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Posts Tagged ‘Reviews’

BRIGHT ANGEL – Christopher Young

June 24, 2021 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

A thoughtful, contemplative road movie with a neo-western vibe, Bright Angel was directed by Michael Field, with a screenplay adapted from an acclaimed short story by novelist Richard Ford. The film stars Dermot Mulroney as George, a disaffected teenager from Montana whose mental health and grip on sanity is deteriorating due to the constant fights between his parents. Running away from home and hitting the road, he meets a quirky fellow runaway from Wyoming named Lucy (Lili Taylor), who is hitchhiking south to Arizona and intends to help her brother get out of jail. George agrees to help her, and soon the unlikely pair are traversing the American west, and attempting to find meaning in the darkness of their lives. The film co-stars Sam Shepard, Valerie Perrine, and Bill Pullman, and has a terrific, underrated score by Christopher Young. Read more…

WISH DRAGON – Philip Klein

June 22, 2021 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Wish Dragon is a Chinese-made animated film, written and directed by American filmmaker Chris Appelhans. It’s essentially a re-working of the classic Aladdin story, transposed from the Middle East to China, and featuring a dragon rather than a genie. The film follows the adventures of Din, a working-class college student from Shanghai, who dreams of reuniting with his childhood friend Li Na, who now lives a privileged life in a different city with her wealthy family. Din’s luck changes when he comes into possession of a magic teapot, out of which emerges a bright pink ‘wish dragon’ named Long, a powerful creature capable of granting wishes to its master. So begins an adventure, as Din makes wishes intended to help him rekindle his romance with Li Na, while also evading a gang of ‘goons’ sent to steal the teapot from him by a mysterious and shadowy figure. The film features the voices of Jimmy Wong, John Cho, Natasha Liu Bordizzo, and Constance Wu, and was a popular success in Chinese cinemas when it opened there back in January. It has now finally hit American markets, premiering on Netflix to general acclaim, with special praise given to the film’s colorful animation style. Read more…

RAINTREE COUNTY – Johnny Green

June 21, 2021 1 comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

As part of its new talent development program, MGM Studios awarded its distinguished Novel Award to author Ross Lockridge Jr. for his 1947 novel Raintree County. So impressed were they with the book, that they soon purchased the film rights for $150,000. Production was delayed by unforeseen issues, including the suicide of Lockridge and his very costly film rights demands, which delayed the project for eight years. Finally in 1955, David Lewis was tasked with producing the film with a budget of $5.5 million. Edward Dmytryk was selected to direct, and Millard Kaufman was hired to adapt Lockridge’s novel and write the screenplay. A stellar cast was hired with Montgomery Clift as John Witckliff Shawnessey, Elizabeth Taylor as Susanna Drake, Eva Marie Saint and Nell Gaither, Lee Marvin as Orville ‘Flash’ Perkins, Nigel Patrick as Professor Jerusalem Webster Stiles, Rod Taylor as Garwood B. Jones, and Agnes Moorehead as Ellen Shawnessey. Read more…

CITY SLICKERS – Marc Shaiman

June 17, 2021 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

City Slickers is a hilarious fish-out-of-water comedy directed by Ron Underwood, written by Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel. The film stars Billy Crystal, Daniel Stern, and Bruno Kirby as Mitch, Phil, and Ed, three friends who constantly seek out new and increasingly dangerous ‘weekend experiences’ as a distraction from their boring jobs, unsatisfactory marriages, and impending midlife crises. After a trip to Spain to take part in the ‘running of the bulls’ turns into a disaster, the trio attempt something closer to home: a two-week cattle drive vacation, riding horses and being “dude cowboys” across the American west. After meeting up with the other members of the group and heading out into the big country, the trio quickly find themselves very much out of their depth, raising the ire and disdain of the grizzled trail boss Curly (Jack Palance). However, an unexpected tragedy forces the three of them to put aside their fears and neuroses and work together to save themselves, the cattle, and their fellow ‘city slickers’. The film co-starred Patricia Wettig, Helen Slater, and Noble Willingham, and was a popular success both with critics and audiences, culminating in an unexpected Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Palance at the age of 73 – who celebrated by doing one-armed push-ups on the Academy stage! Read more…

A QUIET PLACE PART II – Marco Beltrami

June 15, 2021 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

One of the most high-profile cinematic casualties of the coronavirus shutdown was A Quiet Place Part II, which had had its world premiere and was all set to play in theaters in March 2020, before everything went away and the pandemic closed down the movies. Now, 14 months later, the film has finally been released, to a great deal of critical acclaim and encouraging box office figures. The film is a direct sequel to the 2018 original, and again stars Emily Blunt as Evelyn, who is trying to survive in the aftermath of an alien invasion. The vicious aliens – which are blind but possess incredibly acute hearing – killed Evelyn’s husband in the first film, but her deaf daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds) discovered a certain frequency that briefly incapacitate the aliens long enough for them to be killed. Now, Evelyn and her three children venture out into the world to tell people about Regan’s discovery in the hope that they can defeat the aliens, but encounter a number of equally dangerous human threats along the way. The film co-stars Noah Jupe, Cillian Murphy, and Djimon Hounsou, and is directed by John Krasinski, who also appears in flashbacks as Evelyn’s late husband. Read more…

LIEUTENANT KIJÉ – Sergei Prokofiev

June 14, 2021 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

In 1932 the People’s Commissariat for Education approved director Aleksandr Faintsimmer’s latest request to proceed with a film based on screenwriter Yuri Tynyanov’s story of Lieutenant Kijé. The Commissariat believed that its barbed, sardonic humor of Russia’s former Tsar Paul I would denigrate the idiocy and incompetence of the Tsars, while reinforcing the superiority of the new socialist order. The Belgoskino production company located in Belarus would produce the film, and Arkadi Koltsaty was hired to manage the cinematography. A fine cast was assembled which included Mikhail Yanshin as Tsar Pavel I, Boris Gorin-Goryainov as Count von Pahlen, Nina Shaternikova as Princess Gagagrina, and Erast Garin as Adjudant Kobulov. Read more…

SOAPDISH – Alan Silvestri

June 10, 2021 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

A hilarious send-up of American daytime soap operas, Soapdish is directed by Michael Hoffman and features an all-star ensemble cast including Sally Field, Kevin Kline, Robert Downey Jr., Cathy Moriarty, Whoopi Goldberg, Carrie Fisher, and Elisabeth Shue. The film is set in the world of a fictional soap opera – The Sun Also Sets – and follows the various shenanigans both on-set and behind the scenes, involving professional rivalries and former love interests, familial drama, raging egos within the cast, and desperate attempts by the show’s producers to revive their flagging ratings by coming up with new storylines, each one more sensational and implausible than the last. It’s a fun, fast-paced, knowing parody of the genre, but unfortunately it wasn’t a hit with either critics or audiences, who presumably would rather stay home watch the real thing. Read more…

THE HIGH AND THE MIGHTY – Dimitri Tiomkin

June 7, 2021 1 comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

In 1952 John Wayne partnered with producer Robert Fellows to create Wayne-Fellows Productions. Director William Wellman pitched an aviation suspense drama titled “The High and the Mighty” written by Ernest Gann to Wayne who immediately purchased the film rights and Gann’s services writing the screenplay for $55,000. Wellman was tasked with directing and provided a budget of $1.47 million. A cast was assembled with Spenser Tracy offered the lead role, but he withdrew just before filming unwilling to suffer Wellman’s authoritarianism. As such, Wayne stepped in and took the role of First Officer Dan Roman to save the project. Today his performance is believed by critics to be one of the finest of his career. Joining him were; Claire Trevor as May Holst, Laraine Day as Lydia Rice, Robert Stack as Captain John Sullivan, Jan Sterling as Sally McKee and Sidney Blackmer as Humphrey Agnew. Read more…

HUDSON HAWK – Michael Kamen and Robert Kraft

June 3, 2021 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Hudson Hawk was an action-comedy vehicle for a post-Die Hard Bruce Willis, directed by Michael Lehmann. Willis plays Eddie Hawkins, a master thief who, on the day of his parole from prison, suddenly finds himself blackmailed into committing a series of elaborate heists. The complicated plot involves the Italian Mafia, an evil international conglomerate, the artwork of Leonardo da Vinci, and a machine that turns lead into gold, but it’s really just an excuse for Willis and his co-star Danny Aiello to engage in various globe-trotting escapades of comic tomfoolery. The film co-stars Andie MacDowell, James Coburn, and Richard E. Grant, and unfortunately was an enormous box-office flop; audiences seemingly couldn’t reconcile Willis’s tough guy persona with the film’s slapstick comedy action, bizarre sound effects, and surreal humor. Read more…

Under-the-Radar Round Up 2021, Part 2A

June 1, 2021 Leave a comment

Every year, during the holy Islamic month of Ramadan, television stations across the Middle East and North Africa broadcast lavishly-produced, high profile drama and comedy series. The cream of the Arabic-speaking world is involved in their creation – directors, writers, actors, and composers – and the resulting shows play to audiences of millions across the region. Many of the best series come from Egypt, and this article takes a look at the music from three of the most high profile Egyptian-made Ramadan dramas of 2021, featuring music by composers Khaled Hammad and Mohamed Elashey. Also included in this article as a bonus is a review of the Pharoahs’ Golden Parade, a wondrous extravaganza of music, dance, and Egyptian culture featuring music by composer Hisham Nazih, written for a special live TV event back in April. Read more…

FOREVER AMBER – David Raksin

May 31, 2021 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Kathleen Winsor’s novel Forever Amber proved to be a sensational success with the public, one fully noticed by the major movie studios. 20th Century Fox executive Darryl F. Zanuck moved quickly to secure the film rights paying an astounding $200,000 to Winsor. Writing the screenplay proved to be torturous with Winsor and then Jerome Cady failing to adapt the massive novel in a way that would gain approval by the National League of Decency. Ultimately the team of Philip Dunne and Ring Lardner Jr. succeeded. William Perlberg was assigned to produce the film with a budget of $3 million and John M. Stahl was tasked with directing. The project went off the rails immediately when star Peggy Cummins collapsed on the set. After a three-month delay, she was pulled from the lead role, Stahl was assigned to another project and the studio found itself $1 million in the hole. Otto Preminger was brought in to direct and salvage the project and a new cast assembled, which included Linda Darnell as Amber St. Clair, Cornel Wilde as Bruce Carlton, Richard Greene as Lord Harry Almsbury, and George Sanders as King Charles II of England. Read more…

THELMA & LOUISE – Hans Zimmer

May 27, 2021 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

A classic road movie about revenge and female empowerment, Thelma & Louise stars Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis in the titular roles as a pair of meek housewives who get a new lease on life when they decide to go on a weekend vacation away from their husbands in Thelma’s 1966 Ford Thunderbird. Things go horribly wrong when the pair stop for a drink at a roadhouse bar, and Thelma is attacked and almost raped in the parking lot by a local. The incident leaves the attacker dead of a gunshot wound – killed by a furious Louise – and results in an extended chase across the American west, as the two women are pursued by a dogged sheriff (Harvey Keitel) determined to bring them to justice. The film was directed by Ridley Scott, co-starred Michael Madsen and a very young Brad Pitt, and received a great deal of critical and commercial acclaim, with its screenplay by Callie Khouri winning the Oscar that year. The on-screen relationship between Thelma and Louise has been called a breakthrough for feminist filmmaking, while the final scene at the rim of the Grand Canyon is now considered iconic. Read more…

CRUELLA – Nicholas Britell

May 25, 2021 1 comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The latest film to examine the origin stories of famous Disney villains, after Maleficent in 2014, is Cruella, which tells the history of Cruella De Vil, the antagonist of both the 1961 Disney animated film One Hundred and One Dalmatians, and the original novel by Dodie Smith. There has already been a live-action adaptation of the story in 1996, with Glenn Close playing Cruella, but this prequel sees Emma Stone donning the famous black-and-white hairstyle wig. She plays Estella De Vil, an aspiring fashion designer in 1960s London, who takes a job working for the brilliant but difficult Baroness von Hellman, the head of a prestigious fashion house, played by Emma Thompson. The intense rivalry that develops between the two slowly eats away at De Vil’s sanity, and she eventually transforms herself into ‘Cruella’ and becomes a notorious and dangerous criminal obsessed with dalmatian dog furs. The film co-stars Joel Fry and Paul Walter Hauser as Cruella’s henchmen Jasper and Horace, and is directed by Craig Gillespie, whose last film was the Oscar-winning drama I, Tonya. Read more…

NOW VOYAGER – Max Steiner

May 24, 2021 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

In 1942 producer Hal B. Wallis signed a four-year contract with Warner Brothers Studios tasking him to produce four films a year. He decided that adapting Olive Higgins Prouty’s 1941 novel Now Voyager to the big screen would serve as his inaugural effort. Screen rights were purchased, Casey Robinson was hired to write the screenplay, and a budget of $877,000 was provided. Irving Rapper was given the reins to direct the film, and a stellar cast was assembled, which included Bette Davis as Charlotte Vale, Paul Henreid as Jerry Duvaux Durrance, Claude Rains a Dr. Jaquith, Gladys Cooper as Mrs. Windle Vale, Ilka Chase as Lisa Vale and Janis Wilson as Tina Durrance. Read more…

BACKDRAFT – Hans Zimmer

May 20, 2021 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Backdraft is one of the best action movies of the 1990s, an action thriller murder-mystery set within the world of hotshot Chicago firefighters. Kurt Russell and William Baldwin star as brothers Stephen and Brian McCaffrey; Stephen is a fearless hero, while Brian has always lived in his shadow. After an incident on the job where a fellow firefighter was almost killed, Brian is reassigned to help veteran arson investigator Donald Rimgale (Robert De Niro) with his latest case, in which a number of prominent local businessmen and politicians have been murdered in fires involving a phenomenon known as a ‘backdraft’. As Rimgale and Brian dig into the circumstances of the fires, the investigative trail soon leads them in the directions of both a corrupt local alderman, and back to Stephen’s firehouse. The film was directed by Ron Howard, co-stars Scott Glenn, Donald Sutherland, and Jennifer Jason Leigh, and is a magnificent edge-of-seat thriller that combines political skullduggery and familial drama with a number of sensational fiery action sequences that quicken the pulse and make your palms sweat with tension. The film was a massive commercial success, grossing almost $80 million in the US alone, and received three Academy Award nominations, for Visual Effects, Sound, and Sound Effects Editing. Read more…