Film Review – BATTLESTAR GALACTICA (1978)

Battlestar Galactica (1978) - Binge Watch Like A Pro!BATTLESTAR GALACTICA (1978, USA) **½
Adventure, Sci-Fi
dist. Universal Pictures (USA), Cinema International Corporation (CIC) (UK); pr co. Glen A. Larson Productions / Universal TV; d. Richard A. Colla; w. Glen A. Larson; exec pr. Glen A. Larson; pr. John Dykstra; sup pr. Leslie Stevens; ass pr. Winrich Kolbe; ph. Ben Colman (Technicolor. 35mm. Spherical. 1.33:1 (Television ratio), 1.85:1 (theatrical ratio)); m. Stu Phillips; s. “It’s Love, Love Love” m/l. Sue Collins, John Andrew Tartaglia; m sup. ; ed. Robert L. Kimble, Leon Ortiz-Gil, Larry Strong; ad. John E. Chilberg II; set d. Lowell Chambers, Mickey S. Michaels; cos. Jean-Pierre Dorléac; m/up. Scott H. Eddo, Marvin C. Thompson, Paul Griffin, Joy Zapata; sd. James R. Alexander (Mono | Sensurround (theatrical print)); sfx. Joe Goss, Karl G. Miller, John Peyser; vfx. John Dykstra; st. Hubie Kerns Jr.; rel. 7 July 1978 (Canada), 12 April 1979 (UK), 18 May 1979 (USA); cert: PG; r/t. 125m.

cast: Richard Hatch (Captain Apollo), Dirk Benedict (Lieutenant Starbuck), Lorne Greene (Commander Adama), Herbert Jefferson Jr. (Lieutenant Boomer), Maren Jensen (Lieutenant Athena), Tony Swartz (Flight Sergeant Jolly), Noah Hathaway (Boxey), Terry Carter (Colonel Tigh), Lew Ayres (President Adar), Wilfrid Hyde-White (Sire Anton), John Colicos (Count Baltar), Laurette Spang (Cassiopeia), John Fink (Dr. Paye), Jane Seymour (Serina), Ray Milland (Sire Uri), Ed Begley Jr. (Ensign Greenbean), Rick Springfield (Lieutenant Zac), Randi Oakes (Blonde Taurus), Norman Stuart (Statesman), David Greenan (Flight Officer Omega).

The Twelve Colonies of Man are annihilated by the Cylons. Adama (Greene), commanding the last surviving Battlestar, takes it upon himself to lead all remaining survivors aboard 220 ships to find a new home. After the Galactica’s fighter pilots successfully navigate a path through the Nova of Madagon minefield, the spoiled Sire Uri proposes to settle down on Carillon, where food and entertainment are provided by the natives. However, Adama suspects a Cylon trap. Released theatrically on the back of the phenomenal success of STAR WARS (1977), this edited version of the TV series pilot cannot escape its small-screen origins. This despite some excellent model work and a well-edited and pacey space battle in the opening scenes. The story meanders on from this point into standard episodic TV fare, with a workmanlike approach to photography and direction. Benedict’s roguish fighter pilot is an obvious riff on Han Solo, but the actor lacks Harrison Ford’s nuance, whilst Hatch makes a bland hero. There is a strong guest cast assembled, including Ayres, Milland, Hyde-White, Begley, Jr. and Seymour, which is underused. Costumes and set design are typical of genre TV of the period and there is even a disco-styled song sung by a unique female trio. The TV pilot version, broadcast in the USA on 17 September 1978 as “Saga of a Star World”, runs 133m. Followed by a TV series 1978-9, two more big-screen features MISSION GALACTICA: THE CYLON ATTACK (1979) and CONQUEST OF THE EARTH (1980) were compiled from TV episodes. Later followed by a re-imagined and far grittier TV series 2003-9.

Film Review – MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS (2017)

The Jam Report | REVIEW – 'Murder on the Orient Express'MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS (2017, USA/Malta) ***
Crime, Drama, Mystery
dist. 20th Century Fox; pr co. Twentieth Century Fox / Genre Films / Kinberg Genre / The Mark Gordon Company / Scott Free Productions / Latina Pictures / The Estate of Agatha Christie; d. Kenneth Branagh; w. Michael Green (based on the novel by Agatha Christie); exec pr. Matthew Jenkins, Dillon Kivo, James Prichard, Aditya Sood, Hilary Strong; pr. Kenneth Branagh, Mark Gordon, Judy Hofflund, Simon Kinberg, Michael Schaefer, Ridley Scott; ass pr. William Moseley; ph. Haris Zambarloukos (Colour. 70 mm (Kodak Vision 2383), D-Cinema. ARRIRAW (6.5K) (source format) (some scenes), Digital Intermediate (4K) (master format), Dolby Vision, Panavision Super 70 (source format). 2.39:1); m. Patrick Doyle; ed. Mick Audsley; pd. Jim Clay; ad. Dominic Masters; set d. Rebecca Alleway, Caroline Smith; cos. Alexandra Byrne; m/up. Chiara Ugolini, Luca Saccuman; sd. James Mather (Dolby Atmos | DTS 70 mm (70 mm prints)); sfx. David Watkins; vfx. Helen Judd, Veronique Messier Lauzon, Josiane Fradette, Jacinthe Côté, Mary Meng, Tim Pounds-Cornish, Peter Hume, Patrick Ledda, George Murphy, Sylvain Theroux, Vincent Poitras, Mathieu Raynault; st. James O’Donnell; rel. 3 November 2017 (UK), 10 November 2017 (USA); cert: 12; r/t. 114m.

cast: Kenneth Branagh (Hercule Poirot), Penélope Cruz (Pilar Estravados), Willem Dafoe (Gerhard Hardman), Judi Dench (Princess Dragomiroff), Johnny Depp (Edward Ratchett), Josh Gad (Hector MacQueen), Leslie Odom Jr. (Dr. Arbuthnot), Michelle Pfeiffer (Caroline Hubbard), Daisy Ridley (Miss Mary Debenham), Tom Bateman (Bouc), Derek Jacobi (Edward Henry Masterman), Lucy Boynton (Countess Elena Andrenyi), Olivia Colman (Hildegarde Schmidt), Manuel Garcia-Rulfo (Biniamino Marquez), Gerard Horan (Aynesworth), Sergei Polunin (Count Rudolph Andrenyi), Phil Dunster (Colonel John Armstrong), Miranda Raison (Sonia Armstrong), Hayat Kamille (Susanne), Marwan Kenzari (Pierre Michel).

Branagh directs and leads an all-star cast in this mystery based on the best-selling novel by Agatha Christie. Everyone’s a suspect when a murder is committed on a lavish train ride, and a brilliant detective must race against time to solve the puzzle before the killer strikes again. This is the second big screen adaptation of Christie’s celebrated, but heavily manufactured mystery. Branagh dons a bewilderingly large moustache but manages to capture the essence of the Belgian detective. However, in the director’s seat, he falls short of adding the required slow burn tension and instead focuses on the visuals, which are heavily digitised giving the scenery the look of a painting. He also embellishes the story with a couple of action sequences that do not serve the plot and merely seem designed to change the pace and fill the Hollywood quota. That said the basic story is adhered to and even though a tendency toward melodrama often creeps in, there is enough here to hold the interest, if not to match Sidney Lumet’s 1974 adaptation. Also previously filmed for TV in 2001, 2010 and 2015.

Film Review – MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN (2019)

Motherless Brooklyn | FlixsterMOTHERLESS BROOKLYN (2019, USA) ****
Mystery, Drama, Crime
dist. Warner Bros.; pr co. Class 5 Films / MWM Studios / Warner Bros. Pictures; d. Edward Norton; w. Edward Norton (based on the novel by Jonathan Lethem); exec pr. Adrian Alperovich, Sue Kroll, Daniel Nadler, Brian Niranjan Sheth, Robert F. Smith; pr. Michael Bederman, Bill Migliore, Daniel Nadler, Edward Norton, Gigi Pritzker, Rachel Shane, Robert F. Smith; ass pr. Silvana Tropea; ph. Dick Pope (Colour. D-Cinema. ARRIRAW (3.4K) (source format), Digital Intermediate (2K) (master format). 1.85:1); m. Daniel Pemberton; m sup. Linda Cohen; ed. Joe Klotz; pd. Beth Mickle; ad. Michael Ahern; set d. Kara Zeigon; cos. Amy Roth; m/up. Louise McCarthy, Joanna McCarthy, Kerrie Smith, John Quaglia, Sincere Gilles; sd. Paul Hsu (Dolby Digital); sfx. Jimmy Hays; vfx. Matthew Fernandez, Steven Weigle, Rebecca Dunn, Artur Elson, Vance Miller, Mark Russell, Eran Dinur, David Lebensfeld, Grant Miller, Osvaldo Andreaus, John Bair, Stevie Ramone, Luke DiTommaso; st. Stephen A. Pope; rel. 30 August 2019 (USA), 6 December 2019 (UK); cert: 15; r/t. 144m.

cast: Edward Norton (Lionel Essrog), Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Laura Rose), Alec Baldwin (Moses Randolph), Willem Dafoe (Paul Randolph), Bruce Willis (Frank Minna), Ethan Suplee (Gilbert Coney), Cherry Jones (Gabby Horowitz), Bobby Cannavale (Tony Vermonte), Dallas Roberts (Danny Fantl), Josh Pais (William Lieberman), Radu Spinghel (Giant Man), Fisher Stevens (Lou), Peter Gray Lewis (Mayor), Robert Wisdom (Billy Rose), Michael Kenneth Williams (Trumpet Man), Isaiah J. Thompson (King Rooster Piano Player), Russell Hall (King Rooster Bassist), Joe Farnsworth (King Rooster Drummer), Jerry Weldon (King Rooster Saxophonist), Eric Berryman (King Rooster Bartender).

Set against the backdrop of 1950s New York, the story follows Lionel Essrog (Norton), a lonely private detective afflicted with Tourette’s Syndrome, as he ventures to solve the murder of his mentor and only friend, Frank Minna (Willis). Armed only with a few clues and the powerful engine of his obsessive mind, Lionel unravels closely-guarded secrets that hold the fate of the whole city in the balance. In a mystery that carries him from gin-soaked jazz clubs in Harlem to the hard-edged slums of Brooklyn and, finally, into the gilded halls of New York’s power brokers, Lionel contends with thugs, corruption and the most dangerous man in the city to honour his friend and save the woman who might be his own salvation. Norton has delivered a movie from a bygone era with this noir-ish tale of murder and corruption. Norton himself is excellent as the afflicted detective, whilst a strong support cast includes Baldwin as the corrupt planning official and Dafoe as his embittered and estranged brother. The plot unfolds in traditional fashion and is laced with a wry sense of humour. Good creation of period setting is achieved through visual digital effects work, costume design, a brooding score and set dressing. It is a delight to see a film of this type that doesn’t feel the need to add Hollywood-style embellishments. It’s great entertainment, if a trifle overlong.

Book Review – FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE (1957) by Ian Fleming

FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE (1957) ****½
by Ian Fleming
This paperback edition published by Vintage, 2012, 356pp
First published by Jonathan Cape in 1957
© Ian Fleming Publications Ltd., 1957
Introduction by Tom Rob Smith (7pp)
ISBN: 978-0-099-57689-1

Blurb: A beautiful Soviet spy. A brand-new Spektor cipher machine. SMERSH has set an irresistible trap that threatens the entire Secret Service. In Fleming’s fifth 007 novel Bond finds himself enmeshed in a deadly game of cross and double cross.

Comment: This fifth novel in Fleming’s James Bond series sees the author flexing his literary muscles and experiment with structure. The result is his most satisfying book to this point. The story is split into two sections. The first deals with the development of SMERSH’s plot to discredit the British secret service through James Bond. It introduces the characters of Rosa Klebb, SMERSH’s head of operations, who is a loathsome manipulator; Red Grant, SMERSH’s assassin; Kronsteen, master chess player and key strategist; and Tatiana Romanova, the instrument of the Russian plot. This section takes up the first third of the book and painstakingly fleshes out each of the characters and their motivations. The second section deals with the execution of the Russian plot. Bond meets Darko Kerim, allied head of operations in Istanbul, and Kerim is the strongest and most likeable character in the book. The book really picks up from here, with the girl fight and shootout in the gypsy camp scene a highlight. Bond and Tania’s escape on the Orient Express builds in tension as the Russians and Grant close in. Then the final showdown between Bond and Klebb ends the book on a cliffhanger. There were rumours that Fleming had tired of his creation and was looking for a way out, fortunately that was not the case and Bond returned in DR. NO. The book was reported as one of President John F. Kennedy’s top 10, which kicked off the series’ popularity in the US. The 1963 film adaptation added elements, but stuck to Fleming’s core plot and characters and resulted in one of the strongest films in the series.

Film Review – FORBIDDEN PLANET (1956)

British Quad - Posterwire.comFORBIDDEN PLANET (1956, USA) ****½
Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
dist. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM); pr co. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) / Toho Company; d. Fred M. Wilcox; w. Cyril Hume (based on a story by Irving Block and Allen Adler); pr. Nicholas Nayfack; ph. George J. Folsey (Eastmancolor. 35mm. CinemaScope. 2.55:1); m. Bebe Barron, Louis Barron; ed. Ferris Webster; pd. Irving Block, Mentor Huebner (both uncredited); ad. Cedric Gibbons, Arthur Lonergan; set d. Hugh Hunt, Edwin B. Willis; cos. Walter Plunkett, Helen Rose; m/up. John Truwe, William Tuttle, Sydney Guilaroff; sd. Wesley C. Miller (Mono (Perspecta Sound encoding) (Western Electric Sound System) | 4-Track Stereo (4 channels)); sfx. A. Arnold Gillespie, Joshua Meador, Warren Newcombe, Irving G. Ries; vfx. Bob Abrams, Max Fabian, Joshua Meador; rel. 23 March 1956 (USA), 8 June 1956 (UK); cert: PG; r/t. 98m.

cast: Walter Pidgeon (Dr. Morbius), Anne Francis (Altaira Morbius), Leslie Nielsen (Commander Adams), Warren Stevens (Lt. ‘Doc’ Ostrow), Jack Kelly (Lt. Farman), Richard Anderson (Chief Quinn), Earl Holliman (Cook), George Wallace (Bosun), Robert Dix (Crewman Grey (as Bob Dix)), Jimmy Thompson (Crewman Youngerford), James Drury (Crewman Strong), Harry Harvey Jr. (Crewman Randall), Roger McGee (Crewman Lindstrom), Peter Miller (Crewman Moran), Morgan Jones (Crewman Nichols), Richard Grant (Crewman Silvers), Robby the Robot (Robby the Robot), James Best (Crewman (uncredited)), William Boyett (Crewman (uncredited)), Frankie Darro (Robby the Robot (uncredited)), Marvin Miller (Robby the Robot (uncredited) (voice)), Les Tremayne (Narrator (uncredited) (voice)).

When Captain J.J. Adams (Neilsen) and his crew are sent to investigate the silence from a planet inhabited by scientists, he finds all but two have died. Dr. Morbius (Pidgeon) and his daughter Altaira (Francis) have somehow survived a hideous monster which roams the planet. Unknown to Adams, Morbius has made a discovery, and has no intention of sharing it with anyone. This was a highly influential sci-fi adventure and significantly ahead of its time. Its reach can be seen most clearly in the TV series Star Trek that followed eight years later. The script is full of intelligent and challenging concepts and Pidgeon exudes both charm and menace as the stranded scientist whose obsessions turn in on themselves. Nielsen, making his film debut, plays the rescue ship captain who becomes involved with Pidgeon’s daughter Francis leading to her loyalty and trust in her father slowly evaporating. Stunning visuals for the period, notably in the exploration of the Krell city. Robby the Robot is a great creation and would become a star in his own right. The only downsides are the sometimes creaky dialogue and the dated and condescending attitude of the crew to Francis, otherwise this is a classic of the genre. It was the first mainstream film to have the music performed entirely by electronic instruments. The eerie score contributes greatly to the otherworldly environment the production team created. Those thinking that story elements have some familiarity are not without justification, with the story loosely based on “The Tempest” by William Shakespeare.

Film Review – FORCE 10 FROM NAVARONE (1978)

Force 10 from Navarone (1978) - Photo Gallery - IMDbFORCE 10 FROM NAVARONE (1978, UK) **½
Action, Drama, War
dist. Columbia-Warner Distributors (UK), American International Pictures (AIP) (USA); pr co. Columbia Pictures Corporation  / Navarone Productions; d. Guy Hamilton; w. Robin Chapman, Carl Foreman (based on the novel by Alistair MacLean); exec pr. Carl Foreman; pr. Oliver A. Unger; ass pr. David W. Orton; ph. Christopher Challis (Technicolor. 35mm. Panavision (anamorphic). 2.39:1); m. Ron Goodwin; ed. Raymond Poulton; pd. Geoffrey Drake; ad. Fred Carter; cos. Emma Porteous; m/up. Peter Robb-King, Colin Jamison; sd. Dino Di Campo, Derek Holding, William Trent (4-Track Stereo); sfx. René Albouze, Giuseppe Carozza, Peter Hutchinson; vfx. Geoffrey Drake; st. Eddie Stacey; rel. 16 August 1978 (Spain), 7 December 1978 (UK), 8 December 1978 (USA); cert: PG/15; r/t. 118m.

cast: Robert Shaw (Mallory), Harrison Ford (Barnsby), Barbara Bach (Maritza), Edward Fox (Miller), Franco Nero (Lescovar), Carl Weathers (Weaver), Richard Kiel (Drazak), Alan Badel (Petrovitch), Michael Byrne (Schroeder), Philip Latham (Jensen), Angus MacInnes (Reynolds), Michael Sheard (Sgt. Bauer), Petar Buntic (Marko), Leslie Schofield (Interrogation Officer 1), Anthony Langdon (Interrogation Officer 2), Richard Hampton (Interrogation Officer 3), Paul Humpoletz (Sgt. Bismark), Dicken Ashworth (Nolan), Christopher Malcolm (Rogers), Nick Ellsworth (Salvone).

This is an at times lacklustre sequel to the 1961 hit THE GUNS OF NAVARONE. Here Shaw and Fox, taking on the roles vacated by Gregory Peck and David Niven, are assigned to assassinate a German spy who has infiltrated a resistance unit in Yugoslavia. They are unwanted passengers on Ford’s mission to blow up a bridge as the two missions become entwined. Much of the fun of this film is in the banter between Shaw and Fox and their interactions with Ford’s crack squad. The plot is a little stale and recalls earlier better films – not least the film on which this sequel is based. Hamilton’s direction feels workmanlike and unimaginative and his early use of stock footage jars – some of it is even in black and white. The acting is mixed, with Shaw, Ford and Fox the standouts, whilst Bach is awfully miscast. Kiel does well in his rebel leader role as does Weathers as an escaped prisoner who gets involved with the mission. Nero’s performance as the potential spy lacks depth. The production uses the location scenery to good advantage, but there is a lack of the bigger picture of a war taking place – it all feels too naturally beautiful and unspoiled. the result is an adequate, but ultimately disappointing sequel that is only of interest to fans of the original and the lead actors. It was originally intended the film be made in 1967, but it was reportedly deemed that Peck and Niven were too old to reprise their roles as Mallory and Miller. Alistair MacLean adapted his original screenplay into the novel he published in 1968. Some of Robert Shaw’s lines were dubbed, as the actor died before post-production had finished. This was the last film Shaw completed. He would die during the making of AVALANCHE EXPRESS (1979). The restored/extended version runs 126m.