Posts Tagged ‘James Newton Howard’

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…

RAYA AND THE LAST DRAGON – James Newton Howard

March 9, 2021 2 comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The first of Disney’s two animated films scheduled to be released in 2021, Raya and the Last Dragon is a fantasy adventure set in an alternate-reality version of Southeast Asia. In this universe, humans have been hunted by creatures called druuns for generations, but are now protected by a magical orb created by dragons – with the caveat being that the dragons all turned to stone once they created the orb. Raya is the daughter of Benja, the powerful tribal chief who guards the orb, but during a feast celebration Raya is tricked into revealing the location of the orb to the daughter of a different tribal leader, who is jealous of Benja’s power. The resulting fight leads to the orb being almost destroyed, and the threat of the druuns returning. Wanting to make amends and save her people, Raya sets off on a quest to locate Sisu, the mythical last dragon, and the only one which did not turn to stone, in the hope that it can help create a new orb. The film was directed by Don Hall and Carlos López Estrada, and features a voice cast of almost entirely East Asian and Southeast Asian actors, including Kelly Marie Tran, Awkwafina, Gemma Chan, Daniel Dae Kim, Benedict Wong, and Sandra Oh. Read more…

NEWS OF THE WORLD – James Newton Howard

December 22, 2020 3 comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Back in the late 1800s news readers were, obviously, not the people we tune into on the TV every night. Instead, individuals would go from town to town – especially rural, isolated towns – armed with copies of all the big newspapers from the cities, and would charge folk a dime a head to read the news aloud from the journals. Director Paul Greengrass’s new film News of the World, adapted from the novel by Paulette Jiles, is about one such man. Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd is a civil war veteran, now making his living as a news reader. Kidd’s life changes when he is entrusted with the care of a 10-year-old girl named Johanna, who had been abducted by local Kiowa natives years previously, and subsequently grew up within the tribe. Kidd agrees to transport Johanna to her only remaining family in Texas, but Johanna has been captive so long that she would prefer to stay with the Kiowa, and she views her return to those distant relatives as a kind of second kidnapping. Nevertheless, Kidd and Johanna begin their long journey across the wild west, encountering danger and treachery as they do so. The film stars Tom Hanks as Kidd and Helena Zengel as Johanna, and is tipped to be a major player at the upcoming Academy Awards. Read more…

FLATLINERS – James Newton Howard

August 27, 2020 Leave a comment


Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Flatliners was one of several films released in 1990 to deal with the topic of the afterlife and near-death experiences. Directed by Joel Schumacher from a screenplay by Peter Filardi, the film follows a group of young and ambitious medical students who, in an attempt to unlock some of the mysteries of life, start to experiment on each other with ‘near-death experiences.’ The students take turns with each other to stop each other’s hearts in a laboratory setting, trying to initiate visions of the ‘afterlife,’ and then hopefully bring each other back using defibrillators before death becomes permanent. One by one, the students volunteer to ‘flatline,’ but in the aftermath of their experiences they are each haunted by horrifying and disturbing visions of their respective pasts. The film starred Kiefer Sutherland, Julia Roberts, Kevin Bacon, William Baldwin, and Oliver Platt, as the five students; the film was a hit with audiences upon its release, grossing $61 million at the box office, and was nominated for an Oscar for its sound editing. Read more…

THE PACKAGE – James Newton Howard

August 8, 2019 Leave a comment


Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The Package was an enjoyably tense political action-thriller directed by Andrew Davis from a screenplay by John Bishop. Gene Hackman stars as a US Special Forces army sergeant named Gallagher who is tasked with transporting a deserter named Boyette, played by Tommy Lee Jones, from West Berlin to the United States to stand trial. However, Boyette escapes en-route, and Gallagher quickly finds that he is being used as a pawn in a larger conspiracy: to assassinate the president of the Soviet Union and ultimately stop a disarmament treaty between the United States and the Soviets from being signed. The film co-starred Joanna Cassidy, John Heard, Dennis Franz, and Pam Grier, and was in many ways a dry-run for The Fugitive, which director Davis would make four years later with many of the same cast and crew. The Package has many of the same plot points as The Fugitive – a prisoner who escapes from custody, action sequences in Chicago, a dogged and righteous law enforcement operative tracking him down – which makes it an interesting comparison piece to Davis’s great, Oscar-winning classic. Read more…


November 24, 2018 5 comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

J. K. Rowling’s Wizarding World is expanding further beyond the confines of Harry Potter with Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, the second movie in a planned series of five which looks at the life of a wizard who lived more than 60 years before Harry was even born. It builds on the events seen in the 2016 film Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and follows Newt Scamander, a magical zoologist who cares for a vast array of curious creatures. Having been integral in the capturing of the dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald at the end of the first film, Newt is unexpectedly called back into action again after Grindelwald escapes and flees to Paris. Responding to a personal plea from Albus Dumbledore, his former teacher at Hogwarts Wizarding School, Newt is tasked with stopping Grindelwald from amassing an army of followers – something which brings him back into contact with numerous figures from his past, including the Obscurial Credence Barebone, who was believed to have died during the events in New York, but who is rumored to have survived . The film stars Eddie Redmayne, Jude Law, Johnny Depp, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, and Ezra Miller, and is directed by David Yates; this is now the sixth ‘Wizarding Film’ Yates has helmed. Read more…

RED SPARROW – James Newton Howard

March 6, 2018 3 comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

A cold war-style espionage thriller with a decidedly contemporary twist, Red Sparrow is a showcase of acting for Jennifer Lawrence. In it she plays Dominika Egorova, a prima ballerina with the Kirov in Moscow, dancing in order to provide for her sick mother. When an on-stage accident ends her performance career, and it becomes likely that her mother’s life-saving treatments will end, Dominika is recruited to a secret espionage organization within the Russian government that trains young men and women to be ‘sparrows’ – deep cover operatives highly skilled at physical and emotional manipulation, with an emphasis on sex. Before long, Dominika is sent to make contact with a CIA agent who has a source within the Russian government; her mission – to get close to the agent, and discover the identity of the mole. The film is directed by Francis Lawrence, who directed Jennifer in three Hunger Games movies, and is adapted from a popular novel by Jason Matthews; it co-stars Joel Edgerton, Jeremy Irons, Charlotte Rampling, and Matthias Schoenaerts, and has an original score by James Newton Howard. Read more…

RUSSKIES – James Newton Howard

November 16, 2017 Leave a comment


Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

One of my favorite things about the Throwback Thirty series is the opportunity it gives me to take a look back at the very beginnings of certain composers’ careers, and examine how they started and where they came from. In 1987 James Newton Howard was still very new to the film scoring world. After studying at the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, and at the University of Southern California, he started out as a session musician for various pop artists, which eventually led to him touring with Elton John as a keyboardist during the late 1970s and early 1980s. He arranged the strings for several of John’s most popular songs of the period, and subsequent collaborations with pop artists such as Cher, Bob Seger, Randy Newman, and Olivia Newton-John, led to him becoming one of the most sought-after arrangers in the music business. The film world started calling Howard’s name in 1985 when he was asked to score director Ken Finkleman’s comedy Head Office; he enjoyed some minor box office success in 1986 with the Goldie Hawn vehicle Wildcats, and the Burt Lancaster/Kirk Douglas comedy Tough Guys, but it was not until the end of 1987 that he would score a film that also had an accompanying score album released at the same time. Read more…


November 19, 2016 3 comments

fantasticbeastsOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton


Back in 1997, in her book Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, author J. K. Rowling made an offhand reference to “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” and its author Newt Scamander, when young Harry buys his textbooks prior to attending Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry for the first time. Now, some 19 years later, we have the first spin-off story in the Harry Potter universe, which tells the life story of Newt Scamander, and how Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them came to be written. The year is 1926, and Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), a magical zoologist, has travelled to New York as part of his work with the Ministry of Magic in the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures; however, upon his arrival in the Big Apple, the shy and nervous Scamander runs into an American ‘nomaj’ (a non-magical person, what Americans call ‘muggles’), and contrives to accidentally release several creatures from out of his magical suitcase and into the city. As Scamander desperately tries to retrieve the creatures, he simultaneously becomes embroiled in several inter-twined plots at MACUSA, the American Ministry of Magic: one involving a mysterious force terrorizing the city, one concerning a rabble-rousing anti-Witch group, and – perhaps most seriously – the disappearance of the dark wizard Gellert Grindlewald. The film is directed by David Yates, who also directed the last four Harry Potter films, and co-stars Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, and Colin Farrell. Read more…


November 29, 2014 11 comments

hungergamesmockingjay1Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The third movie in the massively popular Hunger Games franchise based on the novels by Suzanne Collins, Mockingjay is the first part of the epic finale to the story of Katniss Everdeen and her efforts to overthrow the cruel and corrupt government of Panem. It picks up immediately after the events of the second film, Catching Fire, and finds Katniss, having destroyed the hunger games dome built to stage the ‘quarter quell’, being rescued by the rebels and taken to District 13, the stronghold previously thought to be in ruins, but which is actually under the control of rebel leader Alma Coin. Katniss’s actions have instigated an uprising in the other districts, inspiring the ruthless President Snow to retaliate with sadistic military action; not only that, Snow has taken Katniss’s friend Peeta Mullark prisoner, and is using him to spread propaganda against Katniss. The film stars Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jeffrey Wright, Stanley Tucci, and Donald Sutherland, is directed by Francis Lawrence, and sees composer James Newton Howard returning for the third time. Read more…

MALEFICENT – James Newton Howard

June 10, 2014 2 comments

maleficentOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

Walt Disney’s 1959 animated version of Charles Perrault’s classic 15th century fairy tale Sleeping Beauty is rightly considered a classic of children’s literature and cinema. In it, a beautiful princess is cursed by a wicked witch to prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel and fall into a deep, death-like sleep, from which she can only be awakened by true love’s kiss. It’s a timeless tale, the basis of many fables, but in Disney’s new film Maleficent things turn on their head: it tells essentially the same story, but from the point of view from the “evil witch”. In this version, Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) is not truly evil, but instead a fairy from an enchanted world known as The Moors, who was betrayed and mutilated by her human lover. Vowing revenge on those who harmed her and her kind, Maleficent does indeed curse Aurora (Elle Fanning), the daughter of King Stefan (Sharlto Copley), but immediately regrets her actions; with the help of her minion Diaval (Sam Riley), Maleficent tries to protect Aurora throughout her childhood, while Stefan’s forces attempt to invade and destroy The Moors. The visually sumptuous film was directed by Robert Stromberg (the Oscar winning production designer of Avatar), and features a dazzling score by composer James Newton Howard. Read more…

WYATT EARP – James Newton Howard

January 1, 2014 2 comments


Original Review by Craig Lysy

Kevin Costner’s original vision for a biopic on Wyatt Earp was a six-part TV mini series. Director Lawrence Kasdan, who had previously directed Costner in Silverado, convinced him that his story was best presented on the big screen. Costner trusted Kasdan and so gave him the reigns to bring forth his vision. Kasdan rewrote much of the Dan Gordon’s original screenplay and fashioned it into an epic American journey of a complex man, an anti-hero whose love of family and kin defined his life and kept him true as he struggled to find his destiny. Set in the years following the Civil War through the Alaskan gold rush, we see Earp in many guises; as a family man, outlaw, U.S. Marshall and finally a prospector. Western folklore reveals Earp to be one of the most iconic men of the old American West, a man who fully embodied its fierce independence and nobility, but also its cruelty, violence and brutality. For the film Kasdan assembled a stellar cast, which included Costner in the title role, Dennis Quaid (Doc Holliday) and Gene Hackman (Nicholas Earp). Regretfully an earlier release of “Tombstone”, a very similar film, diminished “Wyatt Earp’s” impact. The overly long and plodding pace of the film failed to resonate with the public, which viewed it as a bloated “copy cat”, that resulted in both a much-derided critical and commercial failure. Read more…


December 6, 2013 3 comments

hungergamescatchingfireOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

Catching Fire is the second film based on the bestselling Hunger Games trilogy of novels by Suzanne Collins, following on from the smash hit Hunger Games movie last year. Jennifer Lawrence returns to the starring role as Katniss Everdeen, a young woman from a post-apocalyptic America who, along with her compatriot Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), survived their participation in the eponymous games – a gladiatorial-style combat tournament involving children from various impoverished ‘districts’, who fight to the death for the entertainment of the wealthy and decadent inhabitants of the Capital, organized as penance for a popular uprising generations previously. In Catching Fire, Katniss and Peeta have drawn the ire of the corrupt and sadistic President Snow (Donald Sutherland) for defying the Government and for possibly inciting a potential second uprising within the districts; in response, Snow orders a second, special games called the “quarter quell” in which former winners of the games must compete again, in a nightmarish new battle arena designed to look like the jungle. Read more…

WATER FOR ELEPHANTS – James Newton Howard

April 28, 2011 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Water for Elephants is a romantic drama based on a popular novel by Sara Gruen. It stars Twilight’s Robert Pattinson as Jacob Jankowski, a young veterinarian during the great depression who leaves his Ivy League school and takes a job with a travelling circus looking after the animals after his parents are killed. It is there that he meets and falls in love with Marlena Rosenbluth (Reese Witherspoon), the circus’s star performer – despite the fact that she is married to August (Christoph Waltz), the circus’s head animal trainer and ringmaster, who has a deeply cruel streak. The film was directed by Francis Lawrence, co-stars Hal Holbrook, Paul Schneider and Jim Norton, and has a quite lovely score by James Newton Howard, reuniting with director Lawrence after their collaboration in I Am Legend in 2007. Read more…

GNOMEO & JULIET – Chris Bacon and James Newton Howard

March 10, 2011 Leave a comment

gnomeojulietOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

There’s not a lot you can say about gnomes, really. They’re ugly little buggers, with their pot bellies and their pointy hats and beards and pipes and fishing rods. They look benign, like little miniature Santa Clauses, but they have evil in their hearts, every one of them. Beloved the world over by seriously deluded expatriate Germans and middle-aged gardeners who have run out of things to do with their flowerbeds, they have become figures of ridicule, in British culture at least – but this hasn’t stopped Touchstone from making a feature length animated film featuring the loathsome little bastards.

Incredibly, Gnomeo & Juliet takes the classic Shakespeare story of tragic romance and re-imagines it with gnomes and Elton John songs. Directed by Kelly Asbury, the film has attracted an astonishingly distinguished voice cast – James McAvoy as Gnomeo, Emily Blunt as Juliet, and supporting turns from Michael Caine, Jason Statham, Maggie Smith, Patrick Stewart, Julie Walters and Ozzy Osbourne – as well as a contribution from world famous rock artist Elton John. Read more…