Concert Review – The Movie Music of John Williams

I’m not a huge fan of live music, but I AM a movie lover. The best, most iconic movies are usually supported by an amazing soundtrack. Think of some of the top films of our time…now imagine them without a stirring score. Imagine the 1977 Star Wars without The Imperial March, or Luke Skywalker’s Theme.  Would it even be Star Wars? A great composition carries the viewer into new worlds, offering rousing emotional cues and magical movie moments.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that many of our A+ film lists are heavily weighted by one beloved composer: John Williams.

So when I heard San Diego would host a special summer concert of the music of John Williams, I was all over it, and off I went to the Jacobs Music Center in downtown San Diego. Was it great? Well…it should have been. Part of it was wonderful. The program was in two halves, starting with a sampler variety of films. And the second part? It was all Star Wars. I guess that shouldn’t come as a surprise.  😉

I think was did surprise me was the first half:  for some reason, the chosen themes weren’t the most well-known in their franchises. Yes, absolutely play the music from Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones, Superman, and Harry Potter! But how about the songs we best recognize and love? I don’t think The Last Crusade contains the most memorable Indiana score, nor the Lost World from the Jurassic Park series. I find those choices a little mystifying. Why not use the beloved Hedwig’s Theme from Harry Potter? And I don’t even recognize the movie title “BFG”…surely something from ET might have been a better choice from the child-oriented end of John Williams’ oeuvre.

At least the concert opened with a bang, using the Superman March from the original 1978 Superman. And the entire Star Wars second half of the program was as nostalgically transporting as any geek could hope.

Here’s the performance list from my July 18, 2018 concert (as worded from my program):

  • “Superman March” from Superman
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone: “Harry’s Wondrous World”
  • Suite from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: “Bridge to the Past”
  • “A Child’s Tale” suite from The BFG
  • “Scherzo for Motorcycle” from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
  • “The Adventures of Indiana Jones” I.Swashbuckler (The Adventures of Mutt)
  • “Theme” from The Lost World

Intermission

  • Selection from Star Wars

The program info could have been written better. For example, I’d like to remember which songs from which Star Wars films were used, although I did recognize them all. A list might have been nice. 🙂

Overall, this was a fine experience, but not a great one. The musicians can’t be faulted — everything sounded like it was performed in the movies themselves. Conductor Sameer Patel was lively and probably superb, although I wouldn’t recognize one conductor’s work from another, to be honest. But from the selections chosen, I don’t think I’d pay $30 to see this again.

What I would do again, in a heartbeat, are those outdoor symphony performances of music played TO THE MOVIES. I’ve now seen several of the Harry Potter films performed that way, and most recently, Star Wars: A New Hope (<—–concert/movie review). If I’m lucky, that will become a habit.

 

Star Wars A New Hope – Symphony & Movie

The Force is with them.

This week I was treated to an outdoor, live symphony in San Diego (at the Embarcadero Marina Park South, August 18, 2018) playing to a large screen-film showing of Star Wars: A New Hope.  To say it was spellbinding would be an understatement.

I haven’t seen A New Hope (just called Star Wars, back in the day) on the large screen since the original trilogy’s Special Editions came out in 1997. With the San Diego Symphony Bayside Nights offering monstrous screen outdoor movies set to a live orchestral soundtrack, people have started  flocking to these events in droves. It was as packed last night as it was to their Harry Potter versions last year. And the Star Wars audience was surprisingly into the spirit of the story.

Where did you dig UP this old fossil?

While the audience wasn’t dressed in costume like the Harry Potter symphony goers were ( I was one of the attendees in Hogwarts robes), it was clear people were more-than-normally excited. People laughed at almost every line C-3P0 said, applauded when Han Solo first appeared, shouted AWWWW when Porkins died,  cheered as the Death Star blew up, and gave a standing ovation after the rousing credit themes finished. Besides all the clapping, hooting, cheering, and laughing around me, one nearby attendee amused audiences during the Intermission by roaring like Chewbacca. He was quite good. I can’t even come close.  🙂

Strike me down and I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine. (From a certain point of view.)

It’s hard to describe how amazing it is to watch a beloved movie set to live music. When I could tear my eyes from the screen, I was impressed to see how many string instruments Williams’ score used. He was also heavy on the brass, and light on percussion…although when drums or other percussive instruments were used, they were to magical effect. Nothing sweeps you right along like the Star Wars theme.

After the orchestra members took a bow, it was a matter of inching through the cattle-like foot gates, and waiting an hour to exit the car from the Downtown Hilton parking garage, during which my enthusiasm waned a bit (I recommend Uber for things like this). But John Williams’ iconic score still resounded in my brain. I considered what other movies could inspire enough audiences take the jump from ignoring a “boring” orchestral event, to packing the outdoor grandstand seats and champagne lawn tables for fine arts versions of pop culture immersion.

The Harry Potter movies are a clear success in this format, with eight movies, plus the new Fantastic Beasts versions to choose from. And I suspect they can give it a go for the lineup of other Star Wars films. Other movie franchises with powerfully memorable scores include Indiana Jones, Jurassic Park, Superman, ET, and possibly Close Encounters. If I’m leaning heavily on John Williams films, that should be no kind of symphonic surprise. But there are certainly other composers lending themselves to this kind of treatment. Think about The Lord of the Rings saga or Titanic. If there are other movie franchises whose tune you can easily identify offhand, that’s a place to start. And if said movie comes with a fanatical following, well, there you go.

I’m excited for the next time I can hit the symphony for a fabulous science fiction or fantasy film super-experience. It will have to be an annual event!

As a re-watch, of course I give Star Wars an A+, film-wise. Seeing it on the large screen with a superb live orchestra takes the film to new heights. If there was a super-grade above A+ for the live musical option, I’d give it.

Great seats. The Force was clearly with me that night!

 

About the Peetimes:

I didn’t even need to use my Peetimes; the event included an intermission. However, since everyone else in the audience used this intermission as well, clogging up the toilet lines, I should have checked the app anyway. We do have Peetimes for A New Hope listed in the RunPee app, even though RunPee didn’t remotely exist yet, as a sort of retro-cool flashback feature. For fun, you can scroll through the movies on the RunPee app, and peek at what we did.

 

Tour the Millennium Falcon with Lando Calrissian

I’m really chuffed to show off this little video, a real treat — a tour of the brand new Millennium Falcon from Solo: A Star Wars Story, with that other double-crossing, no-good swindler of a space rogue, Lando Calrissian. Donald Glover (the new Lando, smarmily stealing Solo’s film) is in all his elated glory here. His custom-designed Falcon is in dapper shape, something we never got to see elsewhere (typical lines: “What a hunk of junk,” “You came here in THAT thing? You’re braver than I thought,” and “That’s garbage!(….)The garbage will do”).

Glover proudly introduces a fully stocked wet bar, gleaming gaming table, bouncy bed, extensive cape closet, and all the bells and whistles of his surprisingly white, clean, and shiny party-barge. Captions with arrows depict everything you see within. This is pretty fun viewing:

Chewbacca Sings Silent Night (and it actually works)

Sometimes I just can’t help myself, and watch all kinds of dorky Star Wars fun from the endless free entertainment provided by the internet. And no, I don’t mean the abysmally received Star Wars Holiday Special. (Although you can find THAT on the internet too, if you have 98 minutes to kill watching something that even Lucas sends Imperial probe droids out to destroy).

Since Chewie has had one of his most active movie roles ever in Solo: A Star Wars Story, I figured it would be appropriate to share just how well a big walking carpet can sing.

Enjoy!

More Star Wars Story fun on RunPee.comFeaturette: Becoming Solo

How Star Wars Should Have Ended (the entire series)

Here it is, in one place. Every Star Wars video made by HISHE (How It Should Have Ended), up through Star Wars: The Last Jedi, or maybe Solo, if it’s up yet. If you haven’t discovered this web series, you’re in for a treat. Keep in mind that their solutions would offer vastly shortened movies, with plot points that seem obvious in retrospect (ie – having the giant eagles drop the One Ring into Mount Doom, instead of having the Fellowship truck all over Middle Earth and, in some cases, die along the way)…But here they all are, in an in-universe chronological order (and not including the animated movie/show, or the dreaded Holiday Special).

Star Wars: The Phantom Menace

Star Wars: Attack of the Clones

Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith

Star Wars: Solo

Hey, this one’s not yet been made! So, like any good Star Wars fan, you’re going to have to wait. You still have a good half hour of HISHE videos here to enjoy.

Star Wars: Rogue One

Star Wars: A New Hope (Special Edition)

Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back

Star Wars: Return of the Jedi

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Tips for Seeing Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge from Disneyland

Scheduled to open in 2019, Disney will open Galaxy’s Edge, an ENTIRE LAND devoted to Star Wars. You can’t see much of it right now, and the things you can see are a  little hard to parse. Basically, you’re seeing the background spires of a alien city, on an strange new world.

Galaxy’s Edge seems to be a response to the runaway success of Universal’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter – where they drop you into the entire town of Hogsmead (at the California park) – and let you run “hog”-wild pretending to be a Hogwart’s student on a rare weekend out.

Galaxy’s Edge should be just as exciting, especially if your tastes lean more to sci-fi than fantasy.

Here’s some fun tips if you visit Disneyland in 2018. You can spy the  fantastical construction for Galaxy’s Edge in several locations that don’t require waiting in lines.

 

1. Climb up into Tarzan’s Treehouse in Adventureland. The high viewpoints have great views, and you’ll have the treehouse almost entirely to yourself.

2. Get on the Disneyland Railroad at New Orleans Square. You will need to turn around to face the opposite way, but as you pass through Critter Country, you go right under some of the spires and peaks of the Galaxy’s Edge setting.

3. Go into the Launch Bay in Tomorrowland and you’ll have gave a nice cool, mostly dim place to view star wars props, models, uniforms and then the large and detailed Galaxy’s Edge diorama/backdrop. (See photos.)

4. Another hidden find: If you try to circumnavigate the lake in New Orleans Square (in the direction of Critter Country, going left, past the Haunted Mansion), you’ll hit a wall. Literally, the path ends in a big flat wall — decorated only with a poster of how Galaxy’s Edge will appear, and no signage. It’s a quiet statement of excitement from the Imagineers.  I can’t wait.

(Image Below Owned by RunPee) (<— Click link to embiggen)

Read more about where to find Star Wars fun this year (2018) before Galaxy’s Edge opens next summer.

Universal Builds A Star Trek Land

I recently went to Disney’s Star Wars “May the 4th” overlay of Tomorrowland (it was worth seeing), and from afar spied the rock spires towering above the construction for Galaxy’s Edge – an entire new Disneyland themed park about the world of Star Wars itself. It’s to be an entire immersive city, set on another planet, and I CAN’T wait til it opens next summer 2019 (with Disney World following up their version in the fall of  2019).

My impression is that Galaxy’s Edge will be a lot like Universal’s Wonders of the Wizarding World, which I made a long-overdue first visit to last month. I had my Hogwarts Robes and school clothes on (Proud Gryffindor!) and completely allowed myself to drown in the experience. (I’ll a link here when I’ve reviewed that trip.)

It got me to thinking of other possibilities for immersive fantastical environments and wondering when a land devoted to Star Trek will show up.

A quick search showed me Universal in Florida is indeed planning just that.[

I was able to get a nice Star Trek experience previously in Las Vegas, of all  places, at the Hilton’s Star Trek Experience. It was sort of a cross between being on the set of Deep Space Nine, with an interactive TNG show. (Again, I’ll cover this in detail elsewhere.) It gave me a valid excuse to go with friends to Vegas, at any rate. I went a few times to share Blood Wine with their roving Klingons. Unfortunately, the Hilton shut down the Experience in 2008.

Then a re-booted Trek movie came along in 2009 to fill in the void, experience moderate (if not resounding) success. We at RunPee owe a lot to Trek 2009, as that was the movie propelling the RunPee app to international acclaim.

Now, with  Star Trek: Discovery — a new CBS Trek show on TV — and more Star Trek movies coming up (apparently directed by Quentin Tarantino), the irons are hot enough for somebody strike. Time to follow up on the success of the Wizarding World, and provide a counterpoint to Star War’s Galaxy’s Edge.

Star Trek is still relevant. 

So, to get back to Universal, Screenrant reports that a Star Trek Land is in the works already! And they’re fast-tracking it to compete directly compete with Star Wars Land. I’m fine with that. The more opportunities I get to dress up and play at being something futuristic or fantastical, the better. I’ll do it all.

Related Articles: 

Star Wars at Disneyland

How to See Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland Right Now

 

 

Incredibles 2 Poster Looks Like A Marvel Film

I was looking at the poster for the upcoming Incredibles 2 film, and noticed that it looked awfully familiar. And not just because I saw and enjoyed the first Incredibles film in 2004, but because the poster seemed…exactly like a Marvel film. Specifically, one in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, AKA, the MCU.

Here’s the poster for Incredibles 2:

Notice the shape, the look, the radial bi-symmetry of the thing, the arms reaching out, the circles on circles.

Now compare that with the current MCU blockbuster…..

 

 

 

Avengers: Infinity War. See the background circle, the hands stretching out, the DaVinci’s Vitruvian Man of the thing?

This is the new look in the last few years for action and superhero movies. I’ll go back a few more MCU films to point this out:

 

 

Black Panther‘s got the circles, the big head at the top, similar character groupings.

 

 

 



Thor: Ragnarok really has the thickly layered Vitruvian Man thing going on, lots of circles, the bilateral symmetry. We can clearly see there’s some branding going on.

 

But wait…another Marvel property followed the look:

Deadpool 2 can get away with this, because a) it’s a Marvel superhero  film (not in the MCU, but still), and b) it’s a parody film that sees no harm in poking fun at the “Avengers thing”.

 

 

Where it gets a little weird is seeing this imagery pop up in non-Marvel, non-superhero films, like Solo: A Star Wars Story.

It’s not exactly the same, but someone definitely got the memo about the symmetry, the circles, and the layered character arrangement. Here the circles actually make sense, in-story, because we’re obviously looking through the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon. But the similarities are still there. We know that Star Wars is now owned by Disney, who owns Marvel, and also owns Pixar, which is how we get right back around to Incredibles 2, a Pixar film.

Disney’s probably doing some branding, and us good little audience goers now recognize this poster imagery as a form of code: Adventure Ahead. Universal Studios is, by contrast, not doing this little movie shorthand on their posters. Look at Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom for reference:

 

See? There ARE other ways to make an adventure poster. We’ve just gotten used to Disney’s featured look. We’ve been “branded”.

My guess is we will keep seeing this kind of poster until a certain level of saturation sets in. And then Disney will come up with a new stylized code for their big blockbuster properties.

 

Back to Incredibles 2 – this is, like Deadpool 2, a superhero parody that also plays the story straight. (Incredibles is a reworked version of the Fantastic Four, just done right.)

There’s no big meaning to these kinds of things, but it’s still interesting to see how we relate to movie poster images. And the callback to the Vitruvian Man is surely one of the oldest memes. Someone on Disney’s team grabbed that ancient archetype and ran with it.

 

I look forward to what happens when a non-Disney poster unthinkingly follows suit and uses this look. Like maybe when the next DC superhero film comes out. Disney will probably freak and file a lawsuit, but last I heard, DaVinci’s art is royalty-free, and circles are even older.

Sand: A Star Wars Story (Darth Vader Hates This Song)

When I first heard this song about Star Wars and Sand, I played it a few times and realized it was way too catchy — impossible to tune out. But it’s so darn cute I don’t mind having the Force bouncing around in my skull for a spell.

The funny thing, in the wake of my post-bliss big-screen experience with Solo: A Star Wars Story, I decided to do an entire chronological re-watch of the entire Star Wars saga (excluding the animated movie and series for now). So two nights ago I saw Phantom Menace again (I’m more forgiving of it every time), then listened to the song. Huh. Really does fit in there.

Last night I watched Attack of the Clones, and then listened to the song a few more times, which really cracked me up. It’s so cringe-inducing listening to Anakin try to flirt with Padme by telling her his problem with sand getting everywhere. Not a romantic image. If your mind mentally replaces the original commonly used words in the prequels with SAND, it’s a bit of awesome.

Tonite I’ll finish the prequels with Revenge of the Sith, and I expect the song to reach the highest heights of meme humor. Inserting the dread word SAND with almost any line by Anakin improves the experience immeasurably. We finally see why Anakin Force-choked his pregnant wife, fought Obi-Won, and turned the keeping of his soul over to the foul Emperor Palpatine (it was all because of Sand). Remember, in the words of young Ani, “Sand is very, very dangerous.”

And how does his son Luke beat him in Return of the Jedi? He had more Sand.

BTW, if you’re one of the Sandpeople on Tatooine, watch your back: Anakin will bust up your Sandy ways. Why? Because Sand is course, and rough, and irritating, and it gets everywhere. (Clearly, there’s no better reason to become a genocidal psychopath.) I think he only loved Padme for being soft and smooth. (Until she fell in love with the Sand.)

These lines are no more strange than the awkward ones Lucas gave us, so go with it. Where’s a sandworm when you need one?

Solo: A Star Wars Party in San Diego

Last night Solo: A Star Wars Story splashed across screens in the US, to much excitement and fanfare. Everyone loves Harrison Ford’s Han, so people were excited and curious to see a different actor’s take on the iconic character.

Geek that I am, I looked around for a party full of fellow fans to share the anticipation with before the movie premiered. The best option in San Diego was a downtown shindig hosted by the Fleet Planetarium, with a 21+ pre-movie party full of activities, and a special screening of Solo at the Horton Plaza Regal Cinema. We met at a venue called The Sandbox. Here are the party details.

The party started at 6:30, and while it was a little more low-key than I’d hoped, it was a good time. I got to hang out with Darth Vader (I could not stop calling him My Master, which is just weird, but it felt necessary). There were Storm Troopers, Emperor’s Guards,  Kylo Ren, R2D2 (roaming via remote control), and Princess Leia, in full side-buns. Vader even had a voice breathing box — it was uncanny and great fun.

You could interact with the characters and take photos with them, have a few Star Wars themed adult beverages, watch some Star Wars featurettes in a little cinema corner, and do science experiments, courtesy of the Fleet Planetarium.

Some of the experiments were really stretching it to ‘fit’ into the Star War universe: the “Invisibility Cloak”, for example. Last I checked, that was a thing from Harry Potter. Or at least Star Trek, with their cloaking shields. So maybe it didn’t fit, but the experiment was somewhat cool. To wit: if you place a clear glass teardrop into a cup of baby oil, you can’t see it. Really.

Some other activities made more sense — we got to use prisms and 3-D glasses to see light being excited by sodium, potassium, argon and such…relating, of course, to the color of one’s lightsaber.

The worst exhibit showcased gravity acting on a set of plastic beads. Apparently, if you move a string of beads out of a cup a little at a time, eventually gravity takes over and pulls the rest of the beads out. Ohh…kay? I was so flobbered by this demonstration of gravity that all I could say to the nice gent showing off his trick was, “Yes, that would be how gravity works, thank you.”

The shrinky dinks station was the most  fun. There were a variety of blacked-out line drawings to trace onto plastic, which were baked in toaster ovens, resulting in little keychain charms. I made three.

 

There was a nice photo booth with a professional giving out photos for free, so I got to goof around with Princess Leia a bit. Who knew the Princess could lighten up and have a spot of fun?