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BARTON FINK – Carter Burwell

August 19, 2021 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Perhaps the best film ever made about writer’s block, Barton Fink is a nearly unclassifiable combination of drama, comedy, horror, romance, and existential philosophy, written and directed by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen. John Turturro plays the eponymous Fink, a New York playwright who moves to Los Angeles in the early 1940s, having been offered a job writing for the movies. Unable to find inspiration for his screenplay, he bonds with Charlie Meadows (John Goodman), an amiable salesman who lives next door to him in his rundown apartment building, and then tries to solicit advice from various writers and directors around Hollywood. However, an unexpected and shocking murder sends Fink into a spiral of surrealism, chaos, and death, as he tries to finish his debut script despite his world collapsing around him. The film co-stars Michael Lerner, Judy Davis, and John Mahoney among others, and was the darling of the 1991 Cannes Film Festival, eventually winning the coveted Palme d’Or; unfortunately, it was a box office disaster, its unusual genre and offbeat characters failing to connect with mainstream audiences in any meaningful way. Read more…

MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE: REVELATION – Bear McCreary

August 17, 2021 2 comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

I am Adam, Prince of Eternia, defender of the secrets of Castle Grayskull. This is Cringer, my fearless friend. Fabulous secret powers were revealed to me the day I held aloft my magic sword and said… by the power of Grayskull!

When I was a kid growing up in the 1980s, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe was one of my favorite cartoon shows. It was, of course, created as a vehicle to sell action figures by the global toy company Mattel, and it was exceptionally preachy, with an obvious ‘moral of the story’ coda at the end of each episode, but 8-year-old me didn’t care. I couldn’t get enough of the noble warrior Adam and his muscular alter-ego, saving his home planet from the evil Skeletor with the help of his friends – an ever-changing cast that usually included the heroic man-at-arms Duncan, his trusty steed Cringer aka Battle Cat, the magical Orko, and the warrior princess Teela. Looking back at it now with more adult eyes, it was incredibly cheesy and repetitive, badly animated, and somewhat crudely written; despite this, I have fond nostalgic memories of the show, which have stayed with me over the years. Read more…

CAPTAINS COURAGEOUS – Franz Waxman

August 16, 2021 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

In 1936 MGM Studios decided to adapt the Rudyard Kipling’s 1897 coming of age novel Captains Courageous to the big screen. They purchased the screen rights, and management of the project was assigned to producer Louis D. Lighton who was provided a budget of $1.65 million. Screenwriters John Lee Mahin, Marc Connelly and Dale Van Every were hired to adapt the novel, and Victor Fleming was tasked with directing. For casting, of prime importance was finding the right boy to play the Harvey Cheyne role. The creative team hired Freddie Batholomew, an English-American actor who many regards as one of the greatest child actors in cinematic history. Joining him would be Spencer Tracy as Manuel Fidello, Lionel Barrymore as Captain Disko Troop, Melvyn Douglas as Frank Burton Cheyne, and Mickey Rooney as Dan Troop. Read more…

FEAR STREET, PART THREE: 1666 – Marco Beltrami and Anna Drubich

August 13, 2021 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The third part of Netflix’s Fear Street, a trilogy of horror-thriller films based on the popular young adult novels by R. L. Stine and directed by Leigh Janiak, is set in 1666, and finally reveals the truth of what happened to the story’s overarching protagonist, Sarah Fier. The story is revealed in flashback to Deena (Kiana Madeira) and her brother Josh (Benjamin Flores Jr.); Sarah is a young woman living in the Puritan community of Union, the original town on which both Shadyside and Sunnyvale were based. Sarah is in love with Hannah Miller (Olivia Scott Welch), the local pastor’s daughter, a relationship forbidden by the ultra-religious townsfolk. A blight begins to afflict the town’s crops, and then Hannah’s father seemingly goes insane, gouging out his own eyes and murdering several of the local children, before he himself is killed by farmer Solomon Goode (Ashley Zukerman). In revenge for them rebuffing his romantic advances several nights previously, one of the villagers falsely accuses Sarah and Hannah of being witches, and the pair must run for their lives or be hanged by the superstitious and reactionary townsfolk. Eventually, the true evil behind Sarah Fier’s curse is revealed – the truth of which helps Deena break the curse back in 1994. Read more…

DOC HOLLYWOOD – Carter Burwell

August 12, 2021 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

A fun romantic comedy intended to cash in on Michael J. Fox’s post-Back to the Future popularity, Doc Hollywood sees Fox playing Ben Stone, an aspiring surgeon on his way from Washington DC to Beverly Hills for a job interview with a prestigious clinic. While driving through a small town in rural South Carolina, Ben accidentally crashes his Porsche; the local judge sentences Ben to perform community service at the town’s medical clinic, which he does while waiting for his car to be repaired. Almost against his will, Ben begins to integrate into small-town life, successfully helping several of the locals with medical problems, and beginning a hesitant relationship with Lou (Julie Warner), a pretty ambulance driver. When the community service is up and Ben is free to head off to California, he finds himself torn between the lucrative career he always wanted, and the unexpected affection he develops for the small town he never intended to visit. The film is directed by Scottish filmmaker Michael Caton-Jones, has a fun supporting cast that includes Barnard Hughes, Woody Harrelson, David Ogden Stiers, and Bridget Fonda, and has a score from an unexpected composer – Carter Burwell. Read more…

GUNPOWDER MILKSHAKE – Frank Ilfman

August 11, 2021 2 comments

Original Review by Christopher Garner

Gunpowder Milkshake is set in a world of professional assassins. Sam (Karen Gillan) works for The Firm, but between one job going wrong and another job resulting in her taking in the nine-year-old daughter (Chloe Coleman) of one of her victims, she finds herself on the run from her own company as well as another criminal conglomerate. Along the way she is helped by a crew of other hitwomen: her long-lost mother, Scarlett (Lena Headey), and a trio of “librarians” (Angela Bassett, Michelle Yeoh, and Carla Gugino). Director Navot Papushado wanted to make a film that is an homage to noir and spy films of the 1940s and ‘50s, to Japanese assassin comic books, and to spaghetti westerns, taking his inspiration from Alfred Hitchcock, Akira Kurosawa, and Sergio Leone. The film has had a mixed reception by critics, but most enjoyed it, even while noting some of its flaws. Read more…

JUNGLE CRUISE – James Newton Howard

August 10, 2021 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The latest big-screen adventure based on a ride at Disneyland, following on the heels of Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion, and Tomorrowland, is Jungle Cruise. I always considered the ride to be somewhat corny – you take a boat down a slow moving river, see animatronics of hippos and ‘tribal warriors,’ and get to experience ‘the back side of water,’ while being regaled with dad jokes and puns by a khaki-clad guide. I didn’t know how they were going to turn this leisurely jaunt down the water into a family action-adventure film, but director Jaume Collet-Serra and screenwriters Glenn Ficarra, John Requa, and Michael Green have somehow done just that. The film is set in 1916 and stars Emily Blunt as Dr. Lily Houghton, a British botanist who travels to the South American jungles with her reluctant, foppish brother MacGregor (Jack Whitehall) in search of the famed ‘Tears of the Moon,’ a mythical plant whose petals have extraordinary healing powers. Upon her arrival in the Amazon she hires local riverboat skipper Frank Wolff (Dwayne Johnson) to be her guide; however, she is not the only person searching for the Tears of the Moon, and before long Lily and Frank are embroiled in an adventure involving mysterious curses, conquistadors, tribes of cannibals, and a German aristocrat with a nefarious agenda of his own. Read more…

JUNGLE BOOK – Miklòs Ròzsa

August 9, 2021 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

In 1938 producer-director Alexander Korda decided to cash in on the commercial success realized by films based on novels by the famous English writer Rudyard Kipling. He purchased the film rights to his 1894 classic Jungle Book, with production slated to commence in 1939. The onset of WWII and Nazi Blitz forced him due to safety concerns, to relocate his company to Hollywood, which pushed production back to 1941. His own company, Alexander Korda Films would produce he film and he secured financial backing from United Artist who provided a $300,000 budget, which included filming in technicolor. Alexander Korda would produce the film, his brother Zoltan was tasked with directing, while his other brother Vincent was production designer. Screenwriter Laurence Stallings was hired to create a script derived from the nine Mowgli stories and drew inspiration from five of them: “Mowgli’s Brothers”, “Tiger! Tiger!”, “How Fear Came”, “Letting in the Jungle”, and “The King’s Ankus”. A fine cast was hired, which included Sabu as Mowgli, Joseph Calleia as Buldeo, John Qualen as the barber, Frank Puglia as the pundit, and Rosemary DeCamp as Messua. Filming was challenging due to creative differences between Alexander who wanted a fantasy adventure, and Zoltan who wanted a more realistic story. In the end, Alexander’s vision prevailed. Read more…

THE BOSS BABY: FAMILY BUSINESS – Hans Zimmer and Steve Mazzaro

August 6, 2021 Leave a comment

Original Review by Christopher Garner

Dreamworks’ The Boss Baby: Family Business takes place after Tim and Ted Templeton (the characters from the first Boss Baby) have grown up and grown apart. Older brother Tim has had two children of his own, Tabitha and Tina. Younger brother Ted has become a successful businessman, but work keeps him from having any personal connections with his brother’s family or anyone else. It turns out that baby Tina is a boss baby like her uncle Ted was, and has been tasked with bringing the brothers back together again and stopping evil Dr. Armstrong who runs Tabitha’s school, and who is bent on enslaving all parents so that children can be free. Tom McGrath returned to direct the sequel. Alec Baldwin reprises his role from the first film, and James Marsden, Amy Sedaris, Ariana Greenblatt, and Jeff Goldblum join the cast as grown-up Tim, Tim’s children, and the villainous Armstrong respectively. The film has had mixed reviews from critics. It’s not exactly intellectual cinema, and the whole idea of a sequel kind of undercuts the frame of the first film, but it has a lot of laughs for parents and kids, and Baldwin, Marsden, and Goldblum (at his Goldblummiest) are clearly having a great time. Read more…

POINT BREAK – Mark Isham

August 5, 2021 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

One of the most iconic action films of the 1990s, Point Break was a groundbreaking film in that it was one of the first major Hollywood movies to be directed by a woman, Kathryn Bigelow. The film stars Keanu Reeves as FBI agent Johnny Utah, who is tasked with investigating a gang of bank robbers who wear rubber masks of former US presidents while committing their crimes. Utah’s investigations eventually lead him to Bohdi (Patrick Swayze), a charismatic surfer, and Utah goes undercover to infiltrate the surf gang and find evidence that they are the robbers. However, Utah quickly develops a complex friendship with Bohdi, and begins a romantic relationship with Tyler (Lori Petty), another member of Bohdi’s surfing community, all of which threatens to derail the investigation. The film co-stars Gary Busey and John C. McGinley, and in the years following its release has become a cult favorite. Read more…

FEAR STREET, PART TWO: 1978 – Marco Beltrami and Brandon Roberts

August 4, 2021 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The second part of Netflix’s Fear Street, a trilogy of horror-thriller films based on the popular young adult novels by R. L. Stine and directed by Leigh Janiak, is set in 1978. Following the events of the first film, the survivors are told the story of what happened 16 years earlier at Camp Nightwing, a summer camp on the outskirts of Shadyside. Ziggy Berman (Sadie Sink) and her sister Cindy (Emily Rudd) are attending the camp along with their friend Alice (Ryan Simpkins), Cindy’s boyfriend Tommy (McCabe Slye), and Nick (Ted Sutherland), a camp counselor who has a crush on Ziggy. The Shadyside/Sunnyvale/Sarah Fier curse looms large over the camp, and is exacerbated when the camp’s nurse Mary Lane (Jordana Spiro) – whose own daughter murdered people in a killing spree years previously – attacks Tommy unprovoked, and tells him he is going to die. Sure enough, before long, Tommy has seemingly been possessed by the spirit of Sarah Fier and is viciously murdering the campers with an axe – leaving Ziggy, Cindy, and their friends to try to stop him. Whereas the first Fear Street film was filled with 1990s horror tropes, this film goes back to films like Friday the 13th and Sleepaway Camp, and is a ton of gory fun. Read more…

THE GREEN KNIGHT – Daniel Hart

August 3, 2021 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The story of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is one of the oldest and most respected pieces of medieval literature in the world. Written in olde English by an unknown scribe sometime in the 14th century, it looks back some 400 years to the time of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. One Christmas, as Arthur and his knights are celebrating, their festivities are interrupted by a monstrous Green Knight, who challenges the court to a game: he dares any knight to strike him with his own axe, but that knight must seek him out the following Christmas and receive the same strike. The young and impetuous Gawain, Arthur’s nephew, rashly agrees, and beheads the Green Knight – only for the Green Knight to stand up, pick up his head, and leave, reminding Gawain of his obligation. What follows is an examination of the nature of honor and chivalry, temptation and seduction, as an increasingly agitated Gawain leaves Camelot in order to complete his quest to find the Green Knight – a journey which will, most likely, conclude with his own death. The film is directed by David Lowry, and stars Dev Patel as Gawain, with support from Alicia Vikander, Sean Harris, and Joel Edgerton, among others. Read more…

A DOUBLE LIFE – Miklós Rózsa

August 2, 2021 1 comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

In 1946 producer Michael Kanin decided to collaborate with his brother Garson Kanin and his wife Ruth Gordon for his next project; a film noir with a Shakespearean twist. The husband-and-wife team crafted a fine screenplay and Michael Kanin used his own Kanin Productions company to fund the project, with Universal Studios agreeing to distribute the film. George Cukor was tasked with directing, and a fine cast was eventually assembled. Laurence Olivier was originally sought for the lead, but was unavailable, so a reluctant Ronald Colman was given the role of Anthony “Tony” John. He would be supported by a coach to refine his Shakespearean diction and delivery. Joining him would be Signe Hasso as Brita, Edmund O’Brien as Bill Friend, and Shelley Winters as Pat Kroll. Read more…

REGARDING HENRY – Hans Zimmer

July 29, 2021 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Regarding Henry is an emotional drama film written by the then-25-year-old J.J. Abrams, and directed by Mike Nichols. Harrison Ford stars as Henry Turner, a wildly successful but callous and unethical New York lawyer, whose work often means he neglects his wife, Sarah (Annette Bening), and their children. One night Henry is shot in the head when he accidentally interrupts a robbery in a convenience store; he survives, but is left with brain damage, amnesia, and physical handicaps, to the extent that he barely remembers his former life. Henry also undergoes a significant personality change, becoming almost child-like with friendliness, curiosity, and a new-found sense of ethics. The film goes on to explore how this sudden change, and slow recovery, affects Henry’s life, his career, and his relationship with his family. I have always liked the film a great deal, and consider it to be one of Harrison Ford’s career best straight dramatic performances. Read more…

FEAR STREET, PART ONE: 1994 – Marco Beltrami and Marcus Trumpp

July 27, 2021 1 comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

One of the unexpected hits of the summer of 2021 was Netflix’s Fear Street, a trilogy of horror-thriller films based on the popular young adult novels by R. L. Stine, directed by Leigh Janiak. The first part of the trilogy is set in 1994 in the town of Shadyside, which has been plagued by murders and atrocities for hundreds of years, while neighboring Sunnyvale is safe and prosperous. Following yet another murder, this time at the local mall, Shadyside teenagers Deena (Kiana Madeira), and Sam (Olivia Scott Welch), Deena’s brother Josh (Benjamin Flores Jr.) and their friends Kate (Julia Rehwald) and Simon (Fred Hechinger) come to believe that the city is cursed, and that a legendary ancient witch named Sarah Fier is responsible. However, as the teens dig into the history of the curse, they find themselves plunged into a nightmare where their own lives are at stake. The film is a fun update of 1990s slasher movie horror tropes with plenty of pop culture references – director Janiak is married to Stranger Things co-creator Ross Duffer, natch – clever ideas, and blood-soaked gore. Read more…