Archive for September, 2020

ANTEBELLUM – Nate Wonder and Roman Gianarthur

September 29, 2020 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Building off the success of movies like Get Out and Us, writer-director Jordan Peele has begun to inspire a new generation of African-American filmmakers to explore genre stories of horror, sci-fi, and fantasy. On television, the HBO series Lovecraft Country has blended 1950s racial drama with a myriad of lurid tales involving covens, monsters, demons, and so much more. Playing concurrently in cinemas (or, at least, it would have been had it not been for COVID-19) is Antebellum, the debut feature of writer-directors Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz. The story is arguably the most horrific nightmare imaginable for contemporary black Americans; it stars Janelle Monáe as Veronica Henley, a successful author and sociologist, who wakes up one morning to find herself living as a slave on a cotton plantation during the American Civil War. Forbidden to speak and treated brutally by the white slave owners, Veronica must come to terms with what is happening to her, and figure a way out before it’s too late. The film co-stars Eric Lange, Jena Malone, Jack Huston, Kiersey Clemons, and Gabourey Sidibe, and received mixed reviews from critics when it opened, despite its pertinent themes relating to racism, the lived experience of the black community in contemporary America, and what has been called the ‘American original sin’ of slavery. Read more…

NARROW MARGIN – Bruce Broughton

September 24, 2020 Leave a comment


Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Narrow Margin is a terrific B-movie action thriller, directed by Peter Hyams, and loosely based on a 1952 film of the same name, the screenplay for which was nominated for an Academy Award that year. The film stars Gene Hackman as Los Angeles deputy district attorney Robert Caulfield, who is tasked with bringing Carol Hunnicutt (Anne Archer) back to LA from Canada to testify against a mafia boss. Circumstances force Caulfield and Hunnicutt to travel by rail rather than flying, but once they board the train in Vancouver it quickly becomes apparent that the mob boss has sent two hitmen to kill Hunnicutt before she can take the stand; and so begins a deadly game of cat-and-mouse as Caulfield desperately tries to thwart the assassins and keep Hunnicutt alive, all within the limited confines of their locomotive as it hurtles through the Canadian Rockies. The film co-starred James B. Sikking, M. Emmett Walsh, and J. T. Walsh, and had an original score by the great Bruce Broughton. Read more…

ENOLA HOLMES – Daniel Pemberton

September 22, 2020 1 comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

I would wager that most people in the English-speaking world have heard of Sherlock Holmes, the great British detective of classic literature. Many will also be aware of Sherlock’s brother, Mycroft, who appears in several of the stories too. However, it is likely that Sherlock and Mycroft’s younger sister Enola is completely new to most – and for good reason, because she is not a creation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, nor does she appear in any of his great adventures. Enola Holmes is a creation of writer Nancy Springer, who first wrote of her adventures in a series of books beginning in 2006. This new film is an adaptation of the first novel, The Case of the Missing Marquess, and stars Millie Bobbie Brown as the 14-year old sister of Sherlock and Mycroft. When their mother disappears, Sherlock and Mycroft conclude that her mother left voluntarily, and decide to send young Enola away to a boarding school. Horrified at the prospect of having to conform to the Victorian sensibilities of how girls must dress and act, the tomboyish Enola runs away to London, determined to prove that there is more to her mother’s disappearance than meets the eye. The film is directed by Harry Bradbeer, co-stars Henry Cavill, Sam Claflin, and Helena Bonham Carter, and has an original score by composer Daniel Pemberton; it was scheduled to be released in cinemas in the summer of 2020 but, due to the COVID-19 pandemic was instead released on Netflix in September. Read more…


September 21, 2020 1 comment


Original Review by Craig Lysy

Universal Studios executives saw opportunity to capitalize on the public fascination surrounding the best-selling 1969 techno-thriller novel The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton, and purchased the film rights for $250,000. Renowned academy award winning director Robert Wise was brought in to both produce and direct the film and given a generous budget of $6.5 million. He hired trusted collaborator Nelson Gidding to adapt the novel for the screen and brought in a fine cast, which included; Arthur Hill as Dr. Jeremy Stone, James Olson as Dr. Mark Hall, David Wayne as Dr. Charles Dutton, Kate Reid as Dr. Ruth Leavitt. Paula Kelly as nurse Karen Anson, and George Mitchell as Mr. Peter Jackson. Read more…


September 19, 2020 Leave a comment

In this sixth installment of my series looking at the early careers of iconic composers, we take a look at the remaining twelve 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 one of the greatest westerns of all time – Once Upon a Time in the West – and a variety of other scores across a multitude of genres, including pop-psychedelia scores for romances, ‘nunsploitation,’ avant garde atonalism for giallo horror, hard-boiled crime thrillers, social realist dramas, and so much more! Read more…


September 17, 2020 Leave a comment


Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

One of a spate of Something-from-Hell movies in the early 1990s, Pacific Heights was a thriller which made everyone think twice about sub-letting their apartment to a stranger. The film stars Matthew Modine and Melanie Griffith as Drake and Patty, a young professional couple who own a large house in San Francisco’s upscale Pacific Heights neighborhood. Drake and Patty lease one of their empty apartments to Carter Hayes (Michael Keaton), a mysterious loner with a hidden past, who immediately sets about renovating the apartment, hammering and drilling at all hours of the night, angering the other tenants. Eventually Carter’s anti-social and disruptive behavior begins to take its toll on Drake and Patty’s relationship, to such an extent that the police become involved. Carter’s response to the legal threats is to make life even more miserable for Drake and Patty, eventually leading to recrimination, threats, and mounting violence. But what is Carter’s motivation? And why do events and women from his past keep coming back to haunt him? The film was directed by John Schlesinger from a screenplay by Daniel Pyne, and features Laurie Metcalfe, Beverly d’Angelo, and Tippi Hedren in supporting roles. Read more…

THE SECRET GARDEN – Dario Marianelli

September 15, 2020 1 comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

There have been numerous film and television adaptations of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s beloved 1911 novel The Secret Garden over the years, including one starring Margaret O’Brien released in 1949, and one executive-produced by Francis Ford Coppola in 1993, which was the most recent version released in cinemas prior to this one. The story is one of innocence, magic, and friendship, and is regarded as a classic of English children’s literature. It tells the story of Mary, a young girl who grows up spoiled as member of the aristocracy in British India; when her parents die in a cholera epidemic she is sent to live with distant relatives in an isolated mansion on the Yorkshire Moors. Despite initially hating her new surroundings, Mary begins to warm to her new life after she discovers a secret walled garden hidden in a remote part of the estate. As Mary spends more and more time in the garden she starts to learn the history of the place, her family, and the house itself – which eventually leads her to make a startling discovery that changes her life forever. The film is directed by Marc Munden from a screenplay by Jack Thorne, stars Dixie Egerickx as Mary, and features Colin Firth and Julie Walters in supporting roles. Read more…

KING OF KINGS – Miklós Rózsa

September 14, 2020 2 comments


Original Review by Craig Lysy

Producer Samuel Bronston related that the most impactful event in human history was the birth, life and death of Jesus Christ. He had long nurtured the dream to bring this remarkable tale to the big screen. His conception, which was presented to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios was to make Jesus more accessible, by presenting Him as a flesh and blood man living during tumultuous times. Given the stunning success of Ben-Hur in 1959 MGM decided to cash in on the public’s love of biblical epics and gave Bronston permission to proceed. He hired writers Philip Yordan and Ray Bradbury to write the screenplay, and brought in veteran director Nicholas Ray to direct. A splendid cast was assembled, which included Jefferey Hunter as Jesus, Siobhán McKenna as Mary, Robert Ryan as John the Baptist, Ron Randell as Lucius, Hurd Hatfield as Pontius Pilate, Frank Thring as Herod Antipas, Rip Torn as Judas Iscariot, Harry Guardino as Barabbas, Carmen Sevilla as Mary Magdalene, Brigid Balzen as Salomé, and Guy Rolfe as Caiaphas. Read more…

MULAN – Harry Gregson-Williams

September 11, 2020 1 comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The latest Walt Disney animated film to be re-imagined as a live action motion picture is Mulan, directed by Niki Caro and written by Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Lauren Hynek, and Elizabeth Martin. Like its 1998 predecessor, it is loosely based on the Chinese folklore tale The Ballad of Mulan, and stars Chinese actress Yifei Liu in the title role. In Imperial China, Mongol hordes led by the warlord Böri Khan (Jason Scott Lee) and the witch Xianniang (Gong Li) are invading the borders of the empire, leading the Emperor (Jet Li) to call for conscripts – one man from each family – to bolster his troops. Despite being the eldest child in her family, Mulan is forbidden from joining the army due to her being female; her war veteran father, despite being old and frail, volunteers to represent his family instead. To save her father from almost certain death in battle, Mulan disguises herself as a man and enlists, eventually joining the platoon of Commander Tung (Donnie Yen). Despite having very little training, Mulan is soon thrust into conflict with Böri Khan’s troops, and must fight to save her homeland – without revealing her gender, or bringing dishonor to her family. Read more…


September 10, 2020 Leave a comment


Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

For quite a lot of the summer of 1990, the movie Reversal of Fortune was a hot topic of conversation. It tells the true story of European aristocrat Claus von Bülow, who in 1982 was arrested, tried, and convicted for the attempted murder of his wife, Sunny von Bülow, who went into a coma after an apparent insulin overdose and subsequently fell into a persistent vegetative state. Claus – who had a haughty and arrogant demeanor, and was estranged from Sunny – maintained his innocence, and launched an appeal, hiring Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz to prepare his defense. Despite being initially convinced of Claus’s guilt, Dershowitz begins to find evidence that points to inconsistencies in the prosecution’s case, which could actually prove his client’s innocence. The popularity of the film led to a great deal of new media focus on the case, as well as a number of ‘did-he-or-didn’t-he’ articles in the press, and water cooler talk about Claus and his life. The film was written by Nicholas Kazan, adapting Dershowitz’s own book about the case, and was directed by Barbet Schroeder. It starred Jeremy Irons as Claus, Glenn Close as Sunny, and Ron Silver as Dershowitz, and was nominated for three Academy Awards, with Irons taking home the Oscar for Best Actor. Read more…

TENET – Ludwig Göransson

September 8, 2020 1 comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton


The dual concepts of time and reality have been at the forefront of Christopher Nolan’s films almost since the very beginning of his career, when his sophomore effort Memento in 2000 explored the life of a man with no short-term memory by essentially running the movie backwards. Most of his subsequent films – including The Prestige, Inception, and Interstellar – have tackled variations on similar themes, from dreams within dreams, to the circular temporal nature of interplanetary travel via black holes. Even his last film, Dunkirk, messed around with time by presenting the evacuation of the beaches of Normandy in 1940 from three different perspectives, all of whom experience the event from a different chronological point of view. With Tenet, however, Nolan has delved into these concepts more deeply than ever before, creating a film that examines the notion of time from a physiological point of view, introducing theories as complex as statistical mechanics and thermodynamic entropy into a large-scale action spy thriller. Read more…

DARKMAN – Danny Elfman

September 3, 2020 Leave a comment


Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Having gained cult popularity and success as a result of his influential horror movies The Evil Dead and Evil Dead II, writer-director Sam Raimi was given his first crack at a major studio feature towards the end of the 1980s. The project he chose was Darkman, based on a short story he wrote years earlier as an homage to Universal’s horror films of the 1930s. The film stars Liam Neeson, in what was essentially his first leading role after spending the 1980s putting in impressive supporting performances in films such as Excalibur, Krull, The Bounty, The Mission, Suspect, The Dead Pool, and others. Neeson plays Peyton Westlake, a scientist who is developing a new type of synthetic skin to help burn victims. Westlake’s life is changed forever when his girlfriend, attorney Julie Hastings (Frances McDormand), finds incriminating evidence against corrupt property developer Louis Strack (Colin Friels). Strack hires ruthless mobster Durant (Larry Drake) to ‘send a message’ to Julie, which results in Westlake’s lab being burned to the ground and Westlake himself being disfigured and left for dead. However, Westlake miraculously survives the attack, and uses his synthetic skin treatment to treat his own injuries – the only drawback being the unintended side-effects, which give him super-human abilities, but also render him mentally unstable, borderline psychotic, and bent on wreaking vengeance on those responsible for his disfigurement. Read more…

THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN – Craig Armstrong

September 2, 2020 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The One and Only Ivan is an adventure-drama for children, directed by Thea Sharrock, and based on the successful and popular 2012 novel by Katherine Applegate. It is the story of a silverback gorilla, the eponymous Ivan (voiced by Sam Rockwell), who lives in a mall as a sideshow attraction, alongside an aged elephant named Stella (voiced by Angelina Jolie) and a friendly dog named Bob (voiced by Danny DeVito). Ivan is generally happy, as he does not remember his life before the mall, and he entertains guests by creating finger-paint artwork. However, the arrival of a baby elephant named Ruby kickstarts a desire in Ivan to be free – especially when he witnesses Ruby being mistreated by the mall’s owner, Mack (Bryan Cranston). Eventually, with the help of a young girl named Julia, Ivan hatches a plan to escape, not only for himself, but for all his friends. The film has been praised for its positive environmentalist tone, good teaching lessons for kids, and warm-hearted family values, and was a modest success when it premiered on Disney+ in August 2020, having been pushed there away from cinemas due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more…