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Archive for November, 2019

THE HEIRESS – Aaron Copland

November 27, 2019 Leave a comment

MOVIE MUSIC UK CLASSICS

Original Review by Craig Lysy

The genesis of the film lies with renown actress Olivia de Havilland who one night fell in love with the Broadway play The Heiress (1947). She sought out director William Wyler and pitched the idea of him directing her in a film adaptation of the play. Wyler, who had long admired de Havilland, jumped at the opportunity to direct her in this film. He obtained permission from Paramount studios executives to purchase the film rights from playwrights Augustus and Ruth Goetz for $250,000, and then hired them to adapt their play to the big screen. Wyler would produce and direct the film. Supporting Olivia de Havilland in the titular role would be a stellar cast which included Montgomery Clift as Morris Townsend, Ralph Richardson as Dr. Austin Sloper and Miriam Hopkins as Aunt Lavinia Penniman. The story takes place in New York City circa 1849 and centers on the life of Catherine Sloper, the shy, doting daughter of her recently widowed father Austin Sloper. She lives an insular life in luxury, content with embroidery and dutifully caring for her critical and unloving father. She is an heiress set for life as her mother bequeathed her a $10,000 a year stipend, which would increase to $30,000 once her father passes. Read more…

MARRIAGE STORY – Randy Newman

November 26, 2019 1 comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Back in the 1980s and early 1990s, before he became the King of All Pixar, Randy Newman often wrote scores for sensitive, small scale dramas – titles like Parenthood, Avalon, Awakenings, and then later Pleasantville. It’s been quite a while since he scored something similar, but Marriage Story is one of those types of films. It’s a contemporary drama that, essentially, takes an intimate look at the breakdown and eventual end of a marriage, and all the absurdities, legal wranglings, and emotional challenges such an event brings. The film stars Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson as Charlie and Nicole, the couple whose relationship we witness coming to an end. Charlie is a brilliant and mercurial New York theater director, and Nicole is an actress, his muse, and the mother to their young son. As the film unfolds we see them beginning to come apart at the seams – slowly at first, and despite them having the best intentions to keep everything civil – until, eventually, all the raw emotion and suppressed anger comes flooding to the surface. Driver and Johansson are absolutely astonishing in their performances – open, multi-faceted, wholly believable, devastating – with one scene in Driver’s apartment standing as one of the best-acted single scenes I have watched in many, many years. There’s also terrific support from Alan Alda, Laura Dern, Ray Liotta, and Julie Hagerty, and a sparkling screenplay by writer-director Noah Baumbach. Read more…

MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN – Daniel Pemberton

November 19, 2019 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Motherless Brooklyn is a period drama-thriller written and directed by Edward Norton, based on the acclaimed novel by Jonathan Lethem. It’s set in New York in the 1950s and stars Norton as Lionel Essrog, a detective who has Tourette’s Syndrome, a mental disorder marked by involuntary physical and vocal tics. Essrog works for Frank Minna (Bruce Willis), the owner of a small-time neighborhood detective agency, who is shot with his own gun by unknown assailants. As Lionel and his fellow detectives start to probe further into Frank’s murder they uncover a complicated conspiracy of power, corruption, and racism that stretches all the way to the top of New York’s political structure. The film co-stars Willem Dafoe, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Bobby Cannavale, and Alec Baldwin, and reminds me very much of films like Chinatown, wherein a relentless underdog detective takes on the wealthy and privileged and finds that the combination of money and influence is a powerful motivator for unscrupulous men – and that they will squash anyone who gets in their way to attain them. Norton optioned the story of Motherless Brooklyn almost 20 years ago, just after the original novel was published, and it has taken this long to be able to transfer his passion project to the silver screen. Read more…

TRIUMPH OF THE SPIRIT – Cliff Eidelman

November 14, 2019 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Triumph of the Spirit is a 1989 Holocaust-themed drama, directed by Robert M. Young, based on a screenplay by Shimon Arama, Zion Haen, Andrzej Krakowski, and Laurence Heath. It stars Willem Dafoe and is based on the true life story of Salamo Arouch, a Jewish former Olympic boxer who is taken as a prisoner during World War II and sent to he Auschwitz concentration camp. While there, Salamo is literally forced to fight for his life, taking part in brutal boxing matches for the amusement of the guards, who threaten to murder his family if he refuses to fight. With only the love of his girlfriend Allegra (Wendy Gazelle) to sustain him, Salamo fights over 200 matches while in captivity – knowing that every person he defeats will be killed – all the while dreaming of the day that he and his loved ones would again be free. The film co-stars Edward James Olmos and Robert Loggia, and was heralded at the time for the fact that it was the first major film to actually be shot on location at the real Auschwitz. The other aspect of the film – and the most pertinent one to me – is the fact that its score was written by the then 24-year-old Cliff Eidelman. Read more…

JOJO RABBIT – Michael Giacchino

November 12, 2019 1 comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

I’m trying to imagine the pitch meeting that writer-director Taika Waititi had with the executives at Twentieth Century Fox regarding Jojo Rabbit. “It’s a comedy set in Germany during World War II where the hero is a little boy who’s a Nazi and has an idealized version of Adolf Hitler as an imaginary best friend.” This starting off point is utterly ludicrous but – contrary to every reasonable thought process – the film works. Waititi’s film is not only hilarious and clever and subversive, but it’s also profoundly emotional, and it has some vital and important things to say about racism and the power of propaganda that are just as pertinent today as they were in 1943. 11-year-old Roman Griffin Davis stars in the title role as young Jojo Betzler, who lives in Nazi Germany and has been so affected by the pervasive propaganda that he dreams of joining the Hitler Youth and has a friendly version of Der Führer as his imaginary best friend and surrogate father figure. However, things change enormously in Jojo’s when he discovers that his patient and loving mother Rosie (Scarlett Johansson) is harboring a devastating secret that could have a profound effect on everyone’s lives. The film co-stars Thomasin McKenzie, Sam Rockwell, Rebel Wilson, and Stephen Merchant, as well as Waititi himself as old Adolf. Read more…

TERMINATOR: DARK FATE – Tom Holkenborg

November 8, 2019 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

It’s been a somewhat depressing experience to watch the once brilliant and groundbreaking Terminator franchise descend into one of the most risible series of films in Hollywood’s recent history but, unfortunately, that’s what has happened. In the aftermath of Terminator 2: Judgment Day in 1991, there was a 12-year gap before Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines appeared in 2003, during which time creator James Cameron went off and began prepping Avatar and its 282 sequels, leaving directorial duties in the hands of Jonathan Mostow. Terminator Salvation came and went in 2009 amid Christian Bale’s on-set meltdown, and Terminator Genisys opened in 2015 with the hope that Emilia Clarke could transfer her Daenerys Targaryan Game of Thrones fan base to the big screen as a new version of Sarah Connor. Spoiler: she couldn’t. The only constant through all this has been the presence of Arnold Schwarzenegger, but as is often the case in this situation, his original terrifying performance as the ultimate unstoppable killing machine eventually morphed into something approaching self-parody, especially when you consider that the Governator was 68 years old when Genisys came out and was barely able to walk without limping, let alone do any stunts. Read more…

MUSIC BOX – Philippe Sarde

November 7, 2019 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Music Box was a political thriller directed by the great Franco-Greek filmmaker Constantin Costa-Gavras, based on a semi-autobiographical screenplay by Joe Eszterhas. Although Eszterhas soon became better known for writing rather more sordid murder mysteries – Basic Instinct, Jade, and Showgirls, for example – Music Box is a very different, much more serious film. It stars Jessica Lange as Ann Talbot, a Chicago defense attorney, who learns that her father, Hungarian immigrant Michael Laszlo (Armin Mueller-Stahl), is in danger of having his U.S. citizenship revoked. As Ann digs deeper into her father’s past she discovers a shocking truth – that he may have been involved in atrocities during World War II while collaborating with Nazis. It was a moving, emotional film, which won the Golden Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival in 1989, and earned Lange an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress. Read more…

JUDY – Gabriel Yared

November 5, 2019 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The life and death of Judy Garland stands as one of Hollywood’s most tragic cautionary tales. As a young actress she was catapulted to stardom in 1939 at the age of just 17 when she appeared in The Wizard of Oz, but over the next thirty years her life was a rollercoaster of cinematic and musical successes and failures, mental illness problems, drug addiction and alcoholism, failed marriages, and studio-mandated meddling which effectively destroyed her private life. Garland died of a barbiturate overdose in London in 1969, a shell of the woman she had once been. She was only 47 but her career as a Hollywood leading light had long since dimmed, and she had been reduced to playing revues at small nightclubs, partly to simply pay her bills, and partly as a way to possibly reignite her work. Director Rupert Goold’s film Judy, based on the play ‘End of the Rainbow’ by Peter Quilter, is an intimate look at those last months of Garland’s life as she reflects on her years, not knowing that she was in the latter stages of it. The film is anchored by an astonishing performance by Renee Zellweger as Garland, who somehow simultaneously captures both the glamorousness of her early life and the booze-soaked faded glory that typified her last hurrah. Read more…