Latest reviews of new albums:
Raya and the Last Dragon
  • Composed by James Newton Howard
  • Disney / 70m

500 years after dragons sacrifice themselves to save humanity in the face of attack by monsters, the monsters are back – and it’s up to young warrior Raya to track down the last surviving dragon to help save everyone once more. With a fine voice cast led by Kelly Marie Tran, Raya and the Last Dragon would probably have made a fortune had it (as planned) been released in cinemas in a non-pandemic world, and I’m sure it will make a fortune anyway, though in this household it will lead to a series of explanations about why we must wait for it to be widely available on Disney+ rather than only via “premier access”.

Soul Snatcher
  • Composed by Joe Hisaishi
  • Universal / 79m

I often write about soundtrack albums from films I haven’t seen and offer a cursory plot description as an introduction – often I know broadly what the film is about but sometimes I have to look it up. Not knowing anything about Soul Snatcher, this time I will just copy and paste the plot description from Wikipedia: The impoverished scholar Wang Zijin (Chen Linong) went to Beijing to take the exam and was stared at by Bai Shisan (Li Xian), the little magical fox who took the dan. As long as Wang Zijin is killed and the dan is taken, he can be promoted to spiritual immortal. But did not want to take Dan Road, one person and one fox became the best friends. After going through all risks, what choice should Bai Shishan make? I do hope that clears things up.

The Little Things
  • Composed by Thomas Newman
  • WaterTower / 55m

Starring Denzel Washington and Rami Malek as detectives who suspect Jared Leto is behind a series of murders in LA in the 1990s, The Little Things is directed by John Lee Hancock and released to little positive reception early in 2021. The film marks the third collaboration between the director and the great composer Thomas Newman – their previous one, The Highwaymen, was a score I listened to many times but didn’t write about because frankly I couldn’t think of much to say. Well, in musical terms The Little Things makes it sound like Angels in America or something by comparison – this may be the dullest music Newman has ever written. He’s always loved doing ambient, textural material and while there are some more “conventional” scores for thrillers in his back catalogue, he does look for opportunities to write this kind of noirish atmosphere when he can. I’m just not sure he’s ever quite done it to this extent before.

Minari
  • Composed by Emile Mosseri
  • Milan / 33m

One of 2020’s most critically-acclaimed films, Minari tells the story of a South Korean family’s attempts to make it in rural Arkansas in the 1980s. It’s based on its director Lee Isaac Chung’s own upbringing. For the music, Chung turned to the up-and-coming composer Emile Mosseri, who achieved some good notices for The Last Black Man in San Francisco a couple of years ago and more recently the second season of Homecoming; his lovely score is a gentle, small-scale one which is really very charming. What’s interesting about it is that, while there is much warmth, this is often set against very slight dissonance which creates a sound highlighting contrasts – a kind of bliss on the surface but with something just bubbling away underneath.

The great Jerry Goldsmith was at the top of his game for decades, innovating and evolving and always looking to do something new. He could – and did – score any kind of film and almost without fail found some interesting music to write. Taking highlight tracks from his scores produces a playlist that lasts for many hours – but what are the real belters, the ten pieces that represent the breadth and depth of his output the best? Any Goldsmith fan will have a different list – this is mine.

Peggy Sue Got Married

Composed by John Barry Varèse Sarabande / 64m Francis Ford Coppola’s lightest film to that point, the time-travel fantasy Peggy Sue Got Married saw Kathleen Turner and Nicolas Cage as a couple on the verge of marital breakdown when she is transported back to high school (when she first fell in love with him) – […]

Below Zero

Composed by Zacarías M. de la Riva MovieScore Media / 46m An entertaining if highly implausible Spanish action thriller, Below Zero has proven a huge global hit on Netflix. The film follows a late-night prison transfer which goes very wrong, with an interesting twist coming from the motivation of the character who makes it go […]

John Powell: Film Suites Volume 1

Composed by John Powell 5 Cat Studios / 49m Most of us probably became aware of John Powell through his additional music for Hans Zimmer in the mid-1990s – he is one of many to gone from that status to becoming a high-profile film composer in his own right – but he is set apart […]

La Gabbia

Composed by Ennio Morricone Decca / 61m A 1985 erotic drama, La Gabbia (literally “The Cage” but it was released as The Trap internationally) is about an American businessman who finds himself in a love triangle in Italy after his girlfriend goes off on holiday. The other two sides of the triangle are mother and […]

Soul

Composed by Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, Jon Batiste Disney / 64m Pete Docter’s previous movie Inside Out was one of Pixar’s finest in my opinion, profound and moving and a great movie by any standards. So he had a lot to live up to in his follow-up – and has not reduced the scope of […]

The Midnight Sky

Composed by Alexandre Desplat ABKCO / 87m George Clooney is not a personal friend of mine, but he seems to have so many qualities – using his fame as a force for good, seemingly a very nice man, an interesting one, a very fine actor – and so quite why it is that I find […]

Wonder Woman 1984

Composed by Hans Zimmer Watertower / 90m Widely praised as the best film (by a distance) in the DC Extended Universe, Patty Jenkins managed to inject some much-needed life into the series with Wonder Woman in 2017, Gal Gadot taking on probably the most iconic female comic book character. A sequel was inevitable and here […]

News of the World

Composed by James Newton Howard Backlot / 72m To anyone who lived in the United Kingdom before about ten years ago when it ceased publication (and in that long list of people you will find both myself and Paul Greengrass), News of the World was the title of the country’s biggest-selling newspaper; but this film […]

Let Them All Talk

Composed by Thomas Newman Lakeshore / 20m A comedy drama from Steven Soderbergh, Let Them All Talk is set on a cruise ship and stars Meryl Streep playing a writer traveling across the Atlantic to collect an award, with her entourage. Low-budget and reportedly largely improvised, the film has proved to be a critical hit […]

Silver Skates

Composed by Guy Farley MovieScore Media / 65m A Russian film set in St Petersburg at the turn of the 20th century, Silver Skates is a love story set across the strict social divides that existed at the time, as the daughter of an aristocrat falls in love with a delivery boy whose only possession […]