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THE HANDMAID’S TALE – Ryuichi Sakamoto

April 2, 2020 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The recent Hulu television adaptation of Margaret Attwood’s novel The Handmaid’s Tale is one of the most critically acclaimed shows of all time. It tells of a dystopian future set in the aftermath of a second American Civil War, and the rise of a hard-line Christian theocracy called Gilead in what was once New York State. One of the issues that led to the civil war was a calamitous drop in fertility rates, and in Gilead women who are found to be capable of giving birth to children are commandeered and forced to work as ‘handmaids,’ essentially concubine sex-slaves who are raped monthly by their assigned regional Commanders in the hope that they become pregnant. With this religious authoritarianism, female disenfranchisement, and environmental disaster as its backdrop, the story unfolds through the eyes of a handmaid named Kate, re-named Offred, who is assigned to a family headed by the cruel Commander Waterford and his coldly indifferent wife Serena. What many people forget is that this story has been told once before, as a 1990 movie directed by the acclaimed German filmmaker Volker Schlöndorff from a screenplay by Harold Pinter, which starred Natasha Richardson as Offred, Robert Duvall as the Commander, and Faye Dunaway as Serena. Read more…

THE PERSONAL HISTORY OF DAVID COPPERFIELD – Christopher Willis

April 1, 2020 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The great English author Charles Dickens wrote David Copperfield in 1849, and it is considered by many respected authorities to be one of his finest works. It is one of the few Dickens novels that is considered semi-autobiographical; it follows the life and adventures of the titular David, who is forced to spend time as a child in a London workhouse, and eventually grows up to become a writer. It charts everything about David’s life: his relationships with his gentle mother and his domineering stepfather, his affection for the optimistic and affable Mr. Micawber and his slightly daffy but loving Aunt Betsey, his life-long rivalry with the bitter and duplicitous Uriah Heep, and of course his many romantic dalliances. It is also a wonderfully rich reflection of life and society in Victorian England, and its legacy continues to inspire art to this day. There have been several cinematic and televisual adaptations of the story, but this latest one – The Personal History of David Copperfield – is directed by Armando Iannucci and stars Dev Patel in the title role, with support from an array of British character actors including Tilda Swinton, Hugh Laurie, Peter Capaldi, and Ben Whishaw. Read more…

CAPTAIN BLOOD – Erich Wolfgang Korngold

March 30, 2020 2 comments

MOVIE MUSIC UK CLASSICS

Original Review by Craig Lysy

The commercial success of Treasure Island and The Count of Monte Cristo in 1934 inspired Warner Brothers Studio executives to remake their earlier silent film of Captain Blood, which first hit the silver screen in 1923. They tasked producers Harry Joe Brown and Gordon Hollingshead to manage the project with a generous $1.24 million budget and hired Michael Curtiz to direct. They would again adapt the film from the 1922 novel Captain Blood by Rafael Sabatini and hired Casey Robinson to write the screenplay. However, casting got off on the wrong foot; Robert Donat and Jean Muir were originally sought for the lead roles, but when Donat declined the offer, the studio decided to bypass Muir and recruit new young talent. 24-year-old Australian actor Errol Flynn would make his Hollywood debut, cast in the titular role supported by 19-year-old Olivia de Havilland, who would play Arabella Bishop. Joining them would be Lionel Atwill as Colonel Bishop, Basil Rathbone as Levasseur, Ross Alexander as Jeremy Pitt, and Henry Stephensen as Lord Willoughby. Read more…

MOUNTAINS OF THE MOON – Michael Small

March 26, 2020 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Mountains of the Moon is an adventure-drama directed by Bob Rafelson, based on the novel Burton and Speke by William Harrison. A passion project for the director, it starred Patrick Bergin and Iain Glen as the real-life explorers Richard Francis Burton and John Hanning Speke, and is a dramatic chronicle of their expedition to Central Africa in 1857 which culminated in Speke’s discovery of the source of the River Nile. Although it was well received when it originally opened in February 1990 – it was described as ‘an epic of sweep and intimacy’ by Peter Travers in Rolling Stone – it is virtually unknown today, which is a shame because it is a film of genuine visual grandeur (it boasts cinematography by Roger Deakins), and has a terrific supporting cast including Richard E. Grant, Fiona Shaw, Omar Sharif, and Delroy Lindo in a very early role. Read more…

THE CHARGE OF THE LIGHT BRIGADE – Max Steiner

March 25, 2020 Leave a comment

MOVIE MUSIC UK CLASSICS

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Warner Brothers Studio executives saw the success of Paramount Studio’s Lives of a Bengal Lancer in 1935 and decided to cash in on the British Empire Adventure Tales genre. It was decided that their vehicle would be a retelling of the epic charge of the Light Brigade during the Crimean War. Screenplay writer Michael Jacoby’s script for the story found favor with the studio and was purchased, although Rowland Leigh was brought in to make some edits. Samuel Bischoff and Hal Wallis were given the reigns to produce the film with a generous $1.33 million budget. Michael Curtiz was tasked with directing and a stellar cast was assembled, including Errol Flynn as Major Geoffrey Vickers, Olivia de Havilland as Elsa Campbell, Patric Knowles as Captain Perry Vickers, Henry Stephensen as Sir Charles Macefield, Nigel Bruce as Sir Benjamin Warrenton, Donald Crisp as Colonel Campbell, David Niven as Captain Randall, Robert Barrat as Count Igor Volonoff, and C. Henry Gordon as Surat Khan. Read more…

Under-the-Radar Round Up 2020, Part I

March 24, 2020 3 comments

With the COVID-19 Coronavirus having decimated the 2020 theatrical movie schedule, as well as the general mood of the world, good music is more important than ever when it comes to getting us all through these difficult times. As such (and as I did last year under much different circumstances) I am very pleased to present the latest installment in my ongoing series of articles looking at the best “under the radar” scores from around the world – this time concentrating on the first quarter of 2020!

The titles include romantic comedies from both China and Vietnam, children’s fantasy films from both Germany and France, a serious drama from Japan, a period murder-mystery from Australia, and a children’s adventure from the Netherlands. I heartily recommend all of these scores to anyone who needs some outstanding film music to ease them though their quarantine period! Read more…

JOE VERSUS THE VOLCANO – Georges Delerue

March 12, 2020 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

After receiving his first Oscar nomination for Big in 1988, but before he became an established box office draw with titles like Sleepless in Seattle and Philadelphia, Tom Hanks spent a couple of years trying to find his niche. One of the projects he tried which never took off was Joe Versus the Volcano, a highly peculiar comedy written and directed by John Patrick Shanley. Hanks plays Joe Banks, a luckless everyman who works a terrible dead-end job and is chronically sick. One day Joe is told he is dying of a mysterious and incurable rare disease, and accepts a financial offer from billionaire Samuel Graynamore (Lloyd Bridges) – he can live like a king for a short period, but then has to travel to a South Pacific island and throw himself into a volcano to appease the superstitious natives. With nothing to lose, Joe agrees, but when he meets and falls in love with Patricia (Meg Ryan), Graynamore’s daughter, who is captaining the yacht taking him to the island, he realizes he may have something to live for after all. The film was a critical and commercial flop when it was first released, but has become something of a cult film in the intervening years, receiving praise for its offbeat tone and sweet nature, and for the fact that this was the first on-screen pairing of Hanks and Ryan, who would go on to be Hollywood’s romantic comedy golden couple. Read more…