Respect – Movie Review

TL;DR – A film anchored by a transcendent performance that captures you from the start and never lets you go.      

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Post-Credit Scene – There is a mid-credit scene

Disclosure – I attended a Press Screening of this film

Respect. Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

Respect Review

It has been the era of the musical biopic, with Elton John, Freddie Mercury, and even the Sparks Brothers getting a film all about them. But if one person is missing from this list, it would be the seminal Aretha Franklin. Her voice is like no other, and you get taken to another world every time you hear it. Today, we get to look at a film that not only fixes that glaring gap but does so in a way that left tears in my eyes.

So to set the scene, we open in Detroit, 1952, in the house of Reverend C. L. Franklin (Forest Whitaker). He is hosting a party for several influential people in the African-American community. Making his way to the back of the house, he finds Aretha ‘Re’ Franklin (Skye Dakota Turner) asleep in her bed. He asks her if she wants to sing, and the answer is, of course, yes. Even at a young age, she leads the choir at her father’s church, but as Aretha (Jennifer Hudson) grows older, she wants to do more to help Martin Luther King Jr. (Gilbert Glenn Brown). But at a party, her father surprised her with a ticket to New York to meet with John Hammond (Tate Donovan), a famous music producer, who could make her into a star.

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The Sparks Brothers – Movie Review

TL;DR – An absurd story of an equally odd yet compelling bad that survived many different seismic changes.    

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Post-Credit Scene – There is a mid-credit scene

Disclosure – I was invited to a press screening of this film

The Sparks Brothers. Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

The Sparks Brothers Review

To be honest, when  I heard the pitch of a documentary about a band that has been both hugely influential but also under the radar? Well, I didn’t know quite what to think about it? Then you find out that Edgar Wright of Hot Fuzz and Baby Driver fame was directing it, and well, then you go from unsure to very interested in a moment, and I am glad that I did.

So to set the scene, we open all the way at the start, where brothers Ron Mael and Russell Mael growing up in California. Then coming together after college to form the band Sparks after a couple of failed starts. From here, they would put out some well-received but not as popular albums until someone in their record had the idea “let’s try them in England”, and the story snowballs from there. Now I should say that my screening was interrupted by a fire alarm, which may have influenced my thoughts on the film, but given the documentary style, there was a moment at the start when I thought the warnings were some sort of immersive element, so I think it was fine.

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Awards – The Musical Scores of 2020 That Wowed Us

One factor that I will always look out for with a film and that is the musical score. I can get caught in the world of the music, as it sits in my head in the days, weeks, months, and even the years that come. There is immense artistry in weaving emotions from music, having us slip into the world that is created, fear the oncoming dread even if we do know why, or rejoice in the triumph of that final victory.

Music charts the cinematic world, it guides us, it can lift us up, and it can crush our souls, this is its power. So without further ado, these are the musical score that moved us in 2020. Be warned that there may be some slight spoilers ahead for the films in question, and if you click on the banners, you will be taken to the full review. 

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The High Note – Movie Review

TL;DR – A completely charming film from start to finish    

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene

The High Note. image Credit: Universal.

Review

Films about the music industry are tricky to pull off because they demand you have genuine emotion in a world of fake glitz and glamour. Indeed the best films in this genre either focus on a newcomer trying to break in or pulling back the curtain to reveal the reality of the industry. Today we look at a film that has elements of that outside story, but it takes a risk by centring it on the heart of the industry with all its glitz, glamour, and biases.

So to set the scene, Mags/Maggie/Margret (Dakota Johnson) works as a personal assistant to the great Grace Davis (Tracee Ellis Ross). Grace was a musical icon in her day, but these days she spends her time touring and releasing ‘best of’ albums. Maggie has been her PA for three years, but she wants to take her carrier to the next level and has secretly been remixing Grace’s new live album in her free time. This comes to a head when Grace’s manager Jack Robertson (Ice Cube) finally convinces Grace to get someone to produce the album and Maggie has to decide if she is going to stay quiet or speak up and take her chance.

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Slim & I – Movie Review

TL;DR – A beautiful documentary looking back on the lives of  Slim Dusty and Joy McKean  

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene

Awards

Nominated: Best Australian Film

Slim & I. Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

Review –

Growing up in Australia, even if you might not know who Slim Dusty is or even if just the name rings a bell, you will still know a bunch of his songs, even if it is only through osmosis. Songs like A Pub With No Beer and Duncan sit in the pantheon of Australian music, and you probably started humming at least one of those tunes to yourself just with the mere mention of the name. However, I must confess that I didn’t really know much about his life beyond those touchstone moments and even less about Joy McKean, the I in Slim and I and the main focus of the documentary.  

The documentary follows a (mostly) chronological look at the lives of Joy McKean and Slim Dusty’s from their start in music through to today. We get to see them go on these gigantic Australia wide tours, raise a family on the road, and also write at least two albums a year which might be the most bonkers part of the entire process. Indeed, over their 50-year love story, they wrote at least 107 albums which is frankly ridiculous. They show this story with a mix of interviews with both Slim and Joy’s family but also with key members of Australia’s Country Music scene like Keith Urban, Missy Higgins and Kasey Chambers. As well as this, we get archive footage going back to the 60s, both professionally shot and also just from home cameras. There is such a varied amount of footage that someone had to be well ahead of the curve in adopting that technology and preserving it all these years.

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Movie Review – Black is King

TL;DR – A visual masterwork and required viewing if you have Disney+    

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene

Awards:

Nominated: Beautiful Cinematography & Stunning Costumes
Winner: Stunning Costumes

Black is King. Image Credit: Disney+.

Review

Today we review a film that might be the oddest film I have watched from a conceptional perspective. It is a reinterpretation of the story of the Lion King remake, a movie I thought was okay but not much more. But this reframing is the barest framework the film uses throughout to explore everything from religion to music to race and more. This should not work, but it does.      

Black is King. Image Credit: Disney+.
It explores many themes during its runtime and gives each and every one of them the justice they deserve. Image Credit: Disney+.
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Movie Review – Nobody Knows I’m Here (Nadie Sabe Que Estoy Aquí)

TL;DR – A haunting look at the damage that fame can do set in the beautiful world of the Chilean coast.    

Score – 4 out of 5 stars

Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene

Nobody Knows I'm Here (Nadie Sabe Que Estoy Aquí). Image Credit: Netflix.

Review

Fame, it is a thing that many people want, and in the world of Twitch, YouTube, and TikTok it is almost more obtainable than in any other point in history. However, fame can come with a cost, fame can come with damage, and fame can have lasting effects. Today we look at a film that explores these issues and the legacy that can leave in their wake.

So to set the scene, a child musical prodigy Memo (Lukas Vergara) had a lot of hope at one point but now all grown up Memo (Jorge Garcia) spends time breaking into houses and not doing much else. The rest of his time is spent working on his uncle’s Mr Braulio’s (Luis Gnecco) sheep farm on a coastal island of Southern Chile. His past haunts Memo as the damage of his youth lives through every part of his life.  

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Article – Seatbelts, Bringing a Little Bit of That Cowboy Bebop Joy Back into the World

TL;DR – The Seatbelts are doing live versions of classic Cowboy bebop songs and they slap

Cowboy Bebop (カウボーイビバップ/Kaubōi Bibappu). Image Credit: Madman.

I don’t think it will be a surprise to anyone to say that I have been finding the last few months to be quite difficult. Indeed, I think it has been hard for most people and it is only increasing as the days, weeks, and months go on. I have been trying to find something to spark my joy, and while binge-watching old shows like The Nanny and Scrubs has helped, and having a watch list that might be 90% Bon Appétit videos is just the nature of the times. Nothing has really brought that smile to my world, well nothing until now.  

At the end of last year, I talked a lot about how much I loved Cowboy Bebop, an anime out of Japan that might be many of my generation’s first introduction into that art style but it is still something resonates in my heart today. One of the core components of that series that may even outlast the show is its music. It was a show that deeply wove its music into the tapestry of the show, nothing was just dumped in as filler. At the core of this musical work was composer and instrumentalist Yoko Kanno and her band the Seatbelts which has gone by シートベルツ, Shītoberutsu, Seat Belts or SEATBELTS depending on which version of the soundtrack you got. It was the smashing together of so many genres of music from jazz to pop to rock to even country and all in-between that stuck in my mind for decades.  

Well in the age of COVID and Zoom meetings, shudders Zoom meetings, there has been one ray of joy, as the SEATBELTS came back together perform songs from the soundtrack and it is just a sheer delight and everyone can listen to it here.

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Awards – The Musical Scores of 2019 That Wowed Us

One factor that I will always look out for with a film and that is the musical score. I can get caught in the world of the music, as it sits in my head in the days, weeks, months, and even the years that come. There is immense artistry in weaving emotions from music, having us slip into the world that is created, fear the oncoming dread even if we do know why, or rejoice in the triumph of that final victory.

Music charts the cinematic world, it guides us, it can lift us up, and it can crush our souls, this is its power. So without further ado, these are the musical score that moved us in 2019. Be warned that there may be some slight spoilers ahead for the films in question and if you click on the banners you will be taken to the full review. 

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Countdown – My Top 40 Film Score Moments of the Decade (2010-2019)

TL;DR – I countdown all of my top 40 moments in cinematic music from Moana to Dunkirk to Tron and more.

Countdown

As we think back to the decade that was, I have been musing about the amazing films that we have gotten to see and hear. While I was putting together my Top 100 Films of the Decade list one thing that I kept coming back to was the impact that the musical scores had on me so I decided to do a list focused just on them.

In this countdown, we will look at those musical moments that defined the decade for me. Most of these will be instrumental moments, but a couple of songs written for films also make their way into this list as well. For me, these are the moments that I think about long after the film is over, the moments I hum in my head or take me back to the cinema in those first moments I was watching the film. They show the power of the musical form to convey emotion, to tell stories, and to bring excitement.

With this list, we are going to focus on one individual song rather than the score as a whole because these are the moments that punched through for me. If there is a banner, you can click on it and get taken to our review of the film, as well as this, I have added Spotify links so you can listen to the songs yourself. It was really difficult to keep the list to just 40, so I would be really interested to hear what would be on your list, so let me know in the comments below. Well, without any further ado, let’s dive in.

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