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Archive for August, 2017

SPACEBALLS – John Morris

August 31, 2017 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Comedy is such a subjective thing. What makes one person laugh uncontrollably leaves the next person totally confused as to what they could possibly find funny, and vice versa. My personal taste in comedy is one of extremes – on the one hand I like the smart and sophisticated comedy found in a lot of British films, while on the other hand I also love the absurdity, slapstick, and sight gags of things like Airplane and The Naked Gun. Mel Brooks is a director who made a career, at least in the movies, of parody. Blazing Saddles was a parody of westerns. Young Frankenstein was a parody of horror movies. And Spaceballs, my favorite movie of his, was a parody of Star Wars. It stars Bill Pullman as Lonestarr, a roguishly handsome space pirate, who has been hired to find and bring home Princess Vespa (Daphne Zuniga) after she runs away from her wedding on her home planet, Druidia. Meanwhile, the evil Spaceballs, led by the incompetent President Skroob (Brooks) and the ruthless Dark Helmet (Rick Moranis), have hatched a plan to steal Druidia’s air supply, and want to kidnap Vespa before Lonestarr gets to her… Read more…

THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD – Atli Örvarsson

August 30, 2017 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

An unusual action-comedy buddy movie, The Hitman’s Bodyguard stars Ryan Reynolds as Michael Bryce, who was once one of the world’s most trusted and respected freelance bodyguards, but who fell into disgrace after one of his most high-profile clients was assassinated. Out of the blue Bryce is called back into action several years later; his job is to protect the key witness against the ruthless and bloodthirsty dictator of an east European country, who is about to be put on trial for crimes against humanity. The twist comes from the fact that the witness Bryce is assigned to protect is Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson), formerly one of the world’s most notorious hitmen, and who was likely responsible for the death of Bryce’s previous client. The film, which was directed by Patrick Hughes and co-stars Gary Oldman and Salma Hayek, was met with generally positive reviews after it opened during the slow end-of-summer period in August 2017. Read more…

EXODUS – Ernest Gold

August 28, 2017 1 comment

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

In 1958 Otto Preminger and United Artists studio purchased the film rights to Leon Uris’s forthcoming novel, “Exodus”. Preminger, who would both produce and direct the film, felt that this was a story that needed to be told, and for him it became a passion project. He hired Dalton Trumbo who had been blacklisted as a communist by the infamous McCarthy Committee to write the screenplay. From day one he had Paul Newman in mind to play the lead role of Ari Ben Canaan. The stellar cast rounded off with Eva Marie Saint as Kitty Fremont, Ralph Richardson as General Sutherland, Peter Lawford as Major Caldwell, Lee Cobb as Barak Ben Canaan, Sal Mineo as Dov Landau, and John Derek as Taha. Read more…

MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE – Bill Conti

August 24, 2017 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

When I was a kid, He-Man was all the rage, a staple of playgrounds the length and breadth of the United Kingdom. The franchise began as a line of toys introduced by the Mattel company in 1981, which were accompanied by mini-comic books giving each figure a backstory; this morphed into an immensely popular animated TV series which debuted in 1983, telling the story of the heroic Prince Adam, who transforms into He-Man when he holds aloft his magic sword and says ‘by the power of Greyskull,’ and his battles the evil forces of Skeletor, who wants to take over Adam’s home planet of Eternia. Naturally, a film adaptation of the story was put into production, and in the summer of 1987 Masters of the Universe opened. Directed by Gary Goddard, it starred the muscle-bound Dolph Lundgren in the leading role, with Frank Langella hamming it up in full prosthetic makeup as his bone-faced nemesis. Read more…

FEUD: BETTE AND JOAN – Mac Quayle

August 23, 2017 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Building on the success of their hit TV anthology series American Horror Story, TV network FX and writer/director/producer Ryan Murphy have expanded into different areas with two additional shows. The first, American Crime Story, began in 2016 with The People vs. O. J. Simpson, an in-depth look at the celebrity murder trial which gripped the United States in the mid 1990s. The second, Feud, is intended to take a closer look at numerous different true-life inter-personal rivalries, and began by exposing the decades-long grudge between Hollywood actresses Joan Crawford and Bette Davis, which came to a head during the filming of the movie Whatever Happened to Baby Jane in 1962. The 8-episode series, which starred Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon in the title roles and debuted in March 2017, reveled both in its Old Hollywood sheen and in the fading glamour of the two former starlets, while unearthing juicy details on a number of studio power players, ranging from Warner Brothers exec Jack Warner to director Robert Aldrich, and gossip columnist Hedda Hopper. The show was an enormous success, and went on to pick up 19 Emmy Award nominations. Read more…

THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN – Elmer Bernstein

August 21, 2017 Leave a comment

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Yul Brynner had long explored the idea of an American retelling of Akira Kurosawa’s epic 1954 Japanese film The Seven Samurai. Brynner related; “I felt it was one of the great westerns of all time, only it was made by the Japanese, in the Japanese idiom. But the form, the whole design of it was the ideal western.” He worked with fellow actor Anthony Quinn to develop the concept, but when they had a falling out, he took over the reigns alone and presented his pitch to producer Walter Mirisch. Mirisch believed an Americana retelling of this epic story would resonate with the public, and so purchased film rights from Toho Studios and a distribution contract with United Artists. This was a passion project for Brynner, and he brought in friend John Sturges who acquainted himself well with Gunfight at the OK Corral in 1957, to both produce and direct the film. Read more…

ENNIO MORRICONE REVIEWS, Part II

August 20, 2017 Leave a comment

In this second installment of my irregular new series looking at the early career of some iconic composers, we take a look at some more of the more obscure works written by the legendary Ennio Morricone. This group of reviews look at fifteen scores Morricone wrote in 1966 and 1967, including several outstanding jazz and pop pieces, war moves and historical drama, and more of his groundbreaking spaghetti western scores, one of which features one of the most iconic musical primal screams in cinema history! Read more…

MOVIE MUSIC UK – The First Twenty Years

August 19, 2017 17 comments

It’s hard to believe that it’s been 20 years since I started Movie Music UK in the summer of 1997. In many ways, it feels like a lifetime ago, but in others I can barely believe that so much time has passed.  Considering this milestone occasion, I thought it would be appropriate to set down a few thoughts about my site, my life in film music, and the people I have met over the past two decades who have helped make the site what it is and, perhaps most importantly, make me who I am. Settle in… this is a long read! Read more…

THE PICK-UP ARTIST – Georges Delerue

August 17, 2017 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The Pick-Up Artist is a romantic comedy written and directed by James Toback, starring Robert Downey Jr. as Jack Jericho, an egotistical ladies man with a penchant for picking up beautiful women, but then discarding them without a second thought. Jack’s world is thrown into turmoil when he meets Randy Jensen (Molly Ringwald), a smart, independent tour guide whose post-coital indifference to him only causes him to become more smitten. Desperate to find a way to get into Randy’s good books, Jack offers to pay off her alcoholic father’s gambling debts, a decision he comes to regret once he finds himself locking horns with some local Mafioso. The film has a great supporting cast, including Dennis Hopper, Danny Aiello, and Harvey Keitel, but unfortunately it was both a critical and commercial flop, with Roger Ebert calling it “an appallingly silly movie, from its juvenile comic overture to its dreadfully sincere conclusion.” Read more…

WIND RIVER – Nick Cave and Warren Ellis

August 16, 2017 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Wind River is the directorial debut of screenwriter Taylor Sheridan, the writer of Sicario and Hell or High Water. It’s a murder-mystery set on an Indian Reservation in an isolated part of Wyoming, in which a young rookie FBI agent (Elizabeth Olsen) investigates the death of a young native American woman, found dead in a snowdrift, with the help of a local tracker working for the US Department of Fish & Wildlife (Jeremy Renner), and the chief of the Tribal Police (Graham Greene). However, as well as being an effective and unorthodox police procedural, the film also paints a searing portrait of the lives of those who live on Reservations – how the deprivation and isolation leads to crime, drug abuse, and even suicide, further compounding the endless indignities Native Americans have suffered for generations, ever since their tribal lands were invaded by white immigrants. The performances by native actors and actresses such as Greene, Gil Birmingham, Tantoo Cardinal, and Martin Sensmeier, are emotionally raw and politically charged. Read more…

THE ALAMO – Dimitri Tiomkin

August 14, 2017 1 comment

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

This historical epic directed by and starring John Wayne focuses on the famous battle at the Alamo. In 1836, Generalisimo Santa Anna and his grand Mexican Army marched into Texas, then a province of Mexico, to break a rebellion by the locals. The Texans are not fully prepared to engage Santa Anna in battle, so in order to buy time for General Sam Houston and his troops, his subordinate, Colonel William Travis, devises a bold plan. He will fortify and garrison a small mission fort called the Alamo to forestall Santa Ana’s advance northward. The odds are near impossible as they are greatly outnumbered in men, cavalry and artillery. Yet Travis is resolute in his determination to stop Santa Anna at all costs. Heroes of American folklore, the legendary Jim Bowie as well as Davy Crockett and his Tennessee Volunteers support him. And so this small band of 187 men stand their ground in the face of Santa Ana’s army of 5,000 only to find that relief is not coming. Resigned to their fate these American heroes fight an unwinnable battle, one where they will be slaughtered to the man, but a battle that will serve as a rallying cry that will inspire their fellow Texans to fight for and win independence. The movie has a stellar cast that included John Wayne (Davey Crockett), Richard Widmark (Jim Bowie) and Laurence Harvey as Colonel William Travis. The film was a critical success earning six Oscar nominations, but a commercial failure as ticket sales failed to recoup the production costs. Read more…

ENNIO MORRICONE REVIEWS, Part I

August 13, 2017 1 comment

In this first installment of a new irregular series looking at the early career of some iconic composers, we stroll down memory lane to the first works written by the legendary Ennio Morricone. Morricone had studied at the Conservatory of the National Academy of Santa Cecilia in Rome, where he specialized in trumpet performance and composition; then, during the late 1950s, Morricone orchestrated and arranged pop songs for the RCA record label, including some for artists such as Paul Anka, Chet Baker and Mina. While working for RCA Morricone also wrote theater music and classical pieces, and began ghostwriting for composers such as Armando Trovajoli and Mario Nascimbene, before making before making his credited film debut in 1961. These first reviews look at sixteen scores Morricone that wrote between 1961 and 1965, including one of his most groundbreaking spaghetti western scores. Read more…

ANNABELLE: CREATION – Benjamin Wallfisch

August 11, 2017 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The latest entry in writer-director-producer James Wan’s ever-expanding horror movie universe is Annabelle: Creation, the prequel to the 2014 film Annabelle. It tells the story of how the possessed doll from the original movie came into existence, expanding on a back story involving a toymaker and his wife whose daughter dies in mysterious circumstances. Twelve years later, the toymaker opens his large, but remote, farmhouse to a nun and several girls from an orphanage that has been closed, offering them a new home, but before long the girls find that something sinister is lurking in the shadows. The film is directed by David Sandberg, stars Stephanie Sigman, Talitha Bateman, Anthony LaPaglia, and Miranda Otto, and has an original score by composer Benjamin Wallfisch. Read more…

THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS – John Barry

August 10, 2017 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The Living Daylights is the fifteenth entry in the James Bond film series and the first to star Timothy Dalton as the British secret agent. Dalton took over the role from Roger Moore, who had retired from the part after A View to a Kill in 1985, but only after a long and protracted period of negotiations in which the original choice, Pierce Brosnan, was eventually blocked by producers of the American TV show Remington Steele. The film was intended to be a return to the grittier feel of Ian Fleming’s original novels after Moore’s previous few films were criticized for being too tongue-in-cheek and self-aware. The plot initially concerns the defection of KGB officer Georgi Koskov, which Bond helps facilitate, but quickly turns into an international conspiracy involving a beautiful Czech cellist named Kara Milovy, a megalomaniacal American arms dealer named Brad Whittaker, and an attempt to undermine the slowly thawing relationship between the Soviet Union and the West with nuclear weapons. Directed by John Glen, the film co-stars Maryam d’Abo, Joe Don Baker, Jeroen Krabbé, and Art Malik as an Afghan mujahedeen leader who helps Bond in his hour of need. The film was generally well-received, and I personally have always felt that Dalton was an underrated Bond, who successfully captured the darker, more dangerous side of Fleming’s character which had been missing from the franchise for too long. Read more…

THE DARK TOWER – Tom Holkenborg

August 8, 2017 2 comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The Dark Tower is an action/fantasy/sci-fi epic based on the massively popular series of novels by Stephen King. Directed by Danish filmmaker Nikolaj Arcel, the film stars Idris Elba as Roland Deschain, a ‘gunslinger’ from a parallel universe who is trying to stop a sorcerer named Walter (Matthew McConaughey) from destroying the titular building, which stands at the center of the universe, and protects it from evil. Into this epic tale comes 12-year-old Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor), a typical New York kid who has untapped psychic powers, and who finds a way to travel between dimensions to help the Gunslinger stop The Man in Black once and for all. Having not read the books, I can’t comment on the fact that the film apparently discards much of the stuff that made the original novels so compelling – the intricate world-building, the deep back-stories of each character – in favor of a fairly simple good vs. evil tale with morally black-and-white characters. The film was in development hell for more than a decade, and went through at least three directors and numerous potential stars prior to finally hitting the silver screen with a resounding ‘thud’ in August 2017. Read more…