Latest reviews of new albums:
The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare

Loosely based on a true story, Guy Ritchie’s The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare tells the story of a secret WWII mission – commissioned by Winston Churchill – to take out an Italian ship docked on a small island off the west African coast and thereby cut off a key supply line to German u-boats in the Atlantic. I say “loosely” because in Richie’s hands we get a comic book-like telling of the story full of his trademark banter between the gang.

Tv round-up

We Were the Lucky Ones tells the story of the Kurc family during the second world war. Until it began they lived in the Polish city of Radom, but following Hitler’s invasion some went into hiding, some were taken to concentration camps and others flew to distant corners of the world. The score is jointly credited to Rachel Portman and Jon Ehrlich with no indication of the division of labour – but there is no doubting who was responsible for the main theme, which is nothing short of magnificent.

The Tattooist of Auschwitz

While Heather Morris’s novelisation of the memoirs of Holocaust survivor Lale Sokolov has not been without its controversy (the Auschwitz Memorial Research Centre has criticised it for some factual inaccuracy), it is an extraordinary love story set against the backdrop of evil and I have found the tv adaptation to be harrowing and powerful. I think it is vitally important that these stories keep being told for generations to come.

Off the beaten track, March 2024

I’ve only done about three useful things in my life – I would like to do more but having no talent for anything is a bit of a barrier. Still, if I can do one useful thing through this website then it’s to highlight great music that you might not otherwise find out about, and here’s my latest attempt. You won’t find a better score either on or off the beaten track lately than Stormskerry Maja, a Finnish period drama with music by Lauri Porra. If I tell you that he’s the great grandson of Sibelius and that the talent has clearly flowed down through the genes then hopefully that’s an exciting start, sorry, I mean an exciting Finnish.

Shogun

Film music isn’t a genre of music – it’s effectively all genres. For a while it was very largely dominated by romantic symphonic music, then jazz came into it, then other 20th century musical forms, and eventually we’ve ended up in a place where it can be anything. Likewise, there are so many ways of scoring a film – Composer A may score a film one way, Composer B may well have scored the same film a very different way, and they may both have been absolutely great film scores. There’s really no “right answer” here. Which brings me to the question – what is film music for?

Planet of Lana

With its striking visuals inspired by Studio Ghibli, Planet of Lana is a platforming video game featuring a girl and her cat which achieved positive notices on its release in 2023. Notable to readers of this website is its stirring music composed by Takeshi Furukawa, one of my favourite scores of the year. It starts […]

MacArthur

Seven years after writing one of his most extraordinary scores, for Patton, Jerry Goldsmith took on the challenge of scoring a biopic of another of the great WWII generals, Douglas MacArthur. He saw it as an interesting challenge, how to revisit a superficially similar thing but do it in a different way. And while in […]

Pleasantville

An entertaining film about repression and prejudice, Gary Ross’s Pleasantville stars Tobey Maguire and Reese Witherspoon as a pair of siblings who find themselves transported inside a 50s tv show. As she in particular encourages the residents of the town to lose their inhibitions and start being themselves, the characters and locations gradually start shifting […]

Society of the Snow

When I was a boy I used to go on walking holidays every year with my dad in North Devon. We’d stay in bed-and-breakfasts and every evening would get back, clean up, have a meal and then do a bit of reading or something before a well-earned night’s sleep. One year the bed-and-breakfast we were […]

Mog’s Christmas

Four years ago my daughter was enchanted by the animated tv adaptation of Judith Kerr’s timeless children’s classic The Tiger Who Came to Tea and at Christmas 2023 the most-anticipated viewing in our house has been the same team’s adaptation of the same author’s 1976 book Mog’s Christmas, about a cat who gets scared and […]

Festive round-up

It’s the most wonderful time of the year: I’ve finished work, the fridge is well stocked with cheese, Chris Rea’s on his way home and there’s half of a new film by Zack Snyder on Netflix. It doesn’t get better than that, well until next week and the Cadbury Creme Eggs are out. While not […]

The Last Wife

A Vietnamese period drama, The Last Wife is about a young woman scorned as she is unable to bear her prominent husband a son, who starts an affair with her former lover. Scoring the film is the trio of Christopher Wong, Garrett Crosby and Ian Rees who have become prominent composers in Vietnamese cinema despite […]

All the Light We Cannot See

I loved Anthony Doerr’s novel All the Light We Cannot See – it very slowly and very delicately tells twin storylines about a young blind girl who moves with her father from Paris to St Malo as Germany occupies France in WWII, and a young German radio engineer who has a lot of doubts about […]

Night After Night

Say what you will about the films of M. Night Shyamalan, I don’t think there’s any doubt that the eight of them scored by James Newton Howard are made so much better thanks to his contribution. The composer has built up numerous directorial relationships over his long career and enjoys ongoing collaborations with many of […]

Life On Our Planet

An eight-part series which tells the four billion year story of life on Earth (couldn’t they have been a bit more ambitious?), Netflix’s Life On Our Planet is produced by Steve Spielberg and the man behind so many great natural history documentaries, Alastair Fothergill, and narrated by Morgan Freeman. It apparently uses a mix of […]


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