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THE GREAT DICTATOR – Charles Chaplin and Meredith Willson

April 18, 2022 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

The genesis of The Great Dictator film arose when renowned producer-director Alexander Korda pointed out to Charlie Chaplin that he bore a striking resemblance to Adolf Hitler. Chaplin’s research revealed that they were born withing a week of each other, were approximately the same height and weight, and both emerged from poverty during their early life to achieve success. An additional stimulus to make the film came from German director Leni Riefenstahl’s 1935 film Triumph of Will, which made a comic impression on Chaplin. The film would be Chaplin’s first all-talking all-sound film and he decided to finance it with his own production company, allocating a $2 million budget. He would also direct, write the screenplay, jointly compose the score, and star in the film. For his cast, Chaplin would play the Jewish barber and Adenoid Hynkel – the Great Dictator. Joining him would be Paulette Goddard as Hannah, Jack Oakie as, Henry Daniell as Benzino Napolini, Reginald Gardiner as Commander Schultz, Billy Gilbert as Herring, and Maurice Moscovich as Mr. Jaeckel. Read more…

THUNDERHEART – James Horner

April 14, 2022 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Thunderheart is a serious, interesting murder-mystery thriller, directed by Michael Apted from an original screenplay by John Fusco. The film stars Val Kilmer as FBI agent Ray Levoi, who is sent to a Native American reservation in South Dakota to lead the investigation into the murder of a tribal council member; Levoi is of Sioux heritage, but has no connection to his tribe and his ancestry, and is reluctant to go. However, once he arrives on the reservation, he becomes increasingly convinced that a cover-up is happening, involving local authorities, an apparently dangerous militia group, and even members of the US government. The film co-stars Sam Shepard, Graham Greene, and Fred Ward, and was a modest box office hit, while also receiving critical acclaim for its tone, pacing, performances, and sympathetic portrayal of contemporary issues in Native American communities. Read more…

THE SOUND OF VIOLET – Conrad Pope

April 12, 2022 1 comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The Sound of Violet is a new indie romantic comedy/drama, starring Cason Thomas, Cora Cleary, Kaelon Christopher, Jan d’Arcy, and Malcolm J. West. The film is about a young autistic man named Shawn who meets and falls in love with Violet, the girl of his dreams – except that, because of his mental illness, he doesn’t pick up on the ‘clues’ that she is actually a prostitute looking for a ticket out of her trapped life. The film was written and directed by Allen Wolf, based on his own award-winning novel, and is his sophomore directorial effort following his mainstream debut film In My Sleep in 2010. Read more…

JEZEBEL – Max Steiner

April 11, 2022 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Warner Brothers executives were seeking a vehicle to showcase their star Bette Davis following her 1935 Oscar win for Dangerous. They believed they found their story with the 1933 play Jezebel by Owen Davis. William Wyler was tasked with production with a $1.25 million budget, and would also direct. The team of Clements Ripley, Abem Finkel and John Huston were hired to write the screenplay and a stellar cast was assembled, including Bette Davis as Julie Marsden, Henry Fonda as Preston Dillard, George Brent as Buck Cantrell, Donald Crisp as Dr. Livingston, Fay Bainter as Aunt Belle Massey, Margaret Lindsay as Amy Bradford Dillard and Richard Cromwell as Ted Dillard. Read more…

THE LOST CITY – Pinar Toprak

April 8, 2022 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The Lost City is a fun throwback action-adventure romcom directed by the Nee brothers Adam and Aaron, who co-wrote the screenplay with Oren Uziel and Dana Fox, from a story conceived by Seth Gordon. It’s an intentional homage to 1980s movies like Romancing the Stone, and stars Sandra Bullock as Loretta Sage, a depressed romance novelist who is kidnapped by a multi-billionaire played by Daniel Radcliffe; he believes that her latest book contains genuine archaeological information that will help him locate a long-lost treasure, missing for generations on a remote island. However, Loretta’s airheaded book cover model Alan (Channing Tatum) – who adopts a Fabio-esque persona and the pseudonym Dash McMahon – tracks Loretta to the island and embarks on a daring rescue mission that takes the mis-matched couple on an epic journey through the island’s jungles. The film is a light, breezy, funny, entertaining romp, featuring some terrific physical comedy from Bullock, and a hilarious cameo from Brad Pitt as an ex-Navy SEAL turned CIA operative hired to help Alan find Loretta. It received popular acclaim from audiences and critics, who mostly enjoyed the central relationship between Bullock and Tatum, and praised their screwball chemistry. Read more…

BASIC INSTINCT – Jerry Goldsmith

April 7, 2022 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Basic Instinct was one of the most commercially successful but socially controversial films of 1992. A murder-mystery thriller with strong sexual content, the film was written by Joe Eszterhas and directed by Paul Verhoeven. Michael Douglas starred as San Francisco police detective Nick Curran, who becomes involved in an intense sexual relationship with Catherine Tramell (Sharon Stone), a mysterious and confident novelist, despite the fact that she is the prime suspect in the murder of her wealthy rock star boyfriend, who was stabbed to death with an ice pick while in flagrante. The film, which co-starred George Dzundza and Jeanne Tripplehorn, was controversial for several reasons – for its depiction of the ‘heroic detective’ as an amoral cocaine addict, for its brutal violence (including the opening murder and a subsequent rape sequence), and especially for its explicit sexual content, which included the now notorious scene where Sharon Stone flashes her vagina at police officers during an interrogation. Of course there had been successful mainstream erotic thrillers before – Dressed to Kill, Body Heat, Nine ½ Weeks, Fatal Attraction, and Jagged Edge, which Eszterhas also wrote – but Basic Instinct caught a wave of popularity and social zeitgeist, becoming one of the biggest grossing films of the year, and catapulting Sharon Stone to stardom. Read more…

Under-the-Radar Round Up 2022, Part 1

April 5, 2022 Leave a comment

The new year has hopefully brought a new lease of life to world cinema, and at the end of the first quarter of 2022 I’m absolutely delighted to present the latest instalment in my on-going series of articles looking at the best under-the-radar scores from around the world. This article covers nine scores for projects from all over the globe, and includes dramatic TV series from Kuwait and Japan, an exploration of childhood nostalgia and a contemporary action-thriller from France, a giallo thriller from Italy, a fantasy epic from Russia, a religious drama from Spain, and an intimate drama from Denmark, among others! Read more…

BLACK PATCH – Jerry Goldsmith

April 4, 2022 Leave a comment

MOVIE MUSIC UK CLASSICS

Original Review by Craig Lysy

The genesis of the film lay with producer-director-writer-actor George Montgomery best known for his work in the Western genre. In February 1957 he announced his latest project, “Decision At Sundown” based on an original screenplay by Leo Gordon. The title was later changed to “Black Patch”. His own production company Montgomery Productions would finance the project, with Allen Miller tasked with production as well as directing. A fine cast was assembled with Montgomery starring as Marshall Clay Morgan. Joining him would be Sebastian Cabot as Frenchy De Vere, Diane Brewster as Helen Danner, Tom Pittman as Flytrap (Carl), Leo Gordon as Hank Danner, House Peters Jr. as Holman Lynn Cartwright as Kitty and Jorge Trevino as Pedoline. Read more…

THE OUTFIT – Alexandre Desplat

April 1, 2022 4 comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The Outfit is the directorial debut of the Oscar winning screenwriter Graham Moore, who took home the golden boy for the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game in 2014. The film is set in Chicago in the 1950s, and stars Mark Rylance as Leonard Burling, an English tailor who runs a store in a neighborhood protected by the Irish mob. Leonard’s store is overrun one night by Richie, the son of mob boss Roy Boyle, and Boyle’s chief enforcer Francis, with Ritchie having been shot by a rival gang. So begins an edge-of-seat thriller involving FBI informants, secret tapes, personal bitterness and rivalries, double-crosses, and murders, as Leonard tries to negotiate his way out of his difficult circumstances, outwit the mobsters who all seem to have hidden agendas, and make it to morning alive. The film is anchored by a bravura performance by Rylance, who has received plaudits from critics, and is ably supported by Zoe Deutsch, Dylan O’Brien, Johnny Flynn, and Simon Russell Beale. Read more…

RUBY – John Scott

March 31, 2022 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

November 22, 1993, marked the thirtieth anniversary of the assassination of US President John F. Kennedy, and in the years leading up to that memorial several films and TV shows were made looking at the details surrounding the event. The JFK assassination had fascinated the American public for decades, and the stories and conspiracy theories surrounding it had become stock-in-trade for filmmakers and authors. The most high profile film made during that period was JFK, written and directed by Oliver Stone and released in late 1991, but the spring of 1992 saw another film about the event – Ruby, directed by John Mackenzie. It takes a look at the life of one of the other important figures of the event: Texas nightclub owner Jack Ruby, who shot and killed JFK’s assassin Lee Harvey Oswald in the basement garage of a Dallas city police station two days after JFK’s death. The film starred Danny Aiello as Ruby, and has a supporting cast that included Sherilyn Fenn, Arliss Howard, David Duchovny, and Tobin Bell. Read more…

UNCHARTED – Ramin Djawadi

March 29, 2022 Leave a comment

Original Review by Christopher Garner

Uncharted is a long-delayed action-adventure film based on a video game franchise (that was in turn inspired by Indiana Jones), but this new film feels more like National Treasure than anything else. It tells the story of Nathan Drake (Tom Holland), a young thief who meets Sully (Mark Wahlberg), a seasoned treasure hunter that used to work with Nate’s long-lost brother. Nate teams up with Sully to find Magellan’s lost treasure and encounters plenty of bad guys and double-crosses along the way. Critics have been hard on the film, but I thought it was more fun than its tomatometer score would suggest, despite the ridiculous finale. Uncharted is directed by Ruben Fleischer, who helmed the Zombieland films and the first Venom film, and it has probably done well enough at the box office ($330+ million) to get a sequel, though none has been announced yet. Read more…

A CHRISTMAS CAROL – Franz Waxman

March 28, 2022 1 comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

MGM Studios decided that they wanted to bring the 1843 novella “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens to the big screen. They secured the film rights and assigned Joseph L. Mankiewicz to production. Hugo Butler was hired to adapt the novel and write the screenplay, however, the studio insisted that the final product be a “Family Film” as was its historic practice with literary adaptations. As such, much of the grimmest, and scariest elements of Dicken’s tale was excised, which robbed the film of much of its potent social commentary. Edwin L. Marin was tasked with directing and after recasting the lead actor role, a great cast was assembled, including Reginald Owen as Ebenezer Scrooge, Gene Lockhart as Bob Cratchit, Kathleen Lockhart as Mrs. Cratchit, Terry Kilburn as Tiny Tim Cratchit and Barry MacKay as Fred. Read more…

STREET ANGEL [MALU TIANSHI] – Luting He

March 21, 2022 1 comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Director-Actor-Screenplay writer Yuan Mushi was seeking to direct the second film of his career. As part of his vision, he wrote a screenplay in support of China’s “Left Wing Movement” in cinema, which sought reveal the harsh struggle and bitter life of the poor urban underclass. Filmed during tumultuous times against the backdrop of the Second Sino-Japanese war, the film proved to be trendsetting by its innovative use of thematic music, singing, and choreographed art. Yuan secured financial backing and distribution support from the Mingxing Film Company. Yuan would also direct the film, and brought in a fine cast, including Zhou Xuan as Xiao Hong, Zhao Huishen as Xiao Yun, Zhao Dan as Chen Shaoping, and Wei Heling as Wang. The film would be the company’s last as it was shut down by the war. Read more…

WIND – Basil Poledouris

March 16, 2022 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

In the years immediately prior to his death in 2006, composer Basil Poledouris essentially retired from scoring and moved from the Los Angeles area to Vashon Island, off the coast of Seattle, Washington, where he indulged in his second greatest passion after music: sailing. Many composers are well known for their non-film music endeavors. Alan Silvestri owns a vineyard and makes his own wine, for example, and James Horner famously (and tragically) loved flying vintage planes. Once in a while the two passions are able to intersect, and for Poledouris that happened with the only score he wrote in 1992 – Wind. The film is a romantic adventure set in the world of America’s Cup yachting, which stars Matthew Modine and Jennifer Grey, and was directed by Carroll Ballard. The film is mostly forgotten today, but film music fans would be remiss if they forgot Poledouris’s score for it, because it allowed him to fully embrace the emotional rush that sailing provided for him, and inspired him to write one of his most personal scores. Read more…

ANOTHER DAWN – Erich Wolfgang Korngold

March 14, 2022 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

In 1935 Warner Brothers Studio executive Jack L. Warner decided that the 1919 play “Caesar’s Wife” by W. Somerset Maugham offered opportunity for a big screen adaptation. He purchased the film rights, provided a budget of $552,000, and would personally join Harry Joe Brown and Hal B. Wallis in producing the film. William Dieterle was tasked with directing and sought to capitalize on rising star Errol Flynn by casting him as Captain Denny Roark. Bette Davis was originally cast to play Julia Ashton Wister but her suspension by the studio resulted in Kay Francis winning that role; they were joined by Ian Hunter as Colonel John Wister. Read more…