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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Score Season #37
by Richard Jack Smith

Below are more soundtrack reviews of recent and archival releases.

Earthquake (John Williams, 1974) *** Known for his openings, John Williams causes Earthquake to mystify by its quaintness. Like the lobby source cues from The Towering Inferno, there's a light pop sensibility. Regarding ambience, it's a little disarming because such instrumentation rarely reflects imminent disaster. When played on piano, the theme doesn't sound half bad. It has a verdant Adam and Eve quality, suggesting innocence at the beginning of time. Also, there's hope for future discoveries. The more I hear this, the greater it crystallizes an important idea. Faced with danger, a man or woman might look to a significant other for salvation. Only the affection between beings truly matters as worldly possessions crumble into dust. 

The Hellstrom Chronicle (Lalo Schifrin, 1971) As a soundtrack, The Hellstrom Chronicle makes the stuff of nightmares appear timid and formless. A disquieting experiment which demands your full concentration, I believe Lalo Schifrin struck the ideal worry meter. Consider the rolling, clicking, rattling, plucking and other acoustical anomalies. What becomes increasingly clear? Schifrin's non-conformity as well as the opportunity presented. To be told you can move the music anywhere you wish must be liberating. While creative freedom should be encouraged, it takes a disciplined editorial mind to remove unwanted indulgences. Although not every soundtrack requires a theme or sturdy musical architecture, the mind can close if alienated. Unlike his fresh approach to THX 1138, Schifrin forgot his hypnotic spell. As a result, he made The Hellstrom Chronicle the most taxing specimen. 

Krampus (Douglas Pipes, 2015) **** Where Danny Elfman's The Nightmare Before Christmas made the festive season feel like Halloween, Douglas Pipes enlivens Krampus via unnatural elements. He allows the orchestra to bend and experiment, locating timbres within the unseen mists. There are moments of beauty ("Omi's Story") which play off the scissors against your ankles alertness. Between Monster House, Trick 'r Treat and Krampus, Pipes shares a point of view which seems classically informed and ultra modern. 

Practical Magic (Michael Nyman, 1998) Fondness for the elegiac Michael Nyman score Gattaca doesn't continue with his rejected Practical Magic. Mostly a flighty effort with emphasis on strings and occasional chorus, it's the throwaway type which graces true life television on a weekly basis. Essentially, Rachel Portman and George Fenton could orchestrate such tempting filler during a catnap. Was it uplifting? My memory runneth to the contrary. Incidentally, the final film was scored by Alan Silvestri.

Warm Bodies (Marco Beltrami and Buck Sanders, 2013) ** Composers Marco Beltrami and Buck Sanders retreat behind an undemanding assignment. Any terror ends up diminished through zero suspense and otherwise romantic fluff. As collaborators, they trust each other, yet they don't impart such faith to the audience. It's an oddly self-serving manifesto where demands for musicality go unanswered. If there's anything noteworthy about Warm Bodies, strong candidates include "Marcus Sees the Light" and the tender/ethereal "Admission to Dream." The latter scores the most points for taking its time while communicating a little feeling. 

The Yellow Rolls-Royce (Riz Ortolani, 1964) *** A sensational cast including Ingrid Bergman, Rex Harrison, George C. Scott, Omar Sharif and Shirley MacLaine headlines the anthology film The Yellow Rolls-Royce. The score was provided by Riz Ortolani. It's a sweet little creation, pure-hearted and full of passion for those fleeting moments. Romantic music can be endearing, clumsy or saccharine depending on compositional development. Meanwhile, Ortolani stresses the freedom in precision. Only by following the taskmaster closely can such aching perfection be conveyed to the listener. As such, there are many highlights including "Mae" and "Now and Then." Bizarrely, the soundtrack ends on a bum note as "Finale" makes it feel like winter has descended too soon.

Bumblebee (Dario Marianelli, 2018) ** A poem:

For music that's recent
Bumblebee turned out decent.
Before my eyes,
This one could not conquer the skies.

In light of Kubo and the Two Strings
Bumblebee might not have wings.
There's Thomas Newman as well
A good poker player disguises the tell.

A tendency to exhaust
Whether by design or source.
Hardly worth the bother
Share the four-leaf clover.

Bees are busy
The hyena seems crazy.
What to make of this procession?
It won't cure depression.

At the risk of third parties
Take comfort my hearties,
He'll bounce back, pure and true
I'd say he's overdue.

David and Bathsheba (Alfred Newman, 1951) *** Another poem:

Like going to war,
Alfred Newman washed ashore.
David and Bathsheba did the job.
Might be worth a few bob.

As a museum lance
It justifies a glance.
Little beyond the first impression held
Looking to reweld. 

Better or worse
Depending on verse.
I wanted more light
To lift the blight.

The Last Man on Earth (Paul Sawtell and Bert Shefter, 1964) ** Time to rhyme:

I felt like The Last Man on Earth
Hearing music so lacking in mirth.
Charming it might feel
Woe for us, an Achilles heel.

Inspired by an unpleasant book
Ideas spawn and undercook.
Oh sweet and dearest melancholy
Of only that were the whole tamale.

I shall equate
The need to saturate.
Lacking trust
All in or bust.

I Am Legend paid the tab
Shame it was so drab.
A waterfall of notes appearing
For the sake of hearing.


The Terminator (Brad Fiedel, 1984) ***** Hearts sealed in triumph, Kyle and Sarah embrace. The fiery background a monument to their struggle. Suddenly, a shadow moves, flames licking at the metal of the exposed Terminator. Composer Brad Fiedel desires neither pomp nor ceremony. He wants the heart to feel heavy as Kyle's Theme evaporates. The murderous tempo returns, haunting the mind and chasing the soul. 

Poem for a classic:

For the epic test
Brad Fiedel won the contest.
Chasing Sarah and Kyle
Terminator going the extra mile.

As contemporaries struggled
And new ideas juggled,
One theme topped the wave
Making for a save.

Some like to brag
Without gumption, they snag.
Fiedel nurtured a rhythm in metal
So the hero could not settle.

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