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RAISING ARIZONA – Carter Burwell

March 30, 2017 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Raising Arizona is the second film in the career of writer-director brothers Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, their sophomore feature film after Blood Simple in 1984. It’s a comedy crime caper starring Nicolas Cage and Holly Hunter as Hi and Ed McDunnough, an ex-con and an ex-cop who meet, fall in love, marry, and desperately long for a child of their own. However, when it is discovered that Hi is unable to have children, they decide to steal one of the ‘Arizona Quints,’ a set of five babies born to locally famous furniture magnate Nathan Arizona. Hi and Ed, wanting to raise their child in as normal an environment as possible, try to keep their crime a secret, but a parade of co-workers, ex-cons, and bounty hunters contrive to make their lives impossible. The film, which also stars John Goodman, William Forsythe, Trey Wilson, and Frances McDormand, has become something of a cult hit over the years, and is fondly regarded as being the film which introduced many of the Coens’s idiosyncratic filmmaking touches, although personally I don’t like the film at all – it’s just too ‘weird’ for my taste. Read more…

LIFE – Jon Ekstrand

March 28, 2017 6 comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Life is a sci-fi action horror thriller written by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, and directed by Daniel Espinosa. The film stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Ryan Reynolds, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ariyon Bakare, and Olga Dihovichnaya, as the members of a six-person team of astronauts and scientists on board the International Space Station studying soil samples from Mars. The scientists successfully identify and re-animate a single-celled organism from within the soil, conclusively proving that life exists on Mars; back on Earth, the schoolchildren of a high school in the United States name the creature ‘Calvin’. Time passes, and Calvin shows signs of high intelligence and awareness, but before long it also begins to show signs of aggression, putting the lives of the crew – and, potentially, the people of Earth – in great jeopardy. The film can be described as a combination of Gravity and Alien, but it’s not as good as either of them; unfortunate plot holes and some missed opportunities detract from the slickness of the production, the impressive visual scope of the cinematography, and some sincere performances, especially from Gyllenhaal and Ferguson. Read more…

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HIGH NOON – Dimitri Tiomkin

March 27, 2017 1 comment

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Producers Stanley Kramer and Carl Foreman had long sought to film a Western and saw their opportunity when they came across an inspiring short story “The Tin Star” by John Cunningham. Foreman adapted it for the big screen and hired European director Fred Zinnemann to direct. For the film veteran actor Gary Cooper was given the lead role of Will Kane. He was joined by Grace Kelly (Amy Fowler), Ian MacDonald (Frank Miller) and Lloyd Bridges (Harvey Pell). The story is set in 1880 in the New Mexico Territory. It is a classic morality play regarding personal honor, civic duty, and a man’s struggle to overcome his fears. The story reveals Will Kane, the Marshall of Hadleyville, who has retired after many years of service to marry his sweetheart Amy Fowler. (The casting of Cooper who was 50 years old and 30 years Kelly’s senior raised eyebrows). As he is about to depart to start a new life in another town, word comes that Frank Miller, an outlaw he brought to justice has been acquitted on a legal technicality. Miller has announced to all that he is spoiling for revenge and will arrive on the noon train. Will’s sense of honor leads to him reclaiming his badge to safeguard the town, yet his nobility is unrequited by townsfolk who all refuse to stand with him against Frank, his brother Ben and fellow outlaws Jack Colby and Jim Pierce. Even his deputy rejects him for not recommending him as his replacement. Well, the epic confrontation takes place with Will standing alone against four men. He guns down Ben and Jack, but is wounded in the process. Amy, a pacifist Quaker comes to her man’s aid and shoots Jim in the back. An outraged Frank takes her hostage to force Will’s submission. Yet Amy suddenly strikes Miller, thus distracting him and giving Will a clear shot. Will finishes his task by shooting Frank. As the relieved townspeople come out from the shadows, Will stares at them with palpable contempt. He throws his marshal’s star in the dirt with disdain and leaves the town with Amy. The film was both a critical and commercial success, including twin Oscars for Best Score and Best Song for Tiomkin. Read more…

LETHAL WEAPON – Michael Kamen, Eric Clapton, and David Sanborn

March 23, 2017 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Although it was pre-dated by films like 48 HRS., Lethal Weapon is the film which for me best defines the 1980s buddy-cop movie sub-genre. It’s a thrilling, action-packed, funny, surprisingly moving film written by Shane Black and directed by Richard Donner, starring Mel Gibson as Martin Riggs, a loose-cannon LAPD cop and former Vietnam War sniper with a suicidal streak after the death of his wife. In an attempt to rein him in, Riggs is assigned a new partner in the shape of Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover), a cranky, by-the-book homicide department veteran with a wife and three kids at home, and who doesn’t tolerate Riggs’s increasingly off-the-wall antics. However, things become more difficult for the new partners when they become embroiled in a plot which links the death of a woman who committed suicide by jumping from a high rise with a gang of vicious drug dealers, and which becomes personal when it is revealed that the drug dealers may be men from Riggs’s past. The film co-starred Mitchell Ryan, Gary Busey, Tom Atkins, Steve Kahan, and Darlene Love, and was an enormous box-office smash, grossing more than $65 million in the United States alone. Read more…

DEBBIE WISEMAN: LIVE AT THE BARBICAN – Debbie Wiseman

March 21, 2017 1 comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Despite me having been one of her strongest and most vocal supporters for the past 20 years, the music of Debbie Wiseman is still grossly underappreciated. For those who don’t know her, Wiseman was born in London in May 1963. She studied at the Trinity College of Music, and took lessons in piano and composition at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, studying with the noted Hammer horror composer Buxton Orr. She began her career writing for British television, including popular shows such as The Upper Hand, and made her first foray into film in 1994, with her score for the Oscar-nominated drama Tom & Viv. Since then, Wiseman’s career has encompassed such successful and acclaimed films as Haunted, Wilde, Tom’s Midnight Garden, Arsène Lupin, and Lesbian Vampire Killers. She also remains prolific on television, having written music for numerous popular and critically lauded series and TV movies, notably the acclaimed dramas The Death of Yugoslavia and Warriors (both of which were nominated for Royal Television Society Awards for their music), Othello, Judge John Deed, Jekyll, Land Girls, Father Brown, and Wolf Hall. Read more…

THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL – Bernard Herrmann

March 20, 2017 2 comments

thedaytheearthstoodstill100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Producer Julian Blaustein had long sought to make a film that would serve as a metaphor for the dark pall of fear and suspicion, which had fallen over humanity following the onset of the Atomic Age. Unfortunately after reviewing over 200 scripts he was unable to find one that suited him. He managed to obtain backing from Fox Studio Executive Darryl F. Zanuck to hire screenwriter Edmund North to adapt the short story Farewell to the Master (1940) by Harry Bates. From the story Blaustein saw opportunity arise for thoughtful moral commentary against armed conflict. He also hoped that the story’s nuanced subliminal parallels between the alien visitor Klaatu and Jesus Christ would help drive home the message. Veteran director Robert Wise was brought in to manage the project, and a fine cast was selected, including; Michael Rennie as Klaatu, Patricia Neal as Helen Benson, Billy Gray as Bobby Benson, Hugh Marlowe as Tom Stephens and Sam Jaffe as Professor Jacob Barnhardt. Read more…

KONG: SKULL ISLAND – Henry Jackman

March 17, 2017 1 comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

As the granddaddy of all monster movies, King Kong has an enormous legacy and is a major touchstone in cinematic history. Ever since Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack first brought the giant ape to the silver screen in 1933 his presence has loomed large over the genre, with multiple remakes and adaptations over the subsequent 70-plus years. The latest film to join the pantheon is Kong: Skull Island, directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts, which is set in the 1970s just as the Vietnam War is coming to an end. U.S. government agent Bill Randa (John Goodman) acquires funding to lead an expedition to the mythical Skull Island on the pretence of conducting a geological survey, but who is actually searching for evidence of long-forgotten mythological giant monsters. Accompanying him on the trip are a platoon of US army soldiers led by Lieutenant Colonel Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson), British SAS veteran and expert tracker James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston), and photojournalist Mason Weaver (Brie Larson), among others. However, once they arrive on the island, the adventurers quickly encounter much more than they bargained for in the shape of a 100-foot tall bipedal ape known as Kong; before long they are fighting for their lives, not only from the protective Kong, but from the numerous other creatures who live on – and below – the mysterious island. Read more…