Tag Archives: King Kong

Beauty and the NeverBeast

Film, it’s a powerful medium. Early in my blogsproration  I noted that exposure to your first film is important and will help shape everything from conversations to friendships.

There also comes a pivotal time when the emotion of film will overwhelm you, sure, you’ll laugh long and hard but make no mistake you will cry, long and hard as well, and that moment shall forever be part of your filmic DNA.

It will come as you start being able to process and have empathy with stories and characters, as you start to  understand the story sense of films and tv. And when it happens it will hit you like an emotional bolt out of the blue.

For Isabelle this came whilst watching Tinkerbell and the Legend of the NeverBeast when the lovable but misunderstood beast of the title has fulfilled its mission and most go back to sleep for nearly a thousand years before he is next needed.

Iz instantly knew that this meant that Fawn and the other fairies would never see him again, in Isabelle’s eyes he may as well have been laying down to die rather than going to sleep for a long period of time.

But then that’s what happens to pets isn’t it? They go to sleep, so quickly going to sleep in animal terms, at least  in the eyes of children, is associated with death.

And Iz has already been touched by that with Grandma and Grandad’s beloved German shepherd, Max. It isn’t that Iz doesn’t know Max isn’t dead or that she just thinks he went to sleep, she understands he was very poorly but still misses him. She says she does regularly and still talks about him constantly with an air of sadness. And it was exactly that same emotional peril she was in with the NeverBeast having to say goodbye.

She’s hidden behind her hands prior to now, most recently with Bing Bong in Inside Out and only the day previously to the NeverBeast, watching The Iron Giant for the very first time.

But her reaction to the end of Tinkerbell and the Legend of the NeverBeast was on a whole new level. This was full on sobbing, sobbing that she nor the fairies will ever get to see the NeverBeast ever again as he won’t be back for 1,000 years. Iz wanted to go into his cave with him, she is such a sweet and sensitive soul.

We all have that moment occur to us though, it’s like a cinematic rites of passage. Mine, it was probably one of two films, King Kong (1976) – even if it was Rick Baker in a suit – or Anthony Hopkins TV movie, The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1982).

Both heroes who fell to their deaths from buildings, I may not remember which film triggered the emotion first but I vividly remember crying lots and lots outside in the back garden.

At the cinema it was the horse drowning in The NeverEnding Story, scarred for life I tells yer, having not seen it for years I think I’d even convinced myself that it had been saved…I was wrong.

For many it will of course have been E.T., unless you couldn’t make it out properly on a terrible pirate copy. And that’s the thing, you don’t know what it will be that will trigger it, whether it’s the lonely alien, the man in the ape mask or furry faced NeverBeast.

Whatever film it is a pivotal moment, as it’s about or innocence but also the beginning of the loss of our innocence. We are never the same again.

What film do you remember having the first real emotional impact on you when growing up?

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The Making of Harry Potter Studio Tour has sets appeal Part 2

In this second part of our visit to the Harry Potter Warner Bros Studio Tour, join us as we go behind the scenes of the magical movies and see how they were brought to life…

As the door opened we were let into a room where you see a montage of Harry Potter posters from across the world greet you to remind you that the world of Harry Potter practically took over our one, we are then treated to how the transition was made from books to film so this very much serves as our prologue.

It very much reminded me of seeing the likes of seeing Terminator 2 3D at Universal, the excitement just builds and builds and if you weren’t excited before then shame on you, but you now feel a step closer, to what we aren’t sure, but its progress.

The doors swoosh open to reveal a small cinema, we take our seats, the light darken and the screen comes to life showing us a highlights package the Harry Potter films, until we meet some familiar faces; Daniel, Emma and Rupert. It’s great to see them and for them to be part of the introduction of this experience, something which at the end of the day has also been such a  big part of their lives as well and in many ways where they grew up as people and not just as characters.

At the end of the short film the threesome disappear behind a familiar large door that takes them into the Great Hall. They bid us a fond farewell and exit through a giant door and then the cinema screen is majestically raised to reveal THAT actual giant door…for some it’s almost like the reveal of King Kong in the theatre and you can hear an audible gasp and certainly it was with the group we were with initially, these were grown adults, we aren’t talking kids here! They gasped; for this door is an entrance into Hogwarts, but it is more than that it is an entrance into the great hall…the first ‘this is what we are here for’ moment on the tour. To be honest they just keep coming after that, a bit like a child who has too many Christmas presents and just doesn’t know what to play with first.

And so we entered into the great hall of Hogwarts…

It’s perhaps the most iconic and widely recognised sets from all the Potter films and for many who have made this pilgrimage it is their filmic Mecca as in this very ‘room’ so much so significant, so memorable has happened through each of the books and subsequent films…this is where Harry history was quite literally made.

As a set it is impressive and all that is seemingly missing is a bank of floating candles (and a roof to the build, to complete it. Although still large, as with many actual sets it is smaller than perhaps you might imagine it, not that this takes away from any of the magic of being there, from seeing the fireplace, the never ending house tables and at the end clothed mannequins standing in the very spots where Dumbledore, Snape and Haggrid once ‘stood’.

Even though one part of you is telling you that it is only a set and not actually a great hallway all your other senses, especially underfoot as that is very much real flagstones you are stepping on, tell you that it is and that it is as real as say something like the Tower of London.

We found that there were plenty of photo opportunities here, even if some folk did try and hog(warts) the models for far too long, but we never felt rushed.

From here it was into Studio J, which was a feast for the eyes as pretty much every inch of this Studio was filled with sets and pieces from all of the films. To say it was vast just doesn’t cover it as the horizon just went on and on with its sets and costumes and sets, each one instantly recognisable.

And the great thing about this warehouse of wonder, one is reminded of the vastness of the warehouse from the very end of Raiders of the Lost Ark, this is your Potter playground to discover and uncover things at your leisure as you could spend as much time in that section as you wished. The only rule being that once you left to go to the next section you could never return, which was of course was for handling crowd numbers, but all the same sounded suitably like something Harry and Co would have to adhere to on one of their quests.

As you walk through into the Studio be sure to keep your eyes peeled as if youlook above you you’ll see a golden snitch suspended in mid-air.

Although there were lots of people in the Studio looking round at the menagerie of sets and delights it very rarely seemed that people were stood in your way or that you had to wait anytime to catch a closer glimpse of say the potion room, the Weasley house interior, Hagrid’s Hut, Dumbledore’s Office or one of the Dorm rooms, to name but a few.

The decadent chocolate feast from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire looked, well, good enough to eat but don’t get too excited though as it turns out most of it was painted resin. Mmm, resin, as Homer Simpson might say. The detail is amazing, complete with a pesky trail of sugar mice.

The Hogwarts Gates, from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, look like something straight out of Hammer Horror, no doubt they would have looked right at home in Radcliffe’s first post-Potter outing, The Woman in Black. Rather than that though it was more a case of The Bloke in the Green Coat when I stood in front of them, I did have my glasses on as well so that must at least count for something!

In the Gryffindor dormitory, inexplicably there seemed to be a distinct lack of an Ordinary Boys single, as featured playing in Harry Potter and, surely the darkest point of all the Harry Potter films . You know, they were ‘famous’ for five minutes when lead singer Preston was in Big Brother.

The Leaky Cauldron, as well as home to the rather large and obvious item that gives the pub its name, in this drinking establishment there was also a great example of forced perspective, made smaller as it goes off into the distance to make it appear much longer than it actually was, an old Hollywood and stage trick that is still as effective today and shows that not everything has to be done in a computer.

One of my favourite pieces has to be the giant stone griffin, almost like a giant maltese falcon, whilst he portraits of Hogwarts saw over 350 hand-painted ‘masterpieces’ showing the wizards and witches of times gone by.

Set designers clearly had to Phink Pink (one for old Pink Panther cartoon fans there) when it came to the set design for Dolores Umbridge’s Ministry of Magic office from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, it echoed many of those same features and – ahem – styles featured in her Defence Against the Dark Arts Office in Order of the Phoenix.

The Death Eaters and their masks were certainly one of the more sinisterly memorable features from the Potterverse, which no doubt  cropped up in a few nightmares post trip to the cinema, this one giving Iron Man a run for his money.

It was nice to be able to take the time to take in some of these glorious crafted moments, not just in some of the bigger recreated sets but also the smaller objects and the massive amount of care and detail that has been put into everything, even if it only appeared on screen in the background or was a fleeting appearance.

And so onto the next section of the Tour, a section that would see us get hands on with some of the props, a place where we would meet our greatest foes, say hello to some old friends most people decided to exit throught the door, I thought I’d take the more direct route…

Batons Beyond the Stars

In space no one can hear you scream, that’s because there is no sound. But when you think of your favourite science-fiction films and what makes them so special it’s rather ironic then that one of the things that stays with you forever is the music.

Sure, there’ll be other factors: favourite scenes or memorable dialogue, but the music is the life and soul of the movie. They say that you can’t make a great movie without a great script but equally the right piece of music can elevate a good movie, or scene, to greatness.

I spoke to movie soundtrack enthusiast, Mike Copping, a member of the John Barry Appreciation Society from its inception, who was first bitten by the movie soundtrack bug, aged ten, viewing the sci-fi tinged Bond-movie You Only Live Twice in 1967, scored by Barry, about what he considers the five greatest sci-fi movie scores of all time.

The following list is chronological and takes in several notable mentions along the way so lets (tap, tap, tap) strike up the orchestra for the greatest movie sci-fi soundtracks of all time.

Saying that purists will ‘wrap him in the mouth’ for not saying King Kong (1933), which saw composer Max Steiner arguably define the modern film score, Mike plumbs for fellow German composer, Franz Waxman.

He said: “Waxman holds equal claim to laying down the template to what we recognise as the modern film score as he was working at pretty much the same time on a wide range of films, so I’m going to have to say The Bride of Frankenstein (1935) as my first entry.”

“I see the score for the James Whale directed movie as a far more accomplished piece that works better with the film, is melodic and for me is the first really truly memorable, influential science fiction/ horror score that I would hold in that esteem, over and above Kong.”

There is no question for Mike in his second choice, Bernard Herrmann’s score for The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951).

Hermann is mostly associated with his collaboration with Hitchcock and his fantasy scores for Jason and the Argonauts, and The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad.

Copping said: “A lot of people might pick Louis and Bebe Barron’s Forbidden Planet but if you listen to that away from the film, ‘Planet’ sounds like beeps and electronics noises, whereas ‘Still’ is a properly orchestrated score in the traditional sense, but what makes it groundbreaking is the melodic way it uses the Theremin, an electronic instrument, as an evocative, other worldly voice, which was the first time it had been used that way.”

Mike continued: “It’s a hugely influential score that is heavily imitated, fantastically constructed and is just wonderful, unlike the entirely forgettable remake, which doesn’t hold a candle to or honour the original in any way.”

Sticking with ‘Earth’ for his third choice is Jerry Goldsmith’s landmark score for Planet of the Apes (1968), which Mike lists as being groundbreaking.

He said: “Again it is a hugely influential score that has been copied ever since (elements cropping up in his later score for Alien) and features some wonderful experimentation and is outstanding as it works dramatically, sounds alien and other worldly and to this day people think he used electronics, but it was all done acoustically, and still sounds fresh 41 years later.”

Goldsmith was Oscar-nominated for his outstanding work but bagged his only golden statue for the creepy chorals of The Omen (1976), which Copping, along with many people see as a huge injustice and a failing of the Academy.

As an honourable mention Mike also suggests Goldsmith’s Alien (1979). He says: “It works so well in the film and contributes to that terrible unease that you get whilst you are watching it, which is just disturbing, although not as disturbing as Director Ridley Scott’s treatment of it, something he would do to Goldsmith several year’s later on the fantasy movie, Legend, which also deserves a mention.”

The US print of Legend saw Goldsmith’s score excised completely and featured totally new music by Tangerine Dream, whilst the longer European cut retained the superior Goldsmith score.

Fittingly, the fourth is with Mike on his penultimate choice. He said: “Star Wars arrived in 1977, roughly a decade after ‘Apes’ and during that period pop songs had wormed their way into films and become a marketing tool.”

“So when Star Wars came along it blew (rather like an operational deathstar) everyone away, it did more than underscore the film, it reastablished the traditional symphonic score, something virtually unheard of at the time, as a viable entity that could sell very well in its own right if it was the right film and Star Wars just happened to encompass all that.”

“It’s a beautifully orchestrated and complex score that is thematically structured; it’s just wonderful stuff and heralded the return of the composer as artist. For Williams, it was a triumph.”

The composer honed his craft on Irwin Allen sci-fi TV epics laying the groundwork for his development. Mike enthused: “If you listen to his TV scores for ‘Lost in Space’, ‘Land of the Giants’ or ‘Time Tunnel’ you can hear hints of the shape of things to come. He had a great training ground in writing the most outlandish things, so Star Wars was just so fitting, cementing his position, one that he hasn’t lost since.”

From 77 to 82 Williams had such a prolific period, encompassing Star Wars, Close Encounters, Superman, The Fury, Raiders, Empire and E.T. Encounters is something that Mike prefers listening to rather than Star Wars. He said: “It almost surpasses Star Wars. The idea that aliens were communicating via music, which is a pretty universal thing from an emotional level, I thought was just great. Williams took that idea and ran with that five note theme.”

Mike’s final choice takes us to the final frontier which sees us back with Jerry Goldsmith and Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979).

He asserts: “This is one of the finest scores written for film, let alone for science-fiction. The early sequence where the Klingon ships are taken out by the approaching alien entity is fantastic scoring.”

“That kind of instrumentation and barbaric quality in the music instantly conveys Klingon culture and at the same time drives the sequence adding immeasurably, just what Goldsmith did best. The main theme is also one of the best ever, being so successful that Trek creator Roddenberry used it as the title music for The Next Generation.”

Goldsmith revisited the Trek movie franchise several times, but for Mike he never bettered that original score, which he said: “Is beautifully constructed, melodically driven, incredibly evocative and helps save the rather leaden pacing in the second part of the film.”

If there was one moment that stands out where vision and music work perfectly with one another, it would be the scene where Scotty first shows off the Enterprise to Kirk, and the audience, from a shuttle craft.

Mike concludes: “The cue, just called The Enterprise, sustains its entire length and is just a superb example of what Goldsmith did with his music, he’s sorely missed.”

Have your orchestral soundtrack hunting manoeuvres left you in the dark?

Unlikely to find much beyond ‘songs inspired by the movie’ albums in the high street try the following for limited editions and new releases.

Intrada

Film Score Monthly

Varese Sarabande

eBay is also worth a look, but be warned as there are plenty of bootleg copies out there as well as bargains so be sure to read the description.