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]

Film Review – EARTHQUAKE (1974)

Image result for earthquake 1974Earthquake (1974; USA; Technicolor; 123m) **½  d. Mark Robson; w. George Fox, Mario Puzo; ph. Philip H. Lathrop; m. John Williams.  Cast: Charlton Heston, George Kennedy, Richard Roundtree, Lloyd Nolan, Walter Matthau, Ava Gardner, Genevieve Bujold, Lorne Greene, Marjoe Gortner, Barry Sullivan, Victoria Principal, Monica Lewis, Gabriel Dell, Pedro Armendariz Jr., Lloyd Gough. Various stories of various people as an earthquake of un-imagineable magnitude hits Los Angeles. A triumph of special effects over characterisation and plot. Heston plays the square-jawed hero in his usual style. Performances are variable with Gardner and Gortner particularly guilty of hamming up their roles. The finale lacks any real resolution. Oscar winner for Best Sound (Ronald Pierce, Melvin M. Metcalfe Sr.) and Special Achievement Award for visual effects (Frank Brendel, Glen Robinson, Albert Whitlock). Additional footage shot for 160m TV version. [PG]

Film Review – THE TOWERING INFERNO (1974)

Image result for THE TOWERING INFERNOTowering Inferno, The (1974; USA; DeLuxe; 165m) ****  d. John Guillermin; w. Stirling Silliphant; ph. Fred J. Koenekamp; m. John Williams.  Cast: Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, William Holden, Faye Dunaway, Fred Astaire, Richard Chamberlain, Susan Blakely, Jennifer Jones, Robert Wagner, Robert Vaughn, O.J. Simpson, Susan Flannery, Sheila Allen, Jack Collins, Norman Burton. At the opening party of a collosal, but poorly constructed, office building, a massive fire breaks out that threatens to destroy the tower and everyone in it. Along with producer Irwin Allen’s THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE, this is the best example of the 1970s disaster genre. A stellar cast – notably Newman and McQueen – adds considerably to the familiar elements. Top-class production values and excellent score by Williams. Won Oscars for Best Cinematography; Film Editing and Original Song (Al Kasha, Joel Hirschhorn for the song “We May Never Love Like This Again”). Jennifer Jones’s final film. Based on the novels “The Tower” by Richard Martin Stern and “The Glass Inferno” by Thomas N. Scortia and Frank M. Robinson. [PG]

Film Review – THE TIME MACHINE (1960)

Image result for the time machine 1960 blu-ray premium collectionTime Machine, The (1960; USA; Metrocolor; 103m) ****  d. George Pal; w. David Duncan; ph. Paul Vogel; m. Russell Garcia.  Cast: Rod Taylor, Yvette Mimieux, Alan Young, Sebastian Cabot, Tom Helmore, Whit Bissell, Doris Lloyd, Paul Frees, Bob Barran, Josephine Powell, James Skelly. A Victorian Englishman travels to the far future and finds that humanity has divided into two hostile species. Definitive version has great production values, a strong central performance from Taylor and the nightmarish ultimate evolution in the Morlocks. Works as a prophetic tale of the impact of man’s need for eternal conflict through imaginative vignettes. Dramatic score by Garcia adds to the atmosphere. Won an Oscar for Special Effects (Gene Warren, Tim Baar). Remade in 1978 (for TV) and 2002. [PG]

Film Review – SIDEWAYS (2004)

Image result for sidewaysSideways (2004; USA; DeLuxe; 126m) ***** d. Alexander Payne; w. Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor; ph. Phedon Papamichael; m. Rolfe Kent.  Cast: Paul Giamatti, Thomas Haden Church, Virginia Madsen, Sandra Oh, Marylouise Burke, Jessica Hecht, Missy Doty, M.C. Gainey, Alysia Reiner, Shaun Duke, Patrick Gallagher, Shake Tukhmanyan, Shaun Duke, Robert Covarrubias, Stephanie Faracy. Two men reaching middle age with not much to show but disappointment, embark on a week-long road trip through California’s wine country, just as one is about to take a trip down the aisle. Brilliantly written and highly entertaining exploration of male mid-life crisis featuring note-perfect performances from Giamatti, Church, Madsen and Oh. Moments of poignancy mix with laugh-out-loud comedy to produce a deft blend that matches the wines it celebrates. Won an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. Based on the novel by Rex Pickett. A Japanese remake was released in 2009. [15]

Film Review – SHIRLEY VALENTINE (1989)

Image result for shirley valentine dvdShirley Valentine (1989; UK/USA; Technicolor; 108m) ***½ d. Lewis Gilbert; w. Willy Russell; ph. Alan Hume; m. Willy Russell.  Cast: Pauline Collins, Tom Conti, Julia McKenzie, Joanna Lumley, Bernard Hill, Sylvia Syms, Alison Steadman, George Costigan, Anna Keaveney, Tracie Bennett, Ken Sharrock, Karen Craig, Gareth Jefferson, Gillian Kearney, Catharine Duncan. When her best friend wins an all-expenses-paid vacation to Greece for two, a housewife begins to see the world, and herself, in a different light. Beautifully observed exploration of mid-life crisis told from Collins’ point-of-view. The script and photography maximise the contrasts between the humdrum life of the northern housewife with the exotic life that can be explored in the Mediterranean. Collins is engaging and Conti adds charm to his heavily accented Greek tavern owner with whom Collins explores her fantasies. [15]

Film Review – THE WILD BUNCH (1969)

Image result for the wild bunch 1969Wild Bunch, The (1969; USA; Technicolor; 145m) ****½  d. Sam Peckinpah; w. Walon Green, Sam Peckinpah, Roy N. Sickner; ph. Lucien Ballard; m. Jerry Fielding.  Cast: William Holden, Ernest Borgnine, Robert Ryan, Strother Martin, Edmond O’Brien, Warren Oates, Ben Johnson, Jaime Sanchez, L.Q. Jones, Emilio Fernandez, Albert Dekker, Bo Hopkins, Dub Taylor, Paul Harper, Jorge Russek. An aging group of outlaws look for one last big score as the “traditional” American West is disappearing around them. Ultra-violent statement from Peckinpah symbolising the passing of the Old West and the introduction of modern warfare. Immaculately shot and edited with a percussive doom-laden score by Fielding. Veterans Holden and Ryan in particular are superb and are well supported by a strong stalwart cast. Opening and closing shootouts are brutal. [18]

Film Review – GET CARTER (1971)

Image result for get carter 1971 blu-rayGet Carter (1971; UK; Metrocolor; 112m) ***** d. Mike Hodges; w. Mike Hodges; ph. Wolfgang Suschitzky; m. Roy Budd.  Cast: Michael Caine, Ian Hendry, Britt Ekland, John Osborne, Tony Beckley, George Sewell, Geraldine Moffat, Dorothy White, Rosemarie Dunham, Alun Armstrong, Petra Markham, Bryan Mosley, Terence Rigby, Glynn Edwards, Bernard Hepton. When his brother dies under mysterious circumstances in a car accident, a London gangster travels to Newcastle to investigate. Quintessential British gangster movie with Caine’s iconic performance setting the bar for others to follow. Hodges directs with flair and Suschitzky’s photography evocatively captures the bleakness of the North-East landscape. Budd’s minimalist score adds to the menace. A genre classic. Based on the novel “Jack’s Return Home” by Ted Lewis. Remade as HIT MAN in 1972 and again in 2000. [18]

Film Review – AIR FORCE ONE (1997)

Image result for air force one 1997Air Force One (1997; USA/Germany; Technicolor; 125m) ***  d. Wolfgang Petersen; w. Andrew W. Marlowe; ph. Michael Ballhaus; m. Jerry Goldsmith.  Cast: Harrison Ford, Gary Oldman, Wendy Crewson, Liesel Matthews, Paul Guilfoyle, Glenn Close, Xander Berkeley, William H. Macy, Dean Stockwell, Tom Everett, Jürgen Prochnow, Donna Bullock, Michael Ray Miller. Hijackers seize the plane carrying the President of the United States and his family, but he (an ex-soldier) works from hiding to defeat them. Those who buy into the premise of this outlandish thriller in the DIE HARD mould will find much to enjoy in Ford’s heroics. Oldman relishes his bad guy terrorist role and Petersen’s classy direction helps keep this just the right side of comic book territory. [15]