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Archive for July, 2017

SPARTACUS – Alex North

July 31, 2017 2 comments

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…

VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS – Alexandre Desplat

July 28, 2017 7 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 17 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…

THE CAINE MUTINY – Max Steiner

July 17, 2017 Leave a comment

MOVIE MUSIC UK CLASSICS

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Producer Stanley Kramer of Columbia Pictures found inspiration for a compelling military drama within the pages of Herman Wouk’s 1951 novel, “The Caine Mutiny”. He purchased the film rights and tasked Edward Dmytryk with directing, and Wouk to write the screenplay. All did not begin well as controversy arose regarding the script. Dmytryk was dissatisfied with Wouk’s effort, which would have required a ten-hour film, so he relieved him and hired veteran writer Stanley Roberts. While Roberts was successful in his mission, he resigned when further cuts were ordered to keep the film’s running time under two hours. As such Michael Blankfort was brought in and cut 50 pages from the script, to achieve its final incarnation. More problems arose, as the navy was initially resistant to support the film due to its narrative of an unhinged Captain and mutiny aboard a US naval vessel. The final script however won over Naval command and ship resources were dedicated to the film. There was more controversy to come as casting also got off on the wrong foot. Columbia President Harry Cohn leveraged Humphrey Bogart’s desire for the lead role of Captain Queeg to reduce his customary $200,000 salary, which caused the actor great consternation and bitterness. In the end he accepted the role and provided one of the finest acting performances of his career. He would be supported by a fine cast, which included; Jose Ferrer as Lieutenant Barney Greenwald, Van Johnson as Lieutenant Steve Maryk, Fred McMurray as Lieutenant Tom Keefer, Robert Francis as Ensign Willie Keith, Tom Tully as Lieutenant Commander William De Vriess, May Wynn as May Wynn, and E. G. Marshall as Prosecutor Lieutenant Commander John Challee. Read more…

CARS 3 – Randy Newman

July 14, 2017 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The creative relationship between Pixar Animation and Randy Newman goes back more than twenty years, all the way back to 1995 and their first foray into feature films with the original Toy Story. Their collaboration has since continued through titles like A Bug’s Life, Toy Story 2, Monsters Inc., Cars, Toy Story 3, and Monsters University, each of which has been enriched with Newman’s tuneful songs and warm scores. Cars 3 marks the eighth Newman Pixar score (him having been dropped in favor of Michael Giacchino on Cars 2); the film, which is directed by Brian Fee, follows the continuing adventures of the anthropomorphic race car Lightning McQueen, who this time round finds himself locking horns – fenders? – with an upstart racer named Jackson Storm, who embraces all kinds of new racing technology and threatens to replace McQueen at the top of the grid. Read more…

DUEL IN THE SUN – Dimitri Tiomkin

July 10, 2017 2 comments

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Famed studio executive David O. Selznick had long sought to recapture the past glory he achieved with Gone With The Wind (1939). He at last found his film within the pages of the novel Duel in the Sun (1944) by Niven Busch. He secured the film rights and joined with screenwriters Oliver H.P. Garrett and Ben Hecht to write the screenplay. For Selznick this film was a passion project, which he would produce and distribute. King Vidor was tasked with directing, and a stellar cast was brought in, which included; Jennifer Jones as Pearl Chavez, Joseph Cotton as Jesse McCanles, Gregory Peck as Lewt McCanles, Lionel Barrymore as Senator Jackson McCanles, Herbert Marshall as Scott Chavez, Lilian Gish as Laura Belle McCanles and Walter Houston as Jubal Crabbe – The Sinkiller. The film was beset with drama and controversy from day one. Its controversial sexual content resulted in Hayes Code censoring, causing numerous editing, which disrupted its storytelling and narrative flow. In addition, Selznick’s constant interference and micromanaging resulted in numerous rewrites of the script, and reshoots, which expanded the film to over 26 hours in length! In the end, this contributed to the breakup of Selznick’s marriage with Jennifer Jones, as well as King Vidor quitting the project. In total, seven directors and six cinematographers were casualties in the making of this film. Read more…

SPARK – Robert Duncan

July 7, 2017 2 comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

One of the most rewarding things about being a film music critic is the fact that, from time to time, I am sent promos of unreleased scores. A lot of them aren’t very good – there’s usually a reason they aren’t released – but once in a while it also means I get to write a ‘scoop’ review of a score which most people won’t know, and praise it for being an undiscovered gem. Spark is one of those scores. I’ve had this promo album for a little while now, and have been sitting on this review in the hope that a proper commercial release of the music would be forthcoming, but the film was a massive flop at the box office and has been out of cinemas for months, which means that at this point it’s very unlikely to happen, at least from the studio-owned in-house record labels. As such it means that, unfortunately, no-one can actually buy this score at the moment, which begs the question: why review it? Well, one thing I can do with a review like this is raise awareness, and as such this is as much of a plea as it is a review: a plea to the owners of the independent record labels out there – Varese Sarabande, Intrada, La La Land, Music Box, Caldera, Quartet, Moviescore Media – to not let this genuinely great music be forgotten. Read more…

ROXANNE – Bruce Smeaton

July 6, 2017 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Roxanne is one of the best romantic comedies of the 1980s. Directed by Fred Schepisi and written by Steve Martin, the film is an adaptation of Edmond Rostand’s classic 1897 play Cyrano de Bergerac, updated to the present day and relocated to a small ski town in Canada. Martin plays Charlie D. Bales, the town’s fire chief, a witty, charming, intelligent, athletic man whose defining feature is his outrageously large nose. Despite his excellent personality, Charlie is unlucky in love, but things seem to be looking up when his friend Dixie (Shelley Duvall) rents one of her cabins to Roxanne Kowalski (Daryl Hannah), a beautiful astronomer who is working in the area over the summer. Charlie and Roxanne quickly connect, but Charlie is disappointed when Roxanne insinuates she only likes him as a friend, and is instead interested in one of Charlie’s firemen, the impossibly handsome but irredeemably stupid Chris (Rick Rossovich). To make matters worse, Chris is hopelessly inept when it comes to women – and he enlists Charlie to help him overcome his fears… Read more…

SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING – Michael Giacchino

July 4, 2017 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

It’s been just fifteen years since Hollywood released its first big-screen movie about the popular comic book super hero Spider-Man. Tobey Maguire took the web-slinger through his first three iterations before the story was ‘re-booted’ and the Spidey suit was passed on to Andrew Garfield for The Amazing Spider-Man in 2012. He only lasted for two movies as now, building from his cameo appearance in Captain America: Civil War, the character has now been re-booted for a second time in order to facilitate his full introduction into the Avengers universe. The new Peter Parker/Spider-Man is played by English actor Tom Holland, and the film is another “origin story” of sorts, in which Parker tries to prove his worth to the de-facto leader of the Avengers, Tony Stark/Iron Man, by battling with super-villain Adrian Toomes/Vulture, while simultaneously dealing with the usual high school issues faced by a 15-year-old kid. The film co-stars Michael Keaton, Robert Downey Jr., and Marisa Tomei, and is directed by Jon Watts. Read more…

VERTIGO – Bernard Herrmann

July 3, 2017 3 comments

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Alfred Hitchcock had earlier taken notice of French authors Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac but was frustrated in a failed bid to secure film rights to one of their novels. When they published their next book in 1954, “D’entre les Morts” (From Among The Dead), Hitchcock would not be denied and resolutely purchased the film rights. He was jubilant and prepared to finance, produce and direct the film, which was now a passion project. Writing the screenplay however was problematic. Hitchcock rejected the efforts of Maxwell Anderson and then Alec Coppel before accepting the 3rd and final version by Samuel Taylor. For his cast he chose his favorite Vera Miles for the role of Madeleine, however she had to drop out after becoming pregnant. When his second choice Lana Turner demanded too much money, Hitchcock turned to Kim Novak. James Stewart was chosen for the lead role of John “Scottie” Ferguson, with Barbara Bel Geddes as Margaret and Tom Helmore as Gavin Elster. When all was said and done Hitchcock related that both Stewart and Novak were miscast and the cause of the film’s poor reception. Read more…