Check out the latest reviews:
Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction
  • Composed by Chris Tilton
  • Themes by Michael Giacchino
  • La-La Land Records / 2004 / 58m

Set in a fictional conflict in North Korea, the 2004 video game Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction - released for PlayStation 2 and the original Xbox – saw the player with the unusual dual aim of making a profit and preventing a nuclear war.  (All in a day’s work, ma’am.)  It was met with a very favourable critical response and a sequel followed in 2008 with a further one announced, though it seems to have disappeared from the agenda for now.

Medal of Honour: Soundtrack Collection
  • Composed by Michael Giacchino, Christopher Lennertz and Ramin Djawadi
  • La-La Land Records / 2011 / 546m

A novelty when it was first released in 1999, Medal of Honour (sorry – I will be typing the word so many times, if I attempt to not use the British spelling then my small brain will become fried) was a first-person shooter game which put the player in the throes of battle in Europe towards the end of the Second World War.  It was an instant success and inspired countless imitators and sequels (the series to date has thirteen games in it).  There was much critical acclaim and that extended to its score, by a young composer named Michael Giacchino, just making his way in the business.  It paved the way for the thriving orchestral game music industry we have today, made a star of Giacchino and has been hugely popular ever since.  In 2011 La-La Land Records put out a mammoth eight-disc box set of music from the series.  I have decided to review the represented scores separately and in chronological order (which isn’t quite how they are presented, in order to make them fit more conveniently onto a smaller number of discs).

Mac and Me
  • Composed by Alan Silvestri
  • Quartet Records / 2014 / 60m

The notoriously awful E.T. rip-off Mac and Me was released to a savage reception in 1988, critics especially enjoying the spectacular product placement (Ronald McDonald stars “as himself” and there is an arbitrary five-minute dance number in a McDonald’s), the miraculous healing powers of Coca-Cola are used to revive the alien, who by the way only eats Skittles – and of course there’s the infamous, cringeworthy plunge off a cliff by the wheelchair-bound lead character (the actor playing him, Jade Calegory, does in fact have spina bifuda and therefore uses a wheelchair).  

Le Professionnel
  • Composed by Ennio Morricone
  • Music Box Records / 2014 / 51m

I realise that not everyone can be multilingual.  Some people travel through life without ever leaving their home town, let alone their country, so it is easy to forgive them for not expanding their horizons by learning a foreign tongue.  Indeed, frequently on my international travels – as I converse with the locals as if I am a native myself – I witness people from English-speaking countries make not even a slight effort to defer to their generous hosts, simply expecting them to respond in English.  Increasingly, these people manage to get by seemingly without considerable difficulty.  So even if the practical benefit is not what it once was, the cultural benefit is incalculable – there is no way to appreciate a Spanish poem from the Moorish period in all its glory if one reads a limp English translation.  Another great benefit to being a master of so many languages is that I know when I purchase the soundtrack album to a foreign-language film, exactly what I’m getting.  Decades of schooling in the language of my nation’s great friends from across the English Channel now allow me to translate Le Profesionnel – in English it approximates to The Professional.

D.A.R.Y.L.
  • Composed by Marvin Hamlisch
  • La-La Land Records / 2014 / 47m

A couple find a young boy called Daryl wandering the streets.  He doesn’t know who he is or where he’s come from – he has no memory at all.  They take him in, parent him, fall in love with his.  But wait!  That’s not Daryl, that’s D.A.R.Y.L. – a robot created by the US Department of Defence (note the spelling)!  Oh, what are they to do?  

In My Dreams

Composed by William Ross Momentum RLP / 2014 / 30m A Hallmark Hall of Fame tv movie romance, In My Dreams stars Katharine McPhee and Mike Vogel as a pair of singletons looking for love and finding it (wait for it…) in their dreams.  

Planet of the Apes

Composed by Jerry Goldsmith Varèse Sarabande / 1997 / 68m Despite its success, I doubt that many people back in 1968 would have predicted that Franklin J. Schaffner’s Planet of the Apes, the now-legendary allegorical science fiction movie based on Pierre Boule’s novel, would launch a franchise still going strong nearly half a century later, having so far […]

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Composed by Michael Giacchino Sony Masterworks / 2014 / 78m The astonishingly long-lived Planet of the Apes franchise continues with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, picking up a few years after Rise left off.  A simian flu epidemic has wiped out most of humanity, but a hearty band remains, and they’re not too happy […]

Transformers: Age of Extinction

Composed by Steve Jablonsky Paramount / 2014 / 78m The Michael Bay machine marches ever onwards in Transformers: Age of Extinction, the latest off his production line that critics hate but audiences flock to.  The series’ longevity is extraordinary, really, since it was originally fairly obviously conceived mainly as a marketing tool for the line of […]

Snowpiercer

Composed by Marco Beltrami Varèse Sarabande / 2014 / 57m A very highly-regarded South Korean-made film, Snowpiercer is set in a dystopian near future in which governments’ attempts to combat climate change end up changing the climate in a disastrous way, turning the planet into a frozen wasteland.  The only survivors are found on a train […]

Deep Rising

Composed by Jerry Goldsmith Intrada / 2014 / 68m A very entertaining trashy tongue-in-cheek monster movie, Deep Rising (hilariously marketed as a cross between Alien and Titanic) sees Treat Williams board a cruise ship with the intention of looting its valuables, only to find that the passengers have all been killed by an undersea monster and […]

Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey Volume 4

Composed by Alan Silvestri Cosmos Studios Music / 2014 / 41m It’s very unusual for a single tv season to produce four soundtrack albums but that’s what the excellent Cosmos has done, with the fourth volume of Alan Silvestri’s music focusing on the final six episodes.  By this stage of the series, the show was […]

Fargo

Composed by Jeff Russo Sony Masterworks / 2014 / 53m Set in the same universe as the Coen Brothers’ film of the same name, Fargo was one of the best new tv shows to emerge in the last season.  Beautifully dark humour accompanies the antics of Martin Freeman’s bumbling character – who starts the series murdering […]

Million Dollar Arm

Composed by A.R. Rahman Walt Disney Records / 2014 / 45m Considering it’s the second most popular sport in the world, there really aren’t many films about cricket.  There’s something so curiously endearing about a sport where a commentator can say “he’s slogged that googly straight to silly point” or “the captain’s thrown down an over’s […]

The Banner Saga

Composed by Austin Wintory Reference Recordings / 2014 / 71m A Kickstarter-funded PC video game, The Banner Saga famously achieved its $100,000 funding target in just one day, eventually raking in seven times that amount.  The game takes place in a Viking-inspired world, mixed with some elements of Game of Thrones-style fantasy, and received good reviews on its […]