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Archive for February, 2017

THE GREAT WALL – Ramin Djawadi

February 28, 2017 2 comments

thegreatwallOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

The Great Wall is a Chinese action-fantasy movie directed by the great Zhang Yimou, the creator of such outstanding pieces of cinema as Raise the Red Lantern, Shanghai Triad, Hero, House of Flying Daggers, and Curse of the Golden Flower. It stars Matt Damon as William, a mercenary who, along with his compatriot Tovar (Pedro Pascal), finds himself in China during the 11th century searching for gunpowder. Circumstances lead the pair to a fortress along the Great Wall of China under the command of General Shao (Hanyu Zhang), Strategist Wang (Andy Lau), and acrobat-warrior Commander Lin-Mae (Tian Jing), who are preparing to do battle with the Tao-Tie, terrible creatures which attack the wall every 60 years. William and Tovar become embroiled in the desperate defense of the wall knowing that, if the Tao-Tie should breach the fortifications, all of China – and, eventually the world – would be threatened. It’s a fairly simple story which is steeped in Chinese mythology, and features some staggering action sequences, but its strength is in its visual splendor. Zhang is famous for his astonishing use of color, and The Great Wall is no exception; from the armor of the various different platoons of the Nameless Order, to the pageantry of the festivals and ceremonies, to a spectacular fight sequence in a tower made of stained glass, the whole film is a feast for the eyes which begs to be seen on the big screen. Read more…

SUNSET BOULEVARD – Franz Waxman

February 27, 2017 Leave a comment

sunsetboulevard100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Director Billy Wilder and producer Charles Brackett created a brilliant film noir screenplay, which told the story of a once proud but now aged Hollywood actress who wished to end her seclusion and regain past glory. For the principle actors, Gloria Swanson was given the part of Norma Desmond. A young William Holden was selected for Joe Gillis and Erich von Stronheim was cast as Norma’s former husband and now butler Max von Mayerling. The story tells the tale of Joe Gillis, a young screenwriter down on his luck that drives into Desmond’s estate while fleeing a car repossesor. Norma, who has written a script to propel her comeback, hires Joe to create a screenplay. She lavishes her wealth and affection on him, which he freely and shamelessly accepts. Ultimately she falls in love with Joe and when he rejects her she shoots him. The story ends as a now elegantly dressed yet mad Norma descends her grand staircase to greet the police. Halfway down she pauses and announces proudly that she is happy to be making films again, ending with “All right, Mr. De Mille, I’m ready for my close-up.” The movie was both a commercial and critical success earning eleven Academy Award nominations, winning three for Best Screenplay, Best Art Direction and Best Film Score. Read more…

Academy Award Winners 2016

February 26, 2017 Leave a comment

hurwitz-oscarThe Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) have announced the winners of the 89th Academy Awards, honoring the best in film in 2016.

In the Best Original Score category composer Justin Hurwitz won the award for his score for director Damian Chazelle’s film La La Land, a modern day musical which celebrates the style of classic Hollywood updated to a contemporary setting. Hurwitz accepted the award by saying:

“Ok, wow! Thank you so much to the Academy. Thank you to my very, very good friend, Damian [Chazelle], I’m so glad I met you! Thank you to Marc Platt, Jordan Horowitz, Fred Berger. Thank you to everybody at Lionsgate. Thank you to all the LA musicians who played on this score. I just put notes on a page and they’re the ones who made it beautiful and sound the way it does. If I start going through names I could make, at most, twenty to thirty people happy but, I’ll make about a hundred – a couple of hundred million people really bored, so I’ll just leave it at everybody who’s work is on-screen in any way in this movie, I was looking at your work when I was scoring the picture, I was looking at what you did when I was scoring the picture, and that’s what inspired me, so thank you to everybody who worked on this movie. Thank you.”

The other nominees were Nicholas Britell for Moonlight, Mica Levi for Jackie, Dustin O’Halloran and Volker “Hauschka” Bertelmann for Lion, and Thomas Newman for Passengers.

In the Best Original Song category, the winners were Justin Hurwitz, Justin Paul, and Benj Pasek, for their song “City of Stars” from La La Land.

The other nominees were Justin Hurwitz, Benj Pasek, and Justin Paul for “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” from La La Land, Lin-Manuel Miranda for “How Far I’ll Go” from Moana, Joshua Ralph and Gordon Sumner (Sting) for “The Empty Chair” from Jim: The James Foley Story, and Justin Timberlake, Max Martin, and Karl Johan Schuster (Shellback) for “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” from Trolls.

84 CHARING CROSS ROAD – George Fenton

February 24, 2017 Leave a comment

84charingcrossroadTHROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

84 Charing Cross Road is a genteel British period drama directed by David Hugh Jones, based on the semi-autobiographical novel by American author Helene Hanff. The film stars Anne Bancroft as Hanff, and tells the story of the long-distance friendship that develops between her and antiquarian bookseller Frank Doel (Anthony Hopkins), who manages a shop at the titular address in London in 1949. The film is little more than a quiet character study, a snapshot of life on opposite sides of the Atlantic in the period immediately after World War II, but the story has proved to be immensely popular: the original novel was a best seller, the subsequent Broadway stage play was a smash hit, and this screen adaptation was a critical darling in the UK; Anne Bancroft won a BAFTA for her leading role, and the film was BAFTA-nominated for its screenplay, and for Judi Dench’s supporting role as Frank’s wife, Nora. Read more…

IFMCA Award Winners 2016

February 23, 2017 Leave a comment

johannjohannsson-ifmcaINTERNATIONAL FILM MUSIC CRITICS ASSOCIATION ANNOUNCES WINNERS OF 2016 IFMCA AWARDS; “ARRIVAL” TAKES SCORE OF THE YEAR, JUSTIN HURWITZ AND “LA LA LAND” WINS THREE OTHERS

The International Film Music Critics Association (IFMCA) announces its list of winners for excellence in musical scoring in 2016, in the 2016 IFMCA Awards.

The award for Score of the Year goes to Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson for his work on the critically acclaimed science fiction drama “Arrival,” directed by Denis Villeneuve, starring Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner. IFMCA member Jon Broxton said that “Jóhannsson’s approach to solving the film’s musical problems [is] absolutely fascinating, and the way he was able to musically convey some of the film’s more challenging cerebral ideas involving language and communication is astonishingly accomplished,” while IFMCA member Daniel Schweiger said that Jóhannsson “brilliantly captures both a sense of wonder and fear with beholding the mind-boggling, verbally-scrambled unknown, as whale cry motifs join with alternately moaning and chattering voices, backed by a strong orchestral sound that serves as a powerful universal musical translator in a way that’s both harmonically understandable, and profoundly strange.” This is the first IFMCA Award win of Jóhannsson’s career, him having previously been nominated for Best Original Score for a Drama Film for “The Theory of Everything” in 2014. Read more…

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A CURE FOR WELLNESS – Benjamin Wallfisch

February 21, 2017 2 comments

acureforwellnessOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

A Cure for Wellness is the latest film from Pirates of the Caribbean director Gore Verbinski. It’s a creepy, paranoia-infused horror-thriller starring Dane De Haan as Lockhart, a young and ambitious Wall Street stockbroker who is sent to an idyllic but mysterious ‘wellness center’ in the Swiss Alps to retrieve his company’s CEO, who has been spending time there, and who has sent a troubling letter home to the executives. Upon arrival, Lockhart meets the wellness center’s owner and chief medical officer Heinrich Volmer (Jason Isaacs), some of the patients (Celia Imrie, Ashok Mandanna), and a strange young girl named Hannah (Mia Goth), but when he tries to leave the facility he is involved in a serious car crash. Forced to recuperate at the facility with a badly broken leg, Lockhart soon discovers some troubling information about the history of the place, and quickly comes to believe that things are not as they seem. It’s a visually startling and quite beautiful film which drips with atmosphere, and is very reminiscent of many of the European paranoia-thrillers of the 1970s set in murderous hospitals, especially those by directors like Dario Argento. It’s also completely bat-shit insane in the best possible way, with a denouement that takes grand guignol to violent extremes. Read more…

THE RED PONY – Aaron Copland

February 20, 2017 Leave a comment

redpony100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

In the 1940s Republic Pictures was struggling to find its place in the sun, and so made a concerted effort to gain equal status with the major studios of the day. To that end they began to take on serious dramas with renowned directors. Producer-Director Lewis Milestone was hired to bring George Steinbeck’s short story series The Red Pony to the big screen. Steinbeck himself was hired to write the screenplay as the multiple story lines had to be blended into a cogent narrative. Milestone brought in a splendid cast which included Myrna Loy as Alice Tiflin, Robert Mitchum as Billy Buck, Louis Calhern as Grandfather, Sheppherd Strudwick as Fred Tiflin, Peter Miles as Tom Tiflin, and Margaret Hamilton as Teacher. The story is classic Americana, set in the 1930s, and takes place in the Salinas Valley ranching communities of central California. A young boy Tom is gifted a red pony colt by his father Fred. The two are not close and Fred hopes that the gift will strengthen the father-son bond. But instead of seeking help from his father, Tom instead asks stableman Billy to help assist him in caring for the pony and in its training. Read more…

THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE – Lorne Balfe

February 17, 2017 1 comment

legobatmanmovieOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

Considering the combined box office success of both the Batman movies, and the 2015 Lego Movie, as well as the fact that the former character enjoyed a memorable extended plastic cameo in the latter, it was almost inevitable that the caped crusader would get his own Lego spinoff. Directed by Chris McKay, the film takes a fairly standard animated movie plot trope – Batman having to drop the ‘lone vigilante’ persona and work with his friends to stop the Joker – and surrounds it with a never-ending stream of pop culture references, in-jokes, cameos, and one-liners, some of which come so thick and fast that they barely have time to register as being funny before the next gag hits. Parts of The Lego Batman Movie are genuinely brilliant, creative and clever, and very funny, but the whole thing feels like a movie designed by a hyperactive six year old on way too much sugar. Visually, the movie veers from being astonishingly good to being a brain-smashing mess, while the action sequences feel like they are edited with an average shot length of less than a second. It’s a movie which, by the end, has relentlessly hammered you into submission, and left you gasping for breath and crawling for the exit. Read more…

BAFTA Winners 2016

February 12, 2017 Leave a comment

hurwitz-baftaThe British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) have announced the winners of the 70th British Academy Film Awards, honoring the best in film in 2016.

In the Best Original Score category composer Justin Hurwitz won the award for his score for the contemporary screen music La La Land. In accepting his award, Hurwitz said:

“Thank you to the Academy. I wanted to share this as well with our incredible lyricists, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, who wrote all the words. I remember talking a couple of years ago to somebody who came to the BAFTAs as a part of a movie that had multiple nominations and they were saying that one of the coolest things was getting to know other people who worked on the movie who you may not have known, and that’s not the experience I’m having because this was such an unusually collaborative movie where from the very beginning we were working under one roof, and I got to see these other artists work up close. I got to see Mary Zophres designing the costumes, and watch the Wascos work, and watch Linus (Sandgren) shoot it, and I was constantly inspired by the work of these other artists, which is a cool experience for a composer in general, but to see it under the direction of Damian (Chazelle), who’s so masterful, is really something I’ll never forget. This is very cool trophy, by the way, I really like it. Beautiful Thank you!”

The other nominees were Jóhann Jóhannsson for Arrival, Abel Korzeniowski for Nocturnal Animals, Mica Levi for Jackie, and Dustin O’Halloran and Volker “Hauschka” Bertelmann for Lion.

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NEWTOWN – Fil Eisler

February 11, 2017 3 comments

newtownOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

Friday, December 14, 2012, began as a fairly standard day in Newtown, Connecticut. People getting up, eating breakfast with their families, and heading to work. Moms and dads dropping their kids off at school. This all changed at 9:35am when a mentally ill young man named Adam Lanza stole a shotgun, murdered his mother, and then drove to Sandy Hook Elementary School, where he subsequently shot and killed 26 other people – most of them children aged six and seven – before turning the gun on himself. The incident was the deadliest mass shooting at a high school or grade school, and the third-deadliest mass shooting by a single person in American history – and yet, despite public outcry, despite the catastrophic numbers of dead children, the Government of then-President Barack Obama was unable to pass stricter laws on gun ownership. It remains ridiculously easy for Americans to buy these sorts of deadly weapons, and as such future tragedies like this remain a distinct possibility. These events, and their aftermath, are examined in detail in the harrowing documentary feature Newtown, directed by Kim A. Snyder. Read more…

IFMCA Award Nominations 2016

February 9, 2017 1 comment

ifmcasquareINTERNATIONAL FILM MUSIC CRITICS ASSOCIATION AWARD NOMINATIONS ANNOUNCED; MICHAEL GIACCHINO AND “LA LA LAND” COMPOSER JUSTIN HURWITZ LEAD THE PACK

The International Film Music Critics Association (IFMCA) announces its list of nominees for excellence in musical scoring in 2016, for the 13th annual IFMCA Awards. In a wide open field, the most nominated composers are Michael Giacchino and Justin Hurwitz, with five nominations each, and Abel Korzeniowski, with four nominations.

Giacchino is nominated for his work on two scores; the action-packed comic book fantasy film “Doctor Strange,” and the popular and socially aware Disney animated film “Zootopia,” as well as for the “Night on the Yorktown” cue from his score for “Star Trek Beyond”. In addition, his score for the first of the Star Wars spinoff films, “Rogue One,” helped him secure a nomination for Composer of the Year. Giacchino is a 36-time IFMCA Award nominee who previously received Score of the Year honors in 2004 for “The Incredibles,” and in 2009 for “Up”. Read more…

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Movie Music UK Awards 2016

February 3, 2017 3 comments

mmukawardsI know I have said this year after year, but this year it seems to be truer than ever: choosing the best scores of 2016 was an incredibly difficult task. The issue, for me, was the lack of a clear 5-star masterpiece score, combined with a whole host of very good-but-not-great scores.I keep a running tally of every score I hear throughout the year, and I have ended up with an astonishing 58 scores which, if I were still giving out star ratings, I would have rated either **** or ****½.

Putting these in any kind of hierarchical order is virtually impossible task considering the tiny margins of quality between each score but, nevertheless, it’s something I had to do. So, after much deliberation, here are my choices for the Best Scores of 2016! Read more…

PASSENGERS – Thomas Newman

February 1, 2017 5 comments

passengersOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

Passengers is a romantic drama with a sci-fi twist, a love story amongst the stars with an unusual moral dilemma at its core, and with an action movie climax that stands at odds with much of the gentle comedy of the first half of the movie. Directed by Morten Tyldum and written by Jon Spaihts, the film stars Chris Pratt as Jim Preston, one of 5,000 colonists on board a state-of-the-art starship traveling to a new life on Homestead II, a distant planet. The journey takes 120 years, and the passengers are all in hibernation, but a malfunction on board the ship causes Jim to accidentally wake up 90 years early. After unsuccessfully trying to put himself back into hibernation, Jim resigns himself to his fate; despite having access to the ship’s luxurious facilities, Jim only has an android bartender (Michael Sheen) for company, and after a year of isolation decides to commit suicide. It is at this lowest point that Jim comes across Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence), a fellow passenger, whose cryo-tube is still working, and the film’s moral dilemma emerges: should Jim, who believes he has fallen in love, wake Aurora up for companionship, knowing that doing so will result in her never reaching Homestead II? Read more…