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Archive for April, 2015

THE LAST PLACE ON EARTH – Trevor Jones

April 30, 2015 Leave a comment

lastplaceonearthTHROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The Last Place on Earth was a critically acclaimed British TV mini-series, directed by Ferdinand Fairfax, which aired over seven episodes in the spring of 1985. It charted the epic race between two teams of intrepid adventurers and their efforts to become the first men to reach the South Pole – one from the United Kingdom led by Captain Robert Falcon Scott, and one from Norway led by Scott’s great rival, Roald Amundsen. Their trials and tribulations caught the attention of the world in 1912, but ended in great tragedy, as the entire British party famously died from a combination of exhaustion, starvation and extreme cold on the return journey, having been beaten to the Pole by Amundsen by just a matter of days. The series starred Martin Shaw as Scott, Sverre Anker Ousdal as Amundsen, Max von Sydow as Amundsen’s mentor, the famed explorer Fridtjof Nansen, and Brian Dennehy as the American Arctic exploration pioneer Frederick Cook, as well as several now-popular British actors in early supporting roles, including Hugh Grant and Bill Nighy. Read more…

THE AGE OF ADALINE – Rob Simonsen

April 29, 2015 Leave a comment

ageofadalineOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

Immortality, or at least postponing the ageing process, has been an obsession for the human race for hundreds of years. But very few people ever think of the actual consequences, and what it would mean if something like that were to actually occur. Everyone you knew and loved would grow old and die while you remained the same, and you would constantly be forced to move to new places before anyone noticed your lack of maturity. In short, it would be a very lonely life. This concept is explored in director Lee Toland Krieger’s new romantic fantasy-drama The Age of Adaline, which stars Blake Lively in the titular role as a woman born at the turn of the 20th century who, after an accident, miraculously stops ageing entirely. Having finally resigned herself to her fate, and after many solitary years, she meets a man who complicates the eternal life she has settled into, and who may finally expose her secret to the world. The film co-stars Harrison Ford, Ellen Burstyn, Kathy Baker, and Game of Thrones’s Michiel Huisman, and has an original score by the talented Rob Simonsen. Read more…

THE SAND PEBBLES – Jerry Goldsmith

April 27, 2015 1 comment

sandpebblesMOVIE MUSIC UK CLASSICS

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Director Robert Wise recognized the epic potential of The Sand Pebbles when he read Richard McKenna’s novel, and commissioned Robert Anderson to adapt it for the screen. He assembled a stellar cast, which included hero Jake Holman (Steve McQueen), his love interest Shirley Eckhart (Candice Bergen), his friend Frenchie Burgoyne (Richard Attenborough), the honorable Captain Collins (Richard Crenna) and his apprentice Po-Han (Mako). The film’s setting is colonial China circa 1926 where the gunboat U.S.S. San Pablo patrols a tributary of the Yangtze River. China is in tumult as Nationalists, Communists and feudal warlords all compete for land, money and power. Jake, a laconic loner and iconoclast, joins the crew and immediately clashes with the “rice-bowl” coolie system, which runs the ship. In so doing he alienates both the captain and his crewmates. He meets Shirley, a missionary, and we see a spark of romance. Yet their relationship is doomed as war against all westerners erupts and the San Pablo must fight for its life as it sails upriver to rescue missionaries at the China Light Mission. The film was a commercial and a critical success earning eight Oscar nominations including Best Score, which Goldsmith lost out to John Barry’s Born Free. Read more…

FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD – Craig Armstrong

April 25, 2015 3 comments

farfromthemaddingcrowdOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

Thomas Hardy’s 1874 novel Far From the Madding Crowd is one of the classics of Victorian-era English literature. The story is an examination of the changing British attitudes and morals of the time, looking at the cultural clash between traditional rural life, the power of the military, and the increasing dominance of wealthy city folk, through the eyes of the central character, the headstrong Bathsheba Everdene, whose relationships with several different potential suitors are intended to represent cross-sections of British society. Director Thomas Vinterberg’s film is at least the fifth theatrical version of the story; written by David Nicholls, it stars Carey Mulligan as Bathsheba, Matthias Schoenaerts, Tom Sturridge and Michael Sheen as the suitors Farmer Oak, Sergeant Troy and Mr. Boldwood, and Juno Temple as Bathsheba’s servant girl Fanny Robin. Read more…

THE COMPANY OF WOLVES – George Fenton

April 23, 2015 Leave a comment

companyofwolvesTHROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The Company of Wolves is a dark fantasy from director Neil Jordan, based on English author Angela Carter’s mature, sexualized take on the classic Little Red Riding Hood story. The film stars Sarah Patterson as a teenage girl named Rosaleen, who dreams that she lives in a fairytale forest with her parents and sister. In her dream, Rosaleen is given a bright red shawl by her kindly grandmother, accompanied by a warning to stay away from “any strange men whose eyebrows meet in the middle,” Of course, before long, Rosaleen meets a seductive and handsome young huntsman – whose eyebrows meet in the middle – and whose bestial nature proves to be overwhelmingly alluring to the impressionable young woman. The film tackles a number of interesting and complicated themes, ranging from the nature of dreams and nightmares, to emergent sexuality, desire, and revenge. The film, Jordan’s second as a director, co-starred a litany of British character actors, including Angela Lansbury, David Warner, Brian Glover, Stephen Rea, Jim Carter and Terence Stamp, and made liberal use of a number of gruesomely realistic special effects, inspired by the similarly lupine An American Werewolf in London. Read more…

LADYHAWKE – Andrew Powell

April 16, 2015 4 comments

ladyhawke-gnpTHROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

In 1985 the sword-and-sorcery genre was still very much at the height of its powers, with successful films like Dragonslayer, Conan the Barbarian, Red Sonja and Krull having been released to popular acclaim during the preceding few years. Ladyhawke was less an action-adventure, and more a love story, telling the tale of two cursed lovers in twelfth century France: Etienne Navarre, a brave and noble knight, and Isabeau d’Anjou, a beautiful young noblewoman. The twist of the story comes due to the fact that, despite being in love, they can never truly be together until a curse is lifted – by day, Isabeau assumes the form of a hawk, while Etienne is human; at night, Etienne becomes a wolf, while Isabeau returns to her human form. With the help of a wisecracking thief named Philippe and a kindly priest, Etienne and Isabeau resolve to try to break the curse so they can finally be together. The film was directed by Richard Donner, and stars Rutger Hauer, Michelle Pfeiffer and Matthew Broderick. Read more…

IT FOLLOWS – Rich Vreeland

April 13, 2015 1 comment

itfollowsOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

It Follows is a low-budget independent American horror film, written and directed by David Robert Mitchell. The premise is deceptively simple: after having sex for the first time with her new boyfriend, a teenage girl named Jay becomes drawn into an inescapable nightmare when he tells her that, now that he has had sex with her, she will be followed by an ‘entity’, which can only move at walking pace, but which will kill her if it catches her. The entity can take on the appearance of any person, cannot be reasoned with, cannot be killed, and can only be seen by the person being followed, and the only way to ‘pass on’ the curse is to have sex with someone else, at which point the entity will begin to follow the new person. However, once that person is dead, the entity moves back down the chain, and begins following the previous person once more… The film stars Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Olivia Luccardi, Lili Sepe and Daniel Zovatto, and has become something of a cult sleeper hit, with critics comparing the film favorably to early genre efforts by directors like John Carpenter. Read more…

BABY: SECRET OF THE LOST LEGEND – Jerry Goldsmith

April 9, 2015 1 comment

babysecretofthelostlegendTHROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

In my review of Supergirl earlier in this series, I remarked how a number of Jerry Goldsmith scores are essentially ‘parallel universe’ scores, inferior versions of films John Williams scored. From the late 1970s through the mid 1990s, Goldsmith wrote a lot of great music for some truly awful movies, and if you look at his filmography during that period, you can see the pattern developing: where John Williams had Superman, Goldsmith had Supergirl; as Williams had Raiders of the Lost Ark, so Goldsmith had King Solomon’s Mines; and so on. Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend is basically Goldsmith’s Jurassic Park, eight years before Steven Spielberg broke all box office records with his dinosaur movie. It’s a family adventure directed by Bill L. Norton, starring William Katt, Sean Young, Patrick McGoohan and (inexplicably) Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes in an early acting role; it tells the story of Susan and George Loomis, a paleontologist and her husband, who discover a mother and baby brontosaurus in Africa, and try to protect them from hunters who want to capture them. Read more…

THE DUKE OF BURGUNDY – Cat’s Eyes

April 7, 2015 Leave a comment

dukeofburgundyOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

The Duke of Burgundy is a new erotic drama from the progressive British director Peter Strickland. The highbrow antidote to Fifty Shades of Grey, it tells the story of the sadomasochistic lesbian relationship between Cynthia (Sidse Babett Knudsen), a professor with a special interest in lepidoptery, and Evelyn (Chiara d’Anna), her maid and lover who slowly becomes her consensual sex slave. The title refers to the particular breed of butterfly with which Cynthia is fascinated, and acts as a metaphor for emergent female sexuality, while the entire look of the film is a loving homage to those European soft core movies of the 1960s and 1970s directed by the likes of Jess Franco, Tinto Brass and Just Jaeckin. Their films were shot in muted, earthy tones through misty, gossamer filters, and were serious and earnest and explicit in an unashamed way, celebrating sexuality in all its forms, and The Duke of Burgundy approaches things in a similar way. The film was screened at various film festivals, including the Toronto International Film Festival, the London Film Festival, and the International Film Festival in Rotterdam, to generally positive critical reviews. Read more…

THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI – Malcolm Arnold

April 6, 2015 1 comment

bridgeontheriverkwaiMOVIE MUSIC UK CLASSICS

Original Review by Craig Lysy

One day, out of curiosity, producer Sam Spiegel happened to purchase the novel “Le Pont de la Rivière Kwaï” by Pierre Boulle, which was, at the time, the talk of the day. He read the novel on a plane flight and by the time he arrived in London, he was determined to bring the story to the big screen. Complications arose immediately as his trusted screenwriters, Michael Wilson and Carl Foreman, were on the infamous McCarthy blacklist of people accused of Communist sympathies, and were forced to ghost-write, while Boulle, who could not speak, let alone write in English, was assigned the sole writing credit. Spiegel brought in David Lean to direct the film and they assembled a stellar cast for the project, including Alec Guinness as Colonel Nicholson, Jack Hawkins as Major Warden, William Holden as Captain Shears and Sessue Hayakawa as the brutal Colonel Saito. Read more…

HUGO FRIEDHOFER – Fathers of Film Music, Part 9

April 1, 2015 1 comment

Hugo FriedhoferArticle by Craig Lysy

Born: 3 May 1901, San Francisco, California.
Died: 17 May 1981.

Hugo Wilhelm Friedhofer was born in San Francisco into a musical family, his father being an accomplished cellist who trained in Dresden, Germany. His musical gifts surfaced early and he began playing the cello in earnest at the age of 13. He was not fond of school and so quit at 16, obtaining work as an office boy. In his teen years both music and art competed for his affections, and it was not until the age of 18 that he finally decided to pursue music for a career. He enrolled in night classes at the Mark Hopkins Institute in San Francisco, and then later studied harmony and counterpoint at Berkeley, where he gained employment as a cellist for the People’s Symphony Orchestra. Read more…