All posts under Reviews

Game Score Review: Warhammer 40,000 – Space Marine

Warhammer Space Marine

It is no surprise that the Remote Control-ed film music landscape of feature films is also the primary music palette of video games. With so many dark chords, synth drum pads, and electronics, how does a score set itself apart from the prevalent wall of sound? By virtue of its themes. And Cris Velasco and Sascha Dikiciyan‘s muscular score for WARHAMMER 40,000: SPACE MARINE, the latest installment in the WARHAMMER franchise, excels in its thematic material. In this third-person action game, users follow the adventures of Sergeant Sidonus, Leandros, and Captain Titus, the 2nd Company…

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CD Review: Hugo


Martin Scorcese directing a family film? What the what? Based on Brian Selznick’s Caldecott-winning The Invention of Hugo Cabret, HUGO stars Asa Butterfield as an orphan living in the walls of a train station in 1930s Paris, who gets wrapped up in a mystery involving his late father (Jude Law), a bitter toy booth owner (Ben Kingsley), and an automaton. Not surprisingly, the Oscar-winning director, best known for his gritty urban dramas, takes a very adult approach to the film, never pandering to the family audience. The magical film is a feast for the eyes,…

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CD Review: 55 Days at Peking

55 Days at Peking

With the recent release of a complete FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE rerecording on Prometheus Records and La-La Land’s expanded soundtrack of 55 DAYS AT PEKING, it’s a good time to be a fan of Dimitri Tiomkin. Instead of the fall of a civilization, PEKING showcases the Boxer Rebellion in which Chinese peasants took up arms to oppose foreign imperialism. Charlton Heston and David Niven star as the heads of the American and British military might in the city, with Ava Gardner as a disgraced Russian baroness. Producer Samuel Bronston (KING…

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CD Review: The Fall of the Roman Empire


Samuel Bronston’s THE FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE belongs to cinema of a different era. In today’s world of bloated CGI, the 1964 film is impressive if for nothing else than the detailed sets and hordes of extras that flank the various battlefields. The acting and love story between Stephen Boyd’s Livius and Sophia Loren’s Lucia leave much to be desired, but the film is worthwhile in no small part due to Christopher Plummer’s scheming Commodus and other heavy hitters such as Alec Guinness and James Mason. Despite the film’s faults,…

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CD Review: The Lord of the Rings Symphony


It’s been a big year for LORD OF THE RINGS fans. The extended editions were released on Blu-ray in June, THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING celebrates its tenth anniversary, and now we finally see the release of Howard Shore‘s The Lord of the Rings Symphony on Howe Records, his personal label. With the help of conductor John Mauceri, Shore adapted the nearly 12-hours worth of music from his Oscar-winning scores into a two-hour, six-movement work. Like the scores themselves, the musical forces for the symphony are massive, calling for symphony orchestra, mixed chorus,…

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CD Review: Fright Night


Just as remakes of ’70s TV horror fare are now fair game for the cineplex, so are B-level horror films from the ’80s. Anyone who knows me, knows that I basically checked out through a good portion of the mid-80 (at least with regards to pop culture in film), so I’ve never seen the original FRIGHT NIGHT. But against my better judgment (I really don’t like to be scared), I was dragged along to a preview screening of the remake. I was pleasantly surprised at how good it was. Granted,…

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CD Review: Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark

It’s a pretty sad state of affairs when Hollywood has to tap into 40-year-old, long-forgotten TV movies for new product. (SYBIL with Lindsay Lohan, anyone? How about Halle Berry in  THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MISS JANE PITTMAN? Or a Pixar animated version of DUEL?) I don’t remember if I ever saw the 1973 TV movie DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK. At nine, I would have been the perfect age to appreciate the horror elements, but I doubt my parents let me watch it. So I had no particular interest (or…

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CD Review: Villa Rides! – The Western Film Music of Maurice Jarre

Villa Rides!

Legendary Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa has always been a colorful presence in film, even appearing as himself in some early silent films. From Wallace Beery’s portrayal in the Oscar-nominated VIVA VILLA! (1934) to reports of Johnny Depp in the upcoming WILD ROSES, TENDER ROSES, the larger-than-life bandit seems made for the big screen. But nowhere has Villa had such a rousing musical accompaniment as that of Maurice Jarre‘s score for VILLA RIDES! (1968). The film doesn’t take itself seriously and the actors—featuring a surprisingly understated performance by Yul Brynner and fine supporting performances…

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CD Review: Metropolis


Fritz Lang’s 1927 silent METROPOLIS is a masterpiece of the genre, and its unique visual style can be found in later films, most notably in the set design of BLADE RUNNER. The story takes place in a futuristic urban dystopia, portraying the social clash between the downtrodden workers far below the surface surrounded by the machines that dictate their lives and the owners living above the surface in their self-created Tower of Babel. The film has had a tortured history, with its most notable embarrassment a still-incomplete hideously colorized reissue in the…

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CD Review: Taras Bulba

Taras Bulba

Bernard Herrmann called it “the score of a lifetime.” And, oh, what a lifetime! Except for some TV work and one final score, Franz Waxman‘s 1962 score for TARAS BULBA brought the composer his 12th Oscar nomination and put a capper on a distinguished career. In this adaptation of Nikolai Gogol’s novella, Yul Brynner starred as the leader of the Ukrainian Cossacks battling the invading Poles, with Tony Curtis as his son. While the film doesn’t offer much dramatically, Brynner and Curtis seem to be having fun with their father/son roles (even if Curtis…

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