Archive for October, 2020

THE EMPTY MAN – Christopher Young and Lustmord

October 31, 2020 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The Empty Man is a horror-thriller written and directed by David Prior, based on the graphic novel of same name by Cullen Bunn and Vanesa R. Del Rey. James Badge Dale stars as James Lasombra, a retired detective who is called back into action after a group of teens from a small Midwestern town begin to mysteriously disappear. The locals believe the disappearances are the work of an urban legend known as the Empty Man, and as Lasombra delves into the mystery, he soon finds himself drawn into a supernatural world of secret societies, ritual sacrifice, and dark magic. The film also stars Marin Ireland, Stephen Root, and Ron Canada, and bizarrely is it not one of the films that fell victim to COVID-19 restrictions, opening in cinemas over Halloween weekend in an attempt to lure brave horror fans into the multiplexes that actually opened. Read more…

THE SHELTERING SKY – Ryuichi Sakamoto

October 22, 2020 Leave a comment


Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The Sheltering Sky is an epic romantic drama film directed by Bernardo Bertolucci, based on the 1949 novel of the same name by Paul Bowles. It stars Debra Winger and John Malkovich as married American couple Kit and Port Moresby, who arrive in Algeria in 1949 on a holiday which they hope will rekindle their failing marriage. However, the harshness of the Saharan environment, coupled with Port’s jealousy and his suspicions that Kit is having an affair with their friend and travelling companion George Tunner (Campbell Scott), only makes things worse, leading to tragedy, death, and madness. The novel is one of the most acclaimed works of the twentieth century, and has been described by many commentators as one of the most compelling explorations of alienation and existential despair ever written, but the film was less successful; although praised for its visual magnificence, some critics called it “insufferably dull,” and a film which “dries up in that symbolic desert sun, the victim of its own pretensions” that “gets stuck in the sand right at the start.” Read more…


October 20, 2020 1 comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Climate change is real, and it is mostly driven by the activities of human beings. The fact that this remains a political and controversial statement in some parts of the world – mostly the United States – is utterly shameful, but that’s a conversation for another place and another time. From my point of view, all the scientific evidence points to the fact that human activity since the peak of the industrial revolution has harmed the Earth: it has poisoned the water and the air through the use of unsustainable fossil fuels, and raised temperatures in some places while lowering them in others, almost to the point where some places will be virtually uninhabitable before long. Innumerable animal species have been driven to the brink of extinction, and too much essential plant life in the jungles and forests of the world have been cleared to feel the endless appetites of the population – both for food, via agriculture, and for money, via greed. All this is brought into sharp focus in this new Netflix documentary, David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet. In it, the venerable British broadcaster and naturalist takes a look back on his 93 years of life, his career making nature documentaries for the BBC, and the things he has learned about the world as a result. He calls the film his ‘witness statement,’ and it is a vital and compelling story told by a man who is perhaps the most respected voice on Earth when it comes to issues concerning the natural world. It may be the most important documentary I, or anyone, will ever watch. Read more…

ALL ABOUT EVE – Alfred Newman

October 19, 2020 Leave a comment


Original Review by Craig Lysy

In 1949 renowned director Joseph Mankiewicz envisioned for his next project a story about an aging actress. By chance he came upon a short story “The Wisdom of Eve” by actress Mary Orr, published in the May 1946 issue of Cosmopolitan, which piqued his interest. He contacted 20th Century Fox studio executive Darryl Zanuck who was receptive, and was given the green light to proceed with the project. Zanuck agreed to produce the film and provided a generous $1.4 million budget. Mankiewicz would not only direct, but also write the screenplay, which was significantly edited to incorporate numerous suggestions for improvement offered by Zanuck. Casting the lead role was challenging to fill with Susan Hayward, Marlene Dietrich, Gertrude Lawrence and Claudette Colbert all considered before Mankiewicz finally selected Bette Davis. Joining her would be Anne Baxter as Eve Harington, Gary Merrill as Bill Sampson, George Sanders as Addison DeWitt, Celeste Holm as Karen Richards, and Hugh Marlowe as Lloyd Richards. Read more…


October 17, 2020 Leave a comment

In this eighth installment of my series looking at the early careers of iconic composers, we take a look at the final eight scores written by the legendary Ennio Morricone in 1969, and in the entire 1960s decade. This group of reviews is a typical mixed bag, exploring several pop-psychedelia and jazz scores for a series of romantic dramas, an all-time Morricone concert favorite, an under-represented but excellent spaghetti western, and a sex drama that contains a piece of music that will be VERY familiar to British professional darts fans! Read more…

QUIGLEY DOWN UNDER – Basil Poledouris

October 15, 2020 Leave a comment


Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Quigley Down Under is a fun, knockabout action-western, written by John Hill, and directed by Simon Wincer. The film stars Tom Selleck as Matthew Quigley, a sharpshooter from the American west, who answers an advertisement looking for men with his skills, and finds himself traveling to Australia circa 1860. Upon arrival, he meets another American woman, Cora (Laura San Giacomo), and then his prospective employer, a rancher and ruthless local businessman named Elliott Marston (Alan Rickman). However, when Quigley is told that his job is to murder Aborigines, he refuses; enraged, Marston abandons Quigley and Cora deep in the outback. They are saved by members of the local tribe, who are subsequently attacked by Marston’s men; angered by the injustice, and by Marston’s ruthlessness, Quigley vows to put a stop to it all. Despite addressing the important topic of the genocide of the aborigines in 19th-century Australia, and despite starring Selleck (who was still a bankable box office star at the time), the film was not a great success, with many critics citing its uneven tone, which unsuccessfully combined Selleck’s roguish charm with some quite strong violence and action. Read more…

THE GLORIAS – Elliot Goldenthal

October 13, 2020 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

As I was prepping and doing research prior to writing this review, I learned that this is the first review of a new Elliot Goldenthal score I have written since I wrote about Public Enemies in July 2009, more than 11 years ago. It’s also only the fourth new Goldenthal score I have covered since the turn of the millennium – the other two being Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within in 2001 and S.W.A.T. in 2003. Of course, Goldenthal has only written two scores since 2009 – one of which, The Tempest, I didn’t care for, while the other, Our Souls at Night, was not released on CD at all. He has been working on classical pieces and theatre works in the interim but, other than that, the most significant thing that happened to him was the potentially life-threatening head injury he suffered in 2005, when he fell off a chair in his kitchen and smacked his head on the marble floor; it caused a subdural hematoma, briefly put him in a coma, and rendered him literally speechless for several months afterwards. Whether this traumatic event was the catalyst for Goldenthal’s subsequent drift away from Hollywood is open to debate, but one thing’s for certain: I’m very glad that his wife Julie Taymor keeps hiring him to score her movies. Read more…

NICHOLAS AND ALEXANDRA – Richard Rodney Bennett

October 12, 2020 1 comment


Original Review by Craig Lysy

Producer Sam Spiegel had long aspired to make a film set during the Russian Revolution and decided to roll the dice after witnessing the stunning success of David Lean’s film Doctor Zhivago. His initial intent was to derive his screenplay from historical events recorded in the public domain, however he changed course and decided to adapt Robert H. Massie’s popular 1967 novel Nicholas and Alexandra. He purchased the film rights and hired James Goldman (The Lion in Winter) to write the screenplay. Yet the task was onerous with countless rewrites as four directors came and went. It was only after Franklin Schaffner came on to direct that a final screenplay was realized. Spiegel vision was to create an epic film in the tradition of Doctor Zhivago and Lawrence of Arabia, yet he was constrained by Columbia studio executives who were reluctant to offer a generous budget after terrible financial setbacks with The Chase and The Night of the Generals. As such he could not afford actors Peter O’Toole, Vanessa Redgrave and Rex Harrison. He did however manage to secure the services of Laurence Olivier as Count Witte. Joining him would be less familiar actors including Michael Jayston as Tsar Nicholas II, Janet Suzman as Tsaritna Alexandra, Tom Baker as Rasputin, Michael Redgrave as Sazonov, Jack Hawkins as Vladimir, Harry Andrews as Grand Duke Nicholas, Roderic Noble as Tsarevich Alexei, Ania Marson as Grand Duchess Olga, Lynne Frederick as Grand Duchess Tatiana, Candace Glendenning as Grand Duchess Marie, Fiona Fullerton as Grand Duchess Anastasia, and Irene Worth as the Dowager Tsaritsna Marie. Read more…


October 8, 2020 4 comments


Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Thomas Newman is the youngest of the ‘composing Newmans’ who were primed to take over the legacy of Alfred, Lionel, and Emil Newman, the three brothers who established a dynasty within Hollywood film music circles during the golden age of the industry. Thomas’s cousin Randy Newman was born in 1943 and scored his first film in 1981; his older brother David Newman was born in 1954, and was already a working violinist and conductor-for-hire prior to him scoring his first film in 1986. Meanwhile Thomas had already worked as an orchestrator for John Williams on Return of the Jedi, and with Stephen Sondheim on Broadway, before scoring his first film – Reckless – in 1984. Thomas quickly established himself as a composer for quirky and hip comedies and genre movies but, for the first half dozen years of his career, very little of his music was released as a soundtrack – he got half an album for Desperately Seeking Susan in 1985, one track on the album for Gung Ho in 1986, two tracks on Jumpin’ Jack Flash the same year, and one cue each on the albums for Light of Day, The Lost Boys, The Great Outdoors, and Cookie. In fact, the very first standalone album of Thomas Newman music – and, as such, where we begin with him – is for this movie, the 1990 comedy-drama Welcome Home Roxy Carmichael. Read more…

Under-the-Radar Round Up 2020, Part III

October 7, 2020 5 comments

As the COVID-19 Coronavirus is continuing still to decimate the 2020 theatrical movie schedule, as well as the general mood of the world, good music is more important than ever when it comes to getting is all through these difficult times. As such (and as I did last year under much different circumstances) I am very pleased to present the latest installment in my ongoing series of articles looking at the best “under the radar” scores from around the world – this time concentrating on the third quarter of 2020! The titles include a fantasy sequel and a historical drama/thriller from Germany, a super hero-themed serial killer thriller from Spain, a thriller from Vietnam, an emotional documentary from Turkey, and so much more! Read more…

SHE – Max Steiner

October 5, 2020 Leave a comment


Original Review by Craig Lysy

RKO studio executives were fascinated by the film prospects presented by of Henry Rider Haggard’s 1887 novel She. The tale offered a broad canvass, which featured adventure, mystery, love, magic and immortality. They purchased the screen rights in 1932 and in 1933 assigned the project to Merian Cooper, who had just assumed his new position as Vice President of Production for RKO. He brought in Dudley Nichols and Ruth Rose to write the screenplay, and they ended up creating a story, which drew upon plot elements from all four novels of the series. Cooper had a grand vision and with a $1 million budget purchased lavish costumes and fashioned magnificent architecture sets for the city of Kor in the Art Deco design, and assigned Lansing C. Holden and Irving Pichel as directors to bring it all to life. Yet they were undone when the budget was slashed and they were forced to abandon technicolor and instead shoot in black and white. For the cast Cooper recruited opera singer Helen Gahagan for the titular role. Joining her would be Randolph Scott as John Vincey and Leo Vincey, Nigel Bruce as Professor Horace Holly, Helen Mack as Tanya Dugmore, and Gustav von Seyffertitz as Governor Billali. Read more…


October 3, 2020 Leave a comment

In this seventh 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 1969. This group of reviews looks at the music for several erotic dramas with a jazzy Euro-pop vibe, a French gangster film, a bizarre futuristic science fiction film that was banned in its own country, and two war movies – one of which is, in my opinion, a mostly undiscovered Morricone masterpiece! Read more…

MEMPHIS BELLE – George Fenton

October 1, 2020 Leave a comment


Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Memphis Belle is a World War II action-drama, directed by Michael Caton-Jones and written by Monte Merrick. It is a narrative remake of William Wyler’s 1944 documentary feature The Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress, and follows the lives of a squadron of American G. I. airmen stationed in England, working with members of the Royal Air Force to counter the threat of the Nazi Luftwaffe at the height of the conflict. Specifically, it focuses on the events surrounding the final mission of a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress aircraft called the ‘Memphis Belle,’ and how the members of its crew overcome the dangers and tragedies inherent in war, and endeavor to complete their last mission, so that they can return home safely to their families. The film starred a cast of up-and-coming (at the time) American actors including Matthew Modine, Eric Stoltz, Sean Astin, Harry Connick Jr., Tate Donovan, and Billy Zane, with John Lithgow and David Strathairn supporting as their commanding officers. Read more…