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FEUD: BETTE AND JOAN – Mac Quayle

August 23, 2017 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Building on the success of their hit TV anthology series American Horror Story, TV network FX and writer/director/producer Ryan Murphy have expanded into different areas with two additional shows. The first, American Crime Story, began in 2016 with The People vs. O. J. Simpson, an in-depth look at the celebrity murder trial which gripped the United States in the mid 1990s. The second, Feud, is intended to take a closer look at numerous different true-life inter-personal rivalries, and began by exposing the decades-long grudge between Hollywood actresses Joan Crawford and Bette Davis, which came to a head during the filming of the movie Whatever Happened to Baby Jane in 1962. The 8-episode series, which starred Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon in the title roles and debuted in March 2017, reveled both in its Old Hollywood sheen and in the fading glamour of the two former starlets, while unearthing juicy details on a number of studio power players, ranging from Warner Brothers exec Jack Warner to director Robert Aldrich, and gossip columnist Hedda Hopper. The show was an enormous success, and went on to pick up 19 Emmy Award nominations. Read more…

THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN – Elmer Bernstein

August 21, 2017 Leave a comment

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Yul Brynner had long explored the idea of an American retelling of Akira Kurosawa’s epic 1954 Japanese film The Seven Samurai. Brynner related; “I felt it was one of the great westerns of all time, only it was made by the Japanese, in the Japanese idiom. But the form, the whole design of it was the ideal western.” He worked with fellow actor Anthony Quinn to develop the concept, but when they had a falling out, he took over the reigns alone and presented his pitch to producer Walter Mirisch. Mirisch believed an Americana retelling of this epic story would resonate with the public, and so purchased film rights from Toho Studios and a distribution contract with United Artists. This was a passion project for Brynner, and he brought in friend John Sturges who acquainted himself well with Gunfight at the OK Corral in 1957, to both produce and direct the film. Read more…

ENNIO MORRICONE REVIEWS, 1966-1967

August 20, 2017 Leave a comment

In this second installment of my irregular new series looking at the early career of some iconic composers, we take a look at some more of the more obscure works written by the legendary Ennio Morricone. This group of reviews look at fifteen scores Morricone wrote in 1966 and 1967, including several outstanding jazz and pop pieces, war moves and historical drama, and more of his groundbreaking spaghetti western scores, one of which features one of the most iconic musical primal screams in cinema history! Read more…

THE PICK-UP ARTIST – Georges Delerue

August 17, 2017 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The Pick-Up Artist is a romantic comedy written and directed by James Toback, starring Robert Downey Jr. as Jack Jericho, an egotistical ladies man with a penchant for picking up beautiful women, but then discarding them without a second thought. Jack’s world is thrown into turmoil when he meets Randy Jensen (Molly Ringwald), a smart, independent tour guide whose post-coital indifference to him only causes him to become more smitten. Desperate to find a way to get into Randy’s good books, Jack offers to pay off her alcoholic father’s gambling debts, a decision he comes to regret once he finds himself locking horns with some local Mafioso. The film has a great supporting cast, including Dennis Hopper, Danny Aiello, and Harvey Keitel, but unfortunately it was both a critical and commercial flop, with Roger Ebert calling it “an appallingly silly movie, from its juvenile comic overture to its dreadfully sincere conclusion.” Read more…

WIND RIVER – Nick Cave and Warren Ellis

August 16, 2017 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Wind River is the directorial debut of screenwriter Taylor Sheridan, the writer of Sicario and Hell or High Water. It’s a murder-mystery set on an Indian Reservation in an isolated part of Wyoming, in which a young rookie FBI agent (Elizabeth Olsen) investigates the death of a young native American woman, found dead in a snowdrift, with the help of a local tracker working for the US Department of Fish & Wildlife (Jeremy Renner), and the chief of the Tribal Police (Graham Greene). However, as well as being an effective and unorthodox police procedural, the film also paints a searing portrait of the lives of those who live on Reservations – how the deprivation and isolation leads to crime, drug abuse, and even suicide, further compounding the endless indignities Native Americans have suffered for generations, ever since their tribal lands were invaded by white immigrants. The performances by native actors and actresses such as Greene, Gil Birmingham, Tantoo Cardinal, and Martin Sensmeier, are emotionally raw and politically charged. Read more…

THE ALAMO – Dimitri Tiomkin

August 14, 2017 1 comment

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

This historical epic directed by and starring John Wayne focuses on the famous battle at the Alamo. In 1836, Generalisimo Santa Anna and his grand Mexican Army marched into Texas, then a province of Mexico, to break a rebellion by the locals. The Texans are not fully prepared to engage Santa Anna in battle, so in order to buy time for General Sam Houston and his troops, his subordinate, Colonel William Travis, devises a bold plan. He will fortify and garrison a small mission fort called the Alamo to forestall Santa Ana’s advance northward. The odds are near impossible as they are greatly outnumbered in men, cavalry and artillery. Yet Travis is resolute in his determination to stop Santa Anna at all costs. Heroes of American folklore, the legendary Jim Bowie as well as Davy Crockett and his Tennessee Volunteers support him. And so this small band of 187 men stand their ground in the face of Santa Ana’s army of 5,000 only to find that relief is not coming. Resigned to their fate these American heroes fight an unwinnable battle, one where they will be slaughtered to the man, but a battle that will serve as a rallying cry that will inspire their fellow Texans to fight for and win independence. The movie has a stellar cast that included John Wayne (Davey Crockett), Richard Widmark (Jim Bowie) and Laurence Harvey as Colonel William Travis. The film was a critical success earning six Oscar nominations, but a commercial failure as ticket sales failed to recoup the production costs. Read more…

ENNIO MORRICONE REVIEWS, 1961-1965

August 13, 2017 1 comment

In this first installment of a new irregular series looking at the early career of some iconic composers, we stroll down memory lane to the first works written by the legendary Ennio Morricone. Morricone had studied at the Conservatory of the National Academy of Santa Cecilia in Rome, where he specialized in trumpet performance and composition; then, during the late 1950s, Morricone orchestrated and arranged pop songs for the RCA record label, including some for artists such as Paul Anka, Chet Baker and Mina. While working for RCA Morricone also wrote theater music and classical pieces, and began ghostwriting for composers such as Armando Trovajoli and Mario Nascimbene, before making before making his credited film debut in 1961. These first reviews look at sixteen scores Morricone that wrote between 1961 and 1965, including one of his most groundbreaking spaghetti western scores. Read more…