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Archive for July, 2021

TOM & JERRY – Christopher Lennertz

July 23, 2021 Leave a comment

Original Review by Christopher Garner

A modern take on the classic cartoon duo, Tom & Jerry sees the titular cat and mouse duking it out in a swanky New York City hotel. Kayla (Chloë Grace Moretz) has recently been hired at the hotel under false pretenses and is trying to prepare the venue for the upcoming wedding of socialite “it” couple, Preeta and Ben. Jerry the mouse moves into the hotel and is living the high life until he is discovered and it becomes Kayla’s job to get rid of him. She enlists Tom the cat, going over the head of her supervisor Terence (Michael Peña) to do so, and the ensuing battle between the cat and mouse threatens to destroy the hotel as well as Preeta and Ben’s wedding. The film is directed by Tim Story and also stars Colin Jost, Pallavi Sharda, and Ken Jeong. It is a live-action/animation hybrid film, where all the human characters are live-action and all the animals are animated in a traditional 2D style. Critics were not fond of the film, but it fared better than expected at the box office despite its release during the pandemic. Read more…

TERMINATOR 2: JUDGEMENT DAY – Brad Fiedel

July 22, 2021 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

James Cameron’s sci-fi masterpiece The Terminator became something of a cult classic following its release in 1984. It made a movie star out of its leading actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, and left fans desperate to know more about this world of unstoppable time-travelling killer robots and their human interactions, to the extent that a sequel was inevitable. Terminator 2: Judgement Day picks up the story several years later, but things have not turned out well for the original film’s protagonist, Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), who is now incarcerated in an institution for the criminally insane, where doctors refuse to believe her apocalyptic predictions. Her teenage son John (Edward Furlong) is delinquent on the streets of Los Angeles, bouncing around between foster homes, while the tech company Cyberdyne is secretly continuing tests on the remains of the original Terminator from the first film. Things go from bad to worse for Sarah when a massively upgraded liquid metal terminator, the T-1000 (Robert Patrick), is sent back in time from the future to finish the job the original robot could not, and kill John; the T-1000 is a technological marvel that can shape-shift, repair its own wounds, and convincingly blend in with humans. In response, the leaders of the human resistance send back a T-101 Terminator (Schwarzenegger), physically identical to the original film’s unstoppable killer, but this time re-programmed to protect John from harm. Read more…

BUCKLEY’S CHANCE – Christopher Gordon

July 20, 2021 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Buckley’s Chance is an Australian action-adventure film for children, written and directed by Tim Brown. The film stars young Milan Burch as Ridley, a teenage boy from New York who moves with his mother Gloria (Victoria Hill) to live with his estranged grandfather Spencer (Bill Nighy) in Western Australia after his father dies. Ridley hates his new life, mourns for his father, and resents his grandfather, but soon things get much worse when Ridley gets lost in the Outback. With only a dingo dog named Buckley for company, Ridley is forced to make an arduous journey across hostile territory trying to reach home – while, on the other end, Spencer and Gloria frantically search for the boy. The term ‘buckley’s chance’ is an idiom in Australian slang, meaning ‘something which has a very small chance of succeeding,’ and likely dates back to the 1800s and a man named William Buckley, an escaped convict who somehow survived the burning temperatures of the Outback and lived with a tribe of Aborigines for more than 30 years – a real life episode which partly mirrors the events in this story. Despite some lovely cinematography, the film was unfortunately not well received by reviewers, who especially criticized its juvenile tone and Bill Nighy’s accent. Read more…

DIE NIBELUNGEN, PART I: SIEGFRIED – Gottfried Huppertz

July 19, 2021 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Austrian director and screenwriter Fritz Lang had long desired to bring a grand fantasy adventure film to the big screen. He eventually found inspiration in the epic 12th century Germanic poem Die Nibelungenlied. He collaborated with his wife Thea von Harbou in writing the screenplays for a two-part series that would be titled Die Nibelungen: Siegfried and Die Nibelungen: Kriemhild’s Revenge. The German production company Decla-Bioscop agreed to produce and fund the film, with UFA overseeing distribution. For Lang this was a passion project, and he assembled one of the finest casts ever assembled, which included; Paul Richter as King Siegfried of Xanten, Margarete Schon as Kriemhild of Burgund, Hanna Ralph as Queen Brunhild of Isenland, Bernhard Goetzke as Volker of Alzey, Theodor Loos as King Gunther of Burgund, Rudolf Klein-Rogge as King Etzel, Rudolf Rittner as Margave Rüdiger of Bechlam, Hans Adalbert Schelettow as Hagen of Tronje, Georg August Koch as Hildebtandt, Georg John as Mime the Goldsmith/Albert the Dwarf/Blaodel, Getrud Arnold as Queen Ute of Burgund, Hans Carl Müller as Gerenot of Burgund, Erwin Biswanger as Giselher of Burgund, Fritz Alberti as Dietrich of Bern, and Annie Röttegen as Dietlind of Bechlam. Read more…

THE CONJURING: THE DEVIL MADE ME DO IT – Joseph Bishara

July 16, 2021 Leave a comment

Original Review by Christopher Garner

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It is the third film in the main Conjuring series and the eighth in the greater Conjuring universe. This time around, Ed and Lorraine Warren (played again by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) witness an exorcism in which a demon jumps from one host to another. A couple weeks later that newly possessed man kills his landlord, and his possession becomes part of his legal defense during the murder trial. The film is directed by Michael Chaves, who previously directed The Curse of La Llorona, another film in the Conjuring franchise. James Wan, who created the franchise and directed the first two Conjuring films, took a producer and role this time around and helped write the story. Though this installment hasn’t been as favorably reviewed by critics as the first two, it has been a commercial success, earning more than four times its budget at the box office in its first month in theaters, despite having a simultaneous release on HBO Max. Read more…

THE NAKED GUN 2½: THE SMELL OF FEAR – Ira Newborn

July 15, 2021 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

A sequel to the hilarious 1988 original, which was itself a spin-off of the brilliant but short-lived comedy TV show Police Squad, The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear sees Leslie Nielsen returning to one of his all-time great roles as the inept LAPD detective Frank Drebin. The plot – which involves a group of crooked energy executives kidnapping an eminent professor and replacing him with an evil lookalike who will recommend to President George HW Bush that he continue with a fossil fuel-based energy plan – is simply a flimsy framing device on which to hang all manner of goofy one-liners, ridiculous sight gags, and hilarious pratfalls, all centered around Nielsen’s unique brand of comedy. He is ably supported by Priscilla Presley, George Kennedy, and O. J. Simpson returning from the first film, as well as Robert Goulet and Richard Griffiths in new roles. These movies, as well as previous Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker productions like Airplane, are some of my all-time favorite comedies. Read more…

BLACK WIDOW – Lorne Balfe

July 13, 2021 1 comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

After what feels like an eternity, the fourth phase of films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe has finally begun with Black Widow. Chronologically it’s actually somewhere around 20th in the series – it takes place between the events of Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War – and examines the backstory of the superhero Natasha Romanov, and looks at what she was up to in that intervening period. Scarlett Johansson returns to play the titular character for the ninth time, and sees her getting involved in a globe-trotting adventure as she reconnects with her adopted sister Yelena, and her “parents” Melina and Alexei – the latter of whom is a super soldier known as Red Guardian, the Soviet Union’s equivalent of Captain America. The mission involves Natasha returning to the ‘Red Room,’ the shadowy organization which conducted the training that turned her into a KGB assassin, and confronting those responsible. The film co-stars Florence Pugh, David Harbour, Rachel Weisz, and Ray Winstone, and is directed by Cate Shortland. Read more…

BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN – Edmund Meisel

July 12, 2021 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

In 1925 the Soviet Central Executive Committee directed the People’s Commissariat for Education to organize a celebration to commemorate the 20th anniversary the first Russian Revolution of 1905. A patriotic film that revealed the corruptness of the former Tsarist regime while espousing the ideals of Socialism was envisioned to be integral to the celebration. As such Nina Agadzhanova was tasked with writing the screenplay, Sergei Eisenstein was assigned to direct, and Mosfilm would oversee its production. Agadshanova’s original script explored a broad narrative comprising several topics, which covered the totality of the uprising, however Eisenstein significantly narrowed the scope of the film, focusing its narrative on the now legendary mutiny aboard the battleship Potemkin. The film would star Aleksandr Antonov as Grigory Vakulinchuk, Vladimir Barksy as Captain Evegeny Golilov, and Grigori Aleksandrov as Chief Officer Giliarovsky. Read more…

LUCA – Dan Romer

July 9, 2021 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Luca is the 24th Disney-Pixar animated film, but also (curiously) one of the least-widely marketed. It’s a shame, too, because on the whole the film is a pure and whimsical delight, an easier and more approachable story that eschews the profound existentialism of recent films like Coco, Onward, and Soul, to instead tell a simple story about an idyllic childhood and the need for friendship and acceptance. The film follows Luca, a lonely young sea monster who lives with his family off the Riviera coast of Italy in the 1950s. Sea monsters are feared and hunted by humans, but Luca is lonely and obsessed with life on the other side of the ocean; things change for Luca when he meets another sea monster, Alberto, who says he lives among humans, and tells Luca that sea monsters look exactly like humans when dry, but return to their true forms when wet. Thus begins a summer of adventures for Luca and Alberto, who begin to spend more and more time in the nearby human town of Portorosso, and make plans to buy a Vespa motor scooter and travel the world together. The film is directed by Enrico Casarosa – who based the story partly on his own childhood growing up in Liguria – and features a voice cast including Jacob Tremblay, Jack Dylan Grazer, Emma Berman, Maya Rudolph, and Jim Gaffigan. Read more…

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ROBIN HOOD: PRINCE OF THIEVES – Michael Kamen

July 8, 2021 1 comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

One of the biggest blockbusters of 1991 was Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, a big-budget historical action epic directed by Kevin Reynolds, based on the classic legends of the medieval English outlaw Robin Hood. Somewhat astonishingly, the producers cast Hollywood star Kevin Costner in the title role, and he made no attempt to do anything approaching an English accent, and in the end sounded less than he was from Sherwood Forest and more like he was from Malibu Canyon, going to “sup with his father in Notting-HAM”. Despite this, and despite some terrible lapses in geographic specificity (Robin walks from Dover to Loxley via Hadrian’s Wall in a single day, a trip of roughly 470 miles), the film is nevertheless a terrifically entertaining romp. It features some rousing action sequences, Morgan Freeman dispenses sage wisdom wherever he goes as the Moorish warrior Azeem, there’s a lovely Maid Marian in the shape of Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, and – best of all – we have Alan Rickman hamming it up, chewing the scenery, and having a ball as a Sheriff of Nottingham whose tongue is as cutting as his blade. Read more…

THE TOMORROW WAR – Lorne Balfe

July 6, 2021 3 comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The Tomorrow War is one of those big, eye-popping, spectacular sci-fi action movies that Hollywood does so well. Set a couple of years in the future, it stars Chris Pratt as Dan Forester, a high school science teacher and US military veteran, whose life changes – along with everyone else’s – when time-travelling soldiers from the future appear during the 2022 World Cup final and declare that, thirty years in the future, humanity is on the brink of extinction following an alien invasion. Dan is drafted into the new military and, using a special technology called a jumplink, he and his fellow draftees are transported forward in time to join the battle against the aliens – vicious, carnivorous creatures nicknamed ‘white spikes’. What follows is an all-out action extravaganza as Dan becomes deeply involved in the effort to defeat the aliens. The film is the live action debut of Lego Batman Movie director Chris McKay, was written by Zach Dean, and co-stars Yvonne Strahovski, J. K. Simmons, Betty Gilpin, Sam Richardson, and Edwin Hodge. Read more…

RAPSODIA SATANICA – Pietro Mascagni

July 5, 2021 1 comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Italian playwright, screenwriter and film director Nino Oxilia found inspiration for his next film in legendary character Faust, for which he would provide a twist – retelling the story with Faust cast as a woman. He chose to utilize poems by Fausto Maria Martini who was a member of ‘Crepusscolari”, the ‘Poets of Twilight’. The works of these artists were tragedies, which spoke of the decline of the shallow bourgeois culture. Oxilia purchased the film rights, and Società Italiana Cines agreed to produce and fund the film with a budget that allowed Oxilia to realize his vision. Oxilia spared no expense for his passion project, hiring the leading actress of her generation, prima diva Lyda Borelli who was beloved by Italians, to star in the film. He tasked poet Fausto Maria Martini to provide the film’s closed captions, used elaborate costumes and jewelry, and lastly, added color, both tinted and toned, as well as stenciling to create film imagery that expanded beyond the limited confines of black and white. Read more…

Under-the-Radar Round Up 2021, Part 2B

July 2, 2021 Leave a comment

The new year is already half way done and, as the world of mainstream blockbuster cinema and film music continues to recover from the COVID-19 Coronavirus, we must again look to smaller international features not as reliant on massive theatrical releases to discover the best new soundtracks. As such I am very pleased to present the second installment (for this calendar year) in my ongoing series of articles looking at the best “under the radar” scores from around the world.

The five titles included here are heavily based around love and romance, and include a WWII-era drama from the Czech Republic, a Spanish period drama television series set in early 18th-century Madrid, a tragic teenage romance from the Philippines, a biopic from Colombia about a son remembering his murdered father, and another Ramadan series from Egypt, this time a family drama about parents trying to make a better life for their unborn child. Read more…

THE ROCKETEER – James Horner

July 1, 2021 1 comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The Rocketeer is an early entry into the annals of Disney comic book action movies, and is based on a character created by Dave Stevens for Pacific Comics in 1982. The film is set in Los Angeles in 1938 and stars Billy Campbell as Cliff Secord, a stunt pilot working for Howard Hughes in the early years of Hollywood. A pair of mafia gangsters steal a prototype jetpack from Hughes, and events lead to the jetpack coming into Secord’s possession; seeing a chance to further his career, Secord re-invents himself as the high-flying Rocketeer, and he wows the crowds at a local airshow, but his antics bring him to the attention of both the police and the FBI, and get him mixed up with the sinister forces who arranged for the initial theft, and who have plans for the jet pack that stretch way beyond Hollywood. The film was directed by Joe Johnston, and has a wonderful supporting cast that includes Alan Arkin as Cliff’s gruff friend Peevy, Jennifer Connelly as Cliff’s sensationally sexy nightclub singer/actress girlfriend Jenny, Terry O’Quinn as Howard Hughes, and Timothy Dalton as the devilishly handsome matinee idol actor Neville Sinclair, to whom there is more than meets the eye. The whole movie is awash in stylish art-deco production design that glamorizes the Hollywood of the 1930s, and is capped off by a sensational score from James Horner. Read more…