Film Review – SWEENEY 2 (1978)

Image result for sweeney 2 1978SWEENEY 2 (UK, 1978) ***
      Distributor: EMI Distribution; Production Company: Euston Films; Release Date: April 1978; Filming Dates: Novcmber 1977 – December 1977; Running Time: 104m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Mono; Film Format: 35mm; Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1; BBFC Cert: 18.
      Director: Tom Clegg; Writer: Troy Kennedy-Martin (based on “The Sweeney” created by Ian Kennedy Martin); Executive Producer: Lloyd Shirley, George Taylor; Producer: Ted Childs; Associate Producer: ; Director of Photography: Dusty Miller; Music Composer: Tony Hatch; Film Editor: Chris Burt; Casting Director: Marilyn Johnson; Art Director: William Alexander; Costumes: David Murphy; Make-up: Eddie Knight; Sound: Derek Rye, Hugh Strain, Ian Toynton; Special Effects: Arthur Beavis.
      Cast: John Thaw (Det. Insp. Jack Regan), Dennis Waterman (Det. Sgt. George Carter), Denholm Elliott (Jupp), Ken Hutchison (Hill), Anna Gaël (Mrs. Hill), Barry Stanton (Big John), John Flanagan (Willard), David Casey (Goodyear), Derrick O’Connor (Llewellyn), John Alkin (Det. Sgt. Tom Daniels), James Warrior (Det. Con. Jellyneck), Guy Standeven (Logan – Bank Manager), Brian Gwaspari (White), Frederick Treves (McKyle), Johnny Shannon (Harry – Villain), Clifford Kershaw (Gloria’s Father), Toby Salaman (Doctor), Nigel Hawthorne (Dilke), Lewis Fiander (Gorran), Anna Nygh (Shirley Hicks), Michael J. Jackson (Soames), Lynn Dearth (Mrs. White), Fiona Mollison (Mrs. Haughton), Sarah Atkinson (Mrs. Mead), John Lyons (Mead), Brian Hall (Haughton), Matthew Scurfield (Jefferson), Gareth Milne (Bank Teller), Sebastian Witkin (Skateboarder), Hubert Rees (Bank Manager), George Innes (Pete Beale), Roddy McMillan (Collie), Michael O’Hagan (Doyle), Arthur Cox (Detective), Georgina Hale (Switchboard Girl), Patrick Malahide (Major Conway), Max Mason (SPG Constable), Frank Coda (Commissionaire), Yvon Doval (Mr. Mahmoun), Jim McManus (Barman), John Vine (PC), David Gillies (PC), Seretta Wilson (Girl), Diana Weston (Air Hostess), George Mikell (Superintendent), Marc Zuber (Andy), Joe Zammit-Cardona (Customs Official), Leon Lissek (Cardona Alexandros), Marilyn Finlay (School Teacher), Seymour Matthews (Harry – Fingerprint Man), Stefan Gryff (Nino), Michael Scholes (Boy in Bed), Danny Rae (Taxi Driver), Rosario Serrano (Mrs. Konstantikis), Eamonn Jones (Barman), Alan Ross (Fiddler).
      Synopsis: Second cinematic spin-off from the popular 70’s police series. Regan & Carter head a Flying Squad investigation into a series of bank raids by a team of well-armed villains who are flying in from the continent
      Comment: This follow-up to the first big-screen outing for Thaw and Waterman in SWEENEY! (1977) is a tough and violent story of the pursuit of a gang of bank robbers who are funding a residential development in Malta. The story stretches its running time and contains a lot of padding – including a bomb threat segment in a hotel that has no other reason to be in the story. That said it works slightly better than the first film as it is more closely linked to the style and characters of the TV series. Thaw and Waterman have established a strong rapport and there is a “fly-on-the-wall” documentary feel to the way the story is filmed, adding to the levels of authenticity. However, there is less in the way of character progression and the whole thing amounts to little more than an extended, albeit enjoyable, episode of the series.
      Notes: As seen through Denholm Elliott’s character, The Sweeney was not afraid to face the fact that there are such things as bent officers. The character was based on a real-life former head of the Flying Squad, who had been convicted at the Old Bailey on corruption charges in 1977.

Film Review – KELLY’S HEROES (1970)

Image result for kelly's heroesKELLY’S HEROES (Yugoslavia/USA, 1970) ***½
      Distributor: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM); Production Company: Avala Film / Katzka-Loeb / The Warriors Company; Release Date: 23 June 1970 (USA), 17 September 1970 (UK); Filming Dates: 30 June 1969 – December 1969; Running Time: 144m; Colour: Metrocolor; Sound Mix: 70 mm 6-Track (70 mm prints) | Stereo (35 mm prints); Film Format: 35mm (70mm blow-up); Film Process: Panavision (anamorphic); Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1; BBFC Cert: PG – contains mild language and violence.
Director: Brian G. Hutton; Writer: Troy Kennedy-Martin; Producer: Sidney Beckerman, Gabriel Katzka; Associate Producer: Irving L. Leonard; Director of Photography: Gabriel Figueroa; Music Composer: Lalo Schifrin; Film Editor: John Jympson; Production Designer: John Barry; Set Decorator: Mike Ford; Costumes: Anna Maria Feo; Make-up: Trevor Crole-Rees; Sound: Jonathan Bates, Cyril Swern, Harry W. Tetrick; Special Effects: Karl Baumgartner.
      Cast: Clint Eastwood (Kelly), Telly Savalas (Big Joe), Don Rickles (Crapgame), Carroll O’Connor (General Colt), Donald Sutherland (Oddball), Gavin MacLeod (Moriarty), Hal Buckley (Maitland), Stuart Margolin (Little Joe), Jeff Morris (Cowboy), Richard Davalos (Gutowski), Perry Lopez (Petuko), Tom Troupe (Job), Harry Dean Stanton (Willard), Dick Balduzzi (Fisher), Gene Collins (Babra), Len Lesser (Bellamy), David Hurst (Colonel Dankhopf), Fred Pearlman (Mitchell), Michael Clark (Grace), George Fargo (Penn), Dee Pollock (Jonesey), George Savalas (Mulligan), John G. Heller (German Lieutenant), Shepherd Sanders (Turk), Karl-Otto Alberty (German Tank Commander), Ross Elliott (Booker), Phil Adams (Third Tank Commander), Hugo De Vernier (French Mayor), Frank J. Garlotta (Tanker), Harry Goines (Supply Sergeant), David Gross (German Captain), Sandy McPeak (Second Tank Commander), James McHale (Guest), Robert MacNamara (Roach), Read Morgan (U.S. Lieutenant), Tom Signorelli (Bonsor), Donald Waugh (Roamer), Vincent Maracecchi (Old Man in Town).
      Synopsis: A group of U.S. soldiers sneaks across enemy lines to get their hands on a secret stash of Nazi treasure.
      Comment: Entertaining, if overlong, WWII heist caper coasts on the performances of its charismatic cast. Hutton, who previously worked with Eastwood on 1968’s  WHERE EAGLES DARE, handles the action scenes and pyrotechnics with great aplomb. Eastwood is the former US army officer who persuades Savalas and his platoon of misfits to venture behind enemy lines in search of a bounty of gold bars. They are joined along the way by Sutherland, as the anachronistic hippie “Oddball” who is surprisingly leading a squadron of three Sherman Tanks. Rickles is a supplies man operating his own black market and O’Connor gives an OTT performance as the unwitting General who assumes the assault on the German lines is out of sheer bravery. Lalo Schifrin’s score is amusing in a sequence where it recalls Ennio Morricone’s scores for Eastwood’s Spaghetti Westerns. Some may grumble at the levity in what was a bloody war and yes there are uneasy moments where you feel guilt at your enjoyment. A longer cut (circa 20 minutes were cut) would have carried more character focus and perhaps created a more complete story, but what we have is a loud, brash and often humorous caper movie.
      Notes: Songs: “Burning Bridges,” words and music by Lalo Schifrin and Mike Curb, sung by Mike Curb Congregation; “Si tu me dis,” music and lyrics by Lalo Schifrin and Gene Lees, sung by Monique Aldebert; “Sunshine,” composer undetermined, sung by Hank Williams.
The film is based on a true incident. The caper was covered in a book called “Nazi Gold: The Sensational Story of the World’s Greatest Robbery–and the Greatest Criminal Cover-Up” by Ian Sayer and Douglas Botting. The heist was perpetrated by a combination of renegade Nazi and American officers. It was also listed as the “biggest” robbery ever in the Guinness Book of Records, in the 1960s.

Film Review – THE COMMUTER (2018)

Image result for the commuter 2018THE COMMUTER (USA/UK, 2018) **
      Distributor: Lionsgate (USA), StudioCanal (UK); Production Company: StudioCanal / The Picture Company / Ombra Films; Release Date: 8 January 2018 (USA), 19 January 2018 (UK); Filming Dates: 25 July 2016 – September 2016; Running Time: 104m; Colour: Colour; Sound Mix: Dolby Atmos; Film Format: D-Cinema; Film Process: ARRIRAW; Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1; BBFC Cert: 15 – strong violence, injury detail.
      Director: Jaume Collet-Serra; Writer: Byron Willinger, Philip de Blasi, Ryan Engle (based on a story by Byron Willinger and Philip de Blasi); Executive Producer: Jaume Collet-Serra, Michael Dreyer, Ron Halpern, Didier Lupfer; Producer: Alex Heineman, Andrew Rona; Associate Producer: Lacey Darlene Paulson; Director of Photography: Paul Cameron; Music Composer: Roque Baños; Film Editor: Nicolas De Toth; Casting Director: Reg Poerscout-Edgerton; Production Designer: Richard Bridgland; Art Director: Wing Lee; Set Decorator: Tina Jones; Costumes: Jill Taylor, Betsy Heimann; Make-up: Sunday Englis; Sound: James Harrison, Steve Little; Special Effects: Stefano Pepin; Visual Effects: Steven Begg, Adam Rowland.
      Cast: Liam Neeson (Michael MacCauley), Vera Farmiga (Joanna), Patrick Wilson (Alex Murphy), Jonathan Banks (Walt), Sam Neill (Captain Hawthorne), Elizabeth McGovern (Karen MacCauley), Killian Scott (Dylan), Shazad Latif (Vince), Andy Nyman (Tony), Clara Lago (Eva), Roland Møller (Jackson), Florence Pugh (Gwen), Dean-Charles Chapman (Danny MacCauley), Ella-Rae Smith (Sofia), Nila Aalia (Sherri), Colin McFarlane (Conductor Sam), Kobna Holdbrook-Smith (Oliver), Adam Nagaitis (Conductor Jimmy), Kingsley Ben-Adir (Agent Garcia), Damson Idris (Agent Denys), Andy Lucas (Manny Engineer), Zaak Conway (Caleb O’Malley), Ben Caplan (Frank), Letitia Wright (Jules Skateboarder), Simon Hibbs (Sean O’Malley), Nathan Wiley (Sniper), Jamie Beamish (Nathan), Ben Nathan (Police Officer), David Alwyn (Platform Trooper), John Alastair (Officer O’Neal), Edward Bluemel (Gwen’s Boyfriend), Aoife Hinds (Jeanie), Alana Maria (Officer Jones), Pat Kiernan (Pat Kiernan), Natalie Duddridge (Natalie Duddridge), Jaime Menéndez (Enrique Mendez).
       Synopsis: An Insurance Salesman/Ex-Cop is caught up in a criminal conspiracy during his daily commute home.
      Comment: Preposterous thriller straight out of the “good ideas” department of the studio corporate wagon. It is almost a carbon-copy re-run of Neeson and Collet-Serra’s previous aeroplane-in-jeopardy collaboration NON-STOP. Whilst it is efficiently made and Neeson, as always, makes for a sympathetic hero, you find yourself scratching your head as to how this could actually be conceived as being in the least bit plausible. The set-pieces are so precisely choreographed they consistently ring false notes, resulting in the deflation of any suspense built through the competent direction and editing. This is formula product assembled for a forgiving modern audience that puts style and visual excitement ahead of intelligent story-telling.

Film Review – WHERE EAGLES DARE (1968)

Image result for where eagles dare 1968WHERE EAGLES DARE (UK/USA, 1968) ****
      Distributor: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM); Production Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) / Jerry Gershwin Productions / Elliott Kastner Productions / Winkast Film Productions; Release Date: 4 December 1968 (UK), 12 March 1969 (USA); Filming Dates: 2 January 1968 – May 1968; Running Time: 158m; Colour: Metrocolor; Sound Mix: 70 mm 6-Track (70 mm prints) | Mono (35 mm prints); Film Format: 35mm (70mm blow up); Film Process: Panavision (anamorphic); Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1; BBFC Cert: PG – moderate violence.
      Director: Brian G. Hutton; Writer: Alistair MacLean (based on his novel); Executive Producer: Jerry Gershwin; Producer: Elliott Kastner; Associate Producer: Denis Holt, Richard McWhorter; Director of Photography: Arthur Ibbetson; Music Composer: Ron Goodwin; Film Editor: John Jympson; Art Director: Peter Mullins; Set Decorator: Arthur Taksen; Costumes: Yvonne Blake, Arthur Newman (both uncredited); Make-up: Tony Sforzini (uncredited); Sound: Jonathan Bates, John Bramall, J.B. Smith; Special Effects: Fred Hellenburgh, Richard Parker; Visual Effects: Tom Howard.
      Cast: Richard Burton (Maj. Smith), Clint Eastwood (Schaffer), Mary Ure (Mary Ellison), Patrick Wymark (Col. Turner), Michael Hordern (Adm. Rolland), Donald Houston (Christiansen), Peter Barkworth (Berkeley), William Squire (Thomas), Robert Beatty (Carnaby), Brook Williams (Sgt. Harrod), Neil McCarthy (Sgt. Jock MacPherson), Vincent Ball (Carpenter), Anton Diffring (Col. Kramer), Ferdy Mayne (Rosemeyer), Derren Nesbitt (Von Hapen), Victor Beaumont (Col. Weissner), Ingrid Pitt (Heidi). Uncredited: Chris Adcock (German Soldier), Richard Beale (Telephone Orderly), Roy Beck (German Cablecar Engineer), Terence Conoley (Nazi), Ivor Dean (German Officer #2), Guy Deghy (Maj. Wilhelm Wilner), Jim Dowdall (German Officer on Stairs), Max Faulkner (Sgt. Hartmann), Harry Fielder (German Soldier), John G. Heller (German Major – at ‘Zum Wilden Hirsch’), Lyn Kennington (German Woman), Nigel Lambert (Young German Soldier), Olga Lowe (Lt. Anne-Marie Kernitser), Ian McCulloch (German Officer), Terence Mountain (German Radio Op), Derek Newark (German Major), Jim O’Brady (Waiter at Zum Wilden Hirsch), Edward Michael Perry (German Soldier), Anton Rodgers (German Officer at Airfield), Peter Roy (German Soldier), Bill Sawyer (Helicopter Pilot), Jack Silk (German Officer at Ammunitions Shed), Philip Stone (Sky Tram Operator), Jim Tyson (Innkeeper), Ernst Walder (Airport Control Officer).
      Synopsis: Allied agents stage a daring raid on a castle where the Nazis are holding an American General prisoner, but that’s not all that’s really going on.
      Comment: This is a highly entertaining wartime adventure written by Alistair MacLean. It gives THE GUNS OF NAVARONE  a run for its money as the best movie based on a MacLeran story. Burton, who took the lead role in an attempt to revive his box-office status, is an unlikely hero but acquits himself well. Eastwood does little more than add monosyllabic dialogue and shoot the enemy, but his star quality is obvious. There are some moments of humour between the leads, who strike up a likeable chemistry. The script is a fairly straight-forward rescue mission disguised as a complex espionage thriller. It adds the expected plot twists in order to keep the viewer guessing. Ultimately it is the action sequences that make the film exciting and Hutton manages to ratchet a fair amount of suspense from these. Ron Goodwin’s memorable score also helps to give the film its scale. Mary Ure and Ingrid Pitt make the most of their under-developed roles. For all its implausibilities it remains one of the best examples of high adventure from 1960s cinema.
      Notes: MacLean wrote the script and novel simultaneously over a period of six weeks. Location scenes filmed in the Austrian Alps. This is one of the first films to use front projection effect. Specifically, this technology enabled filming of the scenes where the actors are on top of the cable car.

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 – BRANNIGAN (1975)

Image result for brannigan 1975Brannigan (1975; UK; Colour; 111m) ***  d. Douglas Hickox; w. Christopher Trumbo, Michael Butler, William P. McGivern, William W. Norton; ph. Gerry Fisher; m. Dominic Frontiere.  Cast: John Wayne, Richard Attenborough, Judy Geeson, Mel Ferrer, Ralph Meeker, John Vernon, Lesley-Anne Down, Barry Dennen, Brian Glover, James Booth, Daniel Pilon, John Stride, Arthur Batanides, Pauline Delaney, Del Henney. An American detective is sent to London to bring back an American mobster who is being held for extradition. Nice twist on the fish-out-of-water formula with Wayne coasting on his charisma. Attenborough also adds a sprightly performance to this otherwise routine crime action thriller. Hickox directs with some flair although his shooting in London often resembles a tourist film capturing as many iconic shots as possible. [15]

Film Review – HELLFIGHTERS (1968)

Image result for hellfighters 1968Hellfighters (1968; USA; Technicolor; 121m) ***½  d. Andrew V. McLaglen; w. Clair Huffaker; ph. William H. Clothier; m. Leonard Rosenman.  Cast: John Wayne, Katharine Ross, Vera Miles, Jim Hutton, Bruce Cabot, Jay C. Flippen, Edward Faulkner, Barbara Stuart, Edmund Hashim. The story of macho oil well firefighters and their wives. Whilst it plays almost every cliché in the book – and set a few – this is still an entertaining, well-staged action-packed story. Likeable characters, witty and simplistic plot and episodic nature keeps us interested. Rosenman’s theme and score are memorable. Wayne’s character of Chance Buckman is based on real-life oil well firefighter ‘Red’ Adair. Adair, “Boots” Hansen, and “Coots” Matthews, all served as technical advisers on the film. [PG]

Film Review – THE GREEN BERETS (1968)

Image result for the green berets 1968Green Berets, The (1969; USA; Technicolor; 142m) **  d. Ray Kellogg, John Wayne; w. James Lee Barrett; ph. Winton C. Hoch; m. Miklós Rózsa.  Cast: John Wayne, David Janssen, Jim Hutton, Aldo Ray, Raymond St. Jacques, Bruce Cabot, Jack Soo, George Takai, Patrick Wayne, Luke Askew, Irene Tsu, Edward Faulkner, Jason Evers, Mike Henry, Vera Miles. A US army colonel picks two teams of crack Green Berets for a mission in South Vietnam. First off is to build and control a camp that is trying to be taken by the enemy the second mission is to kidnap a North Vietnamese General. Misguided attempt to justify US involvement in Vietnam War by serving it up with genre heroics seen in many flag-waving WWII movies. Wayne gives his usually competent square-jawed performance, but he is not well served by a long-winded and sloppy script plus uneven supporting performances. Based on the novel by Robin Moore. [12]

Film Review – IN HARM’S WAY (1965)

Image result for in harm's way 1965In Harm’s Way (1965; USA; B&W; 165m) **½  d. Otto Preminger; w. Wendell Mayes; ph. Loyal Griggs; m. Jerry Goldsmith.  Cast: John Wayne, Kirk Douglas, Henry Fonda, George Kennedy, Patricia Neal, Tom Tryon, Paula Prentiss, Burgess Meredith, Slim Pickens, Dana Andrews, Brandon DeWilde, Jill Haworth, Stanley Holloway, Franchot Tone, Carroll O’Connor, Larry Hagman, Barbara Bouchet. A naval officer reprimanded after Pearl Harbor is later promoted to rear admiral and gets a second chance to prove himself against the Japanese. Bloated and flatly directed WWII drama has more than a hint of melodrama and fails to satisfy despite improvement in its final act. Script suffers by trying to open up too many dead-end sub-plots involving a casting mix of seasoned veterans and future stars. Virtues are crisp black and white cinematography and stoic performance from Wayne. Based on the novel “Harm’s Way” by James Bassett. [PG]