I avoided the Multiplex more this year than just about any summer in my life, because of lack of interest combined with bad reviews. BUT- I’ve been rocking the scores of some of 2016 weakest films on the ol’ Hi-Fi, and I’m loving them! Perhaps the fact that I didn’t see the movies helps in this regard...

So, here’s a short list of this summer’s “hidden” soundtrack gems, with links to full albums and long-form reviews if you want to dive deeper...

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Ben-Hur, Marco Beltrami

Pros- Lush, epic, melodic music that truly matches the concept of “Modern re-telling of Ben-Hur” more than the movie supposedly does. This is the kind of thing that is smack dab in Beltrami’s wheel house, and it shows. It’s not an action score or an adventure score, but it is a “modern epic” score.

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Cons- With a bunch of electronica and sonic landscaping*, this music is light years away from Miklos Rozsa and the Golden Age of Cinema, and much more the sonic sibling of any number of Hans Zimmer soundtracks. But, truly, a big percentage of film music fans would call this a good thing!

(note: I consider things like Ben-Hur, Noah, Prince of Egypt, Passion of the Christ, etc., Fantasy and Mythology films, just like Jason and the Argonauts, Conan, and Lord of the Rings. No offense is intended to anyone. Except that one dude. He’s a jerk.)

(Movie Wave review)

(Complete Album on Youtube)

“Main Theme”:

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Alice Through the Looking Glass, Danny Elfman

Pros- This is a true sequel score in the best sense; there are a smattering of great new themes and variations, but it’s still “Alice part 2"... If you loved Elfman’s 2010 masterpiece Alice in Wonderland, then you’ll love this one.

Cons- Same as above, actually.

(Filmtracks review)

(Playlist on Youtube)

“Alice”:

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Now You See Me 2, Brian Tyler

Pros- Tyler’s over-looked 2013 score to Now You See Me was smooth, cool, and very exciting. The only problem was that the initial commercial/CD release had a fairly sparse selection of the film’s outstanding music. At nearly 78 minutes, this new release fixes that, and with a more polished sound and feel as well. This is action music for a swingin’ bachelor pad and/or secret agent headquarters. Play it while you’re cleaning the kitchen or scrubbing the bathroom, and you’ll still feel classy and oh-so-hip.

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Cons- If you think “Romantic-era Orchestral Music” when you think “Film Score”, this mostly ain’t it. It’s “Vegas: 2016 AD”. Also, Tyler is a multi-instrumentalist, and among his writing and arranging and conducting, he also plays the uber-cool drums and bass that drive these soundtracks. So, with his ridiculous talent combined with his movie-star good looks, you might be distracted from the music by an irrational desire to punch him in his perfect teeth :-D

(Movie Wave review)

(Playlist on YouTube)

“The Setup”:

I mean, seriously, this freakin’ guy. I hear he’s also kind to the homeless, and can do a perfect one-hand “omelette flip”. Jerk-wad:

“Trifecta”:

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X-Men Apocalypse, John Ottman

Pros- Big, dramatic music with a modern touch. It’s an almost-operatic presentation of “Superheroes and Mutants as Mythological Gods”. This is Ottman’s best X-Men score, and maybe even the best X-men score in general (depending on how much you like Micheal Kamen’s and John Powell’s approaches).

Cons- Do you like melodramatic, pseudo-religious-sounding choral movements? If this is one of your “triggers”, then maybe skip this disc.

(Filmtracks review)

(Full Album on Youtube)

“The Transference”:

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The BFG, John Williams

Pros- The legendary John Williams is 84 years old, and first composed for film in 1957. The fact that we’ve been gifted a new John Williams score to a Steven Spielberg film in 2016 is proof that the world is not quite completely terrible.

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Cons- This is Maestro Williams in “magical whimsy” mode, with little shades of Witches of Eastwick, Willow, ET, and Harry Potter. But if you are expecting big Star Wars/Indiana Jones action and adventure cues, this might not be your cuppa.

(Filmtracks Review)

(Full Album on Youtube)

“To Giant Country”:

“Sophie and The BFG”:

“Dream Country”:

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These are just movies I’ve heard but haven’t seen, or I’d be cheering loudly for Kubo and the Two Strings, Jungle Book, Star Trek Beyond, and yes, Ghostbusters.

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(About “Filmtracks” and “Movie Wave”: I agree with Christian’s and James’ reviews much more often than not, and they’re just generally good blokes. Your mileage may vary.)

Enjoy!