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Archive for November, 2017

RUSSKIES – James Newton Howard

November 16, 2017 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

One of my favorite things about the Throwback Thirty series is the opportunity it gives me to take a look back at the very beginnings of certain composers’ careers, and examine how they started and where they came from. In 1987 James Newton Howard was still very new to the film scoring world. After studying at the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, and at the University of Southern California, he started out as a session musician for various pop artists, which eventually led to him touring with Elton John as a keyboardist during the late 1970s and early 1980s. He arranged the strings for several of John’s most popular songs of the period, and subsequent collaborations with pop artists such as Cher, Bob Seger, Randy Newman, and Olivia Newton-John, led to him becoming one of the most sought-after arrangers in the music business. The film world started calling Howard’s name in 1985 when he was asked to score director Ken Finkleman’s comedy Head Office; he enjoyed some minor box office success in 1986 with the Goldie Hawn vehicle Wildcats, and the Burt Lancaster/Kirk Douglas comedy Tough Guys, but it was not until the end of 1987 that he would score a film that also had an accompanying score album released at the same time. Read more…

COCO – Michael Giacchino

November 14, 2017 1 comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Coco is a beautiful animated film from Disney and Pixar centered around the traditional Mexican holiday of Día de Muertos, the Day of the Dead. The story centers around a young boy named Miguel Rivera, an aspiring musician who idolizes Ernesto de la Cruz, a popular singer/songwriter and film star, who died years previously. Unfortunately, Miguel’s family despises music because his great-great grandfather abandoned his family to achieve his musical dreams. On the Day of the Dead, Miguel plans to enter a talent contest in order to convince his family of his love of music, but things go awry, and circumstances contrive in such a way that Miguel finds himself ‘crossed over’ from the land of the living to the spirit world – not dead, but unable to return home without help. After reuniting with long-deceased members of his family, and meeting with an insouciant rogue named Hector who agrees to be his guide, Miguel embarks on an epic adventure in the Land of the Dead in a desperate attempt to cross back to the human world before time runs out and he is stuck in the afterlife forever. The film is a wonderful amalgam of music, emotion, humor, excitement, and staggeringly beautiful visuals; it’s directed by Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina, and features the voices of Anthony Gonzalez, Gael García Bernal, and Benjamin Bratt. Read more…

GOLDFINGER – John Barry

November 13, 2017 Leave a comment

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Producers Albert Broccoli and Harry Saltzman wished to capitalize on the burgeoning success of the Bond franchise, but could not proceed with the next installment “Thunderball” due to ongoing litigation between Ian Fleming and Kevin McClory over screenplay rights. As such they decided to move forward with Fleming’s next novel, Goldfinger. Guy Hamilton would return as director and was rewarded with a budget, which exceeded that of the first two Bond films combined. A fine cast was assembled, but not without significant challenges. Orson Welles was approached for the role of Auric Goldfinger, but his salary demands were too high. As such they brought in German actor Gert Frobe to play the titular role, but his poor English necessitated dubbing his lines. Sean Connery returned to reprise his role as James Bond with Honor Blackman joining as Pussy Galore, Shirley Eaton as Jill Masterson, Harold Sakata as Oddjob, Bernard Lee as Department Head M, Cec Linder as CIA liaison Felix Leiter, and Desmond Llewelyn as Q. Read more…

MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS – Patrick Doyle

November 10, 2017 4 comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The concept of the ‘whodunit’ in contemporary literature was essentially invented by British author Agatha Christie, who during her lifetime wrote more than 50 detective stories and mysteries. Possibly her most famous work was the 1934 novel Murder on the Orient Express, which features as its protagonist one of her most beloved creations, the Belgian detective Hercule Poirot. Without giving too much of the plot away, the story unfolds as Poirot is traveling from Istanbul to London on the famous eponymous train. A passenger is murdered in his cabin, and Poirot is implored by the train’s director to help solve the case. With the train stuck in a snowdrift, Poirot has time to investigate each of the other passengers in the first class compartment where the murder took place, and slowly develops a theory linking the murder to the abduction and subsequent death of a wealthy child heiress several years previously. This is the second big screen adaptation of the story, after Sidney Lumet’s 1974 film; it was directed by Kenneth Branagh, who himself plays Poirot, and has an all-star supporting cast that includes Penelope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Johnny Depp, Judi Dench, Josh Gad, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Daisy Ridley. Read more…

CRY FREEDOM – George Fenton and Jonas Gwangwa

November 9, 2017 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

It’s difficult to look back at South Africa in the 1970s and 80s and remember that, for decades following the end of World War II, the country operated under a legal political system called apartheid, whereby white South Africans held all the power and black South Africans were second class citizens, subjugated by a minority in their own country. This systematic racism was decried all over the world until 1991, when the policy was formally abolished. Director Richard Attenborough’s film Cry Freedom is a look at one of the most notorious events of the apartheid era: the death of activist Steve Biko at the hands of the local police in Pretoria, and the complicity of the South African government, who tried to cover it up. The film starred Kevin Kline and Denzel Washington, and was a major critical success in the winter of 1987, eventually receiving three Academy Award nominations: one for actor Washington, and two for the music by George Fenton and Jonas Gwangwa. Read more…

LBJ – Marc Shaiman

November 7, 2017 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Lyndon Baines Johnson was the 36th President of the United States. Born in Texas in 1908, he served in the US Navy and worked as a high school teacher before winning election to the House of Representatives in 1937, and then to the Senate in 1948. After a widely-praised career in Washington, Johnson was chosen to be John F. Kennedy’s running mate in 1960, and became Vice President after Kennedy’s victory. He ascended to the presidency in 1963 after JFK was assassinated; as President, he won the 1964 election with ease and instituted a series of sweeping popular social reforms aimed at combating racism, poor healthcare, and poverty, but was simultaneously criticized for his aggressive personality, and for the United States’s controversial involvement in the Vietnam War. Amid the Vietnam controversy Johnson lost the 1968 Democratic primary to his own vice president, Hubert Humphrey, after Robert F. Kennedy was himself assassinated, and when Humphrey lost the general election to Republican Richard Nixon, Johnson retired from politics and returned to his Texas ranch, where he died in 1973. Director Rob Reiner’s movie LBJ tells Johnson’s life story, with Woody Harrelson portraying the man himself, and with Richard Jenkins, Bill Pullman, and Jennifer Jason Leigh in supporting roles. Read more…

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THE PINK PANTHER – Henry Mancini

November 6, 2017 1 comment

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Producer Martin Jurow of the Mirisch Company felt the time was right to bring a sophisticated comedy to the big screen. The story would involve a jewel heist, which would pit the urbane and debonair jewel thief, Sir Charles Lytton, against the hapless and bumbling Inspector Jacques Clouseau. He tasked Blake Edwards to direct the project, who then personally collaborated with Maurice Richlin to fashion a hilarious screenplay. Casting went awry as Peter Ustinov, Ava Gardner and Janet Leigh all had issues, which prevented them from joining the production. Yet Blake was an experienced director who nevertheless succeeded in assembling a fine cast, which included David Niven as Sir Charles Lytton, Peter Sellers as Jacques Clouseau, Robert Wagner as George Lytton, Claudia Cardinale as Princess Dala, Brenda De Banzie as Angela Dunning, and Capucine as Simone Clouseau. Read more…