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THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK – John Williams

June 18, 2018 1 comment

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

The stunning success of Star Wars caused George Lucas to rethink his original vision of a single stand-alone film. He now saw opportunity for a story arc, which would span additional films. To that end, he hired veteran science fiction writer Leigh Brackett to write the next screenplay, based on his story titled The Empire Strikes Back. Lucas did not like her first draft, and when she died shortly there after of cancer, he was left to rewrite the script himself. He shifted the story into a much darker narrative, which critics today acknowledge as the best film of the franchise. Lucas did not want to direct and so brought in trusted friend Irvin Kershner, his former professor. Most of the original cast would reprise their roles; Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker, Harrison Ford as Han Solo, Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia Organa, Anthony Daniels as C-3PO, Kenny Baker as R2-D2, Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca, and David Prowse as Lord Darth Vader (voiced by James Earl Jones). Joining them would be Frank Oz as Yoda, Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian, and Jeremy Bulloch as Boba Fett. Read more…

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STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE – Jerry Goldsmith

June 11, 2018 1 comment

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

The rebirth of the science fiction genre with Star Wars in 1977, and the continued success of the Star Trek series in syndication, convinced Paramount Studio to begin work on a feature film. In 1978, Paramount assembled the largest press conference held at the studio since the 1950s to announce that double Academy Award winning director Robert Wise would direct a $15 million film adaptation of the television series. The film in the finest tradition of Star Trek is a classic morality play, which speaks to a universal and transcendent yearning shared by all cultures, namely La Ricerca di Dio – the quest for God. The story line reveals the menace of a massive energy cloud of enormous power on a set course to Earth. Admiral James Kirk reassumes command of a newly refitted Enterprise and leads a desperate mission to save humanity. But all is not as it seems as we see Kirk discover that he faces a first contact encounter with an entity of insurmountable power programmed to a singular purpose – to find its creator. By maintaining fidelity to the fundamental Federation principles of seeking out new life forms in the spirit of peace and understanding, Kirk, using his usual guile and experience, is able to overcome technological, linguistic and conceptual challenges and establish a dialogue. With Spock’s assistance, he ultimately succeeds in potentiating within the mechanistic alien entity a spiritual epiphany, which catalyzes a breath-taking transformation, thereby saving the Earth. The film was slow paced, cerebral and ponderous, yet never the less became a huge commercial success. It earned Paramount three times its production costs, there-by setting the stage for a second film. Goldsmith was also honored with Golden Globe and Oscar nominations for best score. Regretfully, he failed to win. Read more…

SUPERMAN – John Williams

June 4, 2018 2 comments

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

In 1973 producers Ilya Salkind and Pierre Spengler believed it was time to bring a classic super hero to the big screen. After protracted negotiations with DC Comics, they secured film rights to produce two Superman movies, which they would shoot back to back. A number of screenwriters were hired and let go before until a team comprised of Mario Puzo, David Newman, Leslie Newman and Robert Benton took up the project. Yet Salkind and Spengler were still not satisfied and so hired Tom Mankiewiicz to do the final rewrite, which was completed in July 1976. Thematic for the film was taking the long and tortuous road to hire a director and cast. Richard Donner finally won out over nine other directors. As for the titular role, almost all of the leading men of the day were either turned down, or showed no interest. As such, Spengler decided to cast an unknown, and after over 200 auditions, newcomer Christopher Reeve won the part – bu it was felt he was too skinny. Rather than wear a muscle suit, Reeve went on a weight-lifting regimen, adding a massive 24 pounds of muscle. Joining the cast would be Marlon Brando as Jor-El, Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor, Ned Beatty as Otis, Jackie Cooper as Perry White, Glenn Ford as Jonathan Kent, Phyllis Thaxter as Martha Kent, Margot Kidder as Lois Lane, and Valerie Perrine as Eve Teschmacher. Read more…

CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND – John Williams

May 28, 2018 1 comment

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Since his youth, Steven Spielberg had aspired to create a feature length science fiction film. His 1970 short story Experiences was his initial conception, which explored teenagers witnessing a wondrous “meteor shower light show” in the night sky. He pitched his idea and secured backing from Columbia Studios to proceed with “Watch the Skies”. Rewrites caused delays, and it was decided that he proceed with another project first, “Jaws”. The enormous financial success of “Jaws” resulted in Columbia Studios granting him significant creative control, which allowed for the development of the science fiction film he had always dreamed of. The script was written by Spielberg, but had input and additional refinements by several screenwriters. The title was changed to its final form as a derivation of ufologist J. Allen Hynek’s classification methodology for “close encounters”. Spielberg assembled a fine cast anchored by “Jaws” star Richard Dreyfuss as Roy Neary, Francois Truffault as Claude Lacombe, Melinda Dillon as Jillian Guiler, Teri Garr as Veronica Neary, and Cary Guffey as Barry Guiler. Read more…

STAR WARS – John Williams

May 21, 2018 Leave a comment

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

George Lucas conceived of a space adventure drawn from the Flash Gordon sequels in 1971 following the completion of his first feature film, THX 1138. When his efforts to secure film rights were rebuffed, he resolved to create his own fantasy adventure. He wrote a script in 1973 and producer Larry Kurtz assisted him in securing financing, but United Artists, Disney and Universal Studios all declined, stating that they found the story strange. Lucas however persevered and finally obtained backing by 20th Century Studio exec Alan Ladd Jr. The script evolved through several incarnations, finally coalescing into the film version in 1975. Lucas formed a visual effects company, Industrial Light & Magic to realize his technical vision, which would demand visuals not seen before by the industry. The film and company would provide a seminal event, which would usher in a new age of filmmaking. Read more…

ROCKY – Bill Conti

April 23, 2018 1 comment

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Sylvester Stallone was enduring hard times in 1975. Despite having appeared in a few movies – including The Lords of Flatbush, Farewell My Lovely, and Death Race 2000 – he had only $100 in the bank, and was seeking to sell his dog Butkus because he could not afford to feed it. Ending up on the street was a looming possibility, which focused his resolve to engineer the big career break he needed. Seeking inspiration, Stallone found it in a famous match between heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali and underdog no-hoper Chuck Wepner, who somehow managed to take the legendary Ali to fifteen rounds. Over three nights Stallone wrote a quintessential American rags-to-riches story about a down-and-out boxer named Rocky Balboa. This is a classic underdog narrative, where we bear witness to a determined man, who through perseverance, guile and sheer force of will, overcomes all obstacles to achieve greatness. Entwined within the narrative is a surprisingly tender love story, which served to endear Rocky to audiences as a relatable and fallible hero, one of the common folk whose story informs us that anything is possible. United Artist producers Robert Chartoff and Irwin Winkler loved the script and bought the film rights, with Stallone leveraging its sale with the stipulation that he would star. Studio executives baulked, but when Stallone refused to blink, they acquiesced, but with a severely reduced budget of $1 million. John G. Avildsen was tasked with directing the film. Read more…

THE OMEN – Jerry Goldsmith

April 16, 2018 Leave a comment

theomen100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Bob Munger, a friend of Producer Harvey Bernhard of 20th Century Fox, suggested that he consider making a supernatural horror drama based on the anti-christ of the apocalypse. Bernhard was intrigued by the idea, and hired screenwriter David Seltzer to come up with a story, who exceeded Bernhard’s expectations and delivered a classic story. Richard Donner was hired to direct and he assembled a stellar cast, which included Gregory Peck as Ambassador Robert Thorn, Lee Remick as his wife Katherine, David Warner as photographer Keith Jennings, Billie Whitelaw as the sinister Mrs. Baylock, Patrick Troughton as Father Brennan, and young Harvey Stephens as Damien Thorn, he young boy at the center of the narrative. Read more…