Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Ten best soundtrack cues of 2013

Here is a look back at some of the most moving, magical, and exciting moments in film music for 2013.

“Writing to Mama” by John Williams
From “The Book Thief”
Soundtrack album available from Sony Classical
It is inconceivable that John Williams could get any better—and yet—with each new score, he does just that. “The Book Thief” is John Williams at his deepest and most precise as he takes us on a musical journey of mystery and melancholy. “Writing to Mama” is a haunting, deeply affecting cue that brings to mind parts of “The Accidental Tourist” (1988) and “Seven Years in Tibet” (1997). “The Book Thief” is by far the best original score of 2013. Nothing, with the lone exception of Howard Shore’s “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” is even in the same artistic universe.

“Feast of Starlight” by Howard Shore
From “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”
Soundtrack album available from Reprise Records and WEA International in two-disc standard and deluxe versions.
This ethereal, transporting cue is reminiscent of the epic, soul-stirring music from “The Two Towers”. There is a captivating choir soloist and two new themes including one for the blossoming romance between Tauriel (Evangeline Lily) and Kili (Aidan Turner). As a bonus we even get a brief tease of Gollum’s theme in this gorgeous cue.

“For the First Time in Forever” performed by Kristen Bell
Music by Robert Lopez
Lyrics by Kristen Anderson-Lopez
From “Frozen”
Soundtrack available from Walt Disney Records
“Frozen” recaptures some of that Disney magic from the early 1990s resurgence and “For the First Time in Forever” is the best animated movie song not written by Alan Menken since “The Lion King”.

“The Book Thief” by John Williams
From “The Book Thief”
Soundtrack album available from Sony Classical
This is the end credits reprise, seven minutes and five seconds of utter musical heaven as the maestro wields his emotional wand capturing out imaginations, our souls—and most of all—our hearts in yet another wondrous journey of artistic perfection.

“Buying the Space Farm” by Michael Giacchino
From “Star Trek: Into Darkness”
Soundtrack album available from Varese Sarabande
This is the moving music from the emotional “needs of the many” scene. Michael Giacchino writes the best sad music of any living composer. While this cue is not as powerful as “Labor of Love” from the first film or “A Change of Heart” from “John Carter”, it will get to you.

“Solomon” by Hans Zimmer
From “12 Years a Slave
Track is available from Columbia records on one of those insipid “Music from and inspired by” soundtrack releases. The score itself is unreleased (as of this writing).
“Solomon” is a gorgeous cue reminiscent of the composer’s great work on “The Thin Red Line” (1998) and “The Last Samurai” (2005), and a reminder Zimmer can excel at serious films when given the chance.

“Perversions and Diversions” by Pino Donaggio
From “Passion”
Soundtrack available on Quartet Records
Nobody utilizes film music better that director Brian De Palma and the De Palma/Donaggio tandem is one of the all-time greatest composer/director partnerships—resulting in such classic scores as Carrie and Dressed to Kill. Okay, maybe the film is not quite up there with the De Palma classics of a generation ago, but it is a beautifully shot guilty pleasure and the sensational score by Pino Donaggio has shades of “Body Double” (1984), one of my favorite scores of all time.

“The San Fran Hustle” by Michael Giacchino
From “Star Trek: Into Darkness”
Soundtrack album available from Varese Sarabande
A frenetic, wickedly exciting old-school muscular action based clip that pays homage to Jerry Goldsmith, the music from the classic series, and yet it still pure Giacchino.

“What Are You Going To Do When You Are Not Saving The World”
From “Man of Steel
Soundtrack available from Water Tower Music
“Man of Steel” was on its way to becoming a classic until the last forty-five minutes of over-directed, repetitive scenes of noisy mayhem. But still, there is so much to love about this film; the Krypton scenes, Kevin Costner, Amy Adams, and Henry Cavill. Hans Zimmer effectively captured the heart of the film and his score plays beautifully as a stand-alone listen.

“The Forest River” by Howard Shore
From “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”
Soundtrack album available from Reprise Records and WEA International in two-disc standard and deluxe versions.
This is the music used to score the wildly entertaining and beautifully choreagraphed barrels in the rapids scene. It is a thunderous, expertly crafted, ridiculously exciting piece of epic action music. It doesn’t get any better than this.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The best actress in Hollywood right now is

Who is the best actress right now, at this moment in cinematic history? Who has the hot hand, is in the zone, and is operating at the peak of their craft— putting out consistent and varied work demonstrating the highest level of artistry.
It is a subjective question—to a certain extent. But there are objective measurements to gauge the impact an actor is having; reviews, award nominations, and yes popularity. Are the films resonating more with audiences because of what this performer brings to the table in terms of craft? Is there a varied range among the characters? Is each role distinct? Are each of the characters created unique and separate from the others.

Then there is the most basic test—the eyeball test. Anyone who watches a lot of film knows a great performance when they see it. There is something all the great ones have, something that captures our imagination and makes us want to see them again and again—because we know they will always deliver and we will leave the theater emotionally satisfied and have no regrets for the time and money spent.
The answer to the question posed in the headline above is Amy Adams. Yes, Amy Adams—she is gifted, beautiful, edgy, mysterious, beguiling, magical, and sexy. As “American Hustle” proves, she can even be dark. Amy Adams is the best actress on the planet right now. This is not a hard case to make.

Let’s start with the awards.
Four Academy Award nominations for Best Supporting Actress; “Junebug” (2005), “Doubt” (2008), “The Fighter” (2010), “The Master” (2012). Three BAFTA nominations; “Doubt” (2008), “The Fighter” (2010), “The Master” (2012). Five Golden Globe Nominations; “Enchanted” (2007) Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy, Best Supporting Actress for “Doubt” (2008), “The Fighter” (2010), “The Master” (2012), and this year for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy for “American Hustle”. Those listed here are just the highlights.
There are more—a lot more including six Screen Actors Guild Award nominations and over sixty critics’ awards nominations with more than a dozen wins. Amy is a heavy favorite to win the Golden Globe this year and one of the top Oscar contenders for Best Actress.
Okay, those are the statistics to back it up. What about the intangibles?

The enormous range of the characters Amy has inhabited and brought to life is staggering. Is there any other actress who could be Gisselle from “Enchanted”, Sister James from “Doubt”, Julia Powell in “Julia& Julia”, Charlene Fleming in “The Fighter” and Sidney Prosser in “American Hustle”.
Amy Adams has wonderful storytelling instincts and a keen sense for great material. She has been directed by Steven Spielberg (“Catch Me If You Can” 2002) and Paul Thomas Anderson (“The Master” 2012). She has shared the screen with Meryl Streep (“Doubt” 2008), Clint Eastwood (“Trouble with the Curve” 2012), Christian Bale (“American Hustle” 2013), and the Muppets (“The Muppets” 2011).

She brought an animated character to life, literally, in a way no nobody else ever could have done in the magical master work “Enchanted” (2007). Her body of work since 2005 has been mind-blowing in its volume, variety, and brilliance. She shined in the 2009 quirky, independent comedy “Sunshine Cleaning” and gave a method-like, gritty performance in “The Fighter” (2010).

Her warm, bold, captivating performance as Lois Lane in “Man of Steel” saved that film from sinking into a noisy, over-produced mess once Kevin Costner was off the screen. Her scintillating, dark, complex and wickedly effective work in “American Hustle” is searing itself into the minds of moviegoers and will continue to be a talked about performance in the ever-growing body of impressive work of unforgettable characters that she has forged into the modern cinema and pop culture landscape.
Enchanting, funny, warm, tough, unpredictable, versatile, deep, surprising, and always captivating—Amy Adams is the best actress working in Hollywood today.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Return of the Jedi, soundtrack review

John Williams recent musical output is nothing short of astonishing.  The epic sweep of “War Horse” (2011), the jazzy action of “The Adventures of Tintin” (2011), the stately “Lincoln” (2012), and this year’s haunting score for “The Book Thief” prove the maestro is not just at the top of his game—he actually continues to grow and evolve as an artist—showing a command of craft far beyond any other living, currently producing composer.

The above works all demonstrate an ever growing complexity in William’s stylistic tendencies, a pattern that has persisted since the early ‘90s. This is a good thing of course because an artist must grow and evolve and continue to meet new challenges or else face stagnation and inevitable decline. These recent works are serious compositions and it is criminal that none of them won the Oscar. “Warhorse” should have won in 2011 and although “The Book Thief” will no doubt get a nomination, given the mixed reviews of the film it is a long shot to take home the statue.

But as wonderful as these recent scores have been, there are times when fans want to go back in indulge in some classic John Williams, when he was operating at the peak of his blockbuster style. “Return of the Jedi” (1983) is such a score. Although the “Jedi” score (similar to the film) is not held in quite the same esteem as its two classic predecessors, “Return of the Jedi”—especially as presented in the 1997 RCA re-mastered/expanded two-disc collector’s edition—is a thrilling, mesmerizing and immensely entertaining listening experience that any film music fan will relish for endless hours.

During the “Star Wars” resurgence of the mid-‘90’s it became fashionable among the geek elite to dismiss “Return of the Jedi” as the “Godfather Part III” of “Star Wars” films. This is way off the mark as anyone who was there in 1983 can testify, the reaction to the film was tremendous. One of the all-time great genre magazines, “SciFi Universe” even published a lengthy, obsessively detailed, and hilarious cover story entitled “Fifty reasons we hate ‘Return of the Jedi’ “. However, balance has been restored to the force since that time and “Jedi” is held in somewhat higher regard now—due in large part to how messy and uneven the recent prequels were.

“Return of the Jedi” may not be “Empire”, but it contains some of the best scenes in the entire franchise, particularly the dramatic Throne Room scenes with Luke, Vadar and the Emperor. The music in these scenes is both inspiring and chilling—especially the use of an ominous chanting choir for “The Emperor’s Theme”. This theme along with the gorgeous “Luke and Leia” and the jaunty “Parade of the Ewoks”, form the backbone of the new thematic material. All three of these themes get plenty of work and a variety of statements throughout the 148 minutes of music on the RCA release.

After opening with the traditional Fox/Lucasfilm fanfare and main title crawl, disc one drives straight into the action and suspense with “Approaching The Deathstar/Tatooine Rendezvous”, a robust cue announcing the return of Vader with several interwoven statements of “The Imperial March”.  When the action cuts to Tatooine, the music begins with a rich, otherworldly suspense motif that foreshadows the Jabbe theme and gives a hint of “The Force” theme for the arrival of a clad-in-black-cape now fully functioning as a bad-ass Jedi Knight Luke.

“The Droids Are Captured” is a brief—and brilliant—vintage Williams’s suspense cue full of classic John William’s exciting gestures and colorful danger motifs. “Return of the Jedi” is packed with irresistible score material that some might describe as incidental music—the stuff in between the big action set pieces and concert style thematic statements.  This is where Williams shines in way almost no other composer does. There is always something interesting and imaginative to take in and absorb. It is a very visual way to paint a musical feel of mystery, danger, and tension—reminiscent of the composer’s avant-garde “Lost in Space” music.

“Bounty For A Wookie” showcases Jabba the Hutt’s theme—a slow, bouncy, rolling, tuba-based entertaining piece of music that sounds exactly like music for Jabba the Hutt should sound. Always finding the exact right sound for a character, another unparalleled strength of the maestro.  Both Jabba’s theme and “March Of The Ewoks” are musical descendants of William’s classic “March Of The Villains” theme from “Superman” (1978).

"Luke Confronts Jabba/Den of the Rancor/Sarlacc Sentence" is the first of many ferocious action set pieces that continues to develop in "The Pit of Carkoon/Sail Barge Assault", a knockout cue featuring the rousing suspense and explosive action music from Luke’s walk off the plank. This scene also has one of the best heroic statements of the main theme.

The thread of action music running throughout “Return of the Jedi”, right up through the three “The Battle Of Endor” tracks, is astonishing. This is John Williams action scoring at its most energetic—full of bursting brass and escalating tempos—very much in the same pulse-pounding, frenetic, wild-and-yet precise over the top bombastic style of another blockbuster masterwork Williams would compose the following year, “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” (1984).

The outstanding tracks mentioned above are not the highlights of the album—because the entire soundtrack is a highlight. Listening to music from the original “Star Wars” trilogy—in a proper presentation such as the 1997 RCA expanded special edition albums—is a fully absorbing, out-of-body transporting experience. There is a musical narrative to “Return of the Jedi”. It is the final movement of grand, sweeping opera—soundtracks that tell a story in a deeply affecting way that only music can do. Outside of Howard Shore’s masterful “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, there is nothing else like it in the history of cinema quite like it.

Bottom line: “Return of the Jedi” is a captivating classic—a riveting, endlessly entertaining soundtrack by a master composer at the peak of his blockbuster style of scoring and a must own album soundtrack collectors or anyone who simply wants to hear great music.

Friday, December 13, 2013

‘The Hobbit’ strikes back with a rousing sequel

“The Lord of the Rings” trilogy became an instant classic garnering critical praise, a trophy case of awards–and not just in technical categories like other genre fare—and monstrous world-wide box office returns. So when Peter Jackson returned to Middle Earth and took on the prequel novel “The Hobbit”, it came as a shock when the film was greeted with mixed to negative reviews.

“The Hobbit” is actually a far better film than the Rotten Tomatoes critical consensus would have you believe. The movie was hamstrung by a slow-moving first hour where the notorious detail-obsessed director seemed insistent on visualizing every minute aspect of exposition from the classic novel. The sluggish pace of the opening scene even became the subject of a hilarious SNL skit. But once it got moving, “The Hobbit” became an exciting sword and sorcery fantasy adventure with some wonderful moments, right up there with the best stuff from the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy.

The good news is not only does “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” start off in mid-action, it ups the ante in just about every aspect, taking the action and dramatic intensity to a whole new level. Peter Jackson’s direction is beyond superlative. There is one exhilarating battle involving the dwarves, elves, the Orc, and raging rapids that is one of the best choreographed action sequence of all time—truly amazing stuff.

Howard Shore’s fantastic score is packed with thunderous brass and moving emotional moments. The master composer gives us plenty of new material and some of the greatest action music to hit the screen in years. The film even looks better than its predecessor with scene after scene of jaw dropping visual wonders as Weta works their incredible magic.

On top of all this, we get several great new characters—including Smaug, the dragon of the title, and Tauriel, a fierce elf warrior played Evangeline Lilly (Kate from “Lost”). Tauriel is a wonderful character and Evangeline is absolutely electrifying in the role. As was demonstrated on “Lost”, she is so good at portraying a conflicted character falling in love.

Bottom line: ““The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” is a rousing, colorful, immensely entertaining, spectacular epic fantasy that resonates from start to finish. The two hours and forty-one minute running time flew by and I left the theater longing for more.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Five great underrated Christmas songs

"Christmas Is All Around" by Billy Mack

From" Love Actually" (2003) and composed by Craig Armstrong, this catchy tune is a terrific piece of feel good holiday pop music. This soundtrack is full of great songs including another knockout Christmas tune "All I Want For Christmas Is You" performed by Olivia Olsen.

Darlene Love's song "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)"

This is the version of the song playing as source music from a radio during the opening credit sequence of "Gremlins" (1984). A sensational Christmas song that along with Jerry Goldsmith’s trademark suburban whimsical cue helps set the tone for Joe Dante’s comedy horror hit.

"Somewhere In My Memory" by John Williams

This Oscar nominated song from the hit movie "Home Alone" (1991) is rarely heard outside the film score community. A terrific theme with great use of choir vocals, it is vintage John Williams. You would have to have had an emotional bypass at birth or be made of granite not to be moved by it.

David Foster Featuring Natalie Cole - "Grown-up Christmas List"

This moving, magical song from the 1990 David Foster album "The River of Love" not only captures the essence of what the holidays are supposed to be about, it also manages to convey what is hopeful and noble in that complex, conflicted and mostly destructive species known as Homo sapiens.

Muppet Christmas Carol "Scrooge"

From the 1992 Muppet version of A Christmas Carol starring the great Michael Caine alongside Kermit , Fozzie The Bear, Beaker and company. The chemistry and pathos the Caine brings to the film helps make this the most charming take on the classic tale yet.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Best in pop culture 2013

“Fast & Furious 6”

The recent shocking and tragic passing of Paul Walker has revealed to the public what everyone around him or ever worked with him already knew. He was a wonderful person—kind, humble, giving, and just an all-around nice guy. He was also an underrated actor with a sensational on-screen presence.  He did terrific work in several little-seen gems including the B-movie crime epic “The Death and Life of Bobby Z” (2007), the heartwarming “Eight Below” (2006), and the edgy “Running Scared” (2006).

Paul Walker’s role as Brian O’Conner in “The Fast and Furious” films should not be underestimated. He was the center—the audience anchor—someone to keep us grounded amid all of the non-stop chaos and over-the-top flashy comic book characters.

“The Fast and Furious” franchise managed to defy every expectations and break every rule.
Since when does a movie series continue to get better and better with each entry yet alone achieve a new creative and critical peak in number six? When does a movie featuring fetishistic portrayals of muscle cars and muscled up men and women cross into the mainstream attracting a strong diversified fan base including women and even high-brow intellectual critics?

“Fast & Furious 6” is the best junk movie ever. It is a blast.

Lana Del Rey captivates in arresting ‘Tropico’

What a year Lana Del Rey had. The runaway success of her smash hit remix of “Summertime Sadness” from “Born to Die” was only part of it.

The indy pop artist auteur continues to propel ahead with her blazing creative path with ‘Tropico’, a visually arresting avant-garde 27 minute short film directed by Anthony Mandler and featuring several of the statuesque singer’s best songs.

The brooding singer/songwriter—whose persona is often described as a modern day “gangsta Nancy Sinatra”—takes the iconic Americana imagery and angst-ridden nostalgia of her music videos and combines it with biblical fables, symbolism, and a hard-boiled noir narrative that serves as a bridge between a series of stunning music video sequences. “Tropico” is essentially an extension of the long-format music video the deep-thinking, ridiculously talented artist experimented with on “Ride”.

“The Hunger Games: Catching Fire”

“Catching Fire” is the rare sequel that exceeds expectations—in a big way. Hardcore fans of the books and first film are ecstatic. Casual fans of the first movie are now becoming devout readers of the series. Cynics and naysayers are being won over adding to an ever-growing fan base.

The rousing, cracker-jack paced, dramatic “Catching Fire” is this generation’s “The Empire Strikes Back”.

Brian De Palma proves he still has ‘Passion’

He is the master of widescreen Panavision panache, the cinematic priest of perverted delights, and the ultimate director’s director. Brian De Palma was a formidable force throughout the 70s and early 80s delivering the horror classics “Carrie” (1976) and “The Fury” (1978) and his notorious, trademark sexually charged Hitchcock-ian homages “Sisters” (1973), “Obsession” (1976), “Dressed to Kill” (1980), and the wildly entertaining “Body Double” (1984). His acclaimed conspiracy thriller “Blow Out” (1980) features John Travolta’s best performance. “The Untouchables” (1987) is a classic and the outrageous “Scarface” (1983) is one of the most referenced movies of all time.

Now with “Passion”, De Palma has come full circle and returned to his auteur roots of the erotic thriller.

L.A. noir

Film noir in all its hard-boiled, existential, cynical, sexualized glory is not only alive, it is thriving at a new level of entertaining artistry we have not seen for years. No, not in the hallowed halls of cinema houses where hard-edged tales of tough guys and femme fatales once flourished.  The home for the latest rebirth of neo-noir is the Showtime premium cable network in the form of a riveting new drama called ‘Ray Donovan”.

Liev Schrieber stars in the title role, a mesmerizing character who is employed by a powerful Hollywood law firm to “takes care of problems” for the rich and famous ranging from A-list movie celebrities to NBA and NFL superstars. Imagine the Harvey Keitel character “The Wolf” from “Pulp Fiction” employed as an enforcer by the CAA and you get the idea.

Elizabeth Mitchell shines in riveting 'Revolution'

In year two “Revolution” has continued to develop into one of the most exciting and entertaining shows on television. The addition of veteran actor Stephen Collins an excellent pick-up. The pacing of the first three episodes has been brilliant. Not since “24’ have we seen a dramatic series so effectively milk very drop of excitement out of the action adventure format. Everything about the show from the fight choreography to Christopher Lennertz score keeps getting better. But the key to any dramatic series is the characters. We have to care to keep coming back each week. There is one particular character who had been the key to “Revolution’s” continued improvement.

Every show, especially every “Bad Robot” production, has that one special character who makes it all work. “Lost” had the enigmatic John Locke played by Terry O’Quinn.  “Fringe” had the eccentric Walter Bishop played by John Noble. “Revolution” has the super scientist action hero Rachel Matheson played by Elizabeth Mitchell.

One of the weaknesses of “Revolution” during the first half of season one was the criminal underuse of the effervescent Elizabeth Mitchell and her head strong character. Once the producers and writers realized this and brought her into the forefront of the action, the “Lost” protégé began to find its focus.

Suggested by the author

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Lana Del Rey captivates in arresting ‘Tropico’

Indy pop artist auteur Lana Del Rey continues to propel ahead with her blazing creative path with ‘Tropico’, a visually arresting avant-garde 27 minute short film directed by Anthony Mandler and featuring several of the statuesque singer’s best songs.

The brooding artist whose persona is often described as a modern day “gangsta Nancy Sinatra” takes the iconic Americana imagery and angst ridden nostalgia of her music videos and combines it with symbolism and a hard-boiled noir narrative that serves as a bridge between a series of stunning music video sequences. “Tropico” is essentially an extension of the long-format music video the singer/songwriter experimented with on “Ride”.

The songs featured in Tropico are from Lana Del Rey’s outstanding “Paradise” EP including “Body Electric”, the erotic “Gods and Monsters”, and the haunting “Bel Air”. The singer songwriter’s work appears to be influenced not only by the aforementioned Nancy Sinatra and the Mad Men culture, but by the pulp era southern white trash noir literature of Erskine Caldwell and James M. Cain.

Put simply, “Tropico” is a fascinating, hypnotic, and at times brilliant piece of short filmmaking combining Biblical allegories, pop culture icons, Americana nostalgia, angst, and LA gang culture.

The imagery is breathtaking and the voice-over narration so jam-packed with poetic prose that it sears into the soul. Whatever it is that Lana Del Rey has lived through or taps into when she creates her stirring art—it runs deep—very deep. There is so much going on with this artist, every image commands attention. Every lyric has something to say. Every song tells a story and is packed with emotional resonance. Lana Del Rey is unique musical voice with a gift for creating iconic imagery. She is an artistic force who never fails to fascinate—and to make us feel.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Brian De Palma proves he still has ‘Passion’

He is the master of widescreen Panavision panache, the cinematic priest of perverted delights, and the ultimate director’s director. Brian De Palma was a formidable force throughout the 70s and early 80s delivering the horror classics “Carrie” (1976) and “The Fury” (1978) and his notorious, trademark sexually charged Hitchcock-ian homages “Sisters” (1973), “Obsession” (1976), “Dressed to Kill” (1980), and the wildly entertaining “Body Double” (1984). His acclaimed conspiracy thriller “Blow Out” (1980) features John Travolta’s best performance. “The Untouchables” (1987) is a classic and the outrageous “Scarface” (1983) is one of the most referenced movies of all time.

After a series of forgettable director for hire gigs in the 90’s (with two exceptions, “Carlito’s Way” and “Snake Eyes” ) De Palma returned to form in the dazzling 2002 “Femme Fatale” starring Rebecca Romijn and Antonia Banderas and then went on to direct Scarlett Johansson and the luminous Mia Kirshner in his underrated adaption of “The Black Dahlia” (2006). Now with “Passion”, De Palma has come full circle and returned to his auteur roots of the erotic thriller.

“Passion” is based on the 2010 French film “Love Crime”, but make no mistake about it—even though it is not an original screenplay—“Passion” is pure De Palma. It is pure Rachel Adams and Noomi Rapace too. The two stars simmer across the screen under the assured voyeuristic De Palma lens as he weaves into the high tech advertising world of manipulations with a series of lingering one take set pieces the director is famous for. Watching a De Palma film—and the way he frames a shot and moves the camera and keeps us in the moment by not cutting away—is to see a master craftsman at work. It is the ultimate film school.

De Palma has a way a filming beautiful woman and we see his gift on full display here, especially with Rachel McAdams. She is lit and photographed very similar to the how Rebecca Romijn was for “Femme Fatale”. The American megastar actress thrives in this provocative role as a seductive and ruthless boss who manipulates everyone around her. When Rachel McAdams is on the screen, it is impossible to take your eyes of her.

As she did last year in “Prometheus’ Noomi Repace proves why she is such big star in Europe. The chemistry between her and Rachel McAdams—as well as with co-star Karoline Herfurth—is electric.

Where “Passion” falls short—as is the case with most post 80’s De Palms films—is the narrative. The movie could be tighter. This does not have the crackerjack pacing of “Dressed to Kill”, “Body Double” or even “Femme Fatale”. And there are a few scenes that do not go far enough in terms of sexuality.  But these are minor flaws easily overpowered by De Palma’s knockout visual style and the smoldering presence of the two stars who inhabit their roles with an intoxicating enthusiasm.

No review of a Brian De Palma movie can be complete without mentioning the score. The director is one of the most astute in film history when it comes to utilizing music in his films and he has worked with many outstanding legendary composers including Bernard Hermann and John Williams. But perhaps the composer who best represents De Palma’s sensibilities is Pino Donaggio, his collaborator on such classics as “Carrie” (1976), “Dressed to Kill” (1980), “Blow Out” (1981) and “Body Double” (1984). The composer and director are reunited for “Passion’ and the result is an outstanding soundtrack that contributes enormously to the suspense and eroticism.

Bottom line: **** out of four.

“Passion” is a wild, entertaining, old-school giallo styled thriller packed with visual delights, solid performances, masterful camera work, and a sensational musical score.