HIGH SPIRITS – George Fenton

November 15, 2018 1 comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

There are some movies where, when you see their plot summary written down, you wonder how they ever got made. One of those is the 1988 movie High Spirits, a bizarre comedy-adventure-romance about Irish ghosts. The film stars Peter O’Toole as Plunkett, the owner of a dilapidated castle in Ireland who comes up with a money-making scheme whereby he will convert the castle into a hotel, pretend that it is ‘the most haunted castle in Europe,’ and sell the idea to gullible American tourists. The scam is a success and the first group of unsuspecting vacationers – Steve Guttenberg, Beverly d’Angelo, Peter Gallagher, Jennifer Tilly – arrives, beguiled by the tales of Gaelic ghosties. However, to everyone’s utter shock, two real ghosts (played by Liam Neeson and Daryl Hannah) actually appear, and start becoming romantically attracted to two of the holidaymakers. The film was written and directed by Neil Jordan, the man behind such serious works as The Company of Wolves and Mona Lisa, and who would later go on to direct The Crying Game, Interview With the Vampire, and Michael Collins. Read more…

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SUSPIRIA – Thom Yorke

November 13, 2018 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Giallo – a popular Italian cinematic sub-genre comprising dark, violent, erotic horror and thriller films – arguably reached its creative peak in 1977 with the release of director Dario Argento’s Suspiria. The story followed a young American dancer named Susie Bannion, who arrives in Berlin to audition for a world-renowned ballet company. However, as she becomes more involved in the work of the company and the lives of the dancers, she begins to realize that the studio is a front for a coven of powerful evil witches. The original Suspiria was a groundbreaking success, and is now considered one of the greatest examples of its genre. This new film, directed by Luca Guadagnino as a follow-up to Call Me By Your Name, takes the story of the original film and its grisly violence and adds a new level of socially aware commentary about female empowerment and politics. It stars Dakota Johnson as Susie, the naïve and wide-eyed all-American girl whose descent into fear and madness is charted by the film, and features Tilda Swinton and Mia Goth in supporting roles. Read more…

AGNES OF GOD – Georges Delerue

November 5, 2018 Leave a comment

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

John Pielmeier’s play 1979 Agnes of God was both a commercial and critical success, achieving a respectable run on Broadway. Norman Jewison convinced Columbia Pictures that the story had big screen potential, and secured backing for the project. He would both produce and direct the film, and brought in Pielmeier to adapt his play for the cinema. Crucial to the film’s success would be finding three actresses to fill the trio of roles on which the story unfolds. Jane Fonda was cast as Dr. Martha Livingston. Joining her would be Anne Bancroft as Mother Superior Miriam Ruth, and Meg Tilly as Sister Agnes Devereaux. The film offers a murder mystery where science and faith intersect and clash. The story reveals nuns rushing from evening prayers to Sister Agnes’s room in answer to her screaming. They discover her bleeding profusely and a dead baby lying in a basket strangled by its umbilical cord. The court assigns Dr. Livingston to assess Sister Agnes for competency to stand trial. A clash of wills unfolds between Dr. Livingston efforts to discover the truth, and Mother Superior efforts to protect her niece, who she believes is innocent. What results is a classic confrontation of science and faith, with both sides working with the best of intentions. Read more…

FIRST MAN – Justin Hurwitz

November 2, 2018 1 comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Since almost the beginning of human civilization, man has had a special relationship with the moon. For millennia it fascinated and lured thinkers and scholars, all of whom theorized about what was up there, what it was made of, how did it get there, and – eventually – whether we would ever visit it. Many of those questions were answered on July 20, 1969, when three brave American astronauts – Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins – touched down on the lunar surface as part of NASA’s Apollo 11 mission, and Armstrong himself became the first human in history to set foot on our celestial partner in the sky. Director Damien Chazelle’s film First Man tells the story of these events, with Ryan Gosling playing Armstrong, Claire Foy playing his wife Janet, and character actors such as Jason Clarke, Kyle Chandler, Corey Stoll, Ciarán Hinds, Christopher Abbott, Patrick Fugit, and Lukas Haas in supporting roles. Read more…

MAGDALENE – Cliff Eidelman

September 6, 2018 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Do you remember what you were doing when you were 24? Maybe you were just starting out at your first proper job, maybe you just got your first apartment, maybe you were embarking on your first relationship. Maybe you were even still at university, dreaming of what your future life might bring once you leave academia and head out into the big wide world. Whatever you were doing, I’m pretty sure you weren’t doing what Cliff Eidelman was doing when he was 24 – which was conducting 120 musicians of the Munich Symphony Orchestra for his debut film score, Magdalene. To say that Eidelman’s rise was meteoric is an enormous understatement; just a year prior to scoring Magdalene he was still a student at the University of Southern California, but this all changed when German film director Monica Teuber somehow heard a performance recording of a ballet score Eidelman had written on commission for Santa Monica City College. On the strength of that music alone Teuber hired Eidelman to score her film; after it came out the score was so well received that it immediately led to other assignments, and within three years he was scoring major studio blockbusters like Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country – and a career was born. Read more…

THE NUN – Abel Korzeniowski

September 4, 2018 2 comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

One of the constant battles I have as a film music reviewer is between music I like and music that is good. Sometimes it’s easy, because the two are the same thing. Often I listen to a score and there are great memorable themes and big sweeping orchestras and powerful lush arrangements; there is a gorgeous love theme, and sometimes bold and exciting action music. This is the stuff I like. Then you get into the meat of it and it’s filled with really cool compositional ideas and contrapuntal writing and rhythmic devices, interesting ways of using the instruments through the orchestrations and via extended performance techniques, clever thematic interplay, and so on. This is when you know it’s good in purely musical terms – and that’s before you even get into things like in-film effectiveness. The problem arises when there’s a conflict, when the music is undeniably superb from a technical and compositional point of view, but it’s something I don’t particularly like listening to, and for me that arises most often in music for horror films. The latest score to give me that problem is The Nun, which is by the outrageously talented Polish composer Abel Korzeniowski. Read more…

OUT OF AFRICA – John Barry

September 3, 2018 Leave a comment

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Notable directors such as Orson Welles, David Lean and Nicolas Roeg had long sought to bring to the big screen the 1937 novel Out of Africa by Isak Dinesan (Karen Blixen). None were successful in adapting the story into a cogent screenplay. Sydney Pollack however was determined to succeed, and after two years of struggle managed with the assistance of screenwriter Kurt Luedtke to fashion a screenplay drawing from Blixen’s “Out of Africa”, but also her novel “Shadows on the Grass” and Elsbeth Huxley’s novel, “The Flame Trees of Thika”. Mirage Enterprises agreed to fund the project, which would be produced by Kim Jurgensen and Sydney Pollack, who would also direct. A fine cast was assembled, which included the dashing Robert Redford as Denys Hatton, Meryl Streep as Karen Blixen, and Klaus Maria Brandauer as Baron Bror von Blixen. The story offers a sad testament to the life of a wealthy Danish woman Karen Blixen, and the love of her life, Denys Hatton. After she is spurned by her Swedish lover, Karen relocates to British East Africa and enters into a loveless marriage of convenience with his brother, Baron Bror Blixen. They plan to start a dairy cattle farm, but on the wedding day Bror informs her that he plans to instead start a coffee plantation. His infidelity leads to her contracting syphilis, which requires that she return to Denmark for treatment. She returns to find Bror more interested in Safaris than her and they separate. Read more…