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His Dark Materials
  • Composed by Lorne Balfe
  • Silva Screen / 53m

There’s already been one attempt to bring Philip Pullman’s delightful fantasy trilogy His Dark Materials to the screen but the first part, The Golden Compass, was disappointing and so the sequels never made it. Now here comes part two – on the small screen this time, a BBC/HBO adaptation, and while even in this long form some of the detail is lost it’s a much more satisfying endeavour all round (and there is much less of a worry that they will see this one out).

Frozen
  • Songs by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez
  • Score by Christophe Beck
  • Disney / 69m

I don’t know how many times you’ve seen Frozen but it’s probably not as many times as I’ve seen Frozen. My daughter was born in 2014 and we probably watched it most days in 2016 and 2017. To be fair, it’s probably Disney’s best movie this century (Moana threatened its crown when it became the daily watch for a while, but that didn’t last nearly as long).

Adults in the Room
  • Composed by Alexandre Desplat
  • Warner Classics / 49m

Greece’s Acropolis Now debt crisis moment, which at one point threatened to destroy the Euro currency, is the focus of Costa-Gavras’s Adults in the Room. It’s based on the book by Yannis Varoufakis, the leather jacket-wearing finance minister who became a bit of a sensation during and after his brief stint in office. (The story here worth telling is surely the suffering of ordinary Greek people who haven’t done anything wrong – but the film focuses instead on the negotiations between Greece and the EU over the terms of its debt repayments – which is perhaps not really the most interesting thing to most people.) Composer Alexandre Desplat has been a little quieter than usual in Hollywood over the last year or so but still very active on European films and his score is an intriguing balancing act between pretty comic satire and serious drama – a bit like a cross between The Grand Budapest Hotel and The Ghost Writer. His main theme – a sprightly bouzouki number which will inevitably bring Zorba the Greek to mind – is an absolute joy, prime Desplat, witty and memorable.

The King
  • Composed by Nicholas Britell
  • Lakeshore / 43m

An ambitious Shakespeare adaptation, The King in question is Henry V. It’s quite distinctive and impressive but always feels like it’s lacking a bit of oomph. Nicholas Britell’s down and dirty score is the perfect complement: it broods (boy does it brood), it haunts, it grows as it goes – he’s making real waves as a film composer and it’s not hard to see why. There’s a grown-up quality to his music that much film music, 2019 lacks – a thoughtfulness, but also a genuinely wonderful refusal to adhere to the way things are generally going.

Midway
  • Composed by Thomas Wander and Harald Kloser
  • Varèse Sarabande / 61m

Few directors have such a bizarrely bipolar approach when it comes to their music as Roland Emmerich – up to The Patriot you heard some of the most exciting film music of the time; after it, probably the dullest of all time. I’ll let the composers of Midway, Thomas Wander and Harald Kloser, describe this score themselves courtesy of the press release, because they do a better job of it than I could: “We agreed that the music for Midway should not be a traditional wall-to-wall orchestral score, with sweeping action cues where every change in mood and sentiment will be followed musically. We also set ourselves the goal that the orchestral pieces should be limited to the emotional moments of the film. Early on we asked our long-time collaborator Tommy Schobel to create some sort of musically driven sound design, using synth-based versions of sounds old war planes would make, but in a way so they make sense within the bigger picture of the score. When you hear these cues in the film, married with all the sound effects, it all becomes — quoting our re-recording mixer Greg P. Russel — ‘A Thing.'”

Terminator: Dark Fate

Composed by Tom Holkenborg Paramount / 58m Long after all other life on earth has been extinguished, I suspect come summertime there will be a new Rambo movie (“definitely the last one” says Stallone) followed a few weeks later by a new Terminator movie (it is already impossible to tell whether Schwarzenegger is still a […]

Seven Worlds One Planet

Composed by Jacob Shea Silva Screen / 79m Every year a new one of these comes out and every year I wonder if this is the time they’ve run out of new things to show us. But no, not yet – Seven Worlds One Planet is another genuinely stunning BBC natural history documentary, David Attenborough […]

Gemini Man

Composed by Lorne Balfe Paramount / 62m A just-retired hit man faces a battle against a clone of his younger self in Ang Lee’s Gemini Man. (Yes, Ang Lee’s.) Said hit man is played by Will Smith and said clone is also played by Will Smith and he’s always watchable but that’s about the best […]

Ad Astra

Composed by Max Richter Deutsche Grammophon / 126m James Gray’s ambitious Ad Astra stars Martin Sheen sent on a mission to find Marlon Brando, who hasn’t been heard from in a while and has gone a bit bonkers. Wait, that’s something else. Anyway, let’s hope we get to see the infamous deleted French plantation scene […]

Air Force One

Composed by Jerry Goldsmith Varèse Sarabande / 120m (score 90m) Back in more innocent times (1997), we liked to imagine US presidents doing things like fighting off terrorists on aeroplanes. If the president in question is played by Harrison Ford, all the better. Wolfgang Petersen’s very silly film (and please note that all I typed […]

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil

Composed by Geoff Zanelli Disney / 72m Very successful but not seemingly very well-loved, I’m not sure how many people were really sitting there counting the days until a sequel to Maleficent came along, but still – here it is, Mistress of Evil. Angelina Jolie is back, importantly including her cheek bones, but many of […]

Rambo: Last Blood

Composed by Brian Tyler Lakeshore / 75m John Rambo comes back for yet another farewell tour in Rambo: Last Blood, this time going to Mexico to rescue his kidnapped adopted daughter. Sylvester Stallone directed the previous one but has given the director’s chair over to Adrian Grunberg this time round; but as with all the […]

Marco Beltrami: Music for Film

Composed by Marco Beltrami Silva Screen / 68m The annual Gent Film Festival in Belgium always has a heavy film music presence, including the World Soundtrack Awards and concerts, and in the last few years has produced a studio-recorded album of suites and themes from one of the main guests – this year it’s Marco […]

Joker

Composed by Hildur Guðnadóttir Watertower / 36m We all have our own moral compass, a set of things we know we will never do because, simply, they are not right. Of course every person is different, and so is every person’s moral compass – what’s seen as fine by one person may be completely unacceptable […]

Solis

Composed by David Stone Hamilton MovieScore Media / 66m A man is trapped inside a capsule heading straight towards the sun, in radio contact with the person trying to help rescue him. Solis stars Steven Ogg and Alice Lowe in the two roles, and for the music writer/director turned to up-and-coming composer David Stone Hamilton. […]