Archive

Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

ALIEN 3 – Elliot Goldenthal

May 19, 2022 1 comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

When I first started writing about film music, in the summer of 1997, I tried to write a review of Alien 3. I had seen the film previously, and liked it a great deal, and I remember being especially impressed with the music in the finale, so I went out and bought Elliot Goldenthal’s soundtrack CD. This was my first experience of his music outside of film context, and my film music knowledge at that point barely extended beyond the big orchestral scores of John Williams and James Horner, and the sweeping romance of John Barry. Hearing Alien 3 for the first time was… well, it was almost indescribable. I had no idea what I was listening to. It felt like angry, vicious, random noise, and I absolutely hated it. I hadn’t yet begun to explore the darker and more atonal side of film music, I had no knowledge of Stravinsky or Penderecki, or of twentieth century avant-garde music in general. In short, I had no clue what Elliot Goldenthal was doing. I didn’t have the vocabulary to understand it. Thankfully, thirty years down the line, I now have had vastly more exposure to and tolerance of this type of aggressive music, and I can now appreciate it for the masterpiece it is. Read more…

Ramadan Scores 2022, Part 1

May 17, 2022 Leave a comment

Every year, during the holy Islamic month of Ramadan, television stations across the Middle East and North Africa broadcast lavishly-produced, high profile drama and comedy television series. The cream of the Arabic-speaking world is involved in their creation – directors, writers, actors, and composers – and the resulting shows play to audiences of millions across the region. Many of the best series come from Egypt, and this article takes a look at the music from five of the most high profile Egyptian-made Ramadan dramas of 2022, featuring music by composers Khaled Al Kammar, Khaled Hammad, Layal Watfeh, Mohamed Nassef, Ashraf Elziftawi, and Adel Hakki, among others, plus additional scores from shows made in Kuwait and Syria.

I want to publicly thank my friend, the award-winning author and poet Hasan Namir, for his invaluable help here – this article literally would not be possible without him! Read more…

DUMBO – Oliver Wallace and Frank Churchill

May 16, 2022 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

The children’s story of Dumbo, written by Helen Aberson-Mayer in 1939, was presented to studio executive Walt Disney, who was inspired and so tasked screenplay writers Joe Grant and Dick Huemer, to adapt it for the big screen. After suffering loses with Pinocchio and Fantasia in 1940 Disney managed production, but was tight-fisted with company financial resources and so only budgeted $813,000, which as expected expanded ultimately to $950,000. The screenplay was written by Joe Grant, Dick Huemer and Otto Englander, while Supervising Director was assigned to Ben Sharpsteen. The voice cast would consist of Edward Brophy as Timothy Q. Mouse, Verna Felton as the Elephant Matriarch, Cliff Edwards as Dandy Crow, Herman Bing as the Ringmaster, and Sterling Holloway as Mr. Stork. Read more…

OPERATION MINCEMEAT – Thomas Newman

May 13, 2022 2 comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

In 1943, at the height of World War II, two British intelligence officers, Charles Cholmondeley and Ewen Montagu, devised a plan to deceive the Axis powers into thinking that the upcoming allied invasion of Sicily – intended to free the island from German and Italian control – would take place elsewhere in the Mediterranean. To this end they procured the corpse of a recently-deceased man and dressed it up with the fictional identity of a non-existent Royal Marine named Major William Martin. The plan was to drop the body off the coast of Spain where the Mediterranean currents would carry it close to a German base; on the body, the British planted fake ‘top secret documents’ indicating that the Allies were intending to liberate Greece rather than Sicily, and then take the Germans by surprise when the real target was attacked. The plan – codenamed Operation Mincemeat – was a rousing success, the island was liberated, and the whole thing played an enormous part in the eventual toppling of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. This new film from director John Madden examines the whole operation in great detail; it stars Colin Firth as Montagu, Matthew MacFadyen as Cholmondeley, and has an excellent supporting cast including Kelly MacDonald, Penelope Wilton, Jason Isaacs, Johnny Flynn as Ian Fleming, and Simon Russell Beale as Winston Churchill. Read more…

CITY OF JOY – Ennio Morricone

May 12, 2022 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The career of British director Roland Joffé is one of the oddest ones in recent cinema; after cutting his teeth making gritty UK TV dramas he gained international critical acclaim and Oscar recognition in 1984 for his film The Killing Fields, about the brutal Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia in the 1970s, and followed that with what is probably his most famous film, The Mission, in 1986. However, after making several consecutive flops in the late 1980s and 1990s, including things like Fat Man and Little Boy, The Scarlet Letter, and Goodbye Lover, he was eventually reduced to making low-budget ‘torture porn’ horror movies like Captivity, and now hasn’t made a major movie in more than 15 years. Possibly the last good movie Joffé made was this one: City of Joy, from 1992. It stars Patrick Swayze as an American doctor who travels to India in search of ‘spiritual enlightenment’ after a career crisis, and finds himself becoming deeply involved with helping people who live in the slums of Calcutta. The film co-stars Pauline Collins and Om Puri, and was a minor critical success, but is largely forgotten today. Read more…

DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS – Danny Elfman

May 10, 2022 5 comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS PLOT SPOILERS. IF YOU HAVE NOT YET SEEN THE FILM, YOU MIGHT WANT TO CONSIDER WAITING UNTIL AFTER YOU HAVE DONE SO TO READ IT.

Twenty years after having essentially kicked off what is now the Marvel Cinematic Universe with the original Tobey Maguire Spider-Man (yes, it’s MCU canon now), director Sam Raimi has come full circle with the 28th entry in this never-ending series of films: Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. It’s a visually mind-boggling, conceptually brain-melting, completely bonkers super-hero fantasy action extravaganza, and is the second film to focus on Dr Stephen Strange, the former brilliant neurosurgeon who, following the events of the first film, has become a master of magical and mystic arts, and an ally to super-heroes across multiple subsequent Avengers and Spider-Man films. Multiverse of Madness is essentially a sequel to both the original Doctor Strange AND Spider-Man: No Way Home, but is also critically linked with the TV series WandaVision, to such an extent that anyone with little to no familiarity with any of these predecessors will have no idea what’s going on. Read more…

DANGEROUS MOONLIGHT – Richard Addinsell

May 9, 2022 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

In 1940 Great Britain was in the midst of WWII’s Blitz and the British production unit of RKO Radio Pictures conceived of a story of a classical concert pianist who joins the war effort to become a fighter pilot. Financial backing was secured, William Sistrom was assigned production, and Terrence Young (who would later go on to direct the James Bond films Dr. No, From Russia with Love, and Thunderball) was hired to write an original screenplay, with contributions by Rodney Ackland and Brian Desmond Hurst. Hurst also was tasked with directing and assembled a cast which included Anton Walbrook as Stefan Radetzky, Sally Gray as Carole Peters Radecka, John Laurie as a British Commander. Guy Middleton as Shorty, Cecil Parker as Specialist, and Derrick De Marney as Mike Carroll. Read more…

MOON KNIGHT – Hesham Nazih

May 6, 2022 2 comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The latest super-hero to join the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Moon Knight, is also the first one to be introduced via a Disney+ television series. Whereas this show’s small screen predecessors – WandaVision, Loki, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Hawkeye – all had their roots and main characters in the big screen film franchise, Moon Knight is a brand new story featuring original characters, who are intended to move into the main MCU as the films progress. The show is a wonderful combination of action, drama, comedy, and fantasy, which stars Oscar Isaac as Steven Grant, a mild-mannered docent at the British Museum in London, whose life is turned upside-down when he realizes that he has a form of dissociative identity disorder, and actually shares his body with an American former mercenary named Marc Spector; even more amazingly, Marc is also the earthly avatar of the ancient Egyptian god Khonshu, and has the power to transform into the super hero Moon Knight in order to do Khonshu’s bidding. Before long, Steven/Marc are swept up in a grand adventure involving a religious cult leader who wants to purge the world of sinners, and a search for a mysterious artifact deep within the pyramids of Giza, while also conducting a deep exploration of the emotional trauma and latent mental illness that defines Marc and Steven’s relationship. Read more…

ARTICLE 99 – Danny Elfman

May 5, 2022 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

With all the political furore in the United States today about drug companies, health insurance companies, access to universal healthcare, and other related issues, it’s sobering to realize that this was already part of the national conversation some thirty years ago, and that little has changed in the intervening decades. Article 99 is a film which looks at those same issues – it’s about how corrupt officials try to deny vital healthcare services to US army veterans, and how a group of compassionate doctors at a veteran’s hospital break the rules in order to provide care to their patients by circumventing ‘Article 99,’ a bureaucratic cost-cutting administrative loophole that prevents veterans from receiving the benefits they deserve by stating that a vet is eligible for treatment only for injuries incurred in actual service. The film stars Ray Liotta, Kiefer Sutherland, Forest Whitaker, and Lea Thompson, as the doctors willing to risk their own careers to help others; the film was directed by Howard Deutsch from a screenplay written by Ron Cutler, and has a score by Danny Elfman. Read more…

THE NORTHMAN – Robin Carolan and Sebastian Gainsborough

May 3, 2022 1 comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

One of the oldest stories in all of literature is that of a son avenging the death of a father. It has driven plots in cultures all across the world, and inspired some of the greatest pieces of art in history. One of the most famous of these is, of course, William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, but I would hazard a guess that most people did not realize that Hamlet was itself based on a much earlier story from Norse mythology – I certainly did not until after seeing The Northman. That earlier story is the tale of Amleth, a Viking prince who sets out on a quest to avenge the murder of his father, King Aurvandill War-Raven, by his uncle, Fjölnir. This very simple story of honor and revenge is the basis for The Northman, from director Robert Eggers. It’s an epic, bloody, gory, ultra-realistic, but sometimes fantastical and hallucinatory story of what happens when a desire for revenge becomes a man’s sole purpose for existing – what that will drive a man to do, and whether this singular black-and-white view of right and wrong is justified, especially when shades of grey, doubts and secrets are revealed as the story progresses. It’s a film caked in blood and mud and sweat and shit, which pulls no punches and gives the audience an unflinching look at Viking life and culture. The film stars Alexander Skarsgård as Amleth, Nicole Kidman as Amleth’s mother Queen Guðrun, Claes Bang as Fjölnir, Ethan Hawke as King Aurvandill, and a luminous Anya Taylor-Joy as Olga, a Slavic sorceress who is taken as a slave by Fjölnir and eventually becomes Amleth’s lover. Read more…

THE SEA WOLF – Erich Wolfgang Korngold

May 2, 2022 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

In 1940 Warner Brothers Studios decided to bring Jack London’s 1904 adventure drama novel The Sea Wolf to the big screen, only to realize that rival David O. Selznick owned the film rights. They were not deterred, negotiated purchase, and eventually paid Selznick $15,000 to obtain them. Hal B. Wallis was assigned production, provided a $1 million budget, and Robert Rossen was hired to adapt the novel and write the screenplay. Michael Curtiz was tasked with directing and a fine cast was assembled, including Edward G. Robinson as Wolf Larsen, Ida Lupino as Ruth Webster, John Garfield as George Leach, and Alexander Knox as Humphrey Van Weyden. Read more…

THE BAD GUYS – Daniel Pemberton

April 29, 2022 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The Bad Guys is a new animated adventure comedy from Dreamworks, directed by Pierre Perifel, based on a popular children’s book series by Aaron Blabey. It is set in a world of anthropomorphic animals and focuses on a criminal gang of traditionally ‘bad’ animals – a wolf, a snake, a spider, a shark, and a piranha. The gang is wildly successful at pulling off elaborate heists, but when their latest scheme goes badly awry, they are finally caught. To avoid a prison sentence, the outlaws must pull off their most challenging con yet – becoming model citizens. Under the tutelage of their mentor, Professor Marmalade, the gang sets out to fool the world that they’re turning good – but things are not what they seem, and soon the gang is involved in a high energy adventure. The film has a really good voice cast including Sam Rockwell, Marc Maron, and Awkwafina, and has an original score by the outstanding British composer Daniel Pemberton. Read more…

YEAR OF THE COMET – Hummie Mann

April 28, 2022 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

One of the more little-known ‘mainstream’ films of 1992 is Year of the Comet, directed by Peter Yates and written by William Goldman, who was inspired to write it because of a desire to combine two of his personal loves: red wine and traveling. His script first hit Hollywood in 1978, and originally Goldman wanted Robert Redford and Glenda Jackson to star as the leads in what he envisioned as a ‘romantic adventure comedy thriller’ in the vein of Charade, wherein the protagonists embark on a chase from London to the Scottish Highlands to the French Riviera, in search of the most valuable bottle of wine in history. The title of the project relates to the year the McGuffin wine was bottled, 1811, which was known for the Great Comet of 1811, and also as one of the best years in history for European viticulture. The film sat un-made for almost 15 years, until eventually Goldman was able to leverage his success off the back of writing The Princess Bride and Misery and put it into production; Timothy Daly and Penelope Ann Miller were eventually cast as the leading pair, but despite some handsome production values and lovely location shooting, the film was a box office disaster, a critical flop, and almost immediately sank into obscurity. Read more…

FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE SECRETS OF DUMBLEDORE – James Newton Howard

April 26, 2022 2 comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS PLOT SPOILERS. IF YOU HAVE NOT YET SEEN THE FILM, YOU MIGHT WANT TO CONSIDER WAITING UNTIL AFTER YOU HAVE DONE SO TO READ IT.

The latest cinematic entry in J. K. Rowling’s Wizarding World, after eight Harry Potter films, and the first two entries in the Fantastic Beasts prequel series, comes this eleventh film, subtitled The Secrets of Dumbledore. Like the first two Fantastic Beasts films, it follows the adventures of the magizoologist Newt Scamander, who becomes increasingly embroiled in the power struggle being waged between the wizard Albus Dumbledore, and the dark sorcerer Gellert Grindelwald, who wants to assert wizarding dominance over the non-magical ‘muggle’ world. The Secrets of Dumbledore picks up immediately where The Crimes of Grindelwald left off, with Grindelwald amassing an army of followers – including the orphaned Credence Barebone, who is actually a descendant of the Dumbledore family – while Dumbledore and Scamander travel from Berlin to Bhutan and beyond to try to stop him being elected as the Supreme Head of the International Confederation of Wizards. Eddie Redmayne reprises his role as Newt, Jude Law again plays Dumbledore, and Mads Mikkelsen replaces the scandal-plagued Johnny Depp as Grindelwald; these are joined by regular supporting cast members Dan Fogler, Ezra Miller, and Alison Sudol, while Callum Turner as Newt’s brother Theseus and Jessica Williams as American witch Lally Hicks see their roles significantly increased. Read more…

THE LETTER – Max Steiner

April 25, 2022 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

In 1924 author W. Somerset Maugham wrote a short story titled “The Letter” based on a story he heard while traveling to Singapore. Impressed with its reception, Maugham adapted the story into a stage play, which resulted in 338 performances in London, and 107 on Broadway. Paramount purchased the film rights and produced a film in 1929, which underperformed. Warner Brothers believed they could do better, and so purchased the film rights from Paramount in 1938. Hal B. Wallis was assigned production and Howard E. Koch was hired to write the screenplay, and William Wyler was given the reins to direct. A fine cast was brought in, which included Bette Davis as Leslie Crosbie, Herbert Marshall as Robert Crosbie, James Stephenson as Howard Joyce, Frieda Inescort as Dorothy Joyce, and Gale Sondergaard as Mrs. Hammond. Of note is that Mrs. Hammond was changed from a Chinese wife to an Eurasian to satisfy the Hays Code, which prohibited miscegenation. Read more…