ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL – Tom Holkenborg

March 19, 2019 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Hollywood’s increasing interest in bringing new versions of Japanese anime titles to an American audience continues with the release of Alita: Battle Angel, adapted from the eponymous 1990s comic book series by Yukito Kishiro. The film was written and produced by James Cameron, who originally intended to direct the project himself when it was first announced in 2003, but after sitting in ‘development hell’ for well over a decade, it was eventually helmed by Robert Rodriguez. The story is set in a post-apocalyptic future and focuses on Alita (Rosa Salazar), a female cyborg who has lost all her memories and is found in a junkyard by cybernetics doctor Dyson Ido (Christoph Waltz). Ido rebuilds Alita and takes care of her like she is his daughter; eventually, however, Alita discovers that she has immense strength and fighting skills, which leads to her becoming a bounty hunter, and eventually learning more about her past. The film co-stars Oscar winners Mahershala Ali and Jennifer Connelly, and has been a surprisingly popular critical and commercial success, overcoming the film’s misleading marketing that entirely omits the significant sports movie plot, as well as its potential for trips to the ‘uncanny valley’ in terms of Alita’s look and design. Read more…

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LEGENDS OF THE FALL – James Horner

March 18, 2019 Leave a comment

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Having just finished the comedy Leaving Normal, director Edward Zwick decided to change direction and film an epic historical drama, which showcased the talent of rising star Brad Pitt as a romantic leading man. To that end he found the perfect vehicle in the 1978 novella Legends of the Fall by Jim Harrison. His production company Bedford Falls purchased the film rights with TriStar Pictures agreeing to distribute. Zwick, William Wittliff and Marshal Herskovist would produce the film, with Zwick directing. He hired screenwriters Susan Shilliday and William D. Wittliff to adapt the story for the big screen and brought in an outstanding cast, which included Brad Pitt as Tristan Ludlow, Anthony Hopkins as Colonel William Ludlow, Aiden Quinn as Alfred Ludlow, Henry Thomas as Samuel Ludlow, and Juilia Ormond as Susannah Fincannon. The film is set in the territory of Montana circa 1890 when Colonel William Ludlow resigns his commission, loathe to continue his part in the army’s cruel betrayal and slaughter of native Americans. He settles on a ranch in a remote part of Montana where he and his wife Isabel live a tranquil existence in peace. Isabel bears him three sons – Tristan, Alfred, and Samuel – but ends up leaving him as she is unable to bear the isolation and long harsh winters, which forces William to raise the boys himself. Almost 20 years later, the the now-grown Samuel returns home to the ranch with his fiancé Susannah, but this is a harbinger of sorrow as it precipitates a series of tragic events which fracture the family and set brother against brother as they compete for her affections. Read more…

CAPTAIN MARVEL – Pinar Toprak

March 12, 2019 2 comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Captain Marvel is being touted as a game-changing film in a number of important ways. As the 21st official entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe series of films that began with Iron Man in 2008, it’s the first to be led by a female protagonist, and the first to have a female director, with Anna Boden co-directing alongside Ryan Fleck. In an era where the promotion of woman-centric films and female filmmakers has been such a major issue in Hollywood this is encouraging, but it’s also sobering that this is such news, by way of the fact that this hasn’t been done before. Assuming that Captain Marvel is the gigantic box office hit that many expect it to be, going forward one would hope that male and female filmmakers are given the same opportunities to succeed as each other, in an environment where talent and creativity are more important than gender, and where female protagonists in films are just part of the norm and not rare events that need to be singled out for special praise. Read more…

ON GOLDEN POND – Dave Grusin

March 11, 2019 Leave a comment

MOVIE MUSIC UK CLASSICS

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Jane Fonda was an avid reader, and happened to come across the novel On Golden Pond by Ernest Thompson. She was captivated by the story and bought the film rights, intending for her father Henry Fonda to play the lead role of Norman Thayer. She secured financial backing for the film from Lord Grade, of the British studio ITC Entertainment. Bruce Gilbert was assigned to produce the film, and Mark Rydell was tasked with directing. Jane Fonda had always intended that this film would be a father-daughter endeavor, and so her father Henry Fonda was hired to play Norman Thayer, while she would play the estranged daughter Chelsea. The story’s father-daughter estrangement mirrored the real-life relationship of Jane and her father and ultimately proved to be cathartic, in that it restored their relationship. Joining them would be Katherine Hepburn as Ethel Thayer, Doug McKeon and Billy Ray, Dabney Coleman as Bill Ray, and William Lanteau as Charlie Martin. Read more…

DANGEROUS LIAISONS – George Fenton

February 28, 2019 1 comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Dangerous Liaisons was originally a stage play by British playwright Christopher Hampton, whose work was an ambitious attempt to adapt Pierre Choderlos de Laclos’s classic 1782 novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses for modern audiences through the Royal Shakespeare Company. It is a dark drama about seduction and revenge set in France in the years immediately preceding the Revolution. Two aristocrats, the Marquise de Merteuil and the Vicomte de Valmont, conspire together to ruin the lives of various former lovers for no other reason than to satisfy their own amusement and petty jealousies; eventually, they fixate on the virginal Cécile de Volanges, who is engaged to Merteuil’s former lover, and Madame de Tourvel, the devoutly religious wife of one of Valmont’s supposed friends. What transpires is a damning exposé of the insouciance of the rich, who use wealth and sexuality as weapons, and indulge in selfish whims and fancies with no regard for the destruction it causes to those around them. Hampton re-wrote his play for the big screen in 1988, where it was directed with lavish decadence by Stephen Frears. Glenn Close starred as the merciless Merteuil, John Malkovich was suave as the predatory Valmont, and Michelle Pfeiffer and Uma Thurman suffered as the unwitting subjects of their ploy. Both Close and Pfeiffer received Oscar nominations for their performances, and the film was a critical success, winning three Academy Awards, picking up two more nominations, and inspiring an updated version – Cruel Intentions – set in New York in 1999. Read more…

HAPPY DEATH DAY 2U – Bear McCreary

February 27, 2019 2 comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Blumhouse’s low-budget comedy horror slasher film Happy Death Day was an unexpected critical and commercial success in 2017. Audiences really connected with it’s appealing cast, knowing and witty sense of humor, plentiful scares, and clever mix of genres – perhaps the best description of the film was ‘Groundhog Day meets Scream’. The film starred Jessica Rothe as Tree, a university student who is stalked around campus and eventually murdered by someone wearing a ‘baby mask’ similar to those worn by her school’s mascot. The twist comes by way of the fact that Tree is caught in a time loop, and every time she dies she wakes up again that same morning in her dorm room, fated to continue this cycle of being murdered again and again until she finds out who the killer is. In this sequel, which is again directed by Christopher Landon, Tree finds herself caught in the time loop for a second time – despite her having solved her own murder at the end of the first film – but this time is required to team up with a group of experimental science students who appear to have created a parallel universe where Tree’s killer still exists. The film co-stars Israel Broussard, Phi Vu, Ruby Modine, and Suraj Sharma from Life of Pi. Read more…

JURASSIC PARK – John Williams

February 25, 2019 2 comments

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Steven Spielberg became aware of Michael Crichton’s novel Jurassic Park as the two collaborated on the television series E.R. A bidding war for the rights ensued, with Spielberg and Universal Pictures prevailing over Warner Brothers and Tim Burton, Columbia Pictures and Richard Donner, James Cameron and Joe Dante. Kathleen Kennedy and Gerald Molen would produce the film with Spielberg directing. Spielberg understood the challenges he faced bring the dinosaurs to life and sought at all costs to not repeat the technical nightmare he experienced in Jaws. He turned to George Lucas’ Industrial Light and Magic Company to create groundbreaking computer –generated imagery and ended up making history. Crichton was hired to adapt his novel to the screen but Spielberg was unsatisfied with the violence. Malia Scotch Marmo was tasked with the rewrite in late 1991, but she also did not satisfy Spielberg’s vision. Universal executives brought in Casey Silver and David Koepp who ultimately crafted the script used in the film. A fine cast was assembled with Sam Neill securing the role of Alan Grant after William Hurt and Harrison Ford both declined. Joining him would be Laura Dern as Ellie Sattler, Jeff Goldblum as Ian Malcolm, Richard Attenborough as John Hammond, Bob Peck as Robert Muldoon, Samuel Jackson as Ray Arnold, B.D. Wong as Henry Wu, and Ariana Richards and Joseph Mazzello as Hammond’s niece and nephew Lex and Tim. Read more…