June 12, 2019 3 comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Ever since he first appeared on film in 1954 in director Ishiro Honda’s classic film Gojira, the gigantic amphibious reptile known in the West as Godzilla has become something of an icon, an instantly recognizable element of Japanese pop culture. Godzilla has appeared in an astonishing 32 films in Japan, plus a number of associated video games, novels, comic books, and television shows, but did not make his American debut until the 1998 film directed by Roland Emmerich. When that film was a comparative financial flop, audiences would have to wait a further 16 years for director Gareth Edwards’s 2014 film of the same name. The success of that film solidified Warner Brother’s plans for a future franchise, and now we have the first sequel – Godzilla: King of the Monsters – directed by Michael Dougherty from a screenplay by Dougherty, Max Borenstein, and Zach Shields. Read more…

WINGS – J. S. Zamecnik

June 10, 2019 Leave a comment


Original Review by Craig Lysy

John Monk Saunders served in the US Air Corp during WWI as a flight instructor in Florida. He had lifelong regrets that he was never able to serve his country in combat, and so conceived a story, which would allow him to realize that ambition in film. He pitched his idea to producer Jessie Lasky who was unreceptive due to the logistics required to film aerial combat. Yet Saunders would not be denied and secured support from the War Department, which included 220 planes, and airmen, artillery, tanks, trucks and troops. Lasky was impressed and decided to proceed with his Famous Players-Lasky company financing the project and Paramount Studio securing distribution rights. A massive budget of $2 million was budgeted and Louis Lighton and Hope Loring were hired to write the screenplay. Lasky and four others would produce the film, and William Wellman was tasked with directing as he was the only director in Hollywood who had actual combat pilot experience. Securing a cast was an adventure however when Paramount’s greatest star Clara Bow, demanded a rewrite stating “Wings is a man’s picture and I am just the whipped cream on top of the pie”. Her demands were met and the story evolved into a war time romance. She would star as Mary Preston, with Charles “Buddy” Rogers as Jack Powell, Richard Arlen as David Armstrong, Gary Cooper as Cadet White, and Jobyna Ralston as Sylvia Lewis. Read more…

LONESOME DOVE – Basil Poledouris

June 6, 2019 Leave a comment


Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Lonesome Dove, an epic western mini-series based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Larry McMurtry, was one of the television successes of the year after it premiered on CBS in the spring of 1989. Directed by Simon Wincer and starring Robert Duvall and Tommy Lee Jones, and set in the closing years of the Old West, the story focused on the relationship between Gus (Duvall) and Call (Jones), two retired Texas Rangers who decide to leave their quiet town on the Mexican border and drive a herd of cattle north to Montana. McMurtry’s original novel – which explores themes of old age, death, unrequited love, and friendship – was based on a screenplay that he had co-written with Peter Bogdanovich for a movie that was intended to star John Wayne, James Stewart, and Henry Fonda, but the project collapsed when John Ford advised Wayne to reject the script. Prior to its airing, the ‘classic western’ was considered to be a virtually dead genre, but Lonesome Dove almost singlehandedly re-vitalized it. The series drew staggering viewership numbers of more than 20 million homes, went on to win 7 Emmys from 18 nominations (including Best Director and a slew of technical awards), and paved the way for the cinematic resurrection of the genre with Kevin Costner’s Dances With Wolves in 1990 and Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven in 1992. Read more…

RIM OF THE WORLD – Bear McCreary

June 4, 2019 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Rim of the World is a sci-fi action adventure film for children, written by Zack Stentz and directed by ‘McG’. It tells the story of four misfit friends attending a summer camp in the mountains above Los Angeles – when all of a sudden the Earth is invaded by aliens. Somehow, these four intrepid teenage adventurers find themselves in possession of a key which holds vital information about how to stop the invasion, and must trek across through the wilderness, down the mountain, and deliver the key to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, before the aliens find them first. The whole thing is a fun, kid-friendly adventure that has proved to be a popular success since its premiere on Netflix in the summer of 2019. Read more…

PET SEMATARY – Elliot Goldenthal

May 30, 2019 Leave a comment


Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Pet Sematary was an adaptation of a popular novel by horror author Stephen King. Directed by Mary Lambert from a screenplay by King himself, the film starred Dale Midkiff as Louis Creed, a doctor who moves with his family – wife Rachel (Denise Crosby), children Gage and Ellie (Miko Hughes and Blaze Berdahl) – from Chicago to rural Maine. Louis befriends his elderly neighbor Jud Crandall (Fred Gwynne), who alerts him to the existence of a pet cemetery in the woods on his new property. One day, months later, the family cat is run over and killed on the highway outside their home; wanting to save little Ellie from the pain of losing her beloved pet, Jud reveals to Louis that things that are buried in the cemetery often return from the dead, and sure enough the cat comes back, albeit with a much different, more aggressive personality. Months later still, little Gage is hit by a truck and killed on the same highway – and despite dire warnings from Jud, Louis buries his young son in the cemetery too. Sure enough, the next day, little Gage returns… but, as the film’s famous tagline suggests, sometimes dead is better. Pet Sematary was a popular success at the box office in 1989, despite many critics feeling that the sense of dread that was prominent in the book, as well as its more thoughtful ruminations on grief and death, were missing from the finished film. Read more…

Under-the-Radar Round Up 2019, Part I

May 28, 2019 2 comments

As I have done for the past several years, I am pleased to present the first installment in my ongoing series of articles looking at the best “under the radar” scores from around the world. Rather than grouping the scores on a geographical basis, this year I decided to again simply present the scores in a random order, and so this first batch includes reviews of five disparate scores from the first four months of the year – including a French literary period drama, a French children’s animated film about insects, a Japanese murder-mystery thriller, a Swedish romantic drama, and a historical biopic from Switzerland! Read more…

RED JOAN – George Fenton

May 21, 2019 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Imagine the situation. You’re at home, visiting with your elderly grandmother, when there’s a knock at the door. In come a bunch of policemen, accompanied by members of the secret service, who then arrest the kindly old lady and take her away. It turns out that, in her youth, your sweet nana was actually an undercover agent for the Soviet Union, and over the course of several decades she sold nuclear secrets to the communists, all the while maintaining her cover as a sweet, innocent secretary for a metalworking research company. It sounds far-fetched, but this new film Red Joan is based on the actual life of Melita Norwood, who was a KGB spy in the UK for more than 30 years, prior to her eventual arrest in 1999, when she was 87 years old. The film is directed by the multi-award winning Broadway and West End theater director Trevor Nunn, and stars Judi Dench and Sophie Cookson as the present-day Joan and Joan in flashback. Read more…