Film Review – STARSKY AND HUTCH (TV) (1975)

Image result for starsky and hutch 1975 pilot movieStarsky and Hutch (TV) (1975; USA; Colour; 73m) ***  d. Barry Shear; w. William Blinn; ph. Archie R. Dalzell; m. Lalo Schifrin.  Cast: David Soul, Paul Michael Glaser, Michael Lerner, Morgan Sterne, Michael Conrad, Antonio Fargas, Richard Ward, Gilbert Green, Carole Ita White, Don Billett, Gordon Jump, Karen Lamm. The two detectives investigating a double homicide, discover that the man and women who died were mistakenly murdered – it was the detectives themselves who were the intended targets. Pilot movie is a success due to the on-screen chemistry between Glaser’s demonstrative Starsky and Soul’s laid-back Hutch. Plot is okay and there is a well-shot finale pumped along by Schifrin’s score. Grittier than the eventual series and showing its influences to the extent that a barroom interrogation scene is almost a direct lift from THE FRENCH CONNECTION. Followed by a TV series (1975-9) and a big screen adaptation in 2004. [15]

Film Review – INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE (1989)

Image result for indiana jones and the last crusade blu-rayIndiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989; USA; DeLuxe; 127m) ***  d. Steven Spielberg; w. Jeffrey Boam, George Lucas, Menno Meyjes; ph. Douglas Slocombe; m. John Williams.  Cast: Harrison Ford, Sean Connery, Denholm Elliott, Alison Doody, John Rhys-Davies, Julian Glover, River Phoenix, Michael Byrne, Vernon Dobtcheff, Paul Maxwell, Kevork Malikyan, Alex Hyde-White, Richard Young, Alexei Sayle. When Dr. Henry Jones Sr. suddenly goes missing while pursuing the Holy Grail, eminent archaeologist Indiana Jones must follow in his father’s footsteps and stop the Nazis. Highlight is the chemistry and interplay between Ford and Connery. This third instalment is played more for laughs – and there are a fair few. Unfortunately, the change in tone diminishes from the adventure with overly-choreographed action set-pieces and a lazy screenplay overloaded with plot conveniences. Won Oscar for Sound Effects Editing (Ben Burtt and Richard Hymns). Followed by INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL (2008). [PG]

Film Review – CASABLANCA (1942)

Image result for casablanca blu-rayCasablanca (1942; USA; B&W; 102m) *****  d. Michael Curtiz; w. Julius J. Epstein, Philip G. Epstein, Howard Koch; ph. Arthur Edeson; m. Max Steiner.  Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains, Conrad Veidt, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, S.Z. Sakall, Madeleine LeBeau, Dooley Wilson, Joy Page, John Qualen, Leonid Kinskey. Set in unoccupied Africa during the early days of World War II: An American expatriate meets a former lover, with unforeseen complications. All-time classic is memorable for so many things. The performances are note perfect, with Bogart at his absolute best as café owner Rick and Bergman superbly conveying her torn emotions as his lost love Ilsa. The screenplay is packed full of quotable dialogue. Steiner’s score is dramatic, romantic and contains the immortal “As Time Goes By” sung at the piano by Wilson. Edeson’s photography captures the smoke-filled atmosphere and chaos of the unoccupied French territory. It is all blended with Curtiz’s direction to become one of the finest achievements of American cinema. Triple Oscar winner, for Best Picture, Director and Screenplay. Based on the play by Murray Burnett and Joan Alison. Developed as a TV series in 1955 and again in 1983. [U]

Film Review – JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS (1963)

Related imageJason and the Argonauts (1963; UK/USA; Eastmancolor; 104m) ****  d. Don Chaffey; w. Jan Read, Beverley Cross; ph. Wilkie Cooper; m. Bernard Herrmann.  Cast: Todd Armstrong, Nancy Kovack, Gary Raymond, Laurence Naismith, Niall MacGinnis, Michael Gwynn, Douglas Wilmer, Jack Gwillim, Honor Blackman, John Cairney, Patrick Troughton, Andrew Faulds, Nigel Green. The legendary Greek hero leads a team of intrepid adventurers in a perilous quest for the legendary Golden Fleece. Rousing fantasy adventure with memorable special effects design by Ray Harryhausen – including the giant bronze statue Talos and the army of skeletons. A game cast and resonant score by Herrmann add significantly. It took Harryhausen four months to produce the skeleton scene, a massive amount of time for a scene which lasts, at the most, three minutes. Remade for TV in 2000. [U]

Film Review – PASSENGERS (2016)

Image result for passengers 2016 blu-ray ukPassengers (2016; USA; Colour; 116m) **½ d. Morten Tyldum; w. Jon Spaihts; ph. Rodrigo Prieto; m. Thomas Newman.  Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Pratt, Michael Sheen, Laurence Fishburne, Andy Garcia, Inder Kumar, Jamie Soricelli, Vince Foster, Julee Cerda, Robert Larriviere, Barbara Jones. A spacecraft traveling to a distant colony planet and transporting thousands of people has a malfunction in its sleep chambers. As a result, two passengers are awakened 90 years early. Visually impressive sci-fi thriller/love story pushes all the familiar buttons through its highly contrived plot, which often defies logic. Pratt and Lawrence are appealing enough, but both the romance and the thrills are strictly by the numbers. Also shot in 3-D. [12]

Film Review – THE GUNS OF NAVARONE (1961)

Image result for the guns of navarone 1960Guns of Navarone, The (1961; USA; Eastmancolor; 158m) ****  d. J. Lee Thompson; w. Carl Foreman; ph. Oswald Morris; m. Dimitri Tiomkin.  Cast: Gregory Peck, David Niven, Anthony Quinn, Stanley Baker, Anthony Quayle, Irene Papas, Gia Scala, James Darren, James Robertson Justice, Richard Harris, Bryan Forbes, Allan Cuthbertson, Michael Trubshawe, Percy Herbert, George Mikell. A British team is sent to cross occupied Greek territory and destroy the massive German gun emplacement that commands a key sea channel. Top-notch WWII action-adventure yarn with well-staged set-pieces, a strong cast and a acript that is more thoughtful than usual for the genre. Peck, Quinn and Niven deliver memorable performances. Oscar winner for Special Effects (Bill Warrington, Chris Greenham). Based on the novel by Alistair MacLean. Followed by FORCE 10 FROM NAVARONE (1978). [PG]

Book Review – GET CARTER (formerly JACK’S RETURN HOME) (1970) by Ted Lewis

GET CARTER (formerly JACK’S RETURN HOME) by TED LEWIS (1970, Allison & Busby, 286pp) ****½

Blurb: Doncaster, and Jack Carter is home for a funeral – his brother Frank’s. Frank’s car was found at the bottom of a cliff, with Frank inside. He was not only dead drunk but dead as well. What could have made sensible Frank down a bottle of whisky and get behind the wheel? For Jack, his death doesn’t add up. So he decides to talk to a few people, do some sniffing around. He does, but is soon told to stop. By Gerald and Les, his bosses from the smoke. Not to mention the men who run things in Doncaster, who aren’t happy with Jack’s little holiday at home. They want him back in London, and fast. Now Frank was a mild man and did as he was told, but Jack’s not a bit like that …

Get Carter became a seminal British gangster film on its release in 1971. Few were aware of its source novel, Jack’s Return Home, written by Ted Lewis. The book was one of many violent pulp thrillers written in the sixties and seventies that capitalised on the increasing promiscuity of the time. Jack Carter is a fixer for a London mob returning to his northern hometown to bury his brother. The nature of his brother’s death – supposedly a car accident due to heavy drinking – does not sit with Carter, who knows his brother to be a decent man. His determination to find out the real reason for the death of Frank Carter drives Jack’s violent actions through the book. As he closes the net he seeks retribution on all involved. The book on the surface seems like a standard revenge thriller plot, but there is much to admire in the intricacies of Lewis’ writing and his gradual unravelling of the mystery. Written in the first person, it is testamant to Michael Caine’s portayal that it is his voice you hear. Whilst the movie changed some elements of Lewis’ novel – notably resetting the story in Newcastle and the nature of the climax – it retains the core plot progression and atmosphere. Lewis would write two prequels – Jack Carter’s Law and Jack Carter and the Mafia Pidgeon – but he would never better this prime example of British pulp.

Casting rumours/speculation for Shaft reboot/sequel

It is being reported in Variety, that Samuel L jackson has been approached to reprise his role from 2000’s Shaft with Jessie T. Usher being lined up to play his son.
Samuel L Jackson and Jessie TIt’s the usual “sources tell us…” approach to reporting, so we’ll wait and see. The film is set to be directed by Tim Story from a script by Kenya Barris and Alex Barnow.

UPDATE (19/8): A further report in Deadline states the title of the film will be Son of Shaft and that Richard Roundtree is also lined up to appear with production due to start before the end of autumn. Usher’s John Shaft III is reported to be an FBI agent and cyber expert whose methods will clash with the old school approach of his father.

Film Review – THE STING (1973)

Image result for the sting 1973Sting, The (1973; USA; Technicolor; 129m) ****½  d. George Roy Hill; w. David S. Ward; ph. Robert Surtees; m. Marvin Hamlisch (adaptor), Scott Joplin.  Cast: Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Robert Shaw, Robert Earl Jones, Charles Durning, Ray Walston, Eileen Brennan, Harold Gould, Dana Elcar, Jack Kehoe, John Heffernan, Dimitra Arliss, James Sloyan, Charles Dierkop, Sally Kirkland. In 1930s Chicago, a young con man seeking revenge for his murdered partner teams up with a master of the big con to win a fortune from a criminal banker. Newman and redford along with director Hill repeat the success of their teaming on BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID with this caper. Great period design and a memorable score add to the charm and humour provided by a splendid cast. Won seven Oscars including Best Picture; Director; Screenplay; Art Direction (Henry Bumstead, James W. Payne); Costume Design (Edith Head); Editing and Music Adaptation. Followed by THE STING II (1983). [PG]

Film Review – THE MARTIAN (2015)

Related imageMartian, The (2015; USA; Colour; 141m) ****  d. Ridley Scott; w. Drew Goddard; ph. Dariusz Wolski; m. Harry Gregson-Williams.  Cast: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kate Mara, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, Sebastian Stan, Mackenzie Davis, Michael Peña, Sean Bean, Donald Glover, Aksel Hennie, Mark O’Neal, Brian Caspe. An astronaut is stranded on Mars with only meagre supplies, he must draw upon his ingenuity, wit and spirit to subsist and find a way to signal to Earth that he is alive. Engrossing story with an excellent central performance from Damon along with a capable supporting cast. Whilst condensing an epic tale of endurance it may cut some corners, it has a spirit and sense of humour that keeps the viewer enthralled. Use of 1970s disco songs adds to the feel-good factor, which is heightened in true Hollywood fashion during the tense rescue attempt. Based on the novel by Andy Weir. Also shot in 3-D. [12]