Every four weeks, ORWAV explores the movie month ahead through the medium of song! Upcoming releases, notable births and anniversaries and a general celebration of the films, directors, technicians and performers that we love so much. This month, the Playlist comes up against a strangely terrible release schedule, gets slightly frustrated, and- oh wait, what did we expect? After all: it’s February…
Not to get everyone all excited, but February 2016 in the UK will go down in history as the month that brought us Dad’s Army, The Finest Hours, How to Be Single, Grimsby, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and, of course, the long-awaited Lee Scratch Perry’s Vision of Paradise, which we can only assume was commissioned and produced by an ambitious Mojo staff writer who finally got tired of writing about Creedence Clearwater Revival and branched out.
First up on the slate is Trumbo, composed by Theodore Shapiro – who also composed this month’s Zoolander 2, because, hilariously, that’s the kind of film he normally does. Not for nothing was he hired by Jay Roach (Austin Powers, Meet the Parents) for this particular dramatic outing. The soundtrack hits the expected beats, has some good melodies and is overall not that bad; good enough, in fact, that Shapiro should be given more chances to stretch his muscles a little. Our Playlist pick is ‘Prologue’, which blends a few of the OST’s sounds into an evocative little nugget. But ultimately Bryan Cranston remains the only reaaaaaally interesting thing about Trumbo.
If Trumbo‘s Reds under the bed don’t appeal, February also has a man in red shooting heads. That’s right: Deadpool, the latest Ryan Reynolds superhero movie, hits this Valentine’s Day – the film’s marketing being so saturated in the kind of irreverent ironical humour that has made the protagonist so popular. It remains to be seen, of course, whether Deadpool the motion picture will also bother to match the comics’ overdrive of insane intelligence. At present, it seems the wittiest moments by far will come courtesy of TJ Miller as Weasel, but with the Zombieland writers behind this there’s a high likelihood of comical quality across the board. Salt-N-Pepa feature heavily in the trailer with ‘Shoop’, which is more than enough to keep us pumped.
Also smashing genres together is the highly-regarded ‘Horror Western’ Bone Tomahawk, starring Kurt Russell, Patrick Wilson and Richard Jenkins. Jeff Herriott and S. Craig Zahler have provided an interesting and atmospheric score; it helps that Zahler is also the writer-director, so clearly knows what he wants. ‘The Survivors Continue’ is a particularly interesting piece of music for our Playlist; the final track, ‘Four Doomed Men Ride Out’, is absolutely bonkers though. Worth a listen, and worth a watch.
Will Smith returns to vaguely good filmmaking this month with Concussion, in which his ‘African’ doctor must face off against a tide of sinister men in black suits, because football players are nodding their heads too hard – which is all very reminiscent of a previous Will Smith movie theme tune: ‘Black Suits Comin’ (Nod Ya Head)’.
On the decidedly less prominent end of the February release spectrum, the Cannes prize-winning Icelandic dramedy Rams is hitting UK cinemas this week. Composer Atli Örvasson is known around Hollywood for work on Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, The Eagle, Season of the Witch and some contributions to Man of Steel. His score for Rams, however – including ‘Into the Highlands’ – is so serene, different and simply artful that he deserves to be offered some better projects. Still, as long as the cheques keep coming his way to fund these smaller films we’re happy enough just to hear what he can do. The film itself, by the way, is a must-see.
Luca Guadagnino is another great figure of international cinema, who recently followed up his brilliant I Am Love with A Bigger Splash, reuniting Ralph Fiennes and Tilda Swinton. Captain Beefheart, among others, features on an excellent soundtrack: ‘Observatory Crest’ is of a piece with the film’s themes of relationships and rock ‘n’ roll.
Also surprisingly of-a-piece with its surrounding movie is ‘Racketeer’, by The Blue Van. The song – upbeat, catchy, slightly rote and mediocre – features in the new big-screen adaptation of RL Stine’s Goosebumps books which, pleasingly, is everything your upbeat, slightly rote and mediocre childhood wished for. Less pleasing is its lack of real spookiness but, hey, it’s amazing how well Jack Black’s turn as the famous author reflects the books’ colloquial, approachable first-person style (a trait rather easy to forget, in retrospect).
And in more return-to-the-’90s news, Wes Anderson’s debut feature Bottle Rocket turns 20 in February. Aside from everything else about this now-iconic auteur, Bottle Rocket introduced a small section of the world to his taste for retro pop: Love‘s ‘Alone Again Or’, the memorable opener to their classic album Forever Changes, features on the excellent jukebox soundtrack to this rather beloved indie caper. 20 years feels like nothing in the moment, but it’s an eternity in pop culture – we simply shouldn’t underestimate the remarkable significance of Bottle Rocket‘s release, as one of few ’90s indies to have gifted such an enduring filmmaker.
After all, by the time of Bottle Rocket‘s release Martin Scorsese was well-established as an all-time genius just 23 years since his own breakthrough. But we’re not celebrating Mean Streets today; no, February 2016 marks four decades since the initial release of that great, monumental classic Taxi Driver. Bernard Herrmann, a longstanding master of American film music, was recruited at the grand old age of 65 to provide a loopy, unsettling score of restless urbanity and nervous psycho-jazz; ‘I Still Can’t Sleep’ is just one of many genius cuts in this Oscar-nominated soundtrack. The score, and the film, are worth revisiting when possible and this big anniversary is a great excuse for both.
Finally, wrapping us all up is a look into the future of cinema. Not in a particularly huge way; but more notable than the by-the-numbers drama of Trumbo or the barely-subversive “subversion” of Deadpool is the latest in a spate of ‘in their own words’ documentaries: Janis: Little Girl Blue follows hot on the heels of Amy, Listen to Me Marlon and, to an extent, Cobain: Montage of Heck to put its subjects’ experiences together with as much veracity as possible. The interesting thing about these films is the way that attention-grabbing format actually allows for some boundary-pushing format work, the editing allowing an air of impressionism that sets these releases apart from the arguably less cinematic styles of other documentaries. But this is a digression. At the very least, Janis is part of a great rockumentary tradition and, more importantly for the Playlist’s purposes, gives us an excuse to stick on her rollicking work covering ‘Piece of My Heart’ with Big Brother and the Holding Company. We’ll see you next month.