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Archive for September, 2022

PEARL – Tyler Bates and Timothy Williams

September 30, 2022 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Earlier in 2022 a mid-budget horror movie called X, directed by Ti West, became something of a cult sleeper hit. The story was set in the 1970s and follows a group of actors who drive to rural Texas to make a Deep Throat-style adult film, and end up meeting a terrible fate at the hands of the elderly couple whose home they use for filming. The movie had a cast of reasonably major actors – Jenna Ortega, Martin Henderson, Brittany Snow, Kid Cudi – but the breakout star was undoubtedly Mia Goth, who got rave reviews for playing both not only the aspiring pornographic actress Maxine Minx, but also Pearl, the elderly woman whose outwardly frail demeanor hides a truly horrific core. This new movie is a prequel to X, and was shot simultaneously with the first film; it again stars Goth, this time as the younger version of Pearl, and looks at her early life, and the circumstances which led to her… problems. Read more…

CANDYMAN – Philip Glass

September 29, 2022 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Of the best and most interesting horror films of the 1990s was Candyman, directed by Bernard Rose, and based on the short story The Forbidden by Clive Barker. It’s a story that takes issues of racism, illicit love, poverty, societal decay, and the prevalence of urban legends, and grafts them on to a horrific framing story involving Helen Lyle, a philosophy student at the University of Chicago. Helen’s research leads her to Cabrini Green, a run down housing project in one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods, which is plagued by stories about the ‘candyman,’ a vengeful spirit who kills anyone who says his name five times in front of a mirror. As Helen becomes more and more obsessed with the Candyman legend, and she learns about the terrible true story that gave birth to the myth, the people around her begin to be killed in increasingly gruesome ways, and the police begin to believe that Helen is the culprit. The film starred Virginia Madsen, Xander Berkeley, Kasi Lemmons, and Tony Todd in a career-defining role as the bee-covered honey-smeared nightmare demon, and has since gone on to become a cult classic, with commentators calling it “haunting, intelligent and poetic,” “atmospheric and visually stimulating,” and “the finest Barker adaptation ever committed to film.” Read more…

DON’T WORRY DARLING – John Powell

September 27, 2022 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Don’t Worry Darling is a film that’s almost impossible to categorize. It’s one part domestic drama, one part paranoia mystery, and one part sci-fi/fantasy thriller, all wrapped up in a spectacular bow of 1950s kitsch, googie architecture, sharp suits, and A-line skirts. The film stars Florence Pugh as Alice, a young woman who lives an idyllic life in a planned desert community with her husband Jack (Harry Styles). Jack works for the Victory Project and its enigmatic owner Frank (Chris Pine), and disappears every day to his top-secret job, leaving Alice to a life of domestic bliss alongside her neighbors, one of whom is her best friend Bunny (Olivia Wilde). The women are discouraged from asking questions about their husbands’ work, and are told not to venture out to Company Headquarters due to the “dangerous materials” the company works with, and for a while Alice’s life is perfect – but soon a series of peculiar happenings begin to convince Alice that her glamorous life is not the utopia she thinks it is. To reveal more about the plot would remove some of the film’s power – suffice to say that the story goes in some fascinating, unexpected directions. The film is the sophomore effort of director Olivia Wilde after her 2019 debut Booksmart, and was written by Katie Silberman with Carey Van Dyke, and Shane Van Dyke, the grandchildren of the legendary Dick. Read more…

BLACK NARCISSUS – Brian Easdale

September 26, 2022 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

In 1946 director Michael Powell became aware of the 1939 novel Black Narcissus by Rumer Godden and decided that he wanted to bring its tale to the big screen. He purchased the film rights and secured financial backing from the British company General Film Distributors and a budget of $1.2 million. He and Emeric Powell would oversee production, co-direct, and write the screenplay. The film ended up creating controversy in the American Market with the National Legion of Decency, coercing several film edits deemed as “affront to religion and religious life”. Casting also caused controversy as once again white actors were cast in a number of roles for Indian characters. Deborah Kerr would star as Sister Clodagh, David Farrar as Mr. Dean, Kathleen Byron as Sister Ruth, Flora Robson as Sister Philippa, Jean Simmons as Kanchi, and Sabu as the young General Dilip Rai. Read more…

OF MICE AND MEN – Mark Isham

September 22, 2022 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

John Steinbeck’s 1937 novel Of Mice and Men is a classic of 20th century American literature, a searing and poignant look at the plight of American farm workers during the Great Depression – which was still ongoing when the novel was originally published. Specifically, it follows the lives of Lenny and George, two California farm hands who move from town to town looking for work to escape from their crippling poverty, and who dream of earning enough money to buy their own plot of land. George is physically small but quick-witted and intelligent, while Lenny is a mentally disabled gentle giant who is kind but does not know his own strength; this latter aspect of Lenny’s character is a constant hazard, as he often accidentally kills small animals while trying to pet them. Eventually Lenny and George find work on a farm owned by the aggressive and confrontational Curley; as events unfold, their relationship eventually leads to tragedy – the ultimate example of Robert Burns’s famous quote about how ‘the best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry’’. Read more…

THE WOMAN KING – Terence Blanchard

September 21, 2022 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

In the 1800s in the Kingdom of Dahomey – which is now part of the current Republic of Benin – there was an all-female military regiment called the Agojie, whose fierceness and prowess in battle was so well-known, even in Europe, that they were nicknamed ‘the Dahomey Amazons,’ a reference to the stories of the female warriors from Greek mythology. This new film, The Woman King, takes this real life history and tells a new story through the eyes of two fictional characters: Nanisca (Viola Davis), a veteran commander in the Agojie, and Nawi (Thuso Mbedu), an orphan girl newly recruited to the group. The story touches on several real historical and political issues – the revolutionary reign of King Ghezo, Dahomey’s clashes with the rival Oyo Empire, and its involvement in the Atlantic slave trade – while also presenting a rip-roaring action adventure full of female warriors, enormous battle sequences, and powerful depictions of tribal culture. The film co-stars Lashana Lynch, Sheila Atim, and John Boyega, and was directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood, based on a screenplay by Dana Stevens and Maria Bello. Read more…

IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE – Dimitri Tiomkin

September 19, 2022 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Philip Van Doren Stern was an aspiring writer trying to get his first novel, “The Greatest Gift,” published. It was rejected by major publishers and so in frustration he printed a twenty-four-page pamphlet in 1943 and mailed it to two hundred family and friends. RKO Pictures producer David Hempstead and Cary Grant’s agent both came to the conclusion that this story offered opportunity and so RKO Pictures purchased the film rights for $10,000. RKO Pictures also had a nine-film distribution contract with director Frank Capra’s production company Liberty Films and showed him the pamphlet, which captured his attention. They worked out a deal and sold Capra the film rights for $10,000 along with three other scripts. Capra moved forward with production with a budget of $3.7 million and would also direct the film. He also collaborated with Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett to fashion a screenplay. James Stewart was cast in the lead role of George Bailey, and joining him would be Donna Reed as Mary Hatch, Lionel Barrymore as Mr. Potter, Thomas Mitchell as Uncle Billy, Henry Tavers as Clarence, Beulah Bondi as Mrs. Bailey, Ward Bond as Bert, Frank Faylen as Ernie, and Gloria Grahame Violet Black. Read more…

PINOCCHIO – Alan Silvestri

September 16, 2022 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Continuing on with their never-ending quest to make live action versions of every film in their back catalogue, Walt Disney’s latest such movie is Pinocchio, the classic tale of a little wooden puppet who wants to grow up to be a real boy. It feels like there is a new version of Pinocchio every couple of years: Roberto Benigni has made at least two, and a different animated one directed by Guillermo Del Toro is due out later in the year, although that one is a significant departure from the original Carlo Collodi story. This one, though, is essentially a fleshed-out version of the well-loved 1940 animated classic; it’s directed by Robert Zemeckis and stars young Benjamin Evan Ainsworth as Pinocchio, alongside Tom Hanks as the wood-carver Geppetto, Cynthia Erivo as the magical Blue Fairy, Luke Evans as the evil Coachman, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the voice of Pinocchio’s conscience Jiminy Cricket. Read more…

RAISING CAIN – Pino Donaggio

September 15, 2022 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Raising Cain is a psychological thriller written and directed by Brian De Palma, starring John Lithgow, Lolita Davidovich, and Steven Bauer. Lithgow plays a highly regarded child psychologist, Carter Nix, who suffers a complete mental breakdown when he discovers that his wife, Jenny, is having an affair, and has also accused him of having an unhealthy scientific obsession with their daughter Amy. Nix’s mental issues manifest themselves via the emergence of various ‘split personalities,’ one of which – a violent criminal named Cain – starts to take over and forces Nix to kidnap his daughter, and commit murders to cover his tracks. It’s a typical twisty-turny and suspenseful De Palma thriller that, as always, owes a fair debt to Alfred Hitchcock, and it features a bravura lead performance by Lithgow, chewing the scenery for all he’s worth. Read more…

MEDIEVAL – Philip Klein

September 13, 2022 1 comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Medieval is, by far, the most lavish and expensive Czech film ever made. It charts a significant period in the life of Jan Žižka, a military hero from the late 1300s, when King Wenceslas IV, Wenceslas’s half-brother King Sigismund of Hungary, and a rival nobleman named Henry III of Rosenberg, were all fighting for the throne of Bohemia. At this point in his life Žižka was a young knight, loyal to the crown, but who also has a personal vendetta against Rosenberg, whose brutal regime resulted in almost all his family being killed. When Žižka learns of a plot by Rosenberg and his League of Lords to overthrow King Wenceslas, he is called to action to defend his country – an issue complicated by the fact that Žižka is directed to kidnap Rosenberg’s fiancée Katherine, with whom he has secretly fallen in love. The film is directed by Petr Jákl and is a classic historical epic, full of rich regal pageantry, brutal medieval battles, and sweeping romance. It stars Ben Foster as Žižka, and features Til Schweiger, William Moseley, Matthew Goode, Sophie Lowe, and Michael Caine in supporting roles. Read more…

THE JOLSON STORY – Morris Stoloff

September 12, 2022 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Following the huge success of MGM’s musical Meet Me In St. Louis in 1944, Columbia Pictures decided to cash in on the genre. They chose to film a fictionalized biopic of the renowned singer, comedian, actor and vaudevillian Al Jolson, who in the 1920s self-billed himself as “The World’s Greatest Entertainer”. A team consisting of Stephen Longstreet, Sidney Buchman, Harry Chandlee and Andrew Solt were hired to create the screenplay, Sidney Skolsky was tasked with production with a budget of $2 million, and Alfred E. Green given the reins to direct. A fine cast was assembled, including Larry Parks as Al Jolson, Evelyn Keys as Julie Benson, William Demarest as Steve Martin, and Bill Goodwin as Tom Baron. Read more…

THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS – Trevor Jones and Randy Edelman

September 8, 2022 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

James Fenimore Cooper’s 1826 novel The Last of the Mohicans is a classic of early American literature. It was published as part of his ‘Leatherstocking Tales’ series and chronicles a set of highly romanticized adventures set in pre-independence America about the life of frontiersman Nathaniel ‘Hawkeye’ Bumppo, a fictional character based on real-life contemporaries like Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone. The Last of the Mohicans is set in 1757 during the French and Indian War, when France and Great Britain were battling for control of North America, and sees Hawkeye becoming embroiled in the conflict when he is tasked with safely transporting Alice and Cora Munro, the two daughters of a British colonel, away from Fort William Henry, which us under siege by the French. Hawkeye enlists the help of his friend Chingachgook and Chingachgook’s son Uncas – the Mohicans of the title – and together they embark on a thrilling adventure which sees them getting involved in the political and social issues of the day, trekking across the inhospitable and rugged countryside, and clashing with the Huron, deadly rivals of the Mohicans. Read more…

ANNA AND THE KING OF SIAM – Bernard Herrmann

September 5, 2022 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Margaret Landon wrote her 1944 novel Anna and the King of Siam based on the fictionalized diaries of Anna Leonowens, a mixed-race woman who claimed to have been the British governess to the children of King Mongkut of Siam. The novel became a public sensation, which caught the eye of 20th Century Fox Studios executive Darryl F. Zanuck. He purchased the film rights, assigned production to Louis D. Lighton, hired Talbot Jennings and Sally Benson to write the screenplay, and provided a generous budget of $2.2 million. John Cromwell was tasked with directing, and a stellar cast was assembled, including; Rex Harrison in his Hollywood debut as King Mongkut, Irene Dunne as Anna Owens, Linda Darnell as Tuptim, Lee J. Cobb as Kralahome, Gale Sondergaard as Lady Theiang, Tito Renaldo as Prince Chulalongkorn, and Richard Lyon as Louis Owens. Read more…

SNEAKERS – James Horner

September 1, 2022 1 comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Sneakers is a fun caper movie with an all-star cast, directed by Phil Alden Robinson, and written by Robinson with Lawrence Lasker and Walter Parkes. Robert Redford stars as Martin Bishop, a former computer hacker now working as a ‘penetration tester’ for the tech industry, who spends his time leading a team of various misfits played by Dan Aykroyd, River Phoenix, Sidney Poitier, and David Strathairn, while trying to maintain a relationship with his on-again-off-again girlfriend Mary McDonnell. Bishop’s life is thrown into turmoil when he is tasked by the NSA with recovering a device that is capable of breaking the encryption of nearly every computer system in the world; this brings him back into contact with his former partner Cosmo (Ben Kingsley), who spent many years in federal prison, and who now wants the device for himself so he can destabilize the global economy and exact some revenge. The film was a reasonable critical and commercial success, which grossed over $105 million at the box office worldwide, and maintained the then 55-year-old Redford’s status as a top cinematic draw. Read more…