Danny Elfman's score for the blockbuster sci-fi comedy Men in Black ranks among his best work, capturing the ridiculous, tongue-in-cheek thrills of the film with ease. It has the same oversized, cartoonish appeal of Elfman's work for Tim Burton, but with a less whimsical flair, which suits the action film. And even though the music perfectly suits the film, it also works as an individual entity on its own, which is what makes the record a satisfying listen.
The soundtrack to Woody Allen's 2011 Oscar-nominated romantic comedy Midnight in Paris features a variety of jazz tunes and popular songs that are all generally associated with the film's 1920s Paris setting. While Allen actually transports his movie's main character back to the '20s, most of the music here was recorded by contemporary artists who play in an old-school style. To these ends, we get such roiling and urbane Gypsy jazz tracks as Swing 41's "Je Suis Seul Ce Soir," Original Paris Swing's "Recado," and even several Cole Porter vocal numbers by Conal Fowkes – who appears as Porter in the film. Also featured are jaunty classic jazz cuts like Josephine Baker's conga dance number "La Conga Blicoti" and, of course, Sydney Bechet's "Si Tu Vois Ma Mère," which opens the film. Swooning and romantic in tone with a breezy, swinging jazz vibe throughout, the Midnight in Paris soundtrack is a must-have souvenir for traditional jazz lovers and any fan of the film.
A solitaire in French is a single mounted jewel, a concept that seems less than apt for the rather hefty works recorded here by British pianist Kathryn Stott. But this fine recital holds together in another way: Ravel, who so often provides the temporal endpoint for traditional piano recitals, is here, to a greater or lesser extent, the launching point for the other three composers featured. Stott's reading of the neoclassical Le Tombeau de Couperin is beautifully precise and balanced, catching the economy of this Baroque-style suite to the hilt. That economy carries over into the later works, even the rarely performed Piano Sonata of Henri Dutilleux, a work that deftly fuses Ravel's sense of classical forms with a largely dissonant language. The opening Prelude and Fugue of Jehan Alain, actually two separate works that are reasonably enough combined here, is another seldom-played piece that makes an arresting curtain-raiser, and the final "Le baiser de l'Enfant Jésus" of Messiaen, part of the giant Vingt regards sur l'Enfant Jésus, is the splendid climax of the whole, its spiritual, dreamlike ascent at the end superbly controlled. Better still is the sound, recorded at Hallé St. Peters in Manchester: it creates a hypnotic effect all its own.