Film Score Monthly
Screen Archives Entertainment 250 Golden and Silver Age Classics on CD from 1996-2013! Exclusive distribution by SCREEN ARCHIVES ENTERTAINMENT.
Wild Bunch, The King Kong: The Deluxe Edition (2CD) Body Heat Friends of Eddie Coyle/Three Days of the Condor, The It's Alive Ben-Hur Frantic Nightwatch/Killer by Night Gremlins
FSM HOME MESSAGE BOARD FSM CDs FSM ONLINE RESOURCES FUN STUFF ABOUT US  SEARCH FSM   
LOG IN
Forgot Login?
Register
Search Archives
Film Score Friday
Latest Edition
Previous Edition
Archive Edition
The Aisle Seat
Latest Edition
Previous Edition
Archive Edition
View Mode
Regular | Headlines
All times are PT (Pacific Time), U.S.A.
Site Map
Visits since
February 5, 2001:
14916936
© 2014 Film Score Monthly.
All Rights Reserved.
Return to Articles

*Films with an asterisk were added after this column was originally posted


THE PRAISE:

ADORE - Christopher Gordon, Antony Partos

"Exquisite beauty, as exemplified by Christophe Beaucarne’s pristine widescreen images and Christopher Gordon’s lush orchestrations, are apparently all the explanation or justification one needs."

Justin Chang, Variety

AFTERMATH - Jan Duszynski

"Inspired by Jan Gross’ book 'Neighbors,' about the 1941 massacre of a Polish village’s Jewish population by their Catholic neighbors, Wladyslaw Pasikowski's 'Aftermath' retools the material into a fast-paced “backwater burg with a dark secret” quasi-horror film, complete with spooky lighting, ominous music, unexplained phenomena and hostile townfolk. Writer-director Pasikowski, co-scenarist of Andrej Wadja’s 'Katyn' and helmer of several successful thrillers, has a foot in both the arthouse and commercial camps. Pawel Edelman, lenser of Polanski’s 'The Pianist,' navigates the woodlands in atmospheric fashion; Jan Duszynski’s score cannily ratchets up the tension while Jaroslaw Kaminski’s kinetic cutting keeps action flowing briskly."

Ronnie Scheib, Variety

ALL IS LOST - Alex Ebert

"J.C. Chandor knows what a jewel he has in Redford, and he creates an appropriately simple, transparent setting. There’s minimal digital trickery here, and no flashbacks, cutaway scenes, or dream sequences to break up the action. The musical theme -- a simple, haunting melody by Alex Ebert -- is used sparingly and effectively, with natural sound providing most of the sonic backdrop."

Dana Stevens, Slate.com

*AMERICAN HUSTLE - Danny Elfman

"A key element is the energizing use of music, perfectly attuned to every turn the action takes. Danny Elfman’s cool connective score follows the lead of the Duke Ellington number 'Jeep’s Blues,' smoothly integrated into a killer collection of cocktail tunes, brassy jazz and primo ‘70s nuggets that includes tracks from Chicago, America, Jeff Lynne, Steely Dan, Donna Summer, Elton John, David Bowie and the Bee Gees. Oh, and extra points for using the Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes original of 'Don’t Leave Me This Way,' instead of the heard-to-death Thelma Houston redo.

David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter

THE ARMSTRONG LIE - David Kahne

"His filmmaking is strenuously alpha, too. Like all Gibney's documentaries, 'The Armstrong Lie' is fast-paced, aggressively stylized, and juiced by a driving score. That fits, but perhaps we should offer thanks that the tribute film never panned out: Not too deeply buried in the press notes is the casual but staggering disclosure that Armstrong would have taken a cut of the movie's returns in return for 'unprecedented' access."

Ella Taylor, NPR

ARTHUR NEWMAN - Nick Urata

"Special mention goes to composer Nick Urata for his haunting, strings-based score, the strongest element in a generally solid tech package."

Peter Debruge, Variety 

BASTARDS [LES SALAUDS] - TIndersticks

"None of these plot developments hit the audience head-on, which works entirely in Bastards’ favor, since its conclusion is so close to that of another dark thriller from a contemporary French master that revealing its title would give the game away. But Denis’ atmospherics, as usual, carry the day: Noir is a game of hard shadows and hard cases, but Denis ('Beau Travail,' 'Friday Night') and her team of regular collaborators -- cinematographer Agnès Godard, many of the actors, and Tindersticks, who contribute an essential mood-building score -- approach it with a seductive delicacy that’s both fitting for the genre and distinct from it. Just as 'Trouble Every Day' exists on the fringes of French extreme horror, 'Bastards' is a neo-noir that doesn’t behave entirely as expected."

Scott Tobias, The Dissolve

BEFORE MIDNIGHT - Graham Reynolds

"Graham Reynolds’ music ties scenes together with the greatest of ease, and Christos Voudouris’ lensing beautifully captures the fading sunlight and deepening shadows against the scenic Greek locations."

Justin Chang, Variety

BLACK NATIVITY - Raphael Saadiq, Laura Karpman

"Still, 'Black Nativity' is a musical too, and on that front there are gifts aplenty. Hudson's voice lifts the proceedings every time she sings. A soulful Mary J. Blige, as an earthbound angel, contributes in kind. Jacob Latimore, a rising young talent, makes his rendition of 'Motherless Child' haunting. Indeed, Raphael Saadiq and Laura Karpman's original score is one of the movie's best features.

Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times

BLACKFISH - Jeff Beal

"The roughness of the footage aside, 'Blackfish' is expertly shot and edited, with a Jeff Beal score that suggests both ominous urgency and natural wonder."

Justin Chang, Variety

THE BOOK THIEF - John Williams

"Brian Percival (an Emmy-Award winning director of 'Downton Abbey') utilizes a remarkable self-control over the material. There is a surprising amount of levity here, including an indoor snowball fight, that helps to lighten the mood. Despite the heavy subject matter, we are still experiencing the story through the eyes of a child. The film avoids strict melodrama, building to an emotionally resonant crescendo (with the help of a remarkable score by the legendary John Williams). The audience is spared a non-stop tearjerker, but 'Amour' is the last time I was in a screening where you could palpably feel that every person in the room was sobbing in unison."

Matt Shiverdecker, Paste Magazine

C.O.G. - Joe Berry, Steve Reich

"'C.O.G.' was beautifully shot in Oregon by Jas Shelton in a series of balanced compositions that contrast nicely with Samuel's unease, and the score by Steve Reich has an almost Tangerine Dream-ish melancholy to it. This is only Alvarez's second movie, but he already has confidence to spare, not least in the way he cuts a lot of Sedaris's more colorfully funny lines of dialogue and replaces them with slightly more realistic talk. He wisely does not hew closely to Sedaris's tone because that would probably lead to disaster."

Dan Callahan, Roger Ebert.com

CAPITAL - Armand Amar

“Indeed, although the narrative consists largely of impeccably dressed business types doing nothing more (or less) dramatic than talking to each other in well-appointed offices, Costa-Gavras develops such a propulsively suspenseful pace -- with no small assist from Armand Amar’s mood-enhancing Euro-tech score -- that his drama comes across as the cinematic equivalent of an engrossing page-turner you might purchase off the rack at an airport newsstand.”

Joe Leydon, Variety

CAPTAIN PHILLIPS - Henry Jackman

"Barry Ackroyd’s hand-held cinematography certainly lives up to the vertiginousness Greengrass’ films are known for in spots, but it’s a more controlled virtuoso dizziness akin to his work on the 'The Hurt Locker' and 'Green Zone' than the sometimes geography free-for-all of the ‘Bourne’ films (shot by different DPs). Henry Jackman ('X-Men: First Class,' 'Kick-Ass') replaces Greengrass’ go-to composer John Powell, and while the musician hasn’t really charted in the past, his tribal-like pulse-pounding work here is A-game material that ratchets up the already excruciatingly intense narrative."

Rodrigo Perez, The Playlist

CLOSED CIRCUIT - Joby Talbot

"John Crowley directs with a keen eye towards keeping the tension mounting, aided by wonderful music (Joby Talbot). I continue to believe that music is the number one most important aspect in making a thriller thrilling."

Tony Medley, Tolucan Times

THE CONJURING - Joseph Bishara

"Working with cinematographer John R. Leonetti and editor Kirk Morri, Wan carefully crafts each set piece so that each visual punch has maximum impact from a nerve-shredding musical soundtrack from composer Joseph Bihara. Sometimes, that includes making the audience think something is coming. When it doesn't, the audience relaxes -- only to be whacked by a fright when they least expect it."

Charlie McCollum, San Jose Mercury News

DARIO ARGENTO'S DRACULA 3D - Claudio Simonetti

"From a technical standpoint, there are some impressive contributions from two longtime collaborators, cinematographer Luciano Tovolli and composer Claudio Simonetti, and the retro production design is equally striking. However, Argento wastes their considerable efforts on a story that he never seems especially interested in telling in the first place."

Peter Sobcynzki, RogerEbert.com

DARK SKIES - Joseph Bishara

"Contrary to a kickoff montage of idyllic suburban life, this particular suburbia is not a picture-perfect Spielbergian haven from harsh realities, as the many foreclosure signs and Joseph Bishara's effectively ominous score suggest."

Dennis Harvey, Variety

DON JON - Nathan Johnson

"An assured directorial debut as we’ve seen in recent years, Gordon-Levitt’s comedy is vibrant and poignant and moves like a shark with nary a dull second. Its wit and sincerity are refreshing and all of its energetic visual flair is generally in service of sharp laughs. Nathan Johnson’s ('Looper' score is particularly hysterical in any of the movie’s 'magical' falling in love sequences, where harps and swooning strings break out to full effect."

Rodrigo Perez, The Playlist

THE EAST - Halli Cauthery (score), Harry Gregson-Williams (themes)

"From d.p. Roman Vasyanov’s widescreen cinematography to Andrew Weisblum’s and Bil Pankow’s editing to Halli Cauthery’s pulsing score (with themes credited to Harry Gregson-Williams), the production feels crisply tuned in all departments."

Justin Chang, Variety

ELYSIUM - Ryan Amon

"In addition to the terrific pace, the music by Ryan Amon is especially effective, and Sharlto Copley gives a terrific performance as a real bad guy."

Tony Medley, Tolucan Times

ESCAPE FROM TOMORORW - Abel Korzeniowski

"And 'Escape' is especially resonant if you are a middle-age parent who has ever taken kids on vacation. Blessed with a brilliantly treacly score, the movie nails that awful, we-stayed-here-one-day-too-long feeling. And it is strange and exciting to see Disney World and its imagery so separated from its usual tightly controlled context."

Joe Gross, Austin American-Statesman

EUROPA REPORT - Bear McCreary

"The spirit of Kubrick looms large here -- not just in the basic plot architecture, but also in the eerie stillness of the compositions, the balletic motion of model machinery, and the majestic swell of Bear McCreary’s score. (Non-diegetic music is admissible as a dramatic choice of the fictional 'presenters.' Also, because the tunes kill.)"

A.A. Dowd, The Onion

FILL THE VOID - Yitzhak Azulay

"Burshtein shoots in extreme shallow focus, framing her actors against a sometimes-blinding blanket of white fuzz. It’s a decision that, coupled with Yitzhak Azulay’s stirring, chant-driven score, lends each conversation a near religious aura. A native New Yorker, the filmmaker embraced Orthodox Judaism later in life; it’s possible to read her film as a troubling endorsement of tradition at the expense of autonomy. Were she still alive, Austen might not approve of some of the heroine’s decisions."

A.A. Dowd, The Onion

FRANCES HA - Music Supervisor: George Drakoulias

"Together they have created an American independent film (shot in luminous black and white by Sam Levy) that feels off the cuff but is in fact exactly made by a filmmaker in total control of his resources. With a soundtrack that makes liberal use of music from Georges Delerue, a frequent Francois Truffaut collaborator, it's got the energy and verve of the French New Wave but remains unmistakably itself."

Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times

FROZEN- Robert Lopez, Kristen Anderson-Lopez (songs), Christophe Beck (score)

"But make no mistake. Featuring terrific female characters, endlessly funny sidekicks and a genuinely jaw-dropping score, this loose adaptation of 'The Snow Queen' is the best film from Walt Disney Animation in close to a generation. Indeed, 'Frozen' could be plucked from the screen and dumped successfully into a Broadway theatre with only a few tiny alterations."

Donald Clarke, Irish Times

THE GATEKEEPERS - Ab Ovo, Jerome Chassagnard, Regis Baillet

"'The Gatekeepers' doesn’t play like agitprop. The storytelling is strong, the images stark. The camera roams among multiple monitors showing multiple satellite views while an ambient score works on your nerves. Moreh edits riot footage with a shiv."

David Edelstein, New York

A GLIMPSE INSIDE THE MIND OF CHARLES SWAN III - Liam Hayes

"Liam Hayes’ jazzy rock score fits the not-quite-real vintage milieu to a T."

Sheri Linden, Los Angeles Times

GRAVITY - Steven Price

"It’s visceral, knuckle-chewingly tense stuff, with Cuarón and his co-writer and son Jonás expertly packing obstacle packed on top of obstacle in the way of the astronauts’ return home, without losing touch of humanity or humor. The camera floats as weightlessly as its subjects, but the shots (often extended, but always in a way that favors storytelling above showboating) are always clear, and more often than not composed with meaning and artistry, courtesy of the great Emmanuel Lubezki. And with the director being careful to ensure the void of space doesn’t carry any noise, the excellent score by Steven Price ('Attack The Block,' 'The World’s End') helps to keep things both breathless and beautiful."

Oliver Lyttleson, The Playlist

THE GREAT BEAUTY - Lele Marchitelli

"The score by Lele Marchitelli also adds an elegiac and wistful tone that helps carry the emotional core of the movie, a core Sorrentino himself doesn't always manage to find in the opulence of his effort."

Kevin Jagernauth, The Playlist

GREAT EXPECTATIONS - Richard Hartley

"One of the strengths of this version is its impressive sense of place. Cinematographer John Mathieson lends the rural marshland setting of the opening a desolate beauty that serves the story well. And production designer Jim Clay’s detailed recreation of early Victorian London is suitably grimy, full of seedy locales and streets paved with mud, teeming with rowdy humanity. Also atmospherically rendered is Miss Havisham's crumbling mansion, surrounded by overgrown foliage. Richard Hartley’s music provides fluid underscoring for the story’s shifts through melodrama, romance, mystery and tragedy."

David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter

HAUTE CUISINE - Gabriel Yared

"After a few quick scenes in the research station's kitchen, where Hortense Laborie (Catherine Frot) is making incredibly elaborate food, we're thrown into flashback. Hortense is being whisked from her truffle farm in a government car to catch a train to Paris. Someone in government wants a chef, but precisely whom that would be has been left vague. Bang, we're in Paris, where Hortense learns that she is being offered the job of personal chef to President François Mitterand. The music, the snappy script and the editing have carried us along so quickly it feels almost like a thriller."

Hank Sartin, RogerEbert.com

*HER - Arcade Fire

"Not that anyone could accuse 'Her' of faking it. The film oozes with feeling, its empathy for lonely, damaged romantics expressed through the intimacy of its gorgeous compositions and the buzzing ache of its Arcade Fire soundtrack. (Forget 'Reflektor' -- this is the band’s true triumph of 2013.)"

A.A. Dowd, The Onion AV Club

*THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG - Howard Shore

"'The Hobbit' comes to theaters at a time when terrorism still exists, but this new trilogy thus far doesn't feel as urgent or topical. It's mostly an escapist fantasy that Jackson effortlessly enlivens with inventive set pieces and his faultless sense of spectacle. (And let's not forget Howard Shore's great scores, which help give the movies such towering grandeur.)"

Tim Grierson, Deadspin

*HOURS - Benjamin Wallfisch

"[Paul] Walker gracefully balances the drama on his shoulders. His character’s situation seems all the more dire as Heisserer shrewdly amps up the tension with Benjamin Wallfisch’s propulsive musical score, Jaron Presant’s nimble lensing (with an Arri Alexa Plus digital camera) and Sam Bauer’s sharp editing."

Joe Leydon, Variety

HOW I LIVE NOW - Jon Hopkins

“Actual mechanics of the war are left unseen -- there are rumblings of terrorists, contamination, and overrun borders -- and the conflict is largely (and wisely) kept to Daisy’s close reaction to Britain’s collapsing infrastructure. Opening moments aside, Ronan carries that gradual shift wonderfully, hinting at her character’s anorexia and constant anxiety with a vulnerability unlike anything else she’s done previously. The acting amongst the children is strong as well, with Holland and Bird naturally playing the most naïve members of the group—caught between reality and imagination as they encounter society’s decline. And it does decline -- twitchily overseen by electronic artist Jon Hopkins’ superb, propulsive score, Daisy and Piper journey from town to countryside, witnessing bloody and dire circumstances of their friends along the way.”

Charlie Schmidlin, The Playlist

I’M SO EXCITED - Alberto Iglesias

"The sex jokes and performances are as broad as a barn, but it’s a stylishly painted one: the design, right down to the crisp red-and-white trim on the stewards’ spiffy sky-blue uniforms, is delicious, and the lush orchestral score by longtime Almodóvar collaborator Alberto Iglesias slyly references both Hitchcock thrillers and classic disaster films."

Dana Stevens, Slate.com

THE INEVITABLE DEFEAT OF MISTER AND PETE - Alicia Keys, Mark Isham

"Equally as tangled is the film's relationship to pop culture; it frequently utilizes scenes from 'Trading Places' and 'Fargo' as Mister singles out monologues from each and acts alongside them. The Coen Brothers'comedy-drama plays a particularly large part; Mister memorizes Steve Buscemi's parking lot monologue for use in his audition, and he's given a DVD of the film by his crush Alice (Jordin Sparks). Yet for all of the affection given to it by Mister, the film never makes us truly believe that's the case. Its soundtrack is another matter: Alicia Keys provides a frequently stirring score with composer Mark Isham that lights up the picture, and emphatically finds the pocket of tragic optimism that Tillman Jr. attempts to locate elsewhere."

Charlie Schmidlin, The Playlist

INSIDIOUS, CHAPTER 2 - Joseph Bishara

"Much like 'The Conjuring,' the camera work becomes more urgent and threatening as the horror builds, as if one of demons were handling the cinematography. Joseph Bishara's piano-heavy score is appropriately menacing, and ties into the plot in a subtle but meaningful way."

Peter Hartlaub, San Francisco Chronicle

*THE INVISIBLE WOMAN - Ilan Eskheri

"After his uneven directorial debut with 'Coriolanus,' Fiennes is on top of every aspect of this film, which benefits from agile and eye-catching cinematography by Robert Hardy and production design by Maria Djurkovic and costumes by Michael O’Connor that richly evoke the era. Ilan Eshkeri’s score is another plus."

Todd McCarthy, Hollywood Reporter

IRON MAN 3 - Brian Tyler

"Cinematographer John Toll and production designer Bill Brzeski add class to the generic proceedings, Brian Tyler's ultra-energetic score doesn't grate the way soundtracks for such films often do and the special and visual effects are tops when they count."

Todd McCarthy, Variety

KICK-ASS 2 - Henry Jackman, Matthew Margeson

"Complete with a taut score by Matthew Margeson and Henry Jackman and gritty cinematography by Tim Maurice-Jones ('Lock, Stock...'), this is 'Kick-Ass 2' by name -- and Kick-Ass too by nature."

Graham Young, Birmingham Mail

KILL YOUR DARLINGS - Nico Muhly

"All these issues aside, there's lots of individual elements of 'Kill Your Darlings' that are easy to praise and admire. Next to the hermetically-sealed 'On the Road,' 'Darlings' at least has a big pulse. Shot by talented cinematographer Reed Morano ('Shut Up And Play The Hits,' 'For Ellen'), 'Kill Your Darlings' often looks quite beautiful. The production design is great for its shoestring budget and Nico Muhly’s score ('The Reader,' 'Margaret') is often the most beautiful and affecting element of the piece."

Rodrigo Perez, The Playlist

KISS OF THE DAMNED - Steven Hufsteter

"There’s also a fun soundtrack reminiscent of the cult classic 'Vampyros Lesbos,' and some great Euro-trashy atmosphere."

Farah Smith Nehme, New York Post

*LABOR DAY - Rolfe Kent

"The creative team does its part to set the tone. Cinematography is handled by Eric Steelberg, who has worked with the director from the beginning, with frequent collaborators Steve Saklad on production design and Danny Glicker on costumes. And in a year of excellent movie scores, British composer Rolfe Kent contributes another one."

Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times

 

*THE LAST DAYS ON MARS - Max Richter

"There are moments at the start of Ruairi Robinson’s feature-length directorial debut that seem promising, if by the numbers. There is spectacular footage of dust storms and an eerie strings-heavy soundtrack that creates an effective atmosphere of doom. 'The Last Days on Mars' was never going to be 'Gravity,' but it looked like it could aspire to be something in the vein of this year’s similarly themed and highly enjoyable found footage flick 'Europa Report.'”

Stephanie Merry, Washington Post

THE LAST STAND - Mowg

"Ji Yong Kim’s sharp HD lensing, Mowg’s neo-Western flavored score and Franco Carbone’s well-mounted production design round out a classy tech package."

Justin Chang, Variety

LEE DANIELS' THE BUTLER - Rodrigo Leão

"'The Butler' is often so good and so powerful (Rodrigo Leão's aching score helps) that the pat moments feel even more disappointing. It's another eyewitness-to-history movie that wraps America's messy past in a too-tidy package."

Rafer Guzman, Newsday

LET THE FIRE BURN - Christopher Mangum


"The ingeniously interwoven archival material compensates for whatever context may be lacking in Osder’s found-footage approach. Christopher Mangum’s wonderfully subtle score adds a critical dimension to the flow of unmediated imagery."

Ronnie Scheib, Variety

THE LONE RANGER - Hans Zimmer

"When 'The William Tell Overture,' the Ranger’s theme song since his radio days in the 1930s, finally blares on the soundtrack after being sneakily withheld for much of the picture, the effect is so rousing that you levitate in your seat a little bit. Made at a reported cost of a whopping $250 million, 'The Lone Ranger' certainly looks wonderful, with beautiful John Ford-style vistas, a score inspired by Ennio Morricone and action set pieces that minimize the use of CGI whenever possible."

Rene Rodriguez, Miami Herald

LORE - Max Richter

"Working from ‘The Dark Room,’ a prize-winning novel by Rachel Seiffert, and aided by an enveloping Max Richter score, Shortland once again demonstrates an ability to pull us inside potent situations no matter how grim and unrelenting they may be."

Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times

MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING - Joss Whedon

"It was shot on digital video processed into black-and-white (by cinematographer Jay Hunter), and Whedon himself co-edited the film and composed the jaunty, sultry musical score, as well as writing and directing. (The dialogue and vocabulary are all Shakespeare’s, but Whedon readjusts here and there and doesn’t use every line of the original.)"

Andrew O’Hehir, Salon.com

MUD - David Wingo

"With David Wingo’s subtle score easing auds into the rhythm of the locale, the film patiently witnesses Ellis’ growing disillusionment with adults, even as he makes his clumsy first setps toward becoming one: punching out a senior to defend a high-school girl’s honor, secretly defying his parents to nick food and supplies for Mud, and so forth."

Peter Debruge, Variety

NEBRASKA - Mark Orton

"As a road movie in a classic tradition, 'Nebraska,' with an exquisite score by Mark Orton, has a stated destination and an unstated goal. Getting to that sweepstakes office is a trip and a half, punctuated by encounters with such pungent characters as Stacy Keach's Ed Pegram, a smiling brute who's alive to the possibilities of Woody's putative fortune, and Angela McEwan's Peg Nagy, an other-worldly pixie who runs Hawthorne's little newspaper and dispatches a boy on a bicycle to photograph Woody for the article she intends to write about him. But getting to the goal of reconciliation is what carries father and son along, and leads to a vehicular climax that's entirely in keeping with what has gone before -- ineffably tender, entirely unexpected and quietly thrilling."

Joe Morgenstern, Wall Street Journal

NOW YOU SEE ME - Brian Tyler

"Composer Brian Tyler’s big, brassy, Lalo Schifrin-esque score stands apart from an otherwise serviceable tech package."

Scott Foundas, Variety

ONLY GOD FORGIVES - Cliff Martinez

"Cinematographer Larry Smith, who worked with Stanley Kubrick on lighting 'Barry Lyndon,' 'The Shining' and 'Eyes Wide Shut' (check out the sex-club scenes), gives the film a toxic allure. And the synth score, by 'Drive''s Cliff Martinez, is some kind of new classic."

Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

OUT OF THE FURNACE - Dickon Hinchliffe

"The powerful surge of inevitability built up in the first half transfers into a decidedly different film in the second; it becomes less of a character piece, and more of an obtuse thematic effort that too often feels like it's masking its rougher edges in ambiguity (and an admittedly excellent Dickon Hinchliffe score)."

Charlie Schmidlin, The Playlist

PACIFIC RIM - Ramin Djawadi

"The fight scenes evoke fond memories of 'Godzilla' and a thousand movies where guys in rubber suits battled through cardboard miniatures of downtown Tokyo. The difference is that Del Toro has replaced the cheesy rubber suits and collapsible skyscrapers with sharp state-of-the-art computer animation, with an eye-popping level of detail and sophistication. Coupled with powerful sound design and a thunderous score by Ramin Djawadi ('Game of Thrones'), the overall effect is astonishing. This is a rare instance where seeing it in IMAX 3-D is worth the extra money."

Sean P. Means, Salt Lake Tribune

PARKLAND - James Newton Howard

"Editors Leo Trombetta and Mark Czyzewski help to balance the multiple story strands and keep the 93-minute drama hurtling forward. The haunting, melancholy music by James Newton Howard underscores the terrible sense of loss without ever seeming obtrusive. The film wisely doesn’t wade into the ongoing controversy over whether Oswald acted alone. Instead it honors a dozen ordinary people who inadvertently found themselves swept up into history."

Stephen Farber, Hollywood Reporter

PASSION - Pino Donaggio

"'Passion' is a serpentine, gorgeously orchestrated gathering of all of De Palma's pet themes and conceits, a symphony of giddy terror where people perpetually hide behind masks, both literal and figurative, hallucinations are nested in dreams, and images within images become tools of aggression, all set to a remarkable Pino Donaggio score that's one part Max Steiner, two parts Bernard Herrmann, and at least three parts Phil Collins."

Ed Gonzalez, Slant Magazine

PHANTOM - Jeff Rona

"Additionally, Jeff Rona’s score has a strong, old-fashioned sense of thematic drive that ushers the proceedings along as propulsively as possible."

Justin Chang, Variety

POPULAIRE - Rob, Emmanuel d'Orlando

"Blessed with stunning sets, colourful costumes and a fine piano score, 'Populaire' is a bright and breezy film that older audiences in particularly will appreciate."

Graham Young, Birmingham Mail

PRINCE AVALANCHE - Explosions in the Sky, David Wingo

"The wonderful score by David Wingo and Explosions in the Sky serves as the film’s single most transportive element."

William Goss, Film.com

PRISONERS - Johann Johansson

"Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson’s breathtaking score does a lot with precious little; an ominous, seemingly ever-present rumble keeps us in the grips of torment, as does Villeneuve for the length of this 2½-hour nerve-grinder."

T’cha Dunlevy, Montreal Gazette

THE RELUCTANT FUNDAMENTALIST - Michael Andrews

"As usual with [director Mira] Nair’s work, the music is vibrant, flowing and ever-present, blending Michael Andrews' funk-based score with traditional Pakistani Qawwali tunes and a number of Urdu poems recited in song."

Justin Chang, Variety

ROMEO AND JULIET - Abel Korzeniowski

"Juliet should be a girl, but the story’s trajectory of self-sacrifice requires her to become a woman. Steinfeld gets the girl part exactly right, but she botches the transformation. Or rather, the movie botches it, because there’s a stylistic disconnect here, too. The lush, galloping score (by Abel Korzeniowski), while beautiful, doesn’t do her any favors."

Bilge Ebiri, Vulture

RUSH - Hans Zimmer

"The races are simply breathless to watch (helped along by Hans Zimmer's pulsating score), even if you know the twists and turns of the story, while Howard always make sure the viewer knows exactly how everything is playing out cleanly and clearly."

Kevin Jagernauth, The Playlist

SALINGER - Lorne Balfe

"All of this is compelling. But Salerno, as if he's unsure of what he's got, goes to great lengths to heighten the drama with crisp editing, a strong score, frequent sound effects and snappy visuals."

Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times

SHADOW DANCER - Dickon Hinchliffe

"The gray-green color palette (offset only by the bright red trench coat Collette wears throughout the movie, the one touch of the femme fatale accorded to this otherwise unglamorous spy) and the spare, defiantly unbombastic score by Dickon Hinchliffe (who also scored 'Red Riding' and 'Project Nim') suit the project’s mood."

Dana Stevens, Slate.com

SIDE EFFECTS - Thomas Newman

"The music tells us what kind of movie 'Side Effects' is going to be. It coils beneath what seems like a realistic plot and whispers that something haunted and possessed is going on. Imagine music for a sorcery-related plot and then dial it down to ominous forebodings. Without Thomas Newman's score, 'Side Effects''' would be a lesser film, even another film.… There are other characters: a cop, a mother, yada yada. Always the music -- never loud, always there… And all this time the music. You know those scores that make you think of sad merry-go-rounds? In 'Side Effects,' the viewer is being drawn into a vortex. Is there a level we don't suspect? Some people, ambushed by the last 10 minutes, will be thinking, 'What a load of crap.' Soderbergh has retrofitted his film from the end backward."

Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

A SINGLE SHOT - Atli Orvarsson

"Working from Matthew F. Jones' adaptation of his own novel, director David M. Rosenthal creates a visceral experience, favoring mood over plot clarity. He paints a vivid, unsentimental picture of rural poverty, using verdant Vancouver locations and Atli Orvarsson's strong score to convey desolation and dread."

Sheri Linden, Los Angeles Times

SPRING BREAKERS - Cliff Martinez, Skrillex

"The movie actually works best when it's 'saying' least, when [writer-director Harmony] Korine's neon-bright, rotting-from-the-inside imagery synchs perfectly with the meticulous and brilliant electronic soundtrack by Cliff Martinez and Skrillex."

Glenn Kenny, MSN

STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS - Michael Giacchino

"Michael Giacchino’s playful, un-pompous score and Abrams’ never-still camera keep the action scenes moving along at a reasonable clip."

Dana Stevens, Slate.com

THE SWEENEY - Lorne Balfe

"Still, the movie has a certain integrity and creates an interesting atmosphere, largely thanks to the soundtrack, of all things, which gives most moments a dreamy undertone."

Mick La Salle, San Francicso Chronicle

*TIM’S VERMEER - Conrad Pope

"One can’t help but laugh as Jillette supplies a running commentary on his friend’s lunatic scheme, for which (if Penn is to be believed) he even learned to read Dutch. Getting a perfectly calculated musical assist from master orchestrator Conrad Pope, whose score conveys the sheer intensity of Jenison’s focus, Teller observes the dedicated inventor grinding his own lenses, mixing period-appropriate oil paints and sitting down for months on end to create what, for all intents and purposes, amounts to a hand-painted color photograph of the scene."

Scott Foundas, Variety

 

TO THE WONDER - Hanan Townshend

"But 'To the Wonder' is no more concerned with the psychology of heterosexual relationships than it is with standard dramatized action. As usual, Mr. Malick minimizes dialogue, preferring to communicate ideas and emotions through voice-over, montage and music. (Hanan Townshend’s tense, fluid score is supplemented by selections from the 19th- and 20th-century classical repertory.)"

A.O. Scott, New York Times

TRANCE - Rick Smith

"In particular, music continues to be a huge part of [director Danny] Boyle’s landscape: The art-heist sequence in particular is soundtracked with pounding music suitable for getting hearts into throats. Narratively, 'Trance' is questionable, but Boyle and [writer John] Hodges [sic] whisk past all the unlikely developments with enough verve and style to keep audiences from thinking too hard until after they’ve left the theater. But even a frame this elaborate and rococo can’t entirely disguise the flaws in the artwork itself."

Tasha Robinson, The Onion

TURBO - Henry Jackman

"The animation has a luminous look (cinematographer Wally 'Dark Knight' Pfister consulted) and Henry Jackman’s score is addictively bouncy."

Colin Covert, Minneapolis Star Tribune

12 YEARS A SLAVE - Hans Zimmer

"The cinematography by Sean Bobbitt (who worked with McQueen on his previous features) is stunning; and the score by Hans Zimmer represents his best work in years, an eerie, discomfiting soundscape that buzzes like angry locusts and drums like approaching thunder."

Christopher Orr, The Atlantic

UPSTREAM COLOR - Shane Carruth

"Seemingly ... apparently ... experiments with pigs? Carruth offers few if any easy answers as to what exactly is going on (prompting the zinger, does even he know?), but forget all that. You’ll be better off letting Carruth’s arresting visuals and ambient score flow over you while pondering his extensive quotations from Thoreau’s 'Walden.'"

Jeff Shannon, Seattle Times

WHAT MAISIE KNEW - Nick Urata

"'What Maisie Knew' lays waste to the comforting dogma that children are naturally resilient, and that our casual, unthinking cruelty to them can be answered by guilty and belated displays of affection. It accomplishes this not by means of melodrama, but by a mixture of understatement and thriller-worthy suspense. Every Hollywood hack knows that nothing grabs an audience’s emotions like a child in peril, and the directors make expert use of this wisdom, deploying Nick Urata’s score and sly tricks of framing and focus to create a mood of disorientation and dread. What Maisie learns is that nobody will protect her."

A.O. Scott, New York Times

THE WOLVERINE - Marco Beltrami

"Of course, a script is just a blueprint, and it’s still up to Mangold and his team to pull it off. This is where 'The Wolverine' falls shy of greatness, despite terrific production values, elegant storytelling and a sensational cross-cultural score from Marco Beltrami."

Peter Debruge, Variety


THE PANS:

ABOUT TIME - Nick Laird-Clowes

"A hugely successful one-man brand whose credits as screenwriter and director have raked in well over a billion dollars to date, Richard Curtis set the gold standard for transatlantic rom-coms over much of the last 20 years. The 56-year-old comedy veteran describes his third writer-director project as his most personal to date, but it still ticks plenty of familiar boxes. Emotionally repressed upper-class Brits? Check. Well-heeled West London milieu? Check? Anglo-American boy-girl romance? Gently whimsical tone? Syrupy musical score? Wedding? Funeral? Check, check, check."

Stephen Dalton, Hollywood Reporter

AFTER EARTH - James Newton Howard

"There are any number of other quibbles one might make regarding 'After Earth,' from its second-rate CGI to its generic score to its empty references to 'Moby Dick.'"

Christopher Orr, The Atlantic

AFTERMATH - Jan Duszynski

"'Aftermath' becomes a more conventional thriller (complete with a booming, overwrought score) as the brothers uncover more secrets."

Sam Weisberg, Village Voice

AT ANY PRICE - Dickon Hinchliffe

"When 'At Any Price' draws to a crescendo, Dickon Hinchliffe's mournful score heavy-handedly signals the disturbing truths behind its characters' Midwest smiles and bright pastures. But the film hasn't quite earned the grim resonance it seeks. The harvest, begun with obviously good intentions, has been spoiled."

Jake Coyle, Associated Press

BATTLE OF THE YEAR - Christopher Lennertz

"The miracle of the new 3-D dance film ‘Battle of the Year’ is how it can be so relentlessly boring while there is so much frenetic activity on screen. Despite the break-dance spins and disorienting strobe lights in the performance scenes, the movie feels sluggish throughout. It cannot be revived by the bombastic music -- more appropriate for a space or military epic -- that underscores every dramatic scene."

Miriam Bale - New York Times

THE BEST MAN HOLIDAY - Stanley Clarke

"About midway through 'The Best Man Holiday,' though, it runs into trouble: instead of riffing on 'The Big Chill' like the first film, it instead takes its inspiration from 'Steel Magnolias.' The perfectly calibrated ratio between comedy and drama gets thrown out of order, with every character crying (dramatically) at least twice, sharing long-winded dialogue about the nature of god and faith, and even more hurt feelings than the first film (amazingly). It's all a bit overblown, especially when every painful revelation is accompanied by Stanley Clarke's insanely low rent score that fluctuates between jazzy '70s porn riffs and the active chirpiness of an overactive videogame."

Drew Taylor, The Playlist

THE BIBLE [TV] - Hans Zimmer, Lorne Balfe, Lisa Gerrard

"'The Bible' according to Burnett and Downey is a handsome and generally expensive-looking production, but it is also flat and often tedious, evne when it tends to the hysterical, and as hard as the Hans Zimmer soundtrack strains to keep you on the edge of your sofa."

Robert Lloyd, Los Angeles Times

THE BIG WEDDING - Nathan Barr

"Not that it seems interested in doing so. Rather, 'The Big Wedding' just tries to remain pleasant -- to a fault. The drama of [Diane] Keaton betraying her best friend by bedding her ex-husband isn’t played up at all -- the plot only dwells on it for a few minutes, with the jaunty score jauntily jauntying along as if nothing happened."

Bilge Ebiri, New York

BROKEN CITY - Atticus Ross, Claudia Sarne, Leopold Ross

"It’s well shot, and Atticus Ross’s score channels ’80s-movie synth soundtracks in ways that I think are supposed to be ironic. You could do worse on a slow Saturday night when there’s nothing else on cable."

Ty Burr, Boston Globe

CAPITAL - Armand Amar

"'Capital' is a parable about France selling out to keep up with America's 'cowboy capitalism,' but the film's portrayal of soulless suits is so obvious and silly -- typical dialogue: 'CEOs write checks, fire people, and eat well; watch your waistline'  -- that it's hard to muster more than a yawn and a giggle (the latter when a malevolent femme fatale licks globs of caviar from her knee). Little feels fresh, from the generically pulsing score to the chilly grays of Eric Gautier's cinematography to the long-suffering wife character."

Jon Frosch, IndieWIRE

CARRIE - Marco Beltrami

“And the whole picture is threaded with tonal inconsistency, and a vibe that keeps the proceedings on uneven footing. Peirce’s attempt to modulate the material leaves Moore hanging out to dry, with her wild haired portrayal often incongruous with the overall feel of the movie, and particularly Moretz’s more inward, reserved turn; the pair seem like they are acting opposite each other in two different movies. And even Marco Beltrami’s score seems non-committal, lacking the sort of knowing lyricism of Pino Donaggio’s work for De Palma, one that easily weaved its way through the knotty number of genres that influenced the director. But if none of this convinces you that ‘Carrie’ wobbles under it’s own semi-serious conceit, then perhaps the brief, random montage of dudes getting their tuxedos set to Vampire Weekend’s ‘Diane Young’ will change your mind.”

Kevin Jagernauth, IndieWIRE

THE CONJURING - Joseph Bishara

"They perform a full-on exorcism on the house and bring along a few wacky side characters for the ride, but as 'The Conjuring' progresses, the scares don’t register beyond standard issue horror gotchas. They’re as telegraphed as the musical cues alerting you something spooky is about to happen."

Adam Graham, The Detroit News

DARIO ARGENTO'S DRACULA 3D - Claudio Simonetti

"As if to compensate for Kretschmann’s underplaying, Rutger Hauer shows up in the film’s second half as Van Helsing, and appears to have had fun hamming it up. (Kretschmann will soon be seen on NBC playing Van Helsing in a new 'Dracula' series. Such is the circle of life.) Also on hand: Argento’s daughter Asia Argento, who goes so far over the top that 'Argento’s Dracula 3-D' almost feels like a send-up. Maybe, given its awful effects and cliché-and-theremin-ridden score, that’s the best way to look at it. It isn’t just sub-par for Argento, it’s sub-par for virtually any director. It’s a stain on Dracula’s good name, and a waste of time for even those looking for the cheapest of vampiric thrills."

Keith Phipps, The Dissolve

DELIVERY MAN  - Jon Brion

"The above descriptions do no justice to how strange a movie 'Delivery Man' is. An example: After Dave brings one daughter (Britt Robertson), a junkie, to the hospital following an overdose, he has to decide between signing her out (which is what she wants) and signing her up for rehab (which is what a kindly doctor wants). It’s a tense, serious little scene, as Dave walks back and forth between the doctor and the daughter, torn about the first actual parental decision of his life -- except that director Ken Scott overlays some jaunty dunk-dunk-dunkdunkdunk music over the scene, which throws us. Wait, you find yourself asking, is this supposed to be funny?"

Bilge Ebiri, Vulture 

ELYSIUM - Ryan Amon

"Blomkamp's best weapon is satire -- as seen in moments where Damon tries to get sarcastic with robots, and tends to get either beaten or offered free medication. Unfortunately, the director goes with heavy handedness more often; apparently unwilling to trust that we'll sufficiently sympathize with Max and Frey, he beats us over the head with repeated moments from their childhood, and I do mean 'repeated,' like the same scenes again and again. He also falls back on that damned annoying trick of showing things in slow-motion while Lisa Gerrard-ish vocals go 'Ohhh-hiiii-yaaa, ahhhhh-ai-yaaaa!' in that manner that was already tedious back when 'Gladiator' did it."

Luke Y. Thompson, Topless Robot

EMPEROR - Alex Heffes

"And yet ‘Emperor’’s bloodless presentation fails on a fundamental dramatic level, playing like the fancy version of a junior-high educational filmstrip, down to the false suspense of Alex Heffes’ corny ticking-clock score."

Peter Debruge, Variety

ENDER’S GAME - Steve Jablonsky

"The scant immediate action comes from training sequences in a zero-gravity hub, and Hood utilizes Steve Jablonsky's bloated score to add ample false urgency to the exercises."

Chris Cabin, Slant Magazine

ESCAPE PLAN - Alex Heffes

"That's about it. The rest is something you've seen lots of, if you were an action fan in the 1980's and '90s with a functioning VCR or cable box. The fight scenes are standard wrestling matches punctuated by impalements or broken necks. The gun battles are without style or suspense. Inconsistencies in plot, character and physics are sewn up with quick cuts and the same techno-thriller musical score that has accompanied every action film for the past 15 years."

Steven Boone, RogerEbert.com

42 - Mark Isham

"After a clumsy and didactic beginning -- in which every scene ends with Mark Isham’s score screaming 'This Is Important!' in Dolby -- the movie settles into a solid, square rhythm. By then we have met Robinson, played with sly charm and a hint of stubborn prickliness by Chadwick Boseman."

A.O. Scott, New York Times

FRANCES HA - Music Supervisor: George Drakoulias

"Who nowadays makes plush-looking feature films in black-and-white? Well, Noah Baumbach does, and if you consider that his 'Frances Ha' lavishes its gorgeous monochromes on contemporary New York and the luminous countenance of Greta Gerwig (his star, current g.f. and co-writer), you might suspect that Baumbach’s latest owes more than a tiny debt to Woody Allen’s 'Manhattan.' If you also factor in that the film is full of nods to the French New Wave, including an obnoxious overuse of classic scores by Georges Delerue, you might deduce that Baumbach’s reverential hyper-cinephilia has gotten the better of him again. And you would be right. But only to a point."

Godfrey Cheshire, Chicago Sun-Times

FROZEN- Robert Lopez, Kristen Anderson-Lopez (songs), Christophe Beck (score)

"Packed with mostly forgettable music, 'Frozen' is a superbly written ditty based on the Hans Christian Andersen fable 'The Snow Queen.'"

Gary Wolcott, Tri-City Herald

GANGSTER SQUAD - Steve Jablonsky

"It’s here that a fascinating true-crime foundation gives way to fantasy; there are moments in 'Gangster Squad' where [director Ruben] Fleischer is so far out on a limb, it makes 'Dick Tracy' look like a documentary.  But it’s all in the spirit of classic B-movie fun, and however over-the-top the action gets (a shootout in the lobby of the Park Plaza Hotel is a veritable orgy of bullet casings, blazing muzzles and flying shrapnel), every creative decision seems to be in service of telling the most entertaining possible story, backed by first-rate wardrobe and art contributions, and underscored by Steve Jablonsky’s might-makes-right music."

Peter Debruge, Variety

GETAWAY - Justin Burnett

"The scenes of dialogue are edited in the same distracting way. Rather than hold a wide shot to capture both Brent and the girl sitting side-by-side, the camera too often flips back and forth, inciting a tiresome visual whiplash. Meanwhile, the music sounds like it was snatched from an action parody. If only the movie didn’t take itself so seriously, maybe that’s what it could be."

Stephanie Merry, Washington Post

A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD - Marco Beltrami

"It’s hard to hear the words over the noise of weapons, vehicles and Marco Beltrami’s bludgeoning score, but I’m pretty sure that McClane refers to a beautiful Russian woman named Irina (Yulia Snigir) as 'Solzhenitsyn,' though he might be referring to her father, Komarov (Sebastian Koch), who looks a bit more literary."

A.O. Scott, New York Times

GRAVITY - Steven Price

"Which isn't to say that Cuarón makes things easy on his audience. 'Life in space is impossible,' announces an opening title card, as Steven Price's overbearing score reaches a deafening roar that ends with abrupt silence. The discombobulated feel never lets up; the extraordinary sound design keeps pace with the restless camera."

Eric Kohn, IndieWIRE

GREAT EXPECTATIONS - Richard Hartley

"As the pages turn faster, focusing on the hows and whys of a major crime central to the plot, this concision and velocity make the film feel like a modern thriller. Booo. In that contemporary (which is to say shockingly primitive) spirit, Richard Hartley's musical score tells us just when to worry or cry. The presence of always-fun character actors like Robbie Coltrane and Ewen Bremmer, as the cynical/compassionate lawyer-bill collector duo Jaggers and Wemmick, made me wish for a lavish sendup by the 'Hot Fuzz'/'The World's End' guys."

Steven Boone, RogerEbert.com

HAUTE CUISINE - Gabriel Yared

"Directed by Christian Vincent, the film has little flair other than the gorgeous shots of the food by Laurent Dailland. The score from Oscar winner Gabriel Yared feels incredibly safe and boring, even for someone who wrote the music for 'City of Angels'"

Kimber Myers, The Playlist

JOBS - John Debney

"Neither Stern (2008’s 'Swing Vote') nor first-time screenwriter Matt Whitely tackle the globally transformative financial and social implications of Jobs’s accomplishments, nor do they delve into the technical specifics that might convey the magic of bytes and binary codes.It’s just as well. The two can barely manage simple character drama without cliche pronouncements ('Steve, you are your own worst enemy') and overwrought musical cues.

Greg Evans, Bloomberg News

KICK-ASS 2 - Henry Jackman, Matthew Margeson

The film luxuriates in its edginess, and yet Henry Jackman and Matthew Morgeson's soaring, pedestrian score often takes the sting out of otherwise brutal sequences.

Chris Cabin, Slant Magazine

*LABOR DAY - Rolfe Kent

"Based on a well-regarded 2009 novel by Joyce Maynard, 'Labor Day' signals its awfulness right from the opening credits, a slow breeze through suburbia set to an oppressively doleful Rolfe Kent score."

Ben Kenigsberg, The Onion AV Club

LAST LOVE  [formerly MR. MORGAN'S LAST LOVE] - Hans Zimmer

"This is a glacially paced movie, filled with sickly picture postcard imagery that seems designed to put you to sleep. The 'sprightly' score is so basically retiring and uninvolved that it even seems to whisper, 'Go to sleep…just go to sleep.'"

Dan Callahan, RogerEbert.com

LEE DANIELS' THE BUTLER - Rodrigo Leão

"Authentic emotion competes with manufactured sentiment for the heart of 'Lee Daniels' The Butler.' The reality-based film is both deeply affecting and blatant Oscar bait. It's inspiring and filled with fine performances, but the insistently swelling musical score and melodramatic moments seem calculated and undercut a powerful story."

Claudia Puig, USA Today

THE LONE RANGER - Hans Zimmer

"Adding insult to injury, racism isn't even 'The Lone Ranger''s only problem. There's also its bloated length; its score, which dares to introduce an Ennio Morricone homage into a film Sergio Leone wouldn't line his gatto's litter box with; its waste of some great character actors (Barry Pepper, William Fichtner); its assumption that having random characters ask the Lone Ranger 'What's with the mask?' over and over is the funniest joke ever; and its failure to follow through on its few inventive elements -- that herd of Monty Python-inspired rabbits, for example."

Cheryl Eddy, San Francisco Bay Guardian

*LONE SURVIVOR - Explosions in the Sky, Steve Jablonsky

"Not that the surface level characters are necessarily an issue. Berg needs only relatable eyes through which to immerse us into the later battle. Worryingly, he does this quickly, and with a maximum of broad clichés and shortcuts: Foster gazes at a picture of his wife as he IMs her on his computer, Lt. Commander Kristensen (Eric Bana) makes fun of the new recruit (Alexander Ludwig), while Hirsch jokingly describes to Wahlberg and Kitsch his significant other’s ideas for interior decorating. However accurate the background detail, the approach comes off as Mad Libs motivation, and alongside the constantly booming score by Explosions In The Sky and Steve Jablonsky, subtlety sneaks out the door early on."

Charlie Schmidlin, The Playlist

 

LOVE IS ALL YOU NEED - Johan Soderqvist

"So, it has to be admitted, is a bit more subplot than the script can hold. And [writer-director Susanne] Bier definitely provides further ammunition to her critics by depending on an intrusive score (if you're not going to use Dean Martin's 'That's Amore' ironically at this point, please -- don't use it at all)."

Stephen Whitty, Newark Star-Ledger

MAN OF STEEL - Hans Zimmer

"Dispensing with such pesky bits as smooth transitions and logical chronology, Snyder pings and pongs viewers through 'Man of Steel,' his blurry swish pans, jittery zooms and blobby close-ups an uneasy fit with 3-D that, as in most cases, is completely unnecessary. With such a disorienting visual language, accompanied by Hans Zimmer’s turgid, over-produced score, 'Man of Steel' is an exceptionally unpleasant viewing experience, especially coming on the heels of such snappy superhero movies as 'The Avengers.'"

Ann Hornaday, Washington Post

MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM - Alex Heffes

"Most curiously, 'Long Walk to Freedom' is terrified of the very thing that defined Mandela -- politics -- though the film does stick its neck out in detailing the separation of Nelson (Idris Elba) and Winnie (Naomie Harris) in the early 1990s; their disintegrating relationship turns the political into the personal in striking, concise fashion. But bold performance or not, you can see history weighing heavily on Elba’s shoulders (in later scenes as an older man, you can see the makeup, too). Chadwick, meanwhile, tears through the decades at lightning speed and leans on sweeping cameras, overinsistent music and a ragbag of visual styles."

Dave Calhoun, Time Out New York

MONSTERS UNIVERSITY - Randy Newman

"Nothing lasts anywhere near that long in the sequel, and there's no counterpart for the lovable child; the monsters mostly interact with robot kids in jokey simulations. Randy Newman's score has no emotional resonance; that's a first. And though many of the characters have multiple heads and eyes, the movie is single-minded to the point of brainlessness in its stress on scares and scaring."

Joe Morgenstern, Wall Street Journal

NEBRASKA - Mark Orton

"Neither tone meshes well with the other (it's like watching two different films, one composed of sugar the other of arsenic, blended coarsely together). Plus, there's a special place in hell reserved for Mark Orton's maudlin score, which obsequiously indicates every emotion you're supposed to feel, even as it sticks in your head with its inane, elevator-muzak repetitiveness. Payne can only go up from this misfire. One hopes."

Keith Uhlich, Time Out New York

NOW YOU SEE ME - Brian Tyler

"But Leterrier -- who previously did such over-the-top actioners as 'Clash of the Titans,' 'The Incredible Hulk' and two 'Transporter' films -- can't seem to sit still, particularly when he's sitting behind the camera. He's constantly, pointlessly, swooping all over the place, turning everything into a vertiginous blur. Add to that a brassy score by Brian Tyler that's so atrociously corny I hoped it was ironic, a pointless car chase, real-life 'illusions' that are more like impossibilities and a third-act twist that just makes nonsense of most of what's already happened and -- well, the movie may think it's pulling a rabbit out of a hat. But it's more like a turkey."

Stephen Whitty, Newark Star-Ledger

OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN - Trevor Morris

"Nearly everything that happens in 'Olympus Has Fallen' is ludicrous, yet because the fate of the president and the nation hangs in the balance, the crisis is treated with the gravitas of Paul Scofield at the West End. The combination all but pumps laughing gas into the theater, as Trevor Morris' score pounds with percussion, director Antoine Fuqua cuts away to a fraying American flag, and a rogue North Korean ideologue drives the country to the brink of nuclear holocaust. The one and only consolation for audiences is that the end of the world would never, ever happen this way."

Scott Tobias, The Onion

OZ, THE GREAT AND POWERFUL - Danny Elfman

"More often, 'Oz' tilts toward the mawkish, as the sham wizard learns the value of selflessness and an incessant Danny Elfman score tugs so shamelessly at your tear ducts that it would make the Tin Man surrender his heart on the spot."

Scott Foundas, L.A. Weekly

PARANOIA - Junkie XL

"For his part, Luketic tries to mask the narrative shortcomings with a lazily flashy visual style and a staggeringly irritating score that uses cell phone sounds as a recurring motif. Sadly, the rest of the film is so draggy that I kept wanting to pick up and see if there was something more interesting on the other end."

Peter Sobcynzski, RogerEbert.com

PARKER - David Buckley

"The script, based on Donald E. Westlake’s 'Flashfire,' is pasted together with perfectly timed coincidences and miraculous recoveries. Nick Nolte, Patti LuPone and Bobby Cannavale are among the actors who wander in occasionally, only to be swiftly forgotten. Nearly every choice, from the cheesy score to the jittery camerawork, suggests minimal ambitions."

Elizabeth Weitzman, New York Daily News

PARKLAND - James Newton Howard

"The pic badly miscalculates such mock-poetic heavy-handedness as the classy approach, making it worse by slathering it all in a score that alternates between patriotic horns and cheesy suspense music."

Peter Debruge, Variety

PEEPLES - Aaron Zigman

"Everybody in 'Peeples' -- except for poor Wayne -- is gorgeous, successful and rich in the way only sitcom families can be. Even the bouncy score sounds like it was lifted from an old ‘Three’s Compay’ episode; that is when they’re not all belting out a song about where it’s not cool to pee."

Lisa Barnard, Toronto Star

*PHILOMENA - Alexandre Desplat

"It's certainly a crowd-pleaser (it played like gangbusters to the Venice audience this morning) and something close to a triumph, if not an unqualified one. The film's depiction of the world of journalism is a bit one-note -- Coogan, who's had his tangles with the press, clearly has a bit of an axe to grind here. And while some of the creative team are top-tier, the contributions of composer Alexandre Desplat's overbearing score and the great Robbie Ryan's handsome, but atypically anonymous photography are a bit disappointing. But if you leave your preconceptions about the film's awards-related motives at the door, you'll still find a lovely and deceptively complex film that marks a real return to form for its director."

Oliver Lyttleton, The Playlist

 

ROMEO AND JULIET - Abel Korzeniowski

"Booth handles Romeo’s enraptured recitations well, as does Steinfeld. But the film is shallow and lacks vision. The battle between Tybalt and Mercutio (Christian Cooke) suggests dueling nostrils to me. The wheedling score by Abel Korzeniowski got on my nerves and made me long for the magnificent music of Nino Rota in Zeffirelli’s 1968 screen version. Now that was 'music to tame the savage breast.'”

James Verniere, Boston Herald

RUNNER RUNNER - Christophe Beck

"But the blame for 'Runner Runner'’s badness isn't on Timberlake. He's actually trying. The director, on the other hand? Well, Brad Furman can't whip this movie together. He dumps Tony Scott thriller music on every scene. He gives you a million cuts. He keeps the brown people in service positions."

Wesley Morris, Grantland

RUSH - Hans Zimmer

"The movie might have benefited from a tweak or two, whether in tightening the pacing of the third act or dialing down Hans Zimmer’s overblown score a notch, but overall 'Rush' is an exhilarating surprise from a director who’s been playing it safe for most of his career. Like his heroes, he takes a risk and wins."

Alonso Duralde, The Wrap

SALINGER - Lorne Balfe

"If you’ve seen the trailer for 'Salinger,' you may have been taken aback by the loud, pulse-pounding music, which seemed a little bit incongruous for a profile of a literary figure, but you assumed that was just to get people into theaters under the pretense of presenting a thriller. Unfortunately, that overkill of a score is in the film itself, too. It’s tempting to laugh in the opening minutes when a Newsweek photographer’s recounting of his trip to New Hampshire to get a photo of Salinger is accompanied by suspense music better suited for a bloated superhero movie. The orchestra is trying to tell us the world is at risk, when it’s just an anecdote about catching a guy coming out of the post office, for criminy’s sake. If only the eventual DVD would come with a 'no score' audio option, since that blaring music rarely lets up for two hours. But most of Salerno’s other choices are smart ones, including his decision to intercut ancient stories of Salinger’s school or war experiences with contemporary tales of acolytes and journalists trying to track him down as an old man. There’s no clear aesthetic reason for jumping back and forth between the ‘30s and ‘90s, but the director is undoubtedly correct in assuming that we don’t want to hear all about D-Day and teen girlfriends before getting to the good stuff, which is the puzzlement over why he ended up as pop culture’s quintessential weird old man."

Chris Willman, The Playlist

SAVING MR. BANKS - Thomas Newman

"[Director John Lee] Hancock, who cut his own directorial teeth at the studio (on the inspirational baseball drama 'The Rookie' and the underrated 'The Alamo') is sometimes a bit too on-the-nose with his parallel storytelling, too heavy with Thomas Newman’s bouncy score, and too eager to pluck at our heartstrings (at which he nevertheless succeeds)."

Scott Foundas, Variety

A SINGLE SHOT - Atli Orvarsson

"Unfortunately, 'A Single Shot' contains some dysfunctional elements, particularly its music. Over and over again, the high, shrieking strings of Atli Örvarsson’s score barge into scenes in an obvious attempt to jangle nerves. They’re overused, and they sound as through they’ve been borrowed from a cheap horror movie, rather than one that mostly amps up its suspense with subtlety. It’s harsh to say that the music comes close to ruining the movie at times, but… it comes close to ruining the movie at times. This is a film that’s all atmosphere and low simmer, not cheap-fright 'gotchas.' (Although, to be fair, there is one pretty chilling 'gotcha.') The score runs counter to that overall mood and mission."

Jen Chaney, The Dissolve

STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS - Michael Giacchino

"The film isn’t perfect. Michael Giacchino’s score works overtime to let us know that Harrison is eeeeevil."

Colin Covert, Minneapolis Star Tribune

THE SWEENEY - Lorne Balfe

"Marred by an overbearing musical score and an undercooked plot (by the director, Nick Love, and John Hodge), 'The Sweeney' nevertheless looks a lot classier than its characters."

Jeanette Catsoulis, New York Times

THOR: THE DARK WORLD- Brian Tyler

"The weak score by Brian Tyler ('Iron Man 3') fails to grip the disjointed plot. But the giant Greenwich showdown is a fun smash-up. Thor blimey!"

Graham Young, Birmingham Mail

*TWICE BORN - Eduardo Cruz

“Castellitto's script -- which he co-wrote with his wife, Margaret Mazzantini, based on her novel -- jumps back and forth between Gemma's exploration of the city with her son and her memories of her exciting and dangerous past. Regardless of the time period, the score is jarringly ill-suited; perky techno music plays while Gemma thinks she's miscarrying, for example. Then at some point, the memories seem to come from an omniscient source -- because the big reveal as to her son's true paternity comes as a shock to Gemma herself."

Christy Lemire, RogerEbert.com

UPSIDE DOWN - Benoit Charest

"Up Top is dominated by TransWorld, a clichéd evil corporation that rules the planet and ruthlessly exploits Down Below. Adam finagles a job Up Top, developing an anti-aging cream made from the pollen of pink bees. In the scenes of him fiddling with his invention, he resembles a grade-school student infatuated with his chemistry set. All the while, the soundtrack piles on yards of musical bombast. Did I mention that 'Upside Down' is simply awful?"

Stephen Holden, New York Times

*WALKING WITH DINOSAURS - Paul Leonard-Morgan

"But the whole production is prehistoric, a shoddy culmination of the TV series in which the migration is accompanied by a full orchestra with a percussion section that bangs away as if the dinos were trudging to war. Another form of headbutting."

Joe Morgenstern, Wall Street Journal

 

WINNIE MANDELA - Laurent Eyquem

"Based on Anne Marie du Preez Bezdrob's biography, 'Winnie Mandela' opens with its subject’s humble birth, accompanied by syrupy music that would not be out of place in a story about the life of Jesus Christ."

Michael O’Sullivan, Washington Post

Return to Articles Author Profile
Comments (1):Log in or register to post your own comments
I don't know. That Gangster Squad blurb doesn't sound much like a pan.

Film Score Monthly Online
Imitating a Brilliant Mind
Jackman: A "Heroic" Interview
The Homesman: Marco Beltrami and Buck Sanders' Dream Project
Living La Vida La-La
Score Restore: The Gypsy Moths
Digging for Gold With J. Ralph
Gold Rush: Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Part 1
Wong's Turn: 2014 Holiday Gift Guide
Torn Pages: Trilogy of Terror, Part 2
Soundtrack Obscurities Vol. 36: A Most Accomplished Professional
Ear of the Month Contest
Today in Film Score History:
November 25
Daniele Amfitheatrof begins recording his score for The Last Hunt (1956)
Maurice Jarre begins recording his score for Grand Prix (1966)
Michael Small begins recording his score for The Postman Always Rings Twice (1980)
Stanley Wilson born (1915)
Virgil Thomson born (1896)
FSMO Featured Video
Video Archive • Audio Archive
Podcasts
© 2014 Film Score Monthly. All Rights Reserved.