Monday August 11, 2014
I listen to a lot of music, and sometimes I listen to the same music a lot.
I studied music at BYU (Bachelor's degree in Music Composition with an emphasis in Sound Recording Technology) and for a long time I thought my career path was a musical one. Turns out I was wrong.
Shattered dreams aside, I love listening to music while I work. This post is a quick run-down of my top five albums for "getting work done." With just one exception, these are film scores, which seem particularly well-suited for evoking emotion without having a singer tell me what I'm supposed to be feeling.
Counting down to #1, then:
5) Pacific Rim Soundtrack from Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures, by Ramin Djawadi
The movie did not work its magic on me, not the way it did for many of my friends. I guess I had physics on the brain, or something.
Fortunately, the album doesn't require any suspension of disbelief. It's lively, and does a good job generating a contemporary/futuristic feel using a pretty standard suite of orchestral and electronic instruments.
My first and last track playcounts: 89 and 79.
4) Hansel & Gretel Witch Hunters - Music from the Motion Picture by Atli Örvarsson
When I first heard this score I thought that Hans Zimmer was channeling Danny Elfman.
As it happens, Atli Örvarsson was under Zimmer's direction, and they were shooting for "dark and quirky," so I don't think I was that far off.
My first and last track playcounts: 101 and 82. This isn't in the #1 slot because as of this writing it's feeling just a little played-out. For now, anyway.
3) Godzilla: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, by Alexandre Desplat
I had a physics problem with Pacific Rim, but I let Godzilla get by me? DON'T YOU JUDGE ME.
This score had a long history of Godzilla scores to live up to, and I think it works wonderfully. Like a lot of modern scores it is reminiscent of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring (especially Dance of the Adolescents,) and while that heavily dissonant, crunching arrythmia isn't for everybody, I think it's great for the big guy.
Also, great for writing to. This is the newest addition to the list, but it's been a real go-to album for me lately. My first and last track playcounts: 25 and 25.
2) Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (Soundtrack from the Motion Picture), by Hans Zimmer, featuring Rodrigo y Gabriela
I'm a sucker for Zimmer's work. Say what you want about his stuff all sounding the same, I find him incredibly versatile, and the way he worked Rodrigo y Gabriela's virtuousity into the score is brilliant and delightful.
The remixed tracks at the end of the album are huge fun and very punchy. My first and last track playcounts: 38 and 25. I use this one "sparingly," but have been coming back to it a lot in recent weeks.
1) Random Friday, by Solar Fields
It's not a soundtrack. It's a through-composed electronic-atmospheric dance album, and there's a super-cool feature to it: The 86-minute collection of 10 tracks has been concatenated into a "Continuous Mix" track that is 78 minutes long.
This album is perfect for a long work session, especially penciling or inking. It starts nice and easy, then picks up the pace, and then tapers off right at the end... and then does it again, with 8 minutes of padding shaved off. It is a two-hour-and-forty-four minute workbeat to which a lot of Schlock has been written and illustrated.
The continuous track has 82 playcounts. First and last of the other tracks are 49 and 56, because I will sometimes start in the middle of the "regular" track list in order to build a playlist that is exactly as long as I have time for.
These are just my current top five, mind you. Of course, while I was writing the list I was listening to Jablonsky's score for Ender's Game, which is far, far better than that film was. Also note that while I've linked all of these to their Amazon pages (which is where I'm buying most of my music lately) they're available on iTunes, and probably lots of other places.
(crossposted from howardtayler.com)
Friday August 8, 2014
Into the Storm had a lot of tornadoes in it, but no sharks. ZERO. Nary a one.
One of the tornadoes caught fire, and that kind of made up for it. Another one was full of tractor trailers, and several tornadoes filled up on barn components. I could be wrong, but I get the feeling that if you can name a common thing (but not a shark) this movie put that thing into a tornado.
Surprisingly, at least two of the tornadoes had Thorin Oakenshield in them, though he was in his six-two, beardless Richard Armitage form. No axe. Pocketknife.
Enough silliness. This movie was far more enjoyable than it had any real reason to be. The "found footage" conceit worked against it, at least to my tastes, but even when they were talking directly to the cameras for posterity, every character on screen was more interesting, more engaging, and more believable than the Megan Fox incarnation of April O'Neil. And I include the four characters who died in the first scene.
In 1996's Twister our excuse for seeing lots of funnel clouds was that we were following storm chasers, and they were chasing storms pretty effectively. Into the Storm took a different approach, the "what do you mean there's ANOTHER cell coming?" approach. Remember that scene in Twister where Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt get to look up into the eye of the tornado? Into the Storm one-ups that moment in a beautiful way.
That said, Into the Storm is very much middle-of the-pack fare. It feels like a high-budget, made-for-TV movie, and I don't think you have any reason to see it in theaters if Guardians of the Galaxy is still playing, and you still have movie money, and friends who have not yet seen Guardians of the Galaxy. As of this writing, Into the Storm comes in at #15 for me for the year.
(cross-posted from howardtayler.com)
Friday August 8, 2014
I think I've figured out what it is that Michael Bay is doing wrong.
I don't know exactly how he does it, but what he seems to be doing is bringing really fun stories to the live-action silver screen while draining as much fun from them as possible. Then he bottles that fun and hoards it, no doubt as part of a nefarious plan to digress from the review and oh... okay, right.
So. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. There's this scene where captured turtles are being drained, literally, with tubes, and it felt just a little too on the nose. Like "this is what I'm doing to this franchise, GET IT?"
It's not all bad, though. The portrayal of the turtles themselves was fun. The character designs were spectacular, the performances were spot-on, and the dialog was pretty clever. Oh, and the downhill chase scene in the snow was pretty cool, too.
Sadly, the film follows the wrong POV. Perhaps a different actress or a different script could have gotten me to care about April O'Neil's career as a journalist, but following her around was boring. Also Megan Fox failed completely to convince me that she was an ambitious reporter, anxious to get off of the fluff-piece-of-the-day beat. When the turtles weren't on the screen, the movie dragged.
The audience at our 10:30pm showing seemed to be predominantly 20-something males, with a few 10-year-olds out late with their parents. This crowd laughed in many of the right places, but it sounded like nervous laughter. These were the laughs people make when they're desperately hoping this is the point where the movie turns around and gets good. But it wasn't. It never was. I joined them, laughing as if to believe, but it wasn't enough.
Michael Bay's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles did not destroy my childhood, nor did it ruin my enjoyment of the comics, the Nickelodeon series, or even the side-scrolling video game. It also did not clear the Threshold of Disappointment. If that region is a sewer, then the turtles of metaphor are probably too on the nose. And their noses looked weird. And this review ended in a strange place.
(post mirrored from howardtayler.com)
Tuesday August 5, 2014
Alan Bahr and I are designing and developing the Schlock Mercenary Role-Playing Game. I've mentioned this project before. It's something we've had in the works since late fall of 2013, and it's coming along nicely.
If it's something you're interested in, you can learn more over at schlocktroops.com, and you can follow our progress via the Schlocktroops RSS feed. We hope to Kickstart the game during the first half of 2015, and ship it in time for Christmas of that year, but our production plan may change in the next six months as we put the last of the pieces in place.
(Post mirrored from howardtayler.com)
Thursday July 31, 2014
I am, in a word, amazed.
Guardians of the Galaxy accomplished what The Avengers accomplished, and it did it without requiring four movies of character development. The filmmakers delivered an ensemble superhero space-opera, gave us five fully fleshed-out characters, and had us laughing and cheering (and stoically holding back tears) through the whole film.
This is one of those films I want to watch again, only with a notebook. I want to to study it and figure out how they did what they did. Lots of it was brilliant writing, but the actors sold those parts to me, and the director, the editors, and the huge crew of technical wizards sold me the whole universe, and a really rollicking story.
I had a blast. So yes, it takes my #1 slot for the year, and I don't expect it to be displaced.
My eleven-year-old son also heartily recommends it. He said, and I quote, "this is the best movie," jaw agape, at least twice during the film. He was cheering for the characters in the final scenes. I had to shush him, because he was starting to cheer louder than the other people in the theater.
[UPDATE:] As was pointed out to me on the Twitter, and I quote:
@ajchid: You liked the hilarious space opera about a group of heroic ruffians from diverse, morally ambiguous backgrounds? Hmm...
If you're at this website reading this review because you read Schlock Mercenary, and you think that movies its creator enjoys might also tickle your fancy, there is a reasonable chance that you will love Guardians of the Galaxy because it scratches your "I want a Schlock Mercenary movie" itch. Assuming you have such an itch.
I don't see Schlock Mercenary in Guardians of the Galaxy, but that's the same as me being able to immediately recognize my house in a neighborhood full of similarly-built houses -- Schlock Mercenary is where I live, and Guardians of the Galaxy is a place where Marvel Studios invited me over for a party.
(Oh, yeah. Sergeant Schlock can totally be described as a blobby cross between Groot and Rocket, with "I want to eat that" substituted for "I want to steal that.")