Tarantino Movie Discussion (Featuring Film and TV 101)

Hey there!

Quentin Tarantino is one of the most recognizable filmmakers of this era.  Is brand of violence, comedy, and unique story telling structure is very recognizable, even to someone who is only vaguely familiar with his works.  For me, I enjoy his films but I’m not crazy about them like other people are. One such Tarantino fanatic is Kira, over at Film and TV 101.  After learning about her Tarantino obsession, I decided to pick her brain and find out what makes him such an appealing director and writer. Kira reviews many television and film genres on her site. She also just expanded her social media presence. She has a lot going on. Be sure to go check her site out so you don’t miss any of it! Now, let’s hear what she has to say.


Quentin Tarantino

Me: Since you are the bigger Tarantino fan of the two of us, why don’t you start us off?

Kira: Which films by Quentin Tarantino have you seen?

Reservoir Dogs movie posterMe: So far I have seen Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill 1 & 2, Inglorious Bastards, Django Unchained, and his segments in Four Rooms and Sin City (if those count). How about you? Which ones have you seen?

Kira: They most certainly do count! Myself, I have seen Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, Kill Bill 1&2, Inglorious Bastards, Django Unchained and The Hateful Eight. I’ve also seen Natural Born Killers, True Romance, From Dusk Til Dawn and his segment in Sin City.

Which of those films did you prefer and why?

Pulp Fiction movie posterMe: Nice. So pretty much everything except for Deathproof. Have you heard of Four Rooms? Not many people seem to know about it.

My favorites are the Kill Bill films.  The Bride is such a great character and Uma Thurman plays her perfectly. And despite the blood and violence on screen, the soundtrack is rock and moving and weirdly upbeat. It shouldn’t work but it does and does beautifully. How about you? What’s your favorite film of Tarantino’s?

Kira: Oh my goodness, how could I forget Deathproof? Yeah, I have seen that one as well. I have indeed heard of Four Rooms, it’s just not one I have managed to find to watch yet.

The Kill Bill films are wonderful examples of how Tarantino is not afraid to make people badass. Where some directors may have shied away from having actresses in such brutal roles, Tarantino relishes it, and it makes a good contrast to his more masculine films such as Reservoir Dogs and Django Unchained.

My favourite of all of his films has to be Reservoir Dogs. It is such an achievement in film making in my opinion, and shows that a solid script can work wonders. It has so many iconic scenes, another killer soundtrack and all the trademarks of Tarantino film.

Jackie Brown movie posterBesides The Bride, what other characters of QT’s stick in you mind?

Me: For sure. He has shown that he can write any kind of character, regardless of gender, and make them awesome.

Jules from Pulp Fiction is another character I like a lot (it probably helps that Pulp Fiction is my second favorite film of his). His arc is one of the most dynamic and interesting of all of Tarantino’s characters. And he is another character perfectly cast, played by Samuel L. Jackson. There is literally no one else who could play the character like Jackson did!

What sold you on Tarantino and his films? Was there a scene, character or moment that really struck you?

Kira: Can’t knock your choice of Jules – him and Jackson are icons of Tarantino film.

I think it was probably Django Unchained that first caught my attention with his films. I already felt pretty special being allowed to watch it as I was nowhere near old enough and my mum used to be pretty strict about these things. But when it came to the scene where the Bagheads set out on a failed lynching… My word, that’s when he had me. That has quite possibly got to be one of the funniest scenes that has ever been caught on camera for me.

Kill Bill Vol. 1 movie posterIt was after watching that film that I secretly watched Reservoir Dogs online and absolutely loved it. I supposed you could say he had my curiosity with Django, but now he had my attention after Reservoir Dogs. Hmmm… I’m pretty sure there was a Tarantino character with a line similar to that.

What scene sticks in your mind?

Me: Haha What a film for your first Tarantino experience.  I don’t remember that scene very much so I will have to go back and check it out!

There are so many scenes that come to mind whenever I think of Tarantino: When Vincent and Jules go to the apartment for the hit, Jules’ scene at the diner, the opening scene of Inglorious Bastards when Hans is interviewing the man in his home, “Stuck in the Middle with You” from Reservoir Dogs. But my favorite scenes are when the Bride is fighting O-Ren Ishii and the Crazy 88. That entire portion of the film is absolute madness, fun and utter madness. It completely encapsulates what that film is all about.  Not to mention it has some great choreography.

Are there any of his films that you don’t like?

Death Proof movie posterKira: I can only imagine how much fun it would’ve been to film those scenes in Kill Bill and what the set would have been like on those days.

As for films I don’t like, I wasn’t the greatest fan of Natural Born Killers, the Oliver Stone film that was written by Tarantino. It just didn’t do it for me – I thought it was a strange film from beginning to end if I’m honest. However, the film I was most disappointed by was The Hateful Eight this year. I had such big hopes for that film and it turned into three hours of my life that I will never get back. It was missing all the trademarks of a Tarantino film that I look forward to seeing when I watch his films. After the things I had heard, and the fact that it was going to be another western after the success of Django, I was expecting the world from him. Words don’t even really begin to describe the way I feel about that film.

How about you? Are there any films of his you particularly could live without?

Me: Oh, man, being on the set of Kill Bill would have been so much fun! I wouldn’t have mind hanging around Lucy Liu for a little while. 😉

Three hours is a lot to sit through if you aren’t feeling engaged. Some movies can pull it off and it doesn’t even feel like it is taking that long. But when you start clicking your heels waiting for the film to be over, it really ruins the experience.

You’re going to be upset at me for saying this but my least favorite Tarantino film I have seen so far is Reservoir Dogs. I just couldn’t get into the story. It was fun and entertaining but I didn’t feel like I was given a reason why I should care that someone in this group of thieves betrayed them. I know the script worked for most people, such as yourself, but it didn’t do it for me.

If someone came to you and said they wanted to get into the Tarantino film universe, where would you start them? Where would you have them go from there?

Inglorious Bastards movie posterKira: I know what you mean about the three hour run time. I lost count of how many times I must have looked at my watch in that time.

And I shouldn’t worry about Reservoir Dogs, I showed it to my parents and they were somewhat underwhelmed it.

If I was to introduce someone to the Tarantino film universe, the film I would show them would very much depend on the person, although the film that just about everyone wants to see is Pulp Fiction, so that’d be a good place to start. If they liked it, I’d point them in the direction of Kill Bill or Reservoir Dogs as the snappy dialogue and stylised violence are shared well between the two films.

What film would use to introduce people to Tarantino films? Or what film would you want to watch to reacquaint yourself with his films after not seeing any for a while?

Django Unchained movie posterMe: Well, having only seen a handful of them, I would probably say the same thing. Pulp Fiction has everything that Tarantino films are known for, good dialogue, great characters, lots of cursing, violence. And it is the most well known. Then move onto Reservoir Dogs for a better script example and the Kill Bills for a badass female character and violence. Plus, Pulp Fiction has several ties to both of those films in the Tarantino-verse so it would be fun to see if they would pick up on those.

I probably would like to go back and watch either Reservoir Dogs or Django Unchained since I haven’t watched them in a while and I wasn’t as impressed with them as others were. So maybe it is time to give them another chance.

To wrap up, how would you rank his films?

Kira: It would be fun to see if people could spot the nods to the other films in Pulp Fiction!

1. Reservoir Dogs
2. Django Unchained
3. Kill Bill (both)
4. Pulp Fiction
5. Jackie Brown
6. Inglorious Bastards
7. Deathproof
.
.
.
.
.
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8. The Hateful Eight

What would your ranking of the films you have watched look like?

The Hateful Eight movie posterMe: My list would be:

1. Kill Bill
2. Pulp Fiction
3. Inglorious Bastards
4. Reservoir Dogs
5. Django Unchained

Thank you so much for having this discussion with me, Kira! I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

Kira: Thank you very much for having me! It’s been wonderful – hopefully we can do it again sometime in the future 🙂

Quentin Tarantino


And there you have it! Those are some of Kira and my thoughts on Tarantino and his films.  How about you? Do you like his films? What do you or don’t you like about them? Which are your favorites?

Thanks again to Kira for taking the time to talk with me.

Until next time, cheers!

Marvel Cinematic Universe Discussion (Featuring MovieRob)

Hey there, dear readers!

Happy Memorial Day to those of you in the US! And to the rest of you, Happy Monday!  As I’m sure many of you may know, I am a huge fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).  Marvel has accomplished nothing short of a miracle bringing so many of their properties to the big screen, intertwining them together to form one large, interconnected tapestry of stories.  Captain America: Civil War was the kick-off for what is know as Phase Three (Phase One was Iron Man to The Avengers and Phase Two was from Iron Man 3 to Ant-Man).  To celebrate this awesome milestone, my fellow movie blogger, Rob from MovieRob, and I had a discussion about our love of comic books and comic book movies.  Rob is a reviewing powerhouse, at the time of this post having reviewed 2250 movies on his site. And that number is only growing! If you don’t already follow him, go check out this reviewing madman’s site.  Now, let’s get to it!

Me:

I know that you read comic books when you were younger (or do you still?). How excited were you when you found out Marvel was trying to create an expansive shared universe with their heroes?

Rob:

Yes, I was a huge comic book fan as a kid. I remember when I was about 7 or 8, we had a HUGE box of comics in the basement that I would spend my spare time going through.  It had all kinds of titles there and I would read and reread them over and over.  Two of my favorites (that I can recall) were The Empire Strikes Back comic book adaptation and a Spider-Man vs. Hulk deluxe comic.

Spider-Man vs. Hulk

As a teen, I once again got very much into comics but usually only read war or army titles like Sgt. Rock and GI Joe.

When I saw the Armageddon 2001 series that came out in 1991, I got hooked on DC superhero comics.  Because it was a DC crossover series featured in all of the annuals of that year, I got a great taste of all of the different DC titles.

This actually started my love for the DC universe of superheroes and my perchance for reading Marvel titles here and there was abated.

For the next few years, I became obsessed with DC comics and amassed over a thousand titles.  When I moved out of the states, it made it more difficult to keep up and I eventually just stopped collecting. When my folks sold their house a few years later, they sold my comics to a local shop (with my permission of course).  I kept some of my favorites though.

I somewhat regret that decision to sell the remainder, but looking back, I still know it was the right decision.

When I got divorced in 2006, my ex threw away my comics and told me that she couldn’t find them, so I now have no comic books to my name.

For some reason, after all these years, I still have that preference in my mind between DC and Marvel even 25 years later.

When they announced the MCU movies, I was happy, but since we just had The Dark Knight come out, I thought that no matter how good the MCU will be, it’ll never be able to be better than what Christopher Nolan brought us with his TDK series.

I still dreamed that one day, they would make a Justice League series featuring all of my favorite heroes from the DC universe, but knew it would be too difficult to get such an array of stars to join in.

As I read more and more about how they were planning to do the MCU, I realized that they were essentially trying to do for Marvel what I had always hoped would be done for DC.

It’s been slow going since then because it obviously takes much more time to build a movie universe than a comic book one.  Since they only can make 1 or 2 movies a year (maximum 3), it has taken nearly 9 years to get to where they are at, but it’s been a great ride so far.

The fact that they could make origin movies for the top superheroes (Iron Man, Hulk, Thor and Captain America) and then bring them all together in an Avengers movie within just a few years really adds to the impact of each of those characters.  The MCU keeps expanding yearly and I for one can’t wait to see where it’s all going especially since they keep adding more solo movies to the fray which will make things even better as we keep going forward!

What about you? What is your comic background?

Me:

The Amazing Spider-Man #539

I started getting into the comic book superheroes in the 90s.  My Saturday mornings and time after school were usually spent watching the animated Spider-Man, X-Men, and Batman series, as well as Justice League in the late 90s / early 2000s. So I’ve always been exposed to the characters but I really didn’t start reading comics until about ten years ago.  When I was in high school, the collectable card game Yu-Gi-Oh was in its heyday and I would participate in weekend Yu-Gi-Oh tournaments at a comic shop not too far from my house.  Later in high school, I was doing some fundraising for an out-of-country trip with some classmates and went into the comic shop to see if they would donate some money for an event we were hosting.  While I was in the comic shop, the cover of Amazing Spider-Man #539 caught my eye.  This was around the time of Spider-Man 3 *shudders* so of course Marvel put Peter back into his black suit for a short time.  This particular issue had a this awesome, full body picture of Spider-Man in his black suit as the cover. Now, the black suit is my favorite Spider-Man outfit, so I picked it up and enjoyed it and started reading the Amazing Spider-Man series.  A few months later, Uncanny X-Men hit their 500th issue so I picked that up and began reading Uncanny X-men. Then the rest, as they say, is history.

My preference has always been more towards Marvel than DC.  The characters are more relatable, or at least as relatable as one with superpowers can be.  They feel like they deal with more everyday people problems than DC.  DC heroes are more larger than life, which I know is some of the appeal to some people, just not to me.  However, I still enjoy both and I keep up with the DC characters, whether that is television series, movies, or even catching up on comic story arcs using Wikipedia.

When the MCU started with Iron Man in 2008, I had no idea it was going to be as expansive as it was.  At that time, staying until the end of the credits for an extra scene wasn’t really a thing yet but luckily my buddy and I did.  When Nick Fury shows up and says “I’m here to talk to you about the Avengers Initiative,” I got SUPER excited.  Here I was thinking that this was going to be an isolated franchise, like Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man films or the X-men movies.  But no. Marvel was actually going to bring together the Avengers on screen.  I was ecstatic to say the least.

What would you say are the MCU’s strengths?

Rob:

That’s actually quite funny. You gave away my answer in your final thought on the differences between Marvel and DC.

I think more people can relate to Marvel characters BECAUSE of the fact that they are flawed humans with super abilities as opposed to the Larger than life super heroes of DC.

Most of the Marvel heroes are men and women who got their powers through some kind of freak accident, but still retain their human emotions and problems.

The members of The Avengers are just that…

Examples:

Captain America was a skinny patriot who was given a super soldier serum
Hulk was a researcher who got zapped by gamma Ray
Spider-Man was a teen bitten by a radioactive spider
Iron man was a weapons manufacturer who created a suit to keep himself alive after a freak accident

The fact that each of the main Avengers got their own origin movie plus a few follow ups, gives us a much clearer picture as to who they all are and we get to also see their human emotion in almost everything that they have done.

I think that really is the strength here; the emotional character development of the characters.

This development made it much easier for us to understand the individual character decisions in the recent Civil War film.

Because we are more emotionally connected to the characters, we want to see how they work together as a team and also on individual levels.

The fact that they have also included other characters that aren’t directly related to the Avengers (i.e. GOTG) is also great because they really are trying to create a whole new universe for us to embrace.

What has endeared you to the MCU?

Me:

Haha Sorry about that. I couldn’t help myself. 😛

That’s exactly what it is. I remember in collage a friend of mine sent me an article about why the article’s author preferred the DC heroes over the Marvel heroes and every point they listed on why they preferred DC were all the reasons why I prefer the Marvel heroes (I can’t remember many of them besides them being larger-than-life I mentioned before).  In the right hands, any hero can be a part of good story. However, fundamentally, Marvel heroes are better characters, mostly falling back to all the points you just listed.

I tried not to make any comparisons to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice in my review of Captain America: Civil War, but they are too similar not to.  I think the character developments you mentioned are the reason Civil War was so much better than Dawn of Justice.  There was no character build-up prior, or even during, Dawn of Justice.  The headlining fight between Batman and Superman had no emotional weight behind it so as the audience, we didn’t much care about what the fight meant.  On the other hand, we spent so much time with the characters on both sides of the “war” over the last eight years that we were invested in the conflict between these heroes and friends.  That’s not to say that Batman and Superman each needed years of build-up before finally clashing. Dawn of Justice just needed to be trimmed and more focused instead of trying to cram in so many plot lines for future movies. I feel like I’m getting off track so I’m going to end that rant there.

Guardians of the Galaxy movie poster
Ant-Man movie poster

What I have enjoyed most about the MCU is how lighthearted it is.  It can still be serious but it never becomes so dark that a few quick one-liners can’t draw out a laugh.  I think much of that is a unique combination of the writers and excellent casting.  Actors like Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Pratt and Paul Rudd are great comedic actors to begin with and might not seem like superhero movie material but Marvel somehow made it work brilliantly.  Even in movies with a serious atmosphere, like The Winter Soldier or Civil War, there is still plenty of humor to prevent it from becoming too serious.  Marvel perfected this balance in The Avengers and they have been very successful in replicating the mix of action and humor ever since.

What do you think are the MCU’s weaknesses? What can Marvel improve and do better?

Rob:

Great point about the lightheartedness.

The comics of DC are more humorous, but the movies take things a bit too seriously.

I’m a huge fan of Pratt and Rudd and definitely would never have thought of casting them beforehand, but now they feel like the perfect choices.

Well, even though the MCU films are all quite good, there definitely are some weaknesses.

The fact that we have been introduced to so many new characters movie after movie, it feels that when they do get together for an ensemble movie, most of them still get lost in the crowd and are relegated to what would seem like just cameo duty.

Take Civil War for instance.Captain America: Civil War trailer

It’s supposed to be a Captain America film, but due to the bigger storyline, they need to include lots of Avengers, new and old and then we lose focus on most of them because in just two and a half hours, they need to establish a capable story (which they do), but also highlight over ten different superheroes.

I believe that this is part of the reason that Thor and Hulk are absent here; too many characters that they needed to send them off on other quests in order to not have two more main characters with little to do but fight each other.

This is the main reason it’s so hard to do this as a movie series as opposed to a TV show or comic book. In a TV show you have 22-24 episodes a year in order to lay out your plan of attack, develop the players and then execute the final confrontation. If each episode is roughly 45 minutes, that gives them between 17 and 18 hours to tell a full story arc a year instead of just 2.5 hours (maximum).

I haven’t yet seen Dawn of Justice, but from what I’ve heard, they try to cram too much into such a short span of time that things get entirely lost. Civil War as a similar runtime, but they have already used so many films to build things up that it doesn’t feel as wasted.

With a comic book, there is even more flexibility to create a greater story arc because there are titles that have 50 comics a year and something like this would allow for crossovers with the added bonus of not having to pay actors high salaries to appear for 5 minutes of screen time.

Another problem with the MCU is that the general arc feels focused, but until Infinity Wars, we won’t know the full extent of it all and that is frustrating that one must wait over 10 years; Frodo and Sam did it in 3.

What do u think the weaknesses of the MCU are?

Me:

I am disappointed that WB is keeping the DC TV shows and movies as separate universes. I have always said for the last couple years that they should be shared. The TV shows could be use to build the characters, then the films used for crossovers and their big names, like Superman or Batman. That would help with the problem of needing to fit the characters’ development into 2+ hours. Plus that would make it feel very comic book-y, where each episode is an issue and each film is a crossover event. At least for DC.

For me, I’m really looking for Infinity War’s payoff. The big picture has been teased for so long now I can’t wait to see what all of it has been building towards. The only thing I am worried about for beyond Phase Three, though, is how do you top a galactic conflict like the Infinity Gauntlet storyline? I feel like the scale of anything after Infinity War is going to feel so small compared to it. There is a long way to go until we get there so I’m not losing too much sleep over it… yet.

I liked the way Captain America: Civil War balances all the characters. The two core aspects of the film are Steve and Bucky’s relationship and the conflict between Steve and Tony. In both of those, Steve is a part of it, making it the Captain America movie it should be. Excluding Black Panther and Spider-Man, we have already spent time with the other characters so there wasn’t a need to see a lot of screen time from them for development since that happened in their own movies. As for Black Panther, he received the development we needed to see why he would enter the conflict and gave us just enough of him to be excited for his upcoming film. Spider-Man was the only one that remotely felt shoe-horned into the movie.

LokiThe biggest weakness I see with the MCU after Phases One and Two is that there is only one significant villain: Loki. Not all movies need deep, Magneto- or Loki-style villains. For example, Guardians of the Galaxy was just fine with a very flat villain. His sole purpose in the film was to bring the team together and he accomplished that. I have heard many people talk about the lack of good villains in the MCU films for a while but it didn’t really bother me until Ant-Man. Darren Cross was in the perfect position to be an evil mirror to Scott Lang. He and Scott could have been two sides of the same coin. With Cross’ history with Pym, he could have been this deep(ish) villain, showing what could happen to Lang if he is not careful and building on Pym’s character with his past mistakes. Instead, Cross was evil for evil’s sake and that bothered me for the first time since the MCU started in 2008. If we can get more villains to stick around going through Phase Three and be developed more, that would make me so happy.

What do you hope to see out of Phase Three?

Rob:

Your DC crossover idea is great. It’s not easy to do a movie/TV crossover but that could actually work well and serve the greater good… too bad it probably won’t happen.

I also agree that after Infinity War, it might be hard to go grander, but I guess we need to hope (and pray) that they know what they are doing and that Phase 3 won’t kill the whole thing.

I liked the intros that Spidey and BP got in Civil War, but we’ll have to wait and see how they are developed further in the future.

I think the lack of great villains is on purpose because they are all supposed to just be pawns in a huge game of chess. Thanos is basically the supervillain playing the puppeteer in order to get what he wants, the Infinity Gauntlet, so the lack of great villains doesn’t bother me as much.

Thanos

I think the DC universe has better “minor” villains than Marvel and I would love to eventually see some of them in future DC movies; Monarch, Eclipso, or even Hal Jordan’s transformation into Parallex.

Regarding Phase 3, I can’t say I have much expectations either way. I’ve liked the path that they have taken so far, and I think we need to rely on the fact that they know where they are going with all of this and that they will continue to entertain us along the way.

My biggest concern tho is that since the MCU movies have so far been spread out over a decade and the end is still not in sight (thankfully), I wonder how they plan to keep the same actors for so many years (both contractually and physically). Yes, The Hulk has so far been played by 3 different actors, but that’s one character, to start changing them all might be more problematic. The comics have been around for decades, but drawings don’t age, actors do…

What do u think would be the best way to continue the continuity of the actors and characters over another decade of movies?

Me:

That is a good point about Thanos being the puppeteer. But that doesn’t mean all the other villains need to be flat. It’s not like Thanos is directly manipulating them like he was Ronin in GotG.

The easiest thing for Marvel to do to continue for a decade or more of movies is to cast younger actors, like they have done with Tom Holland. However, the most practical thing for them to do is when the actors become unable to play the parts, pass the mantle along to another character, and therefore another actor. Mantles are being passed on all the time in comics so it wouldn’t feel out of place if it happened in the film. Recasting actors that we have become so ingrained to us as these characters would not feel right. Plus it would take away from this thing they are doing where the MCU timeline occurs in real-time if they bring in a younger actor for the same role.

To wrap up, what are your top five MCU films so far?

Rob:

I know that DC hands off mantle’s but I’m not familiar enough with Marvel to know who has done that. But that does seem to be more prudent than just recasting the characters with younger actors.

Here’s my Top 5

1. Guardians of the Galaxy – This is actually the only MCU movie I regret not seeing in the theater (I’ve actually seen none of them in the theater). I loved the characters and the way that they created a whole new populated and “lived in”. Can’t wait for the sequel…which I plan to see in the theater!

2. Captain America: Winter Soldier – Cap has always been my favorite Avenger due to his honesty, bravery and patriotism. This film showcased it all when he had to battle Hydra lingering within SHIELD.

3. Captain America: Civil War – Great addition to the MCU because it gives the characters a moral dilemma that they must decide which of two sides to join where neither is really the wrong choice.

4. Captain America: First Avenger – Being a HUGE fan of Cap, I loved his origin story that was told so well for us to understand what he went thru back in the 1940’s and then his arrival in the 21st Century.

5. Avengers: Age of Ultron – This was the movie that ignited the whole Civil War storyline and they helped introduce is to some great characters who would have a larger impact on the MCU moving forward.

How does ur Top 5 pan out?

Me:

That’s a lot of Captain America! My top five are:

1. The Avengers – The big payoff after four years of set up, bringing all the characters from Phase One together. It had humor, action, and drama all together and well balanced and was simply a ton of fun.

2. Guardians of the Galaxy – This is probably the funniest of the MCU films. It showed that Marvel can do great with even their lesser known properties. GotG is how you do an ensemble origin story.

3. Iron Man – The one that started it all. Robert Downey, Jr. was spot-on casting. Like GotG, this is the perfect superhero origin story.

4. Captain America: Civil War – The Civil War comic is one of my favorite events from Marvel. Marvel adapted it very well, keeping the elements that made the story great even with the smaller scale. Not to mention the airport fight scene is one of my new favorite action pieces.

5. Ant-Man – By the end of Phase Two, the MCU films became very intertwined. Ant-Man establishes itself in the universe but is able to maintain a certain level autonomy. Paul Rudd was an unexpected casting choice but he could not have been more perfect. Plus Michael Pena as Luis alone is worth the watch.

Thank you so much for the discussion, Rob. The MCU is one of my favorite film franchises so this has been great to talk in depth about it.

Rob:

I’m so happy this worked out. This was lots of fun!


Many of the points I talked about I have said in discussion with my friends but I haven’t written them here on my blog so this was a great way to finally share them with you all.

How about you? What are your thoughts on the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Its strengths? Weaknesses? Things you like or didn’t like? Favorites?

Cheers!

Movie Score Discussion (Featuring Emmakwall (explains it all))

Hey there, dear readers!

How are you doing this fabulous Tuesday? We all know how much a movie’s score can add to its experience. I have brought it up in several of my reviews and so have many other movie reviewers and critics.  My fellow movie blogger Emma, over at Emmakwall (explains it all), is one such person.  Emma loves movie soundtracks, probably even more than I do!  She is a huge movie music fan and regularly looks at and analyzes movie soundtracks, even devoting an entire section of her site to soundtracks.  Being the movie music fans that we are, we decided to have a chat about our common interest. Let’s get to it!

Me: Hey, Emma, I’ll start with a simple question: Why do you think a good score is important in a film?

Emma: Well it highlights and accentuates what’s going on in the movie scene. Even if the person watching doesn’t always realise! Whatever the emotions are being played out on screen, they can be heightened even further by the background music, giving the viewer an even better experience.

Me: I agree. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been watching a film and all of a sudden emotions build inside me, simply because of the music.

Emma: Can you think of any scores that made an impression on you when you were younger?

Jurassic Park logo

Me: There were two scores that really impacted me when I was younger: Jurassic Park and the Star Wars original trilogy. Both of which happened to be written by the great John Williams, who is my favorite film composer. When John Hammond says “Welcome to Jurassic Park” and the Jurassic Park theme begins playing, I get so excited, even today after several dozen viewings.  Same with when the music starts when the opening crawl begins in any Star Wars movie.  Although, you can’t beat the Imperial March! I’m pretty sure I listened to that on repeat all day once at work.

Emma: That’s brilliant! I love that Drew, I’m the same. Sometimes I listen to my favourite scores just to build up that feeling of emotion again. You chose two brilliant scores there I must say, I’ve always really loved the music in Jurassic Park. Doesn’t John Williams score every Spielberg movie?

Me: Williams has done a good chunk of Spielberg’s movies but he hasn’t scored all of them.

John Williams

John Williams

Emma: Ah I see, I stand corrected said the man in the orthopedic shoes! I better educate myself on which Spielberg films Williams didn’t end up scoring. Sounds marginally interesting, there must be a reason behind it?  I love “Somewhere in My Memory”, the cute music he wrote for Home Alone. That’s an awesome story about listening to the Imperial March on repeat at work. I might try that when I’m next walking into the boss’s office!

Me: It was a ton of fun! I was just sitting there coding and I felt like a boss. Any score by John Williams is gold. Who are some of your favorite composers?

Emma: I really love dramatic scores, one of my favourite composers is Ennio Morricone and that’s largely down to his Spaghetti Western stuff (which is fairly dramatic in places!). If I hear something like the “Ecstasy of Gold,” I feel pretty much invincible. I also really like John Murphy. He wrote “In the House, In a Heartbeat” for 28 Days Later and the “Adagio in D Minor” for Sunshine (both Danny Boyle films!). “Adagio in D Minor” is pretty much my favourite score, like ever. I wasn’t even enjoying Sunshine that much the first time I saw it (in the cinema) then this incredible, amazing music started and I was transfixed. I now love the movie as well and I guess I have the score to thank for that!

Me: I’ve only heard of Ennio Morricone from several of Quentin Tarantino’s films, I’ll have to look up some of his stuff some time.  I remember watching Sunshine a while ago and not really liking it.  But since then I’ve heard a lot of people saying they think it is an awesome sci-fi movie. So between that and you really liking the score. I think I’ll have to give it another shot.

Ennio Morricone

Ennio Morricone

Emma: Are there any scores that have made a real difference to you, when watching a movie? Made you like it more, or even dislike it more?

Me: I don’t think the score has ever been a make-or-break factor in a film for me.  If I liked it or didn’t like it, it was usually because of something else about the film.  I can’t really think of a time when I’ve watched a movie and thought “Man, this music is terrible” and it took me out of it.  I imagine that would be more of a factor in horror movies where atmosphere is a huge part of it, than in something like action or sci-fi films.  However, there have been plenty of times when I hear the music and think “this is making it so much better.” Star Wars, like I said before, Pirates of the Caribbean always comes to mind, too, or more recently, Sicario.

Emma: I totally agree with you that scores (or indeed just regular soundtracks of songs) can’t make or break a film but when I look at my favourite movies most of them do have a pretty rocking soundtrack. The most recent movie I watched that made my “top 10” was The Guest and its subsequent soundtrack reeeeally made an impression on me. I only have three playlists on Spotify and ‘The Guest OST’ is one of them! Would I have loved the movie as much without the music? I’m not sure. The music was the movie. I wrote a review around the time and said something along the lines about how it relied somewhat on the music to emphasise its scenes and atmosphere. And look at something like Guardians of the Galaxy, that mix tape of pop songs made it so much more fun and memorable. Though a great soundtrack can’t make a great movie, perhaps it can make an average movie that bit better?

Guardians of the Galaxy movie poster

Me: I think personally, I tend to notice a good score or soundtrack more than a bad score or soundtrack.  So I agree that a great score can make an average movie better. It sounds like a score has made you like a film where you didn’t enjoy the rest of it. Have you ever had a score ruin a movie for you?

Emma: Yes, I have had a film ruined by a rotten soundtrack! There’s a low rent horror (my kinda movie) called The Woman and its soundtrack was so awful, so offensive, so abysmal and so bloody loud – I almost turned it off. Investigation on IMDB later showed many viewers had thought the same thing as well! The music was stupidly loud for starters but the worst thing was it was SO awful! A cross between “I’m an angsty teenager” and a dripping tap.

The Woman movie poster

An example of how not to score a film.

Me: That sounds terrible! At least you aren’t alone in your thinking.  Guardians of the Galaxy is a great example to bring up for a fun soundtrack.  I saw that with my mom and she doesn’t normally like the big superhero movies but she loved Guardians for its soundtrack, among other things.

Emma: Aww I love that about your mum! I must say Guardians of the Galaxy was certainly an above average film anyway, I loved it! But the mix tape just added that extra sparkle and genius. I’m excited for the sequel just to see what the song selection is! When that early scene with Chris Pratt started, where he was dancing around and shooting things (I think?) I was thinking yes, I’m gonna love this!!

Can you think of any awful music experiences in film? And don’t say High School Musical!

Me: Haha OK. Rock of Ages. That movie sounded like it was going to be really good.  I listen to classic rock music the most so I was looking forward to seeing a movie based around many of my favorite tunes. And then it was just one of the worst movie experiences I’ve had.  I’ve been really reluctant to go back and watch it again.

Rock of Ages movie poster

The tagline should have read “More Songs, More Dancing, More Bullshit”

Emma: I’ve never seen Rock of Ages… I’m kind of glad I haven’t after that! But I will go look it up in a minute out of interest. Must have sucked though, being so disappointing especially when you were looking forward to it. You’ve got me thinking about movies based around music now, I’ve barely seen any! Ooh and I wanted to ask will anything will ever beat the Imperial March for you?

Me: Probably not. The Imperial March is embedded in my head. It’ll be awfully hard to beat it!

Emma: I did love Magneto’s Theme in X-Men: First Class and thought that was a good contender for baddie music! Shame they didn’t use the same music in Days of Future Past, it was kick arse!

Me: I’ll have to listen to Magneto’s theme again because I don’t remember it right now. Do you prefer a big, bold score? Or something a little more subtle and intimate?

Emma: Excellent question and I know my answer immediately – big and bold! Something that consumes me and makes me feel something – whether that ‘something’ is being scared or triumphant or sad. I like subtle stuff too, I love the Warm Bodies score for example and that’s very delicate and cute. Maybe the two aren’t mutually exclusive anyway? I mean something could start off subtle, only to lead into a bold crescendo?

Me: The great thing about music is that it is dynamic. It can start off small and grow big.  So I would say that the two aren’t mutually exclusive.  Two examples would be John William’s Indiana Jones scores and Alan Silvestri’s Captain America: The First Avenger score.  They both have songs that start softer and get more dynamic as the song progresses.

Alan Silvestri

Alan Silvestri

Emma: A lot of Morricone stuff can start soft but end big. Actually thinking about it, I think those kind of scores are my favourite! I also now have Peter Griffin’s rendition of the Indiana Jones score going through my head!

There’s a really clever track on the Kill Bill: Volume 1 soundtrack, it played when Elle Driver was dressed as a nurse, about to finish off The Bride. It starts off so cute and sweet, like you’re walking next to a pretty little river with loads of flowers. But it subtly (so subtly!) changes so that by the end of the track it’s actually very sinister and scary sounding. It’s awesome!

Me: That’s awesome that you bring up the Kill Bill movies. We were talking earlier about how a soundtrack can make a movie for someone.  The Kill Bill duology are my favorite Tarantino movies and a huge part of that is because of the soundtrack (mainly in Volume 1).  It’s so energetic and up-tempo.  It somehow fits perfectly with all the violence going on screen.

Kill Bill Vol. 1

Emma: That’s brilliant Drew, I love that! I must say Quentin Tarantino soundtracks are among my favourite anyway, they’re always so good and just as exciting for me, as the movie. I did a post a while ago trying to put his soundtracks into order of ‘brilliance’ and Kill Bill: Volume 1 featured in the no.3 slot, I’ve always loved it too. Pulp Fiction has always been my favourite soundtrack, ever and I can’t see that changing anytime soon. I just find it so… listenable!

Do you listen to any soundtracks as though they were ‘regular’ albums? I mean, as great as movie scores can be, they’re not always listenable on a daily basis (unless it’s the Imperial March!). The Pulp Fiction soundtrack I can listen to like I would a pop album – singing along etc. Ditto with the aforementioned Guardians of the Galaxy. But with some scored soundtracks often I’ll have my favourite tracks and pick them out as and when I want to listen to them, rather than listening to it as a complete record.

Me: I listen to soundtracks all the time! I have a film score and a Disney music stations on Pandora radio that I often listen to at work. I also have several soundtracks on my home computer, including most of the Disney Renaissance films, the Pirates of the Caribbean films, Frozen, and Into the Woods.  Like you, I also have specific songs from other movies as well.  A catchy song is a catchy song, no matter where it comes from.

Hans Zimmer

Hans Zimmer

Emma: That’s so cool Drew! Do you sing along? Which Disney soundtrack is your favourite? Whenever I’m at a party with my girlfriends I swear we always end up listening to Disney songs by the end of the night! My favourite is The Little Mermaid and I’ve owned no less than three copies of it. True love!

Me: Pssh, do I sing along? Of course I sing along! I think my favorite overall Disney soundtrack is Mulan. The Little Mermaid is good too, and so is Beauty and the Beast, but every song on the Mulan soundtrack is great, not just most songs like the others mentioned.  Some of my favorite individual songs not from Mulan are “Friend Like Me,” “Be Our Guest,” “Under the Sea,” “Bear Necessities,” and “Let it Go.”

Emma: I’m not really familiar with Mulan which is really, really annoying! Rest assured I will be looking up the soundtrack on Spotify. There is something unique to the Disney soundtracks, or at least the older ones. I love your favourite songs! All good ones to belt out whilst on your own in the car! Some of my favourites include ‘Under the Sea’, ‘Part of Your World’ and ‘A Whole New World’ (how predictable).

Me: How do you feel about musicals? Do you like movies that use songs heavily? Or do you prefer music to be used to enhance the film and not be centered around it?

Emma: I’m not a fan of musicals generally… I love Grease, Chicago and Bugsy Malone but that’s about it. It’s not the music I don’t like, it’s more the ‘stage school’ style of singing and I find them a bit [over the top].

So generally I prefer music that just enhances the movie but there are  exceptions. I love the TV shows Glee and Flight of the Conchords. And of course, Disney songs! And one of my favourite movies is a British gangster film called Love, Honour & Obey. There are segments throughout where each character sings a fluffy pop song in a karaoke style. It’s quite bizarre but quite brilliant! Are you a fan of musicals?

Me: Before today, I would have said “No, with Disney being the exception.” But after thinking about it, I think I like them more than I thought I did.  I like watching non-Disney musicals like Footloose, Grease, Sweeney Todd, and Into the Woods.  It’s not a genre I actively look for but guess I have liked more of them than I haven’t liked.

Kind of a side-bar, but did/do you play any instruments?

Emma: I don’t play any instruments but I’ve always wanted to play the piano! I did teach myself the first bit of “A Whole New World” on my tiny Casio keyboard when I was a kid! And you know the song they do on the giant keyboard in Big? I taught myself that too. Haha Tragically I had no-one to play both parts with so just took it turn to play them both myself!

Me: Haha Oh, no! That’s no fun playing it by yourself. At least you have a start for learning piano. Maybe in the future you can teach yourself some more and put on a show!

I ask because I played alto saxophone and I think that gave me an appreciation for the work that goes into a writing and playing a musical score.  I think that note is a good one to wrap up on.  Thank you so much for the chat Emma! I’ve had a ton of fun talking movies with you.

Emma: Thanks so much for having me Drew it’s been a lot of fun and you’ve certainly given me some new things to think about!


We want you to join in on the discussion. What are some of your favorite movie scores? Who are some of your favorite film composers? What makes a good soundtrack?

Big thanks to Emma for taking the time to talk movies with me. I always enjoy discussing the different aspects of films so this was simply a blast!

Cheers!