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Posts Tagged ‘Reviews’

OUR TOWN – Aaron Copland

September 20, 2021 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Renowned producer Sol Lester was impressed by the run of 338 Broadway theatrical performances of the 1938 Pulitzer Prize winning play Our Town by Thornton Wilder. He believed its poignant story could be successfully adapted to the big screen and decided to oversee production with his company Sol Lester Productions. Screenwriters Harry Chandlee and Frank Craven were hired to collaborate with author Thornton Wilder in adapting the play, which presented challenges given that it was performed on a nearly empty stage, and the main character dies. To adapt the play, they made the creative decision to add indoor and outdoor scenery, narration, and the third Act was altered to have a dream sequence, which would allow the main character Emily to live. Sam Wood was tasked with directing and a fine cast was assembled, which included William Holden as George Gibbs, Martha Scott as Emily Webb, Thomas Mitchell as Dr. Frank Gibbs, and Fay Bainter as Mrs. Julia Gibbs. Read more…

SCHMIGADOON – Cinco Paul and Christopher Willis

September 17, 2021 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

If, like me, you grew up watching Hollywood movie musicals, then Schmigadoon is the show for you. Of course, everyone knows that musicals are completely ludicrous. No-one bursts into song every ten minutes to sing about what they are thinking or feeling. Random strangers don’t join you in complicated choreographed dance sequences to accompany the songs. The world doesn’t exist in a fairytale environment of pastels and primary colors. But, despite this, movie musicals are magic. They are prime escapism. They are the epitome of Hollywood Golden Age glamor. Gene Kelly splashing down the street in Singin’ in the Rain. Rita Moreno flipping her skirt in West Side Story. Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers tripping the light fantastic. Julie Andrews making us fall in love with her twice, in Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music. And Schmigadoon acknowledges both those realities by presenting the story through the eyes of a couple, one of whom loves musicals, and one of whom hates them, which allows it to appeal to people in both camps. Read more…

BLACK ROBE – Georges Delerue

September 16, 2021 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Black Robe is a historical drama-adventure directed by Bruce Beresford, adapted from the novel of the same name by Brian Moore. The film is set in Canada in the mid-1600s and stars Lothaire Bluteau as Father Paul LaForgue, a Jesuit priest tasked with founding a mission in New France – the precursor to modern-day Quebec. Faced with traversing a harsh wilderness, dealing with warring local tribes, the weather, and the wildlife, LaForgue enlists the help of a group of Algonquin natives, and together they set off across the vast Canadian interior, where all manner of adventures await them. The film co-stars Sandrine Holt, August Schellenberg, and Tantoo Cardinal, and was one of the most popular and successful Canadian films of the early 1990s. It went in to win six Genie Awards, including one for its spectacular cinematography, and drew favorable comparisons with similarly-themed films like Dances With Wolves and The Mission. Read more…

GODZILLA SINGULAR POINT – Kan Sawada

September 14, 2021 1 comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Godzilla Singular Point is the 287th television series and/or film based on the popular Japanese kaiju lizard character to be released since he first appeared in 1955. Actually, that’s not true; it just feels like it sometimes. It’s actually an animated TV series directed by Atsushi Takahashi, produced in Japan for Netflix, which debuted on the streaming platform in April 2021. The setting is Nigashio City in the year 2030. Engineer Yun Arikawa (voiced by Johnny Yong Bosch in English) investigates happenings in a Western-style house, long thought abandoned. Meanwhile Mei Kamino (Erika Harlacher), a graduate student studying imaginary creatures, investigates a series of mysterious signals emanating from a different abandoned building. These two strangers, visiting completely different places as part of completely different investigations, eventually contact one other when they realize they are hearing the same song, and once they become united they are led into a battle against a new group of kaiju monsters – and one very old, very famous one. Read more…

NOTORIOUS – Roy Webb

September 13, 2021 Leave a comment

MOVIE MUSIC UK CLASSICS

Original Review by Craig Lysy

The genesis of the film arose in 1944 from renown producer David O. Selznick and director Alfred Hitchcock who conceived a story of a woman sold into sexual enslavement for political purposes, which was based on the short story “The Song of the Dragon” (1921) by John Traintor Foote. William Dozier an RKO executive was also interested in bringing the story to the big screen and saw opportunity when he learned that Selznick’s production of “Duel in the Sun” (1946) was significantly over budget. He negotiated a purchase deal for $800,000 and 50% of the profits, which specified that Alfred Hitchcock would be the director, Ben Hecht the screenwriter, with Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman as the starring actors. Alfred Hitchcock took on the reins to also produce the film with RKO Pictures providing a $1.0 million budget. Hitchcock assembled a cast for the ages with Cary Grant as agent T. R. Devlin, Ingrid Bergman as Alicia Huberman, Claude Rains as Alexander Alex, Louis Calhern as Captain Paul Prescott, and Leopoldine Konstantin as Madame Anna Alex. Read more…

PETER RABBIT 2: THE RUNAWAY – Dominic Lewis

September 10, 2021 Leave a comment

Original Review by Christopher Garner

Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway sees the titular rabbit leave his rural home for the big city, fall in with the wrong animal crowd, begin a life of crime, get all of his animal friends and family captured by a pet store (that apparently just takes whatever animals it can find and sells them), and then save all his friends from their new owners with the help of his human caretakers, Bea and Thomas. The computer animated animal characters in the film are allegedly based on the classic children’s books by Beatrix Potter, though I doubt the plot and tone of this film are anything like those books. The film is directed by Will Gluck, who also helmed the first film, stars Rose Byrne and Domhnall Gleeson as the human characters, and has James Corden, Margot Robbie, Elizabeth Debicki, Hayley Atwell, David Wenham, and Sam Neill voicing the animal characters. It received mixed reviews from critics, but has made over $150 million, which is very respectable given its release during the pandemic. Read more…

THE FISHER KING – George Fenton

September 9, 2021 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The Fisher King is a redemption drama with a fantasy edge, written by Richard La Gravenese and directed by Terry Gilliam. Jeff Bridges stars as Jack Lucas, a New York radio shock jock who inadvertently provokes a listener to commit a mass murder in a restaurant. Years later, his career in tatters, Jack is about to commit suicide by jumping into the Hudson River when he is saved by Parry (Robin Williams), a mentally ill homeless man whose life was destroyed when his wife was killed in that very murder spree years previously. Parry is obsessed with the the Arthurian legend of the Fisher King, and he convinces Jack to help him find ‘the holy grail’; Jack sees this as a chance for personal redemption, and hopes that – by helping Parry get his life back – he will be able to bury his own demons, just as the fisher king of legend was able to have his injuries healed by helping others. The film co-stars Amanda Plummer, Mercedes Ruehl, and Michael Jeter, and was a critical success, ultimately receiving five Oscar nominations, with Ruehl winning for Best Supporting Actress. Read more…

SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS – Joel P. West

September 7, 2021 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

There have now been 25 films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and it’s getting to the point where they are making films about superheroes that are incredibly niche, from way deep down in comic book lore. Such is the case with their latest film, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, directed by Destin Daniel Cretton. The film stars Chinese-Canadian actor Simu Liu as the eponymous Shang-Chi; Shang is the son of Xu Wenwu (Tony Leung), a fearsome warrior who has been granted immortality due to his possession of the legendary Ten Rings, and now controls a powerful army of assassins and fighters who have been loyal to him for centuries. However, Shang has been estranged from his father for years, and now lives now an intentionally uneventful life in San Francisco’s Chinatown, working as a parking valet, and hanging out with his best friend Katy (Awkwafina). Everything changes for Shang when his father’s minions come looking for him, and he is reluctantly drawn back into his old life when he learns that his father is searching for the gateway to the mythical realm of Ta Lo – and that, if he finds it, the entire Earth could be in jeopardy. Read more…

SINBAD THE SAILOR – Roy Webb

September 6, 2021 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

In March of 1944 RKO Studios producer William Pereira proposed to studio executives to follow-up on the success of their swashbuckler film The Spanish Main (1945) with a new effort in the genre. Douglas Fairbanks Jr., who had just returned from a five-year WWII stint in the US Navy, would star in the titular role. Stephen Ames who produced “The Spanish Main” was assigned to produce the film, and he hired John Twist and George Worthing Yates to write an original screenplay based on the eighth voyage of Sinbad. A budget of $2.5 million dollars was provided and Richard Wallace was tasked with directing. A fine cast was assembled to join Fairbanks including Maureen O’Hara as Shireen, Walter Slezak as the villain Melik, Anthony Quinn as the Emir of Daibul, George Tobias as Abbu, and Mike Mazurki as Yusuf. The story draws inspiration from the 8th Voyage of Sinbad, which is set in the early 9th century C.E. and involves the search for the lost treasure of Alexander the Great. Sinbad secures a ship but must forge an uneasy alliance of convenience with villainous Melik who stole his map, memorized it, and then burnt it. After many adventures and overcoming Melik’s tracheary, Sinbad succeeds with his quest to secure the treasure, and wins the hand of the beautiful Shireen. The film was a modest success earning a profit of $300,000. critical success was tepid and it secured no Academy Award nominations. The film’s poor performance pretty much ended the viability of the swashbuckling genre. Read more…

CANDYMAN – Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe

September 3, 2021 7 comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The 1992 horror film Candyman, directed by Bernard Rose and based on a short story by Clive Barker, was an interesting exploration of urban legends, societal decay, and racism, dressed up with plenty of blood and gore, and featuring an iconic lead performance by Tony Todd as the hook-handed monster seeking revenge on his murderers from beyond the grave. It spawned a fairly decent first sequel – Farewell to the Flesh from 1995 – and a rather risible second sequel in 1999, but this new film is essentially a direct sequel to the original. The film is directed by Nia DaCosta and stars Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Teyonah Parris as Anthony and Brianna, a wealthy young couple, both serious artists, who live in the newly-gentrified Cabrini Green neighborhood of Chicago, formerly the site of the ‘projects’ where the first film took place. Seeking inspiration for his latest collection, Anthony ventures into a dilapidated part of the neighborhood, where he learns of the urban legend where, if somebody says the name “Candyman” five times while looking into a mirror, a spirit will appear and kill the summoner. However, as Anthony digs deeper into Candyman lore, and creates art based on what he finds, he discovers some terrible truths about his own past. Read more…

BEASTMASTER 2: THROUGH THE PORTAL OF TIME – Robert Folk

September 2, 2021 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

A belated sequel to the 1982 original, Beastmaster 2: Through the Portal of Time sees Marc Singer returning to the role of Dar, a barbarian warrior who can communicate with and control animals, and who in the first film uses this power to defeat an evil wizard. In the sequel, Dar learns that his previously-unknown half-brother Arklon (Wings Hauser) plans to conquer the world with the help of a sorceress named Lyranna (Sarah Douglas). Arklon and Lyranna use a trans-dimensional portal – the eponymous portal of time – to travel to contemporary Los Angeles, where they intend to steal a nuclear bomb and bring it back to their world with them; Dar and his animal companions also travel through the portal to stop them, teaming up with a local woman named Jackie (Kari Wührer) along the way. The film was not well-received by critics at the time, but there is a fun and campy time to be had with it, and although allegedly director Sylvio Tabet stole the film out from underneath the original director Jim Wynorski, resulting in lawsuits and acrimony, he nevertheless keeps the action moving at a decent clip in what would prove to be his only effort behind the camera. Read more…

Under-the-Radar Round Up 2021, Part 3A

August 31, 2021 1 comment

2021 is already more than half way done and, as the world of mainstream blockbuster cinema and film music continues to recover from the COVID-19 Coronavirus, we must again look to smaller international features not as reliant on massive theatrical releases to discover the best new soundtracks. As such I am very pleased to present the third installment (for this calendar year) in my ongoing series of articles looking at the best “under the radar” scores from around the world.

The six titles included here are a mixed bag of styles, genres, and national origins, and include a powerful drama from Palestine, a German fantasy adventure, an Egyptian action TV series, a children’s adventure film from Finland, a light French comedy-drama, and a beautiful nature documentary score from China. Read more…

THE HURRICANE – Alfred Newman

August 30, 2021 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Actor James Hall’s uncle James Norman Hall co-wrote the 1936 novel The Hurricane, which he felt would provide an exiting romantic adventure set in the South Seas. He sold director John Ford on the idea, and financial backing for production was provided by Samuel Goldwyn Productions. A massive $2.0 million budget was provided with $450,000 allocated to special effects specialist James Basevi, who spent $150,000 building a native village and lagoon, and $250,000 destroying it! Screenwriters Dudley Nichols and Oliver H. P. Garrett were hired to adapt Hall’s novel, and Ford assembled a stellar cast, which included Dorothy Lamour as Marama, John Hall as Terangi, Mary Astor as Madame Germaine De Laage, Raymond Massey as Governor Eugene De Laage, C. Aubrey Smith as Father Paul, John Carradine as the Warden, Thomas Mitchell as Dr. Kersaint, and Jerome Cowan as Captain Nagle. Read more…

REMINISCENCE – Ramin Djawadi

August 27, 2021 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Reminiscence is a fascinating but somewhat flawed neo-noir sci-fi thriller written and directed by Lisa Joy, one of the co-creators of the hit HBO TV series Westworld. The film is set in Miami many years in the future; global warming caused seawater to engulf large parts of the city, resulting in a damaging civil war. During the war a type of sensory-deprivation technology was developed that could make people journey backwards into their own memories, and then have those memories emerge as visual projections so they could be examined in three dimensions by observers. It was initially used as an interrogation technique, but now Nick Bannister (Hugh Jackman) uses them as his business – entertainment for those who want to escape from the present and briefly revisit their past. Nick is world-weary and perpetually depressed, but his life changes when he meets Mae (Rebecca Ferguson), a sultry night club singer, and they embark on a passionate relationship. When Mae suddenly disappears without a trace, Nick resolves to find out what happened to her, using his memory technology as a guide. However, the more Nick searches, the more he gets drawn into a murky world of organized crime, political corruption, and violence around every corner. The film co-stars Thandie Newton and Cliff Curtis, and was released simultaneously into theaters and on HBO Max; unfortunately, the film was a box office disaster, a combination of audience apathy, poor reviews, and COVID hesitancy driving it to the all-time worst opening weekend of a film playing in over 3,000 theaters. Read more…

DEAD AGAIN – Patrick Doyle

August 26, 2021 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

After director Kenneth Branagh wowed Hollywood with his brash, compelling take on Shakespeare’s Henry V in 1989, many people expected that he would continue to drink deeply from the well of the Bard for his follow-up effort. Surprisingly, his sophomore effort was not a classic adaptation but was this film: Dead Again, a neo-noir thriller set in contemporary Los Angeles. Branagh plays private detective Mike Church, who is drawn into a mysterious case involving Grace, a woman with amnesia, played by Emma Thompson. In an attempt to discover her identity, he turns to antiques dealer and hypnotist Franklyn Madson (Derek Jacobi), who he believes can help her. While under hypnosis, Grace comes to believe that she is the reincarnation of Margaret, a socialite who was murdered by her composer husband Roman Strauss in 1949. Roman – who also bears an uncanny physical resemblance to Mike – took the secret of Margaret’s murder to his grave, and the more Mike digs into the events of the past, the more he and Grace find their lives in peril in the present. The movie is a fun, melodramatic romp filled with intentional homages to Alfred Hitchcock and Orson Welles, and features a terrific, bold score by Patrick Doyle. Read more…