Archive for October, 2014

THE BOOK OF LIFE – Gustavo Santaolalla

October 26, 2014 1 comment

bookoflife-scoreOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

The Book of Life is an animated film with a Mexican influence, directed by Jorge Gutierrez and co-produced by Guillermo Del Toro. It tells the story of two gods – La Muerte and Xibalba – who rule over two different realms of the spirit world, and who make a bet with each other when they realize that two young brothers, Manolo and Joaquin, are in love with the same young girl, Maria. Manolo grows up to be a bullfighter, but dreams of being a musician, while Joaquin becomes a soldier, defending his village from a bandit. Eventually, a terrible turn of events requires Manolo to journey from the real world and into the magical, mythical and wondrous spirit world in order to rescue his one true love and defend his village. The film, which has a spectacular visual style based on Mexican Día de Muertos iconography, has an interesting voice cast that includes Diego Luna, Channing Tatum, Zoe Saldana, and Ron Perlman, and features music from composer Gustavo Santaolalla and songwriter Paul Williams. Read more…

THE RAZOR’S EDGE – Jack Nitzsche

October 23, 2014 Leave a comment


Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The Razor’s Edge is an epic poetic drama film, written and directed by John Byrum, adapted from the acclaimed 1944 novel by W. Somerset Maugham. It tells the story of Larry Darrell, played by Bill Murray, an American pilot traumatized by his experiences in World War I, who journeys through Asia in search of some transcendent meaning in his life after the war has ended. The film was the first dramatic leading role of Murray’s career, who prior to this was known almost exclusively as a comedic actor, through his work on Saturday Night Live, and films such as Caddyshack and Stripes. Murray and director Byrum had trouble finding a studio to finance it, such was the incredulity that Murray could pull off such a demanding dramatic leading role, and the film was only put into production when Dan Aykroyd suggested a deal to Columbia Pictures whereby Murray would appear in Ghostbusters if the studio subsequently greenlit The Razor’s Edge. However, despite the presence of such luminaries as Theresa Russell, Denholm Elliott and Peter Vaughan in the supporting cast, and unlike Ghostbusters, The Razor’s Edge was a critical and commercial flop, taking just $6.5 million at the US box office in 1984. Apparently, Columbia was right, and audiences didn’t buy Murray as a tortured, sensitive man undergoing an existential crisis. Read more…

ANNABELLE – Joseph Bishara

October 21, 2014 Leave a comment

annabelleOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

A prequel to last year’s popular movie The Conjuring, Annabelle tells the story of a young couple in the 1960s who, after being attacked in their home by members of a satanic cult, both of whom are subsequently killed by the police, begin experiencing a number of terrifying supernatural occurrences. After consulting with several experts familiar with the cult, the woman, Mia, starts to believe that the supernatural events are linked to one of her vintage dolls, Annabelle, which the female cult member was holding when she was killed; worse still, Mia comes to the realization that the supernatural events seem to be targeting her newborn daughter… The film is directed by long-time cinematographer John Leonetti, stars Annabelle Wallis, Ward Horton and Alfre Woodard, and has an original score by composer Joseph Bishara, whose music has graced some of the most popular and successful horror movies of the past few years. Read more…


October 20, 2014 1 comment


Original Review by Craig Lysy


Battle of Neretva is based on actual historical events and was made to celebrate the victory of Yugoslav partisans over the Nazis. In the beginning of 1943 Hitler issued a personal order for his generals to commence operation “Weiss”, which was designed to root out and destroy Yugoslav partisan units. Pushed by far more powerful enemy, the partisans reeled under the attack incurring many casualties, 4500 wounded and a typhus outbreak. As they retreated, they found themselves surrounded in Neretva valley. Only one bridge remained, with heavy enemy forces waiting on the other side, set to massacre the remaining fighters and fleeing non-combatants. Marshall Tito ordered the partisans to destroy the bridge apparently trapping his forces. The move surprised the Germans who responded by transferring their forces to the other side, predicting that Partisans would attempt the suicidal break through. But, during only one night, the partisans managed to build a provisional bridge near the destroyed one and cross to the other side, tricking the enemy. The film earned an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film but failed to win. Read more…

THE JUDGE – Thomas Newman

October 18, 2014 1 comment

thejudgeOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

The Judge is a family drama film directed by David Dobkin, who previously helmed such popular movies as Wedding Crashers and Fred Claus, and starring Robert Downey Jr. as Hank Palmer, a hotshot defense attorney living the high life in the big city, who returns to his sleepy Indiana hometown following the death of his mother. However, further problems await Hank when his estranged and distant father Joseph (Robert Duvall) – the town’s long-serving judge – is unexpectedly arrested, suspected of murder. Suddenly forced to become his own father’s lawyer, Hank sets out to discover the truth and, along the way, reconnects with his fractured family, while rekindling his relationship with an old flame. The film has a stellar supporting cast including Vera Farmiga, Billy Bob Thornton, and Vincent d’Onofrio, and has an original score by Thomas Newman, who excels at writing music for this type of film. Read more…


October 16, 2014 Leave a comment


Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Major cities in the United States were dangerous places in 1984. Murders, drive-by shootings and gang violence was rampant, and drug pushers, hookers and pimps harassed the good people of the cities on every street corner. In response to this urban decay, the leadership of the Police Department opened their doors to anyone who wanted to become an officer of the law, even if they had previously been turned away – with hilarious results! This unlikely scenario is the backdrop to one of the most popular and enduring comedies of the 1980s, director Hugh Wilson’s Police Academy, which followed the adventures of a group of misfits as they try to navigate their way through basic training. The characters are now familiar – Steve Guttenberg’s cocksure, wisecracking Mahoney; Bubba Smith’s imposing but loveable Hightower; David Graf’s dumb, trigger-happy Tackleberry; Michael Winslow’s motor-mouthed human beatbox Jones; Marion Ramsey’s timid and mousey Hooks; GW Bailey’s short-fused, ill-tempered Lieutenant Harris; and George Gaynes’s barely competent Commandant Lassard; as well as a sex kitten role for a young Kim Cattrall – and the film was so successful that it spawned an astonishing six sequels, each one progressively worse and less successful than its predecessor – in fact, by the time Police Academy 5 rolled around in 1988, even Steve Guttenberg refused to appear! Read more…

THE EQUALIZER – Harry Gregson-Williams

October 14, 2014 Leave a comment

equalizerOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

A gritty big-screen reboot of the popular Edward Woodward TV series from the 1980s, The Equalizer stars Denzel Washington as Robert McCall, a mysterious loner with a hidden past, who works in a Home Depot-like hardware store by day, and spends his evenings reading classic literature alone in a 24 hour diner. At the diner McCall befriends Teri (Chloë Grace Moretz), a teenage prostitute who longs to get out of the lifestyle, and who connects with McCall over the book The Old Man and the Sea. One day, after Teri is attacked and badly beaten by her pimp, McCall takes matters into his own hands and tries to bargain for her freedom with the gangsters who own her; unfortunately, things do not go as planned, and before long McCall is locking horns with members of the Russian mafia, and their dangerous leader, Teddy (Marton Csokas). The film is a dark, violent, but surprisingly engaging tale of vengeance and retribution; it is directed by Antoine Fuqua, and has an original score by Harry Gregson-Williams. Read more…


October 13, 2014 Leave a comment


Original Review by Craig Lysy


She Demons offers a classic science fiction B film, and that is being generous! Fred Maklin, Jerrie Turner and two others are pleasure boating when a storm shipwrecks them on an uncharted island. Their radio is damaged and cannot transmit, only receive. They soon discover that the island is scheduled to be used by the US navy for bombing practice. Of course things get worse when they also come upon strange human footprints. As the party explores the island, they soon discover that it is inhabited by deformed female humanoids; by products of horrific experiments perpetrated by a party of Nazis, who are led of course by the mad scientist Colonel Osler. We are informed that he has been extracting a rare glandular substance from the girls to inject into his wife Mona, who has suffered terrible facial disfigurement, so as to restore her beauty. This of course now makes perfect sense! In any event the film was a bust and received no critical acclaim. Read more…

SID MEIER’S CIVILIZATION: BEYOND EARTH – Geoff Knorr, Griffin Cohen, Michael Curran and Grant Kirkhope

October 11, 2014 3 comments

civilizationbeyondearthGAME ZONE REVIEW

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth is the latest installment in Sid Meier’s extremely popular Civilization video game series, in which players build a civilization from the ground up, taking turns to try to positively affect their civilization’s cultural, intellectual, and technical sophistication by conducting research, building infrastructure, and in some cases waging war against neighbors. In Beyond Earth – as the title suggests – game play takes place in the future, and in outer space. This is the 20th official entry into the Civilization series since it debuted in 1991 on the Super Nintendo, which has been consistently praised for its innovation, graphical design ideas, and music. Read more…


October 8, 2014 1 comment


Original Review by Craig Lysy

Producer George Pal sought to start the decade of the 1950s with a well-made outer space drama. He adapted “Rocket Ship Galileo”, a novel by Robert Heinlein, for his project and installed Irving Pichel to direct. The story reveals humanity’s first effort to fly a spaceship to the Moon. Dr. Charles Cargraves and space exploration enthusiast General Thayer solicit aircraft executive Jim Barnes to join them in a collective effort to build Earth’s first nuclear powered spacecraft. Politics, public hysteria and regulations threaten to shutdown the project but are circumvented by a decision to pre-empt impending interference by launching early. They successfully launch and begin the epic trek, but are forced to make emergency repairs mid flight that includes a dramatic rescue of an un-tethered crewman. As they initiate lunar descent, miscalculation causes them to consume too much fuel during the landing. System check calculations indicate that they now have insufficient fuel reserves to successfully blast off and achieve lunar orbit with the full crew. They make desperate efforts to lighten the ship yet come up short by 110 pounds; meaning one of the crew must remain. With their launch window closing and crew anxiety building, they resolve to not only jettison the ship’s radio equipment, there-by losing contact with Earth, but also their sole remaining space suit. With time almost out the Luna safely blasts off from the Moon with all aboard and completes its epic voyage by returning to Earth. The film was a modest commercial success and earned two Academy Award nominations, winning one for Visual Effects. Read more…

GONE GIRL – Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross

October 6, 2014 35 comments

gonegirlOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

Gone Girl is a mystery-thriller based on the novel by Gillian Flynn, directed by David Fincher, and starring Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris and Tyler Perry. It follows the life of Nick Dunne, whose world is turned upside down when he returns to his suburban home to find his wife, Amy, missing and apparently abducted. Before long, and despite his protestations to the contrary, the police and the media have fingered Nick – who is awkward and sometimes behaves inappropriately in front of the camera – as being responsible for Amy’s disappearance. Not only that, but secrets are revealed which show that Nick and Amy’s marriage was not as idyllic as they liked to portray, leading to further scrutiny of Nick and his actions. But, of course, things are never quite as they seem in films of this type, with more revelations and twists before the final reel which I’m not going to spoil here. Suffice to say, Gone Girl is a dark, nihilistic movie with a lot of points to make about levels of trust in relationships, unreliable narration, and trials by media, although, ironically, it doesn’t work as well as an actual thriller, with numerous plot holes and illogical jumps in narrative flow. Where Fincher excels, however, is in creating an oppressive atmosphere of uncertainty, through his muted color palette, understated acting choices, and the score, by Oscar-winners Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. Read more…

ICEMAN – Bruce Smeaton

October 2, 2014 1 comment


Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Iceman was a thought-provoking scifi-drama directed by Fred Schepisi, and starring Timothy Hutton as Dr. Stanley Shephard, an anthropology scientist who is called to a remote research station in the farthest reaches of the Arctic when the body of a prehistoric Neanderthal man is discovered frozen in the ice. Astonishingly, the man is resuscitated, and before long Charlie (John Lone) – now alive and awake after 40,000 years – finds himself at the center of a moral tug-of-war, with one group of scientists wanting to dissect and exploit him, while Shepherd and his more empathetic colleagues defend Charlie’s right to life. The film, which also stars Lindsay Crouse, David Strathairn and Danny Glover among others, is almost forgotten today, obscure apart from its occasional screenings on cable TV, but has always been a favorite of mine. John Lone’s sensitive central performance as Charlie – who communicates through rudimentary grunts and gestures – is remarkable in its complexity, while the ethical implications of the story are fascinating. Read more…

FRANZ WAXMAN – Fathers of Film Music, Part 5

October 1, 2014 Leave a comment

Franz WaxmanArticle by Craig Lysy

Born: 24 December 1906, Königshütte, Germany.
Died: 24 February 1967

Franz Wachsmann was born of Jewish ancestry in the city of Königshütte in Germany (now Chorzów, Poland). He was the youngest of eight children and suffered permanent impairment to his eyes from a scolding water accident in the kitchen at age three. Very early on Franz revealed a natural gift for the piano, but his development was stymied by his father, a salesman in the steel industry, who preferred that he pursue a more traditional career. As such young Franz became a bank teller and used his meager earnings to support his piano lessons.

Waxman was determined to pursue music and so in 1923, at age 16, he enrolled in the Dresden Music Academy where he studied composition and conducting. His success playing popular music on piano allowed him the means further advance his education by later enrolling in the prestigious Berlin Conservatory. During his work as a pianist with a dance band called the Weintraub Syncopaters, he met lifelong friend Frederick Hollander, who introduced him to Bruno Walter, one of the preeminent conductors of the age. Waxman’s career momentum began to build as he gained notoriety as an orchestrator for the German film industry. He got his first break to score Hollander’s film for the Marlene Dietrich “The Blue Angel” (1930). But a dark pall was descending upon German society and later that year Waxman suffered a severe beating by Nazi sympathizers in Berlin that led him to flee Germany with his wife to Paris. Read more…