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PACIFIC HEIGHTS – Hans Zimmer

September 17, 2020 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

One of a spate of Something-from-Hell movies in the early 1990s, Pacific Heights was a thriller which made everyone think twice about sub-letting their apartment to a stranger. The film stars Matthew Modine and Melanie Griffith as Drake and Patty, a young professional couple who own a large house in San Francisco’s upscale Pacific Heights neighborhood. Drake and Patty lease one of their empty apartments to Carter Hayes (Michael Keaton), a mysterious loner with a hidden past, who immediately sets about renovating the apartment, hammering and drilling at all hours of the night, angering the other tenants. Eventually Carter’s anti-social and disruptive behavior begins to take its toll on Drake and Patty’s relationship, to such an extent that the police become involved. Carter’s response to the legal threats is to make life even more miserable for Drake and Patty, eventually leading to recrimination, threats, and mounting violence. But what is Carter’s motivation? And why do events and women from his past keep coming back to haunt him? The film was directed by John Schlesinger from a screenplay by Daniel Pyne, and features Laurie Metcalfe, Beverly d’Angelo, and Tippi Hedren in supporting roles. Read more…

THE SECRET GARDEN – Dario Marianelli

September 15, 2020 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

There have been numerous film and television adaptations of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s beloved 1911 novel The Secret Garden over the years, including one starring Margaret O’Brien released in 1949, and one executive-produced by Francis Ford Coppola in 1993, which was the most recent version released in cinemas prior to this one. The story is one of innocence, magic, and friendship, and is regarded as a classic of English children’s literature. It tells the story of Mary, a young girl who grows up spoiled as member of the aristocracy in British India; when her parents die in a cholera epidemic she is sent to live with distant relatives in an isolated mansion on the Yorkshire Moors. Despite initially hating her new surroundings, Mary begins to warm to her new life after she discovers a secret walled garden hidden in a remote part of the estate. As Mary spends more and more time in the garden she starts to learn the history of the place, her family, and the house itself – which eventually leads her to make a startling discovery that changes her life forever. The film is directed by Marc Munden from a screenplay by Jack Thorne, stars Dixie Egerickx as Mary, and features Colin Firth and Julie Walters in supporting roles. Read more…

KING OF KINGS – Miklós Rózsa

September 14, 2020 Leave a comment

MOVIE MUSIC UK CLASSICS

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Producer Samuel Bronston related that the most impactful event in human history was the birth, life and death of Jesus Christ. He had long nurtured the dream to bring this remarkable tale to the big screen. His conception, which was presented to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios was to make Jesus more accessible, by presenting Him as a flesh and blood man living during tumultuous times. Given the stunning success of Ben-Hur in 1959 MGM decided to cash in on the public’s love of biblical epics and gave Bronston permission to proceed. He hired writers Philip Yordan and Ray Bradbury to write the screenplay, and brought in veteran director Nicholas Ray to direct. A splendid cast was assembled, which included Jefferey Hunter as Jesus, Siobhán McKenna as Mary, Robert Ryan as John the Baptist, Ron Randell as Lucius, Hurd Hatfield as Pontius Pilate, Frank Thring as Herod Antipas, Rip Torn as Judas Iscariot, Harry Guardino as Barabbas, Carmen Sevilla as Mary Magdalene, Brigid Balzen as Salomé, and Guy Rolfe as Caiaphas. Read more…

MULAN – Harry Gregson-Williams

September 11, 2020 1 comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The latest Walt Disney animated film to be re-imagined as a live action motion picture is Mulan, directed by Niki Caro and written by Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Lauren Hynek, and Elizabeth Martin. Like its 1998 predecessor, it is loosely based on the Chinese folklore tale The Ballad of Mulan, and stars Chinese actress Yifei Liu in the title role. In Imperial China, Mongol hordes led by the warlord Böri Khan (Jason Scott Lee) and the witch Xianniang (Gong Li) are invading the borders of the empire, leading the Emperor (Jet Li) to call for conscripts – one man from each family – to bolster his troops. Despite being the eldest child in her family, Mulan is forbidden from joining the army due to her being female; her war veteran father, despite being old and frail, volunteers to represent his family instead. To save her father from almost certain death in battle, Mulan disguises herself as a man and enlists, eventually joining the platoon of Commander Tung (Donnie Yen). Despite having very little training, Mulan is soon thrust into conflict with Böri Khan’s troops, and must fight to save her homeland – without revealing her gender, or bringing dishonor to her family. Read more…

REVERSAL OF FORTUNE – Mark Isham

September 10, 2020 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

For quite a lot of the summer of 1990, the movie Reversal of Fortune was a hot topic of conversation. It tells the true story of European aristocrat Claus von Bülow, who in 1982 was arrested, tried, and convicted for the attempted murder of his wife, Sunny von Bülow, who went into a coma after an apparent insulin overdose and subsequently fell into a persistent vegetative state. Claus – who had a haughty and arrogant demeanor, and was estranged from Sunny – maintained his innocence, and launched an appeal, hiring Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz to prepare his defense. Despite being initially convinced of Claus’s guilt, Dershowitz begins to find evidence that points to inconsistencies in the prosecution’s case, which could actually prove his client’s innocence. The popularity of the film led to a great deal of new media focus on the case, as well as a number of ‘did-he-or-didn’t-he’ articles in the press, and water cooler talk about Claus and his life. The film was written by Nicholas Kazan, adapting Dershowitz’s own book about the case, and was directed by Barbet Schroeder. It starred Jeremy Irons as Claus, Glenn Close as Sunny, and Ron Silver as Dershowitz, and was nominated for three Academy Awards, with Irons taking home the Oscar for Best Actor. Read more…

TENET – Ludwig Göransson

September 8, 2020 Leave a comment

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.

The dual concepts of time and reality have been at the forefront of Christopher Nolan’s films almost since the very beginning of his career, when his sophomore effort Memento in 2000 explored the life of a man with no short-term memory by essentially running the movie backwards. Most of his subsequent films – including The Prestige, Inception, and Interstellar – have tackled variations on similar themes, from dreams within dreams, to the circular temporal nature of interplanetary travel via black holes. Even his last film, Dunkirk, messed around with time by presenting the evacuation of the beaches of Normandy in 1940 from three different perspectives, all of whom experience the event from a different chronological point of view. With Tenet, however, Nolan has delved into these concepts more deeply than ever before, creating a film that examines the notion of time from a physiological point of view, introducing theories as complex as statistical mechanics and thermodynamic entropy into a large-scale action spy thriller. Read more…

DARKMAN – Danny Elfman

September 3, 2020 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Having gained cult popularity and success as a result of his influential horror movies The Evil Dead and Evil Dead II, writer-director Sam Raimi was given his first crack at a major studio feature towards the end of the 1980s. The project he chose was Darkman, based on a short story he wrote years earlier as an homage to Universal’s horror films of the 1930s. The film stars Liam Neeson, in what was essentially his first leading role after spending the 1980s putting in impressive supporting performances in films such as Excalibur, Krull, The Bounty, The Mission, Suspect, The Dead Pool, and others. Neeson plays Peyton Westlake, a scientist who is developing a new type of synthetic skin to help burn victims. Westlake’s life is changed forever when his girlfriend, attorney Julie Hastings (Frances McDormand), finds incriminating evidence against corrupt property developer Louis Strack (Colin Friels). Strack hires ruthless mobster Durant (Larry Drake) to ‘send a message’ to Julie, which results in Westlake’s lab being burned to the ground and Westlake himself being disfigured and left for dead. However, Westlake miraculously survives the attack, and uses his synthetic skin treatment to treat his own injuries – the only drawback being the unintended side-effects, which give him super-human abilities, but also render him mentally unstable, borderline psychotic, and bent on wreaking vengeance on those responsible for his disfigurement. Read more…

THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN – Craig Armstrong

September 2, 2020 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The One and Only Ivan is an adventure-drama for children, directed by Thea Sharrock, and based on the successful and popular 2012 novel by Katherine Applegate. It is the story of a silverback gorilla, the eponymous Ivan (voiced by Sam Rockwell), who lives in a mall as a sideshow attraction, alongside an aged elephant named Stella (voiced by Angelina Jolie) and a friendly dog named Bob (voiced by Danny DeVito). Ivan is generally happy, as he does not remember his life before the mall, and he entertains guests by creating finger-paint artwork. However, the arrival of a baby elephant named Ruby kickstarts a desire in Ivan to be free – especially when he witnesses Ruby being mistreated by the mall’s owner, Mack (Bryan Cranston). Eventually, with the help of a young girl named Julia, Ivan hatches a plan to escape, not only for himself, but for all his friends. The film has been praised for its positive environmentalist tone, good teaching lessons for kids, and warm-hearted family values, and was a modest success when it premiered on Disney+ in August 2020, having been pushed there away from cinemas due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more…

FLATLINERS – James Newton Howard

August 27, 2020 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Flatliners was one of several films released in 1990 to deal with the topic of the afterlife and near-death experiences. Directed by Joel Schumacher from a screenplay by Peter Filardi, the film follows a group of young and ambitious medical students who, in an attempt to unlock some of the mysteries of life, start to experiment on each other with ‘near-death experiences.’ The students take turns with each other to stop each other’s hearts in a laboratory setting, trying to initiate visions of the ‘afterlife,’ and then hopefully bring each other back using defibrillators before death becomes permanent. One by one, the students volunteer to ‘flatline,’ but in the aftermath of their experiences they are each haunted by horrifying and disturbing visions of their respective pasts. The film starred Kiefer Sutherland, Julia Roberts, Kevin Bacon, William Baldwin, and Oliver Platt, as the five students; the film was a hit with audiences upon its release, grossing $61 million at the box office, and was nominated for an Oscar for its sound editing. Read more…

FEARLESS – Anne Kathrin Dern

August 26, 2020 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Fearless is an animated family action/sci-fi/comedy written and directed by Cory Edwards which premiered on Netflix in August 2020. It tells the story of a high school teenager named Reid, who spends an inordinate amount of time playing a video game called Planet Master. One day, while playing the game, a cosmic wormhole contrives to send the three children of the game’s protagonist, Captain Lightspeed, out of the game and into the real world, where they end up outside Reid’s house. The children are all imbued with various different super-human abilities – think Jack-Jack from The Incredibles, times three – which Reid suddenly has to deal with as he takes care of them and waits for Captain Lightspeed to come and take them back to his dimension. Unfortunately the game’s villain, Dr. Arcannis, has also discovered the wormhole, and hatches a plot to kidnap the children and finally defeat his nemesis. The only thing standing in his way: Reid. The film features voice performances by Yara Shahidi, Miles Robbins, rapper Jadakiss, R&B singer Miguel Pimentel, Gabrielle Union, basketball superstar Dwyane Wade, and SpongeBob SquarePants himself Tom Kenny, and has a terrific original score by the super-talented young German composer Anne Kathrin Dern. Read more…

FAHRENHEIT 451 – Bernard Herrmann

August 24, 2020 Leave a comment

MOVIE MUSIC UK CLASSICS

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Famous French Director Francois Truffaut was fascinated by the possibilities of directing a film version of Ray Bradbury’s acclaimed 1953 dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451. He met with the author who was supportive and obtained the film rights. He then secured the backing of Universal Pictures for what would be the company’s first European production. Lewis M. Allen was tasked with producing the film and a modest budget of $1.5 million was provided. Austrian actor Oskar Werner was cast as Guy Montag, which proved a mistake as he would not accept Truffaut’s vision for his character. The conflict was so severe that Truffaut contemplated abandoning the project. Joining Werner would be Julie Christie in a dual role as Linda Montag and Clarisse – a decision later criticized. Cyril Cusack would play Captain Beatty and Anton Diffring would play Fabian. The story is set in a dystopian future where a totalitarian government rules the United States and uses a Gestapo-like force called the “Firemen” to seek out and destroy all books by fire in an effort to suppress dissent, and any idea that challenges the security of the governing order. It explores the life of Fireman Guy Montag who relentlessly finds and burns books believing they make people unhappy. By chance he makes the acquaintance of schoolteacher Clarisse who asks if he ever reads the books he burns. This spurs his curiosity and he begins to hide books, choosing David Copperfield by Charles Dickens to be his first read. Read more…

MILLER’S CROSSING – Carter Burwell

August 20, 2020 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Miller’s Crossing was the third feature film directed by the Coen brothers, Ethan and Joel, following their debut Blood Simple in 1984, and their sophomore effort Raising Arizona in 1987. Like the others, it’s a crime thriller, but this one is a period piece, set amongst Irish gangsters during the American prohibition era in the 1920s. Gabriel Byrne plays Tom Reagan, the right hand man of ruthless mob boss Leo O’Bannon, played by Albert Finney. Problems arise when Leo finds himself in a territorial conflict with Italian gangster Johnny Caspar, an issue that is exacerbated by the fact that Tom is having an affair with Leo’s girlfriend Vera (Marcia Gay Harden), who is the sister of crooked bookmaker Bernie Bernbaum (John Turturro), on whose head Caspar has put a bounty. As the stakes rise, Tom sees an opportunity for some personal gain, and begins to play both sides against each other – with potentially deadly results. The film was generally well-received by critics at the time, who praised its noirish atmosphere, dense plot, and intentional references to the works of Dashiell Hammett. Read more…

UNBELIEVABLE!!!!! – Gerald Fried

August 18, 2020 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The only reason I’m writing a review of the score for Unbelievable!!!!! is because it is likely to be the only chance I ever get to review a new score by Gerald Fried. For those who don’t know his name, New York-born Fried is a legend in classic TV music circles. He wrote the famous ‘Spock vs. Kirk’ fight music for the Amok Time episode of Star Trek in 1967, and he wrote episodic scores for some of the most iconic shows in television history, including Mission: Impossible, The Man from UNCLE, Lost in Space, M Squad, Gilligan’s Island, and Wagon Train, among many others. But Fried also has outstanding big screen credentials too; he was the first choice composer for a young director named Stanley Kubrick, and scored his debut efforts Fear and Desire in 1953, Killer’s Kiss in 1955, The Killing in 1956, and Paths of Glory in 1957. He received an Oscar nomination for his score for the documentary feature Birds Do It Bees Do It in 1974, and then won an Emmy for co-scoring the groundbreaking miniseries Roots with Quincy Jones in 1977. Fried is 92 years old now, and prior to this film hadn’t scored a full-length narrative feature since 1988, 33 years ago, but somehow director Steven Fawcette lured him out of retirement to write music for this project. Read more…

JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH – Bernard Herrmann

August 17, 2020 Leave a comment

MOVIE MUSIC UK CLASSICS

Original Review by Craig Lysy

20th Century Fox studio executives sought to cash in on the recent commercial success of two fantasy-adventure films, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Around the World in 80 Days. They envisioned a big budget CinemaScope production, which would once again draw upon a story by famous French novelist Jules Verne, in this case, his 1864 novel Journey to the Center of the Earth. Charles Brackett was given the reins to produce the film, and would collaborate with Walter Reisch to write the screenplay. Henry Levin was tasked with directing, and ultimately secured a fine cast, despite some recasting problems. James Mason would play Professor Sir Oliver Lindenbrook, with Pat Boone joining as his apprentice Alec McEwan, Diane Baker as Jenny Lindenbrook, Arlene Dahl as Carla Goteborg, Peter Ronson as Hans Bjelke and Thayer David as Count Arne Saknussemm. Read more…

DUCKTALES – THE MOVIE: TREASURE OF THE LOST LAMP – David Newman

August 13, 2020 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Created in 1947 by legendary Disney animator Carl Barks, the character Scrooge McDuck was popular for many years before finally being given his own animated TV series, Ducktales, in 1987. The show followed McDuck – Donald Duck’s Scottish uncle, the richest duck in the world – and his three grand-nephews (Huey, Dewey, and Louie) on a series of adventures, most of which either involved seeking out treasure, or thwarting the efforts of various assorted villains who were themselves seeking to steal Scrooge’s fortune. The show was a smash hit over its first three seasons, and paved the way for other new high quality Saturday morning series to be commissioned, including Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers, Darkwing Duck, and TaleSpin. Of course, a movie spin-off was inevitable, and so the summer of 1990 saw the premiere of Ducktales – The Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp. Read more…