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 Post subject: As this year pulls to a close, I find time...
PostPosted: Sat Dec 30, 2017 6:09 pm 

Joined: Sat Nov 19, 2005 3:48 pm
Posts: 2651

As this year pulls to a close, I find time to catch up on a few of the Blu-rays lined up on my shelves during my Christmas-to-New Year’s break. Always a rewarding time away from producing albums for a few days. So I throw a dart and it lands on The Great Wall. Sigh. I’d read nothing but terrible reviews, heard all about Matt Damon being miscast, about the muddled story-telling, about this and that. But the dart doeth land and I must obey.

Whoa! Those critics were off base and the lack of public attention to this movie does baffle. This is an age when almost everything out of the movie industry is a big-budgeted tentpole, sequel, prequel, reboot, remake (what’s the difference between a reboot and remake??) and whatever, packed with CGI and plots reduced to good-vs-evil heroics usually involving people that fly and wear capes. So goes The Great Wall except it’s made by a Chinese director with an eye for stylish visuals - Zhang Yimou - and is led by the terrific Matt Damon. It has an exciting period locale involving the massive wonder known as The Great Wall Of China during the 11th century and… it’s got monsters. Cool!!

The visuals are dazzling, full of rich vivid color. Everything literally swirls with action with an especially breathtaking early scene setting the preparations for battle into motion. In a nutshell, two mercenary thieves wander in search of the mythical “black powder” that explodes when touched by flame. They find it at The Great Wall. All the while, the Nameless Order battles ferocious monsters bent on dominance throughout the land. The stories meld and the viewer gets an exhilarating ride that - hallelujah!! - plays for less than two hours. Yep. A big-budget movie that tells its story without padding and lets you go in less than two hours. Jerry Bruckheimer take note.

Adding to my enjoyment: a rousing score by Ramin Djawadi. Some 80 players in his London orchestra, strings, brass and percussion, yet beyond three Chinese soloists adding some haunting color, there are no woodwinds. There’s a lot of mass to the score, not particularly complex per se but scored in a thick fashion that brings great weight to the music. Eight French horns and seven trombones plus tuba do the heavy lifting for the brass with two trumpets sometimes piercing through above. And another really neat device is that much of the score is propelled by rhythm, not just through percussion but strikingly courtesy some 60 strings, often led by the cellos. What a discovery this music was! After finishing the movie it took me all of about 30 seconds to pull out the still-unopened CD, remove the shrink-wrap and start it spinning in my player. An outstanding experience! All the massive highlights I recalled are here, now sans effects and dialog. Thank you, Milan (the label) and thank you, Ramin. Jeff kept telling me about Game Of Thrones, then I sat up and took note of your score for Westworld… and after The Great Wall I’m convinced. I’m now a believer.

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