Category Archives: Review

Female Director (Cardiff Mini Film Festival)

Following on from “Fiction Part 2”, here are the films from the Female Director session at The Cardiff Mini Film Festival. I was particularly looking forward to this session being as we really need more female voices in the film world and thankfully the ones showcased here certainly didn’t disappoint! This along with ‘Fiction Part 4’ were my favourite parts of the festival. Please note that any opinions expressed are based off my initial impressions during the screening itself.

01. Ransom
RansomKitty and Kent are in over their heads with gambling debt so they form a plan: kidnap a rich kid and score big time. This US film starts out as a thriller but by the end has evolved into something more preposterous. Whilst this wasn’t a favourite during this session, it’s a breezy five minutes and the film doesn’t outstay its welcome. Film IMDB page.

02.Pillow Talk
Pillow TalkA coming of age film about teenage sexuality with best friends Cara and Lucy on the brink of going separate ways. A vibrant hipster opening gives way to sweet “coming out” film which is well directed by Louise Marie Cooke. If I were to criticise I found the dialogue at the start a little unauthentic, the performers seemed a older than the ages of the characters that they were portraying (not that this mattered once the film hit it stride).
https://player.vimeo.com/video/192267007

03. Sophia
SophiaThe imaginative Sophia is waiting for her bus to arrive on a bench. Whilst waiting we see her imagination turning everyday events and unfortunate situations into something more entertaining (despite how inappropriate this makes her look). This was a charming Norwegian short directed by Marietha Chopra Helgesen, with simple but well executed concept. My only wish would be for a slightly stronger ending (although maybe I missed something here whilst I was scribbling down my notes). Liked this one a lot!

04. Passing Over
Passing OverA mother struggling to move on after a family tragedy seeks a medium to help her overcome the loss. On a technical viewpoint, it’s hard to fault Natasha Dahlberg’s film. It contains strong performances, some fantastic sound design and is able to convey a sense of isolation, grief and haunting strangeness. However I ultimately found it a little predictable and found myself becoming less engaged once “the medium” part was introduced into the story. Whilst I felt there were a couple of stronger contenders during this session, this went on to win the best international Female Film  so well done to Natasha and her team!

05. Almost Perfect
Almost PerfectHelen is an undertaker who advertises for a  make up assistant for her “clients”. When the interview with applicant Stella gets off to a bumpy start, the film can go one of two ways: is she actually looking for a make up assistant or there something more sinister at work? This won the audience choice award (indeed there were quite a few team members at the session). There is a very Gothic feel to the whole piece thanks to some inventive camera angles, red colour grading with Helen in particular having a vampiric quality. I was hoping the film would end with a different twist, but you can decide yourself by watching the film below:

06. Archway 0173
Archway 0173An antique collecting mother brings home an old phone which her son Tom initially dismisses as “more junk”. However when the broken phone rings one day it connects Tom with a young girl called Isabelle who claims to be from 1940. Becoming friends after sharing conversations, Tom soon makes a frightening discovery which he needs to warn Isabelle about. Can he warn her in time and what will be the consequences of his actions? At around 20 minutes, Pat Knight’s film was the longest film of the session, but it was also one of my favourites. It’s well made and has a strong but simple concept with a nicely handled relationship between Tom and Isabelle.

07. Super Dad!
Super Dad!All Toby wanted was one normal day. This proves to be too much to ask for when your dad is Captain Chaos, the super villain of Milwaukee! Maria Pretzl’s comedy is for the most part a father/son relationship with Toby coming to terms with his dad’s disasterous wedding faux-pas. A fun film with a lovely moment of “realisation” at the end.

08. The Girl In The Photo
The -Girl In The PhotoCharlie, an introverted but curious guy, is troubled by a mysterious girl seen in his dream, even after waking up. This was a short film by Alise Ambaine who appeared to be the youngest filmmaker I saw in attendance at the festival. The film was quite short but had an unnerving and suspenseful vibe. I look forward to following Alise’s future projects.

09. The Chameleon
The ChameleonThe story of a struggling Hollywood actor who is cornered by the industry’s shadow at every turn. Our “Chameleon” desperately seeks to distance himself from typecasting thank to his popular turn as “the guy on the Gusto energy drink ad”, the vapid parties, the lies he’s told to try to “make it big” and ultimately Los Angeles itself. Can he make it and will he ever know who he truly is? My favourite part of Stephanie Phoutrides’s film is when all the alter-egos gang up on our Chameleon. Clearly this film had a larger budget than most during this session, but it was fun despite the rather abrupt/odd ending.

10. Belle
BelleAfter her parents divorce due to her mother’s alcoholism, Belle’s life is turned upside down. Struggling, Belle is often forced to assume the role of the grown up with only her teddy bear to support her. One fateful evening during Christmas the situation spirals out of control with heartbreaking results. We see life through Belle’s innocent eyes making it all the more powerful. Out of all the films I watched during the festival, Belle is the nearest companion to our film Emmi (although the innocent 7 year old ‘Belle’ is a far more accessible character than our difficult and troubled teenager ‘Emmi’). Another similarity is that both are based on true stories! Diana Skarbek gives an absolutely stellar performance as Belle. The only real gripe I have is that the alcoholic mother didn’t seem quite as convincing as Belle or her father. This was my favourite film of the session (and indeed the whole festival), so I was pleased to learn Evey Swayland won the best Welsh Female Director for this film (and arguably she should have also won best film also). The film is available below and I definitely recommend giving it a watch:

Fiction Part 2 (Cardiff Film Festival)

Following on from the previous post, here are the films which played alongside ‘Emmi’ in the Fiction Part 2 session at The Cardiff Mini Film Festival. Please note that any opinions expressed are based off my initial impressions during the screening itself.

01. The Picture on the Fridge
The Picture On The FridgeLonging to reconnect with his deceased mother, Ilan mysteriously jumps into a photograph that soon forces him to choose between his past and his reality. This all ends up a bit like Inception with photos levels rather than dream levels. The special effects are fun, even if they aren’t entirely convincing. This doesn’t matter being as the human story is what draws you in to Dekel Aizen’s film. I particularly enjoyed the film’s observation of technology evolving over different generations (analogue vs digital), a nice film to start with.

02. Ghosts of Burgundy Grove
The Ghosts of Burgundy GroveBased on a true story: Maggie discusses her future with George and worries that they have very little time together left. George however is not willing to discuss the future. There is a rumbling to suggest something is clearly wrong right from the very opening of Ciaran J. Hodgman’s film. Every time the seemingly distant Maggie takes another sip from her cup we see a startling flashback to an earlier point in their lives. Whilst the film wasn’t the most polished and the outcome predictable – it held my attention throughout. IMDB page here.

03. Me And My Thoughts
Me And My ThoughtsThis fictional short film portrays a modern woman who masks her mental health problems whilst striving to look normal and fit in. Whilst I found the film’s subject matter worthy material, the repetitive OCD elements in the first half had a tendency to drag the film down. Things improve in the second half (once the central character’s monologues begin to subside and the drama plays out). If I recall correctly, the director Martin Devek also performed many of the other key roles making this film. He is talented and this is commendable but I can’t help but feel that the production would have benefited with an independent editor helping to simmer the story down to its essence. The main performance in this short film deserves to be singled out for praise (sadly I didn’t catch her name and can’t find it online).


04. Wet Dream

Wet DreamStan is sick to the back teeth with the daily grind of his monotonous city lifestyle. Surreal daydreams punctuate his working week as he pines for the sea. One weekend on the rugged Cornish coast he has a magical encounter and an epic journey ensues… Apparently according to director Joel Duddell this includes “a magical adventure along the Cornish coast with the ghost of an 18th century smuggler”. I must have missed this bit and to be perfectly honest I didn’t really follow this seemingly experimental film. After an intriguing opening, I found myself getting a bit frustrated and was hoping it was the Goldfish dreaming rather than Stan! On the plus side the film sets a curious ambient tone and was good at conveying the mundane nature of day to day life. You can form your own opinions by watching the film here:

05. The Blind Man
The Blind ManA blind man wanders the street completely oblivious to all the disasters happening around him. This one was extremely daft in a fun way and wisely never overstayed its welcome (being only two and half minutes). I question whether the titular character is also deaf – but considering the completely random ending of the film – I’m definitely over analysing things!

06. Pesadilla
PesadillaThis was another of the more experimental films on show. Despite enjoying a romantic moment, we can see the man starting to become troubled. The tone then shifts to what I remember thinking at the time was a surreal Dario Argento inspired nightmare. And sure enough this seemed exactly what director Guillermo González Lanchares was going for – we later learned that Pesadilla means nightmare in Spanish. To watch the full film, visit here.

07. The Consequence of Reliving
The Consequence Of RelivingAfter discovering he has a special ability, a young man must make the most difficult decision of his life. This was one of my favourites of the session, well made, wonderful cast and some intriguing ideas. I don’t want to give too much more away about it, but if there is a fault with the film – it is that it tries to pack a few too many concepts in during it’s fairly brief 15 minutes run-time. This doesn’t make it any less captivating, so well done to director/writer Christien Bart-Gittens and co-director by Grace Smith.


08. Fortress

FortressSet in 1969, a Pirate Radio DJ seeks to defy the British Government by turning his radio station (located in international waters) into his own Kingdom. James Grimley’s film ultimately won an award for best Welsh Fiction Film at the festival and it’s not difficult to see why. From the technical viewpoint it is beautifully produced with wonderful production design and some nice performances (particular shout out to Scarlett Marshall as the feisty Layla). This was shot on Arri Alexa, so it clearly had a larger budget than most of the other films being show during this session. For the most part, this was an intriguing story but the message “a man’s home is his castle” does become a bit tedious after a bit (the subtext of “letting go” being a more interesting area to mine). I had to concur after some deliberation with other audience members that the ending needed to be a bit stronger, but this aside from this it was the most “polished” film of the session.


09. Jerky

JerkyGordon struggles to pick up the pieces of his life after the death of his husband Martin. The biggest obstacle in his healing: Martin’s dog Jerky, whom Gordon never appreciated. The film is a stark and intimate portrait of the grieving process. The pivotal moment comes when the dog chews through Martin’s towelling robe one day and it’s not clear whether things are going to end well or badly for poor Jerky. The story was excellent and I’d say that this was my favourite film of the session (ignoring any obvious bias we have for the next film). IMDB page here.


10. Emmi

Emmi Last, but hopefully not least, we were on! Despite a reasonably small audience turn out (around 10 people), it was nice to learn that the audience (except for the Festival team, Susie and myself) were all genuine audience members rather than filmmakers coming to see their film (you can sense my conflict in writing that)! I was happy that the film worked from a technical viewpoint. The session host Matt let us chat a little about the film afterwards. Susie was approached by one of the audience members afterwards to say that the film had made her cry. This meant a tremendous deal to us, although I somewhat flippantly quipped that perhaps Jerky might have been a better film to end on.

Real Stories at Lo-No Pop-Up Cinema

We experienced some success last weekend when Emmi was selected by two film festivals (one in Belgium, one in London). Whilst browsing festivals over Easter, I spotted something called ‘Lo-No Pop-Up Cinema’ in London looking for ‘real stories’ to shown. Being as Emmi is inspired by a real story we decided we should give it a go – I’m glad we did!

Susie and I set off to London for the event (wrestling rush hour traffic, underground cancellations, problematic ticket barriers – arriving with 5 minutes to spare). When we arrived we were greeted by Ashley Jackson the festival organiser. There were seven films in the line-up (we were programmed to be the last film before the interval).

Lo-No Pop-Up Cinema postcard

The quality of the films shown were great, it’s nice to think that our rather personal little film might be considered alongside some of these. Let’s go over them one by one:

Grandmas Big Schlep:
Hannah finds out that Grandma wasn’t actually Jewish and can’t be buried next to Grandpa as planned. She must go on her journey with her sister Rivkah to make things right before it’s too late.

Although this was the longest film of the evening (20 minutes), it was also the most uplifting. The time bristled by and there was a lovely warmth and humour to the film. Both of the girls put in great performances and the whole thing had a polished and lavish feel. Nice to see it was made by a female team also.

 

Girl:
An Experimental drama about a young homeless woman who spends her days chasing a feeling.

From the longest film shown to the shortest, I found this particularly interesting to contrast against our homeless short film “Spare Change”. A couple of minor details were lacking authenticity (indeed the same is true of Spare Change), but I liked the overall message of the film. It was also interesting that it was shot in “Portrait” rather than traditional Widescreen which helped give the “Girl” a sense of isolation and a different perspective.

 

Husky:
Marcus, a boy on the brink of adulthood struggles to decide where his loyalties lie.

In some ways this gritty drama was a little similar in tone to our film, although the canvas felt slightly larger and the end result is more cinematic. There are two great performances in this short: the antagonist Dan (suitably loathsome) and the downs syndrome character Mary (who is the true standout of the film). Extremely well made and at a couple of points an excruciating, a testament to its power. I’d say this was my favourite film during the evening and again nice to a female team at the helm.

 

Emmi:
Keeping with the darker theme, we were next. We were pleased about being just before the interval as it gave us an opportunity to invite feedback. It was also a good opportunity to see the film on a different system (note to self: dial down the sound mix for future screenings). It was amusing to hear one audience member humming Emmi’s main theme at the end of the film.

 

Kitty’s Fortune
Based on Kitt Hart-Moxon’s first night in Auschwitz when Kitty encounters a palm-reading Gypsy who hones in on her lifeline. The film is a glimpse into a touching encounter between two people amidst the brutality of their surroundings.

On a technical level this was by far the most polished of the films shown, it was beautifully filmed. Yet despite the haunting performances/worthy subject matter, something didn’t quite click (not just me – Susie thought the same). We found the atmosphere in the first half extremely moving and well paced with a palpable sense of dread. This isn’t sustained after the initial gypsy encounter and the film felt like it needed a stronger ending. That said, this is still an impressive film, especially in terms of what was achieved for the budget.

 

A Six and Two Threes:
Two kids from different sides of the tracks meet when one goes in search of their father.

Again there was some very impressive cinematography in this piece. Some of the dialogue in the film was difficult to hear, but what I really liked was the authenticity of the film. The performers felt genuine and were around the right age. The two main performances were nicely handled and the younger kid in particular is a hoot. The language was also very crude, I was thinking Emmi would easily win the swear count until this film’s colourful language took things to the next level! Very well done and strangely touching.

At this point we had to leave to get back, but during the interval we caught up with the Writer/Producer (Ellie Gocher) and Director (Jimmy Dean) of the final film ‘Offside’. We spoke a bit about finding funding and what they had planned as their next project. They also told us that the film was online (so I’ll share it below).

 

Offside:

https://www.shortoftheweek.com/2017/03/28/offside/

Offside tells the story of 11 year old Kirsty who struggles to accept her looming femininity as she learns she will soon lose her position on the local boys football team.

Having now seen the film, I’d say that the film was slower paced than many of the other films shown during the evening, but the pacing was deliberate and the story works on multiple levels. The central performances felt genuine and authentic and it particularly resonated being as I’m father to a 10 year old daughter who also currently enjoys playing football. Of course being as the film is shared online you can make your own mind up!

The programme for evening can be downloaded here.

This was a great evening and I’d like to extend my thanks to Lo-No for selecting our film and making us feel welcome. We hope to return for the next project!

Not so super

The other night I watched the latest Spiderman film (The Amazing Spiderman 2), Spiderman 2.2 if you like. There was a lot to like about it on some levels: it looked fantastic, it was exciting + well paced considering the two and a half hour runtime, the lead characters (Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone) were superb and had genuine chemistry. In fact I’d even go so far to say that Garfield is pitch perfect as both Peter Parker and Spiderman (especially if you are familiar with the comics). Yet despite having much in its favour, there was an awful lot “off” about it.

Spidey

1. Some scenes were far too convenient for their own good. Plausibility was beyond breaking point in the same way Silva calculated all of Bond’s moves in Skyfall (and interestingly one such scene is also set in an abandoned subway station).

2. The baddies were all under-developed (a shame as Dane DeHaan did some fine work here). Everything plotting their fall from good to evil felt rushed, incomplete and false. It appears they tried to juggle too many baddies in a single installment again, generally a recipe for disaster (even if it is isn’t anywhere near the disaster Batman and Robin or Spiderman 3 were).

3. It seems the script-writers were ticking boxes for the studio. The actors are let down by a clunky/poor script which is more interested in setting up merchandising and future installments rather than actually telling a good story (Iron Man 2 syndrome)!

4. The core problem (which ties in with the other points): it was really two movies masquerading as one. So instead of having two good movies with genuine punch/pay-off we end up with a frustrating mess of a movie.

5. Inappropriate music. Songs are shoe-horned in but they don’t fit the tone of the film (the end-credits in particular). Hans Zimmer (the “new” Danny Elfman?) turns in another bland super-hero score – the “wub-wub” stylings trying too hard to be edgy and cool (no – it’s like every other damn action trailer I’ve seen in the past two years). Shouldn’t it be “ELECTRO” rather than “DUBSTEP” anyway? The score feels a mixed bag (much like the film itself) despite a nice rousing brassy-blast for Spidey’s theme and suitably sinister motif for Osborn (which is itself ripping off Inception and Inside Man). Personally I like more consistency in my scores. The last three Spidey films in the franchise have all had different composers/themes, time to give Mr Elfman a call again!

Ultimately what is my real problem? I’m suffering Franchise fatigue towards Superhero films (which seem to be all that play in cinemas these days – thanks very much Marvel!). The initial blame could perhaps be leveled at The Dark Knight. Now we have Marvel setting up The Avengers universe and releasing a new film each year, DC trying to get in on the action with Superman/Batman/Justice League. X-men has already had spin-offs with Wolverine, there is a new X-men film out this summer. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a Mystique film in the near future. Now there is Spiderman setting up The Sinister Six. The Spiderman franchise was already rebooted in its relative infancy and everything still feels a retread of the Raimi films. I’ve just read that Daredevil will be the next to get the reboot treatment. Great, we all want that one!

To be perfectly blunt – this genre is becoming dull and clichéd. Even the marketing falls into cliché: the director of the current installment always announced in advance as being the director of future installments (ala Captain America 2/3, Man of Steel/Superman vs Batman/Justice League, X-men, The Amazing Spiderman 2/3) as if to create a false sense of spectacle. Of course the next installment will always be bigger better etc. and will end in yet another destruction of some city. And please remember to stay for the end-credits if it’s a Marvel film (This new Spiderman film features perhaps the most bizarre “Easter Eggs” ending of all – completely unrelated to the franchise). I’d love to see this genre take a sabbatical and come back when it has something which is fresh and new to say. Sadly this doesn’t appear to be the case and it looks like we are going to endure many more years of spin-offs and “the same old”. Hmm – perhaps Batman and Robin wasn’t so bad after-all!

Everything Or Nothing review

I’ve just had the good fortune to catch up with the new Bond documentary Everything or Nothing. The film was showcased in selected Odeon cinemas recently to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the James Bond series. Everything or Nothing, for those unaware, is the name which the Bond producers adopted when the began making the films in the early 1960’s – EON Productions, which is still the company producing the series to this day.

The documentary charts the journey from the literary origins of Ian Fleming’s super spy – right up to the recent films – Sean Connery to Daniel Craig. It is primarily interested in charting the ups and downs of the series producers and could be one of the criticisms I could aim at it – it turns into “the Broccoli show”. The Broccoli family who produce the films are notoriously guarded about how they are portrayed in the media. This ultimately makes some issues feel a bit too rose-tinted and sanitized at times. You will not find a single bad word about Cubby said here. That said, this is perhaps one of the more refreshingly open and honest documentaries I have seen about Bond. There are a few revealing candid moments here, mostly from former Bonds and how they were unceremoniously replaced. Another criticism might be that many prominent characters appear and are then dispatched of in much the same manner. You could also argue that many diehard fans will already know the majority of stories and anecdotes on display here.

Everything or Nothing DVD cover

Everything or Nothing DVD cover

This said, it is still extremely well made and for this fan it offered plenty of new behind the scenes footage and new unseen interviews. Naturally Sean Connery declines to get involved as per usual, his notorious falling out with the producers being covered along the way. Despite Mr Connery’s notable absence, the Bond actor interviews are where this documentary really soars. As Pierce Brosnan notes, it really is an exclusive feat playing Bond and more people have walked on the moon. It’s great to hear them talking candidly about the subject. Keeping things interesting are some nicely timed intercuts from the films and superb use of the music in the series. The documentary is fast paced, informative and whistles by before you know it – much like the films themselves. This feels like the natural companion piece to the “Inside” making of documentaries by John Cork which feature on the films up to 1989. If you like those, chances are you will like this. Therefore I would argue this makes a far more worthy addition to the otherwise brilliant Blu-ray collection than that disappointing bonus disc they produced. All in all, this comes highly recommend – especially to fans of the series.

2012 Year Review

Just had a look back at my list of things to achieve for 2012.

How did it go?

1. Finish editing Etiquette.
We made the 10th February deadline and the film played at BAFTA in February. This was a fantastic experience! One thing outstanding is that I need to produce a proper DVD (apologies to anyone still waiting). I’ve spent a fair bit of time creating bonus material (eg. several versions of the film to show its evolution, image galleries, interview clips, plus a making of documentary). Hopefully the extra wait is going to be worth it.

2. To do more editing/composing.
This I feel particularly happy about. I smashed last year’s record of a lowly three tracks (of which I only really liked one). This year on average I’ve composed over a track per month. Plus I’ve edited and scored Legacy (aka. the short formerly known as Dad).

3. More camera tests (eg. lighting, green-screen and special effects).
Generally on this one, I’ll admit failure. I haven’t done nearly enough experimenting. Perhaps this will be the focus for 2013. I did get to play with a Black Magic Camera earlier in the month however.

4. To make at least one other short.
Spare Change filled this gap. Okay, the original time-lines did slide drastically, but we got there! This is now in the same as Etiquette last year (ie. a rough cut in need of finalising). I also spent time helping Sean Langton make his debut (as co-producer).

5. To find an elusive feature to consider.
Still looking! Any offers?

6. To continue blogging and networking.
The 10 questions interview only happened once. I should perhaps concentrate on this more. However I have continued blogging and networking, so I’m going to claim overall success.

7. To remain being a good Dad to the kids whilst doing all of this.
Obviously this is highly subjective. My children continue to be a constant source of delight and inspiration. Admittedly they sap up the majority of my time and energy – yet I find the benefits tremendously rewarding!

The other big change (feeding into the point above) is that I’m now working a four day week in my day-to-day job. This has not been an easy transition by any means, but it does allow me to spend more time with family whilst they are still young. Ultimately I am hoping it will allow me to take on some additional film-work.

So to sign off for 2012, I wish all readers of this blog the very best for 2013 – I hope  you all have a great one!!

Below there is an overview of the things this blog has covered during 2012:

January:

February:

March 2012:

April 2012:

May 2012:

June 2012:

July 2012:

August 2012:

September 2012:

October 2012:

November 2012:

December 2012:

Thomas Newman Skyfall Soundtrack review

Yesterday was a good day! Two Bond music related goodies arrived at my front-door. John Burlingame’s book, The Music of James Bond (which I can’t wait to read) and the new SkyFall Soundtrack.

Bond Music

If you weren’t already aware, Bond has a new sound courtesy of frequent Sam Mendes collaborator and eight time Oscar-nominated composer Thomas Newman (son of the legendary composer Alfred Newman). Series regular David Arnold sits this one out after a run of five consecutive movies. Whilst this may not be the popular consensus, I’m actually very grateful Bond has a new contemporary sound. I must confess, I was initially somewhat weary of Thomas Newman getting the gig, his brother David would seem a much more natural fit for this film.

David Arnold is clearly respectful of late composer John Barry and whilst his work is definitely serviceable, his work has a tendency to be somewhat derivative of his first Bond score (Tomorrow Never Dies). John Barry was a master of creating atmosphere by using specific orchestral styles or instrument types (even creating a new sound for each Bond actor – Connery: Guitar/Brass, Moore: Strings/Brass, Lazenby: Moog/Synths,  Dalton: Bass/Drum-loops). David Arnold on the other hand tends to throw in the entire kitchen sink. Subtle it aint! Some of his work is often loud, overblown and occasionally bloated. Once you have thrown everything at a cue, you don’t really have many places you can go (although he falls back by throwing a hanging trumpet chord before repeating all over again). The exception to this rule was his more introspective score to Quantum of Solace – which I think holds up as some of his strongest Bond work to date (even if the film itself doesn’t).

Newman takes his own approach. It won’t sit well with everybody, as it is at times very minimalist, but still has the power when required. The difference is he generally doesn’t tend to over-blow just for the sake of it (although there are instances where it still happens – including one “Thunderball” moment – although this mostly brought a smile to my face). Generally this is not what we have come to expect for Bond score (ala Eric Serra), and whilst I believe it fits the film like a glove – some will dismiss it as “not David Arnold”, “not Bond” or “sonic wallpaper”. Time will tell.

Newman is a composer I rarely “get” upon a first listen, some of his work here is no exception. However there are definitely stand-out tracks which broke this rule, most notably Severine (a beautiful lush romantic track which harks back to John Barry) and Komodo Dragon (which is more David Arnold in style and also quotes Adele’s Bond main-title). Talking of which, the Adele track isn’t on this album which it is at pains to point out on the back of the album. This is a dire trend which started with Casino Royale and the omission of the Chris Cornell’s rather good You Know My Name track (if only they did this with some of the less than good tracks such as Another Way To Die or Die Another Day). If you want Adele’s song you will need to buy the single separately. Personally I rather like the Adele track and it works rather nicely in the film, albeit it with seemingly softer vocals. One other track you may or may not get is Old Dog, New tricks, which is an iTunes exclusive. Two other tracks I’d like to single out as enjoying early on are Enjoying Death which had a nice cryptic 60’s spy-flute swagger about it and Mother which has a more emotional tug.

For the most part however, Newman’s style of pulsating chromatic percussion and guitars keep the momentum going without ever drowning things out ala Die Another Day. There is definitely a large ethnic/turkish influence felt through-out the work which starts right from the opening track, a rather exciting action cue. You can hear three full tracks from the album here (including the exquisite Severine track) – courtesy of Cinema Musica and Sony Music:

Criticisms? Sure! Thematically it could be a little bit stronger and the music tends to be rhythm based. There is thematic material to be found however such as a melancholic yet regal  M theme (as witnessed on both Voluntary retirement and Mother), Severine’s theme (also in Modigliani, Komodo Dragon) and of course the James Bond theme (Breadcrumbs). As I said, Newman’s material doesn’t always hit you between the ears on the first listen. Only now am I starting to appreciate some of the density. It could also be argued that for a piece largely revolving around Britain, things sound too ethnic. However for the most part, the album sits together well as a listening experience. The tracks are out of sequence and I’m pleased to say that the track names don’t contain any obvious spoilers. Only the last track seems somewhat out-of-place – mostly a mix of the action cue Newman infuses elsewhere.

Not everyone is going to agree with this assessment, but I commend Newman for bringing his own style to Bond, and for me this sits quite highly amongst the non-Barry soundtracks. Of course it is still nowhere near the great John Barry (even on an off day), but I  certainly wouldn’t be upset to Thomas Newman return for another adventure further down the line. I highly suspect David Arnold will return back for Bond 24, and I hope the break has given him some fresh inspiration.

Meanwhile, to tie things up nicely – why not watch a clip of Thomas Newman, David Arnold and John Burlingame talk here?