Latest reviews of new albums:
Eternals
  • Composed by Ramin Djawadi

2021’s third Marvel movie, Eternals introduces a whole host of new characters to take part in the endless fight between good and evil. They’ve evidently been biding their time up until now. Interestingly, all three of these movies have been met with somewhat lukewarm receptions – not just from critics (it was ever thus) but seemingly from audiences. While essentially all 850 movies in the series are precisely the same apart from the colours of the costumes, the moving on from most of the original Avengers has perhaps not been as successful as may have been hoped by the money men; it is surely only a matter of time before Robert Downey Jr. is resurrected and we just start again.

The Tamarind Seed
  • Composed by John Barry

A romantic spy adventure, The Tamarind Seed stars Julie Andrews and Omar Sharif as lovers on opposite sides of the Cold War. Director Blake Edwards was famous of course for his collaborations with the great Henry Mancini, but he did deviate on occasion – and for a spy adventure in the 1970s, well, there was no more obvious choice than John Barry. His score was never released in any form and was something of a holy grail for the composer’s fans as a result – Silva Screen has finally issued it on album. It’s a slightly unusual score in that it is completely dominated by two ideas which repeat a lot of times – I wonder if that’s why it wasn’t issued as an album at the time – effective in the (frankly rather disappointing) movie as Barry scores always were, but perhaps slightly more challenging to assemble into a musical package away from the film. However, as long as expectations are suitably-set (and most Barry fans will know exactly what to expect) then there’s an awful lot here to like.

The French Dispatch
  • Composed by Alexandre Desplat

The latest from the brilliant Wes Anderson, The French Dispatch is set in the French office of the Liberty-Kansas Evening Sun, soon to close following the death of its editor. All the usual suspects are there, including Anderson’s regular composer Alexandre Desplat, who finds a way in these films to bring out his seldom-heard witty, quirky side. His score opens with the truly outstanding “Obituary”, which very much reminds me of Ennio Morricone’s comedy scores, taking inspiration from a classical master (in this case Bach) and throwing a whole load of “quirk” at it – there’s something so delightful about it, the little cells of phrases repeated across various soloists (from harpsichord to tuba) in an inherently comic way. It’s three and a half minutes of pure musical bliss, my favourite piece of film music of 2021; it’s so striking, I wonder if it might be enough to push the composer towards yet more awards when that season rolls around.

Red Notice
  • Composed by Steve Jablonsky

A Netflix action comedy, Red Notice very boldly makes no attempt to hide its inspirations from Indiana Jones to True Lies (amongst many others) – bold, because if that’s what you’re going to force yourself to be compared with, you’d better be good. It isn’t very good, wasting the charisma of its leads (Dwayne Johnson in particular), but it passes the time. Director Rawson Marshall Thurber had worked with composer Steve Jablonsky and, while the film itself may be a bit of a damp squib, the score exceeds expectations. It opens slightly misleadingly with a piece of traditional orchestral adventure music in “The Egg”, full of portent and mystery and wonder; more typical is the fleshed-out arrangement of the fabulous main theme which follows in “Red Notice”. While it sounds very familiar – essentially a variant on the orchestral heist movie sound as heard in things like Mission: Impossible and perhaps most similarly, Ant Man – it’s extremely entertaining, immediately becoming my favourite piece of music that Jablonsky’s ever written.

Army of Thieves
  • Composed by Hans Zimmer and Steve Mazzaro

Telling the backstory of the safecracker character from Army of the Dead (which was only released a few months ago itself), Army of Thieves is a reasonably enjoyable action comedy directed by its star Matthias Schweighöfer. His character joins a team looking to break into the four “Wagner safes”, all named after famous works by the composer who shares a name with the safe designer. The score is by Hans Zimmer and Steve Mazzaro and very much fits the tone of the movie, built around various heist sequences carried out with that trademark German wit. The opening title theme is wonderful (I have to say, possibly because I’m an idiot, that for all the considerably higher-profile music by Zimmer that’s been released this year, these two minutes top them all). Half Jack Sparrow, half Sherlock Holmes and half “Zooster’s Breakout”, it’s just as much fun as anything that features three halves could ever be – a real ear-worm, it’s pure musical fun, and you’ll be whistling along in no time.

The Curse of Turandot

Composed by Simon Franglen Adapted from Puccini’s opera, The Curse of Turandot is a Chinese romantic fantasy about a cursed princess and the prince who tries to lift that curse. Directed by Xiaolong Zheng and starring Xiaotong Guan and Dylan Sprause, the film didn’t get particularly good reviews when it was released in China a […]

The Last Duel

Composed by Harry Gregson-Williams Ridley Scott’s best-reviewed film in quite a while, The Last Duel nevertheless struggled to find much of an audience at cinemas. Ostensibly an historical drama, the film is quite clearly a commentary on the struggles that women continue to face when the victim of sexual violence; Matt Damon and Adam Driver […]

Cliffs of Freedom

Composed by George Kallis An historical romantic epic resetting the Romeo and Juliet story in the 19th century Greek war of independence against the Ottomans, Cliffs of Freedom stars Tania Raymonde and Jan Uddin as the lovers cast apart on opposite sides of the conflict. It was directed by Van Ling, better-known as a visual […]

The Starling

Composed by Benjamin Wallfisch I haven’t seen The Starling – I had intended to, but the reviews put me off – it’s usually referred to as a “comedy drama” and its plot surrounds a couple who lose their tiny baby to SIDS and then see their mental health collapse. It’s hard to see the comedy […]

Free Guy

Composed by Christophe Beck Shawn Levy’s Free Guy is mostly set within a video game, in which a non-playable character, Guy (Ryan Reynolds), gradually comes to realise what he is and gains sentience; back in the real world, there’s a bit of a kerfuffle about who owns the code. It seems to have been a […]

Infinite

Composed by Harry Gregson-Williams I usually start these things with a little description of the film, but even though I’ve seen Infinite I haven’t got a clue what it’s about. Something to do with resurrection (I did get that much) and Mark Wahlberg trying to find an egg in order to save all life on […]

No Time to Die

Composed by Hans Zimmer The Daniel Craig set of Bond films reaches its conclusion in the long-awaited No Time to Die, originally scheduled for release during the Neolithic period (or at least, it feels that way). There won’t be any spoilers for the film in this piece – but I will say I found it […]

Foundation: Season 1

Composed by Bear McCreary Based on Isaac Asimov’s classic science fiction stories (the first volume of which is seventy years old!), Foundation is the latest attempt to “find the new Game of Thrones“, this one by Apple. I’m not sure they’ve come close to doing that (for good or bad) but the flawed show does […]

I’ll be taking part in a conversation later today with Jon Broxton, Christian Clemmensen, Christopher Coleman and Erik Woods to talk about our 25 years of writing and broadcasting about film music online. (25 years!) The great Tim Burden will be moderating. It would be wonderful if you could join us. The event starts at […]

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

Composed by John Barry Sticking closer to the source Ian Fleming novel than any of the other movies in the series, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is widely considered to be one of the finest James Bond movies. The character has a vulnerability not seen in many of the others, as he genuinely falls in […]