The Amazing Spider-Man

Name: The Amazing Spider-Man
Year: 2012
Rating: PG
Running Time (minutes): 136
Description: Like most teenagers, Peter is trying to figure out who he is and how he got to be the person he is today. Peter is also finding his way with his first high school crush, Gwen Stacy, and together, they struggle with love, commitment and secrets. As Peter discovers a mysterious briefcase that belonged to his father, he begins a quest to understand his parents’ disappearance – leading him directly to Oscorp and the lab of Dr Curt Connors, his father’s former partner. As Spider-Man is set on a collision course with Connors’ alter-ego, The Lizard, Peter will make life-altering choices to use his powers and shape his destiny to become a hero.
Stars: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone and Rhys Ifans
Genres: Action, Adventure, Fantasy

Decided to give this a go after totally giving up on the terrible Toby Maguire movies.

Now THIS one was good! No Spider-Man whispering in that tortured voice Toby just can’t seem to drop. Garfield is so much better. Uncle Ben is superior and the villain is credible this time (no more stupid, childish hideous laughing)…

And Horner’s score is absolutely magical. Still wasn’t moved sufficiently when Ben died, but my goodness, this is so much better than Elfman’s perennial, comical, undramatic, annoymous, chaotic crap! What an awesome superhero theme! And the romantic side of the score is equally gripping. A little underplayed, perhaps, but still fifty times better than the feeble attempt Hans Zimmer makes at romance in the sequel, or the attempt Danny Elfman made that I totally forgot.

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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.

Far And Away

Name: Far And Away
Year: 1992
Rating: PG-13
Running Time (minutes): 140
Description: A young man (Cruise) leaves Ireland with his landlord’s daughter (Kidman) 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 loves or hates something. But anyway… The story is certainly not bad and I especially 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 (and Joseph urgently needs to listen to more music because the only song he seems to know is ‘her beautiful eyes’… Oh well. The Irish accents were still chocolate to the 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 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 literally begins to chase him off with music that plays ever faster. And then I’m not even talking about how he distorts themes to depit 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.

Presumed Innocent

Name: Presumed Innocent
Year: 1990
Rating: R
Running Time (minutes): 127
Description: After his former girlfriend is killed and he becomes the prime suspect, D.A. Rusty Sabich goes on a search to find the real killer and finds out he/she may be closer to him than he thinks.
Stars: Harrison Ford, Raul Julia and Greta Scacchi
Genres: Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Not sure what I could write about this film. The main characters and actors are brilliant. Harrison Ford is of course amazing, you really aren’t sure whether he’s innocent or not. I also don’t know who I liked better, Bonnie Bedelia (wife) or Greta Scacchi (lover). In the end, both were equally charismatic. The funny thing is that, very early on, I suddenly suspected how it was going to end. But then I was suddenly sure I had it completely wrong, and yet it turned out I had been right all along.

Even though John Williams wrote the score, I initially had some misgivings. The first cue sounded so… uncomplicated: how could such a simplistic theme be appropriate for this movie? But then the story unfolded and of course Williams completely nailed it again. The only negative remarks I can still give is that there’s a real lack of resemblance between the extremely adequate main theme and the optimistic music towards the ending. Also, Williams handled a sex scene in a way I wasn’t expecting and it didn’t really work for me.

Beauty and the Beast

Name: Beauty And The Beast
Year: 2017
Rating: PG
Running Time (minutes): 129
Description: Disney’s animated classic takes on a new form, with a widened mythology and an all-star cast. A young prince, imprisoned in the form of a beast, can be freed only by true love. What may be his only opportunity arrives when he meets Belle, the only human girl to ever visit the castle since it was enchanted.
Stars: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans
Genres: Family, Fantasy, Musical

I really liked this one. The only slightly confusing plot point for me was the fact that the castle’s objects still had living relatives at the end. The prologue made it sound as if the entire prince/enchantress thing had happened two centuries ago. Loved Emma Thompson wiv ‘er beau’iful Cockney accent. McKellen was great too, though I don’t really find the Gaston character arc very convincing. He turns from a lovable idiot to a villain in, like, two seconds. Lumière queeckly becèm boring az well, but I was really surprised that the ending was so tense. I’ve never seen the original version, but it can’t be better than this one.

On to more important things. THE MUSIC. No words. I just love Alan Menken’s limitlessly romantic scores. The songs were mostly a joy to discover, too, but my absolute favourite remains the one sang by the Beast as Belle leaves the castle. Absolutely terrific. I’ve read a lot of complaints from people who apparently thought Emma Watson was the only actress that was auto-tuned. She definitely isn’t. I’m not a fan of auto-tuning as every song written these days sounds like computerised crying to me, but here, it worked 90% of the time (some horrible edits, though).

And the audio-describer had a hidden agenda. I’ve been told at least five times that Belle was manly, brave and fearless. What is it with political correctness these days? Are they trying to tell youngsters that women are no longer the angels in the home holding it all together to prevent them getting dangerous ideas that no one has anymore? I hope Disney’s next film will show a woman casting a vote during an election, you know, just to make sure we all know women can vote. But at least the narrator didn’t interfere with the end credits (though, come to think of it, these end credits songs are no match for any song or music from the movie, so listening to a list of unimportant names might have been a better alternative).

How To Train Your Dragon

Name: How To Train Your Dragon
Year: 2010
Rating: PG
Running Time (minutes): 98
Description: Long ago up North on the Island of Berk, the young Viking, Hiccup, wants to join his town’s fight against the dragons that continually raid their town. However, his macho father and village leader, Stoik the Vast, will not allow his small, clumsy, but inventive son to do so. Regardless, Hiccup ventures out into battle and downs a mysterious Night Fury dragon with his invention, but can’t bring himself to kill it. Instead, Hiccup and the dragon, whom he dubs Toothless, begin a friendship that would open up both their worlds as the observant boy learns that his people have misjudged the species. But even as the two each take flight in their own way, they find that they must fight the destructive ignorance plaguing their world.
Stars: Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler and Christopher Mintz-Plasse
Genres: Animation, Adventure, Comedy, Drama, Family, Fantasy

The story is not bad at all, but why am I even talking about the plot when the score was so incredibly amazing? John Powell has surprised me lots of times, but this was just incredible. Fantastic main theme, terrific action music, stunningly beautiful and dazzling orchestration. Even if the movie had been the most terrible thing ever made, I’d still have kept watching. Let’s get that soundtrack.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Name: Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them
Year: 2016
Rating: PG
Running Time (minutes): 123
Description: Holding a mysterious leather suitcase in his hand, Newt Scamander, a young activist wizard from England visits New York while he is on his way to Arizona. Inside his expanding suitcase hides a wide array of diverse, magical creatures that exist among us, ranging from tiny, twig-like ones, to majestic and humongous ones. It is the middle of the 20s and times are troubled since the already fragile equilibrium of secrecy between the unseen world of wizards and the ordinary or “No-Maj” people that the MACUSA Congress struggles to maintain is at risk of being unsettled. In the meantime, the voices against wizardry keep growing with daily protests led by Mary Lou Barebone and fuelled by the increasing disasters ascribed to a dark wizard, Gellert Grindelwald. At the same time, by a twist of fate, Newt’s precious suitcase will be switched with the identical one of an aspiring No-Maj baker, Jacob Kowalski, while demoted Auror Tina Goldstein arrests Newt for being an unregistered wizard.
Stars: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Alison Sudol
Genres: Adventure, Family, Fantasy

I finally got around to watching this with audio description. When I watched it in the cinema with my family and without AD in November, I liked it. Now I love it. The story is excellent. My only tiny remark would be that I have some questions about the whole Obliviation plot at the ending, but I won’t say more, only that this film is so good that I’m almost prepared to forgive David Yates’s less enchanting entries in the Harry Potter series.

James Newton Howard’s music is absolutely brilliant. If you want a fantastic film score and are wondering where to find it, seek no further. What I truly liked about this one is that, for the first time since Goblet of Fire, we’re finally getting some magical music again. The MACUSA theme is glorious, the creatures receive stunning musical identities and then I haven’t even mentioned Newt’s heroic theme. I only don’t understand why Hedwig’s Theme randomly appears when they enter a zoo.

One final note about the audio description: Although it was very nice to finally listen to it, it affects the volume of the music too much. Example: Tina and Newt arrive at the American Ministry for Magic while the enchanting music builds and builds, but the dazzling orchestral spectacle that follows gets completely lost in the mix. Oh well, I’ll just have to watch it without AD one day.

Catch Me If You Can

Name: Catch Me If You Can
Year: 2002
Rating: PG
Running Time (minutes): 141
Description: An FBI agent tracks down and catches a young con artist who successfully impersonated an airline pilot, doctor, assistant attorney general and history professor, cashing more than $2.5 million in fraudulent checks in 26 countries.
Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks and Christopher Walken

I had already watched this one years ago, but hardly remembered any of it. Nice film, but at times a little disjointed and too fast-paced. The only really problematic aspect was the parents: I just don’t really understand the character of his dad and particularly his mum, and I certainly don’t get why Brenda’s father apparently thinks it’s totally cool that his girl marries a shady character when that girl was banished from the house for years. Then Tom Hanks briefly mentions Frank’s dad is dead, his mum just has another child without telling him anything about it… That’s just strange. The score is great. I just love that ‘Joy Ride’ theme so much.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Name: The Hunchback Of Notre Dame
Year: 1996
Rating: PG
Running Time (minutes): 91
Description: In 15th century Paris, Clopin the puppeteer tells the story of Quasimodo, the misshapen gentle-souled bell ringer of Notre Dame, who was nearly killed as a baby by Claude Frollo, the Minister of Justice. But Frollo was forced by the Archdeacon of Notre Dame to raise Quasimodo as his own. Now a young man, Quasimodo is hidden from the world by Frollo in the belltower of the cathedral. But during the Festival of Fools, Quasimodo, cheered on by his gargoyle friends Victor, Hugo, and Laverne, decides to take part in the festivities, where he meets the lively gypsy girl Esmeralda and the handsome soldier Phoebus. The three of them find themselves ranged against Frollo’s cruelty and his attempts to destroy the home of the gypsies, the Court of Miracles. And Quasimodo must desperately defend both Esmeralda and the very cathedral of Notre Dame.
Stars: Demi Moore, Jason Alexander and Mary Kay Bergman
Genres: Animation, Drama, Family, Musical, Romance

I decided to watch this one because the TV guide only offered mindless, shallow action movies other than this one, which aren’t my cup of tea. In the beginning I had some misgivings about it being too childish for me, but then the music started. WHAT, A, SCORE! I just LOVED the chords that accompanied the words ‘Notre Dame’ in the first cue. Then the bells came, then the organ, then the choir… The captain’s theme is perfect as well, I can’t stop chanting ‘with fire, with fire…’ They really have to do this one live in concert and there’d better be a good commercial release! As it happens, I had already heard a suite in concert a week ago, but that was played by a youth orchestra that didn’t have a string section. Never thought the real thing would sound so enchanting.

The story was not bad either. Thanks to the aforementioned concert, I already knew how it was gonna end, but never mind. Esmeralda did sound artificial at times, but, again, never mind. Can’t get over that score!

The audio description was good, but they didn’t emphasise Quasimodo’s deformed face sufficiently. Or maybe they did and I just didn’t really hear it because the sound mix in general wasn’t ideal.

Fatal Attraction

Name: Fatal Attraction
Year: 1987
Rating: R
Running Time (minutes): 119
Description: Happily married New York lawyer Dan Callagher has an affair with his colleague Alex, and the two enjoy a love weekend while Dan’s wife and kid are away. But Alex will not let go of him, and she will stop at nothing to have him for herself. Just how far will she go to get what she wants?
Stars: Michael Douglas, Glenn Close and Anne Archer
Genres: Drama, Thriller

Great film. It’s been a long time since I’ve sat on the edge of my chair for such a long time. The only scene I didn’t like was the one where Alex is calling Michael Douglas naes on that tape, it sort of deflated her character. Score was very effective too.

And the audio description needs a special mention as well. WGBH produced it, so naturally it was full of descriptions of camera angles, points of view etc. I just love that approach. Especially in this film, the ‘we see Alex staring at us from behind’ worked so well, even though I have no idea what it all looked like. Britain should do this as well.