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THE RED PONY – Aaron Copland

February 20, 2017 Leave a comment

redpony100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

In the 1940s Republic Pictures was struggling to find its place in the sun, and so made a concerted effort to gain equal status with the major studios of the day. To that end they began to take on serious dramas with renowned directors. Producer-Director Lewis Milestone was hired to bring George Steinbeck’s short story series The Red Pony to the big screen. Steinbeck himself was hired to write the screenplay as the multiple story lines had to be blended into a cogent narrative. Milestone brought in a splendid cast which included Myrna Loy as Alice Tiflin, Robert Mitchum as Billy Buck, Louis Calhern as Grandfather, Sheppherd Strudwick as Fred Tiflin, Peter Miles as Tom Tiflin, and Margaret Hamilton as Teacher. The story is classic Americana, set in the 1930s, and takes place in the Salinas Valley ranching communities of central California. A young boy Tom is gifted a red pony colt by his father Fred. The two are not close and Fred hopes that the gift will strengthen the father-son bond. But instead of seeking help from his father, Tom instead asks stableman Billy to help assist him in caring for the pony and in its training. Read more…

THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE – Lorne Balfe

February 17, 2017 1 comment

legobatmanmovieOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

Considering the combined box office success of both the Batman movies, and the 2015 Lego Movie, as well as the fact that the former character enjoyed a memorable extended plastic cameo in the latter, it was almost inevitable that the caped crusader would get his own Lego spinoff. Directed by Chris McKay, the film takes a fairly standard animated movie plot trope – Batman having to drop the ‘lone vigilante’ persona and work with his friends to stop the Joker – and surrounds it with a never-ending stream of pop culture references, in-jokes, cameos, and one-liners, some of which come so thick and fast that they barely have time to register as being funny before the next gag hits. Parts of The Lego Batman Movie are genuinely brilliant, creative and clever, and very funny, but the whole thing feels like a movie designed by a hyperactive six year old on way too much sugar. Visually, the movie veers from being astonishingly good to being a brain-smashing mess, while the action sequences feel like they are edited with an average shot length of less than a second. It’s a movie which, by the end, has relentlessly hammered you into submission, and left you gasping for breath and crawling for the exit. Read more…

NEWTOWN – Fil Eisler

February 11, 2017 3 comments

newtownOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

Friday, December 14, 2012, began as a fairly standard day in Newtown, Connecticut. People getting up, eating breakfast with their families, and heading to work. Moms and dads dropping their kids off at school. This all changed at 9:35am when a mentally ill young man named Adam Lanza stole a shotgun, murdered his mother, and then drove to Sandy Hook Elementary School, where he subsequently shot and killed 26 other people – most of them children aged six and seven – before turning the gun on himself. The incident was the deadliest mass shooting at a high school or grade school, and the third-deadliest mass shooting by a single person in American history – and yet, despite public outcry, despite the catastrophic numbers of dead children, the Government of then-President Barack Obama was unable to pass stricter laws on gun ownership. It remains ridiculously easy for Americans to buy these sorts of deadly weapons, and as such future tragedies like this remain a distinct possibility. These events, and their aftermath, are examined in detail in the harrowing documentary feature Newtown, directed by Kim A. Snyder. Read more…

PASSENGERS – Thomas Newman

February 1, 2017 4 comments

passengersOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

Passengers is a romantic drama with a sci-fi twist, a love story amongst the stars with an unusual moral dilemma at its core, and with an action movie climax that stands at odds with much of the gentle comedy of the first half of the movie. Directed by Morten Tyldum and written by Jon Spaihts, the film stars Chris Pratt as Jim Preston, one of 5,000 colonists on board a state-of-the-art starship traveling to a new life on Homestead II, a distant planet. The journey takes 120 years, and the passengers are all in hibernation, but a malfunction on board the ship causes Jim to accidentally wake up 90 years early. After unsuccessfully trying to put himself back into hibernation, Jim resigns himself to his fate; despite having access to the ship’s luxurious facilities, Jim only has an android bartender (Michael Sheen) for company, and after a year of isolation decides to commit suicide. It is at this lowest point that Jim comes across Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence), a fellow passenger, whose cryo-tube is still working, and the film’s moral dilemma emerges: should Jim, who believes he has fallen in love, wake Aurora up for companionship, knowing that doing so will result in her never reaching Homestead II? Read more…

LION – Dustin O’Halloran and Volker Bertelmann

January 30, 2017 3 comments

lionOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

Director Garth Davis’s film Lion is a warm-hearted real life drama based on the non-fiction book A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley and Larry Buttrose, which stars Dev Patel as a young Indian-Australian man caught between two cultures. As a child in rural India, 5-year old Saroo (Sunny Pawar) and his older brother Guddu (Abhishek Bharate) eke out a meager living, finding and selling rocks and cleaning trains. One day, Saroo accidentally finds himself stuck on a train bound for Calcutta; completely alone in a megalopolis of almost 15 million people, and with no way home, Saroo lives among the city’s homeless children until he is eventually taken in by an orphanage, who arrange for him to be adopted by an Australian couple, Sue and John Brierley (Nicole Kidman and David Wenham). Twenty years later, the adult Saroo has forgotten much of the detail about his childhood, but gradually becomes obsessed with finding his birth parents, spending all his time feverishly searching Google Earth, and alienating his girlfriend Lucy (Rooney Mara). What emerges is a moving story about cultural identity, family, and the strength and dedication Saroo shows in trying to discover the truth about his past. Read more…

JACKIE – Mica Levi

January 27, 2017 14 comments

jackieOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

Jackie is an acclaimed biopic directed by Pablo Larraín, which looks at the life of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, the first lady of the United States, in the immediate aftermath of the assassination of her husband, President John F. Kennedy, in November 1963. The film stars Natalie Portman in the lead role, features Peter Sarsgaard, Greta Gerwig, Billy Crudup and John Hurt in supporting roles, and has been the recipient of a great deal of critical praise, mostly for Portman’s dazzling central performance, but also for its score by British composer and songwriter Mica Levi. Read more…

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Best Scores of 2016 – Asia, Part II

January 25, 2017 2 comments

The seventh and final installment in my annual series of articles looking at the best “under the radar” scores from around the world returns to the Asian continent, and highlights a half dozen more outstanding scores from Japan and China. This set of reviews features everything from epic action fantasy films, sweet animated adventures, horror films, and historical dramas, and concentrates strongly on music by one particular composer who is writing some of the best film music anywhere in the world today, and who should be most more respected and acclaimed in the west: Naoki Sato. Read more…

Categories: Reviews