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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Score Season #24
by Richard Jack Smith

Below are more soundtrack reviews and poems.

Apt Pupil (John Ottman, 1998) ** Despite John Ottman’s brilliance as a composer, Apt Pupil rarely reflects the creativity or inspiration behind The Usual Suspects and Incognito. Several cues, notably “Main Titles” and “It Never Goes Away” simmer with tightly wound evil (even mystery). Sadly, “The Chamber,” “An Ailing Heart” and “End Titles” amount to very little. Such a baroque style suited Incognito, yet it’s a challenge Apt Pupil cannot face. As such, completing this journey makes the highlights seem dim in the extreme.

The Blue Max (Jerry Goldsmith, 1966) **** A brief poem:

The Blue Max charges forth

Like an axe-man from the north.

Aerial combat given a fresh spin

The music informs who shall win.

Die Hard 2 (Michael Kamen, 1990) **** Self-aware and momentous, Die Hard 2 celebrates glorious mayhem. Actually, it’s a deeper experience than one might expect; the twin forces of tragedy and circumstance reinforcing Michael Kamen’s blueprints for success. Like monster music, he nimbly sets up themes for the villains, whose presence remains foreboding. For example, a “wah-wah” flutter inside the woodwinds echoes desolation and cold melancholia engendered by this sociopathic faction. It’s simultaneously creepy and compelling. Also, improved sound quality gives Die Hard 2 the edge over its immediate predecessor. While there was little inherently wrong with Kamen’s arrangements on the 1988 film, it sounds much more vibrant here. In particular, the center channel thrives due to clever percussive, textural, atmospheric, thematic and aleatoric densities. Likewise, the top end favours the fortissimo minus any distortion, brief or otherwise. Finally, the low unsettling textures play evenly against such bold, orchestral manoeuvres.

Now for a poem:

What the Die Hard sequel gave:

Fresh notes upon the stave.

Music packs a scene

With structure and something mean.


Capturing emotional nectar

As fierce as Achilles or Hector.

How dramatic can it get?

Behold “Crashing the Jet.”

Doctor Strange (Michael Giacchino, 2016) **** The mood conjured by Michael Giacchino for Doctor Strange could be mistaken for that of Alexandre Desplat. Quirky, imaginative and unconventional, we float in a cosmos of ideas. As such, Giacchino rarely ceases to astonish, his penchant for experimentation and knowledge of musical idioms allows him to express something wild, even bizarre. Assuredly, there’s a classical atmosphere to Doctor Strange as the arc contains far more structure and adaptability than the average film score. Briefly, some haunting mysticism creeps in during “Have a Cloak and a Smile.” Also, “Smote and Mirrors” does justice to the choral innovations he founded on Jupiter Ascending. Regarding conflict, he distributes major orchestral punches liberally. Perhaps this will irk listeners who prefer more immediate pacing. However, there’s no denying the pleasures behind this universe.

Flight from Ashiya (Frank Cordell, 1964) **** The musical character behind Frank Cordell’s Flight from Ashiya could belong to any 1950s historical epic. Melodies come across as sweet and deeply felt; the structure seems laser focused and the dramatic sense of storytelling remains unquestionable. Thus, an emotional journey carries us away. It’s a recommendation I share without reservation.

The Getaway (Jerry Fielding, 1972) * Beginning with some fairly standard strumming on guitar, Jerry Fielding’s rejected score for The Getaway clearly has a long trek ahead. For example, “The Bank Robbery” cycles through uneven ground, recalling Fielding’s The Wild Bunch in extreme detail. Frankly, this sounded better in 1969. Essentially, Fielding takes stock of previous tracks, yet he doesn’t introduce any fresh ones to extend the line. Therefore, the militaristic drumming and dissonant strings come across as inconclusive.

Hemingway’s Adventures of a Young Man (Franz Waxman, 1962) *** Only a poem:

Searching for karma?

This score packs drama.

Sweet of feeling

How love left me reeling.


It’s both enormous and light

As the moon beam night.

Rays that reflect upon the iris

Promoting shades as desirous.

The Lego Batman Movie (Lorne Balfe, 2017) **** I like Lorne Balfe. Often, he ends up saddled with the reputation of being a Remote Control, Hans Zimmer clone. In fact, he has developed a style independent from the digital age maestro. His electronic/orchestral applications for The Lego Batman Movie remain exemplary. As a style, the score which most came to mind was Christopher Drake’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. For example, the whirlwind “Black” features a driving, heroic heartbeat. I am in love already.

For the rest, here’s a poem:

When the countdown hit zero

And Lego demanded a hero,

It was Lorne Balfe’s heat

Which proved elite.


Sending Zimmer’s Dark Knight into space

At a cosmic pace.

As “Joker Crashes the Party”

Prepare for electric guitar most hearty.


Check out that violin stir

“For Your Own Good” I concur.

Did I just hear Mad Max: Fury Road?

A score found in my humble abode.


With heart and craft in plentiful stock

The Lego Batman Movie beat the block.

Titan A.E. (Graeme Revell, 2000) Only a poem this time:

Too generic to matter

Last laugh from Mad Hatter.

Titan A.E. drifts into the void

Be careful to avoid.


“Fight the Good Fight” was a saving grace

Setting a more confident pace.

“I See Your Father” answers in turn

Prompting a return.


A ship was listing

The wind on a flag twisting.

Such thrashing dissonance and noise

Makes it one for the boys.


The action rarely lands

Like a conductor without hands.

While not overly disdainful

Only when my ears are painful.


Americana more deeply felt

Send this craft to Orion’s Belt.



King Kong (Max Steiner, 1933) ***** Celebrating with a poem:

Two specks on a cloth of land.

Once cries, the other doesn’t understand.

If it was love at first grab,

She’s better off kissing a crab.


Every chance to escape she took.

Her captor heard a noise, went for a look.

Upon returning, there was a fight.

Not with her but prehistoric might.


Eyes marked by fear

For she wanted her true love near.

Scantily clad she lay

As a hatchling on Pelican Bay.


Ignite that lamp

When facing critters from swamp.

Wanna break free?

Don’t climb that tree.


King Kong shows little mercy.

For Ann, only a courtesy.

On the log, men may stumble

As ape lifts it, there’s a tumble.


Getting away by rope

Ape king is no dope.

He pulls them back.

Ready to administer hefty whack.


Chained to the stage

Only fuels his rage.

Three notes Max Steiner penned

Such genius might offend.


For many, music feels inglorious.

In Steiner’s hands, something glorious.

He follows close.

The action as a ghost.


Want your picture to groove?

Better stay on the move.

The native wall could block

A monster made of heavier stock.


The sacrifice they give

So they might live.

This cannot be viewed as luck.

Each generation, a magical note was struck.


Some might sit in a recliner.

Not Max Steiner.

Music absent from harbour.

It was right to call the barber.


Jack was known as a moaner.

When it came to women, he was a loner.

Ann put this mood on ice.

Their love a significant roll of the dice.


Musical reprise, a boat in fog.

Better than hearing traffic in smog.

Pterodactyl flew in close.

A black hill, silly and morose.


About that T-Rex fight

High quality sound and sight.

For prehistoric feud, Steiner waited

While our expectations sated.


Journeymen end up made

The native chief seeks a trade.

Saying “no” took sand.

They weren’t keen on sacrificial brand.


Denham utters, “Holy mackerel, what a show!”

Perhaps they should have laid low.

Nabbed from the deck

Left Ann a nervous wreck.


Harmonies across the ages

Such a creation unfit for cages.

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