Movie music for the blockbuster season


George S. Clinton

"The Love Guru"
June 20

"As in all Mike Myers comedies, anything goes. The music serves the same purpose as all the other elements in the film: to enhance the comedy and to entertain the audience. Myers plays Guru Pitka, a Deepak Chopra wannabe who is given the task of helping the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey team get their star player back on track before the Stanley Cup playoffs. Mike has created a hilarious character and an amazing universe for him to inhabit. Justin Timberlake is a great villain as the French-Canadian goalie, Jessica Alba is gorgeous as the team owner, and Verne Troyer is the perfect hockey coach.

I am a big believer in music as straight man when it comes to comedy. I approach everything from the point of view of underscore, as if it's a serious drama rather than a send-up. I think the comedy plays even funnier that way.

(Director Marco Schnabel) and Mike wanted the music to first and foremost serve the film. That's the way I see it, too. Film music is practical music that has a specific purpose: helping to tell the story.

(I went from) a full orchestra to Bollywood tablas and sitars. I love Indian music, so it's a lot of fun coming up with unusual combos.

The biggest challenge is to take the short, almost 'sting-like' requirements of scoring comedy, but compose longer cues that include them in a seamless way. That way, there is more of a thread and through-line to the score."

John Powell

July 2

"'Hancock' is about love and death, and who really are the 'superheros.' The music plays the role of an invisible actor hinting at what is really happening despite what the actors you can see are saying. As the composer, I should be informing the audience of the subtext -- and occasionally, adding some grease under the wheels.

Hancock (Will Smith) is not your typical superhero. He is down on his luck. He is an alcoholic superhero who needs a publicist to fix his image. To complicate matters, he falls for the publicist's wife.

(Director Peter Berg) said he wanted the sound of a huge orchestra playing the blues, so I employed lots of guitars, some 'moaning' (a term for a type of wordless blues singing) and an orchestra of people who have all recently been divorced.

The score's defining sound is a Fender Bassman head and a 1977 Scully 8-track tape machine. Recording with a Scully 8-track is a fairly complicated and time-consuming way to record. Because we are dealing with tape, it is more challenging and there is pressure to get it right in one take. Using the Scully gives the score a unique sound; it gives it a raw, dirty sound similar to the way (blues) records were originally recorded.

The biggest musical challenge was to support the story with music that is as good as the film is -- and this film is really, really good."

Graeme Revell

"Street Kings"
Fox Searchlight
April 11

"'Street Kings' is about a tough LAPD cop (Keanu Reeves) who takes on the role of 'enforcer' of justice outside of the normal channels. But he comes to realize that maybe he's just a pawn in someone else's plan. While confronting his own demons, he has to figure out whom he can trust and who are his enemies.

Set in East Los Angeles, the movie required a palette of aggressive hip-hop stylings, without pandering too much in that direction since most of the characters are white. (Director David Ayer) asked for this element to be combined with original electronic elements and also classical orchestra to enhance the importance of mission, but also the sense of confusion and mistrust in Keanu's character.

Music plays a multifaceted and demanding role because the script is what I call a minefield of 'trust and anti-trust,' and the music is given much of the responsibility to trace the ambiguities, the lies and deceit, and the friendships and betrayals.

The themes were in three categories. For the hero's personal theme, the track is created from piano and strings, which develops into a light hip-hop rhythm for his personal journey, and a darker, extremely aggressive beat for his on-the-case violence. For his search for truth and his relationships in the force, there is a classical motif played most often in the low strings, but also with electronic layers. For the action sequences, the electronic arsenal really comes out of the bag with multiple layers of industrial and hip-hop beats and distorted guitars and metal, played by my son Robert Revell.

There is much unique instrumentation -- mostly electronically created. But the piano used in the hero theme is a distorted prepared piano, and there is an interesting use of backwards-recorded drums and guitars."

David Schwartz

"Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson"
Magnolia Pictures
July 4

"The movie centers on Hunter S. Thompson, the writer. In addition, by covering the politics of the '70s and '80s as seen through Thompson's eyes, it also speaks to American politics today. Hunter was night-and-day: Always a rebel, he could be kind and generous, then turn mean and sadistic -- often in the same evening.

The score is hopefully a reflection of what's going on in Thompson's head. At times, a freight train of energy and at others, a disturbing patchwork of Hunter's anxieties.

The score has two distinct directions. One is a contemporary score, usually used to represent the inner Hunter. A second element was to create instrumental cues that mirrored the rock songs of the '60s and '70s to work alongside the fantastic songs in the film by Bob Dylan, Jefferson Airplane, the Stones, etc.

(Director Alex Gibney) is extremely knowledgeable and has an extraordinary musical memory. He wanted the score element to be as wild and as driven as Hunter, always pushing the elements. The art of Ralph Steadman -- Hunter's visual foil and featured in the film -- was also a major inspiration to me.

In terms of instrumentation, I used a damaged upright piano, some unusual organs and electric pianos from the '70s, mallets, percussion, various guitars, a trumpet, a small string section and Hunter's favorite instrument: the flute. I also assembled a '60s/'70s band for the cues featuring the dual guitars of Davey Knowles (from the British band Back Door Slam) and George Doering. The band also included Adam Marcel on drums and percussion, Jeff Babko on keys, Tom Marino on trumpet and myself on bass.

A bowed cavaquinho and dulcimer were used to accent Hunter's decline. The Yamaha C45 organ provided its own cheesy ambiance, and it has a weird portamento strip that sounds like a theremin.

Getting to work with an inspiring director and a great film to write music to is always the biggest reward. Having fantastic musicians also brings it to a higher level. I did the bulk of the score in two weeks, as

I had another project starting. It was one of those times when things just flowed."