THE ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN – Michael Kamen

April 25, 2019 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The fictional German aristocrat Baron Hieronymus Karl Friedrich Freiherr von Munchausen was created in 1785 as a conduit for author Rudolf-Erich Raspe’s fanciful tales of absurdity and social and political satire. Munchausen had been a familiar name in literary circles for more than 200 years before writer-director and former Monty Python member Terry Gilliam embarked on making a film based on the ‘life’ of the Baron. A lavish and almost cartoonishly flamboyant adventure, the film stars John Neville as the elderly Baron, who interrupts a play based on his own life in order to correct the details. Munchausen regales the rapt audience with recollections of his astonishing life, during which he fought in a war against the Turks, traveled to the moon in a hot air balloon, was swallowed by an enormous sea creature, and much more besides – but by the end of the story many of the audience members are questioning whether the far-fetched tales really have any basis in reality. The film co-starred Eric Idle, Sarah Polley, Oliver Reed, Uma Thurman, Jonathan Pryce, and Robin Williams, and was the third of Gilliam’s Imagination trilogy of films that also included Time Bandits and Brazil, and which were intended to explore the ‘battle between fantasy and what people perceive as reality’. Unfortunately the film was a commercial disaster, grossing less than $10 million at the box office, although its visual elements were praised and received Academy Award nominations for Art Direction, Costume Design, Visual Effects, and Makeup. Read more…

DUMBO – Danny Elfman

April 23, 2019 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The recent Disney trend of making live-action versions of their animated classics continues with Dumbo, a re-imagined version of their 1941 film about a baby elephant with ears so big that he can use them to fly. The original Dumbo was short – just over an hour – and so director Tim Burton and screenwriter Ehren Kruger had to flesh out some additional material to make it feature length. The basic core of the story is the same – a young baby elephant is born in a traveling circus and is ridiculed by crowds for his enormous ears, until he wins over audiences with his ability to fly – but it adds a great deal of depth and back story to the supporting human characters, including the good-hearted elephant keeper Holt (Colin Farrell), circus owner Medici (Danny De Vito), trapeze artist Colette (Eva Green), and unscrupulous businessman Vandevere (Michael Keaton), who wants to take over Medici’s circus for his own nefarious purposes. Interestingly, the new film excises several of the original film’s plot points entirely, including Dumbo’s relationship with the anthropomorphic ringmaster mouse Timothy, and Dumbo’s encounter with the ‘Jim crows,’ although the latter is probably a good thing due to the overtly racist overtones of those characters. Read more…

TITANIC – James Horner

April 22, 2019 1 comment

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

James Cameron had long been fascinated with shipwrecks and conceived to write a love story set on the greatest shipwreck of all time – the RMS Titanic. He believed that telling the story of the sinking of the great ship in and of itself was insufficient, so the addition of a love story as well as an intimate exploration of the lives of the people who died would add a compelling narrative to the tale. He pitched his story to 20th Century Fox executives as ‘Romeo and Juliet on the Titanic’. They bought his idea given his resume of directorial success, as they wanted to secure him for future projects. He was provided with the largest budget ever for a film at that time – $200 million – and took it upon himself to do what had never been done before; to produce, direct, write and edit a film. He brought in a fine cast to support his vision, including Leonardo Di Caprio as Jack Dawson, Kate Winslet as Rose DeWitt Bukater, Billy Zane as Cal Hockley, Frances Fisher as Ruth DeWitt Bukater, Gloria Stuart as the older Rose, Kathy Bates as the Unsinkable Margaret “Molly” Brown, Victor Garber as Thomas Andrews, Bill Paxton as Brock Lovett, David Warner as Spicer Lovejoy, and Danny Nucci as Fabrizio De Rossi. Read more…

FAREWELL TO THE KING – Basil Poledouris

April 18, 2019 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Farewell to the King is an action-adventure-drama written and directed by John Milius, adapted from the 1969 novel L’Adieu au Roi by Pierre Schoendoerffer. The film stars Nick Nolte as Learoyd, an American soldier during World War II, who escapes from a Japanese firing squad and flees into the jungles of Borneo. Over time, Learoyd is adopted into a tribe of Dayaks, the original inhabitants of the island, and becomes their leader, finding peace and tranquility in his new, simple life. That life is shattered, however, when British soldiers led by Captain Fairbourne (Nigel Havers) and Colonel Ferguson (James Fox), approach the tribe and try to convince Learoyd to re-join the war against the Japanese. When he refuses to do so, Learoyd quickly finds himself having to fight to protect his new tribe. The film, which shares tonal and story similarities with films ranging from The Man Who Would Be King, Heart of Darkness, and Dances With Wolves, to Avatar, is virtually forgotten today. Behind-the-scenes in-fighting between Milius and the studio led to the film staggering into cinemas in the spring of 1989, having been heavily re-edited against the director’s wishes. It was not a success, either critically or financially, and would likely not be on anyone’s radar today were it not for the score, by Basil Poledouris. Read more…

PET SEMATARY – Christopher Young

April 17, 2019 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

For many years, from the late 1970s through to the end of the 1990s, cinematic adaptations of novels by Stephen King were everywhere. Director Brian de Palma started it all with Carrie in 1976, and over the course of the next 20 years or so, film after film and TV series after TV series came out. Titles like Salem’s Lot, The Shining, Cujo, The Dead Zone, Christine, Children of the Corn, Stand By Me, The Running Man, It, Misery, The Dark Half, Needful Things, The Tommyknockers, The Stand, The Shawshank Redemption, Dolores Claiborne, The Green Mile, and many others, have received critical acclaim, box office success, cult status, or all three. Such is their enduring popularity that we are now in the realm where certain titles are on their second or third version, and this is the case with Pet Sematary. It is based on King’s 1983 novel, and was originally adapted for the screen in 1989 by director Mary Lambert. The film tells the story of the Creed family, who move to Maine when the father, Louis, accepts a job as the doctor at a local school. When Church, the family cat, is run over on the road outside their home, Louis and his elderly neighbor Jud Crandall take the body to a ‘pet cemetery’ deep in the woods by the Creed property, and bury it; the following day, the cat returns, apparently having been supernaturally resurrected. However, Church is now vicious and aggressive, whereas before he was sweet-natured and lovable. Some months later, Louis’s daughter Ellie is killed in a terrible traffic accident on the same road; distraught, and despite Jud’s dire warnings, Louis takes her body to the pet cemetery too… with naturally horrific results. The film stars Jason Clarke, John Lithgow, Amy Seimetz, and Jeté Laurence, and is directed by Dennis Widmyer and Kevin Kolsch. Read more…

CRIMSON TIDE – Hans Zimmer

April 15, 2019 1 comment

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer happen to view a documentary film titled Submarines: Sharks of Steel, and became inspired to bring a submarine drama to the big screen. The initial screenplay told the story of a Trident submarine crew attempting to stop the ship’s computer from independently launching nuclear missiles and starting World War III. When they pitched their idea to the Department of the Navy they characterized the movie as “The Hunt for Red October meets 2001: A Space Odyssey.” They obtained permission from the U.S. Navy for the creative team to perform research by sailing aboard the Trident missile submarine USS Florida from Bangor, Washington. A few months later they submitted a revised script by Michael Schiffer in which an Executive Officer leads a mutiny against the Captain to prevent a nuclear missile launch. Well, the Navy balked against this assault on its traditions and refused to cooperate further. Undeterred, the production team secured assistance from the French navy to support the film. Jerry Bruckheimer and Don Simpson would produce the film, with Tony Scott tasked with directing. A fine cast was brought in, including Gene Hackman as the imperious Captain Frank Ramsey, Denzel Washington as Executive Officer (XO) Ron Hunter, George Dzundza as Chief of Boat (COB) Walters, Matt Craven as Communications Officer Roy Zimmer, Viggo Mortensen as Weapons Officer Peter Ince, and James Gandolfini as Supplies Officer. Read more…

SHAZAM – Benjamin Wallfisch

April 7, 2019 2 comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

In the race to make a movie about every single comic book character in history, DC have lagged behind Marvel in terms of mining their back catalogue in the search for box office gold. Whereas Marvel have unearthed hitherto little-known gems like the Guardians of the Galaxy, Ant-Man, and Black Panther to sit alongside Spider-Man, Captain America, the Hulk, and Iron Man, the folks over at DC have tended to build everything around their ‘big three’ – Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. However, having suffered lackluster critical reviews for their most recent efforts at putting these luminary characters on the silver screen, the producers have now started to dip into their archives in search of characters to explore. The latest of these is Shazam, written by Henry Gayden and Darren Lemke, and directed by horror movie veteran David F. Sandberg. The film stars Asher Angel as Billy Batson, a 14-year-old orphan kid with a ‘pure heart’ who is chosen by an ancient wizard to become a super hero. When he says the wizard’s name – Shazam! – Billy is magically transformed into an adult super hero (Zachary Levi), and together with his best friend Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer), Billy sets about discovering his powers. However, this attracts the attention of the evil Dr Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong), who has spent his entire life trying to discover the secret of Shazam’s power, and who has harnessed the physical manifestations of the seven deadly sins in order to do so. Read more…