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THE EYES OF TAMMY FAYE – Theodore Shapiro

October 29, 2021 Leave a comment

Original Review by Christopher Garner

The Eyes of Tammy Faye tells the true story of the rise and fall of televangelists Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker (played by Andrew Garfield and Jessica Chastain). It follows the pair from their humble beginnings running a local tv station’s Christian-themed puppet show, to becoming superstars within the world of Christian televangelism (even opening a big Christian theme park), to Jim Bakker’s fall from grace due to rape allegations and accounting fraud (he was convicted for the latter and spent nearly five years in prison). The film is directed by Michael Showalter (of The Big Sick fame). Critics have been mostly positive about the film, with particular praise being lavished upon Jessica Chastain, whose transformation to play Tammy Faye across multiple decades has generated some Oscar buzz. Read more…

DYING YOUNG – James Newton Howard

October 28, 2021 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Dying Young is a romantic drama directed by Joel Schumacher, based on the novel by Marti Leimbach, starring Julia Roberts and Campbell Scott. Roberts stars as Hilary, a young woman who is hired to be a live-in nurse for Victor (Scott), a wealthy and well educated young man who is dying of leukemia. Of the course of a summer Hilary and Victor slowly fall in love – much to the disapproval of her mother (Ellen Burstyn) and his father (David Selby), neither of whom want to see their children get hurt – and decide to make the best out of life in whatever short period they may have together. The whole thing was designed to be a three-hanky weepie for incurable romantics who revel in tragic love stories, and it helped push Julia Roberts’s star even further into the stratosphere, considering that this was her fourth starring role in two years after Pretty Woman, Flatliners, and Sleeping With the Enemy, but it was not a hit with the critics – Roger Ebert said it was “a long, slow slog of a movie, up to its knees in drippy self-pity as it marches wearily toward its inevitable ending,” while Janet Maslin in Variety wrote simply said “Julia’s hot; Dying Young is lukewarm”. Read more…

DUNE – Hans Zimmer

October 26, 2021 6 comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

In the years since it was first published in 1965, Frank Herbert’s Dune has grown consistently in stature and acclaim, and is now considered one of the greatest works of science fiction in the history of the genre. It’s a story about intergalactic power and control, alliances and betrayals, prophecy and mysticism, and is focused on events on the desert planet Arrakis. Arrakis is the sole source of ‘spice,’ a hallucinogenic spore naturally found in the sands of Arrakis, the use of which is what makes interstellar space travel possible; as such, spice is the most valuable commodity in the universe. Mining spice is a dangerous task, due to the inhospitableness of the planet, the presence of giant deadly sand worms, and the constant attacks by the native Fremen population, who despise their off-world colonizers. The main crux of the story follows the noble house of Atreides, which is sent to Arrakis by the Emperor of the galaxy to take over the running of the spice mines from the house of Harkonnen, their bitter rivals. What follows is essentially a power struggle for overall control of the galaxy between the Emperor, House Atreides, House Harkonnen, and the mysterious female-led religious order of the Bene Gesserit, with Paul Atreides, the young son of the duke of House Atreides, as the focal point of it all. Read more…

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ANASTASIA – Alfred Newman

October 25, 2021 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

In 1955 three Hollywood studios, Warner Brothers, MGM, and 20th Century Fox, entered into a bidding war to secure the film rights to the popular 1952 Broadway play Anastasia by Marcelle Maurette. They all believed that the tragedy that befell the Russian Romanov dynasty and the mystery of Anastasia would resonate with the public. In the end 20th Century Fox prevailed and paid Maurette £20,000. Buddy Adler was assigned production with a $3.5 million budget, Arthur Laurents was hired to write the screenplay, and Anatole Litvak was tasked with directing. A stellar cast was hired with Ingrid Bergman making her Hollywood return after seven years of being black-listed for her romance and marriage with director Roberto Rossellini. She would play Anna Koreff/Anastasia, and joining her would be Yul Brynner as General Bounine, Helen Hayes as Dowager Empress Marie Feodorovna, Matitia Hunt as Baroness Elena von Livenbaum, Ivan Desny as Prince Paul von Haraldberg, and Akim Tamiroff as Boris Andreivich Chernov. Read more…

THE LAST DUEL – Harry Gregson-Williams

October 22, 2021 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The Last Duel is a historical epic drama for the Me Too generation, a truly harrowing look at the powerlessness, lack of agency, and mis-treatment of women throughout time, and how comparatively little has changed over the course of the past several centuries in terms of how sexual assault is viewed differently by men and women. The film is directed by Ridley Scott and is based on the 2004 book of the same name by Eric Jager; ostensibly it looks at the circumstances leading up to, and the aftermath of, one of the last legally-sanctioned trial-by-combat duels, which took place in Paris in the year 1386. Matt Damon stars as Jean de Carrouges, a medieval knight in service to King Charles VI, who is married to the daughter of a nobleman, Marguerite de Thibouville, played by Jodie Comer. When Marguerite claims to have been raped by her husband’s best friend and squire Jacques Le Gris (Adam Driver), it sets circumstances in motion that result in De Carrouges and Le Gris facing off in battle – with the fate of Marguerite being decided by which of the pair lives, and which one dies. The film co-stars Ben Affleck as Le Gris’s benefactor, Count Pierre d’Alençon, as well as Harriet Walter and Alex Lawther; it was co-written by Nicole Holofcener with Damon and Affleck, for whom this is the first screenplay since their Oscar-winning effort Good Will Hunting in 1997. Read more…

CURLY SUE – Georges Delerue

October 21, 2021 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Curly Sue is a warm-hearted family comedy written and directed by John Hughes – the last film Hughes directed prior to his death in 2009, although he did write and produce others. The film stars James Belushi as Bill, a drifter and scammer who swindles strangers out of money to support himself and his partner in crime, a cute moppet orphan girl he calls Curly Sue (Alisan Porter). After moving from Detroit to Chicago, Bill and Curly Sue find their next target in Grey Ellison (Kelly Lynch), a yuppie lawyer. However, things take an unexpected turn when Grey learns about the con, but falls in love with Bill anyway when she learns the truth about their past, and how much he genuinely cares for Curly Sue. Grey asks Bill and Curly Sue to move in with her – a decision which sparks the ire of Grey’s jealous, vindictive ex-boyfriend Walker (John Getz), who plots revenge against the man who he believes broke up his relationship. Read more…

VENOM: LET THERE BE CARNAGE – Marco Beltrami

October 19, 2021 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

A slightly belated sequel to the fun but curiously overlooked original, Venom: Let There Be Carnage is the black sheep of the Marvel Cinematic Universe family – although this is likely to be change as the characters are absorbed into the mainstream MCU going forward. The film picks up the story immediately after the events of the first film, and sees San Francisco journalist Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) living his new life in the company of the wisecracking brain-munching alien symbiote Venom, who now shares Eddie’s body – and occasionally takes over control of it, giving Eddie super-human powers. The plot of the film revolves around Eddie’s relationship with the incarcerated serial killer Cletus Kasady, played by Woody Harrelson, who appeared in the first film’s post-credits scene. After some exposition backstory involving Kasady’s adolescence in a home for unwanted children, and his relationship with Frances (Naomi Harris) – a young girl who has the power to generate a ‘sonic scream’ – the main crux of the story involves Kasady being infected by a second symbiote, named Carnage, breaking out of prison during his execution, and rampaging across the city – with only Eddie and Venom able to stop him. The film co-stars Michelle Williams and Stephen Graham, and is directed by actor and motion capture pioneer Andy Serkis. Read more…

ABOVE AND BEYOND – Hugo Friedhofer

October 18, 2021 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Hollywood screenwriter Beirne Lay Jr., a retired USAF bombardier, gained fame after the war for his screenplay to the 1949 film 12 O’Clock High. In 1951 he conceived a new screenplay for a WWII story he felt needed to be told. To that end he met with Air Force General Curtis LeMay, commander of the Strategic Air Command (SAC). He suggested a new film that would explore the experiences of Colonel Paul Tibbets, the commander of the historic 509th Composite Group, which was responsible for dropping the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima during WWII. LeMay fully supported this, gave his consent, and Lay provided his outline to screenwriters Melvin Frank and Norman Panama who collaborated with USAF technical advisors Lt. Colonel Charles F.H. Begg, Major Norman W. Ray and Major James B. Bean to write the screenplay. With USAF backing Frank and Panama impressed MGM studio executives with their story, and they were given reins to produce the film with a budget of $1.4 million. Frank and Panama would also take on co-director duties and a fine cast was hired, including Robert Taylor as Tibbets, Eleanor Tibbets as Lucy Tibbets, and James Whitmore as Major Bill Uanna. Read more…

SHATTERED – Alan Silvestri

October 14, 2021 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Shattered is a twisty-turny psychological thriller written and directed by Wolfgang Petersen, based on the popular novel ‘The Plastic Nightmare’ by Richard Neely. The film stars Tom Berenger as Dan Merrick, a successful architect who is involved in a major car accident with his wife Judith (Greta Scacchi). Judith survives relatively unharmed, but Dan suffers major injuries and brain trauma, including amnesia, and needs plastic surgery. As he recuperates at home afterwards, with the help of his friend Jeb (Corbin Bernsen) and Jeb’s wife Jenny (Joanne Whalley), Dan slowly starts to feel that things are not quite what they appear to be, and begins to make some inquiries into his own past. These inquiries eventually lead Dan to private detective Gus Klein (Bob Hoskins), whose explosive revelations change Dan’s life forever. Read more…

THE STARLING – Benjamin Wallfisch

October 12, 2021 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The Starling is a comedy-drama film from Netflix, directed by Theodore Melfi, starring Melissa McCarthy, Chris O’Dowd, and Kevin Kline. The film is an examination of the grief suffered by the parents after the loss of a child; McCarthy and O’Dowd play Lily and Jack, a husband and wife couple whose new baby dies of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, which results in Jack having a nervous breakdown and requiring a stay in a mental health facility. As Lily focuses all her attention on Jack, preparing for his imminent return home, she neglects her own mental health needs; to compound matters, a starling has made a nest in a tree in their back garden, which starts to dive-bomb and attack her every time she comes near it. Eventually, things change for the better for Lily when she meets Larry Fine (Kline), a former psychologist turned veterinarian, who becomes an unexpected confidant. Read more…

THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE – Roy Webb

October 11, 2021 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Renowned producer David O. Selznick saw opportunity for a riveting, suspenseful murder thriller film based on the 1933 novel Some Must Watch by Ethel Lina White. He purchased the film rights, and envisioned Ingrid Bergman in the lead role. His plans for production however never came to fruition as he was forced to sell the film rights to RKO Pictures in 1946 to cover the massive cost overruns of his passion project, Duel In The Sun. RKO executives gave the green light to proceed with Dore Schary placed in charge of production, and provided a modest budget of $750,000. Robert Siodmak was tasked with directing, and screenwriter Mel Dinelli was hired to adapt the novel, which resulted in a change in the film’s title, as well as shifting its setting from England to New England. A fine cast was assembled, which included Dorothy McGuire as Helen, George Brent as Professor Albert Warren, Ethel Barrymore as Mrs. Warren, Kent Smith as Dr. Arthur Parry, and Gordon Oliver as Steven Warren. Read more…

SPACE JAM: A NEW LEGACY – Kris Bowers

October 8, 2021 Leave a comment

Original Review by Christopher Garner

Twenty-five years ago Michael Jordan shared the big screen with the Looney Tunes for a film that was lackluster (at best), yet is fondly remembered by a lot of people of a certain age. Now we get the sequel, in which a fictional Lebron James (played by the actual Lebron James) and his fictional son Dom (played by Cedric Joe) are sucked into a virtual multiverse of Warner Brothers properties by an evil artificial intelligence named Al-G Rhythm (played by Don Cheadle). James runs into the Looney Tunes and enlists them to play in a basketball game that will somehow determine the outcome of the film. Director Malcolm D. Lee is usually associated with comedies steeped in African American culture like Girl’s Trip, Undercover Brother, and The Best Man, rather than live action/animation hybrid films for children. This film has not fared well critically. It made $160 million worldwide, but with a budget of $150 million, it can’t exactly be termed a financial success either. Read more…

RICOCHET – Alan Silvestri

October 7, 2021 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Ricochet is an action-thriller directed by Russell Mulcahy, starring Denzel Washington, John Lithgow, Ice-T, Kevin Pollak, and Lindsay Wagner. Washington plays Nick Styles, an LAPD cop, who becomes a hero when he subdues and arrests a violent hitman named Earl Blake Talbot (Lithgow) during a hostage standoff. Years later, Styles is now a successful Los Angeles district attorney, but everything changes when Blake – who has now aligned himself with a group of neo-Nazis in the Aryan Brotherhood – escapes from prison and embarks on a violent and destructive revenge plot against the man who he claims destroyed his life. Ice-T plays Odessa, Styles’s former childhood friend who is now a drug dealer, and the whole thing culminates in a fight to the death atop Los Angeles’s iconic Watts Towers. The original screenplay, as written by Fred Dekker, was pitched as a Clint Eastwood Dirty Harry sequel, but it was rejected for being ‘too grim,’ and was eventually re-worked by Steven E. de Souza and Menno Meyjes as a vehicle for Washington. Read more…

NO TIME TO DIE – Hans Zimmer

October 5, 2021 2 comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

After what feels like an eternity, wherein the film suffered delay after delay after delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 25th James Bond film No Time To Die has finally reached cinemas. It marks the end of the journey for Daniel Craig as 007 – he will be replaced by a new actor before the next film is released, whenever that may be – and also marks the climax to the arc of a series of films that began with Casino Royale in 2006 and which actually presents a fairly linear narrative across multiple films, something the Bond franchise had never attempted to do before. The film picks up the story almost immediately after the events shown in Spectre, and sees Bond travelling in Italy with Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux), the psychiatrist who helped him capture his arch-nemesis Blofeld (Christoph Waltz). However, an apparent betrayal sends Bond into a tailspin and into retirement – he’s leaving MI6 and the spy game for good. Years later, Bond is coaxed out of retirement by his old CIA colleague Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) after a top secret scientist goes missing, and before long Bond is facing off against a new adversary in the shape of terrorist Lyutsifer Safin (Rami Malek), while teaming up with a new Double-0 agent (Lashana Lynch) who views Bond as a broken, misogynistic relic from the past. The film is directed by Cary Fukunaga, and was written by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Fukunaga, and the great Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who was brought in to give the screenplay a contemporary edge. Read more…

SAMSON AND DELILAH – Victor Young

October 4, 2021 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

The genesis of the film began in 1934 when Paramount Studios announced that it would follow-up its lavish 1934 production of Cleopatra with the biblical romance tale of Samson and Delilah. Film rights to the libretto of the 1877 opera Samson and Delila by Camille Saint-Saëns was purchased. It would however take twelve years for renowned producer-director Cecil B. DeMille to finally get the project off the ground. He secured a budget of $3.0 million and hired Jesse L. Lasky Jr., Fredric M. Frank, and Harold Lamb to write the screenplay drawing upon biblical references as well as the 1926 novel Samson the Nazarite by Ze’ve Jabotinsky. DeMille would also direct and after some casting drama finally secured Victor Mature to star as Samson. Joining him would be a fine cast, including Hedy Lamarr as Delilah, George Sanders as The Saran of Gaza, Angela Lansbury as Semadar, and Henry Wilcoxon as Ahtur. Read more…