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JURASSIC WORLD – Michael Giacchino

June 30, 2015 Leave a comment

jurassicworldOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

In 1998 a 29-year-old producer and aspiring composer for Disney Interactive was hired to write the score for The Lost World: Jurassic Park, a video game spin off from the recently-released Jurassic Park sequel that had hit cinema screens the year before. The game was one of the first PlayStation console titles to feature an original live orchestral score, and the title was so successful that it led to the composer being given further video game assignments, most notably in the Medal of Honor series, and eventually prestigious TV and film scoring jobs. That composer was Michael Giacchino – the first composer to successfully blur the lines between scoring video games and theatrical movies – and, with the release of Jurassic World, his almost 20-year career has come full circle. The film is intended to be a direct sequel to the original Jurassic Park – ignoring entirely the events of The Lost World and Jurassic Park III – and is set 20 years later in the now fully-functioning, open and successful theme park that John Hammond envisaged, albeit with the events of the original film having been covered up and buried by Ingen’s PR department. Bryce Dallas Howard plays Claire Dearing, the park’s operations manager, who is visited by her two nephews Zach and Gray for a vacation. Unfortunately Claire is preoccupied with recruiting corporate sponsors for their new attraction, a genetically-modified dinosaur called Indominus Rex, and so essentially leaves the kids to their own devices in the park. Things change when Indominus apparently escapes from his paddock, and Claire calls on the park’s chief animal trainer, Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), to recapture the beast before it starts eating the tourists… Read more…

THE WIZARD OF OZ – Herbert Stothart

June 29, 2015 Leave a comment

wizardofozMOVIE MUSIC UK CLASSICS

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Following the enormous commercial success of Walt Disney’s “Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs” (1937), MGM Studio Executive Louis Mayer was determined to cash in and duplicate its success. He found the story he felt was needed and purchased the rights to L. Frank Baum’s novel, “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” (1900). Noel Langley, Florence Ryerson and Edgar Allan Woolf were tasked with writing the screenplay. Veteran director Victor Fleming was hired for the project and he assembled a cast, which is now legend; Judy Garland (Dorothy), Frank Morgan (Professor Marvel/Wizard of Oz), Ray Bolger (Hunk/Scarecrow), Jack Haley (Hickory/Tin Man), Bert Lahr (Zeke/Cowardly Lion), Billie Burke (Glinda) and Margaret Hamilton (Miss Gulch and the Wicked Witch of the West). Read more…

COCOON – James Horner

June 25, 2015 Leave a comment

cocoonTHROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Cocoon was one of the major box-office successes of 1985, a winning combination of science fiction adventure and family drama directed by Ron Howard. The film stars Don Ameche, Wilford Brimley and Hume Cronyn as three old-timers living in a retirement community in Florida; part of their daily routine is to sneak into an unoccupied house next door and swim in its swimming pool. One day they find a number of strange, rock-like objects at the bottom of the water, but after checking them out, decide to swim there anyway; following their swim, the three geezers suddenly find themselves rejuvenated with a vigorous, youthful energy, and they share their discovery with their respective wives and lady friends, played by Gwen Verdon, Maureen Stapleton, and Jessica Tandy. However, much to the shock of the senior citizens, the ‘rocks in the pool’ turn out to be cocoons containing dozens of sick aliens, left behind by friendly extra-terrestrials centuries ago, and which were about to be returned to their home planet by their leader, Brian Dennehy, with the help of a local ship captain, played by Steve Guttenberg – until the pool was drained of its life force by the old folks. As such, the sextet of retirees must work with the aliens to help them find a way home, without revealing the secret of the pool. The film earned two Academy Awards – one for Best Supporting Actor for Don Ameche, and one for Best Visual Effects – and boasted a magnificent score by the then 32-year-old James Horner. Read more…

James Horner, 1953-2015

June 22, 2015 1 comment

James HornerComposer James Horner has been killed in a plane crash. Horner died when the single engine S312 Tucano plane he was piloting crashed in the Los Padres National Forest near Santa Barbara, California. He was 61 years old.

James Roy Horner was born in Los Angeles in August 1953, the son of Harry Horner, an Oscar-nominated Hollywood production designer and occasional film director who emigrated from Austria. He attended high school in California and Arizona, but spent most of his formative years living in London, where he attended the Royal College of Music, and later completed his PhD at UCLA in Los Angeles. After scoring several short film projects for the American Film Institute in the late 1970s, and spending several years teaching, Horner joined the staff at Roger Corman’s New World Pictures, scoring several low-budget genre films, including the popular Battle Beyond the Stars (1980), and working with soon-to-be Hollywood bigwigs such as director James Cameron and producer Gale Ann Hurd.

Horner launched into the big time in 1982 with his score for the critically acclaimed and commercially popular science fiction sequel Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, and from that point on Horner quickly rose to become one of the most in-demand composers in Hollywood. In the 1980s and 90s Horner became known for his grand, large-scale, emotional orchestral works; he scored a succession of box office hit movies including 48 HRS. (1982), Honey I Shrunk the Kids (1989), The Pelican Brief (1993), Clear and Present Danger (1994), Apollo 13 (1995) and Ransom (1996), and wrote enormously popular scores for films such as Krull (1983), Cocoon (1985), Willow (1988), Field of Dreams (1989), Glory (1989), Legends of the Fall (1994) and Braveheart (1995), culminating in the massive Titanic in 1997, which remains one of the biggest-selling orchestral score albums of all time. Following the turn of the millennium Horner’s career continued apace, with scores for further box office successes such as How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000), The Perfect Storm (2000), A Beautiful Mind (2001), Avatar (2009) and The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) amongst his efforts. Read more…

PINOCCHIO – Leigh Harline and Paul J. Smith

June 22, 2015 Leave a comment

pinocchioMOVIE MUSIC UK CLASSICS

Original Review by Craig Lysy

After reading the novel “The Adventures of Pinocchio” by Carlo Collodi, Walt Disney felt it could be made into a fine Disney animated feature. When he picked up his honorary Oscar for “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” in 1937, he advised the Academy of his intent to bring Pinocchio to the big screen. The film became a passion project and its budget ballooned from $500,000 to $2.5 million, with several major rewrites. The voice cast included Dickie Jones as Pinocchio and (Alexander the Donkey, Cliff Edwards as Jiminy Cricket, Evelyn Venable as the Blue Fairy), Christian Rub as Geppetto, Walter Catlett as John Worthington Foulfellow the Red Fox, Charles Judels as Stromboli, Frankie Darro as Lampwick and Thurl Ravenscroft as Monstro the Whale. This film offers the classic tale of Geppetto the woodworker, who makes a wooden marionette, whom he names Pinocchio. He has no son and when he goes to bed he makes a wish that Pinocchio become a real boy. His wish is heard, and the Blue Fairy comes during his sleep, and brings Pinocchio to life, but he is not yet fully human. She advises Pinocchio that if he is brave, truthful and unselfish, he will become a real boy. She assigns Jiminy Cricket to be his conscience. Well, after a long adventure, with many struggles along the way, Pinocchio succeeds, becomes a real boy, and he and Geppetto live happily ever after. The film resonated with the public and was a commercial success. It also received critical acclaim and secured two Academy Awards for best Original Score, and Best Song “When You Wish Upon A Star”. This was the first time a film secured these two wins together. Read more…

TEXAS RISING – John Debney and Bruce Broughton

June 16, 2015 5 comments

texasrisingOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

The American cable TV channels A&E and History have, in recent years, been branching out of their usual comfort zone and producing a number of epic mini-series chronicling important events or people in American history. Their first effort, in 2012, told the story of the feud between the Hatfields & McCoys that has since become part of American folklore; the second, in 2013, was a chronicle of the lives of gangsters Bonnie & Clyde, while the third, in 2014, was an extended biography of the life of magician Harry Houdini. Their latest project is a 10-hour western epic called Texas Rising, which chronicles the events of the 1835 war which led to the state of Texas breaking away from Mexico, and briefly becoming an independent nation, before becoming the 28th state of the United States. A large number of important historical events, like the battle at the Alamo, and pivotal figures from the American west, such as Davy Crockett, Daniel Boone, and Sam Houston, are depicted by director Roland Joffé, whose cast includes a who’s who of character actors, including Bill Paxton, Brendan Fraser, Ray Liotta, Kris Kristofferson, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Crispin Glover and Jeff Fahey. Read more…

THE SONG OF BERNADETTE – Alfred Newman

June 15, 2015 2 comments

songofbernadetteMOVIE MUSIC UK CLASSICS

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Producer William Perlberg of 20th Century Fox saw opportunity for the studio after reading the novel 1942 novel The Song of Bernadette by Franz Werfel, and so resolved to bring this inspired and miraculous story to the big screen. Henry King was hired to direct and veteran screenwriter George Seaton tasked with writing the screenplay. For the actors, a nationwide talent search found 24 year old Jennifer Jones, who was selected to play the title character of Bernadette Soubirous. Supporting actors included Vincent Price in perhaps his finest performance as (Prosecutor Vital Dutour), Aubrey Mather (Mayor Lacade), Charles Dingle (Chief of Police Jocomet), Charles Bickford (Dean of Lourdes) and Gladys Cooper (Sister Therese Vauzous). The film was made in 1943, as the world suffered under the dark pall of Nazism. Its narrative offers an intimate venerative, and sympathetic accounting of a young peasant girl, who one day beholds a miraculous vision of a refulgent “Beautiful Lady”. We bear witness to her stirring and remarkable journey of faith and courage, as well as a commentary against the banality of government, the skepticism of science and the dogmatism of organized religion. Bernadette’s sincerity, innocence, and purity of heart eventually overcome all critics, skeptics, and obstacles. A shrine is eventually built to commemorate the miracle of her vision of Mary, and she spends her final days secluded in a nunnery, suffering from a very painful form of tuberculosis of the bone, from which she succumbed at the young age of 35. The film was both a commercial and critical success, earning an astounding twelve Academy Award nominations, winning four for, Best Actress, Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, and best Musical Score. Read more…

UNITED PASSIONS – Jean-Pascal Beintus

June 13, 2015 Leave a comment

unitedpassionsOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

Those of you who know me will know that, in addition to film music, one of the greatest loves of my life is the sport which Americans insist on calling soccer, but which most of the rest of the world calls football. I have been a fan of the beautiful game since I was a small boy, and have followed the fortunes of my club team, Sheffield Wednesday, and the English national team for more than 30 years. Globally, the sport is run by the Fédération Internationale de Football Association, better known by its acronym FIFA, and unless you have been living under a rock recently, you will know all about the allegations regarding FIFA and charges of corruption, bribery, and alleged vote-rigging, in relation to the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar, amongst other things. It has been common knowledge amongst well-informed football fans for years that FIFA is corrupt – in fact, saying that FIFA is corrupt is an understatement akin to saying that Adolf Hitler was a bit disagreeable – and even people who love the sport agree that things need to change significantly. The man currently in charge of FIFA is a Swiss hobgoblin named Sepp Blatter, who has a persona that is basically one step away from ‘Bond villain’. You almost expect to find him in his office in Zürich, stroking a white cat and dropping people into a tank full of sharks. Thankfully, in the wake of these recent issues, Blatter is on his way out of the door, and reform seems to be imminent, but for years and years Blatter and FIFA insisted that they were squeaky clean, incorruptible and innocent, and one of the ways they went about proving this was to co-produce a dramatic film all about the foundation of FIFA, the creation of the World Cup, and all the good stuff it does in the world today. Yes, seriously. In a delicious touch of irony, the film – which is called United Passions – opened in cinemas in the United States on June 5th 2015, around a week after the scandal broke, and it grossed a staggering $607 over its opening weekend. Not $607,000 – six hundred and seven. And they say the American public has no taste. Read more…

THE GOONIES – Dave Grusin

June 11, 2015 Leave a comment

thegooniesTHROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

One of the most beloved children’s adventure films of the 1980s, The Goonies tells the story of seven friends – Sean Astin, Josh Brolin, Jeff Cohen, Corey Feldman, Kerri Green, Martha Plimpton, and Ke Huy Quan – who are about to be separated forever when their homes in small-town Oregon are bought by a ruthless developer. In a last-ditch attempt to raise the money they need to buy back their property, the Goonies embark on a mission to locate the long-lost treasure belonging to the pirate One Eyed Willie, whose shipwreck is rumored to be just off the coast; however, as they search for the booty, the friends quickly find themselves embroiled in a much more dangerous situation when they accidentally stumble across the Fratelli gang (Anne Ramsey, Robert Davi, Joe Pantoliano), bank robbers who are hiding from the law nearby. The film, which was directed by Richard Donner, produced by Steven Spielberg, and written by Chris Columbus, caught the imagination of a generation, and has gone on to be a genre classic, with a multitude of quotable lines and memorable scenes: the cry of “hey, you guys!,” and the term ‘truffle shuffle’ have since gone on to be part of the Hollywood lexicon. Read more…

SAN ANDREAS – Andrew Lockington

June 7, 2015 3 comments

sanandreasOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

For Los Angeles natives, San Andreas is a disaster film which could hit too close to home. It’s been more than 20 years since the last major earthquake to hit the area – the 1994 Northridge quake, a 6.7 – and many people feel that a ‘big one’ is imminent, considering that the famous San Andreas fault runs almost directly through the city. Director Brad Peyton’s film takes a look at what might happen if the fault were to rupture, and the devastation that the cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco would suffer as a result. The personal story within the film centers on Ray Gaines, played by Dwayne Johnson, a Los Angeles Fire Department helicopter rescue pilot, who embarks on a dangerous mission to rescue his estranged wife Emma (Carla Gugino) and their daughter Blake (Alexandra Daddario) from the aftermath of the disaster. The film, which also stars Ioan Gruffudd, Archie Panjabi, and Paul Giamatti as a Cal Tech seismologist, has been a surprise commercial hit, and has been praised for its special effects and action sequences, while being simultaneously derided for its rather terrible dialogue and cliché-ridden plot. Read more…