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Archive for March, 2018

The World of Film Scores – 2018 First Quarter Round-Up

March 30, 2018 5 comments

In a break with my usual convention, I have decided that instead of doing a series of geographical articles at the end of the calendar year highlighting the best under-the-radar film scores, I am instead going to write four quarterly articles which spotlight the same types of scores – unheralded works from outside the Hollywood film music mainstream – but which are spaced throughout the year so that they are more timely in terms of when the films are released. As such, here is the first – a look at ten outstanding scores from the first three months of 2018, encompassing a wide range of projects from all over the world, including works from Finland, Iceland, the Netherlands, Japan, Spain, China, Russia, and beyond! Read more…

MASQUERADE – John Barry

March 29, 2018 1 comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Masquerade is a now long-forgotten mystery-thriller directed by Bob Swain and written by Dick Wolf, just before he took over television with his expansive Law & Order franchise. The film is set in and around an elite New England yachting community, and tells the story of Olivia, a naïve, recently orphaned millionairess who returns home after many years away, and falls in love with a dashing young yacht racing captain named Tim. However, Olivia soon becomes embroiled in a labyrinthine plot of lies, deceit, and murder, the scope of which apparently extends to the entire community. The film stars Rob Lowe and Meg Tilly as the central pair, features Kim Cattrall, John Glover, Dana Delany, and Doug Savant in supporting roles, and has a lovely original score by John Barry. Read more…

ISLE OF DOGS – Alexandre Desplat

March 27, 2018 1 comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Isle of Dogs is the latest film from the quirky hipster director Wes Anderson, and sees him returning to the world of animation for the second time, after Fantastic Mr. Fox in 2009. Of all the ‘mainstream’ directors working today, Anderson is one of the only ones who regularly switches between mediums like this – Robert Zemeckis dabbled in animation with things like The Polar Express and Beowulf, and Steven Spielberg had a go with The Adventures of Tintin, but those were exercises in motion capture which still used real actors as reference. Anderson’s animated films are more traditional, featuring stop-motion puppets and models and actors doing voices. It’s a typically idiosyncratic effort from the undisputed king of these things; plot-wise, the film is set in the near-future in Japan, and follows the adventures of a young boy named Atari who embarks on a daring mission to rescue his dog, Spots, from a trash-filled island, after the entire canine population of the city are banished there by a corrupt mayor in the aftermath of an outbreak of ‘dog flu’. Read more…

CHINATOWN – Jerry Goldsmith

March 26, 2018 2 comments

chinatown100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Producer Robert Evans of Paramount Studio was determined to bring F. Scott Fitzgerald’s literary classic, The Great Gatsby (1925) to the big screen. He hired trusted screenplay writer Robert Towne for $175,000 to write the script. Towne however had a different ambition and managed to convince Evans to take on his own 1930’s detective mystery thriller titled “Water and Power” for $25,000. Well, Evans liked the script saw opportunity, and so moved forward with production. He greatly enjoyed his collaboration with Roman Polanski with Rosemary’s Baby (1968), and so brought him in to direct. They assembled a fine cast, which included Jack Nicholson as detective J.J. “Jake” Gittes, Faye Dunaway as Evelyn Cross Mulwray, John Huston as Noah Cross, John Hillerman as Russ Yelburton, Perry Lopez as Lieutenant Lou Escobar, and Darrell Zwerling as Hollis Mulwray. Read more…

YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE – Jonny Greenwood

March 24, 2018 Leave a comment

Original Review by Anže Grčar

When the discussion arises about which are some of the finest female directors working in industry today, the name of Lynne Ramsay is seldomly brought up into the conversation by fellow film aficionados, much to my great disappointment – her selectiveness and large gaps between mainly auteur, art house driven projects that never elicited a major box office turnout may have something to do with mainstream never taking her work to the heart. Indeed, the 48 year old Glasgow native has only four feature credits under her belt – albeit four great ones. Since the release of her debut Ratcatcher back in 1999, she has been an indie darling, notorious for making the film on her own terms (the production history of nearly aborted Jane Got The Gun project speaks for itself) and it shows. You Were Never Really Here, starring the exceptional Joaquin Phoenix in the title role and who won the Best Actor Award in Cannes, is a follow up to much discussed We Need To Talk About Kevin in which Tilda Swinton churned out her career best work (much like Phoenix in this case), and finally arrives after seven year gap between her previous feature, riding on the wave of ecstatic Cannes reviews where Ramsay also received a “Best Screenplay” award. The project seems way overdue for Ramsay fans – but if it takes so many years for her to forge another film of this kind of magnitude, I’ll gladly keep myself busy seven years more. Read more…

THE MILAGRO BEANFIELD WAR – Dave Grusin

March 22, 2018 6 comments

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

In the annals of recent film music history, there is perhaps no more obscure a winner of the Academy Award for Best Original Score than Dave Grusin’s The Milagro Beanfield War. Even the film itself is virtually forgotten today, despite it being directed by Robert Redford and having a cast that includes Rubén Blades, Sônia Braga, Melanie Griffith, John Heard, Daniel Stern, and Christopher Walken. It’s a political comedy-drama – as Redford’s films often are – about the residents of a rural New Mexico town who find themselves in an ever-escalating confrontation with a group of unscrupulous businessmen. The businessmen want to buy tracts of land in order to invest in a series of lucrative property developments, but before they can do so they need the local residents to leave, so they divert the local water supply, leaving the farmers unable to irrigate their crops. It’s a very 1980s story about how the financial concerns of the wealthy ignore, and sometimes intentionally destroy, the rights of working class people. Read more…

TOMB RAIDER – Tom Holkenborg

March 21, 2018 3 comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Back in the 1990s, someone had an idea to make a film based on a popular video game, and it was quickly seen as a fertile new ground from which to draw cinematic inspiration. Unfortunately, the first few films – 1993’s Super Mario Bros., 1994’s Street Fighter, 1995’s Mortal Kombat – were all significantly awful, meaning that it was not until 2001’s Tomb Raider that a video game movie saw any real traction, either with critics or at the box office. The original film starred Oscar-winner Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft, the eponymous globe-trotting adventurer searching for artifacts and hidden treasure among the ancient ruins of the world. Now, 17 years later, Lara Croft has been rebooted, and this new film stars Oscar-winner Alicia Vikander as Lara Croft, the eponymous globe-trotting adventurer searching for… well, you get the idea. The film is directed by Norwegian Roar Uthaug, co-stars Walton Goggins and Dominic West, and has done some brisk business, achieving the highest Rotten Tomatoes score of any major video game adaptation movie to date, and taking in well over $100 million on its opening weekend. Read more…

THE GODFATHER, PART II – Nino Rota

March 19, 2018 Leave a comment

godfather2100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

The Godfather proved to be a sensational critical success and cash cow for Paramount Studio. That there would be a sequel was a foregone conclusion, and studio executives planned to capitalize quickly. Francis Ford Coppola desired to produce, not direct the film, however he returned grudgingly to the franchise as director after the studio rejected his selection of Martin Scorsese to replace him as director. Regretfully Marlon Brando, who felt mistreated by the studio, refused to reprise his role, but six of his fellow stars did including Al Pacino as Michael Corleone, Robert Duvall as Tom Hagen, Talia Shire as Connie Corleone, Diane Keaton as Kay-Adams Corleone, Abe Vigoda as Salvatore Tessio, and Joe Spinelli as Willi Cicci. Joining the cast for the first time were Robert De Niro as the young Vito Corleone, and John Cazale as Fredo Corleone. Read more…

A WRINKLE IN TIME – Ramin Djawadi

March 16, 2018 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

A Wrinkle in Time is a fantasy adventure film for children, adapted from an apparently immensely popular and influential 1962 novel by Madeleine L’Engle. It follows the adventures of a young girl named Meg, whose astrophysicist father went missing several years previously. One day, Meg and her friends are visited by three ‘astral travelers’ – Mrs. Which, Mrs. Whatsit, and Mrs. Who – who reveal that Meg’s father is still alive, and that together they are able to save him from the clutches of ‘the darkness’ that is taking over the universe. So begins a fantastical journey, as Meg is whisked across the galaxy using a mysterious object known as a tesseract to face her darkest fears – and, hopefully, reunite her family. The film stars Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Chris Pine, and Storm Reid in the main role as Meg, and is directed by Ava DuVernay, the woman behind the critically acclaimed Selma. Read more…

SHOOT TO KILL – John Scott

March 15, 2018 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Shoot to Kill is a fun, enjoyable action thriller directed by Roger Spottiswoode, starring Sidney Poitier as FBI agent Warren Stanton, who is on the trail of a brutal jewel thief who killed two people during his last heist. Stanton discovers that the murderer is trying to escape north to Canada by joining a group of sports hunters on a guided expedition in the mountains of the Pacific Northwest; unbeknownst to the guide, Sara (Kirstie Alley), he has killed one of the hunters, and is now pretending to be him. In order to stop the killer before he crosses the border, Stanton hires Jonathan (Tom Berenger), a local outdoorsman – and Sarah’s boyfriend – to help guide him through the wilderness, and they set off in hot pursuit. The film has two quirks which make it stand out from other films of its type. The first is the constant bickering between the hardy Berenger and city boy Poitier, who don’t like each other but have to rely on each other to survive in true buddy cop fashion. The second is the fact that the audience doesn’t find out which of the group of sports hunters is the killer until well into the second half of the movie – a conceit made cleverer due to the producers casting four men known for playing ruthless movie villains as the hunters: Clancy Brown, Frederick Coffin, Richard Masur, and Andrew Robinson. Read more…

EARLY MAN – Harry Gregson-Williams and Tom Howe

March 13, 2018 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

British film studio Aardman have been producing high quality, massively popular stop-motion animated films for more than 30 years, including the four Wallace and Gromit shorts, the Oscar-winning big screen W&G adventure The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, and the brilliant Chicken Run, which remains the highest-grossing stop-motion film of all time. Their latest effort is Early Man, directed by Nick Park, and featuring a stellar voice cast including Eddie Redmayne, Tom Hiddlestone, Timothy Spall, and Game of Thrones’s Maisie Williams. The story follows a tribe of Stone Age cavemen, led by the amiable Dug, whose valley is threatened by an invading army led by the greedy Bronze Age aristocrat Lord Nooth, who wants to mine the valley for its minerals. With the help of a Bronze Age girl named Goona, Dug convinces Nooth to take part in a winner-takes-all game of soccer, with the fate of the valley at stake. Read more…

PATTON – Jerry Goldsmith

March 12, 2018 Leave a comment

patton100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

A Patton biopic film was first conceived by Frank McCarthy, a retired general working as a producer for 20th Century Fox in the 1950s. After selling the concept to Studio Executive Richard Zanuck, a screenplay was commissioned that resulted in two incarnations, one by Francis Ford Coppola and another by Edmund H. North. Over time these two screenplays were eventually merged into a single version. Both efforts drew inspiration from two books, Patton: Ordeal And Triumph, a biography by Ladislas Farago and A Soldier’s Story, the memoir of General Omar Bradley. After many years of ‘fine-tuning’, a final script was born and the search for a director and lead actor proceeded in earnest, eventually settling upon Franklin J. Schaffner and George C. Scott respectively. The film from the start was a one-man show, a biopic of a giant among men. Patton can best be described as charismatic, complicated and contradictory; he was deeply religious and yet both vulgar and profane, he was an insufferable narcissist and yet a supreme patriotic, and lastly he was a military tactical genius and yet a poor post war administrator. The film covered Patton’s rise to prominence in World War II during his military campaigns in Tunisia, Sicily, France and the occupation of Germany. It suffices to say that Scott’s performance was a tour de force that transcended the film and earned him a best actor Oscar award that he ungraciously declined to accept. The film went on to win seven Oscars including best picture and remains a popular film to this day. Read more…

MAX AND ME – Mark McKenzie

March 9, 2018 13 comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Max and Me is an animated film from the Mexican production company Dos Corazones. It tells the story of Maximilian Kolbe, a Polish Franciscan friar who during World War II was imprisoned at the Auschwitz concentration camp by the Nazis and became its de-facto priest. He became renowned for his kindness and, later, his bravery, when he volunteered to die in place of another prisoner who had been unjustly sentenced to be executed. Kolbe was canonized and made a saint by Pope John Paul II in 1982, and remains one of the most respected and admired Polish religious figures of modern times. In terms of this film, Kolbe’s life provides the contemporary frame of reference for the overarching story of an old man trying to help a young, rebellious teenager through some difficult life choices. As was the case with Dos Corazones’s last film, The Greatest Miracle, Max and Me wears its religious convictions proudly on its sleeve – it is an unashamedly pro-Catholic, pro-God, pro-faith film – and this sense of emotion and spiritual reverence informs its score, by composer Mark McKenzie. Read more…

GOOD MORNING VIETNAM – Alex North

March 8, 2018 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Good Morning Vietnam was one of the greatest critical and commercial successes over the winter of late 1987 and early 1988. A showcase for the improvisational talents of the late great comedian and actor Robin Williams, the film tells the (mostly) true life story of Adrian Cronauer, a motor-mouthed DJ working for the United States Armed Services at the height of the Vietnam War in 1965. From his booth on an army base in Saigon, Cronauer uses his caustic wit and love of classic rock and roll to raise the morale of the troops – despite the misgivings of his superiors, who disapprove of his irreverent antics. The film was directed by Barry Levinson, co-starred Forest Whitaker and Bruno Kirby, and went on to bag Williams his first Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. Read more…

RED SPARROW – James Newton Howard

March 6, 2018 1 comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

A cold war-style espionage thriller with a decidedly contemporary twist, Red Sparrow is a showcase of acting for Jennifer Lawrence. In it she plays Dominika Egorova, a prima ballerina with the Kirov in Moscow, dancing in order to provide for her sick mother. When an on-stage accident ends her performance career, and it becomes likely that her mother’s life-saving treatments will end, Dominika is recruited to a secret espionage organization within the Russian government that trains young men and women to be ‘sparrows’ – deep cover operatives highly skilled at physical and emotional manipulation, with an emphasis on sex. Before long, Dominika is sent to make contact with a CIA agent who has a source within the Russian government; her mission – to get close to the agent, and discover the identity of the mole. The film is directed by Francis Lawrence, who directed Jennifer in three Hunger Games movies, and is adapted from a popular novel by Jason Matthews; it co-stars Joel Edgerton, Jeremy Irons, Charlotte Rampling, and Matthias Schoenaerts, and has an original score by James Newton Howard. Read more…