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Archive for July, 2015

ANT-MAN – Christophe Beck

July 30, 2015 2 comments

ant-manOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

A wholly unlikely new addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Ant-Man is the latest super hero film to hit the silver screen. Originally created by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber and Jack Kirby for the comic ‘Tales to Astonish’ in 1962, this first big-screen adventure for the character focuses on cat burglar Scott Foley, whose efforts to put aside his life of crime are stymied by his inability to hold down a regular job, jeopardizing his relationship with his daughter Cassie. Talked into committing “one last job” by his former cellmate Luis, Scott breaks into a house to steal a safe, unaware that the house belongs to scientist and inventor Hank Pym, who has created a suit which will shrink the wearer down to the size of an ant, while simultaneously giving him super-human powers. Unbeknownst to Scott, Pym – who became the original Ant-Man in 1963 – has manipulated events so that he can convince Scott to become a new Ant-Man, and help him retrieve the shrinking technology from his former protégé, the ruthless Darren Cross, who has stolen it, and intends to it sell to agents of Hydra. The film is directed by Peyton Reed, stars Paul Rudd as Foley, Michael Douglas as Pym, Corey Stoll as Cross, and Evangeline Lilly as Pym’s daughter Hope Van Dyne, and has an original score by Christophe Beck. Read more…

SILVERADO – Bruce Broughton

July 23, 2015 2 comments

silveradoexpandedTHROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Despite being the quintessential genre of American cinema, the western often goes through periods of decline, lulls in production where very few films of quality are produced by Hollywood. The early 1980s was one of those periods when cowboys were seemingly out of fashion, having been tainted by the overblown budget and massive failure of Heaven’s Gate at the box office in 1980. It would take five years for someone to take a gamble on another one, but two came out in the summer of 1985 – Clint Eastwood’s introverted and introspective Pale Rider, and Lawrence Kasdan’s more traditionally adventurous Silverado. With an all-star cast of talented character actors including Kevin Kline, Scott Glenn, Kevin Costner, Jeff Goldblum, Brian Dennehy, Danny Glover, Linda Hunt, and even John Cleese, the film follows the escapades of four drifters who become unlikely friends and find themselves in the small town of Silverado, New Mexico, caught in the middle of a land war between open range cowboys and homesteading farmers, and dealing with individual demons from their own past. The film was a modest financial success, taking $32 million at the box office, and was generally well received at the time, but as the years have gone by Silverado is now looked on more favorably, and is considered a turning point in the revitalization of the genre. Read more…

I AM BIG BIRD: THE CAROLL SPINNEY STORY – Joshua Johnson

July 21, 2015 Leave a comment

iambigbirdOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

Sesame Street was one of the few American kid’s TV shows that aired in the United Kingdom when I was a child, so I grew up being very familiar with its cast of characters, both human and muppet. While that lovable ball of red fuzz Elmo is undoubtedly the star of the show these days, for many years the center of attention was Big Bird, the eight-foot tall yellow creature who has the innocence and inquisitiveness of a six year old child. Since the character first debuted on the show in 1969 he has been played by Caroll Spinney, a master puppeteer and artist. Now 81 years old, Spinney is the subject of this new documentary feature from directors Dave La Mattina and Chad Walker, which charts Spinney’s life, from his early years growing up in Massachusetts, to the beginnings of his friendship with Jim Henson, and his work on the Street controlling both Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch. Read more…

ANTHONY ADVERSE – Erich Wolfgang Korngold

July 20, 2015 Leave a comment

anthonyadverseMOVIE MUSIC UK CLASSICS

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Warner Brothers Studio was in the market for a period piece romance and found its inspiration in Harvey Allen’s massive 1200 page novel “Anthony Adverse” (1933), paying an amazing $40,000 for the screen rights. Veteran director Mervyn LeRoy was hired to manage the project with Sheridan Gibney and Milton Krims tasked with adapting the mammoth novel for the big screen. The stellar cast included Frederic March as Anthony Adverse, Olivia de Havilland as Angela Giuseppe, Donald Woods as Vincent Nolte, Anita Louise as Maria Bonnyfeather, Edmund Gwenn as John Bonnyfeather and Claude Rains as Marquis Don Luis. Set in late 18th century Italy, the story offers a classic morality tale abounding with treachery, betrayal and misfortune. Maria is in an arranged marriage to the rich and cruel Marquis Don Luis, who is very much her senior. She however is in love with the man her dreams, a young and dashing French Calvary officer with who she becomes pregnant. When the Marquis discovers her dishonor, he kills her lover in a duel, and after she dies in childbirth, leaves her bastard son at a convent. When young Anthony reaches manhood he falls in love and marries his sweetheart Angela. By a twist of fate they become separated, tragically he is bereft at her disappearance while she feels he has abandoned her. As Anthony seeks his fortune overseas Angela rises to become an opera star. Years later when our lovers finally reunite, Anthony discovers that Angela has bore him a son, but she fails to disclose that she is now the famous opera star Mlle. Georges, mistress of Napoleon Bonaparte. When Anthony learns her secret, he is heart-broken and departs for America with his son in search of a better life. The film was a commercial and critical success, earning seven Academy Award nominations, winning four, including Best Original Score. Read more…

MAD MAX BEYOND THUNDERDOME – Maurice Jarre

July 16, 2015 2 comments

madmaxbeyondthunderdome-expandedTHROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The third in director George Miller’s series of Mad Max movies, Beyond Thunderdome once again starred Mel Gibson and continued the adventures of the former Australian Highway Patrol officer Max Rockatansky, as he tries to survive in a post-apocalyptic society. Fifteen years after the events of Mad Max II, Max finds himself in Bartertown, a vicious society of scavengers and opportunists overseen by the ruthless Aunty Entity, played by Tina Turner. In exchange for returning to him his vehicle – which she has scavenged – she forces him in to conflict with Master Blaster, a dwarf and his hulking masked bodyguard, who control Bartertown’s fuel supply; to resolve the conflict, Max finds himself taking part in gladiatorial games inside the ‘thunderdome’, an enormous metal arena where people duel to the death. The film was an enormous success – the highest grossing film of the original trilogy – and further cemented Mel Gibson’s box office bankability as a leading man; his next film would be the smash hit buddy-cop action movie Lethal Weapon, two years later. Read more…

POLDARK – Anne Dudley

July 14, 2015 1 comment

poldarkOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

Poldark is one of those British period romantic dramas that the BBC does so well. Based on the series of historical novels by Winston Graham, this is actually the second adaptation of the story made by Auntie Beeb, following the massively popular and successful series starring Robin Ellis and Angharad Rees which first began airing in 1975. The stories follow the fortunes of Ross Poldark, a British Army officer who returns to his home in Cornwall from the American Revolutionary War only to find that his fiancée, Elizabeth Chynoweth, having believed him dead, is about to marry his cousin Francis. Ross attempts to restore his own fortunes by reopening one of his family’s long-derelict tin mines, and after several years he marries Demelza Carne, a poor servant girl, and gradually comes to terms with the loss of Elizabeth’s love. However, as is always the case with stories such as these, the course of true love never runs smooth, and the dramatic saga of the Poldark family continues across the generations. The show stars Aidan Turner as Poldark, Eleanor Tomlinson as Demelza, Heida Reid as Elizabeth, and Kyler Soller as Francis. Read more…

EXODUS – Ernest Gold

July 13, 2015 1 comment

exodusMOVIE MUSIC UK CLASSICS

Original Review by Craig Lysy

In 1958 Otto Preminger and United Artists studio purchased the film rights to Leon Uris’s forthcoming novel, “Exodus”. Preminger who would both produce and direct the film, felt that this was a story that needed to be told, and for him it became a passion project. He hired Dalton Trumbo who had been blacklisted as a communist by the infamous McCarthy Committee to write the screenplay. From day one he had Paul Newman in mind to play the lead role of Ari Ben Canaan. The stellar cast rounded off with Eva Marie Saint (Kitty Fremont), Ralph Richardson (General Sutherland, Peter Lawford as Major Caldwell, Lee Cobb as Barak Ben Canaan, Sal Mineo as Dov Landau and John Derek as Taha. The story is based on the actual historical events in 1947, which began with the ship Exodus, and the lead up to the founding of the modern state of Israel in 1948. Nurse Kitty’s fate becomes entwined with Ari Ben Canaan a Hagannah rebel who obtains a cargo ship and smuggles 611 Jewish inmates out of the Cypriot internment camp for passage to Israel. In Israel, the British are preparing to leave, and the unfolding partition of Palestine into separate Jewish and Arab states portends war. Read more…

BACK TO THE FUTURE – Alan Silvestri

July 9, 2015 1 comment

backtothefutureTHROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

In the spring of 1985, Robert Zemeckis was a young up-and-coming director who had enjoyed some success with the Michael Douglas-Kathleen Turner adventure flick Romancing the Stone the year before, but for the most part was still largely an unknown quantity. His breakthrough came with the release of Back to the Future, a classic time-travelling comedy adventure which went on to become the biggest grossing film of the year, made Michael J. Fox a movie star, and cemented the much-derided DeLorean automobile into cinematic folklore forever. Fox stars as Marty McFly, a typical 1980s kid from suburban California, who is accidentally sent back to the year 1955 by his friend, scientist and inventor Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd), who has built a time machine out of the aforementioned DeLorean. Stranded in time and without enough fuel to return home, Marty must seek help from the 1955 version of Doc – but, unfortunately, he inadvertently puts his own future at risk when the teenage version of his mother Lorraine (Lea Thompson) meets and develops a crush on him rather than George (Crispin Glover), the man destined to be his father… Read more…

THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD – Erich Wolfgang Korngold

July 6, 2015 1 comment

adventuresofrobinhoodMOVIE MUSIC UK CLASSICS

Original Review by Craig Lysy

In 1935 Warner Brothers Studio sought to bring an epic swashbuckling film to the big screen and William Keighley was hired to direct. Screenwriters Norman Reilly Raine and Seton Miller were brought in to write the script, for which they drew inspiration from the Medieval Robin Hood legends. A stellar cast was assembled including; Errol Flynn (Sir Robin of Locksley AKA Robin Hood), Olivia de Havilland (Lady Marian Fitzwalter), Basil Rathbone (Sir Guy of Gisbourne), Claude Reins (Prince John), Patrick Knowles (Will Scarlett), Eugene Pallette (Friar Tuck), Alan Hale Sr. (Little John) and Melville Cooper (High Sheriff of Nottingham). The story reveals that in 1,191 C.E. King Richard the Lionheart of England has been taken captive by Leopold V, Duke of Austria, as he returned from the Third Crusade. Regretfully his imprisonment provides a pretext for his treacherous brother Prince John to usurp the throne. As a member of the ruling Norman elite, he begins a reign of terror and oppression of the native Saxons, raising taxes supposedly to ransom Richard’s freedom, but in reality the money flows into his personal coffers for his own enrichment. Only one nobleman has the conscience to oppose John’s duplicity, the Saxon knight Sir Robin of Locksley. At a court dinner he boldly declares that he will do all in his power to oppose John and restore Richard to the throne. For this affront John issues an arrest warrant. With his lands and title now forfeit, Robin assembles a band of “Merry Men” who rob from the rich and provide for the poor. When Lady Marion becomes his prisoner, her initial disdain turns to admiration and then love when she sees Robin’s nobility and care for the people. Eventually Robin discovers Richard has returned and devises a plan to overthrow John. He and his men enter Sir Guy’s castle dressed as monks and succeed in winning the day, which features an epic duel with Sir Guy. Now vanquished, a contrite John begs for Richard’s forgiveness, and is exiled. Richard then pardons the Merry Men, knights Robin as Baron of Locksley and Earl of Sherwood and Nottingham. He then commands Robin to marry his ward, the Lady Marian resulting in a classic happy ending! The film was both a huge commercial success and critical success, earning four Academy Award nominations, winning three, including Best Original Score. Read more…

LIFEFORCE – Henry Mancini

July 2, 2015 Leave a comment

lifeforceTHROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

What do you think of when you think of the music of Henry Mancini? The gentle romance of Breakfast at Tiffany’s? The effortlessly cool jazz of Peter Gunn or The Pink Panther? The forbidden passion of The Thorn Birds? The playful “Baby Elephant Walk” from Hatari? I’d bet my bottom dollar that most people would come up with those classics long before they thought of an epic orchestral sci-fi horror score, but that’s exactly what Mancini wrote for Lifeforce, a British-American production directed by Tobe Hooper and produced by the notorious Yoram Globus and Menahem Golan for Cannon Films. The film is a loose adaptation of Colin Wilson’s 1976 novel The Space Vampires, and stars Steve Railsback as the head of a multi-national space exploration team sent to investigate Halley’s Comet as it makes one of it’s regular 75-year passes past Earth. The team finds a space craft concealed inside the comet’s corona, and inside the space craft they find the preserved bodies of three seemingly humanoid aliens in suspended animation, including one incredibly beautiful female. However, when the space exploration team’s ship returns home, Mission Control in London finds it empty, save for the three aliens, which soon awake and begin draining ‘life force’ energies from every human they encounter. The film co-starred Peter Firth, Frank Finlay, Patrick Stewart, and Mathilda May, who spends almost the entire film completely naked; despite this obvious selling point, the film was a disaster, recouping less than half of its $25 million budget, and receiving terrible reviews from most critics of the time. Read more…

HERBERT STOTHART – Fathers of Film Music, Part 11

July 1, 2015 1 comment

Herbert StothartArticle by Craig Lysy

Born: 11 September 1885, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Died: 1 February 1949.

Herbert Stothart was born of Scottish and German ancestry in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1885. He studied at Milwaukee Normal School with a curriculum tailored to prepare him for an academic career as a teacher of history. He helped pay for his education by working as a theatre usher, which also elicited a lifelong fascination with movies. It came to pass that he joined an Episcopal Church choir, which kindled a fervent love of music. When he entered the University of Wisconsin, he continued on this path by composing and conducting musicals for the Haresfoot Dramatic Club. His exposure to the musical arts and his extracurricular activities staging school musicals ignited in Stothart a lifelong passion for music, which would now dominate his life. His hard work paid off when one of his productions, “Manicure Shop”, was successfully staged professionally in Chicago, which opened opportunities for further musical studies in Europe. Once this occurred his career path was firmly set, and he returned to America, securing full-time employment as a composer for vaudeville and New York musical theatre. Read more…