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BAD EDUCATION – Michael Abels

May 6, 2020 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Bad Education is a true-life political drama set in the American school system. Based on the New York magazine article “The Bad Superintendent” by Robert Kolker, it exposes the largest public school embezzlement scam in American history, which occurred in a small town on Long Island, New York, in 2002. The focus is on two individuals – Frank Tassone, the superintendent of the school district, and his assistant, Pam Gluckin – who between them embezzled $7.1 million dollars from the school board finances, until their misdeeds were uncovered by a tenacious high school reporter who found discrepancies in the budget. The film stars Hugh Jackman, Allison Janney, Ray Romano, and Geraldine Viswanathan, and was a major critical success when it premiered on HBO in the United States in April 2020. The film is directed by Cory Finley, and has a score by composer Michael Abels. Read more…

THE FIELD – Elmer Bernstein

April 30, 2020 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The Field is a quietly devastating drama written and directed by Jim Sheridan, adapted from the 1965 play of the same name by John Keane. Set in Ireland in the 1930s, the film stars Richard Harris as Bull McCabe, an impoverished farmer who rents a dilapidated field on the cliffs by the sea. When the wealthy widow who owns the field decides to sell it, McCabe assumes that he will be given the first chance to buy it, but unknown to McCabe the widow has been holding on to a grudge for decades, and in a public display of spiteful pettiness directed at McCabe, holds an open auction instead. A rich American named Peter (Tom Berenger), who wants to build a factory on the site, outbids him, and so begins a bitter war which leads to betrayal, death, and madness, with the field itself acting as a symbolic representation of the desperately difficult lives the characters lead. The film has a terrific supporting cast including John Hurt, Sean Bean, Brenda Fricker, and a very young Brendan Gleeson, and was a critical success when it was first released. Read more…

WENDY – Dan Romer and Benh Zeitlin

April 28, 2020 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

There have been literally dozens of adaptations of the Peter Pan story since it was first written by J. M. Barrie in 1904, as well as numerous sequels and prequels and re-imaginings. Some of the most famous include the Disney animated feature from 1953, Steven Spielberg’s sequel Hook in 1991, and P. J. Hogan’s version from 2003, but now we have possibly the most unusual version of them all – Wendy, from director Benh Zeitlin. The film is a complete re-imagining of the entire story, transposed to the contemporary American South. Devin France plays Wendy Darling, the eldest daughter of Angela (Shay Walker), who owns a diner by the railroad tracks. One night Wendy and her younger twin brothers Douglas and James board a mysterious train, where they meet Peter (Yashua Mack), a free-spirited boy; the train takes them to a river, and eventually they swim to a hidden island where children never age so long as they believe in Mother, the spirit of the island. The children spend their days having adventures but, eventually, reality begins to encroach on their world, causing doubt and regret to creep into their idyllic lives. Read more…

REBECCA – Franz Waxman

April 27, 2020 Leave a comment

MOVIE MUSIC UK CLASSICS

Original Review by Craig Lysy

David O. Selznick was captivated by the 1938 novel Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, a romantic psychological thriller, which he was determined to bring to the big screen. He purchased the film rights for $50,000, took on producing the film, and tasked Alfred Hitchcock to direct – his debut film in America. The screenplay was written by Robert Sherwood and Joan Harrison with adaptation by Philip MacDonald and Michael Hogan. Selznick insisted that the film remain faithful to the novel, and friction occurred when he overruled a number of changes made by Hitchcock. Selznick’s initial choices for the lead roles were Ronald Coleman and Carole Lombard, but both declined. Nevertheless a stellar cast was assembled, which included Joan Fontaine as the second Mrs. De Winter, Laurence Olivier as Maxim de Winter, Judith Anderson as the housekeeper Mrs. Danvers, George Sanders as Jack Favell, Reginald Denny as Frank Crawley, and C. Aubrey Smith as Colonel Julyan. Read more…

A SHOW OF FORCE – Georges Delerue

April 23, 2020 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

A Show of Force is a thriller directed by Bruno Barreto, based on true events which occurred in Puerto Rico in 1978. Amy Irving stars as television reporter Kate Ryan, who is investigating the circumstances surrounding the brutal deaths of two Puerto Rican teenagers, Carlos Enrique Soto-Arriví and Arnaldo Darío Rosado-Torres. The government claimed the victims were radical terrorists, while their families said they were pro-independence student activists, and as Ryan gets deeper and deeper into the mystery, she finds herself embroiled in a much larger political scandal and cover-up involving the local police, and which may eventually lead to the corridors of power at the CIA. The film is adapted from Anne Nelson’s book ‘Murder Under Two Flags’, and co-stars Andy Garcia, Lou Diamond Phillips, Robert Duvall, and Kevin Spacey. The film marked the English-language debut of Brazilian director Barreto, who would later go on to make the films Carried Away and One Tough Cop (both scored by Bruce Broughton). Read more…

ELEPHANT – Ramin Djawadi

April 21, 2020 3 comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Elephant is the latest feature film from Disney Nature, the subsidiary of the mouse house dedicated to making wildlife-themed documentaries, and whose previous works have included Chimpanzee, African Cats, and Bears. Although I understand that their heart is in the right place, these Disney docs pale considerably when compared to the efforts of the BBC Natural History Unit, and I especially have a pet peeve about how the filmmakers force a narrative onto the animals’ lives, and anthropomorphize them to make them more dramatically persuasive. In Elephants, for example, the ‘story’ follows a herd of elephants “led by their great matriarch Gaia and her younger sister Shani, who has helped keep their family safe. Shani has also been raising her spirited son Jomo, a very energetic young elephant who just wants to play”. How do they know the older elephant is named Gaia? How do they know the young elephant is called Jomo? These are wild elephants. They don’t have human names. The animal kingdom is intense and dramatic already, and doesn’t need to be dressed up and dumbed down with cutesy names and false constructed narratives to be compelling to audiences. Anyway, despite this, the stories have been fairly popular, and Elephants has an added level of public interest due to the fact that it is narrated by Meghan Markle, and is her first media project since she married Prince Harry and became the Duchess of Sussex. Read more…

THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME – Alfred Newman

April 20, 2020 Leave a comment

MOVIE MUSIC UK CLASSICS

Original Review by Craig Lysy

The dawning of the new age of film with dialogue and music had arrived and Universal Studio executives decided to explore a remake of their 1923 production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. A favorable fan poll in 1936 added impetus to the endeavor, but the studio was never able to assemble the lead actors to launch the project and so sold the film rights to MGM, which in turn sold them to RKO. RKO was committed to the project and built a massive recreation of Paris and the cathedral on their ranch in the San Fernando Valley outside Los Angeles. Pedro Berman was hired to produce the film and provided a massive budget of $1.8 million. William Dieterle was given the reigns to direct the film, which would again be adapted from Victor Hugo’s famous 1831 novel Sonya Levien and Bruno Frank provided the screenplay and a fine cast was assembled, which included Charles Laughton as Quasimodo, Sir Cedric Hardwicke as Jehan Frollo, Thomas Mitchell as Clopin, Maureen O’Hara in her screen debut as Esmeralda, Edmund O’Brien as Pierre Gringoire, Walter Hampden as Archbishop Claude Frollo, and Harry Davenport as King Louis XI of France. Read more…