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SPARTACUS – Alex North

July 31, 2017 1 comment

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Kirk Douglas’ pride was wounded when director William Wyler selected Charlton Heston over him for the titular role in Ben-Hur. He resolved to show Wyler and Hollywood that he could carry a Roman epic film. Fortune smiled when Edward Lewis, a studio executive in Douglas’ production company, came upon the novel Spartacus (1951) by Howard Fast. Its heroic story telling of a man who rises up to challenge the might of the Roman Empire offered a perfect opportunity for Douglas to showcase his talent. He purchased the film rights and then convinced Universal Studios to jointly finance the film. Douglas brought in Fast to adapt his own novel, but his unfamiliarity with cinematic screenplays led to his dismissal. Douglas was determined to succeed at all costs, and so stoked controversy by bringing in black listed screenplay writer Dalton Trumbo and insisting that he get screen credit. This decision was decisive in that it served to break the decade long blacklisting of writers in Hollywood. For his cast, we have one the finest ever assembled. Supporting Douglas in the titular role would be Lawrence Olivier as Crassus, Jean Simmons as Varinia, Charles Laughton as Gracchus, Peter Ustinov as Lentulus Batiatus, Tony Curtis as Antoninus, John Gavin as Julius Caesar, John Dall as Glabrus and John Ireland as Crixus. The film got off to a rocky start when Douglas fired his director Anthony Mann after one week of shooting – he felt he was in over his head. He brought in past collaborator Stanley Kubrick, and the rest is history. Read more…

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VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS – Alexandre Desplat

July 28, 2017 6 comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

When French director Luc Besson debuted his film The Fifth Element in 1997, it was hailed as a masterpiece of European science fiction, a visual feast for the senses. What people didn’t realize at the time was that, as good as The Fifth Element was, Besson was actually making that film because cinematic technology was not yet sophisticated enough for him to make what was his true passion project: a big screen adaptation of the French-language comic book series Valérian et Laureline, which Besson had grown up reading. Although most people outside of France will not have heard of it, Valérian et Laureline is actually very influential, and many commentators knowledgeable about the subject have noted that the original Star Wars, Conan the Barbarian, and Independence Day all contain visual and conceptual similarities to the comic, which pre-dates all of them. In hindsight, it is clear that The Fifth Element was Besson’s ‘dry run’ for this film, as it too shares ideas and design elements with Valérian. Read more…

ROBOCOP – Basil Poledouris

July 27, 2017 1 comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The 1980s was an especially good decade for films which blended extensive, sometimes quite brutal action with pointed social and political commentary that bordered on satire. Robocop is one of the best examples of its type; it stars Peter Weller as Alex Murphy, a dogged cop in crime-ridden Detroit in the near future. After being transferred to a new precinct, and meeting his new partner Lewis (Nancy Allen), Murphy is unexpectedly murdered during his first patrol by a gang of ruthless criminals led by the vicious Clarence Boddicker (Kurtwood Smith). Meanwhile Bob Morton (Miguel Ferrer), an ambitious executive at Omni Consumer Products, the corporate behemoth that runs Detroit’s police department, pitches his ambitious Robocop program to the head of the company after a presentation by the ruthless Dick Jones (Ronny Cox) of his competing ED-209 program goes disastrously wrong. The Robocop program would use the remains of a recently-deceased police officer to form the biological component of a near-unstoppable human-robot cyborg, controlled by OCP. After being given the green light by OCP’s chairman (Daniel O’Herlihy), Morton selects the luckless Murphy to be his test subject, and Robocop quickly embarks on a single-handed crusade to clean up the city. However Jones, never one to be outdone, plots revenge against his rivals on the other side of the boardroom, and enlists Boddicker and his gang to carry it out – bringing Robocop back into conflict with the men who killed him. Read more…

DUNKIRK – Hans Zimmer

July 25, 2017 11 comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

A lot of people today don’t realize just how close the Allies came to losing World War II. During the latter half of 1939 and the early months of 1940 Adolf Hitler and his troops swept across Western Europe, overwhelming the Netherlands, Belgium, and much of France. By May, his only real opposition to Nazi aggression was the army of the British Empire – the United States had not yet joined the war; Pearl Harbor would not be attacked until December 1941. But, to be frank, the British were losing. Hitler’s troops pushed them back to the small town of Dunkerque on the coast of Normandy and surrounded them; cut off from the rest of Europe, and with the English Channel separating them from home, more than 300,000 men were stuck on the beaches there, sitting ducks for the Luftwaffe. However, what transpired next proved to be the literal turning point of the war. For disputed reasons which are still debated today, Hitler accepted the suggestion of his commanders in the area that they should not move in for the kill and instead wait on the outskirts of the city and regroup; this brief respite allowed newly-elected Prime Minister Winston Churchill and his military commanders to organize an evacuation. Over the course of a week the men were ferried off the beaches to waiting Royal Navy ships by a flotilla of literally hundreds of volunteer civilian craft – lifeboats and fishing boats and pleasure cruisers – while the Spitfires of the Royal Air Force protected them from the air. Read more…

NORTH BY NORTHWEST – Bernard Herrmann

July 24, 2017 Leave a comment

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

In 1958 Screenwriter Ernest Lehman approached Alfred Hitchcock with an offer to “make a Hitchcock picture to end all Hitchcock pictures.” After brainstorming to find common ground, a plot coalesced around a case of mistaken identity, murder, romance and a cross-country chase, which ends dramatically atop Mount Rushmore. Hitchcock secured a stellar cast, which included Cary Grant as (Roger Thornhill), Eve Marie Saint as (Eve Kendall), James Mason as (Phillip Vandamm). The story concerns a Madison Avenue advertising man, Roger Thornhill, who finds himself thrust into the hidden world of spies and espionage when he is mistaken for a man by the name of George Kaplan. He is pursued and hunted by foreign spy Phillip Vandamm and his henchman Leonard who try to eliminate him. When Thornhill is framed for murder he is forced to flee from the police, boarding a 20th Century Limited bound for Chicago. On board he meets Eve Kendall, a beautiful blond who assists him to evade the authorities. Yet all is not as it seems as he discovers that Eve isn’t the innocent bystander but instead Vandamm’s lover. But in another twist Eve is revealed as a double agent and they fall in love. They then join forces and survive a harrowing dramatic escape from Vandamm on the face of Mt. Rushmore. The film is considered to be Hitchcock’s most stylish thriller and was both a critical and commercial success. Read more…

INNERSPACE – Jerry Goldsmith

July 20, 2017 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Innerspace is a fun sci-fi adventure comedy, written by Jeffrey Boam and Chip Proser, and directed by Joe Dante. Dennis Quaid stars as Lt. Tuck Pendleton, an air force test pilot who is part of a top secret science experiment involving a brand new miniaturization technology. Pendleton and his submersible pod are shrunk down to minuscule size, and are supposed to be injected into a laboratory rabbit, but the lab is attacked by industrial saboteurs who want the technology for themselves, and Tuck is instead accidentally injected into the body of hypochondriac Jack Putter (Martin Short). Once Jack has overcome his initial skepticism and terror, he teams up with Tuck’s on-again off-again girlfriend, spunky reporter Lydia Maxwell (Meg Ryan), to find a way to get Tuck out of his body before his air supply runs out – but the saboteurs, led by Victor Scrimshaw (Kevin McCarthy) and Dr. Margaret Canker (Fiona Lewis), still want the miniaturization technology for themselves, and have sent their ruthless henchman Mr. Igoe (Vernon Wells) to get it, at any cost. Read more…

WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES – Michael Giacchino

July 18, 2017 5 comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

War for the Planet of the Apes is the third and – at the time of writing – final installment of the rebooted Planet of the Apes film series, inspired by the novels of Pierre Boulle and the 1960s film series originally starring Charlton Heston. It continues the story of Caesar, the leader of a community of increasingly intelligent apes. In the first film, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Caesar was given increased intelligence and the ability to speak after being infected by a genetically modified virus intended to cure Alzheimer’s disease, but which accidentally killed a large portion of the world’s human population instead. In the second film, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Caesar is struggling to create a stable ape society while trying to broker an uneasy truce with the humans remaining in what is left of San Francisco. Now, in this new film, Caesar and his ape colony are embroiled in an all-out war with a platoon of human soldiers under the command of a brutal colonel, a situation so dire that Caesar resolves to find a new home for his people, far away from the conflict. Read more…