Tag Archives: Steven Spielberg

The New York Pops Plays the Music of John Williams – Recap

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When it comes to film music, one name seems to pop up no matter how much of a movie aficionado or novice you are. He is a man with numerous awards and accolades to his name and he is responsible for scoring some of cinema history’s greatest titles. That man, of course, is John Williams and on June 8th, 2017, the Forest Hills Stadium in Queens, NY hosted The New York Pops as they performed Williams’ music in a glorious concert setting. It was a truly lovely evening featuring music played expertly in a more than special venue.

Built in 1923, Forest Hills Stadium was originally a glorious tennis court and in the 1960s, it became a glorious concert venue. The Beatles, Barbara Streisand, and Frank Sinatra were just a  few of the big names that performed in the space. Once the 90s hit, the stadium grew quiet. But in 2013, the venue was revitalized and for purposes of this article, the New York Pops graced the stadium with their presence and played Maestro John Williams’ iconic movie music.

The weather of the evening was perfect and the energy in the air was electric. The program of the concert included pieces from Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Hook, Schindler’s List, Jurassic Park, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and the Star Wars films. Each movie’s score was brilliantly performed and with a gifted and charismatic conductor / musical director in Steven Reineke at the helm, the evening was certainly to remember. Leading the orchestra and providing a mini synopsis and history for each film, this only elevated the evening to much higher level. There were even special appearances by Darth Vader, Stormtroopers, Kylo Ren, and Jawas (people in costume, I hope.)

John Williams is by far, Hollywood’s most well-known film composer and his collaborations with filmmakers Steven Spielberg and George Lucas have provided audiences with some of the  most loved film music of all time. Forest Hills Stadium was the perfect venue for this concert and hopefully, more film composers’ works will be featured here. Being from Forest Hills myself, I was especially proud to be in the audience that night. With each piece played live, I got chills and I formed new memories of this incredible concert. The New York Pops and Forest Hills Stadium are responsible for this, those and of course Mr. John Williams.

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New York Philharmonic: John Williams’ ‘E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial’ in Concert – Recap

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There have been many collaborations throughout cinema history that have made a memorable and profound impact on moviegoers. Creativity can only mushroom if likeminded individuals join forces and put forth great art together. Legendary filmmaker Steven Spielberg is one such individual and he has been working with maestro and genius composer John Williams for over 40 years now. Their work has gone beyond just art and continues to endure in the collective consciousness of society. The New York Philharmonic recently brought the Spielberg / Williams masterpiece E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial to vivid life as they performed the orchestral score live while the 1982 film screened simultaneously.

Now, in case you have been living under a rock for the past 35 years, E.T. tells the beautiful story of young Elliot (Henry Thomas), a lonely boy who encounters an alien creature and soon becomes friends with it. When the shady government learns of E.T.’s existence, they quickly try to capture him. What then transpires is an adventure like none other with a powerful friendship at the forefront between boy and alien lifeform.

During the weekend of May 12th, 2017, David Geffen Hall at Lincoln Center in New York City played host with conductor David Newman conducting the New York Philharmonic for this truly wonderful concert. John Williams’ music was brought to glorious life by all the players and the audience went on a journey both musically and visually. Actor Robert MacNaughton (who played older brother Michael) was actually in the audience as a special guest and this only added to the already magical evening.

The New York Philharmonic puts on concerts like this fairly regularly and the next performances to feature John Williams’ music will be in September with the Star Wars films. Click here for more information. An absolute treat for the senses, the New York Philharmonic certainly knows what they’re doing and if you are a fan of John Williams or film in general, then these concerts are definitely for you.

New York Philharmonic – A John Williams Celebration Recap

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A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…. John Williams exploded into the film music world. He is the most famous living composer today and he is responsible for some of the most memorable themes and most successful movie franchises of all time. His work on Star Wars alone has made him a powerful figure in the film business and at 84 years of age, it doesn’t look like he’s planning on retiring anytime soon. The New York Philharmonic recently performed some of the Maestro’s works at David Geffen Hall at Lincoln Center in New York and the results were simply out of this world.

Conducted by recognized film composer, in his own right, David Newman (Galaxy Quest, Ice Age), the New York Philharmonic paid tribute to Williams in a way that was not only spot on but utterly spectacular. The evening’s program included pieces from Steven Spielberg classics Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Schindler’s List, and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Lesser known scores from Jane Eyre, Memoirs of a Geisha, and Born on the Fourth of July were performed to showcase some of Williams’ non-blockbuster work. The performance ended on a triumphant note, however, with pieces from Star Wars: The Force Awakens, A New Hope and a special bonus excerpt from E.T.: The Extra-terrestrial. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and an extra work entitled For New York were also played.

John Williams is so influential in the film world and his scores, so powerful, that anyone in attendance during this concert was certainly treated to something quite magical. It was refreshing to hear some of Williams’ lesser known works performed even if one usually expects to hear the bombast of say, Superman, Hook, or Jurassic Park. Those scores have been represented well in the past and with more scores being churned out every year by this master film composer, I think we are all in store for many more performances to come.

Soundtrack Review: Jurassic World

22 years ago, Jurassic Park forever changed the way audiences saw movies. It was a monumental film and a crowning achievement due mostly to its groundbreaking visual effects and universal sense of wonder and fun. It was a sci-fi adventure film through and through and was one of visual effects powerhouse Industrial Light and Magic’s (ILM) absolute best films. Jurassic Park broke box office records and spawned three sequels, the most recent of which is Jurassic World and its soundtrack, the focus of this review. Michael Giacchino took John Williams’ original formula and added his own style to the proceedings, making for not only a fitting tribute to Mr. Williams’ sound but introduced a new style which combined both old and new. The results are a fresh score that balances action and childlike wonder, something Williams did and continues to do time and time again, especially with his many collaborations with director Steven Spielberg.

While Jurassic World may not be the most original of films, it is certainly full of plenty of fun. The PG-13 rating allows for many heart-pounding scares and action sequences, while falling under the umbrella of “family-friendly entertainment”. The first Jurassic Park established this very clearly and pretty much all of the sequels appropriately followed this reliable formula. World takes place two decades after the events of the first film and for some reason, has the park opened to the general public. Consumerism and and a new audience occupy the island and the fact that numerous lives were lost in the previous films doesn’t seem to matter to the park’s billionaire owner Simon Masrani (Irrfan Khan) and park’s operations manager Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard). Of course, things go horribly wrong when a new genetically engineered dinosaur escapes its paddock and wreaks havoc on the island and its visitors. Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) serves as the film’s hero since he has a unique ability to relate to and train Velociraptors. He quickly becomes the film’s rugged savior and predictability ensues.

The film’s score, which was written by Michael Giacchino, is a strong effort from the man who, over the course of the last decade, has become one of Hollywood’s most talented composers. He made a huge splash in 2004 with Pixar’s The Incredibles and since then, has scored various other Pixar features, Star TrekMission: Impossible – Ghost ProtocolDawn of the Planet of the Apes and so on. This year, he has scored Jupiter AscendingTomorrowland and Inside Out, so he certainly has his work cut out for him. Also worth noting is that Giacchino scored the score for The Lost World: Jurassic Park video game back in 1997.

The score for Jurassic World contains a healthy dose of action cues coupled with tender family themes and the occasional rendition of John Williams’ two classic themes. Track 1 “Bury the Hatchling” sets an ominous sci-fi mood. This then segways into the family theme, which is sweet and cheery. Track 3 “Welcome to Jurassic World” is by far, the best track on the album, for it presents a glorious rendition of William’s original theme and makes fans of the first film excited upon hearing the first few notes. This then leads into “As the Jurassic World Turns”, an epic cue which introduces the new Jurassic sound and counterbalances it with the old sound.

With the Williams sound making a strong appearance in the beginning portions of the score, Giacchino treats us to a substantial amount of action music in the middle and second half. These tense moments litter the score and during the rare quiet moments, we get some pretty routine filler score, moments of discovery and scenes in which Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard can flirt awkwardly. “Indominus Wrecks” is a great track that incorporates many styles and moods into one cue. “Gyrosphere of Influence” harkens back to Williams sound and “Pavane for a Dead Apatosaurus” introduces a cool militaristic march for Vincent D’Onofrio’s “villain” and InGen. “Chasing the Dragons” is a rhythmic action cue with a pounding beat which is quite dark. “Our Rex is Bigger Than Yours” presents a triumphant rendition of the film’s main theme and then sours into a tribal chant action cue. The remainder of the score is more of the same, mixing the action cues with the upbeat family theme.

All in all, Giacchino has done a fine job with Jurassic World. The film itself is much better than its predecessor, 2001’s dismal Jurassic Park III and the music is a fitting tribute to John Williams. Giacchino’s work here demonstrates a precision and skill few film composers this day possess. While World isn’t a perfect film, it is a great example that new filmmakers and composers can respect the classics while making new works of their own. Jurassic World is a solid adventure film and its score strongly reflects that fun and originality first established over two decades ago.

Above and Beyond

Heroism is something rarely seen in people these days. To sacrifice one’s safety for a greater good is an incredible sacrifice many are unwilling to go through. War is one of those instances when one must step up to the plate and complete their mission. Soldiers know this call and answer it on many occasions. The searing new documentary Above and Beyond tells the incredible true story of a random bunch of men who jeopardized their lives to make sure a struggling nation reached their dream of independence. It is a story that highlights true courage and it is a tale many probably don’t even know about.

When World War II ended, peace on Earth reigned supreme. It was a prosperous time and many thought that it was just smooth sailing from then on. That is until 1948 saw Israel fighting for their independence. Their military was limited and not up to snuff so a ragtag group of American Jewish fighter pilots answered the call, smuggled planes out of the U.S., used them to form the Israeli Air Force, and ultimately win Israel’s independence. The bravery displayed by this group of warriors not only brought freedom to the Holy Land but proved just how selfless and honorable one can be.

Above and Beyond is a beautifully crafted documentary shining a light on a time many probably don’t even know about. Producer Nancy Spielberg (sister of Steven) has followed in her brother’s footsteps by telling a profound story in a gripping and artistic manner. Renowned visual effects company Industrial Light and Magic contributed extremely realistic CGI footage of fighter planes engaging in intense battle. This however might be unused footage from the dismal Red Tails, a World War II action film with similar themes but that is neither here nor there.

What makes Above and Beyond so great are the interviews of the some of the original pilots. All in the 80s, they each have fascinating anecdotes that tell a truly riveting story. With different personalities and each with their own unique voice, these men comprise a very colorful bunch to say the least. Their chemistry with one another could very well be made into a feature length film and the harrowing adventure that these heroes embarked on could be the stuff of cinematic gold.

Rookie director Roberta Grossman has put together all of the essential pieces to make a powerful documentary. Even the film’s score which is composed by Lorne Balfe is soaring and at times, deeply poignant. A student of Hans Zimmer’s, Balfe has a lot to say with his music and it definitely adds another layer to the proceedings. Also, history teachers should use Above and Beyond in their classrooms because this is a part of world history barely touched on. Hopefully this documentary will reach audiences all over because it is educational as well as extremely entertaining. Everyone involved in the production of this film should be commended for their strong work here and people should take note of Nancy Spielberg since she is a very competent filmmaker in her own right and not just a talentless product of nepotism.

The Hundred-Foot Journey


Food porn is a popular form of entertainment in the ever expanding reality entertainment market. The fascination of seeing different culinary styles and combinations on screen has been quite the phenomenon with viewers for some strange reason. Television may be the more popular medium when it comes to food porn but motion pictures also tend to dabble in this mysterious form of visual delight. The latest dramedy The Hundred-Foot Journey is a big budget silly, sometimes sincere stew full of strong performances, formulaic plot devices, and the occasional humorous moment. It is a cutesy, straightforward film rated PG, so it is easy to digest for much of the family in search of some tasty cinema.

The Hundred-Foot Journey focuses on the Kadam family, a humble group who has moved from India to a quaint little town in the South of France. The family’s patriarch Papa (Om Puri) is stubborn and headstrong and determined to open an Indian eatery in the area. This proves difficult however when they learn that a classic French restaurant thrives across the street, a hundred feet away, roughly. The manager of the competing restaurant is a cold, uppity woman named Madam Mallory (Helen Mirren) and she constantly butts heads with the Kadams. Another premise springs up concerning Hassan, the eldest Kadam child who shows expert skill in the kitchen. His prowess is then put to the test.

Based on Richard C. Morais’ novel of the same name, The Hundred-Foot Journey is a charming story with colorful characters and a style appropriate for the whole family. There are moments of broad comedy peppered throughout and there are more tender scenes which won’t inspire tears but then again, they are meaningful and sincere.

The cast in The Hundred-Foot Journey is what truly shines. Seasoned Indian actor Om Puri is top notch as the struggling restaurateur and devoted father. He brings a certain sense of realism to the production and his comic timing is truly wonderful. His character actually has the best scenes and interactions with Academy Award-winning actress Helen Mirren who is perfect in the role of the antagonist. If only more of the film could have focused on these two because they are just great together.

Sadly, the second half of the film drags a bit and shines the spotlight on the arrogant and unlikable Hassan, who is played by Manish Dayal. His blossoming culinary career becomes the main plot point and the audience must then watch his evolution from young kitchen worker to renowned chef. A subplot involving a love interest attempts to make things interesting but falls rather short.

With Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey serving as executive producers on this film, one thing is certain and that is money is no object here. From the actors to the score to the set decoration, The Hundred-Foot Journey is one big-budget chunk of cinema. It is an appealing and relatively innocent film but the premise feels all too familiar and the decision to focus on the character of Hassan could have been thought out better. Dramedies come and go and luckily, The Hundred-Foot Journey has more pros than cons.