Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category


January 14, 2019 Leave a comment


Original Review by Craig Lysy

Director Tim Burton related that, as a teenager growing up in Burbank California, he felt estranged, isolated and misunderstood. A drawing by him of a solemn man bearing long sharp blades spoke to his inability to form and retain friends. The drawing served as inspiration for his film Edward Scissorhands, where he sought to explore a young man dealing with feelings of isolation and self-discovery. After reading First Born, a 1983 novelette by Caroline Thompson, he was sufficiently impressed to hire her to write the screenplay for the film. Burton and her sought inspiration from the classic monster movies of the past including The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Phantom of the Opera, and Frankenstein, as well traditional fairy tales. The project was very personal to Burton, and Thompson relates she wrote the screenplay as a love poem to the director. 20th Century Fox acquired the film rights, and given Burton’s stunning commercial success with Batman in 1989, gave him complete creative control. He assembled a fine cast, including Johnny Depp for the titular role. Joining him would be Winona Ryder as Kim Boggs, Dianne Wiest as Peg Boggs, Anthony Michael Hall as Jim, Kathy Baker as Joyce, Robert Oliveri as Kevin Boggs, Alan Arkin as Bill Boggs, O-Lan Jones as Esmeralda, and Vincent Price in his final screen role as Edward’s creator. Read more…


Best Scores of 2018, Part I

January 11, 2019 3 comments

This is the first installment in my annual series of articles looking at the best “under the radar” scores from around the world. Rather than grouping the scores on a geographical basis, this year I decided to simply present the scores in a random order, and so this first batch includes five scores from several disparate locations – a stunning romantic TV drama from China, a political drama score for a TV series from Egypt, a drama score from India by one of the world’s most successful composers, and two standout works from Spain – a historical TV drama series, and a stunning documentary work about mysteries of science, nature, and space. Read more…


January 10, 2019 Leave a comment


Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The 1987 film Hellraiser, based on the novella The Hellbound Heart by British horror author Clive Barker, was an unexpected critical and commercial success at the box office, and as such an immediate sequel was commissioned to cash in on the new popularity of Pinhead and his merry band of ‘cenobite’ demons, who live in a realm of hell where pleasure, pain, and suffering are one. The resulting film, titled Hellbound: Hellraiser II, takes place in the immediate aftermath of the first film, and finds protagonist Kirsty (Ashley Laurence) – having escaped from Pinhead (Doug Bradley) – recovering in a mental institution under the care of Dr Channard (Kenneth Cranham). However, it is revealed that Channard is secretly obsessed with cenobites, and has been searching for the ‘lament configuration’ puzzle box that summons them for years. Despite Kirsty’s desperate pleas, Channard recovers the bloody mattress that Kirsty’s stepmother Julia (Clare Higgins) died on in the last film, and uses it to resurrect her; so begins a gruesome, desperate game, as Channard and Julia explore the realms of hell together, while Kirsty tries to stop the cenobites once and for all. The film was written by Peter Atkins and is directed by journeyman Tony Randel, taking over duties from Barker. Read more…

WATERSHIP DOWN – Federico Jusid

January 8, 2019 2 comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The 1972 novel Watership Down by Richard Adams is a classic of British literature. Note that I said literature and not children’s literature, because although the story is about a group of anthropomorphized rabbits, the story is very much an adult one. Following the destruction of their warren, a group of rabbits led by the brave Hazel, the sensitive Fiver, and the strong Bigwig make their way across the English countryside in search of a new home, and must fight against all manner of dangers – both natural and man-made – as they do so. What’s so brilliant about Adams’s novel is the way in which it creates an entire culture for the rabbits, with a creation myth, gods and spirits, a unique language with specialized vocabulary, and even a hierarchical society – the latter of which comes into play when Hazel and his friends encounter rabbits from an authoritarian rival warren overseen by the tyrannical General Woundwort. When you combine this with themes that mirror classical epics about life and death, environmentalism, and politics, the result is one of the great English books of the last fifty years. The story was made into a much-loved animated film in 1978 – again, not for kids – and is now a three-part mini-series jointly produced by the BBC and Netflix, directed by Noam Murro, which features an astonishing voice cast including James McAvoy, Nicholas Hoult, John Boyega, Ben Kingsley, Tom Wilkinson, Gemma Arterton, Olivia Colman, Daniel Kaluuya, Taron Egerton, and many many others. Read more…

AVALON – Randy Newman

January 7, 2019 Leave a comment


Original Review by Craig Lysy

Avalon offered Barry Levinson’s third installment of his semi-autobiographical tetralogy of ”Baltimore Films” – Diner (1982), Tin Men (1987), Avalon (1990) and Liberty Heights (1999) – which explored immigrant life in his hometown Baltimore from the 1940s through the 1960s. He served as producer, director and screenwriter for the project and his production company Baltimore Pictures financed the film. He brought in a first class cast, which included Leo Fuchs as Hymie Krichinsky, Lou Jacobi as Gabriel Krichinsky, Armin Mueller-Stahl as Sam Krichinsky, Joan Plowright as Eva Krichinsky, Israel Rubinek as Nathan Krichinsky, Eve Gordon as Dottie Kirk, Elizabeth Perkins as Ann Kaye, Aiden Quinn as Jules Kaye and Elijah Wood as Michael Kaye. The film offers a commentary on the challenges of immigrant Russian-Jews trying to assimilate in America. Sam, the patriarch of the Krichinsky family, arrives in 1914 to forge a new life, eventually settling in Baltimore where he works as a wallpaper man. Matriarch Eva is firmly grounded in the old ways and ensures the family stays true to its roots. Conflicts between old country familial culture and modern American culture are inevitable and elicit generational clashes as Sam and Eva struggle to balance the old with the new. Despite hardships, which include an armed robbery, a devastating home fire, and children abandoning their surname for an American one, the family holds together, weathering the storm, united in love. The film was a commercial success and secured four Academy Award nominations including Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design and Best Film Score. Read more…

VICE – Nicholas Britell

January 2, 2019 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

How much do we actually know about Dick Cheney? According to director Adam McKay’s new film Vice, the answer is ‘not enough’. The film is a fascinating, hilarious, eye-opening piece of cinema, one part biopic, one part satire, and one part exposé of the way the political machine works in Washington DC, examining how one man can have so many fingers in so many pies that he can fundamentally alter the entire world without us really realizing it. It follows Cheney from his early years as an electrical lineman and violent drunk in Wyoming, his relationship with his wife Lynne, and how he eventually turned his life around and over the course of the next 40 years became a White House staffer during the Nixon administration, the White House Chief of Staff under Gerald Ford, a long-term member of the House of Representatives, the US Secretary of Defense under George Bush, the CEO of the Halliburton oilfield services company, and eventually Vice President under George W. Bush. He was directly involved in Operation Desert Storm, the military response to 9/11, the invasion of Iraq and the ousting of Saddam Hussein, and the drafting of the US Patriot Act – but the film also posits that he was also indirectly involved in the creation of Fox News to act as a mouthpiece for right wing views, advocated for the torture enemy combatants at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere, and helped created the circumstances which led to the rise of ISIS. Changing the world indeed. Read more…

BATMAN – Danny Elfman

December 31, 2018 1 comment


Original Review by Craig Lysy

Bringing Batman to the cinema was a torturous journey that took ten years to come to fruition. Producers Benjamin Melniker and Micheal Uslan purchased screen rights from DC Comics in 1979, and their creative vision was to abandon the campy TV iteration and fashion a dark and serious exposition of the hero. Regretfully United Artists, Columbia Pictures and Universal Pictures all turned down the project, as they wanted a script that reprised the campiness of the TV series. Eventually in 1980 Warner Brothers took on the project seeking to capitalize on its massive success with Superman. Tom Mankiewicz was hired to write the script, which was completed in 1983. Yet the project stalled until 1985 when Tim Burton was hired. Burton wanted his own vision and so rejected Mankiewicz’s script, instead tasking Sam Hamm, a comic book fan, to write a new screenplay. After three years of delays by Warner Brothers executives, the film was given the green light to proceed in April of 1988. Casting the principles could have supported a feature film of its own. Instead of going with one of the leading male action movie stars of the day, Burton selected Michael Keaton whom he had directed in Beetlejuice, which caused uproar among comic book fans who sent 50,000 letters of protest to studio executives. The casting drama continued when Robin Williams was hired for the role of the Joker and then let go in favor of Jack Nicholson. Rounding out the cast would be Kim Basinger as Vicki Vale, Pat Hingle as Commissioner Gordon, Billy Dee Williams as Harvey Dent, and Jack Palance as Carl Grissom. Read more…