Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A track-by-track rundown of the current "New Cue Revue" playlist on A Fistful of Soundtracks

Shahrukh Khan and Kareena Kapoor pose with Akon at the premiere of Automan, uh, I mean, Ra.One.
Every Wednesday at 10am and 4pm and every Friday at 11am, A Fistful of Soundtracks streams the most recent additions to the station's "Assorted Fistful" library (or in the case of Akon & Hamskia Iyer's "Chammak Challo," the "Chai Noon" library) for an hour-long block entitled "New Cue Revue." Here's what's currently on the "New Cue Revue" playlist.

1. Akon & Hamsika Iyer, "Chammak Challo" (from Ra.One)
Ever since it was announced in 2010 that R&B artist Akon, best known for "Smack That," "I Wanna Love You" and the hilarious Lonely Island/SNL digital short "I Just Had Sex," was lending his pipes to an original song for a Bollywood film (like another non-Indian singer, Kylie Minogue, had done for the imaginatively titled 2009 Into the Blue clone Blue), I've been dying to hear the Akon track. The end result, "Chammak Challo" from Bollywood star Shahrukh Khan's recently released superhero movie Ra.One, finally dropped in September and is a smash hit in India. (In this latest round of one of my favorite games, Guess the American Movie or TV Show That This Bollywood Film Is a Bizarre Clone Of, Ra.One, which features Khan in the dual role of a dorky video game designer and a heroic character from his game who enters the real world, appears to be a clone of the largely forgotten '80s superhero show Automan.)

Akon acquits himself nicely as he alternates between English and Hindi during "Chammak Challo" (the song title is basically "nice-looking shawty" in Hindi slang). The catchy "Chammak Challo" proves that it's much better when Bollywood soundtrack composers enlist actual R&B or rap artists from America to do their thing on their soundtracks than when they attempt to rap or ape current American R&B trends on their own. The latter has led to several theme tunes that are as painful-sounding as the time when Prince stopped being a hater of hip-hop and attempted to incorporate rap into his Diamonds and Pearls album--for instance, go YouTube "Desi Boyz." Or maybe you're better off if you don't.

2. Howard Shore, "The Thief" (from Hugo)
The former SNL bandleader and Oscar-winning Lord of the Rings trilogy composer nicely apes the rhythms of a clock for Martin Scorsese's clock imagery-filled tribute to silent-era filmmakers like Georges Méliès (played during Hugo by Ben Kingsley).

3. Alberto Iglesias, "George Smiley" (from Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy)
The lonely trumpet during Alberto Iglesias' effective score for the latest screen adaptation of John le Carré's 1974 spy novel Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy announces that "This ain't Bond. This is le Carré. No bloody invisible cars or steel-toothed thugs here."

4. Mike Skinner, "Fernando's Theme" (from The Inbetweeners Movie)
British rapper Mike Skinner has retired his stage name The Streets and entered the world of film scoring with his original music for the film version of The Inbetweeners, the Britcom about a group of Superbad-style dorky teens whose anthem would be the aforementioned "I Just Had Sex." The clubby "Fernando's Theme" is the best example of "Wow, I never knew this pasty white guy had a Latin side and maybe he should express it more often" since Michael Giacchino wrote the awesome "Spanish Heist" for the TV series Alias.

5. Alan Silvestri, "Howling Commando's Montage" (from Captain America: The First Avenger)
This cue accompanies a sequence in Captain America: The First Avenger that's a bit too short: a montage of Cap on his missions with the Howling Commandos. Will the Captain America sequel be a flashback to one of those missions with the Howling Commandos that The First Avenger glossed over? As someone who wanted to see more Howling Commando scenes in the film, I hope so.

6. Quincy Jones featuring Little Richard, "Money Runner/Money Is (Medley)" (from $ [Dollars])
As I've said before, say the following five words--"caper movie score by Q"--and I'm there, baby. This funky theme from the 1971 Warren Beatty/Goldie Hawn heist flick $ (Dollars) would fit right in with the Occupy era, except "Inflation in the nation don't bother me" would have to be changed to "Recession in the nation don't bother me."

7. Ludovic Bource, "1927 A Russian Affair" (from The Artist)
After the arrivals of The Artist and Hugo, is silent cinema making a comeback? This better not mean a return to white people stealing Asian roles from Asian perform... d'oh!

8. Alan Howarth and Larry Hopkins, "Main Theme - Desolation" (from The Thing)
Alan Howarth, who collaborated with filmmaker/composer John Carpenter on the scores to such classic Carpenter flicks as Big Trouble in Little China and They Live, recently recreated the mostly synthesized (and out-of-print) score Ennio Morricone composed for Carpenter's 1982 version of The Thing, with some help from the Digital Orchestra Toolbox. Howarth's Thing tracks sound just like the originals (much like how you can't tell Jan Hammer's 2002 release Miami Vice: The Complete Collection is a re-recording because Hammer performed his score tracks on the exact same synthesizers he used during Vice), resulting in one of the few film score re-recordings that aren't underwhelming like most symphonic re-recordings of film scores.

9. Craig Armstrong, "Rooftop Chase" (from In Time)
I'm not sure if "Rooftop Chase" or any of Craig Armstrong's other In Time score cues will become a film and TV trailer staple like Armstrong's "Escape" from Plunkett & Macleane, but few film and TV composers pull off grandiose, trip-hop-and-techno-influenced action cues as well as Armstrong does in cues like "Rooftop Chase" and "Escape."

10. Cliff Martinez, "Bride of Deluxe" (from Drive)
Cliff Martinez's synthy score for Drive is less grandiose than Armstrong's film music work. It's more reserved and Zen-like, much like Ryan Gosling's laconic Driver character.

11. Brian Tyler, "Tego and Rico" (from Fast Five)
Fast Five's Rio setting helped reinvigorate the Fast and the Furious franchise and added more Latin flavor to Brian Tyler's score music, especially during Fast Five's theme for bickering thieves Casey Affleck and Scott Caan Tego Calderón and Don Omar.

12. Swipe, "This Is a Low" (from Tamara Drewe)
Guylinered drummer Ben Sergeant (Dominic Cooper) may be what's known in the U.K. as a git, but the tunes by him and Tamara Drewe's fictional Britpop band Swipe are pretty damn catchy, especially "This Is a Low," a track about a guy getting his ass whupped by his temperamental girlfriend (the frontman is singing, "This is a call for a domestic dispute," not "This is a corporate domestic dispute," like several blog or forum posts have erroneously said). Not to be confused with the Blur track of the same name, "This Is a Low" has an interesting pedigree. In the movie, the song is a source of tension between Swipe and Ben, who wrote "This Is a Low" and is pissed that his bandmates don't give him enough credit for his work, but offscreen, it was actually written by Cooper's younger brother Nathan.

Audrey is famous for delivering one of the weirdest pick-up lines in TV history: 'Do your palms ever itch?' All the time, Audrey.
(Photo source: In the boho closet)
13. David Lynch, "Blue Frank" (from Twin Peaks)
A rare Twin Peaks composition written not by Angelo Badalamenti but by David Lynch himself, "Blue Frank" is taken from the show's second season score album. One listen to the bump and grind of "Blue Frank" will reignite your hankering for both pie and Audrey Horne's slinky dancing.

14. Steven Price, Felix Buxton & Simon Ratcliffe, "The Block" (from Attack the Block)
Set in a rough South London council estate attacked by "gorilla wolf muthafuckas" from outer space and featuring a cast of characters of color who are somehow more frightening to conservative dipshits than the gorilla wolf aliens, the British cult favorite Attack the Block is last summer's best popcorn movie. Beleedat. One of the movie's most enjoyable elements is the original score, the first ever written by the British dance act Basement Jaxx (a.k.a. Felix Buxton and Simon Ratcliffe), with assistance by Scott Pilgrim vs. the World music editor Steven Price. Their cue "The Block" suggests John Carpenter if his body were taken over Thing-style by a dubstepper.

15. Henry Jackman, "Frankenstein's Monster" (from X-Men: First Class)
Henry Jackman's menacing and twangy theme for X-Men villain Magneto is easily the most memorable of the four themes that four different composers wrote for the character in the X-Men films, much like how Hunger star Michael Fassbender's breakout performance as Magneto in X-Men: First Class has trumped Sir Ian McKellen's previous (and lamely outfitted) take on Erik Lensherr. "Frankenstein's Monster" is already being used as trailer music. It can be heard in the clip from the Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy trailer that precedes Alberto Iglesias' aforementioned "George Smiley" during "New Cue Revue" and "Assorted Fistful." By the way, Jackman isn't related to Hugh, but I'm sure he's better than Wolverine at sliding down a zipline.

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