Film Review – THE CURSE OF THE JADE SCORPION (2001)

Image result for the curse of the jade scorpionCurse of the Jade Scorpion, The (2001; USA; Technicolor; 103m) ***½  d. Woody Allen; w. Woody Allen; ph. Fei Zhao; m. Jill Meyers (clearances).  Cast: Woody Allen, Dan Aykroyd, Helen Hunt, Charlize Theron, Elizabeth Berkley, Wallace Shawn, David Ogden Stiers, Brian Markinson, John Schuck, Peter Linari. An insurance investigator and an efficiency expert who hate each other are both hypnotized by a crooked hypnotist with a jade scorpion into stealing jewels. Lightweight Allen film has some nice touches of parody on 1940s film noir and Raymond Chandler. The verbal sparring between Allen and Hunt is also reminiscent of screwball comedies from the era. High production values and a good supporting cast add much to the mix. Notable amongst them is Theron as a spoilt rich floozy. This was Allen’s most expensive film to date. [12]

Film Review – YOU’VE GOT MAIL (1998)

Image result for you've got mail 1998You’ve Got Mail (1998; USA; Technicolor; 119m) ***½ d. Nora Ephron; w. Nora Ephron, Delia Ephron; ph. John Lindley; m. George Fenton.  Cast: Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan, Parker Posey, Jean Stapleton, Steve Zahn, Dave Chappelle, Greg Kinnear, Dabney Coleman, Jeffrey Scaperrotta, John Randolph, Heather Burns, Hallee Hirsh, Cara Seymour, Katie Finneran, Michael Badalucco. Two business rivals hate each other at the office but fall in love over the internet. Hanks and Ryan replicate their SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE routine in this amiable romantic comedy. Their on-screen chemistry adds significantly to the predictability of the story. Whilst much of the scenario is overly contrived it maintains a warmth and a sprinkling of satire that proves enough to win through. Based on the play “Parfumerie” by Nikolaus Laszlo previously filmed as THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER (1940). [PG]

Film Review – FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE (1965)

Image result for for a few dollars more 1965For a Few Dollars More (1965; Italy/Spain/West Germany; Technicolor; 132m) **** d. Sergio Leone; w. Sergio Leone, Fulvio Morsella, Luciano Vincenzoni; ph. Massimo Dallamano; m. Ennio Morricone.  Cast: Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, Gian Maria Volonte, Joseph Egger, Benito Stefanelli, Mara Krup, Klaus Kinski, Mario Brega, Aldo Sambrell, Luigi Pistilli, Panos Papadopulos, Roberto Camardiel, Luis Rodriguez, Tomas Blanco, Lorenzo Robledo. Two bounty hunters with completely different intentions team up to track down a Western outlaw. Follow-up to FISTFUL OF DOLLARS is more expansive and adds a subtle layer of black humour. Eastwood and Van Cleef make for a formidable pairing and their verbal jousting is enjoyable. Memorable scenes include Van Cleef’s humiliation of Kinski and the protracted shootout finale. Morricone contributes another top-class score. Not released in the U.S. until 1967. Followed by THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY (1966). [15]

Film Review – BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY (2018)

Image result for bohemian rhapsodyBohemian Rhapsody (2018; UK/USA; Colour; 134m) ****  d. Bryan Singer; w. Anthony McCarten, Peter Morgan; ph. Newton Thomas Sigel; m. Becky Bentham (music supervisor).  Cast: Rami Malek, Joseph Mazzello, Ben Hardy, Gwilym Lee, Lucy Boynton, Aidan Gillen, Tom Hollander, Mike Myers, Allen Leech, Aaron McCusker, Jess Radomska, Max Bennett, Michelle Duncan, Ace Bhatti, Charlotte Sharland, Ian Jareth Williamson, Dickie Beau, Jesús Gallo, Jessie Vinning. Biopic drama following the life and music career of rock band Queen’s charismatic singer Freddie Mercury. Biopic is propelled by Malik’s extraordinary performance as one of the greatest rock showmen of all time. The actor accurately captures Mercury’s strengths as a performer and his weaknesses away from the limelight. This is not a portrait of the band but a study on the effect that fame has on talent. That the talent won through, albeit briefly, is brilliantly demonstrated in the finale of the band’s performance at Live Aid in 1985. [12]

Film Review – ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK (1981)

Related imageEscape from New York (1981; UK/USA; Metrocolor; 99m) ***½  d. John Carpenter; w. John Carpenter, Nick Castle; ph. Dean Cundey, George D. Dodge; m. John Carpenter, Alan Howarth.  Cast: Kurt Russell, Ernest Borgnine, Lee Van Cleef, Donald Pleasence, Harry Dean Stanton, Isaac Hayes, Season Hubley, Adrienne Barbeau, Tom Atkins, Charles Cyphers, Frank Doubleday, John Stobel, Bob Minor, John Diehl, George “Buck” Flower. In 1997, when the US President crashes into Manhattan, now a giant max. security prison, a convicted bank robber is sent in for a rescue. Cult classic may have dated, notably in the visual effects, but still has much to enjoy. Russell deftly essays Clint Eastwood in his portrayal of Snake Plissken. Good support cast of oddball characters and some nice tongue-in-cheek touches from director/co-writer Carpenter. Grimy and decadent representation of Manhattan as a prison city is well realised. Followed by ESCAPE FROM L.A. (1996). [15]

Film Review – JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM (2018)

Image result for jurassic world fallen kingdomJurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018; USA/Spain; Colour; 128m) **½  d. Juan Antonio Bayona; w. Colin Trevorrow, Derek Connolly; ph. Óscar Faura; m. Michael Giacchino.  Cast: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, James Cromwell, Rafe Spall, Toby Jones, Justice Smith, Daniella Pineda, Ted Levine, Geraldine Chaplin, Jeff Goldblum, BD Wong, David Olawale Ayinde, Bobbi Jo Hart, Daniel Stisen, Robert Emms, Kamil Lemieszewski, Michael Papajohn, Peter Jason, Sean Gislingham, Max Baker, Faith Fay, Kevin Layne, Daniel Eghan, Ronan Summers, Deborah Rock, Charlie Rawes, Manoj Anand, Cory Peterson, Fran Targ, John Heartstone. Sequel in which the remaining dinosaurs at the former Jurassic World resort are threatened by an erupting volcano. Dumb and preposterous follow-up to JURASSIC WORLD (2015) with a lazy and mechanical script and populated with cardboard characters and actors delivering one-dimensional performances. Strong on technical merits and dinosaur design. The action is also enlivened by some neat set-pieces, but there is a distinct feeling that the franchise has run its course. [12]

Film Review – FISTFUL OF DOLLARS (1964)

Image result for fistful of dollarsFistful of Dollars (1964; Italy/Spain/West Germany; Technicolor; 99m) ****  d. Sergio Leone; w. Víctor Andrés Catena, Jaime Comas Gil, Sergio Leone; ph. Massimo Dallamano, Federico G. Larraya; m. Ennio Morricone.  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 and demonstrates his trademark style. Eastwood’s presence is immediately apparent and the story is told with economy and style. Created inertia in the production of European Westerns – branded “Spaghetti Westerns” – with their anti-heroes and stylised violence. 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) and THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY (1966). [15]

Film Review – THE SHOOTIST (1976)

Image result for the shootist 1976Shootist, The (1976; USA; Technicolor; 100m) ****½  d. Don Siegel; w. Miles Hood Swarthout, Scott Hale; ph. Bruce Surtees; m. Elmer Bernstein.  Cast: John Wayne, Lauren Bacall, James Stewart, Ron Howard, Richard Boone, Hugh O’Brian, Harry Morgan, John Carradine, Scatman Crothers, Bill McKinney, Rick Lenz, Sheree North, Gregg Palmer, Alfred Dennis, Dick Winslow. A dying gunfighter spends his last days looking for a way to die with a minimum of pain and a maximum of dignity. Wayne’s last film is a poignant and fitting tribute to his screen persona and one of his very best. Siegel directs with sensitivity and draws an astonishing final performance from his star. Wayne is supported by a superbly talented cast of veterans including Bacall and Stewart. Echoes of SHANE can be seen in Howard’s hero-worshipping youth. The 1901 setting, with its early automobiles, telephones and electricity, acts as a metaphor for the passing of an era where the west was ruled by the gun and Wayne’s gunfighter character is now an anachronism. Based on the novel by Glendon Swarthout. [PG]

Film Review – ROOSTER COGBURN (1975)

Image result for rooster cogburn 1975Rooster Cogburn (1975; USA; Technicolor; 108m) ***½  d. Stuart Millar; w. Martha Hyer (as Martin Julien); ph. Harry Stradling Jr.; m. Laurence Rosenthal.  Cast: John Wayne, Katharine Hepburn, Richard Jordan, Anthony Zerbe, Strother Martin, John McIntire, Paul Koslo, Jack Colvin, Warren Vanders, Lane Smith. Marshal Rooster Cogburn unwillingly teams up with Eula Goodnight to track down the killers of her father. Sequel to 1969’s TRUE GRIT coasts on the wonderful chemistry and performances of Wayne and Hepburn. The story itself is slim and formulaic, but the banter between the stars is more than enough to make this a rousing entertainment. Followed in 1978 by a TV adaptation of the character, with Warren Oates in the lead under the title of the original. [PG]

Film Review – HALLOWEEN (2018)

Image result for halloween 2018Halloween (2018; USA; Colour; 106m) ***  d. David Gordon Green; w. David Gordon Green, Danny McBride; ph. Michael Simmonds; m. John Carpenter, Cody Carpenter, Daniel A. Davies.  Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Virginia Gardner, Nick Castle, Will Patton, Toby Huss, Miles Robbins, Haluk Bilginer, Jefferson Hall, Andi Matichak, Christopher Allen Nelson. Laurie Strode comes to her final confrontation with Michael Myers, the masked figure who has haunted her since she narrowly escaped his killing spree on Halloween night four decades ago. Whilst this ignores much of the HALLOWEEN legacy, including H2O, it recalls some of the themes of that twentieth-anniversary sequel by concentrating on the impact of the events of the 1978 original on Curtis’ character. Green lacks Carpenter’s artistic vision and use of camera and lighting, but still conjures up a solid chiller with some nice nods to the original. [18]