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Archive for August, 2020

FLATLINERS – James Newton Howard

August 27, 2020 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Flatliners was one of several films released in 1990 to deal with the topic of the afterlife and near-death experiences. Directed by Joel Schumacher from a screenplay by Peter Filardi, the film follows a group of young and ambitious medical students who, in an attempt to unlock some of the mysteries of life, start to experiment on each other with ‘near-death experiences.’ The students take turns with each other to stop each other’s hearts in a laboratory setting, trying to initiate visions of the ‘afterlife,’ and then hopefully bring each other back using defibrillators before death becomes permanent. One by one, the students volunteer to ‘flatline,’ but in the aftermath of their experiences they are each haunted by horrifying and disturbing visions of their respective pasts. The film starred Kiefer Sutherland, Julia Roberts, Kevin Bacon, William Baldwin, and Oliver Platt, as the five students; the film was a hit with audiences upon its release, grossing $61 million at the box office, and was nominated for an Oscar for its sound editing. Read more…

FEARLESS – Anne Kathrin Dern

August 26, 2020 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Fearless is an animated family action/sci-fi/comedy written and directed by Cory Edwards which premiered on Netflix in August 2020. It tells the story of a high school teenager named Reid, who spends an inordinate amount of time playing a video game called Planet Master. One day, while playing the game, a cosmic wormhole contrives to send the three children of the game’s protagonist, Captain Lightspeed, out of the game and into the real world, where they end up outside Reid’s house. The children are all imbued with various different super-human abilities – think Jack-Jack from The Incredibles, times three – which Reid suddenly has to deal with as he takes care of them and waits for Captain Lightspeed to come and take them back to his dimension. Unfortunately the game’s villain, Dr. Arcannis, has also discovered the wormhole, and hatches a plot to kidnap the children and finally defeat his nemesis. The only thing standing in his way: Reid. The film features voice performances by Yara Shahidi, Miles Robbins, rapper Jadakiss, R&B singer Miguel Pimentel, Gabrielle Union, basketball superstar Dwyane Wade, and SpongeBob SquarePants himself Tom Kenny, and has a terrific original score by the super-talented young German composer Anne Kathrin Dern. Read more…

FAHRENHEIT 451 – Bernard Herrmann

August 24, 2020 Leave a comment

MOVIE MUSIC UK CLASSICS

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Famous French Director Francois Truffaut was fascinated by the possibilities of directing a film version of Ray Bradbury’s acclaimed 1953 dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451. He met with the author who was supportive and obtained the film rights. He then secured the backing of Universal Pictures for what would be the company’s first European production. Lewis M. Allen was tasked with producing the film and a modest budget of $1.5 million was provided. Austrian actor Oskar Werner was cast as Guy Montag, which proved a mistake as he would not accept Truffaut’s vision for his character. The conflict was so severe that Truffaut contemplated abandoning the project. Joining Werner would be Julie Christie in a dual role as Linda Montag and Clarisse – a decision later criticized. Cyril Cusack would play Captain Beatty and Anton Diffring would play Fabian. The story is set in a dystopian future where a totalitarian government rules the United States and uses a Gestapo-like force called the “Firemen” to seek out and destroy all books by fire in an effort to suppress dissent, and any idea that challenges the security of the governing order. It explores the life of Fireman Guy Montag who relentlessly finds and burns books believing they make people unhappy. By chance he makes the acquaintance of schoolteacher Clarisse who asks if he ever reads the books he burns. This spurs his curiosity and he begins to hide books, choosing David Copperfield by Charles Dickens to be his first read. Read more…

MILLER’S CROSSING – Carter Burwell

August 20, 2020 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Miller’s Crossing was the third feature film directed by the Coen brothers, Ethan and Joel, following their debut Blood Simple in 1984, and their sophomore effort Raising Arizona in 1987. Like the others, it’s a crime thriller, but this one is a period piece, set amongst Irish gangsters during the American prohibition era in the 1920s. Gabriel Byrne plays Tom Reagan, the right hand man of ruthless mob boss Leo O’Bannon, played by Albert Finney. Problems arise when Leo finds himself in a territorial conflict with Italian gangster Johnny Caspar, an issue that is exacerbated by the fact that Tom is having an affair with Leo’s girlfriend Vera (Marcia Gay Harden), who is the sister of crooked bookmaker Bernie Bernbaum (John Turturro), on whose head Caspar has put a bounty. As the stakes rise, Tom sees an opportunity for some personal gain, and begins to play both sides against each other – with potentially deadly results. The film was generally well-received by critics at the time, who praised its noirish atmosphere, dense plot, and intentional references to the works of Dashiell Hammett. Read more…

UNBELIEVABLE!!!!! – Gerald Fried

August 18, 2020 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The only reason I’m writing a review of the score for Unbelievable!!!!! is because it is likely to be the only chance I ever get to review a new score by Gerald Fried. For those who don’t know his name, New York-born Fried is a legend in classic TV music circles. He wrote the famous ‘Spock vs. Kirk’ fight music for the Amok Time episode of Star Trek in 1967, and he wrote episodic scores for some of the most iconic shows in television history, including Mission: Impossible, The Man from UNCLE, Lost in Space, M Squad, Gilligan’s Island, and Wagon Train, among many others. But Fried also has outstanding big screen credentials too; he was the first choice composer for a young director named Stanley Kubrick, and scored his debut efforts Fear and Desire in 1953, Killer’s Kiss in 1955, The Killing in 1956, and Paths of Glory in 1957. He received an Oscar nomination for his score for the documentary feature Birds Do It Bees Do It in 1974, and then won an Emmy for co-scoring the groundbreaking miniseries Roots with Quincy Jones in 1977. Fried is 92 years old now, and prior to this film hadn’t scored a full-length narrative feature since 1988, 33 years ago, but somehow director Steven Fawcette lured him out of retirement to write music for this project. Read more…

JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH – Bernard Herrmann

August 17, 2020 Leave a comment

MOVIE MUSIC UK CLASSICS

Original Review by Craig Lysy

20th Century Fox studio executives sought to cash in on the recent commercial success of two fantasy-adventure films, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Around the World in 80 Days. They envisioned a big budget CinemaScope production, which would once again draw upon a story by famous French novelist Jules Verne, in this case, his 1864 novel Journey to the Center of the Earth. Charles Brackett was given the reins to produce the film, and would collaborate with Walter Reisch to write the screenplay. Henry Levin was tasked with directing, and ultimately secured a fine cast, despite some recasting problems. James Mason would play Professor Sir Oliver Lindenbrook, with Pat Boone joining as his apprentice Alec McEwan, Diane Baker as Jenny Lindenbrook, Arlene Dahl as Carla Goteborg, Peter Ronson as Hans Bjelke and Thayer David as Count Arne Saknussemm. Read more…

DUCKTALES – THE MOVIE: TREASURE OF THE LOST LAMP – David Newman

August 13, 2020 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Created in 1947 by legendary Disney animator Carl Barks, the character Scrooge McDuck was popular for many years before finally being given his own animated TV series, Ducktales, in 1987. The show followed McDuck – Donald Duck’s Scottish uncle, the richest duck in the world – and his three grand-nephews (Huey, Dewey, and Louie) on a series of adventures, most of which either involved seeking out treasure, or thwarting the efforts of various assorted villains who were themselves seeking to steal Scrooge’s fortune. The show was a smash hit over its first three seasons, and paved the way for other new high quality Saturday morning series to be commissioned, including Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers, Darkwing Duck, and TaleSpin. Of course, a movie spin-off was inevitable, and so the summer of 1990 saw the premiere of Ducktales – The Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp. Read more…

AN AMERICAN PICKLE – Michael Giacchino and Nami Melumad

August 11, 2020 1 comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Something unusual has been happening to Seth Rogen lately: he’s becoming a really interesting filmmaker. The man who started as the guffawing stoner in films like Pineapple Express has, of late, been tackling much more challenging material, blending drama with comedies that have a much more satirical and intellectual undertone. The Interview almost started a political international incident with North Korea in 2014, and Sausage Party was a swipe at organized religion hidden behind raunchy sex jokes, while The Long Shot proved his potential to be a slightly more conventional leading man in a romantic comedy. Now, with his new movie An American Pickle, Rogen is taking a surprisingly deep look at themes relating to loneliness, family, heritage, and Jewishness, in the context of a fish-out-of-water comedy. Rogen stars as Herschel Greenbaum, a Jewish man who emigrates to New York from Eastern Europe with his pregnant wife in 1919. Having secured work in a pickle factory, disaster strikes when Herschel accidentally falls into a barrel of brine, which somehow manages to preserve him perfectly. He wakes up exactly 100 years later to find Brooklyn very much changed; his only living relative is his great grandson Ben (also Rogen), a lonely app developer who no longer considers himself a practicing Jew. However, despite their initial happiness at finding each other, problems soon begin to arise, most of which are exacerbated by Herschel’s old-fashioned attitudes, and Ben’s lack of interest in his heritage. Read more…

JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS – Bernard Herrmann

August 10, 2020 Leave a comment

MOVIE MUSIC UK CLASSICS

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Producer Charles Schneer and famed stop-motion photography master Ray Harryhausen decided that their fourth collaboration would take them to the realm of the ancient Greek myths. They chose the epic hero’s quest tale of Jason and his Argonaut crew who sail to the ends of the earth in search of the Golden Fleece, born from a winged ram and a symbol of divine sanction and kingship. Schneer would produce the film using his Morningside Productions company in partnership with Columbia pictures. A very generous budget of $3 million was provided and Don Chaffey was tasked with directing. Beverly Cross and Jan Read were hired to write the screenplay and a fine cast was assembled, which included Todd Armstrong in the titular role, joined by Nancy Kovack as Medea, Gary Raymond as the villain Acastus, Laurence Naismith as Argus, Niall MacGinnis as Zeus, Honor Blackman as Hera, Jack Gwillim as King Aeetes, John Carey as Hylas, and Nigel Green as Hercules. Read more…

DIE HARD 2 – Michael Kamen

August 6, 2020 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The career trajectory of sitcom star Bruce Willis was forever changed by the success of Die Hard in 1988. No longer was he the charmingly roguish detective David Addison from the hit TV show Moonlighting; now he was the all-action NYPD cop John McClane, who had single-handedly foiled the gang of international terrorists who had taken over a Los Angeles skyscraper. Demand for another Die Hard movie was high, and so in the summer of 1990 Willis returned as McClane in Die Hard 2, which was released with the suffix ‘Die Harder’ in some territories. The film was adapted from Walter Wager’s 1987 novel 58 Minutes and saw McClane getting caught up in an all-new terrorism plot at Washington DC’s Dulles Airport. A group of disgruntled former special forces soldiers have disabled the airport’s air traffic control system so they can rescue a drug lord, who is being extradited to the US to stand trial. To make matters worse, a number of commercial passenger planes are circulating above the airport, unable to land, all of which are quickly running out of fuel, and McClane’s wife Holly is on board one of them. The film co-starred Bonnie Bedelia, William Sadler, Franco Nero, John Amos, and Dennis Franz, and was directed by Finnish action movie specialist Renny Harlin. Read more…

MYSTERIOUS ISLAND – Bernard Herrmann

August 3, 2020 1 comment

MOVIE MUSIC UK CLASSICS

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Following the commercial success of The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad (1958), Columbia Pictures signed producer Charles Schneer to a contract, in which they would distribute nine of his films. He and Ray Harryhausen were eager to launch their third collaboration and chose to adapt another Jules Verne novel, The Mysterious Island (1874). John Preeble, Daniel Uhlman and Crane Wilbur teamed up to write the screenplay, adding fantastic beasts to create drama for the story, which would allow Harryhausen to once again awe audiences with his stop-motion Dynamation photography. Veteran director Cy Endfield was tasked with directing and a fine cast was assembled including Michael Craig as Captain Cyrus Harding, Joan Greenwood as Lady Mary Fairchild, Michael Callan as Herbert Brown, Gary Merrill as Gideon Spilitt, Herbert Lom as Captain Nemo, Beth Rogan as Elena Fairchild, Percy Herbert as Sergeant Pencroft, and Dan Jackson as Corporal Neb Nugent. Read more…

ENNIO MORRICONE REVIEWS, Part V

August 2, 2020 Leave a comment

In this fifth installment of my series looking at the early careers of iconic composers, we take a look at nine of the scores written by the legendary Ennio Morricone in 1968, one of the most prolific years of any composer in cinema history. This group of reviews looks at the music for a couple of great spaghetti westerns, several influential pop-psychedelia scores, and a dark science fiction drama score which allowed Morricone to channel his more serious avant-garde side, and his first collaboration with the great Italian director Dario Argento. Read more…