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 – 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]

TV Review – DOCTOR WHO: OXYGEN (2017)

Image result for doctor who oxygenDoctor Who: Oxygen (TV) (2017; UK; Colour; 45m) ∗∗∗∗  pr. Nikki Wilson; d. Charles Palmer; w. Jamie Mathieson; ph. Mark Waters; m. Murray Gold.  Cast: Peter Capaldi, Pearl Mackie, Matt Lucas, Kieran Bew, Justin Salinger, Peter Caulfield, Mimi Ndiweni, Katie Brayben. The Doctor, Bill and Nardole answer a distress call in deep space, and find themselves trapped on board space station Chasm Forge. All but four of the crew have been murdered – and the dead are still walking! Tense episode benefits from a strong script and Capaldi at his best. The plot is a thinly diguised allegory for corporate greed with its cast of zombified workers having been exploited by the “suits”. The visual effects are very impressive and there is a cliffhanger ending that adds a twist. [12]

TV Review – DOCTOR WHO: KNOCK KNOCK (2017)

Image result for doctor who knock knockDoctor Who: Knock Knock (TV) (2017; UK; Colour; 45m) ∗∗∗∗  pr. Nikki Wilson; d. Bill Anderson; w. Mike Bartlett; ph. Damian Bromley; m. Murray Gold.  Cast: Peter Capaldi, Pearl Mackie, Matt Lucas, David Suchet, Mariah Gale, Mandeep Dhillon, Colin Ryan, Ben Presley, Alice Hewkin, Bart Suavek, Sam Benjamin.  Bill is moving in with some friends and they’ve found the perfect house – so what if it’s strangely cheap to rent, and the landlord is a little creepy? The wind blows, the floorboards creak, and the Doctor thinks something is very wrong. What lurks in the strange tower at the heart of the building – and why can’t they find any way to enter it? This effective variation on the haunted house plot is a perfectly paced and creepy episode with Suchet excellent as the mysterious Landlord. Capaldi and Mackie are making a great team with their interplay and banter. Great visual effects and make-up. [12]

TV Review – DOCTOR WHO: THIN ICE (2017)

Image result for doctor who thin iceDoctor Who: Thin Ice (TV) (2017; UK; Colour; 44m) ∗∗∗  pr. Nikki Wilson; d. Bill Anderson; w. Sarah Dollard; ph. Damian Bromley; m. Murray Gold.  Cast: Peter Capaldi, Pearl Mackie, Matt Lucas, Nicholas Burns, Asiatu Koroma, Simon Ludders, Tomi May, Guillaume Rivaud, Ellie Shenker, Peter Singh, Badger Skelton, Austin Taylor, Kishaina Thiruselvan.  London, 1814. The entire city has turned out for the biggest Frost Fair in decades. But beneath the frozen Thames, revellers are disappearing, snatched through the ice and pulled into the depths where a terrifying monster lurks. Will the Doctor and Bill stop the slaughter before they too are dragged into the icy waters? Fun episode with superb production values capturing London in the early 19th century. The story is no great shakes and lacks any real tension, but there is nice interplay between the leads and enough spirit to make it entertaining. [PG]

TV Review – DOCTOR WHO: SMILE (2017)

Doctor Who: Smile (TV) (2017; UK; Colour; 46m) ∗∗½  pr. Peter Bennett; d. Lawrence Gough; w. Frank Cottrell-Boyce; ph. Ashley Rowe; m. Murray Gold; ed. William Oswald.  Cast: Peter Capaldi, Pearl Mackie, Matt Lucas, Kiran L Dadlani, Mina Anwar, Ralf Little, Kalungi Ssebandeke, Kiran Shah, Craig Garner. In the far future, at the edge of the galaxy, there is a gleaming, perfect city. This brand new human settlement is said to hold the secret of human happiness – but the only smiles the Doctor and Bill can find are on a pile of grinning skulls. Something is alive in the walls, and the emojibots are watching from the shadows, as the Doctor and Bill trying to unravel a terrifying mystery. Beautfully shot with great use of the City of Arts and Sciences (Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias), in Valencia, Spain as an alien location. Unfortunately the story does little to engage either as a whimsical take on subversion of language or as a tale of technology gone wrong. The interplay between Capaldi and Mackie is good, but they mainly interact with the cute, but bland, emojibots. The threat factor is largely diminished by these robots’ clunkiness. When a human cast eventually emerges from slumber late in the proceedings the story has already moved toward a swift wrap-up, leaving no time for any further development. There is a direct lead in to the next episode THIN ICE at the conclusion, echoing the approach taken during the Hartnell years. [PG]

TV Review – DOCTOR WHO: THE PILOT (2017)


Image result for doctor who the pilotDoctor Who: The Pilot 
(TV) (2017; UK; Colour; 50m) ∗∗∗½  pr. Nikki Wilson; d. Lawrence Gough; w. Steven Moffat; ph. Ashley Rowe; m. Murray Gold; ed. William Oswald.  Cast: Peter Capaldi, Matt Lucas, Pearl Mackie, Jennifer Hennessy, Stephanie Hyam, Nicholas Briggs (voice).  A chance encounter with a girl with a star in her eye leads to a terrifying chase across time and space. Bill’s mind is opened to a Universe that is bigger and more exciting than she could possibly have imagined – but who is the Doctor, and what is his secret mission with Nardole on Earth? This is a confident season opener that re-establishes the concept of the series through the eyes of new companion Bill Potts (Mackie).  Mackie has lots of charm and her chemistry with Capaldi promises much for the series ahead.  The plot shares common themes with WATERS OF MARS, which may or may not be a significant point. [PG]

Film Review – ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY (2016)

Image result for rogue one blu-rayRogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016; USA; Colour; 134m) ∗∗∗½  d. Gareth Edwards; w. Chris Weitz, Tony Gilroy, John Knoll, Gary Whitta; ph. Greig Fraser; m. Michael Giacchino.  Cast: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Jiang Wen, Mads Mikkelsen, Forest Whitaker, Alan Tudyk, Riz Ahmed, Jonathan Aris, Jimmy Smits, Alistair Petrie, Genevieve O’Reilly, Valene Kane, Warwick Davis. A Rebellion soldier and criminal, is about to experience her biggest challenge yet when Mon Mothma sets her out on a mission to steal the plans for the Death Star. Visually stunning and action-packed lead in to the original STAR WARS trilogy that cleverly lays the foundations. This instalment has a darkness emphasised by the impressive production design and often bleak locales. The new characters, however, lack any real depth as they are simply cyphers for the set-up. The performances also lack spark and chemistry – the actors delivering sometimes stilted and forced dialogue – but there remains a spirit to this adventure that suggests there is longevity in the franchise. Also shot in 3-D. [12]

Film Review – ICE STATION ZEBRA (1968)

Image result for ice station zebra dvdIce Station Zebra (1968; USA; Metrocolor; 148m) ∗∗∗½  d. John Sturges; w. Douglas Heyes, Harry Julian Fink; ph. Daniel L. Fapp; m. Michel Legrand.  Cast: Rock Hudson, Ernest Borgnine, Patrick McGoohan, Jim Brown, Tony Bill, Lloyd Nolan, Alf Kjellin, Gerald S. O’Loughlin, Ted Hartley, Murray Rose, Ron Masak, Sherwood Price, Lee Stanley, Joseph Bernard. A nuclear submarine commander is dispatched to the polar ice region on a rescue mission when an emergency signal is received from a research station. It soon becomes apparent that the mission is more than just a simple rescue operation. Well cast spy drama may be overlong, but retains its interest throughout thanks to a solid script and strong performances from Hudson and McGoohan. Excellent production values and imaginative use of studio sets. Originally shown in theatres with an opening overture, which was restored for the 2005 DVD release. Based on the novel by Alistair MacLean. [U]