Posts Tagged ‘Randy Newman’

AWAKENINGS – Randy Newman

January 7, 2021 Leave a comment


Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

In 1969 the acclaimed neurologist Dr. Oliver Sacks was a 36-year-old physician at Beth Abraham Hospital’s chronic-care facility in the Bronx in New York. While there, Sacks began working with a group of survivors of the 1920s sleeping sickness encephalitis lethargica, who had been unable to move on their own for decades, and existed in a state of catatonia. After surmising that the new experimental drug L-DOPA may have a positive effect on his patients he began administering it to a test group; it had immediate, miraculous results, with several patients emerging from their stupor and regaining almost all of their cognitive faculties. Unfortunately, the effects of the drugs were short lived, and the patients eventually regressed to their catatonic states, but not before many of them related their experiences and life stories. Sacks eventually published the details of his work in the non-fiction book Awakenings, which was adapted into this film by Steven Zaillian in 1990. Robin Williams starred as Malcolm Sayer (Sacks by another name), with Robert De Niro turning in a tour-de-force performance as Leonard, one of the patients he revives. The film was directed by Penny Marshall, and co-starred John Heard, Julie Kavner, Penelope Ann Miller, and Max von Sydow; it was also a tremendous critical success, receiving Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Actor for De Niro, and Best Adapted Screenplay. Read more…


November 26, 2019 1 comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Back in the 1980s and early 1990s, before he became the King of All Pixar, Randy Newman often wrote scores for sensitive, small scale dramas – titles like Parenthood, Avalon, Awakenings, and then later Pleasantville. It’s been quite a while since he scored something similar, but Marriage Story is one of those types of films. It’s a contemporary drama that, essentially, takes an intimate look at the breakdown and eventual end of a marriage, and all the absurdities, legal wranglings, and emotional challenges such an event brings. The film stars Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson as Charlie and Nicole, the couple whose relationship we witness coming to an end. Charlie is a brilliant and mercurial New York theater director, and Nicole is an actress, his muse, and the mother to their young son. As the film unfolds we see them beginning to come apart at the seams – slowly at first, and despite them having the best intentions to keep everything civil – until, eventually, all the raw emotion and suppressed anger comes flooding to the surface. Driver and Johansson are absolutely astonishing in their performances – open, multi-faceted, wholly believable, devastating – with one scene in Driver’s apartment standing as one of the best-acted single scenes I have watched in many, many years. There’s also terrific support from Alan Alda, Laura Dern, Ray Liotta, and Julie Hagerty, and a sparkling screenplay by writer-director Noah Baumbach. Read more…

PARENTHOOD – Randy Newman

July 25, 2019 Leave a comment


Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Parenthood was a successful and popular comedy-drama film directed by Ron Howard, based on the actual child-rearing experiences of Howard and his screenwriting partners Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel, who between them had 17 children in 1989. The film starred Steve Martin and Mary Steenburgen as married couple Gil and Karen Buckman, and looks at the various trials and tribulations of their extended family, especially as the story relates to parent-child relationships, romantic problems, sibling rivalries, and the pressures that careers have on family lives. The film had an outstanding supporting ensemble cast, including Jason Robards, Rick Moranis, Tom Hulce, Martha Plimpton, 25-year-old Keanu Reeves, 15-year-old Joaquin Phoenix, and Dianne Weist, who received a Supporting Actress Academy Award nomination for her performance. It is also worth noting that, more than 20 years later, the movie was loosely adapted into a popular TV series of the same name, which ran on the NBC network for six seasons, although many of the characters and situations were different. Read more…

AVALON – Randy Newman

January 7, 2019 1 comment


Original Review by Craig Lysy

Avalon offered Barry Levinson’s third installment of his semi-autobiographical tetralogy of ”Baltimore Films” – Diner (1982), Tin Men (1987), Avalon (1990) and Liberty Heights (1999) – which explored immigrant life in his hometown Baltimore from the 1940s through the 1960s. He served as producer, director and screenwriter for the project and his production company Baltimore Pictures financed the film. He brought in a first class cast, which included Leo Fuchs as Hymie Krichinsky, Lou Jacobi as Gabriel Krichinsky, Armin Mueller-Stahl as Sam Krichinsky, Joan Plowright as Eva Krichinsky, Israel Rubinek as Nathan Krichinsky, Eve Gordon as Dottie Kirk, Elizabeth Perkins as Ann Kaye, Aiden Quinn as Jules Kaye and Elijah Wood as Michael Kaye. The film offers a commentary on the challenges of immigrant Russian-Jews trying to assimilate in America. Sam, the patriarch of the Krichinsky family, arrives in 1914 to forge a new life, eventually settling in Baltimore where he works as a wallpaper man. Matriarch Eva is firmly grounded in the old ways and ensures the family stays true to its roots. Conflicts between old country familial culture and modern American culture are inevitable and elicit generational clashes as Sam and Eva struggle to balance the old with the new. Despite hardships, which include an armed robbery, a devastating home fire, and children abandoning their surname for an American one, the family holds together, weathering the storm, united in love. The film was a commercial success and secured four Academy Award nominations including Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design and Best Film Score. Read more…

THE NATURAL – Randy Newman

August 20, 2018 Leave a comment


Original Review by Craig Lysy

In 1982 Columbia Pictures studio executive Victor Kaufman created a joint venture, TriStar Pictures, with CBS and HBO. The goal was to pool their resources given the ever-escalating costs of making movies. For their first film they chose to celebrate America’s national pastime by adapting The Natural, a baseball biopic novel by Bernard Malamud. The film offered classic Americana and Kaufman believed it was the perfect vehicle for launching TriStar Pictures. Mark Johnson was given the reigns to produce the film, and Barry Levinson was tasked with directing. Roger Towne and Phil Dusenberry were brought in to write the screenplay, which would be loosely based on the life of Roy Hobbs, a man of incredible “natural” baseball talent. Robert Redford, whose good looks and leading man talents were ascendant, was cast for the titular role. Joining him would be Robert Duvall as Max Mercy, Glenn Close as Iris Gaines, Kim Basinger as Memo Paris, Barbara Hershey as Harriet Bird, Wilford Brimley as Pop Fischer, Darren McGavin as Gus Sands, and Robert Prosky as the Judge. Read more…

CARS 3 – Randy Newman

July 14, 2017 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The creative relationship between Pixar Animation and Randy Newman goes back more than twenty years, all the way back to 1995 and their first foray into feature films with the original Toy Story. Their collaboration has since continued through titles like A Bug’s Life, Toy Story 2, Monsters Inc., Cars, Toy Story 3, and Monsters University, each of which has been enriched with Newman’s tuneful songs and warm scores. Cars 3 marks the eighth Newman Pixar score (him having been dropped in favor of Michael Giacchino on Cars 2); the film, which is directed by Brian Fee, follows the continuing adventures of the anthropomorphic race car Lightning McQueen, who this time round finds himself locking horns – fenders? – with an upstart racer named Jackson Storm, who embraces all kinds of new racing technology and threatens to replace McQueen at the top of the grid. Read more…

TOY STORY 3 – Randy Newman

October 16, 2010 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The second sequel to the groundbreaking Pixar animation comes 15 years after the original, but despite the passage of time has not lost any of its magic or charm. As well as being an excellent (and very funny) diversion for children, it’s also an imaginative, nostalgic, pathos-filled treat for adults, dealing with such mature themes as obsolescence and loss. The majority of the original voice cast – Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Don Rickles, Wallace Shawn – return to join up with newcomers Ned Beatty and Michael Keaton in a brand new story where the toys are accidentally delivered to a day care facility when their beloved owner Andy goes away to college. At first happy to be played with again, the toys quickly find out that life in the day care is not quite as rosy as it seems, and hatch a plan to escape. Read more…


November 27, 2009 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The Princess and the Frog is the 49th entry in the official canonical list of Disney animated features. Set in New Orleans at the turn of the century, and loosely based on the classic fairytale The Frog Prince by the Brothers Grimm, it tells the tale of Prince Naveen, who travels to the Big Easy in search of fun and jazz music, but who is cursed by the evil witch doctor Facilier, and turned into a frog. Knowing that only the kiss of a princess will return him to human form, Naveen searches desperately for the traditional cure for his ailment; unfortunately, he mistakes waitress Tiana for royalty and the kiss backfires and turns Tiana into a frog too! Desperate for answers, Naveen and Tiana journey deep into the bayou to search for an ancient voodoo priestess who may be the only one who can help… Read more…


April 4, 2008 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

George Clooney’s third film as a director – Leatherheads – is a real departure from his first two efforts, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind and Good Night and Good Luck. Whereas those films were serious political dramas, Leatherheads is a light-hearted 1920s caper about the early days of professional American football. Clooney plays Dodge Connolly, captain of the struggling Duluth Bulldogs, who convinces a good looking college football star and war hero, Carter “the Bullet” Rutherford (John Krasinski), to join his team. However, before long, the two men find themselves competing for the attentions of Chicago newspaper reporter Lexie Littleton (Renee Zellweger), a stereotypical flapper whose beauty belies her hard-bitten journalistic temperament. Read more…

SEABISCUIT – Randy Newman

July 25, 2003 Leave a comment

seabiscuitOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

It’s been quite a while since Randy Newman scored something “serious”, having spent the last five years or so scoring either Pixar animations (A Bug’s Life, Toy Story 2, Monsters Inc.) or comedies (Meet the Parents). His last movie of real dramatic worth was Pleasantville, directed by Gary Ross, and he re-teams with the creative forces behind that film for Seabiscuit, a heart-warming true story of triumph over adversity in horse racing. Seabiscuit is based on a non-fiction book by Laura Hillenbrand. Set in Depression-era America, it stars Jeff Bridges as Charles Howard, a millionaire businessman, and owner of a racehorse named Seabiscuit, whose small size and tendency to injure itself indicates that the thing will never win a race. Sensing hidden depths in the animal, Howard hires revolutionary trainer Tom Smith (Chris Cooper), who sets about rehabilitating the poor pony with his new-fangled methods. One of these methods is to hire a new jockey, in the shape of Red Pollard (Tobey Maguire), a failed boxer who is considered too tall to be a jockey, and who has spent much of his life on the streets. However, bit by bit, Seabiscuit’s form improves – to the stage where, much to everyone’s surprise, the former failure has a shot at winning the 1938 Triple Crown. Read more…


October 6, 2000 Leave a comment

meettheparentsOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

Daft comedies have never been my favorite genre, but I have to admit Meet the Parents made me laugh – a lot. It is surely one of the most nerve-wracking days of any young man’s life when he goes home to meet his fiancé’s folks. First impressions count for a lot, and if the woman you are with is the one you intend to marry, having a healthy relationship with her family is of paramount importance. All these things are weighing heavily on nurse Greg Focker (Ben Stiller)’s mind when he accompanies his girlfriend Pam (Teri Polo) home to meet her retired mother Dina and father Jack (Robert De Niro and Blythe Danner). Unfortunately, Greg’s weekend plans for presenting himself as the “model son” go seriously awry in the face of her father’s overbearing presence. You see, Jack is not a florist, as Greg first believed: he is, in fact, a former CIA agent – who takes his daughter’s marital welfare very seriously! Read more…

TOY STORY 2 – Randy Newman

November 19, 1999 Leave a comment

toystory2Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

When Toy Story first appeared in the scene four years ago, it revolutionized the world of animation. The first computer-generated feature film in motion picture history, and featuring a voice cast line-up that any live action movie would drool over, the film made stars of its fictional lead characters Woody and Buzz Lightyear, launched “to infinity and beyond” as an international catchphrase, and gave the Pixar animation studios carte blanche to develop their production as they saw fit. Now, after the record breaking success of A Bug’s Life two years ago comes the inevitable sequel – Toy Story 2. Read more…