CDS AVAILABLE THIS WEEK
Alan Howarth Live at Hollywood Theater - Alan Howarth, John Carpenter - Buysoundtrax
Lady Beware - Craig Safan - Dragon's Domain
The Last Dalai Lama? - Philip Glass, Tenzin Choegyal - Orange Mountain
Man at the Top - Roy Budd - Caldera
The Peter Bernstein Collection vol. 1 - Peter Bernstein - Dragon's Domain
Rocco and His Brothers - Nino Rota - Quartet
The Last of Us Part II - Gustavo Santaolalla, Mac Quayle - Sony (import)
Teen Titans Go! Vs. Teen Titans - Jason Lazarus - La-La Land
The Wretched - Devin Burrows - La-La Land
Young Justice: Outsiders - Kristopher Carter, Michael McCuistion, Lolita Ritmanis - La-La Land
Animal Crackers - Bear McCreary - Sony
Outlander: Season 5 - Bear McCreary - Sony
Requiem - Dominick Scherrer, Natasha Khan - Svart
Hackers - Simon Boswell, songs - Varese Sarabande
Open 24 Hours - Holly Amber Church - Notefornote
Scream Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street - Alexander Taylor - Notefornote
All Against All - Kristian Sensini - Kronos
Der Bestatter - Raphael Benjamin Meyer - Alhambra
Gappa The Triphibian Monsters - Seitaro Omori - Cinema-Kan (import)
Gina and Chantal - Joris Hermy - Kronos
One Potato, Two Potato - Gerald Fried - Caldera
Scacco Alla Regina - Piero Piccioni - Cinevox
Sins of Jezebel - Bert Shefter - Kronos
Super Godzilla [video game score] - Akira Ifukube - Cinema-Kan (import)
THIS WEEK IN FILM MUSIC HISTORY
August 21 - Basil Poledouris born (1945)
August 21 - Recording sessions begin for Hugo Friedhofer’s score for Two Flags West (1950)
August 21 - Constant Lambert died (1951)
August 21 - Joe Strummer born (1952)
August 21 - Walter Schumann died (1958)
August 21 - Gerald Fried records his score for the Mission: Impossible episode “The Widow” (1967)
August 21 - Angelo Francesco Lavagnino died (1987)
August 21 - Richard Band begins recording his score for Robo Warriors (1996)
August 21 - Alex Wurman wins the Emmy for his Temple Grandin score; Sean Callery wins his third Emmy, for the 24 episode score “Day 8: 3:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.; Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman win for Nurse Jackie’s main title theme (2010)
August 22 - Stanislas Syrewicz born (1946)
August 22 - Bronislau Kaper begins recording his score for Ride, Vaquero! (1952)
August 22 - Johnny Green begins recording his score for Twilight of Honor (1963)
August 22 - James Dooley born (1976)
August 22 - Bruce Broughton begins recording his score for This Girl for Hire (1983)
August 22 - John Williams begins recording his score for the Amazing Stories episode "The Mission" (1985)
August 23 - Constant Lambert born (1905)
August 23 - Martial Solal born (1927)
August 23 - Ian Fraser born (1933)
August 23 - Willy Russell born (1947)
August 23 - Julian Nott born (1960)
August 23 - Alexandre Desplat born (1961)
August 23 - Howard Blake begins recording his score for S.O.S. Titanic (1979)
August 23 - Marvin Hatley died (1986)
August 23 - David Rose died (1990)
August 23 - Jurriaan Andriessen died (1996)
August 24 - Jean-Michel Jarre born (1948)
August 24 - Peter Kyed born (1963)
August 24 - Mark Lawrence died (1991)
August 24 - John Debney wins his first Emmy, for the Young Riders episode score “Kansas;” Richard Bellis wins for part 1 of It; Randy Newman wins his first Emmy for his Cop Rock songs (1991)
August 25 - Ray Heindorf born (1908)
August 25 - Leonard Bernstein born (1918)
August 25 - Harry Manfredini born (1943)
August 25 - John Williams begins recording his score for Bachelor Flat (1961)
August 25 - Robert Drasnin records his score for The Wild Wild West episode “The Night of the Casual Killer” (1965)
August 25 - Richard Markowitz records his score for The Wild Wild West episode “The Night of the Raven” (1966)
August 25 - Zoe Poledouris born (1973)
August 25 - Elvis Costello born (1954)
August 25 - Jack Nitzsche died (2000)
August 26 - Humphrey Searle born (1915)
August 26 - Recording sessions begin for Miklos Rozsa’s score to The Hour Before the Dawn (1943)
August 26 - Alan Parker born (1944)
August 26 - Mark Snow born (1946)
August 26 - Ralph Vaughan Williams died (1958)
August 26 - Branford Marsalis born (1960)
August 26 - John Williams records his score for the Lost in Space pilot episode "The Reluctant Stowaway" (1965)
August 26 - Fred Steiner's score for the Star Trek episode "Spock's Brain" is recorded (1968)
August 26 - Nico Muhly born (1981)
August 26 - John Frizzell begins recording his score for Alien Resurrection (1997)
August 27 - Eric Coates born (1886)
August 27 - Sonny Sharrock born (1940)
August 27 - Miles Goodman born (1949)
August 27 - Bernard Herrmann records his score for The Alfred Hitchcock Hour episode "Nothing Ever Happens in Linvale" (1963)
August 27 - Dimitri Tiomkin begins recording his score to 36 Hours (1964)
August 27 - Jerry Fielding records his score for the Mission: Impossible episode “The Execution” (1968)
August 27 - John Williams begins recording his score for 1941 (1979)
August 27 - Geoffrey Burgon begins recording his score for The Dogs of War (1980)
August 27 - Johnny Mandel records his score for the Amazing Stories episode "One for the Road" (1985)
August 27 - Craig Safan begins recording his score for Remo Williams: the Adventure Begins (1985)
August 27 - Jay Chattaway records his score for the Star Trek: Voyager episode “Night” (1998)
August 27 - John Altman wins the Emmy for RKO 281; Joseph LoDuca wins for the Xena: Warrior Princess episode “Fallen Angel;” W.G. Snuffy Walden wins for The West Wing main title theme (2000)
DID THEY MENTION THE MUSIC?
CATS - Andrew Lloyd Webber
"The lyrics of these songs were for the most part adapted from 'Old Possum’s Book Of Practical Cats,' a collection of whimsical poems by T.S. Eliot that was first published in 1939. Eliot, one of the luminaries of modernism, was extremely fond of all things feline; the description of the London smog in his masterpiece 'The Love Song Of J. Alfred Prufrock' ('The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes') is notably catlike, for example. By the end of the film, however, one might find themselves wishing that he hadn’t written quite so many poems on the subject. Divorced from the context of live theater, most of the songs end up sounding mind-numbingly similar, though one can’t help but admire Hooper’s decision to preserve Lloyd Webber’s hopelessly dated synth arrangements. There is a new song with lyrics by Taylor Swift (who also plays a cat named Bombalurina), and it does not help matters."
Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, The Onion AV Club
"But occasionally you’ll get a full blast of Lloyd Webber’s proggy, synthy score and the whole silly enterprise clicks into place, if only for a stretch. Much of the dancing here -- especially Steven McRae’s tap solo as Skimbleshanks the railway cat-- is inspired: not always elegantly captured by Christopher Ross’s functional camerawork but sharply re-choreographed by 'Hamilton’''s Andy Blankenbuehler. 'Cats' is never believable (realism isn't the goal) but it does have pink and purple lights and smoky sets, resulting in a bizarre feline version of 'Blade Runner.' Taylor Swift can’t dance; even her fans know that. Regardless, she’s got sufficient moxie to command the screen as sultry Bombalurina. Swift also makes a contribution to the score, the too-modern-sounding new number 'Beautiful Ghosts,' which gets overplayed. Forget these reservations. There is one moment in 'Cats' that works beautifully, always has, and that’s 'Memory,' still an elemental piece of theater. Jennifer Hudson, a classy presence in the context of this ensemble, sings it on the verge of tears, infusing the midsection with a scary sense of rage and wasted years. Hooper comes in tight and a spell is cast; even haters will be transported. Suddenly, you’re not thinking about “digital fur technology” or T.S. Eliot’s dopey lyrics or cats at all. There’s just an outpouring of need, supported by a massive orchestra. That has to count for something. 'Cats' may flop but it will be found by a like-minded audience, maybe the same one that rescued 'The Greatest Showman.' Don’t be the sourpuss to tell these people they’re wrong."
Joshua Rothkopf, Time Out New York
"Though 'Cats' is traditionally a sung-through musical, Hooper, perhaps haunted by criticism of the relentless live singing in his adaptation of 'Les Misérables,' sprinkles in some spoken interludes to break up the songs, mostly expository dialogue and uninspired cat (and in the case of James Corden’s character, fat cat) jokes. Alas, there are some wounds that no amount of laughter can heal: While theater pros like Fairchild pull off the live singing just fine, I cannot say the same for some of the more famous faces in the cast, such as Rebel Wilson and Jason Derulo, whose back-to-back songs early on constitute the movie’s roughest stretch. Fortunately, it recovers, and the songs that follow -- and the dancing from the professionally trained portion of the cast -- are giddy and gorgeous, particularly 'Skimbleshanks the Railway Cat,' which sees them tap-dancing along a railroad track, and 'Mr. Mistoffelees,' which Hooper reimagines to give the number more emotional heft. His signature close-up, low-angle shots are ideal for Jennifer Hudson’s rendition of 'Memory' (which is about as powerful as you’d expect from that combination of singer and song) and Victoria singing the new, Taylor Swift–penned response song, 'Beautiful Ghosts,' sung by Hayward (which is competent and sweet, if forgettable)."
Marissa Martinelli, Slate.com
"From a beguiling tap-dance against the London skyline to a catnip-spiced seduction courtesy of a nude Idris Elba (a lot of the cats are nude, but Elba looks really nude), the movie never lacks a polished frame. Paired with its barrage of candy-colored showstoppers, from mournful elegies to jazzy euphoric set pieces, the soundtrack delivers the goods. Yet there’s enough production muscle behind the movie that it’s a wonder nobody thought to improve the appearance of the critters at its center. By and large, the actors look more like the horned monstrosities of Matthew Barney’s 'Cremaster Cycle' than adorable felines roaming a dormant city, and the sheer epistemological disconnect of watching these familiar faces beneath furry artificial tweaks never resolves itself. But the appeal of 'Cats' has never been about explaining its rough edges. Yes, there’s a forgettable new Taylor Swift song 'Beautiful Ghosts,' which has nothing on her brief, ebullient appearance for a snazzy number at the ball where she’s basically Macavity’s version of Harley Quinn. But adding some 2019 pop-star polish doesn’t rationalize anything surrounding it, since the movie adheres to the anti-logic of its source. Pick apart the rules -- why do the cats have hands and feet, but also claws? where are all the humans? where do the cats really want to go? -- and it all falls down. 'Cats' is 'Cats' is 'Cats,' and you either get that or you don’t."
Eric Kohn, IndieWire
"Hooper is not my man for film musicals. He shoots everything the way he did in his film version of 'Les Miz': with a woozy hand-held camera for extra 'immediacy' and 'reality,' which is 'stupid' in this context. The decision to present tiny little dancing mice and roaches, some of which are eaten by Rebel Wilson’s aggravating Jennyanydots, is merely one in a series of unfortunate events. As for Jennifer Hudson’s Grizabella: She sings the living daylights out of 'Memory,' weeping what appear to be genuine human tears all over her digital fur through most every stanza. Whatever happened to taking care of the interpretation and leaving the crying to the audience? Audiences unfamiliar with the material may be stunned to learn how little there is to 'Cats,' not just in terms of narrative but in terms of everything besides narrative. It’s a kitty music hall revue, and a pushy, needy, antiquated one at that. (When the synthesizers come pounding in, it’s 1981 all over again, in the worst way.) Two final thoughts: One, props to Robbie Fairchild as Munkustrap, whose nonverbal Coarse Acting reactions to Old Deuteronomy’s epilogue really are a wonder. And two: As Longfellow wrote, into each life some rain must fall. This week it’s not raining cats and dogs. It’s raining 'Cats.'"
Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune
"The biggest drag in the seemingly endless series of featured felines is Grizabella, the so-called Glamour Cat, whose youthful beauty has given way to mange, causing her to be shunned by the Jellicles. Jennifer Hudson tirelessly over-emotes in the role; she limps around hemorrhaging snot and looking either miserable or terrified, like she's been watching the dailies. She blubbers her way through 'Memory,' letting loose all her considerable lung power for the big-ass key change on the phrase 'Touch me.' Cue wild cheers from an audience primed on 'American Idol' overkill. I can only hope Broadway's original Grizabella, Betty Buckley, who was at the premiere, was shielding her ears. With 'Memory' massacred, that leaves space for the delicate new song, 'Beautiful Ghosts' -- co-written by Lloyd Webber with Swift and performed by her over the end credits -- to shine. It's first heard in a lovely interpretation by Hayward, who extends a welcoming hand to the ostracized Grizabella, leading to Old Deuteronomy's inevitable choice. Even for folks who have never seen 'Cats,' that outcome is so preordained that the dramatic stakes are close to zero."
David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter
THE DEATH AND LIFE OF JOHN F. DONOVAN - Gabriel Yared
"And yet it’s impossible to dismiss Dolan out of hand because he’s clearly capable of orchestrating his actors and action. There’s a big, rainy reunion scene between little Rupert and his mother that’s beautifully assembled but simply not supported; it seems comically overwrought because it comes at the end of what we’re assured, in the text, is a not-terribly-dangerous day trip. His camerawork is often snazzy, and he knows how to use sound to his advantage – the energetic opening credits, accompanied by Adele’s 'In the Deep,”' give the picture a real charge, and the way he tunes out the dialogue when John decides a date has ended is masterful. (That said, Gabriel Yared’s score wants to be 'Magnolia''s so bad, Jon Brion may have a case for plagiarism.)"
Jason Bailey, The Playlist
"Although it may seem as if Dolan is holding nothing back, after nearly two years in editing, this magnum opus -- which was rumored to have sprung from a nearly 300-page script, and once involved an entire subplot for Jessica Chastain, who has been seamlessly cut from the picture -- runs an eminently reasonable 123 minutes. Building from the soul-rending opening cry of Adele’s 'Rolling in the Deep' to the barbaric yawp of the Verve’s 'Bittersweet Symphony' (with a heavy-handed assist from composer Gabriel Yared during the intervening two hours), this is ecstatically self-indulgent filmmaking. And yet, compared with the epic running time of 'Lawrence Anyways' or the emotionally supercharged 'It’s Only the End of the World' (which this latest most closely resembles), one gets the distinct sense that it’s over even before it has begun."
Peter Debruge, Variety
"Made with great technical polish, 'The Death and Life of John F. Donovan' does at least offer some sensory pleasures, including cinematographer Andre Turpin's sumptuous color schemes and elegant camerawork. Music has always been a vivid presence in Dolan's work too, with shiny pop hits and delirious dance numbers expertly embedded into previous films. Less so here, where Gabriel Yared's syrupy, emotionally didactic score intrudes on almost every scene, sometimes even threatening to drown out dialogue. The story climaxes with The Verve's 'Bittersweet Symphony,' a blowhard fanfare of hollow triumphalism masquerading as a profound commentary on the human condition. The parallels with Dolan's latest film hardly need spelling out here."
Stephen Dalton, The Hollywood Reporter
A HIDDEN LIFE - James Newton Howard
"Despite its repetitive and foraging nature, 'A Hidden Life' flies by, as the film is helped along by gorgeous scenery, a beautiful score, and a handful of supporting performances from actors like Matthias Schoenaerts and 'Transit' star Franz Rogowski (who earns the distinction of appearing in more than one scene). The late Bruno Ganz and Michael Nyqvist respectively make their final appearances as a Nazi judge and an anguished, sympathizing member of the Church."
David Ehrlich, IndieWire
"In this stretch, Franziska is in many ways as central a character as her husband, with Pachner and Diehl well matched; they’re why the film feels as sentimental as anything Malick has done (which, whatever the implications of the word sentimental, is not a complaint). James Newton Howard’s score is appropriately grand -- though as usual for Malick, it’s abetted by the extensive use of existing classical music, from Bach and Beethoven and Handel to Henry Gorecki, Arvo Pärt and Alfred Schnittke."
Steve Pond, The Wrap
"Working with a mostly new team of artisans, Malick leans on DP Jörg Widmer (who worked alongside Emmanuel Lubezki on 'The Tree of Life') for the film’s intense short-lens anamorphic widescreen look, which distorts whatever appears anywhere other than dead center in frame. Since the director likes to place his characters off-axis, expecting audiences to reorient themselves with every jump cut, this creates -- and sustains -- a surreal, dreamlike feel for his longest film yet (not counting director’s cuts). This heightened visual style contrasts the rigorously authentic costumes (by Lisy Christl) and sets (from Sebastian T. Krawinkel, rather than career-long collaborator Jack Fisk), while composer James Newton Howard lends ambience and depth between a mix of heavenly choirs and meditative classical pieces."
Peter Debruge, Variety
INVISIBLE LIFE [aka THE INVISIBLE LIFE OF EURIDICE GUSMAO] - Benedikt Schiefer
"For Eurídice, she accepts the norms thrust upon her, but life as an unhappy housewife simply doesn’t sit well with her. Like Guida, she too has her own independent wants outside of a man, which in her case is childishly selfish husband Antenor (Gregório Duvivier) who tries to forbid her from continuing her piano studies. She wants to prevent having a child for as long as possible, but his selfish desires get in the way of her plan. When she learns of her condition, the darkest of composer Benedikt Schiefer’s score accompanies the announcement. The men in the movie are almost always making the sisters’ lives more difficult."
Monica Castillo, The Wrap
"Aïnouz amps up the aching tragedy and dramatic irony of the situation to full melodramatic volume, with a sumptuous assist from Benedikt Schiefer’s score -- itself supported with evocatively chosen classical piano pieces by Chopin and Liszt. One superbly choreographed set piece, seeing the sisters miss each other by seconds in a Rio cafe, is agonizing and manipulative in all the right ways. But 'Eurídice Gusmão' isn’t just a symphony of misery. Flashes of joy and comradeship enter proceedings as Guida builds a new life for herself in Brazil’s slums, with wily, kindly prostitute Filomena (Bárbara Santos) as her new guardian angel; she may weather harder knocks than her sister, but finds her own kind of happiness. In this sense, Aïnouz has made both a testament to the resilience of women in a society stacked against them -- there are no good men to be found in its vision of toxic patriarchy -- as well as a stirring celebration of the families we create when the ones we’re born into fall away."
Guy Lodge, Variety
"The opening images of rainforest vegetation converging with rocky coastline on the edge of Rio de Janeiro, shot in startlingly vivid shades by French cinematographer Helene Louvart and accompanied by composer Benedikt Schiefer's pensive score, instantly back up the movie's tagline promise of 'a tropical melodrama.' Despite its many depictions of cruel insensitivity, quotidian unfairness and chronic disappointment, 'The Invisible Life of Euridice Gusmao' is a haunting drama that quietly celebrates the resilience of women even as they endure beaten-down existences. Ainouz's expert modulation of tone ensures that the long film keeps surprising us with new turns, frequently marked by ravishing use of Schiefer's score, combined with piano passages from Liszt, Grieg and Chopin. Nowhere, however, is the music more powerful than in the emotionally loaded scene in which Euridice finally gets to audition for the conservatory, playing Chopin's Etude Op. 10, No. 9 in a triumph blunted once again by crushing reality."
David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter
PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE - Jean-Baptiste de Laubier, Arthur Simonini
"This characterization is at odds with the equanimous relationship that ensues between the two twentysomething women, who navigate the class and gender constraints of society in the latter half of the 18th century. Marianne is a cosmopolitan student of her craft, bound by rules established by a string of male masters. By contrast, Héloïse’s life is more tightly controlled. For one, she loves music but has never heard an orchestra -- the film, with two extraordinary exceptions, is devoid of a musical score, relying on the snap of firewood and crush of ocean waves for sonic atmosphere -- and her commitment to a life of celibacy and solitude has, without her consent, become a life bound to partnership with a stranger. What the two share is passion and curiosity, and they explore and interrogate one another’s preconceptions."
Christopher Gray, Slant Magazine
RICHARD JEWELL - Arturo Sandoval
"While it’s reasonable to criticize the press and law enforcement in these events, Billy Ray’s script (drawing on a 1997 'Vanity Fair' article by Marie Brenner) relishes the opportunity irresponsibly, especially in its mean and unflattering portrayal of Wilde’s journalist as a crazy-eyed scrounger who trades sex for a scoop (an unverified detail). Elsewhere, Eastwood plays to his strengths better, orchestrating clean set-pieces of closely observed details in suffocating living rooms and dynamic concert arenas alike, while maintaining a somber mood throughout. (The vibe is well supported by an expressive, piano-heavy score by Arturo Sandoval.) 'Richard Jewell''s greatest feat is the generous emphasis it places on its Forrest Gumpian do-gooder’s complex sense of humanity; if only there were more of that to spread around to the other characters."
Tomris Laffly, Time Out New York
"Even as Hauser’s performance lends the film a tragicomic edge, Eastwood’s solemn filmmaking never mocks his protagonist’s unfortunate place as the whipping post of the public eye. Arturo Sandoval’s hushed piano score is rarely present, until the movie gets into its second, more emotional half, and never veers into mawkishness."
Ryan Lattanzio, IndieWire
SEBERG - Jed Kurzel
"Working on a bigger canvas here than in his 2016 feature debut 'Una,' which was a two-hander largely locked into its stage roots, Australian theater director Andrews demonstrates assured control even if the film hits a minor slack patch here and there. But the understated noir feel works for the material, with Jed Kurzel's score transitioning from cool jazzy sounds into more suspenseful moods as events turn darker. Lovely use also is made of period tunes, notably Scott Walker's 'It's Raining Today' and Nina Simone's Dylan cover, 'Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues.'"
David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter
STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER - John Williams
"In fact, produced in the age of internet-based fandom that reduces every cultural achievement to memes and conspiracy theories, 'Rise of Skywalker' isn’t even a movie in the traditional sense so much as the blockbuster version of a Jedi mind trick -- a hodgepodge of cameos and callbacks, snazzy lightsaber brawls and shrieking TIE fighters -- all glued together by John Williams’ exuberant score and calibrated to create the perception of the ultimate gratifying finale. But it’s more the idea of that thing than the thing itself, zipping along with enjoyable bits and pieces but reducing the big picture to an amalgam of half-hearted ideas."
Eric Kohn, IndieWire
"The psychic connection between these two, tinged with destiny and even a hint of attraction, was a major invention from the last movie. Now that tension has been cooled to a low simmer, all the better to make room for a bunch of lackadaisical lightsaber duels. 'The Rise of Skywalker' seems tooled for an 'Avengers'-bred audience accustomed to a string of trinket quests: Where is the doodad that will lead to the dagger with the Sith writing that will steer us to the right galaxy while we avoid the quicksand and those flying stormtroopers? Even amid this disastrous script pile-up (co-written by Justice League’s Chris Terrio), the old charm can’t help but manifest on occasion: The Millennium Falcon was meant to shimmy through steel canyons, Oscar Isaac’s rakish Po Dameron feels right as the attitudinal heir to Han Solo, and composer John Williams continues to do all the heavy lifting."
Joshua Rothkopf, Time Out New York
"What’s telling about 'The Rise of Skywalker' is how much I would have rather just learned more about Poe’s background, or the story behind Zorii, than experience the numbing overkill of the final act of this trilogy. For those who get a chill down their spine at a familiar John Williams composition in just the right place or even locations that this film returns to that you probably never thought you’d see again, 'The Rise of Skywalker' offers just enough to make them happy. It’s not unlike a rollercoaster ride in that it has just enough thrills to satisfy fans, but you can also see exactly where the ride begins and ends before you strap in. Real movie magic comes with surprises and risk-taking, and those are undeniably absent here -- I believe for the reason that people thought there was too much of both in the last film. I wanted more of Zorii because she’s one of the few characters or plot threads here that feels like it has potential to surprise. Almost everything else has been workshopped, focus-grouped, and even twitter hive-minded to a fine paste. It’s easy to digest, but not that filling or memorable."
Brian Tallerico, RogerEbert.com
"The story, abetted by trademark John Williams music cues that always manage to drop in at the perfect moment, is a digressive but satisfyingly forward-hurtling MacGuffin that stays on course. It follows Rey and her team as they bop from one planet to the next, all in order to locate the wayfinder crystal that will lead them to Exogol, the hidden land of the Siths where Palpatine, bent on domination of the galaxy, has set up his stone-throned, dark-shadowed supervillain hell cave. They find a dagger inscripted with the information they need -- except that it’s written in the forbidden runes of the Sith, which C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) is programmed not to translate. So they have to travel to a renegade planet to find a black-market droid tech, who has to erase C-3PO’s memory."
Owen Gleiberman, Variety
"John Williams, 87 years young, has composed yet another rambunctious, melodious, propulsive score for a very big film; you wouldn't want anyone else on the job."
Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter
THE TWO POPES - Bryce Dessner
"'The Two Popes' works overtime to sustain this dilemma in entertaining fashion, and for some people, that itself may represent a point of no return: The Catholic Church, after all, still isn’t all that hospitable toward gay people or abortion. And the movie shows mercy to Benedict for his sins -- when he finally confesses his role in covering up the pedophilia scandal, the movie cuts away and blurs out the details with an orchestral swell, as if the specifics matter less than the end result. While this may help sustain the gentle tone, it’s also disingenuous."
Eric Kohn, IndieWire
UNCUT GEMS - Daniel Lopatin
"The film compounds Howard’s diminishing sense of strength with a punishing sound mix that elevates the overlapping dialogue into howls of white noise in which only fragments of people’s sentences can be gleaned at certain times. In their films, the Safdies always stress the omnipresence of street noise and the chaos of conversation between more than a handful of people, but 'Uncut Gems' sees them pushing the decibel levels of their sound design to new and deafening heights. And that’s before you factor in Daniel Lopatin’s score, a shimmering, ringing chime of synthesizers that evokes light refracting off of precious stones. That quality, that suggestion of a gem’s glittering hardness, can also be found in Darius Khondji’s cinematography, which, with its metallic color timing and reflective sheens, is in stark contrast to the grimy, sweat-streaked naturalism of Sean Price Williams’s work for the Safdies."
Jake Cole, Slant Magazine
"The soundtrack of 'Uncut Gems' is jittery with the hectic electronica of Daniel Lopatin, a.k.a. Oneohtrix Point Never, but the mind-bending score could have been replaced by overlays of multiple out-of-synch ticking clocks, to mark the overwhelming intensity of the drama’s chronological pressure. The Safdie brothers’ movie is desperately timed; the forty-eight-year-old Howard measures out his days and nights not in coffee spoons but in the arc of a three-pointer, the slam of a car door, the paired buzzes of his showroom’s double-safe, electrically controlled bulletproof-glass barriers. Howard’s very survival is a matter of precise timing and of his urgent, off-balance storytelling. (The movie’s editing, by Benny Safdie and Ronald Bronstein -- who co-wrote the script with the brothers -- evokes the visual clamor of its clashing urgencies.) Howard tries to sidestep his creditors and their violent enforcers with instantaneously improvised lies that have to be timed with a comedian’s precision to elude their grasp. He plans to pay one with money owed to another and winnings that haven’t yet come in, and, if his borrowings and his scams, his debts and his dodges, don’t fit together in exactly the right sequence, the entire house of cards that is his life will come tumbling down."
Richard Brody, The New Yorker
"Howard thrives in the mayhem, as the opening minutes make clear, with cinematographer Darius Khondji’s camera swirling around the figure as he goes about his wild days; a remarkable percussive soundtrack by Daniel Lopatin (aka Oneohtrix Point Never) overwhelms the constant whir of action. If that’s all the movie had to offer, the endurance test would have its limits."
Eric Kohn, IndieWire
"Electric from minute one, on top of the freewheeling, freefalling staging, and Robert Altman-esque discordance of five conversations happening at once, the Safdie’s movie greatly benefits once again from a searing, perspiring pulsating score by Oneohtrix Point Never’s score (aka Daniel Lopatin). It should be said, as exhausting as it can be, the neo-noir thriller can be really ridiculously funny in its dark humor (Philip Roth would likely be proud of the tragic Jewish-American hilarity of some of these scenarios)."
Rodrigo Perez, The Playlist
"All the while, the Safdies audaciously enhance the anxiety with one of their most abrasive soundscapes: a mixture of Altmanesque overlapping dialogue, disconcertingly loud noises (like the persistent buzz of a broken automatic door lock), and a blaring electronic score that sometimes seems intent on drowning everything else out. Of course, the real source of anxiety is Howard himself, who’s responsible for every one of his problems. In the last 45 minutes, the film reaches a spectacular fever pitch of almost suicidal abandon -- the havoc wreaked by a man who just can’t resist and would rather stop trying to. We watch his foolhardy flirtation with ruin in a state of shocked disbelief that borders on admiration. The queasy thrill of Sandler’s live-wire performance is the way he keys us right into Howard’s electric joy, putting everything on the line, consequences be damned. It’s a pure shot of the gambler’s high, and 'Uncut Gems' gets us hooked on it, too. By the end, you want to hurl and cheer."
A.A. Dowd, The Onion AV Club
"'Uncut Gems,' the Safdies’ electrifying and abrasive latest drama, flirts with becoming a headache. (For some, it will feel like more than flirting.) But the film gets closer than the brothers ever have to developing a genuine affection for their various schemers, and that makes all the difference. Tenaciously, it follows a week in the 2012 life of a fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants Diamond District dealer, Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler, channeling his obnoxiousness into something magically right, even moving). You may be overwhelmed by the Safdies’ spiky sound design -- filled with yelling, sports betting, the jewelry shop’s constantly buzzing security door and an overcaffeinated, Tangerine Dream-like synth score -- but Howard thrives in this chaos. It’s his normal."
Joshua Rothkopf, Time Out New York
"That poor decision on Howard’s part leads to a cascade of worse ones. He pawns the ring, then uses the money to bet big on that night’s Celtics game. Within 24 hours, Howard is in trouble with a whole new set of people, including his wife, Dinah (Idina Menzel), who’s so disgusted with his compulsive gambling and checked-out parenting of their three kids that she’s pressing him to move forward with divorce plans. Then there’s his mistress (Julia Fox), an employee at the jewelry shop whom he maintains in an apartment of her own: After he catches her in the bathroom of a club flirting with the bad-boy singer the Weeknd (also appearing as himself), their every encounter devolves into an operatic screaming match. Then again, most conversations in Howard’s world are operatic screaming matches, conducted over the competing noise of overlapping background dialogue, the incessant buzzing of the locked bulletproof glass door that leads into the shop, and an ambient -- perhaps too ambient, as in omnipresent -- electronic score by Daniel Lopatin, who composes under the name Oneohtrix Point Never."
Dana Stevens, Slate.com
'That Celtics game -- which finds Howie shouting at the TV as it unfolds across a series of squirm-inducing domestic scenes -- is but one of the sequences in which audiences will find it hard to breathe, feeling their temples throb amid composer Daniel Lopatin’s dialogue-drowning music. Without question, watching 'Uncut Gems' is a singular experience, but a tough one to recommend, since most people would prefer not to have their eyes punched and ears hammered nonstop for two hours in what amounts to a relentless sensory assault. Does Howie ever relax? When does he sleep?"
Peter Debruge, Variety
"New York area locations provide great and varied backgrounds and Darius Khondji’s cinematography vividly evokes them in a sharp, naturalistic way. Daniel Lopatin’s big and bold score at times goes a bit over the top to become too noticeable compared to what it accompanies onscreen, but it also properly serves the grandiose schemes and emotions of the characters."
Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter
THINGS I'VE HEARD, READ, SEEN OR WATCHED LATELY
Heard: Assignment: Vienna (Grusin/Parker), Automata (de la Riva), Avengers: Endgame (Silvestri), Babe [TV] (Goldsmith), Babe (Westlake), Baby's Day Out (Broughton), The Bad News Bears (Fielding), The Bad News Bears Go to Japan (Chihara), The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training (Safan), The Bad Seed (North), The Bad Sleep Well (Sato), Bad Times at the El Royale (Giacchino), The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (Burwell), Bambi (Plumb/Churchill/Morey), Bluebeard (Morricone), A Texas Romance, 1909/Bad Company (Schmidt), Barbarella (Crewe/Fox), Barbarella (Magne), Battle of the Sexes (Britell), The Beauty Inside (O'Halloran), Bedazzled (Moore), Under the Silver Lake (Disasterpeace), The Tides of Fate (Toprak), Carmina Burana (Orff), The Sisters Brothers (Desplat), Children of Men (Tavener), Shock and Awe (Beal), El Guardian Invisible (Velazquez), The Old Man & the Gun (Hart), The Human Factor (Morricone), Legion (Russo), Agatha (Blake), Lights, Camera...Music! (Williams), Follies [2011 cast] (Sondheim), Music for Moving Pictures (Hajian)
Read: A Scanner Darkly, by Philip K. Dick
Seen: AMC has announced plans to reopen some of their theaters this week. Since California still has its theaters under lockdown for pandemic protection, it will not affect any of the AMC theaters I usually go to, so this little slice of my weekly column will continue to be bereft of movies. Better that than catching or spreading disease. But I do miss it. Obviously.
Watched: Tom Sawyer , Lost ("Numbers"), The Big Store, Hannibal ("...And the Woman Clothed in Sun"), Hard Luck , The Wire ("Spent Rounds"), Huckleberry Finn , Lost in Space ("Welcome Stranger")