ANON – Soundtrack Capsule Review

Anon

It is entirely conceivable that in the future there will be no privacy whatsoever. So it just might be conceivable that we could  be able to hack a human being. The Netflix movie Anon assumes it will.

When looking at the memories of a dead guy all that can be seen is the killers point of view and nothing else …. the corpse’s brain has been hacked! I love science fiction and with such a keen plot-line I was sold only to be massively disappointed when I found it’s on Netflix USA only. I guess the UK will get it at some point. But what I do have is the soundtrack which also sucked be in. The composer is Christopher Beck who has such a wide ranging list of soundtracks to his name.

 

 

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Christoph Beck  – christophebeck.com

 

There is a theme of sorts, more a developed mood which has a  kind of ennui oozing from it, an acceptance of the voyeuristic nature of the times, this is shown in a short 8 note piano refrain which follows through into the faster paced Mystery Woman.

Escalator Delusion is an electronic cue of back bass drums and flat noises designed for audial confusion. It then levels out into a pleasing, simple and meditative piece. The electronics continue in Subway Chase which has echoes of Blade Runner in the background (which is no bad thing).

The Plan slowly grows into an easy, smooth synth groove far removed from the deep, churning, fast paced Flame Brain ( one of the best cue names so far this year) which pulsates and then suddenly dies! Jealous Man very subtlety and cleverly hints at the 8 note motif once again but here it is dark and shivers in the background.

I arrive at Anon – End Titles from a neat circle of synth, well tempered cues. In fact the End Title could easily sit in a Cool Instrumentals playlist.

This score has a steadiness about it, no over the top action cues or distractions of any kind. It follows through, it has a harnessed mood which is wonderfully disconnecting but not to the degree that you can’t follow it. The synth work is superb creating a continued mood which I am sure must enhance the film greatly.

TRACKLIST

1. Theme from “Anon” (2:04)
2. Mystery Woman (1:37)
3. Escalator Delusion (1:41)
4. Reminiscence (2:09)
5. Subway Chase (1:38)
6. Altered Reality (1:19)
7. The Plan (3:45)
8. Permanently Retired (3:21)
9. Something Else To Erase (4:11)
10. A Father’s Lament (1:47)
11. Flame Brain (3:18)
12. Memory Destroyer (3:09)
13. Sal’s Elaborate Escape (3:51)
14. Jealous Man (3:39)
15. Restoration (1:20)
16. “Anon” End Titles (4:03)

Label: Filmtrax Ltd

7 DAYS IN ENTEBBE Capsule Review

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7 DAYS IN ENTEBBE
Composer: Rodrigo Amarante

Here’s a question – does having clips of the films dialogue enhance a soundtrack? Depends if it’s interesting enough and not too long is my answer. One of my favourite scores, Get Carter composed by the late and sorely missed Roy Budd, had some fascinating narrative clips which really worked, evenmore so by the fact that the voice belonged to Michael Caine.

In 7 Days In Entebbe the dialogue was so misplaced on the the opening track that I thought I had something else playing on my computer other than the score!

I haven’t heard of the composer Brazilian singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Rodrigo Amarante mainly because apart from some tracks for the Narcos tv series, this is his first soundtrack. Whilst it’s doesn’t shout at you, it does have a very subdued, claustrophobic feel to it which I found fascinating and which most certainly wraps itself well round this true story of the 1976 hijacking of an Air France flight from Tel Aviv to Paris. It’s focus is on what was one of the most daring daring rescue missions ever attempted.

Whilst the film received poor reviews the soundtrack is still worth an initial listen for appreciating the balance between it almost being dismissed as a soundscape and the effect of a gnawing tension which plays out in most tracks.

Am sure the film will fade into obscurity and the soundtrack perhaps will only ever get an initial listen but there was a little something in there of note which I felt worth acknowleding in this short missive.

Tracks of Note: Boarding and Passport
Label: Lakeshore Records

EDIE Composed by Debbie Wiseman

Edie

There are two things whipping up my excitement and delight at slipping this CD out of it’s plastic wrapper, opening the case and carefully placing into my CD player. And they are Debbie Wiseman and Sheila Hancock. Both are in different spheres of the arts but I love them both equally.

Sheila Cameron Hancock CBE has always been so watchable for me, her striking face is unique and she is even more watchable now at 85 years of age. An award winning actress – she has done TV, stage including musicals, and film. She is also a writer. I first saw her as a comedian with whip sharp timing and an amazing laugh. In straight roles her acting is immersive and far removed from the physicality of her comedy, it’s measured and it’s all in those expressive eyes. So it’s no wonder that she was chosen for the title role of this film.

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Debbie Wiseman MBE is one my most favourite composers, she has a distinct, elegant style and conducts most of her own soundtrack recordings as she does here. She beautifully captures emotion with a subtleness which takes you by surprise, I have often been reduced to tears by a Wiseman score due to the sheer power of her capturing the very heart of the story that is being told.

From The Press Release for Edie:
“Debbie’s music captures the soaring spirit of a lost soul reborn by the beauty of nature and smell of adventure but most of all by the human friendship of a kind young man.” –
Simon Hunter Writer & Director of Edie

Edie stars Sheila Hancock and Kevin Guthrie and features a truly moving performance from Hancock in the title role, an elderly woman, who in the aftermath of the death of her controlling husband, decides to fulfil a life-long dream of recapturing the magic she had as a young girl by climbing a Scottish mountain. Edie employs Jonny (Kevin Guthrie – Dunkirk, Whisky Galore) to help her prepare for the gruelling climb ahead and this sparks a surprising friendship.

We open with sprightly strings and a solo guitar which introduces the score’s 12 note leitmotif in Training Day. When the pace picks up it brims with a mix of excitement and optimism. To Lochinvar with Johnny brings a comedic feel with timing which echo’s the tango whilst Alone in The Past, as you would expect, is melancholic. It’s descending notes perfectly framing deep feelings and apprehension.

Searching For A Bed is a very clever deconstruction of the score’s theme with opening harp and guitar and later, rolling optimistic strings . In New Clothes, New Life the clarinet picks up the leitmotif in this sublime short and slow cue and by now we are fully into Edie’s head with all it’s aspiration and trepidation. Heading Off Into The Wilds meanders around the main them with a single horn signalling loneliness. An Evening Row rolls in with a dramatic, dark pitch which flows into the ponderous Can’t Go Back.

It ends with Edie, a character cue depicting the triumph of this journey through rolling drums and brass but ends quietly with the haunting leitmotif as if Edie is saying ‘I have done it, I can move forward now’.
This soundtrack is our journey with Edie and all the complex emotions she feels on the way but it still retains the optimism and the yearning to complete it. It’s gentle in it’s delivery. It’s short and uncomplicated theme running through the cues with finesse and purpose. I can’t praise it enough.

TRACK LISTING
1.   Training Day
2.   To Lochinvar With Jonny
3.   Night Of Wonder, Morning Of Trouble
4.   Alone In the Past
5.   Searching For A Bed
6.  Packing Up For Adventure
7.   New Clothes, New Life
8.   Midnight Stranger
9.   Heading Off Into The Wilds
10.  An Evening Row
11.  Hanging In There
12.  Can’t Go Back
13.  Edie

Label: Silva Screen Records

NOSTALGIA composed by Laurent Eyquem – Review

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This may not be a soundtrack you play often but it deserves to be heard as a master class in moderation and because, in parts it’s beautiful.

The big things in our life usually do not surround itself in a cacophony of sound, things slow down giving us time to think. Laurent Eyquem has, I have no doubt, thought of this in his new score for Nostalgia. This is a slow, melancholy and rhythmic flow of music getting straight to the heart of emotion.

 The film is written and directed by Mark Pellingham and is a series of stories about love and loss and explores the meaning of objects, artifacts and memories which ultimately shape our lives. French composer Laurent Eyquem is the obvious choice to score this movie, known for his lyrical style, his scores reminiscent of John Barry’s music in which the sheer emotional impact of composition stops everything and you have to listen. This was evident in his score to Copperhead in 2013 which earned him the Breakthrough Film Composer of the Year by the International Film Music Critics Association.

Nostalgia is a short score. Light in it’s use of instruments, is piano lead with cello sections and in some cues it uses a lone trumpet, not on full blast but pulled back, melancholic. The only noticeable leitmotif is the rolling piano in the underscore. The Opening Theme is sublime, scattered piano notes lifted by the trumpet and completed by the cello. It’s flawless. The 11 cues are variations of the same but each one holds the attention. The Absence is particularly moving; almost ambient in the way the strings hold long notes and the piano is reduced to 5 plaintive notes. It conjures up empty space.

This may not be a soundtrack you play often but it deserves to be heard as a master class in moderation and because, in parts it’s beautiful.

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Laurent  Eyquem

TRACKLIST

1.  Opening Theme
2.  A Life In Pictures
3.  The Granddaughter
4.  Lives Saved
5.  The Decision
6.  Ready To Say Goodbye
7.  An Empty Life
8.  The Letters
9.  Emptiness
10. The Absence
11.Moving On

Label: Varese Sarabande

 

PLANET EARTH – Re-Issue 2 CD Set

PLANET EARTH composed by George Fenton
Remastered Album Release date: 16th March 2018

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This is a breathtakingly rich score, beautifully orchestrated with cues full of emotion and wondrous moments of sheer beauty.

Silva Screen Records Press Release:
Two welcome additions to Silva Screen’s BBC Earth catalogue, featuring soundtracks to the critically acclaimed BBC landmark natural history documentaries.
Released on 16th March, The Blue PIanet and Planet Earth are newly remastered albums, both original scores by the acclaimed composer George Fenton. For the score of The Blue Planet (2001) George Fenton won The lvor Novello, Bafta and Emmy for Best Television Score, whilst for the score of Planet Earth (2006) he won his second Emmy.

Produced by the BBC and narrated by David Attenborough, The Blue Planet series was watched by more than 12 million people when it aired on BBC1 in September 2001. lt has since become a global phenomenon, showing in more than 50 countries. Similar success was repeated by PIanet Earth.  The 11-part High Definition documentary series was, by June 2007, seen in 130 countries.

Review:
I distinctly remember watching Planet Earth and thinking it way beyond the scratchy school’s video’s I watched at school. It was like nothing else I had seen and being already tuned into film and tv music I remember the music being superb. Listening to it now, it still is. Presented in 11 categories it is a musical symphony to the world.

The Journey of the Sun dictates Fenton’s reachable, classical style. Gentle violins and a solo horn feel as if they are floating in orbit. Elephants in the Okavango captures both the majesty and playfulness of these magnificent mammals. Diving Into leads with a female voice which gives a feel of the centuries of history, a fitting cue for the 2nd category of caves whilst Diving Into Darkness is beautifully ambient. In the Freshwater section there a pulse almost akin to underwater breathing.

Onto ‘Mountains’ and the cue for the old world Gelades monkeys depicts the ferocity of these baboons with tones of wariness shown in the strings. The Karakorum depicts the plains and rich history of Mongolia. We travel into the Desert Winds. The Locusts is a track full of wondrous strings, this is a magnificent cue painting a vast scope with a gentle force. In the Land of Shallow Seas and the antics of Surfing Dolphins – both are busy and joyful cues of brass and strings. Dangerous Landing makes good use of the kettle drum followed by the mellow Mother and Calf-The Great Journey, geared towards the emotions with the grandeur of the string section, which is simply beautiful. A cue dedicated to fungus – The Cordecyps has an eeriness played out with clarinet and chimes which suits these somewhat strange and other worldly organisms. The Redwoods is a fitting majestic piece symbolised by trumpet and strings. This is followed by a comic , track called Fledglings with a slight hint of a tango at the start and pizzicato strings.

Ice World next with trumpet opening The Humpbacks Bubblenet and another dance comes to mind as the orchestra momentarily waltzes. A clumsy jaunt is played out on the strings in Everything Leaves but The Emperors, bass and percussion takes over giving an excellent backing for waddling penguins.

Planet Earth aired on UK tv in 2006 so the poignancy of The Disappearing Sea Ice is fairly low key, with plaintive voice and cornet. 12 years on if re-composed I am sure this would have been an even more low-key cue. It ends with The Choice Is Ours, a moving track about our future and the responsibility we have towards our planet. The underlying cello’s echo the dangers and the sad strings are telling.

This is a breathtakingly rich score, beautifully orchestrated with cues full of emotion and wondrous moments of sheer beauty. This re-issue sounds very fresh and I was totally engulfed in it. The CD booklet also has a stunning set of photo’s from the series.

Composed and duction by George Fenton
Performed by the BBC Concert Orchestra

Disc 1:
1. From Pole To Pole: Prelude  1:57
2. From Pole To Pole: The Journey Of The Sun  3:28
3. From Pole To Pole: Hunting Dogs  3:26
4. From Pole To Pole: Elephants in the Okavango  3:07
5. Caves: Diving into the Darkness  3:01
6. Caves: Stalactite Gallery  2:26
7. Caves: Bat Hunt  2:59
8. Caves: Discovering Deer Cave  3:49
9. Freshwater: Angel Falls  2:21
10. Freshwater: River Predation  4:09
11. Freshwater: Iguacu  2:06
12. Freshwater: The Snow Geese  2:01
13. Mountains: The Geladas  2:39
14. Mountains: The Snow Leopard  4:00
15. Mountains: The Karakoram  1:54
16. Mountains: The Earth’s Highest Challenge  5:31
17. Deserts: Desert Winds – The Locusts  4:58
18. Deserts: Fly Catchers  1:42
19. Deserts: Namibia – The Lions and the Oryx  5:10
Disc Time: 60:44

Disc 2:
1. Great Plains: Plains High and Low  2:41
2. Great Plains: The Wolf and The Caribou  3:47
3. Great Plains: Tibet (Reprise) – Close  3:46
4. Shallow Seas: Surfing Dolphins  2:41
5. Shallow Seas: Dangerous Landing  3:20
6. Shallow Seas: Mother and Calf – The Great Journey  5:19
7. Jungles: The Canopy – Flying Lemur  2:45
8. Jungles: Frog Ballet – Jungle Falls  2:37
9. Jungles: The Cordyceps  2:55
10. Jungles: Hunting Chimps  4:10
11. Seasonal Forests: The Redwoods  4:39
12. Seasonal Forests: Fledglings  3:43
13. Seasonal Forests: Seasonal Change  5:40
14. Ice Worlds: Discovering Antarctica  2:42
15. Ice Worlds: The Humpbacks’ Bubblenet  2:59
16. Ice Worlds: Everything Leaves but the Emperors  2:27
17. Ice Worlds: The Disappearing Sea Ice  3:45
18. Ice Worlds: Lost in the Storm  1:16
19. Ocean Deep: A School of Five Hundred  3:39
20. Ocean Deep: Giant Mantas  2:50
21. Ocean Deep: Life Near the Surface  2:06
22. Ocean Deep: The Choice is Ours  3:13
Disc Time: 73:00
Total Album Time: 133:4

THE MERCY composed by Johann Johannsson

 

It seems fitting that I should review The Mercy today, not just because it is released this weekend in the UK but because on Friday we heard the shattering news that Johann died just 2 days ago, February 9th. Shattering not only because he was 48 years old but that the Icelandic composer, in what was a short timespan, had become revered for his deeply moving compositions. He very quickly hit my list of ‘favourites’. With the news resounding in our heads I will leave it to knowledgeable folk to discuss his unique talent as today, I just want to listen.

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“On the question of whether music in a film should be noticeable, Johannsson said in 2015, “It depends on the approach and it depends on the film. There are some films where a more kind of invisible sound works better. And then there are some films where you need a more aggressive approach.” He added, “It is amazing how music can actually improve a performance.”  The Hollywood Reporter

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It may seem strange that Johansson has scored a film such as this. On the one hand a crowd pleaser starring a firm favourite in Colin Firth and on the other a true story of a man who faced solitude and lost his way. Solitude being a state which was strongly featured in many ways in the Icelandic composers work. His music could make time stand still, could focus the mind and make you reach inside to your own deepest thoughts and fears.

The Mercy is the true story of amateur sailor Donald Crowhurst who took part in the Golden Globe Race in 1968 striving to become the first person to single handedly circumnavigate the globe without stopping. This was an epic and dangerous quest which forced Crowhurst to confront to his own madness and create an enduring mystery that will never be solved.

Flares is the beautifully short and magical opening, perhaps reflecting the childlike wonder of the sea which lured Crowhurst to take the quest. It’s referenced agin with  more scope in The Good Ship Teignmouth Electron, the vessel in which the inexperienced Crowhurst will invest his life. Whilst A Sparrow Alighted Upon Our Shoulder shares hope and excitement.
Good Morning, Midnight starts with a 4 note string refrain over an electronic sound which bought to my mind the vast reach of space. A solo piano picks up the 4 notes and creates a loneliness. A Sea Without Shores is a short soundscape of fear.

The cue Innocence is the first of 3 cues taken from Johannsson’s score to the 2012 documentary Free Your Mind in which one of the world’s leading neuroscientists, professor Richard Davidson was encouraged by the Dalai Lama to apply the disciplined methods he used to to study depression and anxiety. This posed the question asked by Davidson if you could change the working of the brain through mental practices. This I feel, was an inspired thing to do as the films basis is a man confronting his own solitude of mind and the anxieties this would bring.

The Doldrums with piano and strings could have been a torrent of fear but it quietly depicts the unfolding of an unhinged mind. The same could be said of the 2nd track from Free The Mind – Meditation. The plucked strings and piano are trying to keep everything level whilst the woodwind darts in an out, out of control.

The score is somewhat educational as I had to look up the name of the next track – The Horse Latitudes and I quote ‘The horse latitudes are subtropical regions known for calm winds and little precipitation. “And it’s a pretty apt track name.  It’s a soundscape of linear lines with building layers – out of little, Johannsson can convey a lot especially with a violin interjecting a futility.
The Mercy is beautifully uplifting as is The Radiant City played by the British string quartet The Direc Quartet. The addition of a voice on a radio obviously broadcasting  a longitude and latitude reading which receives no response, makes it very poignant.

Rather than a soundscape this score could be seen as a mind scape, it is a musical map of the mind. Expectedly bleak and despairing whilst also uplifting. A childlike innocence can also be heard and the magic of the possibilities this lone, inexperienced sailor could have conquered. This is not a score that you may often revisit but you must experience it’s beauty, breadth and the sheer individuality that is Johann Johansson.

TRACK LIST

1. Flares
2. Boating For Beginners
3. The Good Ship Teignmouth Electron
4. A Sparrow Alighted Upon Our Shoulder
5. Terra Firma
6. Into The Wide And Deep Unknown
7. Good Morning, Midnight
8. A Sea Without Shores
9. Karen býr til engil
10. Innocence
11. The Doldrums
12. Meditation
13. The Horse Latitudes
14. Radio
15. The Furious Sea Of Fogs And Squalls
16. Three Thousand Five Hundred And Ninety One Benches
17. The Captain’s Log
18. The Mercy
19. She Loves To Ride The Port Ferry When It Rains
20. The Radiant City
21. A Pile Of Dust
22. At 19°41’10.40 North 79°52’37.83 West, Lies The Shadow

Label Deutsche Grammaphon

 

 

HANGMAN BY FREDERICK WIEDMANN

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“Whilst listed as a Crime thriller this could be a fully fledged and accomplished horror soundtrack”

The Snake like violins and noir feel of the title track drew me in pretty quickly but then Wiedmann rarely disappoints. This continues through track 2 with The First Victim, an added ghostly swirl telling you that all is not well which given the film’s title you don’t expect that it ever will. This is a gruesome story of a serial killer who’s playing the children’s Hangman game with real people! Only Blood Left Behind is constructed over a chilling, sonic like vibration. Suicide Attack at only 1 minute long is voice led by soloist Ayana Haviv and leaves you wanting it to be longer.

Whilst listed as a Crime thriller this could be a fully fledged and accomplished horror soundtrack as you would expect from the composer of The Hills Run Red and Hellraiser: Revelation to name but two.

It’s the ‘quiet’ tracks enhanced with selected noises which scare the most such as the aptly named Slaughter House with strings sounding like a hord of flies. Together with the depiction of several murders, this score has continuous drive, time is running out and most noticeable in the cue The Replica. The character cue Archer, played by Al Pacino, is haunting. The much decorated cop is forced out of retirement for this case. it’s a heavy track full of remorse symbolised by a fleeting cello and the return of Haviv’s superb vocals.

Reviews of the film are not glowing and I rather fear that Wiedmann’s score will be overlooked which would be a shame. 

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Frederik Wiedmann

PLAYLIST

  1.  The Hangman
  2. The First Victim
  3. Only Blood Left Behind
  4. Joey
  5. Suicide Attempt
  6. Underneath The Cross
  7. An Old Case
  8. 11PM Murder
  9. Slaughter House
  10. The Letter B
  11. The Replica
  12. No Rest
  13. Inches Away
  14. Seven More People
  15. My Own Reasons
  16. The Girl In The Alley
  17. Th Apartment
  18. One Scar Is Enough
  19. Failed You
  20. Archer
  21. The Letter

LABEL: Varese Sarabande

MAZE RUNNER: THE DEATH CURE by John Paesano

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“All three films have been scored by John Paesano and whilst there is no significant theme to the scores, Paesano has consistently created a thrilling mood of doom, hope and of course action.”

I fell into watching the first [2014] Maze Runner film [meaning there wasn’t anything much else to watch] and was pleasantly pleased. Based on the book by James Dashner, it’s set in a dystopian world where every 30 days a boy, who’s memories have been wiped, would be deposited in The Glade which is surrounded by a huge Maze. The oddness of it all is intriguing and the end result do not disappoint.
The second movie [Maze Runner: Scorch Trials 2015] had an entirely different setting as a small pose of boys were able to get through the maze. This sequel also kept my interest. So I am looking forward to the third and final Maze Runner saga.

All three films have been scored by John Paesano and whilst there is no significant theme to the scores, Paesano has consistently created a thrilling mood of doom, hope and of course action. Death Cure gets going with the creepy, and disturbing Overrun Checkpoint. With what sounds like struck, warped metal and a Jerry Goldsmith feel to it’s percussion –  it conveys real fear without using a full orchestra.

The Last City could be a softer opening to Alien, with a 5 note piece which is neither scary or threatening but just hanging there waiting for something to happen. It’s ghost like until the strings come in when it fleshes out such a short [2mins 37secs] but effective cue. Teresa’s Plea with piano is also another strong, emotive cue.

Love the distorted electric guitar [well that’s what it sounds like to me] jangling in the background of Closing In, like frayed nerves. Long Way From The Glade is worth a listen for the terrific synth glissando alone. Whilst there are the obligatory action cues these also take a breath to highlight the dramatic element with pauses of sadness and confusion.

If you didn’t take time this could just be tagged as another action/drama soundtrack which gets a second rate listen where you would miss the deeper tones of survival and hope, the rousing choral I’m Sorry, and the poignancy of Goodbye.

TRACK LISTING

    1. Rescue

    2. We Started This Together

    3. Overrun Checkpoint

    4. The Last City

    5. Teresa’s Plea

    6. Closing In

    7. An Old Friend

    8. Lawrence

    9. The Virus

    10. Long Way From The Glade

    11. Whatever The Cost

    12. Visions of Thomas

    13. Chat With Teresa

    14. Let’s Go

    15. Good Luck Greenie

    16. The Lion’s Den

    17. What Bus?

    18. Lawrence’s Final Act

    19. Please Tommy, Please

    20. Crank Lab

    21. I’m Sorry

    22.    Goodbye

      LABEL: SONY

 

Blade Runner 2049

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As I start to write this I am not sure if it’s a soundtrack review or just my reaction to the movie but as I have been thinking about it since I saw it 2 days ago, I feel compelled to just type.

The original movie is special to a lot of people. I saw it when it opened, I was motionless and in awe all the way through. Afterward I remember repeating ‘how come no-one knows about this movie?’ Then there was no internet and it hadn’t received a lot of reviews. We all know that it had a slow start but has come to be regarded a classic and changed future science fiction films for ever. Applause to Mr Ridley Scott! So from then on the movie was embedded in my psyche, a constant referall when others talked about other sci-fi films.

It’s an audacious thing to do, venture into that unique world 35 years later but then the theme of ‘skin jobs’ opens a whirlpool of morality issues more relevant than ever as we have now cloned a sheep, have robots building cars plus there is huge investment being put into synthetics of the bodily type. Why would we not want to look into the world of the future? Especially as it’s set 30 years from the first film and 2049 is only 32 years away.

We know what we are doing to the planet but feel little is being done. The digital age when newborn was exciting. We could email each other which was exciting and life changing. But we gave little thought to it’s immense power. And so when K or Joe [the name given to him so as to humanise his relationship with his hologram girlfriend] is seen climbing a hill of metal waste, we nervously smile to ourselves out of recognition. It’s the same when K travels to the eternal redness [almost orange] of Las Vegas.  Is this what we are facing we ask? All this gives us an attachment to the film we didn’t necessarily have when the first film came out.

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There are so many nods to the first film and if you haven’t seen the original you will miss them all – to misquote Roy Batty “we have seen things…”. They are beautifully placed. In fact if you haven’t seen the original and haven’t bothered to do some homework you may not get to grips with this amazing sequel at all and this is a good thing as both films are tightly seamed together and with an insert saying “30 Year On” could be watched as one.

It’s got a much slower pace that Blade Runner, almost meditative. But to me it wasn’t a good idea to have a running time of 2 hours 43 minutes even though it looks as good as it does which might make it easier for others to deal with the length. In fact I do remember when seeing the original which runs for 1 hour 57 minutes, I wanted to see more of this strange new world. I, like many, rewatched the first film just before going to to see the sequel and realised how the films chapters fitted together like lego, you never loose concentration. With a tightening up of several scenes in this new version it would have flowed much better.

One character didn’t fit quite right for me in 2049. That of Nianda Wallace played by Jared Leto who follows on from Eldon Tyrell. Tyrell built a corporation on genetically engineering replicants. As he was murdered it’s obvious that another character had to replace him. Wallace has taken the replicants far beyond Tyrell’s Nexus 6 range. First off [and probably a daft thought but I’ll go ahead anyway] – why was he blind? It seemed to close to Tyrell’s obvious sight problems which he overcame with impossibly thick spectacles.  Secondly -we know one has to be mad to genetically engineer on such a huge scale but surely Wallace has really lost the plot…reaching the scale of becoming god as he didn’t speak but prophesied in every line he delivered. In the scene where he meets Deckard none of what Wallace said made any sense.

And what of the beleaguered soundtrack? I was exhilertaed to hear that Johan Johansson was originally going to score it. A perfect choice in my mind and he is one the most atmospheric composers. But then he was pulled off the project. The reasons why abound on the web so I won’t repeat them here but I will say that the producers intervened way too late which is just absurd on such a crucial movie. And it shows, the replacement score by Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch is sufficient but not mind blowing.

Nor surisingly it sounds rushed. It’s a sound pallet which creates an atmosphere rather than addresses any specific moments in the film. It’s a good and fitting atmosphere but it doesn’t take any part in building any character cues even though there a couple in there they do not give any insight. The opening track ‘2049’ begins with the same electrifying and mechanical doom as the original soundtrack but none of the score has the rich melodic feel of Vangelis who built a world of varying textures. A beautiful other worldliness.

And there’s the rub – even though the first score was not nominated for an Oscar [oh how that still hurts] it ranks as one of the of the best ever. And it is one of the best ever, it is outstanding. So who was ever going to match that and should it have been similar to the original anyway? Well, I guess not but in my humble opinion why not?

Saying all this I do like the new score but it’s just not special. There was a glimmer of the original soundtrack but you had to wait a while to hear it. In what I hope and surely is a tribute to Vangelis, it’s entitled ‘Tears In The Rain”.  But let’s not dismiss Zimmer & Wallfisch. Let’s not dismiss it just because it hasn’t the playability of the first score. And let’s remember in 2049 the world is more bleak planet than the first film and this new score definitely tells of a stark, terrifying and lost future.

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ALIEN:COVENANT Soundtrack Review

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A sequel to the Aliens Prequel Prometheus, this is the 6th film of the Alien Franchise [hate that word] … well this is what I have gained from my research, which, I am glad to say is ‘tight’. We have had teasers and a Prologue video and the trailer. It’s all been built up slowly to wet our appetites and even now there is scant information on the plot as a whole. This is the way I like it as I want to be surprised rather than spoon fed every morsel so that by the time you are seated in a dark cinema you know what’s coming before it happens.

MTV’s NEWS website says, “[Ridley] Scott has been adamant that while “Prometheus” “carries the DNA” of “Alien,” it is an original piece of science fiction that delves into everything from biotechnology to artificial intelligence to the origins (and possible destruction) of mankind itself.” Whatever Covenant is, I am in! I Being an avid sci-fi fan seeing Alien for the first time changed all future science fiction films, along with Blade Runner, for ever and both had a tremendous impact on me.

The plot is short [again as it should be] ….
Bound for a remote planet on the far side of the galaxy, members of the colony ship Covenant discover what they think to be an uncharted paradise. While there, they meet David (Michael Fassbender), the synthetic survivor of the doomed Prometheus expedition. The mysterious world soon turns dark and dangerous when a hostile alien life-form forces the crew into a deadly fight for survival.

Originally the score was to be done by Harry Gregson Williams but it has now been handed to Australian composer Jed Kurzel. For me his score to Macbeth was one of the best soundtracks of 2015 and last year he scored Assassin’s Creed so it’s going to be interesting to hear what he has done for Covenant.

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                                                                    Jed Kurzel

Opening with Incubation and a reworking of Jerry Goldsmith familiar ‘pulse’ from Alien, is very short but you feel you are in familiar territory. The Pulse also opens  The Covenant with the pulse AND the familiar 7 note brass which branches out into an eerie sound palette – we are definitely in Alien territory. Neutrino Burst is a mixture of strings and electronics, it’s a slowness which works, building tension. The piano led A Cabin On The Lake has a feeling of calm and reminiscence as does Sails.

Planet 4/Main Theme is a strong cue which slowly builds but is then controlled again by the pulse, almost as if beauty had been glimpsed but we are then reminded not to feel safe. Spores is dominated by strange electronic sounds filled with dread which run into the next track, The Med Bay, seamlessly. This cue is brimming with terror! Payload Deployment is even more terrifying, almost like a bad dream session complete with a sound which resembles a muted scream, glad it was short!

The next 2 cues have titles which bring much expectation – Face Hugger being the first. A low start it may have but when – after a few seconds silence – the coarse sound of a metal like screech is launched, I jumped out of my skin! On screen this is going to do it’s job. This is followed by Chestburster which is eerily calm and dreamlike. Only Bring It To My Turf and Terraforming Bay could be classed as standard action cues but even these has electronic tones which elevate them above standard.

This soundtrack never goes over the top, there is no reaching where the composer wants to make his score stand out from all others. Kurzel has totally embraced what went before and embellished it with slices of electronic scariness. I applaud his loyalty. Whilst sticking closely to the Aliens ‘sound’ [and I would have been disappointed  if he hadn’t of] there are distinct swathes of his own smoothly intertwined.

I’m glad I don’t rate my reviews with points or stars as in reality the majority of the soundtrack is a re-placing of elements from the original and that would negate marks of originality. I was hoping for the Alien ‘feel’ with a little twist here and there and this is what this compact, clever score does.

Track Listing:

  1. Incubation
  2. The Covenant
  3. Neutrino Burst
  4. A Cabin On The Lake
  5. Sails
  6. Planet 4 / Main Theme
  7. Launcher Landing
  8. Wheat Field
  9. Spores
  10. The Med Bay
  11. Grass Attack
  12. Dead Civilization
  13. Survivors
  14. Payload Deployment
  15. Command Override
  16. Face Hugger
  17. Chest Burster
  18. Lonely Perfection
  19. Cargo Lift
  20. Bring It To My Turf
  21. Terraforming Bay
  22. Alien Covenant Theme

Milan Music