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Archive for April, 2019

AVENGERS: ENDGAME – Alan Silvestri

April 30, 2019 8 comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS PLOT SPOILERS. IF YOU HAVE NOT YET SEEN THE FILM, YOU MIGHT WANT TO CONSIDER WAITING UNTIL AFTER YOU HAVE DONE SO TO READ IT.

When Marvel and Paramount Pictures made and released the movie Iron Man in the spring of 2008, I doubt anyone involved had any inkling of what would occur over the course of the next 11 years. To put it bluntly, Marvel and its controlling executive Kevin Feige revolutionized the movies, not only in terms of technical advancement, but in how movies are made and released. Over the course of the next decade the Marvel Cinematic Universe expanded into an interlocking series of 22 movies, most of which reference back to one another, and which follow a group of super-heroes as they defend the Earth from various threats, foreign, domestic, and inter-galactic. There have been hundreds of articles written about what this has done to the very nature of cinema, how potential ‘expanded universes’ are now designed into the development of every new franchise, and whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. I’m not going to go into this here – but I will say this: I doubt I will ever see a storytelling effort more ambitious than this in my lifetime. The combined Marvel movies have grossed more than $18 billion worldwide, and this final one – Avengers: Endgame – looks poised to be the biggest of them all. Read more…

THE RED VIOLIN – John Corigliano

April 29, 2019 1 comment

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Director Francois Girard had long desired to make a film, which centered on music, and became inspired by the story of one of Antonio Stradivari’s most famous creations – the 1721 Red Mendelssohn, a violin which featured a unique red coloring on its top right side. He hired Don McKellar to write the screenplay and was very happy with the final script. However, he soon had the sober realization of the magnitude and extent of challenges posed by the project; the story stretches over three centuries, from 1681 to 1997, and is set in five different countries, with five different set of actors, each with a different language. He was unable to broker financing from American studios as they would not agree to a film with sub-titles of five different languages. Undeterred, he eventually secured backing from the Canadian firm Rhombus Media. Casting was a challenge as five ensembles needed to be hired one for each of the film’s vignettes. For Cremona 1681 he cast Carlo Cecchi as Nicolò Bussotti and Irene Grazioli as Anna Rudolfi Bussotti. For Vienna 1793 he cast Jean-Luc Bideau as Georges Poussin. For Oxford in the late 1890s he cast Jason Flemyng as Frederick Pope. For Shanghai in the late 1960s he cast Sylvia Chang as Xiang Pei. For Montreal 1997 he cast Samuel L. Jackson as Charles Morritz, Colm Feore as the Auctioneer, and Don McKellar as Evan Williams. This unique story traces the creation of a legendary violin, its lore portended by a fateful tarot card reading, which dooms all that possess it to tragedy. Five vignettes trace its travels and ownership through time, with death, and misfortune coming to all who possess it. The Red Violin was not a commercial success, earning only $10 million, which was insufficient to cover its $14 million production costs. Critical reception was mixed, and the film received one Academy Award nomination, which secured the win – Best Film Score. Read more…

THE MAN WHO KILLED HITLER AND THEN THE BIGFOOT – Joe Kraemer

April 26, 2019 3 comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

In 2015, in my review of the score for Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, I wrote the following paragraph about composer Joe Kraemer. “New York-born Kraemer first came onto the film music scene in 2000 as a 29-year old, scoring Christopher McQuarrie’s directorial debut, The Way of the Gun. Kraemer’s score for that film was so good, that he was immediately tipped to be the next ‘hot young composer’ in Hollywood, but instead Kraemer essentially disappeared for a decade, and by 2010 was getting by scoring low-budget straight-to-DVD action movies and the soft-core anthology series Femme Fatales for Cinemax. Then, in 2012, McQuarrie directed a second film, Jack Reacher, and to everyone’s surprise and delight Kraemer scored that film. The score for Jack Reacher was so good that everyone thought “finally, Kraemer’s career is back on track” … except, of course, Kraemer promptly disappeared again for another three years. Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation is Kraemer’s third go-around at establishing himself as a major composer, and I hope beyond hope that it works this time, and that directors other than Christopher McQuarrie realize what a gem we have in him. Kraemer is too talented to be languishing on the sidelines, and I don’t want to have to type another version of this paragraph again in 2019.” Read more…

THE ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN – Michael Kamen

April 25, 2019 1 comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The fictional German aristocrat Baron Hieronymus Karl Friedrich Freiherr von Munchausen was created in 1785 as a conduit for author Rudolf-Erich Raspe’s fanciful tales of absurdity and social and political satire. Munchausen had been a familiar name in literary circles for more than 200 years before writer-director and former Monty Python member Terry Gilliam embarked on making a film based on the ‘life’ of the Baron. A lavish and almost cartoonishly flamboyant adventure, the film stars John Neville as the elderly Baron, who interrupts a play based on his own life in order to correct the details. Munchausen regales the rapt audience with recollections of his astonishing life, during which he fought in a war against the Turks, traveled to the moon in a hot air balloon, was swallowed by an enormous sea creature, and much more besides – but by the end of the story many of the audience members are questioning whether the far-fetched tales really have any basis in reality. The film co-starred Eric Idle, Sarah Polley, Oliver Reed, Uma Thurman, Jonathan Pryce, and Robin Williams, and was the third of Gilliam’s Imagination trilogy of films that also included Time Bandits and Brazil, and which were intended to explore the ‘battle between fantasy and what people perceive as reality’. Unfortunately the film was a commercial disaster, grossing less than $10 million at the box office, although its visual elements were praised and received Academy Award nominations for Art Direction, Costume Design, Visual Effects, and Makeup. Read more…

DUMBO – Danny Elfman

April 23, 2019 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The recent Disney trend of making live-action versions of their animated classics continues with Dumbo, a re-imagined version of their 1941 film about a baby elephant with ears so big that he can use them to fly. The original Dumbo was short – just over an hour – and so director Tim Burton and screenwriter Ehren Kruger had to flesh out some additional material to make it feature length. The basic core of the story is the same – a young baby elephant is born in a traveling circus and is ridiculed by crowds for his enormous ears, until he wins over audiences with his ability to fly – but it adds a great deal of depth and back story to the supporting human characters, including the good-hearted elephant keeper Holt (Colin Farrell), circus owner Medici (Danny De Vito), trapeze artist Colette (Eva Green), and unscrupulous businessman Vandevere (Michael Keaton), who wants to take over Medici’s circus for his own nefarious purposes. Interestingly, the new film excises several of the original film’s plot points entirely, including Dumbo’s relationship with the anthropomorphic ringmaster mouse Timothy, and Dumbo’s encounter with the ‘Jim crows,’ although the latter is probably a good thing due to the overtly racist overtones of those characters. Read more…

TITANIC – James Horner

April 22, 2019 3 comments

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

James Cameron had long been fascinated with shipwrecks and conceived to write a love story set on the greatest shipwreck of all time – the RMS Titanic. He believed that telling the story of the sinking of the great ship in and of itself was insufficient, so the addition of a love story as well as an intimate exploration of the lives of the people who died would add a compelling narrative to the tale. He pitched his story to 20th Century Fox executives as ‘Romeo and Juliet on the Titanic’. They bought his idea given his resume of directorial success, as they wanted to secure him for future projects. He was provided with the largest budget ever for a film at that time – $200 million – and took it upon himself to do what had never been done before; to produce, direct, write and edit a film. He brought in a fine cast to support his vision, including Leonardo Di Caprio as Jack Dawson, Kate Winslet as Rose DeWitt Bukater, Billy Zane as Cal Hockley, Frances Fisher as Ruth DeWitt Bukater, Gloria Stuart as the older Rose, Kathy Bates as the Unsinkable Margaret “Molly” Brown, Victor Garber as Thomas Andrews, Bill Paxton as Brock Lovett, David Warner as Spicer Lovejoy, and Danny Nucci as Fabrizio De Rossi. Read more…

FAREWELL TO THE KING – Basil Poledouris

April 18, 2019 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Farewell to the King is an action-adventure-drama written and directed by John Milius, adapted from the 1969 novel L’Adieu au Roi by Pierre Schoendoerffer. The film stars Nick Nolte as Learoyd, an American soldier during World War II, who escapes from a Japanese firing squad and flees into the jungles of Borneo. Over time, Learoyd is adopted into a tribe of Dayaks, the original inhabitants of the island, and becomes their leader, finding peace and tranquility in his new, simple life. That life is shattered, however, when British soldiers led by Captain Fairbourne (Nigel Havers) and Colonel Ferguson (James Fox), approach the tribe and try to convince Learoyd to re-join the war against the Japanese. When he refuses to do so, Learoyd quickly finds himself having to fight to protect his new tribe. The film, which shares tonal and story similarities with films ranging from The Man Who Would Be King, Heart of Darkness, and Dances With Wolves, to Avatar, is virtually forgotten today. Behind-the-scenes in-fighting between Milius and the studio led to the film staggering into cinemas in the spring of 1989, having been heavily re-edited against the director’s wishes. It was not a success, either critically or financially, and would likely not be on anyone’s radar today were it not for the score, by Basil Poledouris. Read more…

PET SEMATARY – Christopher Young

April 17, 2019 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

For many years, from the late 1970s through to the end of the 1990s, cinematic adaptations of novels by Stephen King were everywhere. Director Brian de Palma started it all with Carrie in 1976, and over the course of the next 20 years or so, film after film and TV series after TV series came out. Titles like Salem’s Lot, The Shining, Cujo, The Dead Zone, Christine, Children of the Corn, Stand By Me, The Running Man, It, Misery, The Dark Half, Needful Things, The Tommyknockers, The Stand, The Shawshank Redemption, Dolores Claiborne, The Green Mile, and many others, have received critical acclaim, box office success, cult status, or all three. Such is their enduring popularity that we are now in the realm where certain titles are on their second or third version, and this is the case with Pet Sematary. It is based on King’s 1983 novel, and was originally adapted for the screen in 1989 by director Mary Lambert. The film tells the story of the Creed family, who move to Maine when the father, Louis, accepts a job as the doctor at a local school. When Church, the family cat, is run over on the road outside their home, Louis and his elderly neighbor Jud Crandall take the body to a ‘pet cemetery’ deep in the woods by the Creed property, and bury it; the following day, the cat returns, apparently having been supernaturally resurrected. However, Church is now vicious and aggressive, whereas before he was sweet-natured and lovable. Some months later, Louis’s daughter Ellie is killed in a terrible traffic accident on the same road; distraught, and despite Jud’s dire warnings, Louis takes her body to the pet cemetery too… with naturally horrific results. The film stars Jason Clarke, John Lithgow, Amy Seimetz, and Jeté Laurence, and is directed by Dennis Widmyer and Kevin Kolsch. Read more…

CRIMSON TIDE – Hans Zimmer

April 15, 2019 1 comment

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer happen to view a documentary film titled Submarines: Sharks of Steel, and became inspired to bring a submarine drama to the big screen. The initial screenplay told the story of a Trident submarine crew attempting to stop the ship’s computer from independently launching nuclear missiles and starting World War III. When they pitched their idea to the Department of the Navy they characterized the movie as “The Hunt for Red October meets 2001: A Space Odyssey.” They obtained permission from the U.S. Navy for the creative team to perform research by sailing aboard the Trident missile submarine USS Florida from Bangor, Washington. A few months later they submitted a revised script by Michael Schiffer in which an Executive Officer leads a mutiny against the Captain to prevent a nuclear missile launch. Well, the Navy balked against this assault on its traditions and refused to cooperate further. Undeterred, the production team secured assistance from the French navy to support the film. Jerry Bruckheimer and Don Simpson would produce the film, with Tony Scott tasked with directing. A fine cast was brought in, including Gene Hackman as the imperious Captain Frank Ramsey, Denzel Washington as Executive Officer (XO) Ron Hunter, George Dzundza as Chief of Boat (COB) Walters, Matt Craven as Communications Officer Roy Zimmer, Viggo Mortensen as Weapons Officer Peter Ince, and James Gandolfini as Supplies Officer. Read more…

SHAZAM – Benjamin Wallfisch

April 7, 2019 3 comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

In the race to make a movie about every single comic book character in history, DC have lagged behind Marvel in terms of mining their back catalogue in the search for box office gold. Whereas Marvel have unearthed hitherto little-known gems like the Guardians of the Galaxy, Ant-Man, and Black Panther to sit alongside Spider-Man, Captain America, the Hulk, and Iron Man, the folks over at DC have tended to build everything around their ‘big three’ – Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. However, having suffered lackluster critical reviews for their most recent efforts at putting these luminary characters on the silver screen, the producers have now started to dip into their archives in search of characters to explore. The latest of these is Shazam, written by Henry Gayden and Darren Lemke, and directed by horror movie veteran David F. Sandberg. The film stars Asher Angel as Billy Batson, a 14-year-old orphan kid with a ‘pure heart’ who is chosen by an ancient wizard to become a super hero. When he says the wizard’s name – Shazam! – Billy is magically transformed into an adult super hero (Zachary Levi), and together with his best friend Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer), Billy sets about discovering his powers. However, this attracts the attention of the evil Dr Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong), who has spent his entire life trying to discover the secret of Shazam’s power, and who has harnessed the physical manifestations of the seven deadly sins in order to do so. Read more…

THE BURBS – Jerry Goldsmith

April 4, 2019 1 comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Director Joe Dante has made a career of peeking behind the white picket fences of suburban America and making films about the mysteries and horrors he finds there. In The Howling in 1978 he found werewolves. In Gremlins in 1984 he found an entire species of murderous little monsters. In 1989’s The Burbs, however, what Dante found was that, sometimes, the monsters are us. It’s a comedy-horror that explores the concept of the ‘nosy neighbor,’ and stars Tom Hanks as Ray Peterson, who lives on a quiet Norman Rockwell cul-de-sac with his wife Carol (Carrie Fisher), and spends time goofing off with his best friends Art (Rick Ducommun), who lives next door, and Mark (Bruce Dern), a slightly eccentric military veteran. Ray becomes obsessed with the sinister-seeming Klopek family when they move into a recently-vacated home on their block; convinced that the Klopeks are murderers, Ray and his buddies begin to stalk the family, determined to uncover the truth. The Burbs is a clever, subversive film that blends broad comedy hi-jinks with some more meaningful satire, something which also translated into Jerry Goldsmith’s original score. Read more…

THE HIGHWAYMEN – Thomas Newman

April 3, 2019 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Bonnie Parker and Clyde Darrow were two of the most notorious American criminals of the 20th century, bank robbers and murderers who during their lifetimes attained an unlikely level of celebrity and public affection. Their most successful crime spree came at the peak of the Great Depression, in the early 1930s, and as lurid tales of their exploits did the rounds in the pulp press, they quickly became famous as modern-day outlaws, striking back at the ‘system’ that failed so many others. Their story came to an end in a hail of bullets on a rural Louisiana back road in May 1934, when they were shot and killed by a posse of Texas Rangers who had been tracking them for months. Their exploits were famously chronicled on film in 1967 in Arthur Penn’s Bonnie and Clyde; this new film from director John Lee Hancock takes a slightly different perspective in that it is told from the point of view of Frank Hamer and Maney Gault, the two Texas Rangers who led the investigation and eventually made the decision to open fire on the crooks. The film stars Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson as Hamer and Gault, and has a supporting cast that includes Kathy Bates, John Carroll Lynch, Kim Dickens, Thomas Mann, and William Sadler. Read more…

BRAVEHEART – James Horner

April 1, 2019 2 comments

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

During a visit to Scotland screenwriter Randall Wallace was inspired by the lore of the Scottish patriot William Wallace. He conceived and wrote a screenplay for a grand historical epic, which would bring this heroic figure to the big screen. MGM producer Alan Ladd Jr. realized he had a winner and purchased the script, which he shared with Mel Gibson. Gibson initially passed on the project, but eventually relented, agreeing to direct, however he declined to star as he felt he was too old at age 40 to play the part of Wallace, who was in his late twenties. Financing constraints led to a reversal as Paramount Studios would only agree to finance the film if he starred in it. Gibson agreed to take on the titular role and brought in a fine cast to support, which included Sophie Marceau as Princess Isabelle, Angus MacFadyen as Robert the Bruce, Patrick McGoohan as King Edward I, Catherine McCormack as Murron, Brendan Gleeson as Hamish, Peter Hanly as Prince Edward, and Ian Bannen as Robert the Elder. Gibson’s final script took significant license with historical accuracy, so as to make the story more intimate, dramatic and grand. The film is set in Scotland the year 1280, when the country is occupied by the forces of English King Edward I, and it tells the story of the rise and fall of the legendary Scottish patriot and freedom fighter. Read more…