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Archive for July, 2022

THE RAILWAY CHILDREN RETURN – Edward Farmer and Martin Phipps

July 29, 2022 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

For British children of a certain generation – specifically mine, those born in the mid-1970s – The Railway Children was a seminal film. Based on the Edwardian-era book by Edith Nesbit, it was one of those typically genteel, wholesome, overwhelmingly English adventures, in the same vein as Swallows & Amazons, or Enid Blyton’s Famous Five stories. It evokes a nostalgic, perhaps rose-tinted, view of a time gone by, where children enjoyed warm summer days exploring the gently rolling green and pleasant countryside, and became involved in grand adventures that they solved with a combination of ingenuity and pluck, helped by an inherent sense of right and wrong and fair play. The film – which was, essentially, a story about a group of children helping to clear the name of their father, who had been accused of espionage – has since become an iconic piece of British cinematic heritage. It has taken almost 50 years for there to be a sequel, but it has now arrived in the shape of The Railway Children Return. Read more…

UNFORGIVEN – Lennie Niehaus and Clint Eastwood

July 28, 2022 1 comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

For almost the entire 1980s, and for the first couple of years of the 1990s, the western genre was considered passé, a relic of a different era in Hollywood. Long gone were the days when cowboy movies ruled the box office, so much so that, with the rare exception of one-offs like Silverado and Dances With Wolves, there hadn’t been a major western box office success since The Outlaw Josey Wales in 1976. It’s perhaps fitting that Clint Eastwood, the star of Josey Wales and one of the greatest western stars in history, would be the one to re-invigorate the genre 15 years later, with his Oscar-winning classic Unforgiven. The film was adapted from a screenplay by David Webb Peoples and is a revisionist take on a classic tale wherein an ageing gunslinger is forced to come out of retirement and take on one last job to collect a bounty. Eastwood plays the retired killer, Will Munny, who travels from Kansas to Wyoming with his old friend Ned (Morgan Freeman) and a brash upstart called The Schofield Kid (Jaimz Woolvett), and eventually crosses paths with another bounty hunter, English Bob (Richard Harris), and the ruthless local sheriff, Little Bill Daggett (Gene Hackman). Read more…

NOPE – Michael Abels

July 26, 2022 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The third film from writer-director Jordan Peele after Get Out and Us, Nope is an ambitious sci-fi horror saga, and a throwback to the creature-feature adventure movies of the 1980s. The film stars Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer as brother and sister OJ and Emerald Haywood, who own and train horses for the Hollywood film industry, and are based in an isolated ranch in the mountains of southern California. One day OJ witnesses a terrifying vision in the skies over his property that questions his understanding of reality, and before long he and his family are engaged in a desperate battle of survival against a force that only they, with their history of animal training, may be uniquely equipped to understand. It’s a clever film – funny, scary, exciting, visually compelling – but it’s also much more straightforward than Peele’s other works, aiming more to be a popcorn-munching good time at the movies than an exploration of any deeper underlying social issues. The film co-stars Steven Yeun as the owner of a nearby wild-west themed carnival park, Brandon Perea as a local Fry’s Electronics tech, and the gravel-voiced Michael Wincott as a famous cinematographer who helps them document the phenomenon. Read more…

MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS – Roger Edens, Georgie Stoll, Conrad Salinger

July 25, 2022 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Author Sally Benson wrote a series of popular short stories in the New Yorker Magazine under the title “5135 Kensington,” which were based on her own real-life experience. She later expanded into a novel titled Meet Me In St. Louis, which was published in 1942. MGM believed the family novel would translate well to the big screen and so purchased the film rights. Arthur Freed was assigned production with a $1.885 million budget, Irving Brecher and Fred F. Finklehoff were hired to write the screenplay, and Vincent Minnelli was given the reins to direct. A fine cast was assembled, including Judy Garland as Esther Smith, Margaret O’Brien as “Tootie” Smith, Mary Astor as Mrs. Anna Smith, Leon Ames as Mr. Alonzo Smith, Lucille Bremer as Rose Smith, Tom Drake as John Truitt, and Marjorie Main as Katie. Read more…

DEATH BECOMES HER – Alan Silvestri

July 21, 2022 1 comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Although it may not seem like it today, Death Becomes Her was once considered one of the most groundbreaking visual effects films in the history of cinema. Directed by Robert Zemeckis from a screenplay by David Koepp and Martin Donovan, it’s ostensibly a satire of Hollywood’s obsession with youth and glamour. Meryl Streep stars as Madeline Ashton, a narcissistic actress, who conspires to seduce and marry wealthy plastic surgeon Ernest Menville (Bruce Willis), the fiancé of her rival Helen Sharp (Goldie Hawn). Years later, and with her career, her marriage, and her looks in ruins, Madeline is shocked to discover that Helen has retained her youthful appearance, and jealously resolves to discover her secret. Eventually, Madeline encounters Countess Lisle Von Rhuman (Isabella Rossellini), a mysterious and wealthy socialite who specializes in rejuvenation; Lisle gives Madeline a magic potion that promises eternal youth – but before long the more negative side effects of immortality begin to emerge. Read more…

WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING – Mychael Danna

July 19, 2022 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Where the Crawdads Sing is one of the most successful and popular novels of the last five years. Written by Delia Owens and set in the marshes of North Carolina in the 1950s, it tells the story of Kya, who grows up in the backwoods in isolation following the death of her parents, and is shunned by the local community for being illiterate and unkempt; only the son of a local pastor, Tate, shows her kindness, and helps teach her to read. However, several years later, Kya’s world is turned upside down when she is arrested as the prime suspect in the murder of Chase, the high school quarterback with whom she had been in a loose relationship, and must again face the prejudices of the locals in order to clear her name. This new film based on the book is directed by Olivia Newman and stars Daisy Edgar-Jones as Kya, with support from Taylor John Smith, Harris Dickinson, and David Strathairn. Read more…

WILSON – Alfred Newman

July 18, 2022 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

20th Century Fox Studio Director Darryl F. Zanuck had long been an admirer of President Woodrow Wilson and for many years resolved to bring a biopic homage of his hero to the big screen. The film became a passion project, if not obsession, which led him to micromanage all aspects of its production. When finished it resulted in the greatest budget expenditure in the studio’s history, nearly $5 million. He personally took charge of production, hired Lamar Trotti to write the screenplay, and tasked Henry King to direct. He brought in an exceptional cast, which included, Alexander Knox as Woodrow Wilson, Charles Colburn as Professor Henry Holmes, Geraldine Fitzgerald as Edith Wilson, Thomas Mitchell as Joseph Tumulty, Ruth Nelson as Ellen Wilson, Cedric Hardwicke as Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, Vincent Price as William G. McAdoo, William Eythe as George Felton, and Mary Anderson as Eleanor Wilson. Read more…

THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER – Michael Giacchino and Nami Melumad

July 15, 2022 1 comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

It’s interesting to see how the Marvel super-hero character Thor has changed over the years. When he first appeared in the titular Thor film in 2011 he was a mostly serious character, albeit with a ‘fish out of water’ quality that allowed actor Chris Hemsworth to engage in some light comedy; however, over the course of the subsequent Thor sequels, as well as his appearances in other Avengers-related films, he now has essentially become a parody of himself, a six foot man child with more muscles than brain cells. This has become especially apparent since Kiwi director Taika Waititi took over the franchise; the humor in the third Thor film, Ragnarok, was bordering on the sophomoric, and now in this fourth film Thor: Love and Thunder, the whole thing has hit an all-time low. The plot of this film involves Thor and his compatriots going up against Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale, who appears to have come in from a much scarier and more serious movie), an interstellar being with a crusade to kill all gods; the twist comes by way of the fact that one of Thor’s compatriots on the adventure is his former girlfriend Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), who has gained super-hero powers and become ‘the Mighty Thor’ by wielding the reconstructed remnants of Thor’s hammer Mjolnir. The film co-stars Tessa Thompson, Waititi himself, and Russell Crowe as Zeus, while also featuring cameos from Chris Pratt, Dave Bautista, Karen Gillan, and other members of the Guardians of the Galaxy. Read more…

PRELUDE TO A KISS – Howard Shore

July 14, 2022 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

A long-forgotten project for then A-list stars Alec Baldwin and Meg Ryan, Prelude to a Kiss is a romantic comedy drama directed by the late Norman René, adapted from the acclaimed stage play by Craig Lucas. It’s essentially a more serious and thoughtful variation on the ‘body swap comedy’ genre, and sees Baldwin and Ryan playing about-to-be-married couple Peter and Rita. On their wedding day, Rita is approached by an elderly man named Julius, who requests a kiss with the bride; she obliges, but then she and the Julius magically switch places – his consciousness in her body, and vice versa. Before anyone else realizes what has happened Peter and ‘Rita’ jet off for their honeymoon, leaving the real Rita confused and disoriented in the Julius’s frail body. Eventually, Peter realizes what has happened, and brings Rita and Julius together in an effort to restore their souls to their correct places. What transpires thereafter touches on issues ranging from the nature of love, to living with regrets, and the inevitability of mortality, while also offering some thinly-veiled and (at the time) prescient commentary on the 1980s AIDS epidemic. Read more…

MR. MALCOLM’S LIST – Amelia Warner

July 12, 2022 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Mr. Malcolm’s List is a new British period comedy-drama directed by Emma Holly Jones and written by Suzanne Allain, based on her novel of the same name. It stars Freida Pinto, Sope Dirisu, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Ashley Park, Zawe Ashton, and Theo James. It’s one of those typically genteel ‘comedy of manners’ stories, and in this instance follows a young woman in 1800s England named Selina Dalton (Pinto), who agrees to help her friend Julia Thistlewaite (Ashton) get revenge on a suitor – the titular Mr. Jeremiah Malcolm (Dirisu), London’s most eligible bachelor – who rejected her for failing a ‘requirement’ on his list of qualifications for a potential bride. The revenge comes by way of a long con, wherein Selina pretends to be his perfect woman… but then Selina begins to fall for Malcolm for real, leading her to wonder whether she should continue with the hoax. The story is all very much in the broadest Jane Austen tradition, with perhaps a little bit of influence from the more contemporary Bridgerton TV series, and has been a reasonable box office success on both sides of the Atlantic. Read more…

THE ADVENTURES OF MARK TWAIN – Max Steiner

July 11, 2022 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

In 1941 Warner Brothers Studios decided that they wanted to bring to the big screen a biopic film, which explored the life of one of America’s most beloved writers, Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain. The project was forced to reckon with Twain’s daughter Clara Clemens Gabrilowitsch, who was fiercely protective of her father’s legacy. Research into Twain’s life was meticulous and screenwriters Alan Le May and Harold M. Sherman eventually wrote a screenplay, which satisfied all stakeholders. Jesse L. Lasky was placed in charge of production with $1.623 million provided for the budget. Irving Rapper was tasked with directing, and an exceptional cast was assembled, including Fredric March in the titular role, Alexis Smith as Olivia Langdon Clemens, Donald Crisp as J.B. Pond, and Alan Hale as Steve Gillis. Read more…

HONEY, I BLEW UP THE KID – Bruce Broughton

July 7, 2022 1 comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Honey, I Blew Up the Kid is the first sequel to the smash hit 1989 comedy Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. Directed by Randal Kleiser and written by Garry Goodrow, Thom Eberhardt, and Peter Elbling, it finds the Szalinski family moved to Nevada where inventor dad Wayne has a new job at a hi-tech company, Sterling Labs, with his wife, two teenage children, and their new baby Adam. One day Wayne takes his kids to his office to see the prototype of his new invention – a derivative of the shrink ray that caused so much havoc in the first film, but which enlarges objects rather than making them smaller. Wayne tests the ray on Adam’s stuffed bunny, but then accidentally zaps Adam too, who immediately starts to grow to enormous proportions. The film again stars Rick Moranis, Marcia Strassman, Amy O’Neill, and Robert Oliveri, plus franchise newcomers Lloyd Bridges, John Shea, and Keri Russell in her screen debut. It’s a fun, visually impressive family comedy, but was nowhere near as much of a hit as its predecessor, and more or less ended the franchise as a viable money-maker. Read more…

Under-the-Radar Round Up 2022, Part 2B

July 5, 2022 Leave a comment

Life has returned to world cinema in 2022 following the easing of the COVID-19 global pandemic, and at the end of the second quarter of the year I’m absolutely delighted to present the latest installment in my on-going series of articles looking at the best under-the-radar scores from around the world. This article covers five more scores for projects from all over the globe, and includes a French drama, two Japanese animated action films, a German adventure set in the world of horse training, and a ballet-themed drama from Spain! Read more…

STORMY WEATHER – Cyril J. Mockridge and Alfred Newman

July 4, 2022 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

In 1942 Wendell Wilkie, the 1940 Republican candidate for president visited 20th Century Fox Studio executives as an advocate for the Black Movement. He successfully obtained a commitment from the studio to “Regard the Negro as an integral part of American Life”. The studio affirmed that commitment in 1943 with the production of its first musical with an all-Black cast. It purchased the story’s film rights from authors Jerry Horwin and Seymour B Robinson, hired H.S. Kraft to write the screenplay, William LeBaron was assigned production, and Andrew L. Stone was tasked with directing. For the cast, Lena Horne would star as Salina Rogers and Bill ‘Bojangles’ Robinson as Bill Williamson, as well as Cab Calloway and his Cotton Club Orchestra, Fats Waller, The Nichols Brothers, Ada Brown, Dooley Wilson, and Katherine Dunham as themselves. Read more…

OBI-WAN KENOBI – Natalie Holt, William Ross, John Williams

July 1, 2022 2 comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The expansion of the Star Wars universe into live action episodic television began in 2019 with The Mandalorian – which introduced the world to the now ubiquitous ‘baby Yoda’ character – and continued in late 2021 with The Book of Boba Fett, a spin-off series focusing on the bounty hunter character originally introduced in The Empire Strikes Back in 1980. This third standalone series, Obi-Wan Kenobi, follows the adventures of the titular character in the chronological period between the events of Revenge of the Sith and the original Star Wars, after the fall of the Jedi and the rise of the Galactic Empire, when he is in exile on the planet Tatooine watching over young Luke Skywalker, the son of his former apprentice Anakin, now Darth Vader. The plot kicks into high gear when Kenobi is contacted by Bail Organa, the adoptive father of Luke’s sister Leia, after she is kidnapped by sinister forces related to the Inquisitors, Jedi hunters working for Vader. Read more…