Wednesday, August 30, 2006


My top 10 Gorillaz songs: -

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Admittedly, they do only have 2 albums – Demon Days and Gorillaz, but a friend go me a really rare, Japanese cover of some Gorillaz songs when they went to Japan on holiday, which includes Faust and Right Hand Suzuki Method. So, overall, I have 50 or so tracks to pick from. And they go…

10. Dare
09. Kids with Guns
08. Gorillaz on My Mind
07. Film Music
06. All Alone
05. Clint Eastwood
04. Feel Good inc.
03. The Sounder
02. Sound Check (Gravity)
01. November Has Come

October will come too, sigh. And I’ll be so upset I probably won’t be able to keep a blog. Blah.

Extended Soundtrack Review: Kill Bill.

Quentin Tarantino’s two-part martial Arts epic divided critics. Some saw it as a fanboy’s picture lacking in direction, plot, or proper characters. Others thought it was a stylish, well-crafted masterpiece. I learn closer to the latter. I found it highly entertaining. I loved the character of The Bride and was impressed with the flashes of heart in the final Act of Volume 2. But what I loved most of all was the eargasm of the soundtrack, quite possible my favourite soundtrack to a film of all time.

The epic opens with Nancy Sinatra’s Bang Bang, one of her finest songs. 2003 was the year this song became cool, as it featured on ringtones, and was remixed into rap songs, electronica, the whole deal. But the original form is the definitive. Sinatra’s usually upbeat vocals (listen: These Boots are Made for Walking, Lightning’s Girl, Jackson) and happy voice is hauntingly chilling here, and, along with the cold, calculated broken thirds on the bass only accentuates the icy brilliance of this song.

Various instrumentals are scattered around, and each is as much of a enjoyable listen as the next, and many are also a goldmine for audophiles such as myself: from Isaac Hayes, 70s throwback, maracas, drum & trumpets Run Fay Run, and Green Hornet (Al Hirt) does a brilliant version of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Bumblebee, which, essentially, sounds like a super-hyper bumblebee on crack. Classical influence, soul-into-rap, all the rules of the game are broken here, although QT’s not afraid to occasionally play it straight: Woo Hoo, The Flower of Carnage.

Now. Anyone heard Nina Simone’s soulful, sexy song Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood? It’s a song that I totally connect with, and couldn’t imagine being remade. But recovered it was, by Santa Esmerelda, into a 10-minute track. Changes in voice, tempo and backing instrument including a 20-second castanet solo create a fun, bright song, very different from the original, but catchier, and somehow, retaining the sultriness, even with all the sun-kissed instruments.

Random other eccentricities grace the soundtracks. Bernard Herman’s claustrophobic, whistle-while-you-work tune, Twisted Nerve, invokes feelings of utmost fear and tension in me, despite having the appearance of an innocent hum tune, and The RZA, who did the only original music for the first film, uses part of his own score (played in the part where Uma is in the hospital car park, you know which scene I mean), and dubs it with voice to provide the Ode to O-Ren Ishi. And yes, he did just rhyme “Ishi” and “Japan-esie.” No one else could pull it off but The RZA.

Revenge is best known in Westerns, and the Western influence on these two films are evident from the music. Charlie Feathers, Luis Bacalov, and most of all, Ennio Morricone embody this. But Tarantino doesn’t just plagarize. He plagarizes, but also adds his personal touches (those touches are generally also borrowed from somewhere or another). Here, he mixes 70s Western with Japanese fight-flick, and in doing so, shoots the moon, providing us with quite possibly one of the most unforgettable instrumental tracks of all time: Battle without Honour or Humanity. Tomoyasu Hotei’s masterpiece is an orgasm-inducing amalgamation of adrenaline-fuelled synths, a repetitive catchy bass tune, and THAT cheesy-cool DUM DUM DUM denouement. Like Bang Bang, it was one of the it tunes of 2003, played on an absolute loop on mobile phones, Award shows, and kitsch fight montages. It was most recently used for the add of the Channel 4’s Supernanny, and it never fails to raise a smile from me. He.

Things take a more subdued note on Volume II, as, straight after we’ve been given a few words from the Bride, we’re introduced to Shivaree, in the ghoulish, yet oddly unpleasant Goodnight Moon. The lyrics are understandably nasty, but the song is utterly hypnotic, and just screams for repeat listens, not least for Shivaree’s airless, floaty vocals. Then the call for Morricone plays up, with the first of three from the master composer, Il Tromonto, an atmospheric, but foreboding tune.

Two tone-setting instrumentals feature heavily: Luis Bacalov’s Summertime Killer, where just the bare pattering of fingers on the drum sounds cool, and The Chase, Vol. 2’s counterpart to Battle Without Honour or Humanity. Less impactful, but every ounce of thrill is still there in the strumming, and that fantastic piccolo, which plays like its their birthday. Morricone features twice more, with L’Arena, and, my personal favourite, A Silhouette of Doom which just exudes the Western, cool-guy, couldn’t give a damn aura, yet at the same time, you’re looking over your shoulder. Too be frightening and cool at the same time is one thing, to be all that, and personify the Westerns in just a simple booming of timpani is another. Morricone is the master.

Chingnon’s Spanish vocal song, Malaguena Salerosa captures the aftermath of killing Bill perfectly, and could very well be the tune that describes the Bride better than the rest. And Urami Bushi is the perfect send-off tune. But the track on the Volume II that truly stands out for me is Malcolm McLaren’s She’s Not There, the song which played in the poignant scene where Bea lies with her daughter. It’s certainly a curious effort, as the bleating of “My man, got a heart…” has been described by my friends as “rather sheepish.” And there isn’t much in terms of lyrics either, as a lot of the song goes, “So no one told me about her.” Yet… I was and am completely in awe and captivated by it. The backing vocals, score in the background, and not least that ridiculous beautiful instrumental part that ends the song… everything just comes together wonderfully, to provide one of the most haunting and memorable songs of all time.

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And now, the top 10 songs over the two soundtracks:
01. Battle Without Honour or Humanity (Tomoyasu Hotei)
02. About Her (Malcolm McLaren)
03. Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood (Santa Esmerelda)
04. The Chase (Alan Reeves, Phil Steele, and Philip Bringham)
05. Summertime Killer (Luis Bacalov)
06. Bang Bang (Nancy Sinatra)
07. Goodnight Moon (Shivaree)
08. Twisted Nerve (Bernard Herman)
09. A Silhouette of Doom (Ennio Morricone)
10. Urami Bushi (Meiko Kaji)

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Best and Worst of 2006 So Far.

01. Cars
02. Volver

03. L’Enfant
04. Severance
05. The Cave of the Yellow Dog
06. Wah-Wah
07. Snakes on a Plane

08. A Scanner Darkly
09. Alpha Male
10. The Wind That Shakes the Barley

And the worst 5:
01. Just My Luck
02. Pirates of the Caribbean II
03. Alien Autopsy
04. Miami Vice
05. 40 Shades of Blue

Now, yours!

Iconic Still of the Week.

Why? Because there aren't enough pictures on this site.

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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Films I Saw Last Week.

Here’s a film I love more than deserves to be loves, because I adore the books. This adaptation is pretty loyal to the book, and there are some great performances, especially Shia LaBeouf as Stanley. He’s just the very embodiment of Stanley. Also, Patricia Arquette was pretty good, and Sigourney Weaver stole the show whenever she was on. Overall, I’d say this was interesting, different and sweet in the friendships it shows, and the sand-filled frames make you feel like you’re there with the kids. Very beautiful, with a killer soundtrack, too. B+.

My Super Ex-Girlfriend
Pretty dire attempt at a romantic comedy, really. Neither Luke Wilson nor Uma Thurman particularly impressed, though Anna Farris and Eddie Izzard were even worse. All the negative adjectives can be applied here – lame, predictable, unromantic, but there was the premise, that hasn’t been used before, which was interesting. There are about 1 or 2 laughs overall, but I suppose there are worse way to spend 90 minutes. C+.

Nacho Libre
Very, very, very disappointing. I couldn’t believe how utterly unfunny this was, especially as it stars one of my favourite comedy actors, Jack Black. The jokes are tired and the silly accents aren’t exactly going to induce belly laughs either. Very lame. C.

Alpha Male
Quite a curious one. Part of me was bored by the domesticity of it all, but the domesticity was probably also my greatest appeal to this film. Sometimes it did feel like an extended episode of Emmerdale, which is not good, but the acting is pretty great, especially from Danny Huston (The Constant Gardener), and Jennifer Ehle (BBC’s Pride & Prejudice.) She gets my nod for Best Actress of the year so far, and I thought she was very “Streep-like” in her performance. So overall, potentially mediocre tale, good performances. The ending was quite satisfying too. B.

Miami ViceWell, I’m neither a lover or a hater, but I would be inclining towards to latter, because of all the goddamn fanboys. Let us start with the positives – the soundtrack is the best for any Mann film, and quite possible the best for any film. It rocks, and suits the film beautifully. Also, I enjoyed an early cameo from that guy in Me and You And Everything We Know. The cinematography is commendable at parts, and sometimes, you feel caught up in the story, which is good. Right, the negatives: Colin Farrell and Li Gong SUCKED. They were everything bad and worse, and couldn’t generate enough heat to power an electric toothbrush. Gong’s accent was a joke. The pacing was far too ponderous for a multiplex’s audience’s good. The writing was questionable. And so on, and so forth. C+.

A Scanner Darkly
A curious one here, very, very curious. Part of me loves the rotoscape technique; the film is visually dazzling and you want every frame to linger so you can pay closer attention to everything. Robert Downey (unsurprisingly) is the star of the show in his drug-addled craziness. Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder are pretty good too, though, to a large extent, this is just their voices. I didn’t care much for the story, and the “twist” at the end just baffled me even more. But still, you’ve got to see it for the art. B.

Snakes on a Plane

One of my favourite films of 2006! No points explaining the story, except to say, everything in this film is very, very, cheesy, but it’s so ENJOYABLE! Samuel L. Jackson is the man, and there are some very quotable (if not intellectually challenging) lines here, and some moments which are actually pretty scary. Overall, a great blend of comedy/action/thriller, with Kenan from the Kenan & Kel show and his impeccable comic timing, and a performance from Bobby Cannavale. It’s everything you could want! B+.

CarsMy favourite film of 2006, hands down. I’m a sucker for Pixar so anything they do will no doubt entice me, but hot damn, this was one of their best. The visuals are incredible, to rival Finding Nemo’s for most well-animated film. The story I thought at first was a little cheesy, but the great thing is, you actually get caught up in it, and at first echo Lightning’s sentiments (i.e., you want to get out of “Hillbilly hell”), and then, as he gets to know the people, you like them more. It’s as simple as that, really. The only thing that detracts from this film’s greatness is that there wasn’t any particular line that made the audience roar with laughter, but this was one of their more mature films, so I don’t mind. I ADORED the racing sequences, they were so exciting and fresh, the score from Randy Newman is beautiful, as is the use of non-original songs, and, as always, there’s a cute message, without the Disney sugar-coating. Lovely. A-.

Not much in terms of classics, but an eventful week.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Soundtrack Reviews: L.

Yup, I wrote a lot when I was in China. I was that bored. Oh yeah. There's quite a few lame jokes scattered about in here (mostly football in-jokes.) I think I wrote this during the England Vs. Ecuador game.

The menu:
- Lemony Snicket’s a Series of Unfortunate Events
- Les Choristes
- Life Aquatic Studio Sessions
- Lost
- Lost – Adventure Edition
- Lost in Translation
- Love Actually
- The Legend of 1900
- The Lion King

My grades: A, B+, B, B+, A, B+, B, B.

And yes, I realise Les Choristes is really a “C,” but I forgot it when reviewing the soundtracks beginning with Cs. So there.

Lemony Snicket’s a Series of Unfortunate Events (Thomas Newman)
My favourite composer of all time does it again with another beautifully orchestrated, original and memorable score. Like the film itself, the score is quirky and dark with tinges of melancholy and magic. Newman’s winning touches are all here – diminished sevenths, tentative piano chords and sudden thuds of string, but he has also delved into his bottomless pit of talent here to bring us something, that, like Count Olaf, is out of the world. The Letter that Never Came recalls Finding Nemo’s harmony of piano and violins, but the sweet tune varies such that it feels like something deliciously new. And who can forget the end theme, Drive Away, an up-tempo electric-guitar driven piece, which is as catchy as it is incredible. A true eargasm.
Best tracks: The Letter that Never Came, Drive Away

Les Choristes (Bruno Coulais)
A symposium of young boy’s voices provide most of the score for this Fre
nch film, and age does not equate to greatness, because the voices are some of the mellifluous to listen to, and the beauty of the music is enhanced by the pretty French lyrics. The stand-out track of the CD is the Oscar-nominated song Vois sur Ton Chemin (Look to Your Path), a beguiling little number, irresistible in its simplicity, and In Memoriam a Capella has the same voices singing an altogether spikier, more pacier track. Unfortunately, the composer seems to be preoccupied with this particular piece, because it features on the OST in some form or another 3 times (A Capella and L’Incidie are the two other forms), and the repetition is my main foible with this score. Because, wonderful as it is, the same songs seem to double or treble up an awful lot, hinting at laziness. The only thing that mars a nice collection of songs, vocal and orchestra.
Best tracks: Vois sur ton Chemin, Pepinot

Life Aquatic Studio Sessions (Seu Jorge)
(Don’t think you need me to tell you that this is the additional CD with the film, NOT the overall OST.)
A CD featuring all Portuguese covers of David Bowie songs is a rare commodity, but, here it is. Seu Jorge’s voice is a soft triumph, and the mellow guitar in the background accompanies it excellently. In re-covering Bowie’s songs in a foreign language, none of the essence of the songs are lost in translation, apart from perhaps the grasp of iambic pentameter; in some verses, you can hear Jorge straining to fit in the multi-syllabic words in with the riffs, which sadly detract from the music. Nonetheless, it’s always nice to listen to something non-English yet feel like you completely understand it, and this collection of songs gain points for sheer ingenuity and eccentricity. And it’s the cheapest way of experiencing some of the sun-kissed Tropicana all Summer.
Best tracks: Rebel Rebel, Changes

Lost (Michael Giacchino)
J. J. Abrams has gotten so accustomed to Giacchino’s scores that he asked him to score the Summer blockbuster of the year (Mission Impossible III), and this score showcases Giacchino’s many and varying talents as a musician. Suspense on the score is rife, with high notes on the violin screeching as a tuned timpani plays about 5 freaky notes in succession, and various other non-instruments are employed to create equally freaky sound effects. Each track has something new, but sadly, after 5 or so tracks of tension, we get somewhat tired of it all. What a relief when the elegiac, mournful string-pieces come then, as they are eloquent, elegant and lovely, not least the track Hollywood and Vines, which features cellos, violins and violas accompanying each other excellently.
Best tracks: Hollywood and Vines, Oceanic 815

Lost – Adventure Edition (Michael Giacchino, various)
Two OSTs for the same TV show? Well, I totally adore Lost, which is just as well, because quite a few of the tracks on here are also on the Lost OST (Higher Ground is just Hollywood and Vines dubbed with some dialogue at the beginning). I don’t care much for all the added dialogue (I firmly believe a soundtrack should feature music and music only), but what this OST has that the other lacks is the collection of non-original songs that feature in pivotal moments on season 1. Joe Purdy’s cute Wash Away will no doubt be playing in my mind as I open my GCSE results, Leavin’ on Your Mind is a welcome dose of country music, and Willie Nelson’s incredible voice bellows out Are You Sure with the same power that he did on the Brokeback OST. The soundtrack’s choice to repeat lots of the same songs with different dialogue, is, quite frankly, worthy of castration, but there are some songs that really do redeem that. They epitomize “deep,” and its hard not to get “lost” in them. (Look, I wrote this in China, OK?!)
Best tracks: Are You Sure, Wash Away

Lost in Translation – KMN Special Edition (various)
Those that frequent this website, or perhaps even those that have heard me speak, may know that I do not hold this film in the highest consideration (I honestly consider it the 14th worst film of all time), although the soundtrack, I’ll admit, is rather snazzy. Featuring a wide range of songs and genres of music, the OST sports two of my favourite songs of all time, including Phoenix’s, wistful, sweet, beaut – Too Young, which could be young Theo’s anthem. The instrumental piece, Alone in Kyoto from Air is amongst their best works, a blessed out, ethereal dream of electronica. And, this being the special edition, also has an excerpt from Nina Rota’s masterful score the La Dolce Vita. Even the lows of the OST – Peaches extraordinarily bawdy Frick the Pain Away, makes for an amusing guilty pleasure listen. Sofia Coppola, as with The Virgin Suicides, puts her experience as a music video director to exemplary use, compiling a soundtrack as cool as they come. Pity about the film.
Best tracks: Too Young, Alone in Kyoto

Love Actually (various)
One of my most feel-good films of all time, one also one of my feel-good soundtracks. Richard Curtis’ wintertime multi-linear love features a large dose of love songs, singing about all the different aspects of it. Lynden David Hall’s rendition of All You Need is Love is catchy and cute, Jon Mitchell’s powerful vocals speak of heartbreak in Both Sides Now, and Norah Jones’ instalment Turn Me On is a smart, smooth and (unsurprisingly) sexy piece of jazz. Pointer Sisters add to the kitsch value, and Maroon 5’s Sunday Morning is a perfect accompaniment to any Sunday morning, making this a well-rounded soundtrack. Sadly, Craig Armstrong’s adorable composition that played in that airport scene is suspiciously absent. Bleh.
Best tracks: Turn Me On, Sunday Morning

The Legend of 1900 (Ennio Morricone)
It’s been a while since I’ve seen Tornatore’s film, but, before I went to China, I went to a Morricone concert, so the music is still fresh in my mind. 1900’s Theme, is my choice for standout tune of the score. "1900's Theme" is a strong opening for the score; dominated by strings, but given a dosage of American spirit with the nod to George Gershwin for the piano. It’s a smart composition trick that works to great effect. The score goes on the tribute other great styles of music too, from jazz, ragtime and classical, and this is embodied in the Mozart-styled A Mozart Reincarnated. Morricone, one of the composing masters, is right at home in his composition for the tale of a talented musician. Similarities and all.
Best tracks: 1900’s Theme, A Mozart Reincarnated

The Lion King (Hans Zimmer, various)
One of Disney’s most mature films showcases some songs that echo this maturity, and others that, sadly do not. I speak of course, of I Just Can’t Wait to Be King. The song is whiny, annoying, and quite frankly, anyone who has to rhyme “beware” and “hair” needs to go ba
ck to song writing class. However, I adore the song “Circle of Life,” even if I understand… none of the lyrics. Four of Hans Zimmer’s Oscar-winning pieces feature, and they are all as exquisite and rich in musical flavour as each other. But obviously, the thing that you’ll be taking away from this OST is Elton John’s rendition of Can You Feel the Love Tonight, ebbing in vocal talent and secret malaise. Lovely.
Best tracks:
Can You Feel the Love Tonight, Circle of Life

The best of these soundtracks…
01. Drive Away (Thomas Newman, Lemony Snicket)
02. Too Young (Phoenix, Lost in Translation OST)
03. The Letter that Never Came (Thomas Newman, Lemony Snicket)
04. Alone in Kyoto (Air, Lost in Translation OST)
05. Vois Sur Ton Chemin (Bruno Coulais, Les Choristes)
06. Turn Me On (Norah Jones, Love Actually OST)
07. Wash Away (Joe Purdy, Lost OST)
08. Hollywood and Vines (Michael Giacchino, Lost)
09. Can You Feel the Love Tonight (Elton John, The Lion King)
10. Changes (Seu Jorge, Life Aquatic Studio Sessions)

Right. Any other requests?

The premier league season kicks off again tomorrow!!

So pumped!!!

A note about His Dark Materials...

His Dark Materials: The Golden Compass

Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy is one of my favourite trilogies of books ever, and, having recently re-read the third, I have been able to re-appraise it and realise the mastery in it. I am kind of looking forward to the film. Whilst I think this heady brew of religion, quantum physics and human story would look absolutely fantastic on screen, I cannot but worry about the casting. Lyra Silvertongue, perhaps one of the greatest literary characters of all time, right up there with Elizabeth Bennet and Lolita Haze, has been cast. The girl is an unknown actress, Dakota Blue Richards. Whilst I can't think of any 12-year-old actresses in Hollywood/England who could lift the role, unknown actress just sets off warning signs in my brain. I mean, look at the two Harry Potter actresses, Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson; they're hardly going to win any Oscars, are they?

I think bananas are yellow.

The casting of Will is an even greater cause for concern. William Parry is another great book hero, and I would rank him amongst Ron Weasley in terms of humanity, connectability, and outright braveness. He has not been cast yet. But I am already worried. Why? Um. Let us refresh our memory with the latest "blockbuster" to come out of England - Stormbreaker. Good book, eh? Shame about Alex Pettyfer, one of the most disgusting, Cristiano Ronaldo-ed pretty boys I have ever seen in my entire life. One of my less classy friends called him "Alex Petty-Phoar." No. I don't think so.

So yeah. I am worried. Eva Green would make a great Serafina Pekkala, however. She's got the perfect blend of mystery, allure and darkness. But Nicole Kidman as Marisa Coulter? Freaking no!

Friday, August 18, 2006

My Review of Pirates of the Caribbean II.

I sat through Pirates of the Caribbean II without any particular expectations, and it was probably better than way, because, had I looked forward to it, I think I would have walked out feeling very, very disappointed. Where the first film was fun, fresh, entertaining and showed flashes of brilliance, the second has been put together with far less consideration to the art of filmmaking, and with more of an interested eye for the bank statements.

The performances range from acceptable to atrocious. Depp gives his Captain Jack Sparrow the same humour and alcohol-addled craziness that he did with the first. This is both and bad; whilst he is fun to watch and occasionally near-funny, there are hardly any surprises. Pride & Prejudice’s Tom Hollander is the shining star of this film, and steals every single scene he’s in, a feat made more impressive if you consider that his character is one of the most poorly written of all time. Orlando Bloom is absolutely, horrifyingly, frighteningly awful, and one wonders how good an agent he must have bagged himself to continue getting himself film roles when he’s just so bad. And to round off this acting “ensemble,” is Keira Knightley, who seems to want the world to forget that she has given an Oscar-nominated performance. It doesn’t help that Elizabeth Swann is no Elizabeth Bennet, but Knightley is so utterly frustrating in her constant pouting that one can’t help wishing that her character will quickly disappear.

Plot holes are rife and ridiculous. For five whole minutes, I sat there, puzzling over just how did Elizabeth become such a dab hand at swordplay? But the biggest plot hole comes at the end, where you can practically hear Bruckheimer’s purse strings anticipating a stretch. Like the rest of the film, the score is below-par, with Hans Zimmer carelessly shoving together the leftovers from his scores to The Da Vinci Code and Gladiator. But the icing on the distasteful cake here is the sloppy, sloppy, screenplay, which made me groan at least 10 times, a record only matched by films such as Crash (2004) and Signs. From the lame jokes as old as the Black Pearl to the clunky, laughable dialogue, there’s a rusty jewel of a bad screenwriting feat achieved in always every minute of running time. That 4 people were involved in the writing makes the script even more shameful; they were clearly drunk the entire time.

I make it sound as if the film has no saving grace. Admittedly, this is not quite true. Pirates of the Caribbean II: Dead Man’s Chest does not set out to be a masterpiece, it aims to be entertainment, and there are the odd moments of surprise and amusement to be found. Some of the undersea scenes invoke the same ghoulishness as felt with the first, and, at times, you can leave you brain at home and attempt to enjoy it. But then I remember the simple thing that is logic, and this film is certainly lacking in it.

Soundtrack Reviews: P

Today, on the menu (or iPod) we have:
- Pirates of the Caribbean (Klaus Badelt)
- Pirates of the Caribbean II (Hans Zimmer)
- Pride & Prejudice (Dario Marianelli)
- Pulp Fiction (various)

I also have the Princess Mononoke symphony suite, (Joe Hisaishi), but quite a few of the tracks there were not actually played in the film, and it is not the official soundtrack, so I’ll leave that.

My grades for them, respectively, are A-, C, B+, A.

Pirates of the Caribbean (Klaus Badelt)
I’ve had the fun experience of playing selected pieces from this film, and, having tried fitting al the musical families together, I can safely say that Klaus Badelt’s score is one of the best composed for the orchestra. Every beat of the drum, every boy of the string and every horn blare suits the feel of the film. The action-led pieces are the best (Barbossa is Hungry, Walk the Plank), but the individual viola in The Medallion Calls is quite inspired too, setting the atmosphere to this Summer swashbuckler ideally. Overall, this is one of my favourite scores to listen to at Summer, because its vibrant, shamelessly fun and completely catchy, and when I first saw the film, a lot of the love for it was due to the score. Badelt has achieved the difficult feat of creating a great score to a quirky action film, though, admittedly, he did shamelessly rip off a lot from his teacher, Hans Zimmer’s score to Gladiator.
Best tracks: The Medallion Calls, He's a Pirate

Pirates of the Caribbean II (Hans Zimmer)
Hans Zimmer must have a) been sick of having his work plagiarised or b) felt like scoring 2 bloated Simmer blockbusters, because he was the one who stepped up to score this film. Like the England footballer Stewart Downing, he doesn’t do much wrong – the signature adrenaline-rising crescendos, bold use of brass and occasional musical jumps are all present, but, then again, he doesn’t do much right either – The Kraken could honestly have been a reworking of some of the leftovers on his score to Batman Begins and The Da Vinci Code. Zimmer adventures with usage of the organ in a few pieces to add to the ghoulish abyss of the sea, but like the substitution of Downing in a game, rarely has positive effect. Some of the tracks border on being affected, and, although there are always the welcome melodic minors to invoke some appropriate sea-sick malaise, essentially, Zimmer’s score to POTC II is too dull, showy, and repetitive for anyone to truly care. Just like the film, really.
Best tracks: Dinner is Served, Hello Beastie

Pride & Prejudice (Dario Marianelli)

Jane Austen’s tale of love and pride was adapted into an Oscar-nominate film last year by the British production company Working Title. So far, so Bridget Jones. But this eking a tale of Georgian love, Working Title wisely chose not to give the usual melee of Girl Power for the music, instead, picking Italy-born, London-raised Dario Marianelli to provide the score. It was a smart decision that paid off beautifully, as the score accompanies the natural elegance. The key essence here is romance, but Marianelli avoids tinting all his pieces with slushy cello duets, and adds tinges of excitement and tentative fear, to truly compose a piece of music that captures the feeling of being in love. That said, we all know that variety is the spice of life, and, whilst some of the score teeters a little too close to Beethoven rip-off, Meryton Townhill has a lively jig that differs from the rest of the score. You can almost imagine yourself as Lizzie Bennet just listening to the music.
Best tracks: Georgiana, Your Hands are Cold

Pulp Fiction (various)
Though the film is one of the most overrated of all time, the soundtrack deserves all its accolades and more. Tarantino always did have quite a neat record collection, and he proudly showcases it here, with ballads (If Love is a Red Dress, Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon), a good dose of the QT cheesy-cool electro-funk (Dick Dale & His Dell Tones, not to mention to uber-catchy Surf Rider). There are also eccentricities that spring up delightfully (Flowers on the Wall), and, in my opinion, the low point of the OST: dialogue excerpts. Blah. Who wants to relive moments of pseudo-cool banter from this film when you could be lovely music? Nonetheless, glorious redemption comes in the form of two glorious songs – Al Green’s Let’s Stay Together, a song I connect with and revel in awe of, and Dusty Springfield’s soulful, sexy, Son of a Preacher Man. The latter is actually contender for my favourite song of all time, and, though a lot of it is for nostalgic reasons, it still rules. Very, very, nice.
Best tracks: Son of a Preacher Man, Surf Rider

Oh Yes, one more thing: this is a type up of what I wrote in China, when Downing had not played so well against Greece. So now, replace "Stewart Downing" with "Someone Mediocre" in the review. Cheers.

Ooh. And three of these movies star Knightley. Odd.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

My review of Romeo + Juliet

Everyone is familiar with William Shakespeare’s boy-meets-girl love story, and it has already been interpreted into films, plays, TV adaptations and songs. But Baz Luhrmann gives this world-known love story a modern-day twist, setting it in Verona Beach, and piling on the religious imagery. The result is quite spectacular.

Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes play the star-crossed lovers, and, whilst the latter is sadly a little bland, never truly convincing us in her portrayal of Juliet’s loss of innocence or torment of feelings towards the foe, DiCaprio completely redeems her performance. He is a revelation. His Romeo is a wonderful mix of sad eloquence, a loving heart and a troubled soul, and all these elements come together beautifully in a performance hotter than a pepper sprout, with more layers than the proverbial onion. He is the very embodiment of sexy in his role. There is an extremely alluring way in which his character is filmed, which only enhances Romeo as a lover. This is epitomized in the opening shot of him, where the Leo is illuminated illustriously against the sunlight, and Radiohead’s languid, sexy tune “Talk Show Host” plays.

The film itself has “sexy” written all over it, and, with the Gen X teenagers as his target audience, I don’t think Luhrmann would have things any other way. But, unlike with that atrocity Moulin Rouge!, with Romeo + Juliet, the over-stylization is appropriate, making the movie more accessible to teens, for example, through gun warfare rather than swordplay, and the canny symbolisation of Queen Mab as a drug. But perhaps the most ingenious stylistic technique here is the slap-in-face Shakespearean references, which range from a ball called the Merchant of Venice, to 'Such stuff as dreams are made on' from The Tempest, making the film an absolute goldmine for trivia fans.

Style aside, there is more than enough substance. Romeo is presented exactly as the play does – at first, the mawkish, gawky, lovesick teenager, then, the fickle boy, and finally, the devoted and caring lover, and much of this loyalty to the play is due to the screenplay from Luhrmann and Craig Pearce, which maintains the original memorable dialogue and descriptions, but also dares to stray from the sidewalk in some of the plot turns, and the film completely benefits from it. The set designs are intricate and beautiful, and suit every frame of the film perfectly, and the icing on the cake is the music. Craig Armstrong’s score for the swimming pool scene is as stunning as it is original, and the use of non-original music, from Kym Mazelle to The Cardigans, give the film the added edge of cool, making Romeo + Juliet one of the boldest, sassiest and most unforgettable adaptations to date, and English Lit. GCSE has been made far more digestible for us kids across England. It’s what Shakespeare would have wanted. A-.