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Archive for November, 2008

AUSTRALIA – David Hirschfelder

November 28, 2008 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

A romantic epic in the grand Hollywood tradition, Australia is director Baz Luhrmann’s cinematic ode to his homeland. The main focus of the story is the romance between English aristocrat Lady Sarah Ashley (Nicole Kidman) and rugged cowboy Drover (Hugh Jackman), and is set against a backdrop of some of the most important events in early Australian history, including the expansion into Aboriginal territory by the white settlers and the social and racial tensions that arise as a result, and the bombing of the Northern Territory by the Japanese in World War II.

In addition to Kidman and Jackman the film features pretty much every major Australian character actor working today – notably David Wenham, Jack Thompson, Bryan Brown and David Gulipilil – and boasts impressive production values that garnered the film an Academy Award nomination for costume design. Read more…

FOUR CHRISTMASES – Alex Wurman

November 28, 2008 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

A smash hit seasonal comedy starring Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon, Four Christmases is very much a festive flick for the new millennium, as it follows the fortunes of a couple who have to spend their holiday season visiting their four parents – Robert Duvall, Sissy Spacek, Jon Voight and Mary Steenburgen – all of whom are divorced, and who bring their own problems and peculiarities to the already hectic lives of their children, most notably in the form of various siblings – Jon Favreau, Kristin Chenoweth and country star Tim McGraw.

The widely-available commercial soundtrack CD features the usual roster of wintry favorites – Perry Como singing “Home For the Holidays” Read more…

MILK – Danny Elfman

November 28, 2008 1 comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Although many people nowadays will not know his name, Harvey Milk remains a hugely important figure in American political history. As the first ever openly gay man ever elected to public office in the United States, Milk served one term as a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in the late 1970s, and was responsible for passing a stringent gay rights ordinance for the city, before being assassinated by fellow city supervisor Dan White in November 1978. Having already been the subject of an Oscar-winning documentary, ‘The Times of Harvey Milk’, in 1984, director Gus Van Sant’s new film charts the life and death of a man who has since been labeled ‘a martyr for gay rights’ in dramatic narrative; the film stars Sean Penn as Milk, Josh Brolin as White, and features Emile Hirsch, Diego Luna and James Franco in supporting roles. Read more…

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OORLOGSWINTER – Pino Donaggio

November 28, 2008 1 comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Dutch cinema doesn’t get much press beyond the confines of its borders. Similarly, Dutch film music gets fairly short shrift from the world at large, despite several acclaimed composers having worked there in recent years, notably Henny Vrienten, Loek Dikker and Fons Merkies. It’s also been quite some time since Italian composer Pino Donaggio had any time in the spotlight – at least since Up At the Villa in 2000, and in reality probably since Never Talk to Strangers in before that in 1995. So, it’s quite gratifying to see Donaggio’s score for the Dutch wartime drama Oorlogswinter (‘Winter in Wartime’) getting some attention.

The film is directed by Martin Koolhoven from the novel by Jan Terlouw, and stars Martijn Lakemeier as Michiel, a 14 year old boy living in a small town in the Netherlands in the winter of 1944, who witnesses an English fighter plane crash near his home. Read more…

I WANT TO BE A SHELLFISH (WATASHI WA KAI NI NARITAI) – Joe Hisaishi

November 21, 2008 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

For all his success in the west with his scores for Hayao Miyazaki’s films – Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, and the like – Joe Hisaishi’s scores for non-animated films remain strangely underappreciated by Western audiences. His latest undiscovered masterpiece is the curiously-named I Want to be a Shellfish – or ‘Watashi Wa Kai Ni Naritai’ to give it its proper Japanese title. Contrary to its absurd-sounding name, the film is a quite serious and profound drama set in post-WWII Japan, based on a famous novel by Tetsuharo Kato and directed Katsuo Fukuzawa. It tells the story of a man named Toyomatsu Shimizu (Masahiro Nakai), a quiet family man who works as a barber, who is unexpectedly arrested by the occupying American forces and tried for war crimes by a military tribunal. Read more…

BOLT – John Powell

November 21, 2008 7 comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The 48th official film in the Disney animated feature canon, Bolt is the story a small dog – the Bolt of the title, voiced by John Travolta – who has lived his entire life on the set of a TV show in which he portrays a superhero dog and, as a result, thinks that his superpowers are real. However, when Bolt is accidentally shipped from his Hollywood soundstage to New York City, he embarks on a cross-country journey to reunite with his owner and co-star, Penny (voiced by Hannah Montana star Miley Cyrus). Along the way, he teams up with a jaded alleycat named Mittens (voiced by Susie Essman) and a TV-obsessed hamster named Rhino (voiced by Mark Walton). Read more…

TWILIGHT – Carter Burwell

November 21, 2008 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

It has recently become apparent to me that, without my knowledge or active participation, I have become old and out of touch. I had this revelation when I realized that, until about three weeks ago, I had never heard of Twilight. I knew nothing about Stephenie Meyer’s novels. I had never heard of Edward Cullen or Bella Swan. I had no clue that teenage girls the length and breadth of America were going to bed at night dreaming of being swept up into the arms of a hunky young vampire and being made one of the sexy undead. I guess this is what happens when you turn 33 and you realize that all your cultural touchstones now date back almost 20 years.

Twilight, for old farts like me who don’t know these things, is a massively popular series of novels by the aforementioned Stephenie Meyer, which chronicle the adventures of Isabella “Bella” Swan Read more…

QUANTUM OF SOLACE – David Arnold

November 14, 2008 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The re-boot given to the James Bond franchise with Casino Royale in 2006 was possibly the best thing that could have happened to 007. The film itself was arguably the best Bond movie since On Her Majesty’s Secret Service in 1969, and Daniel Craig’s gritty, wounded portrayal of MI6’s finest brought him firmly into the new millennium. Quantum of Solace, the second movie in the new rebooted series, continues the story from the immediate point where Casino Royale concluded; it’s essentially a revenge film, with Bond attempting to bring the killers of Vesper Lynd from the previous film to justice, while locking horns with a new adversary – evil multimillionaire businessman Dominic Greene (Mathieu Almaric). The film is directed by Marc Forster, also stars Olga Kurylenko and Gemma Arterton as the new Bond girls, Camilla Montes and Strawberry Fields, and features Judi Dench, Jeffrey Wright and Giancarlo Giannini in recurring supporting roles. Read more…

SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE – A.R. Rahman

November 14, 2008 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Bollywood music has never really crossed over into the film music mainstream, despite being an enormous industry on the Indian sub-continent; the closest Bollywood has to a composer superstar is A.R. Rahman, so it perhaps stands to reason that he should really be the first one to make any kind of impact on the Hollywood mainstream. Rahman has worked in the Indian film industry since the early 1990s, and has since gone on to score over 100 films, some of which – Taal from 1999, Lagaan from 2001, Rang De Basanti from 2006, and Jodhaa Akbar from earlier this year – have enjoyed a modicum of international success. He has even dabbled in the Hollywood world before, working with Mychael Danna on Water in 2006 and with Craig Armstrong on Elizabeth: The Golden Age in 2007. In his homeland, however, Rahman is revered: he has personally sold 100 million records of his film scores and soundtracks worldwide, and sold over 200 million solo albums, officially making him one of the world’s all-time top selling recording artists. No wonder he is often called the “John Williams of Bollywood” and the “Mozart of Madras”. It’s just surprising that it has taken this long for the West to recognize him. Read more…

MADAGASCAR: ESCAPE 2 AFRICA – Hans Zimmer

November 7, 2008 Leave a comment

Original Review by Clark Douglas

Yikes, what on earth happened with this album? “Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa” may very well be the worst score that composer Hans Zimmer has ever been involved with (I hesitate to say “written”, as the score was created by the usual gang of Remote Control affiliates). The film is a sequel to the popular Dreamworks animated film “Madagascar”, which was also scored by Zimmer and co.

That disappointing album featured some pleasant yet insubstantial scoring alongside some dull pop songs and a nice performance of John Barry’s “Born Free”. That album was bliss compared to what Zimmer has produced this time around. Things actually start out well enough, with a typical little action piece called “Once Upon a Time in Africa”. The score never hits that level of satisfactory banality again. Read more…

THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PYJAMAS – James Horner

November 7, 2008 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, directed by Mark Herman from the novel by John Boyne, is a harrowing, yet life-affirming drama set in the Auschwitz Nazi concentration camp during World War II. Bruno (Asa Butterfield) is the 9-year old son of the camp commandant (David Thewlis); not understanding where he is or why he is there, and bored with his life away from the city where he used to live, Bruno makes friends with a young boy named Shmuel (Jack Scanlon), who lives on the other side of a wire fence and wears ‘striped pyjamas’. The innocence of their friendship soon becomes strained, however – Shmuel is Jewish, and is of course scheduled to die in a gas chamber. Critics have lauded the film, both for its delicate handling of the difficult subject matter, and for its performances. Similarly, James Horner’s score has been pretty much roundly praised, especially during the emotionally overwhelming finale. Read more…

DANCES WITH WOLVES – John Barry

November 6, 2008 2 comments

MOVIE MUSIC UK CLASSICS

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

By the mid-1980s the cinematic western was almost dead, a relic of an older, less sophisticated Hollywood, which had long since left behind icons such as John Wayne and Gary Cooper. Thankfully, nobody told Kevin Costner. In 1989 Costner was one of Hollywood’s upcoming leading men, having starred in successful and popular movies such as Silverado, Bull Durham, No Way Out and Field of Dreams. When it was announced that he would direct, produce and star in a big screen version of Michael Blake’s novel Dances With Wolves, at first the news was treated with incredulity; later, with stories of spiraling costs and unconventional on-set activities, the film was expected to be a vanity project at best, a laughing stock at worst. No-one expected the film to be one of the best westerns ever made, but that is ultimately what happened. Read more…