Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

QUIGLEY DOWN UNDER – Basil Poledouris

October 15, 2020 Leave a comment


Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Quigley Down Under is a fun, knockabout action-western, written by John Hill, and directed by Simon Wincer. The film stars Tom Selleck as Matthew Quigley, a sharpshooter from the American west, who answers an advertisement looking for men with his skills, and finds himself traveling to Australia circa 1860. Upon arrival, he meets another American woman, Cora (Laura San Giacomo), and then his prospective employer, a rancher and ruthless local businessman named Elliott Marston (Alan Rickman). However, when Quigley is told that his job is to murder Aborigines, he refuses; enraged, Marston abandons Quigley and Cora deep in the outback. They are saved by members of the local tribe, who are subsequently attacked by Marston’s men; angered by the injustice, and by Marston’s ruthlessness, Quigley vows to put a stop to it all. Despite addressing the important topic of the genocide of the aborigines in 19th-century Australia, and despite starring Selleck (who was still a bankable box office star at the time), the film was not a great success, with many critics citing its uneven tone, which unsuccessfully combined Selleck’s roguish charm with some quite strong violence and action. Read more…

THE GLORIAS – Elliot Goldenthal

October 13, 2020 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

As I was prepping and doing research prior to writing this review, I learned that this is the first review of a new Elliot Goldenthal score I have written since I wrote about Public Enemies in July 2009, more than 11 years ago. It’s also only the fourth new Goldenthal score I have covered since the turn of the millennium – the other two being Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within in 2001 and S.W.A.T. in 2003. Of course, Goldenthal has only written two scores since 2009 – one of which, The Tempest, I didn’t care for, while the other, Our Souls at Night, was not released on CD at all. He has been working on classical pieces and theatre works in the interim but, other than that, the most significant thing that happened to him was the potentially life-threatening head injury he suffered in 2005, when he fell off a chair in his kitchen and smacked his head on the marble floor; it caused a subdural hematoma, briefly put him in a coma, and rendered him literally speechless for several months afterwards. Whether this traumatic event was the catalyst for Goldenthal’s subsequent drift away from Hollywood is open to debate, but one thing’s for certain: I’m very glad that his wife Julie Taymor keeps hiring him to score her movies. Read more…

NICHOLAS AND ALEXANDRA – Richard Rodney Bennett

October 12, 2020 Leave a comment


Original Review by Craig Lysy

Producer Sam Spiegel had long aspired to make a film set during the Russian Revolution and decided to roll the dice after witnessing the stunning success of David Lean’s film Doctor Zhivago. His initial intent was to derive his screenplay from historical events recorded in the public domain, however he changed course and decided to adapt Robert H. Massie’s popular 1967 novel Nicholas and Alexandra. He purchased the film rights and hired James Goldman (The Lion in Winter) to write the screenplay. Yet the task was onerous with countless rewrites as four directors came and went. It was only after Franklin Schaffner came on to direct that a final screenplay was realized. Spiegel vision was to create an epic film in the tradition of Doctor Zhivago and Lawrence of Arabia, yet he was constrained by Columbia studio executives who were reluctant to offer a generous budget after terrible financial setbacks with The Chase and The Night of the Generals. As such he could not afford actors Peter O’Toole, Vanessa Redgrave and Rex Harrison. He did however manage to secure the services of Laurence Olivier as Count Witte. Joining him would be less familiar actors including Michael Jayston as Tsar Nicholas II, Janet Suzman as Tsaritna Alexandra, Tom Baker as Rasputin, Michael Redgrave as Sazonov, Jack Hawkins as Vladimir, Harry Andrews as Grand Duke Nicholas, Roderic Noble as Tsarevich Alexei, Ania Marson as Grand Duchess Olga, Lynne Frederick as Grand Duchess Tatiana, Candace Glendenning as Grand Duchess Marie, Fiona Fullerton as Grand Duchess Anastasia, and Irene Worth as the Dowager Tsaritsna Marie. Read more…


October 8, 2020 2 comments


Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Thomas Newman is the youngest of the ‘composing Newmans’ who were primed to take over the legacy of Alfred, Lionel, and Emil Newman, the three brothers who established a dynasty within Hollywood film music circles during the golden age of the industry. Thomas’s cousin Randy Newman was born in 1943 and scored his first film in 1981; his older brother David Newman was born in 1954, and was already a working violinist and conductor-for-hire prior to him scoring his first film in 1986. Meanwhile Thomas had already worked as an orchestrator for John Williams on Return of the Jedi, and with Stephen Sondheim on Broadway, before scoring his first film – Reckless – in 1984. Thomas quickly established himself as a composer for quirky and hip comedies and genre movies but, for the first half dozen years of his career, very little of his music was released as a soundtrack – he got half an album for Desperately Seeking Susan in 1985, one track on the album for Gung Ho in 1986, two tracks on Jumpin’ Jack Flash the same year, and one cue each on the albums for Light of Day, The Lost Boys, The Great Outdoors, and Cookie. In fact, the very first standalone album of Thomas Newman music – and, as such, where we begin with him – is for this movie, the 1990 comedy-drama Welcome Home Roxy Carmichael. Read more…

Under-the-Radar Round Up 2020, Part III

October 7, 2020 4 comments

As the COVID-19 Coronavirus is continuing still to decimate 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 is 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 third quarter of 2020! The titles include a fantasy sequel and a historical drama/thriller from Germany, a super hero-themed serial killer thriller from Spain, a thriller from Vietnam, an emotional documentary from Turkey, and so much more! Read more…

SHE – Max Steiner

October 5, 2020 Leave a comment


Original Review by Craig Lysy

RKO studio executives were fascinated by the film prospects presented by of Henry Rider Haggard’s 1887 novel She. The tale offered a broad canvass, which featured adventure, mystery, love, magic and immortality. They purchased the screen rights in 1932 and in 1933 assigned the project to Merian Cooper, who had just assumed his new position as Vice President of Production for RKO. He brought in Dudley Nichols and Ruth Rose to write the screenplay, and they ended up creating a story, which drew upon plot elements from all four novels of the series. Cooper had a grand vision and with a $1 million budget purchased lavish costumes and fashioned magnificent architecture sets for the city of Kor in the Art Deco design, and assigned Lansing C. Holden and Irving Pichel as directors to bring it all to life. Yet they were undone when the budget was slashed and they were forced to abandon technicolor and instead shoot in black and white. For the cast Cooper recruited opera singer Helen Gahagan for the titular role. Joining her would be Randolph Scott as John Vincey and Leo Vincey, Nigel Bruce as Professor Horace Holly, Helen Mack as Tanya Dugmore, and Gustav von Seyffertitz as Governor Billali. Read more…


October 3, 2020 Leave a comment

In this seventh installment of my series looking at the early careers of iconic composers, we take a look at nine of the scores written by the legendary Ennio Morricone in 1969. This group of reviews looks at the music for several erotic dramas with a jazzy Euro-pop vibe, a French gangster film, a bizarre futuristic science fiction film that was banned in its own country, and two war movies – one of which is, in my opinion, a mostly undiscovered Morricone masterpiece! Read more…

MEMPHIS BELLE – George Fenton

October 1, 2020 Leave a comment


Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Memphis Belle is a World War II action-drama, directed by Michael Caton-Jones and written by Monte Merrick. It is a narrative remake of William Wyler’s 1944 documentary feature The Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress, and follows the lives of a squadron of American G. I. airmen stationed in England, working with members of the Royal Air Force to counter the threat of the Nazi Luftwaffe at the height of the conflict. Specifically, it focuses on the events surrounding the final mission of a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress aircraft called the ‘Memphis Belle,’ and how the members of its crew overcome the dangers and tragedies inherent in war, and endeavor to complete their last mission, so that they can return home safely to their families. The film starred a cast of up-and-coming (at the time) American actors including Matthew Modine, Eric Stoltz, Sean Astin, Harry Connick Jr., Tate Donovan, and Billy Zane, with John Lithgow and David Strathairn supporting as their commanding officers. Read more…

ANTEBELLUM – Nate Wonder and Roman Gianarthur

September 29, 2020 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Building off the success of movies like Get Out and Us, writer-director Jordan Peele has begun to inspire a new generation of African-American filmmakers to explore genre stories of horror, sci-fi, and fantasy. On television, the HBO series Lovecraft Country has blended 1950s racial drama with a myriad of lurid tales involving covens, monsters, demons, and so much more. Playing concurrently in cinemas (or, at least, it would have been had it not been for COVID-19) is Antebellum, the debut feature of writer-directors Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz. The story is arguably the most horrific nightmare imaginable for contemporary black Americans; it stars Janelle Monáe as Veronica Henley, a successful author and sociologist, who wakes up one morning to find herself living as a slave on a cotton plantation during the American Civil War. Forbidden to speak and treated brutally by the white slave owners, Veronica must come to terms with what is happening to her, and figure a way out before it’s too late. The film co-stars Eric Lange, Jena Malone, Jack Huston, Kiersey Clemons, and Gabourey Sidibe, and received mixed reviews from critics when it opened, despite its pertinent themes relating to racism, the lived experience of the black community in contemporary America, and what has been called the ‘American original sin’ of slavery. Read more…

NARROW MARGIN – Bruce Broughton

September 24, 2020 Leave a comment


Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Narrow Margin is a terrific B-movie action thriller, directed by Peter Hyams, and loosely based on a 1952 film of the same name, the screenplay for which was nominated for an Academy Award that year. The film stars Gene Hackman as Los Angeles deputy district attorney Robert Caulfield, who is tasked with bringing Carol Hunnicutt (Anne Archer) back to LA from Canada to testify against a mafia boss. Circumstances force Caulfield and Hunnicutt to travel by rail rather than flying, but once they board the train in Vancouver it quickly becomes apparent that the mob boss has sent two hitmen to kill Hunnicutt before she can take the stand; and so begins a deadly game of cat-and-mouse as Caulfield desperately tries to thwart the assassins and keep Hunnicutt alive, all within the limited confines of their locomotive as it hurtles through the Canadian Rockies. The film co-starred James B. Sikking, M. Emmett Walsh, and J. T. Walsh, and had an original score by the great Bruce Broughton. Read more…

ENOLA HOLMES – Daniel Pemberton

September 22, 2020 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

I would wager that most people in the English-speaking world have heard of Sherlock Holmes, the great British detective of classic literature. Many will also be aware of Sherlock’s brother, Mycroft, who appears in several of the stories too. However, it is likely that Sherlock and Mycroft’s younger sister Enola is completely new to most – and for good reason, because she is not a creation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, nor does she appear in any of his great adventures. Enola Holmes is a creation of writer Nancy Springer, who first wrote of her adventures in a series of books beginning in 2006. This new film is an adaptation of the first novel, The Case of the Missing Marquess, and stars Millie Bobbie Brown as the 14-year old sister of Sherlock and Mycroft. When their mother disappears, Sherlock and Mycroft conclude that her mother left voluntarily, and decide to send young Enola away to a boarding school. Horrified at the prospect of having to conform to the Victorian sensibilities of how girls must dress and act, the tomboyish Enola runs away to London, determined to prove that there is more to her mother’s disappearance than meets the eye. The film is directed by Harry Bradbeer, co-stars Henry Cavill, Sam Claflin, and Helena Bonham Carter, and has an original score by composer Daniel Pemberton; it was scheduled to be released in cinemas in the summer of 2020 but, due to the COVID-19 pandemic was instead released on Netflix in September. Read more…


September 21, 2020 Leave a comment


Original Review by Craig Lysy

Universal Studios executives saw opportunity to capitalize on the public fascination surrounding the best-selling 1969 techno-thriller novel The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton, and purchased the film rights for $250,000. Renowned academy award winning director Robert Wise was brought in to both produce and direct the film and given a generous budget of $6.5 million. He hired trusted collaborator Nelson Gidding to adapt the novel for the screen and brought in a fine cast, which included; Arthur Hill as Dr. Jeremy Stone, James Olson as Dr. Mark Hall, David Wayne as Dr. Charles Dutton, Kate Reid as Dr. Ruth Leavitt. Paula Kelly as nurse Karen Anson, and George Mitchell as Mr. Peter Jackson. Read more…


September 19, 2020 Leave a comment

In this sixth installment of my series looking at the early careers of iconic composers, we take a look at the remaining twelve the scores written by the legendary Ennio Morricone in 1968, one of the most prolific years of any composer in cinema history. This group of reviews looks at the music for one of the greatest westerns of all time – Once Upon a Time in the West – and a variety of other scores across a multitude of genres, including pop-psychedelia scores for romances, ‘nunsploitation,’ avant garde atonalism for giallo horror, hard-boiled crime thrillers, social realist dramas, and so much more! Read more…


September 17, 2020 Leave a comment


Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

One of a spate of Something-from-Hell movies in the early 1990s, Pacific Heights was a thriller which made everyone think twice about sub-letting their apartment to a stranger. The film stars Matthew Modine and Melanie Griffith as Drake and Patty, a young professional couple who own a large house in San Francisco’s upscale Pacific Heights neighborhood. Drake and Patty lease one of their empty apartments to Carter Hayes (Michael Keaton), a mysterious loner with a hidden past, who immediately sets about renovating the apartment, hammering and drilling at all hours of the night, angering the other tenants. Eventually Carter’s anti-social and disruptive behavior begins to take its toll on Drake and Patty’s relationship, to such an extent that the police become involved. Carter’s response to the legal threats is to make life even more miserable for Drake and Patty, eventually leading to recrimination, threats, and mounting violence. But what is Carter’s motivation? And why do events and women from his past keep coming back to haunt him? The film was directed by John Schlesinger from a screenplay by Daniel Pyne, and features Laurie Metcalfe, Beverly d’Angelo, and Tippi Hedren in supporting roles. Read more…

THE SECRET GARDEN – Dario Marianelli

September 15, 2020 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

There have been numerous film and television adaptations of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s beloved 1911 novel The Secret Garden over the years, including one starring Margaret O’Brien released in 1949, and one executive-produced by Francis Ford Coppola in 1993, which was the most recent version released in cinemas prior to this one. The story is one of innocence, magic, and friendship, and is regarded as a classic of English children’s literature. It tells the story of Mary, a young girl who grows up spoiled as member of the aristocracy in British India; when her parents die in a cholera epidemic she is sent to live with distant relatives in an isolated mansion on the Yorkshire Moors. Despite initially hating her new surroundings, Mary begins to warm to her new life after she discovers a secret walled garden hidden in a remote part of the estate. As Mary spends more and more time in the garden she starts to learn the history of the place, her family, and the house itself – which eventually leads her to make a startling discovery that changes her life forever. The film is directed by Marc Munden from a screenplay by Jack Thorne, stars Dixie Egerickx as Mary, and features Colin Firth and Julie Walters in supporting roles. Read more…