The Heroes Score: Finally!

Heroes ScoreSince the first episode of Heroes, I have wanted to own a recording of the score by Wendy & Lisa.  Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman have composed a unique experience with the score, that sets Heroes apart from traditional superhero soundtracks. The pilot episode was first played at the San Diego Comic Con with a temporary score taken from Batman Begins. That music became the inspiration for the melodies and the tempo that was produced for the shows premiere that fall.

Last year, there was a Heroes soundtrack released (Heroes Orginal Soundtrack-Deluxe Edition), but it’s composed of songs that the writing staff listened to while writing the scripts for the show. It also included a little bit of the score, but all in all I only was able to handle it a couple of listens. It wasn’t something that I enjoyed, as I didn’t really know many of the songs, and if I did, I wasn’t a fan of the artist, for the most part.

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Donkey Kong Country Trilogy, My Dream Game

I’m a big fan of the Donkey Kong Country trilogy of games. If anyone asked me what my favorite game is, I’ll say Donkey Kong Country. The level design and game play are both fun and the music is fantastic. Donkey Kong 64 was a sequel, sure, but it wasn’t ever Donkey Kong Country 4 to me.

I would love it if they released an “All-stars” version of the game series, much like Super Mario All-Stars. I’d update the already superb graphics of the original games to be cleaner and more refined, and I would add full motion videos to tell the story that sets each game in motion, only allowing you to play each sequel as you complete the last.

I would then culminate the adventures with a brand new DKC4, in the style of the original trilogy of games.

When it comes to the music in the games, I really liked most of the music in the DKC series, enough to own the soundtracks to them. But when putting together an All-Stars game, I would re-produce the music to have a solid, epic soundtrack. I would take only the best music from all three games and leave out the rest, either re-scoring those tracks to fit in with the beautiful score that is left over, or simply replacing it with music from another game. Case in point: Lakeside Limbo, the first stage of the game.

I would actually love the best music to be fully orchestrated, with a choir to provide added flair.

Another thing that I would do with the games, as it would all be connected, is allow for you to go back through the original games and use any of the playable characters into each of the games. But only after completing the first three DKC games. This would open up a new timing system, as it could lend itself to more secret areas becoming accessible in different areas, with the use of different characters. However, this is something that I would only add, if the first time through the game was still the same, and your time for that game wasn’t effected. I would have any extra time spent, with new bonus levels, be added to a “global time” and not an “individual game time” to keep players happy.

One thing that the Game Boy Advanced versions of the games did was to add new items to collect, such as a camera, to put together photo albums. That was a neat addition, but it was a little bit shocking to see how much it would slow down your time toward the complete percentage when finishing the games. That, I would change into a secondary, over worldly thing, in order to preserve the original gameplay from the SNES editions.

Next, for Donkey Kong Country 4, I would design the game with the same flair as the first one, and elements of DKC2 and DKC3. It would be an epic game with fun, new level-types, as well as familiar level styles.

And that would only be the Donkey Kong Country All-Stars portion. I would also allow you to scroll on, past the first 4 games, into the next collection of updated games. Donkey Kong Land, completely re-done, in the Donkey Kong Country style, with the same beautiful graphics, music and tightened controls to match those of the DKC series. That first DKL was insanely difficult at times, and frustrating at other times, as the screen would blur and you’d lose track of your character. It made things difficult when you’d press a button expecting one thing, but your character wouldn’t respond as quickly, presumably because of the limitations of the Game Boy.

In this way, Donkey Kong Land would become a playable game, and would be a solid entry into the Donkey Kong Country pantheon of games.

I’ve wanted this in a game for over 10 years now, and I finally decided to write something about it.

Now, Nintendo is doing something interesting by re-releasing some of their GameCube titles on Wii with updated control schemes. They are calling it the “Play it on Wii” series. Among the titles getting upgrades are Metroid Prime, Metroid Prime 2: Echoes, Pikmin 1 and 2, Chibi-Robo and Donkey Kong Jungle Beat.

Donkey Kong Jungle Beat has been updated, adding new levels, a better control mechanism than the kongas from Donkey Konga, and is now more platform based. Hopefully this makes it more like Donkey Kong Country than it originally was. I never got a chance to play it, but now I’m hoping that this version of it releases in North America, if it is anything like Donkey Kong Country.

Perhaps it could be the first step toward my dream of seeing a Donkey Kong Country Trilogy released some day.

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Song: Let Go

Artist: Frou Frou

Drink up baby down
Are you in or are you out?
Leave your things behind
‘Cause it’s all going off without you
Excuse me too busy you’re writing a tragedy
These mess-ups
You bubble-wrap
When you’ve no idea what you’re like

So, let go
Jump in
Oh well, what you waiting for?
It’s all right
‘Cause there’s beauty in the breakdown
So, let go
Just get in
Oh, it’s so amazing here
It’s all right
‘Cause there’s beauty in the breakdown

It gains the more it gives
And then advances with the form
So, honey, back for more
Can’t you see that all the stuff’s essential?
Such boundless pleasure
We’ve no time for later
Now you can wait
You roll your eyes
We’ve twenty seconds to comply

So, let go
Jump in
Oh well, what you waiting for?
It’s all right
‘Cause there’s beauty in the breakdown
So, let go
Just get in
Oh, it’s so amazing here
It’s all right
‘Cause there’s beauty in the breakdown

Beauty and the Beast Soundtrack Review

Beauty and the BeastEvery once in a while we like to try new things in order to see what you, the reader, enjoys. Here is the first “toonbox,” which will consist of soundtracks from animated films. Enjoy!

In 1991, Walt Disney Pictures released a film that to this day, remains one of the greatest animated films of all time. Beauty and the Beast was released to a very warm reception, receiving a nomination for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. It has since, become my favorite animated Disney film of all time. I am especially excited for the upcoming DVD release, this fall.

Upon purchasing the Special Edition Soundtrack, I was very excited. I had taken in a screening of the film at our local IMAX, and was pumped up. This disc’s packaging immediately lets you know that it is a labor of love, with it’s high quality design that gives the disc an heir of nobility. Upon sliding the slip-cover off of the jewel-case, you are treated to a montage of some of the most memorable moments from the movie.

The insert includes a foreword by Academy Award winning composer Alan Menken. He dedicates the album to the memory of Howard Ashman, who wrote the lyrics for this soundtrack.

The album has nineteen tracks including music not included in the film, such as the original early version of “Death of the Beast” and the “work tape and demo” of “Beauty and the Beast.” It also includes the demo of “Be Our Guest” which is made interesting by the fact that it was originally sung to Belle’s father when he came to the castle.

In the film, the music moves the story forward, explaining the relationships and desires of all of the characters in a few minutes. The story is propelled forward from the opening scene, that draws you in, with the story of the Beast. The songs are all instantly memorable.

The opening song “Belle” shows how the townsfolk view Belle, Gaston’s plans for Belle, and how Belle sees the world.

“Be Our Guest” is a fun escape song with some classic Disney animation style.

“Beauty and the Beast” is a song that, when I heard it, I thought that the song was a classic song from years and years ago. For all I knew, it was written in the nineteenth century, and they used it in the movie. It had become a hit on the radio version sung by unknown Celine Dion.

“Human Again” is a song that was originally a part of the film, but was dropped for length issues. It became a hit when the film was translated to Broadway. Folks at Disney were planning to release it on IMAX and decided to put the song back in. They brought the original animators back on board, and finished the scene. This song is not a favorite of mine, but after about eleven years without it in the movie, it throws me off. The movie had a sentimental feeling for me, and the new scene takes me out of the familiar elements that I have seen for years. On the soundtrack, it’s nice to have, but the only words that run though my mind if the song is in my head are “human again” whereas with others, I know them by heart.

The score is one of my favorite parts of the movie. It is absolutely incredible and perfect for setting the tones of the movie. The opening scene has a magical quality because of the music; Beast’s entrance is heightened with dark deep tones that suggest menace, and that Beast is to be feared. The film is very thematic in many ways, with the music setting the tone and feeling of the scene. It guides the emotions of the listener, and you know get the feeling of just what is happening, based on the music. This is one of the most beautiful scores that I have ever heard, and is easily up there with James Horner and John Williams.

To this day, this soundtrack stands as one of the finest Disney soundtracks around. The inclusion of the original recordings of a few of the songs give this CD a fine quality for collectors and shows how much heart went into the project. It’s this kind of care that provides the listener with good reason as to why it won the Academy Award. I suggest that when you go out and purchase the DVD, swing by the Soundtracks, and pick up the Beauty and the Beast: Special Edition Soundtrack!

Originally Posted on DVDtoons

An American Tail Soundtrack Review

In November of 1986, Don Bluth and Steven Spielberg brought a little mouse named Fievel into the American conscience. An American Tail is a movie that I have seen countless times since my childhood. When we went to the video store, I would frequently select this film.

An American Tail is the story of a family of Russian mice, journeying to America in the late 19th Century. They are seeking a new life free from the persecution of cats. On the boat ride over, Fievel, voiced by Philip Glasser, is separated from his family and lost at sea. He ends up on shore in New York Harbor where he begins his adventure to find his family.

James Horner, the composer responsible for films like Apollo 13, Braveheart, Glory, and Titanic, composed the music for the movie. The songs were composed by James Horner and Barry Mann, with lyrics by Cynthia Weil.

I have made six selections from the soundtrack that I feel are some of the most important tracks on the disc.

The first choice is entitled “Main Title.” This track features the themes explored throughout the film. Beginning with a soft violin, which will become a centerpiece in the movie, the music builds into what will be Fievel’s theme, and then goes on to include segments from important themes throughout the film, such as “Somewhere Out There.” It builds on to that with different music that we will hear throughout the movie, a few different themes that cover the feelings that will be shared with characters.

The next selection is titled “There Are No Cats In America” and begins with dialog right from the movie. It features different mice telling their stories, and why they are coming to America, and then all the mice, in chorus, joyfully singing that there are no cats in America.

The next song “Never Say Never” teaches Fievel, never to give up hope, to always hope for the best, and to believe in yourself, and your dreams. This song helped you know that Fievel was going to make it, if he didn’t give up hope. It’s a fun little song, sung by Fievel and a Pigeon voiced by Christopher Plummer (A Beautiful Mind).

“Somewhere Out There” is a song that became a radio hit sung by Linda Ronstadt and James Ingram. In the movie, Phillip Glasser and Betsy Cathart perform this signature song, which has become a classic in its own right. It is a touching song that sums up the basic premise of the movie and can be used to fit any situation in which two people who care for each other are separated by miles, and long to be near one another once again.

“The Great Fire” is a haunting track that makes you feel that danger is near. It features a little of the main title, played in a lower key, and reveals to the listener that the hero is in danger, and really adds to that feeling while watching the movie.

“Flying Away and End Credits” are both the final track on the disc. Flying Away really gives the listener a sense of the freedom of flight. It includes pieces of the themes used throughout the movie, which sums up the experience. It reminds the viewer of the adventure that they have just been through, and accentuating that with triumphant music, celebrating a long journey that has reached its grand conclusion. The Credits feature snippets of the themes from throughout the movie, bringing back memories of the long adventure, and ends with very soft tones, bringing the story to a soft and subtle close, with a feeling like getting into a nice warm bed after a long, hard day of work.

Those six tracks are complimented by eight others on the album, for an overall fun, enriching, experience. The CD is a good listen not just for the fun songs, but also for the magic that James Horner’s music contains. It really transports you into the world of Fievel Mousekewitz, and the theme song, “Somewhere Out There” is a beautiful song that most of us can relate to at one time or another.

I am looking forward to owning this film, and it’s sequel “An American Tail: Fievel Goes West,” on DVD sometime soon, and hope that a Special Edition is considered for what is considered by many to be a classic animated film on the level of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.

Originally posted on DVDtoons