In thinking about this article in deep details and in having rather wicked laugh, and thinking about Siskel and Ebert’s Worst of Shows which always make me laugh especially on what shows up on their shows and not to mention their total lack of respect for the movies they totally trash. In savoring that notion, I can in turn for the second year in a row do the same for what I consider the worst of the worst or just plain unfortunate scores or albums that fall into this category. You could call them victims of circumstance, but most would call it, waste of a few minutes of my life or just noise that felt like an eternity to cancel out. Okay, with that said here what I would consider the worst of what you shouldn’t spend your time, effort or money on!
i’m going to do this Siskel and Ebert style in put these in fun, goofy catagories that I enjoyed watching them do.
So let’s start out with this category:
Scores to Comedies that are simply aren’t funny…. or to put it lightly, comedies that were simply better off without these scores.
My first offender to trash is Eric Johnson’s score to the direct to DVD movie Ceremony. Easily one of the worst scores I’ve heard all year and it was a good reason why I didn’t take my time to review it in full and that is because it was so bad that every word that would’ve been typed is “I hated it, I hated it. I just hated this to the point I just hated it!” The movie itself from what I saw of the trailer is beneath Uma Thurman’s talent. The score is simply a country flavored score which was in bad context and one that simply just bored me to death.
John Debney’s No Strings Attached isn’t a bad score but it really should’ve been much better than him doing a Thomas Newman imitation that really wasn’t his style as he’s more purely lush orchestrial guy with big themes and capable of more after proving it so many times before.
Aaron Zigman’s I Don’t Know How She Does It is a score that is just too damn cheerful that works too hard to make this aweful movie better making you a bit naucious along the way. Way too hard and that’s a shame because Zigman is capable of more than this same went for his Sex and The City 2 score which was also a disappointment.
The next category is Superhero scores were went from Heroes to Zeros in a downbeat. This catagory is just for plain disappointing scores which such high expectations that they sunk as quickly as the movies the were written for by bad notes.
First up, is Thor and I hated to think that I would be putting this score in this category before the year began because the film looked so promising and it is a solid film, but Patrick Doyle’s music while it works in the film, the album is just a disappointing mess and the overuse of synthesizers and that Iron Man sound really killed it for me. Doyle is much better than this and Rise of the Planet of the Apes which is a terrific score proves that, but Thor just simply got hammered.
Green Lantern is another super hero gulity of using that power anthem electric guitar and while James Newton Howard knows how to incoroporate it perfectly in his scores, this was a huge disappointment from a guy who’s capable of writing some grand and memorable material. The score is flat and lacking memorable themes but the movie was also flat and uninspired even Ryan Reynolds charm and Blake Lively’s looks couldn’t save this one.
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides had its’ heart in the right place with the return of Johnny Depp’s iconic Jack Sparrow, but in the end it was a jumbled up rehash of Hans Zimmer’s music from the installments he had scored with some added flavor in Rodrigo Y Gabriela’s performances and in the end, it really couldn’t overcome the lack of originality that was sorely missing or a new direction that it really should’ve gone for as the new film had done.
Conan The Barbarian 3D…where do I begin….um it’s disappointing. It’s a pale shadow in all aspects to the superior Conan The Barbarian written by Oliver Stone and John Millius. No Arnold Schwarzenegger. No James Earl Jones. Nothing but a terrible, overbloated revamped and muddled retelling of Robert E. Howard’s book with more blood and terrible nonsensical characters and a score by Tyler Bates (who I’ve seriously tried to like) that is just so unbearable and forceful that it just isn’t memorable or for that matter grand or operatic.
Next category…Good thing that an album wasn’t released otherwise I would’ve used this as a coaster and that’s not saying much! Scores that simply well if you put in the sun or put glass of your favorite drink, beer or coffee you really wouldn’t care.
First up is, another James Newton Howard super hero score for The Green Hornet, which was a replacement for Danny Elfman who smartly left this disaster directed by Michel Gondry of all people. This patchwork score has been trashed by almost everyone who’s seen the movie and now you know why there was a reason it wasn’t released at all.
Hans Zimmer’s and Lorne Balfe’s contribution to The Dilemma was a major disappointment as was the film which had a terrific idea with a bad execution on all fronts. Their score was just almost non-existant for the most part and at times really forced the comedy when it really didn’t need to.
The next category is good movies that could just feature the worst possible music possible. Up first is Paul Leonard-Morgan’s Limitless which is a really solid and entertaining thriller and deserved a better score than it really got. The score it did get was something aiken to The Chemical Brothers’ Hanna and while it may have worked for that movie, it definitely doesn’t for this one. Thumps and drones that go bleep bleep to a solid character driven performance by Bradley Cooper to back him up should just simply go click, click off!
Speaking of Hanna, this was another disappointment for me. While I do like the style that they’re trying to immulate here like Tangerine Dream, and even Cliff Martinez’ solid work this year, this one just simply didn’t work for me on its own outside the film and it was a bit a turn off at times. While I wouldn’t say it’s dreadful, I will say this one was just flat out disappointing and at least a few steps better than Limitless that’s for sure.
Another offender is John Ottman and Alexander Rudd’s Unknown. This was a score that I was intrigued with as well as the film which actually does work and is very inventive for what it is. However, when it comes to Ottman and Rudd’s contribution it was just simply a flat out bore and it’s not like Ottman to write something as limp or uninteresting as this. I wanted to like this and times it did have some decent material, but it just doesn’t hold water and Ottman is definitely a better composer than what he’s shown with this score.
Ironclad was another one that I was flat out surprised was not better than it shoould’ve been. Lorne Balfe is a very talented composer but this score was a little too overwraught and very underwhelming. This is another one I wanted to like but instead, it ended up making my ears ring.
The next category is “When TV show albums should simply be cancelled!”
The offender for me in this category is Richard Wells’ Being Human, which with the success of shows like Fringe, Lost, Warehouse 13, The Borgias, and Game of Thrones which employ a live orchestra and some really fun, and enjoyable material, this one was just a rather somber and depressing exercise that left me feeling cold unfortunately.
Next category….When potentially good albums go bad….really bad!!
Up first is Hans Zimmer and he gets double duty here with Rango and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. Rango was a pretty solid score in the film itself and some nice pieces on the soundtrack album. Problem is that it was marred by snippets of somewhat intrustive dialog and the lack of any real amount of Zimmer’s music which was supplemented by some source music which wasn’t bad but most wanted more of Zimmer’s music and that is a shame that there was a severe lack of it.
While Pirates had a decent amount of music on the album was fresh and original, but there was barely a little more than half hour’s worth represented of the new material that he did write. The album featured about 30 minutes worth of remixes of the tracks contained on the album already and was absolutely needless to include them, but reason that it probably was was the real lack of new music to begin with. Still a disappointing album.
Next category….. When albums appear and disappear or just don’t appear!
The clear winner for this category is Relativity Media for it’s non physical release of Thomas Newman’s brilliant score to The Adjustment Bureau which is easily one of the best scores of the year and one that was deserving of a release other than a download. Newman’s other pretty solid score to The Debt received this very same treatment here in the U.S., but that was released on CD by Silva Screen Records in Europe. Limitless which I trashed, also was treated this way too and at least it deserved to be trashed on a physical level. At least, Hanna got a physical release long after the film left theaters….makes you wonder.
Warner Bros. also deserves some much needed and well deserved slack for its announcement of Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon which a physical CD was cancelled of an expensive download which is the equivalent of a physical CD. The Green Lantern also was announced this way and only came out as an On Demand CD from Amazon.com only and later on as an expensive import from Sony Classical.
The worst trends continue….. Amazon on Demand!
While this has worked for DVD’s it is totally frustrating to see labels such as Varese Sarabande for example continuing to miss out on some potential commercial success on releases that were once available to the public. Release worthy scores such as Marco Beltrami’s Soul Surfer, Howard’s Green Lantern, Harald Kloser and Thomas Wander’s Anonymous. Cliff Martinez’ Contagion, Mychael Danna’s Moneyball and Christopher Lennertz’ Horrible Bosses are just some of the examples of scores that might have had commercial success if given the chance. The willingness of labels to save money on CDR’s is a shame considering there are labels willing to release these scores. Hopefully that’ll change again to what it once was.
2012 will definitely be a better year for these composers without a doubt as well as the labels! So don’t take this list too hard now.
– Danny Gonzalez
Film Music Examiner NYC