Thursday, June 25, 2009

Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen by Steve Jablonsky (Review)

Probably the most anticipated blockbuster score of the summer right up there with Giacchino's Star Trek and Hooper's upcoming Harry Potter score. Well, I waited to write a review until after I saw the film since this release is only a pathetic 44 minute sampling of a 121 minute score.

What we have on the CD is all of the new stuff Jablonsky did for the film, and originally I thought all of the great themes he established in the first score would appear in the film. Sadly they only pop in once in awhile. We do have some good stuff here. The "new" theme can be heard right off the bat in "Prime". That theme is echoed in tracks like "Infinite White" with vocals by the lovely Lisbeth Scott. Then there's the standard action staple of the heavy male chorus that defines the Decepticons, which Hans made famous with his 90's action scores.

Overall there are some great tracks here in full Jablonsky style, but it's lacking that structure that I loved from the first film and the first score CD. After watching the film and listening to the CD it was pretty much anticlimactic. I was waiting for it to go rise and rise, go full throttle then bring us back down like the final battle in Mission City from the first film. We don't get that here, and not even in the movie. I loved the first movie but thought this one was pretty bad. The score never rose to the occasion and level as the first film and was lost amidst the poor structure, pacing and story of the film. It's honestly a better standalone listen than in the film. The tracks with Lisbeth Scott are amazing.

Another thing that really hurt this score was Linkin Park's involvement. I don't know whose idea was it to toss them in the scoring process, but it's really rediculous. Fine, they wrote a song for the end credits but let's keep it that way. I don't need the heavy rock to emerge every few scenes as the "NEST" theme. So, we have some good stuff but it's not at all what I was hoping for. I enjoyed the score, but not the movie. There is so much left to be desired here and I hope a more complete release is coming down the line, but for now I guess this release will have to do.

Ice Age: Dawn Of The Dinosaurs by John Powell (Review)

John Powell returns to score the light animated fare, Ice Age: Dawn Of The Dinosaurs. The first film was scored by David Newman and was completely forgettable. Powell brought his fresh sound and style to the series with Ice Age: The Meltdown in what was one heck of a score. I still listen to that one all the time.

In the second film he established some themes that he touches base with in this score. So, we get lots of variations on these well known melodies that ooze with Powell's style. He has two trademarks that define him above all other composers; one is the way he strings his melodies in a sort of descending notion and the other is of course his percussion. Many of you may remember his amazing "Mini-Sloths Sing-A-Long" from the second film which is a perfect example of his percussive style. He goes a bit easy on the percussion with this score, but it's there (just a bit subtle) and I love it.

I guess one could argue that this score is just more of the same, but so what? Scores are one of the most important aspects of tying franchises together. Yes, there are the occasional "copy and paste" scores, but don't worry because you never get that with John Powell. Another complaint some people may have are the incredibly short track times. Yes, there are 44 tracks with some only 30 seconds long, but Powell fans should come to expect this. His score albums are gapless so they are meant for continuous listening. There are a few long tracks that provide a better solo listening experience, especially "End Credits" which sums up the album nicely.

Overall I'm happy to have another John Powell score in my hands. When stacked up against the second score and all his other animated scores this one does fall short, but that doesn't mean that this isn't an incredibly fun listen. I found the second one to have more emotionally driven music that really defined him as a composer, but this one almost gets there with the last few tracks. So, enjoy this one because we won't get any John Powell till Paul Greengrass' Green Zone.

The Last Confederate by Atli Örvarsson (Review)

Atli Örvarsson's The Last Confederate sees the light of day on CD and digital download. Probably a film that many have never heard about but Atli's score here is a real hidden gem. The score is subtle and very quiet. The main theme has that timeless feel to it and it truly does transport you. A few solo instruments backed with strings make up the majority of the score.

Those familiar with Atli Örvarsson's style may be surprised at the overall soundscape of the music. The simple melodic cues are reminiscent of his style, but the score overall has a delicate atmosphere that we haven't heard from him before and in that sense it's incredibly refreshing. Tracks like "A Defining Moment" definitely have his action style imbedded within it, but it's all done with a traditional feel.

Overall this was a great little treasure to be finally released. If you're looking for a CD hard copy versus iTunes lesser quality digital release then go to to order it. It's worth taking a chance, especially if you're fans of period pieces. I think anyone who liked Jones' & Edelman's work on The Last Of The Mohicans or Zimmer's The Last Samurai should enjoy Atli's work. That's not saying that all films that have "Last" in the title have similar scores though. Overall an astounding subtle score that creates larger emotions through small and simple melodies.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Taking Of Pelham 123 by Harry Gregson-Williams (Review)

Just as X-Men: Origins leaves theaters we have another Harry Gregson-Williams composed film entering theaters. This time we have another Harry and Tony Scott collaboration. Off the bat I have to say that Tony and Harry are one of the best Director/Composer collaborators working in the industry today. All of Tony's movies have a distinct soundscape and you can thank Harry for that. This is the 7th Tony Scott film in a row that Harry has composed for. Quite a testament.

Fans will recognize all the Harryisms that are present in all of Tony Scott's films. It's not as blatant as in Domino, but there are a few pieces that will stick out to those who know them. Quite honestly the score is pretty subdued for what I was expecting, and not in a bad way. This isn't a loud score like Man On Fire or Deja Vu. There are some percussive action cues, but nothing too grand. There isn't a real theme that you can grasp onto either, which in my book immediately drops it in my ranks.

I love Harry and I love it when he composes for Tony Scott, but looking at the other 6 scores he's done for him this one doesn't stack up to say Man On Fire or Deja Vu. So, those expecting a Spy Game, Man On Fire or Deja Vu score may be a bit disappointed. In Harry's defense though the score works well in the film. It doesn't step over the great acting that's happening on the screen. This is a very enjoyable score but a lack of any real thematic material may make it unmemorable for some as a standalone listen. It's a casual listening experience. Nothing too intense or emotional. Recommended for Gregson-Williams fans only.