Thursday, September 15, 2016

Top 10 Movie Soundtracks (Non-musicals)

Since I'm between books at the moment and was at a total loss for what movie to review (my days have largely been consumed by preschool programming, courtesy of my 3 year old son) I decided I needed to take a break from visuals and focus on the auditory. (I have to get that "Three Special Steps" song from Special Agent Oso out of my head somehow!)

So, I'm going to share my top 10 movie sounds tracks. This is going to be specifically from movies that aren't explicitly considered musicals (because, let's face it, they'd dominate the list) so any movie where characters dance about and burst into song is excluded (sorry, Beauty and the Beast and Prince of Egypt).


10. Kung Fu Panda 2

Not the last time DreamWorks will be on this list. I specifically chose the sequel because while the original did have some nice bits, the sequel really shines in it's musical quality. DreamWorks upped their game from the first one and took what was originally a remarkably silly concept (a fat dorky panda learning martial arts) and turned it into a genuine story that's almost adult in its maturity. And boy does it have a score to match! This is the kind of music I'd expect in an actual Chinese kung fu movie. With a distinctly Asian flavor throughout and a general feeling of enormous size and weight, it's a joy to listen to even if you've never seen the film.


9. The Incredibles

Not the last time Pixar will be on this list, either. If you love the thrill of first generation Bond-era spy flicks, not only will you love this tenderhearted thriller, but you'll love the score that accompanies it. The music is fast paced and frantic, conveying all the energy and excitement that a superhero movie should. It's not so light that you can't take it seriously, but not so heavy that it doesn't have a fun quirkiness to it. Composer Michael Giacchino infused 60s jazz with so much enthusiasm and action, you can't help but call it incredible.

8. Brave

Told you Pixar would be back. This Celtic flavored gem accompanied a mediocre (by Pixar standards) film, but it many ways it far outshines its source. The first few songs and a couple later in the album are lyrical and the rest is instrumental score. But all of it is positively gorgeous. Julie Fowlis's vocals are simply stunning to listen to. I could hear "Touch the Sky" again and again and still want to get up and dance a jig every time. I just hear this soundtrack and picture myself running through green picturesque glades chasing will-o'-the-wisps under a bright blue sky.

7. Guardians of the Galaxy

I know what you're thinking: 'Finally, a movie that isn't animated!" What can I say? I like what I like. And what I like...is 70s music. Ok, I like a lot of decades. Blame it on being raised by 2 generations of people. The movie's now-famous Awesome Mix was even released on LP vinyl and audio cassette (when's the last time you saw one of those?) and still managed to sell over 2.5 million copies. Whether you're rocking to "Cherry Bomb", grooving to "Ain't No Mountain High Enough", or jamming to "Hooked on a Feeling", I can almost guarantee that if you don't love this album...your parents probably will.


6. Home Alone

Yeah, the soundtrack is probably not the first thing you think of when it comes to this movie. Odds are you just picture a deranged psychopathic child inflicting untold pain (enough to kill his victims multiple times over, I might add) on a pair of bungling burglars. But if I played you the soundtrack and didn't tell you where it was from, you'd probably never guess until you got to the track "Somewhere In My Memory"...a song that will surely make you misty-eyed if you hear it around the holidays. Especially if you, yourself, happen to be home alone at Christmas.

5. Fireproof

An indie Christian film that most mainstreamers have probably never heard of or watched, Fireproof is more than just the story of one man's quest to become a better husband. It's also a movie with some really kickin' songs in it. Aside from the score, which is decent enough, there are some great songs you'll want to sing along to by some bands you probably already enjoy. Third Day's "This Is Who I Am", Casting Crowns' "Slow Fade", John Waller's "While I'm Waiting", Grey Holiday's "You Belong To Me" and Warren Barfield's "Love Is Not A Fight" will probably all find their way on to your favorites list by the time the credits roll. Sherwood Baptist's earlier film Facing the Giants might have had a good album, but Fireproof upped the ante and did it 10 times better.


4. Fantasia

Some of you may complain that this is technically a musical, but since no one gets to sing anything, I'm allowing it. I've already talked plenty about this movie previously, so I won't rehash it here. Suffice it to say, if you love classical music, you'll love this.

3. Back to the Future

I'm an 80s kid. So I'm naturally a bit biased about this particular film. My father wouldn't let Keith marry me until he'd seen all three films. It's a pretty big deal in our family. And the soundtrack accompanying the film just oozes 80s nostalgia. I remember the first time I felt really old in my life was when I was at a doctor's office and they were playing Huey Lewis and the News singing "Power of Love"...on the oldies station. I wanted to cry. Most of the rest of the lyrical songs are good, too. "Earth Angel" and "Johnny B. Goode" are classics of course. But the movie's theme itself is something else. This score just makes you want to go on an adventure. That's really the only way to describe it. It's fun, it's exciting, and it just reeks of adventure. If ever I see a DeLorean go by, this song is all I'm going to think of.

2. Pride and Prejudice

Another film I've talked about before, so I won't take too much time on it. If you want a soundtrack to take a long tub soak in...this is it. Enjoy those bubbles and a good book while you listen.


1. How to Train Your Dragon

This is by far and away my favorite non-musical movie score. I could listen to it over and over and over again. I literally never get tired of it. When I had a day job and felt like time was crawling, I put this album on and I was suddenly a LOT more motivated. It's got action, it's got danger, it has wonder and mystery...it's just awesome. The score just feels so huge and epic. There are pennywhistles and bagpipes and drums and just...gah! It's freakin' gorgeous! If you don't want to listen to the entire thing (and there's no reason on this planet why you shouldn't!) you should at least listen to the tracks entitled "Forbidden Friendship", "Test Drive", and "Romantic Flight". They're easily the most magical in the film.



And that's it! My top 10 non-musical movie soundtracks. I'll probably do one strictly for movie musicals down the road (bet you can all guess what #1 will be!) but this should tide you over for now. Enjoy the music and dance like you mean it!

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Book Review: The Glass Coffin by Kelly Martin

OK, so, we come to the end of Kelly Martin's Shattered Fairy Tale series (or is it...?) and it's...ok. Yeah, just...ok. I'll get to why in a minute, but first, let's get the formalities out of the way.
So, we started hearing about Gertrude "Trudy" Dodsworth all the way back in Betraying Ever After, but at the time she seemed like a throwaway character; she was just someone for Emma to bounce off of. But now, she gets her own book. We get to find out where she disappeared to and why William Haddington (Vaughn's BFF) was acting so strangely at the ball where Emma and Vaughn met. Seems old Frederick Dodsworth turned Trudy and her mother out of the house in order to continue exacting his nefarious revenge on some former "friends" who wronged him...or at least that's how he sees it. To go into all the whys would probably spoil a good chunk of the book (and the series as a whole, really) so we'll just have to leave his reasoning at that. Trudy and her mother have taken up residence in Everdale...which is unfortunately the same town where William has also drifted to. Only neither of them are the same person anymore.

Trudy has become engaged to the haughty and borderline abusive Lawson Stockwell, a wealthy earl, for the sake of her ailing mother. And William? Well, he's done unspeakable things. Become an alcoholic. Lost his virtue. Oh, and set the fire that disfigured Nicholas Wellington, Duke (or Beast, depending on whom you ask) of Ravenston. It was never Will's intention to harm anyone. He just wanted to spite Dodsworth for refusing his suit to Trudy. But that worked out all the better for Dodsworth, who used that knowledge to help accomplish his evil schemes. Will was hoping to start over, live out a quiet life in solitude.

But when he sees Trudy and Stockwell arm in arm, his bitterness gets the better of him, and he does...some of the stupidest things out of any of the male leads in the series. But more on that in a minute.
 
To complicate matters, Nicholas (thanks to Dodsworth's intervention) is hot on Will's trail, seeking his own revenge. Of course, he 's torn, too. In his thirst for vengeance, he may very well lose Elizabeth, the woman he's come to love. But still he doggedly pursues William and decides that what Elizabeth doesn't know won't hurt her. And he'll make sure she never knows.

Can William redeem himself enough for Trudy to forgive him? Can Trudy escape a lifetime of potential abuse and mistreatment by a man she doesn't really love? Or will Nicholas satisfy his bloodlust and destroy everyone's happiness? Well, everyone but Dodsworth's, that is.
I....wanted to like this book more than I did. It had a lot of good moments (the finale was EXTREMELY satisfying for...reasons. #DodsworthGetsHis) but it also had a lot of cringe-worthy moments. I get that William is dealing with a lot of guilt, and guilt (and booze) clouds your judgment, but dang. For a guy who was once so upstanding, he really lets himself go. I honestly don't think even Vaughn would stoop so low. Love 'em and leave 'em, maybe. But William positively slums with the lowest of women (sometimes more than one at a time) and lives in the bottle. I wanted to reach into the book and slap the guy.

Trudy's plight is rather more sympathetic. She's spent her entire life under her father's thumb and she's only trying to do what's expected of her. At least her motivations were selfless. She's still woefully naive, but at least there's justification for it.

Perhaps the biggest disappointment in the book is that it doesn't really follow the formula much. I mean, it's obvious that the first book was Cinderella and the second was Beauty and the Beast. It's rather unfortunate that a book that is supposed to reflect Sleeping Beauty, at least a little, really didn't fit with that concept. I mean, it tied all the ends up nicely enough. And it sort of picks up on the original story at the tail end. I guess I just expected it to be tied to the source material a bit better. It felt kind of shoehorned in at the end.

That being said, there's still a LOT to like here. Everyone has their own personal struggles to deal with. None of the characters are one dimensional or boring. Mr. Everett and Mrs. Bea were positively ADORABLE and I would have liked to see more of them. But I suppose they came into the story at just the right time and stayed only as long as they needed to. As I've said, the ending is very satisfying, they bring back basically all of the characters from the rest of the series, and...you'll never look at a stable the same way again.

I'm not gonna lie. As hot as the library scene was in Beast of Ravenston...that stable scene was en fuego. They never cross the line into actually having sex...but they dance on that line. Vigorously. So if you're sensitive to that kind of thing...you may need to skip a couple chapters.
All in all, it was a decent book and did a nice job of tying up everything with a nice bow. Could it have been better? Eh...yeah. But it definitely could have been a lot worse. Besides...it's hard to top Beast of Ravenston. ;)

For more of Kelly Martin's books, check out her website at www.kellymartinbooks.com. You'll find info on her, her books, links to all her social media (which you should subscribe to all of them, just so you can bask in her epicness in every possible forum), and all that other fun stuff.