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Archive for September, 2016

FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF – Ira Newborn

September 29, 2016 Leave a comment

ferrisbuellersdayoffTHROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

If you ask anyone who grew up in the 1980s to name the sausage king of Chicago, chances are they will immediately reply Abe Froman, such is the enduring legacy of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. A raucous comedy written and directed by John Hughes – hot off the success of Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, and Weird Science – the film stars Matthew Broderick as the eponymous hero, a smart-mouthed high school slacker who fakes an illness to take a day off school; after convincing his girlfriend Sloane (Mia Sara) and his uptight best friend Cameron (Alan Ruck) to join him, they take Cameron’s father’s beloved Ferrari into Chicago for a day of mischief. However, high school teacher Mr. Rooney (Jeffrey Jones) is wise to Ferris’s antics, and is determined to put a stop to his delinquency once and for all. The film was an enormous critical and popular success, raking in millions of dollars at the box office over the summer of 1986, and making a star of its charismatic young leading man, while many of the film’s scenes and catchphrases became cultural touchstones for American kids. Personally, however, I have never been a huge fan of the film; I always found Ferris and his antics to be annoyingly egotistical, completely oblivious to the genuine protestations of his friends regarding his behavior, although I do find some of the set-pieces and one liners to be pretty amusing. Read more…

SNOWDEN – Craig Armstrong

September 27, 2016 1 comment

snowdenOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

Director Oliver Stone has been making films about American politics for more than 30 years, ruminating on the events and repercussions of American wars (Platoon, Born on the Fourth of July, Heaven & Earth), looking at the lives of Presidents (Nixon, JFK, W.), or exposing significant events in recent US history (World Trade Center). His most recent film falls into that latter category, and revolves around the life of Edward Snowden, a brilliant computer scientist who worked for the CIA and the NSA until 2013, when he leaked classified information to the Guardian newspaper about the extent of the US government’s numerous global surveillance programs. Opinion about Snowden remains polarized. Some consider him to be a hero and a patriot, whose disclosures about the US’s use of mass surveillance on its own citizens rightfully bring to light the issues of government transparency and an individual’s right to privacy; others consider him to be a criminal and a traitor, whose illegal actions jeopardized national security and put lives at risk. This smart, timely film stars Joseph Gordon Levitt as Snowden, and has a strong supporting cast of character actors including Shailene Woodley, Zachary Quinto, Melissa Leo, Tom Wilkinson, Rhys Ifans, and Nicolas Cage. Read more…

THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN – James Horner and Simon Franglen

September 23, 2016 3 comments

magnificentseven2016Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The death of James Horner in June 2015, in a plane crash at the age of 61, was one of the most shocking events to hit the film music community in many, many years. It wasn’t just the fact that Horner was seemingly on the verge of a comeback, having written several classical pieces and new scores in the preceding year, and having signed to write several new works (Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge, Zhang Yimou’s The Great Wall, and several Avatar sequels among them); it was the suddenness, the randomness of it all, coming completely out of the blue with no time to prepare for a film music world without him. At the time, once the immediate grief and concern for his family had been addressed, thoughts naturally turned to his musical legacy, and all the great music he was yet to write, and which we would now never get to hear. As it turns out, Horner had one last gift to share – the score for director Antoine Fuqua’s remake of the great western The Magnificent Seven, starring Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, and Ethan Hawke as three members of a gang of gun-slinging heroes who team up to protect a town from ruthless industrialist Peter Sarsgaard, who is forcibly removing the inhabitants of a small Old West community for his own nefarious purposes. Read more…

LINK – Jerry Goldsmith

September 22, 2016 Leave a comment

linkTHROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Despite being generally regarded as one of the most brilliant and groundbreaking composers in the history of cinema, Jerry Goldsmith scored some absolute stinkers when it came to the quality of the actual movies themselves. The 1980s was particularly fertile ground for terrible films; the decade saw him working on such ignominious titles as The Challenge, Baby: The Secret of Lost Legend, King Solomon’s Mines, Rent-a-Cop, and Warlock, but perhaps no film sums up this rather unfortunate aspect to his legacy as Link, a movie about a monkey that embarks on a killing spree. The film was directed by Richard Franklin, for whom Goldsmith scored Psycho II in 1983, and starred Elizabeth Shue as Jane, a young American anthropology student, who travels to England to work with a brilliant but reclusive professor (Terence Stamp) at his remote Victorian mansion/research facility. However, once Jane gets to know the mansion’s simian inhabitants, she begins to notice unusual events occurring, and suspects that an aged orangutan named Link, who is basically the facility’s butler, may be responsible… Read more…

THE NIGHT OF – Jeff Russo

September 20, 2016 2 comments

thenightofOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

The Night Of is one of the more critically acclaimed TV dramas of 2016. It’s an American remake of the 2008 British drama series Criminal Justice, and was adapted for broadcast on HBO by Richard Price and Steven Zaillian, the director/screenwriter behind such excellent films as Schindler’s List, Searching for Bobby Fischer, Moneyball, and many others. Essentially, the show is an unflinchingly realistic look at the American justice system as seen through the eyes of Nasir Khan (Riz Ahmed), a Pakistani-American college student accused of murdering a girl in New York City. As Naz makes his way through the system he encounters numerous individuals who have control over his destiny: the lead detective on his case (Bill Camp), a scrappy ambulance-chasing lawyer (John Turturro), the dogged district attorney seeking a conviction (Jeannie Berlin), a hardened prisoner who takes Naz under his wing and teaches him how to survive in jail (Michael Kenneth Williams), and an idealistic young defense attorney (Amara Karan) who shares Naz’s ethnic heritage. But the show is more than simply a murder-of-the-month whodunit; Zaillian and Price use Naz’s story to spotlight the unfairness, harshness, and occasional corruption of the justice system, as well as the cultural and political overtones of being a Muslim man accused of murder in contemporary America. Read more…

SPELLBOUND – Miklós Rósza

September 19, 2016 Leave a comment

spellbound100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

The 1945 Alfred Hitchcock mystery/suspense film Spellbound dealt with the new field of psychoanalysis and the inner workings of the human mind. The story offers testimony to Hitchock’s supreme mastery of suspense, camera work, and cinematography. The stellar cast included Ingrid Bergman playing Dr. Constance Peterson, a psychoanalyst working at the Green Manors mental hospital and Gregory Peck playing her love interest, the dashing Dr. Edwards. This is at its crux a love story. We see a cool and analytical Constance lose her professional detachment and immediately fall in love with Dr. Edwards upon his arrival. Sadly unsettling aspects of his personality slowly begin to slowly reveal themselves. As the story unfolds she discovers that her love interest is really an imposter, an outsider trying to falsely portray himself as Dr. Anthony Edwards. Driven by love, Constance seeks to illuminate his path back to sanity by trying to resurrect repressed memories without shattering him in the process, as such the story is a classic commentary on the eternal conflict of heart vs mind. Read more…

CROCODILE DUNDEE – Peter Best

September 15, 2016 Leave a comment

crocodiledundeeTHROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Up north in the Never-Never, where the land is harsh and bare, lives a mighty hunter named Mick Dundee, who can dance like Fred Astaire.

In the late summer of 1986 the world went crazy for an Australian comedian and actor named Paul Hogan and his cinematic creation, Michael J. “Crocodile” Dundee. A fish-out-of-water comedy with a healthy dose of unconventional romance, Crocodile Dundee made a bonafide star out of its rough-and-tumble leading man, with his salty catchphrases and easy charm. The film’s plot is a fairly straightforward one: New York magazine reporter Sue Charlton (Linda Kozlowski) travels to the remote Northern Territory in Australia to interview bushman Mick Dundee, the subject of many tall tales regarding his adventures in the outback. After experiencing first hand Mick’s prowess and survival skills, Sue invites Mick to travel back with her to New York to “continue the story”. Upon his arrival in the Big Apple, Dundee finds himself bemused by the local customs, but quickly wins over everyone he meets – the lone exception being Sue’s sarcastic and arrogant fiancé Richard (Mark Blum), who belittles and patronizes Mick at every opportunity. Of course, as is always the way of things in movies like this, Sue and Mick begin to fall for each other… Read more…

KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS – Dario Marianelli

September 14, 2016 5 comments

kuboandthetwostringsOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

Kubo and the Two Strings is the latest animated film from the outstanding Laika studio, whose previous efforts include such films as Coraline, Paranorman, and The Boxtrolls. The film is directed by Travis Knight and is set in a village in feudal Japan, where a young boy named Kubo practices the ancient art of origami, which he is able to magically manipulate by playing his shamisen, a three-stringed musical instrument similar to a guitar or banjo. Kubo’s father is dead, and his mother, who is ill, warns him about the dangers posed by his grandfather, the Moon King, and his aunts, the Sisters; they stole one of his eyes when he was a baby, and they covet the other one. Circumstances force Kubo to embark on a dangerous quest to search for his father’s armor, which he believes will protect him; he is accompanied on his journey by a magical monkey, and a half-man half-beetle samurai warrior who has no memory of his previous life. As they journey across the land, facing various dangers as they search for the armor, they are pursued by the Sisters, who will stop and nothing to thwart Kubo’s plans. The film – which has been the recipient of a great deal of critical acclaim – features the voices of Charlize Theron, Matthew McConaughey, Ralph Fiennes, Rooney Mara, George Takei, and Game of Thrones’s Art Parkinson as Kubo, and has an original score by the Oscar-winning Italian composer Dario Marianelli. Read more…

LAURA – David Raksin

September 12, 2016 1 comment

laura100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Director Otto Preminger came upon a story authored by Vera Caspary titled “Ring Twice Laura” which he sought for a theatrical release on Broadway. He was attracted to the high society setting and plot twist. Unfortunately the project never came to fruition. Caspary later expanded the story into a novel, with the sequel titled, “Laura”. 20th Century Fox purchased the film rights for both and Darryl Zanuck tasked Preminger with producing the film – they had clashed in the past and he out of spite would not allow Preminger to direct. After repeated clashes between Preminger and Director Rouben Mamoulian over casting Laird Creagar for the pivotal Waldo Lydecker role, Zannuck relented, fired Mamoulian and turned over the directing duties to Preminger. He immediately brought is a fine cast, which included Gene Tierney as Laura Hunt, Dana Andrews as Detective Mark McPherson, Clifton Webb as Waldo Lydecker, Judith Anderson as Ann Treadwell, Vincent Price as Shelby Carpenter and Dorothy Adams as Bessie Clary. Read more…

THE CHILDHOOD OF A LEADER – Scott Walker

September 9, 2016 1 comment

childhoodofaleaderOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

Any time you have a film based on the work of Jean-Paul Sartre you know you’re in for a challenging time at the movies; so it is with The Childhood of a Leader, director Brady Corbet’s film based on the great French existentialist philosopher’s 1939 short story. It tells the tale of a man named Prescott (Robert Pattinson), an American who grew up in Paris, and who at the story’s outset has already been revealed to be a fascist leader in a far-right European political party in the years immediately preceding World War II. The film then jumps back to his childhood in the years immediately following the conclusion of World War I, and examines both the child’s innate predilection for egotism, as well as the circumstances and influences that caused him to develop his particular identity and authoritarian world-view, drawing comparisons with people like Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, and other megalomaniacal leaders of their ilk. The film, which also stars Bérénice Bejo, Liam Cunningham, and Tom Sweet, was the darling of the 2015 Venice International Film Festival, and has been lauded by art-house film critics, who called it “a strange and startling film,” “relentlessly sombre and compelling,” and “a dark, enigmatic piece of work”. Read more…

THE NAME OF THE ROSE – James Horner

September 8, 2016 2 comments

nameoftheroseTHROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The Name of the Rose is a murder mystery with a difference. Directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud, and adapted from the enormously popular 1980 novel by Umberto Eco, it stars Sean Connery as William, a 14th century monk who journeys to a Benedictine monastery in northern Italy to attend a religious conference with other scholars. However, the conference is disturbed by several unexplained deaths, and the monastery’s abbot (Michael Lonsdale) assigns William to investigate them. With the help of his young student Adso (Christian Slater), William quickly uncovers a hotbed of secrets, hidden desires, and political and religious skullduggery among the monks, leading to more murders as the perpetrator seeks to maintain hidden. The film, which co-stars F. Murray Abraham, Helmut Qualtinger, Feodor Chaliapin, and Ron Perlman, was unfortunately not a successful one in financial terms, but it has gone on to be something of a cult film in some circles, with critics likening Connery to a medieval Sherlock Holmes who uses ingenuity and intellect to uncover the truth, in stark comparison to Abraham’s fiery and superstitious bishop, who as a member of the Spanish inquisition sees witchcraft and devilishness under around every corner. Read more…

HELL OR HIGH WATER – Nick Cave and Warren Ellis

September 6, 2016 Leave a comment

hellorhighwaterOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

As an Englishman who grew up in that country’s verdant landscape, the first time I drove through eastern New Mexico and western Texas was an eye-opening experience. The stretches of road between Amarillo and Albuquerque, and between El Paso and Midland-Odessa, cut through some of the most inhospitable landscapes I have ever seen; miles and miles of semi-arid desert, flat as a pancake, dotted with creosote bushes, yucca plants, cholla cactuses, and the occasional corpse of an armadillo, but not much else. It’s a place rich in oil and other natural resources, but some of the smaller towns in that area look like the apocalypse has blown through, leaving behind abandoned buildings, dusty streets, and little in the way of money or opportunity for the hardy people who continue to eke out a living there. It is against this backdrop of deprivation that Scottish director David Mackenzie’s film Hell or High Water is set. Chris Pine and Ben Foster star as two brothers who begin a crime spree, robbing local banks; Jeff Bridges plays the dogged Texas Ranger sent to stop them. The film looks like a fairly straightforward crime thriller from the outside, but it is actually much deeper than that, and tackles some rather weighty subjects, offering a searing criticism of aspects of the American banking system, looking at the plight of the poor in rural communities, and examining the relationship between two brothers who have reached a breaking point and have nothing left to lose. Read more…

DOUBLE INDEMNITY – Miklós Rózsa

September 5, 2016 Leave a comment

doubleindemnity100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

James Cain’s story “Double Indemnity” was first published in 1935 as an eight part serial in Liberty Magazine, but because of its sordid narrative studios were loathe buying the film rights, fearful of censoring by the Hayes Commission. When it was released as a successful novel in 1943, director Billy Wilder convinced Paramount to let him take on the project. Raymond Chandler was hired to collaborate with Wilder in writing the screenplay. Yet they clashed and Chandler stormed off the project, refusing to return unless his demands were met. The Studio agreed and work continued, although the two men detested each other. Casting was challenging as many actors were loathe to take on such reprehensible roles. Yet Wilder was persistent and eventfully secured a stellar cast, which included Fred McMurray as Walter Neff, Barbara Stanwyck as Phyllis Dietrichson, Edgar G. Robinson as Barton Keyes, Porter Hall as Mr. Jackson, Jean Heather as Lola Dietrichson, Tom Powers as Mr. Dietrichson and Byron Barr as Nino Zachetti. Read more…

SWALLOWS AND AMAZONS – Ilan Eshkeri

September 2, 2016 2 comments

swallowsandamazonsOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

Swallows and Amazons is one of the most beloved of all English children’s adventure stories. Written by Arthur Ransome and published in 1930, it chronicles a summer in the lives of the Walker family, who are holidaying on Lake Windermere. One day, while sailing a boat named Swallow on the lake, the Walker children meet and befriend the Blackett sisters, who have a boat of their own called Amazon, and are staying with their uncle, a crotchety author named Turner. As the summer unfolds the children concoct a series of wonderful imaginary adventures, involving great sea battles, pirates, and more. The whole story is a love letter to an idealized England of a time gone by: the innocent adventures of the children, the wholesomeness of their relationships with each other and the adults, and the beauty of the English countryside, where carefree sun-dappled days melt into vivid sunsets and sparkling twilights. The book has been filmed several times; first as a popular 1963 BBC TV mini-series starring Susan George, and then as a 1974 feature film starring Virginia McKenna, Ronald Fraser, and Suzanna Hamilton. This latest cinematic retelling is directed by Philippa Lowthorpe, and stars Andrew Scott, Rafe Spall, Kelly Macdonald, Jessica Hynes, and Harry Enfield. Read more…

VALHALLA – Ron Goodwin

September 1, 2016 6 comments

valhalla-lpTHROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Valhalla was a Danish animated film based on a series of popular comic books, which were in turn based on the ancient Norse mythologies. The story focuses on two human children, brother and sister Tjalfe and Røskva, whose farm is visited by the gods Thor and Loki during one of their many visits to Earth. However, when Loki tricks the children into breaking a golden rule, Thor – not knowing that Loki was responsible – decides to punish the children by taking them home with him to Asgård to be his servants. Once in Asgård, the children find their new life among the gods is surprisingly dull and so, with the help of a strange creature named Quark whom Loki has adopted, the children escape from Thor’s home, and begin a series of adventures where they meet giants in a magical forest, and even encounter Odin, the king of the gods himself. The film was directed by Peter Madsen and Jeffrey Farab, and at the time was the most expensive Danish film ever made, having cost around 40 million kroner. It was also popular with audiences across Scandinavia, but the production company failed to regain the cost of production and, as a result, the film became a financial flop at the box office, scuppering the chances of sequels based on other comic books in the series. Read more…