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Archive for October, 2017

HAPPY DEATH DAY – Bear McCreary

October 31, 2017 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

If ever you’ve wanted to see the 1990s movie Groundhog Day re-imagined as a serial killer horror thriller, then Happy Death Day is the film for you. It’s a fun, imaginative little slice of mischief in which Tree, a young female college student, finds herself living the same day over and over again – her birthday – and being murdered at the end of it by a deranged killer in a baby mask. She wakes up again the following morning in the dorm room of her sheepish one night stand, and slowly comes to realize that she must solve her own murder if she is to escape this endless time-loop of blood and death. The film, which was directed by Christopher Landon and stars Jessica Rothe and Israel Broussard, is self-aware and tongue-in cheek, with enough playful humor to keep things light, but enough creepiness to make it an effective whodunit, especially when the hooded and masked killer is on screen. Read more…

THE FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE – Dimitri Tiomkin

October 30, 2017 1 comment

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Director Anthony Mann of El Cid fame sought to reprise his success with another ancient epic, this time set in the waning days of the Roman Empire. He assembled a stellar cast that included Sophia Loren (Lucilla), Alec Guinness (Marcus Aurelius), Stephen Boyd (Livius), Christopher Plummer (Commodus), James Mason (Tiomedes) and Omar Sharif as Sohamus. Regretfully, the film was less epic and more a wooden documentary as it plodded through its three-hour plus running time. The story centers on the intrigue and contest for love and power in the court of Emperor Marcus Aurelius. After the emperor is assassinated, a power mad, vain and unstable Commodus assumes the throne and begins a reign of terror, ultimately banishing all who earned his disfavor including Livius, Lucilla and Tiomedes. The film was a commercial failure bringing in only 20% of its 19 million dollar production costs. The score however achieved critical success being nominated by both the Academy of Motion Pictures and The Golden Globes. Tiomkin succeeded in winning a well-deserved Golden Globe. Read more…

ONLY THE BRAVE – Joseph Trapanese

October 27, 2017 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Since I moved to the United States in 2005 I’ve developed a deep admiration for firefighters, especially the ones who deal with brushfires. I’ve seen first hand here in California how devastating wildfires can be; bone dry vegetation, coupled with strong winds, and difficult terrain, can lead to terrifyingly enormous fires that can march across miles and miles of ground, turning entire communities into ash. Just last week more than 6,000 homes were lost and dozens of people were killed in a wildfire north of San Francisco – and it’s not just California. Recent fires in Spain and Portugal, and in Australia, have shown us how deadly nature can be. Director Joseph Kosinski’s film Only the Brave honors the men and women on these front lines by telling the largely true story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, a group of elite firefighters who in 2003 risked everything to protect a town in Arizona from a historic wildfire. The film stars Josh Brolin, Miles Teller, Jeff Bridges, James Badge Dale, Taylor Kitsch, and Jennifer Connelly, and has an original score by composer Joseph Trapanese. Read more…

LIONHEART – Jerry Goldsmith

October 26, 2017 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Lionheart is a perfect example of how a film studio can utterly ruin a film’s commercial success with poor distribution. A rousing historical action-adventure, the film is loosely based on the story of the Children’s Crusade of the year 1212, in which children from all over Europe adopted the cause of King Richard the Lionheart to protect Christianity from Muslim invaders. This story concentrates specifically on a young knight named Robert (Eric Stoltz), who finds himself becoming the protector of a group of children who are being threatened by the evil ‘Black Prince’ (Gabriel Byrne), a former crusader who became disillusioned with his cause and is now selling children into slavery. The film was an epic and lavish production – it was directed by the great Franklin Schaffner, was written by Menno Meyjes, and executive produced by Francis Ford Coppola – but it was hamstrung by its own production company, Orion Pictures, who delayed and delayed the film and eventually only released it in cinemas in Canada in the late summer of 1987 (it didn’t play in the United States at all). As a result, the film is virtually unknown these days, and is likely best remembered for Jerry Goldsmith’s rousing, epic score. Read more…

THE MOUNTAIN BETWEEN US – Ramin Djawadi

October 24, 2017 1 comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The Mountain Between Us is an unusual mix of genres, being described in the mainstream press as a ‘survival drama/action thriller/romance’. Directed by Palestinian filmmaker Haby Abu-Assad making his American debut, and based on a popular novel by Charles Martin, the film stars Idris Elba and Kate Winslet as two strangers – he a surgeon heading to perform an operation, she on the way to her wedding – who agree to share a small plane charter flight out of Idaho to the East Coast. When the plane goes down in bad weather in a remote mountain range, and with the pilot having been killed in the crash, the pair must summon all their reserves of strength and resilience to survive. Read more…

CLEOPATRA – Alex North

October 23, 2017 Leave a comment

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

20th Century Fox had descended into financial troubles in the late 1950s due to a string of poorly performing films. They decided to regain the glory of their past by remaking one of their prior gems – the 1917 film Cleopatra . They needed a producer to bring the film to fruition, and when veteran Walter Wanger approached the studio to tell the story of Cleopatra, an astounding synergy was realized. He tasked Joseph Mankiewicz with directing, and Ranald MacDougall and Sidney Buchman joined him in fashioning the script. Mankiewicz’s original conception was to make two, three-hour films; Caesar and Cleopatra, and Anthony and Cleopatra. He was however overruled by the studio who insisted on a single film. A cast for the ages was assembled with Elizabeth Taylor playing the titular role of Cleopatra. Supporting her would be Richard Burton as Marc Anthony, Rex Harrison as Julius Caesar, Roddy McDowell as Octavian, and Martin Landau as Rufio. Read more…

GOODBYE CHRISTOPHER ROBIN – Carter Burwell

October 17, 2017 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Over the past one hundred years or so since his creation, the character Winnie the Pooh has grown from humble origins to become a worldwide commercial phenomenon, the latter courtesy of the Disney company which purchased the intellectual rights in 1966. A good-natured, honey-loving, perpetually befuddled yellow bear, Pooh and his friends have been beloved childhood staples for generations, but few are aware of his origins. Director Simon Curtis’s period drama film Goodbye Christopher Robin explores them, looking at how British author A. A. Milne created the characters based on the interactions he had with his young son Christopher, whose collection of stuffed animals provided inspiration for his literature. The subsequent popularity of the books ‘Winnie the Pooh’ and ‘The House at Pooh Corner’ turned Milne into something of a household name, and provided a small degree of comfort to an England still dealing with the after-effects of World War I – but, ironically, made Milne’s relationship with his son more difficult. The film stars Domhnall Gleeson, Margot Robbie, and Kelly MacDonald, and has an original score by Carter Burwell. Read more…

HOW THE WEST WAS WON – Alfred Newman

October 16, 2017 Leave a comment

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

MGM Studios, in an effort to regain its former glory, embarked on a sweeping multi-generational tale, an epic story so grand in its storytelling that three directors would be needed to shoot its five vignettes. The film drew inspiration from a Life magazine photo essay titled “How the West Was Won”. Producer Bernard Smith hired James R. Webb to write a screenplay with a massive canvass and Henry Hathaway was tasked with directing three of the vignettes; The Rivers (1839), The Plains (1851) and The Outlaws (1889). John Ford would direct The Civil War (1861–1865) segment, and George Marshall would direct The Railroad (1868). A massive stellar cast was hired, which many consider to be the greatest assembly of stars ever hired for a single project; Carroll Baker as Eve Prescott, Agnes Moorhead as Rebecca Prescott, Karl Malden as Zebulon Prescott, Debbie Reynolds as Lilith Prescott, Lee Cobb as Lou Ramsey, Henry Fonda as Jethro Stewart, Carolyn Jones as Julie Rawlings, Gregory Peck as Cleve Van Valen, George Peppard as Zeb Rawlings, Robert Preston as Roger Morgan, John Wayne as General William Tecumseh Sherman, Richard Widmark as Mike King, Walter Brennan as Colonel Jeb Hawkins, Raymond Massey as President Abraham Lincoln, and Harry Morgan as General Ulysses S. Grant. Read more…

PROFESSOR MARSTON AND THE WONDER WOMEN – Tom Howe

October 13, 2017 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

It seems appropriate that, in a year where the comic book super hero Wonder Woman made such an important and groundbreaking splash at the US box office, there should also be a small independent film about the creation of the character. While many are aware of Wonder Woman’s status as an iconic figure of female empowerment through the big and small screen portrayals of her by actresses Lynda Carter and Gal Gadot, it’s important to remember that she has been around since the 1940s, and that her origins are… shall we say, slightly unconventional. Wonder Woman was created by William Moulton Marston using the pen name Charles Moulton. In public, Moulton was an acclaimed psychologist and writer who, notably, invented the polygraph lie detector. In private, however, Moulton was in a long term consensual relationship with two women – Elizabeth Holloway and Olive Byrne – who were also in a lesbian relationship with each other. Not only that, both Holloway and Byrne were early pioneers of the feminism movement that began under Margaret Sanger, while Marston was an enthusiastic practitioner of sexual bondage, dominance and submission, the themes of which often crossed over into his writing. Director Angela Robinson’s film Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, which stars Luke Evans, Rebecca Hall, and Bella Heathcote, explores the relationship between Marston, Holloway and Byrne, and how their alternative dynamic resulted in the creation of a super-hero who endures to this day. Read more…

THE PRINCESS BRIDE – Mark Knopfler

October 12, 2017 1 comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Is there a more beloved, more quotable 1980s movie than The Princess Bride? If we’re talking about pop culture consciousness, then director Rob Reiner’s 1987 romantic-comedy-fantasy-adventure may be the cream of the crop. Based on the novel by William Goldman, the film is basically a story about a grandfather reading to his sick grandson, and the way in which great literature can inspire us, enthrall us, and move us in equal measure. In the film’s framing story, the grandfather (Peter Falk) reads the story of The Princess Bride to his computer game-obsessed grandson (Fred Savage), and the tale unfolds before us: it’s a classic adventure about a handsome and heroic stable boy named Wesley (Cary Elwes), who falls in love with the beautiful Buttercup (Robin Wright); years later, with Buttercup betrothed to be married to the odious Prince Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon), Westley must team up with a gang of adventurers to save her. Read more…

BLADE RUNNER 2049 – Benjamin Wallfisch and Hans Zimmer

October 10, 2017 5 comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The 1982 science fiction film Blade Runner is considered a landmark of the genre, a thoughtful and thought-provoking look at the nature of humanity, dressed up with groundbreaking visual effects and a revolutionary neo-noir style. Now, 35 years later, the film’s long-awaited sequel Blade Runner 2049 has finally arrived after what feels like an eternity in development, with a new director in the shape of Denis Villeneuve, and with original director Ridley Scott acting as executive producer. Without wanting to give too much of the plot away, the film stars Ryan Gosling as a ‘blade runner’ named K, a futuristic cop hunting down the last few old-model ‘replicants,’ incredibly lifelike synthetic humanoids who have been designed to work as slaves for real humans, and whose rebellion formed the plot of the first movie. Since then, newer-model replicants have become a stable part of society, but when K discovers a long-buried secret that has the potential to change the world, he finds himself trying to track down former blade runner Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), the protagonist of the first film, who has been missing for decades. Read more…

LAWRENCE OF ARABIA – Maurice Jarre

October 9, 2017 Leave a comment

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

David Lean and Sam Spiegel purchased the film rights to T. E. Lawrence’s book “The Seven Pillars of Wisdom” and hired Robert Bolt to write the screenplay on the enigmatic war hero. A stellar cast was hired that included Peter O’Toole (T.E. Lawrence), Alec Guiness (Prince Feisal), Anthony Quinn (Auda Abu Tayi), Jack Hawkins (General Allenby) and Omar Sharif as Sherif Ali. The film centers on Thomas Edward Lawrence, a complex and insolent British Lieutenant assigned to Cairo during World War I. He is ordered to assess the possibility of recruiting Prince Feisal of Arabia as an ally in their struggle against the Ottoman Turks. On his own initiative he instead chooses to rally the recently defeated Arab army for an audacious trans desert assault against the port city of Aqaba. He succeeds and returns to Cairo in triumph where he is promoted and ordered to return and lead the Arab revolt. His guerrilla army harasses the Turks with surprise desert raids and train line assaults that disrupt their command and control. Along the way the war violence and his complicity in a massacre serves to plague his conscience and forever scar him. Eventually, he leads his army northward captures Damascus and helps end the control of the Ottoman Empire. With his mission complete, he is sent back to England only to die young at the age of 46 in a motorcycle accident. The film was a stunning success winning seven Academy Awards including Best Score for Maurice Jarre. Read more…

MARIO + RABBIDS: KINGDOM BATTLE – Grant Kirkhope

October 4, 2017 2 comments

GAME ZONE REVIEW

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

I have a confession to make, and I’m not sure how well it’s going to go over. It may be OK, or it may cause me to lose some respect in the eyes of my readers, but it’s something I have to get off my chest. OK… here goes. My name is Jon Broxton and I have never played Donkey Kong. Or Super Mario Bros., or The Legend of Zelda, or any of those classic Nintendo games that are such a staple of contemporary popular culture. Growing up, I wasn’t a gamer at all, and while I was of course aware of all the various characters, I never had the experience of actually playing them, which meant that for most of my life they didn’t mean a whole lot to me. I have since become much more aware of their impact and legacy, which is how I know that Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle is one of the most important game titles to be released in 2017. Read more…

TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD – Elmer Bernstein

October 2, 2017 Leave a comment

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Universal Studio executives saw the universal critical acclaim afforded Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel To Kill A Mockingbird, and purchased the film rights, determined to bring her poignant story to the big screen. The project however stalled creatively and did not gain momentum until a generous budget was allocated and producer Alan J. Pakula took the reigns. He was inspired by the project, hired Horton Foote to write the screenplay, and tasked Robert Mulligan to direct. They brought in Gregory Peck to play the leading role of Atticus Finch, and Robert Duvall secured his debut role as Boo Radley. For Atticus’ children, newcomers Mary Badham was chosen to play Scout, and Phillip Alford to play Jem. Rounding out the cast were Brock Peters as Tom Robinson, James Anderson as Bob Ewell, Cillin Wilcox as Mayella Ewell, and John Megna as Dill Harris. Read more…