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Archive for April, 2017

THE PROMISE – Gabriel Yared

April 29, 2017 1 comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The Armenian genocide that took place between 1915 and 1917 was the systematic extermination of more than 1.5 million Armenians by the government of the Ottoman Empire in what is now Turkey. It’s one of the most overlooked examples of ethnic cleansing of the 20th century – and one which the current Turkish government still refuses to acknowledge – but it is now starting to become more widely recognized. Director Terry George’s film The Promise looks poised to be one of the first films to examine the historical importance of the period; it’s a sweeping epic set during the final years of the Ottoman Empire which focuses on the love triangle that develops between an Armenian medical student (Oscar Isaac), an acclaimed American journalist in Paris (Christian Bale), and an Armenian-born woman raised in France (Charlotte Le Bon), and which uses the backdrop of the genocide for social context. Read more…

PROJECT X – James Horner

April 27, 2017 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Project X was a genre-defying film – part action, part sci-fi, part-comedy, part drama – directed by Jonathan Kaplan from a screenplay by Lawrence Lasker and Stanley Weiser. Matthew Broderick starred as young US Air Force researcher Jimmy Garrett, who is assigned to a top secret project that involves teaching chimpanzees to fly planes. He bonds with one of the chimps, Virgil, after he discovers that it was taught sign language by its previous owner, graduate student Teri MacDonald (Helen Hunt). When Jimmy realizes that Virgil, along with all the other chimps, is supposed to die as part of the project’s research into the effects of radiation poisoning, he finds and contacts Teri; appalled by what the government is going to do to the animals, they agree to work together to rescue Virgil, and stop the project. The film co-stars William Sadler, Jonathan Stark, Stephen Lang, and Jean Smart, and was well received by critics at the time, who praised it as a ‘young person’s morality tale’ that tackles the important subject of animal welfare. Read more…

THEIR FINEST – Rachel Portman

April 25, 2017 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

In the 1940s, at the height of World War II, the British Ministry of Information made numerous morale-boosting propaganda films intended to help raise the spirits of the public during the time of the Blitz and the Battle of Britain, extolling the bravery and sacrifice of the lads fighting Nazis the overseas. Their Finest, which is directed by Lone Scherfig from a novel by Lissa Evans, is a comedy-drama which recounts the fictional creation of one of these films from the point of view of Catrin Cole, an aspiring young writer-director whose talents are being squandered by the Ministry because of her gender. The film stars Gemma Arterton as Catrin, Bill Nighy as the star of the film Ambrose Hillard, features Sam Claflin, Jack Huston, Helen McCrory, and Eddie Marsan in supporting roles, and has a score by that most English of film composers, Rachel Portman. Read more…

THE SEVEN SAMURAI [SHICHININ NO SAMURAI] – Fumio Hayasaka

April 24, 2017 2 comments

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Groundbreaking Japanese director Akira Kurosawa was researching samurai lore for a planned film that would focus on a single day in a samurai’s life. He abandoned this idea when Toho Studio producer Sōjirō Motoki presented him with a tale, which intrigued him – aggrieved farmers hiring samurais to protect their village from bandits. He crafted a script with the assistance of Shinobu Hashimoto and Hideo Oguni, and secured Motoki’s blessings to proceed. This would mark Kurosawa’s first foray into a samurai film and he recruited a fine cast to realize his vision. He meticulously researched historical samurai to create identities for each of the seven. For his seven samurai he brought in Takashi Shimura as Kanbei Shimada, a war-weary ronin who leads the group; Yoshio Inaba as Gorōbei Katayama, a master archer and second in command; Daisuke Katō as Shichirōji, Shimada’s former lieutenant; Sejii Miyaguchi as Kyūzō, a skilled swordsman; Minoru Chiaki as the amiable Heihachi Hayashida; Isao Kimura as Katsushiro Okamoto, a young and untested warrior; and lastly Toshiro Mifune as the comic Kikuchiyo, a commoner pretending to be a samurai who eventually earns the right to be called one. Read more…

ON THE WATERFRONT – Leonard Bernstein

April 17, 2017 1 comment

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Director Elia Kazan and novelist/playwright Arthur Miller sought to bring to the big screen a tough and gritty tale of New Jersey longshoremen who struggled to make a living in the late 1940s against mobsters and corrupt union officials. When they could not find any traction with the studios, Miller moved on, but Kazan never gave up on the idea. When he came upon a new screenplay by Budd Schulberg based upon a series of Pulitzer Prize winning articles “Crime on the Waterfront” by Malcolm Johnson, his hopes were rekindled. Well Kazan purchased the film rights and he and Schulberg pitched the screenplay to studio executive Darryl Zanuck of 20th Century Fox, but were rebuffed, with him saying, “Who’s going to care about a bunch of sweaty longshoremen?” Undeterred, Kazan sought out independent producer Sam Spiegel who managed to strike a deal with Columbia Pictures. For the film Kazan brought in a cast for the ages with Marlon Brando as Terry Malloy, Karl Malden as Father Barry, Lee Cobb as Johnny Friendly, Rod Steiger as Charlie Malloy, and Eve Marie Saint as Edie Doyle. Read more…

SHANE – Victor Young

April 10, 2017 Leave a comment

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Director George Stevens of Paramount often relied on his son to screen material for future projects. One night George Jr. brought him the novel “Shane” by Jack Schaefer, which he thought was “a really good story”, and counseled him to read it. Well, the storytelling was indeed exceptional and Stevens resolved to bring it to the big screen. He hired A. B. Guthrie Jr. to write the screenplay based on his familiarity with Western lore, and then set out to recruit his cast. His initial choices for the lead roles of Montgomery Clift, William Holden and Katherine Hepburn did not pan out, and so Alan Ladd was cast in the titular role and joined with a fine supporting cast, which included Jean Arthur as Marian Starrett, Van Heflin as Joe Starrett, Brandon deWilde as Joey Starrett, Emile Meyer as Rufus Ryker, and Jack Palance as Jack Wilson. Read more…

THE BOSS BABY – Hans Zimmer and Steve Mazzaro

April 7, 2017 1 comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The Boss Baby is a raucous new animated comedy film from Dreamworks directed by Tom McGrath, based on the popular 2010 picture book by Marla Frazee, about the wildly imaginative adventures of a 7-year-old boy named Tim. One day a taxi arrives at Tim’s home, inside of which is a baby wearing a suit and carrying a briefcase. Tim’s parents introduce the infant as a new brother, and there is an instant sibling rivalry between Tim and the pint-sized interloper. However, much to his surprise, Tim discovers that the baby can talk like an adult, and is actually a spy on a secret mission to thwart a dastardly plot that involves puppies taking over from babies as the cutest things in the world. The film, which features the voice talent of Alec Baldwin, Steve Buscemi, Jimmy Kimmel, Lisa Kudrow, and Tobey Maguire, was a popular success at the box office over the spring of 2017, despite reviews criticizing it for its flimsy plotting and over-reliance on potty humor (although – it’s a film about a talking baby; potty humor is almost mandatory). Read more…

EVIL DEAD 2 – Joseph Lo Duca

April 6, 2017 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

In the wake of the unexpected success of the low-budget horror movie The Evil Dead in 1981, writer/director Sam Raimi was given $3.5 million by producer Dino Di Laurentiis to make a bigger-budget sequel, which both re-made the original film with better special effects and more professional production values, and continued the story. The result is 1987’s Evil Dead 2, in which the hapless hero Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell) continues to do battle with the terrifying ‘deadites,’ re-animated corpses possessed by the evil power of an ancient book who prevent him from escaping the ‘cabin in the woods’ and returning to civilization with all his extremities intact. With it’s spectacularly gory blood-splattered special effects, overblown humor, and frenetic visual style, Evil Dead 2 quickly became a cult hit, almost doubling its budget at the box office, and initiating a franchise that continues to this day. The film co-starred Sarah Berry, Dan Hicks, Kassie Wesley, and Richard Domeier, and had an original score by Michigan-born composer Joseph Lo Duca. Read more…

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST – Alan Menken

April 4, 2017 2 comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Beauty and the Beast is the latest film in Walt Disney Studios’s series of live action remakes of their classic animated films, following on from Maleficent (a remake of Sleeping Beauty), Cinderella, and The Jungle Book. For those who don’t know, the film is based on both the 1991 animated film, as well as the classic French fairytale La Belle et la Bête written by novelist Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve in 1740. It tells the story of a beautiful young woman, Belle, who is taken prisoner by a mysterious and terrifying beast who lives in an enchanted castle near her village; initially scared of the monster, Belle gradually grows to love him, especially when she learns that he is actually a handsome prince who was cursed by an enchantress years previously. The Beast and all the castle’s inhabitants – who now comprise a candelabra, a clock, and a teapot, among others – are cursed to remain in their enchanted state until someone falls in love with him. Meanwhile, Belle’s boorish and narcissistic suitor Gaston is manipulating Belle’s kindly father in order to win Belle’s hand in marriage, and will stop at nothing to bag his ‘trophy’ wife. The film, which is directed by Bill Condon, is a sumptuous visual delight, filled with spectacular fairytale imagery of magic and romance; it stars Emma Watson as Belle, Dan Stevens as the Beast, and Luke Evans as Gaston, with Kevin Kline, Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellen, Emma Thompson, and Josh Gad in supporting and voice roles. Read more…

THE ROBE – Alfred Newman

April 3, 2017 Leave a comment

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

20th Century Fox Studio chief Darryl Zanuck chose to use “The Robe” to introduce his new creation Cinemascope to the world. Cinemascope used an anamorphic lens that allowed the filming process to create an image of up to a 2.66:1 aspect ratio, almost twice as wide as the industry standard. He hired veteran Henry Koster to direct and adapted the script from the novel by Lloyd Douglas, which he had envisioned for years. “The Robe” is a Biblical epic, a love story and a tale of a man’s struggle for redemption. Marcellus (Richard Burton) is a Roman military tribune from a noble family who offends Caligula, heir to the Roman throne. In retribution he is deployed to Palestine, thus separating him from his life of luxury and his lover Diana (Jean Simmons). Upon his arrival he is given command of the unit charged with executing Jesus Christ, which he dutifully discharges. While drunk he happens to win in a craps game Jesus’ homespun robe after the crucifixion. The death of Jesus affects Marcellus profoundly, and henceforth he is tormented by recurring nightmares, delusions and guilt for his role in his crucifixion. On orders from Tiberius he returns to Palestine in search of the robe, which he believes has bewitched him. He thus begins a personal journey that will lead him to discover faith, forgiveness and ultimately redemption. The film was a huge critical success, winning two Oscars and a Golden Globe for Best Picture. The film and Cinemascope were also a huge commercial success, earning profits seven times that of its production costs. Read more…