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STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS – John Williams

December 21, 2015 4 comments

theforceawakensOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS PLOT SPOILERS. IF YOU HAVE NOT YET SEEN THE FILM, YOU MIGHT WANT TO CONSIDER WAITING UNTIL AFTER YOU HAVE DONE SO TO READ IT.

When John Williams first sat down to write the score for the original Star Wars over the winter of 1976, I doubt that even he could have imagined that he would still be writing music for those characters, and that universe, some 39 years later. There aren’t many film scores you can point to as being an actual turning point, a watershed moment in the history of the genre, but Star Wars was unquestionably one of those, and it went on to inspire a generation of filmmakers, composers, and fans. To say that The Force Awakens, the seventh film in the Star Wars franchise, is an eagerly awaited film would perhaps be one of the greatest understatements of all time – I don’t think I have ever seen a film with this much marketing, pre-release hype, and fevered anticipation – and, thankfully, it does not disappoint in any way. More than any installment in the prequels did, The Force Awakens feels like a proper Star Wars movie, a return to the fun and crowd-pleasing filmmaking of the original trio, and director J. J. Abrams should be congratulated for returning the franchise to its roots, and going some way to banishing the ghost of Jar Jar Binks forever. Read more…

THE RIVER – John Williams

January 22, 2015 Leave a comment

theriverTHROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The River is a contemporary drama film directed by Mark Rydell, starring Mel Gibson and Sissy Spacek as Tom and Mae Garvey, a married couple trying to make ends meet on their farm in rural Tennessee. Over the course of several years, Tom and his family battle desperately to save and hold on to their home, despite the threats they face when a bank threatens to repossess their farm, when severe storms threaten to make the nearby river burst its banks and ruin their crops, and when a ruthless hydroelectric developer (played by Scott Glenn) threatens to cut off their power supply for his own ends. The film was a moderate critical success when it opened in cinemas in December 1984, and picked up four Academy Award nominations, with nods for Spacek as Best Actress, cinematography, sound, and John Williams’s folksy original score. Williams wrote The River at a time when he was still regularly working with multiple directors, and this was the last of his five collaborations with director Rydell, which previously encompassed similarly Americana-heavy films such as The Reivers, The Cowboys, The Long Goodbye, and Cinderella Liberty. Read more…

INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM – John Williams

September 11, 2014 2 comments

indianajonesandthetempleofdoomTHROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Even after thirty years, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom remains one of the most iconic and beloved action films of the 1980s. A darker, scarier prequel to Raiders of the Lost Ark, Steven Spielberg’s film has Harrison Ford returning as the archaeologist-adventurer Indiana Jones, crossing paths with Chinese jewel smugglers in Shanghai in 1934. After his deal with the Triads goes wrong, Indy flees on a plane with his diminutive sidekick Short Round (Ke Huy Quan) and nightclub singer Willie Scott (Kate Capshaw), only to crash over the Himalayas, washing up in a remote Indian village. Before long, Indy is embroiled in yet another adventure, this time involving missing children, ancient mystical stones said to have magic powers, and a terrifying cult that worships the Hindu goddess Kali. The film was a massive commercial success, ending up the third highest grossing film of 1984 with an adjusted-for-inflation gross of almost $436 million, and received two Academy Award nominations, including one for its score by John Williams. Read more…

THE BOOK THIEF – John Williams

November 16, 2013 2 comments

bookthiefOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

The Book Thief, based on the popular novel by Markus Zusak, is a World War II drama set in Germany about the power of the written word. Young Sophie Nélisse stars as the lead character, Liesel, who is sent to live with foster parents (Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson), just as the specter of war looms over the country and Nazism begins to take hold. Through her innocent eyes Liesel begins to witness the first months of what would be eventually become the Holocaust, but through the compassion of her new parents, their imparted love of books and literature, and her friendship with of a young Jewish man named Max, she finds a way to deal with the atrocities that are starting to take place in her community. The film is directed by Brian Percival, best known for his work on the critically acclaimed TV series Downton Abbey, and has a score by the legendary John Williams. Read more…

LINCOLN – John Williams

October 23, 2012 3 comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

In the annals of American political history, virtually no-one is as universally admired, revered and respected as Abraham Lincoln. Born into relative poverty in Kentucky in 1809, Lincoln rose from being a simple country lawyer to being elected the 16th President of the United States in 1860. During the course of his presidency Lincoln essentially re-defined the United States as we know it today, successfully defeating the Confederacy in the four-year Civil War, issuing the Emancipation Proclamation that essentially ended slavery in the country, and delivering the Gettysburg Address, one of the most famous political speeches of all time. He was re-elected in 1864 but, as we all know, was assassinated by actor John Wilkes Booth while watching a play in a Washington DC theatre in April 1865, before he could fully establish his second term. There have been many films over the years featuring Lincoln as a central figure, but director Steven Spielberg’s film – simply titled “Lincoln” – is a straightforward biopic of the man’s life and achievements. The film stars Daniel Day Lewis in the eponymous role, and features a stellar supporting cast including Sally Field as Lincoln’s wife Mary Todd, Tommy Lee Jones as republican leader Thaddeus Stevens, Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Lincoln’s son Robert, David Strathairn as secretary of state William Seward, and Jackie Earle Haley, James Spader, John Hawkes, Jared Harris and Hal Holbrook in smaller roles. Read more…

WAR HORSE – John Williams

January 11, 2012 2 comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

A variation on the classic Black Beauty tale about of the life of a heroic horse, filtered through the cinematic lens of director John Ford, War Horse is director Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of the well-regarded novel by Michael Morpurgo about the adventures of a horse named Joey during World War I. The action moves from rural Devon, where young Joey is raised as a plow horse by Albert Narracott (Jeremy Irvine) to work on his father’s farm, to the battlefields of central Europe after he is sold to the British Army upon the outbreak of war and is adopted by a kindly cavalry officer as his personal mount. Moving from adventure to adventure, Joey makes his way through the mire of The Great War, serving on both sides of the conflict – and all the while young Albert, now himself serving in the trenches, never gives up hope of being reunited with his equine friend. The film co-stars Peter Mullan, Emily Watson, David Thewlis, Niels Arestrup, Tom Hiddleston and Benedict Cumberbatch, and of course has a score by the venerable John Williams, his second score of 2011 after several years away from the podium. Read more…

THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN: THE SECRET OF THE UNICORN – John Williams

October 23, 2011 5 comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

I think you have to be Belgian, or at least a Francophone, to fully appreciate all the subtleties and nuances of Tintin. Created by the Belgian artist and author Georges Rémi under his pen name Hergé, the character first appeared in print in 1929 and went on to appear in 23 adventure novels spanning a 46-year period up until 1975, followed by the posthumous publication of a final story in 1986, three years after Hergé’s death. Not only that, the stories have been adapted for radio, theatre, and a popular 1960s animated television show with its famous voiceover proclaiming that you are watching “Hergé’s Adventures of Tintin!” Despite all that, and for reasons I have never fully understood I was never a fan of the franchise – unlike Hollywood giant Steven Spielberg, who is not a Francophone, but who is adapting the story for its first major big screen adventure using state of the art-motion capture technology. Read more…

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