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Posts Tagged ‘Thomas Newman’

1917 – Thomas Newman

January 11, 2020 3 comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

1917 is an astonishing, emotionally overwhelming, technical masterpiece of a film set in northern France during World War I. Directed by Sam Mendes and based in part on the experiences of his own grandfather during the war, the film stars George Mackay and Dean-Charles Chapman as Schofield and Blake, two young English soldiers serving in the trenches on the front lines. When some vitally important military intelligence is conveyed to their commanding officer, Schofield and Blake are tasked with delivering a message to another unit half a dozen miles away, with orders that would stop a platoon of 1,600 soldiers – including Blake’s brother – from falling into a German trap and being massacred. In order to deliver the message the pair must journey on foot deep into enemy territory, overcoming obstacles and enduring incredible physical and mental hardships, in a manner which illustrates how devastating war is for everyone involved. Read more…

TOLKIEN – Thomas Newman

May 14, 2019 4 comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The great English author John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, who was born in 1892 and died in 1973, is generally regarded as being the author who popularized the high fantasy genre in literature, via his classic novels The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion. Although the stories themselves are now part of our established cultural lexicon – thanks in no small part to Peter Jackson’s films – the life of Tolkien himself is not especially well known. Director Dome Karukoski’s film, which stars Nicholas Hoult as Tolkien, seeks to address that, and in so doing explore how his life experiences shaped his literary output. The film is set mostly in World War I, specifically the Battle of the Somme, where Tolkien served as a second lieutenant in the Lancashire Fusiliers. Tolkien spent much of the war ill as a result of the terrible conditions in the trenches, and as he recovers the film reveals his life in flashback: the death of his mother, him growing up in an orphanage (where he meets his future wife Edith), his school days in Birmingham, the formation of the Tea Club and Barrovian Society (a group of like-minded lifelong friends dedicated to self-improvement through art, music, poetry, and literature), and his subsequent study at the University of Oxford, where a fortuitous encounter with a professor of philology encourages his love of language and his appreciation for great Old English and Nordic sagas like Beowulf, the combination of which would help define his work. Read more…

THE HIGHWAYMEN – Thomas Newman

April 3, 2019 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Bonnie Parker and Clyde Darrow were two of the most notorious American criminals of the 20th century, bank robbers and murderers who during their lifetimes attained an unlikely level of celebrity and public affection. Their most successful crime spree came at the peak of the Great Depression, in the early 1930s, and as lurid tales of their exploits did the rounds in the pulp press, they quickly became famous as modern-day outlaws, striking back at the ‘system’ that failed so many others. Their story came to an end in a hail of bullets on a rural Louisiana back road in May 1934, when they were shot and killed by a posse of Texas Rangers who had been tracking them for months. Their exploits were famously chronicled on film in 1967 in Arthur Penn’s Bonnie and Clyde; this new film from director John Lee Hancock takes a slightly different perspective in that it is told from the point of view of Frank Hamer and Maney Gault, the two Texas Rangers who led the investigation and eventually made the decision to open fire on the crooks. The film stars Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson as Hamer and Gault, and has a supporting cast that includes Kathy Bates, John Carroll Lynch, Kim Dickens, Thomas Mann, and William Sadler. Read more…

VICTORIA & ABDUL – Thomas Newman

September 22, 2017 1 comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

There has long been a cinematic fascination with the life of Queen Victoria, who reigned in the United Kingdom from 1837 until 1901; numerous actresses have portrayed her, both on the big and the small screen, but for contemporary audiences the quintessential Victoria is the one played by Dame Judi Dench. She first played the role in 1997’s Mrs. Brown, which examined the controversial relationship between the long-widowed queen and her Scottish equerry John Brown, which ended with Brown’s death in 1883. This new film, directed by Stephen Frears, is essentially a sequel to Mrs. Brown, and again stars Dench as the much loved monarch. It picks up Victoria’s story in 1887, and focuses on another unusual relationship Victoria developed with a different manservant; however, rather than being a Scottish gamekeeper, her new confidante was an Indian Muslim named Abdul Karim, played by Ali Fazal. Cue the scandals in the palaces of London and the halls of Westminster. Read more…

PASSENGERS – Thomas Newman

February 1, 2017 5 comments

passengersOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

Passengers is a romantic drama with a sci-fi twist, a love story amongst the stars with an unusual moral dilemma at its core, and with an action movie climax that stands at odds with much of the gentle comedy of the first half of the movie. Directed by Morten Tyldum and written by Jon Spaihts, the film stars Chris Pratt as Jim Preston, one of 5,000 colonists on board a state-of-the-art starship traveling to a new life on Homestead II, a distant planet. The journey takes 120 years, and the passengers are all in hibernation, but a malfunction on board the ship causes Jim to accidentally wake up 90 years early. After unsuccessfully trying to put himself back into hibernation, Jim resigns himself to his fate; despite having access to the ship’s luxurious facilities, Jim only has an android bartender (Michael Sheen) for company, and after a year of isolation decides to commit suicide. It is at this lowest point that Jim comes across Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence), a fellow passenger, whose cryo-tube is still working, and the film’s moral dilemma emerges: should Jim, who believes he has fallen in love, wake Aurora up for companionship, knowing that doing so will result in her never reaching Homestead II? Read more…

SPECTRE – Thomas Newman

November 13, 2015 1 comment

spectreOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

The 24th official James Bond film, the fourth starring Daniel Craig, and the second directed by Sam Mendes, Spectre apparently concludes a four-movie storyline, bringing together the plots of the three preceding films – Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, and Skyfall – and re-introducing Bond to his greatest nemesis. As he globe-trots around the world from Mexico to Rome, to Austria, and beyond, Bond gradually discovers the existence of a shadowy organization which appears to be orchestrating a series of terrorist events, including the ones Bond investigated in the previous films, and whose leader may be a figure from his own past. The film co-stars Christoph Waltz, Léa Seydoux, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Dave Bautista, Monica Bellucci, and Ralph Fiennes, and in many ways is a love letter to the entire James Bond franchise. Not only is this Bond a touch more light-hearted, with a little more emphasis on the gadgets and the girls than the previous films, there are innumerable nods and winks and in-jokes for the Bond connoisseur: the mountaintop clinic is straight out of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, the “hollowed out volcano” in the desert is from You Only Live Twice, the car from Goldfinger makes a spectacular return, the fight on the train has echoes of both From Russia With Love and Live and Let Die, the “funhouse” in the remains of the MI6 building recalls The Man With the Golden Gun, and the monosyllabic henchman Hinx is clearly modeled after the similarly taciturn Jaws. The whole film is a loving homage to everything preceding it, and delighted this long-time fan of the genre, although of course you have to overlook the contrivances and plot holes that always come with this territory. Read more…

BRIDGE OF SPIES – Thomas Newman

October 20, 2015 Leave a comment

bridgeofspiesOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

Steven Spielberg’s latest film, Bridge of Spies, is a cold war thriller set in 1957 starring Tom Hanks as James Donovan, an insurance lawyer who is unexpectedly hired by the US Government to represent Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance), an unassuming middle-aged artist accused of being a Russian spy. Although the evidence against Abel is overwhelming – and even though Abel himself does not deny the charges – Donovan mounts a spirited defense, arguing that the US constitution affords everyone due process to a fair trial. Months later, Donovan is called upon once again when a U-2 spy plane operating over Russia is shot down, and its young pilot is arrested by the Soviets. Realizing that Abel can be used as a bargaining chip, the CIA sends Donovan to East Berlin, just as the Wall is being erected, to negotiate a trade. The screenplay, by Matt Charman, Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, is based on real events, and allows the narrative to unfold at a measured pace. This is a film about conversations, negotiations, political ideologies, and ethical dilemmas, and there is nary an action sequence in the entire film, which will alienate those who need more ‘stuff happening’, but which drew me into its intricacies. Tom Hanks is superb in the lead role, serious and honorable, while Mark Rylance is relaxed and unexpectedly funny in his role as the accused spy with an artistic flair. The film is also notable for another reason: it’s the first Steven Spielberg film in 30 years not to feature a John Williams score. Read more…

THE JUDGE – Thomas Newman

October 18, 2014 Leave a comment

thejudgeOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

The Judge is a family drama film directed by David Dobkin, who previously helmed such popular movies as Wedding Crashers and Fred Claus, and starring Robert Downey Jr. as Hank Palmer, a hotshot defense attorney living the high life in the big city, who returns to his sleepy Indiana hometown following the death of his mother. However, further problems await Hank when his estranged and distant father Joseph (Robert Duvall) – the town’s long-serving judge – is unexpectedly arrested, suspected of murder. Suddenly forced to become his own father’s lawyer, Hank sets out to discover the truth and, along the way, reconnects with his fractured family, while rekindling his relationship with an old flame. The film has a stellar supporting cast including Vera Farmiga, Billy Bob Thornton, and Vincent d’Onofrio, and has an original score by Thomas Newman, who excels at writing music for this type of film. Read more…

SAVING MR. BANKS – Thomas Newman

December 13, 2013 3 comments

savingmrbanksOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

The much-loved Disney feature Mary Poppins celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2014. It’s hard to believe that it’s been that long since the world first learned the word supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, or were first able to hear the worst Cockney accent in cinematic history courtesy of Dick Van Dyke, but it’s true, and the legacy and popularity of the film remains as strong today as it was in 1964. The new film Saving Mr. Banks, directed by John Lee Hancock, tells two parallel stories. Firstly, it charts how the film Mary Poppins was made, with the irascible English spinster P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) traveling from her home in London to Los Angeles, where she is wooed mercilessly by no lesser figure that Walt Disney himself (Tom Hanks), in an attempt to secure the rights to her book, which she is loathe to give up. Secondly, and possibly most importantly, it explores in flashback Travers’ childhood in rural Australia, and how her relationship with her loving, caring, but hopelessly drunk and irresponsible father (Colin Farrell) helped inspired her work, and her famous umbrella-wielding nanny. Read more…

SKYFALL – Thomas Newman

November 20, 2012 9 comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Coming in to write the music for your first James Bond movie must be a massively daunting task. In composing the score for Skyfall, Thomas Newman – the multi-Oscar nominated composer of such seminal scores as American Beauty and The Shawshank Redemption – not only had to cope with 50 years of cinematic history after Ursula Andress first slinked out of the Caribbean sea in Dr. No in 1962, but legions of fans who treat the movie franchise as sacred property, and the legacy of the legendary music of John Barry and his heir-apparent, David Arnold. The ‘James Bond sound’ is so iconic and so well-established that it presents a composer as unique as Newman with a dilemma: does he abandon his own sound in an attempt to fit in with the overall sound of the series, risking giving up the very thing that makes him him, or does he compose music in his own inimitable way, establishment be damned, risking the wrath of those who would then surely accuse him of not being ‘Bond’ enough? It’s a challenging tightrope, and one which Newman had to skillfully navigate. Read more…

THE IRON LADY – Thomas Newman

January 23, 2012 1 comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Even though, technically, I was born when Harold Wilson was Prime Minister, I grew up in Margaret Thatcher’s Britain. All of my earliest memories of major socio-political stories – the Falklands War with Argentina in 1982, the Brighton hotel bombing of 1984, the miner’s strike and general industrial unrest of 1984 and 1985, the Poll Tax riots of 1990, and various international issues involving the IRA and the former Soviet Union – all occurred during her tenure. Whether you love her or loathe her (and many people do genuinely loathe her and what she did to the country), there is no escaping the fact that she was a massively influential and important person: the first woman ever to be Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, the seventh-longest serving Prime Minister in history, and the longest serving since Queen Victoria was on the throne. Read more…

THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU – Thomas Newman

March 8, 2011 3 comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Looking back over Thomas Newman’s career to date, it’s interesting to note how much his musical style has altered over the years. During the late 1980s and 1990s he was very much his father’s son; scores such as The Shawshank Redemption, Little Women, Oscar and Lucinda, Meet Joe Black and The Horse Whisperer showcased his lush, theme-driven, string-heavy music, and made him a popular favorite within the film music world. Then, in 1999, he wrote American Beauty, and from then on began his gradual transformation into a composer whose music relies on sound design, instrumental texture and unusual instrumental combinations than the straightforward orchestral through-composing that made many – including me – such an admirer. Since the turn of the millennium, for every Cinderella Man or Angels in America, there have been a half-dozen other “quirky” scores dominating his filmography: Erin Brockovich, White Oleander, In the Bedroom, Jarhead, Little Children, Revolutionary Road. These scores show flashes of the orchestral brilliance of which he is capable, but more often than not eschew the lyricism in favor of rhythm and texture, with very little thematic content to grab hold of. Unfortunately, The Adjustment Bureau is more of the same. Read more…

BROTHERS – Thomas Newman

December 4, 2009 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Brothers is the latest film from acclaimed director Jim Sheridan, whose previous efforts include My Left Foot and In the Name of the Father. A remake of film director Susanne Bier’s 2004 Danish film Brødre, it stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Tobey Maguire as brothers Sam and Tommy Cahill; Tommy is in jail for robbery, Sam is a United States marine serving in Afghanistan. When Sam’s helicopter is shot down in action, everyone presumes him to be dead, and Sam’s wife Grace (Natalie Portman) turns to the recently-released Tommy for comfort in grief. Gradually, Tommy and Grace form a new relationship… only for their lives to be shattered when a very-much alive Sam returns home, having survived the helicopter crash and spent months in the hands of Afghan militants. Read more…

REVOLUTIONARY ROAD – Thomas Newman

December 26, 2008 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

It’s been almost a decade since Thomas Newman wrote, and was Oscar nominated for, his score for American Beauty. In the intervening period, Newman’s work on that film has, arguably, become the most copied piece of music in recent history: the plinking and plonking and rhythmic quirkiness of that score has become cinematic (and televisual) musical shorthand for suburban life, and the things that go on behind the manicured lawns and the white picket fences. Thomas Newman has collaborated with American Beauty’s director, Sam Mendes, twice since then, on Road to Perdition in 2002 and Jarhead in 2005, but Revolutionary Road marks the first return to the setting which initially inspired both men. Read more…

TOWELHEAD – Thomas Newman

September 12, 2008 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Towelhead – also known as Nothing Is Private – is the theatrical directorial debut of Alan Ball, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of American Beauty, and is based on a novel by Alicia Erian. It’s another one of those stories of suburban dissatisfaction and the evil that lurks behind the face of normality in America, and tells the story of a young Arab American girl named Jasira (Summer Bishil) who is sent to live with her father in Houston, Texas during the first Gulf War. While struggling with her father’s controlling influence and the racism she encounters at school, Jasira begins to develop an unhealthy sexual fixation with a bigoted army reservist (Aaron Eckhart), who is more racist than anyone else. Read more…