Film Review – FIREFOX (1982)

Image result for firefox 1982FIREFOX (USA, 1982) **½
      Distributor: Warner Bros; Production Company: The Malpaso Company; Release Date: 14 June 1982 (USA), 15 July 1982 (UK); Filming Dates: 26 August – November 1981; Running Time: 136m; Colour: DeLuxe; Sound Mix: Dolby (35 mm prints) | 70 mm 6-Track (70 mm prints); Film Format: 35mm, 70mm (blow up); Film Process: Panavision; Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1; BBFC Cert: 15.
      Director: Clint Eastwood; Writer: Alex Lasker, Wendell Wellman (based on the novel by Craig Thomas); Executive Producer: Fritz Manes; Producer: Clint Eastwood; Associate Producer: Paul Hitchcock; Director of Photography: Bruce Surtees; Music Composer: Maurice Jarre; Music Supervisor: ; Film Editor: Ron Spang, Ferris Webster; Casting Director: Marion Dougherty, Mary Selway; Production Designer: ; Art Director: Elayne Barbara Ceder, John Graysmark, Beala Neel; Set Decorator: Ernie Bishop; Costumes: Glenn Wright; Make-up: Christina Smith; Sound: Bub Asman, Alan Robert Murray, Robert G. Henderson; Special Effects: Chuck Gaspar; Visual Effects: John Dykstra.
      Cast: Clint Eastwood (Mitchell Gant), Freddie Jones (Kenneth Aubrey), David Huffman (Captain Buckholz), Warren Clarke (Pavel Upenskoy), Ronald Lacey (Semelovsky), Kenneth Colley (Colonel Kontarsky), Klaus Löwitsch (General Vladimirov), Nigel Hawthorne (Pyotr Baranovich), Stefan Schnabel (First Secretary), Thomas Hill (General Brown), Clive Merrison (Major Lanyev), Kai Wulff (Lt. Colonel Voskov), Dimitra Arliss (Natalia), Austin Willis (Walters), Michael Currie (Captain Seerbacker), James Staley (Lt. Commander Fleischer), Ward Costello (General Rogers), Alan Tilvern (Air Marshal Kutuzov), Oliver Cotton (Dmitri Priabin), Bernard Behrens (William Saltonstall), Richard Derr (Admiral Curtin), Woody Eney (Major Dietz), Bernard Erhard (KGB Guard), Hugh Fraser (Police Inspector Tortyev), David Gant (KGB Official), John Grillo (Customs Officer), Czeslaw Grocholski (Old Man), Barrie Houghton (Boris Glazunov), Neil Hunt (Richard Cunningham), Vincent J. Isaac (Sub Radio Operator), Alexei Jawdokimov (Code Operator), Wolf Kahler (KGB Chairman Andropov), Eugene Lipinski (KGB Agent), Phillip Littell (Code Operator), Curt Lowens (Dr. Schuller), Lev Mailer (Guard at Shower), Fritz Manes (Captain), David Meyers (Grosch), Alfredo Michelson (Interrogator), Zeno Nahayevsky (Officer at Plane), George Orrison (Leon Sprague), Tony Papenfuss (GRU Officer), Olivier Pierre (Borkh), Grisha Plotkin (GRU Officer), George Pravda (General Borov), John Ratzenberger (Chief Peck), Alex Rodine (Captain of the Riga), Lance Rosen (Agent), Gene Scherer (Russian Captain), Warwick Sims (Shelley), Mike Spero (Russian Guard), Malcolm Storry (KGB Agent), Chris Winfield (RAF Operator), John Yates (Admiral Pearson), Alexander Zale (Riga Fire Control Chief), Igor Zatsepin (Flight Engineer), Konstantin Zlatev (Riga Technician).
      Synopsis: The Soviets have developed a revolutionary new jet fighter, so the British send an ex-Vietnam War pilot on a covert mission into the Soviet Union to steal it.
      Comment: Change of direction for Eastwood as he takes on a tale that mixes Alistair MacLean-style high adventure with the spy thriller. Whilst the basis of the plot is plausible it is often executed in a ham-fisted manner, not helped by some telegraphed performances – notably Jones as the caper leader. Eastwood looks uncomfortable with the genre and the script gives him little to work with. He directs efficiently and handles the action sequences well, though the flight chase scenes now look dated.
      Notes: After its initial release, Eastwood recut the film by 13m; this 124m version has aired on cable TV. The story is loosely based on an actual event in which a Soviet fighter pilot (Viktor Belenko) defected to Japan on September 6, 1976. Belenko was stationed in Chuguyekva, Primorsky Krai, RSFSR (Soviet Russia) where he flew a MiG-25 to Hakodate, Japan.

Film Review – VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA (1961)

Image result for voyage to the bottom of the sea 1961VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA (USA, 1961) ***
      Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox; Production Company: Irwin Allen Productions (as Windsor Productions); Release Date: 12 July 1961; Filming Dates: 25 January 1961 – April 1961; Running Time: 105m; Colour: DeLuxe; Sound Mix: 4-Track Stereo (Westrex Recording System); Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: CinemaScope (anamorphic); Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1; BBFC Cert: U.
      Director: Irwin Allen; Writer: Irwin Allen, Charles Bennett (based on a story by Irwin Allen); Producer: Irwin Allen; Director of Photography: Winton C. Hoch; Music Composer: Paul Sawtell, Bert Shefter; Film Editor: George Boemler; Production Designer: ; Art Director: Herman A. Blumenthal, Jack Martin Smith; Set Decorator: Walter M. Scott, John Sturtevant; Costumes: Paul Zastupnevich; Make-up: Ben Nye; Sound: Alfred Bruzlin, Warren B. Delaplain; Special Effects: Johnny Borgese (uncredited); Visual Effects: L.B. Abbott.
      Cast: Walter Pidgeon (Adm. Harriman Nelson), Joan Fontaine (Dr. Susan Hiller), Barbara Eden (Lt Cathy Connors), Peter Lorre (Comm. Lucius Emery), Robert Sterling (Capt. Lee Crane), Michael Ansara (Miguel Alvarez), Frankie Avalon (Lt (j.g.) Danny Romano), Regis Toomey (Dr. Jamieson), John Litel (Vice-Adm. B.J. Crawford), Howard McNear (Congressman Llewellyn Parker), Henry Daniell (Dr. Zucco), Skip Ward (Crew member), Mark Slade (Seaman Jimmy ‘Red’ Smith), Charles Tannen (CPO Gleason), Del Monroe (Seaman Kowski), Anthony Monaco (Cookie), Michael Ford (Crew member), Robert Easton (Sparks), Jonathan Gilmore (Seaman George Young).
      Synopsis: An Admiral takes a brand new atomic submarine through its paces. When the Van Allen radiation belt catches fire, the admiral must find a way to beat the heat or watch the world go up in smoke.
      Comment: Enjoyable bit of nonsense which became one of its producer’s most successful ventures. Pidgeon is a few levels above the material and his dignified performance keeps you believing in the fantastical events that are unfolding. The topic of global catastrophe triggered by man’s ability to pollute the planet has gained in significance over the years with the debates on global warming.  As such much of this tale will resonate with modern audiences. The script, however, lacks sufficient depth to make the most of these potential messages. There is kids adventure stuff too with one of the underwater sequences involving struggles with a giant octopus. The film was successful enough for Allen to transition it toTV.
      Notes: Song: “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea,” music and lyrics by Russell Faith. Followed by a TV series (1964-8). This story was remade as an episode of the TV series “The Sky’s on Fire” (season 2, episode 18) broadcast on 23 January 1966.

Film Review – FANTASTIC VOYAGE (1966)

Image result for fantastic voyage 1966FANTASTIC VOYAGE (USA, 1966) ***½
      Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox; Production Company: Twentieth Century Fox; Release Date: 24 August 1966 (USA), 14 October 1966 (UK); Filming Dates: 25 January – mid June 1965; Running Time: 100m; Colour: DeLuxe; Sound Mix: Mono (Westrex Recording System); Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: CinemaScope; Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1; BBFC Cert: U.
      Director: Richard Fleischer; Writer: Harry Kleiner (screenplay), David Duncan (adaptation) (based on a story by Otto Klement and Jerome Bixby); Producer: Saul David; Director of Photography: Ernest Laszlo; Music Composer: Leonard Rosenman; Film Editor: William B. Murphy; Art Director: Dale Hennesy, Jack Martin Smith; Set Decorator: Stuart A. Reiss, Walter M. Scott; Costumes: Bruce Walkup, Truman Eli, Ollie Hughes (all uncredited); Make-up: Ben Nye; Sound: David Dockendorf, Bernard Freericks; Special Effects: Johnny Borgese, Greg C. Jensen (both uncredited); Visual Effects: L.B. Abbott, Art Cruickshank, Emil Kosa Jr.
      Cast: Stephen Boyd (Grant), Raquel Welch (Cora), Edmond O’Brien (General Carter), Donald Pleasence (Dr. Michaels), Arthur O’Connell (Col. Donald Reid), William Redfield (Capt. Bill Owens), Arthur Kennedy (Dr. Duval), Jean Del Val (Jan Benes), Barry Coe (Communications Aide), Ken Scott (Secret Service), Shelby Grant (Nurse), James Brolin (Technician), Brendan Fitzgerald (Wireless Operator). Uncredited: Brendon Boone (Military Policeman), Kenneth MacDonald (Henry – Heart Monitoring), Christopher Riordan (Young Scientist).
      Synopsis: A diplomat is nearly assassinated. In order to save him, a submarine is shrunken to microscopic size and injected into his bloodstream with a small crew. Problems arise almost as soon as they enter the bloodstream.
      Comment: Imaginative sci-fi memorable for its superb production design and photographic effects, which deservedly won Academy Awards. The script is solid, even if the dialogue is a little hokey at times, and provides the requisite set-pieces, helping build tension in the story. The concept of miniaturisation is fanciful, but once you get past that element there is much to enjoy in the fantasy it creates. Boyd makes for a likeable square-jawed hero and Welch adds glamour to the mix.  Capably directed by Fleischer and with an eerily discordant score from Rosenman.
      Notes: The picture marked the first major screen role for actress Raquel Welch. Won Oscars for Art Direction-Set Decoration (Jack Martin Smith, Dale Hennesy, Walter M. Scott and Stuart A. Reiss) and Special Effects (Art Cruickshank). Novelised by Isaac Asimov. Followed by an animated TV series in 1968.

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.

TV Review – DOCTOR WHO: THE BATTLE OF RANSKOOR AV KOLOS (2018)

Image result for The Battle of Ranskoor Av KolosDoctor Who: The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos (TV) (2018; UK; Colour; 49m) ***  pr. Alex Mercer; d. Jamie Childs; w. Chris Chibnall; ph. Sam Heasman; m.Segun Akinola.  Cast: Jodie Whittaker, Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole, Mandip Gill, Mark Addy, Phyllis Logan, Percelle Ascott, Jan Lee, Samuel Oatley. On the planet of Ranskoor Av Kolos, lies the remains of a brutal battlefield. But as the Doctor, Graham, Yaz and Ryan answer nine separate distress calls, they discover the planet holds far more secrets. Who is the mysterious commander with no memory? What lies beyond the mists? Who or what are the Ux? The answers will lead the Doctor and her friends towards a deadly reckoning. Season finale lacks the sense of occasion of previous seasons. The story is okay, but again the alien threat is too easily nullified and there is no real sense of jeopardy as everything feels so rushed – it was a mistake (one of many) not to sprinkle some two-parters into this series. The performances are uneven, with Gill and Cole too wooden in their parts. The best performances come from Addy and Walsh. Jodie Whittaker appears to have settled into a one-tone approach to her performance as the Doctor and many of the jokey lines feel more than a little bit wearisome. It’s all nicely shot and the visuals are very impressive. The theme of “cause and effect” by tying into THE WOMAN WHO FELL TO EARTH feels tokenistic. It provides a bookend feel to the season, but there is no real sense of wonder or surprise. An average end to what has been a disappointingly average series.

TV Review – DOCTOR WHO: IT TAKES YOU AWAY (2018)

Doctor Who: It Takes You Away (TV) (2018; UK; Colour; 50m) ***½  pr. Nikki Wilson; d. Jamie Childs; w. Ed Hime; ph. Denis Crossan; m.Segun Akinola.  Cast: Jodie Whittaker, Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole, Mandip Gill, Eleanor Wallwork, Kevin Eldon, Christian Rubeck, Lisa Stokke, Sharon D Clarke. On the edge of a Norwegian fjord, in the present day, The Doctor, Ryan, Graham and Yaz discover a boarded-up cottage and a girl named Hanne in need of their help. What has happened here? What monster lurks in the woods around the cottage – and beyond? For the most part, this episode is intriguing and tense. The mystery is well plotted and has characters emotionally invested. Whilst conceptually this has been the most challenging episode of this series it has also been the most rewarding, showing that strong writing is what has been missing for most of this series. But the episode threatens to implode into silliness with the talking frog, which deflates much of the tension that has been built up to that point. Why did the writers and producers think this would make the episode more dramatic? It comes across as a gimmick which derails what could have been the best episode of the season by far. As it stands it is still one of the better representations of Chibnall’s vision in this disappointing run of stories. That the last three episodes, none of which have been written by Chibnall, have come closest to the series’ template show that there is still life in the concept with thoughtful writing. Let’s hope Chibnall can pull the rabbit from the hat in the last episode and the New Year special – otherwise, this will almost certainly go down as the worst series of the new run.

TV Review – DOCTOR WHO: THE WITCHFINDERS (2018)

Doctor Who: The Witchfinders (TV) (2018; UK; Colour; 50m) ***  pr. Alex Mercer; d. Sallie Aprahamian; w. Joy Wilkinson; ph. Tim Palmer; m.Segun Akinola.  Cast: Jodie Whittaker, Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole, Mandip Gill, Alan Cumming, Siobhan Finneran, Tilly Steele, Tricia Kelly, Arthur Kay, Stavros Demetraki.  The Doctor, Ryan, Graham and Yaz arrive in 17th century Lancashire and become embroiled in a witch trial, run by the local landowner. As fear stalks the land, the arrival of King James I only serves to intensify the witch hunt. But is there something even more dangerous at work? Can the Doctor and friends keep the people of Bilehurst Cragg safe from all the forces that are massing in the land? A promising storyline with one or two effective scenes is undermined by a cluttered TARDIS crew trying to find enough to warrant their inclusion. Finneran delivers a strong performance, notably when she becomes possessed, but the script is not as strong as it should have been, failing to drive sufficient tension from the narrative. So, what could have been the strongest episode of this new set becomes yet another triumph of style over content. The visuals are what give the story its atmosphere and the make-up work is excellent too, but the story lacks depth due to the rush to cram a lot of material into the running time. The introduction of the alien threat late in the day leaves no room for further exploration of backstory or motivation. Ultimately, this is a story that would have benefited from room to breathe.

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]

TV Review – DOCTOR WHO: KERBLAM! (2018)

Image result for doctor who kerblamDoctor Who: Kerblam! (TV) (2018; UK; Colour; 50m) ***½  pr. Alex Mercer; d. Jennifer Perrott; w. Pete McTighe; ph. Simon Chapman; m.Segun Akinola.  Cast: Jodie Whittaker, Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole, Mandip Gill, Julie Hesmondhalgh, Lee Mack, Callum Dixon, Claudia Jessie, Leo Flanagan.  A mysterious message arrives in a package addressed to the Doctor, leading her, Graham, Yaz and Ryan to investigate the warehouse moon orbiting Kandoka, and the home of the galaxy’s largest retailer: Kerblam! Obvious links to the massive growth of companies like Amazon, this does not play to the expected corporate greed sub-plot in the traditional way – instead linking the threat to anti-corporate terrorism. As such this is a refreshingly straight-forward tale, which adds to the mix elements of robo-phobia (mirroring stories such as THE ROBOTS OF DEATH). The result is one of the better entries in this otherwise disappointing series to date and there is genuine tension generated by McTighe’s script and Perrott’s direction. The performances, however, remain variable – Cole seems to be becoming more wooden by the week – but at least the companions get to be split up and given equal roles to play. [PG]

TV Review – DOCTOR WHO: DEMONS OF THE PUNJAB (2018)

Image result for demons of the punjabDoctor Who: Demons of the Punjab (TV) (2018; UK; Colour; 51m) ***½  pr. Alex Mercer; d. Jamie Childs; w. Vinay Patel; ph. Denis Crossan; m.Segun Akinola.  Cast: Jodie Whittaker, Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole, Mandip Gill, Shane Zaza, Amita Suman, Hamza Jeetooa, Leena Dhingra, Shaheen Khan, Shobna Gulati.  India, 1947. The Doctor and her friends arrive in the Punjab, as the country is being torn apart. While Yaz attempts to discover her grandmother’s hidden history, the Doctor discovers demons haunting the land. Who are they and what do they want? Bold attempt to add emotional depth and historical significance to the series partly pays off – notably in its heart-wrenching finale. The plot is reminiscent of the Christopher Eccleston story FATHER’S DAY, in its theme of returning to a companion’s past and a tragic outcome that cannot be avoided. However, the narrative still feels cluttered due to too many companions and a need to cover broad topics in a short running time. Some of the dialogue feels anachronistic too, belying the 1947 setting. Still, an improvement on recent episodes and Whittaker continues to grow into the title role. [PG]