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Movie Review: RED SPARROW Daring film that is not afraid to show anything

And The Best Film Score of 2016 Goes To...

It wasn't easy, but we've managed to provide you our top 5 film scores of 2016.
Review by Matt Cummings

It's not easy to find websites which love soundtrack scores as much as the films themselves, but we at SJF think the entire film must be considered when judging its value. Central to any movie's success is its use of music, and 2016 gifted us with potentially the best year we've ever heard. From television to movies and even video games, we witnessed an onslaught that began in January and didn't let up until 12/31.

But as with all things, the bill must come due which means taking a moment to remember the top scores of the year. It wasn't easy, but we've managed to fashion together a list that covers all forms of entertainment, something we frankly couldn't have done in previous years. Our immense thanks goes out to The Krakower Group for securing us with these scores. Without delay, here are our top film scores of 2016:

X-Men Apocalypse
Composer John Ottman caught our attention with the best score of the Summer movie season, a big epic ride into the world of X-men original mutant Apocalypse as he tore Cairo a new one. Back in May, we said: "Ottman probes the biggest, most epic corners of the superhero genre, but also manages to bring things down to tender human levels when the moods calls upon it. This is the best score of any X-men movie and perhaps the best superhero music since Alan Silvestri's The Avengers." We still believe that, which is why it occupies a place on our Best-Of list.

The Nice Guys
I've never seen a year in which one Composer produced two great scores, but Ottman did it with his fun and flirty submission to our second-favorite film of 2016. Back in May, we said: "It's too chic for most of us, and that's why I love it. The selections are abashedly unafraid to tell their story of Healy and March, never settling on set-up tracks and gifting us with a throwback sound that's immediately a comfort to our ears." While I was disappointed to see the film (sadly) fade all too quickly, I know the score and movie will remain in people's minds, as Ottman and collaborator David Buckley's work represented one of the best of 2016.

Forza Motorsports 6
At a point not too long ago, video game soundtracks weren't exactly the Bee's Knees when compared them to their movie score brethren. Many relied on cheap electronic tracks or a collection of rock/Hip-Hop artists to fuel them. But that's changing now, as is evidenced by Composers Kaveh Cohen and Michael Nielsen's February release. Back then, we hailed it, saying it sported a "high-flying orchestral environment with a strong electronic backbone." But we didn't stop there. "What I love about Cohen and Neilsen is that they're not afraid to take risks here, whether it be the dance club-inspired Traction, a little M83 in Focus, or the hard-rocking of The Pitts." It's quite a little gem and one you shouldn't miss. Add it to your Pandora playlist as soon as possible. You can thank me later.

The Flash Season 2
For Composer Blake Neely, life is about the music forming the backbone of his superhero television series. From the gritty street throwdown of Arrow to the epic time-traveling Legends of Tomorrow, Neely has established himself as the top dog of the television score food chain. Nowhere was that more evident than in his incredible The Flash: Original Television Soundtrack Season 2 score, which moved the titular character into darker realm of the super villain Zoom and his own version of the Rogues Gallery. "For 25 tracks, Neely takes us through the emotional heartbeats of Season 2, reminding us of his absolute command of the television score. He never overuses a character's theme, and yet it always seems to be there either lurking in the background or finding a spot right up front...Neely is boldly pushing new frontiers and the effect is pure joy." It marks a new high for Neely, and one you shouldn't pass up.

And the Winner Is...
If you've read us for awhile, you know of my love for 80's synth in movies. The indelible sound of Airwolf and Miami Vice opened up a new subgenre that saw a rebirth in 2010's Tron: Legacy. That alone wouldn't be enough for us to award top honors, but one score this year took Legacy to new heights: Cliff Martinez's The Neon Demon. In a year filled with so many top-notch releases, Neon Demon took our breath away, delivering what we called "twisted, sexual digital brilliance." There is simply no way to classify what you'll hear when you put this bad boy on, but we tried in our review. "Unlike some scores which offer 2-5 very good pieces surrounded by transition markers that can feel out of place, Demon boasts a murderer's row of hits, each one borrowing elements from the other but serving to drive the story as it reaches it bloody and disturbing conclusion." Tracks like The Neon Demon, What Are You, and Don't Forget Me When You're Famous merely scratch the surface of Martinez's S&M-themed mayhem. It's stuck with us all year, and is sure to go no place anytime soon. That's because we have it locked up in a cage and have enjoyed every minute of it.

The Best Year for Scores...Ever?? All in all, 2016 was a memorable year for film scores. We couldn't have said that in 2012 when The Avengers was clearly at the top, nor in 2013 when M83's Oblivion graced our eardrums. In a time when critics complain about the lack of true themes in entertainment, we're here to say that composers and directors might have heard the call. Give 13 Hours - The Secret Soldiers Of Benghazi and don't tell me that it didn't deserve top 5 consideration. Let's hope this trend of great music continues in 2017, but for now, pick up each of these titles immediately. I promise you won't be upset by the results.

Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Matt Cummings at @mfc90125.

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