EVIL DEAD 2 – Joseph Lo Duca

April 6, 2017 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

In the wake of the unexpected success of the low-budget horror movie The Evil Dead in 1981, writer/director Sam Raimi was given $3.5 million by producer Dino Di Laurentiis to make a bigger-budget sequel, which both re-made the original film with better special effects and more professional production values, and continued the story. The result is 1987’s Evil Dead 2, in which the hapless hero Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell) continues to do battle with the terrifying ‘deadites,’ re-animated corpses possessed by the evil power of an ancient book who prevent him from escaping the ‘cabin in the woods’ and returning to civilization with all his extremities intact. With it’s spectacularly gory blood-splattered special effects, overblown humor, and frenetic visual style, Evil Dead 2 quickly became a cult hit, almost doubling its budget at the box office, and initiating a franchise that continues to this day. The film co-starred Sarah Berry, Dan Hicks, Kassie Wesley, and Richard Domeier, and had an original score by Michigan-born composer Joseph Lo Duca. Read more…

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST – Alan Menken

April 4, 2017 2 comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Beauty and the Beast is the latest film in Walt Disney Studios’s series of live action remakes of their classic animated films, following on from Maleficent (a remake of Sleeping Beauty), Cinderella, and The Jungle Book. For those who don’t know, the film is based on both the 1991 animated film, as well as the classic French fairytale La Belle et la Bête written by novelist Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve in 1740. It tells the story of a beautiful young woman, Belle, who is taken prisoner by a mysterious and terrifying beast who lives in an enchanted castle near her village; initially scared of the monster, Belle gradually grows to love him, especially when she learns that he is actually a handsome prince who was cursed by an enchantress years previously. The Beast and all the castle’s inhabitants – who now comprise a candelabra, a clock, and a teapot, among others – are cursed to remain in their enchanted state until someone falls in love with him. Meanwhile, Belle’s boorish and narcissistic suitor Gaston is manipulating Belle’s kindly father in order to win Belle’s hand in marriage, and will stop at nothing to bag his ‘trophy’ wife. The film, which is directed by Bill Condon, is a sumptuous visual delight, filled with spectacular fairytale imagery of magic and romance; it stars Emma Watson as Belle, Dan Stevens as the Beast, and Luke Evans as Gaston, with Kevin Kline, Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellen, Emma Thompson, and Josh Gad in supporting and voice roles. Read more…

THE ROBE – Alfred Newman

April 3, 2017 Leave a comment

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

20th Century Fox Studio chief Darryl Zanuck chose to use “The Robe” to introduce his new creation Cinemascope to the world. Cinemascope used an anamorphic lens that allowed the filming process to create an image of up to a 2.66:1 aspect ratio, almost twice as wide as the industry standard. He hired veteran Henry Koster to direct and adapted the script from the novel by Lloyd Douglas, which he had envisioned for years. “The Robe” is a Biblical epic, a love story and a tale of a man’s struggle for redemption. Marcellus (Richard Burton) is a Roman military tribune from a noble family who offends Caligula, heir to the Roman throne. In retribution he is deployed to Palestine, thus separating him from his life of luxury and his lover Diana (Jean Simmons). Upon his arrival he is given command of the unit charged with executing Jesus Christ, which he dutifully discharges. While drunk he happens to win in a craps game Jesus’ homespun robe after the crucifixion. The death of Jesus affects Marcellus profoundly, and henceforth he is tormented by recurring nightmares, delusions and guilt for his role in his crucifixion. On orders from Tiberius he returns to Palestine in search of the robe, which he believes has bewitched him. He thus begins a personal journey that will lead him to discover faith, forgiveness and ultimately redemption. The film was a huge critical success, winning two Oscars and a Golden Globe for Best Picture. The film and Cinemascope were also a huge commercial success, earning profits seven times that of its production costs. Read more…

RAISING ARIZONA – Carter Burwell

March 30, 2017 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Raising Arizona is the second film in the career of writer-director brothers Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, their sophomore feature film after Blood Simple in 1984. It’s a comedy crime caper starring Nicolas Cage and Holly Hunter as Hi and Ed McDunnough, an ex-con and an ex-cop who meet, fall in love, marry, and desperately long for a child of their own. However, when it is discovered that Hi is unable to have children, they decide to steal one of the ‘Arizona Quints,’ a set of five babies born to locally famous furniture magnate Nathan Arizona. Hi and Ed, wanting to raise their child in as normal an environment as possible, try to keep their crime a secret, but a parade of co-workers, ex-cons, and bounty hunters contrive to make their lives impossible. The film, which also stars John Goodman, William Forsythe, Trey Wilson, and Frances McDormand, has become something of a cult hit over the years, and is fondly regarded as being the film which introduced many of the Coens’s idiosyncratic filmmaking touches, although personally I don’t like the film at all – it’s just too ‘weird’ for my taste. Read more…

LIFE – Jon Ekstrand

March 28, 2017 6 comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Life is a sci-fi action horror thriller written by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, and directed by Daniel Espinosa. The film stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Ryan Reynolds, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ariyon Bakare, and Olga Dihovichnaya, as the members of a six-person team of astronauts and scientists on board the International Space Station studying soil samples from Mars. The scientists successfully identify and re-animate a single-celled organism from within the soil, conclusively proving that life exists on Mars; back on Earth, the schoolchildren of a high school in the United States name the creature ‘Calvin’. Time passes, and Calvin shows signs of high intelligence and awareness, but before long it also begins to show signs of aggression, putting the lives of the crew – and, potentially, the people of Earth – in great jeopardy. The film can be described as a combination of Gravity and Alien, but it’s not as good as either of them; unfortunate plot holes and some missed opportunities detract from the slickness of the production, the impressive visual scope of the cinematography, and some sincere performances, especially from Gyllenhaal and Ferguson. Read more…

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HIGH NOON – Dimitri Tiomkin

March 27, 2017 1 comment

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Producers Stanley Kramer and Carl Foreman had long sought to film a Western and saw their opportunity when they came across an inspiring short story “The Tin Star” by John Cunningham. Foreman adapted it for the big screen and hired European director Fred Zinnemann to direct. For the film veteran actor Gary Cooper was given the lead role of Will Kane. He was joined by Grace Kelly (Amy Fowler), Ian MacDonald (Frank Miller) and Lloyd Bridges (Harvey Pell). The story is set in 1880 in the New Mexico Territory. It is a classic morality play regarding personal honor, civic duty, and a man’s struggle to overcome his fears. The story reveals Will Kane, the Marshall of Hadleyville, who has retired after many years of service to marry his sweetheart Amy Fowler. (The casting of Cooper who was 50 years old and 30 years Kelly’s senior raised eyebrows). As he is about to depart to start a new life in another town, word comes that Frank Miller, an outlaw he brought to justice has been acquitted on a legal technicality. Miller has announced to all that he is spoiling for revenge and will arrive on the noon train. Will’s sense of honor leads to him reclaiming his badge to safeguard the town, yet his nobility is unrequited by townsfolk who all refuse to stand with him against Frank, his brother Ben and fellow outlaws Jack Colby and Jim Pierce. Even his deputy rejects him for not recommending him as his replacement. Well, the epic confrontation takes place with Will standing alone against four men. He guns down Ben and Jack, but is wounded in the process. Amy, a pacifist Quaker comes to her man’s aid and shoots Jim in the back. An outraged Frank takes her hostage to force Will’s submission. Yet Amy suddenly strikes Miller, thus distracting him and giving Will a clear shot. Will finishes his task by shooting Frank. As the relieved townspeople come out from the shadows, Will stares at them with palpable contempt. He throws his marshal’s star in the dirt with disdain and leaves the town with Amy. The film was both a critical and commercial success, including twin Oscars for Best Score and Best Song for Tiomkin. Read more…

LETHAL WEAPON – Michael Kamen, Eric Clapton, and David Sanborn

March 23, 2017 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Although it was pre-dated by films like 48 HRS., Lethal Weapon is the film which for me best defines the 1980s buddy-cop movie sub-genre. It’s a thrilling, action-packed, funny, surprisingly moving film written by Shane Black and directed by Richard Donner, starring Mel Gibson as Martin Riggs, a loose-cannon LAPD cop and former Vietnam War sniper with a suicidal streak after the death of his wife. In an attempt to rein him in, Riggs is assigned a new partner in the shape of Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover), a cranky, by-the-book homicide department veteran with a wife and three kids at home, and who doesn’t tolerate Riggs’s increasingly off-the-wall antics. However, things become more difficult for the new partners when they become embroiled in a plot which links the death of a woman who committed suicide by jumping from a high rise with a gang of vicious drug dealers, and which becomes personal when it is revealed that the drug dealers may be men from Riggs’s past. The film co-starred Mitchell Ryan, Gary Busey, Tom Atkins, Steve Kahan, and Darlene Love, and was an enormous box-office smash, grossing more than $65 million in the United States alone. Read more…