Film Review – TRUE GRIT (1969)

Image result for true grit 1969True Grit (1969; USA; Technicolor; 128m) ****  d. Henry Hathaway; w. Marguerite Roberts; ph. Lucien Ballard; m. Elmer Bernstein.  Cast: John Wayne, Kim Darby, Robert Duvall, Glen Campbell, Strother Martin, Jeremy Slate, Dennis Hopper, Jeff Corey, Donald Woods, Alfred Ryder, Ron Soble, John Fiedler, James Westerfield, John Doucette, Edith Atwater. A drunken, hard-nosed U.S. Marshal and a Texas Ranger help a stubborn young woman track down her father’s murderer in Indian territory. Scenic western with Wayne enjoying himself immensely in one of his best-remembered performances as Rooster Cogburn and Darby also excellent as young Mattie Ross. Hathaway paces the story just right and Duvall impresses as Wayne’s outlaw nemesis. Superbly photographed utilising stunning Colorado locations aided by a rousing Bernstein score. The only film for which Wayne ever won an Oscar. Based on the novel by Charles Portis. Followed by ROOSTER COGBURN (1975) and a TV pilot in 1978. Remade in 2010. [PG]

TV Review – DOCTOR WHO: THE GHOST MONUMENT (2018)

Doctor Who: The Ghost Monument (TV) (2018; UK; Colour; 48m) ***½  pr. Nikki Wilson; d. Mark Tonderai; w. Chris Chibnall; ph. Tico Poulakakis; m.Segun Akinola.  Cast: Jodie Whittaker, Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole, Mandip Gill, Susan Lynch, Shaun Dooley, Art Malik.  Still reeling from their first encounter, can the Doctor and her new friends stay alive long enough in a hostile alien environment to solve the mystery of Desolation? And just who are Angstrom and Epzo? A perfunctory story is enhanced by excellent production values, visual effects and effective use of South African locations to create an alien environment. Whittaker continues to grow into the role of the Doctor, but her excessive crew of three companions leaves little room for individual character development and a vying for screen time. Malik is wasted in a mysterious role, whilst Lynch and Dooley do their best to bring life and motivation to their competitive characters. Whilst the storyline is refreshingly simple, it is also lacking in any real sense of peril – as the night threat is all too easily dispatched. There is promise here that the series can develop, but it will need to find space to allow its ensemble cast to breathe and develop in a format seemingly restricted to standalone episodes and a lack of two-parters, which would allow the stories and characters the requisite room. [PG]

Film Review – HELLFIGHTERS (1968)

Image result for hellfighters 1968Hellfighters (1968; USA; Technicolor; 121m) ***½  d. Andrew V. McLaglen; w. Clair Huffaker; ph. William H. Clothier; m. Leonard Rosenman.  Cast: John Wayne, Katharine Ross, Vera Miles, Jim Hutton, Bruce Cabot, Jay C. Flippen, Edward Faulkner, Barbara Stuart, Edmund Hashim. The story of macho oil well firefighters and their wives. Whilst it plays almost every cliché in the book – and set a few – this is still an entertaining, well-staged action-packed story. Likeable characters, witty and simplistic plot and episodic nature keeps us interested. Rosenman’s theme and score are memorable. Wayne’s character of Chance Buckman is based on real-life oil well firefighter ‘Red’ Adair. Adair, “Boots” Hansen, and “Coots” Matthews, all served as technical advisers on the film. [PG]

Film Review – THE GREEN BERETS (1968)

Image result for the green berets 1968Green Berets, The (1969; USA; Technicolor; 142m) **  d. Ray Kellogg, John Wayne; w. James Lee Barrett; ph. Winton C. Hoch; m. Miklós Rózsa.  Cast: John Wayne, David Janssen, Jim Hutton, Aldo Ray, Raymond St. Jacques, Bruce Cabot, Jack Soo, George Takai, Patrick Wayne, Luke Askew, Irene Tsu, Edward Faulkner, Jason Evers, Mike Henry, Vera Miles. A US army colonel picks two teams of crack Green Berets for a mission in South Vietnam. First off is to build and control a camp that is trying to be taken by the enemy the second mission is to kidnap a North Vietnamese General. Misguided attempt to justify US involvement in Vietnam War by serving it up with genre heroics seen in many flag-waving WWII movies. Wayne gives his usually competent square-jawed performance, but he is not well served by a long-winded and sloppy script plus uneven supporting performances. Based on the novel by Robin Moore. [12]

Film Review – THE WAR WAGON (1967)

Image result for the war wagon 1967War Wagon, The (1967; USA; Technicolor; 96m) ***  d. Burt Kennedy; w. Clair Huffaker; ph. William H. Clothier; m. Dimitri Tiomkin.  Cast: John Wayne, Kirk Douglas, Howard Keel, Robert Walker Jr., Keenan Wynn, Bruce Dern, Gene Evans, Bruce Cabot, Joanna Barnes, Sheb Wooley. A rancher returns from prison having survived being shot, to the ranch and gold that a businessman stole from him. He makes a deal with the man who shot him 5 years ago to join forces and steal a large gold shipment. Wayne and Douglas make a good team in this Western heist movie that promises more than it delivers. Keel also scores as a renegade Indian. Well shot action sequences and some witty dialogue help to mask some of the more fanciable elements of the script. Memorable Tiomkin score. Based on Huffaker’s novel “Badman”. [U]

TV Review – DOCTOR WHO: THE WOMAN WHO FELL TO EARTH (2018)

Image result for the woman who fell to earthDoctor Who: The Woman Who Fell to Earth (TV) (2018; UK; Colour; 60m) ***½  pr.  Nikki Wilson; d. Jamie Childs; w. Chris Chibnall; ph. Denis Crossan; m.  Segun Akinola. Cast: Jodie Whittaker, Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole, Mandip Gill, Sharon D. Clarke, Samuel Oatley, Johnny Dixon, Amit Shah, Asha Kingsley, Janine Mellor, Asif Khan, James Thackeray, Philip Abiodun, Stephen MacKenna, Everal A Walsh.  In a South Yorkshire city, Ryan Sinclair, Yasmin Khan and Graham O’Brien are about to have their lives changed forever, as a mysterious woman, unable to remember her own name, falls from the night sky. Can they believe a word she says? And can she help solve the strange events taking place across the city? Whittaker’s debut as the first female Doctor is a refreshingly straight-forward story but lacks any real wider threat being seemingly contained to a small area around Sheffield. Whittaker acquits herself well and in her post-regenerative state is sparky and witty. Walsh, Cole and Gill look promising as future companions. The whole thing is sumptuously photographed – mostly shot at night to create a more claustrophobic atmosphere – and the score is appropriately menacing, without being overbearing. This serves to give the story a more cinematic feel. As debut stories go it ticks most of the boxes and creates a new feel for the series that is seemingly a back to basics approach and that’s not necessarily a bad thing after some of the overblown and lazily written concepts that had crept in during Steven Moffat’s tenure. That said dumbing down the show would be a mistake. A promising, if flawed opener. The episode’s title is a reference to THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH (1976) starring David Bowie. [PG]

Film Review – EL DORADO (1966)

Related imageEl Dorado (1966; USA; Technicolor; 126m) ****½  d. Howard Hawks; w. Leigh Brackett; ph. Harold Rosson; m. Nelson Riddle.  Cast: John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, James Caan, Charlene Holt, Paul Fix, Arthur Hunnicutt, R.G. Armstrong, Edward Asner, Christopher George, Jim Davis, Michele Carey, Marina Ghane, Robert Donner, John Gabriel, Johnny Crawford. Cole Thornton, a gunfighter for hire, joins forces with an old friend, Sheriff J.P. Hara. Together with an old Indian fighter and a gambler, they help a rancher and his family fight a rival rancher that is trying to steal their water. Western re-teams Hawks and Wayne with the second half of the movie being a re-working of RIO BRAVO (1959). Many of the elements of that classic are repeated here and whilst it doesn’t quite reach the heights of its inspiration it is still fabulous entertainment. Mitchum is superb as drunken sheriff. Caan and Hunnicutt also shine as the young protegee and old Indian fighter. The poem recited by Mississippi is an actual poem called “El Dorado” by Edgar Allan Poe. Based on the novel “The Stars in Their Courses” by Harry Brown. [PG]

Film Review – THE POST (2017)

Image result for the post 2017Post, The (2017; USA; Colour; 116m) **** d. Steven Spielberg; w. Liz Hannah, Josh Singer; ph. Janusz Kaminski; m. John Williams.  Cast: Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Bruce Greenwood, Bob Odenkirk, Tracy Letts, Sarah Paulson, Matthew Rhys, Alison Brie, Carrie Coon, Jesse Plemons, Bradley Whitford, David Cross, Michael Stuhlbarg, Zack Woods, Pat Healy, Deirdre Lovejoy. Based on true events from 1971, in which American newspapers race to expose a government cover-up of Vietnam War secrets. Absorbing newspaper drama driven by top-class performances from Streep and Hanks. Occasional lapses into over-egging some of the politIcial and social messages is only drawback. Authentic recreation of environment and historical context add to power behind the message around freedom of the press. [12]

Film Review – THE SONS OF KATIE ELDER (1965)

John Wayne, Dean Martin, Michael Anderson Jr., and Earl Holliman in The Sons of Katie Elder (1965)Sons of Katie Elder, The (1965; USA; Technicolor; 122m) ***½  d. Henry Hathaway; w. William H. Wright, Allan Weiss, Harry Essex, Talbot Jennings; ph. Lucien Ballard; m. Elmer Bernstein.  Cast: John Wayne, Dean Martin, Earl Holliman, Michael Anderson Jr., Martha Hyer, Dennis Hopper, Strother Martin, George Kennedy, James Gregory, Paul Fix, Jeremy Slate, John Litel, John Doucette, James Westerfield, Rhys Williams. Ranch owner Katie Elder’s four sons determine to avenge the murder of their father and the swindling of their mother. Enjoyable, if slightly overlong, Western with Wayne in fine form supported by a strong cast including Martin, Holliman and Anderson Jr. as his brothers. Kennedy also good as a hired heavy. Rousing score by Bernstein. Filming was delayed after Wayne was diagnosed with lung cancer. [U]

Film Review – IN HARM’S WAY (1965)

Image result for in harm's way 1965In Harm’s Way (1965; USA; B&W; 165m) **½  d. Otto Preminger; w. Wendell Mayes; ph. Loyal Griggs; m. Jerry Goldsmith.  Cast: John Wayne, Kirk Douglas, Henry Fonda, George Kennedy, Patricia Neal, Tom Tryon, Paula Prentiss, Burgess Meredith, Slim Pickens, Dana Andrews, Brandon DeWilde, Jill Haworth, Stanley Holloway, Franchot Tone, Carroll O’Connor, Larry Hagman, Barbara Bouchet. A naval officer reprimanded after Pearl Harbor is later promoted to rear admiral and gets a second chance to prove himself against the Japanese. Bloated and flatly directed WWII drama has more than a hint of melodrama and fails to satisfy despite improvement in its final act. Script suffers by trying to open up too many dead-end sub-plots involving a casting mix of seasoned veterans and future stars. Virtues are crisp black and white cinematography and stoic performance from Wayne. Based on the novel “Harm’s Way” by James Bassett. [PG]