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CDS AVAILABLE THIS WEEK

Bernie the Dolphin - Joshua Mosley - Lakeshore
The Box of Delights - Roger Limb - Silva (import)
I Familiari Delle Vittime Non Saranno Avvertiti
 - Francesco De Masi - Beat
The Sisters Brothers - Alexandre Desplat - Lakeshore (U.S. release) 
 

IN THEATERS TODAY
 
Escape Room - Brian Tyler, John Carey - Score CD due Jan. 11 on Sony
Great Great Great - David Arcus
State Like Sleep - David Wingo, Jeff McIlwain

COMING SOON

January 11
Escape Room - Brian Tyler, John Carey - Sony (import)
January 18
Valley of the Boom - Kyle Dixon, Michael Stein - Sony (import)
The West Wing [one-disc] - W.G. Snuffy Walden - Varese Sarabande
January 25
Capernaum
 - Khaled Manzour - Decca (import)
A Dog's Way Home - Mychael Danna - Sony (import)
Serenity
 - Benjamin Wallfisch - Milan
February 8
We the Animals - Nick Zammuto - Temporary Residence
February 15
Alita: Battle Angel - Tom Holkenborg - Milan
February 22
Free Solo - Marco Beltrami - Node
Date Unknown
Calypso/Italia '61 in Circarama
 - Angelo Francesco Lavagnino - Alhambra
The Cisco Kid in The Gay Amigo
 - Albert Glasser - Kritzerland
Mad Macbeth
 - Susan Dibona, Salvatore Sangiovanni - Kronos
A Man Called Peter
 - Alfred Newman - Kritzerland
Non Lasciamoci Piu
 - Fabio Frizzi - Kronos
Oma Maa
 - Pessi Levando - Kronos
Superman - John Williams - La-La Land
Valley of Shadows
 - Zbigniew Preisner - Caldera

THIS WEEK IN FILM MUSIC HISTORY
 
January 4 - Lionel Newman born (1916)
January 4 - Buddy Baker born (1918)
January 4 - Joe Renzetti born (1941)
January 4 - Recording sessions begin for Sol Kaplan’s score for The House on Telegraph Hill (1951)
January 4 - Michael Hoenig born (1952)
January 4 - Franz Waxman begins recording his score to Demetrius and the Gladiators (1954)   
January 4 - John Green begins recording his score to Raintree County (1957)
January 4 - Laurence Rosenthal begins recording his score for A Raisin in the Sun (1961)
January 4 - Angela Morley records her score for The New Adventures of Wonder Woman episode “Going, Going, Gone” (1979)
January 4 - Pino Calvi died (1989)
January 5 - Leighton Lucas born (1903)
January 5 - Chris Stein born (1950)
January 5 - Jerry Fielding begins recording his score, adapted from Bizet, for The Bad News Bears (1976)
January 5 - Malcolm Seagrave died (2001)
January 5 - Elizabeth Swados died (2016)
January 6 - David Whitaker born (1931)
January 6 - Aaron Zigman born (1963)
January 6 - A.R. Rahman born (1967)
January 6 - John Williams records his score for Nightwatch (1966)
January 6 - Jerry Fielding begins recording his score for The Wild Bunch (1969)
January 6 - Mario Nascimbene died (2002)
January 7 - Jose Maria Vitier born (1954)
January 7 - Leigh Harline begins recording his score for The True Story of Jesse James (1957)
January 7 - Jeff Richmond born (1961)
January 7 - Alfred Newman begins recording his score for The Pleasure of His Company (1961)
January 7 - Clint Mansell born (1963)
January 7 - Jerry Goldsmith records the pilot score to The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (1964)
January 7 - Jeff Toyne born (1975)
January 7 - James Horner begins recording his score for Rascals and Robbers: The Secret Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn (1982)
January 7 - David Lindup died (1992)
January 8 - Bernard Herrmann begins recording his score to On Dangerous Ground (1951)
January 8 - Bruce Broughton begins recording his score for The Boy Who Could Fly (1986)
January 8 - Ron Goodwin died (2003)
January 8 - Andrae Crouch died (2015)
January 9 - Vic Mizzy born (1916)
January 9 - Robert F. Brunner born (1938)
January 9 - Scott Walker born (1943)
January 9 - Jimmy Page born (1944)
January 9 - Leroy Shield died (1962)
January 9 - James T. Sale born (1967) 
January 9 - Alexander Courage records his score for the Lost in Space episode "The Great Vegetable Rebellion" (1968)
January 9 - Anton Karas died (1985)
January 9 - Alan Silvestri begins recording his score for The Delta Force (1986)
January 9 - Jerry Goldsmith begins recording his score for The Vanishing (1993)
January 10 - Recording sessions begin for Hugo Friedhofer’s score to Wild Harvest (1947)
January 10 - Tom Chase born (1949)
January 10 - Carlo Siliotto born (1950)
January 10 - Recording sessions begin for Frederick Hollander's score for The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T (1952)
January 10 - Dennis McCarthy records his score for the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “The Wounded” (1991)

DID THEY MENTION THE MUSIC?

A CIAMBRA - Dan Romer
 
"That's the same balance Carpignano achieves in the storytelling, aided by committed performances and Dan Romer's eclectic yet minimalist score. The director doesn't romanticize his half-found, half-invented characters, yet he's clearly inspired by their earthiness and energy. While 'A Ciambra' is not a happy story, its vigor and authenticity deliver a sort of joy."
 
Mark Jenkins, NPR

"As in 'Mediterranea,' Carpignano adopts a documentarian’s gaze within a fictional framework. Pio, now 14, is effectively playing a version of himself, as are over a dozen members of the garrulous Amato family, whose loose, loud, overlapping conversations as a group have a chaotic, edgily affectionate energy that can’t be scripted. Having now known the clan for several years -- a short version of 'A Ciambra' with the same title preceded Carpignano’s feature debut -- the helmer has clearly grown close enough to them to authentically work their foibles into fiction. Tim Curtin’s fluid, on-the-fly camerawork -- the spontaneity of which, thankfully, doesn’t preclude beauty in its shadow play or occasional startling bursts of synthetic color -- helps foster that remarkable intimacy, which doesn’t always sit right with the more palpable contrivances in 'A Ciambra''s narrative. (Meanwhile, Dan Romer’s energizing score, with its broad church of cultural influences, aptly makes itself most felt at these points.)"
 
Guy Lodge, Variety

"The film's look strikes a fine balance between sharp and scrappy, especially in the many moody night scenes with low-level, murky lighting. Cinematographer Tim Curtin's handheld camerawork is highly effective when it moves in close on Pio, searching his face for access to everything his alert young mind is processing. Invaluable texture is provided also by Dan Romer's score, which is bold and dynamic but used with judicious economy. With his shorts and two features, Carpignano is building an impressively cohesive gallery of outsider portraits. 'A Ciambra' should continue to expand his audience."
 
David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter

THE CHAMBER - James Dean Bradfield
 
"Kuhnke and Salt offer some compensation with their solid performances, even if it's hard not to wish they had better material. Another strong element is the propulsive score by Manic Street Preachers' James Dean Bradfield, which ups the tension considerably."
 
Frank Scheck, The Hollywood Reporter

CURVATURE  - Adam Taylor

"Tech credits are mostly solid, with Noah Rosenthal’s sleek lensing getting support from composer Adam Taylor, whose simple, synth-based score recalls the cool ambience of Steven Soderbergh favorite Cliff Martinez. The texture of the film is always more persuasive than its substance."
 
Scott Tobias, Variety
 
"And so it goes, although for much of the film's running time the metaphysical logistics are sidelined in favor of generic thriller mechanics that might have been exciting if they're weren't executed in such routine fashion. Director Hallivis keeps the proceedings at a reasonably fast pace, with Adam Taylor's electronic music score helping to quicken the pic's pulse rate. But it's not enough to prevent the proceedings from lapsing into incoherence."
 
Frank Scheck, The Hollywood Reporter
 
HALF MAGIC - Moby
 
"Comedians Kinsey and Beatriz play their parts looser, like back-up singers free to showboat on the mic. Still, the three female leads are harmonizing the same theme: women need to love themselves, a note Graham hits repeatedly in different keys so her audience will hear it. (She’s not getting much auditory competition from Moby’s faint score.)"
 
Amy Nicholson, Variety
 
INFERNO - Hans Zimmer

"Returning to the touristy Italian locales and museums of the earlier Langdon movies with the same cinematographer, Salvatore Totino, Howard isn’t as slickly professional as before. Here and there, he’ll drop in an angle that’s just offbeat enough to play to the pulpiness of the plot -- a point-of-view shot of running feet in the opening chase scene, for example. The change in tone isn’t radical, but it’s still pervasive; while Hans Zimmer scored Howard’s previous Brown adaptations with generic strings, here he goes for faux-vintage synths that occasionally sound like James Horner’s score for 'Commando,' minus the steel drums. But Inferno only partially embraces the elements of its source material that have the potential to be juicy or interesting: Langdon’s apparent dickishness, the strange naïveté of the characters, the combination of picturesque plazas and gruesome deaths by falling. (There are several.) As such, it’s still only partway to a Robert Langdon mystery that fully qualifies as entertainment."
 
Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, The Onion AV Club
 
"Howard’s pacing is anxious and breathless, punctuated by shrieky sound design and Hans Zimmer’s insistent score, as Langdon and Brooks travel from Florence to Venice and Istanbul. Together, they piece together complicated clues with dizzying speed, trade tidbits of Dante arcana and try to stay a step ahead of the bad and/or good guys who are after them. These include an assassin posing as a motorcycle cop with the tenacity of the T-1000 and some shockingly well-armed agents from the World Health Organization. Omar Sy brings a dash of class and mystery as one of the prime pursuers and Sidse Babett Knudsen, as a WHO executive, creates the rare character here who not only feels like a real person but a grown-up amid all the madness. (The romance between her character and Hanks’, however, feels half-baked, despite how pleasing the two actors are together.)"
 
Christy Lemire, RogerEbert.com
 
"The semi-coherent remainder of the plot features a (surprisingly militarized) World Health Organization, a crucial clue-packed Botticelli map of hell as conceived by Dante and, in a first for the series, a Langdon love interest, the WHO head played by Sidse Babett Knudsen (this romance was not in the novel, whereas the Angels & Demons film lacked a romance that was in the novel). As head of 'The Consortium' that once employed Zobrist, Irrfan Khan is an amusingly droll killer bureaucrat. Florence, Venice and Istanbul are the destinations here -- though Howard’s preference for frenetic closeups show little sensitivity for setting, there are some nice chopper shots. Langdon and Brooks dodge bullets while putzing about the attic of the Palazzo Vecchio and discover clues etched on the back of Dante’s death mask while in the Baptistry of San Giovanni. Hanks largely sleepwalks, his talents already better employed this year in 'Sully' and 'A Hologram for the King.' If you were a fan of seeing him daub and analyze his fleshy face in a mirror in the latter film, you’ll be delighted to see more of the same here. Howard’s direction patronizes, as lines from a three-sentence email are unnecessarily repeated twice, and most scenes feature two characters excitedly talking through a solution to a problem. There is some inspiration in the climax, which features an onscreen orchestra performing the same Hans Zimmer score we’re hearing, in a possible nod to 'The Man Who Knew Too Much' (1956). The comparison doesn’t favor 'Inferno,' but the moxie is admirable."
 
Justin Stewart, Brooklyn Magazine

"Critics in various media may love to sneer at the whole Dan Brown phenomenon, from the cliché-riddled prose of the books to the films’ 'Bourne'-style action-movie tourism for oldies. It’s basically a compressed burger stack of conspiracy theories, guide-book high culture and hashed-up history. But when you throw in the likable everyman Hanks as the acting meat, a pretty co-star cheese slice, and that musical special sauce that Hans Zimmer specializes in, it’s not hard to see why viewers eat this stuff up. It’s moderately evolved movie fast food, more culturally nutritious than many other action films, but still highly calorific and packed with tasty trans fats -- the cinematic equivalent of Five Guys’ burgers, as opposed to ones from McDonald's."
 
Leslie Felperin, The Hollywood Reporter

KING COBRA - Tim Kvasnovsky
 
"'King Cobra' moves at the breakneck pace of bad decisions, Kelly too often sacrificing nuance for speed, but each of its beats is amplified by a pulsating synth score that cribs from the best of Cliff Martinez. Unfortunately, that music locks the movie into an octave that’s too seedy and industrial to fully serve the humanity of its characters. But Kelly’s script never judges them, even if it has a few good laughs at their expense. On the contrary, it pounds with empathy for those who want to live in a world that’s only comfortable with them in its margins, those men who decide that it’s better to own the sewers than to live on the streets."
 
David Ehrlich, IndieWire

THE LODGERS - Kevin Murphy, Stephen Shannon, David Turpin
 
"A palpable weight hangs over 'The Lodgers.' It’s there in the lush brocade canopy above the twins’ parents’ bed, the storm clouds pregnant with rain, the sometimes oppressive piano score, and the humorless, ponderously self-important dialogue. Even the makeup can be heavy-handed, as the 'Lodgers'' creeping takeover of Edward’s soul also includes quite a bit of contouring for that Tim Burton-esque 'living corpse' look. This lack of subtlety is a plus in some ways; the production design and cinematography have a sodden, gloomy look that works especially well in a supernatural sequence reminiscent of a key scene in Dario Argento’s 'Inferno.' In other ways, it’s a major downside, especially since the film’s obsession with the concepts of family and fate cause it to leave unexplored some other interesting themes, like the encroachment of the 20th century on the European aristocratic class. But while, as a ghost story, 'The Lodgers' is about as original as 'it was a dark and stormy night,' moldy old tropes can still have their charms. Just look at that house."
 
Katie Rife, The Onion AV Club

"The real stars here, handled with loving care by O’Malley, are Richard Kendrick’s gorgeous widescreen lensing and Joe Fallower’s superbly detailed production design. Both make use of exquisite locations primarily in County Wexford, notably the storied, purportedly haunted Loftus Hall (which celebrated its 666th year last annum). A mournful cello-dominated score by scenarist Turpin and two others abets the pervasive mood."
 
Dennis Harvey, Variety
 
LOVER FOR A DAY - Jean-Louis Aubert
 
"Life goes on, after all, and 'Lover for a Day' is as occupied by Jeanne’s recuperative trajectory as it is by the manifestations of her sorrow. After Ariane prevents Jeanne from killing herself, the former begins to take on a role at once maternal and sisterly, coaching Jeanne through her breakup blues one minute and taking her out dancing the next. The film is at its most tender in a sequence set at a nightclub resembling an ethereal dream space, with Garrel capturing his lead actresses twirling blissfully with male bar-goers in chiaroscuro light for the full duration of Jean-Louis Aubert’s ballad 'Lorsqu’il Faudra,' a mesmerizing transposition of Michel Houellebecq poetry whose final line -- translated as 'the end of the day is so beautifu' -- might as well be describing Garrel and Berta’s fantastically moody nighttime photography. That Garrel would give such a spotlight to Aubert’s song in the middle of the film, not to mention several of his solo piano compositions throughout, is telling. The director’s current storytelling style is not unlike that of a great pop ballad: lyrical and to the point, without room for digressions, yet still containing a wealth of feeling through the most economic of means. When a single image is enough to convey the purpose of a scene, Garrel eschews dialogue, and instead of fussing over ways to elaborate character psychology, he condenses key plot points and unseen emotional shifts to a few matter-of-fact lines of voiceover (a function handled here by the feather-voiced Laetitia Spigarelli). One gets the impression, in fact, that the endpoint of this new phase in Garrel’s cinema will be an entirely narration-led film, likely under an hour, in which all conflicts are crystallized as pensive quotidian tableaux."
 
Carson Lund, Slant Magazine

MOONLIGHT
- Nicholas Britell
 
"Because so much of 'Moonlight' is impressionistic -- aided by Nicholas Britell’s spare and haunting orchestral score -- each moment is uniquely evocative. I can reflect back on so many small instances -- Little filling his bathtub with boiling water from the kettle; his mother begging him for money as drying laundry ripples in the wind; Kevin making Black his 'chef’s special' with tremendous pride and care -- that bring me to the verge of tears."
 
Max Weiss, Baltimore Magazine

"Everything about the way Jenkins frames this story is unconventional, startling, and appealing. Characters in Chiron's Miami neighborhood blast the expected hip-hop out of cars with the windows rolled down, but Jenkins sets a grab-ass ball game to a dreamy movement from Mozart's 'Vesperae Solennes De Confessore,' and draws as much on Caetano Veloso and composer Nicholas Britell as he does on Goodie Mob and Erykah Badu. The musical landscape in 'Moonlight' is as diverse as Miami itself, and Britell's score in particular gives the film a haunted but immediate quality that underscores the constant threat of violence without wringing it into melodramatic excess."
 
Tasha Robinson, The Verge

"Jenkins and longtime collaborator cinematographer James Laxton drench the picture in stunning imagery that is often Malick-esque in the best way possible. In particular, a scene between Kevin and Chiron on the beach under the moonlight is so gorgeously lit it almost looks like a painting. The picture avoids most contemporary music until the third act and that allows up and coming composer Nicholas Britell to fashion an impressive modern score that helps the film reach cinematic heights."
 
Gregory Ellwood, The Playlist
 
"'Moonlight' reaches for big insights on identity, race, culture, and sexuality, but never at the expense of the small, heartrending character study at its center. In that way, it’s a natural evolution from 'Medicine For Melancholy,' which nestled a dialogue about gentrification into a romantic two-hander. But Jenkins has made a momentous leap forward as a filmmaker. He does more than just expand and rearrange his source material; he also gives it an urgent cinematic rhythm, a heartbeat. Some of that comes from the soundtrack, which mixes choice cuts (like Boris Gardiner’s 'Every N***** Is A Star,' sampled on the opening track of Kendrick Lamar’s 'To Pimp A Butterfly') with the emotive whine of Nicholas Britell’s score. But it’s also in the nervous, circling movement of James Laxton’s cinematography as well as the vibrant shades of blue -- the paint on a car, the dye on a shirt, the natural hue of the ocean -- with which he colors Chiron’s world."
 
A.A. Dowd, The Onion AV Club

"Little’s actual home is a run-down townhouse he shares with his mother (Naomie Harris), an overworked nurse who eventually succumbs to the hollow escape of drugs. Informed by both Jenkins’ and McCraney’s own Miami upbringing, this environment may be gritty, but it’s not 'Precious.' When he wants to take a warm bath, Little is obliged to heat the water on the stove and use dish soap for bubbles -- just one of many details that lends texture to the portrait, which ditches the superficial faux-naturalism of turbulent handheld cinematography (à la 'Beasts of the Southern Wild') for seductive Steadicam lensing, reinforced by a vigorous gush of classical music (courtesy of composer Nicholas Britell) at regular intervals. 'Moonlight' feels less like a young man’s troubled memories than a dream-like evocation of a specific time and place, which makes its leaps in time easier to accept."
 
Peter Debruge, Variety
 
"It also has moments of swoon-inducing romance to equal those of suffering and solitude, feelings deftly magnified by the director's use of music. The dulcet voice of Caetano Veloso has never sounded sweeter, and if your heart doesn't skip a beat when Barbara Lewis comes on a jukebox singing 'Hello Stranger,' you need to get it checked. Those and other song choices augment a melancholy, melodic score by Nicholas Britell."
 
David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter
 
THE REVIVAL - Lucas Carey
 
"There are shades of French master Claude Chabrol both in the broad outlines of 'The Revival' -- in its close study of a man's guilt and a community's rottenness beneath a squeaky-clean surface -- and in Gerber's approach: the brisk narrative rhythm, the slyly humorous juxtapositions (gay love scenes punctuated by glimpses of Eli driving home while listening to fiery sermons on the radio), Lucas Carey's mischievous, mercurial score."
 
Jon Frosch, The Hollywood Reporter

THE NEXT TEN DAYS IN L.A.

Screenings of older films, at the following L.A. movie theaters: AMPASAmerican Cinematheque: AeroAmerican Cinematheque: EgyptianArclightArena CineloungeLACMALaemmleNew Beverly, Nuart and UCLA.

January 4
AKIRA (Shoji Yamashiro) [Nuart]
CHICAGO (John Kander, Danny Elfman), INTO THE WOODS (Stephen Sondheim) [Cinematheque: Egyptian]
THE GODFATHER (Nino Rota), THE DON IS DEAD (Jerry Goldsmith) [New Beverly]
PULP FICTION [New Beverly]

January 5
BUGSY MALONE (Paul Williams) [New Beverly]
THE GODFATHER (Nino Rota), THE DON IS DEAD (Jerry Goldsmith) [New Beverly]
WIPEOUT (Luis Bacalov) [New Beverly]

January 6
BUGSY MALONE (Paul Williams) [New Beverly]
THE POPE OF GREENWICH VILLAGE (Dave Grusin), DONNIE BRASCO (Patrick Doyle) [New Beverly]
 
January 7
THE LOBSTER [Cinematheque: Aero]
THE POPE OF GREENWICH VILLAGE (Dave Grusin), DONNIE BRASCO (Patrick Doyle) [New Beverly]
 
January 8
JAILHOUSE ROCK (Jeff Alexander) [LACMA]
THAT'S THE WAY I LIKE IT (Guy Gross) [New Beverly]

January 9
HARPER (Johnny Mandel), P.J. (Neal Hefti) [New Beverly]
 
January 10
BARRY LYNDON (Leonard Rosenman) [Cinematheque: Aero]
HARPER (Johnny Mandel), P.J. (Neal Hefti) [New Beverly]
THE SHINING (Wendy Carlos, Rachel Elkind) [Laemmle NoHo]
 
January 11
ALIEN (Jerry Goldsmith) [Nuart]
THE HOUSE WITH A CLOCK IN ITS WALLS (Nathan Barr), THE ESCAPE ARTIST (Georges Delerue) [New Beverly]
JACKIE BROWN [New Beverly]
THE SECOND GAME [UCLA]
THE SHINING (Wendy Carlos, Rachel Elkind)  [Cinematheque: Aero]
 
January 12
ADAM'S RIB (Miklos Rozsa) [Cinematheque: Egyptian]
THE HOUSE WITH A CLOCK IN ITS WALLS (Nathan Barr), THE ESCAPE ARTIST (Georges Delerue) [New Beverly]
FULL METAL JACKET (Abigail Mead), FILMWORKER [Cinematheque: Aero]
 
January 13
EYES WIDE SHUT (Jocelyn Pook) [Cinematheque: Aero]
HONEY, I SHRUNK THE KIDS (James Horner) [UCLA]
THE HOUSE WITH A CLOCK IN ITS WALLS (Nathan Barr) [New Beverly]
ROUSTABOUT (Joseph J. Lilley), THE MAIN ATTRACTION (Andrew Adorian) [New Beverly]

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

For someone like me who is obsessed not only with seeing movies on the big screen but also with seeing them in the best possible presentation, 3D proves to be a particular and ongoing challenge. In Los Angeles, at least, 3D seems to be no longer the attraction it was a few years back -- though big-budget effects movies are still being released in "converted" 3D versions (these days, only one or two live-action movies gets "filmed" in 3D each year, if even that many), many theaters seem to favor the 2D versions over the 3D. 

Not only is something of a challenge to find films showing in 3D, but the greater difficulty is finding 3D properly projected. In Los Angeles, one would assume the Arclight would be your best bet, but I had an unfortunate 3D screening experience there a few years back -- I saw the Renny Harlin-directed The Legend of Hercules (the one with Kellan Lutz, not Dwayne Johnson) in 3D, and it quickly became clear that something was seriously wrong with their 3D projection. What should have been in the background dimensionally, like the clouds in the sky, was in the foreground, and vice versa. It was a remarkably headache-inducing phenomenon, and when I (the only patron in the audience) alerted the young usher, he simply replied "That's what 3D looks like now." Uh-uh. (Usually the staff at Arclight Hollywood is much more helpful than that). A projectionist later told me that they'd probably somehow managed to switch the left and right eye images. Either way, I was able to get a re-admit ticket and caught the film in proper 3D in its entirety at my local AMC.

I used to have good luck catching films in IMAX 3D, since the extra effort they claim to take with IMAX projection means that one is more likely to have a positive 3D experience, but these days it seems like movies will play in IMAX or 3D but not both simultaneously, which is vexing. Lately I've found that the most reliable public theater for 3D in the L.A. area is the AMC Universal at Citywalk. I saw both Ralph Breaks the Internet* and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (the latter is a must-see in 3D) there and the 3D projection seemed to be top-notch.

I recently had an ultimately positive but most unexpected 3D movie experience. When I returned to LA from a Thanksgiving vacation, I was surprised to see that Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle (formerly Jungle Book: Origins), director Andy Serkis' live-action and CGI version of the Kipling classic (made simultaneously with the Jon Favreau/Disney version that made a fortune at the box-office and won a much-deserved visual effects Oscar nearly two years ago), was being released theatrically by Netflix at the IPIC theater in Westwood. I'd thought that whatever release it was receiving was coming in 2019, but I was happy to get the chance to see it sooner, and in an actual theater (since with Netflix features it's something of a coin toss whether they'll screen theatrically -- apparently Andrew Niccol's Anon only showed on-line, while I was disappointed to learn I'd missed Duncan Jones' Mute in a brief theatrical run at IPIC).

As someone whose in-theater dining is generally limited to hot dogs or caramel corn, I can't say that I understand the appeal of IPIC theaters, at least the one in Westwood. The auditoriums (auditoria?) are small, and you have to pay extra to not sit right up next to the screen. The emphasis on in-theater food service means that staff members are delivering food and blocking your view of the movie even during a film's finale. It's like a restaurant that happens to have a movie playing on one wall.

Yet it was clear that this probably be my only chance to see Mowgli (the film's onscreen title at both the beginning and end of the movie, though "Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle" is actually the official title) in a theater, so I went to IPIC and took my chances. The film began and looked a little off, in that distinctive way that a movie looks when it's projected in 3D and no one has bothered to hand out 3D glasses. I ran to the lobby to alert the staff, and within minutes we all had 3D glasses. The next day I noticed that the IPIC website was now advertising the film as showing in 3D, which made me wonder -- could I have actually been the first person to notice the glass-less 3D? Have audiences actually become so used to shoddy projection that they don't even bother to complain any more?

When I was able to overcome the distractions of seeing a 3D film when I was expecting to see a 2D film, and all the food staff that kept moving back and forth between me and the screen, I was pleased to see that Mowgli was much better than I'd expected (it was hard not to keep one's expectations low, given the long delays and the half-hearted release it finally received). Jon Favreau's enormously successful version was certainly impressive, but some of the ways it paid homage to the beloved '60s version (especially Christopher Walken's big song) took me out of the film, while I appreciated that Serkis' version was a fresh take on the much-remade original, and didn't bend over backwards to be kid-friendly. One sequence is almost certain to traumatize young viewers -- let's just say it almost plays as an homage to the scene from the 1968 Planet of the Apes when Heston finds one of his fellow astronauts stuffed and mounted. I wasn't knocked out by Nitin Sawhney's score while listening to it in the film -- it reminded me yet again how contemporary scores seem to lack strong melodies -- but then when the main theme was reprised with lyrics during the end credits, I found I couldn't get it out of my head. (The Mowgli score is now available as a WaterTower CD-R from Amazon)

It also didn't hurt that Rohan Chand (the adorable child co-star of Bad Words and a key guest star on the first season of Homeland) was a first-rate Mowgli, much better than the young actor from the Favreau version. (I did enjoy the comment thread following the Onion AV Club review of Mowgli, where one commenter noted how the androgynous photo of Chand accompanying the review disturbingly evoked the finale of Sleepaway Camp).

*Though I preferred the original Wreck-it Ralph to the sequel, I couldn't help but be impressed by the attention to detail in the new film. Not only were most of the Disney princesses voiced by the actors from the orignal films, but during the finale, when Mulan wields her sword, Henry Jackman incorporates a brief bit of Goldsmith's Mulan theme.

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Comments (3):Log in or register to post your own comments
was angry that the film chickened out and made Zobrist and Sienna Brooks as villains. The book had a much better ending but will not give it away because it should be read especially in light of the overpopulation in the world

but it is too bad the film did not follow suit.

Yet it was clear that this probably be my only chance to see Mowgli (the film's onscreen title at both the beginning and end of the movie, though "Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle" is actually the official title) in a theater, so I went to IPIC and took my chances. The film began and looked a little off, in that distinctive way that a movie looks when it's projected in 3D and no one has bothered to hand out 3D glasses.

Funny...this is exactly how I felt when I saw Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse, and that was a 2D showing! I ran out to complain and grab a pair of 3D glasses because I thought they were showing the 3D version by accident, but no, the blurry, mismatched color scheme of the backgrounds was COMPLETELY INTENTIONAL, and it honestly hurt my eyes after a while. When I got home and read that it was a stylistic choice to evoke the look of an old comic book where the color plates weren't lined up correctly, I "got" what they were going for, but it was SERIOUSLY distracting.

I had a similar reaction to the Spider-Verse trailer. i was convinced they were showing the 3D version without glasses, not realizing that those color separation effects were just part of the visual design.

(I had to do a Google search to see that the first post was in reference to the "Inferno" reviews. I excerpted those so many weeks ago that I forgot who Zobrist and Sienna Brooks were.)

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Today in Film Score History:
February 17
Alfred Newman died (1970)
Bear McCreary born (1979)
Bernard Herrmann records his score for The Alfred Hitchcock Hour episode “Death Scene” (1965)
Fred Frith born (1949)
Jerry Fielding died (1980)
Karl Jenkins born (1944)
Ron Goodwin born (1925)
Samuel Matlovsky died (2004)
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