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HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON: THE HIDDEN WORLD – John Powell

March 28, 2019 3 comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Prior to its premiere in 2010, I had never heard of How to Train Your Dragon. I knew nothing of Cressida Cowell’s book series, had pretty much zero interest in watching the film (I assumed it was a silly thing for children), and I certainly had no expectations about John Powell’s score. I thought it might be a fun diversion – Powell had scored several excellent animated films before it, including Antz, Chicken Run, Shrek, Kung-Fu Panda, and several entries in the Ice Age series – but beyond that, my anticipation levels were low. Flash forward nine years and How to Train Your Dragon is a beloved animated franchise boasting not only a trilogy of films but a slew of straight-to-DVD shorts, a television series, video games, and more. The three Dragons films have grossed a combined $1.5 billion worldwide, both the first two films were nominated for the Oscar for Best Animated Feature, and Powell’s scores are now regarded as some of the finest film music written anywhere in the world over the last decade. Read more…

US – Michael Abels

March 26, 2019 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Us is the sophomore effort of writer-director Jordan Peele, who took the box office by storm, and won critical praise, for his debut film Get Out in 2017. Both films are nominally horror films, with Us being more traditionally scary than Get Out was, but both films also delve much deeper into a whole host of political and sociological issues that most genre films don’t touch. Us provides scares a-plenty, but also takes its time to offer ruminations on identity, childhood trauma, and the overwhelming fear of ‘outsiders’ that currently permeates contemporary American culture. Oscar-winner Lupita Nyongo stars as Adelaide, who as a child had a horrifying experience in a funhouse by the Santa Cruz seaside boardwalk that left her psychologically scarred; now grown up, she reluctantly returns to the same resort with her husband Gabe (Winston Duke) and pre-teen children Zoe and Jason (Shahadi Wright Joseph and Evan Alex). Adelaide and Gabe are a normal, middle-class, affluent all-American family, and after spending the day on the beach with their friends (Elisabeth Moss and Tim Heidecker), they retire to their beach house. However, that night, they are assailed by four mysterious strangers clad in red jumpsuits, each of whom look like almost perfect mirror images of Adelaide and her family. What these doppelgängers want, who they are, and where they come from, is soon revealed to be literal stuff of nightmares. Read more…

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APOLLO 13 – James Horner

March 25, 2019 Leave a comment

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Following his retirement from NASA in 1973, Apollo 13 astronaut James Lovell collaborated with journalist Jeffrey Kluger to recount the riveting tale of his failed moon landing, titled ‘Lost Moon: The Perilous Voyage of Apollo 13’. In 1993 director Ron Howard and producer Brian Grazer of Imagine Entertainment received a pre-publication copy of the novel and immediately realized that this story offered classic American heroism, which needed to be brought to the big screen. They secured the film rights and, in partnership with Universal Pictures, undertook the project with a modest budget of $52 million. Howard secured a stellar cast, which included NASA fan Tom Hanks as Commander Jim Lovell, Kathleen Quinlan as his wife Marilyn, Kevin Bacon and Bill Paxton as fellow astronauts Jack Swigert and Fred Haise, Gary Sinise as Ken Mattingly, and Ed Harris as NASA Flight Director Gene Kranz. The story retells the harrowing tale of the Apollo 13 mission, which was intended to bring a third astronaut team to the moon. Read more…

CLIFFS OF FREEDOM – George Kallis

March 22, 2019 3 comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The Romeo and Juliet story has been told over and over again in cinema; Cliffs of Freedom is the latest re-working of that classic tale of star-crossed lovers, but instead of Montagues and Capulets, we have Greeks and Turks facing off in a sweeping historical epic drama of love and conflict. The film is set in 1821 during the Greek War for Independence against the Ottoman Empire, and focuses on Anna Christina, a Greek peasant girl who is in love with Tariq, a colonel in the Turkish army whose career is on the rise even as he is unnerved by his country’s violent response to the Greek nationalistic uprising. As tensions mount and political divisions lead to all-out war, Anna Christina and Tariq struggle to keep their relationship alive. The film is directed by Van Ling, a special effects genius making his feature debut, and is based on a popular novel by Marianne Metropoulos; it stars Tania Raymonde and Jan Uddin as the central pair, and has a surprisingly rich supporting cast including Christopher Plummer, Patti LuPone, Billy Zane, Lance Henriksen, and Raza Jaffrey. Unfortunately the film came and went from cinemas like lightning (despite its trailer playing every night for what felt like weeks during the NBC late night news broadcast in Los Angeles), meaning that the film’s lasting legacy might be its score, by George Kallis. Read more…

THE FLY II – Christopher Young

March 21, 2019 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

David Cronenberg’s horror classic The Fly was such a critical and commercial success in 1986 that 20th Century Fox and Brooksfilms green-lit a sequel almost immediately. The Fly II was written by Frank Darabont and Mick Garris, and directed by Chris Walas, who supervised the first film’s makeup effects, and won an Academy Award for his grotesque efforts. The film is set several months after the events of the first one, and begins when Veronica (Geena Davis’s character from the first movie) gives birth to a baby, the son of Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum’s character). The baby was conceived after Seth began mutating into a fly, and Veronica dies in childbirth, but the infant – who is named Martin – initially appears to be healthy. Martin grows up in a laboratory owned by Anton Bartok (Lee Richardson), the scientist-businessmen who funded Seth’s research, but before long it becomes clear that Martin is different – he possesses a genius-level intellect, has incredible reflexes, and grows faster than a normal human, so much so that by the age of five he has the mental capacity of a 25-year-old man, and looks like Eric Stoltz. Eventually, Martin begins to question his life and existence, and slowly begins to learn some unnerving truths about Bartok, especially when he starts to exhibit some of the same fly-related symptoms as his father… Read more…

ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL – Tom Holkenborg

March 19, 2019 1 comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Hollywood’s increasing interest in bringing new versions of Japanese anime titles to an American audience continues with the release of Alita: Battle Angel, adapted from the eponymous 1990s comic book series by Yukito Kishiro. The film was written and produced by James Cameron, who originally intended to direct the project himself when it was first announced in 2003, but after sitting in ‘development hell’ for well over a decade, it was eventually helmed by Robert Rodriguez. The story is set in a post-apocalyptic future and focuses on Alita (Rosa Salazar), a female cyborg who has lost all her memories and is found in a junkyard by cybernetics doctor Dyson Ido (Christoph Waltz). Ido rebuilds Alita and takes care of her like she is his daughter; eventually, however, Alita discovers that she has immense strength and fighting skills, which leads to her becoming a bounty hunter, and eventually learning more about her past. The film co-stars Oscar winners Mahershala Ali and Jennifer Connelly, and has been a surprisingly popular critical and commercial success, overcoming the film’s misleading marketing that entirely omits the significant sports movie plot, as well as its potential for trips to the ‘uncanny valley’ in terms of Alita’s look and design. Read more…

LEGENDS OF THE FALL – James Horner

March 18, 2019 1 comment

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Having just finished the comedy Leaving Normal, director Edward Zwick decided to change direction and film an epic historical drama, which showcased the talent of rising star Brad Pitt as a romantic leading man. To that end he found the perfect vehicle in the 1978 novella Legends of the Fall by Jim Harrison. His production company Bedford Falls purchased the film rights with TriStar Pictures agreeing to distribute. Zwick, William Wittliff and Marshal Herskovist would produce the film, with Zwick directing. He hired screenwriters Susan Shilliday and William D. Wittliff to adapt the story for the big screen and brought in an outstanding cast, which included Brad Pitt as Tristan Ludlow, Anthony Hopkins as Colonel William Ludlow, Aiden Quinn as Alfred Ludlow, Henry Thomas as Samuel Ludlow, and Juilia Ormond as Susannah Fincannon. The film is set in the territory of Montana circa 1890 when Colonel William Ludlow resigns his commission, loathe to continue his part in the army’s cruel betrayal and slaughter of native Americans. He settles on a ranch in a remote part of Montana where he and his wife Isabel live a tranquil existence in peace. Isabel bears him three sons – Tristan, Alfred, and Samuel – but ends up leaving him as she is unable to bear the isolation and long harsh winters, which forces William to raise the boys himself. Almost 20 years later, the the now-grown Samuel returns home to the ranch with his fiancé Susannah, but this is a harbinger of sorrow as it precipitates a series of tragic events which fracture the family and set brother against brother as they compete for her affections. Read more…