Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

Name: Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
Year: 1986
Rating: PG
Running Time (minutes): 119
Description: To save Earth from a destructive space probe, Kirk and his fugitive crew go back in time to 20th-century Earth to recover two humpback whales, who are the only Earth beings who can respond to it.
Stars: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy and DeForest Kelley
Genres: Adventure, Comedy, Sci-Fi

Without a doubt, the best damn Star Trek film so far. Though the premise might be a little far-fetched and Gillian’s faith seems highly improbable, I thoroughly enjoyed this one. Light-hearted, good humour and DeForest really shone this time.

And what a fine score. I didn’t know Leonard Rosenman at all, but will be looking out for more of his material from now on. The main theme is fantastic and so incredibly catchy, though its performances were mostly a disaster: the trumpet players were terrible at the beginning of the film and during the end credits, everyone briefly did their own thing. Oh well, I know what I’ll be humming for the next few days and the infinitely superior re-recording by Erich Kunzel will be beamed up to my speakers regularly. There was not a lot of score in the film at all, but surprisingly, the silences really worked well most of the time. The overall package was so refreshing and appropriate: I finally felt like I was part of an adventure in space. Goldsmith’s fanfare for the first film was great, but the rest of that score was endless droning. Horner’s two subsequent entries were droning without adventure. This one, at last, provided some excitement and there was even a nod to Horner towards the end. Not an ideal thing to do, but far better than Horner dropping Goldsmith’s fanfare entirely.

Something very interesting happened in the audio description as well. At about twenty minutes into the story, the narrator suddenly had a bit of extra time and used it to describe Kirk and Spock’s age, clothes and appearance. This might sound like a very straight-forward thing to do, but it’s really nice to hear that the writer(s) thought of this right in the middle of the action. Not everyone does.


The Devil Wears Prada

Name: The Devil Wears Prada
Year: 2006
Rating: PG-13
Running Time (minutes): 109
Description: In New York, the simple and naive just-graduated in journalism Andrea Sachs is hired to work as the second assistant of the powerful and sophisticated Miranda Priestly, the ruthless and merciless executive of the Runway fashion magazine. Andrea dreams to become a journalist and faces the opportunity as a temporary professional challenge. The first assistant Emily advises Andrea about the behaviour and preferences of their cruel boss and the stylist Nigel helps Andrea to dress more adequately for the environment. Andrea changes her attitude and behaviour, affecting her private life and the relationship with her boyfriend Nate, her family and friends. In the end, Andrea learns that life is made of choices.
Stars: Anne Hathaway, Meryl Streep and Adrian Grenier
Genres: Comedy, Drama, Romance

I can only bear stupid characters for 30 minutes, sorry.

Shakespeare In Love

Name: Shakespeare In Love
Year: 1998
Rating: R
Running Time (minutes): 123
Description: Will Shakespeare is a known but struggling poet, playwright and actor who not only has sold his next play to both Philip Henslow and Richard Burbidge, but now faces a far more difficult problem: he is bereft of ideas and has yet to begin writing. He is in search of his muse, the woman who will inspire him, but all attempts fail him until he meets the beautiful Viola de Lesseps. She loves the theatre and would like nothing more than to take to the stage, but is forbidden from doing so as only men can be actors. She is also a great admirer of Shakespeare’s works. Dressing as a man and going by the name of Thomas Kent, she auditions and is ideal for a part in his next play. Shakespeare soon see through her disguise and they begin a love affair, one they know cannot end happily for them as he is already married and she has been promised to the dour Lord Wessex.
Stars: Gwyneth Paltrow, Joseph Fiennes and Geoffrey Rush
Genres: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Shall I compare it to a summer’s day? A summer’s day would have been better.

My biggest problem with this film is the endless reciting of Shakespeare lines. I can certainly appreciate a Bard play, but only when I read it or listen to it. I need time to take in the words, time to appreciate the sentences and understand the metaphors. I don’t want to hear actors speeding through them so fast that I barely have time to work out what they’re actually saying to each other and it was also blatantly obvious that all these extracts only had one purpose: they were there to make the main characters love each other more and more and more. I also quickly became tired of the star-crossed lovers, who seemed to think that reading plays was as satisfying as making love (not my words). Not that the finale of Romeo and Juliet didn’t move me, but it would have been far more effective had they not wasted half of the running time spouting romantic nonsense. So now that I’ve got all that out of the way, Paltrow was a really nice surprise. The same can be said about Judi Dench: I really, really liked her in this film, but my goodness, she must have had the most historically inaccurate part in the entire movie.

Even though I’ve reached a point where I only want film music to be surprising and where am tired of hearing the same old things over and over, the limitless sadness and romance in this score really touched me. Especially the dance music was very effective. The final cue could have been better, though.


Name: Octopussy
Year: 1983
Rating: PG
Running Time (minutes): 131
Description: James Bond’s next mission sends him to the circus. A British agent was murdered and found holding onto a priceless Faberge egg. Kamal Kahn buys the egg at an auction, but Bond becomes suspicious when Kahn meets up with Russian General Orlov. Bond soon finds out that Kahn’s and Orlov’s plan is to blow a nuclear device in an American Air Force base. Bond teams up with a circus group, which is headed by the beautiful Octopussy, who is also a close friend of Kahn. Will Bond be quick enough before World War III begins?
Stars: Roger Moore, Maud Adams and Louis Jourdan
Genres: Action, Adventure, Thriller

I found the first half surprisingly enjoyable. Even after so many entries, the Bond formula still works for me. But then things became rather confusing and I never understood how exactly Kahn and the circus were connected, who did what for whom and why, how the jewels were connected to the weapon etc. Would also have liked a little more Magda and Roger Moore really had a very bad moment when he was getting angry at Orlov on the train.

It’s also interesting to hear how the Bond scores are changing from dull trombone wailing to beautiful, romantic music. I really liked the emphasis on the violin in this one. The song was weak, though.

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock

Name: Star Trek III: The Search for Spock
Year: 1984
Rating: PG
Running Time (minutes): 105
Description: Picking up exactly where Star Trek II left off, the Enterprise and crew are returning to port for some essential repairs to their ship. When they arrive, they are shocked to discover the Enterprise is to be scrapped. When Dr McCoy starts acting strangely, Kirk is forced to steal his old ship back and fly across space to a lonely planet to save a friend.
Stars: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy and DeForest Kelley
Genres: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi, Thriller

Everything is so superficial: emotions, characters, humour… David’s death didn’t move me in the slightest and as I still don’t know what Klingons really are, Christopher Lloyd’s character was quite uninteresting as well (though the fact that Lloyd played him significantly contributed to my enjoyment of this film). Yet again, the only reason I’ll watch the next film is because I’m curious to know what will happen to Spock. It’s all entertaining enough once you accept how shallow it is, I guess.

And I still can’t believe James Horner wrote this score. Just like before, some interesting tidbits, but overall a dull score. And there were lots of scenes that badly needed music as well, like the final fight with Lloyd, but that’s not his fault. Also, why on earth did Horner discard Goldsmith’s fanfare for the first film twice? It is not logical!

The Big Short

Name: The Big Short
Year: 2015
Rating: R
Running Time (minutes): 130
Description: Three separate but parallel stories of the U.S mortgage housing crisis of 2005 are told. Michael Burry, an eccentric ex-physician turned one-eyed Scion Capital hedge fund manager, has traded traditional office attire for shorts, bare feet and a Supercuts haircut. He believes that the US housing market is built on a bubble that will burst within the next few years. Autonomy within the company allows Burry to do largely as he pleases, so Burry proceeds to bet against the housing market with the banks, who are more than happy to accept his proposal for something that has never happened in American history. The banks believe that Burry is a crackpot and therefore are confident in that they will win the deal. Jared Vennett with Deutschebank gets wind of what Burry is doing and, as an investor, believes he too can cash in on Burry’s beliefs.
Stars: Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling
Genres: Biography, Comedy, Drama

Pretty good, although they overdid the financial terminology bit. If they had focused on the human side a little more, the film would have been much more relaxing and enjoyable.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

Name: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
Year: 1982
Rating: PG
Running Time (minutes): 113
Description: Admiral James T. Kirk is still in charge of a space fleet, but from behind a desk. Dr McCoy and Mr Spock convince him to take on a mission which sounds simple, but with the appearance of the mysterious Khan, things get a little tricky.
Stars: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy and DeForest Kelley
Genres: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi, Thriller

Hmm… I don’t really understand why the first film got such negative reviews and found it much better than this one. I’m also still feeling uncomfortable in this futuristic world, for want of a better word. Why is it so difficult to explain basic things such as: does everyone travel constantly in the future, why does Kirk explore space, what is warp speed, Starfleet, Klingon etc.? Why do I have to glue all the puzzle pieces together myself? Not that I didn’t understand the story, that was simple enough (and for a super-intelligent being, Khan is pretty uncomplicated if you ask me and his backstory is superficial at best). I still find Spock the best character because he’s the only one who seems to have any emotional depth, ironically.

Just like with the original Star Wars trilogy, this music doesn’t affect me in the slightest. Yes, there are some nice moments here and there, but honestly, Spock’s death scene couldn’t have been scored in a more counter-intuitive way.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2

Name: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2
Year: 2015
Rating: PG
Running Time (minutes): 137
Description: After young Katniss Everdeen agrees to be the symbol of rebellion, the Mockingjay, she tries to return Peeta to his normal state, tries to get to the Capitol and tries to deal with the battles coming her way… but all for her main goal: assassinating President Snow and returning peace to the Districts of Panem. As her squad starts to get smaller and smaller, will she make it to the Capitol? Will she get revenge on Snow? Or will her target change? Will she be with her “Star-Crossed Lover”, Peeta? Or her longtime friend, Gale? Deaths, bombs, bows and arrows, a love triangle, hope. What will happen?
Stars: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth
Genres: Adventure, Sci-Fi

The first film in this saga made a huge impression on me because it was so raw, brutal and moving. The second film was nearly as good as the first one. But then, they had to make the third film for no other reason than financial greed. And finally, there’s this one.

I don’t really know how to feel about it. I only really started to enjoy it at the 40-minute mark. It’s not a bad film, but it’s certainly not good either. It’s all doom and gloom. I realise this is not a fairy-tale, but there’s just something about these first two films that’s absent in the last two, even though I can’t say exactly what that is. And then, the finale started to unfold and I just found it absurd. But now that it’s all over and now that the whole conclusion is slowly sinking in, I must admit the ending probably isn’t that bad. It’s just not the grand finale I was hoping for. There’s no real closure, no relief after this harrowing story, though, and that bothers me.

Like in the previous films, James Newton Howard’s score contained lots of nice bits, but overall, it’s not really a score I like. Obviously, Howard needed to do what he did for the story’s purposes, but I know he can write much more interesting, dark music than what he did for this franchise. As the film drew to a close, the score really started to become noticeable and whatever problems this score has, I’m 100% sure Howard is not to blame for them.

United 93

Name: United 93
Year: 2006
Rating: R
Running Time (minutes): 111
Description: On September 11th, 2001, two American Airlines and two United Airlines domestic U.S. flights are hijacked by terrorists. After the collision of two planes against the World Trade Center and one against the Pentagon, the passengers and crew of United Flight 93 decide to struggle against the four terrorists to take back control of the airplane.
Stars: David Alan Basche, Olivia Thirlby and Liza Colón-Zayas
Genres: Crime, Drama, History

Films like this just make me nervous, so I turned it off after 30 minutes. And those 30 minutes were rather long-winded. Also, a relative is about to take a plane tomorrow, so it might not have been perfect timing. Why do stories like this need to be filmed, anyway? Was the event itself not tragic enough?

I have no idea why John Powell got attached to this project either. The score I heard was extremely sparse and ambient. He can do better.

Far And Away

Name: Far And Away
Year: 1992
Rating: PG-13
Running Time (minutes): 140
Description: A young man leaves Ireland with his landlord’s daughter after some trouble with her father and they dream of owning land at the big giveaway in Oklahoma, ca. 1893.
Stars: Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Thomas Gibson
Genre: Adventure, Drama, Romance

When I first watched this film, I loved it. When I watched it again last year, I really liked it. Now I like it. I’m not sure whether that’s because it’s an okayish film or because I’m just a person who either passionately loves or hates something in the beginning. But anyway…

The story is certainly not bad and I particularly liked Mr Christie this time. Nicole Kidman delivers a few lines in a really heartbreaking way, especially at the end, but she does tend to overact during her angry passages and her ‘modern’ behaviour rather annoyed me now. Also, it’s really weird that at one point she has a cold, but when they then enter a house and have a romantic private moment a few seconds later, she suddenly doesn’t sound ill anymore. And I’m not really a Tom Cruise fan either (Joseph urgently needs to listen to more music because the only song he seems to know is ‘her beautiful eyes’… too). Oh well. The Irish accents were still chocolate to my ears.

John Williams’ score is obviously top-notch. It’s probably one of the reasons I liked this movie so much in the first place. The main themes are as memorable as any JW material and the orchestra accompanies the action/events brilliantly. At one point, for instance, Williams literally brings the ensemble to a halt at the very moment Shannon finally sort of confesses she’d like to live with Joseph and the effect is breathtaking. And then there’s that moment Joseph walks away increasingly quickly and Williams begins to chase him off with a theme that plays ever faster, a theme that literally wants to drive him back to his roots in Ireland. And then I’m not even talking about how he distorts themes to depict both joy and disaster. I’m still not really sure what all the themes stand for, but I’ve been way too busy worshipping this composer like a God to care and might soon have to start buying his vinyls to decorate the walls… And before I forget, the end credits need mentioning: instead of Williams’ wonderful suite, we first get an Enya song that is totally unrelated to all the music that came before it and contains a really awkward transition too. Why? Why truncate Williams’ wonderful musical summary to make room for such trash? Finally, Williams unwittingly made a pretty grave scene really funny: when Mr Christie’s house is being destroyed, he inserts a few French horn notes that are exactly the same as Howard Shore’s Gondor theme for Lord of the Rings. Once you realise that, the scene becomes hilarious.

This was the first time I watched the film in surround sound. I’d bought the DVD because the audio-described version interfered too much with the wonderful score… and wasted two euros in the process, but at least I won’t have to work in a chicken factory to earn them back. The track is extremely undynamic. You NEVER hear the rear channels at all throughout the entire movie and the sound mix is rather off at times too: beautiful music is drowned out by unnecessary loud cheering, but at least the front speakers are used to their full extent.