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Under-the-Radar Round Up 2022 – English Language Indies

August 16, 2022 1 comment

My recurring under-the-radar series usually concentrates on the best scores for non-English language films in a given year, but doing so means that I sometimes overlook music written for British and American films that are similarly low-profile, but also have outstanding scores. To rectify that, here is the first of two new review articles looking at five such scores from the first half of 2022, written for independent English-language features that you might have otherwise overlooked. The scores are from a beautiful animated film about a German painter, a comedy horror film about a cursed board game, a modern day Indiana Jones variant, a powerful period drama set in the Scottish highlands, and a shark-infested horror thriller from Australia! Read more…

THE ENCHANTED COTTAGE – Roy Webb

August 15, 2022 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

RKO Studio producer Harriet Parsons came across a poignant love story based on Arthur Wing Pinero’s play “The Enchanted Cottage” (1921). It had been previously performed on stage in 1922, and had a silent film adaptation in 1924. Parsons believed that she could deliver an updated version of the tale that would play well to modern audiences. Studio executives gave the project the green light to proceed, but took the film away from Parsons, instead tasking Dudley Nichols. A diatribe by renowned newspaper columnist Hedda Hopper charging sexual bias caused the company to blink and reverse its decision. As such Parsons was again assigned production, and wrote an outline of the story she wanted. Herman J. Mankiewicz and DeWitt Bodeen were hired to write the screen play, and John Cromwell was tasked with directing. For the cast included Dorothy McGuire as Laura Pennington, Robert Young as Oliver Bradford, Herbert Marshall as Major John Hillgrove and story narrator, and Mildred Natwick as Mrs. Minnett. Read more…

PREY – Sarah Schachner

August 12, 2022 1 comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The 1987 film Predator was one of the masterpieces of that decade’s action oeuvre, a superbly entertaining sci-fi blockbuster that further solidified Arnold Schwarzenegger’s leading man status, while also satirizing and deconstructing the über-macho hero archetype that typified the genre at that time. It also kick-started the Predator franchise, which has since grown to encompass three sequels, and two Alien vs Predator crossovers featuring another set of classic 80s movie monsters. The central recurring element in these movies are the predators themselves, who over the course of the franchise have come to be known as a race of sentient and technologically advanced aliens who, as part of their culture’s rites of passage, periodically come to Earth to hunt humans for sport. This brings us to the centerpiece of the latest film in the franchise, Prey, which takes this idea but shifts it totally on its head by having the predators visit Earth in the 1700s, where they choose a tribe of Comanche Native Americans as their quarry. The hero of the story is Naru, played by Amber Midthunder, who recognizes the alien threat and uses her survival skills to protect her tribe, not only from the predator, but also from a gang of ruthless French fur traders in the area. The film is directed by Dan Trachtenberg from a screenplay by Patrick Aison, and co-stars Dakota Beavers, Michelle Thrush, and Dane DiLiegro. Read more…

CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS: THE DISCOVERY – Cliff Eidelman

August 11, 2022 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The year 1992 marked the 500th anniversary of the voyage of explorer Christopher Columbus, who set sail across the Atlantic Ocean from Spain, and on October 7th 1492 became the ‘first European’ to ‘discover’ the Americas. Hollywood was quick to acknowledge this event, and one of the films that was commissioned was this one: Christopher Columbus: The Discovery, which was directed by John Glen, and starred Georges Corraface as Columbus, alongside Marlon Brando, Tom Selleck, Rachel Ward, and a then 20-year old and undiscovered Catherine Zeta-Jones. The film is, of course, a complete hagiography, celebrating Columbus’s life and achievements while overlooking the fact that in reality Columbus was a terrible, vicious, murderous idiot who was directly and indirectly responsible for the deaths of millions of natives, never actually set foot on the American mainland, never once realized that he wasn’t in India instead of the Bahamas, and anyway had likely been beaten across the Atlantic by Leif Eriksson and the Vikings, who had established settlements in what is now Newfoundland 500 years previously. But that’s all by the by. Read more…

THIRTEEN LIVES – Benjamin Wallfisch

August 9, 2022 3 comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

On June 23rd, 2018, a group of 12 boys and their coach left a soccer game and went off to have fun exploring the Tham Luang Nang Non cave complex in Chiang Rai Province in northern Thailand. It wasn’t an especially unusual thing to do – the caves are a local tourist attraction, and the boys had been there many times before -but on this day everything went wrong. A sudden, completely unexpected deluge of torrential rain flooded the complex, trapping the boys more than two kilometers from the cave entrance, and it was many hours before anyone noticed they were missing. However, before long, a dangerous rescue attempt was mounted, and this quickly became a massive international news event. The story of the boys’ heroic rescue has already inspired several documentaries and films, including the critically acclaimed NatGeo documentary The Rescue, but this new film Thirteen Lives is likely to be the definitive narrative version of the story for western audiences. It is directed by Ron Howard, and stars Viggo Mortensen, Colin Farrell, Joel Edgerton, and Tom Bateman as the leaders of the team of cave divers who ultimately discovered and rescued the boys, alongside a cast of prominent actors from Thai cinema. Read more…

THE THIEF OF BAGDAD – Mortimer Wilson

August 8, 2022 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

In 1922 actor Douglas Fairbanks decided to move beyond his usual comedic films to take on the heroic role of Robin Hood. He enjoyed the role and was rewarded as the film ended up being a stunning commercial and critical success. Now emboldened, he decided to take on another swashbuckler hero based on the iconic epic ancient tale “The Thief of Bagdad”. This was a passion project and he used his own production company, Douglas Fairbanks Pictures, to finance production. He took personal charge of production, allocated an unprecedented $1.136 million budget, and also wrote the story on which the screenplay was based. Raoul Walsh was tasked with directing, and Achmed Abdullah and Lotta Woods were hired to write the screenplay. Fairbanks would star in the lead role as Ahmed, The Thief of Bagdad supported by Snitz Edwards as His Evil Associate, Charles Belcher as Iman The Holy Man and film narrator, Julianne Johnson as The Princess, Sojin Kamiyama as Cham Shang, and Anna May Wong as The Mongol Slave. Read more…

WHISPERS IN THE DARK – Thomas Newman

August 4, 2022 2 comments

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The summer of 1992 marked perhaps the peak of the ‘erotic thriller’ sub-genre. The darker and more dangerous elements of human sexuality had always been prime fodder for movie writers and directors, but they had always been seen by critics as a little tawdry, a little downmarket, for mainstream audiences. Things began to change in the wake of commercial successes like Body Heat in 1982, Jagged Edge in 1985, and Fatal Attraction in 1987 – all of which starred acclaimed and respected actors ranging from William Hurt and Jeff Bridges to Michael Douglas and Glenn Close – to the extent that by the early 1990s Hollywood was making a good half dozen of them each year. Basic Instinct was the most successful of 1992’s efforts, but another one worth a look is Whispers in the Dark, starring Annabella Sciorra, Jamey Sheridan, Alan Alda, John Leguizamo, Deborah Unger, and Anthony LaPaglia. Read more…

PAWS OF FURY: THE LEGEND OF HANK – Bear McCreary

August 2, 2022 1 comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

At first glance, Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank looks like one of those tired animated films that come out seemingly weekly to keep the kids entertained for 90 minutes during those dog days of summer, but a deeper look reveals a few interesting things. First of all, the film is an animated remake of the classic 1974 Mel Brooks comedy Blazing Saddles, albeit transposed to a fantasy world of samurai cats and dogs, which is an unexpectedly brilliant idea in and of itself. Second, the film is co-directed by master animator Rob Minkoff, one of the men behind such classics as The Lion King. Third, it has an astonishing voice cast, including Michael Cera, Samuel L. Jackson, Ricky Gervais, George Takei, Djimon Hounsou, Michelle Yeoh, and Mel Brooks himself essentially reprising his role as Governor Le Petomane from Blazing Saddles. Fourth – and most importantly from my point of view – it has a score by Bear McCreary. Read more…

OBJECTIVE BURMA – Franz Waxman

August 1, 2022 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Warner Brothers Studios producer Jerry Wald wanted to make a WWII film, but one which was set in another theater of the war far remote from the Pacific where most of the battles were being waged. With that in mind, he came up with a story set in Burma near the Chinese border. He pitched his idea to studio executives and was given the green light to proceed with production empowered with a $1.592 million budget. Ranald MacDougall and Lester Cole were hired to write an original screenplay, and Raoul Walsh was tasked with directing. Wald had always envisioned the film as a vehicle for MGM’s star Errol Flynn, who after some coaxing signed on to play Captain Nelson. Joining him would be James Brown as Sergeant Treacy, Henry Hull as Mark Williams, William Hudson as Hollis, Anthony Caruso as Miggleori, and William Prince as Lieutenant Sid Jacobs. Read more…