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AN AMERICAN PICKLE – Michael Giacchino and Nami Melumad

August 11, 2020 1 comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Something unusual has been happening to Seth Rogen lately: he’s becoming a really interesting filmmaker. The man who started as the guffawing stoner in films like Pineapple Express has, of late, been tackling much more challenging material, blending drama with comedies that have a much more satirical and intellectual undertone. The Interview almost started a political international incident with North Korea in 2014, and Sausage Party was a swipe at organized religion hidden behind raunchy sex jokes, while The Long Shot proved his potential to be a slightly more conventional leading man in a romantic comedy. Now, with his new movie An American Pickle, Rogen is taking a surprisingly deep look at themes relating to loneliness, family, heritage, and Jewishness, in the context of a fish-out-of-water comedy. Rogen stars as Herschel Greenbaum, a Jewish man who emigrates to New York from Eastern Europe with his pregnant wife in 1919. Having secured work in a pickle factory, disaster strikes when Herschel accidentally falls into a barrel of brine, which somehow manages to preserve him perfectly. He wakes up exactly 100 years later to find Brooklyn very much changed; his only living relative is his great grandson Ben (also Rogen), a lonely app developer who no longer considers himself a practicing Jew. However, despite their initial happiness at finding each other, problems soon begin to arise, most of which are exacerbated by Herschel’s old-fashioned attitudes, and Ben’s lack of interest in his heritage. Read more…

JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS – Bernard Herrmann

August 10, 2020 Leave a comment

MOVIE MUSIC UK CLASSICS

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Producer Charles Schneer and famed stop-motion photography master Ray Harryhausen decided that their fourth collaboration would take them to the realm of the ancient Greek myths. They chose the epic hero’s quest tale of Jason and his Argonaut crew who sail to the ends of the earth in search of the Golden Fleece, born from a winged ram and a symbol of divine sanction and kingship. Schneer would produce the film using his Morningside Productions company in partnership with Columbia pictures. A very generous budget of $3 million was provided and Don Chaffey was tasked with directing. Beverly Cross and Jan Read were hired to write the screenplay and a fine cast was assembled, which included Todd Armstrong in the titular role, joined by Nancy Kovack as Medea, Gary Raymond as the villain Acastus, Laurence Naismith as Argus, Niall MacGinnis as Zeus, Honor Blackman as Hera, Jack Gwillim as King Aeetes, John Carey as Hylas, and Nigel Green as Hercules. Read more…

DIE HARD 2 – Michael Kamen

August 6, 2020 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The career trajectory of sitcom star Bruce Willis was forever changed by the success of Die Hard in 1988. No longer was he the charmingly roguish detective David Addison from the hit TV show Moonlighting; now he was the all-action NYPD cop John McClane, who had single-handedly foiled the gang of international terrorists who had taken over a Los Angeles skyscraper. Demand for another Die Hard movie was high, and so in the summer of 1990 Willis returned as McClane in Die Hard 2, which was released with the suffix ‘Die Harder’ in some territories. The film was adapted from Walter Wager’s 1987 novel 58 Minutes and saw McClane getting caught up in an all-new terrorism plot at Washington DC’s Dulles Airport. A group of disgruntled former special forces soldiers have disabled the airport’s air traffic control system so they can rescue a drug lord, who is being extradited to the US to stand trial. To make matters worse, a number of commercial passenger planes are circulating above the airport, unable to land, all of which are quickly running out of fuel, and McClane’s wife Holly is on board one of them. The film co-starred Bonnie Bedelia, William Sadler, Franco Nero, John Amos, and Dennis Franz, and was directed by Finnish action movie specialist Renny Harlin. Read more…

MYSTERIOUS ISLAND – Bernard Herrmann

August 3, 2020 1 comment

MOVIE MUSIC UK CLASSICS

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Following the commercial success of The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad (1958), Columbia Pictures signed producer Charles Schneer to a contract, in which they would distribute nine of his films. He and Ray Harryhausen were eager to launch their third collaboration and chose to adapt another Jules Verne novel, The Mysterious Island (1874). John Preeble, Daniel Uhlman and Crane Wilbur teamed up to write the screenplay, adding fantastic beasts to create drama for the story, which would allow Harryhausen to once again awe audiences with his stop-motion Dynamation photography. Veteran director Cy Endfield was tasked with directing and a fine cast was assembled including Michael Craig as Captain Cyrus Harding, Joan Greenwood as Lady Mary Fairchild, Michael Callan as Herbert Brown, Gary Merrill as Gideon Spilitt, Herbert Lom as Captain Nemo, Beth Rogan as Elena Fairchild, Percy Herbert as Sergeant Pencroft, and Dan Jackson as Corporal Neb Nugent. Read more…

ENNIO MORRICONE REVIEWS, Part V

August 2, 2020 Leave a comment

In this fifth 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 1968, one of the most prolific years of any composer in cinema history. This group of reviews looks at the music for a couple of great spaghetti westerns, several influential pop-psychedelia scores, and a dark science fiction drama score which allowed Morricone to channel his more serious avant-garde side, and his first collaboration with the great Italian director Dario Argento. Read more…

PRESUMED INNOCENT – John Williams

July 30, 2020 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Presumed Innocent is a terrific courtroom thriller of the type they just don’t make any more. Directed by Alan J. Pakula and written by Scott Turow, based on his own 1987 novel of the same name, it stars Harrison Ford as Rusty Sabich, a high-profile prosecutor working for the current district attorney, Raymond Horgan (Brian Dennehy). Rusty’s life is turned upside town when a former colleague, Carolyn Polhemus (Greta Scacchi), is found raped and murdered in her apartment; to make matters worse for Rusty, he previously had a brief affair with Carolyn, which resulted in domestic problems between Rusty and his wife Barbara (Bonnie Bedelia). The DA’s political rival, Nico Della Guardia, uses circumstantial evidence found at the crime scene to accuse Rusty of the murder, and soon Rusty is fighting not only to clear his name, but to identify the real killer. Presumed Innocent is one of the most entertaining and intelligent movies of its type, and one of my personal favorite courtroom thrillers; great films like this used to come out every year, from authors like Turow and John Grisham, but the over-saturation of TV shows in the Law and Order franchise have somewhat lessened their impact and public interest has waned in the genre as a whole. It’s a shame because I always loved them when they were done well, and this one is one of the best. Read more…

ANIMAL CRACKERS – Bear McCreary

July 29, 2020 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Animal Crackers is an animated adventure film for children, directed by Scott Christian Sava and Tony Bancroft (who co-directed Mulan), which is somewhat astonishingly inspired by the animal-shaped biscuits/cookies of the same name. It’s a surprisingly convoluted story but, basically, the plot boils down to a family of circus owners who are given a magical box of Animal Crackers which temporarily turns people into whatever animal shape they eat, and which they use to save their livelihood and thwart the plans of their evil uncle, who wants to take the circus over for his own nefarious purposes. The film has an astonishing voice cast – John Krasinski, Emily Blunt, Ian McKellen, Danny DeVito, Sylvester Stallone – and premiered at the prestigious Annecy International Animation Film Festival in 2017 prior to debuting in cinemas in China in 2018. It was slated for release in the United States later that same year but financial issues involving the distributor led to it being delayed and delayed, and then with all the issues surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, it eventually skipped theaters altogether, and was finally released on Netflix in July 2020. Read more…

THE THREE WORLDS OF GULLIVER – Bernard Herrmann

July 27, 2020 Leave a comment

MOVIE MUSIC UK CLASSICS

Original Review by Craig Lysy

After the critical and financial success of The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad in 1958, Charles Schneer and Ray Harryhausen decided to further explore the fantasy genre drawing inspiration from a literary classic, Jonathan Swift’s 1726 novel Gulliver’s Travels. Columbia Pictures would finance and distribute the film, with Schneer again producing. Harryhausen would again oversee the Dynamation stop-motion animation and special visual effects. Jack Sher was tasked with directing, and he would collaborate with screenwriter Arthur Ross to write the screenplay, which would be loosely based on Swift’s novel. For the cast, Kerwin Matthews would again play the titular role, supported by Jo Morrow as Gwendolyn, June Thorburn as Elizabeth, Basil Sydney as the Emperor of Liliput, Sheri Aberoni as Glumdalclitch, Lee Patterson as Reldresal, and Gregoire Aslan as King Brob. Read more…

ARACHNOPHOBIA – Trevor Jones

July 23, 2020 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Arachnophobia was one of the most fun comedy-horror films of the early 1990s, which played on one of the most prevalent human fears: spiders. Directed by Frank Marshall, the film starred Jeff Daniels as Ross Jennings, the town doctor in an idyllic California coastal community. Things begin to go awry in the town when the desiccated corpse of Jerry Manley (Mark L. Lester), a local nature photographer, is brought to the funeral home for autopsy; Jerry had died while on an assignment deep in the jungles of Venezuela, accompanying entomologist Dr James Atherton (Julian Sands) on a trip to discover and study rare spiders. It quickly becomes apparent that Jerry died of a spider bite, and that the venomous arachnid hitched a ride in his coffin. Before long the entire community is under siege from thousands of deadly eight-legged invaders, and it’s up to Jennings, his wife Molly (Harley Jane Kozak), and local exterminator Delbert McClintock (John Goodman), to stop the infestation. Read more…

GREYHOUND – Blake Neely

July 21, 2020 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Greyhound is a World War II action thriller directed by Aaron Schneider, and written by Tom Hanks, who adapted the novel The Good Shepherd by C. S. Forester, the creator of the great fictional British naval hero Captain Horatio Hornblower. Hanks himself plays Ernest Krause, a commander in the United States Navy, who is charged with escorting and protecting a multi-national fleet of ships across the Atlantic, while it is under attack from Nazi German U-Boats. The film co-stars Stephen Graham, Rob Morgan, and Elisabeth Shue, and is a classic claustrophobic cat-and-mouse naval thriller in the tradition of Das Boot, Run Silent Run Deep, and Sink the Bismarck, the latter of which was also based on a Forester novel. The film was initially scheduled to be released in cinemas in June 2020 but was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and eventually premiered straight-to-streaming on the Apple TV+ platform. Read more…

THE SEVENTH VOYAGE OF SINBAD – Bernard Herrmann

July 20, 2020 Leave a comment

MOVIE MUSIC UK CLASSICS

Original Review by Craig Lysy

In the 1950s, a collaboration between producer Charles Schneer and special animation effects artist Ray Harryhausen resulted in a trio of very successful science fiction films; It Came From Beneath the Sea (1955), Earth vs. The Flying Saucers (1956) and 20 Million Miles to Earth (1957). They decided that they wanted to explore a new genre, which had always fascinated Harryhausen – mythological fantasies. He had a story already envisioned for Sinbad the Sailor and Schneer decided to use his production company Morningside Productions partnering with Columbia Pictures to finance and distribute the film. Harryhausen would again create and manage the Dynamation special effects. Nathan Juran was tasked with directing, and he cast two young stars for the principle roles; studio contract player Kerwin Matthews as Sinbad, and Kathryn Grant as Princess Parisa. Joining them would be Richard Eyre as the Genie, Torin Thatcher as Sokurah, Alec Mango as the Caliph of Bagdad, and Harold Kasket as the Sultan. It would take Harryhausen eleven months to complete the filming of all the widescreen stop-motion animation scenes, which included the use of a flamethrower to simulate the dragon’s fiery breath. His iconic scene where Sinbad fights a skeleton continues to awe audiences to this day. Read more…

ENNIO MORRICONE REVIEWS, Part IV

July 18, 2020 Leave a comment

In this fourth installment of my series looking at the early career of some iconic composers, we take a look at ten more scores written by the legendary Ennio Morricone between 1962 and 1967, most of which are among the most obscure of his early years. This group of reviews includes a couple of great spaghetti westerns, several influential pop-psychedelia scores, several lounge music scores accompanying movies bolstering the acting careers of singers, his final score for director Marco Bellocchio, and his first score for horror director Lucio Fulce! Read more…

GHOST – Maurice Jarre

July 16, 2020 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The unexpected box office smash hit of 1990, Ghost is a supernatural romantic drama-thriller about the power of love transcending death, which had millions of people weeping in cinemas across the world. Patrick Swayze stars as Sam Wheat, a successful banker in New York City, who has just moved into a new apartment with his beautiful girlfriend Molly (Demi Moore), and is renovating it with the help of his best friend and co-worker Carl (Tony Goldwyn). Life is perfect for Sam – until he is shot and killed on the street during a mugging gone wrong. Sam discovers he is now a ghost, invisible and unable to interact with the mortal world; after trying and failing multiple times to contact Molly from beyond the grave, Sam instead tries to solve his own murder – which leads him to a startling revelation, and renews his need to contact Molly. To this end, Sam begins to ‘haunt’ Oda Mae Brown (Whoopi Goldberg), a fake psychic medium, who is shocked to discover that she can really hear Sam; eventually, Sam convinces Oda Mae to talk to Molly on his behalf, to warn her that she too is in danger. The film was written by Bruce Joel Rubin and was directed by Jerry Zucker, making his solo directing debut after a decade of comedy work as part of the Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker trio. As I mentioned it was an enormous commercial success, grossing more than $500 million at the US box office; it was also critically successful, and went on to receive five Oscar nominations, winning for Best Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress for Goldberg. Read more…

EUROVISION SONG CONTEST: THE STORY OF FIRE SAGA – Atli Örvarsson

July 14, 2020 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

So, I have something of a confession to make. I love the Eurovision Song Contest. For those who don’t know what this is – most of whom will be American – it is an annual music contest/festival in which all the countries of Europe (plus a few occasional non-European guests) put forward a song to represent their nation, and then after a huge live TV music extravaganza lasting several hours, all the competing nations vote for a winner. This has happened every year since 1956, and it’s fantastic. It’s a celebration of music and culture, yes, but it’s also a celebration of kitsch, where the wild and the wacky and the downright bizarre compete on equal terms with genuine musical excellence in the service of pan-continental friendship. Lots of famous faces have competed in the competition – ABBA famously won for Sweden in 1974, beating Olivia Newton-John. Céline Dion won singing for Switzerland in 1988. And over the years several artists cut their teeth on the show as youngsters, many of whom may be famous to those outside the Euro-bubble, including Cliff Richard, Nana Mouskouri, Matt Monro, Sandie Shaw, Lulu, Dana, Julio Iglesias, Brotherhood of Man, Bucks Fizz, Ofra Haza, and Katrina and the Waves. Read more…

THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME – Max Steiner

July 13, 2020 Leave a comment

MOVIE MUSIC UK CLASSICS

Original Review by Craig Lysy

RKO Radio Pictures executives saw the popularity of the 1924 short story The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell, which was published by Collier’s Magazine and decided that it should be adapted to the big screen. They purchased the film rights, and assigned Merian Cooper, Ernest Schoedsack, and David O. Selznick to produce. The team of Irving Pichel and Ernest Schoedsack would direct the film with a budget of $220,000. James Ashmore Creelman was hired to write the screenplay, and a fine cast was assembled, which included Joel McCrea as Robert Rainsford, Fay Wray as Eve Trowbridge, Leslie Banks as Count Zaroff, Robert Armstrong as Ivan, Steve Clemente as Tartar, Dutch Hendrian as Servant, and William Davidson as the Captain. The story is set in 1932 off the western coast of South America. Renowned big game hunter and author Bob Rainsforth is enjoying a cruise on a luxury yacht through a channel in the remote Tierra Del Fuego. The Captain raises concerns when the channel lights vary from his charts but is ordered to proceed by the yacht’s owner. The yacht runs aground upon a shoal, sinks, and explodes, with Rainsforth the only survivor. Read more…