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Archive for January, 2020

THE LAST FULL MEASURE – Philip Klein

January 31, 2020 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The Last Full Measure is a military-themed drama film written and directed by Todd Robinson. It tells the true story of William H. Pitsenbarger, a sergeant in the US Air Force, who flew rescue missions to save downed soldiers and pilots during the Vietnam War. Pitsenbarger was killed during the Battle of Xa Cam My in April 1966, and the film tells the story of the 34-year struggle to have him awarded the Medal of Honor. The film stars Sebastian Stan as Scott Huffman, the Pentagon official charged with investigating the Medal of Honor request, and has an astonishing supporting cast that includes Christopher Plummer, William Hurt, Ed Harris, Samuel L. Jackson, Diane Ladd, Amy Madigan, Bradley Whitford, John Savage, and the late Peter Fonda, in what turned out to be his final screen role. Conceptually the film is very much in the vein of those earnest military dramas like Men of Honor, and especially Courage Under Fire, and those comparisons continue into its music too. Read more…

ALWAYS – John Williams

January 30, 2020 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Always is the Steven Spielberg film most people tend to forget. Sandwiched between such classics as Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Schindler’s List, and Jurassic Park, it came during the period where Spielberg was alternating between making major box office blockbusters and smaller, more personal films that tackled intimate themes and emotions. Always is a remake of the 1943 Spencer Tracy film A Guy Named Joe, which was written by Dalton Trumbo. Richard Dreyfuss stars in the Tracy role as Pete Sandich, a daredevil pilot who works putting out forest fires; his long-time girlfriend Dorinda (Holly Hunter) and best friend Al (John Goodman) fear that his recklessness in the air will lead to tragedy. Their worst fears come true when Pete is killed in a plane crash saving Al’s life; in the afterlife, Pete is given guidance by an angel-like figure (Audrey Hepburn, in her final screen role), and told that he has one last life to save before he can move on to heaven – Dorinda’s, who has become overwhelmingly grief stricken and suicidal as a result of Pete’s death. Read more…

DRACULA – David Arnold and Michael Price

January 28, 2020 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

There have been literally dozens and dozens of adaptations of and variations on the Dracula story in the years since Bram Stoker wrote it in 1897. The most recent version is this BBC mini-series developed by Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat, the brains behind such successful shows as Doctor Who, Sherlock, and The League of Gentleman. Danish actor Claes Bang is the latest to star in the title role as the undead aristocrat from Eastern Europe who drinks human blood to survive; the show begins with a fairly conventional re-telling of the Dracula myth – castles and brides, voyages to Whitby, Lucy and Mina and Jonathan Harker – but ends with a very unconventional contemporary twist that places Dracula in modern society and completely upends vampire lore. The show has not been entirely successful, but it certainly has handsome and impressive production values, which extend to its score by composers David Arnold and Michael Price. Read more…

ODNA [ALONE] – Dmitri Shostakovich

January 27, 2020 Leave a comment

MOVIE MUSIC UK CLASSICS

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Film-making in the 1930s Soviet Union was very tightly regulated by the state to ensure fidelity to the ideals of the revolution. Directors Leonid Trauberg and Grigori Kozintsev found inspiration in news reports of the dire challenges faced by two teachers. They conceived their film to address three political issues of the day; the State’s promotion of education, the elimination of the kulaks (land owning peasants), and the introduction of modern technology. The film was originally conceived as a silent film, but was later changed to include dialogue and music by composer Dmitri Shostakovich. With the additional demand by the State for realism in film, each actor would use their real names as the characters. Yelena Kuzima would star in the lead role as the school teacher Joining her would be Pyotr Sobolevsky as her husband, Sergey Gerasimov as the local Council Chairman and Mariya Babanova as the Chairman’s wife. Read more…

DOLITTLE – Danny Elfman

January 24, 2020 2 comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Whimsical fantasy adventure scores have been bread and butter for Danny Elfman for more than thirty years, ever since he first burst onto the scene and wowed us with his magical, maniacal musical talents. His latest effort in the genre is Dolittle, a new adaptation of the famous stories by Hugh Lofting about an eccentric, reclusive doctor in Victorian England who has a somewhat unique gift – he can talk to animals! The role was made famous by Rex Harrison in a 1967 screen musical, and then by Eddie Murphy in a very different approach in 1998; this new version returns (mostly) to its roots and stars Robert Downey Jr. in the title role, setting sail on a fantastical adventure to find a cure for Queen Victoria, who is suffering from a mysterious illness. The film is adapted from Lofting’s 1922 novel The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle, is directed by Stephen Gaghan, and has an astonishing all-star supporting cast both corporeal and vocal, including Antonio Banderas, Emma Thompson, Ralph Fiennes, Tom Holland, Rami Malek, and Octavia Spencer. Read more…

DIAL M FOR MURDER – Dimitri Tiomkin

January 21, 2020 Leave a comment

MOVIE MUSIC UK CLASSICS

Original Review by Craig Lysy

English playwright Frederick Knott introduced his story “Dial M For Murder” in 1952 as a play for television. Its popularity led to stage productions in London and New York that were also successful. Renowned producer Alexander Korda saw opportunity and purchased the film rights, and after the success of the stage productions sold them to Warner Brothers for a handsome profit. Warner Brothers Studios had Alfred Hitchcock under contract and when his effort to film “The Bramble Bush” failed to get off the ground they directed him to begin production on “Dial M For Murder”. Hitchcock would produce and direct the film with a modest budget of $1.4 million. His first choices for the lead roles did not pan out. Cary Grant would not accept the role of a villain, and Olivia de Havilland demanded too much money for his modest budget. Despite these setbacks he never the less secured a fine cast which included Ray Milland as Tony Wendice, Grace Kelly as Margot Mary Wendice, Robert Cummings as Mark Halliday, John Williams as Chief Inspector Hubbard, and Anthony Dawson as Alexander Swann. Read more…

Movie Music UK Awards 2019

January 19, 2020 2 comments

Popular opinion among the film music community has posited that 2019 was the worst year of the decade for new original scores, and while that may be the case for the majority of mainstream Hollywood, that is absolutely not the case for the wider film music world. Yet again, I have to stress that there is some absolutely tremendous film music being written out there by a plethora of young, ambitious, supremely talented composers – if only people are prepared to step from out of their comfort zones and actually seek it out.

My choices for the Scores of the Year all meet the criteria of what I believe makes for outstanding film music: rich, varied ensembles that blend orchestras with electronics, vocals, and soloists in interesting ways; compelling musical architecture which tells a story and supports the visuals in a way which draws the viewer and/or listener into the film’s narrative; inventive writing which uses different themes, interesting compositional ideas, and clever techniques; and strong emotional content which connects the audience with the film it is accompanying.

Four of my five nominees for Score of the Year are indeed from mainstream American productions – one of which is from the granddaddy of all blockbuster franchises – but as you go further and further down the list you will find several works from Asia (Japan, China, Vietnam), as well as contemporary fantasy dramas from Germany, historical biopics from Switzerland, romantic comedies from Sweden and France, historical war movies from Spain, documentaries from Romania, and animated films from all across the globe! So, without further ado, here are my choices… Read more…