Film Review – THE TAKING OF PELHAM 123 (2009)

Image result for the taking of pelham 123 blu-rayTaking of Pelham 123, The (2009; USA/UK; DeLuxe; 106m) ∗∗½  d. Tony Scott; w. Brian Helgeland; ph. Tobias A. Schliessler; m. Harry Gregson-Williams.  Cast: Denzel Washington, John Travolta, Luis Guzman, John Turturro, Michael Rispoli, James Gandolfini, Victor Gojcaj, Ramon Rodriguez, Saidah Arrika Ekulona, John Benjamin Hickey, Alex Kaluzhsky, Gary Basaraba, Katherine Sigismund, Gbenga Akinnagbe, Jake Richard Siciliano. Armed men hijack a New York City subway train, holding the passengers hostage in return for a ransom, and turning an ordinary day’s work for dispatcher Walter Garber into a face-off with the mastermind behind the crime. Scott’s dizzying visuals and frantic editing sucks the tension from this inferior remake that lacks the sardonic wit of the original. Washington, as usual, adds class, whilst Travolta over reaches as the chief villain. Based on the novel by John Godey. Previously filmed in 1974 and 1998 (for TV). [15]

Film Review – UNSTOPPABLE (2010)

Image result for unstoppable 2010 blu-rayUnstoppable (2010; USA; DeLuxe; 98m) ∗∗∗∗  d. Tony Scott; w. Mark Bomback; ph. Ben Seresin; m. Harry Gregson-Williams.  Cast: Denzel Washington, Chris Pine, Rosario Dawson, Ethan Suples, Kevin Dunn, Kevin Corrigan, Lew Temple, T.J. Miller, Kevin Chapman, Jessy Schram, David Warshofskyt, Andy Umberger, Elizabeth Mathis, Meagan Tandy, Dylan Bruce. With an unmanned, half-mile-long freight train barrelling toward a city, a veteran engineer and a young conductor race against the clock to prevent a catastrophe. Fast-paced, crowd-pleasing thrill ride. Washington and Pine make for a great combination as unlikely heroes. Superbly directed and edited it makes the most of its popcorn script.  The film was loosely based on the real-life CSX 8888 incident in the U.S. state of Ohio in 2001. Unfortunately, the film was Scott’s final one before his death in 2012. [12]

Film Review – EXECUTIVE DECISION (1996)

Image result for executive decision 1996Executive Decision (1996; USA; Technicolor; 133m) ∗∗∗½  d. Stuart Baird; w. Jim Thomas, John Thomas; ph. Alex Thomson; m. Jerry Goldsmith.  Cast: Kurt Russell, Steven Seagal, Halle Berry, John Leguizamo, Oliver Platt, David Suchet, Joe Morton, J.T. Walsh, Mary Ellen Trainor, Len Cariou, B.D. Wong, Whip Hubley, Andreas Katsulas, Marla Maples, William James Jones. When terrorists seize control of an airliner, an intelligence analyst accompanies a commando unit for a mid-air boarding operation. Well directed and suspenseful thriller that makes the most of its formulaic script. Russell scores as fish-out-of-water analyst thrown into the heat of the action and Suchet is also excellent as the single-minded terrorist leader. Only downside is it produces one grandstand finale too many. [15]

Film Review – THE WILD GEESE (1978)

Image result for the wild geese 1978Wild Geese, The (1978; UK/Switzerland; Eastmancolor; 134m) ∗∗∗  d. Andrew V. McLaglen; w. Reginald Rose; ph. Jack Hildyard; m. Roy Budd.  Cast: Richard Burton, Richard Harris, Roger Moore, Hardy Kruger, Stewart Granger, Jack Watson, Frank Finlay, Jeff Corey, Winston Ntshona, John Kani, Jack Watson, Kenneth Griffith, Barry Foster, Ronald Fraser, Ian Yule. A British multinational seeks to overthrow a vicious dictator in central Africa. It hires a band of (largely aged) mercenaries in London and sends them in to save the virtuous but imprisoned opposition leader who is also critically ill and due for execution. Whilst this action thriller may be littered with cliches and weighed down by a by-the-numbers script, there is still much to enjoy. The lead performances are strong and the action sequences well directed. Some clumsy and dated handling of the racial politics aside this makes for diverting viewing. Based on the novel by Daniel Carney. Followed by WILD GEESE II (1985). [15]

TV Review – KOJAK: THE CHINATOWN MURDERS (1974)

Image result for kojak season twoKojak: The Chinatown Murders (TV) (1974; USA; Technicolor; 95m) ∗∗∗  d. Jeannot Szwarc; w. Jack Laird; ph. Vilis Lapenieks, Sol Negrin; m. John Cacavas.  Cast: Telly Savalas, Michael Constantine, Sheree North, Tige Andrews, Roger Robinson, Dan Frazer, Kevin Dobson, George Savalas, Leonardo Cimino, Milton Selzer, Robert Ito, Victor Argo, Vincent Baggetta, Patrick Adiarte, Val Bisoglio. A series of gang-member murders in Chinatown starts a war. Kojak finds out that those murders were blamed on rival gangs in order to take over the territory from old families by a new gang. This feature-length episode opened Kojak’s second season. Despite attempts to inject some scope through its plot, the story is really nothing more than standard TV fare, albeit heightened by Savalas’ charismatic performance and a lean script. [PG]

Film Review – TARZAN ESCAPES (1936)

Image result for tarzan escapesTarzan Escapes (1936; USA; B&W; 89m) ∗∗∗  d. Richard Thorpe; w. Cyril Hume; ph. Leonard Smith; m. William Axt.  Cast: Johnny Weissmuller, Maureen O’Sullivan, John Buckler, Benita Hume, William Henry, Herbert Mundin, E.E. Clive, Darby Jones. An expedition seeking to bring Jane back to civilization, and Tarzan into captivity, gets more than it’s bargained for. Re-treads themes explored in the previous two movies with an increased emphasis on comic relief – provided by Rawlins and Cheetah – at the expense of jungle action. Production values are strong – notably in the effective swamp cave segment – and the Weissmuller/O’Sullivan chemistry gives the story its emotional heart. Original director, James C. McKay, who filmed many gruesome scenes was replaced by John Farrow and then Thorpe who practically re-shot the entire film. Re-uses footage shot for TRADER HORN (1931) as well as the first two Weissmuller Tarzan movies. Followed by TARZAN FINDS A SON! (1939). [U]

Film Review – UNKNOWN (2011)

Image result for unknown 2011 blu-rayUnknown (2011; UK/Germany/France/Canada/Japan/USA; Technicolor; 113m) ∗∗½  d. Jaume Collet-Serra; w. Oliver Butcher, Stephen Cornwell; ph. Flavio Martínez Labiano; m. John Ottman, Alexander Rudd.  Cast: Liam Neeson, Diane Kruger, January Jones, Aidan Quinn, Bruno Ganz, Frank Langella, Sebastian Koch, Olivier Schneider, Stipe Erceq, Rainer Bock, Mido Hamada, Clint Dyer, Karl Markovics, Eva Lobau, Helen Wiebensohn. A man awakens from a coma, only to discover that someone has taken on his identity and that no one, (not even his wife), believes him. With the help of a young woman, he sets out to prove who he is. Intriguing idea is let down by a hokey script and routine direction. Neeson does his best and brings some class to the proceedings and Ganz is impressive as a German PI with a past. Those willing to accept some of the absurdities of the screenplay may find elements to enjoy. Based on the novel “Out of My Head” by Didier Van Cauwelaert. [12]

Film Review – TARZAN AND HIS MATE (1934)

Image result for tarzan and his mate 1934Tarzan and His Mate (1934; USA; B&W; 104m) ∗∗∗∗  d. Cedric Gibbons; w. James Kevin McGuinness, Leon Gordon, Howard Emmett Rogers; ph. Charles G. Clarke, Clyde De Vinna; m. Herbert Stothart.  Cast: Johnny Weissmuller, Maureen O’Sullivan, Neil Hamilton, Paul Cavanagh, Forrester Harvey, Nathan Curry, Doris Lloyd, Everett Brown, Yola d’Avril, Paul Porcasi, Desmond Roberts, William Stack. The idyllic life of Tarzan and Jane is challenged by men on safari who come seeking ivory, and come seeking Jane as well. Follow-up to TARZAN THE APE MAN is another exciting jungle adventure. The action is fast-paced and often gruesome. Weissmuller and O’Sullivan continue to spark well together, whilst the plot was to become over-familiar as the series progressed. The finale with the safari surrounded by hungry lions is extremely tense. Gibbons was replaced as director by Jack Conway. O’Sullivan does not appear as Jane during the film’s famous nude swimming sequence in the restored 116m version, instead is doubled by Olympic swimmer Josephine McKim. Added to National Film Registry in 2003. Followed by TARZAN ESCAPES (1936). [PG]

Film Review – TARZAN THE APE MAN (1932)

Image result for TARZAN THE APE MAN 1932Tarzan the Ape Man (1932; USA; B&W; 100m) ∗∗∗∗  d. W.S. Van Dyke; w. Cyril Hume, Ivor Novello; ph. Clyde De Vinna, Harold Rosson; m. William Axt (musical director).  Cast: Johnny Weissmuller, Neil Hamilton, Maureen O’Sullivan, C. Aubrey Smith, Doris Lloyd, Forrester Harvey, Ivory Williams. A trader and his daughter set off in search of the fabled graveyard of the elephants in deepest Africa, only to encounter a wild man raised by apes. The first talkie Tarzan movie set the bar for what followed. This is an energetic and exciting production. Weissmuller makes an athletic and savage Tarzan superbly conveying a life spent growing up amongst the apes. O’Sullivan is his Jane and their chemistry makes their scenes together playful. Be aware this splendid production is an adult entertainment due to the levels of violence on screen. Based upon the characters created by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Considerable stock footage used from TRADER HORN (1931). Followed by TARZAN AND HIS MATE (1934). [PG]

Film Review – MONA LISA (1986)

Image result for mona lisa blu-rayMona Lisa (1986; UK; Technicolor; 104m) ∗∗∗∗  d. Neil Jordan; w. Neil Jordan, David Leland; ph. Roger Pratt; m. Michael Kamen.  Cast: Bob Hoskins, Cathy Tyson, Michael Caine, Robbie Coltrane, Clarke Peters, Kate Hardie, Sammi Davis, Rod Bedall, Zoe Nathenson, Joe Brown, Pauline Melville, Hossein Karimbeik, John Darling, Bryan Coleman, Robert Dorning. An ex-con gets a job as a driver for a beautiful high-priced call girl, with whom he forms an at first grudging, and then real affection. Dark film explores the seedy side of the London underworld. Hoskins is perfect as a man out of his time and Tyson equally as good. Caine is imposing as the boss of the operation. The film twists in a way inspired by the pulp fiction it openly emulates. Hard-hitting and shocking finale. All backed by Nat King Cole’s timeless hit. [18]