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TULIP FEVER – Danny Elfman

September 19, 2017 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The tale of Tulip Fever is a long and sad one in terms of the way the film has been treated by its distributor. It’s an adaptation of the enormously popular novel by Deborah Moggach, directed by Justin Chadwick, and written by the great Tom Stoppard. Set in the Netherlands in the 17th century, during the period of the tulip mania (when the Dutch economy was almost ruined by the enormous inflation, then the sudden collapse, of the price of tulips), the film tells the story of an impoverished artist who falls in love with a young but unhappily married woman after he is commissioned to paint her portrait by her husband, a rich and powerful flower merchant. The film stars Dane De Haan, Alicia Vikander, and Christophe Waltz, and was originally scheduled for release in late 2015, in order to prime itself for a run at that’s year’s Academy Awards. However, for some reason, the film was delayed and delayed and delayed by the distributor, Harvey Weinstein. Release dates came and went until the film finally dragged itself into cinemas in a limited release in August 2017, almost two years after it was first scheduled to appear; virtually no-one went to see it, and it was a critical disaster, with one writer memorably describing it as ‘a floral-scented fiasco that is so lifeless you can barely feel a pulse.’ Read more…

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BEN-HUR – Miklós Rózsa

September 18, 2017 3 comments

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

As a new decade dawned, MGM studio executives began searching for a grand tale to bring to the screen. They decided in 1952 to cast their lot with a remake of their epic 1925 silent film, Ben-Hur. The film’s source material would again reference Lew Wallace’s 1880 novel Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ. It would take six years before producer Sam Zimbalist could bring the project to fruition. It required twelve versions of the script, from four different writers, to finally satisfy the demands of director William Wyler. Casting was also challenging as over 5,000 people needed to be hired for minor roles and extras. The studio spared no expense, ultimately providing Wyler with an astounding $15 million budget. Charlton Heston secured the titular role of Judah Ben-Hur and was supported by a fine cast, which included Stephen Boyd as Messala, Jack Hawkins as Quintus Arius, Haya Harareet as Esther, Martha Scott as Miriam, Sam Jaffe as Simonides, Hugh Griffith as Sheik Ilderim, Cathy O’Donnell as Tirzah, Frank Thring as Pontius Pilate, and Finlay Currie as Balthazar narrator. Read more…

REBEL IN THE RYE – Bear McCreary

September 15, 2017 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Rebel in the Rye is a biopic about the life of J. D. Salinger, the reclusive author of the classic 1951 novel about teenage angst and social alienation, Catcher in the Rye. It looks mainly at Salinger’s life as a young man, charting the time he spent serving on the front lines in World War II, following the creation and publication of Catcher, examining his relationships with his girlfriend Oona O’Neill, his mentor Whit Burnett, and his supportive publisher Dorothy Olding, and lamenting the subsequent unwanted fame and notoriety Salinger suffered through, which led him to withdraw from public view for most of the rest of his life. The film was written and directed by Danny Strong, and stars Nicholas Hoult as Salinger, with Zoey Deutsch, Kevin Spacey, and Sarah Paulson in supporting roles. Read more…

HELLRAISER – Christopher Young

September 14, 2017 2 comments

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

In the early autumn of 1987 the movie world was introduced to its newest horror franchise: Hellraiser, based on the acclaimed novella ‘The Hellbound Heart’ by British author Clive Barker. It was directed by Barker himself, making his filmmaking debut, and contains sinister themes involving sexual experimentation and sadomasochism, dressed up with a darkly romantic sheen of gothic horror. The plot involves an ancient puzzle box which falls into the hands of the amoral Frank Cotton (Sean Chapman) and which, once solved, releases a group of demonic figures known as Cenobites, who then abduct and subject their unwitting victims to endless torture. Years after Frank’s disappearance his brother Larry (Andrew Robinson), Larry’s daughter Kirsty (Ashley Laurence), and Larry’s new wife Julia (Clare Higgins) move into Frank’s old house; Larry is unaware that Julia had a passionate affair with Frank before he disappeared. A common household accident results in the skinless corpse of Frank somehow being resurrected in the attic; in order to finalize his reincarnation, Frank needs a fresh supply of human blood, which the still-obsessed Julia agrees to provide. However, the Cenobites have found out about Frank’s escape from ‘hell,’ and their terrifying leader, Pinhead (Doug Bradley), resolves to bring him back – at which point Kirsty finds herself caught in the middle of the nightmare. Read more…

IT – Benjamin Wallfisch

September 12, 2017 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

It has been one of Stephen King’s most enduring and popular novels since it was first published back in 1986. Conceptually, it covers two bases. Firstly, it’s a terrifying horror story, which takes many of the most basic human fears – death, disease, growing older – and personifies them into a single, unifying threat. Secondly, it’s a classic examination of childhood nostalgia, which looks at very adult themes through a kid’s eyes: friendship, the loss of innocence, blossoming sexuality, and the way the onset of adulthood strips you of your inquisitiveness and imagination. King sets the story in the small town of Derry, Maine, where kids are going missing, and adults seemingly turn a blind eye to the bizarre goings on in the community. Eventually seven friends, who call themselves the Losers Club, realize that the common link between all the disappearances is an evil clown named Pennywise, who re-appears to prey on the innocent every 27 years, and whose reign of terror they vow to end once and for all. The book was originally adapted into an acclaimed TV mini-series in 1990 which featured an iconic performance by Tim Curry as Pennywise; this new version is directed by Andy Muschietti, stars Bill Skarsgård as the clown, and features Jaeden Lieberher, Sophia Lillis, and Finn Wolfhard as three of the Losers Club kids, all of whom are uniformly excellent. Read more…

EL CID – Miklós Rózsa

September 11, 2017 Leave a comment

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Producer Samuel Bronston had just finished his epic film King of Kings (1961) and decided that the time was finally right to realize his long desired ambition to bring the story of El Cid to the screen. Fredric Frank, a longtime collaborator with Cecil B. DeMille, had written a brilliant story and Bronson tasked him, Philip Yordan and Ben Barzman with writing the screenplay. Anthony Mann was given the director reigns and a stellar cast was hired. Charlton Heston was cast for the titular role and joined by Sophia Loren as Doña Chimene, Herbert Lom as Ibn Yussuf, Raf Vallone as Count García Ordóñez, Geneviève Page as Doña Urraca, John Fraser as King Alfonso VI, Michael Hordem as Don Diego, and Frank Thring as Emir Al-Kadir. Controversy among the two principle actors arose when Heston found out that Loren was being paid one million dollars more than him. He became furious and his disdain leaked out into his performance. You will notice that he consistently refuses to look at Loren, even during romantic moments, which detracted from his performance and the film’s narrative. 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…