Latest reviews of new albums:
All Is True
  • Composed by Patrick Doyle
  • Sony Classical / 37m

Kenneth Branagh directs and stars as William Shakespeare in All Is True, written by Ben Elton and drifting between fact and fiction in its portrait of the great man’s twilight years. Branagh’s collaboration with composer Patrick Doyle has spanned decades now and – of course – included many Shakespeare adaptations. The composer’s elegant, often gentle score for this film sees him treading ground that has yielded some of his finest works – while he can do the bold theatrics without difficulty, it’s in more intimate dramas that I think he really comes into his own, and this one is no exception. The orchestra is chamber-sized for the most part and Doyle utilises this ensemble in the best way, managing to wring out every last drop of emotion from his players – often we hear strings and piano with fairly subtle winds.

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
  • Composed by John Powell
  • Backlot / 76m

Completing the trilogy, The Hidden World sees Hiccup searching for the eponymous dragon utopia so the surplus of dragons that have accumulated have somewhere to live. Critical response has been very favourable (these are unusually classy films for Dreamworks Animation) and it would seem the long wait since the second film has been more than worth it for the series’ fans.

Welcome to Marwen
  • Composed by Alan Silvestri
  • Intrada / 58m

Robert Zemeckis’s strange Welcome to Marwen follows a man who tries to deal with his PTSD suffered after a violent attack on him by constructing a fictional village (the titular Marwen) and living out various fantastical storylines. I often jokily say in these introductions that a ludicrous plot is based on a true story; this one apparently actually is. The film was widely panned and has attracted very little audience, but it does give film music fans yet another artefact from one of the most enduring composer/director partnerships in Hollywood, that between Zemeckis and his longstanding collaborator Alan Silvestri, their 17th film together. It must have been a tricky film for Silvestri to really get the tone right for – his score manages to have a dual personality of its own, one part light and sweet and pastoral, the other militaristic. The opening cue presents both of these personalities – the warm main theme opens it up before the militaristic action theme takes over. The latter reminds me very much of Elmer Bernstein’s music for comedies in the 1980s, remaining resolutely tuneful and really rather bright; its B-section is unmistakably Silvestri. A third theme (also militaristic, though a little more gentle) is then introduced in the following cue, “You Are Saved”.

  • Composed by Dario Marianelli
  • Paramount / 57m

A prequel to the Transformers film series, Bumblebee is also the first in the series not to be directed by Michael Bay, and has attracted a far more positive critical response than any of the previous five; perhaps not surprisingly, it’s also not attracted anywhere near the sort of box office these films usually do. It’s only the second film directed by Travis Knight, and is nothing like his previous one (Kubo and the Two Strings) – in one of the most unlikely composer assignments I can ever remember, his Kubo composer Dario Marianelli signed on to do the film (and managed to not get replaced late on, which had always seemed like a possibility – c.f. Mychael Danna on Hulk or Carter Burwell on Thor 2). It’s not often that you hear a new blockbuster Hollywood film score and genuinely don’t know what to expect – but given Marianelli has never scored anything remotely similar to this before, that was indeed the case here. In fact, he’s written a pretty big action score which is very much in keeping with the modern sound, albeit one with a greater sheen of class over the top than has been heard in this franchise previously.

Mary Poppins Returns
  • Songs by Marc Shaiman and Scott Whitman
  • Score by Marc Shaiman
  • Disney / 79m

A belated sequel to Mary Poppins was probably not on anyone’s wish list, but Disney has been trawling through its archives recently making films that probably weren’t on anyone’s wish list and making tonnes of money in the process. (Next year we get Dumbo, Aladdin and The Lion King.) It’s actually been received very well, with Emily Blunt stepping into Julie Andrews’s shoes as the eponymous nanny and (carefully avoiding the original’s casting of an American trying to do a Cockney accent) Lin-Manuel Miranda as Jack, former apprentice of Bert from the original film.


Composed by Rupert Gregson-Williams WaterTower / 65m The latest instalment in the ever-popular DC Extended Universe, Aquaman tells the true story of the great warrior Aquaman who teamed up with his brother to cleanse the world’s oceans of undesirable objects, bringing down tall buildings in the process and causing general chaos. Critical reception has been a […]

If Beale Street Could Talk

Composed by Nicholas Britell Lakeshore / 53m From Moonlight director Barry Jenkins, If Beale Street Could Talk is an acclaimed film based on James Baldwin’s novel based in Harlem in the early 1970s and follows a young woman’s attempt to clear her husband’s name before their child is born. Jenkins teams up again with composer Nicholas […]

Mary Queen of Scots

Composed by Max Richter Deutsche Grammophon / 59m The latest of many tellings of the story, Josie Rourke’s Mary Queen of Scots stars Saoirse Ronan as Mary and Margot Robbie as her cousin Elizabeth I of England – and tells the story of the war between the countries in 1569. The music comes courtesy of the […]

Michael Palin in North Korea

Composed by Miguel d’Oliveira MovieScore Media/ 32m In the late 1980s, former Python Michael Palin started a highly-successful second career as a travel documentary presenter, becoming the best in his field (with the earlier ones in particular becoming classics of the genre). He hasn’t been back to that well for a while, until this two-part […]

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms

Composed by James Newton Howard Disney / 67m When a young girl receives an egg from her late mother, she does what any other young girl would do and enters a magical kingdom to find the key to open the egg.  Said magical world features Keira Knightley, Helen Mirren and Morgan Freeman, but proved to […]

Bad Times at the El Royale

Composed by Michael Giacchino Milan / 75m Bad Times at the El Royale (English translation: Bad Times at the The Royale) is not only an anagram of “almost reheatable deity”, it’s also a film about seven strangers hiding dark secrets who come together at a seedy hotel in the late 1960s.

I Promessi Sposi

Composed by Ennio Morricone Fonit / 55m Published in 1827, Alessandro Manzoni’s I Promessi Sposi (in English, The Betrothed) has gone onto become regarded as perhaps the most significant piece of Italian literature.  The epic novel is set in the 17th century against the backdrop of Italy being ruled by Spain and follows an engaged […]


Composed by Ludwig Göransson Sony Classical / 55m If there’s one thing I am sure we can all agree on, it’s that there just aren’t enough comic book movies being made by Hollywood right now, so it was to everyone’s relief that Sony decided to plug this gap in the market by launching their own […]

London has played a very important role in the career of John Williams – while he had already been composing for television and then film for a decade, it was while there for large parts of 1968 and later 1970, working on Goodbye Mr Chips and Fiddler on the Roof, that he immersed himself in […]

The Sisters Brothers

Composed by Alexandre Desplat Lakeshore / 60m It’s hard to believe that The Sisters Brothers is not a Coen Brothers film – its name, its setup (darkly comic western, a pair of assassins chasing a chemist with a special formula for catching gold), its stars, the fact that the man with the formula is called […]