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La-La Land has announced two major new releases for the week of June 23 -- the first-ever release of Howard Shore's score for the 1993 film version of Ira Levin's thriller SLIVER, starring Sharon Stone, William Baldwin and Tom Berenger; and a four-disc set of music from Irwin Allen's '60s TV hit VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA, featuring cues from episodes scored by Alexander Courage, Robert Drasnin, Jerry Goldsmith, Lenie Hayton, Joseph Mullendore, Nelson Riddle, Paul Sawtell, Herman Stein and Leith Stevens. Both of these releases are limited to 1,000 units.


The Varese Sarabande CD Club is expected to announce one new release today.


CDS AVAILABLE THIS WEEK

Exorcism at 60,000 Feet - Richard Band - Dragon's Domain 
Incident at Raven's Gate/The Time Guardian
 - Graham Tardif, Allan Zavod - Dragon's Domain
The Meanest Man in Texas - Steve Dorff - Notefornote
The Paul Chihara Collection vol. 4
 - Paul Chihara - Dragon's Domain
Tales of Frankenstein
 - William Stromberg - Dragon's Domain  


COMING SOON

June 19
Hackers
 - Simon Boswell, songs - Varese Sarabande 
June 26
Sliver - Howard Shore - La-La Land
Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea - Alexander Courage, Robert Drasnin, Jerry Goldsmith, Lennie Hayton, Joseph Mullendore, Nelson Riddle, Paul Sawtell, Herman Stein, Leith Stevens - La-La Land
July 10
Da Corleone a Brooklyn
 - Franco Micalizzi - DIgitmovies
August 7
Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire (re-release) 
- Joel McNeely - Varese Sarabande
Date Unknown
Django Il Bastardo -
 Vasco Vassil Kojucharov - Beat
Everybody's End
 - Luigi Seviroli - Digitmovies
5% de risque/Demain les momes
 - Eric Demarsan - Music Box
Genova a Mano Armata
 - Franco Micalizzi - Digitmovies
La Polizia Accusa: Il Servizio Segreto Uccide - Luciano Michelini - Digitmovies
La Svergognata/Anima Mia
 - Berto Pisano, Franco Pisano - Digitmovies
L'Agnese Va a Morire
 - Ennio Morricone - Beat
Occhio Malocchio Prezzemolo E Finocchio
 - Guido & Maurizio De Angelis - Beat 
One Potato, Two Potato
 - Gerald Fried - Caldera
Poliziotto Senza Paura
 - Stelvio Cipriani - Digitmovies
Preparati La Bara
 - Gian Franco Reverberi - Digitmovies
Romance
 - Eric Demarasan - Music Box
The Thing
 - Ennio Morricone - Quartet
Thunderbirds
- Barry Gray - Silva


THIS WEEK IN FILM MUSIC HISTORY

June 12 - Richard M. Sherman born (1928)
June 12 - John Ireland died (1962)
June 12 - Klaus Badelt born (1967)
June 13 - Paul Buckmaster born (1946)
June 13 - J.S. Zamecnik died (1953)
June 13 - Paul Sawtell and Bert Shefter begin recording their score for Jack the Giant Killer (1961)
June 13 - Andre Previn begins recording his score for The Fortune Cookie (1966)
June 13 - Elmer Bernstein begins recording his score for The Great Santini (1979)
June 13 - Bruce Broughton begins recording his score for Last Rites (1988)
June 14 - Stanley Black born (1913)
June 14 - Cy Coleman born (1929)
June 14 - Harold Wheeler born (1943)
June 14 - Marcus Miller born (1959)
June 14 - Doug Timm born (1960)
June 14 - John Williams begins recording his replacement score for The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing (1973)
June 14 - Jerry Goldsmith begins recording his score for Islands in the Stream (1976)
June 14 - Craig Safan begins recording his score, adapted from Tchaikovsky, for The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training (1977)
June 14 - David Newman records his score for Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey (1991)
June 14 - Carlos D’Alessio died (1992)
June 14 - Henry Mancini died (1994)
June 14 - James Horner begins recording his score for Clear and Present Danger (1994)
June 15 - Robert Russell Bennett born (1894)
June 15 - David Rose born (1910)
June 15 - Harry Nilsson born (1941)
June 15 - Dennis Dreith born (1948)
June 15 - Gavin Greenaway born (1964)
June 15 - Robert Drasnin records his score for The Wild Wild West episode “The Night the Wizard Shook the Earth” (1965)
June 15 - Meredith Willson died (1984)
June 15 - Manos Hadjidakis died (1994)
June 16 - Bebe Barron born (1926)
June 16 - Fred Karlin born (1936)
June 16 - Miklos Rozsa begins recording his additional music for Beau Brummell (1954)
June 16 - Psycho opens in New York (1960)
June 16 - Jerry Goldsmith begins recording his score to Justine (1969)
June 16 - James Horner begins recording his replacement score for Wolfen (1981)
June 16 - Dennis McCarthy records his score for the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Peak Performance” (1989)
June 17 - Jerry Fielding born (1922)
June 17 - Martin Boettcher born (1927)
June 17 - Dominic Frontiere born (1931)
June 17 - Barry Manilow born (1943)
June 17 - George S. Clinton born (1947)
June 17 - Alfred Newman begins recording his score to How to Marry a Millionaire (1953)
June 17 - Franz Waxman begins recording his score for Career (1959)
June 17 - Paul Giovanni died (1990)
June 17 - David Newman begins recording his score for Coneheads (1993)
June 17 - Shirley Walker and John Carpenter begin recording their score for Escape from L.A. (1996)
June 18 - Johnny Pearson born (1925)
June 18 - Paul McCartney born (1942)
June 18 - Bernard Herrmann begins recording his score to Blue Denim (1959)
June 18 - Elmer Bernstein begins recording the soundtrack LP for The Sons of Katie Elder (1965)
June 18 - Dave Grusin begins recording his score for Three Days of the Condor (1975)
June 18 - Frederick Hollander died (1976)
June 18 - Basil Kirchin died (2005)
June 18 - Ali Akbar Khan died (2009)

DID THEY MENTION THE MUSIC?

CAPTAIN MARVEL - Pinar Toprak
 
"Friends become enemies, enemies become friends, and just about everyone engages in some of the most tedious fight scenes ever slapped together by a second-unit (Boden and Fleck nod to ‘True Lies’ and ‘Speed,’ but make no apparent effort to recapture the fire-and-brimstone magic of the practical action scenes that made those films into modern classics). Nothing here is as plastic as the subway fight at the end of ‘Black Panther,’ but that’s only because Boden and Fleck lack that degree of ambition. Other tech elements draw a similarly dire contrast, with Pinar Toprak’s forgettable music underscoring just how much Ludwig Goransson brought to Ryan Coogler’s culture-shaking juggernaut."
 
David Ehrlich, IndieWire 
 
COLD PURSUIT - George Fenton

"The cues that 'Cold Pursuit' is actually an irreverent comedy pile up over the first act -- they snowball, one could say. At first, the film's humor scans as a misplaced tone. From the beginning, George Fenton's odd musical score -- most prominently, a jaunty mandolin tune -- repeatedly undermines the film's most harrowing moments. Strange, too, is that every character's death is marked by a venerating title card, which contradicts the action film's guilding ethos that some lives are worth more than others."

Pat Brown, Slant Magazine
 
"Not that Moland is after a realistic, philosophical interrogation of cold-blooded revenge anyway—and given Neeson’s own recent, deeply unfortunate racist remarks, that may be for the best. (At least his character isn’t driven by bigotry, though some of the other roles are casually plagued by racism and sexism.) Instead, Moland seems to lean closer to absurdity à la 'In Bruges' or 'Fargo.' But despite a fanciful score by George Fenton and fickle flourishes of deadpan humor, 'Cold Pursuit''s wit barely finds a target. Amid a crowded field of actors, only Tom Bateman and Tom Jackson (playing the leaders of competing cartels) dare to fully indulge in a sense of magnified silliness. Everyone else, including Emmy Rossum’s idealistic afterthought of a cop and Laura Dern’s grieving mom (who inexplicably exits the movie before she gets to shed a tear), seems stuck in something far less entertaining."
 
Tomris Laffly, Time Out New York
 
"On the technical side, Moland and company deliver a restrained aesthetic. Blood splatters pop against the snow banks and stark white wedding dresses. DP Philip Øgaard’s polished sheen lends depth and dimension, beautifully contrasting the grittiness of the narrative. Jørgen Stangebye Larsen’s production design keeps the proceedings from looking flat. Viking’s impeccably clean lair (a modern manse bedecked with glass windows) acts as a shorthand for his character traits. This clashes with our hero’s cozy home, telling us more about who lives there. White Bull’s antiquities warehouse is lavish, with sparkling chandeliers, supple tapestries, and taxidermy. Despite not retaining the same tones as the original’s score, which flirts with a western-influenced lawlessness, George Fenton’s compositions help to give this iteration a slightly reshaped, chiseled identity."
 
Courtney Howard, Variety

DOMINO - Pino Donaggio
 
"These are flaws, to be sure, and they might have indeed sunk many an ordinary movie. However, 'Domino' is still a Brian De Palma film, and those who still thrill at the very sound of that phrase will find a lot to enjoy here. Many of the obsessions he has explored throughout his career are on display in 'Domino,' both dramatic (voyeurism, mistrust of authority, a fascination with technology and the various ways in which it can be manipulated) and cinematic (including split-diopter shots and gorgeous deployment of slow motion at key moments). Although the script is largely straight-faced throughout, there are a couple of moments of De Palma’s trademark dark humor, including a bit in which a character analyzes a brutal torture video to note all the cinematic techniques being deployed with the fervor of someone taking note of every frame of a new trailer for some upcoming blockbuster. And, of course, there are the big set pieces-- including an early rooftop chase that provides thrills and a tip of the hat to 'Vertigo,' a terrorist attack that Al Din directs from afar as if he was a filmmaker himself and a climactic confrontation at a bullfight in Spain that takes up much of the final third. In that last scene especially, cinematographer Jose Luis Alcaine (who has shot most of Pedro Almodovar’s films as well as De Palma’s 'Passion”'), editor Bill Pankow, and composer Pino Donaggio combine their considerable talents to create a thrilling display of sound and vision that distinguishes them from the largely forgettable CGI melanges that currently dominate the multiplex scene."
 
Peter Sobczynski, RogerEbert.com 
 
"You don’t want a more thorough grasp of the plot. Neither did De Palma. He doesn’t have anything serious to say about terrorism (2007’s phony-provocative 'Redacted' is further proof). He only wanted to make 'Domino' for this deliriously dumb action climax and a few other zooms here and there. The creative exhaustion is palpable, a near-total artistic disinterest. You can almost hear the director doing that impatient 'get on with it' thing with his hand whenever the actors are emoting. But if you’re wondering why this movie gets two stars and not one (or none), it’s because De Palma still thinks visually, once in a while. He still believes in Hitchcock’s clean grammar (thanks for the roof chase, 'Vertigo'), and in Pino Donaggio’s histrionic orchestral scores. There’s something comforting in that. When De Palma started taking himself too seriously -- circa Casualties of War -- is when he lost the thread. His genius was always in voluptuous nonsense. He needs to drop the politics and get back to baby carriages."
 
Joshua Rothkopf, Time Out New York 

“How the various plot threads knot together -- or don’t -- is proof enough that ‘Domino’ has been desecrated somehow.  De Palma isn’t exactly known for the clarity of his storytelling, but he’s never been quite this sloppy when left to his own devices. Scenes crash into each other like bumper cars, and the movie feels paced at random, leaving the consistency of Pino Donaggio’s swooning orchestral score to hold the movie together even as the music ignores what’s happening on screen (often to amusing effect).”
 
David Ehrlich, IndieWire 

"Filmmakers have made better from far worse circumstances, and outside of the film’s setpieces, De Palma doesn’t seem to have given a damn. The director inspires some astonishingly wooden acting from Coster-Waldau and van Houten, who seem at a loss about the motivations of their characters. And while Pearce leans into his smarmy CIA executive with absolute, wildly entertaining glee, he manages to survive 'Domino' mostly because he decided to act in an entirely different movie than everyone else. Tonally, the film is off balance too. De Palma enlists his frequent collaborator Pino Donaggio for the score, but the composer is simply the wrong the choice. Donaggio’s lush orchestration -- which at its best in De Palma’s films, builds operatic tension that releases into ecstatic climaxes -- is entirely at odds with the dour story that attempts to reflect contemporary, geopolitical realities."
 
Kevin Jagernauth, The Playlist 

"In many respects, Petter Skavlan’s script feels like a bargain-priced imitation of John le Carré, complete with le Carré’s perennial theme of the individual cruelly manipulated for obscure and deadly geopolitical ends. (As for what a De Palma adaptation of a le Carré novel might look like, viewers will for now have to content themselves with the first few episodes of Park Chan-wook’s recent miniseries 'The Little Drummer Girl.') But even with a film this visibly compromised, it’s hard to imagine that a fuller version might reveal De Palma operating at the height of his powers, even if modern terrorism’s combination of violence and video seems like a perfect fit for his career-long obsessions. Too often, the movie lapses into crankiness, self-reference, and even self-parody, especially in the way it repeatedly cribs from the opening sequence of his earlier 'Femme Fatale,' in which Ebouaney played a supporting role as a heavy; it borrows the film festival red carpet backdrop for a risible terrorist attack sequence, and the beat of Maurice Ravel’s 'Boléro' for a climax that involves a drone, a bullfight, and a bomber foiled with a well-timed slow-motion kick to the balls. 'Femme Fatale' is ludicrously fun. 'Domino' is, for large stretches, just ludicrous -- and atypically boring. It’s a sad sight to see from a filmmaker who, once upon a time, excelled at drawing a viewer into the thrill of seeing a sequence come together, with all the pieces falling into place. In 'Domino,' one finds only the pieces."
 
Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, The Onion AV Club 
 
"Brian De Palma has used the Italian film composer Pino Donaggio on and off for over 40 years, ever since their first (and still greatest) collaboration, 'Carrie,' in 1976. Donaggio, with his lushly purple neo-Bernard Herrmann dissonant extravagance, is to De Palma what Angelo Badalamenti has been to David Lynch: a composer of rapturous dread-infused melodies that evoke a kind of meta-romantic Old Hollywood delirium. Yet to hear the unmistakable sounds of yet another lavishly orchestrated Donaggio swoonfest laid over the flat, static expository scenes of the choppy benumbed 'international' police thriller 'Domino' is to watch De Palma trying to create cinematic fire out of burnt-out match sticks."
 
Owen Gleiberman, Variety

"In addition to deja vu set pieces, stylistic elements remind us we're watching a De Palma film: split-focus diopter shots, canted angles and POV camerawork; a Pino Donaggio score accompanying jump cuts of progressively tighter close-ups on objects of dramatic significance. (Though when that dramatic object is a dangling USB cable, it's hard not to look like you're parodying your own style.) The tics are there, but the technique lacks finesse, especially in the bullfight-bombing sequence that should have been a showstopper. It's easy to imagine how problems with financing, say, might have kept De Palma from executing his vision satisfactorily here. It's harder to understand what drew him to this stale story in the first place, and to Petter Skavlan's unimaginative script."
 
John DeFore, The Hollywood Reporter 
 
GIANT LITTLE ONES - Michael Brook
 
"The early going is the perfect showcase of Behrman’s intuitive sense of cinema in which images do a lot of the talking. A shot in which Franky’s hand twiddles with an earbud while Priscilla excitedly looks at a dog video on her phone is much more telling than him actually stating that she doesn’t really have anything to say. The camerawork from DP Guy Godfree ('Maudie') is sensual throughout, with gliding widescreen shots following Franky on his bike around his suburban neighborhood as he cycles to Ballas’ house to pick him up for school, while slow-motion scenes anticipate the impact of candy-colored slurpees hurled at adversaries in late-night parking lots. Michael Brook’s score and the songs on the soundtrack complement the images by imparting a propulsive, contemporary vibe."
 
Boyd van Hoeij, The Hollywood Reporter

THE HUSTLE - Anne Dudley
 
"Chris Addison's 'The Hustle' proves that the devil really is in the details.  The film's relentlessly bouncy soundtrack and French Riviera setting exude a seemingly effortless charm, but it doesn't take long to realize that it's all smoke and mirrors -- a means of masking the fact that this botched gender-swapped remake of Frank Oz's 1988 comedy 'Dirty Rotten Scoundrels' is a victim of a lifeless script that leaves its stars, Rebel Wilson and Anne Hathaway, with little to do but crank up their quirks to annoying degrees."

Derek Smith, Slant Magazine 

THE LAST BLACK MAN IN SAN FRANCISCO - Emile Mosseri

"Mont is less susceptible to these things.  His eyes are a bit more open, if only because he’s often asked to narrate old movies for his blind father (Danny Glover). He’s an artist who sketches the neighborhood scene whenever he’s not cooking up his next play, as if he recognizes that this is the only way to stop time and freeze everything in place.  That awareness blends into Emile Mosseri’s gorgeous woodwind score, which sounds like a 21st century riff on the iconic music that Philip Glass wrote for ‘Koyanisqatsi’ -- the contemporary feel isn’t owed to any digital age instrumentation, but rather just how exhausted the notes are.  Glass’ score reveled in the speed of change in the modern world, while Mosseri’s is more of a requiem for it."
 
David Ehrlich, IndieWire 

"While there’s some mild tension about whether a nosy (white) neighbor might call the cops on the duo, 'Last Black Man' refuses to adhere to a conventional plot, even as an obtrusive score portends melodrama around every corner. Instead, we follow Jimmie as he visits his dad, his aunt (Tichina Arnold), and Montgomery’s grandfather (Danny Glover), excavating his family history, which is intertwined with the city’s history. Screenwriters Talbot and Rob Richert, working off a story by Talbot and Fails (San Francisco natives both), revive memories of the 'Harlem of the West' that the Fillmore District (traditionally the city’s black neighborhood) used to be called -- then complicate the picture almost immediately by suggesting the role that Japanese internment may have played in his grandfather’s success. But the film doesn’t dwell on that possibility, and neither does Jimmie: He already knows what his family’s contributions to San Francisco are, and without them, there’d be no point in living in a city that rejects people like him so baldly."
 
Inkoo Kang, Slate.com
 
"But 'The Last Black Man in San Francisco' has a playful streak, too, pausing for an odd detail or amusing side riff. 'Look at them look at you!' Jimmie says in astonished voiceover, pointing out the upper-level windows that resemble eyes on a human face, like the sight gag in Jacques Tati’s 'Mon Oncle.' The musical score by Emile Mosseri of the band The Dig, is very fine stuff, supple and surprising in its blend of classical, jazz and pop strains. It adds to the otherworldly quality established and sustained so well by Talbot, and by the actors."
 
Michael Phillips, The Chicago Tribune 
 
"In this vein, Talbot, cinematographer Adam Newport-Berra, editor David Marks and composer Emile Mosseri collaborate for a number of cinematic sequences that are simply jaw-dropping. Mosseri’s masterful score, in particular, also deserves massive praise. The film team is so strong and the direction so fine that it’s simply hard to believe this is actually Talbot’s first full-length feature film.  And to detail much more would spoil the genuine surprise of their many on-screen artistic contributions."
 
Gregory Ellwood, The Playlist 

"Still, it’s a genuine delight to watch someone overreach when they also march to their own beat. 'The Last Black Man In San Francisco' doesn’t follow an established playbook. It tries to write a new one, earnestly to life as it’s lived and dreamed. Individual elements linger in the mind long after the film concludes: Fails and Montgomery’s unconventional yet heartfelt friendship, which never collapses into archetypal territory; the twin immersive forces of Emile Mosseri’s orchestral score and Newport-Berra’s autumnal color palette; and stunning montages of San Francisco streets which operate like fierce urban advocacy. Every time Talbot introduces a thread that feels bare, there’s another one leading in a new, interesting direction. 'The Last Black Man' might read as a statement of purpose, but here’s hoping it’s merely an introduction."
 
Vikram Murthi, The Onion AV Club

"Even though race relations, the class struggle, and gentrification are not only worthy but essential themes in contemporary drama, audiences tend to tune out when those issues are thrust front and center as plot. The Brazilian film 'Aquarius' tried it a few years back, but in that case, it gave us a movie star (Sônia Braga) and a dynamic storyline about fighting a greedy land developer. 'Last Black Man' is more of a mood piece, leaning on DP Adam Newport-Berra’s radiant cinematography and the vibrant swells of Emile Mosseri’s score to sustain our warm feeling toward its two characters."
 
Peter Debruge, Variety 
 
"All the creative and technical contributions are top-drawer, notably Adam Newport-Berra’s richly colored cinematography, Jona Tochet’s production design, which most importantly includes the many transformations the venerable old house goes through, and Emile Mosseri’s apt score."
 
Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter

MIDSOMMAR
- Bobby Krlic
 
"The folkloric practices start off appealingly enough -- a misleading gust of peace (superbly countered by The Haxan Cloak’s skin-crawling score) breezes in the air while heady drugs dissolve in tempting cups of tea. But how did we even get here and find ourselves among these hippy-dippy proceedings cloaked in white linen? Well, we followed Florence Pugh, Aster’s second fearless female lead after Toni Collette, playing a grieving character marked by something unspeakable. In a deeply scarred, emotionally unrestricted performance -- you might hear her screams in your nightmares -- Pugh plays Dani, a graduate student aiming to put some distance between herself and an extreme case of trauma involving her bipolar sister. (A stunning prologue unravels the details of the tragic ordeal with top-shelf narrative economy.)"
 
Tomris Laffly, RogerEbert.com 

"But then comes the wail from deep inside Christian’s phone, raw and shredded, and you know that something infinitely worse than Dani could have imagined has happened. Aster pulls off his reveals like nightmares, floating down hallways with Kubrickian dread, but 'Midsommar' shows him expanding into nauseating sound design as well. (There’s a buzzing, smeary string score by Bobby Krlic, better known as ambient musician The Haxan Cloak.) Months later, Dani is still lost in a dulled-out haze, so she invites herself along on Christian’s Swedish escape, along with the bros. These are anthropology students, so there’s a hint of high-mindedness to the journey, but they’re mainly there to trip balls, guests of their amiable friend Pelle (Vilhelm Blomgren), who wants to introduce them to his hippyish commune: 'It’s like theater,' he says."
 
Joshua Rothkopf, Time Out New York 

"As Dani, Pugh is amazingly vivid. Her face is so wide and open that she seems to have nowhere to hide her emotions. Everything about her is insistent. Her intensity reminds me of Lili Taylor’s, but her voice is throatier, and she bends 'Midsommar' toward her. She’s uncannily in sync with the score by Bobby Krlic (who records under the moniker the Haxan Cloak) -- harsh and unmoored before Dani arrives in Sweden, more attuned when Dani stumbles into that Swedish landscape with its soft green hills and simple geometric buildings. (The film was actually shot in Hungary.) Aster and the production designer, Henrik Svensson, have designed the 'Hårga' village from scratch. It’s like a child’s rendering of a happy, bucolic place, a mixture of circles, squares, and triangles that’s so elemental it’s otherworldly."
 
David Edelstein, New York
 
"Aster ('Hereditary') is more a master stylist and moodsetter than a storyteller; even the plot’s most unsettling turns tend to come telegraphed with portent. Characters, too, lean toward archetype: the callow, self-absorbed boyfriend (Reynor); the earnest academic (William Jackson Harper); the boorish horndog (Will Poulter). But his actors -- especially the luminously expressive Pugh -- are too good not to make the most of their roughly sketched roles. And like the fretful violins that stagger raggedly over the soundtrack, the skin-pricking pleasures of 'Midsommar' aren’t rational, they’re instinctive: a thrilling, seasick freefall into the light."
 
Leah Greenblatt, Entertainment Weekly 

“But wait: Long before Bobby Krlic’s mournful score begins its eerie wail, and Aster’s camera does a queasy somersault to watch the group’s vehicle follow a dusty road to the rustic countryside, ‘Midsommar’ has grand tonal ambitions that dwarf its less intriguing plot. By the time the group arrives at the remote settlement of Halsingland (actually, the Hungarian countryside), Aster has foreshadowed their fate from so many angles the movie’s practically over before it begins. But what a blast to watch this emerging auteur mess around. Overloaded with guilt and uncertain about the future with her boorish partner, Dani decides to join the group for a mushroom trip en route to the colony and careens down a jarring, nightmarish path of flickering images and discordant sounds that set the foundations for the unsettling tapestry to come.”
 
Eric Kohn, IndieWire 
 
"One gets the sense watching Midsommar that Aster’s got everything assembled rigorously, that he’s the kind of guy who can’t let anything go -- from the meticulously thought-out belief system and ritual behind his fictional rural community, to the composition of each and every shot. Aster and his DP Pawel Pogorzelski find the soft menace inherent to their often beautiful setting, unafraid of just how ghastly and unnatural such brightly colored flora can appear -- especially when melting or dilating, breathing to match Dani’s huffs and the creaking, wailing goth-folk of The Haxan Cloak. Among 'Midsommar''s most unsettling pleasures are its subtle digital effects, warping its reality ever so slightly (the pulsing of wood grain, the fish-eye lensing of a grinning person’s eye sockets) so that once noticed, you’ll want it to stop. Like a particularly bad trip, 'Midsommar' bristles with the subcutaneous need to escape, with the dread that one is trapped. In this community in the middle of nowhere, in this strange culture, in this life, in your body and its existential pain: Aster imprisons us so that when the release comes, it’s as if one’s insides are emptying cataclysmically. In the moment, it’s an assault. It’s astounding."
 
Dom Sinacola, Paste Magazine

"Much credit for carrying the film through these rough patches should go to composer Bobby Krlic, whose inventive, eminently confident score supplies quite a lot of the emotional heavy lifting that the screenplay neglects, and imbues even the more ridiculous spectacles with artful intrigue. It’s no surprise that when 'Midsommar' finally hits its stride in a wild, hallucinatory finale, the interplay between Pugh’s performance and Krlic’s suddenly thunderous music takes center stage. Pushed beneath the surface for far too long, Dani’s grief, rage, and longing for compassion finally find an outlet, and once the real fireworks start to ignite, you realize how powerfully the film’s themes resonate when they’re given room to breathe. It’s just a shame it takes so long to bring them into focus."
 
Andrew Barker, Variety 
 
SHAFT - Christopher Lennertz
 
"And given that the first hour of 'Shaft' consists of that, along with foot-tapping musical cues and a a breezy father/son cop plot, it’s pretty enjoyable. But at some point, the film, from director Tim Story (whose filmography mostly ranges from execrable to forgettable) and writers Kenya Barris and Alex Barnow, decides it needs to wrap up every single thread from a background plot we mostly didn’t care about and throw in a victory lap Richard Roundtree cameo. Guys, please, quite while you’re ahead"
 
Vince Mancini, Uproxx 

"Shaft likes guns and confrontation, while JJ prefers spycams and hacking, but despite their differences in approach, they work together effortlessly in torturing Mexican drug lords, prying into the nefarious dealings of a Muslim organization, and engaging in some indifferently directed shootouts that are scored to waka-chicka funk music in a desperate attempt to lend the film’s textureless visuals a semblance of ‘70s-ish stylistic vision. As for the jokes about the lothario Shaft and his nebbish offspring, they practically write themselves. Shaft thinks JJ’s Gap-slacks-and-coconut-water lifestyle means he’s gay, and so he interrogates his son about his love for the ladies, while JJ is offended by his dad’s regressive views, such as 'Women want a man to be a man.' But as every joke is targeted at JJ’s awkwardness and effeminacy, the film simply gives license to Shaft’s anachronistic foibles."
 
Keith Watson, Slant Magazine 
 
"It began in 1971 as a gritty blaxploitation movie about a macho private eye who fancied leather coats and foxy ladies, a righteous cat glowering with absurd virility as he whooped ass bare-knuckled in a lawless Harlem. Back then, John Shaft (Roundtree) was a love-‘em-and-leave-‘em sex machine who’d risk his neck for his brother man, according to the Oscar-winning theme song by Isaac Hayes. After two deplorable quick-buck sequels in the early Seventies, the character was revived in 2000, this time in a serviceable remake under the same title that featured Shaft’s nephew, John Shaft II (Jackson), a brash NYPD detective who mostly glowered beneath his dark shades, a slicker millennium version of his legendary uncle. Now, almost two decades later -- and nearly half a century since the original was released -- this eponymously titled sequel (where’s a Roman numeral when you need one?) introduces the Second’s estranged young son, John 'J.J.' Shaft Jr. (Usher), a buttoned-down FBI data analyst who never glowers, unlike the father and grandfather sharing his same name. (For unexplained reasons, the family tree is modified in this movie.) To the familiar instrumentals of Hayes’ classic Grammy-winning score, these three generations of men come together in this latest incarnation of Shaft to crack jokes and kick butt in a movie seemingly programmed by algorithms calculated to produce mindless entertainment. Can ya dig it?"
 
Steve Davis, The Austin Chronicle 

TEEN SPIRIT - Marius de Vries
 
"There are a few redeeming features, nevertheless. Rebecca Hall, always a treat, is a gas as an evil female version of Simon Cowell, with sinisterly coiffed hair and a Mephistophelian glint in her eye. And the music, as a standalone soundtrack, is well composed and curated by Marius de Vries and music supervisor Steven Gizicki, comprised of exactly the sort of glassy power pop you would expect from a show like this."
 
Leslie Felperin, The Hollywood Reporter

TRIAL BY FIRE - Henry Jackman
 
"The protagonist’s leap from heel to hero feels overcooked, as are the violins and choral sobs that increase in volume as his execution date draws near. The film simply can’t squeeze all the big emotions of Zwick’s previous epics like 'Legends of the Fall' and 'Glory' into a small cell. Willingham is no larger-than-life martyr. He’s a flawed man who fares better when the film flashes back to the everyday things he’ll never do again: flirt with his wife, drink a beer, walk on grass."
 
Amy Nicholson, Variety

THINGS I'VE HEARD, READ, SEEN OR WATCHED LATELY

Heard: The Dynamite Brothers (Earland), 1917 (Newman), Star Trek: The Next Generation Collection Vol. 1 (various), Kinky Boots (Lauper), Francis Lai at Universal Pictures (Lai), The Planets (Holst), Annie Get Your Gun (Berlin/Deutsch/Edens), The Departed (Shore), Pet Sematary (Young), Mama (Velazquez), The Wiz (Smalls/Jones), Fatti de gente perbene (Morricone), Death Wish (Goransson), You Were Never Really Here (Greenwood), Red Sparrow (Howard), Victoria (Phipps/Barrett), Under Siege 2: Dark Territory (Poledouris), Star Trek: The Next Generation Collection Vol. 2 (various), The Death of Stalin (Willis), Godspell 40th Anniversary (Schwartz), Ready Player One (Silvestri), Symphonies 22 & 50 (Hovhaness), Hyperspace (Davis), When BIllie Beat Bobbie (Kirk), The Mercy (Johansson), The Last Days (Velazquez), Queen of Earth (DeWitt), Black Mirror: San Junipero (Mansell), Il Segreto (Morricone), Le Paria (Garvarentz)

Read: Redhead by the Side of the Road, by Anne Tyler*

Seen: The New Beverly has (of course) been closed since mid-March, but recently their marquee read RICK DALTON FILM FESTIVAL. I so much wanted to be sitting in there watching Operazione Dyn-O-Mite.

Watched: Columbo ("Murder Under Glass"), The Wire ("Duck and Cover"), Futurama ("A Fishful of Dollars"), Philo Vance's Secret Mission, Columbo ("Make Me a Perfect Murder," "The Conspirators"), The Stranger Within, Generation Kill ("Stay Frosty")

*In the "Read" section of this column, I traditionally list whichever book of fiction I have most recently finished, but usually I am also slowly making my way through other non-fiction books as well, many of them for day-job-related research but others just for pleasure. I recently posted an excerpt from Stefan Kanfer's excellent biography Groucho, but the best thing I've been reading lately (which honestly I should have read years ago) is Stephen Sondheim's Finishing the Hat, the first of his two-volume collection of lyrics, interspersed with his discussions of how the songs came to be, the shows that inspired them, and his candid views about other top stage lyricists. As you might expect from someone who is truly a genius, Sondheim is remarkably candid about the quality of his songs, the ones he likes and the ones he doesn't -- I hate to imagine what Jerry Herman's version of a book like this would be like (probably with a title like Every One a Masterpiece). It's great to read of Sondheim's grudges -- such as one against the noted dance critic who panned Follies and used his lyric "the best you'll agree" as a prime indicator of the show's alleged misogyny, because she misheard it as "the bestial agree" - as well as a lot of wonderful anecdotes about the people he worked with, such as Ingmar Bergman's review of Hermione Gingold's performance in A Little Night Music (Sondheim's brilliant stage verison of Bergman's Smiles of a Summer Night), an indelible quote I won't spoil by repeating here.

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Today in Film Score History:
September 21
Chico Hamilton born (1921)
Gene Forrell died (2005)
Geoffrey Burgon died (2010)
Herman Stein records his score for the Lost in Space episode "There Were Giants in the Earth" (1965)
Laurence Rosenthal wins the first of three consecutive Emmys, for Peter the Great; Arthur B. Rubinstein wins the Emmy for his Scarecrow and Mrs. King episode score “We’re Off to See the Wizard” (1986)
Mason Daring born (1949)
Recording sessions begin on James Newton Howard’s score for Alive (1992)
Robert O. Ragland records his score for The New Adventures of Wonder Woman episode “Hot Wheels” (1978)
Roman Vlad died (2013)
Walter Scharf records his score for the Mission: Impossible episode “Old Man Out” (1966)
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