Latest reviews of new albums:
Playing by Heart
  • Composed by John Barry
  • Decca / 57m

With an amazing ensemble cast, it’s a shame that Playing by Heart didn’t really make the most of them: Sean Connery and Gena Rowlands play a couple about to renew their wedding vows, with support from (amongst others) Gillian Anderson, Ellen Burstyn, Angelina Jolie, Dennis Quaid and Madeleine Stowe playing seemingly-disparate characters whose relationships to one another are only revealed at the end.

Airlines
  • Composed by Alexandre Desplat
  • Warner Classics / 56m

Alongside his prolific film career, Alexandre Desplat has written various concert works, including a ballet and most recently an opera, which premiered earlier in 2020. In late 2018 he conducted the Orchestre National de France in Paris in a concert of his music which included two concert works alongside film music – “Airlines” for solo flute and a sinfonia concertante, “Pelléas et Mélisande”, for flute and orchestra. They both make their recorded debut on this album, which is a recording taken from the concert.

The Secret Garden
  • Composed by Dario Marianelli
  • Decca / 52m

The fifth movie adaptation of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden (and released 101 years after the first!), this latest version is directed by Marc Munden and stars Dixie Egerickx in the lead role as Mary Lennox, with grown-up support coming from Colin Firth and Julie Walters. Originally scheduled for release in cinemas earlier in 2020, it has gone the way of so many other films and is currently in the process of being rolled-out straight to streaming services.

Tenet
  • Composed by Ludwig Göransson
  • WaterTower / 86m

Christopher Nolan’s famous aversion to anyone watching his films other than at the cinema meant that Tenet was never likely to follow some other summer 2020 movies and go straight to audiences in their homes, with it instead being the tentpole to restart the big screen experience. I have to say I’m not quite ready to expose myself to that risk myself, so I haven’t seen it, but I’m yet to hear from anyone who has seen it who was able to articulate what it’s about, and with most reviews saying “I didn’t understand it…” and then some of them going on to say “…but it was brilliant!” and the rest “…so it was rubbish!”

Mulan
  • Composed by Harry Gregson-Williams
  • Disney / 83m

While most of Disney’s string of largely-unloved but financially successful “live action” remakes of their classic animations over the last few years have stuck pretty closely to the stories of the originals, Mulan has given the opportunity to take a more serious look at the Chinese legend – no Mushu, no songs – and because of Covid-19, no cinema release either, with it pitching up on Disney+ (but as well as paying for Disney+ you also have to donate one of your kidneys and remortgage your house to pay for the surcharge).

La Storia Vera della Signora dalle Camelie

Composed by Ennio Morricone Cinevox / 59m La Storia Vera della Signora dalle Camelie is a film by Mauro Bolognini telling the story of Alphonsine Plessis, the famous Parisian courtesan who inspired the novel The Lady of the Camellias by Alexandre Dumas fils (and the film was released under that title internationally). Starring Isabelle Huppert, […]

Pets United

Composed by David Newman Milan / 62m A stray dog teams up with a high-society cat to save their city in Pets United, from director Reinhard Klooss. His previous two movies were both scored by David Newman, who returns to provide the movie with an energetic (and loud!) score typical of his work in animation. […]

Stargirl

Composed by Pinar Toprak WaterTower / 57m A superhero series for kids, Stargirl follows the adventures of high school student Courtney Whitmore who leads the Justice Society of America in their battles with (wait for it) the Injustice Society of America. It’s been very well-received, a second season is on the way, and it’s provided […]

Le Ruffian

Composed by Ennio Morricone GDM / 60m A French-Canadian action/adventure film, Le Ruffian (released in 1983) stars Lino Ventura as a gold prospector in northern Canada, although not all is as it seems and he ends up going off on a series of adventures with Bernard Giraudeau and Claudia Cardinale. Directed by José Giovanni, the […]

The Desert of the Tartars

Composed by Ennio Morricone GDM / 59m Based on Dino Buzzati’s 1940 novel The Tartar Steppe, the 1976 film The Desert of the Tartars stars Jacques Perrin as a soldier who spends his life guarding an old fort, waiting for an attack. He questions the purpose of a life spent doing this – and then, […]

John Williams in Vienna

Composed by John Williams Deutsche Grammophon / 75m When John Williams fell ill after arriving in London in 2018 for his first concert appearance in Europe in decades, it impacted not just the London concert (which went ahead under a different conductor) but also one scheduled for Vienna shortly thereafter (which was cancelled). I doubt […]

Il Giorno Prima

Composed by Ennio Morricone ScreenTrax / 37m Released internationally as Control, 1987’s Il Giorno Prima stars Burt Lancaster (Burt Lancaster!) as a scientist conducting an experiment by locking people inside a nuclear bunker and seeing how long they last before they start falling apart. (At the time it would have probably seemed unlikely that this […]

Fanny Lye Deliver’d

Composed by Thomas Clay Pull Back Camera / 53m I recently got sent a press release about James Newton Howard which referred to his “genre-defying” music. I suspect they meant defining rather than defying, but maybe they didn’t; in any case, if anything I’ve come across recently could be described as genre-defying then it’s Fanny […]

Gli Occhiali d’Oro

Composed by Ennio Morricone ScreenTrax / 35m Based on the novel by Giorgio Bassani, Gli Occhiali d’Oro (The Gold-Rimmed Spectacles for its international release) is about a gay doctor and a Jewish student facing persecution in Italy in the late 1930s (where being either gay or Jewish was not a lucky hand to be dealt). […]

The Piano Framed

Composed by George Fenton Shogun / 70m George Fenton’s career has seen him move from small-scale tv, radio and theatre projects to big epics, Hollywood romances and thrillers, a long association with BBC natural history documentaries, and lengthy collaborations with notable British directors as diverse as Richard Attenborough and Ken Loach.