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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…

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STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI – John Williams

December 19, 2017 4 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…

THE BFG – John Williams

July 6, 2016 4 comments

thebfgOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

Roald Dahl’s The BFG has been one of the most beloved stories of British children’s literature since it was first published in 1982. It tells the story of a young girl named Sophie, who lives in an orphanage in London, and who one night sees a giant blowing something via a trumpet-like object into a bedroom window down the street from where she lives. Fearing that his existence will be revealed, the giant kidnaps Sophie and takes her far away to his home in Giant Country. However, rather than being a fearsome monster, the giant turns out to be a Big Friendly Giant – a “BFG” – and the two quickly become friends. Unfortunately, a dozen or so other giants also live in Giant Country, and these giants are fearsome cannibals who eat children and bully the BFG, who is the smallest of their kind. Having witnessed the cruelty of the giants first hand, Sophie convinces the BFG to help her hatch a plan to stop them and their child-chomping ways once and for all. The story was originally made into a much-loved animated film in 1989 featuring the voice of the great David Jason, and has now been given the Hollywood live-action treatment, with Oscar-winning actor Mark Rylance in motion capture as the BFG, newcomer Ruby Barnhill as Sophie, and Steven Spielberg in the director’s chair. Read more…

SPACECAMP – John Williams

June 9, 2016 Leave a comment

spacecampTHROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Having enjoyed what will, in all probability, go down in history as the most successful creative period of any composer in film music history from 1975 through 1984, when he wrote the scores for Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, three Star Wars films, Superman, two Indiana Jones films, and E. T. The Extra-Terrestrial, among others, John Williams quite rightly decided to take a break. With the exception of a couple of episodes of the TV series Amazing Stories, he didn’t write anything in 1985, while in 1986 his only score was this one: the children’s adventure film SpaceCamp. Directed by TV veteran Harry Winer, the film followed the escapades of five brilliant teenagers (including Lea Thompson, Tate Donovan, Kelly Preston, and Joaquin Phoenix) who enroll in NASA’s SpaceCamp program with a view to becoming astronauts when they grow up. After meeting their instructors (Kate Capshaw and Tom Skerritt), and a friendly robot named Jinx, the kids are allowed into the cockpit of the Space Shuttle Atlantis during a routine engine test; however, a malfunction occurs, launching the shuttle into space, and forcing the inexperienced children to work together to try to bring the shuttle safely back to Earth. Read more…