Tag Archives: Ridley Scott

Rocks In The Attic #788: Hans Zimmer & Benjamin Wallfisch – ‘Blade Runner 2049 (O.S.T.)’ (2017)

RITA#788We saw this on opening night, which is unusual for us. Our babysitter came through and we booked tickets. Packed cinema. Mix of age ranges; young and old. Halfway through the trailers of upcoming films, something didn’t feel right. A trailer for a brainless blockbuster was playing: Skyscraper with Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson.

As is usual with trailers for blockbusters, there was lots of action and excitement. At one point, something exploded on screen; either the Rock’s biceps or a city skyscraper. The lady sat next to my wife lets out a small noise. Kind of like a small murmur of shock. ‘MmMm.’ Like saying ‘oooh’, but with your lips closed. The kind of noise you might make if you bit into a delicious cake.

That’s weird, I thought. I gave her a good once-over with my peripheral vision. She was in her late 50s, possibly early 60s, and was sat next to her husband of a similar age. Something else exciting happened on-screen, and she let out a similar noise. It wasn’t a loud noise – audible only to my wife and I sitting to her left, and to her husband, sitting to her right.

Another action-packed trailer showed, and she let out similar noises at all the mayhem. Maybe she doesn’t get out to the cinema much, I thought. Or maybe she just really likes the Rock. It could even be a food thing; maybe her husband bought her an ice-cream in the lobby and she’s really enjoying it.

RITA#788aDon’t worry about it, I thought. It’s just the trailers. I should just be happy that she’s not talking through them, or flipping through the messages on her phone.

The film started; the much-feared sequel to a classic film both my wife and I love. Based on the history of Hollywood sequels, it didn’t look promising. Indiana Jones & The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull didn’t seem too long ago, and Harrison Ford was in that turkey too. Ridley Scott’s original Blade Runner was a perfectly put-together sci-fi film. Its source material was a short story, so it wasn’t bogged down with expectations, and the film wasn’t successful enough on initial release to justify a sequel. It eventually appeared over the years in many different versions, but it didn’t need to be expanded with a sequel or a TV series.

But the choice of director for Blade Runner 2049 suggested that this may not be a complete disaster after all. I first noticed Denis Villeneuve when he blasted onto the film festival circuit with 2010’s Incendies, the tale of a pair of Canadian twins who travel to the Middle East to unravel their mother’s past. If you haven’t seen this film, it’s an amazing slow-burner. Just don’t watch it with your parents.

He followed this with two films in 2013 – Prisoners, starring Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal as a pair of fathers who take the law into their own hands, and the fantastically trippy Enemy, starring Gyllenhaal as a man who encounters his double living in the same city. Or does he?

Incendies
, Prisoners and Enemy were all relatively small films compared to what came next. 2015’s Sicario pitted Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin and Benicio del Toro against the Mexican drug cartel and was a key collaboration with writer-director Tyler Sheridan who wrote the screenplay. Villeneuve’s next film, 2016’s Arrival, showed that he could do science-fiction, and that he could do it well. Another slow-burner, considering its subject matter, Arrival was Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, redone for the 21st century. Where Spielberg gave us the optimism and wide-eyed excitement of alien contact against a backdrop of bubbling paranoia, Villeneueve’s film offers a tale of caution and trepidation. Why would aliens want to make contact with us when we’re so disconnected?

So things were looking promising for Blade Runner 2049. No, it didn’t need a sequel, but at least it seemed to be in safe hands. At least Ridley Scott wasn’t behind the camera this time (see: Prometheus, Alien: Covenant).

The film starts. It looks amazing good and sounds great. So far, so good. Ryan Gosling’s K lands his spinner on a deserted farm in a desolate landscape. He enters the farmhouse and encounters Dave Bautista’s Sapper Morton, a man he believes is a Nexus-8 replicant.

A fight breaks out between the two men, and somebody is slammed into a wall. The fucking woman sat next to me makes that annoying fucking sound yet again. ‘MmMm.’ Another heavy blow: ‘MmMm.’ K eventually ‘retires’ Morton, to the soundtrack of ‘MmMm’ from my right.

RITA#788b
In recent years, I’ve become a semi-professional at shushing people at the cinema. Director Joe Cornish (from Adam & Joe) calls it torpedoing, and it’s a fine art to get right. I almost got into a fight when the couple in front of me took the title of We Need To Talk About Kevin a little too literally and discussed each scene before the next one started, and took offence to me pointing out that we weren’t sitting in their living room. The couple in front of me watching Brighton Rock continued their discussion well into the opening credits of the film, earning a well-deserved ‘Excuse me, the film as STARTED’ in their ears from me.

One of the last films my wife and I saw at the cinema was last year’s Venom – we don’t get out much, and when we do we’re usually restricted to the dross that happens to be playing that weekend. The young lady sat to my immediate left starting playing on her phone a couple of scenes in. I waited a few minutes to make sure she wasn’t just turning it off, and was indeed scrolling out of boredom, before giving her a blast of ‘Please turn your phone OFF; you’re in a cinema!’ She recoiled at being called out, and then my peripheral vision caught her male companion lean forward and give me a good once-over. Just my luck, I thought. Her boyfriend is probably a bodybuilder, and will wait outside the cinema to extract his revenge. When we walked out after the film, they were waiting outside the cinema. But they were waiting for their parents to pick them up, being about 14-years old. Note to self: your peripheral vision is not the most trustable of sources.

Ten, fifteen minutes into Blade Runner 2049, and the woman sat next to my wife is still making these weird noises. ‘MmMm.’ My wife asks me to swap seats, and being the husband of the year, I oblige. Despite this change in seating right next to her, the lady continues to murmer during the next scene. Do I ask her to stop? What’s the worst case scenario here? Yes, I might get a beating from her war-hero husband who used to stack dead bodies as sandbags, but there’s a fate much worse than physical violence. What if I turn around and ask her to stop, and as the words are leaving my mouth, I notice to my horror that she looks disabled. She could be deaf, or partially deaf. She could have tourettes. It could be an involuntary noise, no fault of her own. Decisions, decisions.

RITA#788cThe cinema is practically full, and there’s nowhere to move to. Maybe she’ll quiet down as she gets used to the violence and explosions. Plus, the noise could be a lot worse, and so I decide to tolerate it for the rest of the film. Better to be tolerant than to be called out for being an intolerant arsehole, I reason with myself. The last thing I need is to be the headline of our sleepy village’s local newspaper.

Despite my neighbour’s additions to the soundtrack, I manage to enjoy the film. It’s a wonderfully realised sequel to a film that nobody asked for. The world-building feels like an extension of Ridley Scott’s film, and the whole project doesn’t ever come close to exploiting the power of the original’s legacy. The music score, a collaboration between Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch, is right on the money – both a homage to Vangelis and a bass-heavy synth update for the 21st century.

I missed out on the original soundtrack release in 2017. I was going to pick it up, but didn’t get around to it for some reason. So I was happy to see this 2019 repress by Mondo Records, featuring new spot-varnish artwork depicting one of my favourite scenes in the film: K’s Nabokovian realisation that his desires are artificial and ultimately a fallacy. The double LP is presented on one pink and one teal disc.

My only criticism is the film’s handling of the character of Deckard. Ridley Scott’s 1992 Director’s Cut of the original film suggests he’s a replicant employed to track down his contemporaries. While Villeneuve’s film doesn’t explicitly state that he isn’t a replicant, it neither confirms that he is. Yet, the thirty-year gap between the setting of the two films belies the original film’s oft-repeated claim that replicants have a short life-expectancy. A second sequel is still a possibility, so maybe we’ll find out then. Here’s to Blade Runner 2079.

Hit: 2049

Hidden Gem: Sea Wall

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Rocks In The Attic #769: Emerson, Lake & Palmer – ‘Brain Salad Surgery’ (1973)

RITA#769The fourth album by prog-rock botherers Keith Emerson, Ricki Lake and – erm – Robert Palmer, Brain Salad Surgery sounds as tuneless and chaotic as anything else I’ve heard by them. The album packaging is a piece of art though, which is why I picked it up.

This is the first time most people were presented with the artistic style of one H.R.Giger. Six years later, Giger’s design of the xenomorph and its organic environs in Ridley Scott’s Alien would bring him worldwide fame.

RITA#769aA couple of weeks ago, my wife and I took part in a trivia night at our kids’ school. The school was celebrating 40 years since it was founded, and so the theme of the night was 1979. A couple of teams turned up as the 4077th from M*A*S*Hone team came as the rock band Kiss, and another team came as the board game Guess Who?

Our team went as the crew from the USCSS Nostromo, from Ridley Scott’s film. My wife borrowed a 3-D printer, using it to make a couple of accurate-looking chest-bursters and a facehugger.  She even made a papier-mâché alien egg, and put a vaporiser inside it which glowed green and emitted a foggy mist. Our brilliant team name, chosen by my clever wife, was ‘Ripley’s Believe It Or Not’.

RITA#769bI was chosen to ‘host’ one of the chest-bursters, and put it through a white t-shirt with red paint for that authentic ‘just given birth’ look. The rest of our team looked fantastic too, particularly one guy who turned up as the science-office Ash, creepily played by Ian Holm in the film.

It was a very messy night. A free bar will tend to do that. However, despite the alcohol and the party atmosphere, our team managed to win the quiz. Thank you H.R.Giger, for having such a fantastically weird mind.

Hit: Jerusalem

Hidden Gem: Benny The Bouncer

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Rocks In The Attic #697: Jerry Goldsmith – ‘Alien (O.S.T.)’ (1979)

RITA#697Is there a more immersive experience than a video game? Over the last couple of weekends I’ve been playing Alien: Isolation on the PS4, and generally shitting myself with fear as a result.

Set fifteen years after the events in the 1979 film – itself based in 2122 – Alien: Isolation follows Ellen Ripley’s daughter as she visits a spaceship to find out what happened to her mother. The game is designed to look like the 1979 film, with the events unfolding on the same class of mining ship as the Nostromo.

I started off playing the game in the middle of the night, wearing my gaming headphones, but this proved too scary – wandering around a dark spaceship full of blinking lights and music akin to Jerry Goldmsith’s original score. Subsequent plays have been made without headphones, and with my trusty Great Dane, Abbey, by my side.

If there’s one thing I love the most about the 1979 film, it’s the production design by concept artists Ron Cobb and Chris Foss. The spaceship looks so grungy and atmospheric, and so far removed from the clean aesthetic of the Star Trek universe. H.R. Giger’s design of the alien itself is one thing, but the ship almost feels like another living and breathing character.

Duncan Jones’ Moon got close to a similar look, and other sci-fi films have tread a similar path since, but Alien feels like the first mainstream film to do this. Comparisons can be drawn with the production design of John Carpenter’s 1974 Dark Star – itself starring future Alien creator/writer Dan O’Bannon.

RITA#697aJerry Goldsmith’s score, presented here on acid-blood green vinyl, courtesy of Mondo Records, is a wonderfully creepy soundtrack. Although the score ends up sounding more like a traditional horror soundtrack towards the end – tense strings and booming brass, complimented by high-register plucked violins – it starts off a different beast altogether. Main Title, Hyper Sleep and the rest of the music throughout the first act just sounds otherworldly. Not particularly scary, just lonely and isolated; grim and despondent.

I have a very clear memory of being faced with my first images from the Alien film. I couldn’t have been older than a toddler, and I remember bring walked into a living room to say goodnight to people, and the film was playing on the television. For whatever reason, the film wasn’t turned off, probably because it looked like quite a benign, harmless scene – and I was probably only in the room for less than a minute. But I distinctly remember looking at the screen as the face-hugger emerged from the egg and launched itself at John Hurt’s face. Obviously at that age – three or four – I didn’t know what it was. For some reason I thought it was rope – perhaps the uncoiling of the face-hugger looked like a length of rope – and I presume the film was swiftly turned off and I was rushed to bed.

Hit: Main Title

Hidden Gem: Hyper Sleep

Rocks In The Attic #608: Various Artists – ‘True Romance (O.S.T.)’ (1993)

RITA#608.jpgIn the early 1990s, director Tony Scott was handed a piece of gold dust. Quentin Tarantino, a cocky, young up-start had been circling Hollywood for a few years trying to develop his first script, True Romance. Tarantino decided to sell the script, and Warner Brothers snapped it up greedily. In hindsight it would have been too large a project for a first-time director anyway.

Instead Tarantino turned his attention to his next script, a simpler heist story called Reservoir Dogs. This would have been an easier film to pitch with him as director – the heist is never seen, only referred to, and much of the film takes place in one location.

By the time he was handed Tarantino’s script, Tony Scott was already a blockbuster director, arguably more commercially successful than his older brother Ridley. While Ridley had scored critical successes with Alien and Blade Runner, Scott had directed Top Gun, Beverly Hills Cop II and Days Of Thunder. His collaborations with super-producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer say more about his directing style than anything else.

True Romance then, becomes the lost Tarantino picture. His trademark dialogue is evident throughout the film – all pop-culture references and cooler than cool soundbites – but Scott’s input muddies the water somewhat. The cinematographers that Scott worked with throughout his ‘80s and ‘90s films had a very peculiar style. Lots of obtrusive close-ups, too many filtered interiors, and a very synthetic, staged camera set-up. By the time you get to something like 1996’s The Fan, the cinematography is so overbearing that the film is practically unwatchable.

Looking back, True Romance has one of the greatest ensemble casts of all time, featuring several actors who would go onto bigger things. Joining leads Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette were Michael Rapaport, Bronson Pinchot, Dennis Hopper, Val Kilmer, Gary Oldman, Christopher Walken, Brad Pitt, Chris Penn, Tom Sizemore, Samuel L. Jackson and a pre-Sopranos James Gandolfini.

RITA#608aThe soundtrack also differs from most Tarantino films in that it has both a pop soundtrack and an original score, by Hans Zimmer (the only soundtrack of Tarantino’s to mix pop songs with an original score is The Hateful Eight). Zimmer’s score is delightful – practically a proto-Thomas Newman score before he rewrote the rulebook on esoteric, oddball soundtracks with 1996’s American Beauty.

Some of the pop songs wouldn’t be out of place on a Tarantino soundtrack. Charlie Sexton’s Graceland, Robert Palmer’s (Love Is) The Tender Trap and Chris Isaak’s Two Hearts feel like they belong in QT’s record collection, but mediocre tracks like Charles & Eddie’s Wounded Bird and John Waite’s In Dreams reminds you that this really is just a typical run of the mill blockbuster soundtrack, and wasn’t curated in any way by Tarantino. Even Soundgarden’s Outshined sounds a little too obvious. The absence of Aerosmith’s The Other Side – presumably due to rights reasons – is personally disappointing, but it would have just dated the soundtrack even more.

Hit: Outshined – Soundgarden

Hidden Gem: Graceland – Charlie Sexton