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Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Music

Tribeca 2012: Journey singer doesn't stop believin'

April 21, 2012 | 12:15 pm


NEW YORK -- Just before 1 a.m. on Friday morning, Arnel Pineda walked to the front of a lounge-y space atop a hotel in this city's Meatpacking District. For the last few hours, the deejay had been spinning a typical mix of club hits, to the general indifference of the crowd. But that was about to change.

Pineda, a diminutive man of 44 with jet-black hair and girlishly delicate features, took the mic. His eyes scrunched in concentration, he signaled quietly to the deejay, who cranked up a backing track. Pineda paused a moment, then began belting out the lyrics of Journey's rock anthem "Don't Stop Believin.' "

"Just a small town girl ... "

Jolted by his voice, the crowd stopped its chit-chat. The drinks clinking died down. Then the cheering began.

"Living in a lonely world ... "

The crowd went into a frenzy. Scores of cellphone cameras shot into the air. A woman of about 60 clambered atop a couch to get a better view, her husband looking less worried than he should have been. Then he hoisted himself up next to her.

The impromptu musical performance came at a screening after-party for the Tribeca Film Festival premiere of the documentary "Don't Stop Believin': Everyman's Journey." Ramona Diaz's film tells the story of the titular band -- the one of arena-rock radio, "Glee" covers and "Sopranos" finales, but not, it should be said, the band of Steve Perry from the early 1980s (and, briefly, the late 1990s). Diaz's movie instead tells of the current Journey, with its out-of-left-field frontman.

Even in the age of YouTube discoveries and "American Idol"-fueled fame, Pineda's tale stands out. A soft-spoken kid from a broken home in the Philippines, Pineda had been on his own since he was 13, even living for several years on the street. He eventually made a decent if not extravagant living as a musician, singing a mix of originals and covers, for a time in Hong Kong and then in Manila.

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Trailer music: The sounds that marketed Spock, Spidey and more

April 8, 2012 |  5:00 am

Star Trek, Spider-Man 2 & Avatar

From the orchestra that backs the Starship Enterprise to the choirs that follow Spider-Man swinging through New York City, music for trailers has drawn a larger public spotlight in recent years with the releases of previews becoming higher-profile events.

In Sunday's Calendar section, we explore the fact that much of the music featured in advertising for movies is produced by trailer music libraries. These companies compose music (typically one- to three-minute tracks) for clients at studios and trailer editing houses, who then select pieces from the libraries’ albums to license for use in previews.

Here are the stories of how some of that music attracted fan followings for four of those libraries.

“Star Trek” (Trailer music library: Two Steps From Hell)
The third trailer for J.J. Abrams’ “Star Trek” set records, as it was viewed more than 1.8 million times during its first 24 hours on apple.com in March 2009. Featuring the track “Freedom Fighters” by Two Steps From Hell, the preview put the Los Angeles-based trailer music library on the map.

In a deviation from most trailers that include multiple cues of music, the majestic yet ethereal track plays throughout the preview. “That gave people some time to latch onto the music,” said Thomas Bergersen, co-founder of Two Steps From Hell.

“Avatar” (Trailer music library: Audiomachine)
Later in 2009, “Avatar” broke “Star Trek’s” record with the teaser trailer for the soon-to-be box office king. It was viewed more than 4 million times during its first day on apple.com. So the rest of its marketing campaign had a lot of early hype to live up to. Twentieth Century Fox hired several trailer editing houses to try their hand at cutting advertising for the film before the studio decided on Culver City-based company Wild Card.

“When we were dealing with something that was as out of the box as 'Avatar,' it's often great to have multiple sets of eyes and different perspectives looking at it because there are many ways to attack it,” said “Avatar” producer Jon Landau. “By going out to a couple different trailer companies, we were able to see how different people looked at the material, which was very helpful.”

The first full-length trailer for “Avatar” featured the tracks “Akkadian Empire” and “Guardians at the Gate,” both by Beverly Hills-based library Audiomachine. Nick Temple, owner of Wild Card, said of the latter track, “While it was still big and felt like it was a huge ride, there was still an emotional sense to it.”

Watch the trailer below, where “Akkadian Empire” begins one minute and six seconds in, followed by “Guardians at the Gate,” which plays through the end. (The first music cue is from the score for Michael Bay’s “The Island.”)

“Spider-Man 2” (Trailer music library: Immediate Music)
In 2004, the marketing for Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man 2” pushed Immediate Music (one of the first trailer music libraries, founded in 1993) into a bigger public spotlight. Their track “Lacrimosa Dominae” plays from 1:50 to the end of the trailer below.

“The last 45 seconds of the trailer, they blasted the music –- there were no sound effects… no dialog, no narration,” said Yoav Goren, president of Immediate. “So it was really one of the first times you could really hear a trailer track on its own. And I think that also spurred people wanting to buy this stuff.”

The track is on one of Immediate’s public release albums, “Trailerhead.”

“How to Train Your Dragon” (Trailer music library: Future World Music)
Future World Music’s rousing and adventure-ready track “Dream Chasers” fueled the second half of the trailer for “How to Train Your Dragon.” The track runs from 1:09 to 1:57 in the video below.

“That was one of the big campaigns that I think really blew the door off for us,” said Future World owner Armen Hambar. “We just couldn’t believe how much of a response we got.”


'Amazing Spider-Man': Andrew Garfield's angst [trailer]

'Total Recall' debut trailer logs 10.8 million views in 48 hours

‘Hunger Games’ trailer music may be beginning of new trend

– Emily Rome


Photo: Trailers for J.J. Abrams' "Star Trek," "Spider-Man 2" and "Avatar" have featured music composed by trailer music libraries. Credits: (from left) Paramount Pictures, Columbia Pictures, 20th Century Fox.

‘Hunger Games’ trailer music may be beginning of new trend

March 23, 2012 |  8:30 am

Jennifer Lawrence and Liam Hemsworth in 'The Hunger Games'

After several months of building buzz, "The Hunger Games" hits theaters today. If you're a fan who's been watching the trailers for months while biding your time for the film, you may be wondering about the preview's powerful music.

The track used in the trailer (the first full-length one released for the movie) is "Deep Shadow," written by T.T.L. (a.k.a. Through The Lens), a collaboration of new-wave Italian musician Tying Tiffany and her producer, Lorenzo Montana. Inspired by industrial and electronic music, the duo started the T.T.L. collaboration to write more music for movies and television. They also composed a track in the trailer for Ralph Fiennes' "Coriolanus," called "It's Here."

A portion of "Deep Shadow" begins one minute and 16 seconds into the "Hunger Games" trailer, and the full track is available for download on the website of the duo's label, ZerOKilled Music.

It's a track that stands out from the typical music composed and licensed for trailers -– music driven by big orchestras and rousing choirs. A mysterious and unearthly East European violin runs through "Deep Shadow," driven by booming percussion and culminating with the rich purring of uilleann pipes-inspired symph.

"We used a lot of ethnic instruments that we found during our tour," Montana said.

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Berlin Film Festival: Bob Marley documentary unveiled

February 13, 2012 |  7:16 am


A long-awaited Bob Marley documentary premiered Sunday at Berlin’s International Film Festival, and -- people get ready -- will open in U.S. theaters April 20 after playing the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, in March.

Though Martin Scorsese and Jonathan Demme were previously attached to the portrait of the reggae legend, “Last King of Scotland” director Kevin Macdonald was brought in by producer Steve Bing, who had procured the music rights, film rights and the support of the Marley family

Macdonald told journalists at the Berlinale he had just 13 months to work on the bio-doc, which spans 2½ hours, packing in numerous interviews with mostly admiring family members, friends, lovers and musicians, historical concert footage, rare recordings, and 50 of Bob Marley’s songs, and 10 from other artists).

Macdonald’s touch for innovation within the documentary style, seen in 1999’s Oscar-winning “One Day in September” and 2003's “Touching the Void”) feels lacking in “Marley,” a lengthy portrayal of the man who rose from poverty in rural Jamaica to become a musical visionary and globally beloved figure, dying from cancer in 1981 at age 36.

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Whitney Houston's posthumous turn: As star of 'Sparkle'

February 11, 2012 |  6:41 pm

Whitney Houston and Jordin Sparks

The death of Whitney Houston at the age of 48 is a deep loss for the music world. But it also has reverberations in another artistic realm--the movies.

Houston had recently finished shooting "Sparkle," the remake of the 1976 Irene Cara film that, eerily, focuses on talented young musicians whose lives are ruined by addiction. Houston also served as an executive producer on the movie, acquiring rights to the original film more than a decade ago. The movie, shot this past fall and currently in post-production, is scheduled to be released in August. No word yet on any release-date changes; we're awaiting word from a producer.

[Update, 7:41 pm, Saturday: A producer on the film said Saturday night he had actually just seen a rough cut. "I'm in total shock," executive producer Howard Rosenman told The Times. "I have no idea about the impact on 'Sparkle,' which I saw last night. [Houston] was unbelievably fantastic in it." Meanwhile, a spokesman for the studio, Sony Pictures, said the movie remains set for an Aug. 17 release.]

The original "Sparkle" told the story of the Williams sisters, a trio of 1950s-era Harlem singers whose stories were loosely inspired by the Supremes. Headed by Lonette McKee's Sister, the group also features Sister's sister Sparkle (Cara), Dolores (Dawn Smith) and several friends. As they begin to find success, though, Sister's life spirals out of control, with drug addiction eventually leading to her death.

PHOTOS: Whitney Houston, 1963-2012

The new version, directed by Salim Akil ("Jumping the Broom," television series "The Game"), is believed to follow a similar story line, with Jordin Sparks as the titular character who must find a way to achieve stardom despite the drama surrounding her family. Houston plays Emma, the sisters' less-than-encouraging mother. (The original character, named Effie in the 1976 film, was incarnated by Mary Alice.)

Though the film has a heavy music component, it is not known how much Houston's character sings on screen, if at all. Derek Luke and Cee Lo Green co-star opposite Houston, with Carmen Ejogo as Sister Williams.

In another surreal turn, Houston had said she originally wanted Aaliyah for the title role but was forced to reconfigure the project when the R&B singer was killed in a plane crash in August 2001.

FULL COVERAGE: Whitney Houston dead at 48

Houston's publicist confirmed on Saturday that the star had died in Los Angeles, just a day before the Grammy Awards honoring the music world's finest. No cause of death has been given.

The "Sparkle" remake was supposed to serve as an auspicious return to the big screen for Houston, who gained fame as a silver-screen actress playing a pop star in 1992's "The Bodyguard" and then three years later as TV producer Savannah Jackson in the adaptation of the bestseller "Waiting to Exhale" but hadn't been in a movie since "The Preacher's Wife" sixteen years ago.

Houston also had a strong influence on numerous film soundtracks, producing and recording on "Exhale" and a host of other films. (A number of those songs could get some air time at the Grammy Awards on Sunday.)  Houston also had an important if less high-profile role in the movies: she served as a producer on "The Princess Diaries" franchise.


Hotel guests stunned

Hotel guest describes scene

Whitney Houston dead at 48

No signs of foul play say police

Whitney Houston died in hotel room

Whitney Houston had large entourage 

Medics performend CPR for about 20 minutes

Whitney Houston spotted displaying erratic behavior

Whitney Houston dead at 48; celebrities react on Twitter

Whitney Houston appreciation: A voice for the ages tarnished by addictions

--Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Whitney Houston and Jordin Sparks in an early still from 'Sparkle.' Credit: Sony Pictures

'The Other F Word': Jim Lindberg on punk rock fatherhood

November 3, 2011 | 10:36 am

Jim Lindberg & Family

If you make your living thumbing your nose at authority, how do you lay down the law with your own child? That’s one of the questions posed by the documentary “The Other F Word,” which chronicles the colorful and often oxymoronic lives of punk rock dads.

The film, from director Andrea Blaugrund Nevins and producer Cristan Reilly, begins with Jim Lindberg, lead singer of the L.A. skate punk band Pennywise, packing for tour under the watchful eyes of his three daughters, one of whom tucks a Barbie doll into his bag. Lindberg’s heavy heart at having to travel during his daughters’ formative days is the central conflict of the film.

Other punk rockers who tell their unlikely and often surprisingly poignant fatherhood stories include Blink-182’s Mark Hoppus, the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Flea, Rise Against’s Tim McIlrath, Everclear’s Art Alexakis and the Adolescents’ Tony Adolescent.

Lindberg, who also wrote a book in 2007 called “Punk Rock Dad,” spoke with 24 Frames' Rebecca Keegan about the challenges of raising kids while raising hell, the surprises he learned about his punk brethren and what it takes to turn rockers into softies.

"The Other F Word" opens Friday.

Rebecca Keegan: When did it first occur to you that being in a punk band and being a dad are incongruous activities?

Jim Lindberg: While I was living it. I knew I was in a unique situation, trying to live up to the stereotype of being a crazy frontman in a punk band and then coming home and dealing with diapers, homework and making school lunches. More and more I realized as my kids started getting older and I was trying to be an authority figure how hypocritical it was of me to be singing a song like "F… Authority."

R.K.: Do you think being a singer in a punk band is just a more extreme version of what many parents go through?

J.L.: A lot of people are more punk rock than they know. Punk rock is about teenage and adolescent angst. It’s about rebellion and not wanting to do what your parents tell you. Most people are stuck in adolescence for a very long time. Having kids and a family forces them to grow up. A lot of parents try to be their kids’ best friend and it just doesn’t work. You have to teach them that the frying pan is hot, that they have to look both ways before crossing the street. You have to tell them what to do a lot and you become the authority figure for them.

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Toronto 2011: Pearl Jam comes out of its shell

September 13, 2011 | 12:13 am

Like a high school reunion or the sight of an aging Michael Jordan, word that Pearl Jam is celebrating its 20th anniversary can elicit an unnerving rhetorical question: Where did all the time go?

Yet here they are, one of the seminal Seattle grunge bands — symbols, not always willingly, of a generation — marking precisely that milestone with a double-disc set of archival recordings, an art book/written history, and a new film, no less.

Though famously press shy, the band allowed rock journalist-turned-director Cameron Crowe — who solidified the fame of Eddie Vedder and the rest of the group when he used several of their songs on the soundtrack to the 1992 movie “Singles” — to put together the documentary “Pearl Jam Twenty.”

“As a writer, before I create anything I often think, ‘What are the obstacles?'” said Crowe. “And this band has had nothing but obstacles.”

The film, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival over the weekend, is a sonic and video history of the group from its early days to its roller coaster of fame in the mid '90s to its current status as a less prominent, yet oddly happier, act focused on touring.

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Toronto 2011: Cameron Crowe's Pearl Jam doc rolls out

September 10, 2011 |  8:34 am

Pearl jam twenty_cameron_crowe_eddie_vedder
Twenty years into their career, Pearl Jam is in legacy-shaping mode this season, what with a multi-platform “Pearl Jam 20” series of releases that includes a double-disc soundtrack of archival recordings, an art book/written history, and a string of tour dates this fall. 

Central to this roll-out, though, is the “Pearl Jam 20” documentary directed by Academy Award-winning writer/director Cameron Crowe, best known to Generation X as the man behind "Fast Times at Ridgemont High," to grunge aficionados for his work on "Singles," and for rock journalists for his glorification of the geek life in “Almost Famous.” It premieres at the Toronto International Film Festival on Saturday afternoon. 

Crowe is an avowed Pearl Jam fan and longtime member of the band’s Seattle-based inner circle. In fact, the director cast the band in "Singles" when their pre-Pearl Jam moniker was still Mookie Blaylock (after the NBA basketball player). 

The result is a story told from the inside out, replete with Crowe’s knack for narrative. The band has deep archives of both film and music, and the director takes full advantage of the 30,000 hours of Pearl Jam film and music at his disposal. We see a young Eddie Vedder perform early shows and watch through the band’s eyes as the grunge scene explodes. 

Crowe tackles the ups and downs of Pearl Jam’s career: Kurt Cobain’s on-the-record dismissal of their music; Pearl Jam’s failed 1994 David-versus-Goliath battle with Ticketmaster; their blistering, redemptive live shows; and the tragic death of nine fans in 2000 at the Roskilde Festival in Denmark who were crushed during the band’s performance.

Writes Crowe in the film’s notes, “The richness of the footage made our path very clear -- just tell the story of the band and let the music guide us.”

The film will be shown in theaters for one night only, Sept. 20, and then will premiere on PBS television on Oct. 21 as as part of the first PBS Arts Fall Festival.

Here's a clip:

Watch the full episode. See more American Masters.


Toronto 2011: Six juicy storylines worth following

Toronto 2011: Our guide to festival films, in photos

Toronto 2011: U2's Bono shows 'em how it's done

-- Randall Roberts, Times music critic

Photo: Cameron Crowe and Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam. Courtesy Toronto International Film Festival.

'The Music Never Stopped': On the cutting room floor [Exclusive]

July 29, 2011 |  4:27 pm

 J.K. Summons in 'The Music Never Stopped.'

If rock 'n' roll movies were to be broken down into musical genres, "The Music Never Stopped" would have the slow reveal of a ballad and the storytelling sensibility of a '60s troubadour. Based on a published case history by bestselling author Oliver Sacks, "The Music Never Stopped," out on DVD on Aug. 2, refashions a strained father-son relationship as one that can only be healed through rock 'n' roll.

A feel-good story, yes, but one that cleverly underscores how music can shape a personality and stand as a generation dividing line in the sand. Lou Taylor Pucci stars as Gabriel, the once freewheeling hippie whose been long estranged from his father, Henry, portrayed with touching coldness by J.K. Simmons. A brain tumor renders Gabriel unable to form new memories, and sends him home to reconnect with his family.

With the help of a music therapist, Henry and Gabriel have the opportunity to bond, but only by allowing Gabriel to explore the music that shaped his life -- the songs of Bob Dylan, the Grateful Dead, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and more. One problem: Pops hates rock 'n' roll, and the songs not only provide a cinematic soundtrack, but cut to the core of the film's tension.  

In reviewing the film for The Times, Robert Abele wrote, "In key spots, thanks to Simmons' brilliantly wounded gruffness and Pucci's nimble toggling act between vacancy and awakened spirit, 'The Music Never Stopped' achieves an admirable poignancy about our emotional, healing relationship to the songs we love."

The home video editions will come equipped with the requisite deleted scenes and interviews. Among them are clips that showcase Gabriel's inability to hold a constant thought, as well as those that flash back to his '60s recklessness. The deleted scene below is of the latter, yet it also provides a brief foreshadowing of the illness to come.

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As it seeks a big-event feel, 'Glee' 3-D movie adds advance screenings

July 13, 2011 |  2:16 pm

Twentieth Century Fox is taking a page out of the Justin Bieber playbook for its upcoming "Glee: The 3D Concert Movie," targeting fans with a set of advance screenings. The studio says it will hold showings on Aug. 10, two days before the movie officially opens.

Ticket packages to the screenings, which will take place in 291 theaters across North America, cost $30 and include one movie ticket, 3-D glasses, a pin, a hat, a bracelet and a backpack. Shipping is another $5.95.

Fox appears to be aiming to create an event feel around the film along the lines of a live concert. The tickets will be sold via a dedicated website starting Thursday, with visitors to the movie's Facebook page given the opportunity to buy tickets starting Wednesday.

Paramount tried a similar advance-screening gambit with "Justin Bieber: Never Say Never," to strong effect. The screenings frequently sold out, and the film went on to gross $73 million, a sturdy total for a documentary concert film.

The "Glee" movie, which stars TV series regulars Lea Michele, Cory Monteith and Jane Lynch, combines performances from the cast's recent 40-show concert tour with pieces of backstage footage.

A concert film is an appealing (and relatively easy) brand extension for a touring show, particularly those aimed at a spend-happy younger demographic, though studios are mindful that they need to produce and market a movie as more than just a straight recording if they're to lure ticket buyers. The genre has had a mixed record: While the Bieber and Hanna Montana concert movies were a success, the Jonas Brothers film flopped.


With Glee 3-D concert movie, Lea Michele will sing on the big screen

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: "Glee" performers in a 2010 episode. Credit: Carin Baer/Fox


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