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QUICK-CLICK REVIEWS (Vol. 25)

Apocalypse World War II
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Music from the Batman Trilogy
The Possession

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How to Train Your Dragon 2
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Captain America:  The Winter Soldier
Rio 2

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Quick-Click Reviews | Volume 25

Apocalypse World War 2 by Kenji Kawai | The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel by Thomas Newman | Music from the Batman Trilogy by London Music Works | The Possession by Anton Sanko

<< Vol. 24

 

Apocalypse World War 2 (Soundtrack) by Kenji Kawai

23 Tracks
Running Time: 65:17

 

Apocalypse World War 2 by Kenji Kawai

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Released by Wonderlous Music 2012
Review by Richard Buxton (@monkeybutlerman)
 

 

"If you are able to look beyond some of the score’s less than stellar qualities, or are already a fan of the composer, APOCALYPSE WORLD WAR 2 is likely to provide moments worth your time."



There’s no mistaking the sound of KENJI KAWAI. His sound is among the most distinctive in the film industry. This is not necessarily a compliment however. Whether this counts as praise or criticism is entirely dependent on the score itself. A number of cues from many of the Japanese composer’s scores could be scattered and pasted into different films at random, and, for all but the experts, be genuinely difficult to reassemble them into their original places. This largely applies to the overall sound heard in KAWAI’S scores as opposed to the major themes he writes. GHOST IN THE SHELL, WILD 7, and the recent NHK drama TSUKAHARA BOKUDEN stand as exceptions but there is a frustrating sense of familiarity when listening to most of KAWAI’S scores.

APOCALYPSE WORLD WAR 2 is a score that suffers from this overly familiar feeling, and this is largely due to the composer’s love of reverb. It wouldn’t be a KENJI KAWAI score without it, but its overuse often detracts from some of the score’s genuinely captivating cues. It’s not just specific instruments that get the reverb treatment - the entire assortment of instruments is drowned in the effect. Any positive effect that reverb has is frequently crowded out, and it’s the action cues that suffer the most. The second half of “The Trap” (3) becomes completely washed out and is almost difficult to listen to as a result. “Pacific Attack” (12) and the distinctive use of percussion is another example of a cue rendered somewhat impotent by the overuse of the effect.

Where the score succeeds is in its calmer, less hectic moments. This might partially be a result of the reverb having less to cling to, but the melodies heard away from the action are far more engaging. Both versions of “Farewell to Peace” (4, 7) actually benefit from KAWAI’S signature sound - the dreamy haze within the strings is as relaxing as it is captivating. The same can be said for both versions of “Liberation” (14, 15), and “Retreat” (25). It makes one wonder what an entire score written at such a relaxed, reflective pace would sound like given KAWAI’S apparent comfort in such a style.

There’s no doubt that KENJI KAWAI is an acquired taste, and one that some might never find themselves enchanted by. If you are able to look beyond some of the score’s less than stellar qualities, or are already a fan of the composer, APOCALYPSE WORLD WAR 2 is likely to provide moments worth your time. For everyone else this is a score unlikely to change your opinion of the composer for better or worse, nor is it a score that is recommended to those hearing KENJI KAWAI for the first time. The more accessible SEVEN SWORDS, the strikingly unique GHOST IN THE SHELL, or the more melodic TSUKAHARA BOKUDEN would likely make much better gateways into the composer’s musical library.


Rating: 6/10


   

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (Soundtrack) by Thomas Newman

21 Tracks
Running Time: 46:43

 

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel by Thomas Newman

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Released by Sony Music 2012
Review by Christopher Coleman (@ccoleman)

 

"THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL will likely be remembered and awarded for its wonderful performances, but one that should not be overlooked is that of composer THOMAS NEWMAN, whose score is a refreshingly exotic getaway all it’s own."


While Thomas Newman has been and will continue to get much attention because for his score for the James Bond film, SKYFALL, a lesser known (but definitely no less British) film, THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL, might surprise many as it features, at the very least, an equally intriguing original score.

The film, a dramatic-comedy, adapted from the novel, THESE FOOLISH THINGS by Deborah Moggach, is filled with crisp writing and embraceable performances by some of Britain's top actors; among them: Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith, Tom Wilkinson and even Dev Patel is a delight. Director John Madden (Mrs. Brown, Shakespeare in Love, The Debt) balances the dramatic tension and comedic moments as skillfully as we’ve become accustomed to him doing in the past.  Here, he gives us a handful of separate tales, which destiny has brought together.  An aging group of six men and women take a chance on a whimsically described place called THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL in India, where they look for relief, restitution, and romance.

For THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL, Thomas Newman delivers yet another highly effective, surprisingly appropriate original score. This time, like our intrepid ensemble of actors, Newman’s music goes off in exotic directions. Unique to this effort is Newman's significant dose of the Bollywood-vibe through its distinctive, Indian instrumentation, rhythms, and vocals. If you have any affinity for original scores by A.R. Rahman, then it’s likely you will find much to enjoy in Newman’s work here. The score ranges from the fast paced, rhythmic-life of tracks like “Road to Japur” and “Tuk Tuks” to those which reflect the struggles of soul by each the film’s characters like: “This is the Day,” “Udaipur,” and “Young Wassam.” Finally, Newman weaves in his most optimistic, musical colors in tracks such as: “The Chimes at Midnight,” Day 22,” and “A Bit of Afters,” leaving the listener pretty well rehabilitated by the score’s end.

THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL will likely be remembered and awarded for its wonderful performances, but one that should not be overlooked is that of composer THOMAS NEWMAN, whose score is a refreshingly exotic getaway all it’s own. If you can’t afford a trip to India to restore your soul and senses, then a few listens to Newman’s “other” 2012 effort may just do the trick.


Rating: 8/10


   

Music from the Batman Trilogy (Soundtrack) by Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard

15 Tracks
Running Time: 73:54

 

Music from the Batman Trilogy by Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard

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Released by Silva Screen 2012
Review by Thomas Midena (@thoroughmas)
 

 

"...this is a splendid performance of a fantastic collection of pieces, and can only be thought of as a success. "

 

His epic trilogy may have come to an end, but Christopher Nolan and Hans Zimmer’s dark hero hasn’t finished fighting just yet. But does this compilation of music from Batman Begins, The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises paint a lifeless reflection of the epic tale, or lovingly illuminate the Gotham we know and love?

The playlist is solid. London Music Works and the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra have chosen to perform an exciting selection of the most momentous pieces from the trilogy of Batman soundtracks. The album succeeds in hitting most of the major tones and themes of the original soundtracks, though some of my favorites (inevitably) make no appearance (such as “Harvey Two-Face).

The piano in “Eptesicus” builds on the original melancholy with it’s stagy sound. The second half... The use of more classical orchestra instrumentation makes this piece arguably more beautiful than the original. This change does however eliminate the distinct tone of the original soundtrack. Much of “Antrozous” sounds more synthesised than the original recording of the piece, more akin to “Tron: Legacy” than “Star Wars”. Whether or not this results in a good product is very much a matter of opinion. Personally I can enjoy the subtle difference in this new version of the piece. The non-stop action track, “Molossus” doesn’t miss a beat, and I love it for its incredible display of energy and enthusiasm. Just as with the track from the original Batman Begins soundtrack, every time you think it’s slowing down to take a rest, the action motif jumps right back in - stronger than before. London Music Works have achieved an excellent recording.

The Joker’s distinctive anarchic note in “Why So Serious” is lower in pitch. This recording of the track gets a tad ugly. The original piece used an abundance of distortion and digital sounds, and London Music Works have had to be very creative in their replication of this. Shakers are overused to portray the rhythm, electric guitar taking the foreground in several key sections. Unfortunately I feel this recording of “Why So Serious” is too random and chaotic to be an enjoyable listen. The drums at the start of the City Of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra’s “Aggressive Expansion” lack the cinematic scale of the original recording. By the end of the track the piece still feels smaller than it should, but the emulation of excitement is spot on in this heroic action cue.

Moving into The Dark Knight Rises portion of the album, “Mind If I Cut In” maintains the tender classiness of the original piece; its beautiful piano echoing like a live stage performance. The full power of London Music Works is present in “Why Do We Fall?”, and they stick around for The Dark Knight Rises’ very own “Molossus” - the unstoppable “Imagine The Fire”. Apart from a couple of sections which are jarringly less clamorous than the original, “Imagine The Fire” is an example of London Music Works hitting the mark so finely that you’ll forget you’re listening to a re-recording. This is a considerable achievement, considering how integral the chanting choir is throughout the track, and how difficult it must be to replicate.

In the end I find myself unable to recommend this album to those who are satisfied by the original and complete trilogy of soundtracks. If you want to re-live the Batman films through your speakers, there’s no match for the authentic experience in the original scores. That said; however, this is a splendid performance of a fantastic collection of pieces, and can only be thought of as a success. I can see this collection appealing to casual fans who want a digestible collection of hits from the trilogy, or hardcore fans who simply can’t get enough of Hans Zimmer’s epic arrangements and will be thrilled by the variations offered here.

There’s never a dull moment in this action packed album. I will certainly take pleasure in revisiting MUSIC FROM THE BATMAN TRILOGY many times in the future.

 

Rating: 8/10
 

   

The Possession (Soundtrack) by Anton Sanko

11 Tracks
Running Time: 48:12

 

The Possession by Anton Sanko

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Released by Varese Sarabande 2012
Review by Helen San (@helensan)
 

 

"Tucked away amidst the tension, mystery, and "heebie-jeebies" are some rather beautiful, musical moments."
 

Produced by Sam Raimi (EVIL DEAD) and directed by Danish horrormeister Ole Bornedal (NIGHTWATCH), THE POSSESSION is a film inspired by accounts of a real life dybbuk box - a chest designed to contain demons of Jewish folklore and mysticism. The story centers on a young girl who comes into possession of this dybbuk box and is subsequently possessed, herself, by that which dwells inside.

Providing the musical backdrop for THE POSSESSION is composer ANTON SANKO (RABBIT HOLE, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC’S GREAT MIGRATIONS). The one-time, pop-music producer was given his first scoring gig by his friend, Jonathan Demme (SILENCE OF THE LAMBS).

To be sure, there is no shortage of conventional horror discord that makes one a little creeped out, such as in The Box Opens (3) and Morgue (8). In I Don’t Love You (7), you get unique sounds such as a Hungarian cimbalom (similar to a hammered dulcimer) and a homerigged instrument made of a giant piece of mahogany with piano strings, played together to create just the right level of stomach upset.

However, THE POSSESSION goes beyond the trappings of your typical horror experience. The director wanted this story to be a metaphor on the ravages of divorce on a family and so SANKO's score delivers an emotionally tense score that emphasizes these dynamic and dramatic elements, not unlike BERNARD HERRMANN - one of Sanko's composer-heros. As a whole, the soundtrack is largely poetic and lyrical, with sad expressions of loss or gentle feelings of ill ease. SANKO makes good use of uncharacteristically melodic piano and strings, such as Stop the Killing (1) or Shadow Puppets (5), where, except for the judiciously placed minor key, you’d never know you were in a movie with a hand crawling up a little girl’s throat.

At times, we are treated to beautifully intense music, not so common to this sub-genre of film music. This elegant intensity is exemplified in the strings crescendo in Brett’s Teeth (10) and the astounding finale in Abizul (11). In fact, anytime SANKO brings in strings is much more of a treat than a trick. The main theme, featured at the end of She’s Still Hungry (4) and Shadow Puppets (5), is a sumptuous and decadent string dessert topped by fragrant piano.

THE POSSESSION has a bit more to offer than the typical horror-score. Tucked away amidst the tension, mystery, and "heebie-jeebies" are some rather beautiful, musical moments. Fans of the genre should definitely spend some ear-time on this one, while those not usually given to such scores should exorcise their personal biases and give THE POSSESSION a shot.


Rating: 7/10


   

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