Latest reviews of new albums:
Black Widow
  • Composed by Lorne Balfe
  • Hollywood Records / 80m

After its Covid-induced absence from cinemas for a couple of years, the Marvel Cinematic Universe juggernaut gets back on the road in Black Widow, Cate Shortland’s film giving Scarlett Johansson’s character the spotlight for once (she’s appeared in about seven hundred of the previous films in the series but has rarely been front and centre). While it’s been simultaneously released on Disney+ (for an additional fee, of course) it does seem to be the film that is finally drawing punters back to the big screen – let’s hope this time it’s for good.

The Tomorrow War
  • Composed by Lorne Balfe
  • Milan / 76m

When humans come back from the future to recruit some help to defeat alien invaders, Chris Pratt steps up. The Tomorrow War collects numerous artefacts from other, similar movies along the way and it’s got gaping holes in its logic, but it’s been successful enough for Amazon for a sequel to be commissioned. Director Chris McKay brings along his Lego Batman Movie composer Lorne Balfe for the ride. The long album starts off with some music focusing on the alien threat – the opening “Multiply” represents them with some slashing electronic effects and fascinating multi-layered vocals alongside some brassy clarion calls which vaguely recall Jóhann Jóhannsson’s Arrival and then in the second cue “Spikes Attack”, Balfe takes the same thematic base and turns it into some very decent action music with the familiar string ostinatos joined by satisfying trumpets and brass and a whole battery of percussion. Later, “The Whitespikes” is a pretty intense (and very dark) piece with some clever call-and-response ideas that form a pretty vivid musical picture of the invaders.

Mosca Addio
  • Composed by Ennio Morricone
  • EMI / 39m

Mosca Addio is a biopic of Ida Nudel, a campaigner for Jewish rights in Soviet Russia who was exiled from her home in Moscow to a remote village in Siberia. She was finally granted her wish – to be allowed to leave for Israel – in 1987, just as Mauro Bolognini’s film was released. Bolognini was one of the most frequent directorial collaborators with the great Ennio Morricone – they did no fewer than 15 films together – and the composer produced some magnificent music for those films.

Lupin
  • Composed by Mathieu Lamboley
  • Milan / 34m + 36m

An exceptionally entertaining French series, Lupin is possibly the most consistently-impressive Netflix original series I’ve seen yet. Set in Paris, Omar Sy stars as the lead character Assane Diop, out for revenge against the wealthy industrialist Hubert Pellegrini (Hervé Pierre) whom Diop blames for the death of his father when he was a boy. The USP is that the character is inspired by the French literary hero Arsène Lupin – the gentleman burglar – and goes about his business accordingly. While it’s silly, it’s silly in the best possible way and there are so many twists and turns over the ten episodes, I was quickly hooked and remained that way.

Enemy at the Gates
  • Composed by James Horner
  • Sony Classical / 77m

Set during the horrors of the battle of Stalingrad, Jean-Jacques Annaud’s Enemy at the Gates focuses on a personal battle between two snipers – the Russian Vasily Zaitsev (Jude Law) and the German Erwin König (Ed Harris). It’s based on real people and events but highly-dramatised – it is generally at its best when focusing on the feud between the two men, with everything else (including a trite romantic subplot) seeming superfluous – everything that is except the extraordinarily powerful scene where Law and his comrades arrive at Stalingrad and many are shot by their own officers for turning back from the German onslaught.

Army of the Dead

Composed by Tom Holkenborg Milan / 49m No sooner did the dust settle on his version of Justice League than here’s Zack Snyder again, this time with a return of sorts to his roots, a zombie movie for Netflix. Dave Bautista stars in Army of the Dead, leading a group on a heist of a […]

Celebritas

Composed by Nikolas Labrinakos Mother Goose Recordings / 31m Commissioned by a luxury cruise line to write an orchestral work evoking the ancient Mediterranean world, Celebritas was ultimately never used and so lay unheard for many years. Now it has become the debut release for an offshoot of MovieScore Media (a label well-known to film […]

Spotlight on John Williams

Composed by John Williams Prospero / 100m I haven’t got all the numbers in front of me, but my statistical instincts strongly suggest that John Williams is surely the most-recorded film composer. Alongside all the many albums conducted by the man himself lie a plethora of others performed by ensembles ranging from the sublime to […]

Senior Moment

Composed by Laura Karpman MovieScore Media / 39m A romantic comedy starring William Shatner and Jean Smart, Senior Moment was filmed in 2017 but is only now being released (not generally a good sign). But whatever the fate of the film, we can all enjoy Laura Karpman’s surprising score, which sounds like classic comedy caper […]

Lionheart

Composed by Jerry Goldsmith Varèse Sarabande / 83m Franklin Schaffner’s directorial career had been on a downward spiral for a while when he made Lionheart, his penultimate film. It was a bit of a disaster all round, released in cinemas very briefly in Canada but nowhere else, finally surfacing on home video later on to […]

Zack Snyder’s Justice League

Composed by Tom Holkenborg WaterTower / 234m In the end, the Snyder Cut was released, to great fanfare. While opinions varied on the final product, most agreed it was superior to the version of Justice League that had been released in cinemas four years earlier, and for what it’s worth (i.e. not much) I found […]

Along Came a Spider

Composed by Jerry Goldsmith Varèse Sarabande / 66m Along Came a Spider was the second movie starring Morgan Freeman as James Patterson’s master detective Alex Cross (after Kiss the Girls). Given how wildly popular the books are it’s a bit of a surprise that the movies haven’t ever really taken off – a more recent […]

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

Composed by John Williams Concord / 75m Long trailing in popularity behind the two movies either side of it in the original Indiana Jones trilogy, I think time has been very kind to The Temple of Doom, which is a first-rate piece of entertainment full of the action thrills you’d expect and no shortage of […]

Thank you to everybody who left kind comments here, on messageboards and social media. They meant a lot and made me determine that my break will be temporary. I’ll come back – hopefully refreshed and with the unpleasantness a distant memory – later in the year. –James

It’s not quite the end of an era, but certainly the end of an error. I’ll be on hiatus for a while. The web hosting is funded until June so I’ll make a decision later about whether to keep it here or not, but for a while I’ll not be posting any more. In the […]