Film Review – SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY (2018)

Image result for solo a star wars storySolo: A Star Wars Story (2018; USA; Colour; 135m) ***½  d. Ron Howard; w. Lawrence Kasdan, Jonathan Kasdan; ph. Bradford Young; m. John Powell.  Cast: Alden Ehrenreich, Emilia Clarke, Woody Harrelson, Donald Glover, Thandie Newton, Paul Bettany, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Warwick Davis, Clint Howard, Richard Dixon, Joonas Suotamo, Sarah-Stephanie, Deepak Anand, Slim Khezri, Ian Kenny, Douglas Robson, Omar Alboukharey, Sean Gislingham, Nathaniel Lonsdale. During an adventure into the criminal underworld, Han Solo meets his future copilot Chewbacca and encounters Lando Calrissian years before joining the Rebellion. Whilst this STAR WARS spin-off offers nothing particularly new or surprising, considering its troubled production history it remains a surprisingly consistently entertaining adventure. Ehrenreich displays the same roguish charisma as essayed by Harrison Ford and Glover also scores as Lando Calrissian. The action set pieces are effective and avoid the stilted choreography of recent efforts. Whilst the story itself may lack the gravitas and mysticism of its parent, it makes for more simple-minded fun. Although originally brought on board to complete the film after Phil Lord and Christopher Miller had been dismissed due to creative differences, it was widely reported that Howard re-shot more than 80% of the movie. Also shot in 3-D. [12]

Film Review – THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE (1948)

Image result for the treasure of the sierra madreTreasure of the Sierra Madre, The (1948; USA; B&W; 126m) ****½  d. John Huston; w. John Huston; ph. Ted D. McCord; m. Max Steiner.  Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Walter Huston, Tim Holt, Bruce Bennett, Barton MacLane, Alfonso Bedoya, Arturo Soto Rangel, Manuel Dondé, José Torvay, Margarito Luna. Two Americans searching for work in Mexico, convince an old prospector to help them mine for gold in the Sierra Madre Mountains. Basically, a parable about the human avarice – greed. Biblical overtones in the final act may seem a little heavy-handed but serve to emphasise the moral tone. John Huston directs with great confidence, with his father turning in a spirited performance as the experienced prospector. Bogart is also excellent in an unsympathetic role. Rousing score by Steiner and expressive photography from McCord.  Winner of three Oscars for Best Director, Supporting Actor (Walter Huston), Screenplay. Entered 1990 into the National Film Registry. Catch the uncredited appearance by Robert Blake as a boy selling lottery tickets. [PG]

Film Review – INTO THE BLUE (2005)

Into the Blue (2005) v1 by DrDarkDoomInto the Blue (2005; USA; DeLuxe; 110m) **½  d. John Stockwell; w. Matt Johnson; ph. Shane Hurlbut; m. Paul Haslinger.  Cast: Paul Walker, Jessica Alba, Scott Caan, Ashley Scott, Josh Brolin, James Frain, Tyson Beckford, Chris Taloa, Ramon Saunders, Adam Collins, Dwayne Adway, Javon Frazer, Peter R.V. Bowleg Jr., Clifford McIntosh, Gill Montie. A group of divers find themselves in deep trouble with a drug lord after they come upon the illicit cargo of a sunken airplane. Underwater action thriller aimed at the teen-plus market benefits from gorgeous locations and photography. However, it is dampened by a derivative script, familiar suspense and banal two-dimensional characters. Followed by a direct-to-video sequel INTO THE BLUE 2: THE REEF (2009). [15]

Film Review – THE DEEP (1977)

Image result for the deep 1977 movie posterDeep, The (1977; USA; Metrocolor; 123m) ***  d. Peter Yates; w. Peter Benchley, Tracy Keenan Wynn; ph. Christopher Challis; m. John Barry.  Cast: Robert Shaw, Jacqueline Bisset, Nick Nolte, Louis Gossett Jr., Eli Wallach, Dick Anthony Williams, Bob Minor, Robert Tessier, Earl Maynard, Teddy Tucker, Lee McClain, Peter Benchley, Peter Wallach, Colin Shaw. A pair of young vacationers are involved in a dangerous conflict with treasure hunters when they discover a way into a deadly wreck in Bermuda waters. Riding on the coat-tails of JAWS, this underwater adventure lacks the thrills and tight editing of its inspiration. The positives are the sumptuous photography, shot on location in Bermuda, and Barry’s lush score. Shaw is also at his abrasive best, whilst Nolte and Bisset look good for the camera. The version aired in the original ABC network telecast contained 53m of extra footage. Based on the novel by Peter Benchley. [PG]

Film Review – RAISE THE TITANIC (1980)

Image result for RAISE THE TITANIC BLU-RAYRaise the Titanic (1980; UK/USA; Colour; 115m) **  d. Jerry Jameson; w. Adam Kennedy, Eric Hughes; ph. Matthew F. Leonetti; m. John Barry.  Cast: Jason Robards, Richard Jordan, David Selby, Anne Archer, Alec Guinness, J.D. Cannon, M. Emmet Walsh, Bo Brundin, Norman Bartold, Elya Baskin, Dirk Blocker, Robert Broyles, Paul Carr, Michael C. Gwynne, Harvey Lewis. To obtain a supply of a rare mineral, a ship raising operation is conducted for the only known source, the Titanic. Flat adaptation of Clive Cussler’s novel is slow-moving and blighted by a bland script. The characters are two-dimensional and there is little opportunity to develop them through the story. There is a distinct lack of suspense and the political conflict is not fully explored. on the positive side Barry’s core is sumptuous and the visual effects are excellent. [PG]

TV Review – DOCTOR WHO: TWICE UPON A TIME (2017)

Related image
Doctor Who: Twice Upon a Time (TV) (2017: UK: Colour: 60m) ***  pr. Peter Bennett; d. Rachel Talalay; w. Steven Moffat; ph. Richard Stoddard; m. Murray Gold. Cast: Peter Capaldi, David Bradley, Mark Gatiss, Pearl Mackie, Lily Travers, Jared Garfield, Jodie Whittaker, Jenna Coleman, Matt Lucas. Two Doctors stranded in a forbidding snowscape, refusing to face regeneration. And a British army captain seemingly destined to die in the First World War, but taken from the trenches to play his part in the Doctor’s story. This is the magical last chapter in the Twelfth Doctor’s epic adventure. He must face his past to decide his future. And the Doctor will realise the resilience of humanity, discovering hope in his darkest frozen moment. It’s the end of an era. But the Doctor’s journey is only just beginning. Self-indulgent bow-out for Capaldi’s Doctor with a confusing plot device designed to wring-out every emotion from fans of the series. It will likely have left non-fans cold with its frozen-in-time plot line as both 1st and 12th Doctors hold back their re-generations. There were nice touches in this episode – notably the resolution of the WWI army captain’s story and the meeting up with an old friend/foe. Bradley doesn’t always get the 1st Doctor right, but this is not helped by him being given some weak lines, knowingly poking fun at the changes in cultural environment since the days of those early serials. Capaldi is excellent, as ever, and it is sad to see his Doctor finally go. Whittaker’s brief appearance looked promising and left us on another cliffhanger. The production values were good and the photography excellent, but hopefully new producer Chibnall will move away from Moffat’s penchant for complex concepts and get back to good old-fashioned story-telling to win back a broader audience base. [12]

Film Review – HELLFIGHTERS (1968)

Image result for hellfighters 1968Hellfighters (1968; USA; Technicolor; 121m) ***  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. Simplistic plot and episodic nature keeps us interested. Rosenman’s theme and score is memorable. Wayne’s character of Chance Buckman is based on real-life oil well firefighter ‘Red’ Adair. Adair, “Boots” Hansen, and “Coots” Matthews, served as technical advisers on the film. [PG]

Film Review – STAR WARS: EPISODE VIII – THE LAST JEDI (2017)

Image result for star wars the last jedi times review ukStar Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi (2017; USA; Colour; 152m) ****  d. Rian Johnson; w. Rian Johnson; ph. Steve Yedlin; m. John Williams.  Cast: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Domhnall Gleeson, Benicio del Toro, Laura Dern, Gwendoline Christie, Kelly Marie Tran, Lupita Nyong’o, Anthony Daniels, Andy Serkis, Warwick Davis. Having taken her first steps into the Jedi world, Rey joins Luke Skywalker on an adventure with Leia, Finn and Poe that unlocks mysteries of the Force and secrets of the past. Highly entertaining action-packed addition to the saga, which revisits many of the themes explored earlier in the series and as such may seem overly familiar. The basic chase plot is stretched a little with some lazy progressions, but despite its length the film doesn’t stand still for long nor does it outstay its welcome. Hamill and Fisher feature more heavily and there are one or two twists along the way, but its mid-trilogy position inevitably leaves certain issues unresolved. The visual effects and location work are exemplary. Also shot in 3-D. [12]

Film Review – INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE (1989)

Image result for indiana jones and the last crusade blu-rayIndiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989; USA; DeLuxe; 127m) ***  d. Steven Spielberg; w. Jeffrey Boam, George Lucas, Menno Meyjes; ph. Douglas Slocombe; m. John Williams.  Cast: Harrison Ford, Sean Connery, Denholm Elliott, Alison Doody, John Rhys-Davies, Julian Glover, River Phoenix, Michael Byrne, Vernon Dobtcheff, Paul Maxwell, Kevork Malikyan, Alex Hyde-White, Richard Young, Alexei Sayle. When Dr. Henry Jones Sr. suddenly goes missing while pursuing the Holy Grail, eminent archaeologist Indiana Jones must follow in his father’s footsteps and stop the Nazis. Highlight is the chemistry and interplay between Ford and Connery. This third instalment is played more for laughs – and there are a fair few. Unfortunately, the change in tone diminishes from the adventure with overly-choreographed action set-pieces and a lazy screenplay overloaded with plot conveniences. Won Oscar for Sound Effects Editing (Ben Burtt and Richard Hymns). Followed by INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL (2008). [PG]

Film Review – JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS (1963)

Related imageJason and the Argonauts (1963; UK/USA; Eastmancolor; 104m) ****  d. Don Chaffey; w. Jan Read, Beverley Cross; ph. Wilkie Cooper; m. Bernard Herrmann.  Cast: Todd Armstrong, Nancy Kovack, Gary Raymond, Laurence Naismith, Niall MacGinnis, Michael Gwynn, Douglas Wilmer, Jack Gwillim, Honor Blackman, John Cairney, Patrick Troughton, Andrew Faulds, Nigel Green. The legendary Greek hero leads a team of intrepid adventurers in a perilous quest for the legendary Golden Fleece. Rousing fantasy adventure with memorable special effects design by Ray Harryhausen – including the giant bronze statue Talos and the army of skeletons. A game cast and resonant score by Herrmann add significantly. It took Harryhausen four months to produce the skeleton scene, a massive amount of time for a scene which lasts, at the most, three minutes. Remade for TV in 2000. [U]