Tag Archives: The BFG

2016 in Review: A Soundtrack


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…


“You is in giant country.”

While you lot were all worried about Ghostbusters ruining your childhoods, I had far bigger worries. I was crapping my pants that Steven Spielberg, a director I only really have a passing taste for, was about to actually ruin my childhood by remaking one of my favourite films from back in the day: The BFG.

But much like how that supernatural remake wasn’t aimed at me, I kinda thought that maybe this one wasn’t either, but still I thought I’d give it a shot. And much like Ghostbusters before it, not only did I love it, but I can’t wait to show it to my kid.

Orphan Sophie spends her sleepless nights wandering around the halls of the London orphanage she has known all her life. When her 3am excursions around the house mean she’s awake to investigate the noises outside, she discovers the unimaginable; a giant, roaming the streets of London. Things go a little pear-shaped when the giant grabs the young girl and takes her to the far away Giant Country where he lives.

Sophie and the giant soon become friends; and while he teaches her about his job, catching and storing dreams during the day and spreading them to children at night, she gets her hands dirty trying to help. But all is not smiles and happiness in Giant Country. It turns out that our Big Friendly Giant is in fact the runt of a rather large litter where both he and his house are subject to constant bullying from these enormous mounds of muscle that spend their nights hunting for children to eat! With the Giants wanting to eat Sophie, and with the BFG wanting to keep her safe, the pair must work together to keep each other safe.

Let’s start with something blindingly obvious: this is a kid’s film. It’s got production value – of course it has, it’s a Steven Spielberg film – and it’s got a $140 million budget. But at the end of the day, it’s a kid’s film based on a kid’s book and you should absolutely go into this the same way you would the latest Dreamworks or Disney animation. This isn’t like that time that Tim Burton made Alice in Wonderland look like a drunken acid trip, it’s a (relatively) faithful adaptation of Roald Dahl’s classic book, aimed at kids – and it’s a load of fun.

At the heart of the film is Mark Rylance’s BFG who, for fans like me, gets the giant’s broken English down really well. His mannerisms too. OK, it’s a large amount of computer generated animation, but he just nails the part of the giant.

Just as important, or maybe more so, is twelve year old Ruby Barnhill in what I believe is her first feature film. She has set a very high bar for herself with her performance as Sophie, the brave orphan that befriends the giant. She looks scared when she’s supposed to and really convinces us that she likes spending her time with the BFG, especially considering that for a large portion of the time she must have been talking to nothing while she was making the film. She’s absolutely outstanding.

I sat and watched this film in a screening filled with kids that all loved their time with it. From the fantastical giant, who sounds daft when he talks, to the best fart joke pay-off I’ve seen in years; they loved every minute of it. Ok, I admit, the fart joke got me too! But as I’ve established plenty of times before, I’m basically a giant child with an unlimited card. It’s all about being able to sit yourself down and be a kid for a couple of hours, suspending your disbelief for a bit and actually imagining that maybe giants exist. I can’t wait to share it with my kid.

Failed Critics Podcast Beyond


Welcome to another episode of the Failed Critics Podcast, boldly going where we’ve only been once before. That is to say, it’s another episode without any guests!

Steve Norman and Owen Hughes are left to their own devices, and yet still end up discussing two new releases. They review the latest sci-fi franchise to become a trilogy in Star Trek Beyond – well, one of them can review it as the other hasn’t seen it (all) – as well as Spielberg’s adaptation of everybody’s favourite childhood author, Roald Dahl’s classic, The BFG.

Elsewhere on the show, the duo run through as many of the trailers from San Diego Comic Con as they could get their hands on, plus Steve’s reaction to The Ouija Experiment, his booby-prize for losing last week’s quiz. There’s also enough time for some appreciation for The Purge films ahead of next month’s release of Election Year, as well as a quick appreciation for Andy Samberg’s latest comedy, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, which is also due out exactly one month from today.

Join us again next week for a special triple-bill episode loosely connected to the forthcoming Olympics!