EMMA – Isobel Waller-Bridge and David Schweitzer

March 10, 2020 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

What a year it has been for the Waller-Bridge sisters. Phoebe Waller-Bridge, the actress and writer, won Emmys and Golden Globes and BAFTAs galore for her work on the second season of the brilliant BBC comedy series Fleabag, and also for her work as the creator of the drama series Killing Eve, before being hired to polish the screenplay for the upcoming James Bond film No Time to Die. Now Phoebe’s composer sister, Isobel Waller-Bridge, has followed up her own success writing the ironic choral music for Fleabag with this wonderful period score for a new literary adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma. Waller-Bridge has teamed up with another English composer, David Schweitzer, a child prodigy who has a massive amount of experience writing for documentaries and animated TV series, and contributing additional music on shows like The White Princess, Vanity Fair, Victoria, and The Crown. With the possible exception of Fleabag, this is the most high profile above-the-title score of both composers’ careers, and if the music here is anything to go by, we will be hearing lots from them in the future. Read more…

DOWNHILL – Volker Bertelmann

March 6, 2020 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Downhill is an English-language remake of the Swedish film Force Majeure, which was written and directed by Ruben Östlund and was nominated for a Golden Globe for best foreign language film. The remake, which is directed by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, stars Will Ferrell and Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Pete and Billie, a married American couple on a skiing vacation in Austria with their children. One day, while the family is having lunch at an outdoor restaurant, a controlled avalanche takes place on a nearby mountain; the snow comes perilously close to their table, to such an extent that Billie genuinely believes she is going to die. Pete, however, grabs his phone and runs away, apparently abandoning his family to save himself. Everyone survives, but this one incident proves to be the trigger for a different kind of avalanche – where simmering tensions in the marriage suddenly come roaring the surface. The film is a perfect blend of comedy and drama, and is anchored by winning performances by both Ferrell and Louis-Dreyfus, who somehow manage to make the film’s potentially jarring tonal shifts seem natural. Read more…


March 5, 2020 Leave a comment


Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The character Jack Ryan is ubiquitous in American popular culture. He was created by author Tom Clancy and starred in a series of ‘techno-thriller’ spy novels, the first of which was published in 1984. Depending on how old you are, most people associate two actors with the character: either Harrison Ford, who played him on the big screen in the films Patriot Games in 1992 and Clear and Present Danger in 1994, or John Krasinski, who currently plays him on the small screen in the eponymous Amazon TV series. However, Ryan’s first appearance was actually in this film: The Hunt for Red October, which was released in theaters in the spring of 1990. Here Ryan is played by Alec Baldwin, and the plot of the film revolves around Marko Ramius (Sean Connery), the captain of the nuclear-capable Soviet submarine Red October, which has disappeared while on maneuvers in the north Atlantic. When it is eventually re-discovered, the CIA realizes that the Red October is headed directly for the US eastern seaboard, and immediately fears that an attack is imminent. However Ryan, a respected intelligence analyst, offers a different theory: that Ramius is actually trying to defect. So begins a cat and mouse game between the CIA, the KGB, Ryan, and Ramius, in which each of them is trying to uncover the truth before the incident sparks World War III. The film was directed by John McTiernan, and has an excellent supporting cast including Scott Glenn, Sam Neill, James Earl Jones, Tim Curry, and a young Stellan Skarsgård. Read more…


March 3, 2020 1 comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Jack London’s The Call of the Wild has come to be regarded as one of the seminal adventure novels in the years since its first publication in 1903, and there have been several cinematic retellings of the story over the subsequent century. This latest version is directed by Chris Sanders – the director of the original How to Train Your Dragon, making his live action debut here – and it plays out sort of like a canine version of Black Beauty. The story follows Buck, a powerful St. Bernard mix dog, who is uprooted from his privileged position as a family dog on a ranch in California, pooch-napped, and sold as a working dog in the Yukon and Alaska, where the Gold Rush is in full force. Eventually Buck finds himself owned by the kind-hearted Perrault (Omar Sy), working as part of a team of sled dogs delivering mail all over the Northwest. After many adventures with Perrault, Buck eventually comes to be owned by a grizzled gold prospector named Thornton (Harrison Ford), who has a mysterious past. As Buck and Thornton bond, Buck also begins to hear ‘the call of the wild,’ an instinct speaking to his past and his innate heritage, which draws him to a more primeval existence among the mountains and with the wolves. Read more…


February 26, 2020 1 comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

So, I have a confession to make. I was one of those weird kids who, growing up, didn’t really play computer games. I had an Atari 800 back in the early 80s and I played precisely three games on it: Orc Attack, Zaxxon, and Paperboy, all of which came on a series of cartridges. When my friends graduated on to Commodore 64s and Sinclair ZX Spectrums, I stayed inside watching movies. I then skipped the entire console era and went straight to a Dell PC in 1995. Today, the only games I have are various iterations of FIFA Soccer, but I haven’t played them in years. I never had a Sega, I never had a Nintendo, I never even had a Game Boy, so all those classic cultural touchstones – Super Mario Brothers and Donkey Kong and so on – completely passed me by. As such, when it was announced that there was going to be a Sonic the Hedgehog movie, I was indifferent. I was similarly uninterested when a furore about the design of the little spiky speedmeister hit the internet in May 2019, causing a major delay in the film’s release due to the need for new special effects. Even now, and despite the generally positive ratings, the film holds little interest. It’s directed by Jeff Fowler, there’s a little blue hedgehog who can run incredibly fast, Jim Carrey plays the evil Dr. Robotnik who wants to capture Sonic, and James Marsden plays a kind-hearted cop who helps Sonic escape from Robotnik. Sonic runs fast, there’s action, comedy, hi-jinks, heartwarming pathos, and a set-up for a sequel… you get the idea. Read more…

LOST HORIZON – Dimitri Tiomkin

February 24, 2020 Leave a comment


Original Review by Craig Lysy

During the filming of It Happened One Night in 1934 director Frank Capra read and became inspired by the 1933 novel Lost Horizon by James Hilton. He was determined to adapt it to the big screen but had to delay production when his starring actor Ronald Coleman was contractually committed to another project. He eventually received the green light to proceed from Columbia Pictures executive Harry Cohn who provided a very generous budget of $1.25 million. The film was a passion project that Capra would produce and direct. The novel was adapted to the screen by screenwriter Robert Riskin, and a stellar cast was brought in led by Ronald Coleman as Robert Conway. Joining him would be Jane Wyatt as Sondra Bizet, H. B. Warner as Chang, Sam Jaffe as the High Lama, John Howard as George Conway, Edward Everett Horton as Alexander Lovett, Thomas Mitchell as Henry Barnard and Margo as Maria. The story centers on Robert Conway a writer and soldier set to return to England to assume the Foreign Secretary position in 1935. He is currently posted to China and ordered to evacuate 90 westerners lest they be captured by approaching Chinese revolutionaries. As they depart, the plane’s pilot has been replaced and they are hijacked, which ends with them running out of fuel and crashing deep in the Himalayas mountains. They are rescued by a mysterious man called Chang who leads them to a hidden and verdant valley called Shangri-La, where people live in idyllic peace and harmony, free of disease and blessed with unnatural long life. Read more…

STANLEY & IRIS – John Williams

February 21, 2020 Leave a comment


Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

After enjoying a 1980s which saw him score two Star Wars movies (one of which is, in my opinion, the best score ever written), three Indiana Jones films, and such standalone masterpieces as E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, Empire of the Sun, and Born on the Fourth of July, all while picking up one Oscar from eleven Best Score nominations, one could be forgiven for thinking that Williams would begin the 1990s with yet another blockbuster to put under his belt. Instead, his first score of the new decade was for Stanley & Iris, a small, intimate drama directed by his old friend Martin Ritt, for whom he previously scored Pete ‘n’ Tillie in 1973 and Conrack in 1974. The film starred Robert de Niro and Jane Fonda in the title roles, and it tells the story of the gentle romantic relationship that develops between Stanley, a kind-hearted baker who loses his job when it is discovered that he is illiterate, and Iris, a lonely widow who teaches him how to read and write. It was also the last film Ritt directed prior to his death in December of that year. Read more…