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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Score Season #22
by Richard Jack Smith

Below are more soundtrack reviews and poems.

1408 (Gabriel Yared, 2007) **** Subtle terrors as the web clings, spider unseen. More so, a rattling floorboard or dancing marble minus the corporeal: the ghost can see you. Ergo, Gabriel Yared’s 1408 justifies long awaited mysteries. It portends doom, yet delays the conflagration. Behind this mask lies not a face but an idea. Yared melts Gothic mythology, allowing the imagination rampant pass spurred by melodic gift. Musical elements feel pleasant, reassuring even downright romantic. No sooner do the nerves settle before unleashing a twister upon us. If you believe film music can glimpse beyond a closed door or tempting horizon, simply purchase 1408. You won’t feel the need to return that room key.

Amarcord (Nino Rota, 1973) *** Only a poem this time:

A well-made dish

For those that wish.

Given the Italian twist

How could I resist?


From strings, woodwinds and brass

Nino Rota runs this class.

The gentleman can weave a good yarn

Missing the same old barn.


Getting caught up in the parade

Share the joy, play a charade.

Kick back and let the melody devote

Its time to you, lovers boat.

Bullitt (Lalo Schifrin, 1968) **** Around the time composer Lalo Schifrin made Bullitt, a certain television show was changing the rules. Of course, Mission: Impossible has inspired generations of musically minded men and women. A blend of scintillating suspense backed by an indelible main theme made it a holy grail for collectors, including yours truly. Additionally, Bullitt carries Schifrin’s personal stamp. Right away, “Shifting Gears” comes across as the most stylish chase music in film history. It’s a great score for an okay production. Apart from the motors and Steve McQueen’s performance, there’s very little to recommend about this sluggish film… unless you’re talking about the score.

Now a poem:

Enjoy a little razzmatazz?

Bullitt evokes cool jazz.

Theme forever in mind

They are impossible to find.


Moving well from chase to coffee

General ambience won’t leave you stroppy.

Lalo Schifrin manipulated the tide

Allowing vessels to sail far and wide.


Remembering what made this score

So easy to adore,

I am comforted even thrilled

To be left so chilled.

The China Syndrome (Michael Small, 1979) *** Another poem:

Don’t fall into dejection

When your music faces rejection.

With or without fear

There’s another way to hear.


No composer listed

Producers felt music overly assisted.

It all came out in the wash

Michael Small made a good splash


The China Syndrome vibrates loud

Capturing nuclear tension as the ash cloud.

“Meltdown!” comes across as riveting

Such excitement where the story is pivoting.


By not applying the brakes

He emphasizes human mistakes.

The Deep (John Barry, 1977) **** My first impression of The Deep? Very favourable. Composer John Barry appeals to the romantic in all of us. It’s easy to feel enraptured by a specimen as vast and enriching as this. He makes the unknown a place we might want to visit with our hearts. Also, he tells a story using musical expressions – a purity in the strings, curiosity aching from the woodwinds – yet where The Deep struck the motherlode was practicality. For Barry’s score felt both beautiful and appropriate to the deep blue. Despite the hefty asking price from esteemed record label Intrada, it pays to listen.

DuckTales: the Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp (David Newman, 1990) **** Composer David Newman doesn’t resist the charms behind Raiders of the Lost Ark nor does he create a basic likeness. Beyond such stereotypical colours, DuckTales: the Movie – Treasure of the Lost Lamp features fun orchestral movements. Actually, the score that most came to mind was Newman’s own Galaxy Quest. A pattern emerging, perhaps? One listen won’t be enough as the dizzying pace guides us through one build-up and climax after another. By the end, thoughts of returning are positively reinforced.

Hellboy II: The Golden Army (Danny Elfman, 2008) Pretty much made to order, at least one or two tracks might convince you Danny Elfman wasn’t sleepwalking while composing. Mostly, Hellboy II: The Golden Army seems as unimaginative as waiting at the concession stand for a large order of fries… and don’t forget the milkshake. Compared to Marco Beltrami’s stirring original and the delightful animated spin-offs scored by Christopher Drake, it’s deflating stuff. Meanwhile, my emotional temperature ran distinctly cold. Rather screechy unclean, the spectacle of clunkers such as “In the Army Chamber” cow rather than wow.

Commiseration with a poem:

How to reckon with such junk?

Time for another bunk.

Danny Elfman did falsely claim

Something new, more of the same.


What was missing

Were serpents hissing.

Hellboy II a golden brand?

Sadly not when lying in quicksand.

Take a Giant Step (Jack Marshall, 1959) * Only a poem this time:

This film so sad

Reflecting life rather bad.

Jazz can be effective

But “Take a Giant Step” proves ineffective.


A melancholy suite to endure

What might be the cure?

Requiring more get up and go.

Will I buy? The answer is no.

You Were Never Really Here (Jonny Greenwood, 2018) What first caught my eye about You Were Never Really Here was the cover: a bearded Joaquin Phoenix drenched in sodium vapour light carrying a hammer. Meanwhile, the music left a hazier impression. Want to feel unsettled? Behold “Sandy’s Necklace,” an ear grating complexion that plummets your soul into darkness. Ditto “Playground (Bass Clarinet)” and “The Hunt.” Personally, the reputation held by Greenwood’s There Will Be Blood troubles me. The same applies to You Were Never Really Here as “Nausea” dictates the mood. Clearly believing himself to be the next Penderecki, it’s important to remember that not everybody accepted the Polish composer.

A poem to elucidate:

Evidently, Greenwood answers to his own beat.

For us that represents a cheat.

We simply desire a theme.

Hardly the nightmare over a dream.


Yet the bashing and moaning pursues

For devotees a leisure cruise.

Others might resist such beating

As the giant set about eating.



Dances with Wolves (John Barry, 1990) ***** Reinventing Americana from the inside out, John Barry captured something unseen. He gave voice to the lonely Indian soul. Such spirit embraces the romantic and the tragic. Architecturally, he built a castle whose emotional life belongs to us. When compiling a list of great scores, Dances with Wolves belongs near the top. Could this be Barry’s pièce de résistance? I believe so.

A poem to close:

Behold Stands with a Fist

Awaiting the moment they kissed.

John Barry answered in kind.

A deep love theme safely mined.


Look what I found among the rocks

Music for Two Socks.

A wolf and friend for John

Until his story is done.

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