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JAWS – John Williams

April 2, 2018 1 comment

jaws100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

As we today look back to 1975, we recognize that Jaws was a transformative film, which forever altered how the film industry would operate. Jaws inaugurated what has become known in the modern lexicon as, the Summer Blockbuster. After 1975 studio executives would thereafter conceive and fund big summer action and adventure films, which would take the public by storm, and fill studio coffers. The film was adapted from a Peter Benchley novel, which was originally conceived with the title “Leviathan Rising”, but later discarded for Jaws. It is as simple a tale as they come, man against the beast. We find the summer vacation community Amity Island plagued by a series of shark attacks, which threaten the island’s livelihood. Rogue seafarer Quint (Robert Shaw) is hired to hunt down and kill the beast with all dispatch. Accompanying him would be landlubber Police Captain Brody (Roy Scheider) and, oceanographer Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss). They wage war against this massive leviathan, which leads to Quint’s death, the loss of his boat, the Orca, and Hooper and Brody barely surviving. Well, the film was a massive commercial success, which spawned a franchise of sequels. It was also a critical success, earning four Academy Award nominations for Best Picture, Best Film Editing, Best Sound and Best Film Score, winning three; best Film Editing, Best Sound and Best Film Score. Read more…

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EMPIRE OF THE SUN – John Williams

March 1, 2018 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

By the end of 1986, Steven Spielberg was probably the most famous and financially successful director in Hollywood. However, although he had directed a handful of the highest grossing films of all time – Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Raiders of the Lost Ark, E. T. The Extra-Terrestrial, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom –he privately expressed a desire to make more serious films. The comparative failure of The Color Purple in 1985 just magnified that desire, so in 1987 he decided to try again, by making a movie based on J. G. Ballard’s semi-autobiographical coming-of-age novel Empire of the Sun. The film starred the then 13-year-old Christian Bale as Jim Graham, an upper class English schoolboy living with his diplomat parents in Shanghai in 1941, whose life is shattered by the outbreak of World War II, and who ends up desperately trying to survive in a Japanese prisoner of war camp. Unfortunately for Spielberg, the film – which also starred John Malkovich, Miranda Richardson, and Nigel Havers – did not ignite the passions of audiences like his popcorn blockbusters did, and it was only a moderate critical and commercial success; Spielberg would have to wait another five years for his breakthrough into cinematic respectability with Schindler’s List in 1993. In addition, the film was largely overlooked at the Academy Awards, receiving only six technical nominations, but not winning any. Read more…

THE POST – John Williams

January 2, 2018 1 comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

In 1971 the Washington Post was still a comparatively small-scale regional newspaper, lagging behind such behemoths as the New York Times in terms of prestige and influence. That all changed when the Post’s hard boiled news editor Ben Bradlee found himself in possession of what became known as The Pentagon Papers: a leaked classified report which proved that the US government had lied to the American people about the scope of its involvement in the Vietnam War, and that multiple US presidents were involved in the cover-up. Director Steven Spielberg’s film The Post tells the story of how the newspaper came into possession of the Papers, and the subsequent protracted legal and ethical battles that ensued over whether or not to publish; it stars Tom Hanks as Bradlee, Meryl Streep as the Post’s owner Kay Graham, and has a stellar supporting cast including Bob Odenkirk, Bruce Greenwood, Tracy Letts, Bradley Whitford, Matthew Rhys, Carrie Coon, Michael Stuhlbarg, and Sarah Paulson. Read more…

STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI – John Williams

December 19, 2017 5 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.

With George Lucas’s prequel trilogy having received almost universal critical disdain in the decade that followed the release of Revenge of the Sith, it took the 2015 film The Force Awakens to re-ignite the Star Wars franchise and bring back the love that so many millions had for the original trilogy that began in 1977. Luxuriating in $2 billion worldwide grosses, and having introduced a cache of interesting new characters to sit alongside the story stalwarts, The Force Awakens allowed Lucasfilm and the Walt Disney company to push forward with their plans for new sequels, as well as several standalone side-stories, confident that people were happy to come back to the galaxy far, far away. The first side-story, Rogue One, premiered in 2016, and a second movie looking at the early years of Han Solo is scheduled for 2018. But before we get into that, 2017’s most anticipated film is Star Wars: The Last Jedi, written and directed by Rian Johnson, which is the second film of the third trilogy, and the eighth ‘main story’ Star Wars film overall. Read more…

JOHN WILLIAMS REVIEWS – 1960-1969

September 10, 2017 Leave a comment

In this latest installment of the new irregular series looking at the early career of some iconic composers, we switch to Hollywood to look at the work of John Williams.

Williams attended the University of California, Los Angeles, and studied privately with the Italian composer Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, before being drafted into the U.S. Air Force, where he conducted and arranged music for Air Force bands as part of his assignments. After his service, Williams moved back to New York, and studied both at the Juilliard School, and at the Eastman School of Music, while moonlighting as a jazz pianist.

After completing his studies, Williams worked in Hollywood, orchestrating and performing piano on film scores for composers such as Alfred Newman, Bernard Herrmann, Elmer Bernstein and Jerry Goldsmith. Williams made his film music composing debut in 1959 on the film Daddy-O at the age of 27 – credited as Johnny Williams – and these first reviews look at sixteen subsequent film scores Williams that wrote between 1960 and 1969.

Not included here are the multitude of episodic TV scores he wrote during the period for shows and anthology series like Alcoa Premier, Playhouse 90, M-Squad, Wagon Train, Impact, The Virginian, Lost in Space, The Time Tunnel, and Land of the Giants, and others. Nor am I including the two scores where Williams adapted music by other people: Valley of the Dolls (1967), where Williams worked with music by André Previn and Dory Previn and for which he received his first Oscar nomination for Best Adaptation Score of a Musical Picture, and Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1969), where Williams adapted music by Leslie Bricusse, and for which he earned his second nomination in the same category. 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…

THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK – John Williams

June 22, 2017 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

A raucous fantasy comedy based on the novel by John Updike, The Witches of Eastwick stars Susan Sarandon, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Cher, as three women in a small New England town suffering from broken relationships: fiery artist Alexandra (Cher) is a widow, shy and insecure teacher Jane (Sarandon) is a divorcee, and mousy writer Sukie (Pfeiffer) was abandoned by her husband, leaving her to raise six children alone. Despite them living in a town with a history of magic, none of the women realize that they have powers of witchcraft, until an unusual stranger named Daryl Van Horne (Jack Nicholson) arrives in town and begins courting each of them in turn; before long, the women are spending time at Daryl’s mansion, learning about their powers, and finally indulging the passionate, sexual sides of their personality after years of being unfulfilled and repressed. However, as Daryl’s behavior starts to get more and more unpredictable, the women begin to worry about his intentions, and whether his arrival in Eastwick was a good idea. Read more…