Tuesday, 14 June 2011

School Of Rock

"What kind of a sick school is this?"

Amazon Synopsis
Jack Black plays unemployed slob and hell-raising guitarist Dewey Finn, who needs to make a few fast bucks after being kicked out of his rock band. Posing as his reformed rocker-come-substitute teacher flatmate, he falls into teaching a class of prepubescent stiffs. After over hearing the kids practice in their school orchestra, Finn decides to teach the kids "the power of rock", and fulfil his life long dream of entering the Battle of the Bands competition.

Released in October 2003, School of Rock was the sleeper-hit that shot Jack Black into movie stardom, and it's really not hard to see how. Specifically written with Black in mind, this is the one film that can actually handle his absurd comedical stylings, and it's his obvious passion for anything 'Rock' related that makes his performance shine.

Screenwriter Mike White provides an incredibly sharp script, and although it sticks to all of the school-based musical comedy conventions (coming across as a sort of Twisted-Sister Act) it undermines them as much as it exploits them, especially in the pitch-perfect punchline to the Parent's Evening scene.

However, this film would have no chance of working were it not for the extraordinarily talented young cast that make up the School of Rock pupils. Each one of these brings a specific personality to the film (even if a few of these can be quite broad or stereotypical), with Zack Attack, Spazzy McGee, Mr Cool and Tuna Sub representing the true heart and soul of the film.

To summarise, School of Rock is the perfect feel-good film, and certainly not in the way that 'feel-good' is often used as a stand-in for 'rubbish'. With a witty script, great performances and an encylopedic knowledge of music, School of Rock stands among the best music-based comedies I've seen.

Acting: 8.0
Cinematography: 6.8
Script: 9.0
Soundtrack: 10

Overall: 8.5 (not an average)

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Star Trek (2009)

"Don't pander to me, kid"

Amazon Synopsis
Both a prequel and a reboot, Star Trek introduces us to James T. Kirk (Chris Pine of The Princess Diaries 2), a sharp but aimless young man who's prodded by a Starfleet captain, Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood), to enlist and make a difference. At the Academy, Kirk runs afoul of a Vulcan commander named Spock (Zachary Quinto of Heroes), but their conflict has to take a back seat when Starfleet, including its new ship, the Enterprise, has to answer an emergency call from Vulcan. What follows is a stirring tale of genocide and revenge launched by a Romulan (Eric Bana) with a particular interest in Spock, and we get to see the familiar crew come together, including McCoy (Karl Urban), Uhura (Zoe Saldana), Sulu (John Cho), Chekhov (Anton Yelchin), and Scottie (Simon Pegg).

Now this is how you make a prequel.

After the crippling disappointment of of the Star Wars prequel trilogy, few Star Wars geeks ever thought the salvation for their space-opera hunger would arrive in the form of a Star Trek film. And yet this epic retelling of the formation of the Enterprise crew owes more to the original Star Wars trilogy than it does to it's own 60's roots.

Par example:
Opening space battle between a small ship and a much, much larger one? Check.

Bar fights? Check.

Main character being called to adventures in space because of severe daddy issues? Check.

Planet Destruction? Check.

Two guys who originally clash becoming firm friends? Check.

Written by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, the sometimes convoluted plot is bolstered down by some stellar character work and J.J. Abrams provides some excellent pacing and visual flair. Not only does this film pay homage to a number of Star Wars themes, but for the first time in thirty years manages to capture the same magic.

All of the actors involved are simply superb, respecting the original characters without tying themselves down to an imitation of the original interpretations. Chris Pine as Kirk and Zachary Quinto as Spock are the obvious highlights of the film, whilst Karl Urban as Bones is an added bonus as the comic relief. However, where Star Trek stumbles slightly is in Eric Bana's Nero. Whilst the character's origins and motivations are interesting, Bana plays him as little more than a pantomime villain.

As per usual, Michael Giacchino's score is awesome, although subtlety goes out the window in preference to obviously heroic themes. As with the Bond reboot, the music gradually comes together over the course of the film until the original main theme for the franchise is unleashed in the final few seconds.

Overall, Star Trek is the perfect summer blockbuster film, providing lashings of fun adventure, whilst also providing new spins on familiar characters.

Now this is really how you make a prequel.

Acting: 9.0
Cinematography: 8.5
Script: 8.5
Soundtrack: 9.0
Overall: 9.0 (not an average)

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Score Review: Cloverfield (Michael Giacchino)

Ok, so I know what you're thinking. What you're thinking is this:

Cloverfield?! As in Blair Godzilla?
That had music in it?
It even has an original score?!
Was I high or something when I saw it?'

The answer is yes to most of those, possibly even the last one.

And it's probably one of the best monster movie scores in the history of the planet.

It's just a shame that it's only 12 minutes and 17 seconds long.

It goes by the name of 'ROAR!'
It is a single track long.
It was composed by Michael Giacchino solely for the end credits.

And it's the best thing about the film.

This score doesn't just ROAR though..
It's gutsy.
It swaggers.
It kicks ass.

It's just

And it costs 79p on iTunes.

Do it. Now.

Rating: 10

Score Review: LOST - Season 3: Disc Two (Michael Giacchino)

As Season 3 was released in a two-disc set, and I'm fairly sure I have OGD (Obsessive Giacchino Disorder), I have decided to split the Season 3 review into two parts. This second part covers the second disc, appropriately enough, which includes music from Episode 21 (Greatest Hits) and Episodes 22 & 23 (Through The Looking Glass) of Season 3.

After the slump in general quality that was evident in the first half of Season 3, LOST noticeably picked up in these last few episodes. Because of this, Varese Sarabande decided to place the complete scores for the last 3 episodes of the season onto a second disc. However, whilst this is admirable in writing, the final result is one of the lesser releases for this TV show, both due to the below-average sound quality of the CD itself and the fact that there are far more worthy episode scores that should have recieved this treatment.

This is the only LOST Soundtrack disc that I have been underwhelmed by, and I very rarely listen to it as a whole. Because of the importance of the Others within the plot of the episode, we recieve an abundance of variations on the Other's Theme. However, this theme was adequately represented in the first disc of the Season 3 Soundtrack and so many of the variations come across as entirely unnecessary. Due to the fact that two of these three episodes are also Jack-centric, we are given a ridiculous number of variations on his themes as well, many of which were (again) covered in Disc One, and are (again) entirely redundant.

Due to the nature of this recording, many of the tracks are only a few seconds long, and the frequent ad break cliff-hanger cues become all the more obvious because of this format.

Now for the good stuff.

One character that has not received masses of thematic attention previously is Charlie, and before his noble death in the season finale we are treated to a number of variations on his Love and Temptation themes in the score for 'Greatest Hits', the final Charlie-centric episode. Of the tracks included, 'Ta-Ta Charlie' and 'Greatest Hits' are my undoubted highlights.

This release also includes possibly one of my favourite thematic developments in the entire show halfway through 'Act Now, Regret Later', whereby Hurley's playful running theme suddenly goes Santa-Rosa mental as he stages his heroic VW Bus rescue mission.

The other standout track is 'Flashforward Flashback' which is perfectly mysterious and emotional at the same time.

Overall, this release has some interesting variations on previously established thematic ideas, but it suffers from over-familiarity. I can't help but feel that the Season 4 finale would have made better use of such a release. This CD is also pretty much a raw recording from the episodes, meaning that the sound quality when turned up is relatively poor, with a musician audibly shuffling their sheet music or dropping their cello down the stairs every 10 seconds or so.

Rating: 6.8

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Score Review: Beauty And The Beast (Alan Menken)

Rescue it from an angry French mob... If you wish to own the peak of Disney musical magic, bar none.

Leave it holed up in the west wing... Actually, just don't.

Today, I'm going to review a rather different type of score to the usual stuff found here. Beauty And The Beast by Alan Menken, will be the first Disney musical score on this site, and for very good reason. Back when I was a young, young boy, my sister owned the film on VHS and after having to watch it about a hundred times in a week, I neglected to watch it again until only a few weeks ago. It was only then that I realised how unique it is compared to other Disney works, maintaining a surprisingly dark atmosphere for the majority of the film. This is reflected flawlessly in the score, and Menken's magical musical flavour and Howard Ashman's wordplay in the songs will be often repeated, but never bettered, in a literal flood of Disney musicals to follow.

Comparing Disney musicals of the early 90's to those of the late 90's is almost exactly the same as comparing the original Star Wars trilogy to the prequels. In both scenarios, the films entirely lose their magic through selling out the integrity of the stories (and songs in Disney's case) by replacing genuinely funny lines with silly pantomime-like antics designed to appeal only to children. In fact, the Beauty And The Beast film and score can quite easily be compared to Empire Strikes Back, due to it being the middle film of a grand trilogy (betwixt Little Mermaid and Aladdin) that is not only the darkest, but also the funniest, of the three.

The songs on this release are the undoubted highlight. Disney obviously also believes this to be the case,  piling all of the songs at the front of the disc, rather than leaving them interspersed with the rest of the score. This is not to say that the score isn't very good, as it's actually one of Menken's best, but the songs are of such a high quality that they overshadow everything else.

It's almost impossible to pick highlights, whether from the songs or score, due to the constant quality on show throughout. However, for me anyway, not much can beat the musical and lyrical genius of Belle and Gaston and their respective reprises. The two greatest character pieces in Disneys canon, these tracks introduce the story and style of the film staggeringly well, showing brilliant lyrical detail and hilarity, as well as giving a sublime showcase for Menken's talents.

I don't believe much more can be said about this score, as I'm sure the majority of you are already aware of it's brilliance. Beauty And The Beast makes some of the best use of theme and lyrics in Disney's history and is a worthy addition to anyone's collection, even those who are generally turned off by anything even remotely Disney-related.

Although, I do have a small negative opinion about this CD. I hate hate HATE the single version of the title song, being as sickeningly corporate and cheesy as it is. However, this can be easily fixed by making a copy of the original one (sung by the teapot) and sticking it at the back.

Rating: 10

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Score Review: LOST - Season 3: Disc One (Michael Giacchino)

As Season 3 was released in a two-disc set, and I'm fairly sure I have OGD (Obsessive Giacchino Disorder), I have decided to split the Season 3 review into two parts. This first part shall cover the first disc, appropriately enough, which includes music from Episodes 1 to 20 of the season, whilst the second part shall review the last few episodes of the season.

At the time, Season 3 was not a particularly well received season of LOST. However, this time, it had everything to do with the quality of the show itself. Everyone, including the writers of the show, knows that the first half of Season 3 at the very least was fairly pants compared to usual LOST standards. Luckily, Giacchino's score still held strong through tattoo-flashbacks, the death of one of the show's best characters in Mr Eko, the introduction of the show's two most annoying characters in Nikki & Paulo and a couple of truly awful Kate flashbacks.

In fact, the opening of this disc is absolutely perfect, full of unrelenting action and general awesomeness. The definite highlight of these is 'Fool me Twice', one of my favourite action tracks in the entire series. Taking place during an otherwise mediocre Jin & Sun episode, this thrilling cue marks the first time on CD that the Other's themes really come into their own:

The theme for the Others, whilst having obvious merit as a terrifying action theme, has some Giacchino variation-magic thrown at it later on this disc, proving to be an even more effective theme at showing the fractured nature of Benjamin Linus' sinister, but tragic, character:

Another notable theme on this CD is Jack's main theme. It is odd that this theme was written so late into the show, considering that Jack is first amongst equals in the LOST cast. The theme itself is great,  especially in 'A Touching Moment', making one of the best uses of the Cello so far in the series:

The theme is also very unique in the show, as it is the only theme that is actually played by the character it represents within the context of the show itself. Just prior to the scene above, Jack is seen playing the exact same theme on a piano in his room. The theme makes a number of appearances in this season to make up for it's earlier absense, although none of the variations provided are markedly different from any of the other's on this release, with the main differences being shifting of the instrumentation of the melody from piano to cello and back.

Speaking of unique uses of the score when compared to the rest of the show, in the episode 'Tricia Tanaka Is Dead', Giacchino takes a diagetic music source in the Three Dog Night song 'Shambala', and composes an exquisite string arrangement around it to close out the episode:

This CD also has it's fair share of romance themes, including Kate and Sawyer's Love Theme in 'Romancing The Cage' and 'Ain't Talkin' 'Bout 'Nothin'', as well as a more rounded variation of Desmond and Penny's Love Theme in 'Distraught Desmond', although once again it is unfortunately preceded by more tense Giacchino strings. Because of the general tone of LOST, this is a common recurring problem throughout the scores, whereby the tone drastically (and I really mean drastically) changes within a very short timeframe. There are too many tracks on these CDs where a melancholic melody will be stirring emotions within you to the point of tear excretion, only for a cliff-hanger to require that you suddenly be attacked by a loud, raucous trombone drop-off. This isn't something that I put against Giacchino though, as what he writes obviously has to fit what is seen on screen, and is more just an unfortunate side-effect of LOST's general style that is worth commenting on.

The more mysterious themes are also given a decent representation on this release, especially including the sublimely creepy 'The Island', which makes interesting use of percussion in conjunction with Locke's Hunter Theme:

Overall, the CD is a worthy release. Although it lacks the consistency of previous albums, it reflects the season well and introduces a number of very significant themes that are ripe for exploration. For example, from this point onwards, their won't be a single release that doesn't include some kind of interesting variation on Ben's theme.

Rating: 8.6

Friday, 1 April 2011

VG Score Review - Red Dead Redemption (Bill Elm & Woody Jackson)

Lately, some of you may have been wondering why I went from many posts in a short period of time, to roughly zero posts in about a month. The answer, and something that I will hopefully be writing about in the future, is that I have got caught up in one of the greatest sci-fi TV shows for all time. Having received the second season DVD set for my Birthday, I have been obsessing non-stop over it and it's soundtrack. I won't reveal here which show it is (although not exactly new, it's also not exactly old either), but will instead write about it in the future. One other DVD present that I received for my birthday was The Social Network, which will be added to my list of films to review, and will likely to the newest DVD that will be found on this site until Christmas.

For now, I shall be reviewing yet another video-game soundtrack,  and hopefully a few more film scores in the days to come, after which I will dive yet again into the abyss of my DVD collection.

Hunt it down, skin it and feast on it's juicy goodness... if you are looking for an interesting ambient score that perfectly captures the wild heart of the west.

Leave it stranded in Monument Valley... if you are prefer a stronger thematic core for your western soundtracks, such as can be found in The Good, The Bad and The Ugly by Ennio Moricone.

Rockstar have always prided themselves on providing nigh-on revolutionary soundtracks for their games. However, in Red Dead Redemption they were unable to lean on their valuable crutch from their Grand Theft Auto series... The car radio. With this feature, Rockstar were able to pull the player even deeper into the world by staging actual in-game radio stations with a playlist of about 30 songs per station.
In Red Dead Redemption, no such thing is possible, as In-Horse radios are still yet to be invented even now. Instead, Rockstar had to take a leap of faith away from their standard fare, and hired Bill Elm and Woody Jackson of Friends of Dean Martinez quasi-fame to create an immersive and adaptable instrumental score that would reflect the qualities of some of the greatest western movies. In this sense, Elm and Jackson have created a masterpiece of videogame scoring that was not only among some of the best in-game music of the year, but a landmark for the industry in general. The music in the game captured the mood of the west perfectly and seamlessly adapted itself for any situation, whether that be slowly creeping through a guarded fortress, or dashing to rescue a poor man's wife from a lynch mob.
Elm and Jackson don't take too many risks from the already-established musical styles of such films as The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, and use the rather familiar template of almost-hummed vocals, electric guitar, harmonica, horns and a menagerie of whistles. This all adds to the game greatly, but is less successful when isolated on CD. Whilst it is perfect music to have in the background, it fails to sustain attention for as long as any film score might, with each track slowly trundling along (although rather still rather excellently so) in the background of your mind. In fact, it is interesting that the general pace of most of the album reminds of a tumbleweed!
Whilst the instrumental music is perfect in-game, and serviceable on record, where this album really shines is in the songs placed at the end. Each one is so shockingly perfect for the CD, for the game, and for the genre in general, that I sat open-mouthed in wonder for the first few listens of them. The way that these songs were implemented into the game is so rare and cinematic for a videogame that it is difficult to put into words what they add to the experience.

To summarise, I do not regret this purchase in any way, although I can quite easily see why some might be turned off by it's meandering qualities. However, I don't think anyone can argue about the quality of the songs at the conclusion of the album.
As a small preview of what to expect from the soundtrack, here are my two favourite musical moments from the game, the first of which is all instrumental, the second being my favourite song from this release:

Rating: 7.8

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Score Review: LOST - Season 2 (Michael Giacchino)

At the time, Season 2 was not a particularly well received season of LOST. However, this had little to do with the quality of the show itself, but was more about viewers beginning to realise that the answers to the show weren't going to be given up easily. At this period in the show, the mythology just kept on building up on itself, until eventually it would collapse under it's own weight at the beginning of Season 3. Although many episodes were viewed to be 'filler' at the time, they have actually revealed themselves to be important character episodes that have a significant effect on how we view each character for the rest of the series, as well as setting up important characters, locations and events that, for the most part, wouldn't be fully explored until as late as seasons five and six.

Due to the intense character-driven stories given in this season, Giacchino has ample opportunity to really develop the character themes, which is very good news for the Season Two soundtrack release. For the most part, this soundtrack surpasses that standard set by Giacchino in Season One. However, after some strong character themes that make up the majority of the disc, the CD doesn't get into any real meaty action cues until the last few tracks of the CD, and these cues are nowhere near as terrifying as those written for Season One. However, my favourite action cue of this season takes it's place right in the middle of some of the quieter character moments close to the beginning of the season as we are treated to a flashback showing the crash from the point-of-view of the tail section survivors. This particular track is pure genius, as it takes the melancholic 'Survivors' theme of Season One and really rips into it in the last 40 seconds to show the difference in experience between the two groups of survivors:

As I said before though, the character themes are where this CD truly shines, including another variation on Locke's theme, as well as a rendition of the 'Temptation' theme for Charlie, the former-junkie former-rockstar trying to find his redemption through his relationship with a young mother, Claire, and her newborn child, Aaron.
Jin and Sun, starting to finally work their way through their marital issues, develop their own love theme, one of the best of the show. After all of the great variations on his theme in Season One, Sayid finally gets an official track on the CD to himself with 'A New Trade', and Hurley gains an extra two themes on top of a variation of his 'Fat-Man-Running' theme from the last CD. Although he was seen primarily as the comic relief this early in the series, his great new themes really begin to show the direction that his character will take into becoming one of the most important characters of the show, with one of these themes featuring prominently in the very last episode of the series.
Rose and Bernard also get a love theme after their reunion. However, it is a shame that due to their minimal role in the show, this theme is only rarely heard:

The greatest love theme of Lost, that of Desmond and Penny, is only briefly introduced on this release, and due to it's role in the finale, is surrounded by ACTION ACTION ACTION cues. It won't be until Season Four that we finally get to hear all of this theme in it's glory.

The undoubted highlight of this CD though, is a track called 'The Gathering'. This cue isn't truly original to this album, and is instead a variation on 'Parting Words' from Season One (For a clip, see the end of my previous review).

But what a variation! The counter-melodies later in the cue add so many layers of emotion that you wouldn't have thought it possible for your heart to break multiple times within four minutes. It's a crime that for the episode in which it was featured it was mixed to the very back of the sound, meaning that it can only be fully appreciated on this album.

Overall, whilst the action cues disappoint in comparison to the Season One album, Season Two has it's own identity and is all the better for it. Whilst still maintaining the LOST flavour through it's never-changing instrumentation, the stories allow for some staggeringly beautiful character themes to make their way onto the album.

Rating: 9.2

Score Review: LOST - Season 1 (Michael Giacchino)

At 10pm on Tuesday 2nd May 2006, I sat down to watch an episode of TV that would entirely change the way that I think about TV, film, music and storytelling in general.

This episode was the season two premiere of LOST. I had only ever heard snippets about LOST before, and it was only through my sister's insistence that I gave it a chance. After having watched this episode, I then proceeded to watch the second episode of the season immediately after. I then watched the third episode immediately after that on E4. The following week, I managed to watch the entire first season on DVD (that's 25 episodes, or 1025 minutes) in time for the fourth episode the next Tuesday.

So began my love affair with LOST.

It was one hell of a rollercoaster ride, with many, many ups, but also some disappointments. However, the one thing that stayed constant, never for a second dipping in quality, was Michael Giacchino's groundbreaking, and heartbreaking, soundtrack. Before I properly start this review, I feel I need to give an idea of the scale of what Giacchino achieved.

Howard Shore wrote almost 594 minutes of music for the famously long Lord Of The Rings Trilogy over a time period of just under 4 years.
John Williams, considered by many to be the greatest Hollywood composer of all time, composed music for 790 minutes of Star Wars footage for the six films over a number of years, spanning decades.

Over six years, whilst juggling a number of other scores such as the Academy Award winning UP, Michael Giacchino wrote more than 5,000 minutes of original score for LOST. However, unlike most TV scores, Giacchino's effort was not some half-hearted attempt at spooky background music with no structure or relevance. Again with the scale:

All three composers frequently use the Wagnerian Leitmotif idea in their scores, giving characters, locations and ideas their own 'themes', providing an emotional undercurrent that links parts of what is seen on screen through the music. For example, in Fellowship of The Ring during the council scene, the Gondorian Theme is heard as Boromir speaks of his homeland. This same theme is then heard in a grander form as Gandalf and Pippin ride across the borders of Gondor in Return of the King.

In Howard Shore's Lord of the Rings, roughly 90 themes and motifs are introduced and developed over the course of the three films.
In the Star Wars Bi-Trilogy(?!), John Williams uses approximately 50 themes and motifs.

For LOST, Michael Giacchino wrote at least 156 themes and motifs throughout the show's run. For a Hollywood movie, that number of themes is just plain ridiculous, let alone for a 40-minute a week TV show.

Over the past six years, an album has been released for each season, plus another for the very last episodes of the show. Including double albums, that's 10 CDs of music that have been released. Today, I'm just going to review the first CD, Season One.

This soundtrack album is very definitely a basic introduction to the music of LOST. Despite the many character themes that were originally introduced in the season, many of these won't be heard on CD until much later. The main themes introduced on this particular CD are, quite simply, the main themes. This includes the 'Survivors' theme, a simple lament that acts as the main theme for the series and has at least 30 variations on the CD releases alone, even including an asian-flavoured variation for the characters of Jin & Sun later on in this CD. The second of the major themes is the 'Life and Death' theme, a gorgeous, and very interesting piano piece, that will combine with different character themes on later releases when the character in question dies. Both of these themes relate to the quieter, character-based side of LOST.

However, the true stand-outs on the Season One release are the terrifying chase cues. For his work on LOST, Giacchino decided to strictly limit his musical pallette to a select ensemble of instruments. Whilst the entire range of stringed instruments are here, Giacchino decided to get rid of all brass instruments other than the trombone. If Giacchino ever wants a trumpet-like sound, he simply mutes uses a muted trombone instead. Giacchino also makes some interesting choices regarding percussion, including the frequent use of plane wreckage from the show played in a surprisingly varied number of ways. This combination makes for some truly spine-trembling action cues, especially so for the 'Monster' scenes:

In fact, this is the only CD in the LOST collection that is truly scary to listen to for the majority of the time, with the soundtrack leaning more towards Indiana Jones-like mystery and adventure themes later on in the series. A perfect example of the juxtaposition of the emotional and the unsettling exists on the last track of the CD, 'Oceanic 815'. This track starts with the 'Survivors theme' and gradually segues into a simple variation of the 'Life and Death' theme. As the two themes start to play together, it is one of the most beautiful parts of the entire soundtrack. However, things take a turn for the worse as the Survivors draw close to the now-legendary 'Hatch':

The video above also shows just how important Giacchino is to LOST. It is often the case that all dialogue is taken out of a scene and Giacchino's music is left to play out the episode, as will be made even more obvious in the final 8 minutes of the series EVER, which feature only one single line of dialogue and a whole lotta Giacchino.

The character themes that are lucky enough to be introduced in this release are almost entirely John Locke-centric, and deservedly so, as Locke had his best music in the very first season of the show whilst we were still trying to figure out his motivations and his origins. His themes range from his downright awesome 'Hunter' theme on 'Crocodile Locke'...

...to his almost unbearably tragic main theme heard in 'Locke'd Out Again'...

Speaking of ridiculous track names, Giacchino excels with his titles on this and all of his LOST releases including such classics as 'Run Like, Um... Hell?', 'Booneral', 'Shannonigans', 'Thinking Clairely', 'Getting Ethan'.... I think you get the gist now. Other character themes include Claire and Charlie's sweet 'Friendship' theme, as well as Kate's mysterious, Bernard Herrmann-influenced theme, and Hurley's absolutely brilliant 'Fat-Man-Running' theme:

Overall, this soundtrack really encapsulates everything that is important about the show and, if I were reviewing this as it first came out, I wouldn't doubt giving it a perfect 10. However, having heard the later soundtracks and where Giacchino takes the music from here, I think I shall have to lower it a bit to give them some room:

Rating: 9.0

Monday, 28 February 2011

VG Score Review - Shadow Of The Colossus: Roar Of The Earth (Ko Otani)

An Excellent Soundtrack... If you want an epic score that contains a technical genius not often found in the videogame industry.

Not So Much... If you yearn for strong thematic ties between tracks, with a large portion of the score taken over by repetitive action cues that do little to advance the main themes of the score.

This score hails from the Japanese Videogame Industry, and so is a fairly unique album, full of interesting instrumentation and melodic lines.
The concept of the Shadow Of The Colossus videogame is to search an absoutely huge wasteland for even huger beasts, or Colossi. Other than killing the Colossi, of which there are only sixteen, the rest of the game is spent riding on horseback exploring the wasteland as you see fit.
Because of the structure of the game itself, the score is fragmented into two halves. One half of the score consists of bombastic, epic and generally astounding battle music, to suit the size of the creatures that the protagonist is facing. Whilst these cues are thrilling on first listen, the scoring for the quieter moments in between each battle is what will keep you coming back. However, being a videogame soundtrack, each track lasts little more than a couple of minutes, and so the album jumps back and forth between quiet and LOUD and subdued and EAR-SHATTERINGLY LOUD!! a tad too abruptly.
Other than this, the score is near flawless. Whilst lacking in obvious John Williams-style themes, the atmosphere provided in the quieter cues is one that captures Wander's isolation superbly, with each track maintaining a deep melancholy that is rarely found in films, let alone videogames. This is most effectively conveyed in the tracks "Prologue: To The Ancient Land", "Prayer" and "Epilogue: Those Who Remain".
In conclusion though, it's pretty silly for me to be taunting you with this score, as it is quite difficult to get hold of. Having just checked on Amazon, the lowest price is in fact now £28.99, so it's really only for score enthusiasts. In fact, it may actually just be better to buy an old Playstation 2 and the game and get the whole experience, as Shadow Of Colossus was undoubtedly one of the (little-known) highlights of the console.

Rating: 9.0

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Score Review - Twilight: New Moon (Alexandre Desplat)

A masterpiece of a score... If you want a more classically oriented score compared to the original Twilight, one filled to the brim with some of the best gothic/romance themes in recent years.

Not so much... If you are hoping for some kind of thematic consistency between the scores in the saga. This score doesn't use any themes from Carter Burwell's original score, and Howard Shore's score for Eclipse rarely uses any themes from this score in return.

I shall start by explaining the background of my review for this score. I can not stand Twilight. I have many reasons as to why this is, but these are far too large in number to list here. The CliffsNotes version is that everything within my very being wants me to hate this score.

But I can't.

Alexandre Desplat has created a work so astoundingly brilliant that I can't hate it.
I can't even dislike it.
I can't even be indifferent to it.
I can't even just plain like it.

I love this score. Ever since I first heard the Primary Love Theme, I haven't been able to harbour any kind of significant bad feeling towards the Twilight Saga simply because it gave this score to the world. It just gets better and better from the beginning to the very end, with each new rendition of the Love Theme building upon it's depth. The theme is stated in full on the very first track, but is shattered during "Edward Leaves". The theme is then gradually rebuilt each time that Bella has a vision of Edward until the very end of the film, where the theme returns with a vengeance in the last minute or so of "Marry Me, Bella", and on into it's full arrangement again in "Full Moon".

This theme is the main backbone of this score, but there are other themes of note. Another, smaller, Love Theme is introduced for the relationship between Jacob and Bella. Whilst only fully explored on two tracks ("Almost a Kiss" & "Dreamcatcher"), it's subleties when compared with the Primary Love Theme are extremely commendable and a welcome break from Edward and Bella's overt romanticism.

These romance themes are undoubtedly the highlight, not just for New Moon, but possibly even for Alexandre Desplat's career in general. However, Desplat's suitably chilling theme for the Volturi would be a stand-out for any other score and perfectly captures the true nature of traditional Hollywood vampires, even if most of the vampires within the film itself can be likened more to a My Little Pony.
Desplat also provides the necessary 'thrilling action music' required for a film of this kind, although none of it is really worthy of any note against any of the already-mentioned themes.

Overall, compared to the 'modern', guitar-heavy score for the original Twilight, this score is just dripping with pure classical beauty like the sweat from a sparkly vampire's chest. It is definitely worth a purchase, not just for TwiHards or even for film score buffs, but for people that just happen to own a pair of ears.

Rating: 9.3