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Posts Tagged ‘@alecrossbower’

NUMBER 10

Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Director: Steven Spielberg

Starring: Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, Paul Freeman.

Composer: John Williams

Year: 1981

IMBD Rating: 8.6/10

When I was teenager I decided that I wanted to be an archaeologist. My interest in the profession was borne out of my love for the Indiana Jones trilogy. I saw the films when I was a child, watching them with my family. My earliest memory of the series was the climax of Temple of Doom where we find our titular hero on a wooden bridge over a chasm, with alligators below snapping their jaws in hungry anticipation. This scene stayed with me, but it wasn’t until I was a teen that I watched the films again.

(source: filmtakeout.com)

While it’s still a good film, Temple of Doom is the weaker of the trilogy and The Last Crusade is certainly the most fun to watch (Junior!?). However it is Raiders of the Lost Ark that claims the top spot, as it’s clearly the most focused film. It is full of spectacular and memorable set-pieces: the iconic boulder sequence; bringing a sword to a gun fight (improvised by Harrison Ford due to a bout with dysentery); the fist fight in the airfield; the truck chase scene (with random cliffs for vehicles to fall and then explode, or explode then fall); and the melty face finale that terrified a pre-pubescent me. Indy also provided me with some useful tips for dealing with the ladies 😉 (Where doesn’t it hurt?), not bad for a guy who decided to name himself after his dog.

(source: fanpop.com)

With the film approaching its 35th anniversary, I’m hoping that it might have a limited re-release at some cinemas, then I can relive the adventure again. I may have given up the dream of being an archaeologist, but now I’m a teacher which – incidentally – was Indiana’s day job (sort of) .

(source: media.giphy.com)

Opening:

Bringing a sword to a gun fight:

Indiana Jones Theme:

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“What’s your favourite film?”

I wager you’ve been asked that question before. It’s a question I’ve always found quite difficult to answer. Trying to name one film as my all time favourite is no easy task. I love watching and discussing films, from B-movies to blockbusters, small independent films to foreign animations, classic Hollywood hits to critically acclaimed features. Every week I have a new film to talk about, and every year I have my favourites.

But to think about it – really think about it – I have to clear my mind. I’ve got to wade through the nonsense of picking films just because they are trendy or considered critically acclaimed. And that is what this exercise is all about. In the next week I’m going to publish individual posts on ten films I consider to be my favourite films ever. This means I’m going to be picking films that are personal to me, not necessarily commercial successes or award winning features. These film will have played a significant role in moulding who I am, on top of other forms of art, media, people and experiences that work towards defining a person’s character.

You may be wondering why I’m doing this. Maybe it’s because I’m a self-centred douche nozzle who wants to laud his film knowledge using fancy words. Or maybe I’m doing it to prove to myself once and for all that I can confidentially answer that dreaded question at the top of this page. Or possibly, I’m just bored waiting for school to start in September and want something to do that’s fun and a potential waste of time.

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CRYSIS 2

Composers: Hans Zimmer, Lorne Bafle, Borislav Slavov, Tilman Sillescu

Release: November 2011

Length: 46 Tracks (2-discs)

Label: E.A.R.S (digital) La-la Land Records (Audio CD)

Two minds are better than one, but four musical minds are much better than two, and that was clearly the thinking behind the creation of Crysis 2’s score. Four composers, two CDs, and 47 tracks, sounds like a legend to me. Hans Zimmer lends his name and skill to the soundtrack, but the real stars of the show are Borislav Slavov and Tilman Sillescu; two experienced game composers with an ear for rich and cinematic themes. The game is a futuristic FPS with lots of mind-blowing action and a sci-fi plot, so we can expect the usual epic bass and string melodies, but is there anything here to elicit an emotive connection?

Let’s start with “Crysis 2 – Intro”, composed by Zimmer and Lorne Bafle. Zimmer has a thing for epic strings and thumping drums, and his use of this technique on this track has the desired effect. Think The Dark Knight soundtrack and you’re more or less there. The context of the game is essentially summed up; hopelessness, danger, adventure, and the apocalypse. Zimmer worked on six tracks out of the 47, and the most memorable composition is the aforementioned intro, with the other five pieces basically acting as variations of it. Zimmer’s contribution, albeit a small one, sets the tone for the rest of the score, and now that we’ve talked about his bit part, we can review the real meat of the soundtrack.

Slavov composed 21 tracks, and it’s a perfect example of the Bulgarian’s abilities to mix different styles of moods and music.  Soft piano and violin solos on tracks like “New York Aftermath” provoke emotions of loss, contemplating and misery, while “Chase” has the pacey drums of a cinematic scene, with enough deep brass and determined strings to epitomise the urgency of the scene.

In “Resolution (Reprise)” Slavov manages to conjour up memories of Gears of War and The Exorcist; the deep brass associated with the score of the former is introduced with a piano not dissimilar to the latter’s main theme. However, Slavov makes the track his own by adding a beautiful string melody that really tugs on the courage in your heart. That last sentence might have been a little dramatic, but the emotion in this track is highly potent and provocative.

In a direct contrast to the previous track, “Sneak and Shoot” displays Slavov’s ability to compose gameplay music. Reminiscent of Metal Gear Solid 4’s score, this piece is a sporadic experience. In order for it to work with the moments of stealth gameplay, the music is discontinued, from slow-pace quiet moments (sneak) to crescendos of numerous instruments (and shoot). Whether or not Slavov was inspired by any of the references made in this article thus far, he still manages to produce original pieces, giving the score its own identity, and managing to match the subject matter.

The final – but not the least – member of this composer quartet is Tilman Sillescu, a winner of the industry-recognised G.A.N.G award in 2007, brings his own magic to Crysis 2’s score. Dominating 19 tracks, Sillescu introduces gamers to his use of the electric guitar and soft soprano horns, especially in the prominent “Catastrophic Beauty”, which, coupled with Slavov’s “New York Aftermath”, provoke a melancholic emotive response.

The Crysis 2 score is cinematic and epic experience, rivalling and possibly surpassing many Hollywood blockbusters. Despite Zimmer’s input, Slavov and Sillescu are the true talent behind this. These guys proven that videogame soundtracks are an art in their own right, making this writer proud once again.

Check out more of Alec-Ross Bower’s writing at Thirteen1.com

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DEUS EX: HUMAN REVOLUTION

Composer: Michael McCann

Release: November 2011

Length: 12 Tracks

Label: Sumthing Else

The main theme of Edios Montreal’s Deus Ex: Human Revolution is that of Transhumanism: the study of transforming the human body by developing and technologies to eliminate aging, and enhancing the human condition physically and mentally. This theme, coupled with a ‘cyber-Renaissance’ art style, brings about an interesting concept. What we’re looking at today is how this theme has affected the music, composed by Michael McCann. With award-winning soundtracks like Splinter Cell: Double Agent under his belt, McCann has quite the reputation to bring to the game. Will he be able to transcend this soundtrack into greatness?

Unfortunately the full soundtrack hasn’t been released yet, however, those lucky enough to afford the Collector’s Edition of Deus Ex: HR (not the already beefy Augmented Edition) will have a 30-minute soundtrack included, and this is what we’ve been listening to for the past week. There are only a small number of tracks available, but they seem to feature a range of themes, from dramatic to epic, action-orientated to electronic ambience; appropriately mimicking the different play-styles involved in the videogame.

There are a number of comparatives that we can make straight away: Mass Effect, The Dark Knight, and Blade Runner spring to mind. However, McCann has a great skill for blending cinematic scores with organic soundscapes. The theme of transhumanism is apparent in the track “Opening Credits”, with its electronic bass rumble, and despite having those dramatic strings we’ve all grown to love from other cinematic scores, there’s an electro beat hooking up with a solo vocalist. “Detroit City Ambient Part” is another example of the game’s main theme influencing McCann’s style.

The cyber-punk/Renaissance theme is augmented by the use of choirs and solo vocalists. In “Icarus – Main Theme”, we’re treated to McCann’s skill as a cinematic composer; his use of dramatic piano sounds and synths give the music extra effect. But it’s his use of vocals that carry the most weight, sustaining any emotion the music may provoke.

Until we hear this complete soundtrack, we’re going to reserve our full judgement. It’s a good start so far, but there’s nothing here to grant this soundtrack into prominence. We’ve been looking forward to hearing this, but the twelve tracks available at the moment are not enough for us to go on.

Check out more of Alec-Ross Bower’s writing at Thirteen1.com

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HALO 4 AND KINECT SET THE TONE FOR THIS YEAR’S E3

Microsoft Studios have announced a new Halo Trilogy for Xbox 360 at this years Electronic Entertainment Expo. Not only that, but Halo: Combat Evolved is being remade for the Microsoft console.

In an overwhleming brief, that opened with Modern Warefare 3, showcased over a dozen new titles including Gears of War 3, Tomb Raider, and Mass Effect 3, it’s become apparent that Microsoft are trying to appeal more to the hardcore gamers this year. However, that’s not to say that the casual audience was forgotten. Numerous of family-orientated Kinect games were also revealed including Kinect Sports Season 2, Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster with development from Tim Schafer (who presented the demo), Disneyland Adventure – a virtual game of the actual theme park – and Dance Central 2.

The announcement of Halo 4 and Halo:Combat Evolved Anniversary was accidently revealed earlier today on Xbox.com.

Microsoft seem very keen to showcase Kinect’s new features, and it’s obvious why. Mass Effect 3 is to have new Kinect capabilities. Players will be able to speak the conversation options and command their squad with this new feature. The most impressive Kinect additon was Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Future Soldier, especially the Gumsmith mode, which allows the player full-customisation of their weapons.

Star Wars Kinect received a huge positive response from the crowd, but we’ll have to see how this plays out in the future.

As for exclusives, a strong Gears of War 3 demo played by Cliffy.B and Ice-T went down well, Forza Motorsport 4 to be released this October, and Crytek’s new IP, Ryse, a Kinect FPS set in Ancient Rome.

But one of the most innovative reveals of the conference was the new Xbox Dashboard. Fully Kinect enabled, the dashboard will feature the Bing search engine, YouTube, and new voice-recognition features. Microsoft seem very keen to push this technology onto all types of gamers.

With more to come today and over the next two days, I’ll be here to bring you as much news as possible. Follow me on twitter for regular live updates.

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DRAGON AGE II

Composer: Inon Zur

Release: March 2011

Length: 12 Tracks

Label: EA

The success of the first Dragon Age: Origins was a sure thing. BioWare is one of the videogame industries leading developers of RPGs, and Dragon Age proved to be their most challenging one yet. The sequel brings back some of the things we loved about the first videogame, the difficulty, the dark design, and Inon Zur’s musical genius.

Zur’s past titles, Fallout 3, Everquest, and Baulder’s Gate II have all received great praise from fans, and the composer seems to have used these works, including the previous Dragon Age title, as inspiration in his latest score.

The fantasy world wouldn’t be as evocative or as cinematic without Zur’s ability to create graceful compositions. In “Hawke Family Theme”, Zur gives us a loving and soft track made up of melodic guitar pieces and wood sections. However, Dragon Age is a game with a violent context, so combat music plays a role that is just as important as the fantasy element. In “Qunari on the Rise” we hear Zur’s darker side. There’s an element of Feudal Japan hidden in the deep drums, but it’s the bass wind instrument couple with the male choir chants that really captures the violence of the game.

We’re given a sample of Zur’s more romantic side too in “Love Scene”. Pan pipes, soft violins, and rhythm picking guitar come elegantly together to support the silky female vocal that fades in and out intermittently.

The soundtrack is a rather short one, lasting less than thirty minutes. My guess is that EA plan to release more music later on, but at the moment what we’ve got is a mix of Zur’s score. “Tavern Music” gives us a chance to hear some in-game music; it’s as you’d expect from a fantasy tavern; lively and rich with joy.

The last track worth mentioning is “Rogue Heart” a soft song, sung in a language I fail to identify. Its structure is brilliant, beginning very faint, with piano and synths. The vocal just repeats, but more and more instruments are introduced. By the point the bass has had a turn get your foot-tapping, the drums and guitar pick up the rhythm – it’s a shiver giver.

Inon Zur remains a master of the fantasy genre. Though I must admit that the fantasy is a big no-no for me, Zur manages to capture the magic that will tempt new players to the genre. Dragon Age II is set to be one of the most impressive RPGs of the year, and Zur’s soundtrack will certainly help make that experience even greater.

Check out more of Alec-Ross Bower’s writing at Thirteen1.com

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HOMEFRONT

Composer: Matthew Harwood

Release: November 2011

Length: 34 Tracks

Label: THQ

It’s great to see some fresh blood on the videogame music scene. Sure, this little niche still has its greats that have been writing and composing videogame scores for years, and it’s great to hear new material from them. However, every now and again I yearn to hear the work of someone fresh to the scene. The guys behind the award-winning Red Dead Redemption soundtrack hadn’t worked on videogames before, and as far as I’m aware, neither has Matthew Harwood, the composer behind the original score to Homefront.

Listening to a soundtrack before a game’s release has its benefits. You can conjure up images in your head that the music might represent. Homefront is labelled as a cinematic and character driven experience, and after listening to the soundtrack the first time you can tell that the music aims to sustain that experience.

The soundtrack is phenomenal; the 34 tracked score will hold you attention for its entirety. The “Main Theme” is a powerful track that uses bits from other scores, there’s an essence of Star Wars, Hitman, and The Matrix soundtracks. The main theme doesn’t stand out as some of the more prominent games out there; however, when you hear the track called “Lobby”, which is a variation of the main theme, you’ll realise that it’s a memorable theme nonetheless. What follows is the track “Golden Gate” a composition that is provocative enough for you to imagine images of a Korean Army invading San Francisco. It features a grand brass and an erratic string section working harmoniously together, covering ever available gap in the rhythm, as if leaving no stone unturned.

Another track that features at the beginning of the score is “Oasis”. Initially the track resonates memories of Indiana Jones’ quieter moments. It’s a peaceful track, the strings carry most of the drama, and the piano and flute moments bring in a great deal of sadness.

Towards the end of the soundtrack we return to this peaceful place, however things have drastically changed. “Burnt Oasis” carries a great deal of emptiness with it, as if there’s a desolate wasteland where a potential base of operations for the survivors once was.

A final track worthy of note is the song “Stand Your Ground”, which was written, mixed, and performed by Harwood and his collaborator Scott Cresswell. It’s a rock song that sums up the context of the game brilliantly – “Stand your ground, don’t back down.” Cresswell sings the lead vocal and plays both bass and lead guitar, while Harwood provides the percussion, backing vocals, and the synth. It’s actually a really good song; if Homefront proves as popular as predicted then this song might be on everybody’s playlists.

Harwood is a fantastic addition to the videogame music scene. The music is powerful stuff and he may be on people’s minds long after the game is released. I definitely look forward to hearing more from him.

Check out more of Alec-Ross Bower’s writing at Thirteen1.com

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