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HILLBILLY ELEGY – Hans Zimmer and David Fleming

November 24, 2020 2 comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Hillbilly Elegy is a multi-generational family drama directed by Ron Howard, based on the autobiographical novel of the same name by J. D. Vance. Gabriel Basso stars as Vance, a young man from rural Kentucky in the Appalachian mountains, who becomes the first in his family to attend college. Vance is called back from Yale to his home town to deal with a family emergency, and the film explores his relationship with his heroin-addicted mother, his world-weary but kind-hearted grandmother, and his troubled sister, while also looking at the broader socio-economic hardships suffered by communities like his. The film co-stars Amy Adams, Glenn Close, Haley Bennett and Frieda Pinto, and is poised to be a major contender for acting awards at the 2020 Academy Awards. Read more…

L’ASSASSINAT DU DUC DE GUISE – Camille Saint-Saëns

November 23, 2020 Leave a comment

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

During the 1880s a technological revolution occurred with the invention of celluloid photographic film and motion picture cameras. The first public screening of a motion picture in which an admission fee was charged occurred in New York City 1895 by the Lambda Company, founded by Woodville Latham. The idiom quickly gained popularity, and in 1907 Paul Lafitte, a wealthy novelist, publisher and financier founded the French production company Le Film d’Art to produce French films, which he hoped would gain the admiration of the cultural elite as well as the patronage of the common people. Throughout his life Lafitte had been tireless in fostering literature and the theatre. He saw motion pictures as a new way to bring education and entertainment to the masses. He recruited talented stage actors from the Comédie-Française theatre group, and in 1908 decided to produce his first film, the French historical drama L’Assassinat du Duc de Guise originally titled La Mort du Duc de Guise. The Pathé Frères company would distribute the film, and he tasked French actors Charles le Bargy and André Calmettes to direct. French dramatist Henri Lavedan was hired to write an original screenplay, and a fine cast was assembled, which included Charles le Bargy as King Henry III, Albert Lambert as Le Duc de Guise, Gabrielle Robinne as Marquise de Noirmoutier and Berthe Bovy as Le Page. The final product was a short film of 18 minutes. Read more…

HAMLET – Ennio Morricone

November 12, 2020 1 comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

There have been literally dozens of versions of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet made for film and television over the years, ranging from Lawrence Olivier’s 1948 masterpiece, to Tony Richardson’s 1968 version based on his own London stage production, to Kenneth Branagh’s spectacularly lavish unabridged version released in 1995. In 1990 Italian director Franco Zeffirelli released his own version, which was made to appeal directly to Hollywood sensibilities through its casting of Mel Gibson in the title role. The story is, of course, a classic one, wherein the titular prince of Denmark plots revenge against his uncle Claudius, who murdered his brother the king – Hamlet’s father – with the help of Hamlet’s mother Gertrude. It’s a timeless story of violence, betrayal, retribution, and madness, and has a spectacular cast including Glenn Close, Alan Bates, Paul Scofield, Ian Holm, and Helena Bonham-Carter as the luckless Ophelia. Read more…

THE QUEEN’S GAMBIT – Carlos Rafael Rivera

November 11, 2020 1 comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The Queen’s Gambit is a Netflix mini-series directed by Scott Frank, based on the 1983 novel of the same name by Walter Tevis. It stars the luminous Anya Taylor-Joy as Beth Harmon, a young girl growing up in an orphanage in the mid-1950s, where she has lived since her parents died in a car crash. Beth discovers an extraordinary aptitude for chess, and the series charts her life from then on, as she starts competing in and winning games, becoming more famous in the chess world, but simultaneously becomes increasingly dependent on drugs and alcohol in order to cope with the high pressure environment. The series co-stars Bill Camp, Marielle Heller, Harry Melling, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, and Jacob Fortune-Lloyd, and was an enormous critical hit when it debuted in October 2020, with special praise bestowed on Taylor-Joy’s lead performance, as well as the period style and design. Read more…

TARAS BULBA – Franz Waxman

November 9, 2020 Leave a comment

MOVIE MUSIC UK CLASSICS

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Robert Aldrich, a producer, director and screenwriter had for many years been crafting a script for his dream project, adapting the 1895 novella Taras Bulba by Nikolai Gogol for the big screen. After five scripts he believe he had at last created a “sensational” screenplay. The project moved forward in 1959, but foundered when financing failed. Aldrich fell into debt, and was forced to sell the script to Joseph Kaufman, an agent for producer Harold Hecht for $100,000. Harold Hecht Productions would finance the film with United Artists distributing. A budget of $6 million was provided and J. Lee Thompson was brought in to direct. A fine cast was assembled, which included Tony Curtis as Andrei Bulba, Yul Brynner as Taras Bulba, Christine Kaufman as Natalie Dubrov, and Perry Lopez as Ostap Bulba. Read more…

MR. DESTINY – David Newman

November 5, 2020 1 comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Mr. Destiny is a fantasy comedy written and directed by James Orr, about time-traveling wish fulfillment. It stars Jim Belushi as Larry, a completely ordinary middle class guy, married to his childhood sweetheart (Linda Hamilton), working a completely ordinary middle class job. However, despite his seemingly normal life, Larry has always felt he was destined for something more, and has settled on the idea that, back in high school, he struck out in an end-of-season baseball game. Larry believes that, had he not failed in that moment, his life would have become something truly special – he feels cheated out of his destiny. Everything changes for Larry when he stumbles into an unfamiliar bar on his 35th birthday, and meets a mysterious barman (Michael Caine) who gives him the opportunity to go back to that pivotal instant, and do his life over. The film has an interesting supporting cast – Jon Lovitz, Courteney Cox, Rene Russo – and has echoes of the cinema classic It’s a Wonderful Life, but has largely been forgotten today, having failed to make an impact with box office audiences at the time. Read more…

THE WITCHES – Alan Silvestri

November 3, 2020 1 comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Roald Dahl’s The Witches has become one of the world’s most beloved fantasy/horror stories for children in the years since it was first published in 1983. The story takes place in a reality where secret covens of child-hating witches exist all over the world; the witches are governed by the evil and powerful Grand High Witch, who has just arrived at a luxurious hotel in England to organize her final plan to eradicate all the children in the country by turning them into mice. However, the plot is uncovered by an unnamed ‘hero boy’ and his grandmother, a former witch hunter, who are coincidentally staying in the same hotel, and the two of them resolve to stop the witches’ plan – and end the Grand High Witch’s reign of terror for good. The story was turned into a well-loved film in 1990 by director Nicolas Roeg, which saw Anjelica Huston playing the Grand High Witch. This newer version, directed by Robert Zemeckis and produced by Zemeckis, Guillermo del Toro, and Alfonso Cuarón, relocates the action from England to 1960s Alabama, and casts Anne Hathaway as the beautiful but evil Grand High Witch, Jahzir Kadeem Bruno as the Hero Boy, Octavia Spencer as his grandmother, and Stanley Tucci as the downtrodden hotel manager. Read more…

THE EMPTY MAN – Christopher Young and Lustmord

October 31, 2020 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The Empty Man is a horror-thriller written and directed by David Prior, based on the graphic novel of same name by Cullen Bunn and Vanesa R. Del Rey. James Badge Dale stars as James Lasombra, a retired detective who is called back into action after a group of teens from a small Midwestern town begin to mysteriously disappear. The locals believe the disappearances are the work of an urban legend known as the Empty Man, and as Lasombra delves into the mystery, he soon finds himself drawn into a supernatural world of secret societies, ritual sacrifice, and dark magic. The film also stars Marin Ireland, Stephen Root, and Ron Canada, and bizarrely is it not one of the films that fell victim to COVID-19 restrictions, opening in cinemas over Halloween weekend in an attempt to lure brave horror fans into the multiplexes that actually opened. Read more…

THE SHELTERING SKY – Ryuichi Sakamoto

October 22, 2020 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The Sheltering Sky is an epic romantic drama film directed by Bernardo Bertolucci, based on the 1949 novel of the same name by Paul Bowles. It stars Debra Winger and John Malkovich as married American couple Kit and Port Moresby, who arrive in Algeria in 1949 on a holiday which they hope will rekindle their failing marriage. However, the harshness of the Saharan environment, coupled with Port’s jealousy and his suspicions that Kit is having an affair with their friend and travelling companion George Tunner (Campbell Scott), only makes things worse, leading to tragedy, death, and madness. The novel is one of the most acclaimed works of the twentieth century, and has been described by many commentators as one of the most compelling explorations of alienation and existential despair ever written, but the film was less successful; although praised for its visual magnificence, some critics called it “insufferably dull,” and a film which “dries up in that symbolic desert sun, the victim of its own pretensions” that “gets stuck in the sand right at the start.” Read more…

DAVID ATTENBOROUGH: A LIFE ON OUR PLANET – Steven Price

October 20, 2020 1 comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Climate change is real, and it is mostly driven by the activities of human beings. The fact that this remains a political and controversial statement in some parts of the world – mostly the United States – is utterly shameful, but that’s a conversation for another place and another time. From my point of view, all the scientific evidence points to the fact that human activity since the peak of the industrial revolution has harmed the Earth: it has poisoned the water and the air through the use of unsustainable fossil fuels, and raised temperatures in some places while lowering them in others, almost to the point where some places will be virtually uninhabitable before long. Innumerable animal species have been driven to the brink of extinction, and too much essential plant life in the jungles and forests of the world have been cleared to feel the endless appetites of the population – both for food, via agriculture, and for money, via greed. All this is brought into sharp focus in this new Netflix documentary, David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet. In it, the venerable British broadcaster and naturalist takes a look back on his 93 years of life, his career making nature documentaries for the BBC, and the things he has learned about the world as a result. He calls the film his ‘witness statement,’ and it is a vital and compelling story told by a man who is perhaps the most respected voice on Earth when it comes to issues concerning the natural world. It may be the most important documentary I, or anyone, will ever watch. Read more…

ALL ABOUT EVE – Alfred Newman

October 19, 2020 Leave a comment

MOVIE MUSIC UK CLASSICS

Original Review by Craig Lysy

In 1949 renowned director Joseph Mankiewicz envisioned for his next project a story about an aging actress. By chance he came upon a short story “The Wisdom of Eve” by actress Mary Orr, published in the May 1946 issue of Cosmopolitan, which piqued his interest. He contacted 20th Century Fox studio executive Darryl Zanuck who was receptive, and was given the green light to proceed with the project. Zanuck agreed to produce the film and provided a generous $1.4 million budget. Mankiewicz would not only direct, but also write the screenplay, which was significantly edited to incorporate numerous suggestions for improvement offered by Zanuck. Casting the lead role was challenging to fill with Susan Hayward, Marlene Dietrich, Gertrude Lawrence and Claudette Colbert all considered before Mankiewicz finally selected Bette Davis. Joining her would be Anne Baxter as Eve Harington, Gary Merrill as Bill Sampson, George Sanders as Addison DeWitt, Celeste Holm as Karen Richards, and Hugh Marlowe as Lloyd Richards. Read more…

ENNIO MORRICONE REVIEWS, Part VIII

October 17, 2020 Leave a comment

In this eighth installment of my series looking at the early careers of iconic composers, we take a look at the final eight scores written by the legendary Ennio Morricone in 1969, and in the entire 1960s decade. This group of reviews is a typical mixed bag, exploring several pop-psychedelia and jazz scores for a series of romantic dramas, an all-time Morricone concert favorite, an under-represented but excellent spaghetti western, and a sex drama that contains a piece of music that will be VERY familiar to British professional darts fans! Read more…

QUIGLEY DOWN UNDER – Basil Poledouris

October 15, 2020 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Quigley Down Under is a fun, knockabout action-western, written by John Hill, and directed by Simon Wincer. The film stars Tom Selleck as Matthew Quigley, a sharpshooter from the American west, who answers an advertisement looking for men with his skills, and finds himself traveling to Australia circa 1860. Upon arrival, he meets another American woman, Cora (Laura San Giacomo), and then his prospective employer, a rancher and ruthless local businessman named Elliott Marston (Alan Rickman). However, when Quigley is told that his job is to murder Aborigines, he refuses; enraged, Marston abandons Quigley and Cora deep in the outback. They are saved by members of the local tribe, who are subsequently attacked by Marston’s men; angered by the injustice, and by Marston’s ruthlessness, Quigley vows to put a stop to it all. Despite addressing the important topic of the genocide of the aborigines in 19th-century Australia, and despite starring Selleck (who was still a bankable box office star at the time), the film was not a great success, with many critics citing its uneven tone, which unsuccessfully combined Selleck’s roguish charm with some quite strong violence and action. Read more…

THE GLORIAS – Elliot Goldenthal

October 13, 2020 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

As I was prepping and doing research prior to writing this review, I learned that this is the first review of a new Elliot Goldenthal score I have written since I wrote about Public Enemies in July 2009, more than 11 years ago. It’s also only the fourth new Goldenthal score I have covered since the turn of the millennium – the other two being Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within in 2001 and S.W.A.T. in 2003. Of course, Goldenthal has only written two scores since 2009 – one of which, The Tempest, I didn’t care for, while the other, Our Souls at Night, was not released on CD at all. He has been working on classical pieces and theatre works in the interim but, other than that, the most significant thing that happened to him was the potentially life-threatening head injury he suffered in 2005, when he fell off a chair in his kitchen and smacked his head on the marble floor; it caused a subdural hematoma, briefly put him in a coma, and rendered him literally speechless for several months afterwards. Whether this traumatic event was the catalyst for Goldenthal’s subsequent drift away from Hollywood is open to debate, but one thing’s for certain: I’m very glad that his wife Julie Taymor keeps hiring him to score her movies. Read more…

NICHOLAS AND ALEXANDRA – Richard Rodney Bennett

October 12, 2020 Leave a comment

MOVIE MUSIC UK CLASSICS

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Producer Sam Spiegel had long aspired to make a film set during the Russian Revolution and decided to roll the dice after witnessing the stunning success of David Lean’s film Doctor Zhivago. His initial intent was to derive his screenplay from historical events recorded in the public domain, however he changed course and decided to adapt Robert H. Massie’s popular 1967 novel Nicholas and Alexandra. He purchased the film rights and hired James Goldman (The Lion in Winter) to write the screenplay. Yet the task was onerous with countless rewrites as four directors came and went. It was only after Franklin Schaffner came on to direct that a final screenplay was realized. Spiegel vision was to create an epic film in the tradition of Doctor Zhivago and Lawrence of Arabia, yet he was constrained by Columbia studio executives who were reluctant to offer a generous budget after terrible financial setbacks with The Chase and The Night of the Generals. As such he could not afford actors Peter O’Toole, Vanessa Redgrave and Rex Harrison. He did however manage to secure the services of Laurence Olivier as Count Witte. Joining him would be less familiar actors including Michael Jayston as Tsar Nicholas II, Janet Suzman as Tsaritna Alexandra, Tom Baker as Rasputin, Michael Redgrave as Sazonov, Jack Hawkins as Vladimir, Harry Andrews as Grand Duke Nicholas, Roderic Noble as Tsarevich Alexei, Ania Marson as Grand Duchess Olga, Lynne Frederick as Grand Duchess Tatiana, Candace Glendenning as Grand Duchess Marie, Fiona Fullerton as Grand Duchess Anastasia, and Irene Worth as the Dowager Tsaritsna Marie. Read more…