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Archive for May, 2022

MEN – Ben Salisbury and Geoff Barrow

May 31, 2022 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Folk horror is a sub-genre within the larger horror pantheon which uses folklore, coupled with a rural setting and themes of isolation, religion, and the power of nature, to terrify audiences. It is often found in British films, with efforts like Witchfinder General and The Wicker Man standing out as defining works, while more recent films like The Witch, Midsommar, and Lamb, have broadened the horizons internationally. Writer-director Alex Garland’s film Men returns to the genre’s roots, being set in an idyllic village in the English countryside, but from this starting point he takes viewers on a brutal, hallucinogenic journey through themes of misogyny, toxic masculinity, and post-traumatic stress. Jessie Buckley stars as Harper, a widow who decides to take a holiday in the English countryside following the apparent suicide of her husband. Once she is settled into the pretty house she is renting, Jessie meets several men in the village – the owner of the house, a vicar, a teenage boy, a policeman, a pub landlord – all of whom are played by Rory Kinnear. Most disturbingly, she frequently encounters a naked man (also Kinnear), who appears to be stalking her. Read more…

YANKEE DOODLE DANDY – George M. Cohan, Ray Heindorf, and Heinz Roemheld

May 30, 2022 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

In 1941 Warner Brothers Studios was seeking ideas for a new musical production. They finally conceived of a musical biopic film about the legendary American entertainer, playwright, composer, lyricist, actor, singer, dancer and theatrical producer George M. Cohan. They secured Cohan’s blessing and studio executives Jack L. Warner and Hal B. Wallis would manage production with a $1.5 million budget. Robert Buckner and Edmund Joseph were hired to write the screenplay and Michael Curtiz took the reins to direct. The cast included James Cagney as George M. Cohan, Joan Leslie as Mary Cohan, Walter Huston as Jerry Cohan, Richard Whorf as Sam Harris, Rosemary DeCamo as Nellie Cohan, and Irene Manning as Fay Templeton. Read more…

HOSTILE TERRITORY – John Koutselinis

May 27, 2022 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Hostile Territory is a low-budget western action-drama directed by Brian Presley, starring Matt McCoy, Brea Bee, Brad Leland, and Lew Temple. The film is set shortly after the American Civil War, and tells the story of Union soldier Jack Calgrove, who is taken as a prisoner of war by the Confederacy and eventually (and incorrectly) presumed dead. When Jack finally returns home years later he discovers that his wife has died and his children – who are mistakenly considered orphans – have been sent away on a so-called ‘orphan train,’ to be placed in a new home deep in the American West. Desperate to save his children, Jack teams up with a fellow former soldier and a band of sharpshooting Native Americans, and sets out to rescue his family. It’s one of those films which, in bygone years, would have been called ‘straight to video,’ but which now appears in those endless lists of VOD Videos-on-Demand that every cable TV service provides, and it would most likely have passed by without much fanfare, were it not for its outstanding score. Read more…

HELLRAISER III: HELL ON EARTH – Randy Miller

May 26, 2022 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

One of the most popular and successful horror franchises of the 1980s and 1990s was Hellraiser, based on Clive Barker’s groundbreaking but somewhat controversial 1986 novella The Hellbound Heart. The first film based on the story was released in 1987 and introduced the iconic Pinhead character to the pantheon of horror movie monsters: an inter-dimensional ‘cenobite’ traveler who ensnares unwary souls with his cryptic puzzle box, and then sentences them to a lifetime of torture that blurs the lines between pain and pleasure. A sequel, Hellbound: Hellraiser II, was released in 1988, which expanded on the mythos of the cenobites, and was mostly well received by audiences. This second sequel, Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth, marked the end of the series of ‘good’ Hellraiser movies – from this point on, through seven further interminable entries, the franchise became worse and worse, to the point where Hellraiser fans essentially consider this to be the conclusion of the story. Read more…

DOWNTON ABBEY: A NEW ERA – John Lunn

May 24, 2022 1 comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The enormously popular small screen adventures of the Crawley family continue their transition to the big screen with a second cinematic outing, Downton Abbey: A New Era, written by Julian Fellowes and directed by Simon Curtis. As we all know, Downton Abbey is a British drama series charting the lives and loves of the aristocratic Crawley family and their various staff and servants, all of whom reside at the titular estate in northern England. It’s a blend of domestic drama, historical and political intrigue, and scandalous romance, dressed up with upper-class British pageantry, and it was wildly popular and successful both domestically and in the United States. The original series debuted in 2010, and was followed by the first theatrical film in 2019. This new film, set in 1928, tells two parallel stories: one regarding Maggie Smith’s character Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham, who has unexpectedly inherited a villa in France; and one where a film crew arrives at Downton to make a silent film starring screen lothario Guy Dexter (Dominic West), which sends everyone into a tizzy. The film stars the familiar cast of regular Downton actors – Hugh Bonneville, Elizabeth McGovern, Michelle Dockery, Laura Carmichael, Jim Carter – and was a popular success upon its UK opening. Read more…

THEY DIED WITH THEIR BOOTS ON – Max Steiner

May 23, 2022 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

In 1941 MGM commissioned a heroic script by Aeneas MacKenzie, Wally Kline and Lenore J. Coffee about the life of General George Armstrong Custer, which would allow the studio to showcase their box office megastar Errol Flynn. Hal B. Wallis and Robert Fellows were placed in control of production with a $1.358 million budget. Raoul Walsh was tasked with directing after Flynn vetoed the studio’s first choice of Michael Curtiz. Flynn would star as General George Armstrong Custer, and joining him would be Olivia de Havilland as Elizabeth Bacon Custer, Arthur Kennedy as Ned Sharp, Charley Grapewin as California Joe, Gene Lockhart as Samuel Bacon, and Anthony Quinn as Crazy Horse. Read more…

Vangelis, 1943-2022

May 19, 2022 Leave a comment

Composer Vangelis died on May 19, 2022, in hospital in Paris, where he was being treated for COVID-19. He was 79.

Evangelos Odysseas Papathanassiou was born in Agria, Greece, in March 1943, and in his youth was a self-taught musician, experimenting by combining pianos with traditional Greek folk music, jazz, and rock. After some early success in Greek pop music circles he co-founded the group Aphrodite’s Child with vocalist Demis Roussos, among others, and together they would enjoy great success in Europe, especially the single “Rain and Tears” in 1968. During this period Vangelis also dabbled in film music, writing music for several domestic films, before eventually making his international film music breakthrough in 1970 with the film Sex Power.

Throughout the 1970s Vangelis continued to have success both as a film composer and a recording artist; he scored popular documentary films such as L’Apocalypse des Animaux, La Fête Sauvage, and Opéra Sauvage, while simultaneously enjoying chart success, notably as one half of ‘Jon & Vangelis’ with Jon Anderson of Yes; their singles “I Hear You Now” and “I’ll Find My Way Home” were chart hits in the UK. His music was also notably used to score the groundbreaking 1980 PBS documentary series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage presented by Carl Sagan, which brought his music to American audiences for the first time. During this period Vangelis developed the iconic sound that would typify much of his career, combining lush and powerful orchestral forces with sometimes very experimental electronica. Read more…

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ALIEN 3 – Elliot Goldenthal

May 19, 2022 1 comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

When I first started writing about film music, in the summer of 1997, I tried to write a review of Alien 3. I had seen the film previously, and liked it a great deal, and I remember being especially impressed with the music in the finale, so I went out and bought Elliot Goldenthal’s soundtrack CD. This was my first experience of his music outside of film context, and my film music knowledge at that point barely extended beyond the big orchestral scores of John Williams and James Horner, and the sweeping romance of John Barry. Hearing Alien 3 for the first time was… well, it was almost indescribable. I had no idea what I was listening to. It felt like angry, vicious, random noise, and I absolutely hated it. I hadn’t yet begun to explore the darker and more atonal side of film music, I had no knowledge of Stravinsky or Penderecki, or of twentieth century avant-garde music in general. In short, I had no clue what Elliot Goldenthal was doing. I didn’t have the vocabulary to understand it. Thankfully, thirty years down the line, I now have had vastly more exposure to and tolerance of this type of aggressive music, and I can now appreciate it for the masterpiece it is. Read more…

Ramadan Scores 2022, Part 1

May 17, 2022 1 comment

Every year, during the holy Islamic month of Ramadan, television stations across the Middle East and North Africa broadcast lavishly-produced, high profile drama and comedy television series. The cream of the Arabic-speaking world is involved in their creation – directors, writers, actors, and composers – and the resulting shows play to audiences of millions across the region. Many of the best series come from Egypt, and this article takes a look at the music from five of the most high profile Egyptian-made Ramadan dramas of 2022, featuring music by composers Khaled Al Kammar, Khaled Hammad, Layal Watfeh, Mohamed Nassef, Ashraf Elziftawi, and Adel Hakki, among others, plus additional scores from shows made in Kuwait and Syria.

I want to publicly thank my friend, the award-winning author and poet Hasan Namir, for his invaluable help here – this article literally would not be possible without him! Read more…

DUMBO – Oliver Wallace and Frank Churchill

May 16, 2022 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

The children’s story of Dumbo, written by Helen Aberson-Mayer in 1939, was presented to studio executive Walt Disney, who was inspired and so tasked screenplay writers Joe Grant and Dick Huemer, to adapt it for the big screen. After suffering loses with Pinocchio and Fantasia in 1940 Disney managed production, but was tight-fisted with company financial resources and so only budgeted $813,000, which as expected expanded ultimately to $950,000. The screenplay was written by Joe Grant, Dick Huemer and Otto Englander, while Supervising Director was assigned to Ben Sharpsteen. The voice cast would consist of Edward Brophy as Timothy Q. Mouse, Verna Felton as the Elephant Matriarch, Cliff Edwards as Dandy Crow, Herman Bing as the Ringmaster, and Sterling Holloway as Mr. Stork. Read more…

OPERATION MINCEMEAT – Thomas Newman

May 13, 2022 2 comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

In 1943, at the height of World War II, two British intelligence officers, Charles Cholmondeley and Ewen Montagu, devised a plan to deceive the Axis powers into thinking that the upcoming allied invasion of Sicily – intended to free the island from German and Italian control – would take place elsewhere in the Mediterranean. To this end they procured the corpse of a recently-deceased man and dressed it up with the fictional identity of a non-existent Royal Marine named Major William Martin. The plan was to drop the body off the coast of Spain where the Mediterranean currents would carry it close to a German base; on the body, the British planted fake ‘top secret documents’ indicating that the Allies were intending to liberate Greece rather than Sicily, and then take the Germans by surprise when the real target was attacked. The plan – codenamed Operation Mincemeat – was a rousing success, the island was liberated, and the whole thing played an enormous part in the eventual toppling of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. This new film from director John Madden examines the whole operation in great detail; it stars Colin Firth as Montagu, Matthew MacFadyen as Cholmondeley, and has an excellent supporting cast including Kelly MacDonald, Penelope Wilton, Jason Isaacs, Johnny Flynn as Ian Fleming, and Simon Russell Beale as Winston Churchill. Read more…

CITY OF JOY – Ennio Morricone

May 12, 2022 1 comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The career of British director Roland Joffé is one of the oddest ones in recent cinema; after cutting his teeth making gritty UK TV dramas he gained international critical acclaim and Oscar recognition in 1984 for his film The Killing Fields, about the brutal Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia in the 1970s, and followed that with what is probably his most famous film, The Mission, in 1986. However, after making several consecutive flops in the late 1980s and 1990s, including things like Fat Man and Little Boy, The Scarlet Letter, and Goodbye Lover, he was eventually reduced to making low-budget ‘torture porn’ horror movies like Captivity, and now hasn’t made a major movie in more than 15 years. Possibly the last good movie Joffé made was this one: City of Joy, from 1992. It stars Patrick Swayze as an American doctor who travels to India in search of ‘spiritual enlightenment’ after a career crisis, and finds himself becoming deeply involved with helping people who live in the slums of Calcutta. The film co-stars Pauline Collins and Om Puri, and was a minor critical success, but is largely forgotten today. Read more…

DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS – Danny Elfman

May 10, 2022 5 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.

Twenty years after having essentially kicked off what is now the Marvel Cinematic Universe with the original Tobey Maguire Spider-Man (yes, it’s MCU canon now), director Sam Raimi has come full circle with the 28th entry in this never-ending series of films: Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. It’s a visually mind-boggling, conceptually brain-melting, completely bonkers super-hero fantasy action extravaganza, and is the second film to focus on Dr Stephen Strange, the former brilliant neurosurgeon who, following the events of the first film, has become a master of magical and mystic arts, and an ally to super-heroes across multiple subsequent Avengers and Spider-Man films. Multiverse of Madness is essentially a sequel to both the original Doctor Strange AND Spider-Man: No Way Home, but is also critically linked with the TV series WandaVision, to such an extent that anyone with little to no familiarity with any of these predecessors will have no idea what’s going on. Read more…

DANGEROUS MOONLIGHT – Richard Addinsell

May 9, 2022 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

In 1940 Great Britain was in the midst of WWII’s Blitz and the British production unit of RKO Radio Pictures conceived of a story of a classical concert pianist who joins the war effort to become a fighter pilot. Financial backing was secured, William Sistrom was assigned production, and Terrence Young (who would later go on to direct the James Bond films Dr. No, From Russia with Love, and Thunderball) was hired to write an original screenplay, with contributions by Rodney Ackland and Brian Desmond Hurst. Hurst also was tasked with directing and assembled a cast which included Anton Walbrook as Stefan Radetzky, Sally Gray as Carole Peters Radecka, John Laurie as a British Commander. Guy Middleton as Shorty, Cecil Parker as Specialist, and Derrick De Marney as Mike Carroll. Read more…

MOON KNIGHT – Hesham Nazih

May 6, 2022 2 comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The latest super-hero to join the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Moon Knight, is also the first one to be introduced via a Disney+ television series. Whereas this show’s small screen predecessors – WandaVision, Loki, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Hawkeye – all had their roots and main characters in the big screen film franchise, Moon Knight is a brand new story featuring original characters, who are intended to move into the main MCU as the films progress. The show is a wonderful combination of action, drama, comedy, and fantasy, which stars Oscar Isaac as Steven Grant, a mild-mannered docent at the British Museum in London, whose life is turned upside-down when he realizes that he has a form of dissociative identity disorder, and actually shares his body with an American former mercenary named Marc Spector; even more amazingly, Marc is also the earthly avatar of the ancient Egyptian god Khonshu, and has the power to transform into the super hero Moon Knight in order to do Khonshu’s bidding. Before long, Steven/Marc are swept up in a grand adventure involving a religious cult leader who wants to purge the world of sinners, and a search for a mysterious artifact deep within the pyramids of Giza, while also conducting a deep exploration of the emotional trauma and latent mental illness that defines Marc and Steven’s relationship. Read more…