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Archive for May, 2019

PET SEMATARY – Elliot Goldenthal

May 30, 2019 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Pet Sematary was an adaptation of a popular novel by horror author Stephen King. Directed by Mary Lambert from a screenplay by King himself, the film starred Dale Midkiff as Louis Creed, a doctor who moves with his family – wife Rachel (Denise Crosby), children Gage and Ellie (Miko Hughes and Blaze Berdahl) – from Chicago to rural Maine. Louis befriends his elderly neighbor Jud Crandall (Fred Gwynne), who alerts him to the existence of a pet cemetery in the woods on his new property. One day, months later, the family cat is run over and killed on the highway outside their home; wanting to save little Ellie from the pain of losing her beloved pet, Jud reveals to Louis that things that are buried in the cemetery often return from the dead, and sure enough the cat comes back, albeit with a much different, more aggressive personality. Months later still, little Gage is hit by a truck and killed on the same highway – and despite dire warnings from Jud, Louis buries his young son in the cemetery too. Sure enough, the next day, little Gage returns… but, as the film’s famous tagline suggests, sometimes dead is better. Pet Sematary was a popular success at the box office in 1989, despite many critics feeling that the sense of dread that was prominent in the book, as well as its more thoughtful ruminations on grief and death, were missing from the finished film. Read more…

Under-the-Radar Round Up 2019, Part I

May 28, 2019 3 comments

As I have done for the past several years, I am pleased to present the first installment in my ongoing series of articles looking at the best “under the radar” scores from around the world. Rather than grouping the scores on a geographical basis, this year I decided to again simply present the scores in a random order, and so this first batch includes reviews of five disparate scores from the first four months of the year – including a French literary period drama, a French children’s animated film about insects, a Japanese murder-mystery thriller, a Swedish romantic drama, and a historical biopic from Switzerland! Read more…

RED JOAN – George Fenton

May 21, 2019 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Imagine the situation. You’re at home, visiting with your elderly grandmother, when there’s a knock at the door. In come a bunch of policemen, accompanied by members of the secret service, who then arrest the kindly old lady and take her away. It turns out that, in her youth, your sweet nana was actually an undercover agent for the Soviet Union, and over the course of several decades she sold nuclear secrets to the communists, all the while maintaining her cover as a sweet, innocent secretary for a metalworking research company. It sounds far-fetched, but this new film Red Joan is based on the actual life of Melita Norwood, who was a KGB spy in the UK for more than 30 years, prior to her eventual arrest in 1999, when she was 87 years old. The film is directed by the multi-award winning Broadway and West End theater director Trevor Nunn, and stars Judi Dench and Sophie Cookson as the present-day Joan and Joan in flashback. Read more…

METROPOLIS – Gottfried Huppertz

May 20, 2019 Leave a comment

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Original Review by Craig Lysy

Director Fritz Lang had early access to his wife Thea von Harbou’s 1925 novel Metropolis, and was inspired to bring its bold futuristic social commentary to the big screen. The couple worked together to fashion the screenplay and secured financing from the German production company WFA and the German distribution company Parufamet, which was created by investment from Paramount and MGM studios. He pitched his screenplay to Erich Pommer, the most powerful film producer in Germany of the time, and secured his backing to produce the film. A fine cast was assembled which included Alfred Abel as the Master of Metropolis Joh Fredersen, Gustav Fröhlich as Joh Fredersen’s son, Rudolph Klein-Rogge as Rotwang the inventor, and Brigitte Helm as the unforgettable Maria. The film’s narrative offers a potent social commentary, which is set in the far future in the great city of Metropolis. The society is dystopian with an elite ruling class of capitalist industrial oligarchs who live above ground in luxurious skyscrapers and hold power over a lower working class who live impoverished underground, toiling endlessly to operate and maintain the great machines that power the city. They share not in the profits, nor any of the benefits, which go solely to the ruling elite. Freder, who is the son of the Master of Metropolis, bears witness to the misery of the working class and resolves to advocate for them. Freder meets a worker prophetess named Maria who foresees the arrival of a Mediator who will unify the workers and ruling elite of Metropolis in a new Utopia. He falls in love with Maria and aspires to assume the role of Mediator. Against this backdrop the evil inventor Rotwang creates a robot bearing Maria’s likeness to foment dissent and revolution, which will bring him to power. In the end, after much intrigue and fighting, Freder kills Rotwang and fulfills his role as Mediator. Read more…

THE PROFESSOR AND THE MADMAN – Bear McCreary

May 17, 2019 1 comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

On the surface, a film about the man who wrote the first Oxford English Dictionary might not seem like an especially compelling narrative, but somehow director Farhad Safinia’s film The Professor and the Madman appears to have done just that. It is adapted from Simon Winchester’s acclaimed book The Surgeon of Crowthorne, and stars Mel Gibson as Professor James Murray, the Scottish linguist tasked with the creation of the tome. More specifically, it examines the friendship that developed between Murray and Dr William Chester Minor, an American amateur lexicographer who contributed tens of thousands of quotations to the book – despite the fact that he was an inmate at Broadmoor Asylum for the Criminally Insane, where he had been sent after he had murdered a complete stranger in a fit of paranoia. The film has a superb supporting cast of great British character actors and Game of Thrones alumni – Natalie Dormer, Eddie Marsan, Jennifer Ehle, Ioan Gruffudd, Stephen Dillane, Steve Coogan, Anthony Andrews – and has an absolutely ravishing original score by Bear McCreary. Read more…

LEVIATHAN – Jerry Goldsmith

May 16, 2019 1 comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Hollywood has long had a history where multiple studios release films about the same general subject at around the same time, in an effort to one-up each other. In 1989, the hot topic was ‘people who live and/or work underwater being attacked by monsters,’ a somewhat niche genre if ever there was one. Sandwiched between the schlocky low-budget Deep Star Six and the more respectable and ultimately Oscar-winning The Abyss was this film: Leviathan, directed by George P. Cosmatos for MGM. It’s odd that Leviathan has been somewhat forgotten these days, considering that it starred Peter Weller hot-foot from his success as Robocop, and has a supporting cast of reliable character actors including Richard Crenna, Daniel Stern, Ernie Hudson, and Lisa Eilbacher. Weller plays Steven Beck, the head engineer working on an underwater mining rig, whose team discovers the wreck of a Soviet submarine called the ‘Leviathan’. Of course, this discovery leads to terrible things happening to Beck and his crew, as the mystery of what happened to the Leviathan is revealed. Unfortunately the film was not especially financially successful and, like I said, is virtually forgotten now, despite the fact that it boasted a respectable crew including the writers of Die Hard and Blade Runner, as well as special effects wizard Stan Winston. Read more…

TOLKIEN – Thomas Newman

May 14, 2019 4 comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The great English author John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, who was born in 1892 and died in 1973, is generally regarded as being the author who popularized the high fantasy genre in literature, via his classic novels The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion. Although the stories themselves are now part of our established cultural lexicon – thanks in no small part to Peter Jackson’s films – the life of Tolkien himself is not especially well known. Director Dome Karukoski’s film, which stars Nicholas Hoult as Tolkien, seeks to address that, and in so doing explore how his life experiences shaped his literary output. The film is set mostly in World War I, specifically the Battle of the Somme, where Tolkien served as a second lieutenant in the Lancashire Fusiliers. Tolkien spent much of the war ill as a result of the terrible conditions in the trenches, and as he recovers the film reveals his life in flashback: the death of his mother, him growing up in an orphanage (where he meets his future wife Edith), his school days in Birmingham, the formation of the Tea Club and Barrovian Society (a group of like-minded lifelong friends dedicated to self-improvement through art, music, poetry, and literature), and his subsequent study at the University of Oxford, where a fortuitous encounter with a professor of philology encourages his love of language and his appreciation for great Old English and Nordic sagas like Beowulf, the combination of which would help define his work. Read more…

L’ASSASSINAT DU DUC DE GUISE – Camille Saint-Saëns

May 13, 2019 Leave a comment

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Original Review by Ben Erickson

In 1907 financier Paul Laffitte founded a revolutionary production company by the name of Le Film d’Art. Its purpose was to guide the education of the French masses with reenactments of renowned historical and mythological accounts, featuring the talented actors of the Comédie-Française and marking a turning point in the history of cinema. The company attained early success with the 1908 French historical drama L’Assassinat du Duc de Guise (originally La Mort du Duc de Guise) which faithfully depicts King Henry III and his brutal murder of the rival, the Duke. Directed by Charles le Bargy and André Calmettes. the film lasts approximately eighteen minutes (longer than the average fifteen minute film during this time), and is notable for both its use of a screenplay by eminent writer Henri Lavedan and for being the earliest documented film for which an original score was written. Calmettes had the idea to score the film with original music, and so it was only logical that the producers turned to one of France’s most celebrated composers of the day, Camille Saint-Saëns. Read more…

THE FABULOUS BAKER BOYS – Dave Grusin

May 9, 2019 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The Fabulous Baker Boys is a musical comedy-drama, written and directed by Steve Kloves. It stars real-life brothers Jeff Bridges and Beau Bridges as Jack Baker and Frank Baker, jazz musicians who are struggling to find success. Frank is a happy family man, whereas Jack is single and lonely, his personal life little more than a series of one night stands. Things change when Suzie Diamond (Michelle Pfeiffer), a former escort and aspiring singer, comes into their lives; in addition to having a surprisingly terrific singing voice, she also increases their commercial potential, and soon the duo becomes a trio. However, as it always does, trouble rears its ugly head when Jack and Suzie start having romantic feelings for each other, a relationship which has the potential to drive the brothers apart. The film was a massive commercial and critical success at the time, and received four Academy Award nominations, but is now mostly remembered for the scene in which Pfeiffer performs an impossibly sexy rendition of Walter Donaldson and Gus Kahn’s “Makin’ Whoopee” while draped across Bridges’s grand piano. Read more…

THE WHITE CROW – Ilan Eshkeri

May 8, 2019 1 comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The White Crow is the third film directed by the great British actor Ralph Fiennes, following on from 2011’s Coriolanus, and 2013’s The Invisible Woman. It’s also the latest in a series of films in which Fiennes has explored his long-standing fascination with the classical heritage of Russia, after titles such as Onegin in 1999, The White Countess in 2005, and A Month in the Country in 2014. The White Crow is a more contemporary story about the Russian ballet, specifically the life of Rudolf Nureyev, who is generally regarded to be the greatest male ballet dancer of his generation. Written by David Hare, and based on the book ‘Nureyev: The Life’ by Julie Kavanagh, it stars Oleg Ivenko in the title role, and chronicles Nureyev’s life growing up and dancing in the Soviet Union for the Kirov Ballet, and the events that led to his defection to the West in 1961. Fiennes himself plays Nureyev’s dance teacher in Moscow, Alexander Pushkin, while Adèle Exarchopoulos and Chulpan Khamatova appear in supporting roles. Read more…

PAN TADEUSZ – Wojciech Kilar

May 6, 2019 Leave a comment

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Original Review by Craig Lysy

Poland had a decade earlier thrown off the foreign shackles of Russian domination, yet the country was struggling to regain its identity, and find its place in the world. Against this backdrop, the great Polish director Andrrzej Wajda conceived for his next project a grand tale based on Adam Mickiewicz’s epic 1834 poem Pan Tadeusz. The poem is considered by Poles to be the greatest achievement in Polish literature and by most professors of literature to be the last epic poem in European literature. Wajda describes it as “a great story that focuses on our national characteristics. The Poles in Pan Tadeusz are the same as we are now: sometimes wise, sometimes stupid. It’s basically a picture of how we are now and allows us to look at ourselves and see who we are and where we’re going.” Wajda pitched his idea to several studios and secured funding from a conglomerate of twelve companies. He would direct and write the screenplay, and Lew Rywin would produce. A fine cast was assembled, which included; Boguslaw Linda as Jacek Soplica/Father Robak, Michal Zebrowski as Tadeusz Soplica, Alicia Bachleda-Curus as Zosia Horeszko, Grazyna Szapolowska as Telimena, Andrzej Seweryn as Judge Soplica, and Marek Kondrat as Count Horeszko. Read more…

FIELD OF DREAMS – James Horner

May 2, 2019 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Field of Dreams is a film about baseball, but it’s also about much, much more than that. It’s a film about regret, about missed opportunities, about the relationships we allow to fritter away through petty disagreements and neglect. It’s a film about life, about how the ambitions we had in our youth turn into something completely different in adulthood, and how we deal with that change. It’s a film about hope, about how each of us longs to re-capture that innocence and optimism we once had, and the things we will do to get it. And it’s a film about reconciliation, coming to terms with the mistakes we have made, and making things right. The film is written and directed by Phil Alden Robinson, based on the novel ‘Shoeless Joe’ by W. P. Kinsella; it stars Kevin Costner as Ray, a corn farmer who lives in Iowa with his wife Annie (Amy Madigan), and their young daughter Karen (Gaby Hoffmann), on the property that his late father left him. Ray had been estranged from his father for many years before he died, and the legacy of that relationship weighs heavily upon him. One day, while out in the cornfield, Ray hears a spectral voice whispering the words ‘if you build it, he will come,’ and he is subsequently inspired to build a full-size baseball diamond on his property. This event sends Ray off on a voyage of personal self-discovery involving Shoeless Joe Jackson (Ray Liotta) and the ghosts of the disgraced 1919 Chicago White Sox team, a reclusive political author (James Earl Jones), and a beloved country doctor (Burt Lancaster) who played just a single game in the major leagues for the New York Giants in 1922. Read more…