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Archive for September, 2016

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…

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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…