December 6, 2007

Christmas Help: Music for the Movie Lover

When it comes to the movie lover in your life, gift giving does not have to begin and end with the DVD. Of course, the obsessed movie fan in your life is surely going to want to receive some of the latest releases or a selection of classics, so be sure to fill those needs, desires, and wants first. Following those gift purchases, if you are still stumped, or don't want to worry about possibly giving duplicates, there are other options. What options are these you ask? Music! Yes, music, more specifically, the gift of movie music. Scores and soundtracks are a great idea for the movie fan, even if they don't know it.

There are scores of scores to choose from. The trouble is finding the right ones. With so many options, how do you know which one(s) to get for your special someone? You see, not all scores are created alike. Some work well as a standalone work, others serve as a great way to relive the movie experience, while others are a miserable slog regardless of how much or how little you liked said film.

What I hope to do is point you towards a few releases that are well worth your time. There may even be a couple that are on my wish list (hint, hint).

Before I get to the movie scores, there are a couple of albums that I got that are not from films even though there is a big movie connection for them.
  • Evil Dead: The Musical. Yes, you read that right. An off-Broadway play was created and this is the resulting music. If you are a fan of the classic Sam Raimi splatter films, this is not to be missed. How can you not like a play set at a secluded cabin that is set upon by demonic forces? The songs are inventive and a lot of fun.
  • Spamalot. Monty Python and the Holy Grail is quite simply one of the funniest films ever made. This Tony Award winning musical successfully captures the over-the-top humor of the film while also delivering its own unique experience. This is more than just a copy of the movie. I have seen this show and loved it. This CD is a must for any Monty Python fan.
Moving along, last year yielded a number of memorable scores. In case your chosen has not yet added them to their collection, here are a few of the notables:
  • Casino Royale. David Arnold composed the music for the latest James Bond outing, and it works wonderfully. Of course, you have to wait until the end to hear that classic Bond theme that debuted with Dr. No. This may not be the best of the series, but it is a strong score that Bond fans are sure to enjoy. Most of the older scores should be easy to find and would be good choices as well. The only one I have is for From Russia With Love, and it is a good one!
  • The Fountain. This movie was strange. It is the kind of movie that will split the audience right down the middle. Whether you like the movie or not, the music is undeniably great. It was composed by Clint Mansell and performed by Mogwai and Kronos Quartet. It is mesmerizing, engrossing, and unforgettable. Easily my favorite score of the year.
  • Notes on a Scandal. Philip Glass wrote the haunting score for this low-key thriller. This is music that will stick in your head long after the disk has stopped spinning.
  • Pan's Labyrinth. Beautiful, dark, and mysterious, so is the music accompanying Guillermo Del Toro's breakthrough film last year. Javier Navarrete composed the music and it stands as my second favorite of the year.
  • Superman Returns. John Ottman had the unenviable task of reworking John Williams' classic themes for the new Bryan Singer film. Did he succeed? Very much so. Yes, there is a lot of John William's work here, but Ottman does a fine job of recreating those themes and then expanding on them with his own ideas. Excellent for Superman fans. Of course, the original score is available as well. If they don't have that one.....
2007 has brought some great scores as well, and they aren't limited to the big screen. This will likely be a good place to focus your attentions. That is, unless the person your shopping for has already gone out and gotten the albums they want already.
  • Darjeeling Limited. Not a score, but an intriguing collection of music that I want to get my hands on. I cannot claim to be a big fan of the movie, but the music is an eclectic mix of American and Indian. Much of the music obtained from popular Indian films. Definitely unique among this year's releases.
  • Sweeney Todd. This is a preemptive inclusion. I have not seen the film and am not familiar with the musical. I am taking a leap and believing that I am going to like, if not love, the songs and music. I have faith in Burton and Depp adapting the Sondheim musical.
  • Transformers. No, not the pop rock album that came out when the movie was released, but the more recent release of Steve Jablonsky's score. It is big and bombastic to match the movie. Fans of film scores will not want to miss this one.
  • Grindhouse: Planet Terror/Death Proof. A combination of score and songs, these two albums deliver experiences much like the films that spawned them. That said, these are only recommended for those who enjoyed the movies. The more casual fan will likely not care for them.
  • Stardust. The music for this comedic fantasy is as much fun as the movie itself, and believe me, the movie is a breath of fresh air. The score, by Ilan Eshkeri, is a delight to the ears, and works nicely as a stand-alone album.
  • August Rush. Here is a movie that is part musical, part narrative, and all magical. By and large, the music is just as magical. Sure, there are a couple of duds to be found, but the excellence far outweighs the disappointments. Orchestral work rubs elbows with spectacular acoustic pieces adding up to a must have album.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End. I could have just as easily included last year's Dead Man's Chest album as it is excellent as well. The music on both is excellent, fun and big. Pretty much what you would expect from a big budget summer blockbuster pirate movie. Hans Zimmer delivers the goods.
  • Lust, Caution. Alexandre Desplat is the mind behind this exceptional score to a film I have not yet seen. He also composed the Golden Globe award winning score to The Painted Veil. It is a haunting combination of piano and strings in a minimalist arrangement. Works beautifully apart from the film and comes highly recommended.
  • Battlestar Galactica: Season Three. Remember I mentioned the music was not confined to the big screen? Here is one from the small screen. This is an exceptional collection of music from the third season. It is filled with original music with inspirations from around the world. Not be missed by anyone.
  • Halloween. Like the movie or not, the soundtrack has a strong collection of classic rock tracks that you will want to play in the car, cruising with the volume up. It also has a couple of pieces from Tyler Bates take on the John Carpenter score from the original.
  • The Simpsons Movie. Another Hans Zimmer score to recommend. Fans of the movie, the show, or both will want to get their hands on this one. Zimmer slipped right into the style of the show and delivered a score filled with soft subtlety and big cartoony bombast. Like the movie, this music is a lot of fun.
  • Hairspray. I dare you to listen to this and not tap your foot. Ths music is absolutely infectious. This coming from a guy who doesn't generally go for "showtunes." The movie was a blast and the music is to. I do not yet have this, but have no problems recommending it.
  • Once. I have not seen the film nor have I heard the music. I just have a feeling that I am going to like this. The trailer indicates a folk-rocky feel with a heartfelt romance at its core. Hopefully I will like it, otherwise this recommendation will look awfully silly!
Going back a little further, there are some great albums that come from outside the past two years. Now this is a mere sampling of what is available, but I feel they are definitely worth noting in case the movie lover in your life happened to miss them.
  • The Nightmare Before Christmas. It is not Christmas, or Halloween, without the songs of Tim Burton's cult classic. The 3D re-release has brought it renewed life. The songs are great, catchy, and impossible to get out of your head once they dig themselves in.
  • Memoirs of a Geisha. John Williams scored this novel adaptation for Rob Marshall. The music is absolutely beautiful. It is epic, romantic, and thoroughly tinged with the East. This is a score I find myself returning to time and time again.
  • A Nightmare on Elm Street. This one goes back a ways. Charles Bernstein experimented with synth scoring and crafted this memorable score, complete with the creepy ten note theme that brings with it a sense of dread and unease. Perfect for the horror lover.
  • Halloween. Another one for the horror fan. This John Carpenter composed score is one of the creepiest and simplest ever committed to tape. There is no excuse for this not to be among the horror lover's collection.
  • Star Wars. OK, this will likely not be an option. Anyone who loves movies and the music in them will have these already (meaning all 6 films). If not, these are an absolute must, particularly the original trilogy. The one to spotlight here would be the score for Revenge of the Sith. The movie is the best of the prequels, as is the score. John Williams was on the top of his game when he composed this one.
  • The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. Ennio Morricone's experimental score is unmistakable. He made great use of voices, whistles, and all manner of other sounds in creating the iconic music to Sergio Leone's masterful spaghetti western.
  • Zatoichi. This one may be a bit more difficult to find, I got mine as an import. Keiichi Suzuki scored Takeshi Kitano's update of the Zatoichi character, and it is an absolutely delightful listen. If you are looking for something a little different than your typical Hollywood-style score, this is a good choice.
  • House of Flying Daggers. Whatever your thoughts are on the love triangle/martial arts film, Shigeru Umebayashi's music is gorgeous. It has a distinctly different flavor, well apart from the big orchestral scores that we hear most of the time.
  • The Incredibles. Michael Giacchino has been gaining more notoriety over the past few years, beginning with his work on Lost. Here, he has crafted a fine, jazzy score that fits the superhero genre and is very reminiscent of John Barry's brassy style from the James Bond films.
Happy shopping! Please let me know of any other scores that you'd recommend. I am relatively new to this and am always looking for recommendations.


Anonymous said...

my picks are transformers and casino royale, thx for the other leads too!

Post a Comment