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Archive for December, 2019

LITTLE WOMEN – Alexandre Desplat

December 31, 2019 1 comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Greta Gerwig’s Little Women is the latest big screen adaptation of the classic 1868 American novel by Louisa May Alcott. The story follows the March sisters – headstrong and mercurial Jo, willful and artistic Amy, maternal and meek Meg, creative but sickly Beth – as they come of age in post-civil war Massachusetts. The narrative deals with numerous issues of the day, including the effects of ‘genteel poverty,’ the fallout of the war, sibling rivalries, the entrenched class system, and of course romance and love, the latter of which usually revolves around Laurie, the handsome grandson of the March’s wealthy neighbor. What’s interesting about this version of the story is that Gerwig, acknowledging the social mores of the 2000s, has given her adapted screenplay a healthy dose of modern feminism, which touches on contemporary issues involving women’s suffrage, equal pay for equal work, and bucking the period convention that a woman was not complete without a husband. The film stars Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, and Eliza Scanlan as the four sisters, Timothée Chalamet as Laurie, Laura Dern as their ever-loving Marmee, and Meryl Streep as the cantankerous Aunt March, and is a sumptuous visual feast that looks likely to be a major player at the 2019 Academy Awards. Read more…

BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY – John Williams

December 26, 2019 1 comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

In the late 1970s and 1980s a number of prominent American filmmakers took it upon themselves to take a long, hard look at the political and social ramifications of the country’s involvement in the Vietnam War. American involvement in the conflict began in the early 1960s, and lasted until the fall of Saigon in 1975, resulting in the deaths of more than 50,000 American military personnel, and hundreds of thousands more wounded. Chief among those filmmakers was Oliver Stone, who was himself a Vietnam vet. His 1986 film Platoon took a harrowing look at the war from the point of view of the men serving on the front lines, and he won Best Picture and Best Director Academy Awards for his trouble. Born on the Fourth of July, which was released in December 1989, took an equally harrowing look at what happened to those men when they finally came home. Read more…

STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER – John Williams

December 23, 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 you’re a critic or reviewer, you often get accused of being biased, especially when you write a review that is contrary to the opinion of the accuser. And, of course, this is true. It’s impossible to remove bias from any opinion because your biases inform your feelings and your reactions to whatever it is you’re expressing an opinion about. Your bias comes from your life experience, your culture, your personality, and your taste: effectively, it’s the sum of who you are. For me, a piece of critical writing without bias is pointless because then you’re never actually sharing your point of view – in effect, you’re just describing something, and never describing how it makes you feel, and most importantly why. All art should make you feel something, good or bad, because otherwise what’s the point of art? Over time, a critic’s biases will become a clear and important part of what they write, and the reader, if they invest enough time into learning them, will be able to weigh those subjective biases against more objective standards, and tell whether or not the end result meshes with their own opinions, and their own biases. So, from the point of view of this review it’s important to point out that I am biased, heavily, to have a positive view of Star Wars. Read more…

DRIVING MISS DAISY – Hans Zimmer

December 19, 2019 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Driving Miss Daisy is a story of the unlikely friendship that develops between Daisy Wertham, a retired white Jewish schoolteacher, and Hoke Colburn, an African American driver and handyman, set against the backdrop of racism and prejudice in the American South in the 1950s. When Miss Daisy (Jessica Tandy) crashes her car into her neighbor’s house, her son Boolie (Dan Aykroyd) hires Hoke (Morgan Freeman) to be her driver; despite initial misgivings from both parties, as time passes the unlikely pair grow to become friends and confidants, as both suffer slights and prejudices against them – Hoke for his skin color, and Daisy for her religion. The film was directed by Bruce Beresford, and written by Alfred Uhry, who adapted his own Pulitzer Prize-winning stage play for the big screen. It was a significant critical and commercial success too, winning Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Makeup, and Best Actress for Tandy, who in doing so became the oldest winner in the history of the category at the age of 81. Read more…

KNIVES OUT – Nathan Johnson

December 17, 2019 1 comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Knives Out is a super-fun Agatha Christie-style murder mystery, given a contemporary twist by writer-director Rian Johnson. Daniel Craig stars as Benoit Blanc, a master detective with a Foghorn Leghorn accent, who is called to help the police solve the murder of wealthy novelist Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer), who is found dead in his Connecticut mansion on the night of his 85th birthday. Blanc encounters a motley crew of family and staff members – played by an astonishing supporting cast including Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, Don Johnson, Michael Shannon, Toni Collette, and Ana de Armas – all of whom have sufficient motive and means to want Harlan dead. As the story progresses Blanc discovers an intricate web of lies, deceit, familial in-fighting, blackmail, and so much more, eventually leading to an ending when he deduces the facts of the crime and the guilty parties are revealed. It’s a tremendously entertaining story – less a whodunit, and more of a whydunit – featuring enjoyable performances, clever writing, and plenty of twists and turns. It’s a marked difference from Johnson’s last film – the polarizing Star Wars: The Last Jedi – and reminds viewers why his earlier films, like Brick, The Brothers Bloom, and Looper, were so well-received. Read more…

THE RIGHT STUFF – Bill Conti

December 16, 2019 Leave a comment

MOVIE MUSIC UK CLASSICS

Original Review by Craig Lysy

The 1979 novel The Right Stuff by Tom Woolfe proved to be a hit with the public, which set-off a bidding war for screen rights between Universal Pictures and independent producers Robert Chartoff and Irwin Winkler. Chartoff and Winkler won the day and hired screenwriter William Goldman to adapt the novel to the big screen. Goldman was inspired by the project and was seeking a patriotic Americana tale, which celebrated the Mercury 7 astronauts involved. Philip Kaufman was tasked with directing, but he disliked Goldman’s script, believing it too patriotic, with not enough focus on test pilot Chuck Yeager. Goldman left the project, Woolfe declined to adapt his novel, and so Kaufman wrote the screenplay himself. He related; “if you’re serious about tracing where the future — read: space travel — began, its roots lay with Yeager and the whole test pilot-subculture. Ultimately, astronautics descended from that point.” Kaufman brought in a fine cast, which included Fred Ward as Gus Grissom, Dennis Quaid as Gordo Cooper, Ed Harris as John Glenn, Sam Shepard as Chuck Yeager, Scott Glenn as Alan Shepard, Lance Henriksen as Wally Schirra, Scott Paulin as Deke Slayton, Barbara Hershey as Glennis Yeager and Veronica Cartwright as Betty Grissom. Read more…

FROZEN II – Christophe Beck

December 10, 2019 4 comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

I don’t think anyone – including the people at Walt Disney – could have predicted just how successful Frozen would be when it was released in the fall of 2013. With it’s winning combination of comedy and action, strong female leads, genuinely beautiful snow-capped animation, and of course *that* song, it quickly became the highest grossing-animated film of all time (although Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs still holds the true crown, adjusted for inflation). It made its two princess protagonists, Anna and Elsa, household names, and made snowmen cool again, but it was as much of a success critically as it was commercially, eventually going to pick up two Oscars, a Golden Globe, a BAFTA, and even two Grammys. Of course, no studio would ever sit on all this success without trying to capitalize on it with a sequel, and so here we are with Frozen II – the first traditional animated Disney sequel to hit theaters since The Rescuers Down Under in 1990. Read more…