Latest reviews of new albums:
Jurassic World: Dominion
  • Composed by Michael Giacchino

Concluding the Chris Pratt trilogy, Jurassic World: Dominion also concludes the entire Jurassic saga if the PR is to be believed. I know this is crazy but I just can’t help but predict that we’ll be back here in a few years. This time round, some ill-advised corporate greed ends up unleashing dinosaurs on to unsuspecting human beings – great to see all the lessons have been learned from the previous five. Colin “There’s a Great Big Beautiful” Trevorrow (Jurassic World, The Book of Henry) is back in the director’s chair and Michael Giacchino (Star Trek Beyond, The Book of Henry) on-hand to complete his own musical trilogy.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
  • Composed by Danny Elfman

My problem with Doctor Strange as a character in a film is that because he can seemingly do just about anything at any time, I struggle really to see how you can eke much drama out of him. His second outing with his name on the poster attempts to solve this problem by pitting him against Wanda, the Scarlet Witch, who can seemingly also do just about anything at any time. Great drama this truly does not make, so to make up for the lack of any compelling plot we head into the Multiverse, which allows the studio to provide some moments where people can scream out “hey, there’s that character I recognise from that other thing!” and derive unlimited pleasure as a result. Sam Raimi is the director and we do get treated to some unmistakable Sam Raimi moments, but the film struggles to find any particular identity. Wanda’s arc is identical to the one we’ve already seen in her tv show, which makes me wonder what the point of the tv show was; Strange himself is now presented as a wisecracking Tony Stark substitute, and Benedict Cumberbatch – fine actor though he undoubtedly is – isn’t particularly suited to that. As my friend – I’ll protect his anonymity by calling him Mr X, though his real name is John – said, all these things have a bit of a Lethal Weapon 4 vibe these days, with all the characters joking around with each other and the stakes always seeming to be there only as a vehicle to set up another jape.

Ambulance
  • Composed by Lorne Balfe

Never before has a composer been so absolutely transformed in my estimation as Lorne Balfe has in the last few years. With his great fantasy music for His Dark Materials on tv, one of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s finest scores for Black Widow, and his riveting action music for the most recent Mission: Impossible (which I madly wrote off at the time), he’s been writing consistently impressive music for a wide range of projects for both small and big screen, and his name on an album is, for me these days, a most welcome sight. With Ambulance, Michael Bay’s latest action extravaganza, sad to say that the run has come to an end to some extent, though not particularly through the fault of the composer. Film music, as someone once said, is not a type of music – it’s all types of music – and the type that dominates Ambulance just isn’t one to my taste.

Operation Mincemeat
  • Composed by Thomas Newman

Based on an intelligence operation performed late in WWII by the British to fool the Germans into thinking they were planning to invade Greece (rather than Sicily) – with a fictional love triangle thrown in for good measure – John Madden’s Operation Mincemeat has attracted reasonable reviews and offered the director to re-team with his Best Marigold Hotel composer Thomas Newman. I was not alone in thinking for a long time that Newman was one of the finest film composers of his generation, tackling serious dramas with great skill and no shortage of flair for year after year, before flexing his muscles on a wider range of projects as time went by – and then seemingly losing interest in painting with the kind of broad strokes that drew so many towards him, concentrating in recent years very much more on much more low-key music, with the quirks that were always such a big part of his sound relegated somewhat to sounding like a bag of tricks being opened a few too many times. He is – of course – still the same extraordinarily gifted composer that he always was, and so there are usually some moments within scores where that old magic is present; sadly Operation Mincemeat is not the score that sees them coming back and taking over as the prevalent element. It is all impeccably done in terms of being a singular musical vision with some dramatic substance behind it; and it’s a sound that has always been present in his writing, but perhaps the one sound in there that never seemed likely to become the dominant one.

Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers
  • Composed by Brian Tyler

The live action / animation hybrid Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers is about as subversive a movie as could be made in the corporate Disney+ umbrella, quite entertaining and sometimes amusing, with a large amount of IP on display for you to point at. Providing the music is Brian Tyler, always capable of conjuring up an ear-worm theme and that’s exactly what he’s done for this score. To get to it you have to first navigate the rather unlikely audio spectacle of Post Malone singing the old Rescue Rangers theme song, but it’s worth it (and some younger associates of mine have pointed out that it’s no longer necessary to listen to every track on an album): the “Rescue Rangers Anthem” isn’t just very catchy, it manages to sum up the movie really very well in the space of a couple of minutes, being fast-paced fun, with a nod-and-a-wink sitting over fundamental good-naturedness. It appears all over the score, malleable as it is, and despite the album being very lengthy it never outstays its welcome.

Notre-Dame Brûle

Composed by Simon Franglen Directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud, Notre-Dame Brûle (a French phrase that even I can translate) tells the story of the fire in Paris’s iconic cathedral. While his films have tended to fall somewhat below the radar of late, there’s no doubting Annaud’s ability to create a visual spectacle – nor indeed his […]

Broken Keys

Composed by Gabriel Yared A pianist has to flee his home town after it is taken over by ISIS who ban all music in Broken Keys, a Lebanese film. In the process his piano is shot and he literally has to repair the broken keys, amid great danger. Gabriel Yared was born in Lebanon himself […]

Beyond the Summit

Composed by Paula Olaz A Spanish film about a man who suffers an accident on the first day of his attempt to climb Annapurna and the relationship that develops with the woman who rescues and cares for him, while he obsesses with resuming his ascent, Beyond the Summit has had only a limited cinema release […]

The Sound of Violet

Composed by Conrad Pope Written and directed by Allen Wolf, The Sound of Violet concerns the relationship between an autistic man who believes the woman he is dating loves him – not realising that she is in fact a prostitute. They both see the potential in the relationship, but for wildly differing reasons. The score […]

Turning Red

Composed by Ludwig Göransson The latest straight-to-streaming Pixar movie, Turning Red is another bold and different movie from the studio, in which a young Canadian girl of Chinese heritage discovers that when she’s angry she turns into a giant red panda. And she’s angry quite a lot, but not when she’s listening to her favourite […]

Uncharted

Composed by Ramin Djawadi Continuing the long-established trend of movies based on video games being released to critical acclaim, Uncharted has set the box office alight with its tale of a grouchy archaeologist (played by veteran British character actor Tom Hollander) scouring the world in search of the ark of the covenant proving to be […]

Moonfall

Composed by Thomas Wander & Harald Kloser Remember when Roland Emmerich movies used to be good? No, neither do I. I have to say though that his previous one, Midway – a disaster movie of a very different kind to his usual – was actually very well done. He returns to his usual kind of […]

The Batman

Composed by Michael Giacchino Four notes. Relentless. Aggressive. Dah-dah-dah-DAAAHHH. (Apologies to less technically-inclined musicians for introducing such complex notation so early on.) Sometimes keyboards. Sometimes growling brass. Sometimes just the timpani. But always: four notes. The four stages of a bat: birth, early life, later life, death. One note for each. The first three – […]

Griminelli Plays Morricone

Composed by Ennio Morricone Flute virtuoso Andrea Griminelli has been one of Italy’s classical music superstars for decades now. Amongst his prior performances was the première of Ennio Morricone’s flute concerto a number of years ago, and now he has released a tribute album to the legendary film composer. It is very much a “crossover” […]

Ennio Morricone: Piano Music

Composed by Ennio Morricone The acclaimed pianist Roberto Prosseda became one of numerous artists to record tributes to the great Ennio Morricone following his death in 2020. This solo piano album presents some of the composer’s “absolute music” (as he always called it) alongside piano transcriptions of various film themes. While it is not the […]


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