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Archive for August, 2014

SCANDAL: HÀO QUANG TRO LAI – Christopher Wong

August 29, 2014 Leave a comment

scandalhaoquangtrolaiOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

Scandal: Hao Quang Tro Lai is a Vietnamese drama-thriller, directed by Victor Vu, a follow-up to his own film Scandal from 2012. The film stars Nhung Trang as Bella, a beautiful but aging actress who is passed over for Vietnam’s version of the Academy Awards in favor of a younger, but less talented rival. Convinced that her failure is a direct result of her fading looks, Bella secretly visits Dr. Quan (Bao Chi), a plastic surgeon, in a desperate attempt to make herself appear younger. Shockingly, Bella dies on the operating table, and in an attempt to save his own career Quan disposes of the body and covers up the death; for a while, everything seems fine, and Quan soon becomes a famous ‘celebrity surgeon’ – until a woman who bears an astonishing resemblance to Bella appears, threatening to unearth Quan’s scandalous secret. Read more…

THE KARATE KID – Bill Conti

August 28, 2014 Leave a comment

karatekidTHROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

If you say ‘wax on, wax off’ to anyone of a certain age, they will instantly be transported back to the summer of 1984, when The Karate Kid was one of the box office smashes of the year. Essentially a Rocky story for kids, which replaced boxing with karate, the film was directed by John G. Avildsen and starred Ralph Macchio as Daniel Larusso, a streetwise New Jersey kid who is uprooted and moves to Los Angeles with his mother (Randee Heller) after his parents divorce. Despite being an outsider, Daniel is immediately smitten with pretty high school cheerleader Ali Mills (Elisabeth Shue), but soon becomes a target for her ex-boyfriend, bully and jock Johnny (William Zabka), who attends a ruthless karate dojo run by the equally ruthless former Special Forces veteran John Kreese (Martin Kove). After being beaten up again one night, Daniel is rescued by his apartment building’s janitor, Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita); astounded by the apparently aged Miyagi’s karate skills, Daniel asks to be trained so that he can fight back against the bullies – and so begins their unlikely friendship. Read more…

SUNSET BOULEVARD – Franz Waxman

August 25, 2014 1 comment

sunsetboulevardMOVIE MUSIC UK CLASSICS

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Director Billy Wilder and producer Charles Brackett created a brilliant film noir screenplay for Sunset Boulevard, which told the story of a once proud but now aged Hollywood actress who wished to end her seclusion and regain past glory. For the principle actors, after considering Mae West and Mary Pickford for the leading role Gloria Swanson was given the part of Norma Desmond. A young William Holden was selected for Joe Gillis and Erich von Stronheim was cast as Norma’s former husband and now butler Max von Mayerling. The story tells the tale of Joe Gillis, a young screenwriter down on his luck that drives into Desmond’s estate while fleeing a car repo man. Norma, who has written a script to propel her comeback, hires Joe to create a screenplay. She lavishes her wealth and affection on him, which he freely and shamelessly accepts. Ultimately she falls in love with Joe and when he rejects her she shoots him. The story ends as a now elegantly dressed yet mad Norma descends her grand staircase to greet the police. Halfway down she pauses and announces proudly that she is happy to be making films again, ending with “All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.” The movie was both a commercial and critical success earning eleven Academy Award nominations, winning three for Best Screenplay, Best Art Direction and Best Film Score. Read more…

THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY – A.R. Rahman

August 23, 2014 4 comments

hundredfootjourneyOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

The Hundred-Foot Journey is a film about a clash of cultures – physically, geographically and gastronomically. It stars Helen Mirren as Madame Mallory, the perfectionist owner of a high class Michelin-starred restaurant in a quaint French village, whose life is thrown into turmoil when the Kadam family, recently arrived from India, moves into the building across the street from her restaurant. Hassan Kadam (Manish Dayal), the eldest son of the family, is an enormously talented chef in his own right, and with the help of his father (Om Puri), wants to open an Indian restaurant in their new building – much to the disgust of Madame Mallory, who snootily thinks that the new arrivals will reflect negatively on her legacy. So begins a ‘merry war’ of philosophies, coq au vin versus chicken tikka masala, as Madame Mallory tries to sabotage the Kadam’s dream, while Hassan falls for Madame Mallory’s pretty sous chef Marguerite (Charlotte le Bon)… The film is based on the novel by Richard C. Morais, is directed by Lasse Hallström, and features a lovely original score by the Mozart of Madras himself, A.R. Rahman. Read more…

GREMLINS – Jerry Goldsmith

August 21, 2014 Leave a comment

gremlinsTHROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Gremlins was a monster movie with a big heart, one of the biggest box office successes of 1984. Directed by Joe Dante – his first mainstream movie following the success of his independent horror movie The Howling in 1981 – it starred Zach Galligan as Billy, an average college kid living in pleasant small town America, whose life becomes forever altered when his father Rand (country star Hoyt Axton) gives him a present for Christmas: a cute critter called a mogwai, which Rand purchased from a mysterious Chinese curiosity shop. The mogwai, which Billy names Gizmo, comes with three very strict rules: keep him out of the sunlight, don’t get him wet, and never, ever feed him after midnight. Of course, Billy inadvertently breaks all three rules, and before long his charming little town is overrun with a whole host of less than friendly gremlins, and Christmas will never be the same again… The film co-stars Phoebe Cates, Polly Holliday, Judge Reinhold, Corey Feldman, and Frances Lee McCain, features comedian Howie Mandel as the voice of Gizmo, and has an original score by Jerry Goldsmith, the first of his eight collaborations with director Dante. Read more…

THE LIBERATOR – Gustavo Dudamel

August 19, 2014 1 comment

theliberatorOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

It’s always a big event when a darling of the classical music world joins the film scoring fraternity. Back in the early days of the medium it was not uncommon for classical greats to work in the movies; Aaron Copland, Sergei Prokofiev, Aram Khachaturian, Dimitri Shostakovich, Arnold Bax, Ralph Vaughan-Williams, and many others all worked for directors at various points in their careers. These days, it’s less common for there to be crossover. John Corigliano won an Oscar for The Red Violin in 1999, his third entry into the film score world, while composers as distinguished as Philip Glass and Michael Nyman are veritable mainstays, but for the most part, today’s most eminent concert hall artists tend to stay away from the scoring stage. Once in a while, though, someone takes the big leap, and the latest to join that club is Gustavo Dudamel, the erstwhile conductor-in-residence of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. Read more…

A PLACE IN THE SUN – Franz Waxman

August 18, 2014 1 comment

aplaceinthesunMOVIE MUSIC UK CLASSICS

Original Review by Craig Lysy

A Place in the Sun was adapted from a 1925 novel “An American Tragedy” by Theodore Dreiser. Director George Stevens hired Michael Wilson and Harry Brown for the screenplay, and assembled a stellar cast to at last bring this tragic story to life. George Stevens (Montgomery Clift), Angela Vickers (Elizabeth Taylor) and Alice Tripp (Shelley Winters) were hired as the principles and paired with a great cast of supporting players. The film centers on George Eastman, a poor man raised by an evangelical mother, who is tragically undone by his own actions. He leaves Chicago dirt poor, determined to make a name for himself working in the company of his wealthy Uncle in California. While there he begins dating Alice, a girl he met in the plant. All seems fine until he becomes completely enamored with Angela, a drop dead gorgeous socialite whom he meets at a party. He abandons Alice without a thought and begins dating Angela. The two fall in love, yet things begin to unravel when Alice discloses to George that she is pregnant. When she threatens a public disclosure if he does not marry her, George feels cornered and so devises a plot to murder her. When the time comes to strike through a staged boat accident, his conscience prevails and he relents only to see Alice drown anyway by accident. He survives, but inexplicably fails to report her death to the authorities. As such, although innocent, circumstantial evidence and his own guilty behavior make authorities suspicious. His arrest comes just as Angela’s father grants him permission to marry his daughter. He is then tried and sentenced to death in the electric chair. Read more…

HERCULES – Fernando Velázquez

August 16, 2014 1 comment

herculesOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

There have been lots of films made about Hercules, the muscle-bound demi-god from Greek mythology, over the years. Steve Reeves played him in the classic Italian ‘swords and sandals’ movie in 1957, Arnold Schwarzenegger played him in his film debut in Hercules in New York in 1970, and Kellan Lutz played him in The Legend of Hercules just a few months ago, but in this latest version directed by Brett Ratner the bulging biceps and undersized loincloth are sported by former wrestling star The Rock, now thespianning under his real name, Dwayne Johnson. The film is based on the comic book series by Steve Moore and is a tale of revenge and betrayal involving the death of Hercules’s wife and sons years previously. The film co-stars Ian McShane, Rufus Sewell, Joseph Fiennes, Peter Mullan and John Hurt, and has done pretty brisk business at the box office in a summer crowded with action blockbusters. Read more…

RED DAWN – Basil Poledouris

August 14, 2014 1 comment

reddawnTHROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Red Dawn was a popular and successful action film, written and directed by John Milius, set in an alternate 1980s in which a Communist army, led by Russians and Cubans, launches an invasion of the United States in the aftermath of a devastating economic crisis. The story is centered around a small Colorado town, where a group of mostly teenagers embarks on a sustained campaign of guerilla warfare against the invaders, using the name ‘wolverines’, after their high school mascot. The film starred Patrick Swayze and Charlie Sheen in early career roles, co-starred C. Thomas Howell, a pre-Back to the Future Lea Thompson, a pre-Dirty Dancing Jennifer Grey, and Ben Johnson, and featured an original score by the then 39-year-old Basil Poledouris. Read more…

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES – Brian Tyler

August 12, 2014 3 comments

teenagemutantninjaturtlesOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were all the rage for a few years when I was a kid in the 1980s, although to be fair I didn’t know they were ninjas until quite some time later, thanks to the busybody interference of the self-appointed guardian of Britain’s national morals, Mary Whitehouse, who decided that showing children scenes of ninjas doing things with nunchaku would contribute to the decline of a generation. To me they will always be the Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles, and no-one can tell me otherwise, although looking back I now realize I never was entirely sure how Michelangelo defeated his foes with nothing more dangerous than a slice of pizza. This has been an astonishingly long-lived franchise – with the world having already been exposed to three separate animated TV series, a Japanese anime, and a live-action TV series, we are now on our fifth movie based on the characters originally created by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird in 1984, following the original three movies in 1990, 1991 and 1993, and the 2007 CGI flop “TMNT”. This latest installment is essentially an origin story reboot of the entire story, stars Megan Fox and Will Arnett, and is directed by Jonathan Liebesman. Read more…

CALVARY – Patrick Cassidy

August 9, 2014 3 comments

calvaryOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

Calvary is an Irish comedy-drama film written and directed by John Michael McDonagh, starring Brendan Gleeson as Father James, a Catholic priest at a church in rural County Sligo. When Father James’s life is threatened during confession by an anonymous parishioner who claims he suffered sexual abuse at the hands of a now-deceased former priest, he uses what he believes will be the final week of his life to right old wrongs and bury long-standing feuds involving a bitter millionaire (Dylan Moran), a wife-beating local business owner (Chris O’Dowd), a disaffected teenager (Domhnall Gleeson, Brendan’s real life son), an atheist doctor (Game of Thrones star Aidan Gillen), and his estranged daughter from his pre-priesthood days (Kelly Reilly). It’s a deep, thoughtful, moving film, with a rich vein of black, black humor running through it, and with Gleeson’s lead performance being especially critically acclaimed. Read more…

GHOSTBUSTERS – Elmer Bernstein

August 7, 2014 6 comments

ghostbustersTHROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

One of the seminal action comedies of the 1980s, Ghostbusters teamed together three of television’s greatest improvisational comedy geniuses – Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis – in a story about three failed parapsychology professors in New York who, after losing funding for their scientifically-debatable experiments, set themselves up as paranormal investigators catching and containing all manner of spectral nasties across the Big Apple. Things get a little more serious, however, when professional cellist Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver) contacts the trio after having a strange experience with her refrigerator, and before long they are knee deep in a fight to save the world from an ancient Sumerian god who may be trying to bring about the apocalypse. The film co-starred Rick Moranis, Ernie Hudson and Annie Potts, and was directed by Ivan Reitman, hot from his success with the comedies Meatballs and Stripes a few years before. Read more…

Introducing Throwback Thirty

August 6, 2014 Leave a comment

calendarI have decided to introduce a new feature here at Movie Music UK, which will feature reviews of classic scores from my own childhood and one of my favorite periods for film music – the 1980s. Inspired by the “Throwback Thursday” idea from Facebook, in which people post old photos of themselves every Thursday, I have decided to call this feature Throwback Thirty!

My plan is that, every Thursday, I will debut a brand new review for a score from a film which was in theaters exactly thirty years ago (roughly – there will be a bit of leeway here and there), meaning that for the rest of the year I will be looking at scores released in 1984.

The first review will debut tomorrow; I hope you enjoy it, and I hope you enjoy the series going forward!

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY – Tyler Bates

August 5, 2014 12 comments

guardiansofthegalaxy-scoreOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

I have waited for 15 years, ever since I heard his first major score for the 1999 film Rated X, to type the following sentence: finally, after all these years, here is a Tyler Bates score I enjoy quite a lot. I have made no secret of the fact that I have found the vast majority of Bates’s work over the past decade pretty underwhelming. Ignoring the controversy surrounding his work on 300, scores like The Day the Earth Stood Still, Watchmen, and Conan the Barbarian had the conceptual and thematic potential to inspire truly terrific music, but ended up being disappointments of the highest order. Guardians of the Galaxy, thankfully, is a significant step forward. While still lagging behind the upper echelons of the film scoring world, and despite still suffering from a curious lack of individual personality, it is nevertheless the best score of Bates’s career to date by a country mile, making use of a big orchestra, a big choir, electronics, and some rock and 1980s pop elements, all brought together under the banner of a rousing central theme. Read more…

PENNY DREADFUL – Abel Korzeniowski

August 2, 2014 3 comments

pennydreadfulOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

Penny Dreadful is a Gothic horror/drama series on the American Showtime network, set in Victorian London at the turn of the 19th century. Taking inspiration from the classic writings of Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, Oscar Wilde and others, as well as the “penny dreadful” magazines which told lurid tales of serial killers, highwaymen and cowboys, creator John Logan re-imagined these classic characters in a new setting, interacting with each other, and working together to defeat an ancient evil. The story follows Ethan Chandler (Josh Hartnett), a charming American gunslinger sojourning in the motherland, who is recruited by the mysterious Vanessa Ives (Eva Green) to help Sir Malcolm Murray (Timothy Dalton), a famed African explorer, rescue his daughter Mina, who he believes has been kidnapped by a vampire-like creature. Needing help of a medical nature, Sir Malcolm also obtains the help of Victor Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway), a brilliant young surgeon, who has a problem of his own: unknown to the others, Frankenstein has been conducting experiments involving death and resurrection, and one of his creations, the fearsome Caliban (Rory Kinnear), has come looking for his father… Read more…