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THREE THOUSAND YEARS OF LONGING – Tom Holkenborg

August 31, 2022 1 comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Three Thousand Years of Longing is a new romantic fantasy film from Mad Max director George Miller, based on the 1994 short story The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye by English novelist A. S Byatt. The film stars Tilda Swinton as Alithia, a British professor, who travels to Istanbul for a conference and inadvertently frees a genie from his captivity; the genie – played by Idris Elba – offers Alithia the traditional three wishes in exchange for his freedom, but this proves problematic because, as Alithia’s academic specialty is mythology, she knows all about the cautionary tales of ‘wishes gone wrong’. The djinn pleads his case by telling her fantastical stories of his past – dating all the way back to King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba – and eventually wins Alithia over, with surprising results. The film is an impressive visual masterpiece full of sweeping vistas, elaborate sets, and romantic tenderness, which stands at odds with Miller’s gritty and uncompromising work on his most famous films. Read more…

DRAGONWYCK – Alfred Newman

August 29, 2022 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Renowned 20th Century Fox Studio executive Darryl F. Zanuck, who was always looking for a new story to film, came upon an 19th century period piece novel Dragonwyck, written by Anya Seton in 1944. He believed that its film noir tale of mystery and romance could be adapted to the big screen. He purchased the film rights and would personally oversee production with a $1.9 million budget. Joseph L. Mankiewicz was tasked with directing the film, and would also write the screenplay. In assembling the cast, Vincent Price won the lead role of Nicholas van Ryn when Gregory Peck withdrew after the original director Ernst Lubitsch was replaced by Mankiewicz due to illness. Joining Price would be Gene Tierney as Miranda Wells, Walter Huston as Ephraim Wells, Glenn Langan as Dr. Jeff Turner, Anne Revere as Abigail Wells, Spring Byington as Magda, Harry Morgan as Bleecker and Jessica Tandy as Peggy. Read more…

THE CRYING GAME – Anne Dudley

August 25, 2022 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

One of the most critically successful and controversial films of 1992 was The Crying Game, a political thriller from Irish writer-director Neil Jordan. The first half of the story explores the relationship between Fergus, a member of the IRA Irish Republican Army, and Jody, a British soldier, who is kidnapped and held for ransom, and will be murdered unless an IRA prisoner is released. Fergus and Jody unexpectedly bond during his captivity, and when it becomes apparent that Jody is to be killed, he makes Fergus promise to look after his girlfriend, Dil, who lives in London. The second half of the story then follows Fergus in London, who tracks down Dil, and forms a bond which quickly becomes romantic; however, Dil has a shocking secret, the revelation of which was one of the most-talked about cinematic moments of the year, and the fallout of this revelation – as well as Fergus’s IRA past coming back to haunt him – has terrible consequences for all. The film stars Stephen Rea, Forest Whitaker, and Miranda Richardson, and marked the screen debut of Jaye Davidson as Dil, who earned an Oscar nomination in a breakout role. Read more…

BEAVIS AND BUTT-HEAD DO THE UNIVERSE – John Frizzell

August 23, 2022 1 comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

It’s scarcely believable now, but back in 1993 one of the most popular, influential, and controversial shows on TV was Beavis and Butt-Head. It’s a simple idea – two animated idiot teenagers watch a series of rock videos on MTV while snickering and making dumb dick and fart jokes – but it was incredibly successful. Creator Mike Judge was essentially satirizing his own target audience, and went on to have more success doing the same thing with shows like King of the Hill and movies like Office Space and Idiocracy. In 1996 Beavis and Butt-Head was spun off into a movie, Beavis and Butt-Head Do America, which saw the titular doofuses get into all kinds of escapades while on a cross-country road trip, and was surprisingly good; now, almost 25 years later, we have a second film, Beavis and Butt-Head Do the Universe, in which the pair are transported from 1998 to 2022, encounter parallel-universe versions of themselves in outer space, and are hunted by the US government. Read more…

LOVE LETTERS – Victor Young

August 22, 2022 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

The genesis of the film arose when renown author Ayn Rand decided to adapt the novel “Pity My Simplicity” by Christopher Massie into a screenplay. Hal Wallis was sold on the story, felt it would translate well to the big screen, and decided to personally take on the project. He would use his own production company in partnership with Paramount Pictures to finance production, and tasked William Dieterle to direct. A fine cast was assembled including Jennifer Jones as Singleton/Victoria Morland, Joseph Cotton as Alan Quinton, Anne Richards as Dilly Carson, Cecil Kellaway as Mac, Gladys Cooper as Beatrice Remington and Anita Louise as Helen Wentworth. Read more…

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

August 19, 2022 Leave a 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 second 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 period western from Australia, a mid-budget horror film exploring the darker side of Mexican spiritual culture, a real-life drama about a baseball player, and two wonderful nature documentaries – one looking at life on the African savannah, and one looking at life deep below the seas. Read more…

THE LOVER [L’AMANT] – Gabriel Yared

August 18, 2022 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The Lover, or L’Amant in its native language, is a French romantic drama film directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud, adapted from the semi-autobiographical 1984 novel of the same name by Marguerite Duras. The film explores the illicit affair between an unnamed teenage French girl and an unnamed wealthy Chinese man in French Indochina in 1929; the teenage girl is played by actress Jane March, while her lover is played by Hong Kong cinema legend Tony Leung. The film also features the legendary Jeanne Moreau as a narrator, intended to be author Duras looking back at her own adolescence. While certainly scandalous in its sympathetic portrayal of under-age love and explicit sex – many critics drew parallels between it and the story of Lolita – the film was a domestic commercial and critical success, going on to be nominated for seven César Awards in France, as well as being nominated for an Oscar for Robert Fraisse’s lush cinematography, which portrays colonial Saigon in gorgeous, romantic hues. Read more…

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 1 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…