Another month into Andrew Brooker’s self-imposed challenge to watch 365 films in 365 days. See how he’s been getting on below.
It’s been a while since we did a review of the year’s soundtracks, so we drafted in frequent collaborator Tony Black – and head honcho at the TV and film music podcast Between The Notes – who put down his microphone in favour of writing down his thoughts on the top soundtracks of 2016. Plenty to consider before you vote in this year’s Failed Critics Awards.
Let’s be honest, it’s not been a great year at the movies has it, 2016? Not if you’re a major blockbuster at least. Oddly enough though, the same can’t quite be said for the scores to many of those films, dodgy or otherwise. David Ayer, Zack Snyder or even Scott Derrickson may have let you down, but Michael Giacchino, Clint Mansell or Cliff Martinez have been right on the money with their orchestral scores to some of this year’s most disappointing or divisive pictures.
Here are five scores to the biggest (and not necessarily best) movies that have troubled your multiplex that I consider to be composers close to the top of their respective games:
5 – THE WITCH (Mark Korven)
Just like you probably hadn’t heard of The Witch before early this year, chances are you won’t have heard of Canadian composer Mark Korven. He’s a new kid on the block. Much like how Robert Eggers wowed us with his debut feature, Korven backs him up with a score that drips remote, screeching, primeval terror and the coldness of the austere Puritan setting in which Eggers tells his chilling tale. It’s not Sunday afternoon easy listening, but it’s one of the best horror/chiller scores in years.
Standout track: Caleb’s Seduction
4 – STAR TREK BEYOND (Michael Giacchino)
The new master and heir apparent to John Williams; it’s rare Michael Giacchino has a bad year. After a stonking 2015 scoring a raft of average movies with stunning music, he delivers this year both with Doctor Strange and even more so Star Trek Beyond. It’s his third score for the JJ Abrams spearheaded revival of the classic TV score and it’s possibly his best yet, a heady mixture of iconic, reworked themes with powerful, thrilling brass and an elegant sense of galactic scope. Plus you’ll always have a good laugh at the wonderful puns that litter the names of his cues, as if you needed more of a reason to listen!
Standout track: Night on the Yorktown
3 – 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE (Bear McCreary)
You’ve heard Bear McCreary, even if you don’t know his name. Trust me. He scored the excellent Battlestar Galactica remake and it’s his music that forms the memorable title track to The Walking Dead. He’s been much more television based (and continues to be) but in scoring the underrated, Hitchcockian sequel to secret blockbuster Cloverfield, he truly advances to the big leagues with a score one parts mythic, and two parts a gorgeous mesh of dark thriller & Jerry Goldsmith-esque creeping mystique. Even if you don’t love 10 Cloverfield Lane (and you should), it would be a surprise if you don’t end up a little in love with how it sounds by the end.
Standout track: Michelle
2 – THE NEON DEMON (Cliff Martinez)
Following previous partnerships with Nicolas Winding Refn on films such as Drive or Only God Forgives, Cliff Martinez perhaps reaches amongst the peak of his accomplishments with his remarkable and unique work on The Neon Demon. Now, not everyone took to Winding Refn’s garish horror about the fashion industry, but Martinez’s music drips with substance. It often sounds like diamonds falling onto a cold floor, infused with a sense of warped, pulsing disco, underlain with painful violins capturing the tragedy of Elle Fanning’s main character. It’s a stunning piece of work, and remarkable for the fact the standout piece, ‘The Demon Dance’, is a contributing from Julian Winding, the directors brother. If it’s not being played in clubs forevermore, it’ll be a travesty.
Standout track: The Demon Dance
1 – HIGH-RISE (Clint Mansell)
There’s a strong argument that Clint Mansell is the greatest composer on this list discussed today and, after listening to his score for High-Rise, it’s hard to provide a counterpoint. Ben Wheatley’s absurdist, neo-capitalist, period masterpiece and searing critique on Thatcherism may both be the greatest film of 2016 but also have a score to match. Mansell belies his roots as a Midlander growing up in the gaudy, concrete monstrosities of the 60’s & 70’s to deliver an operatic and creeping piece which matches Wheatley’s adaptation of JG Ballard’s commentary. It’s full of brash violins, strong towering themes and an underpinning of controlled mayhem which Mansell explodes outward for effect at just the right moments. Of all these pieces, it’s the score that can be most listened to and enjoyed in isolation. Even in Mansell’s glittering career it’s a standout, possibly career best piece of work.
Standout track: The World Beyond the High Rise
In terms of honourable mentions, a shout out again to Giacchino for Doctor Strange, to Henry Jackman for The Birth of a Nation, the great John Williams for The BFG, Johann Johannson for Arrival, John Ottman for X-Men Apocalypse, Abel Korzeniowski for Nocturnal Animals and John Powell/David Buckley’s collaboration on Jason Bourne. There are more I’ve missed, undoubtedly, from even the honourable mentions, let alone the best of list.
So take a moment to remember than even in a hellish political year, or a largely average one for movies on the screen, the composers behind the music are still delivering work you’ll be listening to for years to come. 2016 does have one saving grace, after all…
Apologies for this week’s podcast being so late. It took us a little while to master the art of manipulating time and space, unlike a certain Marvel wizard who can montage his way through ancient texts on the topic. Steve Norman was closely guarding the FC library which meant Owen Hughes, Brian Plank and Andrew Brooker had to use all their cunning to get past him.
You know what, I’m just going to end that metaphor there. It’s possibly the worst one I’ve ever come up with and I’ll just tell you what’s on the podcast this week.
The big new release this week is – as you’ve probably ascertained – the new Marvel movie, Doctor Strange, starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Mads Mikkelsen, Tilda Swinton, Benedict Wong, Chiewetel Ejiofor amongst others. (Scott Adkins!)
In What We’ve Been Watching, Steve stays quiet as Brian declares Hot Fuzz the best of the Cornetto trilogy, Brooker quenches his appetite for all things gruesome and grotesque with The Woman, and Owen doesn’t watch anything at all, but reviews the BBC Radio4 horror The Stone Tape by Peter Strickland (of Berbarian Sound Studio fame).
by Steve Norman (@StevePN86)
I Am, Wait for It, Legend
After deciding that there is no real sensible way to do a prequel or sequel to Will Smith’s I Am Legend Warner Bros have just decided to release another version by converting a screenplay known as The Garden at the End of the World which was meant to be an adaptation of the John Wayne flick The Searchers?
With me? No? Well I am not with me either.
The last I Am Legend, starring Smith, was a good effort, except for the ending which a) wasn’t the original one and b) nothing like the book ending. Smith put in a very good performance in what was an average yet watchable movie.
That thought, and this new effort, will not top Charlton Heston’s Omega Man. Nor Vincent Price’s The Last Man On Earth for that matter!
I often claim that Hollywood has run out of original ideas with sequels, prequels, retrofits and reboots being the order of the day. However with the news that Tetris is set to be made into a movie I have changed my mind. Maybe original ideas should be banned if this is what is being considered.
Many video games and toys have been turned into movies, including Lego, Super Mario and Tomb Raider and Battleship, but a film about different shaped, different coloured blocks, falling into the correct gaps and holes with no characters, plot or story is pathetic.
So a Baywatch movie with Dwayne Johnson in the lead role, sans a Hasselhoff cameo, is in the pipeline?
A Baywatch movie appears to be an original idea but yet another bad one.
The Doctor is Out
Marvel’s desire to introduce more and more new characters in their ever expanding universe hit a bit of a snag after Joaquin Phoenix dropped out of talks to play comic book hero Doctor Strange.
The film is pencilled in for a summer release in 2016, under two years away so the Marvel team need to get a shuffle on casting their leading man with Tom Hardy, Ethan Hawke and Jared Leto linked to the role.
Before the first episode was even aired animation Star Wars: Rebels was granted a second series.
Although clearly aimed at kids, the show will be broadcast on DisneyXD, it will clearly have a wide audience and is the first thing Disney have put out since acquiring LucasFilm. It will bridge the gap between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope and will apparently tease a few things about Episode VII.
The Bourne Confusion
A couple of weeks we spoke about Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass returning to the Bourne franchise and the sequel to the Jeremey Renner outing becoming the fourth Damon Bourne movie with Renner’s one being pushed back.
Now Renner is chatting about a crossover. Jeremy, I bet you end up annoyed at being sidelined as you did in the Avengers.
Join us again next week, where we will return to give you another round up of the latest in film news.