Quartet continues their series of expanded versions of classic Nino Rota scores with a new, two-disc edition of ROCCO AND HIS BROTHERS, director Luchino Visconti's epic 1960 drama starring Alain Delon, Renato Salvatori, Anne Girardot, Katina Paxinou and Claudia Cardinale. The set features an expanded version of the original score plus the original LP sequencing and a handful of alternate cues.
Emmy-winning composer Billy Goldenberg died on August 4, 2020 at the age of 84. Born William Leon Goldenberg in Brooklyn, New York, his parents were both musicians – his mother was a violinist, and his father, Morris Goldenberg, was a percussionist as well as an author and a teacher at Juilliard. The younger Goldenberg began playing the piano at the age of 5, and after his graduation from Columbia College he wrote songs for the popular children’s series The Kukla, Fran and Ollie Show.
He worked steadily on Broadway productions through the 1960s. He was the pianist and composer of incidental music for An Evening with Mike Nichols and Elaine May, and provided dance arrangements and dance music for such Broadway musicals as 110 in the Shade (based on The Rainmaker) and Henry, Sweet Henry (based on The World of Henry Orient).
In the late 1960s, he served as musical director for the TV special Elvis ‘68 and began working for Stanley Wilson, music director at Universal Television. It was in television that he would go on to spend most of his scoring career, though he had more than a dozen feature films to his credit, including the Elvis comedy-drama Change of Habit; the coming-of-age romance Red Sky at Morning; Herbert Ross’ film version of Woody Allen’s stage hit Play It Again, Sam, the first film to pair Allen with Diane Keaton; the change-of-pace Barbra Streisand vehicle Up the Sandbox; the cult classic Hollywood murder mystery The Last of Sheila, from a screenplay by Stephen Sondheim and Anthony Perkins; Peter Hyams’ feature directing debut Busting; Stanley Kramer’s conspiracy thriller The Domino Principle; and the comedy-drama Reuben, Reuben, which earned Tom Conti a Best Actor nomination, opposite Kelly McGillis in her first film role. (Goldenberg may be one of the few film composers of the past who still has more scores released on vinyl than on CD)
Goldenberg’s scoring career at Universal began with episodes of It Takes a Thief and the supernatural mystery movie Fear No Evil, starring Louis Jourdan (as well as its sequel, Ritual of Evil). His assignment to score the three-story pilot for Rod Serling’s Night Gallery was especially notable as one of the segments was directed by Steven Spielberg. Goldenberg would work with Spielberg again on “Murder by the Book,” the first regular episode of Columbo, “LA 2017,” the off-beat, sci-fi themed episode of The Name of the Game, and, most famously, the movie-of-the-week Duel, directed by Spielberg from a Richard Matheson teleplay and story, which was a critical and popular smash that helped propel Spielberg to his feature directing career. (Years later, Goldenberg would score three episodes of the Spielberg-produced Amazing Stories, including stories directed by Peter Hyams and Paul Bartel, and one written by Spielberg’s sister Anne, co-writer of Big).
Before scoring Spielberg’s Columbo episode, he had scored the second of the show’s two pilot movies, Ransom for a Dead Man, and his witty approach helped set the tone for the show’s music throughout its run, with his main theme showing up as a source cue in several episodes. One of Goldenberg’s most notable TV successes was the original musical Queen of the Stardust Ballroom, directed by legendary editor Sam O’Steen (Rosemary’s Baby, Chinatown), and starring Maureen Stapleton and Charles Durning. It won three Emmys and received 11 nominations, including an Emmy and two nominations for Goldenberg and lyricists Alan & Marilyn Bergman. Goldenberg and the Bergmans reteamed with teleplay writer Jerome Kass to adapt the film into the 1978 Broadway musical Ballroom, which marked director-choreographer Michael Bennett’s first show after A Chorus Line. The musical, starring Dorothy Loudon and Vincent Gardenia, ran for 116 performances, winning one Tony (for Choreography) and eight nominations.
Particularly during the 1970s and ‘80s, Goldenberg would become one of the most prolific and honored composers in television. He won Emmys for the Lives of Benjamin Franklin episode “The Rebel;” the miniseries King, starring Paul Winfield as MLK and Cicely Tyson as Coretta; the miniseries Rage of Angels, from the Sidney Sheldon book; and the "special musical material" for Stardust Ballroom. He earned a total of 24 Primetime Emmy nominations over the course of his career in a variety of categories, and one Daytime Emmy nomination. His memorable TV projects include the delightful theme for Banacek as well as scores for The UFO Incident, Helter Skelter, and the miniseries remake of Around the World in 80 Days. For one of his final projects, he teamed up with his friend Beatrice Arthur for the one-woman show Bea Arthur on Broadway, serving as her accompanist and receiving co-credit for the show’s conception. (Research sources for this article include the Variety obituary by Jon Burlingame and the Hollywood Reporter obituary by Mike Barnes; special thanks to Jon Burlingame for pointing out some errors in the original posted version of this column, regarding the date of Goldenberg's passing and his total Emmy wins/nominations, which have now been corrected).
The Last Dalai Lama? - Philip Glass, Tenzin Choegyal - Orange Mountain
The Last of Us Part II - Gustavo Santaolalla, Mac Quayle - Sony (import)
Teen Titans Go! Vs. Teen Titans - Jason Lazarus - La-La Land
The Wretched - Devin Burrows - La-La Land
Young Justice: Outsiders - Kristopher Carter, Michael McCuistion, Lolita Ritmanis - La-La Land
Animal Crackers - Bear McCreary - Sony
Outlander: Season 5 - Bear McCreary - Sony
Requiem - Dominick Scherrer, Natasha Khan - Svart
Hackers - Simon Boswell, songs - Varese Sarabande
Open 24 Hours - Holly Amber Church - Notefornote
Scream Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street - Alexander Taylor - Notefornote
Alan Howarth Live at Hollywood Theater - Alan Howarth, John Carpenter - Buysoundtrax
All Against All - Kristian Sensini - Kronos
Der Bestatter - Raphael Benjamin Meyer - Alhambra
Gappa The Triphibian Monsters - Seitaro Omori - Cinema-Kan (import)
Gina and Chantal - Joris Hermy - Kronos
Lady Beware - Craig Safan - Dragon's Domain
Man at the Top - Roy Budd - Caldera
One Potato, Two Potato - Gerald Fried - Caldera
The Peter Bernstein Collection vol. 1 - Peter Bernstein - Dragon's Domain
Rocco and His Brothers - Nino Rota - Quartet
Scacco Alla Regina - Piero Piccioni - Cinevox
Sins of Jezebel - Bert Shefter - Kronos
Super Godzilla [video game score] - Akira Ifukube - Cinema-Kan (import)
THIS WEEK IN FILM MUSIC HISTORY
August 14 - Lee Zahler born (1893)
August 14 - Edmund Meisel born (1894)
August 14 - James Horner born (1953)
August 14 - Oscar Levant died (1972)
August 14 - Michael McCormack born (1973)
August 15 - Jacques Ibert born (1890)
August 15 - Ned Washington born (1901)
August 15 - Jimmy Webb born (1946)
August 15 - Lalo Schifrin records his score for the Mission: Impossible episode “Memory” (1966)
August 15 - Henry Mancini begins recording his score for Harry and Son (1983)
August 15 - Bruce Broughton begins recording his score for George Washington II: The Forging of a Nation (1986)
August 15 - Ronald Stein died (1988)
August 15 - Ron Jones records his pilot score for the animated Superman series (1988)
August 16 - John Williams records the third season theme for Lost in Space (1967)
August 16 - Bruno Nicolai died (1991)
August 16 - Miles Goodman died (1996)
August 16 - Tadashi Hattori died (2008)
August 16 - Alan Silvestri wins Emmys for Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey’s main title theme and its premiere episode score; David Arnold and Michael Price win for Sherlock’s “His Last Vow” (2014)
August 17 - Lisa Coleman born (1960)
August 17 - Ernest Gold bgins recording his score for A Child Is Waiting (1962)
August 17 - Vivek Maddala born (1973)
August 17 - John Williams begins recording his score for Black Sunday (1976)
August 17 - Johnny Harris records his score for The New Adventures of Wonder Woman episode “The Deadly Sting” (1978)
August 18 - Igo Kantor born (1930)
August 18 - David Benoit born (1953)
August 18 - John Debney born (1956)
August 18 - Tan Dun born (1957)
August 18 - Stuart Matthewman born (1960)
August 18 - Stephen Endelman born (1962)
August 18 - Carlos Rafael Rivera born (1970)
August 18 - Artie Kane records his score for The New Adventures of Wonder Woman episode “The Return of Wonder Woman” (1977)
August 18 - Robert Russell Bennett died (1981)
August 18 - Jack Elliott died (2001)
August 18 - Elmer Bernstein died (2004)
August 19 - Fumio Hayasaka born (1914)
August 19 - Herman Stein born (1915)
August 19 - Luchi De Jesus born (1923)
August 19 - William Motzing born (1937)
August 19 - Ray Cooper born (1942)
August 19 - Gustavo Santaolalla born (1951)
August 19 - Elmer Bernstein begins recording his score for Desire Under the Elms (1957)
August 19 - Andre Previn begins recording his score to The Subterraneans (1959)
August 19 - Recording sessions begin for Bronislau Kaper's score for BUtterfield 8 (1960)
August 19 - Alexander Courage's score for the Star Trek episode "The Man Trap" is recorded (1966)
August 19 - Jerry Goldsmith begins recording his score to The Illustrated Man (1968)
August 19 - Jerry Fielding records his score for the Mission: Impossible episode “The Controllers” (1969)
August 19 - Lalo Schifrin begins recording his score for Telefon (1977)
August 19 - Luchi De Jesus died (1984)
August 19 - Jay Chattaway records his score for the Star Trek: Voyager episode “Equinox, Part II” (1999)
August 19 - Geoff Zanelli wins the Emmy for Into the West; Sean Callery wins his second Emmy, for the 24 episode “Day 5: 6:00 a.m. – 7:00 a.m.”; Edward Shearmur wins for Masters of Horror’s main title theme (2006)
August 20 - Raoul Kraushaar born (1908)
August 20 - Alain Goraguer born (1931)
August 20 - Stelvio Cipriani born (1937)
August 20 - Isaac Hayes born (1942)
August 20 - Ron Jones records his score for the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Naked Now" (1987)
DID THEY MENTION THE MUSIC?
THE AERONAUTS - Steven Price
"There’s enough potential with the balloon’s feats to justify an entire feature-length experience set within its basket, but 'The Aeronauts' constantly interrupts the journey to shoehorn random tangents on the ground, and busies up the drama with underdeveloped side characters. Among them: a wasted flight coordinator played by Himesh Patel, who’s saddled with the groan-worthy line that 'some reach for the stars, some push others toward them.' Likewise, the dynamic between James and Amelia in their flashbacks has a half-baked quality that seems odd given its lack of historical foundation. 'I want to rewrite the rules of the air, and I need your help!' he declares, as the music swells, and that’s pretty much all it takes for her to sign on."
Eric Kohn, IndieWire
"If you can ignore the puzzling costuming of Alexandra Byrne that fails to dress the co-stars in weather-appropriate clothes -- Jones sports a stylish oil-skin/leather combo jacket that doesn’t look all that warm at 5° Fahrenheit, while both of the actors lack proper hats and gloves -- the high-altitude scenes of 'The Aeronauts' are satisfying to take in, especially with the backdrop of Steven Price’s old-fashioned score. If only the film also offered something grounded in its pace and emotions as appealing as its sky-high showcase of special effects."
Tomris Laffly, Variety
A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD - Nate Heller
"Following on the heels of two darker edged dramedies, 'Can You Ever Forgive Me?' and 'The Diary of a Teenage Girl,' Heller’s instinct to follow a flawed character -- which compared to Rogers, could probably be any one of us -- is right on. Along with cinematographer Jody Lee Lipes, Heller balances the well-lit sets of the PBS affiliate where Rogers tapes his shows and the dark rooms where Lloyd does much of his research watching old episodes or reflects on the advice Rogers gives him about his dad. He’s isolated and gloomy in these scenes, but when he’s sitting across from Rogers, it’s almost as if the light from the host reflects back on the journalist, quite literally lighting his existence. Heller and her team’s devotion to incorporating references to his show and its new incarnation based on one of his favorite puppets, 'Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood,' extends throughout the film, like in interstitial scenes of miniature sets of New York and Pittsburgh showing Lloyd traveling between the two cities or Nate Heller’s score which feels to be in conversation with the notes of the show’s theme song. It ties back to the book-end-like set-up of the movie where Hanks as Mr. Rogers speaks directly to the audience and introduces us to his friend, Lloyd, which so quickly reminds of the show millions of us once watched and taps right into those feelings."
Monica Castillo, RogerEbert.com
DARK WATERS - Marcelo Zarvos
"Not unlike 'Safe,' which explored the pitfalls of an anesthetized life, Haynes directs Bilott’s years-long, mentally and physically debilitating battle to hold DuPont accountable as a fight forever in danger of succumbing to the almost hidden might of how-things-have-always-been. He’s aided not just by frequent collaborator Ed Lachman’s textured cinematography (like a shout-out to ’70s paranoia master Gordon Willis) but also Hannah Bleacher’s [sic] lived-in production design, and Brazilian composer Marcelo Zarvos’ icy piano score."
Robert Abele, The Wrap
FROZEN II - Songs by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez; Score by Christophe Beck
"The biggest breakthrough of them all, however, is the musical numbers that burst with inventiveness and fresh visual ideas. Buck and Lee, once again joined by songwriters Bobby Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, aren’t complacent with the musical numbers and all seem interested in pushing things forward. 'Into the Unknown,' could be this year’s 'Let It Go,' and Kristoff’s song, 'Lost in the Woods' -- fashioned after a Peter Cetera-era Chicago power ballad -- turns into a Queen-style singalong that recalls Disney’s Country Bear Jamboree, with a platoon of reindeer singing in unison. There’s a lot of musical big swings that connect and no matter how you feel about Olaf, you’ll likely be cursing the infectious earworm of 'When I Am Older' for days after."
Drew Taylor, The Playlist
"'Frozen 2' also retains the Oscar-winning composing team of Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, but whether it’s lack of inspiration or simple repetition, the movie’s songs largely come off as a collection of musical tics, the equivalent of a meal thrown together with whatever’s in the fridge. As delightful as 'Lost in the Woods,' an ’80s-style power ballad sung by Jonathan Groff’s Kristoff is, it’s not a great sign that it’s the best thing in the movie, especially since younger viewers will be blind to the scene’s canny riffs on karaoke-machine visuals. (You can pinpoint the adults in the audience by who snickers when an autumn leaf lands delicately on a pond and the image ripples away.) Menzel still belts, Bell still brings her plucky charm, and Gad still makes children roar and sets their parents’ teeth on edge."
Sam Adams, Slate.com
"Happily, this long-anticipated sequel feels entirely fresh. The world it creates is charming, the wit sparkles, and -- one brief burst of 'Reindeer(s) Are Better Than People' aside -- the songs are all new. So let go of 'Let It Go' and clear some room for a new batch of earworms. As you’d expect, 'Frozen II''s story again focuses on Elsa (voiced by Idina Menzel), but her exuberant sister, Anna (Kristen Bell), is very much a co-conspirator this time, having 'When Harry Met Sally'-ish tiffs with the lovestruck Kristoff (Jonathan Groff, blessed with a genius ’80s-style power ballad from songwriters Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez), and helping guide the scene-stealing Olaf (Josh Gad) through a very funny coming-of-neige plotline. The hilarious 'When I Am Older' and some philosophical musings on the nature of existence are an absolute delight."
Phil De Semlyen, Time Out New York
"The voice work remains exemplary. Bell, especially, sells the heightened emotional beats of this streamlined adventure, even when they feel a little canned. And everyone exerts themselves commendably during the musical-theater portions of the evening. The songs, written again by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, follow the play-it-again imperative, serviceably replicating the inspirational swell and warm wisecrackery of the enormously popular soundtrack they contributed last time around. Best of the bunch is an early showstopper for Menzel, who gets to duet with the distant, haunting vocal refrain that calls to her, showing off her powerhouse, Broadway-honed pipes in the aim-for-the-cheap-seats chorus. Still, nothing else here—not the small-town group number, not Gad’s dopey slapstick solo, not the power ballad composed for Kristoff (complete with amusing hair-metal guitar licks) -- is likely to earn a permanent place alongside 'Let It Go' or 'Do You Want To Build A Snowman?' on the office-karaoke or ride-to-school playlist."
A.A. Dowd, The Onion AV Club
"As is so often the case, it starts with an unexpected journey. Early in the film, Elsa attempts to push away any thoughts about striking out into the unknown (as illuminated by a song that is, of course, titled 'Into the Unknown,' one of two sturdy 'Let It Go' stand-ins), and muses that everyone she loves is finally under one roof, so why would she need more? For someone as magical and secretly bent on living her own life as Elsa, you can see where the discomfort might creep in. Anna, meanwhile, is happy as a clam, embarking on zippy signalongs with best pal Olaf ('Some Things Never Change' is just as fun and frisky as 'Love Is an Open Door') and looking forward to whatever the future might bring. Olaf, now maturing into something of an adult snowman (Was he a 'snowkid' before? Best not to worry about it), is consumed by the idea that everything -- including terrifying spirit-filled magical forests -- will make sense when he’s older, while Kristoff just wants to put a ring on Anna’s finger. Despite the emotional upheaval of the final act, it also has a fair bit of amusement and spectacle. There’s tongue-in-cheek jibs about the Disney experience throughout, and Lee and Buck have some serious fun spinning the big musical numbers into fresh territory (Kristoff’s big song, 'Lost in the Woods,' is filmed as something of a power ballad music video, more Guns n Roses than anyone could ever expect from the Mouse House, and one of the best parts of the film)."
Kate Erbland, IndieWire
"The sweetly dopey snowman Olaf (Gad) goes along for the ride, too, and once again Oscar-winning songwriting team Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez hand him the best song of the film -- 'When I Am Older,' a Broadway hoofer cleverly smuggling lessons about mortality into a very peppy step. Alternately, the low point is 'Lost in the Woods,' a confused power ballad that melting-pots its influences. Musically, it vibes Peter Cetera-like Eighties synth and electric guitars; visually, the cues are late Nineties boy band choreography and a throwaway Queen sight gag; lyrically, it’s numbingly straightforward, and so bereft of wit I wondered if I’d imagined the parody altogether, until the song’s reprisal in the credits, this time performed by Weezer, confirmed the joke. (The credits also smartly match doomy lullaby 'All Is Found' to Kacey Musgraves, while Panic! at the Disco tackles 'Into the Unknown' with theatre geek abandon.) When the first trailer for Frozen II appeared, the Internet gasped and wondered if it was going to be too intense for kids. Personally, I think we don’t give kids enough credit. But sure -- maybe eternally perky Kristen Bell cry-singing 'Hello darkness/ I’m ready to succumb' is a bridge too far for some tiny humans. Thing is, the lesson of that song -- a late, moving ballad about grief called 'The Next Right Thing' -- is that you pick yourself up off the floor. In the same vein is the way the script (credited to co-director Jennifer Lee) considers a historical wrong done against a people -- the kind you don’t have to stretch your imagination far to find an analogy of in American history. What is notable is how the film gives children a framework, and the language, to process this act of violence, same as it does the pain of grief, the bitter rub of mortality. I don’t know if that sensitivity will translate to a gajillion more princess dresses sold, but as a teaching aid for kids -- a tool for taking on more adult concerns -- I found it surprisingly impactful."
Kimberley Jones, The Austin Chronicle
"As such, there’s a certain level of calculation going on here -- one imagines a pair of Post-It notes that just said, 'Idina Menzel Belts Here' -- but there’s also enough craft and care to keep 'Frozen II' from coming off as an utterly shameless cash grab. We return to the now-happy kingdom of Arendelle, ruled over once again by the ice-wielding Queen Elsa (voiced by Menzel) and her mortal sister Princess Anna (Kristen Bell), who enjoy the company of enchanted snowman Olaf (Josh Gad), woodsman Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) and his devoted reindeer Sven. They sing a song called 'Some Things Never Change,' which is a good indication that everything is about to. To its credit, 'Frozen II' acknowledges that it has huge snowshoes to fill. There are various moments of self-aware humor, from Olaf’s breathless recap of the first movie to an incredulous audience to Elsa acknowledging that she, too, is sick of 'Let It Go.' And arguably the best number this time around is Kristoff’s plaintive power ballad 'Lost in the Woods,' the cheesiness of which Lee and Buck accentuate by shooting it along the lines of Bonnie Tyler’s 'Total Eclipse of the Heart' video. Beyond that, returning composers Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez seem to be ticking off the boxes of what 'Frozen' fans want, from the aforementioned Idina Menzel big-note extravaganzas ('Into the Unknown' and 'Show Yourself,' the latter a duet with Wood) to a jokey Josh Gad number ('When I Am Older'). There’s nothing wrong with these songs, per se, but the effort to replicate their previous success weighs down any possibility of letting them shine on their own."
Alonso Duralde, The Wrap
"Any successor to 'Frozen' practically mandates a designated successor to 'Let It Go.' And the standard-bearing song for Disney’s 'Frozen II' is 'Into the Unknown,' another bombastic earworm that’s belted out by Idina Menzel’s Queen Elsa about 20 minutes into the film, as she embraces a literal call to adventure. But the unknown is hardly a place that co-directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee care to take this sequel. If the first 'Frozen' succeeded in rebranding the Disney Princess line of products for a more woke era, 'Frozen II' doesn’t want to risk undoing the first film’s magic. The sequel plays things safe, hitting many of the same beats as its predecessor -- and sometimes with a wink -- all while making sure to introduce adorable, marketable new creatures and outfits along the way. Such is the nature of Hollywood sequels, perhaps, but aside from a prologue that expands the fantastical, ostensibly peaceful Nordic kingdom in which the series is set with an intriguingly bellicose backstory, 'Frozen II' doesn’t craft a strong enough story to mask its capitalist machinations. The film joins Elsa, her sister Anna (Kristen Bell), the latter’s beau Christoph (Jonathan Groff), his reindeer Sven, and the animate snowman Olaf (Josh Gad) at harvest time in Arendelle, which has about the size and cultural depth of the Swedish village at Epcot Center. Just after the four humanoid principal characters are done singing a status-quo-minded ditty, 'Some Things Never Change,' Elsa, the magically attuned 'snow queen,' begins hearing a wordless voice singing to her from beyond the fjord. In responding to the voice, Elsa awakens the wrath of nature’s four elements -- air, earth, fire, and water -- which wreak havoc on Arendelle, because, it turns out, nature’s got an axe to grind with Anna and Elsa’s family. This carefully orchestrated vagueness gives 'Frozen II' a fragmentary quality, each scene standing alone as a mini-adventure. Olaf and Christoph’s solo numbers in particular feel very much like the music videos they are, fun and vibrant on their own but not particularly well integrated into the story’s trajectory. The looseness of Lee’s script also serves to foreground the more devious functions of the film as a Disney product intended to promote further consumption. It’s hard to ignore the convenience of the avatar of fire resembling in size, color, and design a collectible, cuddly doll; the way one of the heroines is magically granted a new, flowing hairdo and a bejeweled, strapless dress when she sings the song 'Show Yourself'; or the calculations that must underlie the visually pleasing arrangement of the glittering geometric patterns that fill the frame during musical sequences. If, as a story, 'Frozen II' is a tad too messy, as an advertisement it’s much too polished.
Pat Brown, Slant Magazine
"The first half-hour smacks of calculation, as the movie finds ways to message to audiences where it stands in relation to the original, rather than intuitively picking up where that installment left off, the way the 'Toy Story' and 'How to Train Your Dragon' sequels so gracefully did. In a way, songwriting couple Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez set this challenge for themselves by creating such a memorable Broadway-style soundtrack for the first movie, and here, the first couple songs (including the forgettable 'All Is Found') feel second best. It’s not until Menzel sings 'Into the Unknown' that 'Frozen II' comes anywhere near the goose-bump-inducing, icicles-on-the-nape-of-your-neck thrill audiences experienced with 'Let It Go' last time around -- although none of this cartoon’s new tunes packs quite that punch. Even so, the characters spend an awful lot of time singing: Groff delivers the amusingly over-earnest pop-idol parody 'Lost in the Woods,' and later, Bell belts out goody-goody anthem 'The Next Right Thing.' (All three of those songs are repeated in less-interesting Radio Disney-ready cover versions over the marathon end-credits roll, performed by the likes of Panic! at the Disco, Kacey Musgraves and Weezer.) In a Broadway show, the musical numbers reveal feelings the characters wouldn’t dare speak aloud, although the most effective 'I want' song here comes from none other than Olaf, who yearns to understand the world better 'When I Am Older.' All four characters alternate articulating where their minds are at the opening via the song 'Some Things Never Change,' and though the sequence features stunning animation, its presence stalls the proceedings. Whereas the prologue informs that 'the fighting enraged the spirits, and they turned against us' -- language clearly engineered to misdirect -- it’s not until nearly an hour later, when the trolls explain, 'The past is not what it seems. … The truth must be found,' that the story finally finds its proper course."
Peter Debruge, Variety
"Domestic jibber-jabber among the royal family of Arendelle dominates the early-going in a rather let’s-get-reacquainted manner, and this is something at which Elsa’s chatty younger sister Anna (Kristen Bell) particularly excels. During this domestic first act set at the castle, a new song is introduced every few minutes, and there’s nothing wrong with that; as before, Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez have turned out a host of snappy, catchy tunes, at least two or three of which seem very likely to become favorites. The songwriting team’s contribution to the franchise’s success can scarcely be overestimated."
Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter
IN FABRIC - Cavern of Anti-Matter (Tim Gane)
"Scored with bewitching, musique concrète soundscape-clashes by Cavern Of Anti-Matter (Tim Gane, ex of Stereolab‘s new retro/futurist electronic band), Strickland’s taste in carefully chosen soundtrack collaborators who can help him disorient and hypnotize the viewer remains impeccable. COAM’s mesmeric sounds seem to goose the Strickland’s experimental tendencies and the disarming, cut and paste-y horror moments that feel like Stan Brakhage has suddenly burned through the celluloid to f*ck up the film."
Rodrigo Perez, The Playlist
"The more cryptic and existential 'In Fabric' becomes, the more it focuses on the physicality of its textures; on the busted machinery of a washing machine, the threaded silk of hosiery, the hypnotic ASMR vibrations of a man describing the most boring thing in the world. After a certain point, Strickland’s film all but seduces you into a kind of synesthesia -- you can almost see the twinkly harpsichord of Tim Gane’s score, and hear the blood-curdling screams that are sewn into Sheila’s dress once she passes it on to a bridezilla called Babs (Hayley Squires). Both parts of the film are bonded together in the same hermetic world, an off-kilter reality where things are as expressive as people, and maybe even more powerful. We are at the mercy of how they make us feel."
David Ehrlich, IndieWire
"Peter Strickland, the subversive British writer-director, has his fetishes: cheapo zoom lurches, shuddering synth bloops, and the sights and sounds of an earlier, analog era. Like Anna Biller, the inspired maker of 2016’s 'The Love Witch,' Strickland is obsessed with retro horror; also like Biller, he’s no mere nostalgist. He wants to invest the language of ’60s and ’70s exploitation cinema with liberated ideas. In this film, the first one comes when we visit Dentley & Soper, the fictional department store at the heart of Strickland’s plot. It’s an ominous place, staffed by imposing, statuesque sales-witches (including the director’s favorite actor, Fatma Mohamed) who, in a bizarre ritual, chase their female customers toward the merchandise while clapping rhythmically, hoping for a 'transaction of ecstasy.'"
Joshua Rothkopf, Time Out New York
"Patterned after eye-popping giallo films of the 1970s and ’80s -- that cult-beloved B-movie genre through which directors such as Dario Argento and Mario Bava crafted high-art imagery in service of less-than-coherent storytelling -- 'In Fabric' feels like a bespoke homage to those ultra-stylized Italian thrillers, with a wickedly arch sense of humor all its own, and a wicked other-dimensional vibe courtesy of modular synth group Cavern of Anti-Matter. What a peculiar coincidence that such a project should hit the festival circuit at more or less the same moment as Luca Guadagnino’s divisive 'Suspiria' remake. For fans of Argento’s classic, about a dance academy that serves as a front for a coven of witches, 'In Fabric' may well be the film they were hoping for, transposing that concept to a surreal department store."
Peter Debruge, Variety
LITTLE JOE - Teiji Ito, Markus Binder
"The major problem is that this scenario can’t quite sustain the runtime, although it has to be noted that its jab at antidepressants feels a little glib too. But Hausner’s languorous pacing and gentle zooms have a woozily hypnotic effect and the actors mostly have fun with the film’s mannered style. Beecham, so good as the boozy wild child in 'Daphne,' shows her range as an increasingly frazzled scientist juggling moral dilemmas and the needs of her teenage son. Probably Hausner’s best choice, though, is in using avant-garde compositions of Teiji Ito to create a jarring, skittish soundscape filled with unusual instrumentations and sinister motifs. It’s of a piece with the film. Gardening has never been so creepy."
Phil De Semlyen, Time Out London
"The flower is one of the film’s aesthetic triumphs. Bred by Alice (Emily Beecham) in a sprawling corporate laboratory, the plant resembles a phallic rose, with an especially lurid red-purplish hue that suggests a delicate piece of lingerie. Which is to say that the flower is visually coded as male and female, embodying sex incarnate. Not once does this flower look 'real,' which is intentional on Hausner’s part, as it stands alien and apart from the humans who preside over it. This alienness is intensified by the soundtrack, which recalls Japanese wind instruments, provoking the question: Why a Japanese motif in a British corporate setting? Hausner grooves on such formal incongruities, inspiring a discomfort that aligns the audience empathetically with a handful of increasingly stricken characters."
Chuck Bowen, Slant Magazine
"There’s an eeriness at first to the human interactions that result from exposure to Little Joe -- an awkwardness in the inability to connect comfortably. This is especially evident when Alice’s colleague Chris (Ben Whishaw, playing against nice-guy type) tries to woo her, first with nervous invitations to after-work drinks, then with tentative attempts at kisses. The plant’s effects on another scientist’s emotional support dog -- normally a sweet-tempered, playful creature -- also create an underlying tension. But then the Japanese-inspired score -- heavy on strings and drums, mixed with the surreal sound of dogs barking -- provides an even more obvious jolt. It’s another bold stylistic choice, one that’s initially startling but eventually overbearing."
Christy Lemire, RogerEbert.com
"Her script, co-written with Géraldine Bajard, is just as spare: Characters deliver dialogue with cold, lobotomized detachment. 'I can’t take care of everything around here,' Joe says ominously, when Alice asks about his once-beloved, now-defunct ant farm. Whishaw, in particular, revives the impassive delivery that characterized his performance in Yorgos Lanthimos’ 'The Lobster' with disquieting effect. With its capable cast and sterile aesthetic in tow, 'Little Joe' commands the bleak futurism of a 'Black Mirror' episode, yet with slightly more muted drama, while composer Teiji Ito’s high-pitched synth score evokes a theremin-heavy, classic sci-fi soundscape."
Caroline Tsai, The Playlist
"It’s possible to imagine a version of the film that would play like a straight thriller, even maybe an official remake of the popular science fiction property on which 'Little Joe' is eccentrically riffing. But Hausner does something more disquieting and idiosyncratic: Occasional atonal shrieks on the soundtrack aside, she offers a more restrained unease, as if the film -- like its heroine -- were unable to rationally accept what may or may not be happening. In a sense, she takes that period of faint dread and uncertainty that usually kicks off this oft-told tale and extends it to feature length, withholding the inevitable full plummet into paranoia and horror. The tone is more dryly comic, recalling the ambivalence of Hausner’s earlier features; she’s found, in this scenario, the perfect application for her tendency to deny clarity about her characters’ motivations and feelings. Likewise, her preferred style of performance, a slightly stilted, affected remove that’s like a less over-the-top version of the lobotomy-patient deadpan Yorgos Lanthimos often forces on his actors."
A.A. Dowd, The Onion AV Club
"Hausner gets pinpoint performances out of her actors, and she needs to, since so much of 'Little Joe' pivots around the subtlest of personality shadings. Emily Beecham, who’s like a more vivacious Claire Foy, plays Alice as beaming but increasingly troubled, a scientist who didn’t know she created a monster, and is now desperate to put that genie back in the bottle. Ben Whishaw is super-sly as the benign colleague who becomes a weasel without quite shedding his devotion to Alice. He’s not against her; he just wants her to join. David Wilmot is an arresting chameleon -- now raging, now snake-oil smooth -- as Alice’s office mate Karl, and Kerry Fox is superb as Bella, the mentally fragile Planthouse veteran who’s the first one to detect a shift in personality (in her dog). As for the film’s musical score, by Teiji Ito and Markus Binder, it’s practically another character: an Asian-flavored cacophony of drip drums, flute quavers, and shrieking tech that goes to work on your system."
Owen Gleiberman, Variety
A MILLION LITTLE PIECES - Atticus Ross, Claudia Sarne, Leopold Ross
"Along with a darkly trippy score by Nine Inch Nails' Atticus Ross, his wife Claudia Sarne and brother Leopold Ross, the director layers in a busy selection of song choices to create texture. But she hasn't found a way to bring dramatic momentum to repetitive scenes in which James shows up for required meetings, either group or individual sessions, and then stomps out with Brando-esque volatility. Even a gruesome dental repair job, performed without anesthetic according to rehab requirements, does little to make you feel for the central character."
David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter
QUEEN & SLIM - Devonte Hynes
"As the lyrics to Tiana Major9 and EarthGang’s 'Collide' put it, 'When we collide, it’s a beautiful disaster.' Music plays a key role in 'Queen & Slim,' and though the film otherwise bears little resemblance to Matsoukas’ work on Beyoncé’s 'Formation' video, the director assembles a bound-to-be-legendary hip-hop soundtrack -- including 'Comin’ Home,' a new single from Lauryn Hill -- to infuse the movie’s silky, laid-back style with a deeper resonance. What momentum the film has comes not from the pursuit (the police seem far off-screen till the climactic confrontation) but from the tight percussive beats of Dev Hynes’ score."
Peter Debruge, Variety
"Matsoukas, whose extensive credentials as a video director for pop superstars include Beyoncé's 'Formation,' shapes the uneven material with a lyrical visual style as well as an affecting and judicious use of music (Devonté Hynes, aka Blood Orange, composed the potent, gorgeous score). She and DP Tat Radcliffe capture striking tableaux of the Southern landscape. At a roadside blues joint, the lead characters' "second date" is exquisite in every aspect, a powerfully choreographed fusion of style and story. With almost no dialogue, the sequence deepens the pair's bond, lights a romantic spark, and delivers a stirring sense of a black America that, hidden but vibrant, offers a place of safety, at least for a dance or two."
Sheri Linden, The Hollywood Reporter
21 BRIDGES - Henry Jackman, Alex Belcher
"The screenplay, by Adam Mervis and Matthew Michael Carnahan, value [sic] its dialogue, savoring the sniping and tough talk among cops and criminals without getting too ostentatious about it. Director Brian Kirk also knows when to pull back on the chatter; Andre’s first survey of the crime scene is dialogue-free, with the strong musical score by Henry Jackman and Alex Belcher driving the action, and Kirk’s foot-chase sequences have a bruising tactility. This is a well-crafted, exciting movie, sometimes more impressive for maintaining those qualities in the face of an utterly unsurprising story."
Jesse Hassenger, The Onion AV Club
WAVES - Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross
"As if the dazzling performances and audaciously intertwined storylines weren’t enough, 'Waves' is a visual stunner, too, thanks to director of photography Drew Daniels, whose restless, reckless camerawork paints a family tragedy in dizzying, near-psychedelic hues, mirroring the increasingly frenetic storyline. Backed by a queasy, throbbing score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, 'Waves' is both incrementally unnerving and eventually exultant, a pitch-perfect portrait of post-millennial teenage life, with all of its ultra-adrenalized emotions, fraught expectations, and fateful, rash decisions."
Marc Savlov, The Austin Chronicle
"And still, it gets worse. There’s a touch of overstatement to Shults’s story, goosed by the nauseating synth drones of 'The Social Network''s Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, who convert everything they work on into a dark fable. The wrestling ends, the relationship ends, the pills come out, and the reversal of fortune gives you whiplash. 'We are not afforded the luxury of being average,' says Tyler’s father ('This Is Us''s Sterling K. Brown, taut with concern), but apart from that line, 'Waves' doesn’t play like a statement on race so much as an indictment of the Kanye-scored, dumped-via-text pressure cooker that is being a teenager in 2019. (Shults, it should be mentioned, is white.)"
Joshua Rothkopf, Time Out New York
"As he did with 'It Comes at Night,' Shults plays with aspect ratio, tightening the widescreen ratio on Tyler as the world starts to collapse on him, but this is no look-at-me-ma trick. It’s one of many filmmaking choices that impact how 'Waves' gets under your skin, sometimes without you even knowing it, along with the color palette changes and the effective use of a tension-raising score by Atticus Ross & Trent Reznor. 'Waves' is a patient, long film, but Shults pays off that patience with the final half-hour, which contains the kind of emotional moments that would feel manipulative and melodramatic in a lesser work but resonate here because of how much we know about these characters."
Brian Tallerico, RogerEbert.com
"This turning-point event triggers a complete formal changeover, as Shults trades methods from all-out maximalism to a stiller and more subdued register. Both halves of the film share a wall-to-wall soundtrack presumably intended to communicate that its curator regularly read Pitchfork in 2013: There’s Tame Impala, not one but two Animal Collective tracks, a whole lotta Frank Ocean, and a conception of hip-hop limited to Tyler The Creator, A$AP Rocky, Yeezus-era Kanye, and Good Kid-era Kendrick. While the stationary long takes that depict Emily’s intimate courtship with lovable, awkward Luke (Lucas Hedges) in the latter half may be preferable to the former’s ceaseless lurching and sonically assaultive noise courtesy of scorers Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, both suffer from a belabored screenplay."
Charles Bramesco, The Onion AV Club
"Within the first five minutes, it’s clear that the camera is headed exactly where fate takes it. Set to the moody techno rhythm of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ score, the camera swirls 360-degrees around a car humming down the highway with nothing but the Florida coastline and ocean ready to swallow it up. We can see that the driver and passenger, Trey and Alexis, are two kids in love -- a pop-song kind of love that will either be the best or worst thing that ever happened to them."
Sasha Stone, The Wrap
"The performances, however, mind the gap: Harrison Jr is frazzled and electric; Russell is wounded and circumspect. The audacious drama is matched by musical cues from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’s score and a wildly impressive collection of tunes, running from A$AP to SZA."
Tara Brady, The Irish Times
"Much more widely acclaimed is the new drama from Trey Edward Shults, a sensory-overload epic of adolescence called 'Waves' (Grade: B-). In simplest terms, the movie is about the unraveling life of a teenage athlete played by Kelvin Harrison Jr., who starred in Shults’ previous film, the A24 sizzle-without-steak thriller 'It Comes At Night,' and also delivered what may be the performance of the year in last month’s 'Luce.' But right from the start, when the camera does 360-degree loops in a moving car while an anthem blares deafeningly on top, Shults treats his narrative as a coat-hanger for a style that’s sometimes assaultive, sometimes expressive -- his camera constantly pushing into and around the characters, the colors often as loud as its shuffled playlist of Frank Ocean and Animal Collective bangers, coupled with a new ambient score from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross."
A.A. Dowd, The Onion AV Club
"The movie’s canny trick is the way it begins as one story and branches out in unexpected directions. Its initial hourlong passage tracks the wayward journey of South Florida teen Tyler (a brilliant Kelvin Harrison Jr.) as he struggles with the tough expectations of his virile father Ronald (Sterling K. Brown), who lords over Tyler’s wrestling ambitions with a stern gaze and sweaty workout sessions. Tyler’s only respite comes from his romance with classmate Emily (Alexa Demi) and the constant fun-loving party scene that the duo find themselves enjoying each night. Shults’ camera swoops through one montage after another, enmeshed in the wild rhythms of Tyler’s carefree existence, and guided by propulsive compositions from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross that blur with the movie’s diegetic sounds."
Eric Kohn, IndieWire
"Writer-director Trey Edward Shults’s 'Waves' begins in motion, with shots kinetically circling and tracking its young characters. Along with the film’s editing -- which is timed throughout to endless music cues, be they pop songs or the muffled industrial moans and staggered beats of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’s score -- Shults is quick to establish Tyler’s (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) bona fides as a dedicated student and wrestler. The filmmaker also highlights the luxury in which the teen lives, from his huge home to the brand new cars that his parents and their children drive. Tyler immediately comes across as a kid who has it all, including the love of an adoring girlfriend, Alexis (Alexa Dernie)."
Jake Cole, Slant Magazine
"What follows is at times almost unbearably, authentically heart-rending. Shults is an expressionist; he evokes in the audience both the swirling highs and grinding lows his characters are experiencing, from the exhilaration of being young and on top of the world to the brain-melting confusion of angry intoxication, to the shock of a life-altering accident. Sometimes the camera is pivoting around a point in a car or a gym; other times it’s moving jerkily, chasing the protagonist; other times it’s steady, with a calm that’s too deadly still. (In truth, I had to look away sometimes for a moment, the sensations were so intense.) The film’s score (composed by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross) at times feels more like a soundscape, conflicting emotions swirling as though they’re stations on a rapidly changing radio dial."
Alissa Wilkinson, Vox
"In what looks like an entirely separate chapter of 'Waves,' only thematically tied together by the continued use of Dinah Washington’s 'What a Difference a Day Makes' amid Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ appropriately breathless score, Shults shifts to Emily’s progression. Throughout the film, she is like an emotional receptacle for men struggling with demons -- Tyler in the first half and Ronald and new boyfriend Luke (Lucas Hedges) in the latter. In this explicitly father-son tale, the central female characters bear the brunt of all the things left unsaid by the two problematic men in their lives."
Candice Frederick, The Wrap
"To reveal any more of the narrative would be unfair to Shults’ overall aspirations, but one of the most disappointing aspects of the screenplay is that its plot devices are so recognizable. You’ve seen all of this before in one way or another (and in recent media, no less). One way Shults attempts to offset that familiarity is by creating a visual aesthetic with his cinematographer Drew Daniels that is a major departure from their previous collaborations 'Krisha' and 'It Comes At Night.' For instance, the camera moves in 360 or 720-degree turns, mostly in free-wheeling moments. Flashing party lamps or police cars are used to completely light scenes even when the light sources are far out of frame. There are a number of impressively long one-shot sequences where Shults will follow a character–mostly Tyler–throughout an entire building or area. Shults and Daniels also regularly have the cameras follow the characters everywhere, even in quick shots, so the frame is constantly moving. Imagine if Terrence Malick was into directing contemporary music videos and it all makes a bit more sense (Shults notably worked on three Malick films early in his career). In fact, the first static shot in the picture may not appear until a good 20 minutes or more into the movie. Again, Shults wants to keep everything moving. He furthers that aesthetic with an original electronic score from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross that gets lost in a barrage of tracks from Radiohead, Frank Ocean, Animal Collective and Kendrick Lamar that constantly pepper the movie. The overall result is stunning, but it also can be dizzying and too obvious for the storytelling at hand."
Gregory Ellwood, The Playlist
"There are a million ways that audiences could read the subtle, subtextual nuances to the way these characters navigate their relationships to one another. Shults clearly has his own ideas, using a stream of unexpected but meticulously chosen music tracks to communicate the emotional register throughout. At times, those cues -- made seamless by composers Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross ('The Social Network') -- feel like one with the film’s sound design, echoing the buzz of a vibrating cellphone or a series of background beeps, whereas at others, they represent what words can’t convey, as in twin scenes when Tyler and Emily use drugs, leaning out the passenger windows of their respective vehicles."
Peter Debrige, Variety
"He's also a bold visual stylist, and in collaboration with his regular DP, Drew Daniels, creates an immersive, sensuous vocabulary from the movie's South Florida setting. Deepening the film's distinctly expressive language is the inventive nuance of the score by master conjurors Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. Johnnie Burn's sound design, too, is thoroughly in sync with the characters -- at a painfully suspenseful moment, a referee's whistle splinters the air like a death knell -- and a propulsive soundtrack of vintage and contemporary songs infuses and drives the twinned narratives, lending some sequences a modern operatic sensibility."
Sheri Linden, The Hollywood Reporter
THINGS I'VE HEARD, READ, SEEN OR WATCHED LATELY
Heard: Air (Van Breeman), Akeelah and the Bee (Zigman, various), Alatriste (Banos), Alexander (Vangelis), Ali (Gerrard/Bourke), Alice in Wonderland (Wallace), Alien: Covenant (Kurzel), All About Eve (Newman), All Is Lost (Alex Ebert), All that Money Can Buy (Herrmann), All the King's Men (Horner), All the Money in the World (Pemberton), All the President's Men (Shire), Allonsfanfan (Morricone), Almost Holy (Ross/Ross/Krlic), Altered Carbon (Russo), Amarcord (Rota), The Amateur (Wannberg), Amazone (Desplat), Amelia (Yared), American Assassin (Price), American Crime (Isham), The American Friend (Knieper), American Pastoral (Desplat), Anatomy of a Murder (Ellington), Anche Se Volessi Lavorare, Che Faccio? (Morricone), Angel, Angel, Down We Go (various), Anna and the King of Siam (Herrmann), Another Earth (Fall on Your Sword), Ant-Man and the Wasp (Beck), Anthropoid (Foster), Apocalypse Now (Shire), The Apple (Recht), Argo (Desplat), Arrival (Johansson), Arthur Christmas (Gregson-Williams), As You Like It (Walton), The Assassin (Giong), Assault on Precinct 13 (Carpenter), The Domino Principle (Goldenberg)
Read: The HOG Murders, by William L. DeAndrea
Seen: Mulan and Antebellum are among the latest films that have been announced as going straight-to-streaming. I'm particularly glad that Christopher Nolan directed Tenet and shot much of it in 70mm IMAX, or else it would probably be showing up on HBO Max in a few weeks (I hope I haven't jinxed it).
Watched: College , 30 Rock ("Do-Over"), The Stone Killer, Law & Order: Criminal Intent ("Cold Comfort"), Thin Ice , Hannibal ("...And the Woman Clothed With the Sun"), The Electric House , Westworld ("The Adversary")