Latest reviews of new albums:
Dora and the Lost City of Gold
  • Composed by John Debney and Germaine Franco
  • Paramount Music / 72m

Everything changes when you have children. One thing that’s changed for me is that I hardly ever go to the cinema any more, but one thing’s for certain: I will be going to see Dora and the Lost City of Gold. And my daughter has yet to see a film she hasn’t liked, so she will certainly like it and that means I will like it too. There aren’t any songs on the soundtrack album after the first track so she probably won’t like that, but I do. Steady hand John Debney is joined by Germaine Franco – who worked for many years for John Powell – to provide the old-fashioned symphonic action/adventure score. The album opens with a new version of the irritatingly catchy Dora theme song and Debney and Franco cleverly weave it into their score in various places, in increasingly-creative ways – it’s not exactly a rousing adventure theme though, so that leaves a vacancy for a strong main theme to fill out the Indiana Jones sound the composers were evidently aiming for.

After the Wedding
  • Composed by Mychael Danna
  • Varèse Sarabande / 45m

Based on the 2006 Danish film of the same name, After the Wedding stars Michelle Williams, who travels from Kolkata in India to New York to try to raise some much-needed funds for the orphanage she runs. Director Bart Freundlich turned to Mychael Danna for the music – no stranger to films with an Indian flavour (albeit a superficial one in this case) and no stranger to serious dramas. His unusual score travels across a huge range during its brief running time (just over half an hour, with three songs making up the balance of the album) – there’s a gorgeous ethnically-tinged flavour at times, but only at times – the opening cue, “Isabel”, being a little misleading in that regard with its prominent use of the Indian bansuri flute. I was looking forward to an album of such swooning beauty, but it goes off on a very different course – one that turns out to be very rewarding indeed.

Aladdin
  • Composed by Alan Menken
  • Lyrics by Howard Ashman, Tim Rice, Benj Pasek, Justin Paul
  • Disney / 76m

The pace of Disney’s releases of “live-action” versions of their animated classics shows no sign of abating. None of them seems to get much traction with critics but so far they have mostly been very lucrative, so I guess they’ll keep going until there’s only Home on the Range left. And then maybe someone will have the great idea of doing animated remakes of them all, to keep going for a few more years. Guy Ritchie’s Aladdin is a very bright, colourful, visually-dazzling spectacle which seems to me to be one of the better entries so far.

Dark Phoenix
  • Composed by Hans Zimmer
  • Fox Music / 68m

X-Men: The Last Stand was not received well at all in 2006, and after it was rather conveniently erased from the timeline of this film series in a later instalment, the filmmakers had the chance to do it again and so Dark Phoenix was born to conclude Fox’s X-Men films before the characters are introduced into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Obviously, this time the film was received even worse.

Rory’s Way
  • Composed by Frank Ilfman
  • MovieScore Media / 46m

Based on José Luis Sampedro’s classic Spanish novel The Etruscan Smile, Rory’s Way sees an old man (Brian Cox) reluctantly move from the Scottish highlands to San Francisco to stay with his son while he seeks medical treatment only to see his twilight years transform him after he becomes a grandfather. The music comes from Frank Ilfman and he takes his inspiration from Rory’s Scottish background to provide a lovely, lilting Celtic-tinged score which is evocative and completely charming. The score’s sweeping opening encapsulates this perfectly – the strings swell over a backdrop of various local textures – and then we go to “Rory’s Theme”, tinged with a great sadness but underneath it all really very beautiful. Its B-section late on, when it moves from a chamber piece to something bigger, has a great emotional weight behind it, then reduced down to a solo piano which is delicate and touching.

The World of Hans Zimmer

Composed by Hans Zimmer Sony Classical / 117m Hans Zimmer went on tour with a small band a few years ago, to the delight of his fans; shortly thereafter his music went on tour again, this time under the name of “The World of Hans Zimmer” and performed with a full orchestra. The former tour […]

Hellboy

Composed by Benjamin Wallfisch Sony Classical / 47m We all remember where we were when the first Hellboy movie came out. The main reason for that is because it was only about a week ago last Tuesday, but that hasn’t stopped the powers that be deciding that it’s time for a new one, so here […]

Captain Marvel

Composed by Pinar Toprak Hollywood Records / 68m It’s taken an embarrassingly long time but we finally have one of these Marvel films focusing on a female character. Captain Marvel stars Brie Larson as the eponymous hero and while the plot is basically the same as all the other 683 films in the series, I […]

Cold Pursuit

Composed by George Fenton Varèse Sarabande / 49m In stark contrast to all his other recent films, Cold Pursuit stars Liam Neeson as a wronged man on the hunt for revenge. (The press materials for this album describe him as “Liam Neeson, Taken, Taken 2-3.”) It was all rather overshadowed by the actor’s unfortunate comments […]

Serenity

Composed by Benjamin Wallfisch Milan / 63m I don’t think it’s supposed to be a comedy, but I haven’t laughed as hard at a film as Serenity since the last time I saw the immortal words “Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker” appear on a screen. It’s an extremely strange film starring Matthew McConaughey as a very angry fisherman who […]

Alita: Battle Angel

Composed by Tom Holkenborg Milan / 64m James Cameron was originally supposed to be directing Alita: Battle Angel, adapted from the Japanese comic book series, but of course he ended up working on his Avatar universe and so handed over the directorial reigns to Robert Rodriguez (but remains credited as writer and producer). Alita (played […]

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. […]

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 […]

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 […]

Bumblebee

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 […]