TOY SOLDIERS – Robert Folk

April 22, 2021 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Toy Soldiers is an action drama directed by Daniel Petrie Jr., from a screenplay written by David Koepp. The plot concerns a Colombian terrorist, Luis Cali (Andrew Divoff), who launches a violent assault on an elite American prep school where the son of the judge who is prosecuting his drug lord father is a student. When his intended target cannot be found, Cali instead takes the entire school hostage, including the dean (Louis Gossett) and headmaster (Denholm Elliott), demanding that his father be released. However, Cali doesn’t count on a group of resourceful and rebellious students – Sean Astin and Wil Wheaton among them – who take steps to end the siege before the authorities can end it themselves. The film was a modest box office success back when it was released, but it has mostly been forgotten these days, which is quite unfortunate because it is not without its guilty pleasures. Read more…

MANIPULATED – Scott Glasgow

April 20, 2021 1 comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Manipulated is a new low-budget mystery thriller whodunit, written and directed by Matt Berman. The film stars Kelly Perine as Scott Keating, an experienced interrogator who works with law enforcement to track down serial killers. In the aftermath of a personal tragedy, Keating returns to his hometown, but soon becomes embroiled in a new murder case, and is enlisted to help the police solve a case mystery can’t crack, and figure out which of three women killed a man in cold blood. The film has a fun B-movie supporting cast including the likes of Traci Lords, Chase Masterson, Michael Paré, and John de Lancie, and recently premiered straight-to-streaming in the United States. Read more…

JUAREZ – Erich Wolfgang Korngold

April 19, 2021 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

In 1935 producer Hal Wallis sought out director Max Reinhardt’s assistance in his next project; bringing the tale of Maximilian and Juárez to the big screen. He believed that Bertita Harding’s 1934 novel The Phantom Crown was a tragic tale, which needed its story told. Jack L. Warner agreed and purchased the film rights to the novel, as well as the play “Juárez and Maximilian” by Franz Werfel. He tasked Aeneas McKenzie in writing the screenplay, and to ensure historical accuracy three hundred books were acquired on the subject and two historians were hired to assist with the script. The initial script was too massive to present in a single film, so John Huston and Wolfgang Reinhardt were hired to make the necessary edits. Progress was made and in 1938 the studio gave the green light for production with William Dieterle was given the director reins. A stellar cast was hired, with Paul Muni as Benito Juárez, Bette Davis as Carlotta of Mexico, Brian Aherne as Maximilian I of Mexico, Claude Rains as Emperor Napoleon III of France, and John Garfield as Porfirio Diaz. Read more…

THUNDER FORCE – Fil Eisler

April 16, 2021 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The latest high-concept comedy from husband-and-wife filmmaking team Ben Falcone and Melissa McCarthy is Thunder Force, a spoof of recent superhero movies. The film is set in a world almost 40 years after a ‘cosmic ray blast’ turned some of Chicago’s inhabitants into “miscreants,” lethal villains with superhero-like powers. Melissa McCarthy plays Lydia, a middle-aged woman whose former high school best friend Emily (Octavia Spencer) is now the CEO of a scientific research company. Despite the pair having been estranged for decades, Lydia shows up at Emily’s office complex one day to ask her to their school reunion; while there, Lydia inadvertently injects herself with a serum which gives her superpowers of her own. It turns out that Emily has been secretly developing a way to fight back against the Miscreants by inventing a way to turn regular people into superheroes – and now, with Lydia having taken the serum, she and Emily must join together as the crime-fighting duo Thunder Force. The film co-stars Bobby Cannavale, Pom Klementieff, and Jason Bateman wearing prosthetic crab claws, and much like last year’s Superintelligence was a fun, lightweight action-comedy that had way more laughs than it had any right to have. Read more…

THE HARD WAY – Arthur B. Rubinstein

April 15, 2021 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

One of the first star vehicles written for Michael J. Fox to capitalize on his post-Back to the Future popularity was this film, the action-comedy The Hard Way, directed by John Badham. Fox plays Nick Lang, a popular movie star who is researching his next role, playing a tough on-screen detective. As part of his preparation Lang asks to observe a real life tough cop, and is partnered with John Moss, a hard-boiled NYPD veteran, played by James Woods. Moss is irritated by Lang’s superficiality and irritating cheerfulness, and initially grudgingly agrees to go along with things, but soon is trying everything in order to get Nick out of his life – until the pair of them get involved in the case of the so-called Party Crasher, a serial killer targeting women he finds in nightclubs. The film co-starred Stephen Lang and Annabella Sciorra, and featured a genuinely great score by the late Arthur B. Rubinstein. Read more…

THE UNITED STATES VS. BILLIE HOLIDAY – Kris Bowers

April 13, 2021 4 comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

There have been several films and plays made about the life and work of the great jazz singer Billie Holiday, who died in 1959 aged just 44. Lady Sings the Blues from 1972 earned Diana Ross an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress, while Audra McDonald received unanimous critical praise for her performance as her in Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill a few years ago. The latest actress to play her on screen is Andra Day in the Lee Daniels-directed The United States vs. Billie Holiday. The film follows Holiday at the height of her fame and explores two story strands that speak to the African American experience in the 1940s; the first concerns her role at the center of the ‘War on Drugs’ wherein Holiday – a long-time heroin addict – becomes a target for the federal government and is seduced by and has a long-term relationship with narcotics agent Jimmy Fletcher (Trevante Rhodes), who was taking part in an undercover sting operation against her. The second concerns the effort of similar authorities to stop her performing the controversial song “Strange Fruit,” an anti-racism song written in response to the lynchings of young black men in the 1930s. Read more…

BAFTA Winners 2020

April 11, 2021 Leave a comment

The British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) have announced the winners of the 74th British Academy Film Awards, honoring the best in film in 2020.

In the Best Original Music category, the winners were Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, and Jon Batiste, who won the award for their work on the Pixar animated film Soul. Accepting the award on behalf of the trio via Zoom, British composer Atticus Ross said:

“Wow, thank you BAFTA. First off I’d like to celebrate the incredible talent of my musical partners, Trent Reznor and Jon Batiste. For me, the message of Soul is to embrace the moment, so in this crazy moment I’d like to embrace everyone at Pixar, especially Pete Docter, Kent Powers, Dana Murray, and Tom McDougall. I know that Trent and Jon would want me to thank their families. I’d like to thank my wife Claudia. You endlessly amaze me. My children – come! – I love you! Thank you BAFTAs, this means so much to all of us.”

The other nominees were James Newton Howard for News of the World, Emile Mosseri for Minari, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross for Mank, and Anthony Willis for Promising Young Woman.

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DEFENDING YOUR LIFE – Michael Gore

April 8, 2021 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Defending Your Life is a high concept comedy-drama written, directed by, and starring Albert Brooks. He plays Los Angeles advertising exec Daniel Miller, who is hit by a bus and killed within minutes of the film starting. He awakens in the ‘waiting zone’ between Earth and the afterlife, which is an interconnected complex of luxury resort hotels featuring every imaginable convenience. The catch is that, in order to successfully transition to heaven, the newly-deceased Daniel must ‘defend his life’ with the help of an assigned lawyer, and argue a case before a panel of judges, who will determine whether he lived his life on Earth well. If he is unsuccessful his soul will be reincarnated to live another life on Earth, where he will have another attempt at moving past his fears. While undergoing this process Daniel meets and falls in love with Julia (Meryl Streep), a recently deceased woman, who is taking the same tests. The film, which co-stars Rip Torn and Lee Grant, is an unusual mix of whimsical comedy, light romance, and existential philosophy, but was very well-received when it was first released, with Roger Ebert calling it “funny in a warm, fuzzy way” and a film with a “splendidly satisfactory ending”. Read more…

GODZILLA VS. KONG – Tom Holkenborg

April 6, 2021 5 comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Shared multiverses are such an important part of contemporary cinema these days. It feels like every new successful film, no matter what the genre, feels the need to expand its scope to encompass a range of endless spinoffs, sequels, and prequels, and this is certainly the case in the world of fantasy and science fiction. Godzilla vs. Kong is the culmination of a near decade-long project by Legendary Pictures, and sees the timelines of the films Godzilla (2014), Kong: Skull Island (2017), and Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) coming together in a battle for kaiju supremacy. The film is set five years after the events of Godzilla: King of the Monsters and follows a complicated (but patently ridiculous) plot about evil corporations building giant robots, and the theory that the center of the earth is actually hollow, but it’s really just all an excuse for Godzilla and King Kong to have an enormous on-screen fight amid the skyscrapers of Hong Kong, and using those basic prerequisites, it’s a success. The film is directed by Adam Wingard, stars Alexander Skarsgård, Millie Bobby Brown, Rebecca Hall, Brian Tyree Henry, Kyle Chandler, and Demián Bichir, and has a score by Dutch composer Tom Holkenborg. Read more…

THE QUIET MAN – Victor Young

April 5, 2021 1 comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Director John Ford read the story “The Quiet Man” by Maurice Walsh in the Saturday Evening Post, liked it, and purchased the film rights for $6,260 In 1944 he approached actor John Wayne and made a gentlemen’s agreement to make a film, which would be set in Ireland. However, to their dismay, every studio turned them down saying their idea was “a silly Irish story that won’t make a penny”. Undeterred they went to Republic Pictures studio executive Herbert J. Yates and negotiated a deal; if he would fund the film Wayne and co-star Maureen O’Hara would agree to first make a Western for Republic. Yates agreed and they made the successful film “Rio Grande” in 1950. They got the green light to proceed and Ford would produce and direct the film with a generous $1. 75 million budget. John Wayne would star as Sean Thornton and Maureen O’Hara would play Mary Kate Danaher. Joining them would be Barry Fitzgerald as Michaleen “Óge” Flynn, Ward Bond as Father Peter Lonergan, and Victor McLaglen as Squire “Red” Will Danaher. Read more…

Under-the-Radar Round Up 2021, Part I

April 2, 2021 1 comment

Yes it’s that time of year again! The new year is already one quarter gone and, as the world of mainstream blockbuster cinema and film music continues to be impacted by the COVID-19 Coronavirus continues, we must again look to smaller international features not as reliant on massive theatrical releases to discover the best new soundtracks. As such I am very pleased to present the first installment (for this calendar year) in my ongoing series of articles looking at the best “under the radar” scores from around the world.

The titles included are two Spanish action thrillers, a Vietnamese romantic drama, an Italian period murder-mystery television series, a Russian fantasy-adventure sequel, and a contemporary French TV series re-telling a classic story about a gentleman thief! Read more…

THE COMFORT OF STRANGERS – Angelo Badalamenti

April 1, 2021 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The Comfort of Strangers is a psychological thriller directed by Paul Schrader, adapted by Harold Pinter from the novel by Ian McEwan. Rupert Everett and Natasha Richardson play Colin and Mary, an English couple on vacation in Venice, looking to rekindle the spark in their relationship. The couple makes the acquaintance of Roberto (Christopher Walken), a bar owner, and the three of them spend an evening drinking together and swapping life stories. However, after Roberto introduces them to his wife Caroline (Helen Mirren), it soon becomes apparent that their ‘chance encounter’ was not quite as random as it first appeared, and before long things are spiraling out of control into a web of lies, obsession, and dangerous sexuality. Read more…

THE RECKONING – Christopher Drake

March 30, 2021 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The Reckoning is a medieval horror movie written and directed by British filmmaker Neil Marshall, whose previous works include Dog Soldiers, The Descent, Doomsday, the re-boot of Hellboy, and several of the best episodes of Game of Thrones. The film is set in England in 1665 and stars Charlotte Kirk as Grace Haverstock, a young mother whose husband commits suicide after contracting the bubonic plague. When Grace rebuffs the advances of her late husband’s business partner Pendleton (Steven Waddington) – he wants both her property AND her body – Pendleton uses his influence to exact a sadistic revenge, accusing Grace of witchcraft. Before long Grace finds herself imprisoned and at the mercy of England’s most ruthless witch-hunter, Judge Moorcroft (Sean Pertwee), who forces her to endure endless physical and emotional torture, while she maintains her innocence. It’s a parable of the sort of horrific misogyny women have had to deal with for centuries, dressed up as light torture porn, but it’s done fairly brisk business since its premiere as a video-on-demand in February 2021. Read more…

THE NUN’S STORY – Franz Waxman

March 29, 2021 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Director Fred Zinnemann was intrigued by Kathryn Hulme’s best-selling novel “The Nun’s Story (1956) and purchased the film rights. To his dismay, he could not obtain financial backing from any studio as they all felt that the lack of action would not resonate with audiences. All this changed dramatically when Audrey Hepburn decided she wanted to take on the role of Gaby Van der Mal. A bidding war ensued with Warner Brothers prevailing. Henry Blanke was hired to produce the film with a 3.5 million budget. Robert Anderson was tasked with adapting the novel and writing the screenplay. Zinnemann would direct and he assembled a fine cast. Joining Hepburn would be Peter Finch as Dr. Fortunati, Dame Edith Evans as Mother Emmanuel and Dame Peggy Ashcroft as Mother Mathilde. Read more…

TOURS DU MONDE, TOURS DU CIEL – Georges Delerue

March 25, 2021 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Tours du Monde, Tours du Ciel was a groundbreaking 10-part French documentary series broadcast on the La Sept network in 1991. Like the similarly-themed Cosmos, which was presented by Carl Sagan on American television in 1980, it attempted to tell the history of astronomy, from the prehistoric era to the classical Greeks and Romans, through the work of Copernicus and Galileo and Kepler, to the present day, as scientists around the world continue to seek to unlock the secrets of the universe by observing the sky. The series featured interviews with numerous contemporary astronomers and scientists, interspersed with archaeological footage, and spectacular imagery of space; it was directed by Robert Pansard-Besson, and is still recognized today as one of the most important French-language scientific documentaries of all time. Read more…