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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…

ANGEL HEART – Trevor Jones

March 16, 2017 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Angel Heart is a neo-noir mystery-thriller with elements of psychological horror, written and directed by Alan Parker, based on the novel Falling Angel by William Hjortsberg. Set in the 1950s, the film stars Mickey Rourke as Harry Angel, a hard-boiled New York private detective who is hired by a mysterious businessman named Cyphre (Robert De Niro) to track down Johnny Favorite, a musician who Cyphre helped become successful before World War II, but who has been missing for more than a decade. The trail leads Angel from New York to New Orleans, where he becomes embroiled in a labyrinthine plot of sex, murder, betrayal, and occult voodoo symbolism, which leads him to question his own sanity. The film was not especially well-received when it was first released, and was more notorious at the time for the fact that it cast 19-year-old Lisa Bonet – best known as the wholesome Denise on The Cosby Show – as a sultry Cajun nymphomaniac named Epiphany who has a torrid love scene with Rourke. However, time has been kind to the movie, and it is well-respected today for its sweat-soaked Southern Gothic atmosphere, intelligent screenplay, compelling lead performances, and impressive visual style. Read more…

VICEROY’S HOUSE – A. R. Rahman

March 14, 2017 4 comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

There have been quite a few films made about the independence and subsequent separation of India into three countries – India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh – towards the end of the British Empire. Mountbatten: The Last Viceroy from 1986 looked at the events from the point of view of Lord Louis Mountbatten, the final British ruler of the country prior to independence in 1947. Jinnah from 1998 was a fairly straightforward biopic of Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the leader of the Pakistani independence movement. Partition from 2007 took a more personal view, looking at the lives of family members who were separated along religious lines. The new film Viceroy’s House, directed by Anglo-Indian filmmaker Gurinder Chadha, is yet another look at these important events, but this time from the point of view of the members of Mountbatten’s household, who witness the historic transfer of power, and the political and social upheaval of the period, from front row seats. The film – which has been described as having an Upstairs-Downstairs, or Downton Abbey feel – stars Hugh Bonneville and Gillian Anderson as Lord and Lady Mountbatten, and Manish Dayal and Huma Qureshi as Jeet and Alia, members of Mountbatten’s staff who fall in love, and has support from a plethora of British character actors, including Michael Gambon, Simon Callow, and the late great Om Puri. Read more…

A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE – Alex North

March 13, 2017 1 comment

astreetcarnameddesire100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Elia Kazan had achieved widespread critical acclaim while directing Tennessee Williams’ play “A Streetcar Named Desire” on Broadway. At the bidding of Williams, he was exhorted to duplicate this success on the big screen. Warner Brothers bought into the idea and purchased the film rights with the proviso that Williams himself write the screenplay. Since Kazan was already quite familiar and comfortable with the Broadway cast, most of them were brought in to reprise their roles, including Marlon Brando as Stanley Kowalski, Kim Hunter as Stella Kowalski and Karl Malden as Harold “Mitch” Mitchell. Studio executives however vetoed the talented Jessica Tandy from the Broadway cast for the lead actress role of Blanche DuBois, preferring to add the star power of Vivian Leigh. Read more…

A UNITED KINGDOM – Patrick Doyle

March 10, 2017 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

One of the things I love most about the movies is the fact that it often gives me the opportunity to learn a little bit about historical events I previously knew nothing about. Case in point: A United Kingdom, the latest film from British director Amma Asante, which is basically about the events leading up to the foundation of the Republic of Botswana. In 1947 Botswana was still known as Bechuanaland and was part of the British Empire, ruled by both a local royal family, and by a High Commissioner appointed by the British Crown. Seretse Khama, the heir to the throne, is in London studying law, and intends to return home once his studies are finished to take over from his uncle, who has acted as his regent since his father’s death. Things become more complicated when Seretse meets and falls in love with Ruth Williams, a middle class white woman; what unfolds is simultaneously a love story, a treatise on racism in the UK and Africa in the 1940s, and a political drama concerning the complicated diplomatic relationship between Britain and its Commonwealth colonies in southern Africa. The film, which was released in British cinemas in November 2016 prior to its worldwide opening in February 2017, stars David Oyelowo as Seretse, and Rosamund Pike as Ruth, and features an excellent supporting cast of British and African character actors including Vusi Kunene, Terry Pheto, Jack Davenport, Tom Felton, and Nicholas Lyndhurst. Read more…

AMERIKA – Basil Poledouris

March 9, 2017 1 comment

amerikaTHROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

In the spring of 1987 viewers of the network TV channel ABC were treated to a 6-part mini-series imagining a horrific alternate reality for the United States where the country has been insidiously, but bloodlessly, overtaken by the Soviet Union. Amerika posits the country as being essentially a puppet state of Moscow, with the President and Congress mere figureheads for the Soviet regime; the population is kept under control by a UN peacekeeping force called the UNSSU, which is supposed to be multi-national but is in reality a Russian Communist military arm, which uses fear and intimidation tactics to suppress opposition. From out of this nightmare three heroes emerge: former politician Devin Mitford (Kris Kristofferson), who is released back into society after spending years in a labor camp for treason; administrator Peter Bradford (Robert Urich), who pretends to collaborate with the Soviets while working to bring down the regime from within; and Colonel Andrei Denisov (Sam Neill), a KGB agent becoming more and more disillusioned with his country’s politics. The series, which was written and directed by Donald Wrye, has been in the news of late after more than 20 years of relative obscurity, mainly due to the accusations of Russian influence in Donald Trump’s successful run for US President in 2016… this fiction couldn’t be happening in reality, could it? Read more…

LOGAN – Marco Beltrami

March 7, 2017 3 comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Although it is technically a part of the Marvel X-Men franchise of comic book movies, Logan is a very different type of super hero film than anything else in recent history, dark, violent, and profane. Set in the year 2029, the film sees the mutant Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) aged, burnt out, and sick due to adamantium poisoning, eking out a meager existence as a limo driver on the Mexican border. He lives with albino mutant Caliban (Stephen Merchant), and cares for the very frail Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), who is beginning to suffer from a degenerative brain disease and is prone to devastating psychic seizures. No mutant children have been born for several decades, and no-one knows why. Logan’s life is turned upside down by the arrival of a young girl named Laura (Dafne Keen), who is manifesting a mutation almost identical to Logan’s, and who is fleeing for her life from the agents of a biotech company, Transigen, and their ruthless head of security Pierce (Boyd Holbrook). Reluctantly, Logan agrees to ensure Laura safely arrives at a supposed safe haven in North Dakota, and so, with Professor Xavier in tow, the trio heads across the United States, trying to stay one step ahead of the ‘reavers’ who are hunting them. Read more…

A PLACE IN THE SUN – Franz Waxman

March 6, 2017 Leave a comment

aplaceinthesun100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

The film was adapted from a 1925 novel “An American Tragedy” by Theodore Dreiser. Director George Stevens hired Michael Wilson and Harry Brown for the screenplay, and assembled a stellar cast to at last bring this tragic story to life. George Stevens (Montgomery Clift), Angela Vickers (Elizabeth Taylor) and Alice Tripp (Shelley Winters) were hired as the principles and paired with a great cast of supporting players. The film centers on George Eastman, a poor man raised by an evangelical mother, who is tragically undone by his own actions. He leaves Chicago dirt poor, determined to make a name for himself working in the company of his wealthy Uncle in California. While there he begins dating Alice, a girl he met in the plant. All seems fine until he becomes completely enamored with Angela, a drop dead gorgeous socialite whom he meets at a party. He abandons Alice without a thought and begins dating Angela. The two fall in love, yet things begin to unravel when Alice discloses to George that she is pregnant. When she threatens a public disclosure if he does not marry her, George feels cornered and so devises a plot to murder her. When the time comes to strike through a staged boat accident, his conscience prevails and he relents only to see Alice drown anyway by accident. He survives, but inexplicably fails to report her death to the authorities. As such, although innocent, circumstantial evidence and his own guilty behavior make authorities suspicious. His arrest comes just as Angela’s father grants him permission to marry his daughter. He is then tried and sentenced to death in the electric chair. Read more…

GET OUT – Michael Abels

March 3, 2017 4 comments

getoutOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

Get Out, from writer-director Jordan Peele, is a horror movie with a contemporary twist, providing a different look at the genre while commenting on the all-too-contemporary issues facing young African-American men. The film stars Daniel Kaluuya as Chris, a black man who agrees to spend the weekend visiting the parents of his white girlfriend, Rose (Alison Williams). Upon arriving, he meets his potential in-laws (Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener), and for a while everything seems normal in their little slice of suburban heaven, but before long Chris starts noticing strange behavior among the guests at a party, and among the hired help, and begins to feel that something is terribly, terribly wrong. The film has been praised both for its subversion of genre clichés, and for its unflinching look at racial and social issues in modern American society, with special acclaim being afforded to Peele, who one critic said has “created a work that addresses the myriad levels of racism, pays homage to some great horror films, carves out its own creative path, has a distinctive visual style – and is flat-out funny as well”. Read more…