The latest limited edition release from Intrada presents Richard Band's score for the 1993 kids-and-dinosaurs fantasy-comedy PREHYSTERIA!, starring Brett Cullen and Austin O'Brien (Last Action Hero).
The latest limited edition release from Varese Sarabande presents the LP tracks from the little-seen 1977 film 9/30/55 (ultimately released in theaters and on home video as September 30, 1955). The film from writer-director James Bridges (The Paper Chase, The China Syndrome, Mike's Murder) tells the story of a group of young people whose lives spin out of control when their hero, James Dean, dies in a car accident. The great Gordon Willis was the cinematographer, and the impressive cast includes Richard Thomas, Susan Tyrell, Lisa Blount, Tom Hulce, Dennis Christopher and Dennis Quaid. Composer Leonard Rosenman was a close friend of Dean's who scored his films Rebel without a Cause and East of Eden, and for 9/30/55 he adapted his music from those films for his score; the Varese release is limited to 1500 units.
CDS AVAILABLE THIS WEEK
King of Thieves - Benjamin Wallfisch - Milan (import)
9/30/55 - Leonard Rosenman - Varese Sarabande
The Old Man & the Gun - Daniel Hart - Varese Sarabande
Prehysteria! - Richard Band - Intrada Special Collection
Smallfoot - Heitor Pereira - WaterTower
Venom - Ludwig Goransson - Sony
IN THEATERS TODAY
Above and Beyond: NASA’s Journey to Tomorrow - Gary Lionelli
Bayou Caviar - Jeffery Alan Jones
The Church - Miles Bergsma
A Crooked Somebody
- Andrew Hewitt
The Hate U Give
- Dustin O'Halloran - Score CD due Oct. 19 on Milan
Heavy Trip - Lauri Porra
Morning, Noon & Night - Joseph LoDuca
Private Life - Music Supervisor: Howard Paar
Ride - Paul Haslinger
The Riot Act - Kevin Croxton
Scaffolding - Ishai Adar
- Ludwig Goransson - Score CD on Sony
Viking Destiny - Tom Morrison
Black Mirror: Arkangel - Mark Isham - Fire (import)
Carter Burwell: Music for Film - Carter Burwell - Silva
First Man - Justin Hurwitz - Backlot
Fletch - Harold Faltermeyer, songs - Varese Sarabande
Girl - Valentin Hadjadj - Deutsche Grammophon (import)
The Girl in the Spider's Web - Roque Banos - Sony (import)
It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown - Vince Guaraldi - Varese Sarabande
La Venere di Cheronea - Giovanni Fusco - Digitmovies
Salvare La Faccia - Benedetto Ghiglia - Digitmovies
Zorro - Guido & Maurizio DeAngelis - Digitmovies
Halloween - John Carpenter, Cody Carpenter, Daniel Davies - Sacred Bones
The Hate U Give - Dustin O'Halloran - Milan
Mandy - Johann Johannsson - Lakeshore
The Song of Sway Lake - Ethan Gold - Electrik Gold
Can You Ever Forgive Me? - Nate Heller - Verve
Our House - Mark Korven - Lakeshore
Suspiria - Thom Yorke - XL Recordings
Boy Erased - Danny Bensi, Saunder Jurriaans - Backlot
A Private War - H. Scott Salinas - Varese Sarabande
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs - Carter Burwell - Milan
Under the Silver Lake - Disasterpeace - Milan
Batteries Not Included - James Horner - Intrada Special Collection
Carles Cases Styles - Carles Cases - Rosetta
Deshabitados - Manel Gil-Inglada - Rosetta
Madly - Francis Lai - Music Box
Red/Family - Soren Hyldgaard - Kritzerland
Yucatan - Roque Banos - Saimel
THIS WEEK IN FILM MUSIC HISTORY
October 5 - Malcolm Lockyer born (1923)
October 5 - Harold Faltermeyer born (1952)
October 5 - Alex Wurman born (1966)
October 5 - Jerry Fielding
's score for the Star Trek
episode "The Trouble with Tribbles" is recorded (1967)
October 5 - David G. Russell born (1968)
October 6 - Stanley Myers born (1933)
October 6 - David Raksin
records his score for Daisy Kenyon
October 6 - Tommy Stinson born (1966)
October 6 - Giuseppe Becce died (1973)
October 6 - James Horner begins recording his score for 48 HRS. (1982)
October 6 - William Butler born (1982)
October 6 - Nelson Riddle died (1985)
October 6 - Ron Jones records his score for the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Who Watches the Watchers" (1989)
October 7 - Gabriel Yared born (1949)
October 7 - Richard Markowitz
records his score for The Wild Wild West
episode “The Night of a Thousand Eyes” (1965)
October 7 - Marco Beltrami born (1968)
October 7 - Robert Drasnin
records his score for the Mission: Impossible
episode “The Play” (1968)
October 8 - Walter Schumann born (1913)
October 8 - Toru Takemitsu born (1930)
October 8 - Gavin Friday born (1959)
October 8 - Ralph Schuckett born (1962)
October 8 - Bernard Herrmann records his score for The Alfred Hitchcock Hour episode “Consider Her Ways” (1964)
October 8 - Frank Skinner died (1968)
October 8 - Richard Markowitz
records his score for the Mission: Impossible
episode “Robot” (1969)
October 8 - David Bell records his score for the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode “Take Me Out to the Holosuite” (1998)
October 9 - Camille Saint-Saens born (1835)
October 9 - Bebo Valdes born (1918)
October 9 - Barry Gray begins recording his score for Thunderbirds Are Go (1966)
October 9 - Steve Jablonsky born (1970)
October 9 - Bill Conti begins recording his score for The Fourth War (1989)
October 10 - Giovanni Fusco born (1906)
October 10 - John Green born (1908)
October 10 - Marco Antonio Guimaraes born (1948)
October 10 - David Raksin
begins recording his score for Whirlpool
October 10 - Midge Ure born (1953)
October 10 - Giant
opens in New York (1956)
October 10 - Valentine McCallum born (1963)
October 10 - Andrea Morricone born (1964)
October 10 - Hugo Montenegro
begins recording his score for Hurry Sundown
October 10 - Hawaii opens in New York (1966)
October 10 - Walter Scharf
records his score for the Mission: Impossible
episode “The Ransom” (1966)
October 10 - Michael Giacchino born (1967)
October 10 - Vince DiCola
begins orchestral recording sessions for his Rocky IV
October 10 - William Goldstein records his scores for the Twilight Zone episodes “The Card” and “Time and Teresa Golowitz” (1986)
October 10 - Jay Chattaway records his score for the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Remember Me” (1990)
October 11 - Art Blakey born (1919)
October 11 - Laura
opens in New York (1944)
October 11 - Michel Legrand begins recording his score for The Happy Ending (1968)
October 11 - Henry Mancini begins recording his score for The Moneychangers (1976)
October 11 - Neal Hefti died (2008)
DID THEY MENTION THE MUSIC?
'Known for directing 2008’s 'Wanted' and 2012’s 'Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter,' Bekmambetov again is no master filmmaker. There are lots of aesthetic issues, many of them inconsistent in quality: the visual effects are not outright convincing, but used with just enough thrift to retain believability; the score is bland but still evocative. Oliver Wood’s cinematography is far more coherent here than in his work in the 'Bourne' trilogy, but it’s still shaky cam, and saddled with problems inherent in that style."
Jason Ooi, The Playlist
"As was the 1959 version, the new film was based at Rome's Cinecitta Studios, with location work mostly done in Italy. Visually, it's on the grubby side, its compositions imprecise, the editing far too busy (hardly any shot in the chariot race lasts more than two or three seconds). None of the performances particularly register. As for the score, let's just say that the reputation of the late, great Miklos Rozsa, who composed the extraordinary music for the Wyler version, has just been strongly reinforced."
Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter
BUSHWICK - Aesop Rock
"Nonetheless, 'Bushwick' confirms Bautista as a potentially major star, capable of more than Drax’s befuddled one-liners (but apparently incapable of playing a character with a non-silly name; look for him in the role of 'Sapper' when 'Blade Runner 2049' opens this fall). As Stupe, he’s endearingly weary, somehow projecting badass strength while forever seeming as if he’d like nothing more than to lie down for a few minutes and take a nap. His narcoleptic macho plays very nicely opposite Snow, who takes Lucy in incremental steps from barely controlled panic to courageous resolve. But the characters’ relationship, like everything else here, remains frustratingly subordinate to Murnion and Milott’s low-budget spectacle, discordantly set at times to a pulsating Aesop Rock score. Even the film’s downer of an ending feels oddly empty. Bushwick imagines nothing less than the collapse of the United States Of America, with half the country in armed revolt. At a time when that possibility can feel all too frighteningly real, it’s dispiriting to see it employed as little more than an excuse to engineer a live-action 'Grand Theft Auto.'"
Mike D'Angelo, The Onion AV Club
"'Bushwick' tries to play off such a revelation as an indictment of the dumb denizens of Arkansas, Mississippi, Kenyucky, et al., while still expecting the audience to buy that such morons -- including the state governments and all citizenry -- could pull off a mass military campaign in secret and that every single person in every one of these rebel states in this modern hyper-connected world of ours would be so on-board they’d keep totally quiet and think that the strategy of said campaign -- invading the North because the North doesn’t believe in weapons -- is sound. Meanwhile, carnage unfolds as boringly as one would expect from such consequence-less character beats and generic war action, all soundtracked by Aesop Rock, who (and this is coming from a big fan) seems to have watched a completely different movie."
Dom Sinacola, Paste Magazine
"The key becomes keeping the camera contained to Lucy and Stupe’s immediate field of vision and letting the sound design do a lot of the heavy lifting with an omnipresent assault of helicopters, tanks, and gunfire largely off-screen. A propulsive, downright badass score from indie hip-hop stalwart Aesop Rock sets the tone from the start and never lets up."
Geoff Berkshire, Variety
HANDS OF STONE - Angelo Milli
"Mr. Jakubowicz attempts several cinematic nods to 'Raging Bull,' including going to black and white during a 1950s flashback. (Arcel’s refusal to play ball with the mob in that period means that he’s risking life and limb by working with Durán in the ’70s.) 'Hands of Stone' also tries to replicate the thrills of Mr. Scorsese’s boxing scenes and does not come within swinging distance. The viewer’s sense of who’s winning a match will rely on the swelling or waning of the music."
Glenn Kenny, New York Times
THE ICE CREAM TRUCK - Michael Boateng
"All this may sound simply inept, but in practice, 'Ice Cream Truck' goes down rather easy, the clashing tactics holding a perverse charm when the pacing or story focus seems to drift for minutes at a time. It helps that Johnston’s leads are very attractive -- Russo in a more old-school glamorous way than today’s favored aerobics-hottie look, while Redlinger (though an improbable 18-year-old) is a chip off the boyishly hunky Zac Efron block -- and have real chemistry together. There’s also a certain wit to the packaging, notably in Stephen Tringali’s crisp widescreen cinematography and composer Michael Boateng’s homage to ’80s direct-to-video horror soundtracks."
Dennis Harvey, Variety
"Though promising when played over the title sequence, Michael Boateng's score grows problematic as the action heats up: Johnston deploys his beedly-boop synthetic cues so heavy-handedly that they provoke laughter near the end, just as Mary gives in to temptation and becomes the killer's target. The twist that arrives after all the jimmies and sugar cones settle is such a non-sequitur it will provoke more rolled eyes than gasps."
John DeFore, The Hollywood Reporter
PETE'S DRAGON - Daniel Hart
"Elliot and the warm cast are the most obviously appealing aspects of 'Pete’s Dragon,' but the entire production, from cinematographer Bojan Bazelli’s ('The Lone Ranger') patient touch with light and shadow to the reality-defining costumes by Amanda Neale ('What We Do in the Shadows') and an evocative score from Daniel Hart ('Ain’t Them Bodies Saints'), contributes to the film’s spell. This is a major studio effects picture with the heart of a much smaller movie, a thing as rare as a legendary forest creature."
Russ Fischer, The Wrap
"Yet even while dispensing with all but the barest remnants of the original, this new 'Pete’s' isn’t exactly a revolutionary work; there are a number of narrative and thematic similarities to Disney’s other spring and summer efforts 'The Jungle Book' and 'The BFG' (in many ways, particularly its early-‘80s setting and sometimes cloyingly John Williams-inspired score, 'Pete’s Dragon' feels more like a Spielberg movie than 'The BFG' -- not a knock on either film)."
Jason Bailey, Flavorwire
SHOT CALLER - Antonio Pinto
"'Pete's Dragon' is David Lowery's remake of the 1977 Walt Disney animated musical about a boy and his best friend: a dragon who can turn invisible. It is the second gentlest kids' film of this summer, after Steven Spielberg's 'The BFG. -- another film pitched at kids aged seven to ten (and adults who can still remember what it felt like to be that age), but one that failed at the box office, even though it touched some of the same emotional chords as Spielberg's masterpiece, 'E.T.' Lowery's film owes quite a bit to Spielberg generally, and 'E.T' in particular (the dragon is named Elliott, the name of the hero of 'E.T.'; there's a Keys-type adult character who's on the side of the kids, and the more brash and excited parts of Daniel Hart's score channel John Williams). There are nods to Spielberg-inflected movies as well, including 'The Iron Giant' (another boy-and-his-creature flick, set in the forest primeval). But it might ultimately have more in common with movies by Terrence Malick, a Transcendental hippie Christian poet who isn't afraid to put the plot on hold and wander around with a camera, letting us experience a rarefied vision of the natural world. The whirring insects, the owls hooting in the treetops."
Matt Zoller Seitz, RogerEbert.com
"The Disney family picture 'Pete’s Dragon' lumbers right up to the border of cloying, but doesn’t tip over. After a fast, cruel opening -- car trip, beatific mom beaming at adorable 5-year-old, hideous crash -- the little boy, Pete, wanders into a deep forest and is saved from wolves by a furred, cuddly dragon. Six years later, Pete (Oakes Fegley, a forest-dweller’s name if ever I’ve heard one), is a regular little Tarzan, scampering over vines and spending nights in a cave curled up beside his friend, whom he names Elliot, after a character in a picture book he clutched when he slipped from his parents’ devastated car. All would be idyllic -- or as idyllic as it could be, minus a human mom and dad — but for a construction crew led by Karl Urban, as one of those macho anti-environmentalists who want to chew up the wilderness and shoot anything left over. Fortunately, Urban’s soon-to-be sister-in-law, Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard), is a kind, dreamy-eyed, maternal forest ranger with a face nearly as angelic as Pete’s dead mother’s. And she has a kind, clever stepdaughter (Oona Laurence) who’d make a hell of a sister. And she has a kind, clever father (Robert Redford) who once, while hunting, came face-to-face with the alleged Millhaven dragon, and now has a mystical regard for the wilderness and its denizens. Maybe kindness will triumph over rapacious industry and the sort of people who don’t believe in friendly dragons. The shimmery score hints broadly that it will. 'Pete’s Dragon' was directed and co-written by David Lowery, who made the critically adored, outlaw art movie 'Ain’t Them Bodies Saints' -- which this critic thought was as torturous as its title. The first part of 'Pete’s Dragon' has an odd clunkiness, as if Lowery wants to deliver a magically fluid Disney picture, but, like someone learning to waltz, keeps stutter-stepping. He’s helped by Daniel Hart’s score, the aural equivalent of a big, wet doggy tongue sliding over your face -- the perfect correlative for Elliot, the computer-generated dragon, who has an awesome wingspan when he flies but is otherwise closer to a stuffed doggy. I imagine you can already find his likeness at Toys ‘R’ Us. (Just did a quick check -- yep, he’s there. But no links! I’m enough of a shill already!)"
David Edelstein, New York
"It’s this simplicity, though, that keeps the movie from matching obvious forerunners like 'E.T.' or 'The Iron Giant.' Those movies have lovingly detailed moments of humor and complexity between the human kid and the otherworldly pal, so that when their stories kick into tearjerker mode, there’s a depth and range of feelings beneath the awe and awwww. Lowery goes for the awe too quickly and too often, the Daniel Hart score prioritizing generic soaring over the characters themselves. The effect, at least for me, is curiously unmoving. The relationship between Pete and Elliot is certainly adorable, but despite its Spielbergian orchestrations, it has the approximate profundity of a TV commercial. The gap between Pete’s removal from society around age five and his reintroduction around ten gets filled without much trouble. There’s little sense of change, or sacrifice, or even of simple growing up. 'Pete’s Dragon' can easily replace the ’77 version in the Disney vault, and might even segue some adventurous young viewers into more contemplative fare. The movie itself, though, is more a simulation of feeling than an expression of it."
Jesse Hassenger, Brooklyn Magazine
"You can feel it in Fegley’s terrifically muted performance, which blends a child’s vulnerability with an auteur’s trust in his audience (and builds confidence that he’s been well-cast as one of the leads in Todd Haynes’ forthcoming 'Wonderstruck'). You can see it in the patience with which the camera watches Pete and Elliot pal around in the forest, and in the earnest sense of wonder with which it hangs on Redford’s every word. You can hear it in the handclaps that pepper the spirited score by Lowery’s long-time collaborator Daniel Hart, and in the Leonard Cohen song that similarly garnishes the movie with a human touch while also helping to galvanize the period setting (yes, a Leonard Cohen song in a Disney movie)."
David Ehrlich, IndieWire
"For much of the picture, Lowery displays a firm handle on the tone of storybook wonder, but at times the feeling becomes overplayed. Unfortunately, this tends to be when pop songs appear on the soundtrack, with tunes by Lindsey Stirling, The Lumineers and St. Vincent rubbing against the homespun feel of 'Pete’s Dragon' and sometimes explicitly underscoring a particular sentiment when a score cue from composer Daniel Hart or even silence would’ve been more evocative and effective. Even the theme song by Bonnie 'Prince' Billy feels more superficially cornpone than authentic. These bumps in the road are infrequent, but jarring enough to serve as a reminder of what Disney pictures can be when they tilt toward the unsophisticated."
Kevin Jagernauth, The Playlist
"Skip forward six years and Pete and Elliot have effectively domesticated one another -- assuming that 'domesticated' is the right word for a feral child and his cave-dwelling best friend. As in DreamWorks Animation’s splendid 'How to Train Your Dragon' series, the filmmakers have studied what endears humans to their pets and amplified those qualities into the realm of fantasy. Blending the heartland feel of composer Daniel Hart’s folk-inflected score with gorgeous widescreen vistas of virgin forest (in which New Zealand doubles for the Pacific Northwest), Lowery and DP Bojan Bazelli take audiences along for vicarious 3D rides high above the clouds, while also leaving room for games of fetch and hide-and-seek, which are all the more challenging when one party has the power of invisibility."
Peter Debruge, Variety
"Coster-Waldau does a top-notch job portraying his character’s doomy career arc, as he slowly comes to accept that his former life as Joe Average is devolved by his current reality and the desire to survive within the cage. Also on board is 'The Walking Dead''s Jon Bernthal as one of The Beast’s white power henchmen, and 'Power''s Hardwick as Money’s suspicious parole officer. Capped off with a paranoiac little masterpiece of a score, courtesy of Antonio Pinto, and 'Shot Caller' is a curdled and rancid look at the American dream gone haywire."
Marc Savlov, The Austin Chronicle
WHOSE STREETS? - Samora Abayomi Pinderhughes
"There are points where this movie seems to want to right that imbalance of storytelling authority all by its lonesome, an impossible goal. There are also moments where the filmmakers don't always trust the innate power of the footage they've gathered on the ground and in people's homes, at community meetings and in conversations on sidewalks and in cars. There isn't much intrusion by the film's musical score, but when it does come in, you notice it, and not in a good way. 'Whose Streets?' may also prove to be of limited value as a historical document precisely because of its decision to leave the broad-strokes, "this happened and then that happened" storytelling to mainstream sources while it lives in the in-between spaces, where activists balance neighborhood organizing and vocal protest with the requirements of daily life: making rent, raising their kids. But these are minor quibbles with a major work. This is a movie that doesn't merely tell a gripping, important story, but reminds us that the storyteller and the storytelling matter just as much."
Matt Zoller Seitz, RogerEbert.com
THE NEXT TEN DAYS IN L.A.
Screenings of older films, at the following L.A. movie theaters: AMPAS, American Cinematheque: Aero, American Cinematheque: Egyptian, Arclight, Arena Cinelounge, LACMA, Laemmle, New Beverly, Nuart and UCLA.
BEETLEJUICE (Danny Elfman) [Nuart]
CHICAGO (John Kander, Danny Elfman), STEP BROTHERS (Jon Brion) [Cinematheque: Aero]
THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS (Howard Shore) [Arclight Hollywood]
BLACK CHRISTMAS (Carl Zittrer), HALLOWEEN (John Carpenter) [Cinemathque: Egyptian]
MAGNOLIA (Jon Brion) [Cinematheque: Aero]
SCREAM (Marco Beltrami) [Arclight Hollywood]
ALL THE COLORS OF THE DARK (Bruno Nicolai) [Cinemathque: Egyptian]
DJANGO (Luis Bacalov) [Cinemathque: Egyptian]
DOBERMAN COP (Kenjiro Hirose) [Cinematheque: Egyptian]
GRAND PRIX (Maurice Jarre) [Arclight Hollywood]
A GRIN WITHOUT A CAT (Luciano Berio) [Cinematheque: Aero]
IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE [Arclight Hollywood]
FRIDAY THE 13TH (Harry Manfredini) [Arclight Hollywood]
BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (Franz Waxman) [Arclight Sherman Oaks]
CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON [Arclight Hollywood]
EDWARD SCISSORHANDS (Danny Elfman) [LACMA]
GREMLINS (Jerry Goldsmith) [Arclight Culver City]
SUPERMAN (John Williams) [Laemmle Ahyra Fine Arts]
THE WAR ROOM [AMPAS]
THE MONSTER SQUAD (Bruce Broughton) [Arclight Hollywood]
BLACK SABBATH (Les Baxter) [Laemmle NoHo]
F FOR FAKE (Michel Legrand), CITIZEN KANE (Bernard Herrmann) [Cinematheque: Aero]
THE THING (Ennio Morricone) [Arclight Hollywood]
HALLOWEEN (John Carpenter) [Nuart]
TOUCH OF EVIL (Henry Mancini), MR. ARKADIN (Paul Misraki) [Cinematheque: Aero]
BLADE RUNNER [Cinematheque: Egyptian]
EVILSPEAK (Roger Kellaway) [Arena Cinelounge]
HOUSE OF WAX (David Buttolph) [Laemmle Ahyra Fine Arts]
THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS (Bernard Herrmann), THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI (Heinz Roemheld) [Cinematheque: Aero]
CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT (Angelo Francesco Lavagnino), THE IMMORTAL STORY [Cinematheque: Aero]
MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON (Dimitri Tiomkin) [Laemmle Ahyra Fine Arts]
THE MUMMY [Arclight Hollywood]
WRITTEN ON THE WIND (Frank Skinner) [Cinematheque: Egyptian]
THINGS I'VE HEARD, READ, SEEN OR WATCHED LATELY
I recently began watching the AMC series The Terror on Blu-Ray and it was a terrific investment, as gripping as I'd hoped, with one third episode plot development catching me entirely by surprise. One of the many great pleasures of this series has been its opening title sequence, the work of Elastic, whose other credits (in both senses) include the dazzling openings for Game of Thrones, True Detective and Westworld (as well as several shows I haven't watched yet, such as The Alienist, American Gods, Halt and Catch Fire, The Man in the High Castle and The Night Manger). For anyone who wants to see their imaginative work, just follow this link to the Art of the Title website.
The elegance and imagination of these sequences contrasts with the titles for some of the late '90s/early '00s shows I've been watching or re-watching, like Band of Brothers, Firefly and The West Wing. There's something about the title design aesthetic of that era that I really find displeasing; a huge amount of work has clearly been put into these sequences, but overall they're visually cluttered and unappealing. I think it's the inelegant multi-images, the awkward mix of black-and-white and color, and particulary the process sometimes called "step-printing", where slow motion is achieved by repeating frames (instead of shooting at a higher-frame rate, as in traditional slow motion). Step-printing is one of the many reasons I've never warmed up to Wong Kar Wai's films; most times I find it an ugly device, the visual equivalent of adding an echo to make something sound more impressive.
I could go on and on about the TV shows I've been watching lately -- ones I'm seeing for the first time and favorites I'm watching yet again -- especially since I'm finding them so much more compelling than the new films I've seen lately. The highlight of the weekend-before-last's new movies was The Sisters Brothers, a refreshing change of pace and impressive first-film-in-English from director Jacques Audiard. The best Audiard film I'd seen previously was A Prophet, which in no way suggested he could pull of a darkly comic Western in another language. The Desplat score is fresh and first-rate and the acting is uniformly strong -- with John C. Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix as the brothers, that's hardly a surprise, and Jake Gyllenhaal is also quite good, his civilized-19th-century-man speaking manner is one of the film's highlights, and a refreshing change from his more...aggressive performances like Nightcrawler, Southpaw and Okta.
By far the worst thing I saw that weekend was Life Itself, which earns every bit of the scorn it's received from critics. Not every minute of it is terrible -- the third of its five chapters begins with a dialogue scene (in subtitled Spanish) between Antonio Banderas as a wealthy land owner and Sergio Peris-Mencheta as his most valued worker, where the film suddenly calms down and allows the audience to relax and become invested in the characters -- at least until the next chapter jumps ahead decades into what would logically be a later decade in the 21st century but shows no sign of not being set in 2018.
Any hopes for an emotionally engaging film are pretty much destroyed by the opening 42-minute chapter, from its gimmicky and unfunny opening to its gratuitously brutal closing. Perhaps my least favorite moments in this segment come when we learn that when Olivia Wilde's character was a child she was molested by her uncle. The writer-director goes out of his way to portray the molesting uncle as a physically unattractive person -- we have shots following him at bulging-gut level before we even see his face -- as if being molested by a handsome, well-groomed relative wouldn't be traumatic enough. (Which reminds me of a similarly bad film from 2017 -- The Book of Henry. If Lee Pace had played the molesting stepdad and Dean Norris the mom's love interest, instead of vice versa, it would still have been a bad movie, but it would at least have been a more interesting one).
What makes this film especially maddening is that writer-director Dan Fogelman is actually quite talented. I haven't watched his popular series This Is Us, and his script for Crazy Stupid Love had too much phony twistiness (spoiler -- Gosling really wouldn't notice that his girlfriend and his new male best friend have the same last name and matching family drama?), but his directing debut Danny Collins was surprisingly good, with Al Pacino giving one of his best recent performances and Jennifer Garner and Bobby Cannavale also doing unusually strong and restrained work (not to mention the always excellent Annette Bening and Christopher Plummer).
Federico Jusid's score for Life Itself at times reminded me of the quieter cues from Hans Zimmer's Interstellar. It's always fun to play the game of what-score-with-this-temped-with, though these days the answer is frequently "something by Desplat." Certain scores seem totally inspired by the Desplat aesthetic -- The Theory of Everything, The 9th Life of Louis Drax, Wakefield -- while in others the influence comes up more subtly. At least one cue in James Newton Howard's Water for Elephants sounded at first like they'd simply tracked in Curious Case of Benjamin Button (and who could blame them?), while the rhythms (but not the melodies) in Theodore Shapiro's A Simple Favor suggested the film had been tracked with Birth.