PIECES OF A WOMAN – Howard Shore

January 19, 2021 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Pieces of a Woman is a serious, emotionally devastating family drama about a pregnant woman named Martha who, following a shocking event during her home birth, finds her entire life falling apart. Wracked with guilt, Martha finds herself becoming increasingly alienated from her husband and mother, receiving judgmental comments from people around her, and eventually contemplating legal action against her midwife – all while coming to terms with her own feelings about what happened to her and her baby. It’s a searing indictment of the issues many women have to face during their pregnancies, including the assignment of blame, and the extent to which many women are not given full control of what should be one of the most important and personal events of their lives. The film was directed by Hungarian filmmaker Kornél Mundruczó, and was adapted from a 2018 stage play by him and writer Kata Wéber; it stars Vanessa Kirby as Martha, and features support from Shia LaBoeuf, Molly Parker, Sarah Snook, and Ellen Burstyn, all of whom have been mentioned as potential Oscar nominees. The film is also notable for its inclusion of a 24-minute opening birth sequence, which was shot in a single take and was largely improvised in the moment by the actors, director Mundruczó, and camera operator Benjamin Loeb. Read more…

COME SEE THE PARADISE – Randy Edelman

January 14, 2021 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Every once in a while, a piece of film music transcends the movie for which it was written and takes on a life of its own, becoming enormously famous and popular with the general public, despite the majority of them having no idea where it originally came from. If you went to a cinema at any point in the 1990s and watched the trailers you will have heard one such cue: a driving, momentum-filled piece of drama and intensity, filled with surging strings, powerful percussion, epic cymbal clashes, even a cimbalom, before it all ends on a gripping, tension-filled chord. It was used in the trailers for everything from Clear and Present Danger to A Few Good Men, Patriot Games to Philadelphia, Rob Roy, and so many others, and it was of course the legendary “Fire in a Brooklyn Theatre”. But, originally, it came from this score – Come See the Paradise by Randy Edelman. Read more…

Under-the-Radar Round Up 2020, Part V

January 12, 2021 Leave a comment

As the year winds down and the COVID-19 Coronavirus continues still to decimate the 2020 theatrical movie schedule, it appears that yet again a lot of the best film music released comes from smaller international features not as reliant on massive theatrical releases to make their presence felt. As such (and as I did last year under much different circumstances) I am very pleased to present the fifth installment in my ongoing series of articles looking at the best “under the radar” scores from around the world – this time concentrating on six more of the best scores from the fourth quarter of 2020!

The titles included are a Christmas-themed animated film from Norway, a documentary about the Spanish civil war, a Russian Romeo-and-Juliet style romantic drama, a Dutch WWII spy thriller, a historical romance from Spain, and Italian biopic of a mad genius painter! Read more…

WHERE EAGLES DARE – Ron Goodwin

January 11, 2021 Leave a comment

MOVIE MUSIC UK CLASSICS

Original Review by Craig Lysy

The genesis of Where Eagles Dare lay with actor Richard Burton, whose career was in decline. His two sons exhorted him to do an adventure film where he was the hero, and did not die in the end. Burton approached producer Elliot Kastner and asked if he had any projects that would fit the bill. He did not but Kastner asked novelist collaborator Alistair MacLean for a new original script to showcase Burton. Well, MacLean delivered the goods, and financing was provided by Winkast Productions with a budget of $6.2 million. Brian Hutton was brought in to direct and a stellar cast assembled to join Richard Burton as Major Jon Smith, including Clint Eastwood as Lieutenant Morris Schaffer, Mary Ure as Mary Ellison, Patrick Wymark as Colonel Wyatt Turner, and Michael Hordern as Vice Admiral Rotland. Read more…

Under-the-Radar Round Up 2020, Part IV

January 8, 2021 Leave a comment

As the year winds down and the COVID-19 Coronavirus continues still to decimate the 2020 theatrical movie schedule, it appears that yet again a lot of the best film music released comes from smaller international features not as reliant on massive theatrical releases to make their presence felt. As such (and as I did last year under much different circumstances) I am very pleased to present the fourth installment in my ongoing series of articles looking at the best “under the radar” scores from around the world – this time concentrating on six of the best scores from the fourth quarter of 2020! The titles include a moving Chinese-Israeli holocaust documentary, an emotional Italian drama, a wonderful Christmas themes score from the Netherlands, a score for a modern LGBTQ love story, a powerful documentary score from Spain, and a children’s animated film about a crazy chicken! Read more…

AWAKENINGS – Randy Newman

January 7, 2021 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

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…

THE MIDNIGHT SKY – Alexandre Desplat

January 5, 2021 1 comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The Midnight Sky is a post-apocalyptic sci-fi drama directed by George Clooney, adapted from the novel by Lily Brooks-Dalton. Clooney himself stars as Augustine Lofthouse, a brilliant NASA scientist who has been searching for habitable planets elsewhere in the universe that humans could colonize. In the year 2049 an unidentified cataclysmic event wipes out most of the Earth’s population; knowing that he is terminally ill, Augustine volunteers to remain behind at an isolated communications base in the Arctic, where he attempts to contact the crew aboard the spacecraft Aether, who are returning to Earth after a successful voyage to a habitable moon orbiting Jupiter, with the intention of telling them not to come back. However, Lofthouse is having trouble successfully contacting the ship, and fears that all may be lost – until he finds a young girl living in the communications base, having apparently been left behind by her family. Inspired by the girl to renew his efforts to make contact, Lofthouse and the girl set out across the icy wastes of the Arctic, heading towards a different radio base, despite the numerous dangers that lie in their path. The film co-stars Felicity Jones, David Oyelowo, Tiffany Boone, Demián Bichir, and Kyle Chandler as the crew of the spacecraft, and was intended to be released in theaters in the fall of 2020 but – of course – was pushed to Netflix instead, yet another cinematic victim of the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more…

THE WIND AND THE LION – Jerry Goldsmith

January 4, 2021 Leave a comment

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Director John Milius was a longtime admirer of President Theodore Roosevelt. By chance he came upon an article “Pedecaris Incident” by Barbara W. Tuchman in American Heritage magazine and found a fascinating story which involved President Roosevelt sending American troops to free an American citizen kidnapped in Morocco by a Berber warlord. He was intrigued by the tale and further investigatory reading of the 1924 biography Raisuli, The Sultan of the Mountains by Rosita Forbes inspired him to proceed with a film adaptation. He had always dreamed of filming a grand sprawling epic film and believed this story gave him his opportunity. Given that this was a passion project, Milius wrote the screenplay himself and related: “I consider ‘The Wind and the Lion’ my first real movie. I approached it as a David Lean film, to do it in that style, a large epic canvas, to see if I could pull off great movements of troops. The story is even written that way. Two guys, the Raisuli and Teddy Roosevelt, yelling at each other across oceans.” However, to get MGM Studios buy in, he had to romanticize the story by changing the kidnapped victim to a beautiful woman, and casting Raisuli as one of the dashing leading men of the day. Herb Jaffe was tasked with producing the film and a budget of $4.5 million was provided. Casting was problematic with Omar Sharif turning down the part of Raisuli and Faye Dunaway withdrawing due to illness. Eventually Sean Connery was cast as Sharif Mulai Ahmed Mohammed Raisuli joined by Candice Bergen as Eden Pedecaris. Joining them would be Brian Keith as President Theodore Roosevelt and John Huston as Secretary of State John Hay. Read more…

SOUL – Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, and Jon Batiste

January 1, 2021 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

It’s been quite fascinating to observe the gradual tonal shift in Pixar’s movies over the years. Although their earliest entries – Toy Story in 1995, A Bug’s Life in 1998, Toy Story 2 in 1999 – contained their fair share of interesting adult and emotional themes in amongst the toy-and-bug based comedy and antics, in recent years the studio has become much more interested in exploring deeply existential themes of life and death. 2017’s Coco saw its Mexican protagonist journey to the fabled ‘land of the dead’ to seek a deceased family member, while Onward from earlier this year saw two alternate-reality fantasy elves trying to spend one more day with their deceased father. Pixar’s new film, Soul, may be the most ambitious one yet. It follows the story of Joe Gardner, a middle school band teacher who dreams of being a jazz musician; after an accident on the way back from a gig audition Joe finds himself literally separated from his soul and on his way to the ‘great beyond’. However, when Joe rebels against his fate because he doesn’t believe he has achieved what he was destined to do, he instead finds himself acting as a mentor to a pre-born soul named 22 who has been unable and unwilling to find the ‘spark’ she needs in order to achieve life on Earth. The film is directed by Pete Docter and features the voices of Jamie Foxx, Tina Fey, Graham Norton, and Rachel House. Read more…

THE RUSSIA HOUSE – Jerry Goldsmith

December 31, 2020 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The great British author John le Carré died at the age of 89 just a couple of weeks ago on December 12th, so it is perhaps appropriate that we’re taking a look at the music from one of the best films adapted from his work – The Russia House, which was released thirty years ago. The film is directed by Fred Schepisi and stars Sean Connery as Barley Blair, a publisher who, after attending a book fair in the Soviet Union, finds himself becoming embroiled in a labyrinthine plot about nuclear arms proliferation, the military industrial complex, and a disgruntled Soviet nuclear physicist who is trying to smuggle his own state secrets to the west through Barley’s company, in the hope that it will hasten the end of the cold war. Thrown into the middle of all this is the increasingly romantic relationship between Barley and the beautiful Katya (Michelle Pfeiffer), a Russian book publisher acting as the go-between for the information exchange, who may or may not be a KGB agent. The film has a terrific supporting cast, including Roy Scheider, James Fox, John Mahoney, and Klaus Maria Brandauer, and has a score by Jerry Goldsmith. Read more…

WONDER WOMAN 1984 – Hans Zimmer

December 29, 2020 5 comments

Original 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.

Perhaps the biggest casualty of the COVID-19 cinema apocalypse was Wonder Woman 1984, director Patty Jenkins’s sequel to her massively popular 2017 super hero-smash charting the origins of the titular warrior hero. Wonder Woman 1984 was supposed to be Warner’s summer blockbuster tentpole, and was originally going to be released in theaters in June, then August, then October of 2020, before it mostly bypassed cinemas altogether and debuted on HBO Max on Christmas Day. But, even without the full-blown big-screen release, Wonder Woman 1984 is still a huge dose of unpretentious, action-packed fun. The film is set in the early 1980s and sees Gal Gadot returning in the title role, masquerading as museum curator Diana Prince by day, while continuing to fight crime as Wonder Woman. When Diana’s museum comes into possession of a mysterious ‘dreamstone’ that apparently grants wishes, things quickly spiral out of control, first when Diana wishes for her deceased lover from WWI Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) to be reincarnated, and then when her mousy colleague Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig) wishes to be like Diana. Eventually ambitious businessman Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal) – who has coveted the dreamstone for years – manipulates Barbara into getting it from the museum for him, and with it he initiates a megalomaniacal plot to take over the world. Read more…

THE GREAT ESCAPE – Elmer Bernstein

December 28, 2020 Leave a comment

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Director John Sturges had long desired to bring the amazing true to life WWII novel The Great Escape by Paul Brockhill to the big screen but could never secure financial backing. All this changed in 1960 following his stunning critical and commercial success directing The Magnificent Seven. He secured financial backing from the Mirisch Company and United Artists, and would produce the film, as well as direct it with a budget of $3.8 million. A legendary cast was assembled, which included Steve McQueen as Virgil Hilts, James Garner as Lieutenant Robert Hendley, Richard Attenborough as Squadron Leader Roger Bartlett, Charles Bronson as Lieutenant Danny Velinski, James Donald as Captain Ramsey, Donald Pleasence as Lieutenant Colin Blythe, James Colburn as Flying Officer Louis Sedgwick, David McCallum as Lieutenant Commander Eric Ashley Pitt, and Hannes Messemer as Kommandant Oberst von Luger. Read more…

NEWS OF THE WORLD – James Newton Howard

December 22, 2020 3 comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Back in the late 1800s news readers were, obviously, not the people we tune into on the TV every night. Instead, individuals would go from town to town – especially rural, isolated towns – armed with copies of all the big newspapers from the cities, and would charge folk a dime a head to read the news aloud from the journals. Director Paul Greengrass’s new film News of the World, adapted from the novel by Paulette Jiles, is about one such man. Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd is a civil war veteran, now making his living as a news reader. Kidd’s life changes when he is entrusted with the care of a 10-year-old girl named Johanna, who had been abducted by local Kiowa natives years previously, and subsequently grew up within the tribe. Kidd agrees to transport Johanna to her only remaining family in Texas, but Johanna has been captive so long that she would prefer to stay with the Kiowa, and she views her return to those distant relatives as a kind of second kidnapping. Nevertheless, Kidd and Johanna begin their long journey across the wild west, encountering danger and treachery as they do so. The film stars Tom Hanks as Kidd and Helena Zengel as Johanna, and is tipped to be a major player at the upcoming Academy Awards. Read more…

THE GADFLY – Dmitri Shostakovich

December 21, 2020 Leave a comment

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

One day it dawned to director Aleksandr Faintsimmer that the popular 1897 novel Ovod – The Gadfly – by Ethel Voynich lent itself well for adaptation to the big screen. Its tale of revolutionary zeal, the excoriation of an anachronistic church and the unification of oppressed people in a modern egalitarian state had long been promoted by the Soviet Ministry of Culture. The book was also very popular with the populace, selling 2.5 million copies. He pitched his idea to the Ministry of Culture and secured backing after a review of the screenplay, which was written by Viktor Shklovsky. Lenfilm, a production unit of the Soviet Union, was formally authorized to produce the film. A fine cast was assembled, which included Oleg Strizhenov as Arthur Burton/Felice Rivarez, Marianna Strizhenova as Gemma, Nikolai Simonov as Cardinal Montanelli and Vladimir Etush as Cesare Martini. Read more…

WILD MOUNTAIN THYME – Amelia Warner

December 18, 2020 2 comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Wild Mountain Thyme is an Irish-themed romantic comedy drama, written and directed by John Patrick Shanley, based on his own 2014 stage play Outside Mullingar. The film stars Emily Blunt as Rosemary Muldoon, a headstrong young woman who owns a farm in rural Ireland. Rosemary’s farm is adjacent to another one, owned by the elderly Tony Reilly (Christopher Walken) and his son Anthony (Jamie Dornan). Rosemary has been romantically interested in Anthony her entire life, but Anthony is shy, and a little ‘odd,’ and is unaware of Rosemary’s feelings for him. Not only that, Anthony continually claims how much he dislikes farming, and does not want to take over the property after his father dies. Things come to a head when Tony decides to leave the farm to Adam Kelly (John Hamm), a distant nephew in America; when Adam visits the farm he takes an immediate romantic liking to Rosemary, forcing Anthony to finally decide what he truly wants out of life. Read more…