Film Review – GOODFELLAS (1990)

Image result for goodfellas 1990GOODFELLAS (USA, 1990) ****½
      Distributor: Warner Bros.; Production Company: Warner Bros; Release Date: 17 September 1990 (USA), 26 October 1990 (UK); Filming Dates: 3 May 1989 – 9 August 1989; Running Time: 146m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Dolby SR; Film Format: 35mm (Eastman 5384); Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1; BBFC Cert: 18.
      Director: Martin Scorsese; Writer: Nicholas Pileggi, Martin Scorsese (based on the book “Wiseguy” by Nicholas Pileggi); Executive Producer: Barbara De Fina; Producer: Irwin Winkler; Associate Producer: Bruce S. Pustin; Director of Photography: Michael Ballhaus; Music Editor: Christopher Brooks; Film Editor: James Y. Kwei, Thelma Schoonmaker; Casting Director: Ellen Lewis; Production Designer: Kristi Zea; Art Director: Maher Ahmad; Set Decorator: Leslie Bloom; Costumes: Richard Bruno; Make-up: Carl Fullerton, Ilona Herman, Allen Weisinger; Sound: Skip Lievsay; Special Effects: Connie Brink.
      Cast: Robert De Niro (James Conway), Ray Liotta (Henry Hill), Joe Pesci (Tommy DeVito), Lorraine Bracco (Karen Hill), Paul Sorvino (Paul Cicero), Frank Sivero (Frankie Carbone), Tony Darrow (Sonny Bunz), Mike Starr (Frenchy), Frank Vincent (Billy Batts), Chuck Low (Morris Kessler), Frank DiLeo (Tuddy Cicero), Henny Youngman (Henny Youngman), Gina Mastrogiacomo (Janice Rossi), Catherine Scorsese (Tommy’s Mother), Charles Scorsese (Vinnie), Suzanne Shepherd (Karen’s Mother), Debi Mazar (Sandy), Margo Winkler (Belle Kessler), Welker White (Lois Byrd), Jerry Vale (Jerry Vale), Julie Garfield (Mickey Conway), Christopher Serrone (Young Henry), Elaine Kagan (Henry’s Mother), Beau Starr (Henry’s Father), Kevin Corrigan (Michael Hill), Michael Imperioli (Spider), Robbie Vinton (Bobby Vinton), Johnny Williams (Johnny Roastbeef), Daniel P. Conte (Dr. Dan), Tony Conforti (Tony), Frank Pellegrino (Johnny Dio), Ronald Maccone (Ronnie), Tony Sirico (Tony Stacks), Joseph D’Onofrio (Young Tommy), Steve Forleo (City Detective #1), Richard Dioguardi (City Detective #2), Frank Adonis (Anthony Stabile), John Manca (Nickey Eyes), Joseph Bono (Mikey Franzese), Katherine Wallach (Diane), Mark Evan Jacobs (Bruce), Angela Pietropinto (Cicero’s Wife), Marianne Leone (Tuddy’s Wife), Marie Michaels (Mrs. Carbone), LoNardo (Frenchy’s Wife), Melissa Prophet (Angie), Illeana Douglas (Rosie), Susan Varon (Susan), Elizabeth Whitcraft (Tommy’s Girlfriend at Copa), Clem Caserta (Joe Buddha), Samuel L. Jackson (Stacks Edwards), Fran McGee (Johnny Roastbeef’s Wife), Paul Herman (Dealer), Edward McDonald (Edward McDonald), Edward Hayes (Defense Attorney), Bo Dietl (Arresting Narc).
      Synopsis: Henry Hill and his friends work their way up through the mob hierarchy.
      Comment: Stylish adaptation of Pileggi’s book about real-life gangster Henry Hill. Scorcese extracts dark humour from the violent drama and moves the story along in expert fashion assisted by editors Kwei and Schoonmaker. DeNiro, Liotta and Pesci each give exceptional performances as the Goodfellas of the title trying to find their own way in a world of organised crime. The inevitable descent into mistrust and retribution is brilliantly handled.
      Notes: Pesci won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar.

Film Review – COLD PURSUIT (2019)

Image result for cold pursuit 2019COLD PURSUIT (USA, 2019) ***½
      Distributor: Lionsgate (USA), StudioCanal (UK); Production Company: StudioCanal / Paradox Films; Release Date: 8 February 2019 (USA), 22 February 2019 (UK); Filming Dates: March 2017; Running Time: 119m; Colour: Colour; Sound Mix: Dolby Digital (7.1 surround); Film Format: D-Cinema; Film Process: Digital Intermediate (4K) (master format); Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1; BBFC Cert: 15 – strong violence.
      Director: Hans Petter Moland; Writer: Frank Baldwin (based on a screenplay by Kim Fupz Aakeson); Executive Producer: Michael Dreyer, Shana Eddy-Grouf, Ron Halpern, Didier Lupfer, Paul Schwartzman; Producer: Finn Gjerdrum, Stein B. Kvae, Michael Shamberg, Ameet Shukla; Associate Producer: Nicolai Moland; Director of Photography: Philip Øgaard; Music Composer: George Fenton; Film Editor: Nicolaj Monberg; Casting Director: Avy Kaufman; Production Designer: Jørgen Stangebye Larsen; Art Director: Kendelle Elliott; Set Decorator: Peter Lando; Costumes: Anne Pedersen; Make-up: Krista Young; Sound: James Boyle; Special Effects: Jason Paradis; Visual Effects: Jan Guilfoyle, Martin Lake, Noga Alon Stein.
      Cast: Liam Neeson (Nels Coxman), Laura Dern (Grace Coxman), Micheál Richardson (Kyle Coxman), Michael Eklund (Speedo), Bradley Stryker (Limbo), Wesley MacInnes (Dante), Tom Bateman (Trevor ‘Viking’ Calcote), Domenick Lombardozzi (Mustang), Nicholas Holmes (Ryan), Jim Shield (Jaded Coroner), Aleks Paunovic (Detective Osgard), Glenn Ennis (Night Club Bouncer), Benjamin Hollingsworth (Dexter), John Doman (John ‘Gip’ Gipsky), Emmy Rossum (Kim Dash), Chris W. Cook (Ski Bum), Venus Terzo (Mother), Dani Alvarado (Daughter), Julia Jones (Aya), Michael Adamthwaite (Santa), William Forsythe (Brock), Elizabeth Thai (Ahn), David O’Hara (Sly), Gus Halper (Bone), Elysia Rotaru (Diner Waitress), Kyle Nobess (Simon Legrew), Victor Zinck Jr. (Drunken Ski Dude), Raoul Max Trujillo (Thorpe), Nathaniel Arcand (Smoke), Glen Gould (War Dog), Mitchell Saddleback (Avalanche), Christopher Logan (Shiv), Tom Jackson (White Bull), Bart Anderson (Blizzard Bartender), Gary Sekhon (Denver Cabbie), Arnold Pinnock (The Eskimo), Ben Cotton (Windex), Emily Maddison (Gorgeous Woman), Glenn Wrage (Kurt), Michael Bean (Parson), Ben Sullivan (Teen), Travis MacDonald (Ski Lift Attendant), Manna Nichols (Minya), Loretta Walsh (Resort Clerk), Nels Lennarson (Chuck Schalm), Max Montesi (Paragliding Instructor), Peter Strand Rumpel (Viking’s Thug).
      Synopsis: A grieving snowplough driver seeks out revenge against the drug dealers who killed his son.
      Comment: Darkly comic thriller has much to commend it as Neeson plays it straight against a quirky cast of characters. The extreme violence is delivered via a series of well-shot action sequences. Where the story falls down is in not seeing through some of the elements of its plot – the relationship between Neeson and his wife Dern is not fully resolved and the theme of father-son relationships heavily hinted at across a number of the core characters is not fully explored. What remains is an entertaining and stylish story that only scratches at the surface of its potential.
      Notes: Based on the 2014 Norwegian film IN ORDER OF DISAPPEARANCE.

Film Review – THE GODFATHER: PART III (1990)

Image result for the godfather part iiiTHE GODFATHER: PART III (USA, 1990) ***½
      Distributor: Paramount Pictures (USA), United International Pictures (UIP) (UK); Production Company: Paramount Pictures / Zoetrope Studios; Release Date: 12 December 1990 (USA), 8 March 1991 (UK); Filming Dates: 27 November 1989 – 25 May 1990; Running Time: 162m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: 70 mm 6-Track (70 mm prints) | Dolby SR (35 mm prints); Film Format: 35mm (spherical) (Eastman 5384), 70mm (blow-up) (Eastman 5384); Film Process: Super 35; Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1; BBFC Cert: 15.
      Director: Francis Ford Coppola; Writer: Francis Ford Coppola, Mario Puzo; Executive Producer: Fred Fuchs, Nicholas Gage; Producer: Francis Ford Coppola; Associate Producer: Marina Gefter; Director of Photography: Gordon Willis; Music Composer: Carmine Coppola; Music Supervisor: Stephan R. Goldman; Film Editor: Lisa Fruchtman, Barry Malkin, Walter Murch; Casting Director: Janet Hirshenson, Jane Jenkins, Roger Mussenden; Production Designer: Dean Tavoularis; Art Director: Alex Tavoularis; Costumes: Milena Canonero; Make-up: Fabrizio Sforza; Sound: Gloria S. Borders; Special Effects: R. Bruce Steinheimer.
      Cast: Al Pacino (Don Michael Corleone), Diane Keaton (Kay Adams Michelson), Talia Shire (Connie Corleone Rizzi), Andy Garcia (Vincent Mancini), Eli Wallach (Don Altobello), Joe Mantegna (Joey Zasa), George Hamilton (B.J. Harrison), Bridget Fonda (Grace Hamilton), Sofia Coppola (Mary Corleone), Raf Vallone (Cardinal Lamberto), Franc D’Ambrosio (Anthony Vito Corleone), Donal Donnelly (Archbishop Gilday), Richard Bright (Al Neri), Helmut Berger (Frederick Keinszig), Don Novello (Dominic Abbandando), John Savage (Father Andrew Hagen), Franco Citti (Calo), Mario Donatone (Mosca), Vittorio Duse (Don Tommasino), Enzo Robutti (Don Licio Lucchesi), Michele Russo (Spara), Al Martino (Johnny Fontane), Robert Cicchini (Lou Pennino), Rogerio Miranda (Twin Bodyguard Armand), Carlos Miranda (Twin Bodyguard Francesco), Vito Antuofermo (Anthony ‘The Ant’ Squigliaro), Robert Vento (Father John), Willie Brown (Party Politician), Jeannie Linero (Lucy Mancini), Jeanne Savarino Pesch (Francesca Corleone), Janet Savarino Smith (Kathryn Corleone), Tere Livrano (Teresa Hagen), Carmine Caridi (Albert Volpe), Don Costello (Frank Romano), Al Ruscio (Leo Cuneo), Mickey Knox (Marty Parisi), Rick Aviles (Mask #1), Michael Bowen (Mask #2), Brett Halsey (Douglas Michelson), Gabriele Torrei (Enzo the Baker), John Abineri (Hamilton Banker), Brian Freilino (Stockholder), Gregory Corso (Unruly Stockholder), Marino Masé (Lupo), Dado Ruspoli (Vanni), Valeria Sabel (Sister Vincenza), Remo Remotti (Cardinal Sistine), Luigi Laezza (Keinszig Killer), Giuseppe Pianviti (Keinszig Killer), Santo Indelicato (Guardia del Corpo), Simonetta Stefanelli (Apollonia Vitelli-Corleone (archiveFootage)), Francesco Paolo Bellante (Autista di Don Tommasino), Paco Reconti (Gesu), Mimmo Cuticchio (Puppet Narrator), Richard Honigman (Party Reporter), Nicky Blair (Nicky the Casino Host), Anthony Guidera (Anthony, the Bodyguard), Frank Tarsia (Frankie, the Bodyguard), Diana Agostini (Woman with Child at Street Fair), Jessica DiCicco (Child), Catherine Scorsese (Woman in Cafe), Ida Bernardini (Woman in Cafe), Joe Drago (Party Security), David Hume Kennerly (Party Photographer), James D. Damiano (Son Playing Soccer), Michael Boccio (Father of Soccer Player), Erica Yohn (Governess), Teresa Tirelli (Midwife).
      Synopsis: In the final instalment of the GODFATHER Trilogy, an aging Don Michael Corleone seeks to legitimize his crime family’s interests and remove himself from the violent underworld but is kept back by the ambitions of the young.
      Comment: Unnecessary continuation of the story is initially very uneven before improving significantly when the action moves to Sicily for the final act. Main issue is with a script that lacks the depth of character of the earlier movies and a pair of weak performances from Garcia and Sofia Coppola, whose love affair lacks any level of intensity and feels like it has drifted in from a lesser movie. Fortunately, Pacino is once again excellent in the lead role and supported well by Keaton, Wallach and Shire. Coppola admits the movie was made purely for financial reasons. It adds little to the enormous legacy of the first two movies but taken in isolation has enough impressive sequences – notably the opera finale – to pack a punch.
      Notes: Extended version runs 170m.

Film Review – THE GODFATHER PART II (1974)

Robert De Niro and Leopoldo Trieste in The Godfather: Part II (1974)THE GODFATHER: PART II (USA, 1974) *****
      Distributor: Paramount Pictures (USA), Cinema International Corporation (CIC) (UK); Production Company: Paramount Pictures; Release Date: 13 December 1974 (USA), 15 May 1975 (UK); Filming Dates: 2 October 1973 – 19 June 1974; Running Time: 202m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Mono; Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1; BBFC Cert: 15.
      Director: Francis Ford Coppola; Writer: Francis Ford Coppola, Mario Puzo (based on the novel by Mario Puzo); Executive Producer: Robert Evans (uncredited); Producer: Francis Ford Coppola; Associate Producer: Mona Skager; Director of Photography: Gordon Willis; Music Composer: Nino Rota, Carmine Coppola; Film Editor: Barry Malkin, Richard Marks, Peter Zinner; Casting Director: Jane Feinberg, Mike Fenton, Vic Ramos; Production Designer: Dean Tavoularis; Art Director: Angelo P. Graham; Set Decorator: George R. Nelson; Costumes: Theadora Van Runkle; Make-up: Charles H. Schram, Dick Smith; Sound: Nathan Boxer, Charles M. Wilborn; Special Effects: A.D. Flowers, Joe Lombardi.
      Cast: Al Pacino (Michael), Robert Duvall (Tom Hagen), Diane Keaton (Kay), Robert De Niro (Vito Corleone), John Cazale (Fredo Corleone), Talia Shire (Connie Corleone), Lee Strasberg (Hyman Roth), Michael V. Gazzo (Frankie Pentangeli), G.D. Spradlin (Sen. Pat Geary), Richard Bright (Al Neri), Gastone Moschin (Fanucci), Tom Rosqui (Rocco Lampone), Bruno Kirby (Young Clemenza), Frank Sivero (Genco), Francesca De Sapio (Young Mama Corleone), Morgana King (Mama Corleone), Marianna Hill (Deanna Corleone), Leopoldo Trieste (Signor Roberto), Dominic Chianese (Johnny Ola), Amerigo Tot (Michael’s Bodyguard), Troy Donahue (Merle Johnson), John Aprea (Young Tessio), Joe Spinell (Willi Cicci), Abe Vigoda (Tessio), Tere Livrano (Theresa Hagen), Gianni Russo (Carlo), Maria Carta (Vito’s Mother), Oreste Baldini (Vito Andolini – as a Boy), Giuseppe Sillato (Don Francesco), Mario Cotone (Don Tommasino), James Gounaris (Anthony Corleone), Fay Spain (Mrs. Marcia Roth), Harry Dean Stanton (F.B.I. Man #1), James Murdock (F.B.I. Man #2), Carmine Caridi (Carmine Rosato), Danny Aiello (Tony Rosato), Carmine Foresta (Policeman), Nick Discenza (Bartender), Joseph Medaglia (Father Carmelo), William Bowers (Senate Committee Chairman), Joseph Della Sorte (Michael’s Buttonman #1), Carmen Argenziano (Michael’s Buttonman #2), Joe Lo Grippo (Michael’s Buttonman #3), Ezio Flagello (Impressario), Livio Giorgi (Tenor in ‘Senza Mamma’), Kathleen Beller (Girl in ‘Senza Mamma’), Saveria Mazzola (Signora Colombo), Tito Alba (Cuban President), Johnny Naranjo (Cuban Translator), Elda Maida (Pentangeli’s Wife), Salvatore Po (Pentangeli’s Brother), Ignazio Pappalardo (Mosca), Andrea Maugeri (Strollo), Peter LaCorte (Signor Abbandando), Vincent Coppola (Street Vendor), Peter Donat (Questadt), Tom Dahlgren (Fred Corngold), Paul B. Brown (Sen. Ream), Phil Feldman (Senator #1), Roger Corman (Senator #2), Ivonne Coll (Yolanda), Joe De Nicola (Attendant at Brothel), Edward Van Sickle (Ellis Island Doctor), Gabriella Belloni (Ellis Island Nurse), Richard Watson (Customs Official), Venancia Grangerard (Cuban Nurse), Erica Yohn (Governess), Teresa Tirelli (Midwife).
      Synopsis: Continuing saga of the Corleone family as they move to Nevada and make the casino business their major income source under the leadership of the increasingly paranoid and malevolent Michael, whose reign as the “Don” is juxtaposed against the parallel tale of his father’s escape from Sicily as a young boy and his subsequent rise to power in New York’s Lower East Side during the turn-of-the-century.
      Comment: Coppola does the seemingly impossible by topping THE GODFATHER with a follow-up that has even more depth of character and plot. The parallel plot threads weave nicely together giving Pacino and De Niro the opportunity to showcase their considerable acting skills. The supporting cast is perfect with universally strong performances. Coppola’s direction is note-perfect as he seamlessly moves his story between locale and time period. The production design is sumptuous and, aided by Willis’ evocative cinematography, wonderfully captures the contrasts between the poverty experienced by the young Don Vito with the enormous wealth of his legacy. Pacino’s transformation into a single-minded and ultimately lonely and unforgiving figure is beautifully captured by the actor’s skilful performance.
      Notes: Winner of six Academy Awards, including Picture, Director, Supporting Actor (De Niro), Adapted Screenplay, Art Direction and Music. James Caan appears uncredited in a brief cameo. Extended version runs 220m. Followed by THE GODFATHER PART III (1990).

Film Review – THE DROWNING POOL (1975)

Image result for the drowning pool 1975THE DROWNING POOL (USA, 1975) ***½
      Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures; Production Company: First Artists / Coleytown / Turman-Foster Company / David Foster Productions; Release Date: 25 June 1975 (USA), 14 September 1975 (UK); Filming Dates: began 16 October 1974; Running Time: 108m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Mono; Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Panavision (anamorphic); Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1; BBFC Cert: 12.
      Director: Stuart Rosenberg; Writer: Tracy Keenan Wynn, Lorenzo Semple Jr., Walter Hill (based on the novel by Ross Macdonald); Producer: David Foster, Lawrence Turman; Associate Producer: Hawk Koch; Director of Photography: Gordon Willis; Music Composer: Michael Small; Film Editor: John C. Howard; Casting Director: Alan Shayne; Production Designer: Paul Sylbert; Art Director: Edwin O’Donovan; Costumes: Richard Bruno, Donald Brooks; Make-up: Monty Westmore; Sound: Larry Jost; Special Effects: Chuck Gaspar, Henry Millar.
      Cast: Paul Newman (Lew Harper), Joanne Woodward (Iris Devereaux), Anthony Franciosa (Broussard), Murray Hamilton (J.J. Kilbourne), Gail Strickland (Mavis Kilbourne), Melanie Griffith (Schuyler Devreaux), Linda Haynes (Gretchen), Richard Jaeckel (Franks), Paul Koslo (Candy), Joe Canutt (Glo), Andrew Robinson (Pat Reavis), Coral Browne (Olivia Devereaux), Richard Derr (James Devereaux), Helena Kallianiotes (Elaine Reavis), Leigh French (Red Head), Peter Dassinger (Peter), James Fontenot (Bartender), Tommy McLain (Nightclub Band), Martin Ahrens (Cajun Heavy #1), Philippe Blenet (Cajun Heavy #2), Jerome Greene (Butler), Cecil Elliott (Motel Switchboard Operator).
      Synopsis: Sequel to HARPER (1966), in which the big-city private detective travels to the Deep South to help out an old girlfriend who is being blackmailed.
      Comment: Newman returns to the role that fit him like a glove nine years earlier. This new case has more depth to the plot and also benefits from a strong supporting cast – with Hamilton’s sleazy oil magnate the most notable. A young Griffith takes on the role of rich couple’s spoilt daughter. The overall set-up may be familiar to noir fans and certainly to fans of Macdonald’s novel – despite the switch of setting – so it packs few surprises. Rosenberg’s direction is a little flat at times, but overall this is an enjoyable mystery.
      Notes: During post-production, director Stuart Rosenberg hired Composer Charles Fox to do additional scoring, integrating the composer’s melody “Killing Me Softly With His Song”, into the movie.

Film Review – HARPER (1966)

Image result for harper 1966HARPER (USA, 1966) ***
      Distributor: Warner Bros. (USA), Warner-Pathé Distributors (UK); Production Company: Gershwin-Kastner Productions; Release Date: 23 February 1966 (USA), 1 July 1966 (UK); Filming Dates: 7 June 1965 – 20 August 1965; Running Time: 121m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Mono; Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Panavision (anamorphic); Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1; BBFC Cert: 12.
      Director: Jack Smight; Writer: William Goldman (based on the novel “The Moving Target” by Ross Macdonald); Producer: Jerry Gershwin, Elliott Kastner; Director of Photography: Conrad L. Hall; Music Composer: Johnny Mandel; Film Editor: Stefan Arnsten; Art Director: Alfred Sweeney; Set Decorator: Claude E. Carpenter; Costumes: William Smith; Make-up: Gordon Bau; Sound: Stanley Jones.
      Cast: Paul Newman (Lew Harper), Lauren Bacall (Mrs. Sampson), Julie Harris (Betty Fraley), Arthur Hill (Albert Graves), Janet Leigh (Susan Harper), Pamela Tiffin (Miranda Sampson), Robert Wagner (Allan Taggert), Robert Webber (Dwight Troy), Shelley Winters (Fay Estabrook), Harold Gould (Sheriff), Roy Jenson (Puddler), Strother Martin (Claude), Martin West (Deputy), Jacqueline deWit (Mrs. Kronberg), Eugene Iglesias (Felix), Richard Carlyle (Fred Platt).
      Synopsis: Lew Harper, a cool private investigator, is hired by a wealthy California matron to locate her kidnapped husband.
      Comment: Smight’s adaptation of Ross Macdonald’s classic mystery is a product of the period in which it was made as the free spirit of the 1960s threatens to drown the plot. Newman layers his charm onto Macdonald’s detective and it is his performance that is the main draw. The kidnapping plot involves a strong cast of eccentric characters but fails to invest any with significant depth. The dialogue, however, is smarter as Goldman captures the spirit of the wisecracking down on his luck PI genre, if not the mood.
      Notes: The title of Ross Macdonald’s source novel “The Moving Target” was this picture’s title in Great Britain. The lead character was changed from Lew Archer to Harper because the producers had only bought the rights to the first book in the series. Followed by THE DROWNING POOL (1975), again with Newman.

Film Review – EVEREST (2015)

Image result for everest 2015EVEREST (USA/UK/Iceland, 2015) ***½
      Distributor: Universal Pictures (USA), Universal Pictures International (UPI) (UK); Production Company: Working Title Films / RVK Studios / Walden Media / Universal Pictures / Cross Creek Pictures; Release Date: 18 September 2015 (USA and UK); Filming Dates: Began 13 January 2014; Running Time: 121m; Colour: Colour; Sound Mix: Dolby Digital | 12-Track Digital Sound (IMAX 12 track) | Dolby Atmos | Auro 11.1 | IMAX 6-Track | Dolby Surround 7.1 | Sonics-DDP; Film Format: D-Cinema (also 3-D version); Film Process: Digital Intermediate (2K) (master format); Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1; BBFC Cert: 12.
      Director: Baltasar Kormákur; Writer: Lem Dobbs, Justin Isbell, William Nicholson; Executive Producer: Brandt Andersen, Liza Chasin, Randall Emmett, Evan Hayes, Mark Mallouk, Peter Mallouk, Angela Morrison, Lauren Selig; Producer: Nicky Kentish Barnes, Tim Bevan, Liza Chasin, Eric Fellner, Evan Hayes, Brian Oliver, Tyler Thompson; Director of Photography: Salvatore Totino; Music Composer: Dario Marianelli; Music Supervisor: Maggie Rodford; Film Editor: Mick Audsley; Casting Director: Fiona Weir; Production Designer: Gary Freeman; Art Director: Tom Still; Set Decorator: Raffaella Giovannetti; Costumes: Guy Speranza; Make-up: Carmel Jackson; Sound: Glenn Freemantle; Special Effects: Richard Van Den Bergh; Visual Effects: Måns Björklund, Tim Caplan, Chaya Feiner, Hjortur Gretarsson, Roma O’Connor, Dominic Parker, Melody Woodford.
      Cast: Jason Clarke (Rob Hall), Jake Gyllenhaal (Scott Fischer), Josh Brolin (Beck Weathers), Robin Wright (Peach Weathers), John Hawkes (Doug Hansen), Sam Worthington (Guy Cotter), Michael Kelly (Jon Krakauer), Keira Knightley (Jan Arnold), Emily Watson (Helen Wilton), Thomas Wright (Michael Groom), Martin Henderson (Andy “Harold” Harris), Elizabeth Debicki (Dr. Caroline Mackenzie), Naoko Mori (Yasuko Namba), Clive Standen (Ed Viesturs), Vanessa Kirby (Sandy Hill), Tom Goodman-Hill (Neal Beidleman), Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson (Anatoli Boukreev), Charlotte Bøving (Lene Gammelgaard), Micah Hauptman (David Breashears), Chris Reilly (Klev Schoening), Chike Chan (Makalu Gau), Vijaya Lama (Lt. Col. Madan Khatri Chhetri), Mark Derwin (Lou Kasischke), Mia Goth (Meg Weathers).
      Synopsis: The story of New Zealand’s Robert “Rob” Edwin Hall, who on May 10, 1996, together with Scott Fischer, teamed up on a joint expedition to ascend Mount Everest.
      Comment: Based on a true story this is a Hollywood-ised treatment that nevertheless is an engaging experience due to some breathtaking location photography and strong performances by the ensemble cast. The set-pieces are immaculately staged and often thrilling, but the main theme is one of endurance and will. Clarke and Brolin are particularly excellent, whilst Gyllenhaal is also memorable in a hippy-style turn. Whilst the movie lacks the emotional impact it tries to create, by not letting us get close enough to the characters, it more than makes up for with its technically spectacular sequences
      Notes: Also shot in 3-D.

Film Review – TARZAN’S GREATEST ADVENTURE (1959)

Image result for tarzan's greatest adventureTARZAN’S GREATEST ADVENTURE (UK, 1959) ****
      Distributor: Paramount Pictures (USA), Paramount British Pictures (UK); Production Company: Solar Film Productions; Release Date: 8 July 1959 (USA); Filming Dates: mid Feb–late Mar 1959; Running Time: 88m; Colour: Eastmancolor; Sound Mix: Mono (Westrex Recording System); Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1; BBFC Cert: PG.
      Director: John Guillermin; Writer: Berne Giler, John Guillermin (based on a story by Les Crutchfield and characters created by Edgar Rice Burroughs); Executive Producer: Harvey Hayutin, Sy Weintraub; Producer: Sy Weintraub; Director of Photography: Edward Scaife; Music Composer: Douglas Gamley; Film Editor: Bert Rule; Casting Director: Nora Roberts; Art Director: Michael Stringer; Make-up: Tony Sforzini; Sound: John Cox.
      Cast: Gordon Scott (Tarzan), Anthony Quayle (Slade), Sara Shane (Angie), Niall MacGinnis (Kruger), Sean Connery (O’Bannion), Al Mulock (Dino), Scilla Gabel (Toni).
      Synopsis: Tarzan is out to capture a quintet of British diamond hunters in Africa, who killed a pair of natives while robbing supplies.
     Comment: Excellent jungle adventure is perhaps the best of the Tarzan pictures. Scott’s pursuit of Quayle is superbly edited and directed with a grittiness missing from the series since the early Johnny Weissmuller entries. Quayle gives a nuanced performance whilst Connery is notable in an early role. Scott’s Tarzan is an intelligent and fully verbal version closer to Burroughs’ vision.
      Notes: Connery was paid five thousand six hundred dollars for his role in this movie. When asked to play in the next Tarzan movie, he said he couldn’t because “two fellows took an option on me for some spy picture and are exercising it. But I’ll be in your next.” The “spy picture” was DR. NO (1962), the first of his numerous appearances as James Bond 007. Followed by TARZAN THE MAGNIFICENT (1960).

Film Review – SHAFT (2019)

Image result for shaft 2019SHAFT (USA, 2019)
      Distributor: New Line Cinema / Warner Bros. (USA), Netflix (UK); Production Company: Davis Entertainment / Khalabo Ink Society / Netflix / New Line Cinema / Warner Bros.; Release Date: 14 June 2019 (USA), 28 June 2019 (UK); Filming Dates: December 2017 – February 2018; Running Time: 111m; Colour: Colour; Sound Mix: Dolby Digital; Film Format: D-Cinema; Film Process: Digital Intermediate (2K) (master format), Hawk Scope (anamorphic) (source format); Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1; BBFC Cert: 15.
      Director: Tim Story; Writer: Kenya Barris, Alex Barnow (based on the character created by Ernest Tidyman); Executive Producer: Kenya Barris, Richard Brener, Marc S. Fischer, Josh Mack, Ira Napoliello, Tim Story; Producer: John Davis; Director of Photography: Larry Blanford; Music Composer: Christopher Lennertz; Music Supervisor: Trygge Toven; Film Editor: Peter S. Elliot; Casting Director: Tara Feldstein; Art Director: Jeremy Woolsey, Brittany Hites; Set Decorator: Missy Parker; Costumes: Olivia Miles; Make-up: Kimberly Jones; Sound: Sean McCormack; Special Effects: Russell Tyrrell; Visual Effects: Nicole Rowley.
      Cast: Samuel L. Jackson (John Shaft), Jessie T. Usher (JJ Shaft), Richard Roundtree (John Shaft, Sr), Regina Hall (Maya Babanikos), Alexandra Shipp (Sasha Arias), Matt Lauria (Major Gary Cutworth), Titus Welliver (Special Agent Vietti), Method Man (Freddy P), Isaach De Bankolé (Pierro ‘Gordito’ Carrera), Avan Jogia (Karim Hassan), Luna Lauren Velez (Bennie Rodriguez), Robbie Jones (Sergeant Keith Williams), Aaron Dominguez (Staff Sergeant Eddie Dominguez), Ian Casselberry (Manuel Orozco), Almeera Jiwa (Anam), Amato D’Apolito (Farik Bahar), Leland L. Jones (Ron), Jalyn Hall (Harlem Kid), Sylvia Jefferies (Once Beautiful Woman), Whit Coleman (Butch Lesbian Girl), Chivonne Michelle (Baby), Tashiana Washington (Sugar), Philip Fornah (Jacked Dude), Laticia Rolle (Cocktail Waitress), Ryan King Scales (Male Secretary), Tywayne Wheatt (Portly Doorman), Kenny Barr (Cop), Mike Dunston (News Anchor), Jordan Preston Carter (5-8 Year Old JJ), Nyah Marie Johnson (5-8 Year Old Sasha), Joey Mekyten (5-8 Year Old Karim), Sawyer Schultz (Mike Mitchell), Esmeree Sterling (Cute Bartender), Jose Miguel Vasquez (FBI Employee), Gabriel ‘G-Rod’ Rodriguez (Goon), Keith Brooks (Drunk Disorderly Man), DominiQue MrsGiJane Williams (Beautiful Woman), Michael Shikany (Older Man in Mosque), Lucia Scarano (Lady in Line), Greta Quispe (Employee), Heather Seiffert (Hostess), Charles Green (Hallway Man), Dorothi Fox (Old Lady Neighbor), Shakur Sozahdah (Worshiper).
      Synopsis: John Shaft Jr., a cybersecurity expert with a degree from MIT, enlists his family’s help to uncover the truth behind his best friend’s untimely death.
      Comment: Misguided continuation of the Shaft legacy is one misstep after another. Firstly Story re-tools the franchise as an action comedy that attempts to wring laughs from the generation gap separating Jackson’s John Shaft II from his son JJ, played far too broadly by Usher. Jackson’s Shaft also suffers by being made into a caricature of the character he portrayed in the 2000 series continuation. Jackson does what he tends to do best but even he gives a one-note performance that lacks nuance. The plot thread that brings the two Shafts together is given scant focus by an incredibly lazy script by Barris and Barnow.  The plot is frequently abandoned to demonstrate time after time the un-PC Jackson vs the PC Usher through a series of increasingly tiresome jokes and one-liners. Roundtree, as the original John Shaft, appears late in the proceedings and delivers the best performance with a dry understated delivery that has more class than is seen in his character namesakes. Lennertz’s score is insipid, lacking the grooves of Isaac Hayes’ 1971 music, and fails to add anything to the franchise whilst it is constantly interspersed with rap numbers that only serve to give you a headache. Even the use of Hayes’ theme is mishandled removing all elements of cool. To say I was disappointed in this destruction of Ernest Tidyman’s legacy is an understatement. My advice to Shaft fans is to stick to the originals, or better still the books. If there is any future for the franchise on screen it would be better served making reference to David F Walker’s recent comic books series prequel and rebooting the series set in period as a serious crime thriller.
      Notes: Most of the movie was shot in Atlanta, doubling for New York.

Film Review – THE MULE (2018)

Image result for the mule 2018THE MULE (USA, 2018) ***½
      Distributor: Warner Bros.; Production Company: Imperative Entertainment / Warner Bros. / Bron Studios / Malpaso Productions; Release Date: 10 December 2018 (USA), 25 January 2019 (UK); Filming Dates: Began 2 June 2018; Running Time: 116m; Colour: Colour; Sound Mix: Dolby Digital (7.1 surround); Film Format: D-Cinema; Film Process: Digital Intermediate (2K) (master format), Panavision (anamorphic) (source format); Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1; BBFC Cert: 15.
      Director: Clint Eastwood; Writer: Nick Schenk (inspired by the New York Times Magazine Article “The Sinaloa Cartel’s 90-Year Old Drug Mule” by Sam Dolnick); Executive Producer: David Bernad, Jason Cloth, Ruben Fleischer, Aaron L. Gilbert, Todd Hoffman; Producer: Clint Eastwood, Dan Friedkin, Jessica Meier, Tim Moore, Kristina Rivera, Bradley Thomas; Associate Producer: Holly Hagy; Director of Photography: Yves Bélanger; Music Composer: Arturo Sandoval; Music Supervisor: ; Film Editor: Joel Cox; Casting Director: Tara Feldstein, Geoffrey Miclat, Chase Paris; Production Designer: Kevin Ishioka; Art Director: Rory Bruen, Julien Pougnier; Set Decorator: Ronald R. Reiss; Costumes: Deborah Hopper; Make-up: Luisa Abel; Sound: Alan Robert Murray; Special Effects: J.D. Schwalm; Visual Effects: Adam Ohl, Suraj Kaur Khalsa, Rick Sander.
      Cast: Clint Eastwood (Earl Stone), Bradley Cooper (Colin Bates), Laurence Fishburne (Carl), Michael Peña (Trevino), Dianne Wiest (Mary), Ignacio Serricchio (Julio), Andy García (Latón), Taissa Farmiga (Ginny), Alison Eastwood (Iris), Richard Herd (Tim Kennedy), Lobo Sebastian (Bug), Manny Montana (Axl), Noel G. (Bald Rob), Loren Dean (DEA Agent Brown), Victor Rasuk (Rico), Clifton Collins Jr. (Gustavo), Robert LaSardo (Emilio), Eugene Cordero (Luis Rocha).
      Synopsis: A 90-year-old horticulturist and Korean War veteran is caught transporting $3 million worth of cocaine through Illinois for a Mexican drug cartel.
      Comment: Entertaining, if slight, story that fully capitalises on Eastwood’s charisma – which still burns bright into his 88th year. Evenly paced and directed with a sure hand, it benefits by concentrating on bringing character development to the forefront and using the plot as the device to do so. Cooper also gives a nicely judged performance as the drug enforcement officer closing in on the drug cartel’s operation. The scenes between Eastwood and Cooper are sublimely understated adding to the bittersweet nature of the story’s resolution.
      Notes: The movie was inspired by the story of Leo Sharp, a World War II veteran in his 80s who became the world’s oldest and most prolific drug mule for the Sinaloa Cartel.