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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Score Season #30
by Richard Jack Smith

Below are more soundtrack reviews of recent and archival releases. 

Batman Ninja (Yugo Kanno, 2018) **** From the music, you can tell when The Joker’s on, and Batman’s not far behind. Thus, Batman Ninja was blessed with a very good score. Japanese percussion and high notes from the flutes are included in a batty line-up. Above all, composer Yugo Kanno favours theme over density, communicating the intention beautifully. For example, the stirring and ethnically appropriate “Neputa” proves a dastardly highlight. Other zany incidental numbers harken back to Batman: The Animated Series. Meanwhile, accomplished rock rhythms, subtle organ support and a welcome retreat from Danny Elfman’s style promise replay value.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Franz Waxman, 1941) *** There’s a sweetness to offset the grandiosity behind Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Such sensitive scoring for the horror genre has manifested pleasant variations in the digital age. Because of pioneers such as Franz Waxman, composers make statements beyond the obvious. I’d argue the grey area proves the hardest to get right. Capturing mystery or laying the foundations for something unexplained piques curiosity, prompting further investigation. Worryingly, there’s a modern tendency which bypasses detail in favour of the next impressive move. For Waxman, this was rarely a consideration. He simply accompanied the story with his finely wrought themes.

Midnight Express (Giorgio Moroder, 1978) A poem:

Oscar, what were you thinking?

Was your confidence shrinking?

Midnight Express got the prize

Over Superman, what a surprise.


Smitten by the disco clang

Repetitive because nobody sang.

Words cannot say

What got in the way.

 Operation Red Sea (Elliot Leung, 2018) Firstly, why does Brian Tyler’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles theme stir “Gulf of Aden” and “Enter the Sea Dragons”? Also, what’s with the annoying chomp/ticking clock effect in the latter? These unoriginal measures signal the stormy experience behind Operation Red Sea. Some questionable rumbling, overwrought clusters and unimaginative direction undermine Elliot Leung’s plan. If you’re heading into battle, the last thing you want bursting through a pair of headphones would be this dreck. Once again, hearty recommendations from websites and soundtrack fans should be taken lightly, if at all. This has Media Ventures sown into its bloodstream.

 The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (Miklos Rozsa, 1970) **** Another poem:

 Stacked among the many tomes

The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes.

Tadlow create such solid discs

They take all the risks.


Repetition of a key note might scare

Fine music and the very best care.

Elegant like the detective’s quill

Themes reflect search for missing kill.


Rozsa could be suspenseful yet sweet

His technique a little prone to overeat.

Mostly, Sherlock treats us well

He has a grand adventure to tell.

 The Razor’s Edge (Alfred Newman, 1946) *** Gently stirred by music which could fade into mist, The Razor’s Edge felt casual and innocent. Ideally, Alfred Newman’s work should be absorbed in a single session, the effect warming the heart.

 A poem:

 Hear this at your leisure

An experience defined by pleasure.

Alfred Newman, the original giant

His melody always compliant.

 The Scarlet Letter (Elmer Bernstein, 1995) *** The history behind the abandoned score contains a partial legacy. Very few have been blessed with a CD release. Of the ones that have, the quality ranges from mediocre (David Shire’s Apocalypse Now) to good (Alex North’s 2001: A Space Odyssey) to unheralded treasure (Elmer Bernstein’s Gangs of New York). The latter made an impassioned statement via The Scarlet Letter. Ultimately, the producers felt that John Barry’s replacement soundtrack covered the necessary bases. So what of Bernstein’s attempt? It’s highly emotional, conveying bursts of adventure and romance. I love how the woodwinds gently warm “A Home.” Notably, the female singing behind “Red Bird” felt like an ancient calling. Such emotions echo through the centuries, shaping ancestral truths and logic.

Soul Surfer (Marco Beltrami, 2011) Time for a rhyme:

 Unmoved by the general mood

Soul Surfer gave cause to brood.

Were the voices special?

I wasn’t partial.


“Shark Attack” no match for Jaws.

The rhythm safely within the laws.

Hardly left in good humour

Just like 3:10 to Yuma.

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (Alex North, 1966) **** Only a poem this time:

From the tranquil “Moon”

Came a war too soon.

How northerly music did flicker

As Burton and Taylor bicker.


Bassoons in the shade

Tremors upon a nightly raid.

As souls we ache and scratch

Others help to patch.


The gently lapping harp

Seeking light from tarp.



Hatchet III (Scott Glasgow, 2013) ***** Chasing a fiend were it not for escape. The itch which locks the cuffs together, legs broken into imaginary lights. A flash of pain before pitch black ecstasy. Tremors unmoving for some transform your perspective. Mentally unstable chords fused to the spine of a Cajun blade. Those horrors you sensed lead to a sight unwholesome. Pins and needles down the arm. A warning to stay back. Embrace the darkness. Close clusters click as machinery blows into a natural hum. That sticky feeling on your back -- sweaty, spreading, sunny side up. Behold a creature whose nerve got cut loose; temper most frayed upon sociopathic waves. Trails double back, the clutter of percussion bereft, a tidy nuisance where voices inhuman resemble tense strings and flooded brass. Hatchet III -- let it intersect, a crossroads calling curiosity to the fore. Matches won’t set this fire.

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