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Josh Reviews Score: A Film Music Documentary

I love movies, and I love movie scores.  I’m not sure when I first started to realize that a part of what I loved about movies was their score; and that, beyond that, it was in fact the score that was a critical element of those movies I loved.  It probably began with the Star Trek movies.  I watched those movies over and over, and I soon realized that part of what gave those movies their own distinct identities was the different-style scores written by different composers.  The scores for all six original Star Trek movies (by Jerry Goldsmith, James Horner, Leonard Rosenman, and Cliff Eidelman) are all amazing, but with very different-style scores, each of which are so distinct but all successful in their own way.  Whatever the origin, I have for years been fascinated with movie scores, and I have many great movie soundtracks on my ipod that I listen to all the time.  I love and am intrigued by movie scores.

Matt Schrader’s wonderful documentary Score: A Film Music Documentary is a fantastic dive into the art of creating film scores.  This film will work for those who know little about this aspect of movie-making, with wonderful sequences that explain the many different steps in creating and recording a score, as well as cleverly put-together explorations of just why great movie scores work as well as they do.  The film will also be a delight for those who already love film scores, showcasing a wonderful array of the many men and women who toil to create this art.

The film contains a wealth of interviews, highlighting an incredible array of talented film score composers.  This isn’t a documentary that only focuses on the most super-famous film composers: John Williams and Jerry Goldsmith and Ennio Morricone and Bernard Herrmann.  Those giants get their due, of course, but Mr. Schrader has created a film that gives lovely spotlights to a staggering array of talented composers, names well-known to film fans like myself but not to the average movie-goer, including: Danny Elfman (the film spotlights his work on Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, Edward Scissorhands, and the original Tim Burton Batman), Thomas Newman (the film spotlights his work on The Shawshank Redemption, American Beauty, and Finding Dory) Hans Zimmer (Gladiator, Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy), Alexandre Desplat (Moonrise Kingdom, Argo), John Debney (Sin City, Spy Kids, and many wonderful scores for episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine), Brian Tyler (whose work I first discovered on Sci-Fi’s underrated Children of Dune mini-series — a score that I know many of you know and love without knowing it, because several tracks are often used … [continued]

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50 Years of Star Trek: Josh’s Favorite Star Trek Music!

OK fellow nerds, buckle up for a deep dive into geekiness here.

Two weeks ago, I reviewed the wonderful Star Trek: The Ultimate Voyage CD, a recording of the concert series celebrating 50 years of amazing Star Trek music.  That two-disc CD contained 30 tracks (15 on each CD) of Trek music from across 50 years of Star Trek history — all the various movies and TV shows (and even one track of music from a Trek video-game!).  I loved the CD set, and I’ve listened to it several times.  I had a lot of fun analyzing the track choices in my review, discussing which ones I loved and which ones’ inclusion surprised me.

Doing so got me to thinking: if I had been the one putting together this concert and CD set, what would my choices have been?  I gave myself several challenges.  First and foremost, not just to list my favorite tracks from all the Trek soundtracks over the years, but to assemble them together into a concert playlist whose ebb and flow would work.  I also tried to limit myself to the same number of tracks, 30 in total (15 in each half), as the Ultimate Voyage used.  (I failed, but only by a little bit.  I found that I just had to include 16 tracks in each half of my concert.)  I also debated whether to try to incorporate music from all the different Trek series, as the Ultimate Voyage concert did so effectively.  While that is one of my favorite aspects of the Ultimate Voyage concert CD set, I decided in the end not to attempt that myself, and instead to focus on the Trek music that was my very favorite, even if that wound up with a more limited selection from Trek history.

I had a lot of nerdy fun thinking about this over the past week.  And so, it is my pleasure to present to you:

Josh’s “Ultimate Voyage” Playlist: The Very Best of 50 Years of Star Trek Music:

Disc One:

1. “Overture” (Ilia’s Theme) from Star Trek: The Motion Picture I’ll begin my Trek concert with this overture music that also began Star Trek: The Motion Picture (playing before the opening credits).  I love this Star Trek love theme and I think it’s a beautiful, melodic way to open.

2. “Main Title” from Star Trek: Generations That love theme would be a lovely segue into this opening music from Star Trek: Generations, which begins quietly and then builds to a triumphant declaration of the classic Alexander Courage Star Trek theme.  The Ultimate Voyage concert also had this track as their number two track, and I am shamelessly … [continued]

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50 Years of Star Trek Music: Josh Enjoys Star Trek: The Ultimate Voyage Concert Tour CD!

So, I love Star Trek, and I also love movie soundtracks.  That’s just the type of nerd I am.  So, of course, I really love Star Trek soundtracks.  I’ve written about quite a few here on the site.  I was excited when I read that, in honor of Trek’s 50th anniversary this year, there would be a concert tour in which music from the various Trek movies and TV shows would be performed.  That is right up my alley!  Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make it to one of the concert performances.  But when I learned that a CD of the concert was being released, I snapped that right up!  (You can too, by clicking here.)

Star Trek.The Ultimate Voyage

Star Trek: The Ultimate Voyage is a magnificent two-CD set in which the Czech National Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Justin Freer, performs music from across the fifty year history of Star Trek.  I was very impressed by the track choices.  There are a few “musts” that of course were included (like Jerry Goldsmith’s Main Titles from Star Trek: The Motion Picture to the suite from “The Inner Light” from Star Trek: The Next Generation).  But beyond that, I was impressed by some of the very deep cuts made by the music selection.  (I was shocked and delighted that, for example, an exciting track from the Deep Space Nine final-season episode “The Changing Face of Evil” was included!)  If the track selection has one weakness it is perhaps an over-reliance in music from Star Trek: The Motion Picture, but it’s hard to complain about so many wonderful selections from the master Jerry Goldsmith.

Let’s dive in, shall we?

Disc One:

1.  “Main Title” from Star Trek: The Motion Picture An obvious and perfect choice to open the concert, we begin with Jerry Goldsmith’s magnificent main theme from Star Trek: The Motion Picture.  For many fans, this is THE definitive Star Trek music, even more so than Alexander Courage’s main theme from the Original Series.  (That this music was also used as the main theme for Star Trek: The Next Generation helped cement its importance.)  This is iconic music, instantly memorable, and among the very best movie theme music ever written.

2. “Main Title” from Star Trek: Generations Right away, I was impressed by the choices made by the makers of this concert, as this is an inspired choice to place here at the beginning of the concert.  This theme, by Dennis McCarthy, is a slow build to a triumphant declaration of Alexander Courage’s classic Star Trek fanfare (as the bottle of Chateau Picard wine smashes into the hull of the Enterprise B, christening the ship for launch).

3. “The [continued]

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Josh Reviews the Newly-Released Complete Soundtrack of Star Trek: Nemesis

I love movie soundtracks.  And I love Star Trek.  So these past few years have been fantastic, as we have gradually seen, for the first time ever, the release of the complete, unedited soundtracks for every single one of the Star Trek films.  With the recent release of Jerry Goldsmith’s complete score for Star Trek: Nemesis, the last of the pre-J.J.Abrams-reboot Star Trek films, every Trek film’s complete score has been released.  (With the exception of the most recent film, Star Trek Into Darkness.  But I am trying to forget that dreadful film was ever made, so I’m not counting it.)

After listening to, and thoroughly enjoying, many of the previous Trek complete soundtrack releases, I often went back and re-watched the film whose soundtrack had just been released.  Usually listening to the soundtrack made me eager to re-watch the film.  I knew that would not be the case, though, with Star Trek: Nemesis.  That absolutely dreadful, abysmal film is by far my least favorite of all the Star Trek films (Into Darkness included).  (Click here to read my ranking of all the Star Trek films, from worst to best!)

I have only seen Star Trek: Nemesis two times (first in theatres, and then again when it came out on DVD, as I had to verify that the film really was as horrible as my first impression had indicated), and I have no plans to watch the film again any time soon.  But I was excited for the release of Jerry Goldsmith’s score.  Even before getting the various Trek scores on CD, I knew most of those scores very, very well.  One of the best aspects of the Trek films have been their fantastic scores.  But because I had only seen Nemesis twice, its score was very unfamiliar to me.  I had no recollection of what any of the main musical themes of the film were.  So I was eager to get the CD and get to know this score a little better.

Quite a number of fantastic composers have worked on the Trek films over the years.  My favorite remains James Horner, whose scores for Star Trek II and Star Trek III are genius-level magnificent.  But it’s impossible to deny the extraordinary contributions to Trek music of the late, great Jerry Goldsmith.  Mr. Goldsmith established the musical sound of the Trek movies with his rich, bombastic score for Star Trek: The Motion Picture.  (Click here for my detailed thoughts on TMP’s score.)  His main theme for TMP was later adopted as the theme music for Star Trek: The Next Generation.  So it’s appropriate that Mr. Goldsmith returned to the Trek universe to … [continued]

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“I am the Night” — Music From Batman: The Animated Series!

I can’t believe that Batman: The Animated Series is over twenty years old.  Oy vey, that means I am getting pretty old myself!  I immediately loved Bruce Timm’s animated Batman series, and as a kid I watched and re-watched those episodes incessantly.  To this day, I think that Batman: The Animated Series remains the finest on-screen depiction of Batman, and so many of the show’s versions of Batman’s familiar supporting cast and cadre of villains still stand as the most iconic, most definitive version of those characters.

One of the many ways in which Batman: The Animated Series excelled was in its gorgeous music.  Overseen by Shirley Walker, each episode of the series had its own fully-original, scored-by-an-orhcestra soundtrack.  The music of the series was so rich and expressive and memorable.  It was a HUGE element of the series’ success.

Back in 2009, I was delighted by La-La Land Record’s 4-disc CD collection of music from the series.  Click here to read my thoughts on that release.  The CD set was labeled “volume 1,” leading me to hope that a “volume 2” would be on its way.  Sure enough, last year La-La Land released volume 2, and I must say I think this collection is even stronger than the first.

Disc One — This first disc begins with music from “Beware the Gray Ghost,” the wonderful episode in which 1960’s Batman Adam West portrays Simon Trent, an actor who years earlier played a Batman-like TV superhero “The Gray Ghost,” who inspired Bruce Wayne as a boy.  I love how the peppy “Gray Ghost” TV theme heard in track 2 turns forlorn and mournful when we catch up with washed-up actor Simon Trent in the present day.  This theme becomes a haunting motif that runs through the rest of the episode.  The two-parter “The Cat and the Claw” (which, although it was the fifteenth episode made was actually the first episode aired — I remember watching it that first night!) begins with a great four-and-a-half minute-long piece of music (track 13) that scores the depiction of Batman and Catwoman’s first encounter.  It’s a great piece of music that introduces the show’s playful Catwoman theme.  In track 33 on the disc, which contains music from the Scarecrow episode “Nothing to Fear,” it’s interesting to hear Shirley Walker quote Danny Elfman’s Batman theme from Tim Burton’s Batman movie.  Then, a little later in that episode, in track 37 we hear the Elfman Batman theme transition into the Batman: The Animated Series Batman theme, which is very cool!  The disc concludes with music from “Heart of Ice,” one of the finest episodes of the entire series (it was written by Paul Dini, … [continued]

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Josh Relishes Listening to the New Collection of Music From Star Trek: Deep Space Nine!

October 23rd, 2013

Following last year’s release of the terrific collection of music from Star Trek: The Next Generation, I was flabbergasted to hear of the release of a similar collection of music from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.  DS9 is my very favorite of the Trek TV shows, but it also feels like the most niche of the Trek series, in stark contrast to the more popular, mainstream Next Gen.  That we got such an awesome collection of music from Star Trek: The Next Generation was amazing.  To get a similar collection of music from Deep Space Nine?  Unbelievable!!

This four-CD collection is everything I could have hoped for and more.  The first three discs follow a similar patten as did the Next Gen CD set.  Disc one contains the work of Dennis McCarthy, disc two contains the work of Jay Chattaway, and disc three contains selections from a variety of guest composers who scored episodes over the course of the series’ run.  (As they did for Next Gen, Mr. McCarthy and Mr. Chattaway scored the vast majority of Deep Space Nine’s episodes, regularly alternating episodes.)  The fourth disc is an extra cherry on top of this already delicious sundae — extensive music from three very popular episodes: the James Bond parody “Our Man Bashir”; the Classic Trek “Trouble with Tribbles” crossover episode in honor of Star Trek’s 30th anniversary, “Trials and Tribble-ations”; and the series finale “What You Leave Behind.”

This CD set is magnificent, a must-have for every DS9 fan out there.  I still can’t believe this thing exists!  The track selection is spectacular, as the producers drew a wide variety of music from episodes from throughout the series’ seven-season run.  All the classic bits of score that I could have wanted from my favorite DS9 episodes are contained on this set.

Disc One: Dennis McCarthy — In an interesting choice, just as Mr. McCarthy’s disc on the Next Gen collection began with a surprisingly long excerpt from a lame season one episode, so to does Mr. McCarthy’s DS9 disc, in this case from the first season episode “The Storyteller.”  That’s not a great episode, but the score is actually quite good!  I LOVE how Mr. McCarthy wove the main DS9 theme into his scores for those early episodes.  The season one finale, “In the Hands of the Prophets,” has some great suspense music for the climactic sequence in which O’Brien races to stop an assassin headed towards the Promenade, and I was delighted to see that piece of music included.  We get to hear some great action music from the season two three-part premiere (in tracks 8 and 9, “The Circle”) and also for the great … [continued]

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Star Trek: The Next Generation — Soundtrack Collection!

I have been loving the steady release, over the past several years, of the complete soundtracks for almost all of the Star Trek films.  It is incredible to be able to listen to those wonderful Trek soundtracks in their complete and un-edited form.

As a reminder that Star Trek has had just as robust a musical history on TV as on the big screen, we have the amazing three-CD set of music from Star Trek: The Next Generation, released last year by La-La Land Records.  What an amazing collection!  I have been loving listening to it, and I’ve been meaning to write about it here on the site for months.

The first two discs on the set are focused on two of the three men who scored the vast majority of Next Gen episodes: Dennis McCarthy and Jay Chattaway.  For the fifth through seventh seasons of the show, these two men alternated episodes.  With only one or two exceptions, they scored every episode.  For the first four years of the show, Mr. McCarthy alternated episodes with another terrific conductor, Ron Jones.  Mr. Jones’ music is not represented on this CD collection, probably because of the extraordinary, unprecedented, enormous collection a few years back of The Ron Jones Project, a fourteen-CD collection of every single piece of music Mr. Jones wrote for Star Trek: The Next Generation.  You read that right, fourteen CDs.  It’s crazy.

So anyways, the first two discs of this set focus on the music of Mr. McCarthy and Mr. Chattaway, while the third and final disc focuses on the work of some of the show’s guest composers (two of whom, have gone on to major success in the movies).

This collection is really terrific, an extraordinary collection of great music from this great TV show.  It’s an extensive collection of tracks, drawn from throughout the series’ seven-season run.  They really covered all the bases of the best of music from the run of the show.  It is hard to think of an episode whose music stands out that isn’t represented on this collection.

Disc One: Dennis McCarthy — Mr. McCarthy has been one of the most defining musical voices of the modern incarnations of Star Trek on TV.  He scored more hours of Star Trek than any other single composer, working on all of the Star Trek spin-off shows from Next Generation to Enterprise.  (He also scored the Next Gen crew’s big-screen debut, Generations.)  Mr. McCarthy’s disc begins in a somewhat surprising fashion, with a lengthy series of excerpts from his score from the pretty lousy first-season episode “Haven.”  I am not quite sure why the producers decided to include such a large amount of … [continued]

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Josh Reviews the Newly-Released Complete Soundtrack of Star Trek: Insurrection

With the recent release of the complete score for Star Trek: Insurrection, we are very close to having available the complete scores of every single Star Trek film.  I have been gobbling up these CD releases!  As happened with the releases of the scores for Star Trek: Generations and Star Trek: First Contact, after I listened to the Insurrection score a few times, I was compelled to go back and watch the film again, for the first time in several years.  I wrote in detail about my thoughts regarding Star Trek Insurrection just the other day, so let’s dive into my reaction to the score!

Star Trek Insurrection was scored by the great Jerry Goldsmith, who had previously scored Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, and Star Trek: First Contact.  While I wouldn’t count his score for Insurrection among my favorite of the Star Trek scores (I would certainly rank all of the scores for Star Trek II-VI above it, and probably also Mr. Goldsmith’s score for the previous film, Star Trek: First Contact), listening to the complete score on CD I was surprised by how strong a score it is.  As with Star Trek V (and possibly also Star Trek: The Motion Picture as well as First Contact), the score is better than the movie.

Here are some of the outstanding tracks on the CD:

Track 1: “Ba’ku village” — Mr. Goldsmith begins his score for Insurrection just as he did all three of the Next Gen films that he scored: with two soundings of Alexander Courage’s classic Star Trek fanfare.  Between the two soundings of the fanfare, Mr. Goldsmith wove in his main theme for the film, in this case the pastoral Ba’ku theme.  Following a little bombast over the Star Trek: Insurrection title, Mr. Goldsmith’s score then does what no other Trek film’s opening music did.  Rather than exciting bombast (or even the lighter but still fast-moving music from Howard Rosenman’s score for Star Trek IV), Mr. Goldsmith gives us a lovely, melodic theme for the peaceful Ba’ku.  As a viewer, I still think it’s probably a mis-step, a less-than-exciting way to begin a big-screen sci-fi adventure.  But when considered purely on a musical basis, I was stunned listening to the CD by how much I loved Mr. Goldsmith’s beautiful Ba’ku theme!  I have found myself constantly humming this music over the past few weeks!  It’s a gorgeous piece of music, just lovely.

Tracks 2-4 contain some fun, fast-paced action music.  I enjoy how Mr. Goldsmith weaves his Insurrection theme into the music, and we also get a brief reprise of his Klingon theme (which Mr. … [continued]

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Josh Reviews the Newly-Released Complete Soundtrack of Star Trek: Generations

February 6th, 2013

Star Trek: Generations is a film that has really grown on me over the years, to the point where I might argue today that it’s the best of the four Next Generation movies.  Despite the film’s Kirk/Picard crossover aspect (which makes the film an epilogue to the Classic Trek adventures as much as it is a kick-off to the Next Generation film series), the middle hour-plus of Generations feels like the best big-screen representation of the Star Trek: The Next Generation TV show that I loved so much as a kid.

The score for Star Trek: Generations was composed and conducted by Dennis McCarthy.  Mr. McCarthy was one of the Next Generation’s main composers for much of its TV run (according to the liner notes, Mr. McCarthy has scored more hours of the modern-day Star Trek TV series than any other composer), and he was tapped to score the series’ first feature film.

I think Mr. McCarthy did terrific work, and that the score for Star Trek: Generations is vastly under-rated.  OK, it surely doesn’t rival the very best of the Trek movie scores: Jerry Goldsmith’s iconic themes from Star Trek: The Motion Picture, James Horner’s magnificent work on Star Trek II & III (which I think are two of the very best film scores of all time), or Cliff Eidelman’s haunting, somber music from Star Trek VI. But the score for Generations is nonetheless terrific, far more subtle and complex than many film scores, and possessing some wonderful new themes and some terrific action cues.

Here are some of my favorite tracks from the complete soundtrack:

Track 1: “Main Title” — In a wonderfully unexpected move, Mr. McCarthy forgoes the tradition from all the previous Star Trek films (and so many other movies) of presenting the film’s main theme or themes in a bombastic march at the opening of the film.  Mr. McCarthy holds this for much later.  Instead, here at the opening of the film, he presents us with a quiet, melodic, mysterious melody that gently builds as we see a mysterious object tumble through space.  The track builds to a triumphant crescendo and an ebullient presentation of Alexander Courage’s classic Star Trek theme when the about-to-be-launched Enterprise B is revealed.  It’s a wonderful moment, one of my favorite beats in the movie, and a terrific beginning to the film.  From the liner notes: “‘I insisted on that,’ McCarthy says of the Courage theme… ‘I wanted it to be the payoff, both of the champagne bottle hitting and then the end where Picard is standing on the top of the mountain [at the end of the film]… When it’s the big ships taking off, boy, I want … [continued]

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Josh Reviews the Newly-Released Complete Soundtrack of Star Trek: The Motion Picture

Star Trek and movie-soundtrack fans have been spoiled over the last few years, as we’ve seen the complete, unedited scores from almost every single Star Trek film released to CD.  I have previously written about James Horner’s score for Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Leonard Rosenman’s score for Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Jerry Goldsmith’s score for Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, Cliff Eidelman’s score for Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, Jerry Goldsmith (again)’s score for Star Trek: First Contact, and Michael Giacchino’s score for J.J. Abrams’ 2009 Star Trek.

A few months ago saw the release of a third Jerry Goldsmith Star Trek soundtrack on CD — his first project for the franchise: the complete score for Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

Mr. Goldsmith’s score for Star Trek: The Motion Picture was groundbreaking, filled with themes that are now iconically associated with the series.  First and foremost, of course, is his main theme.  Heard over the opening credits (and throughout the film, most notably during the minutes-long introduction of the newly-refitted Enterprise), this theme was later re-purposed as the main theme for Star Trek: The Next Generation, and Mr. Goldsmith used it extensively in all of his future Star Trek scores (including Star Trek V and the last three Next Gen films: First Contact, Insurrection, and Nemesis).

Running a close second in terms of iconic staying power is Mr. Goldsmith’s beloved Klingon theme, which was also introduced in TMP. We hear it right away, in the film’s opening sequence (in which three Klingon warships are destroyed by V’Ger).  The CD’s liner notes describe the theme as a “repeating open-fifth figure… [that] establishes an aggressive, tribal atmosphere for the warlike characters.”

For the most part, each Star Trek film has had a distinct musical identity, and each composer has created new themes.  James Horner created his own Klingon theme (which I happen to love) for Star Trek III, and Jerry Golsmith’s Vulcan/Spock theme for Star Trek: The Motion Picture was different than James Horner’s Vulcan/Spock theme for Star Trek II, which was different than Cliff Eidelman’s Vulcan/Spock theme for Star Trek VI, which was different that Michael Giacchino’s Vulcan/Spock theme for 2009’s Star Trek. But Jerry Goldsmith’s main Star Trek theme, and his Klingon music, both “stuck” in a powerful way.  That Klingon theme was heard in Star Trek: The Next Generation and also recurred in the other Trek TV shows and future films.  (Mr. Goldsmith certainly had a hand in that, as he used that Klingon theme prominently in his scores for Star Trek V and Star Trek: First Contact.)

Listening to the complete score for Star [continued]

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Josh Reviews the Newly-Released Complete Soundtrack of Star Trek: First Contact

There have been some very exciting Star Trek soundtrack releases over the past few months!  Recently I have written about the complete soundtrack for Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, and the complete soundtrack for Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.  I also recently picked up GNP Crescendo’s complete soundtrack for Star Trek: First Contact, composed and conducted by Jerry Goldsmith.  I think that First Contact has the strongest score of all the Next Generation movies (with Generations coming in a close second), so I was very excited to finally have the complete soundtrack on CD.

First Contact is Jerry Goldsmith’s third of five Star Trek film scores.  He inaugurated the Trek film series with Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and then returned with Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. (Click here for my thoughts on Mr. Goldman’s score for Star Trek V.)  Before First Contact, Jerry Goldsmith had never written music for The Next Generation, although actually in a way he had, since his main title music for Star Trek: The Motion Picture was used as the opening credits music for all seven seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation. According to the wonderful-as-usual liner notes (by Jeff Bond & John Takis), Rick Berman, who oversaw all of the 24th century-set Star Trek TV shows as well as the four Next Gen movies, got connected with Jerry Goldsmith when Mr. Berman hired Goldsmith to compose the main title music for Star Trek: Voyager. Though Mr. Goldsmith had often proven to be too expensive for the low-budgeted Star Trek films, Mr. Berman and director Jonathan Frakes were set on bringing Mr. Goldsmith in to score their film.  According to the liner notes, Jonathan Frakes recalled that “They made sure there was a line item in the budget to pay Jerry’s fee — that was part of the original budget of First Contact and I remember that specifically.  That was how strongly Rick felt about it and I certainly shared that feeling.”

Thank goodness for that, because much of the flavor of First Contact is given to the film by the rich and epic score by Jerry Goldsmith, who was assisted by his son Joel in the score’s creation.  Though I enjoy the heroic bombast of Mr. Goldsmith’s score for Star Trek V, I tend to find myself more drawn to the darker Trek scores such as James Horner’s work on Star Trek II (probably my very favorite Star Trek score) and Star Trek III, and Cliff Eidelman’s score for Star Trek VI. What’s so wonderful about Mr. Goldsmith’s work on First Contact is that it weaves together the epic and the ominous, the dark and … [continued]

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Josh Reviews the Newly-Released Complete Soundtrack for Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country is one of my very favorite of the Star Trek films.  (Possibly my very favorite — depending on my mood, sometimes I consider it better than The Wrath of Khan, other times a close second.  Click here to witness my waxing poetic about the greatness of Star Trek VI!) One of my favorite aspects of the film — and a subtle but critically important key to its greatness — is the marvelous score by Cliff Eidelman.  I was thrilled that Intrada recently released the complete score on CD.

Director Nick Meyer is responsible, pretty much single-handedly, for a huge percentage of the greatness of the Star Trek film series.  He wrote and directed Star Trek II, co-wrote Star Trek IV, and co-wrote and directed Star Trek VI. Time and again, Mr. Meyer demonstrated an unswerving ability to make just the right decisions where the Star Trek films were concerned.  His choice of Cliff Eidelman as the composer for Star Trek VI is just one example.

Poor Mr. Meyer had quite a few difficulties pulling off Star Trek VI for the minuscule budget offered by the studio (thirty million dollars, an astoundingly low sum for a sci-fi epic and the exact same amount that the ugly, small-scale Star Trek V had been made for two years previously).  In his memoir, The View From the Bridge (click here for my review of that wonderful book), Mr. Meyer recounted his difficulty in finding a composer who could work for the small amount of money he had available to pay.  “I continued to exhaust myself trying to find ways to skin the cat.  I could not afford Jerry Goldsmith to write our score; I couldn’t even afford James Horner, who had risen in prominence (and price) in the years since The Wrath of Khan.” (Mr. Meyer had hired a young James Horner to compose the score for Star Trek II, because the budget had been slashed on that sequel and he couldn’t afford to bring back Jerry Goldsmith, who had scored Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Deja vu all over again.)

Luckily, Mr. Meyer was able to connect with another talented young composer, Cliff Eidelman (who was 28 years old at the time).  The two agreed on a key creative choice — that it would be fruitless to try to equal the dramatic bombast of the previous Star Trek films’ scores, and that, furthermore, such an approach wouldn’t suit the dark, somber story being told in Star Trek VI. In his fantastic (as usual) liner notes for the complete score CD, Jeff Bond notes: “From its opening bars, Eidelman’s music for Star Trek VI exhibits … [continued]

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Josh Reviews the Newly-Released Complete Soundtrack for Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

I’ve been really enjoying the releases, over the past few years, of the complete soundtracks for the original Star Trek films.  (Click here for my review of James Horner’s complete score for Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, here for my review of Jerry Goldsmith’s complete score for Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, and here for my review of Michael Giacchino’s complete score for J. J. Abrams’ Star Trek.)  Recently, Intrada released Leonard Rosenman’s complete soundtrack for Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and Cliff Eidelman’s complete soundtrack for Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. I’ll be back here soon with my thoughts on Trek VI — for now, let’s dive into Mr. Rosenman’s wonderful score for Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.

After James Horner’s glorious scores for Star Trek II and Star Trek III, director Leonard Nimoy and composer Leonard Rosenman decided to go in a totally different direction for the soundtrack of Trek IV. To fit the lighthearted film, Mr. Rosenman produced an equally lighthearted, joyous score.

It’s a score that is unique among the Star Trek films for many ways.  There are not a lot of different themes for all the different characters, as we hear in the scores of the other films (by James Horner, Jerry Goldsmith, and Cliff Eidelman).  There’s no main love theme and no real “bad guy” theme (though there is an ominous motive used for the Probe).  The score is also incredibly short.  This complete version of the score clocks in at 40 minutes and 5 seconds long, and it includes several minutes of music that Mr. Rosenman wrote but that were not included in the finished film.  Much of Star Trek IV plays without any score at all — after the crew of the Enterprise arrive in San Francisco, there’s no music whatsoever until Chekov’s run across the flight deck of the U.S.S. Enterprise aircraft carrier.  It’s funny, I’ve watched Star Trek IV countless times and it’s never ever occurred to me that there is so little scoring in the film.  It’s a testament to the skill and craft with which Mr. Nimoy and Mr. Rosenman spotted the music for the film, and a perfect example that sometimes a little really does go a long way.

We hear a triumphant rendition of Mr. Rosenman’s main theme for the film in the disc’s first track: “Logo/Main title.”  I absolutely love the soaring, ringing main theme for this film — it sets the perfect tone of fun-filled adventure.  The liner notes describe the music as “upbeat, heraldic, and heroic,” which I think sums up the main theme perfectly.  It’s totally different from the nautical … [continued]

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Josh Enjoys the Release of Jerry Goldsmith’s Complete Score for Star Trek V!

As a big fan of Star Trek and of movie soundtracks, I’m starting to get spoiled.  In the last few years we’ve seen the release, on lovely new CD sets, of the complete versions of James Horner’s amazing scores for Star Trek II and Star Trek III (click here for my review), as well as Michael Giacchino’s complete score for J.J. Abram’s Star Trek (click here for my review).  Then, a few months ago, Jerry Goldsmith’s complete score for Star Trek V was released on a double-CD set.

Jerry Goldsmith was one of the finest film composers who ever lived.  He composed the scores for a veritable boatload of famous, successful films, including Planet of the Apes, Chinatown, Alien, Poltergeist, Gremlins, Hoosiers, and so many more.  Star Trek V marked Mr. Goldsmith’s return to the world of Star Trek — he had composed the score for Star Trek: The Motion Picture — and Mr. Goldsmith would go on to score three of the four Next Gen movies (Dennis McCarthy scored Star Trek: Generations).

Say what you will about the quality of Star Trek V (and I’ll say that I think it pretty much stinks), Mr. Goldsmith composed a terrific score.  It’s rousing and heroic and a great return to classic Star Trek adventuring.  “Return” is an interesting word, as Mr. Goldsmith’s work for Star Trek V would mark something of a turning point for Star Trek, musically.  Mr. Goldsmith composed a number of iconic themes for Star Trek: The Motion Picture, including the main title theme (which was then used as the main theme for the opening credits of Star Trek: The Next Generation) and his theme for the Klingons.  But James Horner’s scores for Trek II and III didn’t utilize any of Mr. Goldsmith’s material.  Instead, Mr. Horner composed his own themes for Kirk and the Enterprise, and he also wrote his own themes for the Klingons when they appeared in Star Trek III. But now in Star Trek V, Mr. Horner returned to his music from The Motion Picture, and (with the exception of Cliff Eidelman’s wonderfully dark, ominous music for Star Trek VI) those themes would come to define Star Trek musically for many years to come.  Whenever you heard a Klingon musical theme playing over an appearance by the bumpy-headed warriors in a future Trek TV show or movie, they never used James Horner’s theme — they’d always use Mr. Goldsmith’s.

Now, personally, I prefer James Horner’s scores for Star Trek II and III over Mr. Goldsmith’s work in Star Trek V.  I’m not a musician, but as a fan I have always found Mr. … [continued]

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Josh Enjoys Danny Elfman’s Newly-Released Complete Soundtrack to Batman (1989)!

Last month, La-La Land Records released a limited edition 2-CD set containing the complete score to Tim Burton’s Batman (1989), composed by Danny Elfman.

As I’ve written before here on the site, I’m a bit of a nut for movie soundtracks, and I love it when we’re blessed by the release of a great score in its complete, unedited form.  And Danny Elfman’s score for Batman is a real winner.

As I recall, Mr. Elfman’s score was widely praised, and with great justification, when Batman was first released back in 1989.  Mr. Elfman’s spooky, mysterious score and sweeping, iconic themes were as much a part of the film’s over-all success as was Tim Burton’s direction and Anton Furst’s marvelously creepy, decayed production design.  It’s great fun getting to listen to the complete score, start-to-finish, on this new CD.

Modern super-hero movie scores could learn a thing or two from Mr. Elfman’s work on Batman.  Recent successful super-hero films — from the latest incarnations of Batman (Batman Begins & The Dark Knight) to Marvel’s recent successes (Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, etc.) — have had passable scores, but none of those films has had a really great, hummable theme for their central character.  I think that’s an unconscionable failing for a super-hero movie.  Contrast that with John Williams’ iconic Superman theme, as well as with Mr. Elfman’s magnificent Batman theme created for this film, and I think my point is clear.

Mr. Elfman wastes no time introducing his Batman theme to the audience, as it plays over the film’s opening credits (and the slow build-up to the reveal of the bat-emblem) in what is presented on CD as track 1, “Main Title.”  As Jeff Bond notes in the wonderful liner notes included with the CD set: As the camera prowls the stone environment, Elfman develops a propulsive march from his Batman theme, driven by snares and trumpets punding out a rapid 7/8 rhythm before giving way to a more drifting, supernatural treatment for strings and pipe organ. This Batman theme is instantly memorable, and it is one of Mr. Elfman’s greatest achievements with this score.

Another stand-out from the score is track 5, “Shootout,” a lengthy arrangement that plays over Jack Napier’s confrontation with Batman and the police in Axis Chemicals.  Mr. Elfman uses the repetition of what Mr. Bond describes as a churning, low rhythmic figure from double basses to drive the action and build the suspense of the sequence, all the while wonderfully weaving the Batman theme in and out of the action.

Track 18, “Descent into Mystery,” is probably my favorite piece of the score.  As Batman drives Vicki Vale back to the … [continued]

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Josh Gives a Listen to Michael Giacchino’s Complete Score to Star Trek (2009)!

Not long after the release of James Horner’s complete score for Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (which I reviewed here), Varese Sarabande released Michael Giacchino’s complete score for J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek (2009).

I have been a big fan of Michael Giacchino for years now.  I love his TV work (for Lost, Alias, etc.), and I think his score for The Incredibles is one of the most perfect film scores ever crafted.  So I was very excited by the news, back in 2009, that he’d be scoring J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek relaunch. I have mixed feelings about the finished film, and I can’t say that I was totally in love with the score either.  Still, when news of this CD release reached me, I was excited by the prospect of experiencing Mr. Giacchino’s score on its own.

Sadly, as I listened to this double-CD set, I felt as luke-warm about the score as I had when first experiencing it with the finished film.  Mr. Giacchino is a terrific composer, there is no doubt, and he’s certainly created a fast-paced, energetic score.  But it all feels a little bland to me.  There aren’t a lot of distinct, dramatic themes for the viewer/listener to hold on to (as there were, for example, in James Horner’s phenomenal scores for Star Trek II and Star Trek III).

Mr. Giacchino did create a dynamic new main Star Trek/Kirk theme.  This music (which plays over the opening titles, and which builds to strong crescendos as the film progresses and young James Kirk begins to become the man he is destined to be) is pretty great – it’s eminently memorable, and provides a strong back-bone for much of the film’s action sequences.  Mr. Giacchino also created a lovely, quiet new Spock/Vulcan theme.  It’s hard to out-do Mr. Horner’s iconic Spock/Vulcan music, but I quite enjoyed Mr. Giacchino’s take on this material.

Other than those two themes, though, I found most of the rest of the score to be – while pleasant to listen to – rather generic.  I was particularly disappointed by the lack of the famous Alexander Courage Star Trek theme from the score.  Mr. Giacchino makes us wait all the way to the end credits until we get to hear any of those familiar themes.  True, when that moment comes, we get a wonderfully rocking re-orchestration of the full classic Star Trek TV theme (presented on this CD set on disc two, tracks 15 “To Boldly Go” and 16 “End Credits”).  But there were so many moments during the film – such as Kirk and McCoy’s first glimpse of the U.S.S. Enterprise, and Kirk’s first … [continued]

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Josh Relishes the New Release of James Horner’s Complete Score to Star Trek III: The Search For Spock!

The fine folks at Retrograde and Film Score have followed up last year’s release of James Horner’s complete score to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan with Mr. Horner’s complete score to Star Trek III: The Search For Spock.  Since I am a) an enormous Star Trek fan, and b) very into film scores, I immediately snapped up this two-CD set when it came out at the beginning of the summer.


I think James Horner’s scores for Treks II and III stand as two of the finest film scores ever made, and this new complete presentation is phenomenal.  Just as Star Trek III continues the story begun in II, so too does Mr. Horner’s score reprise many of the key musical themes that he originated in Trek II.  Most notably, the rousing Enterprise theme, as well as the somber Spock theme, form a key back-bone to the Star Trek III score. 


There are a lot of new musical motifs created for the Star Trek III score as well, the most significant being the percussion-based music for the Klingons.  I love Horner’s Klingons theme and wish that it had been used more in future Trek films and TV shows.  (The Trek productions that came after favored, instead, Jerry Goldsmith’s Klingons theme which originated in Star Trek: The Motion Picture.  That’s a terrific musical theme as well, but I do have a soft spot for Horner’s Trek III Klingons music.)


Mr. Horner’s score for Star Trek III is filled with iconic musical moments that have always thrilled me when I watch the film.  These are moments when the music is so wonderfully distinct and evocative that, when listening to the score, I can clearly see the images from the film in my mind.  These moments powerfully demonstrate the critical role that effective film scoring can play in creating an iconic scene or image in a movie.


My favorite moments from the score include the bit at the end of track one, “Prologue and Main Title,” in which the opening credits end and Kirk’s Captain’s Log entry begins.  Horner’s melancholy cue (played on celli, according to the liner notes), perfectly establishes the somber, dark place in which we find our characters at the start of this film.  Speaking of melancholy, I also adore the moment found half-way through track two, “Klingons,” when the film cuts away from our introduction to Kruge and we see the Enterprise’s approach to spacedock.  There’s a powerful moment in the sequence, in which we see Janice Rand (in a cameo appearance) shake her head sadly as she looks out from the spacedock windows to see the terribly damaged Enterprise.  Mr. Horner’s music for … [continued]

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Josh Enjoys Two Sweet New Classic Soundtrack Releases: Back to the Future & The Goonies!

April 16th, 2010

I am a bit of a nut for movie soundtracks.

I don’t purchase a lot of CDs — but I do own quite a number of great movie soundtracks.  Not every movie soundtrack can stand on its own — but the ones that do are pure gold.  James Horner’s score for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan; John William’s Star Wars scores, Howard Shore’s scores for The Lord of the Rings — these are epic creations that I can listen to over and over and over again.

Recently, two phenomenal scores from the ’80s were finally released in their complete form on CD: Alan Silvestri’s score for Back to the Future, and Dave Grusin’s score for The Goonies.  Both are absolutely PHENOMENAL.

Intrada released the Back to the Future score on two discs, with disc one being the complete score as heard in the finished film, and disc two being an alternate, early version of the score.  The wonderfully detailed liner notes (written by Mike Matessino) detail the process by which, after Mr. Silvestri recorded his score for the film in May, 1985, it was decided (in consultation with director Robert Zemeckis and Executive Producer Steven Spielberg) that Mr. Silvestri would re-work and completely re-record the score.  This is extremely unusual.  As Engineer Dennis Sands recalls: “Steven Spielberg loved the theme so much that he felt more of it was needed in the score.  So Alan augmented a number of the cues and we recorded them on a second set of dates.”  As usual, Mr. Spielberg’s instincts were right on the money.  Alan Silvestri’s Back to the Future theme is incredibly iconic, and the filmmakers absolutely made the right decision to feature it more prominently in the finished score.

I enjoyed listening to the original version of the score on disc two, though I wouldn’t have objected to paying a little less for a version of this release without that second disc.  Many of the alternate cues are pretty similar to the finished versions found on disc 1 — and where they’re different, they’re mostly inferior.  It was fun to listen through once, but I doubt I’ll spend too much time listening to that second disc in the future.

But Mr. Silvestri’s final score, on disc 1, is absolutely magnificent.  No surprise, the stand-out piece of music is track 19: “Clocktower.”  This ten-minute-long track is a tour-de-force of action movie music, in which most of the major character themes from the score are interwoven to create a powerful, suspenseful sequence.  It works wonderfully with the edited film, and is also quite effective when listened to on its own.  This track has gotten a lot … [continued]

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News Around the Net!

Let’s begin the day by my pointing your attention to two great pieces recently from The Onion A.V. Club: this article about 25 great albums that work best when listened to from start to finish, and a spirited defense of the recent seasons of The Simpsons that lists 10 episodes from the past 5 seasons that stand among the series’ best.

If you haven’t seen it yet, click here to watch the new trailer for Sacha Baron Cohen’s new movie Bruno.  For a little more detail on some of the sequences that you get glimpses of in the trailer, click here for a terrific write-up of the 25 minutes of footage that screened a few weeks ago at SXSW, the theatre-owners convention.  How is he able to still fool people with this stuff after all the publicity that surrounded Borat?

I am not a big fan of Broadway musicals.  That is putting it mildly.  So I’m not exactly doing cartwheels at the news that there is a Spider-Man musical in the works.  And I was completely befuddled to read that they’re working on a musical based on Groundhog Day!  What a bizarre notion.

By the way, speaking of Spider-Man, has director Sam Raimi admitted what was immediately apparent to discerning movie-goers about an hour into the film — that Spider-Man 3 was just terrible?  Well, sort-of.  Click here to read his interesting comments.  Since a Spider-Man 4 seems inevitable, this gives me a smidgen of hope that perhaps we will see a return to the high quality of the first two Spidey films.  What could possibly go wrong, right?

Harlan Ellison is a brilliant Sci-Fi author.  He’s also responsible for one of the finest hours of Star Trek ever committed to film: the Original Series episode “The City on the Edge of Forever.”  He is now suing Paramount and the WGA.  You have got to read his hilarious press release all the way to the end.

So there’s going to be a James Bond museum?  And I thought Christmas only came once a year.

Finally, did you know that some people are getting all bent out of shape about a Chuck Jones Looney Tunes print that parodies Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper?  Well, they are.  In these troubled times, aren’t there more important things that we should be worrying about?  Like the enormous size of the nacelles on the U.S.S. Enterprise in J.J. Abrams’ new Star Trek movie??… [continued]

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The Sounds of Gotham City — Music from Batman: The Animated Series!

In 1992, the groundbreaking Batman: The Animated Series premiered on Fox.  To this day, despite some mighty competition from the last two live-action Batman movies (especially the magnificent The Dark Knight), this show still stands as my favorite non-comic book depiction of Batman, the one that is most true to the character I have always pictured in my head.  Gorgeous animation combined with terrific stories that played Batman serious and scary made the show a knock-out right from the beginning (and ensured that the episodes would be as strong upon repeated viewings over 15 years later as they were when the show first launched).

But when considering all of the elements that made Batman: The Animated Series such a terrific success, we would be remiss in neglecting to mention the magnificent music.  In support of this point, La-La Land Records has recently released a phenomenal two-CD collection of the soundtrack from the show.  Unlike most cartoons of the time, which relied on a lot of recycled music, each episode of Batman: TAS had its own original score, performed by an orchestra.  The music was masterminded by Shirley Walker, ably assisted by a team that included Lolita Ritmanis and Michael McCuiston (all three of whom have a lot of work represented on this new CD collection).  Like the very best film score, the music from Batman: TAS was a critical element in creating the over-all tone of the piece, and it is strong enough to be tremendously enjoyable when listened to on its own.

The CD begins with a presentation of the Batman: TAS main title theme, which was composed by Danny Elfman (creating an interesting and catchy variation on his theme from Tim Burton’s Batman).  We are then presented with music from eleven notable episodes from the series’ early run.  

I am not a musician, so writing about music doesn’t come easily for me, but let me try to share how much I enjoyed listening to these CDs.  What is incredible is the way each episode has its own unique themes, composed to reflect the action and the characters (heroic and villainous) featured in that particular show.

Right away a stand-out is the work on the series’ first episode, “On Leather Wings,” in which Batman is blamed for crimes committed by a mysterious and monstrous Man-Bat creature.  The Batman: The Animated Series theme is wondrously woven in to the adventurous, exciting score that the conveys the energy and action of Batman’s vertiginous mid-air battle with the Man-Bat while establishing the series’ dark, brooding tone.

Other stand-outs for me include the creepy, almost child-like theme for Harvey Dent, tracking his descent into madness as he becomes the creature … [continued]