Tag Archives: Backdraft

Kurt Russell’s 10 Best Movies

Kurt Russell

Kurt Russell has been in show business since was 12 and did a guest spot on Dennis the Menace.  Russell is still going strong at 66, having just starred in The Fate of the Furious and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, which will-whatever else happens in 2017-end the year as two of the biggest blockbusters.  From his early work in TV, to nearly a decade of work as the poster child for Disney’s live action film division in the 1960’s to 1970’s, to Captain Ron, Escape from New York, and Big Trouble in Little China in the 1980’s and the action movie 1990’s, best marked by Tombstone.  There are some people who understand Tombstone is fundamentally awesome, and some people who are clearly wrong.  Russell has several Westerns among his best films, and does his best work in the shoes of the everyman in an extraordinary situation.  Deepwater Horizon, Backdraft, and-what I believe is the best acting of his career-as hockey coach Herb Brooks in Miracle all show Russell not as a glamorous movie star, but as the audience’s point of view into an incredible situation.  It’s an exceedingly underrated talent in an actor.  He’s tremendously likable and (admittedly he skates on this at times) there are movie stars you sometimes just want to spend two hours with, and Russell’s 50 plus years in Hollywood stand as a testament to his efficacy in connecting with filmgoers.
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Hans Zimmer’s Latest 10 Movies vs. Greatest 10 Movies

Hans Zimmer
Latest vs. Greatest looks at directors, actors, actresses, screenwriters and composers to assess the state of their career as it stands.  We’ll look back at the latest 10 movies the artist has done, rate them and then average them out to see where they stand today.  We’ll also rank their 10 greatest movies and give them the same treatment to compare what they have been doing to their very best work.  (A quick side-note: if an artist is/has been a regular on a TV show we’ll also grade the seasons individually; artists need 10 projects to qualify).

If John Williams is the greatest movie score composer of all-time (and I believe he is), Hans Zimmer is the best composer working TODAY.  Williams, while still amazing, is past his prime, while Zimmer is getting better and better after 30 years composing films.  He’s also probably the only other film composer most movie fans can name after John Williams and that “guy who did Lord of the Rings”.  Zimmer has composed some of the best music that has accompanied film, overcoming an early reputation as a bit of a diva and “action film only” composer.  He’s only won one Oscar (in 1995 for The Lion King) out of his nine nominations, but he certainly has deserved to win several more.  Not bad for a guy who used to be in The Buggles and brought us “Video Killed the Radio Star”.  Oh, didn’t think I’d know that, Hans.  I research.

Dustin Hoffman, Tom Cruise, Rain Man

After having composed movie scores since 1984, Zimmer’s career got a major boost in the arm when he composed the scores for two Best Picture winners in a row: 1988’s Rain Man and 1989’s Driving Miss Daisy.  For Zimmer haters, and we’ll get to you too, here’s an example of two nuanced scores that show Zimmer’s talent.  Let’s move on to the 1990’s though when Zimmer’s name got latched on to action movie-dom.

Backdraft, Kurt Russell

Backdraft, as near as I can tell from looking at his filmography is where the “Media Ventures” style of action movie composing comes in to play.  Zimmer, agree with it or not, has come under fire for composing scores that could conceivably be interchanged with one another.  For example, you could use The Rock’s score for Crimson Tide or King Arthur’s score for The Last Samurai.  I don’t agree, but the fact that he started a company called Media Ventures and groomed composers like Nick Glennie-Smith and Hengry Gregson-Williams to compose in his “style”, doesn’t really help his case.  The most notorious example of this actually came back to bite him big time, but we’ll have to wait for Pirates for that story.

The Lion King

The flip side to the argument is, during the midst of all of this, Hans Zimmer won his only Oscar for the very non-actiony, very unique score to Disney’s The Lion King.  Zimmer often does animation scores, his other outstanding one I would note is 1998’s The Prince of Egypt.  Zimmer also composed A League of Their Own, As Good as It Gets, The Thin Red Line and Matchstick Men during this period.  It wasn’t all action films, and it isn’t now, but people who criticize the group of composers known as “The Cult of Zimmer” have enough of Hans’ ego plus circumstance to make a case.

Russell Crowe, Gladiator, Maximus

Several Zimmer scores have transcended the film buff crowd into the realm of popular music.  This has been the case with both Inception and The Dark Knight Trilogy, as well as Pirates, but the original bust-out hit for Zimmer was Gladiator.  Zimmer’s pounding rhythms paired with the vocals of Lisa Gerrard (with whom he’s collaborated several more times) put Gladiator’s soundtrack onto the Billboard charts and gave Zimmer another best picture-winning soundtrack.

Pirates of the Caribbean 5, Johnny Depp, Captain Jack Sparrow

After stellar scores for Black Hawk Down, Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron (maybe Zimmer’s most overlooked jewel) and The Last Samurai, we get to his ego’s biggest boo boo: Pirates of the Caribbean.  Pirates has one of the most iconic scores of any movie in the last quarter century and the first movie was, of course, scored by ….Klaus Badelt?  Really?  Klaus Badelt?  Noooo.  Not really.  Zimmer scored the film, but due to some obscure copyright issue too arcane to break down owing to his Media Ventures cult, Zimmer had Badelt put his name on the score.  Oops.  It’s one of the best scores Zimmer’s ever done, but I refuse to count Curse of the Black Pearl because Zimmer was just THAT stupid in how he handled it (even denying for years it was him that had composed the music).  Dead Man’s Chest has a much less rousing score, though a gorgeous motif for Davy Jones.  At World’s End demonstrates the precise reason why I separate the score of the score from the score of the movie.  As a movie, At World’s End is one of the worst franchise films I’ve ever seen.  As a score, it’s one of Zimmer’s best.  It’s even better than the first Pirates score.  It melds the classic themes with new in a gloriously epic effort that deserved a better movie (Zimmer recently also did this to a lesser extent with The Lone Ranger.  Great scores can come from crap films and At World’s End is one of the best.

The Dark Knight Trilogy

Co-composers on a project nearly never works, but in the case of The Dark Knight trilogy, having Zimmer paired with James Newton Howard was just the right move.  Howard is extremely good at bridges (he’s done a lot of TV work including composing the theme to ER).  Zimmer excels at thematic work.  Melding those two strengths gave us a new Batman theme to rival Danny Elfman’s, which did not seem even feasible.  The Dark Knight took a very revolutionary approach to the Joker.  Instead of giving him a Darth Vaderesque march to match the Dark Knight’s, Zimmer used this twisting, increasingly shrill violin spiral that climbed insided your head and disturbed you, setting the stage for Heath Ledger’s brilliant performance.  The Dark Knight Rises was Zimmer’s alone and incorporated an awesome chant for Bane as well as wrapping his three-film opus with the track “Rise”, one of the best finales in modern movie music.

Inception, Cobb, Leonardo DiCaprio

As good as all of Zimmer’s other scores are, and they’ve been getting increasingly complex and better, nothing has (or perhaps ever will) top his magnum opus: Inception.  Utilizing all of Zimmer’s tropes, including his pioneering use of electric guitar melded with symphonic work, Inception is by turns a pounding, unrelenting  Zimmer action classic and a nuanced, quiet heart-breaker.  For all of the film’s action cues, it ends with a four-minute piano piece called “Time” that is among the best pieces he’s composed.  Zimmer’s pairing with Nolan has been magic for both, but this -as of now-is the pinnacle of both of their careers.

Man of Steel 3

It wasn’t enough that Zimmer had redefined how Batman sounded to audiences, he then went and took on the big daddy of super hero themes: John Williams’ Superman.  Acknowledging, and rightly so, that any attempt to ape it would be a disservice to both efforts, Zimmer came up with perhaps his most layered and brilliantly nuanced score.  A simple piano theme for Clark that builds into a speaker-busting fanfare for Superman.  Man of Steel is a controversial film, but I don’t think the music is up for debate even among the film’s detractors.

Let’s check out Zimmer’s last 10 film’s and get his Latest score.  Remember composers are unique in that it’s their SCORE that is rated and not the quality of the movie:

ZIMMER’S LATEST TEN:
1. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)………5.00
2. Winter’s Tale (2014)………………………………….4.50
3. Son of God (2014)……………………………………….7.75
4. Rush (2013)…………………………………………………..8.75
5. 12 Years A Slave (2013)……………………………6.50
6. Last Love (2013)…………………………………………..7.00
7. The Lone Ranger (2013)……………………………9.50
8. Man of Steel (2013)………………………………….10.00
9. The Bible Mini-Series (2013)…………………..8.00
10. The Dark Kight Rises (2012)………………….9.75
ZIMMER’S CURRENT AVERAGE: 7.875

Arnie Hammer, Johnny Depp, The Lone Ranger

 

Zimmer works a LOT.  He typically does 3-4 films a year and a 7.875 isn’t a bad batting average for someone with the volume of work he’s producing.  I was disappointed that he couldn’t do for Spider-Man what he’d done for Batman and Superman, but maybe he should just stay in DCU sandbox.  Let’s look at his greatest scores:

ZIMMER’S  GREATEST TEN
1. Inception (2011)……………………………..10.00
2. The Dark Knight (2008)…………………10.00*
3. Pirates of the Caribbean 3 (2006)..10.00
4. Batman Begins (2005)…………………….10.00*
5. Man of Steel (2013)…………………………10.00
6. Gladiator (2000)……………………………….10.00
7. Backdraft (1991)………………………………10.00
8. The Rock (1996)………………………………..10.00
9. The Lion King (1994)………………………..9.75
10. The Dark Knight Rises (2012)………9.75
ZIMMER’S GREATEST AVERAGE: 9.950
* Composed in conjunction with James Newton Howard

If Zimmer hadn’t been a chowderhead about Pirates 1, he’s only need one more 10 to join John Williams as the only person we’ve examined with a perfect 10.00 career best score, but opportunities are on the horizon.

Zimmer is currently composing the score to this fall’s Christopher Nolan film, Interstellar, without being allowed to see the movie or a script!  That’s like golfing with no arms!  If he can pull that off, that’s something he can brag about forever.  He’s also agreed to return to the world of DC Comics to score Batman vs. Superman (the thought of the Dark Knight march colliding with the Man of Steel theme….sorry I spaced out for ten minutes).  Zimmer’s star continues to rise and he continues to get better, challenging himself to bring something to these huge scores that he’s never done; that maybe no one has ever done.  There’s no question he’s one of the most influential composers in movie music history and it’s only a matter of time before he gets his two final 10’s and can join John Williams in the “Perfect Career Score” clubhouse (which I may have built in my backyard just in case……JUST IN CASE!!!).

Hans Zimmer

Ron Howard’s Latest 10 Movies vs. Greatest 10 Movies

Ron Howard
Latest vs. Greatest looks at directors, actors, actresses, screenwriters and composers to assess the state of their career as it stands.  We’ll look back at the latest 10 movies the artist has done, rate them and then average them out to see where they stand today.  We’ll also rank their 10 greatest movies and give them the same treatment to compare what they have been doing to their very best work.  (A quick side-note: if an artist is/has been a regular on a TV show we’ll also grade the seasons individually; artists need 10 projects to qualify).

Ron Howard, American Grafitti

Ron Howard has been in front of or behind the camera literally his entire life. From playing Opie on The Andy Griffith Show to Richie Cunningham on Happy Days, Howard grew up in front of America. When Happy Days was past its peak, Howard appeared in George Lucas’ American Graffiti, but instead of developing ambitions of a career as a leading man, he became extremely interested in becoming a director. Continue reading Ron Howard’s Latest 10 Movies vs. Greatest 10 Movies