My second article in my Review of the Year 2014 looks at the Best Scores from Italy. Italian cinema doesn’t quite have the same level of acclaim and popularity as it did in the past, and the state of Italian film music is not once what it was either; the country’s heyday, when composers like Ennio Morricone, Pino Donaggio, Nino Rota and Riz Ortolani dominated, appears to be mostly over, and today’s most prominent Italian artists (Dario Marianelli, Carlo Siliotto, Nicola Piovani) are working mostly on non-Italian projects. Ironically, it appears to be for Italian television that the most promising music is being written today, and my picks for the best Italian scores of 2014 include three works for TV, and one stunning work for an under-the-radar art house piece from a composer to watch. Read more…
Original Review by Jonathan Broxton
And so, at last, after an astonishing 13-year trip across Middle Earth in the company of director Peter Jackson, through three Lord of the Rings films and two Hobbit films, we come to the conclusion of the saga with The Battle of the Five Armies, the third and final film based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic fantasy story The Hobbit. The film picks up immediately where the second film in the trilogy, The Desolation of Smaug, left off last year, with the hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) and his dwarf cohorts looking on helplessly as the dragon Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch), having emerged from under the mountain of Erebor, decimates the city of Laketown, before finally being brought down by the brave Bard (Luke Evans). In the aftermath of the devastation, the survivors of Laketown regroup in the ancient city of Dale, while the newly-crowned dwarfish king Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) jealously guards his new wealth from inside his impregnable stronghold. However, news of Smaug’s death quickly spreads across Middle Earth, and before long numerous different armies are massing outside Erebor’s gates, each claiming a valid right to the treasure inside, or having insidious ulterior motives of conquest and destruction. Read more…
The first installment in my series of articles looking at the best “under the radar” scores from around the world concentrates on music from films from Asia: specifically, the far eastern nations of China, Japan, South Korea and Vietnam. Already in 2014 I have reviewed Christopher Young’s magnificent score for the Chinese epic fantasy adventure The Monkey King, and Jo-Yeong Wook’s score for the revisionist samurai action film Kundo: Age of the Rampant. In this article, I’m taking a deeper look at some other excellent works, ranging from anime movies and TV series from Japan, baseball dramas from Taiwan, and two of the highest-grossing films from Vietnam.
Original Review by Craig Lysy
Ever-ambitious producer Mike Todd sought to bring an epic adventure tale to the big screen. He hired screenwriter James Poe to adapt renowned author Jules Verne’s novel Around the World in 80 Days. He gave the director reigns to Michael Anderson who brought in an amazing cast which included; David Niven as the classic Victorian English gentleman Phileas Fogg, Mexican icon Cantinflas as the resourceful ‘Jack of all Trades’ Passepartout, Shirley MacLaine as the captivating Princess Aouda, her debut acting role, and Robert Newton as the redoubtable Inspector Fix. The story takes place in England circa 1872 and centers on an epic adventure taken by Phileas Fogg and his man servant Passepartout. Fogg makes the audacious claim that he can circumnavigate the world in eighty days. He offers a £20,000 wager with four skeptical compatriots of the Reform Club, thus setting the stage for the adventure. Fogg sets off on the first leg of their journey to Paris by hot air balloon. Against this backdrop is a growing suspicion that Fogg has stolen £55,000 from the Bank of England, which elicits Scotland Yard to dispatch Police Inspector Fix to arrest Fogg. Read more…
Original Review by Jonathan Broxton
Ridley Scott’s epic version of the biblical exodus story, Exodus: Gods and Kings, is lavish film making on an enormous scale. Based on the tale of Moses and his efforts to liberate the people of Israel from slavery under an Egyptian pharaoh, it stars Christian Bale as Moses, Joel Edgerton as the pharaoh Ramses, John Turturro, Aaron Paul, Sigourney Weaver and Ben Kingsley. Scott’s version is more rooted in historical realism than Cecil B. DeMille’s 1956 epic The Ten Commandments, but the film still covers all the major bases of the story: Moses and Ramses growing up together as brothers, the burning bush through which Moses communicates with God, the plagues which attack Egypt when Ramses refuses to free the slaves, the parting of the Red Sea, and the writing of the Ten Commandments. Visually, the film is a triumph, depicting the glory and opulence of ancient Egyptian civilization in majestic detail, but dramatically the story flounders occasionally, and some great actors – especially Paul, Weaver, and Tara Fitzgerald – are woefully underused. Read more…
Original Review by Jonathan Broxton
Birdman is an unusual dark comedy/drama about the existential crisis of an actor, directed by Mexican filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu. In what is possibly the most perfect piece of casting ever, Michael Keaton plays Riggan Thompson, the star of a series of popular 1980s super-hero films, who after a period of career doldrums is trying to reinvent himself as a serious dramatic actor by staging a play in an off-Broadway theater. The play is being produced by Riggan’s best friend/lawyer Jake (Zach Galifianakis), and stars Riggan’s slightly unbalanced girlfriend Laura (Andrea Riseborough), nervous first-time-Broadway-actress Lesley (Naomi Watts), and critically acclaimed thespian Mike Shiner (Edward Norton), whose genuine talent is almost eclipsed by his raging ego, and who has taken a liking to Riggan’s daughter/assistant Sam (Emma Stone). Behind the scenes, Riggan is taunted by hallucinatory visions of his Birdman character, making him increasingly paranoid and self-critical, while problems with the rest of the production threaten to send it spiraling out of control. Read more…
In the Best Original Score category, the nominees are:
- ALEXANDRE DESPLAT for The Imitation Game
- JÓHANN JÓHANNSSON for The Theory of Everything
- TRENT REZNOR and ATTICUS ROSS for Gone Girl
- ANTONIO SÁNCHEZ for Birdman
- HANS ZIMMER for Interstellar
These are the first major film music award nominations for both Jóhannsson and Sánchez, although Sánchez has won four Grammy awards for his work as a jazz musician. This is the 7th nomination for Desplat, who won the Globe in 2006 for The Painted Veil, the 3rd nomination for Reznor and Ross, who won the Globe in 2010 for The Social Network, and the 12th nomination for Zimmer, who previously won Globes for The Lion King in 1994 and Gladiator in 2000.
In the Best Original Song category, the nominees are:
- ELIZABETH GRANT (LANA DEL REY) for “Big Eyes” from Big Eyes
- GREG KURSTIN, SIA FURLER and WILL GLUCK for “Opportunity” from Annie
- JOHN LEGEND and LONNIE RASHID LYNN Jr. (COMMON) for “Glory” from Selma
- PATTI SMITH and LENNY KAYE for “Mercy Is” from Noah
- ELLA YELICH-O’CONNOR (LORDE) for “Yellow Flicker Beat” from The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part I
The winners of the 72nd Golden Globe Awards will be announced on January 11, 2015.