Soundtrack Picks: “THE JUNGLE BOOK” is the top soundtrack to own for April, 2016
Also worth picking up BEYOND: TWO SOULS, THE CAIRO DECLARATION, THE SAINT, THUNDERBIRDS and many more!
To Purchase the soundtracks from this list, click on the CD cover
THE TOP PICKS
1) BEYOND: TWO SOULS
What is it?: Good, if not excellent things can come to those who wait, which can be especially frustrating when it comes to a world where instant, visual gratification always comes first before music that can be equally as gratifying (if not more so) than the game it’s attached to. Now finally after three years, listeners will finally get to dive into Lorne Balfe’s terrific score for the 2013’s “Beyond: Two Souls,” Game creator David Cage’s attempt to break down the line between movie and controller by having the player make choices that would creates fateful ripples across the rest of his experience – a la Cage’s seminal detective-themed “Heavy Rain,” as now given a sci-fi veneer. But where the ambition “Souls” ended up being more like watching a movie with some passive play than the fully interactive experience it intended to be, Balfe’s score truly elevated “Beyond” into a spectral, mind-bending musical realm that proved itself to be the genre’s answer to “Inception” when it came to expanding the melodic consciousness of game scoring.
Why should you buy it?: That Lorne Balfe was an essential part of Hans Zimmer’s team with additional music on “The Da Vinci Code,” “The Dark Knight” and “Inception” (a score that he also co-produced) says much for the epic orchestral element that distinguishes “Souls” – not to mention Balfe’s own music for such propulsive action games and films as “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2,” “Assassin’s Creed: Revelations” and “Terminator: Salvation.” By virtue of its length, “Beyond: Two Souls’ just might have had the most complex and involving plot of any of them as it explored the link between hunted government operative Jodie (Ellen Page) and her lifelong relationship with “Aiden,” a seeming alien symbiote closely watched by her scientific father figure Nathan (Williem Dafoe). Cast out of her assassin agency (is there any other kind?) and on the run, “Beyond” took Jodie into the homeless streets, a lab possessed by spirits and a Native American reservation, all leading to her ultimate understanding of Aiden’s true role in her existence – a gobsmacking revelation if there ever was one. While there were no shortage of guns to fire and creatures to fight, “Beyond: Two Souls” was far from the mindless first person shooting fun, allowing Balfe to write an uncommonly emotional score that stands as his best work.
Extra Special: There’s a truly beautiful thematic empathy to “Beyond: Two Souls,” beginning with a mournful, vaguely Oriental theme for Jodie, a little girl lost given a heavenly female voice and lush, assuring strings. It’s a gorgeous melancholy that haunts much of the score, where lullaby bells and poignant strings become her tormented childhood link to Aiden in “My Imaginary Friend.” A somber violin accompanies Dawkins angst-filled theme, whereas the invisible Aiden receives a ghostly theme of suspended strings and the beat of piano lost in some twilight zone, an “Infraworld” that fills with the vengeful force. It’s a determined momentum that drives “The Experiment,” where Aiden’s eerily building, spectral rage has a drum-kicking momentum to rival any of Leo’s dream team (maybe it’s not-so ironic that “Inception” cast member Ellen Page was recruited for this as well). But for the most part, “Beyond: Two Souls” is concerned with death and transfiguration, with Balfe’s theme finally bestowing a profound sense of deliverance. It’s a feeling of one’s place in the cosmic birth chord, and a game struggling beyond that to break the confines of being just mere button-pushing entertainment. At the least, Lorne Balfe’s gorgeous score certainly wins on that boss level.
2) THE CAIRO DECLARATION
What Is it?: Nothing seems to inspire glorious feelings for The Motherland like a flag-waving symphonic score, its citizens’ devotion embodied in majestically swirling melody. But then, you don’t have to open your Little Red Book to appreciate the stirring patriotism that westerner Chad Cannon, along with Chinese composer Ye Xiaogang put into “The Cairo Declaration,” creating the most sumptuous music to accompany a historical event most listeners on this side of the Atlantic have never heard of.
Why Should You Buy It?: The 1943 meeting between FDR, Churchill and soon-to-be overthrown Chinese ruler Chiang Kai-shek decided the who’d get Japan’s occupied territories once Tojo went down in flames – with the Island of Taiwan’s inevitable rule by Kai-Shek a remaining thorn in China’s pride. But here it’s all about future party crasher Chairman Mao guiding his country to glory, marshaling a swaggering epic full of romance and noble fighting – emotions considerably met by Cannon and Xiaogang.
Extra Special: Beginning his career as an additional orchestrator to empower the reptilian force of “The Desolation of Smaug” and “Godzilla,” Chad Cannon’s first major work as a composer is a grandly engaging historical opera, his fluency with Oriental rhythms impressively abetted by Xiaogang (“Shower”). With nationalistic movies of this sort getting a bit more sophisticated since The Cultural Revolution, Cannon and Xiaogang’s bring impact instead of roof-shouting patriotism to “The Cairo Declaration” for an especially smart and melodic score in the genre. There’s a terrific sense of momentum to their here, conveying a race against time as Japan and Nazi Germany’s clocks run out, reflecting both the weight of world powers and the innocents caught within it. The lush, romantic approach of John Barry and Nino Rota can also be heard in “Cairo’s” writing that makes signing a document as exciting, and emotional as possible, militaristic rhythm, pastoral strings, proud brass and tender strings getting equal measure in this impressive well-performed score by the Czech Symphony Orchestra, the album getting an especially lovely end son with “Pray.” But whatever one might think of who got the spoils of a horrible war, let alone Chairman Mao as ac action hero, “The Cairo Declaration” announces Cannon and Xiaogang’s epically humane talents with a consistently engaging twenty one gun symphonic salute to The Supreme Leader that’s universal, and apolitical in its impact.
3) DICKENSIAN / RIPPER STREET
What is it?: The music of Victorian-to-Edwardian England has never been more interesting given the likes of Hans Zimmer’s “Sherlock Holmes,” Charlie Mole’s “Mr. Selfridge” and John Lunn’s “Downton Abbey.” When given the spirit of such TV dream-team mash-ups like “Penny Dreadful,” the antiquated approach becomes positively hopping, especially as heard on English label Silva Screen’s releases of the BBC soundtracks to Debbie Wiseman’s “Dickensian” and Dominik Scherrer’s “Ripper Street,” shows whose desperation-caked cobblestones ring with exciting, unbuttoned vibrancy.
Why should you buy it?: “Dickensian” is turns the Marvel Universe into the Charles Dickens one as literary superheroes from such classic novels as “A Christmas Carol,” “Great Expectations” and “The Old Curiousity Sharp” search for the clues to unveil just who killed Scrooge’s partner Jacob Marley. It’s a most clever concept that brings out an especially playful side to composer Debbie Wiseman, a composer who’s managed to do impressive work while being corseted in costumes for dire period drama on the big and small screen like “Wolf Hall,” “My Uncle Silas” and “Wilde” Now really getting to loosen up with the mystery that’s afoot, Wiseman employs the quizzical cimbalom playing of Greg Knowles to pokily percussive delight. It’s music that you can imagine hearing if Oliver Twist matched wits with Arthur Conan Doyle’s detective from Baker Street. Yet for all of “Dickensian’s” high concept eccentricity, there’s no denying the melancholy of miserable childhoods and abusive adults that have made the triumph of the author’s heroes so affecting. Wiseman’s beautiful, low-key orchestral writing for The Locrian Ensemble of London gives “Dickensian” the pensive effectiveness of the sad souls that the author rallied for, all while being as fun as this material might allow.
Extra Special: Detective Inspector Edmund Reid and his Whitechapple coppers have investigated all sorts of post-Jack malfeasance in London’s worst neighborhood for this long-running series (with season 4 now to be seen on America’s Amazon Instant). It’s a “Ripper Street” paved with menacingly energetic consistency by Swiss composer Dominik Scherrer. Though he’s scored far-less roughhousing TV representatives of the English law like Miss Marple and George Gently, the no-nonsense H Division gives this music a particular, brute efficiency in combining such period-specific instruments as the cimbalom and fiddle with cool, modern-era percussion. It’s an approach that worked well for Zimmer’s take on Sherlock Holmes, and takes the gentlemanly gloves off here for very good measure in Scherrer’s hands. His “Street” is given a mean fusion of orchestral propulsion and sampled rhythm, music that collectively gives the first three season soundtracks assembled here a riveting sense of drive. But there’s more than rhythmic intensity to Scherrer’s approach as poetic melody also shines under its candle-illuminated spotlight. As played for haunted electric atmospheres and an aching violin, Scherrer lets us feel the high moral price paid to keep “Ripper Street” clean, a mournful lyricism every bit as powerful as a beat that could easily accompany a Yank CSI team investigating a serial killer. That’s all the more reason why “Ripper Street’s” score is effective in conveying the sound of turn-of-the-century England as it is the 21st century detective propulsion that could accompany a Yank CSI team on the trail of a serial killer, though it’s likely those investigators wouldn’t be singing a drinking hall chorus of “Eight Little Whores.”
4) THE JUNGLE BOOK
What is it?: With his father Louis Debney playing his part in the birth of Disney animation, it was only natural that his musically talented son John would get his start at the studio on his way to turning its beloved 1967 toon into an astonishing example of live action flesh and CGI fur. You can certainly hear the love tonight in Debney’s epic valentine to his alma mater, as well as the inimitable tunes of its greatest songsmiths The Sherman Brothers by reading “The Jungle Book” as it scales new heights for the composer.
Why should you buy it?: Debney has done an impressive job segueing from Mickey Mouse to the musical animal kingdom, of wolves (“White Fang 2”), huskies (“Snow Dogs”), cheetahs (“Duma”) and one goofy ursine (“Yogi Bear”) – most species of which join for one giant jam session with an endangered, if crafty man-cub named Mowgli. But if there’s one trick that makes this grandly ambitious “Jungle Book” work is that his frequent filmmaking collaborator Jon Favreau (“Zathura,” “Iron Man 2”) isn’t out to play stupid pet tricks. Instead, his wildly successful toon-to-movie adaptation is done seriously, the humor and affection stemming from the characters with honesty instead of wink-wink hipness. While it’s not as if Debney hasn’t done no small amount of Mickey-Mouse’ing for the younger set in this genre, “The Jungle Book” gives him his biggest opportunity to go for emotional character in a kid’s movie, and he runs wild with it. Vaguely set in the Indian jungle (though it could just as well be Africa), Debney goes with all-purpose exotica from ethnic drumming to Asian winds and percussion, all given a strong, orchestral grounding of strings and brass that’s always made Debney an unabashedly melodic composer. Not only is John Williams his spirit animal, but also John Barry is heard as well in passages that convey an “Out of Africa”-esque grandeur to his rousing, western-style jungle of string, brass and chorus. It’s a place of magical enchantment, but one resounding with the danger of the plenty of not-so-friendly critters who seek to make a meal out of Mowgli. There’s terrific, fun danger to “The Jungle Book” that brings out the roaring fangs of the far more adult, primal scores that Debney has done for the lethal menagerie of “The Relic,” “Komodo” and “Predators,” combining to make Shere Khan, a tiger who’d musically eat Mustafa for breakfast. His threat builds to some of the most flamingly exciting music that Debney has yet written, conveying true, serious drum-beating danger and choral, character-making heroism for the ultimate mano-a-mean kitty that makes no bones out of scaring the little ones. But then, it’s the humanity, jeopardy and warmth that Debney puts body and soul into one of his best scores that makes “The Jungle Book” sing.
Extra Special: While this movie will likely top the cartoon for the new DIsney generation, there’s no doubt that The Sherman Brothers’ tunes will remain eternal. And there’s certainly no bigger fan than Debney. A big joy of this “Jungle Book” is hearing how such classic tunes as “The Bare Necessities” and “Trust in Me” have been incorporated into the score, the themes effortlessly merging with Debney’s own to become hypnotically slithering storytelling, or a honey-sweet moment of floating bliss. The songs first given life by Sterling Holloway, Sebastian Cabot and Louis Prima are given pleasant new shadings here, with Scarlet Johansen’s husky voice making for a particularly seductive Kaa, Bill Murray giving a carefree New Orleans bounce to Baloo’s philosophy of the good life, and the Christopher Walken putting real streetwise menace into King Louie’s desire to be human (you’ll find more cowbell for him in a particularly ingenious sight gag).
5) LINK / POWDER
What is it?: Where Jerry Goldsmith was lionized for any number of inventive, mainstream scores like “Basic Instinct,” “Total Recall” and “The Wind and the Lion,” the composer had an equal knack for embodying idiosyncratic characters for movies well below the widely accepted radar like “Under Fire,” “The Salamander” and “The Traveling Executioner.” Goldsmith’s creativity flowed with noticeable enthusiasm for these soundtracks where he could show off his devilishly clever humor and emotional resonance, whether accompanying an orangutan manservant or a mystical albino.
Why should you buy it?: In his follow up to “Psycho II” for director Richard Franklin, Jerry Goldsmith was given the opportunity to play a not-so obviously lethal killer. Instead, “Link” was cute, orange-furred character that makes a terrifying transformation, but without benefit of turning into a reptilian creature in the bargain. Yet in terms of shear, simian-embodying humor, “Link” just might stand tall as the composer’s best comedy-horror score next to “Gremlins.” Likely realizing the goofiness of a homicidal orangutan dressed in a butler’s suit to service Terence Stamp (or put the goo-goo eyes on assistant Elizabeth Shue), Goldsmith instead gave “Link” his version of a monkey grinder theme, as opposed to the avant-garde jungle wind and percussion approach of “Planet of the Apes.” And where Gizmo and company might have had cat-like musical mewls, Goldsmith’s monkeyshines provide wacky ape vocalizations. With the orchestra likewise turned into the kind of three-ring circus that was Link’s previous home, Goldsmith breaks out the trusty fiddle, an instrument that’s provided him no end of sinister delight, whether it be signaling alien invaders from “The Twilight Zone” or the satanic antics of “The Mephisto Waltz.” Done at the mid-80’s height of Goldsmith’s love for electronic syncopation a la “Rambo,” “Extreme Prejudice” and “Hoosiers,” “Link” has synth bounce and sparkling atmospheres to spare, wonderfully blending with the orchestra for an unhinged energy. But make no mistake that for all of its delirious fun, “Link” is no musical joke to Goldsmith, who shows terrific, seriously suspenseful craft and pulse pounding runs in conveying this pursuit between lushly melodic beauty and the percussive beast. Given this eccentric carnival atmosphere, it’s no wonder that “Link” has been released, and subsequently sold out on numerous labels. Now the consistent 11-track presentation lands in La La Land’s lap (a monkey-obsessed label if there ever was one), with clever design by Jim Titus and Jeff Bond’s liner notes nicely detailing Goldsmith’s inventive affinity for playing with apes, of which “Link” stands as his most enjoyably playful primate.
Extra Special: Goldsmith would get to apply one of his most beautifully spectral scores to a lightning-attracting albino teenager for 1995’s “Powder,” surely one of the stranger live action films that Disney put out as it showed a pseudo human E.T. trying to adapt to a distrustful town that sees him as more threat than messiah. The best way to hear “Powder” is to imagine it as a continuation to the humanistic fantasy stylings he brought to Mel Gibson’s man out of time in “Forever Young,” as well as a precursor to the terrans striving to touch the stars in “First Contact,” Bucolic strings bring out some of Goldsmith most gorgeous thematic writing as he conjures a Christ-like figure who inspires a sense of wonder, the music soaring with the breathtaking, yet melancholy beauty of a character not destined for this earth, his persecutors given brass-filled menace.. One of the first major composers to get the electronic bug, Goldsmith’s use of synthesizers here are at their most lyrical in creating a sense of cosmic peace, joining with bucolic strings for long, enchanting passages, while instances of metallic eeriness recalls the approach of Vejur to further enhance to “Star Trek”-ian properties of “Powder.æ But above all, one senses the special attachment Goldsmith had to this film in the poetry it could bring out of his music’s more cosmically romantic reaches. It truly colors one of his most extraordinarily heartfelt scores, which now gets a gloriously complete presentation from Intrada, expanding the score by thirty minutes. Jef Goldsmith, who also provides perceptive liners for Goldsmith’s inner workings to primate’s fevered mind, makes “Powder’s” notes especially interesting by detailing the composer’s determination to make “Powder” light instead of dark.
ALSO FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION:
. THE ARK AND THE DELUGE
Few film genres allow composers to write tone poems in the guise of scores like nature documentaries, their music getting to chronicle the grace, joy and life or death struggles of the planet in all of its infinite musical equivocations of the life force. Gabriel Yared set out to sea to in 1993 to sumptuously chronicle the glorious ballet between ocean and air. Hearing this glorious wash of melodic impressionism, you’re reminded that this Oscar-winning Lebanese composer just might be film scoring’s answer to France’s Claude Debussy, his “Deluge” a cross between the flowing, romantic strings of “La Mer” as crossed with the primal energy of Igor Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring.” At once magical and furious, Yared evocatively conveys a life and death dance of primal beauty. But then, the power of this remarkable “Deluge,” how Yared creates all of God’s aquatic creatures in the listener’s mind for a soundtrack that would be particularly welcome on the concert stage. Music Box’s release adds further bonus tracks to one of Yared’s most impressive works, with the composer explaining his embodiment of the elements in Sylvan Pfeffer’s informative liner notes.
. THE GREAT BUCK HOWARD
Before he became the go-to TV superhero scorer for DC with the likes of “Arrow,” “The Flash” and “Supergirl,” Blake Neely was spending much of his scoring time during the first decade of the new millennium in the company of sweet romantic dramas like “First Daughter,” “The Wedding Date” and “Starter for 10.” One of his most delightful scores before he put on his cape was playing the amazing, jazzy mentalist tricks of 2008’s “The Great Buck Howard.” Director Sean McGinly based John Malkovich’s rage-prone mental illusionist on his own stint with The Amazing Kreskin, putting himself in the personage of Colin Hanks’ personal assistant who does his best to handle an outsized personality. While Buck might be on the decline in the sticks, Neely takes a fun, finger-snapping, brassy approach that sympathetically says “has been” with music that dances between nightclub kitsch and sweet empathy. Caught between an ego that still thinks it’s swinging and the wry, innocent humor of a harangued kid trying to look on the bright side, “Buck” impresses with energetic, lounge-lizard montages to a lushly thematic orchestral music. Percussive suspense becomes a magic act that seems like it might go south, yet is always pulled out of the musical mind hat. Played in a jazzy way that’s more old-school “Tonight Show” than with-it “Ocean’s 11,” “Buck” brims over with sympathetic themes that capture the spell of a showman that just might indeed have true powers. A movie and music that deserve discovery, La La Land gives recognition to Neely’s little, sparkling gem of score that continues to brashly enchant.
. THE INVITATION
A truly versatile composer when not superbly cranking out comedy scores like “Spy,” “Zoolander 2” and the forthcoming “Ghostbusters” reboot, Theodore Shapiro has shown an inventive affinity for typewriter-clicking drama with “Trumbo,” and creepily ethereal horror when ogling “Jennifer’s Body.” But it’s with “The Invitation” that Shapiro proves like never before just how unfunny he can be upon entering a suicide cult’s dinner party, as staged by “Jennifer” director Karyn Kusma. Given a bloody desert as served by hosts straight out Heaven’s Gate, Shapiro’s weapon of choice is a single, overdubbed violin to further ratchet the tension. Where string playing of this sort is usually used to dissonant effect in horror scoring, Shapiro’s handling of the violin is both cautionary and intoxicating, much in the weirdly blissful way of a cultist swallowing the evil Kool Aid, then realizing the awfulness they’ve ingested, Turning slowly-drawn unease into outright paranoia, Shapiro joins with ghostly vocals, and the deceptively strumming hippie-esque songs “Baby You’re Gone” and “O My Child,” written by Craig Wedren (another comedy vet also showing ghastly talents way beyond “Wet Hot American Summer”). Surprisingly thematic in weird structure and interesting in its bubbling, glisteningly hypnotic dread, this grandly unsettling “Invitation” neatly skirts the realm between accessible melody and Ligeti-like experimentation, inexorably building to its final, horrifying course where spare, tonal mayhem breaks out. Not since Thomas Newman took on “The Rapture” with blaring horns and piano percussion has the build to the cult-endorsed apocalypse (if a far more intimate one) been so unsettling, or uniquely interesting as when Shapiro puts on the red light. It’s an “Invitation” that the brave of art-horror music heart will want to accept.
. THE SAINT (1989)
The do-gooding bon vivant Simon Templar has been reincarnated in radio, television and film, as played by George Sanders, Roger Moore and Val Kilmer. However, his grooviest halo is heard by Music Box’s positively heavenly 3-CD release of the jazz-disco heroics that accompanied Simon Dutton over a series of TV movies in 1989. But listening to the swaggering saxes, punchy brass and romantically lush strings of Serge Franklin, you’d think you were back in 1981 spy dancing with Moore to the glitterball action of Bill Conti’s “For Your Eyes Only” (if not doing the Euro-nightclub twist on the moon to Derek Wadsworth’s stylings for the second season of “Space: 1999”). Just as Conti most certainly hipped up 007 for the Winter Olympics, Franklin goes for a heroically cool approach for this Bond-like hero, who’s has all of the Euro jet set accompaniments without the burden of Her Majesty’s Secret Service. It’s a fun attitude that’s every bit about capturing the pop vibe of the moment as Edwin Astley did back in Roger Moore swinging 60 heyday. With his repertoire mainly in the French cinema and TV with the likes of “Hold-Up,” “Danger Passion” and “Eurocops,” Franklin got his English-language shot with this “Saint” revival (as well as his sumptuous work on a “Tale of Two Cities” miniseries – also on Music Box). Blessed with a memorably jazzy theme (complete with Saint creator Leslie Charteris’ angelic end vibes) that’s arguably the best to grace the character, Franklin scored the four “Saint” TV movies (three of which are head in this set) with his Templar motif always in mind, giving a terrific thematic drive that unifies their adventures. Locales are accented from the samba rhythms of “The Brazilian Connection” to the accordion and chorus of France’s “The Blue Dulac,” with silken strings, rocking guitars and stealth electronics creating a confidently calculated aura of suspense for Templar as he undoes schemes of child napping, jewel thievery and killer corporate takeovers. It’s crafty, brassily punchy stuff, composed with an overaching melodic finesse that makes even the kitschiest riffs hugely enjoyable. Had Moore indeed stayed spying to Conti, Franklin’s “Saint” soundtracks are likely the Bond scores we would’ve gotten through that decade, now served up for this slam-bang collection that hits the disco-era spy jazz floor with international aplomb, complete with Gergely Hublai’s liner notes giving a terrific summation of “The Saint’s” long history.
. THUNDERBIRDS ARE GO: VOLUME 1
Though the decades of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson’s classic “Supermarionation” shows, the stirring, grandly thematic voice of Barry Gray made audiences believe that a puppet could fly – no more so then when piloting five spaceships called The Thunderbirds. Now spiffed up with a state-of-the-art mix of modelwork and CGI animation, “The Thunderbirds” has taken new flight on English TV, and soon America’s Netflix instant. Old school fans will likely miss the charm of wire-controlled marionettes and Gray’s straight-ahead scoring that nicely combined British patriotic pomp with hep 60’s pop. This reboot is pitched straight ahead for an adrenalized tween video game generation, with a scoring approach by brothers Ben Foster (“Torchwood”) and Nick Foster (“Rocket’s Island”) that manages to pack about twenty musical ideas into cues where Gray might fit one or two. But if his symphonic-pop approach seems positively slow in an future of ADD kid’s entertainment, the Foster’s definitely pay tribute the big screen musical spirit of what Gray set out to achieve in stirringly heroic, form. Ben Foster’s work with Murray Gold on giving a certain Time Lord a thrilling orchestral approach pays off nicely for listeners willing to listen to these Thunderbirds as their own musical animals. Just as effective as its fuel of strings and percussive sampling is “The Thunderbirds” playful retro approach, with the Fosters bringing a sense of world-travelling fun to their music, including John Barry-esque jazz spy adventure, sand-swept Maurice Jarre exotica, sultry rhythm for Lady Penelope and Daft Punk-ish rhythm. Driven by a strong, trumpeting theme, the Fosters “Thunderbirds” aim to please with an enthusiasm that proves surprisingly catchy, especially given the way its highlights from Season 1 breathlessly spill from one cue to the next over the 57 tracks on Silva Screen’s nicely packaged CD, throwing its kitchen rocketship sink of styles at the listener with the assurance that something will catch. These aren’t your grandad’s musical Thunderbirds to be sure. But the symphonic uplift at bringing a movie score quality to these spaceships is nicely on deck, and certainly no cooler than when the Fosters gives a tip of the hat to a classic Gray Thunderbirds March that definitely needs no strings attached.
. THE WANNABE
A seriously deluded low life couple make the big mistake of thinking they can rip off NYC’s connected Italian citizens, learning big time that crime of any sort doesn’t in this strange-but-true tale – one that previously made for 2014’s far superior “Rob the Mob.” But that’s not to say the following year’s “Wannabe” doesn’t have some mook charms to it, namely Patricia Arquette’s beyond-committed performance and an eccentric score by Nathan Larson. A seriously unsung composer when it comes to scoring hard to love losers in such indies as in “Palindromes,” “Choke” and “The Skeleton Twins,” Larson takes an emotionally similar approach to Stephen Endelman score for “Rob the Mob,” namely that this duo is on a romantic, dream-like carnival ride to a sad end. With fate presenting itself as hauntingly empathetic atmospheres where samples join with chamber strings, Larson creates carousel-like rhythms, unstrung percussion and a calculating bell-filled theme whose notes can barely hold themselves together. Jumbled rhythm drives the duo from one insane mafia hall heist to the next, with a muted, indie rock vibe creating an attitude that doesn’t do much to impress their Gotti-connected victims. Nevertheless, Larson is able to create the sense of a poignant, heavenly payoff of sorts, even if do-or-die attraction between these robbers is seriously off. Small scale in approach, but with oddball rewards, “The Wannabe” pays off far more than its couples seriously misconceived antics than reality did.
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