Hello everyone! I took a unanticipated two week break from writing due to Thanksgiving shenanigans and procrastinating on studying for two Organic Chemistry exams. But, I'm back now with score reviews and a list of scores to be on the look-out for in December!
(Side Note-I'm going to start ranking them out of 10. For an idea of my scale, think of the Lincoln score as 10 and um, well, I find it really hard to hate on movie scores a 1 would be nothing but something like this song repeated over and over and over again until the end of the movie)
Anna Karenina, by Dario Marianelli and Benjamin Wallfisch
9/10-With a tagline like "You Can't Ask Why About Love," I expected this score to be dramaticand romantic. It is. It's full of plaintive violin solos that feel like they're literally pulling on my heart, and on some tracks, a lilting female voice sings something in Russian that sounds so lovely. Almost every track feels like a dance. Some are fast paced and boisterous, while others glide gently along. There's lots of Russian-esque sounds-accordians, woodwinds, violins, with tubas or low strings beating out oom-papas underneath. It's very, very, very dramatic, and it's reminiscent of a Tchaikovsky ballet-The Nutcracker or Romeo and Juliet. If you want to buy one song that sums it up , I suggest the first track, "Overture," which contains most of the main themes. My favorite tracks are that one, in addition to "The Girl and the Birch," "I Understood Something," and "Leaving Home/Coming Home." Purchasing Suggestion: Buy it! But only if you like Tchaikovsky ballets.
Breaking Dawn Part 2, by Carter Burwell
6.5-7/10-I'm scoring this one just above average, but that's because I really love three or four tracks and don't like the rest. The first track is absolutely glorious and contains everything I've loved about all the Twilight movie scores in the past. But that's because it's the "Twilight Overture," and therefore contains music from all of the Twilight movies, especially Alexandre Desplat's lovely "The Meadow" theme. The rest of the score kinda lets me down. Why? Well, this might be just my own personal preference, but Burwell does this thing with screaming electric guitars that I find absolutely horrendous. (See here, here, and here.) It's like he says to himself, "Nope, not putting a voice or a choir in there. Let's make a guitar sing instead. But really badly, so as to increase tension in the scene and make our audience's ears hurt." OK, so that's probably harsh, but the guitar thing really does get on my nerves. This causes me to automatically dislike most of his more fast paced tracks, because he uses that guitar in them. All that said, I do really really like some of the other tracks. Burwell does best when he sticks to simplicity. Simple piano, simple strings, simple woodwinds."Renesmee's Lullaby" has just piano at the beginning and I really like that one a lot. "At Bedtime A Child Asks About Death" and "Present Time" are similarly pretty, where he rises with the strings and then brings them back down to a different chord, and then moves back to the rising again. I wish he would have make his whole soundtrack like those two tracks, just piano, strings, and woodwinds. Purchasing Suggestion: Buy the tracks you like. Ignore the screaming guitar.
Life of Pi, by Mychael Danna
5.5/10-It's a good little score. Easy to listen to, some cool instruments, and easy to have playing in the background. But also, just average, because none of the tracks really struck me as "must-haves" for my own collection. There are couple reasons for this: First, I didn't really find any of his melodies to be very strong choices. It all sounded a little generic to me, ambient noises. I listened to the entire score a couple times through, and very little pulled at my ear to draw me away from what I was doing. My heart was not captured. Second, although there are some very nice moments in the score, many of the tracks I liked are only 1 minute or less long, so I'm only buying one moment at a time, not many nice moments strung together in a long track. I do really like like his use of flutes and female vocals crooning above/behind a layer of strings. My favorite tracks are "Pi's Lullaby," "Pondicherry" and "Flying Fish."
Bonus! Rise of the Guardians, by Alexandre Desplat
8.5/10-HOW DID I NOT KNOW THAT DESPLAT WAS RELEASING A NEW SCORE? Seriously guys, this is insane. Desplat is my favorite composer of all time, or, well, tied with John Williams at least. I love every single score he's done. No exceptions at all. So, I am very surprised I did not know he was scoring Rise of the Guardians. His score makes me want to see the movie. It's full of adventure and you can feel the holiday spirit in it as well. You can hear his characteristic use of fast moving strings and a pumping bass line on "Calling the Guardians." "Wind Take Me Home!" must be a track during which Santa's sleigh is flying, because it just feels so right for it- He uses sleigh bells to add to the Christmas-y feeling and high brass to make it feel grand and majestic."Jamie Believes" is so lovely and delicate, moving along-I feel like believing in magic when I hear it. It's a perfect score for a Christmas movie. It's only ranking 8.5 because, alas, not even Desplat escapes the curse of Christmas scores...meaning that they inevitably all sound cliched at some point because they all sound like Christmas :) Which I don't mind because that's the point but I think Desplat could have possibly been more original because I know he's that good! Purchasing Suggestion: Buy the tracks you like because it could technically be considered "just another Christmas movie score." I personally want the whole thing to add to my Desplat collection <3
Wow. That was a lot of reviews! December Score time! December is a weird month this year because there's only a couple blockbuster films being released in theatres everywhere. There are, however, a TON of limited release films because they want to get them out in time for Oscar season. These films will be released in the New Year, so their soundtracks aren't widely available even though the movies are out. This makes my job easier during the holiday season because there's less scores, but also makes me sad, because November was such a great month for new music. So here we go!
December 11th: The Hobbit, by Howard Shore
YES. YES. YES. I love the Lord of the Rings movies and their music so much, and when I heard the score preview, chills ran down my spine. SO ready for this. Anticipate a good score rating from me for this one.
December 18th: Jack Reacher, by Joe Kraemer
This is a weird one for the list, admittedly, but I include it because it's a Tom Cruise movie and therefore a blockbuster hopeful. Also because there's someone new writing this score, and I'm wondering how it'll turn out. Joe Kraemer has only done low budget films and TV shows before this, and I've listened to some of his music on Spotify-it's not bad! So, I'll listen to this score and maybe I'll be surprised with something cool!
December 25th (?): Parental Guidance, by Marc Shaiman
I'm including this one because Shaiman composed the music for Hairspray and co-wrote the lyrics too, and I love that musical. His previous scores include The Bucket List and Sleepless in Seattle. It's a family comedy so I'm thinking this one will be average, but I could be wrong!
(Side Note:Les Miserables will probably not have a score album released, but I suggest you go see the movie and buy the soundtrack. It's a wonderful musical and is sure to have absolutely glorious music playing behind glorious singing voices)
And that's all I have for today! Next week, it'll be time for Composer of the Month! Thanks so much for reading and please comment below with your own thoughts about the scores I've reviewed. Feel free to suggest any December scores I might have overlooked and ones I should add to my listening list for the month!