Archive

Archive for June, 2017

SCORE: A FILM MUSIC DOCUMENTARY – Film Review

June 30, 2017 2 comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

I haven’t written and published a film review, as opposed to a film score review, for more than 20 years, ever since I put some of my first, faltering attempts at entertainment journalism on the University of Sheffield’s website around 1995. However, considering the focus of this site, I thought I should make an exception here.

Score: A Film Music Documentary is, as far as I can tell, the first theatrically released film about the art of film scoring. The brainchild of writer-director Matt Schrader, who is himself a long-time film music aficionado, the film was first conceived many years ago, and was largely financed by online fundraising; it was subsequently filmed over several years, prior to finally being completed this year. I was fortunate to see the film at its European premiere during the 10th Krakow Film Music Festival in Poland in May, with composers Brian Tyler and Howard Shore, among others, in attendance.

One thing that needs to be made clear from the start is that this film is for the layman. Virtually everyone reading this will be more well-versed in film music history, the concepts that govern film music, the personalities of the composers included, and the scores mentioned, than the target audience for this film; so, if you want a film that is a more in-depth, detailed, possibly even critical analysis of soundtrack history, then this is absolutely not the film for you. Schrader aims it squarely at the general public, people who maybe like a bit of film music, and who know who John Williams and Hans Zimmer are, but couldn’t tell you any of the names of the Newman family, and have no clue what happens at a spotting session, or even how a score is recorded. Read more…

PREDATOR – Alan Silvestri

June 29, 2017 2 comments

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Predator is one of the seminal action films of the 1980s, a masterpiece of testosterone-fuelled machismo and inventive storytelling that cemented Arnold Schwarzenegger as one of Hollywood’s most bankable and beloved movie star heroes. Schwarzenegger plays Dutch Schaefer, the leader of a team of elite covert ops commandos which is sent deep into the South American jungle to rescue hostages held by guerrillas; however, it soon becomes apparent that the mission is a cover for an illegal intelligence-gathering exercise, orchestrated by the team’s CIA liaison and Dutch’s old colleague Dillon (Carl Weathers). Worse yet, as the team prepares for a helicopter extraction, they are suddenly attacked by an unknown and seemingly invisible entity – a predator – which has significant firepower and appears to be hunting them for sport. The film, which was directed by John McTiernan and co-stars Bill Duke, Jesse Ventura, Sonny Landham, and Elpidia Carrillo, was a major commercial hit, and is now regarded as a landmark of the action genre. Read more…

MY COUSIN RACHEL – Rael Jones

June 27, 2017 2 comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

My Cousin Rachel is a sumptuous period drama-thriller from director Roger Michell, based on the classic mystery novel by Daphne Du Maurier, and is a remake of the original screen adaptation of the novel from 1952, which starred Olivia de Havilland and Richard Burton. This new version stars Rachel Weisz as the eponymous Rachel, a beautiful young woman who marries a wealthy English landowner named Ashley. Ashley dies in mysterious circumstances overseas, and leaves his estate to his much younger cousin, Philip (Sam Claflin). Philip suspects that Rachel had something to do with Ashley’s death, and resolves to exact revenge; as such, he is not at all surprised when Rachel returns to England and begins making romantic advances towards him. What is surprising is the fact that Philip unexpectedly finds himself falling in love with Rachel in return. Are Rachel’s feelings for Philip real, or is she just looking for her next victim on her way to claiming an inheritance of her own? The film, which co-stars Holliday Grainger and Iain Glen, drips with rich Victorian-era trappings and a brooding atmosphere of Gothic melodrama, and has been the recipient of a great deal of critical praise. Read more…

THE BIG COUNTRY – Jerome Moross

June 26, 2017 1 comment

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

MGM set out to bring an epic tale of Americana to the big screen. For this massive production they hired William Wyler as director and producer. A screenplay authored my a multitude of writers created a complex narrative, which sought to move beyond the genre’s traditional narratives to explore the darker and more ambiguous psychology of old west. A stellar cast was assembled, which included Gregory Peck (James McKay), Jean Simmons (Julie Maragon), Burl Ives (Rufus Hannassey), Charlton Heston (Steve Leech), Caroll Baker (Patricia Terrill) and Chuck Connors (Buck Hannassey). The story involves romance and the battle for water and grazing rights on the high plains. We see Captain James McKay, a wealthy and now retired sea captain who has come west to marry fiancée Pat Terrill, who seems pampered and controlled by her wealthy father, Major Henry Terrill. As a military seaman McKay’s formal personal affect, values and approach to life seem culturally incongruous and pretentious. When he eschews the code of the west of settling disputes with violence he creates an instant animus with the locals, especially ranch foreman Steve Leech. His apparent cowardice also loses the respect of Pat. Read more…

CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS – Theodore Shapiro

June 23, 2017 2 comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

I’m so out of touch with children’s popular culture these days that, prior to a few weeks ago, I had never even heard of Captain Underpants, and had no clue that they made a film about him. The character comes from the enormously popular series of children’s novels by American author and illustrator Dav Pilkey, in which George Beard and Harold Hutchins – two overly imaginative pranksters who spend hours in a treehouse creating comic books – accidentally hypnotize their mean teacher Mr. Krupp into thinking that he’s a ridiculously enthusiastic, incredibly dimwitted superhero named Captain Underpants. In this animated adventure, Captain Underpants finds himself in conflict with Professor Poopypants, a brilliant scientist who, having being constantly made fun of because of his name, decides to try to take over the world. The film is directed by David Soren, has a voice cast that includes Kevin Hart, Ed Helms, Thomas Middleditch, Nick Kroll, and Jordan Peele, and has a spectacular score by composer Theodore Shapiro. Read more…

THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK – John Williams

June 22, 2017 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

A raucous fantasy comedy based on the novel by John Updike, The Witches of Eastwick stars Susan Sarandon, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Cher, as three women in a small New England town suffering from broken relationships: fiery artist Alexandra (Cher) is a widow, shy and insecure teacher Jane (Sarandon) is a divorcee, and mousy writer Sukie (Pfeiffer) was abandoned by her husband, leaving her to raise six children alone. Despite them living in a town with a history of magic, none of the women realize that they have powers of witchcraft, until an unusual stranger named Daryl Van Horne (Jack Nicholson) arrives in town and begins courting each of them in turn; before long, the women are spending time at Daryl’s mansion, learning about their powers, and finally indulging the passionate, sexual sides of their personality after years of being unfulfilled and repressed. However, as Daryl’s behavior starts to get more and more unpredictable, the women begin to worry about his intentions, and whether his arrival in Eastwick was a good idea. Read more…

THE MUMMY – Brian Tyler

June 20, 2017 2 comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The Mummy is the first film in Universal Pictures’s series of new interlocking ‘Dark Universe’ films based on their roster of classic monsters. Tom Cruise stars as Nick Morton, an officer in the United States Army who moonlights as a treasure hunter. While on assignment in Iraq with his partner, Chris Vail, Nick accidentally unearths an ancient tomb containing a sarcophagus, inside of which are the mummified remains of an Egyptian princess. With the help of archeologist Jennifer Halsey, Nick determines that the princess in question is Ahmanet, who murdered her father, the Pharaoh, as part of a ritual intended to give the Egyptian god of death human form, and was buried alive as punishment. Finally freed from her prison after two thousand years, Ahmanet returns to life and unleashes her revenge upon the world; the only things standing in her way are Nick and his allies, and a mysterious organization called the Prodigium, a secret society dedicated to hunting supernatural threats, whose leader is the equally mysterious Dr. Henry Jekyll. Read more…

THE SEARCHERS – Max Steiner

June 19, 2017 1 comment

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Renowned director John Ford had long been recognized as a master of the Western genre with successes, which included Stagecoach (1939), My Darling Clementine (1946), Fort Apache (1948) and Wagon Master (1950). He came upon a novel The Searchers (1954) by Alan Le May that he believed offered a powerful narrative, which needed to be brought to the big screen. Warner Brothers Studio approved the project, purchased the film rights and tasked Ford with bringing his vision to fruition. Frank Nugent was hired to write the screenplay and Ford assembled a stellar cast, which included; John Wayne as Ethan Edwards, Jeffrey Hunter as Martin Pawley, Vera Miles as Laurie Jorgensen, Ward Bond as Reverend Captain Samuel Clayton, Natalie Woods as Debbie Edwards and Henry Brandon as Scar. The story was set in Texas and inspired by a real life event, the 1836 kidnapping of Cynthia Ann Parker by Comanche Indians. She would spend twenty-four years of her life among them, bearing and raising three sons with her Comanche husband. Read more…

PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES – Geoff Zanelli

June 16, 2017 1 comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Dead Men Tell No Tales is the fifth entry in Disney’s tentpole Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, based on the classic dark rides found at Disney theme parks the world over. Directed by Norwegian filmmakers Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg, it picks up the story of Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) several years after the events of the fourth film, On Stranger Tides. Down on his luck and having to resort to robbing banks to make ends meet, Jack becomes embroiled in a new adventure when the ghost of Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem), fearsome pirate hunter of the Spanish Navy, is released from a cursed prison in the so-called Devil’s Triangle; Salazar, who blames Jack for his long imprisonment, begins to track Jack’s ship looking for revenge. In an effort to stop Salazar, Jack teams up with Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario), an intelligent young woman accused of being a witch; his old nemesis Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), now a wealthy shipping fleet owner; and Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites), the now-adult son of Jack’s old friends Will and Elizabeth. Together, they search for the mythical Trident of Poseidon, which they believe has the power to break Salazar’s curse… and may hold other magical powers too. Read more…

THE UNTOUCHABLES – Ennio Morricone

June 15, 2017 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The colorful life of gangster Al Capone has captured the imagination of the American public for decades. He was the notorious crime boss of Chicago during the prohibition era in the late 1920s and early 1930s, and was beloved, despised, and feared in equal measure – many in Chicago’s working class neighborhoods saw him as a Robin Hood figure, helping the downtrodden of the city. Attitudes towards him changed in the aftermath of the brutal St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in 1929, after which law enforcement officials became more intent on bringing him to justice. Brian De Palma’s 1987 film The Untouchables tells a dramatic version of this largely true story, as dogged federal agent Elliot Ness forms a team of equally determined investigators in an attempt to end Capone’s criminal activity once and for all. The film starred Kevin Costner as Ness, Robert De Niro as Capone, and Sean Connery as Ness’s world-weary ex-cop partner Jimmy Malone, a role which won him an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Read more…

THE TEN COMMANDMENTS – Elmer Bernstein

June 12, 2017 Leave a comment

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Legendary producer-director Cecil B. DeMille, who at 72 was nearing the end of a great career, sought to reclaim past glory with a film that would serve as his crowning achievement. After much thought, he found his answer, in his past. He announced to the world in 1952 of his intention to remake his 1923 film, “The Ten Commandments.” DeMille stated that his retelling of the story would focus exclusively on the life of Moses. This epic film’s preparation took five years, with the script alone requiring three years to write, and the actual filming taking two years. DeMille insisted on a timeless script and so hired a quartet of screenplay writers headed by Aeneas MacKenzie to accomplish the task. The team drew upon three contemporary novels; “Prince Of Egypt” by Dorothy Clarke Wilson, “Pillar Of Fire” by Reverend J. H. Ingraham and “On Eagle’s Wing” by Reverend A. E. Southon. Lastly, DeMille insisted on historical accuracy and fidelity to the ancient texts, which included the works of Philo, Josephus, Eusebius, The Midrash and The Holy Scriptures. Read more…

WONDER WOMAN – Rupert Gregson-Williams

June 9, 2017 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

It’s taken more than 70 years for Wonder Woman to appear in her own major live-action movie. The character first appeared in print in 1941, the creation of American psychologist and writer William Moulton Marston, and has been seen as a feminist icon for more than half a century. Prior to her extended cameo in the 2016 film Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice the most prominent depiction of her character on screen, prior to this film, was the popular 1970s TV series starring Lynda Carter; now she is front and center of her own origin story, with Israeli actress Gal Gadot playing the title role. Read more…

HARRY AND THE HENDERSONS – Bruce Broughton

June 8, 2017 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Harry and the Hendersons – released as Bigfoot and the Hendersons in the UK – is a warm-hearted family comedy about the most famous mythological creature of North American folklore, the sasquatch, or bigfoot. The film stars John Lithgow as George Henderson, an average family man who, while traveling home with his wife and children after a camping vacation, accidentally hits and apparently kills a large animal with his car on a remote forest road. Upon investigation, George realizes that the animal is a real bigfoot, and decides to take the carcass home; unfortunately, once they arrive back in suburban Seattle, it quickly becomes clear that the animal is far from dead. Despite their initial shock, the Hendersons soon discover that the bigfoot – whom they name Harry – is kind, peaceful, and intelligent, and they resolve to take him back to the wilderness, but find opposition in the form of ruthless hunter LaFleur, who has been tracking Harry and his kind for years. The film, which was directed by William Dear and co-stars Don Ameche, David Suchet, and Melinda Dillon, was a modest commercial and popular hit in the early summer of 1987, but went on to win an Academy Award for Best Makeup for the astonishing bigfoot effects applied to 7’2″ actor Kevin Peter Hall. Read more…

AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS – Victor Young

June 5, 2017 1 comment

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Ever-ambitious producer Mike Todd sought to bring an epic adventure tale to the big screen. He hired screenwriter James Poe to adapt renowned author Jules Verne’s novel “Around The World In 80 Days”. He gave the director reigns to Michael Anderson who brought in an amazing cast which included; David Niven as the classic Victorian English gentleman Phileas Fogg, Mexican icon Cantinflas as the resourceful “Jack of all Trades” Passepartout, Shirley MacLaine as the captivating Princess Aouda, her debut acting role, and Robert Newton as the redoubtable Inspector Fix. The story takes place in England circa 1872 and centers on an epic adventure taken by Phileas Fogg and his man servant Passepartout. Fogg makes the audacious claim that he can circumnavigate the world in eighty days. He offers a £20,000 wager with four skeptical compatriots of the Reform Club, thus setting the stage for the adventure. Read more…

ALIEN COVENANT – Jed Kurzel

June 3, 2017 2 comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Alien Covenant is director Ridley Scott’s second prequel to the 1979 masterpiece Alien, following on from 2012’s Prometheus. In this film, which takes place fifteen years after the end of the previous one, we follow the space ship Covenant, which is ferrying several thousand human colonists to a remote Earth-like planet. However, an accident aboard the vessel kills the captain and forces other crew members to wake from stasis and carry out repairs; then, after they intercept what appears to be a distress call from a nearby planet, the new captain Oram (Billy Crudup) decides to investigate, despite the objections of both his second in command Daniels (Katherine Waterston), and the ship’s android Walter (Michael Fassbender). After arriving on the planet, Daniels quickly finds her misgivings to have been correct, and before long the crew is fighting for its life. Read more…