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REDEEMING LOVE – Brian Tyler and Breton Vivian

January 25, 2022 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Redeeming Love is a ‘faith-based drama’ directed by D. J. Caruso, based on a popular novel by Francine Rivers, which was itself a re-telling of the biblical story of Hosea, a prophet who married an unfaithful woman. The film is set in the 1850s at the height of the California gold rush and tells the story of Angel, a woman who was sold to a brothel as a child and who has essentially spent her entire life working as a prostitute. Despite her miserable life Angel is positive and optimistic, and her prospects begins to change when she meets and falls in love with Michael, a kind-hearted farmer who ‘rescues’ her following a beating from a client. However, the road to true love and redemption is always fraught with perils, and before long Angel and Michael find themselves dealing with all sorts of trials and tribulations – not only in terms of their circumstances in the present, but also as a result of Angel’s horrific past experiences coming back to haunt them. The film stars Abigail Cowan and Tom Lewis as Angel and Michael, with Famke Janssen, Logan Marshall-Green, and Nina Dobrev in supporting roles, and has an original score by Brian Tyler and Breton Vivian. Read more…

THE HOLY MOUNTAIN – Edmund Meisel

January 24, 2022 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

In 1926 the future documentary filmmaker (and Nazi propagandist) Leni Riefenstahl was a dancer and an aspiring actress. A chance meeting between her and director Arnold Fanck was fateful as he was impressed by both her beauty and singlemindedness. As such, he began to write sketches to a film he envisioned, a love story, which would showcase her talents. Fanck took his screenplay – called Der Heilige Berg, or The Holy Mountain – to the UFA production company, who agreed to support the project. Harry R. Sokal was assigned production with a budget of 1.5 million RM. Fanck would direct and handle cinematography. His cast consisted of Riefenstahl as Diotima, Luis Trenker as Karl, Frida Richard as Mother, Ernst Petersen as Vigo, Friedrich Schneider as Coli, and Hannes Schneider as Mountain Guide. Read more…

SHINING THROUGH – Michael Kamen

January 20, 2022 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Shining Through is an old-fashioned World War II spy thriller with a romantic undercurrent, written and directed by David Seltzer, based on the novel by Susan Isaacs. The film stars Melanie Griffith as Linda Voss, a clerk in a New York law office, who gets swept up into a world of espionage and intrigue when her employer, attorney Ed Leland (Michael Douglas), discovers she speaks German. Ed is secretly a colonel in the OSS, and he enlists Linda for an important assignment: she is to travel to Berlin and, while posing as a member of the household staff of a Nazi officer, steal top-secret plans for a missile weapon the Germans are developing. The film co-stars Liam Neeson, Joely Richardson, and John Gielgud, and has excellent technical pedigree, but unfortunately was a critical flop and a commercial disaster: critic Roger Ebert wrote that Shining Through was “such an insult to the intelligence that I wasn’t able to suspend my disbelief … scene after scene is so implausible that the movie kept pushing me outside and making me ask how the key scenes could possibly be taken seriously”. As such, the film is mostly forgotten today, a footnote in the careers of its three main stars. Read more…

Under-the-Radar Round Up 2021, Part 4C

January 18, 2022 1 comment

2021 is over and, as the world of mainstream blockbuster cinema and film music continues to recover from the COVID-19 Coronavirus, I again urge people to look beyond the confines of mainstream Hollywood to find the best film music being written. As such, I now present the third and final part of my final group of reviews looking at the best “under the radar” scores from around the world – the five titles included here again represent some of the best film music heard this year, and include a historical drama from Malta, a big-screen reboot of a beloved Japanese-Spanish children’s animated series from the 1980s, a sweeping British natural history documentary, a Norwegian Christmas fantasy-comedy, and a documentary from Iran with a score by one of 2021’s breakthrough composers. Read more…

CARMEN – Ernesto Halffter

January 17, 2022 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Director, screenwriter and actor Jacques Feyder had two dozen films to his credit when he decided to bring Prosper Mérimée’s classic 1845 novel Carmen to the big screen. Georges Bizet had in 1875 made the story famous with his opera, but Feyder felt confident that he could provide a big screen retelling, which would reach far more people. Alexandre Kamenka’s production company signed on to fund the project with Les Films Armor agreeing to distribute. Feyder personally adapted the novel into a screenplay and would also direct the film. He made the artistic decision to film live in authentic locations rather than the insular comfort of the studio sets. He brought in a fine cast, which included; Raquel Meller as Carmen, Fred Louis Lerch as José Lizarrabengoa, and Gaston Modot as García “El Tuerto”. Read more…

THIS GAME’S CALLED MURDER – Bear McCreary

January 14, 2022 1 comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

A comedy-horror-thriller with an indie attitude, This Game’s Called Murder is the latest film from writer-director Adam Sherman. It stars Ron Perlman, Natasha Henstridge, and Vanessa Marano, and is about the eccentric members of the Wallendorf family. Mr. Wallendorf is a fashion mogul and designer of iconic red high heeled shoes, and Mrs. Wallendorf is his conniving brutal wife. Their daughter, Jennifer, is a superstar on social media, and it is her struggle to come to terms with who she is inside this powerful but massively dysfunctional family that leads her down a road of violence, anarchy, and many, many Instagram posts. The film premiered in a few theaters and on streaming services in December 2021, but mostly it has flown under the radar – and it would have flown under mine entirely were it not for the fact that it was scored by Bear McCreary. Read more…

THE HAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE – Graeme Revell

January 13, 2022 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The Hand That Rocks the Cradle is a psychological thriller which builds on the ‘something-from-hell’ sub-genre trope, and made parents everywhere think twice about hiring a nanny. The film stars Matt McCoy and Annabella Sciorra as Michael and Claire Bartel, successful young parents with a pre-teen daughter and a baby on the way. After the baby is born Claire hires the seemingly perfect Peyton Flanders (Rebecca de Mornay) to be their new nanny, and for a while things go well – until unusual events start occurring in the Bartel household, and Claire begins to suspect that there is more to Peyton than meets the eye. The film was directed by Curtis Hanson, and was a popular box office hit in the early weeks of 1992; it also became notorious for a particular scene in a greenhouse, which remains a grisly thrill to this day. The title of the film is taken from the famous 1865 poem of the same name written by William Ross Wallace, which praises motherhood and celebrates mothers, and states that ‘the hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world’. Read more…

RUMBLE – Lorne Balfe

January 11, 2022 1 comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Rumble is a CGI animated action comedy based on the graphic novel ‘Monster on the Hill’ by Rob Harrell, directed by Hamish Grieve. The film is set in a world where monsters and humans peacefully co-exist, and where one of the most popular sports is monster wrestling. After the shark-monster Tentacular, who represents a small town called Stoker, becomes the new world champion, he suddenly announces his retirement. The townspeople are later told if they do not find a new wrestler to represent Stoker, they will lose the town’s stadium and its resultant revenue. This prompts a wrestling enthusiast named Winnie Coyle to search for a new monster representative for her town – which ultimately brings her into contact with Steve, the son of former champion wrestler Rayburn, who despite being a talented athlete in his own right lives in his late father’s shadow. Circumstances lead to Winnie and Steve eventually teaming up, training, and fighting, culminating in the underdog Steve having a shot at Tentacular’s title, with the future of the town on the line. The film features a voice cast including Will Arnett, Geraldine Viswanathan, and Terry Crews, and was supposed to premiere in cinemas in July 2020, but it was moved no less than four times due to the COVID-19 pandemic theatrical release debacle, and eventually premiered on the streaming channel Paramount+ in December 2021. Read more…

THE BIRTH OF A NATION – Joseph Carl Breil

January 10, 2022 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

In 1913 Director D. W. Griffith took interest in the 1905 novel The Clansman by Thomas Dixon Jr. and believed it provided an opportunity to bring an epic tale to the big screen. He secured the film rights offering 25% interest in the film and would use his own production company to produce the film, with an initial budget of $10,000, which later ballooned to $100,000. Griffith would not only produce the film, but also direct, and collaborate with Frank E. Woods to write the screenplay. Casting caused controversy as Griffith used white actors in black face to play black and mulatto people, and only used real black people in expansive scenes where extras were required. For his cast Lilian Gish would star as Elsie Stoneman, and joining her would be Mae Marsh as Flora Cameron, Henry B. Walthal as Colonel Benjamin Cameron, Miriam Cooper as Margaret Cameron, Ralph Lewis as Austin Stoneman, George Siegmann as Silas Lynch, and Walter Long as Gus. Read more…

Under-the-Radar Round Up 2021, Part 4B

January 7, 2022 2 comments

2021 is over and, as the world of mainstream blockbuster cinema and film music continues to recover from the COVID-19 Coronavirus, I again urge people to look beyond the confines of mainstream Hollywood to find the best film music being written. As such, I now present the second part of my final group of reviews looking at the best “under the radar” scores from around the world – the five titles included here represent some of the best film music heard this year to date, and include a seasonal fantasy from the Netherlands, two British dramas telling very different true stories, and two spectacular entries from Scandinavia: a Finnish nature documentary, and a Norwegian variation on the Cinderella story. Read more…

THE LAST BOY SCOUT – Michael Kamen

January 6, 2022 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The Last Boy Scout is an action thriller directed by Tony Scott, produced by movie mogul Joel Silver, written by Shane Black and Greg Hicks. It stars Bruce Willis, hot off the success of his action outings in two Die Hard movies, as Los Angeles private detective Joe Hallenbeck, who suffers a major setback in his current case when the female witness he is protecting is murdered. Needing to find out what happened, Hallenback teams up with the victim’s boyfriend – a disgraced former professional football star named Jimmy Dix, played by Damon Wayans – and begins to investigate. However, the more Joe digs, the more scandal he uncovers and danger he finds, involving a corrupt politician and the ruthless owner of a sports franchise. The film co-starred Chelsea Field, Noble Willingham, and a young Halle Berry, and was one of the most popular and financially successful action movies of 1991, but thirty years down the line it has somewhat fallen into obscurity. The same could be said of the film’s score, which was by the great Michael Kamen. Read more…

THE KING’S MAN – Matthew Margeson and Dominic Lewis

January 4, 2022 5 comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The King’s Man is a historical action adventure film based on the popular comic book series by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons, and which acts as a prequel to the two Kingsman movies released in 2014 and 2017, respectively. The film is set in the mid-1910s and charts the origins of Kingsman, a fictional British secret service and espionage organization established to operate outside of diplomatic and political channels. Ralph Fiennes stars as Orlando, the Duke of Oxford, whose wife was murdered by assassins during the Boer War. Across Europe political tensions are building between King George V of Great Britain, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, and Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, pushing the region to the brink of war. Orlando’s son Conrad is eager to join the British armed forces and serve his country, but Orlando forbids it due to his pacifism; however, unknown to most, Orlando has secretly established an intelligence agency with the help of his maid and his manservant, and has made a shocking discovery – that all three monarchs are being manipulated by a shadowy figure named The Shepherd, and has sent his agents – who include Grigori Rasputin, Gavrilo Princip, Erik Hanussen, and Mata Hari – to ensure the war begins. The film is directed by Matthew Vaughan, and co-stars Gemma Arterton as Oxford’s maid Polly, Djimon Hounsou as Oxford’s manservant Shola, and Rhys Ifans as Rasputin, with Tom Hollander, Charles Dance, and Harris Dickinson among an extended ensemble cast. Read more…

STENKA RAZIN – Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov

January 3, 2022 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

The short silent film’s genesis arose from a collaboration between two pioneers of the emerging 20th century Russian cinema; producer/cinematographer/correspondent Alexander Drankov, and director Vladimir Fedorovich Romashkov. Following the 1905 Russian revolution the country was simmering with worker and peasant discontent against the autocracy of Tsar Nicholas II and the aristocracy. In an effort to tap into public discontent, they conceived of a fictionalized account from the life of Stenka Razin, a heroic 19th century Cossack chieftain who led a peasant revolt against the oppression of the Tsar and landed nobility. The 10-minute short film would be financed by Drankov’s own production company, which he formed the year before in 1907. The screenplay was written by Vasily Goncharov, and is an adaptation from the play Ponizovaya Volnitsa. A single actor is credited, Yevgeni Petrov-Krayevsky who would play Stenka Razin. Read more…

DON’T LOOK UP – Nicholas Britell

December 31, 2021 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Pitching a satire at the right level is always a tricky task, especially when the thing you are satirizing is something that is happening at the time. Whether you are tackling politics, war (like Dr Strangelove or MASH), religion (like Monty Python’s Life of Brian), bureaucracy (like Brazil), or something else entirely, you run the risk of alienating the half of your audience that doesn’t agree with your stance – and this appears to have happened to Adam McKay with his new film Don’t Look Up. The film stars Leonardo di Caprio and Jennifer Lawrence as Randall Mindy and Kate Dibiasky, two astronomy scientists who make a shocking discovery – that a comet, larger than the one which killed the dinosaurs, is on a collision course with Earth, and will strike in six months with 99% probability. Despite their scientifically accurate (but, obviously, desperately dire) warnings, they face opposition and scorn at every turn: from politicians more concerned about their poll ratings, from a disinterested media more concerned with the latest celebrity breakup, and from an apathetic public who immediately become polarized based on their political and religious beliefs. The film co-stars Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett, Jonah Hill, Mark Rylance, Timothée Chalamet, and Ariana Grande, among many others, and has been the recipient of equal amounts of praise and scorn in the wake of its release. Read more…

FRIED GREEN TOMATOES – Thomas Newman

December 30, 2021 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Fried Green Tomatoes is a sentimental comedy-drama directed by Jon Avnet, based on the popular novel by Fannie Flagg. The story jumps between the past and the present and explores the relationship between Evelyn Couch (Kathy Bates), a middle-aged and disillusioned housewife, and Ninny Threadgoode (Jessica Tandy), an elderly woman who lives in a nursing home. Evelyn pays weekly visits to Ninny, who tells her stories about her youth in the small town of Whistle Stop, Alabama, where her sister-in-law, Idgie (Mary Stuart Masterson), and her ‘friend’ Ruth (Mary-Louise Parker) ran a café. As Ninny’s seemingly whimsical story unfolds, more serious themes relating to lesbianism, racism, and even murder gradually begin to emerge, and the influence of the strong women from Ninny’s childhood inspire Evelyn to make positive changes in her life in the present. The film was a hit with both audiences and critics, and earned two Oscar nominations, including one for Tandy as Best Supporting Actress at the age of 82. Read more…