Henderson, the ineffectual father of a dysfunctional nuclear family. George longs to be an artist but settles for working at the family business, a gun shop catering to hunters. He suffers daily at the hands of his bullying father who belittles George and mocks his artistic dreams.

Enter the outside supernatural force, this time in the form of a sweet, giant Bigfoot creature named Harry. Through his interactions with Harry and the close friendship they develop, George learns to stand up to the bullies in his life, protect those he loves, pursue his artistic dreams, and win the respect of his family.

“Harry and the Hendersons” may not be “E.T.” and writer/director William Dear is no Spielberg, but thanks to a terrific performance by John Lithgow and great work by Kevin Peter Hall inside Rick Baker’s Oscar-winning make-up/creature effects suit—the film works beautifully as a sentimental suburban fable with a lot of heart.

The movie benefits immensely from the outstanding score by Bruce Broughton. The composer had been tearing it up in the mid-1980s. You could make the argument that Broughton was the best composer in Hollywood from 1985-1987, a period that includes his Oscar nominated “Silverado” (1985), the sensational “Young Sherlock Holmes” (1985), “The Boy Who Could Fly” (1986), “Monster Squad” (1987), and four episodes of “Amazing Stories” (1985-87).

Released only on vinyl and cassettes that quickly disappeared, both the score and the end credits song performed by Joe Cocker were unavailable for years. Finally in 2007, Intrada gave this treasured soundtrack a proper release in a special limited edition CD that can still be found in the aftermarket at a reasonable price.

The first track on the soundtrack album is the bittersweet Joe Cocker performed song “Love Live On”. It is a wonderful, heartfelt track that really captures the essence of the film’s sentiment. The song features the music of Bruce Broughton’s main theme and was written by Bruce Broughton and Barry Mann, with moving lyrics by Cynthia Weil and Will Jennings.

The song is heard over the super cool closing credits featuring George drawing scenes from the movie via rotoscoping animation, the technique made famous by the Steve Barron directed A-ha music video “Take Me On”.  This is the exact arrangement of the song on the old MCA vinyl and cassette album. However, the version of the song on the Intrada CD contains a slightly different arrangement, with woodwinds and a flute instead of the saxophone during the reprise and with a bit more orchestral thrust instead of the more pop oriented arrangement of the version played over the credits. Both are outstanding renditions of a beautiful song. YouTube has both versions posted so check them out and decide for yourself

The soundtrack smartly introduces the main theme in “Main Title”, a wonderful, jaunty, Mozartian arrangement that bounces the film energetically through the opening credits setting up the Henderson’s first encounter with Harry in “Taking Harry Home”. After that Broughton carefully warms up the big guy to the audience allowing the audience to bond with Harry in a series engaging cues that include “Taking Harry Home”, “Harry In The House”, the exciting “Night Prowler”.

In “Some Dumb Thing” we get a true introduction to the wonderful theme Broughton has composed for Harry, performed on woodwinds lead by a solo flute. “Our Little Pet” is one minute and thirty-nine seconds of pure sentimental bliss. This emotion-drenched music serves as a “B” theme for Harry and will re-emerge later during the film’s bittersweet finale.

Action and suspense dominate the middle section of the album beginning with “Tracking Harry” as the film’s villainous trophy hunters arrive putting Harry in danger. The tension breaks for the gorgeous cue “The Great Outdoors” where we get to see Harry at peace in his natural environment. Then it is back to suspense and danger in tracks such as “Planning The Hunt” and “Night Pursuit”.

A special mention should be made of “Drawing Harry”, a sublime low key track used to score a poignant scene in the movie where George realizes how much Harry means to him, how he must protect him, and in the process finally unleashes pent-up artistic ambitions percolating inside him.

The movie drives toward the final act in the thoroughly entertaining action/comedic/suspense track “Traffic Jam”, 7:17 seconds of superbly rendered musical excitement, followed up with more propulsive music in “Footprints”. Then Broughton brings home his symphonic gifts and command of orchestra to set up for a memorable finale.

If you have any love for film music and respond to it on a visceral and emotional level, then it would be best to listen to “Goodbyes” when you are alone. It is a gorgeous, achingly sad, sentimental cue that embraces and wrings out every drop of emotion out of the film’s bittersweet ending.  If you have seen “E.T.”, “Super 8”, and “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” and listened to these soundtracks, you know exactly what I am talking about.

Bruce Broughton’s “Harry and the Hendersons” is musical masterwork to an overlooked and underrated 80’s Amblin classic. It is a must own soundtrack for any film music fan.

“Love Lives On”
Lyrics by Cynthia Weil and Will Jennings

You touched my life
And turned my heart around
Seems when I found you
It was me I really found

You opened my eyes
And now my soul can see
Our moment may be over
But you're still here with me

'Cause love lives on
Beyond goodbye
The truth of us
Will never die
Our spirits will shine
Long after we're gone
And so our love lives on

There was so much
I didn't understand
And then you brought me here
Far from where
It all began

The change you made
In my life will never end
I look across the distance
I'll know I have a friend

'Cause love lives on
Beyond goodbye
The truth of us
Will never die
Our spirits will shine
Long after we're gone
And so our love lives on

I was travellin' in the dark
Never sure of what to do
I didn't know that I was lost
I found myself in you

Play something..
{instrumental break}

Love lives on
Beyond goodbye
The truth of us
Will never die
Our spirit will shine
Long after we're gone
And so our love lives on
And on
And so our love lives on

Monday, July 22, 2013

Caterino on Caterino

All writers of fiction have a split personality. After all, they spent most of the time absorbed in worlds of their own creation populated with made-up people who are as real to them as flesh and blood. So it makes perfect sense that the best way to gain insight into the deep psyche (and psychosis) of a creative writer is the self-interview.

So tell me, why do you write?

I write stories I want to read, but nobody else had written them. So I have to write them.

When did you start writing fiction?

I believe the first completely finished, edited, and typed up short story I wrote was at the age of 12 for a project at school. It was this really hilarious over the top space opera inspired by "Star Trek", "Space 1999", etc. I forget the name of it...something like "Beyond the Stars". I am sure I have still have it sitting around in storage somewhere.

Did you stick with the writing after that?

In one form or another. Always filling out notebooks with story outlines, characters, and key scenes I would use later on. Wrote about a dozen or so short stories in college. Then it was on to screenplays.

Were any of them good?

Mostly no. Well-crafted maybe—structure always came natural to me—but vapid. I simply had not lived enough life. A couple of the short stories were well-received by the class. It was one of those classes where you had to sit silent for an hour while everyone discussed and reviewed your work out loud. One of the screenplays was good. It actually came close to being optioned. I went out to LA and pitched it around back in 2003. By that time I had developed a true sense of who I was as an artist with my own viewpoint, personal set of thematic obsessions, and demons. It was an S&M supernatural horror story about re-incarnation called “Steel Phantom”. Much of the material ended up being used in “She” and “All About Amy”.

S&M huh? Whips, chains, and torture are present in many of your books.  I have noticed a very strong—sexual content would be the wrong term—a pervasive eroticism embedded in the style, and at times, the story content. Where does that come from?

I am an intensely physical person. It is a viewpoint, a way of seeing the world and of interacting with it. We live out are life in this form. The physical is intricately bound to the emotional, the intellectual, and the spiritual. The sexual drive is imprinted on our DNA and hard-wired to the pleasure center of the brain. There is no more powerful drive in all of nature. Take a look at our evolutionary history. Research other great apes such as the highly sexualized, matriarchal (and peaceful) culture of the Bonobos and you will see what I mean.

Okay, let’s get on to why I came here today—to ask about Caitlin Star. What is the deal with her?

Caitlin Star made her first appearance in a published screenplay I wrote a few  years ago, “Rise of the Bull Mongoni”. The story centered around Tyrone Fulton and how he came to be trained under Gunner Star and taught the ways of the Bull Mongoni. When Tyrone was brought into Gunner’s secret world, Caitlin was already firmly entrenched as the second in command at the age of 22. Clearly she is special and in “Caitlin Star” we get to learn about her unique past, her special talents, and the world-changing historic destiny that awaits her.

Do people need to read “Rise of the Bull Mongoni” before checking out “Caitlin Star”.

Oh God no! As a matter of fact I insist that you do NOT. “Rise of the Bull Mongoni” and “Sword of the Bull Mongoni” are written and published in screenplay form. The format is unreadable to anyone who has not been to film school, worked in the business, or downloaded and read a ton of scripts from Drew’s or one of the other screenplay databases. I have received many angry emails saying stuff like “Caterino, why the fuck did you do this in the screenplay format. Really wanted to read this…as a novel like it should have been. You suck!” So yeah, unless you are familiar with screenplays, avoid those books. EVERYTHING you need to know is in “Caitlin Star”. It is completely self-contained. Trust me on this.

What about the book where it all started, “Gunner Star”? It is a novel, right?

Yes. A very readable novel that introduces Gunner Star as he takes on a protégé named Joe Fenton. Fenton would go on later to write books about the Bull Mongoni, the mysterious forgotten species of hominids from the recent evolutionary past and the philosophy preached by Gunner Star. But again, no need to read it.

So the other books, including Gunner Star and Action Figure, are merely extra backstory if fans want to find out more about the Bull Mongoni universe?

Yes. Except "Action Figure" is sort of its own entity. It references the Bull Mongoni a lot because the main character, Wes Jackson, is a fan of Joe Fenton's books.

There is a real depth to the characters and relationships in “Caitlin Star”, far beyond anything in other books you have done. Some of the scenes were very emotional. I really loved the relationship between Gunner and Caitlin.

To me that was it. There is one special reason to write every book that stands above all others. It is the reason you must press on and finish and get this story out to the world. For me, that one thing was the relationship between Gunner and Caitlin.

One final question. Caitlin is such a great character. She felt so real.  What are the influences? Did you base her on any real people you have known? Because it sure feels like it. Okay, that was two questions.

Indeed it was. Well to the first question. Yes, and as to specifics of who the real people are…not in a million years my friend. As far as influences on Caitlin—besides real people from my life—“Birds of Prey” and “Witchblade” comics, Supergirl, Kate Beckinsale, Milla Jovovich, and the female characters from the films of James Cameron.

Great stuff! Thank you Jim.

My pleasure.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Introducing, Caitlin Star

Caitlin Star is our last hope.

After losing her foster parents at the age of thirteen, Caitlin is uprooted from the only home she had ever known. Heartbroken, she travels back to her birthplace––Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania––to live with a relative.
One night Caitlin is harassed by a carload of drunken fiends. Just as the would-be rapists prepare to move in on the teen-age girl––a muscle-bound rescuer steps out of the shadows and intercedes on Caitlin’s behalf––a mysterious and charismatic man named Gunner Star.

Gunner Star takes on Caitlin as his protégé and trains her in the ways of the Bull Mongoni, a mythic species of hominids that lived long ago. An exciting, brave new world opens up for Caitlin as she discovers a new philosophy, achieves an astonishing level of physical and mental focus, and begins to see the world around her from a new perspective.

Caitlin learns she is not alone as Gunner Star’s Bull Mongoni philosophy grows into a world-wide, cultural movement. But there are dark forces at work in a new right-wing extremist government. The separation of church and state is banished. The Supreme Court is eliminated. New laws are passed deeming that anyone who believes the earth is older than 6000 years is a criminal who must be hunted down by a government police force known as the Moral Authority.

Free thinking is considered dangerous to a government who has turned the National Parks over to the Big Oil Mafia and controls the bodies of all post-pubescent women via an inserted tracker probe. Soon the Moral Authority sets their sites on the Bull Mongoni and it falls upon Catlin Star to lead her fellow rebels, battle a sadistic enemy, save the very freedom of North America, and restore hope for the future of the planet itself.

Action, romance, satire, sex, suspense, political intrigue, and sword fights to the death—this book has it all. Caitlin Star is the femme fatale action hero of the new generation.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Action, music, and muscle

“Anderton’s Great Escape” by John Williams
From “Minority Report” (2002)
It is absolutely astounding the way John Williams has continued to operate at the peak of his creative powers throughout the 2000s. Not only has the maestro shown no drop off in his legendary composing skills, he has continued to thrive and grow as an artist creating several undeniable masterworks along the way including; “A.I. Artificial Intelligence” (2001), “Memoirs of a Geisha” (2005), that amazing double shot of 2011, the epic “Warhorse” and the jazzy, propulsive “The Adventures of Tintin”.
Even at the age of eighty-one John Williams is still the best living composer of action music, and arguably the second greatest of all time behind Jerry Goldsmith. “Anderton’s Great Escape” is a wickedly exciting cue with explosive moments expertly weaved in and out of a frenetic,  flawlessly constructed musical piece with vertical energy and a roller-coaster motion that never stops. This rousing, show stopper of a cue is in many ways a highlight reel of every John Williams action cue ever composed.

“Clever Girl” by Jerry Goldsmith
From “Total Recall” (1990)
An avante-guard, innovative blend of bold, brassy, percussive action cues and mind expanding electronics, Goldsmith’s wickedly exciting music breathes extra life into every scene it touches. Perhaps the best example is this cue, a rousing piece of musical adrenaline that rockets the excitement of both the film.
This thunderous brass-dominated cue propels the action forward at a relentless, pounding pace. It is a true musical masterwork that takes action scoring to an entire new level of artistic triumph. Arguably the greatest action score of all time and a rush of euphoric bliss guaranteed to make any soundtrack fan’s heart pound with excitement.

“Beth & Nick” by Jerry Goldsmith
From “Basic Instinct” (1992)
Something about director Paul Verhoeven brought out the best in Jerry Goldsmith.
“Basic Instinct” is built around a swirling, spooky, hypnotic main theme introduced in track one, “Main Theme”. It is a haunting and fluid musical texture that immediately draws the listener in to a symphony of dark wonders. The theme is layered in and out of the score at multiple points and on various cues at different tempos of urgency, reminding us of the forbidden femme fatale character who is always in control at every turn. But what makes this classic masterpiece really standout is the innovative and avant-garde action music.
“Beth & Nick” is a furious, explosive, tension filled cue used to score the film’s rough sex scene between Michael Douglas’s and Jeanne Triplehorn’s characters. Like the scene, this arousing cue is wickedly intense, exciting as hell, and pushes the envelope as it leaves us breathless and on the edge of our seat.

“Gotham’s Reckoning” by Hans Zimmer
From "The Dark Knight Rises" (2012)
There can be no denying that the composer with the greatest influence on modern action music scoring, and arguably film music in general of the past two decades, is Hans Zimmer. Brooding, melancholy, and ultra-cool, when Zimmer is on his game he is as good as anybody in the current generation of composers.
Track three on the soundtrack album “Gotham’s Reckoning” introduces us to the main thrust of action material and Bane’s theme, a riveting blast of percussive and brass fury backed by a chanting choir. There is a glorious, escalating rhythm of primitive fury to this cue that, at least structurally, is reminiscent of John William's exciting action theme for General Grevious from “Revenge of the Sith”.

“Elevator Chase” by Harry Gregson-Williams
From "Total Recall" (2012)
When it game to scoring the picture, it would have been futile to even try to create a score in the mode of Goldsmith’s original. No living composer outside of John Williams has that level of talent and craftsmanship. Wiseman took a different approach, one that was needed to match the brooding chase picture they had created and hired Harry Gregson-Williams to compose a techno-flavored soundtrack. And you know what? It works too.
“Elevator Chase” is an exciting action cue that uses old school influences such as Goldsmith style percussive metering and temp changes and fuses them with a pop oriented throbbing techno set piece. Even for old school soundtrack fans, the “Total Recall” remake offers an album packed with cool action music that makes for terrific workout or driving music.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Erotic Noir

“Basic Instinct” (1992) is a landmark neo-noir erotic thriller jam-packed with rampant swearing, smoking, alcohol and drug use, bisexuality, lesbianism, voyeurism, fetishism, gory death scenes, full frontal nudity, rough sex, S and M sex; all kinds of sex actually, and lots and lots of it. It is all meticulously storyboarded, filmed in glorious Panavision, composed in lingering master shots, and played out by an A-list cast of major stars.

In other words, this is not the kind of project that could ever be made by a major studio today.

Jan de Bont’s gorgeous cinematography, Joe Eszterhas’s crackling, profane-laced script, and the powerhouse performances of Sharon Stone and Michael Douglas all contribute enormously to the film’s success; as does the musical score of legendary composer Jerry Goldsmith.
In the behind the scenes DVD extras on both “Total Recall” and “Basic Instinct”, Goldsmith talks about how director Paul Verhoeven pushes him. This tough-minded coaching style paid off as these two landmark scores are among Goldsmith’s absolute best.
Basic Instinct’s score is structured around a swirling, spooky, hypnotic main theme introduced in track one, “Main Theme”. It is a haunting, fluid musical texture that immediately draws the listener in to experience a symphony of dark wonders. The theme is layered in and out of the score at multiple points and on various cues at different tempos of urgency, reminding us of the forbidden femme fatale character who is always in control at every turn.

This flexible main theme gets several strong statements throughout the CD as Goldsmith continuously follows the lead of his eccentric director and pushes the material to the next musical level. Highlights include track seven “Crossed Legs”, the propulsive track nine “Night Life”, and the sensual track 16 “Pillow Talk”.
Track two, “The First Victim”, is the first of several explosive suspense cues including track eight, “Beth & Nick”, the knockout action music from the movie’s notorious “What was that? That was not making love” primal, rough sex scene.
The only way to experience the music of “Basic Instinct”, apart from the film, is on the Prometheus CD. It is a complete, remastered presentation of Goldsmith’s intricate masterwork. Fifteen of the 26 tracks on the CD are previously unreleased cues including “First Victim”, “Catherine & Roxy”, and “Beth & Nick”.

The music of “Basic Instinct” is brilliantly complex, intricately constructed, and even avant-garde at times, but always accessible and light on its feet. It is an addictive listen and a ground breaking work on so many levels. After all, never before or since has any composer taken on the challenge of carrying a ten minute sex scene shot in long take masters, a brilliant cue which includes the first time an orgasm was ever “scored” on film.
Or to paraphrase one of the many iconic lines spoken in the film; I don’t know about you Roxy, but I’d say “Basic Instinct” is the erotic noir soundtrack of the century.

*Batteries Not Included

The year 1987 became a major turning point in the career of Steven Spielberg. He followed up 1985’s “The Color Purple” with his second so called “serious” film, the underrated masterpiece “Empire of the Sun” starring a young Christian Bale. Spielberg’s haunting, visually stunning adaption of J.G. Ballard’s acclaimed autobiographical book was the target of an enormous, misplaced critical and popular backlash.

It seems that after a five year explosion of post-E.T. movies and television programs that were either produced by Spielberg, influenced by him, or ripped off from his work—both the public and the critics had enough. Besides the aforementioned “Empire of the Sun” which he directed, there were three other movies released in 1987 produced by Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment—“Harry and the Hendersons”, “Innerspace”, and “Batteries Not Included”. Often derided as “second string Spielberg” or “Spielberg lite”, all three movies have their attributes and possess the emotional touch the bearded one is famous for.

“Batteries Not Included” was the last of the three and it when it opened December 18, 1987 to empty theaters and hostile critics, it marked the end of the golden age of Amblin Entertainment. It may not be “E.T.” or “Close Encounters”, but “Batteries” does have some nice Spielbergian moments, cool special effects, and a terrific musical score by James Horner.

The soundtrack album opens with “Main Title”, a spiffy Big Band number that transitions into dramatic orchestra at 2:08, then seamlessly back into Big Band before ending in a Hermann-esque motif of mystery and danger. Overall, the transitions between Big Band and symphony orchestra are seamless and this cue makes makes for an engaging and versatile main theme well utilized by Horner throughout the score.

Track two “Night Visitors” is a sentimental gem—8:48 seconds of pure magic. This is where Horner really gets a chance to demonstrate his command of the orchestra as he combines the "Night Visitors" theme with elements of the "Main Title", some beautifully arranged and executed suspense material, and even a wonderful whimsical motif to score the antics of the Visitors—the film’s tiny UFOs.

“Hamburger Rhumba” is a knockout Big Band cue pulsating with infectious energy. “Café Swing” is exactly what it sounds like. It is amazing just how good Horner is at composing and arranging these Big Band numbers. If he had been born a few decades earlier it is easy imagine him composing and conducting Swing right alongside the masters such as Duke Ellington and Glenn Miller. “Batteries Not Included” is Horner’s best use of Big Band music in a score, surpassing “Swing Kids” (1993) and “Honey I Shrunk the Kids” (1989).

“New Babies” is another vertically active, whimsical cue with shades of suspense and just the right spec of sentiment. It is astonishing to listen to this soundtrack and hear how light on its feet the music is and fresh Horner’s sound was.
Horner pulls out the big guns and puts the might of his orchestra for the thoroughly entertaining “Times Square and Farewell”, a track that ends on a powerful emotional note. “Arson” serves as the soundtracks action cue featuring the music used to score the bad guys being, well, bad.
Horner puts his talents and the score’s thematic material on full display in “A New Family/End Credits”, 8:30 seconds of pure joy that will delight soundtrack collectors, Horner fans, or anyone who appreciates great music.
Long out of print on CD and extremely rare (and thus expensive) in the secondary market, “Batteries Not Included” is now available in an MP3 album.

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