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Archive for December, 2021

DON’T LOOK UP – Nicholas Britell

December 31, 2021 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Pitching a satire at the right level is always a tricky task, especially when the thing you are satirizing is something that is happening at the time. Whether you are tackling politics, war (like Dr Strangelove or MASH), religion (like Monty Python’s Life of Brian), bureaucracy (like Brazil), or something else entirely, you run the risk of alienating the half of your audience that doesn’t agree with your stance – and this appears to have happened to Adam McKay with his new film Don’t Look Up. The film stars Leonardo di Caprio and Jennifer Lawrence as Randall Mindy and Kate Dibiasky, two astronomy scientists who make a shocking discovery – that a comet, larger than the one which killed the dinosaurs, is on a collision course with Earth, and will strike in six months with 99% probability. Despite their scientifically accurate (but, obviously, desperately dire) warnings, they face opposition and scorn at every turn: from politicians more concerned about their poll ratings, from a disinterested media more concerned with the latest celebrity breakup, and from an apathetic public who immediately become polarized based on their political and religious beliefs. The film co-stars Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett, Jonah Hill, Mark Rylance, Timothée Chalamet, and Ariana Grande, among many others, and has been the recipient of equal amounts of praise and scorn in the wake of its release. Read more…

FRIED GREEN TOMATOES – Thomas Newman

December 30, 2021 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Fried Green Tomatoes is a sentimental comedy-drama directed by Jon Avnet, based on the popular novel by Fannie Flagg. The story jumps between the past and the present and explores the relationship between Evelyn Couch (Kathy Bates), a middle-aged and disillusioned housewife, and Ninny Threadgoode (Jessica Tandy), an elderly woman who lives in a nursing home. Evelyn pays weekly visits to Ninny, who tells her stories about her youth in the small town of Whistle Stop, Alabama, where her sister-in-law, Idgie (Mary Stuart Masterson), and her ‘friend’ Ruth (Mary-Louise Parker) ran a café. As Ninny’s seemingly whimsical story unfolds, more serious themes relating to lesbianism, racism, and even murder gradually begin to emerge, and the influence of the strong women from Ninny’s childhood inspire Evelyn to make positive changes in her life in the present. The film was a hit with both audiences and critics, and earned two Oscar nominations, including one for Tandy as Best Supporting Actress at the age of 82. Read more…

THE MATRIX RESURRECTIONS – Johnny Klimek and Tom Tykwer

December 28, 2021 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

In early 1999 an under-the-radar science fiction action movie called The Matrix opened and immediately became a pop culture phenomenon. It’s filmmakers, the Wachowski siblings, were lauded as icons of the genre, and were given the green light by Warner Brothers to set into motion two sequels. Both The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions premiered in 2003, but the response to them was… shall we say… somewhat mixed, and the shiny luster that had been on the Wachowskis began to tarnish. While the visual scale and special effects of the sequels were top notch, the story was criticized for being impenetrably dense and overly-confusing, a mishmash of philosophical ruminations about destiny, free will, and the nature of reality, blended with enormous action set pieces. And then, for almost 20 years, The Matrix quietly disappeared into movie lore. The Wachowskis went off and made other movies – Speed Racer, Cloud Atlas, Jupiter Ascending – with equally mixed critical and commercial results. But now, The Matrix is back with a third sequel, subtitled ‘Resurrections,’ and it’s equally as polarizing as its predecessors. Read more…

THE GOOD EARTH – Herbert Stothart

December 27, 2021 1 comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Producer Irving Thalberg was keen on bringing the popular Pulitzer Prize winning novel “The Good Earth” to the big screen. His initial attempt with MGM studio executive Louis B. Mayer was thwarted with his reply; “The public won’t buy pictures about American farmers, and you want to give them Chinese farmers?” Undeterred, he solicited support from Nicholas Schenck the CEO of Loew’s Theaters Inc, MGM’s parent company and was given the green light to proceed. A massive budget of $2.8 million was provided, and Talbot Jennings, Tess Slesinger and Claudine West were hired to adapt the novel and write the screenplay. In an audacious gambit, Thalberg resolved to hire only Chinese and Chinese-American actors for the film, but soon gave up on the idea conceding after much studio resistance that American audiences were not yet ready to accept a film with an all-Chinese cast. The paucity of accomplished Chinese Hollywood actors at the time was also contributory to his decision. Ultimately, the principal actors would be white, but many of the secondary supporting actors were Chinese American. Sadly, he was unable to celebrate his passion project as he died tragically in 1936 and at age 37 of pneumonia, five months before the film’s premier. Sidney Franklin was hired to direct, but casting was problematic as the Hayes Code anti-miscegenation rules forbade the casting of husbands and wives of different races. The cast included Paul Muni as Wang Lung, Luise Rainer as O-Lan, Walter Connolly as Uncle, Tily Losch as Lotus, Charles Grapewin as Old Father, Jessie Ralph as Cuckoo, Soo Young as Aunt, Keye Luke as Elder son, and Roland Lui as Younger son. Read more…

SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME – Michael Giacchino

December 24, 2021 2 comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS PLOT SPOILERS. IF YOU HAVE NOT YET SEEN THE FILM, YOU MIGHT WANT TO CONSIDER WAITING UNTIL AFTER YOU HAVE DONE SO TO READ IT.

I feel like I spend an unusually inordinate amount of time talking about the ends of trilogies in musical terms. Howard Shore’s Lord of the Rings and Hobbit scores, John Powell’s How to Train Your Dragon, John Williams’s Star Wars sequels, the various Avengers movies that lead into Infinity War and Endgame, and so on and so on. There’s a nice symmetrical quality to trilogies which allow for development and dramatic catharsis, and this is certainly the case with Spider-Man: No Way Home, the third film in director Jon Watts’s Spider-Man trilogy, which is itself a part of the enormous Marvel Cinematic Universe that now comprises 27 films and half a dozen or more live-action TV series. The film picks up almost exactly where the last film, 2019’s Far From Home, ended, with Spider-Man’s secret identity being revealed in the aftermath of his battle with the super-villain Mysterio. Now faced with being a public pariah, Peter decides that it would be better if he could find a way to change things – so he visits his old Avengers comrade Dr Stephen Strange, and convinces him to cast a spell that will make everyone forget that Peter Parker is Spider-Man… but when the spell is cast it has some unexpected unintended consequences. Read more…

THE PRINCE OF TIDES – James Newton Howard

December 23, 2021 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The Prince of Tides is a serious romantic drama, directed by Barbra Streisand, and adapted from the acclaimed novel by Pat Conroy. The film stars Nick Nolte as Tom Wingo, a football coach from South Carolina, who is asked to travel to New York to help his sister, Savannah, who has recently attempted suicide. In New York Tom meets with Savannah’s psychiatrist, Susan Lowenstein (Streisand), and the two have an immediate attraction to each other, despite them both being married. As time goes on Tom and Susan grow closer, and Tom begins to reveal long-suppressed details about his past and his private life, some of which relates directly to the issues plaguing Savannah, However, their deepening romantic relationship also threatens to break up their respective marriages, which could have devastating consequences for both families. The film co-stars Blythe Danner, Jeroen Krabbé, and Melinda Dillon, and was both a critical and commercial success, grossing more than $135 million at the box office, and picking up seven Academy Award nominations. Read more…

MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY – Herbert Stothart

December 20, 2021 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

In 1934 director Frank Lloyd was impressed by the 1932 novel Mutiny on the Bounty by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall. He believed that the historically based nautical adventure tale would transfer well to the bug screen. To that end he sought the assistance of producer Irving Thalberg to persuade MGM studio executives to purchase the film rights and fund the project. Lloyd’s diligence was rewarded and he was provided a $1.95 million budget. He and Thalberg would produce the film, and he would also take on director duties. For Lloyd this was a passion project and he insisted that screenwriters Talbot Jennings, Jules Furthman and Carey Wilson stay true to the actual novel. He also constructed the Bounty from plans obtained from the British Admiralty and considered the ship an important actor in the film. A stellar cast was hired, which included Charles Laughton as Captain Bligh, Clark Gable as Fletcher Christian, Franchot Tone as Roger Byam, Movita Casteneda as Movita, and Mamo Clark as Maimiti. Read more…

JULIA – Rachel Portman

December 17, 2021 1 comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

There are so many cookery shows, chef competitions, and other food-related programs on American television these days that there are entire channels dedicated to the genre, but as wide and broad as they are they can all trace their lineage back to one person: Julia Child. It was she who basically introduced the concept of French haute cuisine to the American public following the publication of her first book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, in 1961, which in turn led to her first appearances on television in the mid-1960s. Through the 1970s and 1980s she was the pre-eminent TV cooking personality in the country, and her way of cooking food influenced generations of home chefs and restauranteurs alike. A dramatic film about her life, Julie & Julia, was released in 2009 with Meryl Streep playing Child, but this new film Julia is a straightforward biographical documentary. It is directed by Julie Cohen and Betsy West, with Brian Grazer and Ron Howard as executive producers, and has an original score by Rachel Portman. Read more…

FATHER OF THE BRIDE – Alan Silvestri

December 16, 2021 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Father of the Bride is charming remake of the classic 1950 Spencer Tracy-Elizabeth Taylor comedy, written by Nancy Meyers and directed by Charles Shyer. Steve Martin takes over the Tracy role as George Banks, a middle-aged father who finds himself suffering both a midlife crisis and a nervous breakdown when his only daughter Anne (Kimberly Williams) announces she is getting married. What follows is a comedy of errors as George – who is reluctant to see his daughter as a grown-up woman – suffers all manner of mishaps, mixed messages, and physical pratfalls as he supervises the organization of the wedding he does not want to happen. The film co-stars Diane Keaton and George Newbern, and features a hilarious cameo from Martin Short as Franck the wedding planner, and is one of those feelgood movies that is funny and heartwarming all at the same time. Read more…

WEST SIDE STORY – Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim

December 14, 2021 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

When Stephen Sondheim died aged 91, just a couple of weeks ago, the world of musical theater lost one of its best and most beloved practitioners. Although he was well-known for many of the scores he wrote himself – A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Company, A Little Night Music, Sweeney Todd, Into the Woods, many others – possibly his most beloved work by the general public was the one on which he “only” wrote the lyrics: West Side Story. On it Sondheim collaborated with the legendary composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein, creating a then-contemporary version of Romeo & Juliet transposed from renaissance-era Italy to 1950s New York, replacing the Montagus and the Capulets with street gangs, the Jets and the Sharks. It debuted on stage in 1957, and then was turned into a screen musical in 1961 by co-directors Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins. That film went on to become one of the most successful and popular Hollywood musicals in history, and eventually won ten Oscars, including Best Picture. And now, 60 years later, we have a new version of the same story, directed by the legendary Steven Spielberg. Read more…

Golden Globe Nominations 2021

December 13, 2021 Leave a comment

goldenglobeThe Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) has announced the nominations for the 79th Golden Globe Awards, honoring the best in film and American television of 2021.

In the Best Original Score category, the nominees are:

  • ALEXANDRE DESPLAT for The French Dispatch
  • GERMAINE FRANCO for Encanto
  • JONNY GREENWOOD for The Power of the Dog
  • ALBERTO IGLESIAS for Parallel Mothers
  • HANS ZIMMER for Dune

This is the 13th nomination for Desplat, who previously won Globes for The Painted Veil in 2006 and The Shape of Water in 2017; the second nomination for Greenwood; the second nomination for Iglesias; and the 15th nomination for Zimmer, who won the award for The Lion King in 1995 and for Gladiator in 2000. The sole debutante is Germaine Franco.

In the Best Original Song category, the nominees are:

  • BILLIE EILISH and FINNEAS O’CONNELL for “No Time to Die” from No Time to Die
  • CAROLE KING, JENNIFER HUDSON, and JAMIE HARTMAN for “Here I Am (Singing My Way Home)” from Respect
  • BEYONCÉ KNOWLES-CARTER and DIXSON for “Be Alive” from King Richard
  • LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA for “Dos Oruguitas” from Encanto
  • VAN MORRISON for “Down to Joy” from Belfast

The winners of the 79th Golden Globe Awards will be announced on January 9, 2022.

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THE FLAME AND THE ARROW– Max Steiner

December 13, 2021 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

In 1949 Warner Brothers Studios had renewed interest in revisiting the swashbuckler genre, hoping to recapture the success of two of its greatest triumphs; 1935’s Captain Blood and 1940’s The Sea Hawk. Development and production of the film was given to producers Harold Hecht and Frank Ross who were provided with a budget of $1.61 million. Waldo Salt was hired to write the screenplay, and Jacques Tourneur was tasked with directing. Errol Flynn, Warner Brothers previous swashbuckler star was at age 41 beyond his prime and unable to handle the physicality demanded by the script. As such the popular Burt Lancaster who was a prior circus acrobatic performer was cast in the lead role of Dardo Bartoli. Joining him would be Virginia Mayo as Anne de Hesse, Robert Douglas as the Marchese Alessandro de Granazia, Gordon Gebert as Rudi Bartoli, Frank Allenby as Count Ulrich, and Nick Cravat as Dardo’s sidekick Piccolo. Read more…

COPPELIA – Maurizio Malagnini

December 10, 2021 1 comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

A wonderful combination of live action ballet, animation, science fiction, and sweeping orchestral music, Coppelia is a film quite unlike anything I’ve ever seen. It’s a contemporary updating of the 1870 stage ballet by Léo Delibes, which was itself based on a story by the famed German fantasy author Ernst Hoffmann, whose work also inspired Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann and Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker, among others. The film follows the story of Swan and Franz, two young lovers who live in a pretty European town. One day a sinister scientist and inventor named Doctor Coppelius comes to town; he promises the townspeople that he can make them handsome, beautiful, and strong through cosmetic surgery, and entices them to come to his laboratory. However, what the townspeople don’t realize is that the Doctor is actually on a personal quest to build the perfect “robot woman,” and he is using the ‘essence’ of the townspeople to bring his robot creation, named Coppelia, to life, while simultaneously turning the townspeople into mindless zombies who do nothing except stare at their own reflection. When the Doctor realizes that the love Franz has for Swan is the missing ingredient he needs to fully bring Coppelia to life, he kidnaps him – motivating Swan and their friends to break into the lab, rescue Franz, stop the Doctor, and save the town. Read more…

BUGSY – Ennio Morricone

December 9, 2021 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Looking at the city of Las Vegas today, it’s difficult to see past its opulent hotels, gourmet restaurants, popular shows, beautiful weather, and frivolous excess, and remember that this world center of entertainment has its origins in organized crime. Director Barry Levinson’s film Bugsy explores these origins, specifically looking at the life and death of New York gangster Benjamin ‘Bugsy’ Siegel, who travels to Los Angeles in the early 1940s, gets involved with tough-talking Hollywood actress Virginia Hill, and makes a lot of friends and a lot of enemies in California’s criminal underworld, before he has the world-changing idea of building a luxury casino – the Flamingo – in the sun-baked Nevada town of Las Vegas as a way to launder money. The film is a fascinating look at the birth of one of the world’s most popular vacation spots; it stars Warren Beatty as Bugsy, Annette Bening as Hill, and features a supporting cast including Harvey Keitel, Ben Kingsley, and Elliott Gould. The film was also a critical success, picking up ten Academy Award nominations – including Best Picture – and eventually winning for Art Direction and Costume Design. Read more…

SPENCER – Jonny Greenwood

December 7, 2021 1 comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The death of Diana, Princess of Wales, in a car accident in Paris in August 1997 was a turning point in British contemporary culture. It shifted the perception of Diana in the public eye permanently – from fairytale princess to working royal, to wronged woman, to something approaching a martyr – while simultaneously changing the opinion of the royal family as a whole. The air of untouchable mystique that surrounded Queen Elizabeth, Prince Philip, Prince Charles, and the others, was irreparably shattered in the weeks after Diana’s death, mostly because of the apparent callousness and emotionlessness of their response to it all; the family’s tradition of keeping their personal opinions to themselves came across as cold, and the British public – who were grieving ‘the people’s princess’ – felt let down in a time when comfort from a monarch was needed by many. The repercussions of all this are still felt today, not least in terms of the contrasting press coverage of Diana’s sons William and Harry, and their respective spouses Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle, and much of this is what forms the backbone of the film Spencer, directed by Chilean filmmaker Pablo Larraín. Read more…