Latest reviews of new albums:
Captain Marvel
  • Composed by Pinar Toprak
  • Hollywood Records / 68m

It’s taken an embarrassingly long time but we finally have one of these Marvel films focusing on a female character. Captain Marvel stars Brie Larson as the eponymous hero and while the plot is basically the same as all the other 683 films in the series, I did think the film felt a bit fresher and more entertaining thanks to its slightly different perspective and really hope it won’t be long before the fact that a big tentpole film is released with a woman in the leading role is no longer such a peculiar event that it attracts all the attention that this one has.

Cold Pursuit
  • Composed by George Fenton
  • Varèse Sarabande / 49m

In start contrast to all his other recent films, Cold Pursuit stars Liam Neeson as a wronged man on the hunt for revenge. (The press materials for this album describe him as “Liam Neeson, Taken, Taken 2-3.”) It was all rather overshadowed by the actor’s unfortunate comments on a chat show just before it was released (but let’s face it, may not have been spectacularly successful anyway). Of most note to those around these parts is that it marks the return to Hollywood filmmaking of the wonderful composer George Fenton after a gap that’s far too long – and while it’s perhaps not the sort of project I might have expected him to take (nor, frankly, would have chosen) it’s great to have him back. It opens with a lovely theme – “Snow Plough” – all lightness and good-natured, with what sounds like a balalaika and gentle strings. You just know it’s not going to be like that for long though and, sure enough, the second track “Citizen of the Year” is cold (if subtle) and then the third, the title track, is agitated and rhythmic (a bit Thomas Newman-like), synths come in, that balalaika again but not all happy now.

Serenity
  • Composed by Benjamin Wallfisch
  • Milan / 63m

I don’t think it’s supposed to be a comedy, but I haven’t laughed as hard at a film as Serenity since the last time I saw the immortal words “Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker” appear on a screen. It’s an extremely strange film starring Matthew McConaughey as a very angry fisherman who lives in a shipping container and is determined to catch a giant tuna which has a personal vendetta against him, and meanwhile whose ex-wife (Anne Hathaway) wants him to kill her new husband – and Rex Hamilton as Abraham Lincoln. Every review of the film mentions the big twist which comes half way through but even though you strain to work out what it is going to be, it will probably take you by surprise and leave you rolling around the floor in laughter, wondering what the hell you’ve done with the last hour of your life. Speaking of hours, it’s very surprising that the soundtrack album lasts for one, because Benjamin Wallfisch’s score is barely noticeable in the film at all, dialled down to ensure it has no impact, which is another oddity.

Alita: Battle Angel
  • Composed by Tom Holkenborg
  • Milan / 64m

James Cameron was originally supposed to be directing Alita: Battle Angel, adapted from the Japanese comic book series, but of course he ended up working on his Avatar universe and so handed over the directorial reigns to Robert Rodriguez (but remains credited as writer and producer). Alita (played by Rosa Salazar) is a cyborg who awakes with no memories but gradually discovers her immense powers and sets off on a career as a bounty hunter – the age-old tale.

All Is True
  • Composed by Patrick Doyle
  • Sony Classical / 37m

Kenneth Branagh directs and stars as William Shakespeare in All Is True, written by Ben Elton and drifting between fact and fiction in its portrait of the great man’s twilight years. Branagh’s collaboration with composer Patrick Doyle has spanned decades now and – of course – included many Shakespeare adaptations. The composer’s elegant, often gentle score for this film sees him treading ground that has yielded some of his finest works – while he can do the bold theatrics without difficulty, it’s in more intimate dramas that I think he really comes into his own, and this one is no exception. The orchestra is chamber-sized for the most part and Doyle utilises this ensemble in the best way, managing to wring out every last drop of emotion from his players – often we hear strings and piano with fairly subtle winds.

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World

Composed by John Powell Backlot / 76m Completing the trilogy, The Hidden World sees Hiccup searching for the eponymous dragon utopia so the surplus of dragons that have accumulated have somewhere to live. Critical response has been very favourable (these are unusually classy films for Dreamworks Animation) and it would seem the long wait since […]

Welcome to Marwen

Composed by Alan Silvestri Intrada / 58m Robert Zemeckis’s strange Welcome to Marwen follows a man who tries to deal with his PTSD suffered after a violent attack on him by constructing a fictional village (the titular Marwen) and living out various fantastical storylines. I often jokily say in these introductions that a ludicrous plot is […]

Bumblebee

Composed by Dario Marianelli Paramount / 57m A prequel to the Transformers film series, Bumblebee is also the first in the series not to be directed by Michael Bay, and has attracted a far more positive critical response than any of the previous five; perhaps not surprisingly, it’s also not attracted anywhere near the sort of […]

Mary Poppins Returns

Songs by Marc Shaiman and Scott Whitman Score by Marc Shaiman Disney / 79m A belated sequel to Mary Poppins was probably not on anyone’s wish list, but Disney has been trawling through its archives recently making films that probably weren’t on anyone’s wish list and making tonnes of money in the process. (Next year […]

Aquaman

Composed by Rupert Gregson-Williams WaterTower / 65m The latest instalment in the ever-popular DC Extended Universe, Aquaman tells the true story of the great warrior Aquaman who teamed up with his brother to cleanse the world’s oceans of undesirable objects, bringing down tall buildings in the process and causing general chaos. Critical reception has been a […]

If Beale Street Could Talk

Composed by Nicholas Britell Lakeshore / 53m From Moonlight director Barry Jenkins, If Beale Street Could Talk is an acclaimed film based on James Baldwin’s novel based in Harlem in the early 1970s and follows a young woman’s attempt to clear her husband’s name before their child is born. Jenkins teams up again with composer Nicholas […]

Mary Queen of Scots

Composed by Max Richter Deutsche Grammophon / 59m The latest of many tellings of the story, Josie Rourke’s Mary Queen of Scots stars Saoirse Ronan as Mary and Margot Robbie as her cousin Elizabeth I of England – and tells the story of the war between the countries in 1569. The music comes courtesy of the […]

Michael Palin in North Korea

Composed by Miguel d’Oliveira MovieScore Media/ 32m In the late 1980s, former Python Michael Palin started a highly-successful second career as a travel documentary presenter, becoming the best in his field (with the earlier ones in particular becoming classics of the genre). He hasn’t been back to that well for a while, until this two-part […]

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms

Composed by James Newton Howard Disney / 67m When a young girl receives an egg from her late mother, she does what any other young girl would do and enters a magical kingdom to find the key to open the egg.  Said magical world features Keira Knightley, Helen Mirren and Morgan Freeman, but proved to […]

Bad Times at the El Royale

Composed by Michael Giacchino Milan / 75m Bad Times at the El Royale (English translation: Bad Times at the The Royale) is not only an anagram of “almost reheatable deity”, it’s also a film about seven strangers hiding dark secrets who come together at a seedy hotel in the late 1960s.