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Posts Tagged ‘John Williams’

FAR AND AWAY – John Williams

June 9, 2022 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Far and Away is a romanticized film about the American immigrant experience, specifically those who came from Ireland seeking their fortune in the new world in the 1890s, while the country was still recovering from the great potato famine several decades previously. The film stars Tom Cruise as Joseph Donnelly, a poor farmer from rural Ireland who meets Shannon Christie (Nicole Kidman), the privileged daughter of his father’s landlord, and they bond over their shared plans to emigrate to America. The film then follows the travails of the couple as they travel from Ireland to Boston, fall in with a local gang boss, and get involved in everything from bare knuckle boxing to prostitution simply to survive; the ultimate aim is for them to travel from Boston to Oklahoma to take part in a so-called ‘land race,’ the winner of which is given a plot of land and a shot at the American dream. The film co-starred Thomas Gibson, Robert Prosky, Colm Meaney, and Cyril Cusack alongside Cruise and Kidman, and was written by Bob Dolman and directed by Ron Howard – the same duo who made Willow in 1988. Read more…

JOHN WILLIAMS REVIEWS 1970-1974

February 8, 2022 Leave a comment

In this latest installment of the new irregular series looking at the early career of some iconic composers, and in recognition of his 90th birthday this week, here is our look at the first part of second decade in the career of John Williams, and all the scores he wrote from 1970 through 1974.

The 1970s was the decade which really established Williams as a major composer in Hollywood film music circles; he moved mostly away from the light jazz scores that typified a great deal of his work in the 1960s, he dropped the cheerful name ‘Johnny Williams’ and became the much more serious ‘John,’ and he formed many of the directorial relationships that would result in much of his mainstream success – notably with a young and ambitions and incredibly talented kid from Cincinnati named Steven Spielberg.

Not included here are the scores where Williams adapted music by other people: Fiddler on the Roof (1971), where Williams worked with music by Jerry Bock and for which he received his first Academy Award for Best Scoring: Adaptation and Original Song Score, and Tom Sawyer (1973), where Williams adapted music Robert B. Sherman and Richard M. Sherman, and for which Williams received an Academy Award nomination for Best Scoring: Original Song Score and Adaptation, and a Golden Globe nomination for Best Original Score. Read more…

HOOK – John Williams

December 2, 2021 2 comments

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

There have been dozens of theatrical and cinematic adaptations of J. M. Barrie’s classic fairy tale Peter Pan in the years since it was first published in the early 1900s, but it wasn’t until Steven Spielberg came along that there was a sequel. Hook was written by Jim Hart, Nick Castle, and Malia Scotch Marmo, and is set many years after the original story. Peter Pan has grown up and forgotten all about his adventurous childhood; he is now Peter Banning, and a successful lawyer in San Francisco, but he neglects his wife Moira and his children Jack and Maggie. In a last ditch attempt to save his marriage he agrees to a family vacation in London with Moira’s grandmother Wendy – the same Wendy who loved Peter when she was a girl, and who is now an old woman. However, everything changes when Peter’s old nemesis Captain Hook kidnaps his children, and Peter is forced to return to Neverland, reunite with Tinker Bell and the Lost Boys, and remember his birthright, in order to save them. Read more…

JFK – John Williams

November 24, 2021 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The assassination of US president John F. Kennedy in Dallas, Texas, in November 1963 was one of the defining moments of twentieth century American history. History books state that he was killed by a lone gunman, Lee Harvey Oswald, who was himself murdered by local Dallas businessman Jack Ruby while in custody just a day or so later. Oswald’s true motive has never been categorically established, and in the years since the event a series of conspiracy theories have emerged – that Oswald was a ‘patsy’ working for the Russians, that there were additional shooters who have never been identified located on a nearby ‘grassy knoll,’ and even that Kennedy’s vice president Lyndon Johnson was somehow involved as part of a coup for him to seize power. Many of these theories are examined in great detail in director Oliver Stone’s film JFK, which looks at the events leading up to, during, and after the assassination, and then focuses deeply on the subsequent investigation by former district attorney Jim Garrison, as well as the official congressional commission led by chief justice Earl Warren. The film is a dense, complicated, intricate film that offers plenty of theories, conjecture, and opinion, but never really settles on a decision as to what really happened, although Stone heavily implies that he believes that the conspiracy goes much deeper than the official investigation concluded. Read more…

PRESUMED INNOCENT – John Williams

July 30, 2020 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Presumed Innocent is a terrific courtroom thriller of the type they just don’t make any more. Directed by Alan J. Pakula and written by Scott Turow, based on his own 1987 novel of the same name, it stars Harrison Ford as Rusty Sabich, a high-profile prosecutor working for the current district attorney, Raymond Horgan (Brian Dennehy). Rusty’s life is turned upside town when a former colleague, Carolyn Polhemus (Greta Scacchi), is found raped and murdered in her apartment; to make matters worse for Rusty, he previously had a brief affair with Carolyn, which resulted in domestic problems between Rusty and his wife Barbara (Bonnie Bedelia). The DA’s political rival, Nico Della Guardia, uses circumstantial evidence found at the crime scene to accuse Rusty of the murder, and soon Rusty is fighting not only to clear his name, but to identify the real killer. Presumed Innocent is one of the most entertaining and intelligent movies of its type, and one of my personal favorite courtroom thrillers; great films like this used to come out every year, from authors like Turow and John Grisham, but the over-saturation of TV shows in the Law and Order franchise have somewhat lessened their impact and public interest has waned in the genre as a whole. It’s a shame because I always loved them when they were done well, and this one is one of the best. Read more…

STANLEY & IRIS – John Williams

February 21, 2020 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

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…

ALWAYS – John Williams

January 30, 2020 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Always is the Steven Spielberg film most people tend to forget. Sandwiched between such classics as Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Schindler’s List, and Jurassic Park, it came during the period where Spielberg was alternating between making major box office blockbusters and smaller, more personal films that tackled intimate themes and emotions. Always is a remake of the 1943 Spencer Tracy film A Guy Named Joe, which was written by Dalton Trumbo. Richard Dreyfuss stars in the Tracy role as Pete Sandich, a daredevil pilot who works putting out forest fires; his long-time girlfriend Dorinda (Holly Hunter) and best friend Al (John Goodman) fear that his recklessness in the air will lead to tragedy. Their worst fears come true when Pete is killed in a plane crash saving Al’s life; in the afterlife, Pete is given guidance by an angel-like figure (Audrey Hepburn, in her final screen role), and told that he has one last life to save before he can move on to heaven – Dorinda’s, who has become overwhelmingly grief stricken and suicidal as a result of Pete’s death. Read more…

BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY – John Williams

December 26, 2019 1 comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

In the late 1970s and 1980s a number of prominent American filmmakers took it upon themselves to take a long, hard look at the political and social ramifications of the country’s involvement in the Vietnam War. American involvement in the conflict began in the early 1960s, and lasted until the fall of Saigon in 1975, resulting in the deaths of more than 50,000 American military personnel, and hundreds of thousands more wounded. Chief among those filmmakers was Oliver Stone, who was himself a Vietnam vet. His 1986 film Platoon took a harrowing look at the war from the point of view of the men serving on the front lines, and he won Best Picture and Best Director Academy Awards for his trouble. Born on the Fourth of July, which was released in December 1989, took an equally harrowing look at what happened to those men when they finally came home. Read more…

STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER – John Williams

December 23, 2019 10 comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS PLOT SPOILERS. IF YOU HAVE NOT YET SEEN THE FILM, YOU MIGHT WANT TO CONSIDER WAITING UNTIL AFTER YOU HAVE DONE SO TO READ IT.

When you’re a critic or reviewer, you often get accused of being biased, especially when you write a review that is contrary to the opinion of the accuser. And, of course, this is true. It’s impossible to remove bias from any opinion because your biases inform your feelings and your reactions to whatever it is you’re expressing an opinion about. Your bias comes from your life experience, your culture, your personality, and your taste: effectively, it’s the sum of who you are. For me, a piece of critical writing without bias is pointless because then you’re never actually sharing your point of view – in effect, you’re just describing something, and never describing how it makes you feel, and most importantly why. All art should make you feel something, good or bad, because otherwise what’s the point of art? Over time, a critic’s biases will become a clear and important part of what they write, and the reader, if they invest enough time into learning them, will be able to weigh those subjective biases against more objective standards, and tell whether or not the end result meshes with their own opinions, and their own biases. So, from the point of view of this review it’s important to point out that I am biased, heavily, to have a positive view of Star Wars. Read more…

INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE – John Williams

June 20, 2019 2 comments

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The third movie in director Steven Spielberg’s Indiana Jones series was Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and whereas 1984’s Temple of Doom was a prequel to Raiders of the Lost Ark, Last Crusade was a direct sequel, set just two years later in 1938. Harrison Ford returns as the titular archaeologist-adventurer, who is sent off on a globe-trotting escapade when he receives news from American billionaire Walter Donovan (Julian Glover) that his long-estranged father Henry Jones (Sean Connery) has gone missing while searching for the holy grail. Jones teams up with his old friends and colleagues Marcus Brody (Denholm Elliott) and Sallah (John Rhys-Davies) on the quest to find his father, and quickly becomes embroiled in a vast labyrinthine plot involving ancient myths and legends, a brotherhood of religious warriors, way too many Nazis, and a beautiful Austrian art professor named Elsa Schneider (Alison Doody) to whom there is more than meets the eye. The whole thing is a delight from start to finish, with several wonderfully exciting action set pieces, and beautiful location settings, but the cornerstone of the film is the father-and-son chemistry between Ford and Connery, whose outward gruffness and constant bickering masks a deep love and affection. Whereas Ford is an all-action matinee idol hero, Connery is a slightly bumbling academic, more at home with books and libraries than punching Nazis in the face, but who is still able to make his son feel like a 12-year old when he calls him ‘junior’. Read more…

JURASSIC PARK – John Williams

February 25, 2019 6 comments

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Steven Spielberg became aware of Michael Crichton’s novel Jurassic Park as the two collaborated on the television series E.R. A bidding war for the rights ensued, with Spielberg and Universal Pictures prevailing over Warner Brothers and Tim Burton, Columbia Pictures and Richard Donner, James Cameron and Joe Dante. Kathleen Kennedy and Gerald Molen would produce the film with Spielberg directing. Spielberg understood the challenges he faced bring the dinosaurs to life and sought at all costs to not repeat the technical nightmare he experienced in Jaws. He turned to George Lucas’ Industrial Light and Magic Company to create groundbreaking computer –generated imagery and ended up making history. Crichton was hired to adapt his novel to the screen but Spielberg was unsatisfied with the violence. Malia Scotch Marmo was tasked with the rewrite in late 1991, but she also did not satisfy Spielberg’s vision. Universal executives brought in Casey Silver and David Koepp who ultimately crafted the script used in the film. A fine cast was assembled with Sam Neill securing the role of Alan Grant after William Hurt and Harrison Ford both declined. Joining him would be Laura Dern as Ellie Sattler, Jeff Goldblum as Ian Malcolm, Richard Attenborough as John Hammond, Bob Peck as Robert Muldoon, Samuel Jackson as Ray Arnold, B.D. Wong as Henry Wu, and Ariana Richards and Joseph Mazzello as Hammond’s niece and nephew Lex and Tim. Read more…

THE ACCIDENTAL TOURIST – John Williams

February 22, 2019 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The Accidental Tourist is a romantic drama film directed by Lawrence Kasdan, adapted from the acclaimed novel by Anne Tyler. It stars William Hurt as Macon Leary, an introverted travel writer whose relationship with his wife Sarah (Kathleen Turner) begins to break down after the death of their son. Sarah eventually leaves him and moves out, pending a divorce, and when Macon breaks his leg after tripping over his disobedient dog and falling down the stairs, he moves back into his childhood home with his eccentric siblings to recuperate. After a while, Macon hires the quirky Muriel Pritchett (Geena Davis) as a dog obedience trainer; despite the enormous differences in their personalities, a spark of attraction develops between the two, and they begin a relationship. However, Macon’s new life is thrown into turmoil when Sarah returns, wanting to re-kindle their marriage, forcing Macon to make some difficult decisions. The film was an enormous critical success, earning Academy Award nominations for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay, and winning Geena Davis an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. Read more…

SCHINDLER’S LIST – John Williams

February 18, 2019 2 comments

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

The genesis of Schindler’s List lay with holocaust survivor Leopold Pfefferberg, whose tale of Oskar Schindler inspired Thomas Keneally to write his Booker Prize winning novel, Schindler’s Ark, in 1982. It came to pass that studio president Sid Sheinberg saw opportunity in the story and mailed Steven Spielberg a review of the book by the New York Times. Spielberg was deeply moved by the narrative and secured financial backing from Universal Pictures, which purchased the screen rights. Yet the then 37-year-old hesitated and ultimately delayed production ten years as he felt himself too young to take on the pathos of the Holocaust. When the time eventually came to begin production, he tasked Steven Zaillian with writing the screenplay, and the struggled to hire a director, soliciting several including Roman Polanski, Sydney Pollack, Billy Wilder and Martin Scorsese. Ultimately Spielberg took Wilder’s counsel to direct the film himself. For the cast he brought in an outstanding ensemble, which included Liam Neeson as Oskar Schindler, Ben Kingsley as Itzhak Stern, Ralph Fiennes as Captain Amon Göth, Caroline Goodall as Emilie Schindler, Jonathan Sagalle as Poldek Pfefferberg, and Embeth Davidtz as Helen Hirsch. Read more…

E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL – John Williams

July 30, 2018 5 comments

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Steven Spielberg, like most kids, suffered with the divorce of his parents. He was 14, and to cope with his circumstances, he created an imaginary alien friend, who became a surrogate brother. Over time this evolved into a story, which his sought to film called “Growing Up”. After the success of Raiders of The Lost Ark, he returned to fashioning his childhood story, which would now incorporate elements from another story he had written called “Night Skies,” where aliens terrorize a family. He brought in screenwriter to Melissa Mathison to craft a story of a special needs child bonding with a friendly alien. The result was a story to be called “E.T. and Me,” which Spielberg pitched to Columbia Studios. Remarkably they rejected the project, believing that it would only appeal to small kids. Well, Spielberg was undeterred, and approached Sid Sheinberg of MCA, who saw the success of Raiders of the Lost Ark, and agreed to fund the project. They bought back the script from Columbia Pictures for $1 million dollars and granted 5% of the film’s net profits. Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy would produce the film, with Spielberg also directing. For his creative team, he brought in Carlo Rambaldi, who had created the aliens seen in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The story required Spielberg to cast child actors, and he screened hundreds. His patience and hard effort paid off as he managed to secure a perfect cast, which included; Henry Thomas as Elliot, Drew Barrymore as Gertie, Dee Wallace as Mary, Peter Coyote as Keys, and Robert MacNaughton as Michael. Read more…

RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK – John Williams

July 23, 2018 1 comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

In 1973 George Lucas wrote a story titled “The Adventures of Indiana Smith”, drawing inspiration from adventure movies of the 1930s and 1940s. While on a shared vacation to Hawaii with Steven Spielberg, Lucas pitched his story, and convinced him to direct a trilogy of films. Upon Spielberg’s suggestion, the surname was changed to Jones and screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan was hired to create the script. The major Hollywood studios all rejected the project because of the $20 million price tag and Lucas’ exacting terms. Eventually Paramount took the gamble and Frank Marshall was tasked with producing the film. After exhausting efforts to cast the lead man, Spielberg convinced Lucas to cast Harrison Ford for the role of Indiana Jones. Joining him on the project would be Paul Freeman as Dr. René Belloq, Karen Allen as Marion Ravenwood, John Rhys-Davies as Sallah, Ronald Lacey as Major Arnold Toht, Denholm Elliot as Dr. Marcus Brody, and Wolf Kahler as Colonel Dietrich. Read more…