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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Score Season #40
by Richard Jack Smith

Below are more soundtrack reviews of recent and archival releases.

Adore (Christopher Gordon, 2013) ** The cliche in which a summer tourist splashes their toes in the water, the high sun wholesome like a lemon certainly applies to Adore. Composer Christopher Gordon delivers a pleasant sounding score, though your ability to enjoy it could hinder on the film's plot. Minus the sordid details, two mothers played by Naomi Watts and Robin Wright fall for each other's sons. So the piano and strings spend many moments in the embrace of nearly incestuous love. Frankly, I wasn't able to divorce the score from its lurid context. By modern standards, I've heard Thomas Newman scribble similar pieces while on auto-pilot. There's little in the way of progression, the cues being mostly interchangeable.

French Connection II (Don Ellis, 1975) *** Don Ellis responds to the prowl, a compilation of motives spurring New York cop Popeye Doyle (Gene Hackman) to the shores of Marseilles. Heís still searching for Charnier (Fernando Rey), the wily French smuggler. Meanwhile, Ellisí jazz score would be considered indulgent except he responds to content and character with flexible mood setting. Thereís tension, yet itís offset by swing. The main musical identity for Charnier makes clever use of three notes as the villain maintains a direct association to his product: heroin. Actually, there arenít as many fortissimo hits as The French Connection. While Ellis deliberates on hidden evil, he skins the baroque lightly. 

Interstellar (Hans Zimmer, 2014) A poem:

Checking for room tone
Itís clear we are alone.
Only a louse
Would steal from Richard Strauss.

As for Hans Zimmer
Things only get dimmer.
Either he took a trip to Roma
Or he disappeared into a coma.

Why all the buzz?
It came out as fuzz.
A never-ending dirge
Ever the weightless surge.

The Punisher (Carlo Siliotto, 2004) **** It matters little how dissonance drips or horns glare. The listener can only feel, not see the images a composer dares to impress. So Carlo Siliotto arms The Punisher with every gadget in his orchestral depot. Take the saxophone for example. A sexy instrument when remembered in Blade Runner. Here it drapes over a dark lady's shoulders, hinting at the venomous eyes which draw us closer. Speaking the invisible actions, Siliotto primes the fabric further by dispatching any wasted notions. He charges back, while keeping pace with the most overactive of regimes. We feel the loss as Frank Castle (Thomas Jane, most impressive indeed) dissolves his identity, proving bear trap efficient when hunters come a-calling.

What does this music portray? The betrayal in human necessities. Originality can only dream when the nightmare closes its gate, waiting for a dawn which has long since departed colour and residue. Without the sun, the moon becomes a black friend dispatching sentries in shadow; the conversation ending as the duel passed a stone. 

Meanwhile, the melody rests heavy on the soul, yet paper light too. Oh, the joys of being transported without moving a muscle. Remember The Punisher you will and quiver as the theme bows, noting revenge while acting upon love. We share the pain... for life dares to be broken, the notion fixable if tended by a caring Gaul. 

Truly, The Punisher knocks on the stone slab, a familiar echo portending what went koo-koo. Then, the stampede broke the lock, a giant burst forth demanding payment in concentration. We promise the courtesy of what our ears pretend, a symphony of compliments. When wrapped in a blanket and delivered thus, we pause for noodles. I happen to like Siliotto, a chap who thinks by the stave, yet serves the greater need. He's only getting started.

Shakespeare in Love (Stephen Warbeck, 1998) *** Looking back on Shakespeare in Love, there are conflicting emotions: reverence for the Bardís creative process; dismay at the Academy Awards hullabaloo -- the film motored past Saving Private Ryan as Best Picture; and pleasure regarding the ensemble. However, one element shielded from any controversy would be Stephen Warbeckís Oscar winning score. Indeed, sophistication weeps from the stave as melodies harmonize with the images. I was always struck by the synergy of William Shakespeare (Joseph Fiennes) wielding his quill like a swashbuckling crusader. No matter the complication, such empowerment can be an elixir for the audience too. As such, itís a handsome score to behold the making of Romeo and Juliet

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (Ron Goodwin, 1973) **** If anyone could lead the orchestra into battle, flank the enemy and seize a stronghold, Ron Goodwin earns his medals. Heís a leader rather than a follower. Recycling holds little interest for him as confirmed by Where Eagles Dare, Battle of Britain and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Bright with the pageantry of patriotism, the latter basks in original quality. I noted scant hesitation in Goodwinís thematic constructs, emotional ties or arrangements. Heís confident at every measure. 

Valley of the Lions (Riz Ortolani, 1961) * I am very disappointed. As a musical circus, Valley of the Lions marches through tones simultaneously turbulent, momentous, clownish, moribund and peaceful. While some enjoyment can be gleaned from Killer Crocodile and War Goddess, the fault in Valley of the Lions bears the shame of exploitation. Because the themes evoke conquest and desolation, there's not enough aleatory to rake the armour on such formalised structures. How does the romantic material land? Quite well, making the most of deeper feelings. However, the battle clusters emit an uneven push, wanting to spread further yet tending the back garden rather hastily.

Vampires Suck (Christopher Lennertz, 2010) * Iím afraid first impressions are not good. Between unrequited love and pangs of horror, Vampires Suck never quite materializes. Neither ghost nor blood sucker, Christopher Lennertzís music occupies an uncomfortable state of transition. Elements include: the female voice, traditional orchestrations and electronic sweetening. Eager to please, Lennertz wants ideas to feel deep and exciting, yet it comes across as generic genre flim flam.

The War Lord (Jerome Moross, 1965) ** Time to rhyme:

A fire without flame
Dinner minus the dame.
Count the seconds, I am bored
By the average sounding War Lord.

Perhaps he applied too much stock
In breaking manners by the block.
The Big Country was his comet
A rare one to make the summit.

Clean the orchestra played
Yet it came across as staid.
The stars a nightly compliment
Only when cynicism was absent.

The experience seemed dire
Ideas made mundane, all that mire.
I would expect some hope
Instead of tightening the rope.



Random Harvest (Herbert Stothart, 1942) ***** Call it a Random Harvest, celebrating the pure vines of romance as puppies congregate. Memory divides a husband and wife, though perseverance might win. What role has music to play? Like the breeze or glimmer of early light, the scene was set. Herbert Stothart's themes are the colours in this monochromatic tale. Such hues give the heart energy to sing. Are we so easily swayed by a yarn built upon a leap? Nevertheless, Stothart packs our souls with courage so we can march into dreams and the promise of tomorrow. That's a true Random Harvest.

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