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WILD MOUNTAIN THYME – Amelia Warner

December 18, 2020 2 comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Wild Mountain Thyme is an Irish-themed romantic comedy drama, written and directed by John Patrick Shanley, based on his own 2014 stage play Outside Mullingar. The film stars Emily Blunt as Rosemary Muldoon, a headstrong young woman who owns a farm in rural Ireland. Rosemary’s farm is adjacent to another one, owned by the elderly Tony Reilly (Christopher Walken) and his son Anthony (Jamie Dornan). Rosemary has been romantically interested in Anthony her entire life, but Anthony is shy, and a little ‘odd,’ and is unaware of Rosemary’s feelings for him. Not only that, Anthony continually claims how much he dislikes farming, and does not want to take over the property after his father dies. Things come to a head when Tony decides to leave the farm to Adam Kelly (John Hamm), a distant nephew in America; when Adam visits the farm he takes an immediate romantic liking to Rosemary, forcing Anthony to finally decide what he truly wants out of life. Read more…

KINDERGARTEN COP – Randy Edelman

December 17, 2020 2 comments

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Having spent most of the 1980s playing a series of unstoppable villains or muscled action heroes in films like Conan the Barbarian, The Terminator, Commando, and Predator, Arnold Schwarzenegger sought to add a new aspect to his career in the early 1990s by starring in a series of more family-friendly comedies. He started in 1988 with Twins, in which he was paired with the pint-sized Danny De Vito, but it was not until 1990 that he was asked to carry a comedy all by himself. That movie was Kindergarten Cop, directed by Ivan Reitman, and saw Schwarzenegger starring as John Kimball, a tough LAPD narcotics detective forced to go undercover as a teacher in an Oregon kindergarten in order to help protect the ex-wife of a ruthless drug dealer. Having spent his entire career breaking rules – and the heads of criminals – Kimball of course finds himself wholly unprepared to look after a class full of raucous pre-teens, and hilarity ensues, while the threat of the drug dealer looms large in the background. The film co-starred Penelope Ann Miller, Pamela Reed, and Richard Tyson, and was an enormous box office hit, grossing more than $200 million at the box office, and proving that Schwarzenegger’s star power was not limited to fist-fights and gun battles. Read more…

GODMOTHERED – Rachel Portman

December 15, 2020 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Disney’s recent trend of slightly subverting their own storybook tropes continues in Godmothered, their latest family film. Directed by Sharon Maguire, who previously helmed Bridget Jones’s Diary, it stars Jillian Bell as Eleanor, a trainee fairy godmother who feels that the traditional roles they play are becoming outdated as nobody makes wishes any more. Seeking to change things for the better – and save the godmother school from closure – Eleanor travels to the ‘real world’ to grant the wishes of a 10-year-old girl named Mackenzie; however, upon arriving in contemporary Boston, Eleanor discoveres that Mackenzie is now a jaded and miserable 40-year-old single mother of two, with a job she hates and seemingly no romantic prospects. Despite this apparent setback, Eleanor decides to help Mackenzie anyway, and starts to insert herself into her life – with predictably hilarious and terrible results. The film co-stars Isla Fisher, Santiago Cabrera, Jane Curtin, and June Squibb, and was supposed to be one of Disney’s main Christmas releases for 2020 but – like so many others – it fell victim to the COVID-19 pandemic, and was sent straight-to-streaming on Disney+ in early December. Read more…

THE COBWEB – Leonard Rosenman

December 14, 2020 Leave a comment

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Director Vincent Minnelli was intrigued by the cinematic possibilities offered by William Gibson’s novel, The Cobweb (1954), which takes place in a psychiatric institution where both the patients and the professional staff suffer from neuroses. He sold his idea to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, John Houseman was tasked to produce, and a budget of $1,976 million was provided. Casting foundered when Robert Taylor, Lana Turner and Grace Kelly were either unavailable or declined. Eventually a fine cast was assembled, which included Richard Widmark as Dr. Stewart McIver, Lauren Bacall as Meg Rinehart, Charles Boyer as Dr. Devanal, Gloria Grahame as Karen McIver, Lilian Gish as Victoria Inch and John Kerr as Stevie. Read more…

WOLFWALKERS – Bruno Coulais

December 11, 2020 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Wolfwalkers is the latest film from Irish feature animation studio Cartoon Saloon and their lead director Tomm Moore; their previous efforts include 2009’s The Book of Kells, 2014’s Song of the Sea, and 2017’s The Breadwinner, all of which were nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. It’s an ethereal, fantastical adventure steeped in Irish folklore set in the 16th century, and follows the story of a young apprentice hunter named Robyn Goodfellowe, who journeys to Ireland with her father to cull the last wolf pack on the island. While exploring the forest, Robyn befriends a free-spirited girl named Mebh MacTíre, who is a member of a mysterious tribe rumored to have the ability to transform into wolves by night. As their friendship develops, Mebh convinces Robyn to help her search for her missing mother, and before long Robyn is drawn into the enchanted world of the Wolfwalkers. The film features the voice talent of child actresses Honor Kneafsey and Evan Whittaker, alongside Sean Bean as Robyn’s father, and singer-songwriter Maria Doyle Kennedy as Mebh’s mother. It received a great deal of critical acclaim following its premiere at the 2020 Toronto International Film Festival, and looks set to earn Moore and his team a fourth consecutive Oscar nomination. Read more…

HAVANA – Dave Grusin

December 10, 2020 1 comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

A political drama enlivened with a splash of sultry romance, Havana was director Sydney Pollack’s long-awaited follow-up to his multi award-winning epic Out of Africa, which swept the Oscars in 1985. The film is set in 1958, literally days before the beginning of the Cuban Revolution, and stars Robert Redford as Jack Weil, an American professional gambler who travels to Havana to take part in a poker tournament. Following a chance meeting on the ferry from Florida, Jack quickly finds himself embroiled in a number of dangerous political situations, almost all of which seem to involve either revolutionary leader Arturo Durán (Raul Julia), CIA operative Marion Chigwell (Daniel Davis) who is moonlighting as a restaurant critic, or the dangerous local head of the secret police Menocal (Tomás Milián). Most dangerous of all is his illicit affair with Roberta (Lena Olin), the sexy and seductive wife of Durán, the repercussions of which could not only affect the immediate relationship between husband and wife, but the success of the revolution entirely. Read more…

MANK – Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross

December 8, 2020 3 comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Herman Mankiewicz was one of the most important and influential Hollywood screenwriters of the 1930s and 40s. As the oldest member of the Mankiewicz filmmaking family that also included brother Joseph (The Philadelphia Story, All About Eve) and nephew Tom (Superman, several Bond films), Herman’s main contribution to the cinematic pantheon was the screenplay for the 1941 film Citizen Kane, which many still believe to be the greatest movie ever made. David Fincher’s film Mank tells Herman Mankiewicz’s life story, and is a lusciously nostalgic look back at the heyday of old Hollywood, using the making of Citizen Kane as a framing story. The film was written by the director’s father Jack Fincher, and was originally supposed to be filmed in the 1990s with Kevin Spacey in the lead role, but the project was shelved for more than 20 years, and sadly Jack never lived to see it made as he died in 2003. Instead of Spacey, Fincher eventually cast Gary Oldman to play Mankiewicz, and surrounded him with a superb supporting cast, including Amanda Seyfried as actress Marion Davies, Lily Collins as his secretary Rita, Arliss Howard as producer Louis Mayer, Tom Pelphrey as his brother Joseph, Tuppence Middleton as his wife Sara, Tom Burke as Orson Welles, and Charles Dance as William Randolph Hearst, upon whom the character of Kane is reportedly based. Read more…

ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST – Ennio Morricone

December 7, 2020 Leave a comment

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Renowned Italian director Sergio Leone had achieved what many believed to be the pinnacle of success in 1966, following completion of the last film of his famous Dollars trilogy, “The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly”. Despite receiving universal accolades, he decided that he had said everything he wanted to say, and would not be returning to the Western genre. Hollywood studios, however, had other ideas, and wanted to capitalize on his talent and record of success. United Artists offered him opportunity to make a new Western, and his choice of the leading actors of the day including Charlton Heston, Kirk Douglas or Rock Hudson. Leone declined, but when Paramount made a very generous financial offer, which also included an opportunity to work with Henry Fonda, Leone’s favorite actor, he agreed. Fulvio Morsella was tasked with producing and a budget of $5 million was provided. Leone hired Bernardo Bertolucci and Dario Argento to assist him in crafting a screenplay. Later in the project Italian screenwriter Sergio Donati was brought in to assist with editing the film’s length as well as fine tuning the script’s dialogue. A fine cast was assembled, which included Henry Fonda as Frank, Claudia Cardinale as Jill McBain, Jason Robards as Manuel “Cheyenne” Gutiérrez, Charles Bronson as “Harmonica”, Gabriele Ferzetti as Mr. Morton, Paolo Stoppa as Sam, and Frank Wolff as Brett McBain. Read more…

JUNGLELAND – Lorne Balfe

December 4, 2020 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Jungleland is a low-budget boxing-themed drama written and directed by Max Winkler, the son of legendary comedy actor Henry Winkler. It stars British actors Jack O’Connell and Charlie Hunnam as Walter and Stanley Kowalski, working class brothers who endure menial jobs to make ends meet, and then spend their evenings in the underground bare-knuckle fight scene of their tough Massachusetts home town. Seeking one last shot at fame and redemption, Walter learns of a bare-knuckle prize fight contest worth $100,000 taking place in the back-alleys of San Francisco’s Chinatown – but they don’t have the money to get there. In desperation the brothers throw their lot in with a local gangster, who agrees to fund their trip, with one proviso: they must transport a mysterious young woman to Reno, Nevada, along the way. The film co-stars Jessica Barden and Jonathan Majors, and was released briefly in cinemas in November 2020 before heading off to streaming services. Read more…

PREDATOR 2 – Alan Silvestri

December 3, 2020 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Following the enormous critical and commercial success of the movie Predator in 1987, it was only a matter of time before Twentieth Century Fox commissioned a sequel. However, when Arnold Schwarzenegger declined to reprise his role as Dutch, the producers were forced to come up with a new idea, and so instead of focusing on the humans, they switched to focusing on the aliens. Predator 2 is set in 1997 and sees a second predator visiting Earth; however, instead of hiding in the jungles of South America, the alien makes for the urban jungle of Los Angeles, which is caught up in a turf war between rival Colombian and Jamaican drug cartels. LAPD detective Mike Harrigan (Danny Glover) is investigating the cartels and trying to stop the carnage, but instead becomes embroiled in a deeper mystery when criminals from both sides of the drug war turn up dead – killed by the Predator, although Harrigan does not know this at the time. Eventually, Harrigan teams up with FBI special agent Peter Keyes (Gary Busey), who is aware of the Predator’s existence, and wants to capture him alive. The film co-stars Rubén Blades, Maria Conchita Alonso, Bill Paxton, and Kevin Peter Hall as the Predator, and was directed by Stephen Hopkins. Read more…

FANNY LYE DELIVER’D – Thomas Clay

December 1, 2020 1 comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

One of the most obscure independent films to receive a ‘major’ soundtrack release in 2020 is Fanny Lye Deliver’d. Written and directed by the independent British filmmaker Thomas Clay, the film is described in press material as a ‘Puritan western,’ and is set in a bleak and isolated farm in rural Shropshire in the mid-1600s. Maxine Peake stars as Fanny, the young wife of the dour, humorless, but fanatically religious John Lye , played by Charles Dance. Their world is thrown into chaos following the unexpected arrival at the Lye home of two strangers, a young couple who are being doggedly pursued by a ruthless sheriff and his deputy. The chaste and virginal Fanny finds herself attracted to Thomas (Freddie Fox), the male half of the couple, and thus begins a personal and sexual awakening in Fanny, who starts to question her life, her relationship with her husband, and her devotion to God. The film was shot in 2017 and was fraught with problems from the start, including having their producer unexpectedly die, having their meticulous period-accurate sets washed away by a flood, and then by languishing for almost three years in post-production hell. Then, when the film was finally set to be released commercially after going through the festival circuit, the whole thing was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and it finally staggered into release on streaming platforms in June 2020. Read more…

SHAFT – Isaac Hayes

November 30, 2020 1 comment

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

In the 1960s and 1970s the larger than life screen detective genre flourished with stars such as Paul Newman in Harper), Frank Sinatra in Tony Rome, and Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry. Producer Joel Freeman and MGM Studios sought to cash in on the genre and decided to adapt novelist Ernest Tidyman’s last book Shaft. It was decided that Tidyman and John D. F. Black would collaborate in writing the screenplay. Gordon Parks was given the reins to direct and he made a truly audacious move by casting the titular character with Richard Roundtree, a black former model and actor. In the novel, Shaft is white, and this bold move would ultimately prove transformative in the Hollywood film industry, unleashing the Blaxploitation film genre. Joining Roundtree would be Moses Gunn as Bumpy Jonas and Charles Cioffi as Lieutenant Vic Androzzi. Read more…

MISERY – Marc Shaiman

November 25, 2020 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

One of the most talked-about movies of 1990 was Misery, a thriller directed by Rob Reiner, based on the 1987 novel of the same name by Stephen King. It’s a tale of psychological horror, obsession, and violence, and was one of the first films to address ‘celebrity stalker’ culture. James Caan stars as Paul Sheldon, an author famous for his series of romance books featuring the lead character Misery Chastain. One day Paul crashes his car in a snowstorm just outside a small Colorado town; seriously injured, he is rescued by Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates), a former nurse who lives nearby. As Paul recuperates it quickly becomes apparent that Annie – who describes herself as Paul’s ‘number one fan’ – is quite deranged, and plans on keeping him prisoner in her home so that he can write more Misery novels… by any means necessary. The most talked-about moment in the film is, of course, the scene where Annie breaks both Paul’s ankles with a sledgehammer to keep him from escaping, which still retains its visceral power today; Bates went on to win the Oscar for Best Actress for her career-making performance. Read more…

HILLBILLY ELEGY – Hans Zimmer and David Fleming

November 24, 2020 3 comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Hillbilly Elegy is a multi-generational family drama directed by Ron Howard, based on the autobiographical novel of the same name by J. D. Vance. Gabriel Basso stars as Vance, a young man from rural Kentucky in the Appalachian mountains, who becomes the first in his family to attend college. Vance is called back from Yale to his home town to deal with a family emergency, and the film explores his relationship with his heroin-addicted mother, his world-weary but kind-hearted grandmother, and his troubled sister, while also looking at the broader socio-economic hardships suffered by communities like his. The film co-stars Amy Adams, Glenn Close, Haley Bennett and Frieda Pinto, and is poised to be a major contender for acting awards at the 2020 Academy Awards. Read more…

L’ASSASSINAT DU DUC DE GUISE – Camille Saint-Saëns

November 23, 2020 Leave a comment

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

During the 1880s a technological revolution occurred with the invention of celluloid photographic film and motion picture cameras. The first public screening of a motion picture in which an admission fee was charged occurred in New York City 1895 by the Lambda Company, founded by Woodville Latham. The idiom quickly gained popularity, and in 1907 Paul Lafitte, a wealthy novelist, publisher and financier founded the French production company Le Film d’Art to produce French films, which he hoped would gain the admiration of the cultural elite as well as the patronage of the common people. Throughout his life Lafitte had been tireless in fostering literature and the theatre. He saw motion pictures as a new way to bring education and entertainment to the masses. He recruited talented stage actors from the Comédie-Française theatre group, and in 1908 decided to produce his first film, the French historical drama L’Assassinat du Duc de Guise originally titled La Mort du Duc de Guise. The Pathé Frères company would distribute the film, and he tasked French actors Charles le Bargy and André Calmettes to direct. French dramatist Henri Lavedan was hired to write an original screenplay, and a fine cast was assembled, which included Charles le Bargy as King Henry III, Albert Lambert as Le Duc de Guise, Gabrielle Robinne as Marquise de Noirmoutier and Berthe Bovy as Le Page. The final product was a short film of 18 minutes. Read more…