Film Review – ALL CREATURES GREAT AND SMALL (1975)

BBC Two - All Creatures Great and SmallALL CREATURES GREAT AND SMALL (1975, UK/USA) ***½
Biography, Drama
dist. EMI Film Distributors ; pr co. EMI Film Distributors / Venedon Ltd.; d. Claude Whatham; w. Hugh Whitemore (based on the books by James Herriot); exec pr. Nat Cohen; pr. Duane Bogie, David Susskind; ass pr. Cecil F. Ford; ph. Peter Suschitzky (Colour. 35mm. Spherical. 1.66:1); m. Wilfred Josephs; ed. Ralph Sheldon; pd. Geoffrey Drake; set d. Fred Carter; cos. Yvonne Blake; m/up. Alan Brownie, Ronnie Cogan; sd. Ken Barker, Anthony Jackson, John Poyner, Clive Smith (Mono); rel. 4 February 1975 (USA), 8 May 1975 (UK); cert: PG; r/t. 92m.

cast: Simon Ward (James), Anthony Hopkins (Siegfried), Lisa Harrow (Helen), Brian Stirner (Tristan), Freddie Jones (Cranford), T.P. McKenna (Soames), Daphne Oxenford (Mrs. Pumphrey), Jane Collins (Connie), Glynne Geldart (Joyce), Brenda Bruce (Miss Harbottle), Christine Buckley (Mrs. Hall), John Collin (Mr. Alderson), Jane Solo (Brenda), Harold Goodwin (Dinsdale’s Uncle), Doreen Mantle (Mrs. Seaton), John Nettleton (Head Waiter), Bert Palmer (Mr. Dean (as Burt Palmer)), John Rees (Geoff Mallock), Jenny Runacre (Pamela), Fred Feast (Farmer in Cinema).

Charming pre-WWII story of a young vet (Ward) who joins the practice of the eccentric Hopkins in the Yorkshire Dales. There he meets and courts Harrow and encounters tight-fisted farmers as he comes to terms with life in the country. Whilst the film is largely episodic and inconsequential, the warmth of the characters, the often funny situations they find themselves in and the performances of an enthusiastic cast prove to be a winning mixture. Hopkins is splendid in a role tailor-made for him. There is also great use of the Yorkshire locations. Part-funded by and debuted on NBC TV in the USA as part of Hallmark Hall of Fame. Followed by IT SHOULDN’T HAPPEN TO A VET (1976) and a hugely popular TV series running for 90 episodes over 7 seasons from 1978-90 before resurfacing again as a remake in 2020.

Film Review – EVEREST (2015)

Image result for everest 2015EVEREST (USA/UK/Iceland, 2015) ***½
      Distributor: Universal Pictures (USA), Universal Pictures International (UPI) (UK); Production Company: Working Title Films / RVK Studios / Walden Media / Universal Pictures / Cross Creek Pictures; Release Date: 18 September 2015 (USA and UK); Filming Dates: Began 13 January 2014; Running Time: 121m; Colour: Colour; Sound Mix: Dolby Digital | 12-Track Digital Sound (IMAX 12 track) | Dolby Atmos | Auro 11.1 | IMAX 6-Track | Dolby Surround 7.1 | Sonics-DDP; Film Format: D-Cinema (also 3-D version); Film Process: Digital Intermediate (2K) (master format); Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1; BBFC Cert: 12.
      Director: Baltasar Kormákur; Writer: Lem Dobbs, Justin Isbell, William Nicholson; Executive Producer: Brandt Andersen, Liza Chasin, Randall Emmett, Evan Hayes, Mark Mallouk, Peter Mallouk, Angela Morrison, Lauren Selig; Producer: Nicky Kentish Barnes, Tim Bevan, Liza Chasin, Eric Fellner, Evan Hayes, Brian Oliver, Tyler Thompson; Director of Photography: Salvatore Totino; Music Composer: Dario Marianelli; Music Supervisor: Maggie Rodford; Film Editor: Mick Audsley; Casting Director: Fiona Weir; Production Designer: Gary Freeman; Art Director: Tom Still; Set Decorator: Raffaella Giovannetti; Costumes: Guy Speranza; Make-up: Carmel Jackson; Sound: Glenn Freemantle; Special Effects: Richard Van Den Bergh; Visual Effects: Måns Björklund, Tim Caplan, Chaya Feiner, Hjortur Gretarsson, Roma O’Connor, Dominic Parker, Melody Woodford.
      Cast: Jason Clarke (Rob Hall), Jake Gyllenhaal (Scott Fischer), Josh Brolin (Beck Weathers), Robin Wright (Peach Weathers), John Hawkes (Doug Hansen), Sam Worthington (Guy Cotter), Michael Kelly (Jon Krakauer), Keira Knightley (Jan Arnold), Emily Watson (Helen Wilton), Thomas Wright (Michael Groom), Martin Henderson (Andy “Harold” Harris), Elizabeth Debicki (Dr. Caroline Mackenzie), Naoko Mori (Yasuko Namba), Clive Standen (Ed Viesturs), Vanessa Kirby (Sandy Hill), Tom Goodman-Hill (Neal Beidleman), Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson (Anatoli Boukreev), Charlotte Bøving (Lene Gammelgaard), Micah Hauptman (David Breashears), Chris Reilly (Klev Schoening), Chike Chan (Makalu Gau), Vijaya Lama (Lt. Col. Madan Khatri Chhetri), Mark Derwin (Lou Kasischke), Mia Goth (Meg Weathers).
      Synopsis: The story of New Zealand’s Robert “Rob” Edwin Hall, who on May 10, 1996, together with Scott Fischer, teamed up on a joint expedition to ascend Mount Everest.
      Comment: Based on a true story this is a Hollywood-ised treatment that nevertheless is an engaging experience due to some breathtaking location photography and strong performances by the ensemble cast. The set-pieces are immaculately staged and often thrilling, but the main theme is one of endurance and will. Clarke and Brolin are particularly excellent, whilst Gyllenhaal is also memorable in a hippy-style turn. Whilst the movie lacks the emotional impact it tries to create, by not letting us get close enough to the characters, it more than makes up for with its technically spectacular sequences
      Notes: Also shot in 3-D.

Film Review – STAN & OLLIE (2018)

Related imageSTAN & OLLIE (UK/USA/Canada, 2018) ****
      Distributor: Entertainment One (UK), Sony Pictures Classics (US); Production Company: BBC / Fable Pictures / Sonesta Films / eOne Entertainment; Release Date: 21 October 2018 (UK), 14 November 2018 (US); Running Time: 98m; Colour: Colour; Sound Mix: Dolby Digital; Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1; BBFC Cert: PG – mild bad language.
      Director: Jon S. Baird; Writer: Jeff Pope; Executive Producer: Kate Fasulo, Christine Langan, Xavier Marchand, Joe Oppenheimer, Eugenio Pérez, Gabrielle Tana; Producer: Faye Ward; Co- Producer: Jim Spencer; Director of Photography: Laurie Rose; Music Composer: Clint Mansell; Music Supervisor: Karen Elliott; Film Editor: Úna Ní Dhonghaíle, Billy Sneddon; Casting Director: Andy Pryor; Production Designer: John Paul Kelly; Art Director: David Hindle, Astrid Sieben; Set Decorator: Claudia Parker; Costumes: Guy Speranza; Make-up: Jeremy Woodhead, Mark Coulier; Sound: Paul Cotterell, James Harrison; Special Effects: Chris Reynolds; Visual Effects: Noga Alon Stein, Mark Michaels, Jolien Buijs.
      Cast: John C. Reilly (Oliver Hardy), Steve Coogan (Stan Laurel), Shirley Henderson (Lucille Hardy), Nina Arianda (Ida Kitaeva Laurel), Danny Huston (Hal Roach), Rufus Jones (Bernard Delfont), Susy Kane (Cynthia Clark), Richard Cant (Harry Langdon), Ella Kenion (Holiday Camp Organizer), John Henshaw (Nobby Cook), Sanjeev Kohli (Manager of Glasgow Empire), Lucy Appleton (Audience Member), Bentley Kalu (Elephant Wrangler), Keith MacPherson (James Finlayson), Joseph Balderrama (James Horne), Kate Okello (Newcastle Receptionist), Greg Canestrari (Stan’s Lawyer), Charlie Robinson (Savoy Guest), Harry Hepple (Wally Brady), Roger Ringrose (Doctor), Julie Eagleton (Irish Woman, Cork Harbour), Daniel Fearn (Cab Driver), Nick Owenford (Studio Executive), Sophie Wardlow (Laurel and Hardy’s Makeup artist), Conrad Asquith (Lord Warley), Paul Riddell (Holidaymaker), Toby Sedgwick (Theatre Manager), Rebecca Yeo (Concierge Savoy), Matt Dunkley (Conductor), Andy Mihalache (Arthur I. Royce), Stewart Alexander (Joe Schenck), Danny Scheinmann (Jeweler), Paul Bailey (Art Greene), David Gambier (Audience Member), Eve Harding (Train Passenger 1), Ashley Robinson (Gordon Douglas), Karl Jenkins (Chill Wills), Michael Haydon (Audience member), Swaylee Loughnane (Theatre Goer), Geoffrey Osborne (Photographer), Elise Lamb (Plymouth Girl), Gary Kiely (Irishman), Martin Bratanov (Audience Member), Josh Alexander (Stall Holder), Laraine Dix (Savoy guest), Callum Forman (Stage Hand), Tom Bates (Roach Scene Hand), Sinéad Daly (Dublin Mother), Steve Healey (Theatre Goer), Alex Jaep (Audience Member), Phillip Seddon (Doorman), Simon Ager (Poster Man Newcastle), Lewis Reynolds (Plymouth Stage Hand).
      Synopsis: Laurel and Hardy, the world’s most famous comedy duo, attempt to reignite their film careers as they embark on what becomes their swan song – a gruelling theatre tour of post-war Britain.
      Comment: Wonderful account of the twilight years of the greatest comedy double-act of all-time. Coogan and Reilly give extraordinary performances as L&H, perfectly capturing their mannerisms and voices. Henderson and Arianda also score heavily as the pair’s wives. The production design neatly captures 1953 England, albeit with a slightly romantic glow. Pope’s script efficiently condenses events into a tight running-time, which ensures it doesn’t outstay its welcome. The recreation of some of the duo’s stage and movie routines is highly authentic and very funny. There are moments of gentle humour and melancholy, but it is all delivered with an honesty and obvious affection for the subject matter. Let’s hope it leads a new generation to appreciate these true legends of cinema.
      

Film Review – BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY (2018)

Image result for bohemian rhapsodyBohemian Rhapsody (2018; UK/USA; Colour; 134m) ****  d. Bryan Singer; w. Anthony McCarten, Peter Morgan; ph. Newton Thomas Sigel; m. Becky Bentham (music supervisor).  Cast: Rami Malek, Joseph Mazzello, Ben Hardy, Gwilym Lee, Lucy Boynton, Aidan Gillen, Tom Hollander, Mike Myers, Allen Leech, Aaron McCusker, Jess Radomska, Max Bennett, Michelle Duncan, Ace Bhatti, Charlotte Sharland, Ian Jareth Williamson, Dickie Beau, Jesús Gallo, Jessie Vinning. Biopic drama following the life and music career of rock band Queen’s charismatic singer Freddie Mercury. Biopic is propelled by Malik’s extraordinary performance as one of the greatest rock showmen of all time. The actor accurately captures Mercury’s strengths as a performer and his weaknesses away from the limelight. This is not a portrait of the band but a study on the effect that fame has on talent. That the talent won through, albeit briefly, is brilliantly demonstrated in the finale of the band’s performance at Live Aid in 1985. [12]

Film Review – THE DEVIL’S DOUBLE (2011)

Image result for the devil's double dvdDevil’s Double, The (2011; Belgium/Netherlands; Colour; 109m) ∗∗∗½  d. Lee Tamahori; w. Michael Thomas; ph. Sam McCurdy; m. Christian Henson.  Cast: Dominic Cooper, Ludivine Sagnier, Raad Rawi, Philip Quast, Mimoun Oaïssa, Khalid Laith, Dar Salim, Mem Ferda, Nasser Memarzia, Oona Chaplin. A chilling vision of the House of Saddam Hussein comes to life through the eyes of the man who was forced to become the double of Hussein’s sadistic son, Uday. Relentlessly grim study of the Iraqi regime contains a powerful performance from Cooper. He is so good you forget he is playing both parts. The script may lack depth, but it succeeds in shocking the viewer through its graphic depiction of a crazed monster. Based on the book by Latif Yahia. [18]

Book Review – A COP’S TALE – NYPD: THE VIOLENT YEARS by Detective Sergeant Jim O’Neil (Retired) with Mel Fazzino (2009)

A COP’S TALE – NYPD: THE VIOLENT YEARS by DETECTIVE SERGEANT JIM O’NEIL (RETIRED) WITH MEL FAZZINO (2009, Barricade, 286pp) ∗∗∗∗

Blurb: A Cop’s Tale focuses on New York City’s most violent and corrupt years, the 1960s to early 1980s. Jim O’Neil – a former NYPD cop – delivers a rare look at the brand of law enforcement that ended Frank Lucas’s grip on the Harlem drug trade, his cracking open of the Black Liberation Army case, and his experience as the first cop on the scene at the Dog Day Afternoon bank robbery.

I bought this book to aid me in my research into crime and policing methods in New York in the 1970s, when the city was in financial and social crisis. The book actually covers the period of Jim O’Neil’s service in the New York Police department between 1963 and 1984. O’Neil was a highly regarded detective working in some of the city’s most crime ridden locations. It is an honest account of O’Neil’s experience on the front line working in some of the toughest precincts in the city. The main focus of the book covers O’Neil’s time as a detective in Brooklyn’s notorious 73rd Precinct (known as Fort Zinderneuf) and later in Harlem’s 32nd Precinct (known as Dodge City). In between time there are stints with a specialised robbery division and Internal Affairs.

O’Neil’s first-hand account of his experiences are extremely enlightening and frank – notably around the methods used in the detection of crime, policing on the streets and building of a network of informants by frequenting the same bars as the crooks. The anecdotes are real and are both funny and shocking. O’Neil pulls no punches and delivers it as it was. He offers no apologies for the methods used by officers and detectives and indeed puts a strong case for them. These methods are shown to be justified by the results they created. The breaking of the Black Liberation Army terrorist organisation and the deconstruction of the drugs empire in Harlem being two key examples.

However, O’Neil does not condone much of the corruption that took place in the department during this period. he is as harsh in his judgement of a cop taking bribes or dealing dope as he is of the dope pushers, murderers and rapists on the street. He is also scathing in his judgement of the reforms introduced in the early 1970s by Police Commissioner Patrick Murphy, which limited the interactions cops could have on the streets and re-structured the department. Equally he has the utmost admiration for some of his senior officers and the repair work done by Michael J Codd between 1974-8 upon his election as Commissioner.

Reading this book may not be comfortable for the more liberal minded, but it is historically accurate, honest and gives the reader a real insight into what the cops had to deal with during the city’s years of decadence.

Book Review – LAST IN THE TIN BATH by David Lloyd (2015)

LAST IN THE TIN BATH by DAVID LLOYD (2015, Simon & Schuster, 306pp) ∗∗∗∗
      Blurb: With his infectious enthusiasm for the game, David ‘Bumble’ Lloyd is one of the most popular cricket commentators around, blending immense knowledge and experience with an eye for the quirky detail and an unending fund of brilliant stories. This new autobiography recalls his childhood in Accrington, Lancashire, when, after a long day playing cricket in the street, he would get his chance to wash himself in his family’s tin bath – but only after his parents and uncle had taken their turn first. From there he moved on to make his debut for Lancashire while still in his teens, eventually earning an England call-up, when he had to face the pace of Lillee and Thomson – with painful and eye-watering consequences. After retiring as a player, he became an umpire and then England coach during the 1990s, before eventually turning to commentary with Sky Sports. Packed with hilarious anecdotes from the golden age of Lancashire cricket, and behind-the-scenes insight into life with England and on the Sky commentary team, Bumble’s book is a joy to read from start to finish.

      I am a huge fan of David Lloyd, who as a commentator for Sky TV delivers his observations with passion, pragmatism and a playful sense of humour. As a player he was a dogged fighter and as a coach he was an innovator ahead of his time. I read his last book, Start the Car: The World According to Bumble, a few years ago and really enjoyed his wry observations on cricket and life in general. This book is billed as an autobiography, but in reality is a mixture of autobiography and opinion never quite fulfilling its billing.

The title of the book comes from his working class upbringing in Accrington, Lancashire, where Friday night was bath night and the youngest member of the family was the last to use the communal water. Lloyd gives some lovely anecdotes from this period of his life and takes us through his cricket career as both player and coach then later as commentator. Lloyd uses the last quarter of the book to give his views on the England team set up and the current state of the game across the world. He sets out his position very persuasively amply demonstrating his no-nonsense and common-sense approach to situations – particularly around cricket politics. But we find out little more about the man outside of the game. This may have been deliberate on Lloyd’s part to keep his family life private and concentrate this book on his life inside cricket and his philosophy on the game. Lloyd is never short of an opinion and he eloquently states his case on the issues surrounding the game today.

Whilst as an autobiography Last in the Tin Bath lacks the depth one might expect, it remains an entertaining and even thought-provoking read for cricket lovers out there.

Book Review – DEAR BOY: THE LIFE OF KEITH MOON by Tony Fletcher (1998/2005)

DEAR BOY: THE LIFE OF KEITH MOON by TONY FLETCHER (1998/2005, Omnibus, Paperback, 596pp) ∗∗∗∗∗
      Blurb: Keith Moon was more than just rock’s greatest drummer, he was a phenomenal character and an extravagant hell raiser who – in a final, uncharacteristic act of grace – actually did die before he got old. This new edition includes a newly written After word that consiers Moon’s lasting legacy, the death of John Entwistle and The Who’s ongoing career in the new millennium. In this astonishing biography, Tony Fletcher questions the myths, avoids the time-honoured anecdotes and talks afresh to those who where closest to Moon including Kim, his wife of eight years, and Linda, his sister and Annette Walter-Lax, his main girlfriend of the final years. Also interviewed are Oliver Reed, Larry Hagman, David Putnam, Alice Cooper, Dave Edmunds, Jeff Beck, John Entwistle and many others who worked and partied with him. In interviewing over 100 people who knew Moon, Fletcher reveals the truth behind the ‘famous’ stunts that never occured – and the more outrageous ones that did! He also uncovers astonishing details about Moon’s outrageous extravagance which was financed by The Who’s American success.

Keith Moon was one of rock music’s most innovative drummers, but it was ultimately his lifestyle that created the legend. There are more myths surrounding Moon’s alcohol and drug fuelled adventures than surrounds any other rock ‘n roll legend. In his exhaustive and frank book, Tony Fletcher unravels the truth and in doing so creates one of the most absorbing biographical dissections of self-destruction ever written.

Moon’s death at a young age, he was only 32 when he died, was inevitable and yet throughout the pages here Fletcher also demonstrates his impressive capacity for survival. The constant diet of drink and drugs turned a natural eccentric – who was warm, funny and generous – into a wild and often uncontrollable force with a legendary track record in ritual destruction of hotel rooms, a chaotic home lifestyle and a 24-hour party mentality. There were also tragic events, which coloured his personality and brought out a dark side that contradicted his outward joviality and desire to make people laugh.

Tony Fletcher, a keen fan of The Who, is determined to present a balanced view on Moon’s life and doesn’t gloss over the more unsavoury aspects. He lets us in on the real Keith Moon through a series of frank interviews and extensive research. The band largely distanced themselves from the story with Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend unwilling to be interviewed and quotes being restricted to archive material, but the book does not suffer because a greater objectivity is achieved as a result. This version, published in 2005, also contains an Afterword following new interviews that add further clarity(and in some cases uncertainty) to some of the key events in Moon’s life.

With today’s heavily corporate approach to rock music it is difficult for the current generation to understand that when rock was in its infancy it was at its most out of control. If any one book conveys the sheer scale of the wildness of the rock ‘n roll lifestyle in the 1960s and 1970s, then this book is it. If any one person conveys the chaos then it is Keith Moon.