Archive for November, 2020

MISERY – Marc Shaiman

November 25, 2020 Leave a comment


Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

One of the most talked-about movies of 1990 was Misery, a thriller directed by Rob Reiner, based on the 1987 novel of the same name by Stephen King. It’s a tale of psychological horror, obsession, and violence, and was one of the first films to address ‘celebrity stalker’ culture. James Caan stars as Paul Sheldon, an author famous for his series of romance books featuring the lead character Misery Chastain. One day Paul crashes his car in a snowstorm just outside a small Colorado town; seriously injured, he is rescued by Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates), a former nurse who lives nearby. As Paul recuperates it quickly becomes apparent that Annie – who describes herself as Paul’s ‘number one fan’ – is quite deranged, and plans on keeping him prisoner in her home so that he can write more Misery novels… by any means necessary. The most talked-about moment in the film is, of course, the scene where Annie breaks both Paul’s ankles with a sledgehammer to keep him from escaping, which still retains its visceral power today; Bates went on to win the Oscar for Best Actress for her career-making performance. Read more…

HILLBILLY ELEGY – Hans Zimmer and David Fleming

November 24, 2020 2 comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Hillbilly Elegy is a multi-generational family drama directed by Ron Howard, based on the autobiographical novel of the same name by J. D. Vance. Gabriel Basso stars as Vance, a young man from rural Kentucky in the Appalachian mountains, who becomes the first in his family to attend college. Vance is called back from Yale to his home town to deal with a family emergency, and the film explores his relationship with his heroin-addicted mother, his world-weary but kind-hearted grandmother, and his troubled sister, while also looking at the broader socio-economic hardships suffered by communities like his. The film co-stars Amy Adams, Glenn Close, Haley Bennett and Frieda Pinto, and is poised to be a major contender for acting awards at the 2020 Academy Awards. Read more…


November 23, 2020 Leave a comment


Original Review by Craig Lysy

During the 1880s a technological revolution occurred with the invention of celluloid photographic film and motion picture cameras. The first public screening of a motion picture in which an admission fee was charged occurred in New York City 1895 by the Lambda Company, founded by Woodville Latham. The idiom quickly gained popularity, and in 1907 Paul Lafitte, a wealthy novelist, publisher and financier founded the French production company Le Film d’Art to produce French films, which he hoped would gain the admiration of the cultural elite as well as the patronage of the common people. Throughout his life Lafitte had been tireless in fostering literature and the theatre. He saw motion pictures as a new way to bring education and entertainment to the masses. He recruited talented stage actors from the Comédie-Française theatre group, and in 1908 decided to produce his first film, the French historical drama L’Assassinat du Duc de Guise originally titled La Mort du Duc de Guise. The Pathé Frères company would distribute the film, and he tasked French actors Charles le Bargy and André Calmettes to direct. French dramatist Henri Lavedan was hired to write an original screenplay, and a fine cast was assembled, which included Charles le Bargy as King Henry III, Albert Lambert as Le Duc de Guise, Gabrielle Robinne as Marquise de Noirmoutier and Berthe Bovy as Le Page. The final product was a short film of 18 minutes. Read more…

HAMLET – Ennio Morricone

November 12, 2020 1 comment


Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

There have been literally dozens of versions of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet made for film and television over the years, ranging from Lawrence Olivier’s 1948 masterpiece, to Tony Richardson’s 1968 version based on his own London stage production, to Kenneth Branagh’s spectacularly lavish unabridged version released in 1995. In 1990 Italian director Franco Zeffirelli released his own version, which was made to appeal directly to Hollywood sensibilities through its casting of Mel Gibson in the title role. The story is, of course, a classic one, wherein the titular prince of Denmark plots revenge against his uncle Claudius, who murdered his brother the king – Hamlet’s father – with the help of Hamlet’s mother Gertrude. It’s a timeless story of violence, betrayal, retribution, and madness, and has a spectacular cast including Glenn Close, Alan Bates, Paul Scofield, Ian Holm, and Helena Bonham-Carter as the luckless Ophelia. Read more…

THE QUEEN’S GAMBIT – Carlos Rafael Rivera

November 11, 2020 1 comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The Queen’s Gambit is a Netflix mini-series directed by Scott Frank, based on the 1983 novel of the same name by Walter Tevis. It stars the luminous Anya Taylor-Joy as Beth Harmon, a young girl growing up in an orphanage in the mid-1950s, where she has lived since her parents died in a car crash. Beth discovers an extraordinary aptitude for chess, and the series charts her life from then on, as she starts competing in and winning games, becoming more famous in the chess world, but simultaneously becomes increasingly dependent on drugs and alcohol in order to cope with the high pressure environment. The series co-stars Bill Camp, Marielle Heller, Harry Melling, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, and Jacob Fortune-Lloyd, and was an enormous critical hit when it debuted in October 2020, with special praise bestowed on Taylor-Joy’s lead performance, as well as the period style and design. Read more…

TARAS BULBA – Franz Waxman

November 9, 2020 Leave a comment


Original Review by Craig Lysy

Robert Aldrich, a producer, director and screenwriter had for many years been crafting a script for his dream project, adapting the 1895 novella Taras Bulba by Nikolai Gogol for the big screen. After five scripts he believe he had at last created a “sensational” screenplay. The project moved forward in 1959, but foundered when financing failed. Aldrich fell into debt, and was forced to sell the script to Joseph Kaufman, an agent for producer Harold Hecht for $100,000. Harold Hecht Productions would finance the film with United Artists distributing. A budget of $6 million was provided and J. Lee Thompson was brought in to direct. A fine cast was assembled, which included Tony Curtis as Andrei Bulba, Yul Brynner as Taras Bulba, Christine Kaufman as Natalie Dubrov, and Perry Lopez as Ostap Bulba. Read more…

MR. DESTINY – David Newman

November 5, 2020 1 comment


Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Mr. Destiny is a fantasy comedy written and directed by James Orr, about time-traveling wish fulfillment. It stars Jim Belushi as Larry, a completely ordinary middle class guy, married to his childhood sweetheart (Linda Hamilton), working a completely ordinary middle class job. However, despite his seemingly normal life, Larry has always felt he was destined for something more, and has settled on the idea that, back in high school, he struck out in an end-of-season baseball game. Larry believes that, had he not failed in that moment, his life would have become something truly special – he feels cheated out of his destiny. Everything changes for Larry when he stumbles into an unfamiliar bar on his 35th birthday, and meets a mysterious barman (Michael Caine) who gives him the opportunity to go back to that pivotal instant, and do his life over. The film has an interesting supporting cast – Jon Lovitz, Courteney Cox, Rene Russo – and has echoes of the cinema classic It’s a Wonderful Life, but has largely been forgotten today, having failed to make an impact with box office audiences at the time. Read more…

THE WITCHES – Alan Silvestri

November 3, 2020 1 comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Roald Dahl’s The Witches has become one of the world’s most beloved fantasy/horror stories for children in the years since it was first published in 1983. The story takes place in a reality where secret covens of child-hating witches exist all over the world; the witches are governed by the evil and powerful Grand High Witch, who has just arrived at a luxurious hotel in England to organize her final plan to eradicate all the children in the country by turning them into mice. However, the plot is uncovered by an unnamed ‘hero boy’ and his grandmother, a former witch hunter, who are coincidentally staying in the same hotel, and the two of them resolve to stop the witches’ plan – and end the Grand High Witch’s reign of terror for good. The story was turned into a well-loved film in 1990 by director Nicolas Roeg, which saw Anjelica Huston playing the Grand High Witch. This newer version, directed by Robert Zemeckis and produced by Zemeckis, Guillermo del Toro, and Alfonso Cuarón, relocates the action from England to 1960s Alabama, and casts Anne Hathaway as the beautiful but evil Grand High Witch, Jahzir Kadeem Bruno as the Hero Boy, Octavia Spencer as his grandmother, and Stanley Tucci as the downtrodden hotel manager. Read more…