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Archive for May, 2021

FOREVER AMBER – David Raksin

May 31, 2021 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Kathleen Winsor’s novel Forever Amber proved to be a sensational success with the public, one fully noticed by the major movie studios. 20th Century Fox executive Darryl F. Zanuck moved quickly to secure the film rights paying an astounding $200,000 to Winsor. Writing the screenplay proved to be torturous with Winsor and then Jerome Cady failing to adapt the massive novel in a way that would gain approval by the National League of Decency. Ultimately the team of Philip Dunne and Ring Lardner Jr. succeeded. William Perlberg was assigned to produce the film with a budget of $3 million and John M. Stahl was tasked with directing. The project went off the rails immediately when star Peggy Cummins collapsed on the set. After a three-month delay, she was pulled from the lead role, Stahl was assigned to another project and the studio found itself $1 million in the hole. Otto Preminger was brought in to direct and salvage the project and a new cast assembled, which included Linda Darnell as Amber St. Clair, Cornel Wilde as Bruce Carlton, Richard Greene as Lord Harry Almsbury, and George Sanders as King Charles II of England. Read more…

THELMA & LOUISE – Hans Zimmer

May 27, 2021 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

A classic road movie about revenge and female empowerment, Thelma & Louise stars Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis in the titular roles as a pair of meek housewives who get a new lease on life when they decide to go on a weekend vacation away from their husbands in Thelma’s 1966 Ford Thunderbird. Things go horribly wrong when the pair stop for a drink at a roadhouse bar, and Thelma is attacked and almost raped in the parking lot by a local. The incident leaves the attacker dead of a gunshot wound – killed by a furious Louise – and results in an extended chase across the American west, as the two women are pursued by a dogged sheriff (Harvey Keitel) determined to bring them to justice. The film was directed by Ridley Scott, co-starred Michael Madsen and a very young Brad Pitt, and received a great deal of critical and commercial acclaim, with its screenplay by Callie Khouri winning the Oscar that year. The on-screen relationship between Thelma and Louise has been called a breakthrough for feminist filmmaking, while the final scene at the rim of the Grand Canyon is now considered iconic. Read more…

CRUELLA – Nicholas Britell

May 25, 2021 1 comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The latest film to examine the origin stories of famous Disney villains, after Maleficent in 2014, is Cruella, which tells the history of Cruella De Vil, the antagonist of both the 1961 Disney animated film One Hundred and One Dalmatians, and the original novel by Dodie Smith. There has already been a live-action adaptation of the story in 1996, with Glenn Close playing Cruella, but this prequel sees Emma Stone donning the famous black-and-white hairstyle wig. She plays Estella De Vil, an aspiring fashion designer in 1960s London, who takes a job working for the brilliant but difficult Baroness von Hellman, the head of a prestigious fashion house, played by Emma Thompson. The intense rivalry that develops between the two slowly eats away at De Vil’s sanity, and she eventually transforms herself into ‘Cruella’ and becomes a notorious and dangerous criminal obsessed with dalmatian dog furs. The film co-stars Joel Fry and Paul Walter Hauser as Cruella’s henchmen Jasper and Horace, and is directed by Craig Gillespie, whose last film was the Oscar-winning drama I, Tonya. Read more…

NOW VOYAGER – Max Steiner

May 24, 2021 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

In 1942 producer Hal B. Wallis signed a four-year contract with Warner Brothers Studios tasking him to produce four films a year. He decided that adapting Olive Higgins Prouty’s 1941 novel Now Voyager to the big screen would serve as his inaugural effort. Screen rights were purchased, Casey Robinson was hired to write the screenplay, and a budget of $877,000 was provided. Irving Rapper was given the reins to direct the film, and a stellar cast was assembled, which included Bette Davis as Charlotte Vale, Paul Henreid as Jerry Duvaux Durrance, Claude Rains a Dr. Jaquith, Gladys Cooper as Mrs. Windle Vale, Ilka Chase as Lisa Vale and Janis Wilson as Tina Durrance. Read more…

BACKDRAFT – Hans Zimmer

May 20, 2021 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Backdraft is one of the best action movies of the 1990s, an action thriller murder-mystery set within the world of hotshot Chicago firefighters. Kurt Russell and William Baldwin star as brothers Stephen and Brian McCaffrey; Stephen is a fearless hero, while Brian has always lived in his shadow. After an incident on the job where a fellow firefighter was almost killed, Brian is reassigned to help veteran arson investigator Donald Rimgale (Robert De Niro) with his latest case, in which a number of prominent local businessmen and politicians have been murdered in fires involving a phenomenon known as a ‘backdraft’. As Rimgale and Brian dig into the circumstances of the fires, the investigative trail soon leads them in the directions of both a corrupt local alderman, and back to Stephen’s firehouse. The film was directed by Ron Howard, co-stars Scott Glenn, Donald Sutherland, and Jennifer Jason Leigh, and is a magnificent edge-of-seat thriller that combines political skullduggery and familial drama with a number of sensational fiery action sequences that quicken the pulse and make your palms sweat with tension. The film was a massive commercial success, grossing almost $80 million in the US alone, and received three Academy Award nominations, for Visual Effects, Sound, and Sound Effects Editing. Read more…

THOSE WHO WISH ME DEAD – Brian Tyler

May 18, 2021 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Those Who Wish Me Dead is a new action/drama/thriller from director Taylor Sheridan, the man behind such acclaimed films as Sicario and Hell or High Water, as well as the popular TV series Yellowstone. The film stars Angelina Jolie as Hannah, a firefighter in rural Montana left traumatized by a tragedy during a forest fire a year previously. Hannah is forced to confront her demons and overcome her fears when she meets a teenage boy named Connor in the forest; he is being tracked by two ruthless assassins (Aidan Gillen and Nicholas Hoult), who were hired by a shadowy organization and have already eliminated Connor’s father. As Hannah and Connor attempt to reach safety, the killers set a new blaze in the forest, which quickly spirals out of control, and threatens to burn everything to the ground. The film was adapted from the popular novel by Michael Koryta, and also stars Jon Bernthal, Jake Weber, and Medina Senghore. Read more…

VIVA ZAPATA! – Alex North

May 17, 2021 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Director Elia Kazan and author John Steinbeck had long been friends and shared an interest in Mexican hero Emiliano Zapata, a champion of the peons who did what few men in history have done – achieved power and walked away from it, wary of its corrupting influence. In 1949 they decided to collaborate and bring the tale of this Mexican legend to the big screen. Steinbeck was tasked with writing the screenplay and he referenced Edgcomb Pinchon’s Zapata The Unconquerable (1941) as a guide. Kazan used his clout to obtain backing from Darryl F. Zanuck who agreed to produce the film for 20th Century Fox, providing a budget of $1.8 million. A fine cast was hired which included Marlon Brando in the titular role, Jean Peters as Josefa Zapata, Anthony Quinn as Eufemio Zapata, Alan Reed as Pancho Villa, and Fay Roope as Porfirio Diaz. Read more…

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES II: THE SECRET OF THE OOZE – John Du Prez

May 13, 2021 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The enormous success of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie in 1990, as well as the continuing popularity of the related Saturday morning cartoon, led to an insta-sequel being commissioned by New Line Cinema. The result is this film, subtitled ‘The Secret of the Ooze,’ directed by Michael Pressman. The Secret of the Ooze follows the adventures of the four eponymous turtles – Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo, Raphael – and their Master Splinter. Following the events of the first film, the evil Shredder returns to take back command of the Foot Clan, and vows revenge against the Turtles who vanquished him – and sees away to take that revenge when he learns the secret behind the Turtles’ original mutation. The film stars Paige Turco and David Warner alongside the rubber-suited stuntmen performing the physical action of the turtles, and was a popular hit with the kids, who reacted favorably to the film’s broad humor and even more broad ninja action. Read more…

WRATH OF MAN – Chris Benstead

May 11, 2021 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Wrath of Man is a complicated action revenge thriller directed by Guy Ritchie, and is an English-language remake of the 2004 French film Le Convoyeur. The film stars Jason Statham as ‘H,’ the mysterious new employee of a security company which moves money all around Los Angeles in armored cars. The monosyllabic Englishman proves to be excellent at his job, and is instrumental in foiling an armed heist of the truck he is driving with his partner, Bullet (Holt McCallany). However, it slowly emerges that there is more to ‘H’ than meets the eye, and a labyrinthine plot emerges involving organized crime, a group of disgruntled former US marines, and the death of ‘H’s son. The film co-stars Scott Eastwood, Jeffrey Donovan, and Josh Hartnett, among others, and is an enjoyable festival of violence, filled with guns blazing, cars crashing, and Jason Statham doing Jason Statham things – although there was an undercurrent of misogyny and homophobia in the testosterone-overloaded screenplay that I found a little unpalatable. Read more…

THE KEYS OF THE KINGDOM – Alfred Newman

May 10, 2021 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

After the critical success of translating two novels to the screen with Gone with the Wind in 1939 and Rebecca in 1940, producer David O. Selznick decided to roll the dice again with A. J. Cronin’s latest novel, The Keys of the Kingdom. He purchased the film rights for $100,000, with Cronin assisting with writing the screenplay. However, he could not secure the cast he desired and so sold the film rights to Darryl F. Zanuck of 20th Century Fox. Zanuck tasked director Joseph Mankiewicz with the project, providing a budget of $3 million. A new screenplay was provided by Nunnally Johnson and Mankiewicz, and a fine cast was assembled including Gregory Peck as Father Francis Chisholm, Thomas Mitchell as Dr. Willie Tulloch, Vincent Price as Angus Mealey, Rose Stradner as Reverend Mother Maria-Veronica, Edmund Gwenn as Reverend Hamish MacNabb, Benson Fong as Joseph, Roddy McDowell as Francis Chisholm as a boy, and Sir Cedric Hardwicke as Monsignor Sleeth. Read more…

THE DOUBLE LIFE OF VERONIKA – Zbigniew Preisner

May 6, 2021 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The Double Life of Veronika, or La Double Vie de Véronique, is a French-Polish drama film written and directed by the late great auteur Krzysztof Kieślowski. It tells the story of two nearly identical women, one living in Poland, the other in France, who do not know each other, but whose lives are nevertheless profoundly connected. Irène Jacob plays both women; Weronika, a Polish choir soprano, and her double, Véronique, a French music teacher, who embarks on an unusual romance with Alexandre (Philippe Volter), a puppeteer who may be able to help her with her existential issues. The Criterion Collection DVD of the film calls it “a ravishing, mysterious rumination on identity, love, and human intuition,” and there’s really nothing more I can add to that. It’s a visual tone poem, an enigmatic exploration of these two women’s lives, in which music plays an important part. Read more…

MORTAL KOMBAT – Benjamin Wallfisch

May 4, 2021 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The video game Mortal Kombat, originally created and developed by the American video game developer Midway Games in 1992, is one of the most popular and successful fighting games in the history of the industry. Originally conceived as a video game spinoff of Jean-Claude Van Damme movies such as Kickboxer and Bloodsport, it eventually morphed into a fantasy setting in which human warriors, chosen by the gods, face off against assorted demons and monsters in a fighting tournament, the victors of which would go on to control the universe. The game is notorious for its incredibly gruesome and graphic in-game ‘fatalities,’ the realism of which eventually led to the creation of the Entertainment Software Rating Board and its age-based rating system, but this has not stopped it from becoming an expanding franchise that now comprises several spinoff games, comic books, an animated TV series, and several movies. Read more…

SYMPHONY OF SIX MILLION – Max Steiner

May 3, 2021 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

In late 1931 legendary David O. Selznick became RKO Studio’s Production Chief. He decided that his inaugural film would be the melodrama “Night Bell”, which would be adapted from the story of the same name by Fannie Hurst. He first changed the film title to “Symphony of Six Million” – a reference to the population of New York City – and then rejected the first screenplay, demanding that it reclaim the cultural sensibilities offered in the original story. He wanted his film to offer a mirror to the life of Jewish immigrants in America and the challenges created by the cultural assimilation of their children. Selznick and Pandro S. Berman would produce the film, Gregory La Cava was hired to direct, and a budget of $270,000 was provided. The cast would include Ricardo Cortez as Dr. Felix Klauber, and his family, Gregory Ratoff as his father Meyer Klauber, Anna Appel as his mother Hannah Klauber, Noel Madison as his brother Magnus Klauber, and Lita Chevret as his sister Birdie Klauber. Irene Dunne would play love interest Jessica, and John St. Polis his colleague Dr. Schifflen. Read more…