Film Review Round-up – THE EIGER SANCTION (1975); THE FOG (1980) and LAST MAN STANDING (1996)

119934094Eiger Sanction, The (1975; USA; Technicolor; 123m) ∗∗∗  d. Clint Eastwood; w. Hal Dresner, Warren Murphy, Rod Whitaker; ph. Frank Stanley; m. John Williams.  Cast: Clint Eastwood, George Kennedy, Jack Cassidy, Thayer David, Vonetta McGee, Heidi Bruhl, Reiner Schone, Michael Grimm, Jean-Pierre Bernard, Brenda Venus, Gregory Walcott, Candice Rialson, Elaine Shore, Dan Howard, Jack Kosslyn. A classical art professor and collector, who doubles as a professional assassin, is coerced out of retirement to avenge the murder of an old friend. Lame spy story is not one of Eastwood’s best efforts but is rescued by spectacular and thrilling mountain-climbing scenes. Eastwood did all of his own stunts. Based on the novel by Rod Whitaker (as Trevanian). [15]

images (2)Fog, The (1980; USA; Metrocolor; 90m) ∗∗∗∗  d. John Carpenter; w. John Carpenter, Debra Hill; ph. Dean Cundey; m. John Carpenter.  Cast: Adrienne Barbeau, Hal Holbrook, Janet Leigh, Jamie Lee Curtis, John Houseman, Tom Atkins, Nancy Kyes, Charles Cyphers, George “Buck” Flower, Jim Haynie, James Canning, Ty Mitchell, John F. Goff, Regina Waldon, Darrow Igus. A Northern California fishing town, built 100 years ago over an old leper colony, is the target for revenge by a killer fog containing zombie-like ghosts seeking revenge for their deaths. Creepy, atmospheric and with more than its fair share of shocks. Carpenter nicely ratchets up the tension and a game cast keep the viewer engaged. Eerie score by Carpenter heightens the fear factor. Remade in 2005. [15]

298841-lastmanstandingLast Man Standing (1996; USA; DeLuxe; 101m) ∗∗½  d. Walter Hill; w. Walter Hill; ph. Lloyd Ahern II; m. Ry Cooder.  Cast: Bruce Willis, Bruce Dern, William Sanderson, Christopher Walken, David Patrick Kelly, Michael Imperioli, Karina Lombard, Ned Eisenberg, Alexandra Powers, Ken Jenkins, R.D. Call, Ted Markland, Patrick Kilpatrick, Luis Contreras, Leslie Mann. A drifting gunslinger-for-hire finds himself in the middle of an ongoing war between the Irish and Italian mafia in a Prohibition era ghost town. Cartoon violence abounds in this tale of cross and double-cross. Willis is effective, but it is difficult to connect with any of the characters. Re-working of Akira Kurosawa’s YOJIMBO (1961) (story by Ryûzô Kikushima and Kurosawa), which in turn was remade as FISTFUL OF DOLLARS (1964). [15]

Film Review Round-up – THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES (2014); HORSE FEATHERS (1932) and FISTFUL OF DOLLARS (1964)

B00R3DO58KHobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, The (2014; New Zealand/USA; Colour; 144m) ∗∗∗½  d. Peter Jackson; w. Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Guillermo del Toro; ph. Andrew Lesnie; m. Howard Shore. Cast: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Luke Evans, Orlando Bloom, Aidan Turner, Evangeline Lilly, Lee Pace, Ryan Gage, Ken Stott, Graham McTavish, James Nesbitt, Jed Brophy, Stephen Hunter, John Callen, Adam Brown, Dean O’Gorman, William Kircher, Peter Hambleton, Mark Hadlow, Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving, Billy Connolly, Christopher Lee, Stephen Fry, Ian Holm, Sylvester McCoy, Manu Bennett. As the dwarves dwell in the mountains, forces of Orcs and Elves descend on them, bringing possibility of a war that threatens all of Middle-earth. Bilbo must take it upon himself to end the conflict, but his actions may come at a terrible cost. Spectacular, action-packed finale, which is light on plot and characterisation and includes some implausible set-pieces. This is essentially one long battle. The visuals are stunning, however. Based on the novel “The Hobbit” by J.R.R. Tolkien. Also shot in 3-D. [12]

220px-HorseFeaHorse Feathers (1932; USA; B&W; 68m) ∗∗∗∗½  d. Norman Z. McLeod; w. Bert Kalmar, Harry Ruby, S.J. Perelman, Will B. Johnstone; ph. Ray June; m. John Leipold.  Cast: Groucho Marx, Harpo Marx, Chico Marx, Zeppo Marx, Thelma Todd, David Landau, Florine McKinney, Nat Pendleton, James Pierce, Robert Greig. Quincy Adams Wagstaff, the new president of Huxley U, hires bumblers Baravelli and Pinky to help his school win the big football game against rival Darwin U. Fast and furious Marxian lunacy with the gags flowing thick and fast. This one of their most sustained funny films. Although the present running time (68m) is very close to that of the original (70m), there are still a few bits and pieces and lines of dialogue missing due to re-editing in 1935 in order to bring the film up to Production Code standards. [U]

518oyd3UP1L._SY300_Fistful of Dollars (1964; Italy/Spain/West Germany; Technicolor; 99m) ∗∗∗½  d. Sergio Leone; w. Víctor Andrés Catena, Jaime Comas Gil, Sergio Leone; ph. Massimo Dallamano, Federico G. Larraya; m. Ennio Morricone; ed. Roberto Cinquini, Alfonso Santacana.  Cast: Clint Eastwood, Mario Brega, Gian Maria Volonte, Marianne Koch, Jose Calvo, Wolfgang Lukschy, Joseph Egger, Sieghardt Rupp, Antonio Prieto, Margarita Lozano, Daniel Martin, Benito Stefanelli, Bruno Carotenuto, Aldo Sambrell. A wandering gunfighter plays two rival families against each other in a town torn apart by greed, pride, and revenge. First of Leone’s “Dollars” trilogy is relatively low key compared to its successors, but highly influential on the genre. Eastwood’s presence is immediately apparent and the story is told with economy and style. A remake of YOJIMBO (1961), which itself was based on the as yet unadapted 1929 novel “Red Harvest” by Dashiell Hammett. Not released in the US until 1967. Original title: PER UN PUGNO DI DOLLARI. Followed by FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE (1965). [15]

Book Review – THE SILKWORM (2014) by Robert Galbraith

THE SILKWORM by ROBERT GALBRAITH (2014, Sphere, Paperback, 584pp) ∗∗∗∗
      Blurb: When novelist Owen Quine goes missing, his wife calls in private detective Cormoran Strike. At first, she just thinks he has gone off by himself for a few days – as he has done before – and she wants Strike to find him and bring him home.
      But as Strike investigates, it becomes clear that there is more to Quine’s disappearance than his wife realises. The novelist has just completed a manuscript featuring poisonous pen-portraits of almost everyone he knows. If the novel were published it would ruin lives – so there are a lot of people who might want to silence him.

51nAhDhrL8LBy now it’s a well-known fact that author Robert Galbraith, who wrote the well-received The Cuckoo Calling, is in fact J.K. Rowling. For her second book featuring Afghanistan vet turned private eye, Cormoran Strike, Rowling weaves a tight mystery plot around the murder of a controversial novelist. The literary world is one very familiar to Rowling and she has a great amount of fun painting colourful characters.

There is something reassuringly old-fashioned about the structure of this book, which broadly sticks to the multiple suspect formula of the genre. Where Rowling wins out is in her depiction of her roguish one-legged hero, his professional relationship with his assistant, Robin and in the almost caricature cast of suspects. The writing is easy and the managing of the plot clever.

Film Review Round-up – BLACK PATCH (1957); INTERSTELLAR (2014) and GO WEST (1940)

113027-338Black Patch (1957; USA; B&W; 82m) ∗∗∗  d. Allen H. Miner; w. Leo Gordon; ph. Edward Colman; m. Jerry Goldsmith.  Cast: George Montgomery, Diane Brewster, Tom Pittman, Leo Gordon, House Peters Jr., Jorge Treviño, Lynn Cartwright, Peter Brocco, Ted Jacques, Strother Martin, Gilman Rankin, Ned Glass, John O’Malley, Stanley Adams, Sebastian Cabot. A one-eyed marshal finds himself accused of a killing due to his past relationship with the dead man’s wife, prompting a young gunslinger to set out to avenge his death.  Unusual western is a heavy-handed and only partially successful attempt to capitalise on psychological elements popular at the time in the genre. The first film scored by Jerry Goldsmith. [PG]

images (1)Interstellar (2014; USA/UK; Colour; 169m) ∗∗∗½  d. Christopher Nolan; w. Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan; ph. Hoyte van Hoytema; m. Hans Zimmer.  Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Bill Irwin, John Lithgow, Casey Affleck, David Gyasi, Michael Caine, Matt Damon, Wes Bentley, Mackenzie Foy, Timothée Chalamet, Topher Grace, David Oyelowo, Ellen Burstyn. A team of explorers travel through a wormhole in an attempt to find a potentially habitable planet that will sustain humanity. Big concept sci-fi knows how to play a crowd, gets by on strong lead performances and holds attention despite its script failing to fully realise the potential of the ideas explored. Won Oscar for Best Visual Effects (Paul J. Franklin, Andrew Lockley, Ian Hunter, Scott R. Fisher). Based on a story by Kip Thorne. [12]

download (5)Go West (1940; USA; B&W; 80m) ∗∗∗½  d. Edward Buzzell; w. Irving Brecher; ph. Leonard Smith; m. George Bassman, George Stoll; ed. Blanche Sewell.  Cast: Groucho Marx, Chico Marx, Harpo Marx, John Carroll, Diana Lewis, Walter Woolf King, Robert Barrat, Tully Marshall, June MacCloy, George Lessey. The Marx Brothers come to the rescue in the Wild West when a young man, trying to settle an old family feud so he can marry the girl he loves, runs afoul of crooks. One of the later Marx comedies, has a bland story but some splendid gags – notably the train chase climax. [U]

Shaft #5 – Early Reviews

B7rzq1CCUAAX5rW (1)Here are some early reviews of the fifth instalment of David Walker and Bilquis Evely’s Shaft comic book series:

“David Walker’s script is a work of noirish literary excellence and the artwork from Bilquis Evely Daniela Miwa deftly manage the challenging but deeply engaging subject matter. This book is fantastic and this series is a treasure.” – ComicBookResources.com

“…at issue #5, Shaft is but one issue away from ending its extremely short run, and it’s nowhere near enough. As far as an origin story is concerned, Walker’s vivid telling goes above and beyond the call that’s normally expected from such tales. To mine a long-existing intellectual property that’s as instantly iconic as Shaft and yield such wonderfully rich results is a true rarity. Something this good only deserves the chance to continue.” – Jarrod Jones, DoomRocket.,com

“The fifth issue of the Dynamite series looks to set a lot of pieces in place. Not only do readers get a lot more information about some of the characters in the story, Walker spends time explaining about the real story behind all of this and it goes much further and much higher than anyone was thinking. Evely and Miwa continue to do fantastic work in setting a tone for each sequence and environment in excellent, yet subtle ways. No doubt, with the type of closing page that rounds out issue five of Shaft, readers are due for some real excitement next time.” – Dan Pennacchia, AllComic.com

Film Review Round-up – Three more Bonds – FOR YOUR EYES ONLY (1981); FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE (1963) and GOLDENEYE (1995)

81947_largeFor Your Eyes Only (1981; UK; Technicolor; 127m) ∗∗∗½  d. John Glen; w. Richard Maibaum, Michael G. Wilson; ph. Alan Hume; m. Bill Conti; ed. John Grover.  Cast: Roger Moore, Carole Bouquet, Topol, Lois Maxwell, Lynn-Holly Johnson, Julian Glover, Jill Bennett, Desmond Llewelyn, Geoffrey Keen, Walter Gotell, Cassandra Harris, Michael Gothard, John Wyman, Jack Hedley, James Villiers. Agent 007 is assigned to hunt for a lost British encryption device and prevent it from falling into enemy hands. Take out the silly prologue and epilogue and this is the straightest Bond for quite some time – and all the better for it. There are occasional lapses in pace and Moore is beginning to look a little old for the part, but the action sequences deliver excellent thrills. Bill Conti’s score, though, is the weakest of the series. Based on the short stories “For Your Eyes Only” and “Risico” by Ian Fleming. [PG]

imagesFrom Russia with Love (1963; UK; Technicolor; 115m) ∗∗∗∗  d. Terence Young; w. Richard Maibaum, Johanna Harwood; ph. Ted Moore; m. John Barry; ed. Peter R. Hunt.  Cast: Sean Connery, Daniela Bianchi, Pedro Armendáriz, Lotte Lenya, Robert Shaw, Bernard Lee, Eunice Gayson, Walter Gotell, Francis De Wolff, George Pastell, Nadja Regin, Lois Maxwell, Aliza Gur, Martine Beswick, Vladek Sheybal. James Bond willingly falls into an assassination ploy involving a naive Russian beauty in order to retrieve a Soviet encryption device that was stolen by SPECTRE. Second 007 film is a tense and well-made espionage thriller. The gadgets are still in the background here and Bond is left to his intelligence and his wits. Shaw makes an excellent heavy and Lenya is suitably creepy as Rosa Klebb. The production values are a notch up on DR. NO and the result is an exciting and action-packed adventure. Based on the novel by Ian Fleming. [PG]

download (4)GoldenEye (1995; UK/USA; Rankcolor; 130m) ∗∗∗½  d. Martin Campbell; w. Jeffrey Caine, Bruce Feirstein; ph. Phil Meheux; m. Eric Serra; ed. Terry Rawlings.  Cast: Pierce Brosnan, Sean Bean, Izabella Scorupco, Famke Janssen, Joe Don Baker, Judi Dench, Robbie Coltrane, Gottfried John, Alan Cumming, Tchéky Karyo, Desmond Llewelyn, Samantha Bond, Michael Kitchen, Serena Gordon, Simon Kunz. James Bond teams up with the lone survivor of a destroyed Russian research centre to stop the hijacking of a nuclear space weapon by a fellow agent believed to be dead. The plot may misfire occasionally but Brosnan’s debut outing is the best Bond for years. Well directed and with some exceptional action set-pieces. Janssen is sexy and psychoytic, but Bean lacks charisma as the villain. Based on a story by Michael France. [12]

Film Review Round-up – 12 YEARS A SLAVE (2014); THE MAN FROM COLORADO (1948) and DUCK SOUP (1933)

51sTNjOLpGL._SY300_12 Years a Slave (2013; USA/UK; DeLuxe; 134m) ∗∗∗∗  d. Steve McQueen; w. John Ridley; ph. Sean Bobbitt; m. Hans Zimmer; ed. Joe Walker.  Cast: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Paul Giamatti, Lupita Nyong’o, Sarah Paulson, Brad Pitt, Alfre Woodard, Michael K. Williams, Garret Dillahunt, Quvenzhané Wallis, Scoot McNairy, Taran Killam, Bryan Batt, Dwight Henry. Based on a true story, this is a riveting account of a free black man kidnapped from New York and sold into brutal slavery in mid-1850s Louisiana, and the inspiring story of his desperate struggle to return home to his family. A tough watch that holds the viewer through the brilliant performances of the cast – notably Ejiofor. The screenplay serves to tell the story without recourse to Hollywood conventions. Won Oscars for Best Picture; Supporting Actress (Nyong’o) and Adapted Screenplay. Based on the biography by Solomon Northup. [15]

download (3)Man from Colorado, The (1948; USA; Technicolor; 100m) ∗∗∗  d. Henry Levin; w. Robert Hardy Andrews, Ben Maddow; ph. William E. Snyder; m. George Duning; ed. Charles Nelson.  Cast: Glenn Ford, William Holden, Ellen Drew, Ray Collins, Edgar Buchanan, Jerome Courtland, James Millican, Jim Bannon, William Phillips. Two friends return home after their discharge from the army after the Civil War. However, one of them has had deep-rooted psychological damage due to his experiences during the war, and as his behaviour becomes more erratic–and violent–his friend desperately tries to find a way to help him. Attempts to comment on the effects of war, but Ford descends into the melodramatic in his interpretation of the tortured judge. Good production values and serviceable script are pluses. Based on a story by Borden Chase. [PG]

0023969Duck Soup (1933; USA; B&W; 68m) ∗∗∗∗  d. Leo McCarey; w. Bert Kalmar, Harry Ruby, Arthur Sheekman, Nat Perrin; ph. Henry Sharp; m. John Leipold; ed. LeRoy Stone.  Cast: Groucho Marx, Chico Marx, Harpo Marx, Zeppo Marx, Edmund Breese, Louis Calhern, Margaret Dumont, Edgar Kennedy, Charles Middleton, Edwin Maxwell, Raquel Torres, Verna Hillie, Leonid Kinskey, William Worthington, Eric Mayne. Rufus T. Firefly is named president/dictator of bankrupt Freedonia and declares war on neighboring Sylvania over the love of wealthy Mrs. Teasdale. This is top-drawer Marxian humour. A satirical and zany masterpiece with numerous memorable set-pieces. Unlike many of their other films this one not only sustains the laughter level to the end but actually ramps it up a level in the last fifteen minutes. Last appearance of Zeppo Marx in The Marx Brothers films. In 2007, the American Film Institute ranked this as the #60 Greatest Movie of All Time. [U]

Film Review Round-up – SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR (2014); HEARTBREAK RIDGE (1986) and MANHATTAN (1979)

109548_mediumSin City: A Dame to Kill For (2014; USA; DeLuxe; 102m) ∗∗∗ d. Robert Rodriguez, Frank Miller; w. Frank Miller, Robert Rodriguez; ph. Robert Rodriguez; m. Robert Rodriguez, Carl Thiel; ed. Robert Rodriguez.  Cast: Josh Brolin, Eva Green, Mickey Rourke, Rosario Dawson, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Jessica Alba, Ray Liotta, Juno Temple, Jeremy Piven, Michael Madsen, Jamie Chung, Jaime King, Dennis Haysbert, Crystal McCahill, Julia Garner. Some of Sin City’s most hard-boiled citizens cross paths with a few of its more reviled inhabitants. Visually impressive and stylistically violent follow-up lacks the originality of its predecessor in both approach and story. Green is the film’s best asset in an alluring performance. Based on he comic book by Frank Miller. Also shot in 3-D. [18]

5318b63fb4deeHeartbreak Ridge (1986; USA; Technicolor; 130m) ∗∗∗½ d. Clint Eastwood; w. James Carabatsos; ph. Jack N. Green; m. Lennie Niehaus; ed. Joel Cox.  Cast: Clint Eastwood, Marsha Mason, Everett McGill, Bo Svenson, Mario Van Peebles, Moses Gunn, Eileen Heckart, Arlen Dean Snyder, Boyd Gaines, Rodney Hill, Vincent Inzarry, Ramon Franco, Peter Koch, Tom Villard, Mike Gomez. A hard-nosed, hard-living Marine gunnery sergeant clashes with his superiors and his ex-wife as he takes command of a spoiled recon platoon with a bad attitude. Film coasts entertainingly on Eastwood’s supremely charismatic performance and ploughs a similar furrow to SANDS OF IWO JIMA, although the stakes are lower. [15]

download (2)Manhattan (1979; USA; B&W; 96m) ∗∗∗∗∗ d. Woody Allen; w. Woody Allen, Marshall Brickman; ph. Gordon Willis; m. George Gershwin; ed. Susan E. Morse.  Cast: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Mariel Hemingway, Meryl Streep, Michael Murphy, Anne Byrne Hoffman, Tisa Farrow, Wallace Shawn, Karen Allen, David Rasche, Karen Ludwig, Michael O’Donoghue, Bella Abzug, Gary Weis. A divorced New Yorker currently dating a high-schooler brings himself to look for love in the mistress of his best friend instead. This classic is bittersweet, accurate and ultimately poignant and is framed by sumptuous cinematography and backed by the soaring music of Gershwin. Allen produces an insightful slice of New York life through the eyes of his characters. [15]