ENNIO MORRICONE REVIEWS, 1961-1965

August 13, 2017 1 comment

In this first installment of a new irregular series looking at the early career of some iconic composers, we stroll down memory lane to the first works written by the legendary Ennio Morricone. Morricone had studied at the Conservatory of the National Academy of Santa Cecilia in Rome, where he specialized in trumpet performance and composition; then, during the late 1950s, Morricone orchestrated and arranged pop songs for the RCA record label, including some for artists such as Paul Anka, Chet Baker and Mina. While working for RCA Morricone also wrote theater music and classical pieces, and began ghostwriting for composers such as Armando Trovajoli and Mario Nascimbene, before making before making his credited film debut in 1961. These first reviews look at sixteen scores Morricone that wrote between 1961 and 1965, including one of his most groundbreaking spaghetti western scores. Read more…

ANNABELLE: CREATION – Benjamin Wallfisch

August 11, 2017 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The latest entry in writer-director-producer James Wan’s ever-expanding horror movie universe is Annabelle: Creation, the prequel to the 2014 film Annabelle. It tells the story of how the possessed doll from the original movie came into existence, expanding on a back story involving a toymaker and his wife whose daughter dies in mysterious circumstances. Twelve years later, the toymaker opens his large, but remote, farmhouse to a nun and several girls from an orphanage that has been closed, offering them a new home, but before long the girls find that something sinister is lurking in the shadows. The film is directed by David Sandberg, stars Stephanie Sigman, Talitha Bateman, Anthony LaPaglia, and Miranda Otto, and has an original score by composer Benjamin Wallfisch. Read more…

THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS – John Barry

August 10, 2017 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The Living Daylights is the fifteenth entry in the James Bond film series and the first to star Timothy Dalton as the British secret agent. Dalton took over the role from Roger Moore, who had retired from the part after A View to a Kill in 1985, but only after a long and protracted period of negotiations in which the original choice, Pierce Brosnan, was eventually blocked by producers of the American TV show Remington Steele. The film was intended to be a return to the grittier feel of Ian Fleming’s original novels after Moore’s previous few films were criticized for being too tongue-in-cheek and self-aware. The plot initially concerns the defection of KGB officer Georgi Koskov, which Bond helps facilitate, but quickly turns into an international conspiracy involving a beautiful Czech cellist named Kara Milovy, a megalomaniacal American arms dealer named Brad Whittaker, and an attempt to undermine the slowly thawing relationship between the Soviet Union and the West with nuclear weapons. Directed by John Glen, the film co-stars Maryam d’Abo, Joe Don Baker, Jeroen Krabbé, and Art Malik as an Afghan mujahedeen leader who helps Bond in his hour of need. The film was generally well-received, and I personally have always felt that Dalton was an underrated Bond, who successfully captured the darker, more dangerous side of Fleming’s character which had been missing from the franchise for too long. Read more…

THE DARK TOWER – Tom Holkenborg

August 8, 2017 2 comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The Dark Tower is an action/fantasy/sci-fi epic based on the massively popular series of novels by Stephen King. Directed by Danish filmmaker Nikolaj Arcel, the film stars Idris Elba as Roland Deschain, a ‘gunslinger’ from a parallel universe who is trying to stop a sorcerer named Walter (Matthew McConaughey) from destroying the titular building, which stands at the center of the universe, and protects it from evil. Into this epic tale comes 12-year-old Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor), a typical New York kid who has untapped psychic powers, and who finds a way to travel between dimensions to help the Gunslinger stop The Man in Black once and for all. Having not read the books, I can’t comment on the fact that the film apparently discards much of the stuff that made the original novels so compelling – the intricate world-building, the deep back-stories of each character – in favor of a fairly simple good vs. evil tale with morally black-and-white characters. The film was in development hell for more than a decade, and went through at least three directors and numerous potential stars prior to finally hitting the silver screen with a resounding ‘thud’ in August 2017. Read more…

PSYCHO – Bernard Herrmann

August 7, 2017 1 comment

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

After the much-heralded success of North by Northwest in 1959, Alfred Hitchcock chose to change career paths and direct his first Horror genre film. His secretary found an obscure novel, Psycho by novelist Robert Bloch, and it was exactly for what Hitchcock was seeking. He purchased the film rights for a mere $9,500, and then bought as many copies of the book as possible as he was determined to keep it’s ending a secret. He however ran into headwinds immediately when Paramount studio executives were taken aback by the sordid nature of the story. Yet Hitchcock was determined and negotiated a small budget, agreed to shoot in black and white on the Universal lots, agreed to employ his television series crews, and asked that Paramount only manage the film’s distribution. In addition he offered to take 60% of the film profits in lieu of his customary salary of $250,000. Paramount agreed as they expected the film to lose money. Remarkably, and to Paramount’s chagrin, the film was enormously profitable. In the end, Hitchcock had the final laugh, earning an astounding $15 million! Read more…

SUPERMAN IV: THE QUEST FOR PEACE – Alexander Courage

August 3, 2017 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The original 1978 Superman film was a groundbreaking motion picture in many respects. It essentially introduced the concept of the contemporary comic book super hero to the movie world, it made a star out of its granite-jawed leading man Christopher Reeve, and it spawned one of the greatest scores in motion picture history, penned by the incomparable John Williams. However, as the 1980s progressed, each successive Superman sequel diminished in quality, until the franchise reached its nadir with 1987’s Superman IV: The Quest for Peace. Despite the presence of both Christopher Reeve and Gene Hackman in the cast, and a potentially interesting environmentally aware plot involving nuclear energy, the film was an utter disaster. An increasingly shrinking budget put the film in a constant state of flux, and forced director Sidney J. Furie to shoot the film mostly in the English provincial town of Milton Keynes instead of New York. Special effects were left apparently half-finished, the script was constantly being re-written and footage re-shot, and the actors were disgruntled throughout. The terrible reviews of the film once it opened signaled the death knell of the franchise at that point, and Superman would not be seen on the silver screen again until 2006’s Superman Returns. Read more…

SPARTACUS – Alex North

July 31, 2017 1 comment

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Kirk Douglas’ pride was wounded when director William Wyler selected Charlton Heston over him for the titular role in Ben-Hur. He resolved to show Wyler and Hollywood that he could carry a Roman epic film. Fortune smiled when Edward Lewis, a studio executive in Douglas’ production company, came upon the novel Spartacus (1951) by Howard Fast. Its heroic story telling of a man who rises up to challenge the might of the Roman Empire offered a perfect opportunity for Douglas to showcase his talent. He purchased the film rights and then convinced Universal Studios to jointly finance the film. Douglas brought in Fast to adapt his own novel, but his unfamiliarity with cinematic screenplays led to his dismissal. Douglas was determined to succeed at all costs, and so stoked controversy by bringing in black listed screenplay writer Dalton Trumbo and insisting that he get screen credit. This decision was decisive in that it served to break the decade long blacklisting of writers in Hollywood. For his cast, we have one the finest ever assembled. Supporting Douglas in the titular role would be Lawrence Olivier as Crassus, Jean Simmons as Varinia, Charles Laughton as Gracchus, Peter Ustinov as Lentulus Batiatus, Tony Curtis as Antoninus, John Gavin as Julius Caesar, John Dall as Glabrus and John Ireland as Crixus. The film got off to a rocky start when Douglas fired his director Anthony Mann after one week of shooting – he felt he was in over his head. He brought in past collaborator Stanley Kubrick, and the rest is history. Read more…