A month after its release, Naughty Dog's sweeping interactive epic The Last of Us is being hailed as one of the best games of all time, with perfect scores even from notoriously demanding critics. Inspired by an eerily beautiful segment from the BBC's Planet Earth, the game portrays an America twenty years after a pandemic of the zombiefying Cordyceps fungus (previously), leaving behind lush wastelands of elegant decay teeming with monsters and beset by vicious bandits, a brutal military, and the revolutionary Fireflies. Into this bleak vision of desperate violence journey Joel, a gruffly stoic Texan with a painful past, and his ward Ellie, a precocious teenager who may hold the key to mankind's future. Boasting tense, immersive gameplay, compelling performances from a diverse cast, a movingly minimalist score from Oscar-winning Gustavo Santaolalla, and an array of influences from Alfonso Cuarón's Children of Men to Cormac McCarthy's The Road, it's already being slotted alongside BioShock Infinite and Half-Life 2 as one of modern gaming's crowning achievements. And while it's hard to disentangle plot from action, you don't have to buy a PS3 to experience it -- YouTube offers many filmic edits of the game, including this three-hour version of all relevant passages. And don't miss the 84-minute documentary exploring every facet of its production. [more inside]
Though it became an epic flop and forced Francis Ford Coppola to declare bankruptcy, the 1982 musical One From the Heart (previously) did produce one hell of a soundtrack featuring the unlikely collaboration between Tom Waits and Crystal Gayle. Here's the story of how it all came together. [more inside]
It's debatable whether the troubled World War Z signals the end of the ongoing zombie craze, but the film that started it all is much more clear: Danny Boyle's bleak, artful cult horror-drama 28 Days Later, which saw its US premiere ten years ago this weekend. From its iconic opening shots of an eerily abandoned London (set to Godspeed You! Black Emperor's brooding post-rock epic "East Hastings") to the frenzied chaos of its climax, Boyle's film -- a dark yet humanist tale of a world eviscerated by a frighteningly contagious epidemic of murderous rage -- reinvented and reinvigorated the genre that Romero built (though many insist its rabid, sprinting berserkers don't really count). And while sequel 28 Weeks Later with its heavyhanded Iraq War allusions failed to live up to the original (despite boasting one of the most viscerally terrifying opening sequences in modern horror), and 28 Months looks increasingly unlikely, there remains a small universe of side content from the film, including music, short films, comics, and inspired-by games. [more inside]
Kathryn Bigelow's striking bin Laden manhunt thriller Zero Dark Thirty arrives in wide release tonight on the heels of a final artful trailer -- one with oddly familiar musical accompaniment. The funereal hymn, a cover of Metallica's "Nothing Else Matters" (lyrics), deftly recasts the 90s power ballad as a haunting dirge of quiet grief, shattered ideals, and a singleminded focus on revenge, a perfect distillation of the film's profoundly grim thesis. But while the song may be fitting, it wasn't composed for the project -- it's just the latest success story from Belgian women's choir Scala & Kolacny Brothers, whose mournful reinterpretations of classic and modern rock -- catapulted by their rendition of "Creep" in The Social Network -- have made them famous around the world, with star turns in the likes of Homeland ("Every Breath You Take") and Downton Abbey ("With or Without You"). Cover comparison site WhoSampled offers a list of YouTube comparisons between the covers and the originals; look inside for more of their work in movies and television. [more inside]
"For NOLA-shot 'Looper' soundtrack, composer [Nathan Johnson] relies on the music of munitions." (last two links contain embedded video)
A decade on, the Coen brothers' woefully underrated O Brother, Where Art Thou? [alt] is remembered for a lot of things: its sun-drenched, sepia-rich cinematography (a pioneer of digital color grading), its whimsical humor, fluid vernacular, and many subtle references to Homer's Odyssey. But one part of its legacy truly stands out: the music. Assembled by T-Bone Burnett, the soundtrack is a cornucopia of American folk music, exhibiting everything from cheery ballads and angelic hymns to wistful blues and chain-gang anthems. Woven into the plot of the film through radio and live performances, the songs lent the story a heartfelt, homespun feel that echoed its cultural heritage, a paean and uchronia of the Old South. Though the multiplatinum album was recently reissued, the movie's medley is best heard via famed documentarian D. A. Pennebaker's Down from the Mountain, an extraordinary yet intimate concert film focused on a night of live music by the soundtrack's stars (among them Gillian Welch, Emmylou Harris, Chris Thomas King, bluegrass legend Dr. Ralph Stanley) and wryly hosted by John Hartford, an accomplished fiddler, riverboat captain, and raconteur whose struggle with terminal cancer made this his last major performance. The film is free in its entirety on Hulu and YouTube -- click inside for individual clips, song links, and breakdowns of the set list's fascinating history. [more inside]
Nants ingonyama bagithi baba! It's been nearly two decades since that glorious savanna sunrise, and once again The Lion King is at the top of the box office. It's a good chance to revisit what made the original the capstone of the Disney Renaissance, starting with the music. Not the gaudy show tunes or the Elton John ballads, but the soaring, elegiac score by Hans Zimmer which, despite winning an Oscar, never saw a full release outside of an unofficial bootleg. Luckily, it's unabridged and high-quality, allowing one to lay Zimmer's haunting, pulse-pounding, joyful tracks alongside the original video (part 2, 3, 4), revealing the subtle leitmotifs and careful matching of music and action. In addition, South African collaborator Lebo M wove traditional Zulu chorals into the score, providing veiled commentary on scenes like this; his work was later expanded into a full album, the Broadway stage show, and projects closer to his heart. Speaking of expanded works, there were inevitable sequels -- all of which you can experience with The Lion King: Full Circle (download guide), a fan-made, three-hour supercut of the original film and its two follow-ups. Want more? Look... harder... [more inside]
In their 25 year career San Fransisco-based Kronos Quartet might be most famous for creating the go-to dramatic movie trailer music but they've recently courted controversy with their latest album, 9/11, with Steve Reich (NPR First Listen). The album is another in a long line of collaborations with composers such as Phillip Glass, Terry Riley, and Pēteris Vasks. And like any good instrumental ensemble, they've covered Hendrix, Sigur Ros, and Tom Waits. Oh, and they've been on Sesame Street. [more inside]
The Soundworks Collection gives a behind-the-scenes look into the work of talented sound teams working on feature films, soundtrack scoring, and video games with a compilation of exclusive interviews, awards shows / event panel coverage and sound stage / studio room videos. Vimeo Channel. YouTube Channel. [more inside]
Tennessee Williams said it was the best film version of any of his plays. Roger Ebert called it "awkward and hopeless on its most fundamental level". John Waters calls it a major influence on the development of his taste. [more inside]
The Room: The Movie. Triple-threat (actor/writer/director) Tommy Wiseau made his cinematic debut in 2003 with the The Room (see trailer and various scenes), "a blend between a softcore porn flick and a Tennessee Williams stageplay." Wiseau ("who's not just one of the most unusual looking and sounding-with an unidentifiable Eastern European accent-leading men ever to grace the screen, but a narcissist nonpareil whose movie makes Vincent Gallo's "The Brown Bunny" seem the apotheosis of cinematic self-restraint...may be something of a first: A movie that prompts most of its viewers to ask for their money back-before even 30 minutes have passed." - Variety), allegedly raised $6 million outside Hollywood to cover production and marketing costs of the self-described "black comedy about love, passion, betrayal and lies" (see various rough dress rehersals). Audience members, including comedian David Cross, have been "marveling at the bizarre editing, bad bluescreen, uncomfortably explicit sex scenes and, of course, the enigma of Wiseau himself" as the film played monthly for years in Los Angeles. Available on DVD, diehard "roomies" swear by the theatrical experience, shout out their own commentary, hurl spoons at the screen and singalong to the soundtrack. Some call it "The Rocky Horror of the New Millenium" and stage "Room" parties. If you look at the marketing campaign or survived a screening you might see The Room as "a seminar on how NOT to make a movie." [Inspired by Boing Boing]
A huge, comprehensive collection of Italian soundtrack covers. With print runs as small as 300, some of these soundtracks are impossible to find nowadays. Some of the cover art is really fantastic. There's a pretty extensive collection of French, German, American, English and Japanese soundtracks too.
John Debney fought with Satan to score "The Passion of the Christ." Literally: "I had all these computers and synthesizers in my studio and the hard drives would go down and the digital picture that lives on the computer with the music would just freeze on his [Satan's] face... and I was verbalizing and saying to Satan, 'Manifest yourself right now...'"